I read the many critical reviews but booked 3 consecutive cruises totaling 23 nights for a relatively low price anyway. I am writing my first cruise review after taking 10 cruises because my great experience and belief that some of the criticisms are dated. MSC must have worked on some of the points people criticized it on based on my experience.
My embarkation was on 10/22 in NYC. The ports visited were Halifax & St John in Canada, Bar Harbor, Boston, Newport, NYC, Ft Lauderdale, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ft Lauderdale again, Key West, Bahamas with disembarkation in Ft Lauderdale. The first 19 days were booked as one cruise but it was divided into a 7 day Fall foliage Canada/New England cruise and a 12 night re positioning that included the Western Caribbean ports. The final 4 nights were booked as a separate cruise and stopped in Key West and Bahamas. There were many wonderful sea days.
I did notice a few differences from the other (American style) cruise lines I've been on. First, the passengers on the first 19 days of my cruise were overwhelmingly European. In addition, they were Europeans who eiter didn't or wouldn't speak much English. They spoke mostly only German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, French etc. This is very different than my other cruises where all of the Europeans I met were fluent in English. The Dutch travelers on the cruise were the exception. This was a plus for me most of the time and a little irritating other times. The ships officers, managers, and ship excursion leaders were just a little laid-back for my taste but always spoke English, paid attention and resolved any issues I had.
The entertainment was phenomenal and was broken into 4 parts. One part was the evening show in the big theater. The expected dancers, singers, and jugglers were present with acrobats, illusionists and opera singers added. The second part were the classical musicians that played in various venues throughout the ship. The third part were the multiple bands with a lead singer that played a wide range of contemporary, Latin and other music in the 3 big lounges. The fourth category were my favorite and is what sets MSC apart in my opinion. MSC employs a big team of young entertainers, called an animation team, that organizes everything from games by the pool to a regularly scheduled audience participation show. I've always seen games by the pool but nothing like this group that worked all day to dance with you, make jokes, put on costumes and just create a good feeling for the cruisers.
The food was fantastic and many meals were some of the best I've had on a cruise ship. A little less choice but better over all. The midnight buffets called Le Magnifique and Neapolitan are not to be missed. Fresh made pasta, the best salad and desert bars I've seen as well food from all parts of Italy with Italian favorites always available made the food stand out. Mexican, Chinese, Indian and other foods were regularly part of the buffet. The burgers, hot dogs and pizza were superior. Coffee, hot and iced tea, juices, and water were available in abundance. Free ice cream by the pool was available most hours.
No one can ever argue that it is not one of the most beautiful ships out there.
I am certainly going to cruise again with MSC and met many on the ship that are repeat MSC cruisers.