We cruised on the MSC Fantasia boarding in Geona. We were a family group of 2 grandparents, 2 parents and 2 children (14 and 12 years) It was our second cruise with MSC
I hope that my review may give a few tips on the Ship and Ports that may help and alleviate any concerns you have.
There seems to be general consensus that MSC ships are well maintained and I can wholeheartedly agree with that. They are absolutely spotless. Constantly being cleaned and painted until they gleam.
We had a balcony cabin on deck 11. It had a large double bed and large sofa bed. It was perfectly acceptable for a family of 4. Again it was spotless and beautifully serviced.
What must be realised is that MSC is a truly Italian line and so, as such, the service is quiet and understated. Do not expect a 'Disney' type reception. However, all our requirements were met politely and to our satisfaction. Even our last minute request for a Birthday cake.
It seems to be a fairly contentious issue but we have absolutely no complaints. Admittedly it is not 'gourmet', but there was always plenty of choice and we never went hungry! It certainly isn't English cuisine but for me that's part of the joy of being in on holiday. I don't want a recreation of GB overseas
Breakfast Tip Order Room Service (free) in your cabin for early morning coffee/ juice before heading for breakfast later! A lovely way to start your day.
Note if you head further through the restaurant, to the rear, it is much quieter although the hot buffet is not available.
Lunch Avoid the lengthy queue that seems to develop at the first buffet and go further in to the next set of buffets. To the left there is an Exotic bar (Mexican, Chinese, Indian etc) and it never seemed busy. It appears people wait in line for the sausages, burgers and chips at the first counter, so avoid these and you will be fine. Also better for the waist line!! Yes it is busy - but I guess an alternative is to use one of the waiter service restaurants. We never tried them ourselves though.
Dinner We were first sitting at 7pm. We generally left the restaurant around 9pm and never felt rushed. We enjoyed every meal - although the octopus was not so popular with the children! The service was always impeccable.
We purchased a 'Cheers' package before we left. This entitled us to soft drinks, beer and wine with meals. At lunch time that meant anything between the hours when the buffet was open (usually 11.30 - 4pm)
It worked for us as we like to have a drink with meals, and we could also stock up with water. Probably not cost effective for everyone, although I would do it again as it meant no nasty surprises on our end of week account.
The shows are short and hugely entertaining. Some better than others - but I won't spoil it for you. A lovely way to relax after dinner.
On our last cruise belongings were moved from sunbeds after 30 mins left vacant. Completely fair in my view. However, despite a note to say that is the policy, it was never enforced. That means you have to play the game too! Note that the pool area gets VERY noisy around 3pm onwards so for some peace and quiet head to the Zen area at the Stern ( not adults only) or the Solarium with great 'Birds nests' to lie on ( adults only)
Also be aware that if at sea and particularly windy, many sunbeds get put away for safety reasons, so pick your spot with care!
Marseille It was a Sunday and there is very little open so we stayed on board
Barcelona The Ship docks near the centre but still a long walk. The MSC offers a Shuttle bus at 8 euros an adult and 5 euros for children (under 13) . It drops near the end of The Ramblas. We then took a taxi to the Sagrada Familia. It cost us 8 euros for 4 of us and it was about 4 times the distance. In hind sight we could have toured the whole of Barcelona in a taxi for 29 euros we paid MSC. Not good value and I was faintly irritated.
Also note that there is a blue port shuttle bus that runs to a similar location and I expect it is only a few euros. That is probably a good bet.
We decided against a ship excursion and had a quiet day on board; just walking ashore for an hour so the children could set foot in Africa. We noted that at the main taxi office (in the new La Goulette 'cruise village') there were 5 hour tours for 6 people priced at 60 euros. Much cheaper than the ship and it appeared to be well organised.
A helpful tourist information point is located on the quayside as you leave the ship.
The town is just a short walk up the hill from the Grand Harbour where the ship docks. We spent a pleasant day strolling around.
Another helpful Tourist information point in the port exit building
This was our only MSC excursion; some of the family took a trip to Mt Etna. They absolutely loved it and after checking out taxi prices ashore it seems it was probably the most cost effective way. The rest of us walked to some beautiful churches with fabulous views and then headed back to the main square for the 12 midday 'spectacle' at the clock tower!
The port provides a free shuttle bus to the Port entrance and from there it is just a short walk to the train station.
We bought tickets (9 euros per person) from the booth just outside the gate. Exactly the same tickets as those at the station but avoids the queues. You can also purchase a timetable (1 euro) but basically there are 2 trains an hour to Rome.
It took an hour to St Pietro where it is a short walk to the Vatican. From there we picked up a Tourist Bus to see the main sights before returning by train to the Ship.
It was a very easy journey and a fraction of the cost of an organised tour - don't be put off by going it alone. In fact there were hundreds of others heading the same direction!
To summarise - we had an amazing holiday. We would definitely cruise with MSC again. It is an Italian company so don't be surprised by their European ways!! All I would suggest is that you do a little ground work before you go.