The Teatro dell'Opera is situated at the front of the ship across two decks. It's large, gilt and ornate with seating for 713 people. There are a variety of performances throughout the week, some a bit cheesy like a Dirty Dancing tribute and others revue-type shows, but when docked in Havana there is an absolute standout called Legendarios del Guajirito, by a group of musicians which include some original members of the legendary Buena Vista Social Club. MSC has managed to secure a weekly performance from these Cuban maestros in the main theatre and the show is a lot better than an overpriced shore excursion to the Tropicana Club. The only thing is, it costs, so there is usually a pretty small audience, which is a shame as there is lots of audience participation (on stage and in your seats), wonderful Cuban music and great dancing.
The theater is little-used during the day, though there is the occasional show such as the end-of-cruise performance by the kids onboard.
During the day, many of the activities center round the pool, with early morning aerobics, stretching, and a walk round the ship with the endlessly energetic entertainment team. You'll also find Bingo here, with the announcer repeating the numbers in all the languages represented; Sudoku and quizzes. On top of this, there are dance lessons, cocktail demos, table soccer and Zumba, as well as lots of impromptu music and pool parties. The exuberant entertainment team practically shame the guests into participating, acting as cheerleaders for enjoyment and inclusion. They may have to shout their instructions in five languages, but all the passengers get the meaning -- get up and dance!
Other day time activities include language lessons (Italian, of course, or Japanese), craft creations and card games, which take place in the Cotton Club. You'll find live music playing everywhere: at the pool, at the al fresco dining spots, during tea, in the main lounges on Deck 5 -- all performed by a talented group of musicians including bands, trios and pianists.
A 24-hour arcade with various video games is located on Deck 6, just outside the Teen Club and part of it, though open to all.
The poolside fun is not restricted to the daytime; dance lessons continue here at night, as well wonderful shows from Cuban locals (when the ship is Havana). Elsewhere, you'll find karaoke in Byblos Disco, as well as dance lessons and crazy competitions, often aimed at teens.
Med Pearl Casino (Deck 6): Roulette tables, blackjack, poker and Texas Hold 'Em competitions take place here daily. There is also a bar.
There's always something happening in the bars and clubs on Opera, and the ship has a fun, young vibe, with people eating late, drinking later and dancing until the wee small hours.
Piazza di Spagna Lounge (Deck 5): Large bar, which is popular for "meet the officers" events and after dinner drinks.
Sottovento Pub (Deck 5): Smokers rejoice (or non-smokers be warned), this English-style pub allows smoking on one side. It's dark, and has banquette style seating against the wall. There is a good selection of reasonably-priced international ciders and beers including stouts, pilseners and ales. You'll find Bucanero and Cristal, from Cuba, as well as Red Stripe from Jamaica, plus Heineken, Amstel and Sol. If you're feeling inclined, you can even order "Un metro di birra" -- a meter of beer -- which is 10 different draught beers of your choice for 22 euros. You can also order a limited selection of sandwiches and desserts here.
Aroma Coffee Bar (Deck 6): This is in a nice spot overlooking the atrium and does a small variety of free pastries and a wide variety of for-fee coffees and teas from a reasonable 1.40 euros for an espresso and 1.70 euros for a latte. Live music takes place here at night.
La Cabala Piano Bar (Deck 6): This is one of those "walk through" bars, with corridors either side full of people heading to or from the theater or the dining rooms. As such, it suffers from a lack of atmosphere. It is a small lounge sandwiched between the photo shop and the casino and has a small bar, banquette seating and as the name suggests, a piano which is played from 5.30 p.m. every evening. This is where the Black Card Holders (MSC's top tier loyalty club) meet once a cruise for drinks and the chance to meet with with the officers.
Casino Bar (Deck 6): The casino bar.
Cotton Club Music Hall (Deck 6): This is a large lounge with a big dancefloor where ballroom and dance classes take place throughout the day. There is a piano, a stage and a bar. Live music takes place from 6:30 p.m. through to 1:30 a.m. It makes for a lot less frantic late night spot for a drink and a dance (both in terms of crowds and music), than Byblos Disco.
Il Patio (Deck 11): Outside bar, part of the Il Patio buffet area.
Spinnaker (Deck 11): Pool bar. This is crowded all day and into the evening; head to Il Patio for quicker service.
Ice Cream Bar (Deck 11): Pool bar, serving a selection of delicious gelato and drinks.
Vitamin Bar (Deck 11): This is more of a pop up bar (there are no seats), near the pool, serving a selection of for fee healthy fruit drinks from 4.50 euros.
Byblos Disco Bar (Deck 11): A large space at the aft of the ship, which is invariably full every night till the early hours. There's a circular bar, a big dance floor and DJ booth and doors leading outside, for a bit of warm Caribbean air. In the day it's not used, and is a lovely spot to relax or read, and has great views from its many windows.
There are two pools on the main pool deck on Deck 11 and two hot tubs, which is not enough for a ship this size. In addition, there is the Doremi Spray Park for kids, which was added in the refurbishment/stretching. There are plenty of sun loungers and on the starboard (right) you'll find the smoking area, which stretches for a good half length of the ship.
Shuffleboard (Deck 12) and mini-golf (Deck 13).
The exclusive Top 13 Solarium is for suite passengers only, or for a 15 euros per day fee, which is a pretty good price. Up here, you'll find stunning views from the top of the ship, no problem getting a lounger, free water and cold towels and your own private bar and waiters.
At the aft of the ship, near the mini-golf area there is also limited sunbathing.
The hub of the ship is on Deck 5, where you will find the main reception, the shore excursion desk, the Voyagers Club (for Loyalty Club members) and a shopping area, with some high-end brand shops. There are more shops on Deck 6, including a logo shop and various duty free shops, as well as the Photo Gallery and the Photo Shop.
Towards the front of the ship you'll find a small library and an internet area with a printer, which is in scant use now that the ship has been fitted with bow to stern Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi options are divided into three types -- Streamer, which is 69.90 euros per cruise, or 22.90 euros per day, for up to four devices; Surfer, which is 34.90 euros per cruise for up to three devices or 11.90 euros per day; and Social, which is 19.90 euros/cruise or 4.90 euros/day for a single device.
The MSC Aurea Spa (Deck 11) is lovely, right at the front of the ship with great views. It offers a wide range of massages and therapies, but specializes in Balinese treatments offered by Balinese therapists. It also offers acupuncture and anti-ageing treatments, including facials which start at €90 for one session. It is, like all cruise ship spas, on the pricey side compared to land and note that a further 15 percent is added to your spa bill. However, there are plenty of discounts and specials offered throughout the week, especially on port days.
On the port side there is a large relaxation room, again with floor-to-ceiling windows, wicker chaises -- and peace and quiet, but bizarrely no water. In fact, there is no water anywhere, not even from a dispenser -- so bring your own.
The Thermal Suite features separate steam and sauna rooms for men and women and passes can be bought on a daily basis for 29 euros per person (39 euros/couple) or for 89 euros pp (119 euros/couple) per cruise. You also need to bring your own dressing gown and slippers/flip flops.
The spa also includes a salon for manicures, pedicures and hair and men's grooming (again look out for port offers)
The gym is located at the front of the ship and is integrated in the spa, so you access it through the spa reception area. It is a large space which takes up the front of deck 11, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. There are weight machines, bikes, treadmills and a space with mats and a mirror for weights.
The gym offers a wide range of for fee fitness services including individual dance lessons for 35 euros/hour or classes of 5 for 10 euros/hour; yoga classes, pilates and stretching and abs.
There is a Power Walking track on deck 12.
MSC has gone all out across the fleet when it comes to kids, with link ups with Italian baby company Chicco as well as LEGO. It also has a popular mascot -- Doremi -- who visits the kids club and make impromptu appearances across the ship. The line also highlights shore excursions suitable for the whole family and will advise of a minimum age.
The kids club, or more accurately, clubs, as there are several, are located on decks 11 and 12. The youngest kids (babies to six year olds) have two rooms at the front on Deck 11; the elder kids are at the aft on Deck 12. As on most cruise lines, kids must be registered on the first day, they are presented with a wrist band which they keep on the entire cruise and they must be signed in and out. All the kids clubs open at 9 a.m. on port days (9:30 a.m. on sea days) and formal programing ends at 10 p.m., with breaks for meals.
Baby Club (Deck 11): The Baby Club is open for babies from six months to 36 months and is sponsored by Chicco, which means there is a huge variety of free baby stuff -- diapers, wipes, formula, bottles -- even a selection of cots and seven strollers, which parents are welcome to turn up and use (you can't pre-book). It's a lovely soft play area with brightly-colored soft tiles, age-appropriate toys and cots for naps and a dedicated wash area. It is open from 9 a.m. to noon, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Mini Club (Deck 11): Next door is the LEGO-sponsored Mini Club for kids aged three to six years old, which is designed in bright LEGO colors with lots of LEGO bricks and has plenty of natural light. As well as the LEGO, there are plenty of age appropriate games, a basketball hoop, books and fun programming which includes dancing, dressing up, scavenger hunts and arts and crafts.
Junior Club (Deck 12): At the aft of the ship you'll find more kids' facilities, this time for the seven to 11-year-olds. They also get a LEGO-themed room with age-appropriate toys and games, and get to do sports, dressing up, arts and crafts, treasure hunts and other fun activities.
Young Club (Deck 12): This is for the 12- to 14-year-olds and operates in a slightly different way from the younger kids' clubs, with more video games and less programming. It generally operates in the afternoon when in port, and all day when at sea. Facilities include foosball, TVs, video games, lounge chairs and a dancefloor. Sometimes the Young Club will decamp to the Teen Club on Deck 6 if there are not many kids on the ship.
As part of the refurbishment/stretching kids also got their own Doremi Spray Park on the top deck, with slides, water cannons and lots of interactive splashing about.
From 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. there is a 10 euros per child per hour charge for use of the kids' clubs; free otherwise.
Teens (15- to 17-years-old) get a pretty good set up down on Deck 6 in their own private room adjacent to a games arcade, which includes Guitar Hero and numerous other video games. The Teen Room has a pool table, sofas, Wii and PlayStations and large TVs. Their programming is pretty light touch, again afternoons only (except on sea days) and will include generation games, battle of the sexes, PS4/X-Box contests, dancing and sports competitions including mini-golf and ping pong.
* May require additional fees