Things couldn't have started much worse - booked through Gill's travel online; a fortnight later they went bust !
Assumed I'd lose my deposit, but MSC got in touch & said they'd honour the booking. Think when they saw just how cheaply I'd got my single cabin + flights for 11 nights(under Â£700) they were more than a little shocked, & for a good while I feared that I'd be going nowhere even after paying the balance, but eventually got all the paperwork & turned up at Gatwick hoping the trip would actually happen !
BA flight, civilised hours, easy check-in, no problems - Genoa, well, found the MSC reps easily enough, and the wait on the coach could have been worse, but was definitely relieved actually to arrive at the ship (15 minute transfer...almost unbeatable anywhere !).
Check in at the port definitely easier than RCI, and all the wine/spa/excursion/restaurant packages actually on sale on the way through, so no need to chase around the boat booking everything, More
though of course you could if it was all too much at once in the check-in shed.
Welcomed onto the ship, though not taken to the cabin, though there were folk around who probably would have if I'd looked in need - quite happy to explore a little anyway ! Cabin(interior - lowest grade) just fine for 1, probably for 2; no intention of spending much time there, so quite happy.
Attendant(from Bali..a lot of Balinese on the ship, & having visited the country I'm glad to say these were just as charming as I remember)on hand to make sure all was well; always was on hand if you needed, or just to have a chat. Luggage arrived within 10 minutes, a record !
The ship is spectacularly attractive, beautifully appointed restaurants, some 19 differently & elegantly themed bars, very smart public rooms & stylish pool decks. It's not garish & brash as some of the 'American' style boats, much more like a European Cunard or Princess.
Always cleaning in progress, & plenty of emphasis on hygiene, though there were a lot of colds/coughs etc. on board; no idea if that had any relevance to the ship, but if so it wasn't for want of trying.
The food is more European than some would like, but plentiful, varied and usually, with maybe one exception, entirely hot enough. All my (extremely pleasant) English table of 6 were delighted with it.
English guests are in a minority, but everything's explained in English(usually first of the announced languages), and the crew converse very well in English...so communication should never be a problem there. Fellow guests..well many speak some English, though of course the French prefer not to and let us wallow,and Eurpeans aren't as good at queuing as we seem to like being, but most of the the time I'm afraid to say I found them a sight more polite and, sorry, refined than a lot of English/American/ S. American guests I've cruised with before....and if you happen to be able at least to say good morning or thank you in their language, it usually, as on most holidays, makes all the difference.
You can spend a lot of money onboard, though most of the charges - service/drinks/excursions/spa etc. sre no different to 85% of other companies, and if you don't want to spend much you can have a delightful time without the need to. My bill on board was 6-7 hundred euros....I could easily have halved that; or doubled it, if I'd so wished. The choice is yours.
Everything was slick & well organised. Most of the shows (bearing in mind if you're expecting British comedians etc. you really are on the wrong ship) were very well put together, so even if like me your tastes don't always entirely match what's on offer it's a very pleasant way to spend 45 mins. or so.
I could go on....and on (!), but if you've read this far you get the picture. For a total base price of under Â£700 I don't think there's a holiday to touch it, & precious few other cruise lines who could offer anything like this sort of classy experience for anywhere near that.
But....unless you realise you're going European, and are prepared to go with the flow & not expect everything to be just as it is back home, then you'll probably come home moaning like so many of the reviewers I was put off by before setting out !
It's my 6th cruise, my best(and that includes a gorgeous S. American trip with Celebrity), & I'll be very happy if the price is right to travel with MSC again. Less
Only 4 because Civitavecchia where you dock is pretty ordinary, so you need to get into Rome, which you can't begin to do properly in a day, as at least 2 hrs. will be travelling. Marvellous city to see something of if you can prioritise, though.