This was a Dubai round trip through Middle East ports and back to Dubai. We had done the same trip back in February 2011 on RCI Brilliance of the Seas and were therefore seeing this current trip as a chance to unwind rather than sightsee. We had read some awful reports about the ship and also some OK ones so we were more than a little apprehensive when boarding as to what it would be like.
We had got a good deal direct with MSC. This involved having an inside cabin which we had not had on any ship before but we were happy to give it a go. We also purchased an all inclusive drinks package (package no 415) which gave us unlimited access to basically all drinks on the ship except those selling for more than 7 Euros and also those which contained champagne. We were also entitled to bottles of the house wine and to use the contents of the mini bar which was restocked daily.
Our cabin on deck 9 was compact but adequate providing you did not want to spend too much time in it. There was plenty of storage space - more than we needed - and it was clean but the lighting was dim. The bed was comfy. The shower was however, a different story. We do not think we have ever had a smaller shower on a cruise ship. It was basically a triangular shape with 2 fixed sides measuring 36 inches and 27 inches respectively. The hypotenuse was between the 2 ends of these sides and this took the shower curtain. Then you had to take into account the shower unit itself, and a large grab handle sticking out of one of the sides. You just about had room to give yourself a rudimentary wash and there was a constant battle with the plastic shower curtain!! There was however, plenty of hot water and the shower itself was good.
Just after boarding, we met an English lady who was disemarking the following day in Abu Dhabi. She recommended that we eat all our meals in the main restaurant (MDR) as the buffet was nothing special. We took her at her word and had our first lunch in the MDR. This was excellent. However, we decided to use the buffet for breakfast as we like to get this over with in a reasonably quick time which you cannot always do in the MDR. The lady we spoke to was right about the buffet. It was cramped, dark and uninviting. Food choice was limited. We used to get our breakfast food and take it to the Pergola outside buffet to eat it. Also they had the most awful blue plastic mugs for tea and coffee. All in all, fairly grim.
You can get cold water, ice, tea and coffee 24/7 in the Pergola buffet. However, we did not need to resort to this as we had our drinks package which paid for bottled water.
We found the staff very helpful and pleasant. I cannot recall any exception to this. The only problem we had was with restocking the mini bar in our cabin but I consider this was more down to misunderstanding that incompetence. In any event this was sorted out in a couple of days.
The food in the MDR for dinner was excellent. It all has an Italian theme but this does not mean it is all pasta. Far from it. We were eating 7 course dinners every evening. The waiters were very good. There is no speciality restaurant on this ship and we did not use the buffet for evening meal as we did not like the ambience (as mentioned above). The drinks served in the bars were very good and cocktails were made propely not solely from sugary syrups.
We spent our days resting on sunbeds overlooking the pool area. The sunbeds were a good size but you could not put the back up so you could never sit more or less upright. Lots of people complained about this.
The ship was not full and there were few children being in the middle of school terms.
So our opinion of the ship was that our cruise was much better than we expected. I would not choose an inside cabin again but this is more to do with the lack of daylight and fresh air than with the state of the cabin itself. I would expect these comments to apply to any inside cabin on any cruise ship. The worst aspect of the ship is the buffet restaurant. Otherwise the ship was very clean and well appointed.