My wife and I were quite concerned when we read so many negative reviews here. It was our first cruise to test the waters so to speak and we really did wonder if we'd done the right thing.
We needn't have worried. We loved it. To be sure there probably were not as many passangers on boards as usual as there had been some cancellations due to the Concordia disaster. But even so we would recommend anyone wondering whether or not to try a cruise with the Magnifica to go ahead with confidence.
We'd read that the embarkation process was painfully slow and boring but for us this was not the case. We arrived by coach in the morning and were told to check our bags in (which was done very quickly and efficiently) where we were told to come back at 2:30 pm and then took the nearby People Carrier train (which takes only a very few minutes) straight into Venice. We spent the next five hours or so delighting in the wonders of Venice before taking the People Carrier back. (Be sure to leave plenty of time to find your way back to the People Carrier station as Venice is a maze of streets!)
When we arrived back at the port we went upstairs to the check-in area, received our number from the MSC staff there and sat down to wait for our number to be called. We probably waited 30 to 45 minutes and then joined the queue in the check-in area. It takes time to process so many people but you can see movement and everything is done as efficiently as possible so it's not so painful. Then we waited for the call to board and when our number was called it took another 10 minutes or so for us to get on board and to our cabin where our bags were waiting. (We were taken personally by a very helpful steward.)
The ship is a wonderful environment and we could find almost nothing at all to complain about (my sole complaint would be the small matter of the Everton teabags which are used - they are simply AWFUL. Take your own supply!)
The various bars, lounges and other facilities are superb and for us the most wonderful of all was the central lounge where each night there was a beautiful selection of sophisticated music in a relaxed setting. We tried the cocktails there and they were delicious - especially the non-alcoholic. Please note though that 15% service charge is added to all prices. Add this to the 6 euros per person per day to your final bill and it will certainly add up!)
We didn't take part in many activities but there was always plenty going on. (Be sure to read your nightly bulletin for these plus meal times (these change according to arrival/departure times at ports) and much else.
There are various photo opportunities on board - I would only recommend the professionals who offer to take your photo at a couple of places on the ship. They do do a bit of airbrushing but the results are excellent with or without. The cost of the finished article can be a bit pricey but it's more than likely it'll be a photo you'll frame and hang on your wall at home. These pros really know how to take a photo. The other jokey photos are okay if you're into that sort of thing but don't expect the kind of emaculate results available from the pros.
We got a good offer of a cabin with balcony at a reasonable price through a travel agency in Vienna and we really enjoyed having such access to the fresh air and the view. The cabin staff were excellent and, if you take the time to chat with them a bit and show a bit of interest they will reward you with delightful surprises every now and then. They could not have been more helpful.
We found the meals on board to be good in general and excellent in the restaurants. If you are going ashore for the day it's likely you will use the cafeteria. There is a wide variety there. It's a buffet and you can pick and choose. It can get crowded at breakfast and lunch. The standard of fare is of course not as fine as in the restaurants but we had no major complaints. In the cafeteria search out the tasty pasta dishes - it is an Italian line after all!
If the ship is at sea or you do not go on shore do go to the restaurant allocated at lunch times. The meal there is just as free as in the cafeteria but it a much better experience with wonderful food and individual waiter service. Eating in the lunch time restaurant and in your set table evening restaurant is a delight.
Try to bring a few bottles of water with you and refill whenever you can. All water at mealtimes except on the top floor has to be paid for. (Americans can have theirs free if they or their travel agent emails the company in advance.)
Bari was our first port of call. It's an easy walk into the old town. We loved strolling through the old town - it had a wonderfully atmosphereic feel to it. The new town was all hustle and bustle but interesting to. We did eventually find the station but we didn't feel we'd enough time to reach the town that's mentioned in reviews here. Maybe next time.
The next port was Rhodes and here again we just strolled around. This was one of the highlights of the cruise for me - the old town of Rhodes has an ancient kind of atmosphere and is fascinating to roam around. We took a stroll through the new town too - v. busy. I didn't take much from it and was glad to be back in the peace of the old town.
We only took one tour during the cruise and that was to Jerusalem & Bethlehem while at Haifa. We would certainly recommend this tour. It cost us 100 euros each and this may seem expensive but we felt it was well worth it to visit these fascinating places. Besides Haifa, appart from the wonderful (but often inaccessible) Ba'hai Gardens is not a town we could recommend walking round. There's not a lot to see and we felt it was rather unpleasant and messy overall. Our cruise was docked in Haifa for two days and we certainly would not have liked to have been looking round Haifa for two days. So the tour on the second day was a very nice and highly interesting escape.
Piraeus was next and along with a Korean couple who'd been to the place before we eventually arranged with a taxi driver a cost of 20 euros a head to take us round all the main sights for a four hour trip ending with over an hour free time to wander before he took us back to the ship. There are other ways to get into Athens but this suited us well as things can (as we saw at first) be VERY confusing at the port and we would not have reached the places we did (Piraeus old town and harbour/Temple of Zeus/View of Parthenon/Olympic stadium/Viewpoint on the high hill overlooking whole of Athens/Walk round Plaka and got back to the ship on time. It was well worth taking the taxi for us and he was able to give us all sorts of information on the way.
The shows each evening on board were great. I had thought they would be totally amateurish rubbish but I was totally wrong. Some of the acts could have been with Cirque de Soleil they were so good. Okay the compere does have to have a speil at the start in each language but he's quite amazingly fluent and doesn't hang about. Contrary to other reviews here we found him to be inspiring rather than irritating!
Disembarkation went fine. You have to be up early and out of your cabin by 7:30 am but you are used to getting up early several times during the cruise so this is nothing new. Bags are packed and left outside your cabin the night before.
We had one of the most wonderful holidays of our lives onboard the Magnifica. We are missing the sophisticated atmosphere, the helpful staff and the whole delightful ambiance we found there. We will most certainly be going on further cruises with them. I really don't know why some people seem to have been disatisfied with the MSC Magnifica - WE LOVED IT FROM TOP TO BOTTOM, PORT TO STARBOARD AND PROW TO STERN. Thank you MSC for an unforgettable trip and especially to the Nepalese and Indonesian staff who are the real heros behind the scenes.