I have always wanted to go cruising, and this was my first time.
Overall, it was lovely experience. My only issue were the 15% service charge, and the 7 euros a day per person tip/gratuity.
On our arrival on the ship (MSC Lirica) we headed straight for the Reception, as we were advised by our tour operator that we could query the the tip with the Guest Relation Manager (GRM). We had an appointment 2 days later to see her, and during this time we made a note of the things we were unhappy with. On one occassion, a waitress hadn't asked for our drinks voucher, and refused to void the transaction when we showed them to her, until we asked to see the manager. On the first day, our dinner was cold, and on another a waiter left 2 of our party waiting over 15 minutes to take a drinks order. Generally, we wouldn't have made an issue of this things, but as we had little option in paying the tip, we made sure we scrutinised every aspect of our trip. The GRM listened to our concerns, and in the end the tip charge was halved. I think it's worth buying the vouchers for drinks, as you do make a small saving having only to pay 15% on the whole vouchers, rather than 15% per drink. The food was lovely, nothing spectacular, but as I've put on over half-a-stone, it wasn't all bad! The majority of the staff were pleasant, especially the Housekeepers, who were always ready with a "Good Morning/evening, how was your day, and have a lovely evening" whenever we saw them in the corridors. Most of the staff were very pleasant, and were attentive in clearing tables, and general maintenance of the boat. The entertainment wasn't to my taste, and even though a lot of it was translated into 4 languages, I still wouldn't have enjoyed it, even it were totally in English!! The showers are TINY, and I spent most of my time fighting with the shower curtain!
If you do nothing else, please get vouchers for the cocktails. It was nice to relax with a post-dinner cocktail.
Please note that 1st sitting for dinner is at 7/7.30pm, and 2nd sitting is 9.30pm/9.45pm. We made the mistake of thinking that dinner sittings would be earlier, and having opted for 2nd sitting, we didn't finish eating until well after 10.30pm. Dinners are usually 5 courses, and we had 2 Gala nights where formal dress was suggested. I would also recommend taking the excursion to Rome offered by MSC. We did out own thing when ashore, but it was a rush getting around Rome in the 3 hours we had allocated, also be aware of the haggling taxi drivers in Tunis!
All in all, I very much enjoyed my first ever cruise trip, and I would definitely do it again :-)