MSC Sinfonia Entertainment
Forward on Brahms Deck (7), next to the library, is the Sinfonia Lounge, a lovely light room with pale beech walls, gold and maroon decor. This is a popular venue for early evening dancing and late-night cabaret singing and magic acts.
The ship's main show lounge -- the Teatro San Carlo -- mounts spectacular Cirque du Soleil-style shows in a lovely setting with a pretty starlit ceiling, comfortable red and gold seating, and good sightlines.
Shore excursions -- largely coach-based -- were not particularly active or exciting, and could do with updating if Sinfonia is competing for bookings from more go-getting British and American passengers.
MSC Sinfonia Public Rooms
Discreet good taste is the order of the day on this ship; even the San Remo Casino on Mozart Deck (6) is understated, with red and cream leaf patterned carpet and curtains, walnut veneered walls and a pillared entrance.
The most ornate bar on board is Le Baroque Cafe -- also on Deck 6 -- which has a pleasantly 18th-century feel with its red velvet chairs, and olive green and cream walls embellished with silhouettes and scenic paintings. But prettier, in my opinion, is the Buddha Bar, which lies between the casino and the photo gallery; decorated in soft shades of green with a stunning chandelier as centerpiece, this would be a very relaxing venue if it didn't overlook the hordes of passengers milling about the photo displays. A couple of well-placed screens would work wonders here.
Another cozy watering hole is the Manhattan Bar on Deck 6, a popular pre-dinner drinks and dancing venue with a bandstand and substantial dance floor, large porthole windows and sophisticated blue and gold decor.
Shelagh's House -- the ship's Irish pub -- is less successful: cozy enough but nondescript and not really attuned to the clientele (though British passengers will like it as any pub's better than none).
Late at night, the Italians prefer to see and be seen at the elegant Pasha Club -- a large-windowed, roomy lounge-cum-nightclub on Deck 12.
The Italians are also great shoppers, and Sinfonia offers them plenty of scope with the well-stocked Galleria Mazzini jewelry shop on Deck 6. (Cartier watches from 2,400 euros [$3,240] anyone?)
One deck down, other shops include a general store selling an affordable selection of cosmetics, perfumes and toiletries, a logo goods shop and a boutique selling linen goods, designer swimwear and polo shirts.
MSC Sinfonia also has a smart Business Centre on Deck 6. Resplendent with leather and wood veneered walls and comfy red and gold seating, this hosts shore tour talks but could be put to better use as a cinema when not in use by incentive groups.
The ship's Internet cafe (on Deck 5 near reception) keeps passengers connected for 3.33 euros ($4.50) for the first 10 minutes online, then 0.33 euros ($0.45) for each minute thereafter. While cheaper than on many cruise ships, this is still dearer than cafes ashore.
There is a very restful, plant-filled and surprisingly well-stocked library just off the keyhole-shaped Sinfonia Lounge on Brahms Deck (7). MSC's UK office keeps this stocked with English books and offers an excellent choice. Unfortunately, opening hours are very limited and vary from day to day; so bookworms need to be vigilant.
MSC Sinfonia Spa & Fitness
Right at the stern end of the ship on the top deck is a large ball court, while one deck down is a mini-golf course. At the forward end of the top deck are an indoor golf simulator and roomy sun deck, while one deck down, Deck 12 has a rock-climbing wall and a jogging track. But the rock-climbing wall is cordoned off and out of use and there is, absurdly, a "no running" sign on the jogging track! Fitness-oriented passengers quite reasonably ignore this, though most use the track -- which offers splendid sea views -- simply for a pleasant evening stroll.
The track overlooks a blue and white tiled, twin-pooled area on Deck 11 -- a popular sun spot and venue for a weekly open air Buffet Magnifique. Unfortunately, use of the pools is restricted by the fact that the water is cold (so much so that even kids won't go in for long) -- and the pools are netted and sun beds are cleared away, stacked and tied down by 6 p.m., far too early. This also means passengers miss out on a Jacuzzi during the lovely early evening "golden hour" just before the sun sinks.
They can, however, head indoors to La Ferme Spa, which has a well-equipped gym with six treadmills, four steppers, three sit-up bikes, three reclining bikes, weights and resistance machines and a large aerobics studio offering free stretch and aerobics classes, salsa or merengue lessons at 12 euros ($16.20) per class and step aerobics for 8 euros ($10.80).
There is a large-windowed relaxation room adjacent to the gym equipped with very comfortable deep-cushioned steamer chairs and, next to this, a very pretty Thermal Suite. This has a beautiful mosaic Turkish-style sauna and a hot steam room fragranced with chamomile, as well as tropical rain showers and heated white-tiled recliners facing floor-to-ceiling windows.
The thermal suite costs 12 euros ($16.20) per hour to use, but as the cruise progresses sessions are often thrown in free as an incentive to book spa treatments. It's well worth waiting to book these as prices are steep to begin with but fall quite a bit as pressure builds for staff to meet their targets.