Venice is a wonderful departing city, once you are on the ship. We booked our own airfare from the US to Venice, then stayed 2 nights in Venice pre cruise. We stayed in the Cannerigio district, near the St. Lucia Train Station, very close to the port.
We were informed that MSC has a bus that takes its guests from the Piazza Roma bus station to the ship, so we proceeded to carry our 3 bags of luggage each to the bus station from our hotel, a distance of about 2 city blocks. However,you must carry your luggage over a large bridge with many steps to reach the bus station, which was very taxing and I would not recommend to anyone.
Once we arrived at the bus station, we were told MSC does NOT have a bus to the port. We elected to take the People Mover to the port, for fee of 1 euro. The ride was fine, however the People Mover only takes you to the port, not to your ship. Of course, MSC Magnifica was quite away for the port entrance,which we walked with our luggage.
Once to the embarkation building for MSC, we could not find where we were to leave our luggage. We only saw a sign directing us to proceed up the elevator or escalator for check in .
We soon discovered that no one else in line at check-1n was carrying luggage with them. I asked the screener in the check in line about the luggage, and I received no response, except to proceed to the next point. Again, I asked a staff member about the luggage and was not given an answer.
We soon were at the check in agent for English speaking guests, who was most helpful. When I asked about the luggage check -in, she informed me that the luggage should have been checked in on the lower level, and gave us directions.
Needless to say, we followed her directions and met an English speaking agent at baggage check in who handled our bags.
We then returned upstairs, to find disorganization , with large groups of guests congregating and one could not find the line to board the ship. We were given a number for boarding order, however one could not understand the PA system to hear the calling of your number.
We finally were able to board, where we were met by a white gloved steward who proceeded to take us to the cabin. We had booked at category 11 balcony cabin, the highest category below the suite level.
The cabin was adequate size, but only had a chair and no sofa in the small sitting area. Bathroom had a shower with plastic shower curtain; all counters , floor, toilet, shower and walls where white in the bathroom, very plain and generic. I would note here that the shower curtain is worthless, as when you shower, the curtain is sucked in to the shower and sticks to your body.
Cabin had a adequate closet space,a stack of drawers with safe, drawers at the desk and bedside stands, and storage under the bed as well.
The ship is new, only 6 months at sea, and is clean. The elevators are small and always very busy with groups of guests packing in the elevators. As the guests were primarily Europeans, the talk in the elevators was interesting.
Dining is a big disappointment on MSC Magnifica. We were booked for early dining in the main dining room , 645P. We were pleased to find we were given a table for 2, although we were never offered any choice of seating.
In our dining area, there was 1 other couple of English speaking guests, with everyone else speaking Italian, French or German. The dining staff were able to converse in all languages with guests, which I found amazing.
We were served by an assistant waiter and main water at dinner. There is no bar service in the dining room , except wine. We had purchased a wine and soft drink package pre cruise, and were given a choice of 2 different white and red wines for each meal.
Meal choices in the dining room consisted of the following courses: appetizer ( 2 choices ) ,soup or salad(one choice each), pasta or risotto(one choice each), main course (4 choices including a vegetarian choice), and dessert ( usually 2 choices or gelato /ice cream).
Meal quality was poor to average: salads were the worst at sea: limp iceberg lettuce , little amount, with large amount of watery dressing. Appetizers were average; pasta and risotto was generally quite good; main courses average, desserts average. There was a Gala night dinner on one of the formal nights , with no alternative dining offerings on the menu, if one did not care for the gala dinner offering.
For dinner, the only other choices for dining consisted of the the Pizzeria ( for additional cost) and L'Oasis, an upscale Italian restaurant, which actually was an area of the buffet room. No buffet restaurant is open in the evening; room service is available but for additional cost.
We tried the upscale Italian restaurant one evening, with a total cost of about 60 euros for both dinners, dessert and a bottle of wine. We did not finish the wine, with the waiter offering to re cork and have it in the main dining room at dinner the next night. Needless to say, it was not found by the waiter or assistant waiter the next night. After discussion of our complaint with the assistant maitre de , and his consultation with the maitre de, the bottle was finally found by the next night.
The buffet restaurant is a mess. Kids are cutting in to the lines , reaching with their fingers to get food, even adults are rudely cutting in line and even eating in line. The pizza is absolutely the worst I have ever had anywhere, worse than CiCi's in the USA. Sometimes they would offer a nice pasta, but most of the time not. Breakfast was a madhouse, and most mornings one could not find seating. Scrambled eggs were horrible. Pastries consisted of croissants and rolls every day. No real changes in daily offerings for breakfast. We opted for continental breakfast in the room each day (no charge).
Entertainment on the ship in the main show room was interesting; every show was introduced by the cruise director, giving introductions and background info in 5 languages, very quickly. Entertainment offering consisted of dancers, singers (most of whom sang in English), acrobats, gymnasts, juggler, and an really fun act in which a man and woman would dance and "magically" change their clothing many times during the act.
There also was a small orchestra in the main lobby in the evenings, a small band in the lounges for dancing, a piano bar, and a disco. The ship also has a casino.
I feel that the MSC policy of "kids free" destroyed our impression of MSC.There were kids every where, running up and down the hallways, cutting in lines, one small girl even climbed on the show stage prior to the main show one evening and pulled up her dress to flash everyone. What do you expect when children are taken to these shows and learn that showgirls do this. I love kids, but generally parents did not make children behave nor did they keep an eye on their children. Different cultures aside, this ruined the cruise.
Port times were very short , 3-5 hours at each port. There is no way you can see Istanbul in this short time. Shore excursion were booked pre cruise online. This was a disorganized disaster. We were told that we must pick up our shore excursion tickets at the shore excursion office on day 1 of the cruise between certain hours. We go there as instructed, but then are told we did not need to do this , as tickets would be delivered to our cabin. We were given instruction each day in the program (English for English guests), of meeting point.
Once we went to the meeting point, you must then get your group sticker, as they try to group the guests according to language spoken. Problem is, you don't know which shore excursion person to pick your sticker. No communication. I would go to one shore excursion staff member and ask for English group, and am sent by him to another , which is wrong. This happened all 5 days of booked excursions. Exiting the ship is slow , as they take you off with your group to the correct bus, with this time wasting decreasing our time in port further. If you would like to explore the ports better, do not book on MSC.. I have cruised Europe with Celebrity and had long port days every day.
Disembarkation: disorganized.. they want you out of your cabin by 730am, and to gather in an assigned gathering place.
Overall, I would never recommend MSC Cruise to anyone unless you want to travel with kids free. I found it much worse than any American cruise line, and will now only use Holland America , Princess or Cunard for cruising in Europe or anywhere. They all have a much better product offering.