I had never been on a cruise before, although my partner had. We found the boarding process (in Rio) to be as efficient as could be reasonably expected. The ship itself is large and it was easy to get lost! But it's very clean and well maintained, staffed by (generally) helpful crew. Our cabin (on deck 5)was larger than expected. The only cabin gripes I had were the lumpy (and with noisy springs) mattress plus a pretty ordinary choice of free to air television. Whilst the vast majority of passengers were Germans, I understand that MSC is attempting to lure more English speakers to their ships. If they REALLY want to succeed in this, they would help themselves by improving the TV channel selection. I would suggest BBC World, Euronews (English service), perhaps Aljazeera (English service) and for the Americans (groan) CNN. I believe that this may be difficult at times, due to satellite signal availabilities. We did a 3 weeks-long trip from Rio to Venice which included 5 days non stop at sea whilst crossing the Atlantic. Naturally, there was plenty of time for reading. A pity there was such a small amount of English language books in the ship's library. To borrow a book is free, but I suspect that despite the (relatively) small number of English speakers on board, books were hoarded, which made it really difficult to find a decent selection. TIP: Take your own book/s.
TO SUMMARIZE POSITIVES: Cost of alcoholic drinks is inexpensive. The coffee is excellent. You can even order a current copy of most major newspapers from around the world, delivered to your cabin for only $2.50! The gym is pretty good, although there was usually one or two machines not in working order. Food is generally good, lots of variety and plentiful (awesome ice creams in the restaurants at lunch & dinner!!! But none available in the Gli Archi buffet). Cabin staff are very efficient and helpful without being intrusive. Currency conversions are easy to organise at the Accounts Desk, with very fair exchange rates. The MSC cashless 'Credit Card' system is easy and convenient.
TO SUMMARIZE THE NEGATIVES: Staff are reluctant to help with information on 'Do-it-yourself' options for port visits. Naturally, they want to sell their own shore excursions (not always great value) so they don't seem keen to offer practical advice such as taxi fare $$$ estimates, things to do etc. Take your own healthcare basics, such as flu tablets, cough liquid, throat lozenges etc. People were coughing, sneezing and hacking all the time, so chest/throat infections spread quickly. At one stage I spent 3 days in bed, and it wasn't due to seasickness! There's an on-board doctor, but that'll cost you $$$'s. Also, the daily programme, slipped each night under our cabin door, was not well designed. For example, the weather forecasts were useless and instructions for altering watches/clocks back and forth to adjust to new time zones were confusing. My final gripe is the amount of time it took to disembark. With about 3,000 souls waiting to finally get off the ship, I realise it's impossible to do it in 5 minutes flat. But it took forever and passengers were getting irritated. Some entertainment and/or refreshments in the theatre (where passengers wait for disembarkation) would be a smart idea. It would certainly leave a more positive impression during passengers final moments on board M.S.C. Musica.