Embarkation: We arrived around 1100 and were greeted with a fairly chaotic scene. There were large crowds of people and not enough orderly lines. Despite this, we managed to check in, and board the ship within an hour. We were also able to go directly to our stateroom which was nice.
Stateroom: We had a superior balcony room which was nice and comparable to balcony rooms on other cruise lines. Perhaps a little smaller than others, but there was enough storage to unpack all of our suitcases and not feel crowded. One negative were the bed and pillows. The bed was pretty hard and the pillows were a lumpy mess. The room steward was not seen very often, but did a great job of keeping the room clean.
The Ship: The ship is very new and very nice. Some of the lounges were cruise ship typical gaudy (like the Tiger Lounge) but overall I like the dEcor and design very much. We spent the first day exploring and had very little trouble navigating the ship after that. There were quite a few hot tubs and pools throughout the ship. Several of which are adults only which was nice.
Clientele: The average age was easily 50+. We are in our 30's and felt like youngsters most of the time. There were fewer children on board than I expected as they cruise free with MSC, but they may have to do with the tiem of the year. We are American and I believe we were a minority on the ship. The majority on this cruise were German, followed by Italian and French and then a health mix of other Europeans. I read several reviews about rude Italians cutting lines and being generally nasty, but that was not our experience at all. We enjoyed our time meeting and speaking with different nationalities and overall had very few problems with other cruisers. My one recommendation for other Americans is to be a little more assertive when getting on elevators or in lines. European's will occasionally cut lines and move in front of you if you leave too big of a bubble around you. This is a cultural thing and not meant to be rude.
Food: Food was a disappointment. The buffets were almost the same every day and only offered at limited times. The food in the dinning rooms was a little better, but often very bad. It was often overcooked, bland, or very bad quality. The meats were often all fat and gristle. I think the MSC tries to save a dime by buying cheap cuts of meat. Our waiter was very nice and friendly. When we did have poor food and quickly got us a replacement and seemed to genuinely care.
Drink: MSC gives American passengers a few water coupons, but not enough to last the whole cruise. Coffee/tea are available during breakfast and tea time, but you have to pay for it every other time. I knew this from previous reviews and prepared myself for it, but not being able to get a cup of coffee whenever I wanted one without paying was pretty annoying.
MSC Crew: I read many reviews about how rude the cruise employees were. I can only assume that MSC has responded to those reviews because nearly every employee I dealt with was at least professional and most friendly. Most spoke at least some English or directed you to someone with better English if they couldn't help.
Entertainment: The shows were mediocre. There seemed to be little plot, theme, or organization to any of the shows. Each was pretty much a variety show. The operatic singers were good as were the acrobats, but the female contemporary singer was pretty awful. I gritted my teeth every time she opened her mouth!
Ports: The ports of call were a mixed bag. Dubrovnik and Venice itself were the highlights. Bari and Ravena could easily be replaced with more interesting stops. At several of the stops the port is a half hour from anything and you had little choice but to pay the cruise ship for shuttle service. As with many things, MSC could earn some points by making that complementary.
Excursions: We always handle our own excursions and encourage others to do the same. We did many of the same trips that the cruise ship offered for typically about a third of the price. My only recommendation is to shop around and haggle with the taxi drive/tour guides to find one who speaks your language well. The only port that may be an exception was Haifa. Everything is pretty far away and Israel is fairly expensive. We only saved maybe 20-30% from what the cruise offered there, so an excursion with the ship may not be so bad there.
Disembarkation: We were given tags that wouldn't let us off the ship until about noon. We asked to have these changed and told them we had an early flight and got moved to the first group. With this we were able to get off the ship, claim or baggage in about fifteen minutes and be on our way by around 8 or 9 in the morning.
Overall: I enjoyed the cruise but would not likely cruise with MSC again. The poor food and the nickel and diming greatly took away from the experience. I cruise to relax and be pampered, but constantly having to shell out more money for the basics made this difficult sometimes.