We booked this cruise because our best European friends saw that it was a new ship with a great itinerary and included Istanbul, our favorite port. After researching MSC, we were a little nervous that it would be less satisfactory than our other experiences, so we booked the most expensive accommodation, thinking that would be a hedge against this worry. This was the only mistake we made in choosing the Magnifica.
Our friends had an oceanview cabin for almost two-thirds less than our 14th deck suite. While the suite was roomy and somewhat deluxe, we used the balcony very little on this port-intensive cruise.There were no particular perks to being at the suite category, which is different from what the cruise line puts in their brochure. We had a little problem with a very loud Fussball game that was directly under us, but this was addressed after we called it to the attention of reception. If we travel again on MSC, and we'd be happy to do so, we'd look for an aft facing balcony cabin, which we discovered were lovely and very quiet on a very lively ship.
Embarkation in Venice was the most seemless we've ever experienced. We drove from Vienna and parked the car, not at Piazzale Roma, but at the port parking lot. We came after the rush and were on board in ten minutes. Disembarking took longer but was not the nightmare it can be. We were staying at a home exchange in Venice for several days after the cruise, so we weren't in a big hurry.
Make no mistake, this is a European ship, and for us this was great. Fellow passengers were almost entirely Italian, with a mix of other Europeans, and perhaps lastly, Americans. We travel to Europe often, at least once a year, and we don't go to be surrounded by only Americans. The only reason I can find that explains why the reviews of this line have been so bad, is that the reviewers somehow didn't share our feelings about this. It is not a quiet ship; the pool area is packed and jumping, and there were lots of children aboard, even though it was not a school holiday time. The average age of passengers was much lower than any ship we've been on, but we did not experience any rudeness as a result of this.
Every night at dinner, we exclaimed over how different our meals seemed from descriptions we had read about them. Our opinion was that the food was way better than Carnival, as good as Cunard, but much more interesting, and only surpassed by the quality of the former Celebrity ship, the Galaxy. We had great service in a lovely room and the only drawback was that the tables were quite close together. The dining room ambience was very lively, bordering on noisy, but to us, that's Italian and charming.
We probably didn't give the entertainment a fair chance. We enjoyed one show except that the dancing was seriously old fashioned, and only ducked into two others before bailing for the same reason. Our friends found a favorite after dinner spot in the cigar lounge, which was quiet and very clubby in feeling, with a very good classical quartet playing outside it most days. We bought a few things in the shops which were much like ones in other ships we'd been on.
The itinerary was perfect for us. In addition to wonderful Istanbul, where we like to visit family friends, Bari, Olympia, and Izmir were brand new destinations for us. Best of all was Dubrovnik, which we'd heard for thirty years was gorgeous, but really defies description. The walled city is a gem, but it's the harbor that is certainly one of the most spectacular locales on earth. All of these places are easy to see on one's own - perhaps especially Dubrovnik as the ship provides a shuttle bus to the old town and it would be silly to go on a group tour once there. We did each port on our own; a highlight was renting a car in Katakolon and driving to wonderful Olympia.
The Magnifica is not for those looking for a staid, reserved holiday. Cunard would be an ideal choice for that. But if you like fresh, international food, a new and spotless ship, and to be surrounded in a vivid European atmosphere, you might like it as much as we did.