Best for: Families, couples who enjoy late-night entertainment, foodies
Not for: Those seeking a quiet, small-ship experience (except in the Yacht Club)
Bottom Line: Big, fun, family-friendly ship with lots to keep the kids and adults entertained
MSC Virtuosa is the fourth in the line's popular Meraviglia Class of ships and the second Meraviglia-plus class ship (the first is MSC Grandiosa), which means it's bigger, has more features onboard and can carry a whopping 6,200 passengers at full occupancy. For cruisers who like a big ship experience with large production shows, multiple drinking and eating venues and always something going on, day and night, topped with a European flair, then this is the ship for you.
And for cruisers who are perhaps put off by all that commotion and want more of a sophisticated experience at sea, then Virtuosa could also be the ship for you.
The MSC Yacht Club -- the keycard access-only, all suite enclave across three decks at the front of the ship, complete with lounge, restaurant and sun deck -- which for our money, is one of the best splurges at sea.
The ship is vast, and when you are in the main promenade, the Galleria Virtuosa, it's quite possible to forget you are even on a ship. Galleria Virtuosa is lined with shops, bars and restaurants across two decks, and topped with an extraordinary 80-meter-long LED ceiling display, which changes throughout the day. At one end is the triple deck atrium, where you'll find more bars, all connected by a criss-cross set of stairs studded with Swarovski crystal. It's a feast for the senses, and simultaneously stunning and overwhelming, especially for the first timer.
Compared with American-based lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, there are not the large number of specialty dining venues to choose from, just a handful of tried-and-tested ones including an American steakhouse, Butcher's Cut; a Mexico-themed restaurant, Hola! Tacos; and a Teppanyaki/sushi bar, Kaito Teppanyaki.
You also won't find quite as many high-adrenaline activities as you would on those lines, such as go-karting, simulated surfing or bumper cars, but the ship does have a waterpark and a ropes course, as well as a fantastic games arcade.
One area MSC in general leads the way, and Virtuosa is no exception, are the family facilities, from the LEGO-themed kids club, to the onboard activities, family cabins, mealtimes and sports court, this ship is like a giant playground for kids of all ages.
Tech plays a big part in the MSC Virtuosa experience, and you are encouraged to download the MSC for Me app, which allows you to make bookings in restaurants, shows and the spa, keep track of your booked activities and your onboard spending, as well as keep track of your kids. You'll also be presented with a wristband that acts as your cruise card, so it opens your door and pays for drinks and onboard purchases, like a SmartWatch.
Virtuosa delivers across the board, whether that's for kids or adults, families or couples: it's fun, frenetic and fabulous.
MSC Cruises is mandating a fully vaccinated policy for those 18 and older or a negative antigen (lateral flow) test. What this means, of course, is that kids of all ages are welcome and the traditional family mix you would expect on an MSC cruise is maintained.
The ships are also at this time (summer 2021) sailing with reduced capacity, in line with U.K. government guidelines, capped at 50 percent of occupancy, which works out at around 3,600 passengers.
Note, however, that due to social distancing, many of the big gatherings MSC Cruises is famous for are reduced significantly, with multiple events taking place at the same time to avoid large crowds.
Proof of double vaccination or a negative antigen (lateral flow) test
Masks in all public spaces
Daily temperature tests
Weekly lateral flow (antigen) test
Capacity limits in all bars and restaurants
Pre-booking encouraged via the MSC for Me app
Ordering via QR codes instead of physical menus
Sanitizing stations all over the ship
Fresh mask in your cabin every night
Off the ship
Shore excursion bubbles -- no independent trips
Main dining rooms, the buffet and select other eateries.
All theater shows
Most daily activities unless noted below
Use of the gym, but not most classes
Automatic beverage and spa tips
All drinks beyond water, tea (including iced-tea), coffee and select juices in the buffet
Photos and art work