Embarkation: We arrived at the port around 1:45 p.m., and were in our room by 2:30 p.m. Port Everglades's staff and MSC staff was equally courteous and efficient, which left us with a good 1st impression. There was a small hiccup, in that my room was reassigned from 11161 to 12142 (same balcony category). There were no escorts to the cabins like I had read in other reviews. I suppose with the number of passengers on this cruise (Easter Week), it wasn't really feasible to escort everyone to their cabins. The room was exactly like the photos we had seen on the web. We noticed that the body wash dispenser was missing from the shower. When we asked the room steward for soap, he gave us several bars. (On the last night of the cruise, our body wash dispenser was magically fixed.) Once we dropped off our bags, we headed up one flight of stairs to the lunch buffet. The lines were long, but I fully expected this all week with the number of passengers aboard. Our muster drill took place in the Pigalle Lounge. There was no attendance taken, so we probably could have missed it without penalty.
Food: I thought the food was good, but I'm not that picky. They did have some unusual selections for American tastes like smoked herring and seafood stew with calamari, but they also had pizza, burgers, hot dogs, fries, vegetables, pasta, beef, chicken, etc. They also had a salad bar and fresh fruit. The drink selection was limited to unsweetened tea or water unless you wanted to order alcohol or soft drinks from the bar wait staff. We drank a lot of tea this week. They also had orange and pineapple juices for the breakfast buffet. We ate all of our dinners in our assigned main dining room (table 456): La Fontane Ristorante. We had the 1st sitting which was usually at 5:30 p.m. (a bit too early sometimes). Our table mates were great. We celebrated a birthday with them on the 2nd formal night. Service was slow at times. Our dinners were mostly hits, and a few misses. For example, the veal dish was very good one night, and so was the beef skirt steak. However, my mom ordered the filet steak one night, and it was overcooked and stringy (yuck!). On the 2nd formal night, I ordered the lobster, but it was a bit overcooked and rubbery. Appetizers and desserts were good, and so was the bread. Generally, their food was good, but not as good as Carnival. We certainly didn't go hungry.
Shows: We loved nearly all the shows we attended. There was juggling, beautiful cabaret singing by Mimma Barra, and Cirque du Soleil-style acts. We weren't too thrilled with the magic act though. We missed the classical opera-style show, so we only got to hear the male singer on the Thursday night show. We loved the Michael Jackson tribute! It was standing room only, so I'm glad we made it to the theater early enough to get a seat. Richard got a well-deserved standing ovation. They also introduced the rest of his entertainment team at the end of the show. The jazz trio in the Zebra Bar was excellent. Unfortunately, we only saw them on the way to the theater. The classical trio in the atrium area was good also.
Ports: We visited San Juan, St. Maarten, Virgin Gorda, and Nassau. I left my comments in the related port review section on Cruise Critic. We enjoyed all the ports, but Virgin Gorda and the Baths were a bit crowded during our visit.
Kid's Club and Shopping: My daughter (10 yrs old) has a mild form of Autism, so I usually limit the amount of time I leave her in the kids club on the ship. I was worried about the language barrier, as my daughter sometimes has trouble communicating, even at home. On sea days, I let her go in for about an hour each day and she seemed to have a good time. They played video games, watched DVDs and did art projects. She made a little mask with colorful tissue paper and poster board, but she lost it at the airport on the way home. On Easter Sunday, the kids programming director, Matteo, held a program in the theater with music videos and games involving the kids in the audience. They even had someone dressed in a bunny outfit taking photos with the kids. It was a little boring for the adults, but the kids seemed to enjoy it.
We didn't do a lot of shopping on board, but we did pick up a couple of refrigerator magnets and souvenir ink pens in the MSC Logo shop. The prices were high, as expected on a cruise ship. There were some other higher end shops on board and also a duty free shop. The held specials during the week, but we weren't interested.
Bars, Lounges, Casino, Specialty Restaurants: We don't drink, so we didn't really check out any of the bars or lounges. We also aren't into gambling, so we only saw the casino when walking through to get to the theater. We also passed by the library a few times, but it was always closed at those times. We did not partake in either of the specialty restaurants, so I have no opinion on them either.
Debarkation: Getting off the ship was just as efficient as getting on. We had to be out of our room by 7:00 a.m., so went upstairs to the final breakfast buffet. We left our bags with colored tags out the night before, and when they called our color, we debarked. We were off the ship before 9:30 a.m. We took the Go Shuttle ($10 pp) and were at the airport before 10:00 a.m. We couldn't check in for our flight until 4 hours before (11:10 a.m. for us). After I checked us in, we waited around for an hour, then had slices of pizza at Sbarro. Boarding for our flight began at 2:20 p.m. the flight was over-sold, so they bumped 7 people at the gate, offering them free tickets anywhere Spirit Airlines flies. After a slight delay, we were on our way home.
Final Thoughts: We had a fabulous cruise and wouldn't hesitate to cruise with MSC again. Their prices are reasonable and their ships are beautiful. There were a few hiccups with food and crowd control, but these can happen on any cruiseline. Announcements in 5 languages were fascinating. I had to admire our cruise director as she rattled them off without a hitch. I truly don't get the bad reviews that folks on Cruise Critic keep posting. I can't say that I have any major complaints that would cause me to "never cruise with MSC again". Maybe I'm just really easy-going, but we liked MSC, and we aren't ashamed to admit it.