MSC Armonia is the oldest ship in the MSC Cruises fleet. Built in 2001 as European Vision for the now-defunct cruise line Festival Cruises, Armonia began sailing under the MSC banner in 2004 and is one of four Mistral-class ships.
MSC spent more than $200 million on Armonia and the rest of the Mistral class during a two-year refurbishment program in 2014–2015 that saw a nearly 80-foot-long section sandwiched into the middle of each ship. The "stretching" procedure added nearly 200 more cabins -- 94 of which have balconies. During the refurbishment, the line also took the chance to update the spa and childcare facilities, as well as to add an interactive water feature called the Spray Park to the top deck.
Although still a relatively large ship at 2,000 passengers, Armonia is smaller than most modern big-line cruise ships and feels cozier than you'd think. Despite Armonia being an older ship, the decor feels comfortable; imagine a high-end chain hotel that's become pleasantly worn-in over the years. Although the line is sometimes criticized for having a gaudy look, Armonia's interior design is reasonably muted.
On the whole, this ship is friendly, relaxed and accepting of all passenger types. As an older ship cruising in the Mediterranean offering reasonable prices, Armonia attracts budget cruisers during term times and large, multi-generational European families during school holidays.
As such, one thing that stands out on Armonia is its commitment to children. The ship is packed with kids' clubs that benefit from brand partnerships with companies that make and sell children's products. MSC has joined forces with both Chicco, the Italian baby care brand, and Lego, the well-known toy block manufacturer, to create its five separate onboard childcare centers, kids' and teen clubs.
For those who want to cruise on a ship surrounded by English-speakers, this may not be the ship for you. You'll quickly notice that all announcements onboard are made in several languages and that the passengers hail from all over Europe. That said, English is the first language on MSC ships.
During the summertime, most of the passengers are Europeans, mainly from Italian-, French-, Spanish- and German-speaking countries. Also during this time and on school holidays, the ship really caters to families -- and large, multi-generational families, at that. Don't worry too much about chaos or kids running around like free radicals, however; Armonia's smaller size makes for a more relaxed atmosphere. Outside of summer and school holidays, the demographic is older. MSC does also attract passengers from English-speaking countries, such as the U.K., United States and Australia. Announcements onboard are made in Italian, French, Spanish, German and English.
Casual dress is appropriate on Armonia for the majority of the cruise. The exception is on formal (called "gala") evenings when men should wear a suit and women a cocktail dress. There's one formal night on four- to six-night cruises, two on seven- to 11-night cruises, three on 11- to 14-night cruises and four on cruises 15 nights or longer. Passengers who want a less formal dining experience on these nights can opt for the Lido buffet. On non-gala evenings, depending which dining room you choose, you'll either observe informal (in the two main dining rooms) or casual dress (in the Lido buffet). Informal dress for women includes dresses or trousers and a blouse; for men, it's a jacket and trousers (no jeans). The casual dress code allows for jeans, but the line's official policy doesn't allow swimwear or bare feet in indoor restaurants or buffets at any time.
The currency onboard Armonia is the euro on the vast majority of the ship's cruise itineraries, including those in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands, as well as westbound "grand voyages." For these cruise itineraries, the gratuity is automatically set to 7 euros per person, per night, and 3.5 euros per night for children 14 and older -- for cruises of eight nights or less. For cruises nine nights or longer to these destinations, the charge is 6 euros per person, per night, and 3 euros per night for children 14 and older.
The ship also sails a handful of cruise itineraries in South America, where the onboard currency is the U.S. dollar. The fee for South America cruises is $6 per night, per adult passenger, and $3 per night, per child age 3 and older.
Although gratuities are automatically added to your onboard account, you can remove or adjust the charges by contacting the Guest Relations Manager onboard.