Apologies for the length of this review:
We actually boarded at Livorno but this wasn't an option in the review pick-list. We flew on Ryanair from Stn to Pisa, rented a car and spent 4 nights near Aulla in an excellent selfcatering apartment in the hills before dropping the car back to Pisa Airport and taking public transport to the port: here are a few tips we couldn't find on the internet before we went:
Train from Pisa airport to Pisa was 15 minute journey and cost about 6 euros for 4 of us (2nd class) train efficient, comfy and no crowds and the station at Pisa Airport is literally about 30 yards from the check-in hall of the sirport.
Change platforms at Pisa for train to Livorno which was pretty much the same and took about 20 minues. On arrival we took a number 1R bus to the main Piazza Grande ? then walked right around corner to bus stop 5 (marked on wall) and took another bus to the port entrance which was 5 minutes journey, walked through security gate unopposed and another 50 yards to MSC check-in, the ship was nearest to the port entrance. The bus rides cost about 6 euros for all of us (one-way)
Check-in was slow but we did arrive early. Bought a beer package (14 paper coupons for the local draught lager which is OK and costs about 1 euro less than paying 4.90 plus 15% service charge on-board) Bought 10 soft drinks (Fant/Sprite or kids coctails) vouchers which represented a similar saving albeit the coctails are better value than a can of coke etc.
Ship looks a little worn in places but we found all public spaces and cabins were very clean, always fresh towels and sheets etc after it had been serviced and cabin stewards were very friendly and efficient. 95% of guests were Italian and this is what we expected and was OK as we didn't expect being well catered for on the entertainment front tho' was pleasantly surprised that the shows were often in English and we didn't feel being a minority was a disadvantage; we decided to avoid all excursions and long queues disembarking and pretty much did our own thing which is far less stressful, more enjoyable / individual and considerably less expensive. Quite a few of the excurions are little more than a coach ride to a popular destination. Ports of call were usually only for half a day and included:
The pools are nice areas but beds are in the usual demand and are reserved by the selfish majority. The water is SALT water so beware when you take a dip. The spa's are luke warm altho' the Italians were obviously having a 'how many can we get in a spa' competetion and how long can we stay in for... so we didn't spend long in them. Taking towels ashore: the grump by the pool (who wants you cabin number when he hands you the towels) told us they were available on the gangway; the staff on the gangway told us to get them from the grump at the pool blah blah so you're better off taking them from the cabin to save on the silly conversation. Kiddy club wasn't really for our children as their Italian was limited as was the interest of the staff in engaging children or maybe just English speaking children.
Naples, We bought tickets for the City Sightseeing Tour which looked like a really time efficient way of seeing Naples and cost 66 euros for a family of 4. We boarded the purple line bus and alighted about 3 miles away to go to a beach named 'Bagna Elena' (10 euros for a sun bed and access to cramped beach and toilet / shower facilities but was OK) We walked back to bus stop 10 where we alighted and waited about 15 minutes for the next bus which drive straight passed us, even tho the driver had to avoid running us over when we stepped out to attract his attention. He rather dismissively motioned with his hand to 'sweep' us aside. Unimpressed, we walked all the way back to the port where I had a pointed conversation with the staff and was told there was no actual bus stop sign for number 10 and we were in the wrong place (What absolute B******s). The walk back along the shorline was actually quite pleasant but left us with little time to explore the red route around the city when we returned. There is a water park about 40k away but we were told it was full of undesirables; a better excursion would be Pompei or Santorini but we've visited these locations previously so the City Tour is quite a good option, providing you clarify exactly where the bus stops or take a Stinger with you!
The buffet restaurant was a bit of a feeding time at the zoo affair altho' on the one occasion we had an evening meal there we found a quiet corner. The food was limited in the buffet. The dining room was good for breakfast, good for lunch but our waiter at dinner was about as dreadful as we've ever experienced and this was our 8th cruise. It was so bad it was laughable because he was so rude and dismissive with a constant sneer on his face. The menu was a little difficult to understand and when my wife asked him to explain he reacted like she'd just asked him to carry our bags to the airport. The food was very hit and miss; sometimes really good and sometimes school dinners. My daughter asked what the pasta of the day was and he shrugged and dismissed her then plonked / dropped a bottle of water on my place setting before throwing my sons dinner plate in front of him. I've had far better service in a McDonalds and tastier food on occasion.
Back to Livorno, disembarkation was slow and disorganised however we had decided not to rush so slept in and had a leisurely breakfast before wandering off after the rush at about 10am. Contrary to expectation, the only taxis outside the terminal were those pre-ordered (maybe the MSC lady we spoke with in Ibiza thought we were in Livorno!). The locals seemed less than helpful so we re-traced our steps to the bus stop just outside the gate and waited 10 mins for a bus to the centre of Livorna and then took another to the railway station. On arrival at Pisa we took another bus and were dropped off within 100 yards of the excellent B&B we'd booked for our last night. This bus journey took about 15 minutes and represented excellent value as we couldn't buy tickets on the bus and hence weren't charged by the driver. Pisa was a great little place with attraction within walking distance. It was also the only place where we didn't feel we were paying a premium for being a tourist and had an excellent meal just along from the tower and a few other refreshments around the city paying similar prices as we would at home. The locals were very friendly and Borgo Largo 51 B&B was a real Find! Just 5 mins walk from the tower and absolutely delightful.
We left on a Sunday morning at 8.30 and ordered a cab which took 3 minutes to arrive and 10 minutes and 12 euros to the sirport.
Great holiday, good cruise and would recommend as long as your expectations are realistic. Have maybe been spoilt with Cunard and more recently HAL but this line are more like The Ryan Air of cruising.