Sailed on MSC Magnifica 12/27/2011 from Venice. Read all the reviews and had some misgivings, but overall was pleased with the cruise. The ship itself (and from what I heard from other passengers, all the MSC ships) are well appointed and very comfortable. Stateroom was very nice; larger than the Carnival Spirit class. Warning to non-smokers: nearly the entire port (left) side of the cruise allows smoking, not only on the decks but most of the public rooms as well. Dining rooms were smoke-free. This warning would apply to American cruisers who are used to more restrictive smoking policies...
Entertainment was a notch below what I had experienced with Carnival, & way below Princess & Royal Carribean. One thing to keep in mind - the MSC European cruises have a very diverse croud from the US & England, Italy, Germany, Austria, Holland, as well as travellers from Eastern Europe. Therefore, entertainment primarily focuses on dancing, mime-type shows or acrobatics which are more visually focused & do not require dialogue to enjoy. The cruise director has a chore each night to come up with a joke, or story he can tell in four different languages... with the punch line something so that everyone would get the joke and laugh or (more frequently) groan in unison.
Food was overall the biggest disappointment. The breakfast and lunch buffets were fine, but nearly the same everyday with relatively limited food choices. Dinners were also generally a disappointment: service was more rushed than on other cruise lines; food quality was marginal for a cruise (e.g., fish dishes consistently overcooked & flavorless, meats tended to also be cheaper cuts which were not very good). This would not be such a big issue if there were alternatives available: there is no alternative buffet, only 3 "premium" restaurants which charged from 15 to 25 euro for higher priced meals which patrons reported as no better than what was found in the main dining rooms. The ship's buffet area becomes a pizzaria in the evening, with 5 euro pizzas which included a beer or soft drink. This actually was not too bad a deal... although I thought charging for pizza was really out of line. This option was not available at all on New Years Eve... Think of it: New Years Eve, and no dining options after dinner except for room service. This was really poor cruise management! As you may have also read elsewhere, you will be charged for ALL drinks even during meals and including water, with the exception of American coffee at breakfast & during afternoon tea. Fairly stiff charge for room service as well. This is NOT a cruise where you will have to worry about gaining 20 lbs in a week :)
One other note regarding MSC is their "children cruise free" policy, which means the cruise is innundated with kids from 2 or 3 years on up. The pool was virtually all kids, & at times this made things very annoying. I would say a majority of the cruise was families with children... which was fine, when the kids were behaving. Most of the time, it was no problem.
Finally, unlike several of the comments I read on Cruise Critic I found the crewmembers and service staff to be friendly, helpful, and treated all passengers well regardless of their nationality or the language they spoke. I had no problems finding an officer who spoke English when I had a need to get my internet service up & running, and other than being rushed in the dining room and the bar areas felt the staff were very capable & mindful of customer service. Embarkation & disembarkation were a breeze, and the smoothest of any cruiseline I have experienced. Check-in was quick, painless, & free from an excess of "hurry up and wait". Checkout was equally fast & painless: were were in our hotel in Venice just a little over an hour or so after leaving our stateroom.
Now, a disclaimer: We chose MSC not because of their reputation, but because of the cost of the cruise, versus the ports of call, versus the dates we wanted to travel. Given this scenario I would likely cruise with MSC again, but would not choose the cruise line if I were looking for a truly first-class cruise experience. For my wife and me, it was the best way to visit Greece, Croatia, & Egypt during an extended Christmas holiday in Italy. For that, it served the purpose beautifully... but frankly, if I were looking for a top-notch cruise experience, would have been sorely disappointed. One gets what one pays for :)