My mother took my 10yr old daughter and I (girls only trip) on this cruise to celebrate her 70th birthday. Overall we had a great time. We've been on quite a few cruises and I'd read all of the reviews of MSC, so I was somewhat hesitant, but we decided to go with an open mind.
Embarkation-was an ABSOLUTE NIGHTMARE due to the pouring rain. We took a water taxi from the hotel in Venice to the port. Our WONDERFUL hotel (Hotel Canal Grande) in Venice booked the water taxi for us and there happened to be another couple headed to the ship so we split the cost (90 euros total for 5 passengers). It is very convenient to pull right up to the dock, and they take your bags there. HOWEVER, you must then walk to the cruise terminal from the dock and it is at least 1/2 a mile. If it had been sunny and warm, this would have been no problem, but it was POURING rain and by the time we got into the passenger terminal we were literally soaking wet (a shuttle would solve this problem). The terminal was crowded and there was a lot of confusion. Luckily, the lovely Australian couple we'd shared the water taxi with were booked into one of the luxury suites. As soon as the lady looked at their tickets, they gave us priority boarding and literally walked us through the crowds, right up to the check in counter and then onto the ship.
Because MSC is different and lets people in multiple ports, if I was doing it again, I'd choose to embark somewhere other than Venice. It would have been so much less hectic.
Ship-As everyone says, the ship itself is lovely. Spotlessly clean and the ship is so new that everything is really nice. We never had issues getting an elevator and there were lots of people in wheel chairs on this cruise that I saw all over the ship, so I assume they got everywhere they needed to go as well.
Cabin-We had an oceanview cabin on deck 5 close to the reception desk, which was very convenient for us. The three of us had plenty of storage and never felt like we were in each other's way. The cabin size was about the same as an outside cabin on Disney or Carnival.
Passenger Mix-Mostly Italians and Germans (I never did hear official passenger counts by nationality). We heard lots of folks speaking english as well (Aussies, US, Brits, Canadians). There were quite a few Japanese passengers too. Overall the average age of cruise passengers was probably 55. There were VERY few children on this cruise.
Staff/Room Steward/Dining Room Staff-We were very impressed by all of the staff that we encountered. They were professional and they were friendly to us. Our room steward took the time to visit with us one evening (he spoke perfect English-from Indonesia). He said they are required to speak 5 languages (English, Italian, French, German and Spanish). He also spoke some Japanese and said that they will have to learn some Portugese when the ship goes to South America later this year. Our room steward made towel animals for my mother's birthday, which was a nice surprise and she was delighted. Our dining room waiter was Romanian and was wonderful as well. He knew what we drank after the first night the bottle of sparkling water was waiting for us on the table when we sat down.
Food-Probably the most consistent negative reviews I read were about the food and we found that to be completely untrue for us. I would say that if you are used to cruising with an American line and are expecting to be able to order a shrimp cocktail, salad with ranch dressing, filet and baked potato for dinner every evening, then yes, you would be sorely disappointed.
Breakfast in the dining room or at the buffet consisted of eggs (scrambled & fried or omlettes of the day), probably 10 kinds of bread, rolls, danishes with butter, honey, 5 flavors of jam, cold cuts, cheese, fried potatoes, hashbrowns, yogurt, cereal, fruit, juice, coffee/tea/hot chocolate etc. I didn't ever see any pancakes/waffles or donuts and there is no omlette station, but we didn't miss them. We enjoyed every breakfast and also remembered to put the card outside of our door every evening so that coffee would be delivered to our room (free of charge).
Lunch we ate in the buffet, usually because we were getting back late from excursions and just wanted a quick bite before dinner. The lunch buffet had LOTS of choices and they changed daily. I never had trouble finding something I liked and had a few standouts that I loved-a marinated zucchini/tomato/mozzarella salad, eggplant rollatini stuffed with mozzarella and topped with tomato sauce, the french fries and almost every dessert.
Tea was served from 3:45-4:30 with sandwiches/cookies/desserts/tarts/cakes with again free coffee. Loved all the desserts.
Dinner We ate in the main dining room every evening (the specialty restaurant menus didn't appeal to us) and we ate some delicous meals. I thought most dishes needed a bit of salt, but that is more personal preference. All of our food was served hot. The best dishes we ate were the pate appetizer, spinach/ricotta crepe with pink sauce, lasagna, eggplant parmigana, leg of lamb, filet with peppercorn sauce. Again, loved all the deserts. And yes, we did get the complimentary water tickets (one for each evening at dinner). They were in our room when we embarked.
The selection was a bit more narrow than on the other lines that I've cruised with, but we really liked the food. My ten year old ate off of the adult menu just about every night and enjoyed trying new things.
There was a "midnight" buffet at 11:15 every evening, but we didn't make it to that.
Shows-We went to all of the shows except for the opera night and enjoyed them all. They are short (45 min or so). The acrobats were the real standouts and they were amazing to watch. 10 yr old daughter enjoyed them also. The american lady singer is awful-they should replace her. Interestingly, almost every song they sang was in English.
Would we cruise MSC again? Absolutely. Is it different than an American cruise line? Yes, but we went to europe to see something different than we see every day. Were there smokers? Yes. Is that part of european culture? Yes. Was the food different? Yes and we enjoyed it. Any questions, I'd be happy to answer. Thanks.