This was the first cruise for my husband and I and it was beyond our expectations. MSC were excellent in their organisation, service, quality of food, ports of call and activities - and no, I'm not an MSC rep! We embarked on Armonia at Venice and the procedure was quick and easy especially as I had previously checked in on the web. We got a vaporetta from our accommodation in Venice to Piazzale Roma which is right near the main train station. MSC provided a shuttle bus to the port and this was in the square behind all the local buses and had an MSC sign. Our cabin was small but big enough for the two of us with lots of storage space where you could put everything away. The cabin staff were courteous and efficient and always provided anything extra we requested such as a spare blanket or a jug of water. The majority of passengers were Italian with other Europeans so if you don't feel comfortable amongst non English speaking people then this is not the cruise for you. There was a range of ages from young to old with lots of families with children. We were seated (first sitting 6.30) at a table with other Australians which was fine although we wouldn't have minded mixing with different nationalities.
On our first night we had a casual dinner in the Brasserie self serve on deck 11. You can have breakfast lunch or dinner there and the food is fresh, plentiful, good and with lots of variety. Tea and coffee is available and you can get fresh water and ice all day and night on this deck. There is also a separate pizza bar, pasta bar and barbecue on the same deck so you're spoilt for choice really. Dinner in the restaurant is a more formal affair and the food is of a high standard. A Michelin star chef creates the menus and we enjoyed every meal. The portions are small which is just as well because you can have 6 courses if you want. We didn't get a drinks package as we preferred to buy a bottle of wine when we felt like it. Tap water is not offered in the restaurant so we bought bottled water. Drinks can be a bit pricey as 20% service fee is added to each order. The dress code was formal for both the Captain's cocktail night and the Gala Night but not everyone dressed up so you don't have to bother or you can always go to the Brasserie instead. You can have breakfast and lunch in the dining room too which has full waiter service. Waiters were lovely, most were friendly and helpful. I can't understand some of the very negative comments on this website - I guess some people are hard to please. A generous afternoon tea is served about 4pm. Just a tip about water: we bought a large bottle of mineral water at each port for a few cents and bought it back to our cabin to use during the day.
There are plenty of activities on the boat and we made full use of the gym to make up for all the eating we'd been doing. The cabaret shows were fun and although certainly not up to Las Vegas standard, we just got into the spirit of it all and found after a couple of nights that we wanted to go early to get a good seat. The internet is a bit expensive but OK if you just want a quick check of your email. We chose 3 shore excursions but it's worth checking how far the town is from where the ship docks because sometimes it's easy to walk to town such as in
*Ancona, Italy. This is a lovely little town, easy to get around and we were given a useful walking tour map at the port. You can walk up to the Cathedral on the hill and there are some Roman ruins nearby. *Corfu - we took the excursion to Paleokastritsa which had a very scenic drive to a monastery and beach and returned to the main town where there was plenty of time for shopping and exploring.
*Santorini - we took the Oia Village excursion. The weather started out very cloudy and misty for a visit to a vineyard and wine tasting but when we drove to Oia the weather cleared and revealed those beautiful views of white buildings clinging to the cliffs with the brilliant blue sea beyond.
*Piraeus (Athens). Most excisions went to the Acropolis and seemed quite expensive so we thought we would venture there ourselves. We had no map or directions but managed to get a bus to the station and a train to the Acropolis. There was a train strike on the way back and we had to get a taxi. We'd been told horror stories about over-charging but a friendly taxi driver charged us an amazingly low 9 Euros so we were happy to give him a generous tip.
*Argostoli, Greece - another lovely little town which was within easy walking distance of the port, good shopping and good for exploring.
*Kotor, Montenegro. This is a stunning town in a magnificent location on a beautiful bay. We did not enjoy the coastal excursion to Budva the old walled town. It was a very grey day and we drove an hour each way past very ugly modern development to arrive at Budva which looked a bit dull and depressing. We wished we had just stayed at Kotor and soaked up the atmosphere of the charming place which had lots to look at and pleasant cafes and restaurants.
Venice, we spent four nights here and loved every bit of our stay.
We would certainly do another MSC cruise. We'd like to try another ship and visit some different ports in the Mediterranean