We were very uncertain about this cruise even after we booked it. This was our 7th sailing with our other cruises being on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Costa. We are big fans of RC, but Costa was less than spectacular in our eyes, so we were afraid that MSC would be the same value. The other element for us was that we brought our 14 month old daughter on this cruise. We wanted to make sure it was doable for her. Here are our thoughts.
Embarkation: We were at the Port of Genoa around lunchtime and there was hardly any line at all. We breezed right through all of the check points and were in near shock when we were walking on board after less than 45 minutes. On past cruises, this was one of the more painful parts of the cruise.
Ship/Stateroom: These were both outstanding as many on Cruise Critic have already stated. There were very few areas that we could fault but we found ourselves overly impressed with the elegant design of the common areas and the stylish decorations in our stateroom. With a balcony stateroom, it was slightly difficult to find a place to put the baby crib, so it ended up sitting in the middle of the room between our bed and the balcony. As you can expect, this was not the most convenient place, but the narrow space did not have room for a crib anywhere else. The bed was extremely comfortable and the balcony was a good size. In the rear (aft?) of the ship, we did not feel much motion except for docking at the ports.
Food: We were pleasantly surprised by the breakfast and lunch buffets. I think our expectations were low, but the food quality was good. The dinners were initially stated to be at 7, but almost all of the meals began at 630pm. This was much better for our daughter because she is usually in bed by 730. After the first night, the high chair was ready at our table. The dinner meals were hit and miss, but were never displeased by what was served. Some meals were notably good. Initially, we were not allowed free ice water, but we used a booklet of free bottled water that was in our stateroom. If we didnt have this, I would not have been pleased about having to purchase water every night.
Ports: We were pretty happy with the itinerary that was offered by MSC. The shuttle to Marseille was 15Euro per person for a 10 minute ride and there was no other option to get to the Port Vieux. In my eyes, MSC should have provided this complimentary. This is an example of being nickel and dimed by a 'budget' cruise line. In some cases, the ship should have stayed longer in some ports and less time in others. Barcelona is the one port that we felt especially rushed. I'll write more in the port reviews.