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260 MSC Cruises MSC Meraviglia Cruise Reviews

I have taken more than 50 cruises on nine different cruise lines, but this was my first cruise with MSC, and the new Meraviglia was a very pleasant surprise. It is an absolutely gorgeous ship with a very polite and helpful crew. I had ... Read More
I have taken more than 50 cruises on nine different cruise lines, but this was my first cruise with MSC, and the new Meraviglia was a very pleasant surprise. It is an absolutely gorgeous ship with a very polite and helpful crew. I had seen all the western Mediterranean ports on our itinerary before, but they are some of my favorites. I will give you ideas on what to expect on your cruise and how to enjoy each port on your own, at minimal expense. Because this review is so long, I will divide it into sections so you can skip to the parts that interest you. THE SHIP: The MSC Meraviglia is enormous, one of the largest cruise ships in the world at 171k tons, with more than 4,500 passengers and 1,500 crew. The interiors are stunning, mostly white and shades of gray in the public areas and muted colors in the cabins, with none of the cheesy decor that one often sees on low priced cruise ships. There is a good online video from MSC that will give you a look at the Meraviglia's elegant (contemporary Italian design) interiors. The deck plans are standard for the industry, with a few exceptions. Long hallways are zig-zagged into shorter segments, and the two elevator silos (forward and midship) are in alcoves, which can be confusing as one exits them. The open deck was too cold and windy to be enjoyed midwinter, so I cannot comment on how well the pools, sundecks, and jogging track might function in a tropical environment. The spa and gym are separated, and the gym is relatively small for such a large ship. As a result, the usual complimentary stretch and exercise programs had to be given among the chairs in the public lounges since there is no aerobics area in the gym. There is a large indoor basketball/soccer court separate from the gym, a court that was rarely used on this cruise but is probably busy during school vacations. I did not use the spa so I cannot comment on its services or prices. As on other ships, most dining, entertainment, bars, and lounges are clustered on decks 6 and 7. The central promenade between these two decks is open and its ceiling is covered with an enormous LCD screen that provides glamour in the daytime and entertaining sound and light shows each evening. The best place to view these LCD shows is from the balcony on deck 7 at either end of the promenade. MSC uses similar large LCD screens instead of the usual stage scenery in its main theater and circus lounge, and also next to its open-deck pool. This is ingenious and entertaining, and is one of the highlights on this ship. Kids of all ages will love the effect. The atrium spans decks 5 though 7 and sparkles with millions of glass crystals embedded in its spiral staircases. Similar sparkle is present in the walls shelving wine bottles outside some of the dining rooms. Reception and cruise services are clustered on deck 5. I found the personnel there were very helpful and efficient. Waiting lines for these services are common on a ship this size, but the lines moved quickly on the Meraviglia. As an aside, we experienced two nights with hurricane force winds (72 knots actual, 83 knots perceived, Beaufort scale 12) and the ship handled them with ease. There was minimal list in spite of the ship's enormous wind profile, and I felt minimal rocking and no pitching in my upper deck cabin, which was far above the ship's center of gravity. There was the usual thud of the hull against waves that one hears in severe weather, but no noise from structural flexing. I felt very safe and would trust this ship to be comfortable even on a transatlantic itinerary. FELLOW PASSENGERS: On this western Mediterranean itinerary the passengers were an enjoyable mix of nationalities -- something I enjoy when I travel in Europe. Based on overheard languages, I estimate that about 20% were native English speakers, 20% Chinese or Japanese, 5% Russian or South Asian, and 55% an equal mix of European languages (Italian, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and French). Announcements are multilingual but reasonably infrequent. Ironically, the Japanese and Chinese announcements were the easiest to understand because they were done by native speakers. The European languages were sometimes less clear because they were often rushed and given by non-native speakers. In this age of smartphone apps and smart TVs (each cabin has a smart TV), MSC would be wise to give all (except its safety and emergency) announcements via smartphone or TV. The ship already has a TV channel in each language where announcements and updates could be posted. Overhead announcements could be limited to one sentence in each language, giving the topic and referring passengers to their smart devices for further info. Also, most announcements are standard in content and could be pre-recorded at reasonable speed by native speakers. In any case, the variety of nationalities and languages is one of the pleasures of traveling abroad. If you want a Disney version of the world, then stay home. CHILDREN: I am not fond of children running loose on cruise ships, which is one of the reasons I chose a midwinter departure. Another bonus is that we were the only cruise ship docked in each port, and each port was relatively free of tourist crowds during the off-season. Our cruise had about one or two hundred children at most, preschool age or Australians on school summer holidays. The children were easily accommodated by the extensive play areas and children's programs on this ship. The school holiday calendar and a ship's quota on younger passengers is something to consider whenever booking cruise. CREW: All crew members I met were very polite and did their jobs very well. Even though this is an Italian cruise line, the crew were of diverse nationalities and usually used English as their common language. A special effort is made to provide some crew members for each language group, although passengers and crew were not always matched in this regard in the dining rooms or cabins. The ship is new, and it is maintained spotlessly clean by an excellent housekeeping staff. The officers are not as visible as on some other cruise lines, although opportunities are made to introduce high ranking officers to passengers. This is a non-issue for me as long as the junior officers maintain the safety standards of the ship so that fires and evacuations can be handled well in an emergency. CABINS: MSC is unusual in that it has relatively uniform cabins over four cabin grades called "experiences" -- Bella, Fantastica, Wellness, and Aurea-- based on what amenities are included at each price level. In addition, there are are the Yacht Club cabins, which I believe are not that much nicer than standard cabins but are isolated in a locked area of the ship with special dining, decks, and lounges (corresponding with the old first class). You can read further about this system on the MSC website. I was fortunate in that I applied to MSC and was ultimately given reciprocity (MSC gold status) to correspond with my elite status on some other cruise lines. In addition, I booked this cruise relatively late before departure when the price was so low that I thought it must be an error, but fortunately was real. It was by far the most "bang for the buck" that I have had on any cruise. I also got the 12 free drink vouchers with my Fantastica level cabin, a bonus that will be discontinued in late March 2019. My upper deck mid-ship Fantastica grade balcony cabin was absolutely beautiful. It was a little larger than the standard for the industry. Most of the extra space was devoted to a long (2m) sofa that could be converted to a queen size bed for two more adults. The cabin came with all the usual amenities, but no robes and no body lotion, so bring your own if needed. The bathroom was compact but had a shower large enough for almost anyone. The balcony was large enough for two standard chairs and one ottoman/table. The glass wall of the cabin and glass railing of the balcony offered beautiful views. Given the choice, I think that a starboard cabin provides nicer views in most ports on this itinerary. I did not realize how enjoyable a balcony view can be, even in winter, in this part of the world. For those with an inside cabin, there are two TV channels showing the view to the port and the starboard sides of the ship, which is an improvement over the usual single forward-facing bridge-cam channel. My cabin was especially well-maintained by my cabin steward. After a severe wind storm that coated my balcony with sea salt, the huge glass windows were immaculate the very next day. I did not go on a cabin crawl on this ship, so I cannot comment on the inside cabins or the suites. My cabin was a wonderful respite in the evenings, when the public areas and the entertainment venues tended to get too loud for my taste, as is too common on cruise ships. I do not understand why louder entertainment is considered better. To me, louder entertainment just sounds more amateur. DINING: The food on the Meraviglia is usually good to excellent, with only a few disappointments. For me the buffet breakfasts were by far the best meal of the day, equal to or better than that of any other cruise ship. The light and flaky croissants are some of the best I have ever had. The meats, fruits, cereals, and eggs at breakfast are all very good. The waffles (tough and soggy) and the orange drink (real orange juice is available at a surcharge) were breakfast disappointments on this cruise. I cannot comment on the coffee and tea, since I tried neither. There is only one sea day on this itinerary, so I tried the buffet lunch once and the dining room lunch once (I skipped Rome because of heavy rain and the usual transportation hassle of going from Civitavecchia port to Rome and back). The dining room lunch menu is limited but good, and the buffet lunch on the Rome day featured the best beef (rare filet mignon) of the cruise. The afternoon buffet snacks are also good, although the pizzas are surprisingly soggy rather than crisp. No free ice cream is available in the buffet (it is a favorite of mine on other ships), but very good ice cream at dinner in the main dining rooms is free. The food and service in the main dining rooms (based on my limited experience) is not up to the level of that on other cruise ships. The menu tends to be limited compared with other cruise lines (one appetizer, one soup, one salad). Upscale choices (lamb, beefsteak, lobster, salmon, etc.) are absent, although some of them can be purchased with a surcharge of about 15-20 euros. The fish is invariably the best main course on the menu, in small portions but perfectly prepared. The beef at dinner was often a disappointment on this cruise. The "chef's special" prime rib, for example, was a thin slice of lean, over-cooked beef that was as tough as leather. My waiter offered to bring me another item from the menu, but I was already running late for a show I had reserved. Similarly disappointing, the veal shank was a large cross-section of bone with a scant rim of meat along one edge. The dining room service is also not on par with other cruise lines for several reasons, and not the waiters' fault. There are fixed dining times -- early or late. Only the most expensive cabins have the freedom of flexible dining times. Diners are supposed to arrive within 15 minutes of their designated time, but they tended to wander in gradually. With flexible dining, a table fills quickly and the service begins promptly. With a fixed dining time, I usually spent the first 20 minutes eating bread until there were enough diners at his station for the waiter to start service. There are no sommeliers in the dining rooms, but if you enjoy wine and know your labels, you will do fine. There are multiple choices of wine by the glass in each major category (red, white, rose, sparkling). Unfortunately, the waiters are delayed in starting service in part because they show newly embarked diners to their assigned tables. Also, table assignments did not make sense on my cruise. Waiters' native language often did not match that of their diners. Worst of all, my waiter and his assistant were at a work station up one level and around the corner from my table even though my table was just a few feet away from another waiter's work station. My waiter had no way to anticipate my needs or see any of my requests. Finally, all waiters are burdened with bulky touch screen tablets the size of a library book. Most restaurant waiters make written notes at table and then enter them into a computer at their work stations. Entering each order in the computer as it is given slows down the entire process. If MSC spent just a little more on ingredients (especially the beef), trained and assigned waiters in a logical way, and allowed dinner service to start promptly and progress efficiently, dining on the Meraviglia could be second to none. The one thing that disappointed me the most in the main dining room was the absence of free drinking water. If one wants to drink water at dinner, one must pay for it -- a new bottle of water with each dinner. If only half of the 4,500 passengers have water with dinner, that generates more than 800,000 bottles of plastic waste every year, not to mention the fossil fuel wasted in shipping bottled water to various ports. Since water is free in the buffet area, making bottled water a requirement in the dining rooms is hypocrisy for a cruise line that claims to be environmentally sensitive. Bottled water should be available for purchase in all venues for those who need it, but it should not be the only source of water in any venue. DRESS: The Meraviglia passengers were well-dressed (no ball caps, rare slashed jeans) but were still casual during the day. There were two formal nights when about a third of men wore a suit and tie, a third wore a sport jacket, and a third wore a good shirt with no jacket. Women dressed correspondingly. SANITATION: Hand washing is much more effective than alcohol gels at killing bacteria and viruses. The good news is that MSC wisely installed multiple hand wash stations at the entry to the buffet and in restrooms near the main dining rooms. The bad news is that almost no one used them. There is no one to remind passengers to wash hands, and unfortunately the automatic sinks in the restrooms rarely functioned properly -- the spigots and sensors are hidden by a shelf, and it takes multiple attempts to get any water. Those sinks would never pass a health inspection. Not once did I see a man successfully use the sink in the restroom. To protect my own health I not only washed my hands before each meal, I washed my hands again after touching any buffet tongs, which hundreds of passengers had already touched. Then again, I am aware of infection risks because my former profession involved infection control in hospitals. ENTERTAINMENT: The Meraviglia has very talented singers and dancers on the main stage, and talented musicians in the lounges and atrium. Because of the multiple languages represented, almost all entertainment is musical -- no lectures or enrichment activities. Most of the music is popular and familiar to Americans, but there is one abbreviated opera performance (La Boheme) by two well-trained opera singers. The opera used ballet dancers onstage to interpret the music, which added interest for those not used to opera performances. As I mentioned, the scenery relies on huge LCD screen backdrops, which worked very well and added interest (and sometimes humor) to each performance. In addition, Cirque du Soleil presents two different shows (Viaggio and Sonor) on various nights during the cruise. These can be reserved online prior to the cruise, but schedules usually change, so check soon after embarkation to verify your reservations or to add new ones. The Cirque desk is adjacent to the reception desk. Of the two, Viaggio is probably better for kids since it involves a little more clowning around. Both programs are surcharged via a drink or a dinner package. Ironically, the less expensive drink package offers the better seating. The problem with all of the entertainment on the Meraviglia is the decibel level. Singers are over-amplified to the point of distortion -- one can feel the sub-woofer bass in one's gut. I tried the stage shows each evening (wearing ear plugs) but gave up after a few days and instead just relaxed in my cabin in the evening. This problem is not unique to MSC -- it occurs on most cruise ships. Only the luxury cruise lines seem to keep the amplification at a reasonable decibel level. Parents taking their kids to the Cirque performances should definitely consider ear protection for the younger ones. EMBARKATION AND DISEMBARKATION: This cruise was unique in my experience because passengers embarked and disembarked at every port. This made embarkation much easier -- just 1,000 new passengers daily instead of 4,500 on a single day. I am not certain, but I believe that demand and pricing varies by embarkation port, so check this if you want the best price for your cruise. This system also makes disembarkation easier at the end of the cruise -- far less baggage to offload and claim each disembarkation day. It does add a bit of a disturbance each afternoon as the newly arrived passengers are summoned to their mandatory safety drill, but this is a minor inconvenience. If you are just spending the day ashore and then returning to the ship, check the daily program since the arrival and departure times for several of the ports were changed from the original cruise schedule. SUMMARY: The Meraviglia is a beautiful ship, the crew is wonderful, and the western Mediterranean ports are enjoyable. At the right price, you will enjoy this cruise very much. WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN PORTS ON YOUR OWN AT MINIMAL EXPENSE: GENOA: I love Genoa because it seems so completely Italian, especially in the historic center, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. Our ship docked in the main harbor in the middle of the city's waterfront -- an easy walk to almost any attraction and just a few minutes from the main (Principe) train station. Genoa is built on a hillside, so there is some climbing, but the waterfront alone has enough attractions to fill a half day for those with mobility issues. Pick up a map in the cruise terminal and exit right (east) along the waterfront until you reach the Galata Museum del Mar (Museum of the Sea). This is a large, modern, very enjoyable museum that is worth at least an hour or two when you are returning to the ship. See their website for hours and current prices. From the museum, cross the street and head uphill through the narrow lanes (gritty but safe) to the main street (Via Balbi). From there continue east to the Palazzo Real. There are five major palaces remaining from the days of Genoa's peak power and wealth. The Palazzo Real is the most interesting, but combination tickets are available, and it is fun to see more than one. From the Palazzo Real walk farther east to Via Garibaldi, where there are beautiful historic buildings and three more palazzi -- together called the Palazzi dei Rolli on the Strade Nuove, designated a UNESCO world heritage site. Combo tickets for the palaces are available at the nearby bookshop. The fifth palace, and the one with the most art is the National Gallery of Palazzo Spinola, on Piazza Pelliceria nearby. From there walk downhill to the cathedral and nearby fountain on Piazza de Ferrari, where you will find the Genova sign/sculpture for a photo op. The view down the historic Via XX Settembre is grand. It is an easy walk back west to the waterfront for either (or both) the maritime museum or the modern aquarium. Even if you do not enter the aquarium, there is a cute floating park at the end of its pier, with good views of the ship and the city. From the aquarium and maritime museum it is an easy walk back to the ship. ROME: I usually skip Rome when it is just a single day visit from Civitavecchia. The shuttle/walk/train/metro each way takes more than an hour (about the same as a rental car). If you decide to go into the city, I recommend getting a BIRG ticket, which covers the regional train and all transport in Rome. Rick Steves guides have excellent info on what to see and do in Rome, with self-guided walking tours. His Mediterranean Ports of Call guide includes detailed info on how to get from the port to the city. Highly recommended guides. PALERMO: Palermo has a gritty beauty and vitality that I always enjoy. Some of its main streets have been blocked off and are now pedestrian friendly. The ship docks at the maritime station near the ferry terminals. As you exit the port, pick up a city map at the TI in the small wood cabin near the gate. From there it is about 15 minutes to the Teatro Massimo, another 10 minutes to the Quattro Canti intersection, and another 15 minutes along Via V. Emanuele to Piazza Independenza where you will find the bus #389 to the fabulous Cattedrale Monreale. The best place to get on the bus is at its rest stop on the far (inland) side of the plaza across from the row of small gas stations. You are more likely to get a seat from there because when the bus starts up, it swings past the wall of the Palatine Chapel and quickly fills with tourists. Check the schedule on the internet -- I believe there is a convenient departure at 10 am and about every 30 minutes thereafter. The trip into the hills takes about 30 minutes and costs 1.80 euros each way, ticket purchased from the driver. The cathedral is near the end of the bus line and there is a gorgeous view of the entire Palermo city and harbor from the walk between the bus stop and the cathedral. Inside the cathedral are the most extensive and beautiful byzantine mosaics in the western Mediterranean. It is absolutely breathtaking. For a restroom there is a friendly cafe across the plaza, and there is a small park ideal for picnics if you pass the front of the cathedral on your left, and walk under two arches past the mini-post office. The return bus leaves from exactly the same spot where it dropped you off. Back in Palermo, the new tourist entrance to the Palatine Chapel is on Piazza del Parlamento, on the opposite side of the palace from Piazza Independenza and the former tourist entrance. If you are there Fri-Mon when parliament is not in session, you can see the royal palace at the same time that you see the chapel. The chapel is a mini-version of the Cattedrale Monreale, and just as breathtaking. The chapel can be a mob scene in high season, so go early or during the lunchtime lull. From there it is a leisurely walk back to the ship. A detour through the Palermo Cattedrale and the Ballaro street market is worthwhile. On your way back, near the Quattro Canti, is the too-sexy-for-prudes Pretoria Fountain. Near the fountain are some old Norman churches, useful because all the Norman sites have free wi-fi access. VALLETTA: Almost the entire walled town of Valletta on the island of Malta is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ship docks on the waterfront below the city walls. The easiest way to enter the city is by the new elevators which are an easy 10 minute walk to the right (northeast) as you exit the port (the TI has free maps of the city as you disembark). The elevator costs just 1 euro to go up and is free to go down. Best of all, the elevator leaves you in the upper Barrakka gardens, which have a fine view over the harbor. From the garden make your way to the Triton fountain, which is at the new gate to the city and is the terminus of bus lines that cover the island (in case you want to take a bus to one of the beach towns or to the historic town of Mdina. Bus fares are cheap and many towns are within 30 minutes by bus. From the Triton fountain walk down the main street (Republikka) to visit the spectacular St. John's (co-) Cathedral, the impressive Grand Master's Palace, and (least interesting) the archeology museum. In high season the cathedral can be a mob scene, so best to go when it first opens before the tour groups arrive. In the afternoon you can take a bus to picturesque Mdina (again, heavily touristed) or to a beach town. The only annoying thing about Valletta is that the return to the ship zig-zags through a gift shop with no apparent exits. BARCELONA: Barcelona is so heavily touristed (and so filled with scams and pickpockets) that I tend to avoid the crowds and spend my time on the periphery. The Gaudi sites, Ramblas, Picasso museum, and Gotic old town area are all worthwhile, but not fun in crowds. From the cruise ship I like to walk over the bridge (30 minutes) to the Drassanes metro station near the Columbus monument at the base of the Ramblas. Most ships offer a pricey shuttle, and later in the day the city offers the T3 shuttle bus for about 4 euros round trip. I buy a T10 packet of metro tickets (about 1 euro each, can be shared) and am on my way. I take the metro to Paral-lel for the funicular up Monjuic or to Placa Espana when the funicular is closed (it is under repair as I write this in early 2019). Bus #150 goes up the mountain from Placa Espana, with spectacular views over the cruise ships from the fort at the top (terminus of the bus). Along the way I always stop at the Catalan National Museum. The view over the city from its entrance is worth the trip, but the museum is also one of my favorite museums in all the world -- I usually spend 2 hours there every time I visit Barcelona (seniors are free -- a bonus for the elderly). The museum has Catalan art from the Romanesque through the 20th century, an amazing collection in a beautifully modernized building. I also check the Caixa Forum near Placa Espana to see what special exhibits they have. In the afternoon I usually visit some of the other tourist sites or simply amble through the old town. There are nice bike tours, walking tours, and many other things to do. The Rick Steves guide to Barcelona has great suggestions. Be aware that the current price to enter Gaudi's Sagrada Familia is now 33 euros! TOULON (and La Seyne-Sur-Mer): If you are on a large ship, you will probably dock across the bay from Toulon at La Seyne-Sur-Mer. From that dock you exit the port and turn right (west) to get to the ferry (#8M) dock about 10 minutes away. It helps if you view the port area from the upper deck of the ship first, so that you can see where the ferry stops -- it is at Espace Marine in a somewhat bleak industrial area. Any local can show you the way. The ferry costs 2 euros each way, but is included in the day pass available at the Toulon tourist information office. If you are on a smaller ship, you may dock southeast of Toulon's center, just a 10 minutes walk away from the tourist information office. Whichever dock, I suggest that you first go to the Toulon tourist information office at Place Louis Blanc. They have all the information and maps that you will need to enjoy your day. They also sell the 4 euro transit pass, which is good for all buses and ferries in the area. Just outside the office is an enjoyable street market that extends for several hundred meters up the hill. There is a pleasant walking tour of Toulon on the tourist map, or you can hop on a bus #3 or #23 to go to the attractive beaches and parks of the Mourillon district southeast of town. Alternately, you can enjoy the beach and park at Sablettes, south of La Seyne-Sur-Mer. From Toulon ferry # 18M (or less enjoyable bus #18) goes there. Bus #18 passes a few blocks west of the La Seyne-Sur-Mer cruise dock on its way north to Toulon or south to Sablettes. For those who want to see Marseille rather than Toulon, bus #23 and bus #3 go from near the waterfront area up the hill to the train station (Gare Toulon) for the ride to Marseille's St. Charles train station. Check the internet for prices and schedules. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
For anyone considering MSC I thought I'd share my thoughts on my recent cruise. DH & I travelled from Dublin to Barcelona on 17th January to celebrate DH's 60th birthday. This was only our 2nd ever cruise, the first one ... Read More
For anyone considering MSC I thought I'd share my thoughts on my recent cruise. DH & I travelled from Dublin to Barcelona on 17th January to celebrate DH's 60th birthday. This was only our 2nd ever cruise, the first one being 3 years ago for our 20th anniversary on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas on an Eastern Med and Greek Island 10-day tour, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We booked through a local travel agent who are cruise specialists and were fantastic. Private taxi transfer from the airport to the ship (and back again) was part of the package which was great - though it is only about 15 mins away by car. We arrived about 11.30 and the waiting hall at the port was already quite busy when we arrived. About 12pm they started to board and we were on about 15 mins later. We were totally amazed by our first impression of the ship - she is stunning! We went straight to our cabin (deck 12 balcony cabin) and dropped in our cabin bags and headed straight for lunch in the market place buffet. Now our only previous experience on RCI was that the buffet was just 'ok', so we didn't have high expectations. However, this was in a different league altogether. Being an Italian company, they really know their pizza, pasta, salads :tongue: They also make fresh mozzarella which is delicious. They have a Rotisserie with different roast meats, different cold meats and cheeses, fresh fruit, yogurt, breads and pastries among many, many more dishes!! They have water, tea/coffee on tap and on each table is a call button to get waiter bar service. The drinks package came included in our balcony room deal, along with free WiFi. I would have happily ate every meal there - so much variety and everything I tried was delicious. We had a wander around the ship, taking photos and enjoying the sun with a wee cocktail (well, you have too, don't you ;) We had our mandatory drill at 5pm which takes a bit of time as they have to go through it in about 5 languages! There are 3 main dining rooms for dinner. You are pre-assigned to one and you can choose if you want early or late sitting. We chose late (7.30pm) so that we wouldn't be rushed out (I'd read reviews that the early sitting gets pushed through) but hadn't realised that our restaurant 'Waves' actually had an even later sitting (9.30pm) not that I'd have wanted to eat at that time, I guess it was mostly the Spanish and Italians as they are used to eating at that time. We were put at a table with 3 other English couples who had all cruised extensively and had great stories to tell. We thoroughly enjoyed our table mates and often were the last table to clear the restaurant! The food in the MDR was mostly good. Again, typically Mediterranean style, small portions but good choices and well presented. If you didn't like your chosen dish, they are only too happy to bring you another. Usually choice of 5 or 6 starters, mains and desserts. We also pre-booked the speciality dining experience on the website before we went. If you pre-book things like this, the drinks package, the Cirque shows they are cheaper that booking on board as you don't incur the 15% service charge. The speciality restaurants were great, especially Butcher's Cut steakhouse. My filet was the tastiest I've ever had - even better than Longhorns Flo's Filet!! The Italian restaurant was good, but not much choice on the dining experience menu and you can get just as good pasta in the buffet. The third part of the experience was Sushi. Now, I've never had sushi and was a bit apprehensive about it but the restaurant was always busy any time we walked past so I was looking forward to the new experience. We had arranged it for lunch the day we were at sea and I really did enjoy it. The only part I didn't like was the octapus - too chewy :confused2! The entertainment on the ship was good - not as good as RCI, but we still enjoyed Broadway performances, opera, Cirque du Soleil and much more. There is a heated indoor pool and jacuzzis. It was too cold for the outdoor pool but we did go in the outdoor jacuzzi which was lovely. There is a water park on the top deck, but again too cold to try out. I can imagine in spring and summer it is great! We had pre-booked MSC excursions for Marseille, Genoa, Sicily and Malta (didn't get off ship in Rome as we had done it on our other cruise). The excursions were good, but for Marseille and Genoa the bus was half English speaking and half German, so it wasn't ideal as the guide had to spend time translating things in English and German and often you'd be past the building our point of interest by the time she explained it in English! In Sicily and Malta it was all English speaking. We loved Malta and would definitely like to go back for a holiday. We felt the excursions were good value and informative. We enjoying going to different places and learning about the history in the area. Overall, we really enjoyed our MSC cruise - it was so different to our previous one. The first ship was much smaller and older (only 1400 passengers versus 5000 on this one). The MSC ship was absolutely beautiful, exceptionally clean and very good food and service. People on another cruise forum complained about many things, including service but we only experienced friendly, helpful staff. We had reason to visit guest services as our return flight was booked by the agent for 10.30am (arrival in Barcelona port was originally scheduled for 7am, so should have been ok for time). However, we received notification that we wouldn't be arriving until 8.30am. Our private taxi was booked for 7.45am so guest services rang our taxi company to try to change it for us but as it turned out, because we had booked through a travel agent they had to make any amendments on our behalf (which they did, re-booked for 8.45). Guest services checked us in to our Aer Lingus flight and printed boarding passes for us, so that we could go straight to bag drop once we arrived at the airport. They couldn't have been more helpful! I was shocked to see that most people in the queue were there to get the gratuities removed from their bill. On MSC 10 Euros per person per day is added for gratuities. I wouldn't dream of removing it unless there was a serious complaint, but it seems lots of people are getting it taken off, just because they can. Honestly, I've never seen a cleaner ship or more hardworking staff. I think they deserve every cent they get! We were also advised not to leave our luggage outside our room the night before disembarking but to take our cases with us in the morning. This worked really well, in that once we were allowed to disembark we were straight off the ship and in to the waiting taxi in less than 5 minutes. I would have no hesitation recommending MSC and would certainly cruise with them again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
As the title states this was a winter cruise on the continuous west med route starting in Barcelona and ending back there 7 days later. OK up front important news - The staff were brilliant throughout the ship and the modern systems all ... Read More
As the title states this was a winter cruise on the continuous west med route starting in Barcelona and ending back there 7 days later. OK up front important news - The staff were brilliant throughout the ship and the modern systems all worked well. After a dozen cruises I can report the staff were the best I have encountered and I was very surprised as this was a hop on hop off cruise where staff are usually stretched and stressed and sometimes less than cordial. Customer services queues were kept short at all times and staff numbers dealing with issues were the largest I have seen ( NOT LIKE PRINCESS!!) Very , very good and it makes such a difference. We had a balcony room at the rear. It was modern functional, smart and above all QUIET. It was an upgrade so no complaints at all. The ship can take 5714 customers and is huge . In winter with most of the deck and deck bars impossible to visit in the cold , my guess is that we were at about 80% capacity. Inside that is full enough. There are areas of the ship that are not available to ordinary fare payers, either staff or yacht club areas, so the number of public accessible decks in winter is about 6 and almost all activity takes place on 6 and 7 with customer services on 5. At this level of capacity the ship is OK. We managed to get a table for 2 in one of the 3 dining rooms but it was set for 4. The table for 4 people was far too small. Overall MSC have taken packing people into the dining rooms to it's physical limit with some very large oval tables cramming 10-12 people round them. This is not for me. Such a shame when the service and quality of the food was high. The ship design makes any privacy or quiet impossible, It is one long massive tube with no doors relying on design and sound control to give the impression of different areas. The exceptions are the pub and the shops and impossibly expensive special restaurants (empty) which are behind doors. On ship like MSC Lyrica you could listen to a classical trio in the library for a concert and it was magical. Now such performances are rare and are given in the centre of a roundabout with 3 lanes of heavy traffic going round - quite pointless. It is a truism that as ships get bigger and more modern, the number of chairs goes down. At peak time you cannot find a chair near a bar and if you are having a private drink you just have to allow other people to join you because people are desperate for a seat. People give up and go away. The strategy seems to be, sell the drinks packages hard and then reduce the speed of service in the bars, take a away the chairs and ensure people drink less. For me you would have to be crazy to buy a drinks package on this type of ship. The stress of paying , maybe in excess of 100 euros a cabin per day for 7 days and then having to fight for a seat and then wait for very slow service would be unendurable for me. So there it is. In fairness to MSC this cruise cost about the same as it did 10 years ago. By the way if you take this cruise in winter avoid Marseilles. We visited the old town. It was shut, unwelcoming, and very run down. Might be fine in the summer but it was a miserable experience and the worst stop I have ventured into. Take a trip or stay warm inside. Cocktails 8- 10 euros Bottles of wine from 23 euros and beer at 6.5 euros for 330 ml - all plus 15%. There was even a service charge on using your mini bar. Would I cruise on this ship again? Yes but only in winter. At capacity it would not be for me. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
OVERALL This was our first cruise on MSC so we were excited to try a new company after a couple of friends had recommended them. The ship itself is nice enough but found the many staff members to be quite rude. We visited some ... Read More
OVERALL This was our first cruise on MSC so we were excited to try a new company after a couple of friends had recommended them. The ship itself is nice enough but found the many staff members to be quite rude. We visited some excellent ports. Food was decent. Most shows were dreadful. We had a couple of good party nights where we could dance until late. As it was winter the indoor pool and pool area was packed with families (this is the only ship I’ve been on and not been in the pool). We decided that 4 days was enough on this ship and after that kept saying ‘MSC, not for me!’. EMBARKATION On arrival at Barcelona we were given a number and told to wait until our number was called. After a 20 minute wait our number was called and we went to the check in desk. The man on the check in desk was unfriendly. We showed our passports and signed documents even though we had previously filled out the online check in. Then we had to have our photo taken with a picture of the ship behind us (which were left in the cabin a few days later with a sticker on saying we will be automatically charged €29.99 unless we return them to the cabin steward within 2 days). We then queued to get onboard for another 10 minutes. We then showed our passports again to the security staff and then again to another member of staff who took our photo for our cruise card (even though we did this on the app before boarding). Finally on the ship and we were shepherded through some bar staff who asked for our card and swiped it on their tablet computer and said ‘That’s ok’. We asked what he was doing and he said he was checking we had a drinks package. We had paid for a drink package online so we asked what drinks we could have. He swiped our card again and said the drink package we paid for no longer exists and would be somewhere between package A & B and that we would have to ask if we could have certain drinks each time we ordered them. We had requested late sitting for our dining and as the time of 7.30pm was printed on the card we went to have a look at the dining room and see if we could change to a freedom dining or a later sitting. At the dining room we were ignored for a while and when finally spoken to, told as we weren’t in a suite we could not have freedom dining and we had to go upstairs to the other dining room if we wanted to make any changes. We decided not to change our time as the the later sitting was 9.30pm and the staff so far had been so unhelpful it wouldn’t be worth trying. First impressions not so good. CABIN We had an inside cabin 12054 which was the only inside cabin available when we booked. The bed was comfortable and there was plenty of space to put stuff for a 7 night cruise. It was quite dark and could do with better lighting. The room was very noisy, lots of banging & knocking and could hear the family in the room next door. DINING We only ate in the Marketplace buffet and main dining room. There aren’t any other places that we found where the food was included but there were quite a few pay extra restaurants. The Marketplace buffet was very busy at lunchtime. We never had breakfast onboard so can’t comment on that. We would usually lunch here after a gym session so around 12.30pm. You would quite often be barged into by somebody. The food was good. A large variety of foods like pizza, salad, Mexican, pasta, roast meat or fish. Our biggest gripe is that even though there were many hand wash basins at the entrance nobody was being encouraged to wash their hands which meant that you rarely saw people actually doing it. My wife and I washed our hands before each meal but would spend time going from sink to sink to find a soap dispenser with soap in as they either didn’t work or were empty. The main dining room food was good. Our waiters were attentive and friendly. The Italian foods were the best, like risotto and pasta. We had roast turkey one day which was very bland. Apple tarte tatin was excellent. The water was all poured from plastic bottles which in this day and age is a bit of a no no. The tap water would’ve been ok for us but this wasn’t provided anywhere onboard. ONLINE BOOKINGS We had many emails to remind us to book everything before we boarded the ship so prior to boarding we checked in online, paid for a drinks package, booked tickets for both Cirque Du Soleil shows and paid for the week pass to the thermal spa. Most of this was completely pointless and a waste of our time. We had to check in normally at the check in counter in Barcelona and even show our passport 3 times before getting onboard. With the online check in you have to take a photo of yourself for your cruise account but this also had to be done onboard the ship. The lengthiest check in of any cruise we’ve been on. The drinks package had changed from the one we had booked leading to much confusion with the bar staff and us constantly having to ask what we were allowed to have. Cirque Du Soleil tickets do NOT get booked for you when you book online even though you book a date and time of show. We had a note in our cabin a couple hours after getting to the room asking us to go to the Cirque Du Soleil desk. Another 30 minute queue to get to the front. I was told that it is easier for me to book these shows whilst onboard even though I’d already booked them. I asked the lady to tell me the times and dates that I had previously booked as I couldn’t remember and they suited us. The reply was ‘you tell me what time you want and I will see if is available’. I then rebooked the shows. The person being served beside me was being talked into buying a package of restaurants and Cirque with dinner. They were there a long time before me and were still being seen to when I left and the queue had doubled in size. The thermal spa was the only thing we booked online that made it onto the ship. APP The MSC For Me app worked pretty well when onboard. I couldn’t get it to work in the check in hall but worked all round the ship when connected to the ships wifi (no charge). It shows all the activities going on that day and you can book seats for the shows in the theatre. I couldn’t check my account which is advertised, I had to check this on the tv in the room. HIMALAYAN ROPES BRIDGE Great fun to try. We chose a day when the wind wasn’t too high. Legs were quite shaky after completing a couple of rounds. CIRQUE DU SOLEIL The Cirque show lounge is located at the far side of the very smoky casino. We held our breath and rushed through. Who wants to get dressed up for a night out and end up stinking of smoke in this era? Not us! We paid €15 each to see the “Sonar” show which was great. It comes with a cocktail too. There are amazing balancing acts & beat boxing. We had also paid to see the “Viaggio” show however the day we were supposed to see it the show was cancelled and replaced with “Sonar” again. I phoned the Cirque desk to get a refund and was told we could just see the next Viaggio. The next show was on our debarkation day so again I asked for a refund to my credit card as that was how I paid for it. I was quite rudely told this wasn’t possible but I could have onboard credit instead and get that refunded. That proved to be an exhausting process on our final evening. 3 trips to the main desk and the refund machines each and finally we had the cash back. Despite the shows being advertised as being on 6 days each week it was only on 5 days. This meant Viaggio was only on once during the week so we missed it. THEATRE SHOWS The only show we enjoyed was “Paz”, the flamenco & Spanish dance show. “Show of Hands Magic” was a magic show straight from the 70’s. It was supposed to be sleight of hand but you could see everything. He lit a cigarette and blew the smoke into bubbles, with kids watching. The performer left the stage to get a puppet for the ventriloquist’s section so we took the opportunity to leave. “Virtual”, a show about mobile phone overuse (while half the audience were videoing it on their phones) started well but got more and more irritating. “Way” had a good bit from Dirty Dancing. “One Day More” with songs from musical theatre was bad especially the bit from Oklahoma. We waited until the end for the Les Mis songs but they sang the wrong song to the music that was playing. The dancers are very good but it is really difficult to understand the singers. It was quite comical trying to understand what they were singing about. AUREA SPA The thermal spa was our favourite part of the ship. We went in nearly every day. There are 2 steam rooms, 2 saunas, 2 spa pools, an ice room, hot and cold sensory showers and some heated beds. Each day we spent at least an hour in there. We were told we had to wear swimming costumes but 1 day there was a naked lady walking around (much to the amusement of some of the men). On the day at sea the spa was heaving and many of the rooms were quite cool as people kept opening the doors and not shutting them. GYM We used the gym every morning. I cycle and my wife runs. The gym is good. It has treadmills, bikes, weights, weight machines, etc… Our last day was a (rainy) sea day and the gym was packed. There was only 1 towel left on the shelf but we couldn’t get a treadmill or bike so we went for a walk on the running track instead. PORTS OF CALL We really enjoyed Genoa, Palermo and especially Valletta. Each port we did our own walking tour as the towns are easily walkable from the port. In Valletta we paid to be close to the noon gun canon which was a great experience. Getting back on board in each of these ports involved at least a 30 minute queue to get through the scanners which we’ve never experienced before. We once had somebody complaining on a P&O ship because we had to wait 2 minutes in the sun to get onboard, they would’ve had a huge tantrum on this ship. FELLOW PASSENGERS The majority of guests onboard are Italian & then there were a mix of other nationalities. We found many guests to be quite rude especially during the theatre shows. So many people were talking loudly, videoing the whole performance on their phones and using flash photography. I don’t know how the performers can cope with this. We always went to the 10pm show and people were still arriving at 10.25pm trying to find seats and generally getting in the way of the other guests watching and shouting to each other. The shows were only 40 minutes long so why not just sit at the back for 15 minutes. On our first evening I went to the toilet and I could hear somebody swearing outside the door of the toilet (there were no urinals in this particular toilet). When I came out the man said “Thank f*** for that” and burst into the loo , sat down and started pooping with the door wide open and he was still swearing but in relief this time. Another evening we were sat at the bar in the Meraviglia lounge and a group from the MSC Yacht club were ordering champagne and were constantly knocking into my wife and I. When they returned for a second bottle and kept knocking into us again we decide it was time to go. We saw an irate man telling his kids off as they’d been playing and woken their baby brother. He grabbed his childs hands, put them behind the boys neck and rammed him head first into my wife’s stool making it tilt. I told the man he was out of order but I don’t think he understood me. He then carried on telling off his son and hit him round the head. Again I told him stop. This was followed by a huge row with his wife right behind our chairs. I asked them to stop arguing or move elsewhere but they didn’t even acknowledge me. We moved in the end. CONCLUSION We had some good experiences on this ship but we had so many bad ones. Every day there were more disappointments. We will never try MSC again as the staff can be rude, the pushy sales tactics and awful shows. There is a muster drill every port day with announcements being made ship wide as guests can embark at any port. Trying to relax around the ship, your cabin or the spa is impossible whilst this is going on. The ship was very smoky as the smoking in the casino oozes to the bars surrounding it and people smoking on balconies meant the corridors would often stink of it too. MSC, not for me!!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
I went on this cruise with my husband and my parents who are in their late (age 67 and 69). None of us had ever been on a cruise before and we only had minimal travel to Europe in the past. We chose this cruise for the itinerary and ... Read More
I went on this cruise with my husband and my parents who are in their late (age 67 and 69). None of us had ever been on a cruise before and we only had minimal travel to Europe in the past. We chose this cruise for the itinerary and location. I have to admit after I booked the cruise, I read some reviews about this ship and was a little nervous, but my fears were completely alleviated by my experience. We boarded at Civitavecchia after spending 2 days in Rome first. The clientele is definitely quite international, lots of Italians. I heard plenty of Spanish and French speakers as well. There were several Japanese tourist groups as well as I think one from Hong Kong. I met a few Americans on the trip, so we were definitely not alone from the U.S. This ship is absolutely sparkling clean, which is amazing considering it's size and the number of people on the ship. And that's something coming from a clean freak like myself. Everything seems well-maintained. So, to address different parts of the trip: BOARDING and CHECKIN: I was given check-in time between 3:10pm and 5pm. We got there probably around 2:30pm, but were checked-in immediately with no line. Between leaving our car service (used RomeCabs as they can drive directly into the port), we were on the ship within about 15 minutes. They pause you quickly to take a photo in front of a ship's steering wheel that you can buy later if you want, security photos, and then you walk through a few people who ask if you want drink packages and then, that was it. Nobody was pushy. It was so fast that once we got on, we were all like, "so we're on the boat now right?" We went to check out our cabins and our luggage arrived in front of our door within an hour. CABIN: Clean, modern, simple. Yes, the storage is limited but adequate. My husband and I still managed to unpack and store everything so that we didn't have to live out of suitcases I had a balcony room. It was a little cold for use, but I'm sure in summer time I would've enjoyed it immensely. The room was cleaned twice a day by our cabin attendant, once in the morning and once during turndown service. DINING: Assigned dining was fine. I'm not sure what other reviewers' comparison are for food, but I thought the dinners were acceptable. My parents loved going to the dining room for dinner because they felt it was elegant. Once they figured out they could have as many items as they wanted off the menu, they were ordering multiple entrees and appetizers every night! I thought that for a mass-produced meal that the dishes were nicely plated and acceptable. Sure the Butter Chicken didn't taste like the dish from my favorite Indian restaurant at home, but it was certainly an acceptable resemblance of it. So just keep in mind this is not some Michelin star restaurant, but a ship kitchen trying to make all these different cuisines. The waiters are courteous, remembered our drink orders from the nights before and would ask if we wanted the same thing. We never used the breakfast or lunch dining rooms, mainly because we didn't realize until the end that these existed. They don't make it very obvious. We ended up at the Marketplace Buffet for breakfast and lunch. They have an adequate spread of different foods, something to suit everyone. There's an "Ethnic Corner" that changes everyday (Mexican, Chinese, Indian, etc). The croissants are delicious in the morning when they first come out of the oven. We usually had no trouble finding a table to sit at except after the day at port in Barcelona when I presume a TON of people boarded the ship. By the way, if you have free mineral water as part of Fantastica package, the bottled water is free ONLY in your assigned dining room, not at Marketplace Buffet. The Marketplace Buffet has water, juices (in the morning), tea, coffee for free. There was always people asking if we wanted the T-Bone Steak or Lobster dinners every night, as well as drink packages. I wonder if they have to meet some quota, and that sucks if they do. They were persistent only in that they asked everyday, but when you said no they'd leave you alone afterwards that day. ENTERTAINMENT: Different show every night, definitely had European flare, much to my mother's delight. There was a medley of pop songs, Broadway hits, shortened version of the opera La Boheme, flamenco show, magician/finger shadow puppet performer, medley of Italian love songs. I suspect that American cruise lines don't have this variety of cultural component in their theater shows, but this is my first cruise so can't say for sure. Mostly the same singers and dancers every night. Some were pretty good, others were adequate, but probably not going to Broadway anytime. Still good entertainment. During the day, limited entertainment I think on-board, but most people were out doing shore excursions anyways so it didn't matter too much. They had a themed party everynight, but I was too tired to actually check it out. It did look like some people would dress for the party, but also significant number didn't. You could probably go either way and not feel like you were sticking out based on what you were wearing. We went to the Sonor Cirque show. They had some aerial and tumbling routines, simple compared to land-based Cirque shows but still impressive on a moving ship. I wonder whether they have to cancel shows if the ship is pitching too much. We did cocktails. There was only a single option for non-alcoholic drinkers and none of my group liked the option (some sort of yogurt-based drink). It'd be nice if we could've selected a soda or something else instead. The theater is circular (not completely 360, maybe more like 270). Good view from all angles I think. They had sort of three tiered layout with dinner and show audience members in the 2nd tier. Didn't use the casino. It has a few tables, lots of slots. Only open in evenings. I did use the Spa for a massage and a facial, especially once I found out they could do a prenatal massage, which they didn't advertise. Sure it was a little pricier than something you'd find on land, but I'd have to say it was one of the best massages I've had ever! They have deals everyday so if you're patient wait for a day they have a sale on whatever service you want. You can see the sales on your MSC for Me app or on the ship board information screens. SERVICE: I had no problems with anyone being rude. I'm also a pretty friendly smiley person in general so maybe that helps. But I found that all the workers were helpful and willing to engage if you put in the effort as well. I'm still absolutely amazed by how multilingual their workers are (coming from someone who speaks two languages fluently and two others at an intermediate level), although I guess you find that a lot in Europe. Only in America do people ONLY speak English...going off topic there. SMOKING: Nonsmoking in most parts except casino and designated outdoors. I was afraid smokers would be everywhere given the European clientele, but the ship's crew were pretty good about reinforcing smoking only in designated areas. I saw one crew member ask two guests to put out their cigarettes when they were caught smoking in a no-smoking deck. I don't think smoking is allowed on balconies, but some people did it anyways. But otherwise, most of the ship was pretty cigarette smell-free, thank goodness. SHORE EXCURSION: SHORE EXCURSION: We did shore excursions at Barcelona (Panoramic Tour and Shopping), Marseille (Aix-En-Provence), Palermo (Taste of Sicily), and Valletta (Mdina, Mosta, and Rabat). Barcelona excursion was just "eh" considering how much there is to see in that city. The free time for "shopping" we spent eating our way around a food market, so that was pretty cool. The Marseille stop was not bad, some free time to walk around on our own. I thought it was actually going to be more rural and country-sideish, but it's more of a college town according to our tour guide there. Palermo was not particularly impressive, although it was also raining that day unfortunately. The food was good though, especially the Middle Eastern-inspired rice balls that we got to try. My father and I LOVED the Valletta excursion just maybe because the guide was amazing and the sites were just different from the other cities. I have no illusions that a <1 day shore excursion will give you an idea what a city is about, but I do think that it is an opportunity for them to entice you back for future vacations to spend more time there. I would say that the Marseille, Barcelona, and Valletta excursions did that, but not the Palermo one. Most shore excursions we did got us back to the boat around 2pm or so. My husband and I explored Genoa on our own. It is EXTREMELY walkable! We left the ship and walked into town, saw what we wanted to see and then walked back. Maybe about 1 mile or less to get into the area where the different siteseeing things are. DISEMBARK: We were assigned a disembark time of something like 945am, but I asked them if we could get off earlier. If you want your luggage taken off for you, you have to go with the disembark time (grouped by priority and deck). What they didn't advertise though is that you can also self-disembark. I was finally told about this option after I them I needed to get off before 9am (they had said they could only move me to the 915am disembark group at the earliest). You just have to drag your own suitcase off with you. Which actually ended up being more convenient because if you have them take luggage off for you, you have to leave your suitcase out the night before. It was easier for us to have our luggage with us until we physically left the room so we could do some last minute parking. We were estimated to get into port around 8am, but we were already able to disembark at 8am and were sitting in front of the terminal at 815am waiting for our driver to take us to the airport. Overall, great experience. Would definitely consider traveling with MSC again! My parents loved their first cruise so much that they are talking about doing a family reunion cruise every other year now. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Cruise in NEITHER a 1 nor a 5...realistically closer to a 2. Best NOT to view this as a cruise ... better to invision as a hotel with meals and transportation to locations. Ship has 5700 passengers and a crew of another 1500.....word ... Read More
Cruise in NEITHER a 1 nor a 5...realistically closer to a 2. Best NOT to view this as a cruise ... better to invision as a hotel with meals and transportation to locations. Ship has 5700 passengers and a crew of another 1500.....word to the wise! Ship passangers are 80 percent Italian. Large groups of Chinese. Also Germans, French, Japanese, Russians and other nationalities. Very few British and virtually no American. Everything is translated into all languages. Ship is loaded with screaming, yelling, pushing and rude passengers. Noise level is so intense that it is pervasive in all areas of the ship. Its so bad that all you wish to do is go back to your cabin to avoid the noise. Loads of young children (who should be in school during the middle of January) and tons of kids in strollers all over the ship. Difficult to move and navigate across the ship at ALL times. Hoards of people/groups who take over everything. Good: 1. Embarkation (and Disembarkation) in Barcelona was excellent. 2. Ship is new and clean … inside front of ship cabin was clean and enough room for 2 people. Common ares nice and spacious but limited seating for people. 3. Shore excursions were good and reasonable priced. Many options to chose from. 4. Cirque de Soleil shows (2) were superior. Dont miss them. 5. Cities/Countries visited were perfect; Barcelona (SP), Marseilles (FR), Genoa (IT), Citivechhia (IT), Palermo (Sicily IT) and Valetta (Malta) 6. Our Main DIning Room Waiter was very good. 7. All Entertinment Shows in Broadway Theater were TOPS! Best ever seen on a cruise ship. 8. Bar singers and musicians were very good. THATS WHERE THE GOOD ENDS. Bad: EVERYTHIN ELSE! 1. Cruise staff is Rude and unprofessional. I had a Guest Service Rep even walk away in the middle of our conversation due to the end of her shift. Staff could generally care less about helping or servicing your needs. Total retraining required .. if they ever had any to begin with! 2. Lowball price to get you onboard and then everthing else is pay-pay-pay. All charges in Euors so 15% higher than in USD $.. 3. Drink packages are daily charge per person per day but they dont make that clear. Also packages are VERY EXPENSIVE...buyer beware!!! 4. Buffet food is low quality and more like hospital or prison food. With that being said, the fresh pastries at breakfast and freshly made mozerella are the best menu items. Even the Pizza was marginal. Everything else, including other Italian food on an Italian ship, is largely VILE! Did I say the food was LOW QUALITY!!!!! 5. Feeding frenzy at Buffet ... all time and every time. Groups of people pushing and shoving, People RUNNING everywhere and grabbing food like there is either no food left in their own country OR they believe that the ship will run out of food! Expect to be jostled and shoved and hit into your person at any given moment. 6. Main Dining Room food is slightly better quality than buffet but also lower class. Portions are very small so you must order atleast 2 appetizers OR a few main courses! Noise level in MDR is oppressive do to loud, screaming Italians. Totally ruins the meal experience. Dining rooms located in rear (AFT) os ship so you have to travel across the entire lengthy ship to eat at every time if your cabin is in the front of the ship. 7. Two Cirque de Soleil shows - We booked Dinner/Show packages but they also offer Cocktail/Show Packages. Dinner package tables are in worse location for viewing than Cocktail package locations. At one show which we booked 1 week prior, we were seated at a worse table location than someone who just walked up and bought their dinner show package 10 minutes before the show itself! NOT SMART AND NOT FAIR! 8. The ship is a massive ATM. There is a constant attempt to sell passangers something every waking minute on the ship. Also, everything you purchase is subject to a +15% (Euro) Surcharge! 9. People are smoking all over the ship .. EVEN THOUGH THE SHIP IS NON SMOKING IN 95% OF ALL AREAS. Not one crew member did anything to discourage people from walking around and smoking everywhere in public areas or even elevators. STUPID STUPID STUPID! To summarize, MSC Meraviglia has many positive aspects but it is a European ship for the Eurpean market and NOT for the American market. To that end, you have to be prepared for a miserable experience with passengers. The cruise ship does a 7-day round trip to each city and people are constantly getting on and off the ship at every port. We embarked and disembarked in Barcelona, which was excellent, other points of on & off were problematic. Ticket prices are low to entice you onboard and then the upsell for everything begins and is nonstop for the entire cruise. Ship entertainment was superior. Ship food was LOW CLASS and mostly TERRIBLE. The one giant dessert buffet day was nice but did not make up for the other 6 days of miserable food. (By the way MSC bills their trip as having Gourmet Food- I guess if you are in a prison this IS Gourmet Food!. NEVER SETTING FOOT ON AN MSC SHIP AGAIN EVEN IF THEY PAID ME!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
My partner and I, along with our 14 yo daughter (New Zealanders) recently spent a month (Dec 2018) in Europe including two cruises, one on the Costa Luminosa (out of Venice) and the other on the MSC Meraviglia (out of Rome). The following ... Read More
My partner and I, along with our 14 yo daughter (New Zealanders) recently spent a month (Dec 2018) in Europe including two cruises, one on the Costa Luminosa (out of Venice) and the other on the MSC Meraviglia (out of Rome). The following are my thoughts on comparing the two: Foremost I would like to say that we had a fantastic time on both cruises and staging a cruise for 2-5 thousand people is obviously a mammoth undertaking requiring staggering resources and organization. People come to cruises with very high expectations and it is always possible to set your expectations in the realm of fantasy, such that they will never be met. On the Luminosa we booked a suite, which included a comprehensive drinks package, and on the Meraviglia we booked a balcony cabin and bought the comprehensive (but not premium brands) drinks package. The total cost of both cruises (excluding excursions) came to within a few hundred dollars of each other (US$2,830+/-). OVERALL On balance we enjoyed both cruises. I preferred the Costa cruise because I really did not like the crowds on the Meraviglia. There were just too many people making too much noise with too many children for my liking on holiday. To be fair though, I'm an introvert, I have seven children, and a holiday to me means getting away from people and children, at least a bit. On that score the suite package on the Luminosa allowed us to eat in a proper restaurant with peace and space for every meal. The other thing I liked was that the suite cabin was twice (I do mean twice) the size of the balcony cabin on the Meraviglia. Dining on Meraviglia was by contrast the noisy chaos that is buffet dining (better than the buffet on the Luminosa but fundamentally the same experience) or dining in the dedicated dinner and breakfast restaurants, which are also noisy busy affairs with the tables of other diners being mere inches away from yours. While the food in the Meraviglia buffet was better, the restaurant food was just as hit or miss as the Club Luminosa. I had delicious food on both cruises and some terrible dishes. I thought Costa unfairly got a bad rap on this score in hindsight, although it is fair to say the Club Restaurant food is not the same level as a surcharge specialty restaurant on another line, it more than made up for this by being included in the price, a comfortable setting, and available on demand when we needed for any of the three meals a day (i.e. not set dining times). One of my frustrations with Costa is that the wording around booking a suite is ambiguous about including dining in the Club Restaurant for all meals. I thought this was the case and I found it to be the case once on the cruise, but I could not get a Costa agent, or Costa, to confirm that was the deal prior to the cruise. In fact I was erroneously told on a number of occasions by the Asia agent that Club Luminosa dining was NOT included. While I'm on gripes, priority embarkation with Costa was not a pleasant experience and did not feel "priority". I put this down to a majority non-English speaking crowd and therefore insufficient signs in English and the fact that much of the embarkation is managed by port security staff, who have no interest or training in prioritizing passengers who may have been promised the privilege. Other than that the Costa cruise was managed as expected and I have no gripes. The staff on both cruises were friendly and helpful, and fantastic for the most part. Gripes on Meraviglia were more numerous. Embarkation was smoother, which I put down to a bigger and better equipped port. I soon found out through additional charges on my account that MSC had changed the method of charging for drinks packages since I had paid for mine in advance, so I was now on an "old" package, which the bar staff may or may not be trained on and for which all identification of included and excluded drinks had been removed from all the drinks menus. Fun! Also the MSC website stopped recognizing our booking a month before the cruise, which was annoying; and the three specialty restaurant and show bookings all had to be redone (no big deal). MSC has an annoying habit of giving you things to do to avoid charges like delivering photos back to the room steward, who was seldom seen. Our room was not made up on two days and was only turned down for the night on one night. Costa only charged a half the gratuity rate for the third child passenger, whereas MSC charged the full perdeim rate. CABINS As I said the Luminosa suite cabin was literally twice the size of the balcony cabin on the Meragivilia, so there is no competition there. Having the personal butler was also superior, to having a room steward who did not turn up on two days because he was assigned to 1) cleaning the balconies; and 2) crew safety drills. On the plus side we booked cabin 8205 which sits just above the lifecraft and has a balcony 2.5 times the size of the other balcony cabins. We enjoyed the extra space there. DINING I have covered above. The specialty restaurants on the Meravilia were all a bit hit and miss. Butcher's Cut was very good, but sitting in the Galleria walkway is not good if you don't want people standing next to your table and yelling to their friends on the deck below. The Sushi was very high quality but light in quantity and the desert was not available. The Eataly was better than the reviews suggest, with SOME of the dishes being very good, but that was again let down by the deserts being very ordinary. On average the food was better on the Meraviglia, but the dining experience was better on the Luminosa because of the full time use of the Club Luminosa. ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES Activities on the Meraviglia surpassed those on the Luminosa although we enjoyed our included spa day on the Luminosa very much. The Meraviglia is a bigger ship and just has slightly more on offer, more bars, galleria, and water slides. We found the shows to be quite even on balance. The Luminosa shows were very good. The entertainers around the ship were somewhat limited. We enjoyed playing a game where we would work out what lyrics the singers were actually singing when they sang English songs. What they actually sang guessing at the English and pronunciation was actually quite hilarious. Trivial Pursuit had a dimension added to it when presented by someone who clearly did not know how to translate questions into English. "What color does a bride in China wear?" became "What color is the bridge in cheena?" We did not do well. On the Meraviglia three of the four shows we went to appeared to be lip-synced. Now I stand to be corrected, but it appeared to us that in all but the show including the band the singers lip-synced their way through the entire show. The dancers on the Luminosa were less ballet trained but worked as a troupe much better. The Circ-de-sole show was excellent on the Meraviglia so the shows came out even for me. SERVICE Staff and service was excellent on both cruises. Staff were always friendly, pleasant and eager to help when help was asked. We did not run into attitude or passing the buck on either ship. The staff were great. PORTS and SHORE EXCURSIONS We only did one excursion in the two cruises and might well have avoided that with what we know in hindsight. Most excursions can be duplicated with a significant cost savings with a little self planning. Ports really depend on the individual and where you want to go. You should want to go to Venice though. :-) Only one comment on excursions: none of the excursions offered on Meraviglia would take you inside La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. This is a crime. You should not go to Barcelona and not go inside this unique and stunningly beautiful building. The outside is impressive, but the inside is a moving experience. FELLOW PASSENGERS Both cruise were far and away dominated by Italians, which didn't bother me at all. Introvert. I was surprised at the lack of Americans or Brits on the Meraviglia. I would put the population of Americans at about 1% and Brits slightly higher. If you want to meet people and make friends, this could be a negative. Good on the Italians for holidaying with their children. They don't have sitters on the ship, so the kids get an early education on how Mommy and Daddy go out and have fun at night (including in the Casino). LOL [shakes head] CONCLUSION Costa Luminosa won me over as the best value for money. The big Meraviglia was just too crowed and noisy for me. The public spaces were always filled with the din of loud conversation and no matter what time of night it always seemed from the cabin someone was slamming a door somewhere or children were running up and down the halls. My advice is, give Costa another look, but book the suite or better. I didn't book the MSC Yacht Club experience, but I have read that children rule the roost there as well, so that might not be your best solution and is pricey. Good luck everyone and I hope you have a great next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
This cruise allows passengers to embark and disembark at any port on it's route. That means no embarkation day and no debarkation day. The good news with that is that you're not fighting a big crowd at your point of embarkation ... Read More
This cruise allows passengers to embark and disembark at any port on it's route. That means no embarkation day and no debarkation day. The good news with that is that you're not fighting a big crowd at your point of embarkation and debarkation, and most of the first day stuff that might normally be mobbed, like ship-card management kiosks, aren't particularly busy. Embarkation and Debarkation were both very smooth. The bad news is that there is a muster drill every single port day with the blowing of the horn and the very long announcements, and you're not part of a cohort so if you like making cruise friends, they may be leaving much sooner than you are. We chose to embark in Barcelona to enjoy a couple of days in the city on either end of the cruise. This was a great call, we LOVE Barcelona and it is an awesomely easy terminal to access and move through. This is one big ship! At full capacity with guests and crew it can hold almost 7,000 people, but somehow it rarely felt that crowded. There is a lot to say about the experience so I will do my best to take it in categories and not to get too tangential. Our overall rating? 7.5/10, would cruise again but only if we got an awesome deal. Much of the lost points had to do with culture differences, language barrier, and frustrations with the European vs US idea of customer service. Without further delay ... let’s get reviewing! The ship itself is BIG but not super accessible. There are some annoying choke points that get clogged up and can’t be avoided (like exiting the theaters) and the the deck plan makes it somewhat difficult to navigate overall. There were actually entire areas we never even bothered going back to after we did our embarkation exploration because we couldn’t seem to find them again despite having a whole week on board. That said, the ship is gorgeous. It’s main atrium has a curved ceiling made of LED panels they call “The Dome” and each evening they do a brief Dome Show. It sounds cheesy but it was actually very cool. The signature Swarovski crystal staircases definitely add wow factor. We found our aft facing cabin very comfortable with an awesome and spacious balcony (cabin #10374). Book these rooms only if you enjoy the motion of the ship because you will feel it. It happens that we love it. The only issue was that it was all the way aft and there are no aft elevators, so it was a long enough walk that I definitely had a “if I forgot it, I don’t need it” mentality. Note: Smoking is still extremely common in Europe and a lot of people were smoking on their balconies which will waft up to yours and the corridors often smell of smoke. The casino is technically the only indoor smoking area and the ventilation is garbage and you must walk through to get to the Carousel Lounge, which is where they have the Cirque du Soleil show. Not judging anyone’s choices, but something to note for those who are sensitive to the smell or who worry about second hand smoke. Now on to everybody’s big question: how was the food? (A quick note, I am a vegan and my husband is not, but we are writing this together. Obviously a big factor for me is dietary accommodation and I also try to include allergen sensitivity in my review). This ship was good about allergen warnings but not very good at the distinction between vegan/vegetarian. I have noticed that for many cruise staff on all cruise lines, all allergies or dietary restrictions = gluten free, which is annoying but I do appreciate the effort. **TL;DR, food is hit and miss, dining room portions are very small.** In some specific areas the food was exceptional - the breads and pastry were all absolutely delicious (RIP my waistline), and all the mozzarella used/served is made fresh onboard. The house-made sorbets and ice creams were also excellent. Cured meats and cheeses were gourmet quality and there was very good selection. Buffet is open most of the day with solid variety and tasty food. Dinner Misc Notes- we ate in one of the complimentary dining rooms (Panorama) and found that unfortunately most of the mains were a bit disappointing. For those who are American you may find the portions pretty small as all dining is very much in the European style where you eat small plates at meals and supplement that by enjoying a bite with coffee or a hard drink in between meals. European meals are also often later than American ones, so it’s more like a pastry in the morning, lunch between 1-3 and dinner between 7:30 and 9:00. Be sure to sign up ahead of time for a seating you want or you could get stuck with a very late seating or a very early one. In the dining room the good news is that they had an entree option marked vegan at each dinner. Bad news is they were pretty bad - either very teeny but ok or sufficient but fried (I just don’t like deep fried food). One evening I was served 3 little pita points with about 2 tbsp of hummus and 2 tbsp of babaganoush. Suffice to say I came hungry and left...cranky and ended up having a protein bar back in the cabin. Although I was never in danger of starving or anything like that, it did not exactly make me feel like I was on vacation having a fine dining experience. BUT! All was not lost! After the hummus incident of 2019, the dining manager made me aware that they can do a 2 dish Indian entree every night if the menu option is no good. I ate that the rest of the trip (4 dinners) and it was delicious. My husband’s meals were ok, standouts include the escargot in puff pastry appetizer, and also the steak dinner served at the Cirque Du Soleil experience (extra fee). Desserts were very disappointing with the exception of ice creams and sorbet. We also had a major problem getting coffee served with our dessert, apparently this is not a thing that is common in Europe and so they would have to brew an entirely new pot, which is lovely except that the dessert was served long long before the coffee so you’re done or you’re waiting while the room empties out. Most of the service issues were things like this - simple requests from a U.S. perspective that required scrambling for a euro style dining setup. Not a deal breaker but definitely noticeable service hiccups and the staff was visibly annoyed. Breakfast - We attempted breakfast in the dining room the first two mornings but found the service to be a problem for getting to our excursions on time and there was no vegan option. Some classic dishes like eggs benedict were not done very well and so we preferred the buffet for breakfast, it has good options for just about anyone. The buffet is usually a zoo but that is true of every ship we’ve been on and it just comes with the big-ship territory. After hours: like most ships, pizza is available almost all the time and they also offer mini sandwiches (bocadillos), well into the evening along with fresh fruit and some small dessert bites. Don’t worry, you won’t go hungry! Entertainment: the shows were 50% awesome and 50% good-not-great. Again, full disclosure, we are very spoiled because we are near NYC and usually see shows on Broadway, so we have high expectations. The production quality was very solid and they went all out on the costuming - it had a distinctly eurovision look: gowns, headdresses, sequins, and omg so many costume changes! The dancing was excellent, there were 2 or three very very good singers and overall the performing was strong. The dancers were awesome. One problem we had was that the singers were largely Italian and so when they cover American broadway, rock, and pop classics the accent is very very noticeable. Big props though, not easy to sing in English while also trying to do right by a well known hit song. We had Cirque Du Soleil included with our cruise fare and it was great - definitely worth attending. Each night there was an interactive “party” in the main atrium and we found them to be lots of fun. If you attend the show you are pretty much released right into the party. I had the opportunity to spend an hour in the thermal suite, which was very impressive! Many rooms and different temperatures to choose from, including a temp variation rain shower path. I enjoyed it very much. We also took advantage of foosball and the “Himalayan Bridge” ropes course, and the gym facilities. If you are a gym goer, don’t forget weights are marked in Kilograms! I wasn’t thinking at 6am and got a big surprise when I tried to just pick up a “20”! There were many many more activities and things to do that we didn’t get to but which looked really great. We did a shore excursion in every port and had a good experience, and we definitely recommend the MSC excursions. If you're still with me here, you must have had a snickers because this ran LONG. If you choose to cruise this ship I hope you have a wonderful trip - we definitely did! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
I don't get all the negativity surrounding this ship? I guess some people are never satisfied. Anyway, this was my very first cruise ship experience, and in my opinion, worth it indead. Very good first impression. Although a little ... Read More
I don't get all the negativity surrounding this ship? I guess some people are never satisfied. Anyway, this was my very first cruise ship experience, and in my opinion, worth it indead. Very good first impression. Although a little pricey for the whole 7 days on board, all went relatively smooth. The food: - Great food, excellent in fact - Unlimeted buffet for the whole journey (Disclaimer: at least when I was on the ship, we had unlimited buffet) - Went to a fine dinning experience at one of the restaraunts, although extra and a bit pricey, the food was awesome, nice presentation of food too. The ship: - A huge, magnificent ship that lives up to its name!! - First time embarking on the ship, I was wowed, by its sheer size and activities - Very posh and 'rich' looking, which is not bad at all! The Cabins: - The room that I stayed in was very clean, with a balcony - Although the cabin was a bit small, it was well furnished, with a tv, desk, bins, bathroom amenities and a couch - When I was there, the room was serviced on a daily The entertainment: - The ship was not short of entertainment and activities - I wasnt bored even when I stayed a whole day on the ship - Although some activities are extra (need to pay extra, which I did not do) Services: - The staff was friendly, if you are friendly towards them - My room was serviced everyday, with out my asking, which I appreciated - Although a good ship with excellent service, the sales assistants on the retail strip were pushy Amenities: - There are kids clubs, from ages baby-17 or 18 years - There are pools, gym, buffet, restaraunts, a retail stip and so on - Some activities are free, some not, so look and ask carefully if you are on a budget, or else it gets quite expensive!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We have been on 17 MSC cruises now and wouldn't consider any other cruise line. We tend to pick cruises based on dates rather than itinerary as we just go to relax. This time was a bit different for us as it was the first time we ... Read More
We have been on 17 MSC cruises now and wouldn't consider any other cruise line. We tend to pick cruises based on dates rather than itinerary as we just go to relax. This time was a bit different for us as it was the first time we had been away for New Year, and the first time cruising in winter. This was also the first time being on such a large ship so we were a bit apprehensive especially with all the negative reviews, but as a seasoned MSC cruiser, I know to ignore most of the bad reviews on here as they are mostly unfounded. Our overall experience was very good and I would travel on the Meraviglia again if that ship was the only one available at my chosen dates, but if given the choice I would pick a smaller ship or try to get a much bigger cabin. We travelled with our 6 year old son, another couple with a 5 year old and a childless couple. We arrived at Genova by train and walked the short distance to the port arriving around 11.30. We all had Aurea cabins so had priority boarding and had no waiting around we got straight on, however even the other queue was not very long. I think later on in the day, queues can get to be quite long when the transfer buses arrive but if you get there early enough you won’t wait very long. Our cabins weren’t supposed to be ready until 14.00 but we went straight there to drop off our bags and they were ready. One negative point was to register the credit cards, the machines on the Meraviglia are slightly different to other ships and there was a bit of confusion as it was not clear which part was to pay in cash and which was for credit cards but we got there eventually. We all had Aurea balcony cabins, but we were very disappointed with these as they were tiny. It’s amazing how the biggest cabins we’ve had were actually on the smallest ships, I get the impression that they just try to squeeze in as many cabins as they can to make more money. The wardrobe was much too small for 3 people, although we did manage to squeeze all our clothes in there and stored our empty luggage under the bed as usual. The bathroom was small but well designed with a proper glass shower door and very powerful hot shower. Disappointing that we didn’t have a bath as we usually do with Aurea cabins. Some of the Aurea/black member perks were missing at first but as soon as housekeeping/reception were informed they appeared. So make sure you know what you should expect. The ship is very beautiful and plenty to do, so much that we didn’t get to do everything. The extras were quite expensive (bowling, 4d cinema etc) – even more expensive than on other MSC ships, but you can buy Fun Passes on board which are quite good value. Little tip, don’t expect to just turn up and do bowling, especially on the day at sea as there are only 2 lanes and you need to book in advance. We did it at 14.30 on the Marseille port day and were on our own. If you have small children ask the to put the gutter barriers up, I didn’t realise this was possible at first and it was only after a few loud tantrums from my 6 year old when he kept going in the gutter, that the staff member told us about this. It was a much more enjoyable game after that and my son ended up winning! I would also not recommend the flight simulator for young children, my son was tall enough to go on, but we didn’t realise that it actually went upside down and was very scary for him and even me as we were unable to control it, I laugh about it now as we were completely safe but wouldn’t take him on again until he was much older. The promenade was a great atmosphere for parties, but not well designed for parties due to the lack of bars. There is one bar at the far end then it is all shops, so we tended to go thirsty and dance rather than wait ages to get a drink. What is missing on this ship is little bars with music to have a drink and a dance, I think they could have created more of these rather than have so many specialty restaurants. The New Year’s party was amazing and best New Years Eve I have ever had. There was also the flower power party, white party, fluo party which were all amazing, great atmosphere and great music. This was a winter cruise so we didn’t use the outside pools at all (although some crazy people did) and only used the inside pool once. They seemed to be quite spacious but I can imagine how busy they would be on a sea day. We had a massage each included in our Aurea package, and I also had an eyebrow wax at the spa. The spa therapists are all very professional and the massages are excellent. They are quite expensive though, but I think you can get some good packages, I go on a cruise for family time though so didn’t look into this. It was quite hard to get an appointment for the wax as they only have one beautician that does this, but I suppose most people do their waxing before going on holiday. The theatre shows were quite disappointing, still high quality but not as varied as on the other ships we’ve been on. I think with them having the Cirque du Soleil, they don’t want to have any acrobatics in the ‘free’ theatre any more. It was mainly singing and dancing, which was quite boring for the children. There should have been a magic/puppet show on our first night but the magician missed the boat so this show was replaced by a classical concert. Cirque du Soleil was excellent but a little short, I would’ve been prepared to pay a little extra to see a longer show. We just got the show & cocktail tickets which I would highly recommend, when you already have dinner included in your cruise I don’t see the point in reserving a dinner with the show. The dinner started an hour before the show so you didn’t get to eat while you watched the show and the drinks only seats were much better – although the Carousel lounge is so small there are no ‘bad’ seats. Be aware that these shows can be cancelled in bad weather. Foodwise I am always amazed at how people can criticise the food on MSC as for us it is always amazing and one of the main reasons we like MSC cruises. I think there is something for everyone. I am a vegetarian and I never have to eat the same dish twice – unless I want to. The food is high quality, and if you think the portions are small in the restaurant, just order double! We rarely went to breakfast as we like to take it easy in the mornings on holiday. On the days that we did get up in time we just went to the buffet, there was plenty of choice, and we especially liked the made to order omelettes that you don’t usually get on MSC. We also went to the buffet most days for lunch as we find that there is more choice for everyone here at lunchtimes and more relaxed. The buffet can get very loud and crazy, but for the whole week we always found a table easily even when we were a group of 8. The trick is to have one person reserve a table while the others get their food, to avoid your food getting cold while you search for a table. It is also easier to find a table near the back end of the buffet. On the day at sea we preferred to go to the Panorama restaurant, although there is not as much choice here and not as well organised at lunchtimes as it is in the evenings. Dinner was in the Panorama restaurant. We had My Choice but it wasn’t as flexible as usual as we were a party of 8 so not as easy to get a table with the same waiter whenever we wanted. We ate at 19.15/19.30 every night apart from new year’s eve when we were able to get a table at 21.15. Our waiter Ashveen was excellent and we were very disappointed to hear that 2 days before the end of our cruise he had to return home due to personal problems, he was very professional and gave 120% to make sure that everything was perfect for us and we were able to have a laugh with him. One thing to note during winter cruises is the risk of bad weather. We were generally very lucky with the weather apart from the sea day. During the trip from Malta to Barcelona we encountered gale force 9 winds which made it very bumpy. A few of our party felt ill during the afternoon, and 2 had to leave the restaurant early in the evening. In all my 17 cruises I’ve never experienced seas that rough before, it was so bad during the night that it felt as though we were going to tip over. I always thought that the bigger the ship the less you felt the sea, but I’ve now realised that the bigger ships get knocked around more in high winds. A note on the photos, the MSC photographers are always excellent and the photos are always perfect but I always feel I am conned on these as they are always so expensive. On the other cruises we have managed to negotiate a price on board for all the photos usually €150-200, but this just means I have hundreds of photos hanging around at home that I never look at anymore. This time I decided to book in advance a 10 photo package (any size) for €80, still pretty expensive but limited photos. As soon as we got on the ship our friends were able to book packages for all photos – digital and small printed copies for €130. I wasn’t able to change my package but I was able to add all the digital photos for €60, so not as good a deal as my friends got but I much prefer to have the digital copies than the printed ones. I am also always surprised that people on here criticise the MSC staff, I find the staff to be highly professional and pleasant. I always get a smile and a hello out of anyone I pass in the corridors and always try to have a chat with staff I see regularly. Our group was a mix of 4 nationalities – English, Italian, French and Cuban with all of us speaking at least 2 different languages and none of us had any communication issues. All staff are required to speak English so I don’t understand how any English speaking passengers have communication issues. Passengers are a mix of all nationalities and personalities which I always find really interesting. If you want to be surrounded by English-speakers then please stay away from MSC and stick to the hundreds of English speaking cruises and leave the multinational cruises to us multinationals. We never choose our cruises for the destinations and do tend to repeat ports often. My main reasons for cruising are to relax and spend time with my family, this time especially as I was recovering from a foot operation and was not planning on doing too much walking. Civitavecchia – I had planned on going to see the nativity scenes at the nearby fort, but as the weather wasn’t great when we first got up we decided to stay on the boat instead. Palermo – we took a taxi tour with our friends €120 for 6 adults and 2 children. Saw most of the sights over 2 hours and had a wander round the food market. Malta – new years day so wanted to take it easy, took a horse and carriage ride around the city for €40 (or €50 can’t remember but was negotiated €10 cheaper than the ‘official’ price) 2 adults one child, then a wander around the shops near the port. Barcelona – a city I never tire of and so easy to get around on your own. We got the port cruise (blue) bus from right outside the terminal for €4 return each which leaves you near Plaza Colombo (as does the MSC shuttle which you have to pay €8/9). We then got the Metro from Drassanes to the Sagrada Famiglia (changing at Passeig Gracia) we got a 10 trip ticket for €10.20 as we were 8. Wandered round the outside of the Sagrada Famiglia, then got the metro back to Plaza Catalunya (changing again at Passeig Gracia), and walked back down the Ramblas stopping at the food market near the middle. Marseille – stayed on ship, had a lazy morning then took advantage of the quiet ship to do bowling and 4d cinema) Overall I’ve given the Meraviglia 5/5 as I feel that MSC needs a little boost and none of the negative points I’ve mentioned ruined my holiday in any way, I am already planning 2 cruises with MSC for 2019. I would recommend to anyone taking a cruise, no matter which company, to do your research on what to expect, to avoid disappointment. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Quick background - we are a couple who have cruised 6 times over the last 2 years. Not the most seasoned cruisers but have some experience of cruising with different lines. We decided to take the leap from mid sized ships to bigger ones ... Read More
Quick background - we are a couple who have cruised 6 times over the last 2 years. Not the most seasoned cruisers but have some experience of cruising with different lines. We decided to take the leap from mid sized ships to bigger ones with MSC as they offer yacht club, which we felt would be a good way to combine a big ship with some familiarities of a smaller vessel, as well as indulging in the luxury service YC offers. Embarkation was great. We were taken personally by a butler to the YC check in area and given Prosecco to drink. We were then escorted straight to our cabin (YC suite) by a butler who also introduced us to the staff on the concierge desk. The cabin was lovey. More a junior suite than a suite of rooms as we’ve had on other lines, but very well furnished. The only snags would be the wardrobe being quite small for two people and the balcony being quite small also. However this did not distract from how nice the room and shower room were. We also had a complimentary mini bar and a bottle of procecco on arrival in the room. This has to be the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. The ship it’s self is a sight to behold. Absolutely amazing. Think Swarovski Crystal stairs and LED ceilings that show different images during the day. The YC private sun deck was very nice as was the private lounge bar for YC guests. The physical product that MSC offer was brilliant. However the service provided by the majority of staff was a massive problem. We had chosen to book several meals and drinks packages before travel. This allowed us to get the dates that we wanted in advance (NYE being one of them) for specialty meals. One of those we booked was the Cirque du Soleil meal and show. When we arrived we had a note in our cabin asking us to visit guest services to confirm our reservation for this meal. As we were in the YC we were able to go to our concierge desk rather than wait as guest services (the queue at guest services was at times 1hour long!). The concierge explained that anything in terms of meals booked on the website never transfers to their system and that’s why we had to see them. She emailed the cirque to confirm our choice of date. We decided to check that our other reservations were in place. She said no and that for those we would need to go over to Eataly and speak to the manager who would confirm them all in one place. We went to Deck 6 where Eataly was and tried to get the attention of the manager who was chatting with some Italian guests. He proceeded to ignore us for several minutes before we decided to interrupt his conversation. We explained the situation and he didn’t reply but waved another memeber of staff over who couldn’t even speak English. He didn’t have a clue what we wanted to after 10 minutes of trying to explain using hand gestures we gave up and went back to the concierge. The concierge said the reason for not being able to get it sorted was we ‘had gone to the wrong Eataly’ and it was our own fault. She said we needed to go and find the other Eataly and they would sort it. At this point we asked if she could sort it for us. She agreed, although did not seem happy about it and said she would email the bookings to us. She also explained that our booking for the chefs table wouldn’t be available for NYE as we had booked for. She also spotted our premium drinks package and said ‘I don’t know why you bought that as you’re YC and get it anyway’ . No offer of a refund. It was at this point we realised that the bottle of champagne and souvenir flutes we had booked for sail away had not been delivered. She again told us that this is because their system has never worked but she could sent it over for another day. This set the tone for the rest of the service recieved. •in the YC bar we were often ignored and found it easier to just go to the bar our selves rather than wait for a waiter. One who did come came back to us 4 times to confirm our drinks order of ‘Diet Pepsi and a white wine’. The same waiter slammed our drinks down and began shouting at another member of staff •when coming back on board from one of the ports the staff ignored us and we calling each other profanities very loudly •walking through deck 6 was an obstacle course of people selling you meals and drinks packages •we asked our concierge to change one of our meal bookings over one night as we’d had a long day and fancied something quieter than the cirque show we’d booked. He shouted at us over the phone saying that he couldn’t do that as it was ‘too complicated’. When pressured by us to sort it he said he would but in future could we ‘not change our minds as it’s awakward’ for him and that he’d struggled to get us a table in the other resturant (which ironically was very quiet anyway!) Food. •Generally the food was poor quality. The food served in the YC resturant was the same at lunchtime as in the buffet (not the gourmet experience the website promised). •The steak in the butchers cut was very good, but at a premium. •The buffet was a feeding frenzy with people grabbing food and pushing and shoving. There was inadequate seating available for the volume of guests. It was very very very loud in here, we didn’t go back after the first time! •When booking we were advised that we could dine anytime at any of the included resturants across the ship. However this was no longer the case and we could only dine in YC, premium resturants or the buffet. Other guests who were not YC were subjected to strict dining times in a set resturant - if they were 15 minutes late for their time they would not be allowed in. •unlike other lines you will not see officers around the ship and the manangement team do not interact with guests, passing you to a more junior memeber of staff Around the ship •Astheically the ship is lovely. However the public areas do not seem to cope very well with the volume of passengers during the winter season. Everywhere is loud. There was a DJ playing above the shopping arcade at the same time as a Zumba class happening at the bar a few meters away. •the Swarovski stairs are amazing, however you probably won’t be able to use them as the ships photographers use them for private photo shoots with people lying down on them posing •on day one I thought there was a queue to meet and greet the captain. It was very long. It was actually the queue for guest services for people complaining •staffing ratios do not seem very high. At the amusement arcade there was one person running the sports court, bowling alley, f1 simulators and the flight simulator. We had a go on the flight sim and had to wait ten minutes when it finished for the memeber of staff to let us out. We had to wait in a pitch back sealed pod! We even pressed the emergency button as we’d waited so long!!! •the safety drill was the most unusual experience ever. We were all asked to meet in the theatre. Given an demonstration in 5 languages as to how to put the life vest on and then group by group taken to different muster stations across the ship. We were group A so after everyone had left we were told in 5 languages that the theatre was our muster station and we could go. Surely they could have told us this at the start and saved us a 45 minute wait?? Bottom line This ship was on the whole not for us. It is loud and difficult to relax in. You could be sat eating a meal at the butchers cut to be interrupted for 10 minutes by animated dinsours fighting and roaring on the LED screen for a ‘show’. However we do appreciate that some people enjoy that kind of holiday. However, had the service and food been better we would have made the best. Instead we were treated like an inconvenience and told off by so called ‘concierges’ and ‘butlers’. We told the YC director that we were planning to leave the next day and he apologiesed but didn’t offer to rectify any of the issues we had raised. The next day he was genuinely surprised that we had booked flights home and said he thought we would have reconsidered - why? Nothing had been changed. All the bookings we had made online were still messed up. The food was still rubbish and staff still rude. And even our newspaper delivered on the last day was wrong. We decided our time was more valuable that the money we had already spent and we would have a happier new year at home where at least we don’t get told off and can relax. This ship is due to move over to serve the American market this year. I cannot see Americans who are used to and expect a high level of service tolerating what MSC offer on this ship. We have been offered no compensation or reimbursement for the services we paid for in advance that we did not revcieve. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Ship is beautiful Captain and senior staff should be fired! Ship was filthy I have never been on a cruise ship where they weren’t constantly spraying sanitizer on your hands. NOT ONE TIME did I see anyone spraying hands with ... Read More
Ship is beautiful Captain and senior staff should be fired! Ship was filthy I have never been on a cruise ship where they weren’t constantly spraying sanitizer on your hands. NOT ONE TIME did I see anyone spraying hands with anything! People all over the buffet coughing etc. on 3rd day of this floating bacteria petry dish and already one of our group is sick with diarrhea and vomiting. Sitting here waiting on my turn.....Walls and doors filthy with smudges, etc. DISGUSTING. Put all that aside: 1. Premium ALL YOU CAN DRINK package does not include juice or drinks in Cirque show (or some other areas) 2. So many yummy places to eat on board! Problem is all cost extra! 3. Lovely chocolate bar - bring your euros because not included 4. Who doesn’t like Gelato? Better have money! Cruise over 3 times a year on average - no allegiance to any line. First time on MSC - NEVER AGAIN - Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
The 5 plus and minus with this cruise. Plus. World class evening entertainment - The main company consist of 6 singers, 11 dancers and 5 musicians (alternate nights). They offer 6 great shows of 40 minutes, popular broadway ... Read More
The 5 plus and minus with this cruise. Plus. World class evening entertainment - The main company consist of 6 singers, 11 dancers and 5 musicians (alternate nights). They offer 6 great shows of 40 minutes, popular broadway musicals, history of Rock, flamenco dance, Italian songs and a modern day themed. The shows are world class with great choreography, costumes and musics. Mobile phone app - MSC for Me - while on board the ship can easily find informantion on itinerary, book restaurant and shows and check details of billing account (the most useful function in the app). Itinerary - Civitavecchia, Italy - Palermo, Italy - Valletta, Malta - Barcelona, Spain - Marseille, France - Genoa, Italy. Spa - Modern, spacious and well equipped. Daily activities - plenty of choices and varied to suit. Minus. Charity donation to UNICEF - Auto deduction of 1 (one) EUR per person per day. Chairty donation is a personal choice and voluntary. MSC auto enrolled my cabin of 4 person, of which I needed to visit the reception and wasted my time in the long line to remove the charge. The pushing of products and services - I understand cruising is a business and want of MSC to increase income and profit. However, there is a fine line between of highlighting and selling, I rather ask than to be offered. Transfer in Barcelona, Spain - The charge of 8 EUR per person between port and World Trade Centre (WTC) in the port is not value for money, since WTC is still 30 minutes walk from the city centre. In fact, the metered taxi from city centre to port is only 10 EUR for 4 person. Rushed service in the morning - the ship was full, 4,500 passengers, so I understand it was difficult for the restaurants to cope with the rush in the morning. Poor information or lack of transfer service between airport FCO and Civitavecchia. I rather prefer MSC to organise the transfer service. This was the missing link in an otherwise wonderful MSC cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We chose this particular trip because of a few reasons: 1. We sailed this same ship and route last year and had such a great time we could not wait to go again. 2. The price was just right to try the Yacht Club experience 3. We ... Read More
We chose this particular trip because of a few reasons: 1. We sailed this same ship and route last year and had such a great time we could not wait to go again. 2. The price was just right to try the Yacht Club experience 3. We had friends who wanted to try cruising, and figured this was the best option for them, and we could show them the ropes on cruising. So below are our thoughts on various aspects on this trip. Embarkation: We boarded in Genoa, Italy. We arrived at the terminal around 11 am. We dropped our luggage off at the main luggage point on the ground floor behind the ship. We did not see the Yacht Club check in point near there like it had been the year prior. Entering the terminal, we had a hard time finding where to go for Yacht Club check-in, until we were brought to the desk on the upper level. Here we finished our check-in, then waited for a couple of other groups to finish as well. In the meantime we were given a welcome glass of champagne. Shortly afterwards, a butler came down and escorted us and three other groups on board. Upon arrival into the Yacht Club, we were escorted down to our cabin, 15029, only to find it wasn’t quite ready for us yet. We were then seated in the Top Sail Lounge, and where they offered us a drink, which we gladly accepted. A short time later, the Head Butler came in, saying our cabin was now ready, and took us back to the room. Once again it wasn’t quite ready, so we went to the restaurant for our first lunch. After lunch we were brought to the room a third time, and this time it was all set and ready. We met our Butler, Jacques, grabbed our room keys then went off to the ship. We received our luggage in our room sometime between one and four. While we went through the Yacht Club check-in process, we had friends who are a family of four who went through the normal process. Like us, they dropped their large bags at the main drop-off point, then went into the normal check-in line. Because they were travelling with two small children, they were given priority boarding. Breezing through the check-in desk, security and gangway, they were on board before we even left the Yacht Club lounge. By noon their room was ready. By 1230 or so, their luggage was awaiting them outside their door. Ship: The Meraviglia was outstanding. She is well kept, easy to navigate, and has plenty to do on board. Many bars and lounges were open often with many different activities going on. Dancing lessons happen mostly at Meraviglia Bar, which is conveniently located right on the Galleria. Above that is the TV Bar and Studio which is the place to listen and participate in some fantastic karaoke! Although, the place to be no matter what time is the Sky Lounge on deck 18! They have unique cocktails and a pianist with vocalist there every night providing soft, jazz like music. The theater, while small, we found to have ample space for each show while keeping it more intimate instead of crazy packed. Shows: We saw three shows in main theater, a guest performer who did sleight of hand and the best hand puppet show I think we have ever seen. We watched Virtual, a show about a man who has a dream of being stuck in his phone, which was very entertaining. We also Born to Rock, which was a collection of classic rock from the Beatles to Pink Floyd. All three shows were very good. Our friends saw Viaggio, which they said was very good, but not as complex as some of the land based shows. Unfortunately three shows were cancelled due to a technical issue, so we could not see Sonor. Yacht Club: Yacht Club was everything we had heard it was and hoped it would be. The attentive service, the wonderful lounge, excellent restaurant, and private pool deck was all that we could want. They truly seem to have the best staff on board working the Yacht Club. That said, we would absolutely sail in Yacht Club again, as long as we are either sailing by ourselves or with a group all in Yacht Club. We felt as if we missed a lot of the offerings and amenities by not spending as much time within the complex as we could have, while still enjoying the rest of the ship. But for the price, it surely is the best deal on the market for everything that you get included. We will sail in the Yacht Club any chance we can, but if we can’t, it wouldn’t be a make or break in cruising MSC for us. Cabin: We had a Yacht Club Interior suite, room 15029. Overall the room was very nice, comfortable bed, and well appointed toiletries in the bathroom. The room did feel smaller than our Fantastica interior room the year prior, but not by much. There was a chair in the room which felt completely out of place, as it was a plastic wicker chair, which felt like it was brought down from the pool areas. We used it primarily as a place to put our backpack. Food: Overall food exceeded our expectations. The Yacht Club restaurant had very good selection of meals each night, always hot, and there was nothing that we ordered that we disliked. Breakfast in the restaurant was always a solid choice, with fresh breads, pastries, and fruit available as well as eggs cooked to order. Breakfast at the poolside buffet was a better choice for us when the weather was nice. You could get eggs made to order, fresh waffles, a selection of fresh fruits, pastries, and always a good selection of hot foods. While the standard coffee in the restaurant was good drip coffee, the bartender up in the buffet made the best cafe lattes and macchiatos. The lunch buffet on deck was different every day, featuring a pasta of the day and a grilled item of the day. The main buffet carried standard fare, with the Ethnic corner always being the busiest and best part of the buffet. Pizza was always fresh and hot, but otherwise pretty standard. One lunch down in the Waves restaurant was a huge disappointment. The menu was small, with only three options. The lamb of the day was okay, a little overcooked. Service was awful, very slow, and poor communication from server to guests in the area where we ate at. Crew: The crew aboard is quite multicultural, which is really nice. It provides every guest on board with someone who speaks their language, thus breaking the language barriers that happen on many US based cruise lines. Also, while many state the crew is stone faced and not kind, we have never found that to be an issue. Greet anyone with a smile and they are always quick to smile back and help in anyway possible. A good chunk of the crew speak English, which is helpful for us, but most of them speak anywhere from 2-8 languages. We did have some standout waitresses, Maria in the Sky Lounge and Smita in the Brass Anchor Pub. Quick to greet us anytime they saw us, and quickly learned our favorites, and in the case of Maria, would bring us new ones. Our Butler, Jacques and his assistant Nilheesh, were fantastic. The crew that were in charge of the Yacht Club buffet and bar were a great team, and even on the days where the weather wasn't the best, they had great attitude and were fun to learn a little about crew life from. I really wish I remembered all their names to give them the proper recognition. Ports: The itinerary for this run was Genoa, Civitavecchia (Rome), Palermo, Malta, Day at Sea, Barcelona, Marseille, and back to Genoa. In itself, this itinerary is awesome! It provides just enough variation of countries and ports that you can see so many different things. Civitavecchia, we did not get off. We’ve been to Rome before and did not see reason to get off and go again, so this port provided a great Ship day for us. Palermo was great. Even with having been before, we still got off an enjoyed the Hop-On Hop-Off bus to take in the various sights, architecture, markets, and gardens. They are always a wonder to see. We did the exact cruise itinerary last year and missed Malta, so our fingers were crossed we would make it to Malta this go around. Alas, Mother Nature was not on our side and we missed Malta once again. Maybe we are the bad luck? Who knows. The bridge and captain decided to make the day another cruise day, giving us 2 days at sea. Therefore, we made the Ship our destination for those two days. Barcelona is a city we love in Europe! It’s classic and modern all mushed together. We took a stroll up to the Saint Joseph Boqueria, the market right off La Rambla. We actually got a chance to walk around and take in all the market had to offer for tourists like ourselves. Then we opted to take a Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour as we wanted to make our way towards Tibidabo. Unfortunately for us, once we got to the Tibidabo stop and hopped off, we found that the Funicular railway was closed for winter except for the weekends, which put a wrench in our plans. Back to the Hop-On Hop-Off bus we went and made our way back towards the starting point. We made our way back to the market to grab lunch then back to the boat we went. The last port for us was the one we least looked forward to, the port of Marseille. It’s not that we don’t like Marseille, this was the first time we actually got off at the port. France just isn’t on our to-do list of places to visit. We got off and caught a taxi from the port to the city center where we found a lovely Christmas Market that we walked around and bought some soaps. After exploring a few avenues, most of the group we were with was ready to head back. We did notice there was some broken windows and other damage from recent protests, but nothing too bad. Back in Genoa we took some time to stroll around the streets closest to the train station before grabbing a quick meal and taking off on the train back home. Other thoughts: At the start of our cruise, there was an elevator bank that had a new express system installed. Express is a loose term in our opinion, but the whole system reverted back to a standard elevator bank by the time we left Palermo. No notice or anything, and in the end, only one elevator was left on deck 4 with an out of service message. On the subject of elevators, the Priority Service feature for Yacht Club members was hit or miss on when it would work. It was also easy for anyone on board the elevator who was paying attention to hijack the elevator that a Yacht Club guest tried to hijack themselves. Interesting perk, but one that wasn’t well explained nor one that works consistently. Even when you get the system to recognize a priority call, more often than not, another elevator in the bank will call on your floor in the direction you wish to go before your priority elevator. Admittedly, if you do overtake an elevator successfully, it is kind of fun to see the confusion on the other guest faces. There is a stone lounger in the spa that never seems to be on, whether this is intentional or not I am not sure. I asked about it once, but I don’t remember the answer. Seems that most of the growing pains of a new ship were worked out otherwise, crew seemed a lot more confident of where things were, and the technology was working with no major hiccups. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Being an avid cruiser and a loyal RCI customer (Royal, Celebrity, Azamara), I was getting curious about the MSC's new Yacht Club product. Everything I was reading indicated this was the standard of cruising my husband, in particular, ... Read More
Being an avid cruiser and a loyal RCI customer (Royal, Celebrity, Azamara), I was getting curious about the MSC's new Yacht Club product. Everything I was reading indicated this was the standard of cruising my husband, in particular, would enjoy. He's not that keen on ocean cruising, particularly if it involves older ships, tired itineraries, average food and constant nickel-and-diming (i.e. the average cruising experience in Australian/NZ waters.) Upon seeing a special price for a YC Deluxe cabin on a 7-day West Med sailing in early December 2018, we decided to check it out. It was not our first trip around the Med, so we were comfortable with the fact it was going to be cold (for Queenslanders!) and we would probably find ourselves onboard more than usual, rather than remain on shore until last call as is our usual MO. A big bonus with MSC is their status-matching with other cruise lines' loyalty programs. Based upon my Captain's Club level with Celebrity/Azamara, we were automatically assigned MSC Black, which is the highest grade in MSC's loyalty program. This was a very attractive incentive that other cruise companies should explore and gave us some very appreciated additional perks. Our trip from Australia to Europe started off brilliantly with an unexpected upgrade from premium economy to business class on board EVA Airways (BNE - TPE - CDG. Thank you, EVA, every outbound sector was an excellent flight!) After a couple of days in Rome at a gorgeous, well-priced hotel near the centre (Liberty Boutique), we travelled by private transport to the port of Civitavecchia. We arrived at the port around midday and were greeted by very friendly staff who shepherded us to an exclusive lounge area for YC guests. It was empty (the whole terminal seemed fairly quiet), but was still fully stocked with a wide range of drinks and snacks. After a short wait, we were greeted by a lovely young lady in livery (coat and tails!) who we were told was one of the YC butlers and had arrived to escort us onto the ship. We followed the butler in the direction of the ship, overtaking others who were standing in line, while she held aloft a paddle with "Yacht Club" stamped across it. Not surprisingly, our queue-jumping accompanied by a liveried staff member drew some attention. At this point, we started to wonder if we had fallen down the rabbit hole. On board, we were taken to the YC concierge area and given a whistle-stop tour of the exclusive YC facilities, then shown to our cabin. The lady butler advised us we had been assigned a different butler for the duration of our cruise and he would make himself known to us in short course. Our room was outstanding. It was new, modern, spacious, heaps of storage and the bathroom was an absolute delight with a large shower cubicle, rail shower and rain shower. We had a small but adequate balcony, comfortable bedding (pillow menu optional) and, frankly, I felt the room wanted for nothing. Our butler did not make himself known until later in the evening and, to be frank, we found his attention very sporadic throughout our whole cruise. Our understanding is that the YC butler is meant to be readily available to assist you with all manner of reservations and recommendations. Unfortunately, we hardly ever saw him as he seemed to be solely focused on his other guests. (At the time of introduction, he noted he was from Indonesia and, I suspect, he believed as 'Aussies' we were too laid back to need any special attention compared to the others under his care. However, we aren't exactly the type to be found holidaying in Bali, so he rather misread us if that was his assessment.) Consequently, this was the first cruise ever that we did not provide an additional tip to our cabin staff. (Obviously, we did pay our standard gratuities - we consider these to be non-negotiable.) The disappointing butler aside, our YC experience was generally excellent, with one notable exception - the breakfast service in the YC restaurant. It didn't matter what anyone did (and we know we weren't alone in this predicament) breakfast was never more than lukewarm and usually bland. In the end, we took ourselves off to the main buffet for breakfast and were surprised that the food was much more inviting (and I abhor large ship buffets - you won't see me in the Windjammer for dinner EVER.) As for the rest of the food, drink and general facilities in the YC - just brilliant. In particular, it was nice to have a dedicated concierge desk for any questions. Given we didn't really understand all the intricacies of the YC product, it was useful to be able to confirm details without lining up. (I still don't know that we took advantage of all the YC perks, but we certainly gave it a solid try out!) Would I sail MSC again? In a heartbeat, provided I was travelling in the YC. This product leaves the other cruise companies floundering when it comes to value-for-money. We did venture beyond the YC to check out the very impressive facilities on the rest of the ship. It is big - but then it needs to be, as its catering for nearly 6,000 pax. Our cruise didn't feel overly busy, but it wasn't exactly peak season either. I had read some nightmare stories about the behaviour of the general population on board MSC's cruises and I can't say I saw anything to suggest it was that bad. It does get noisy, however, as many of the people on a European cruise of this size are from cultural backgrounds that are comfortable with 'loud'. On the whole, I didn't think the non-YC environment was any less inviting than you'd find on one of RCI's larger vessels. Thank you, MSC, for a very enjoyable cruise. Please consider bringing your ships Down Under. Australians deserve more than the many aged vessels the other cruise companies try to shunt our way. My husband and I have already recommended friends to go (they travel this April) and, for our part, we'll definitely be back. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We chose this as our 25th anniversary and it sailed out of Rome, and Rome was on our Bucket list. Embarkation was one of the smoothest ever, as was disembarkation. Our first time on MSC, so not sure how to compare, but this was our 15th ... Read More
We chose this as our 25th anniversary and it sailed out of Rome, and Rome was on our Bucket list. Embarkation was one of the smoothest ever, as was disembarkation. Our first time on MSC, so not sure how to compare, but this was our 15th cruise overall. We were disappointed that we booked this cruise when we did to get the Circ du Soleill tickets that were part of the package. When we got on board we found out we needed to pay for this. The guy running the ticket desk told me had numerous people complaining about the same thing. They were supposed to get free tickets but had to pay. I have complained to MSC but no word back yet. Very strange not having a Cruise Director or actviities lined out like we are used to. It's also a little strange the people embark and disembark at every port, so there is no set embarkation point, new people coming and going all the time. Food was great compared to other lines we thought. We appreciated the dining room having assigned seating and times again. It gave us a chnace to get to know the staff and table mates. We never figured out how to make reservations that are REQUIRED to see shows, so only skipped in on the end of a couple. Disappointed no comedians either. I havent been on other MSC cruises, so I really dont know how it compares. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We booked this to give our legs a rest from our tour of Europe with a view to getting rested and primed for the next leg and beyond, but we didn't count on the wonderous sights we would miss if we didn't get off the ship at each ... Read More
We booked this to give our legs a rest from our tour of Europe with a view to getting rested and primed for the next leg and beyond, but we didn't count on the wonderous sights we would miss if we didn't get off the ship at each port. We travelled on the cruise as 'upgraded' guests in the 'Yacht Club', and, from the very moment we arrived at the terminal in Barcelona, the Yacht Club staff made us feel reaĺly special. Now, I'm not used to being upgraded, so I asked why. I was told that Australians and Americans are frequently upgraded so we can go back home and tell our families and friends about the experience. Well, they've got that right. I'm all over this. The 'Yacht Club' is a section of the ship, on the highest decks, right up front. Now I can hear everyone now saying, "But the middle of the ship is the calmest when there's a big swell". Now let me clear this up right now. This ship is, as I understand it, the 3rd biggest cruise ship in the world at roughly 167,000 tons displacement. Furthermore, it's a modern ship which is very able to smooth out any of the, err, bumps if you like, that the Mediterranean throws her way. It's huge and it looks it from anywhere you can see it. It dwarfed every other ship I saw, and that's enough about the ships size. The 'Yacht Club' is essentially a no go zone for anyone who isn't travelling as a Yacht Club passenger. For us it felt a little, or maybe a lot above our pay grades but we soon settled in. It wasn't difficult at all. I was worried I'd not know how to deal with a 24 hour concierge and butler service, but heh, they were really nice people who made me feel that we should utilise their services, so I did. The cabin was really comfortable, especially after I asked for and got the extra pillows of which there were multiple types to choose. In the Yacht Club, all the drinks are complimentary. They got off light with me since at 63 years of age I don't over do the alcahol. They might have regretted upgrading me 25 years ago. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Hard to believe all of the negative reviews of this ship and its staff. My wife and I have been cruising for over 25 years on many of the largest cruise lines and this cruise with MSC was our first with the company. We have to say it was ... Read More
Hard to believe all of the negative reviews of this ship and its staff. My wife and I have been cruising for over 25 years on many of the largest cruise lines and this cruise with MSC was our first with the company. We have to say it was one of the best experiences we have had on any cruise ship. The staff in all areas of the ship were always helpful and friendly. The entertainment was very good. We enjoyed two production shows and both of the Cirque performances. Getting on and off of the ship in Barcelona could not have been more simple and easy. It actually is much better when people can get on and off at each port of call. Seems to avoid the masses when a cruise begins and ends for everyone in the same place. We found the food and drinks to be very good with plenty of variety. We do understand that some people get angry when they are charged for the specialty restaurants and other things around the ship, but you should know that before you book the cruise. There's really not any surprises. There is a reason why the cruise fare is much lower than the competitors and you are not obligated to spend money for all of the extras. This cruise was full of so many different people from all over the world and most seemed to be having a great time, so if you are thinking about sailing on the Meraviglia, you really will love it! Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
I was really disappointed with MSC system. Most of the crew were rude, rude and rude in all area of the ship. Please pay attention to your bill. Almost everyday I need to go down the reception to clarify the charges. Even though I ... Read More
I was really disappointed with MSC system. Most of the crew were rude, rude and rude in all area of the ship. Please pay attention to your bill. Almost everyday I need to go down the reception to clarify the charges. Even though I purchased the package for food and drink. They have too many package until the crew and myself also confuse what is what. Let take an example like I bought the premium package for my drinks. So it emphasized that any glass drink that is under euro 10 is under the package. But I was told that I need to pay for the drinks like sake and plum wine which was under Euro 10. Then when I go challenge with the crew they answered me " this is an Italian cruise and you are drinking japanese sake so you need to pay" so meaning all the whisky and beer from scotland and US I need to pay????? Becareful with the photo you purchase too. Please ask for a better package and do check whether they double charge or not. Most of the crew are really rude especially in the Buffet dining area. If you manage to have someone take good care of you then please do appreciate this person. I was ask this question when I try to order some drinks from the waiter " Why didn't you order just now". I also have argument with the waiter and the supervisor on the fresh orange juice which fall on less then euro 10 category. I could go on and on. Their are just tons of problem with their system. Even to the cleanliness of the cabin. Don't bother with Balcony. They don't clean your Balcony. Their shows is boring. So no point go paying for show at Curosell. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We have been loyal to Royal for years but this cruise was such good value we gave it a go, and we had a great time. We went with an open mind recognising that each cruise line will have its own characteristics and MSC would not be exactly ... Read More
We have been loyal to Royal for years but this cruise was such good value we gave it a go, and we had a great time. We went with an open mind recognising that each cruise line will have its own characteristics and MSC would not be exactly the same as RCL. Firstly the ship, as many have said, is stunning, we found it clean throughout and lots of choice in the venues. The cabin, we were inside bella on deck 10, was spacious but had no furniture, I missed the small sofa. It did have the largest shower we have had at sea. Both the bathroom and bedroom would benefit from more storage. our steward Gusti was very attentive. Food - we ate every evening but one in the main dining room, Panorama. After the first night we asked to be moved to a round table as that suited our family better and from that point Gerlin and Anil looked after us very well indeed. We engaged with them and they with us and it made for a great dining experience, head waiter Jeannot was also very attentive and kept a close eye on everything. we all enjoyed the food. Butchers Cut - we ate dinner here for a family celebration and it exceeded all expectations - wonderful food. Entertainment - the team work extremely hard and the activities throughout the day and night suited us perfectly, quizes and dancing. Parties on the Promenade were a great success and we surprised ourselves by partying well past our usual bedtime. There is a variety of musical artists in the venues around the ship, hopefully a style for everyone or karaoke for your own style. I thought there were more drinks servers on MSC in the bar/lounge venues than on RCL and we had great service all round. Again we took the time to talk to staff they were very friendly and spoke with us anytime we met up during the cruise. We saw a couple of shows in the theatre, and even the ventriloquist was funny although so many languages was a challenge to listen through and still get the comedy. We saw Cirque show Sonor, and while appreciating the skills involved I think for us we chose the wrong show. it was very futuristic and the more traditional Viaggio may have suited us better. The cocktails offered are a bit strange. We had status matched our Crown and Anchor to Voyagers club black prior to going but did not receive all the benefits during the cruise, we are still not sure how that is intended to operate. We got a voucher for thermal area and meal in restaurant, vouchers arrived on different days at beginning of cruise, we kept waiting for the rest of the listed benefits but they didn't come, we asked for the chocolate ship on our last night and they seemed surprised we had not received, so we may have just been unlucky. Our itinerary was disrupted due to weather which was unfortunate - both in terms of not seeing the ports we wanted and in terms of the bad weather itself. Embarkation and disembarkation for us in Barcelona went smoothly. Our overall verdict - pleasantly surprised having read other reviews. We really enjoyed the whole experience and will not hesitate cruising with MSC again if the itinerary and price are right for us. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We had a great time at MSC Meraviglia, so much that we're going to its sister Belissima, again. Pros: - Bars. The champagne bar was above the atrium band, so we could enjoy a nice bottle of sparkling wine in a quiet ... Read More
We had a great time at MSC Meraviglia, so much that we're going to its sister Belissima, again. Pros: - Bars. The champagne bar was above the atrium band, so we could enjoy a nice bottle of sparkling wine in a quiet environment, while listening to the music. The pub had a great selection of beers. The piano bar had some nice drinks and an amazing view of the pool area and of the cities. - Spa area. Several types of saunas with modern design. This is enough reason to go to this ship, in my opinion. A notch above spas in any other cruise line, with finnish a sauna, and low-temperature sauna. A mini-con is that the spa pools were smaller than usual. - Some kinds of food were great. Fresh mozzarella every day, excellent bread and the best pizza at sea (which is still not great pizza, but better than american crap). - Cirque du Soleil shows were amazing! - Buffet area was well structured, and we were always able to get a table. Cons: - Dinner tables on the main dining room were too close to each other. As an introvert trying to relax, I was always contemplating how horrible it would be the day somebody sat near my table and started trying to engage in conversation. - Things close too early on, and there is nothing to do at midnight. On Harmony of the Seas, for example, you could get a hot tub at 2AM. - Food quality is average. Although there were some nice dishes, most of the food was average. Not horrible, but average or disappointing. For example, one night I ordered a prime rib, but then got a slice of prime rib that was probably cooked immersed in liquid, not on a grill. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Me and wife wanted to go somewhere special for our first marriage anniversary. Heard of this cruise from a friend and then started the research work. We, first, did our research on the ports where the cruise will take halts, and then the ... Read More
Me and wife wanted to go somewhere special for our first marriage anniversary. Heard of this cruise from a friend and then started the research work. We, first, did our research on the ports where the cruise will take halts, and then the cruise itself. As many of you still wondering,we too saw a great number of negative reviews. This resulted in us thinking of changing our plans. But a friend of mine suggested to just ignore the reviews and go for it. I took the risk and it was worth every penny. We embarked the cruise from Barcelona. As soon as we entered the port terminal, we were greeted by the MSC staff. They were helpful in explaining the process of embarkation, the steps we need to do as son as we enter the ship etc. The check-in process took less than 10 minutes. They took our check-in luggage to deliver it to our stateroom and issued a cruise card for both of us. As soon as we entered the ship, we were in complete awe. The first thing that caught our eye was the LED Dome. It was enormous and lit with beautiful paintings. The central part of this floor( floor 6) was even more beautiful with amazing stairs, bar options and musicians in the center. We opted for the 'Fantastica Balcony' stateroom. The room clean and tidy with an amazing view. The bathroom had a soap dispensor at the wash-basin and a body-wash+shampoo dispensers in the bathing area. We mostly ate in the buffet section, called the 'Market Buffet' on 15th floor. It had plenty of options for 20 hours a day. We pre-booked all our excursion tours from MSC. There were plenty of options for each port. Some of our tours went really well, and others not(mostly due to the bad weather conditions). We tried all bars present inside the cruise. Their prices were slightly a bit on a higher side, but the drinks and ambiance was great. The best bar to sit in and enjoy your time was the Meraviglia Lounge. You can go there any time of the day and there was some hustle bustle around it. You can't get bored if you are sitting there. And if you want to just chat and relax while drinking, Brass Anchor Pub was apt for it. Our package also include a booking of Dinner and Show 'Cirque du Solei' and it was epic. It was the most entertaining hour of our trip. Do not Miss it. Didn't go for any Broadway Show, but heard pretty good reviews from fellow travelers. In the end, I just want to specially mention the staff of MSC. They are the real stars. All the waiters/waitresses, entertainers, musicians, chefs etc. They are always smiling and ready to help even when they have such hectic working hours. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We were concerned about the likely service, food etc - having read many poor reviews and bad comments. But our experience was almost nothing but everything was fine. We were very content. The ship's customers were much more heavily ... Read More
We were concerned about the likely service, food etc - having read many poor reviews and bad comments. But our experience was almost nothing but everything was fine. We were very content. The ship's customers were much more heavily Asian and of course there were plenty of Italians. Their nature is not to 'stand back' and wait patiently in line, unlike the Brits or Americans they certainly don't say 'after you' - so that was noticeable. The ship was immaculate and is quite stunning, good lifts, restaurants, bars, our steak in 'Butcher's Cuts' was one of the best we have ever tasted! Restaurant food was good, not five or six star, but good. The Panorama restaurant was very smart and very good indeed (and spacious) the Marketplace Buffet could be crowded and rather noisy (but no worse than Celebrity, RCL or NCL) and we always found a table without difficulty. The evening entertainment was overall very good, the Cirque du Soleil very good. Lively and good fun. The ship went to Marseille, Genova, Palmermo (had to miss Malta because of a storm) but then Palma de Mallorca. Our only adverse comment is that there are no staff positioned so that all that enter a restaurant have to use anti-bacterial gel hand cleaner. There is therefore a risk, we suggest that needs to be changed. Finally, the big question: would we book with MSC again : Answer: Definitely. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
BACKGROUND In 2016, I had taken my family on our first MSC cruise aboard the MSC Divina out of Miami. At the time, I couldn’t pass up MSC’s deep discounts, kids sail free promotion, and loyalty match program. We sailed for 7 nights ... Read More
BACKGROUND In 2016, I had taken my family on our first MSC cruise aboard the MSC Divina out of Miami. At the time, I couldn’t pass up MSC’s deep discounts, kids sail free promotion, and loyalty match program. We sailed for 7 nights to the Eastern Caribbean for less than what a weekend booze cruise to the Bahamas would’ve cost. That cruise was enjoyable, but it failed to excel or impress. It was marred with glitches, snafus, and unmet expectations. I thought of it as a budget experience which needed a lot of polishing aboard a pretty ship. My wife hated it so much that she said that she didn’t want to sail on this cruise line again. So I told myself that most likely, I wouldn’t be choosing MSC for subsequent cruises. But about a year later, I was browsing cruises for Thanksgiving 2018 and I came across a 7 night Mediterranean cruise aboard MSC’s brand new Meraviglia. What really caught my attention was not the ship or the itinerary, but an Aurea Duplex Suite, similar to Crown Loft Suites on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships. And what caught my attention even more was the fact that I could book an Aurea Duplex Suite for one fourth the price of a Crown Loft Suite. I’d been wanting to experience this type of accommodation ever since they were introduced on Oasis! So on a whim, I booked the only Aurea Duplex Suite available, not even knowing if I could get my wife to agree to take this trip. But she said yes, and we stuck to the plan. A year and 4 months later, the day finally came to fly across the pond to sail on the MSC Meraviglia! We are a young family of 4, which includes a 9 year old boy and a 6 year old girl. As the date approached, I questioned my sanity several times, and why I’d decided to take this trip. Don’t American families with kids this age normally take vacations to Disney, not to 5 European countries in 10 days?? I knew that I needed to make this trip as kid friendly (and wife friendly) as possible. So I did a lot of research, in order to accomplish this goal. From flights, to excursions, to onboard experience, everything was meticulously planned. And without giving too much away, I’m glad to say that it was worth it! FLIGHTS, TRANSFERS, HOTEL, AND ROME Another reason to select this itinerary was the fact that we could fly nonstop from Atlanta (where we live) to Rome, which was highly desirable, specially traveling with small children. Two of us were upgraded complimentarily to Delta One (with lay flat seats) so I gave one seat to my wife and then the the kids took turns and each enjoyed the second seat for half of the flight. I “enjoyed” my economy seat on row 25! But even in economy, Delta truly excels. Hot towels, small amenity package with eye shades, earplugs, and headphones, tasty and plentiful food selections, and extensive entertainment options. 9 hours and 5 minutes later, we landed at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport. Everyone’s behavior truly exceeded my expectations. Kids were very well behaved and relaxed, both going and returning. In an effort to keep things simple for the family, I pre-booked all of our ground transfers. I used Stefano’s Rome Cabs, which was highly ranked on Trip Advisor. They did not disappoint! We prepaid for all of our transfers in (via PayPal) which simplified things further. Their YouTube videos on how to locate our driver were extremely helpful! Great, friendly, and very helpful drivers. I wouldn’t hesitate to use their services again. We planned on spending two nights in Rome pre-cruise. I had decided to book a hotel near the Vatican, since this was the main attraction in our land itinerary. We chose Starhotels Michelangelo, literally within a 5-10 minute easy stroll to St Peter’s Square. I’d read that the area where this hotel is located is not in a very touristy part of town, and that it’s not too convenient to other attractions in Rome. But for our needs, it was absolutely perfect! The hotel is modern, the staff was very attentive, and our room was nicely and tastefully appointed. It is located in a decidedly not touristy area (more residential). Our room faced an apartment building. Several restaurants and small shops, mostly frequented by locals, were only a block away. It was nice to have a little haven where to escape the mob of tourists. Eating where the locals ate not only was a highlight of our stay, but it was also easier on my pocket. In Rome, I booked “Skip the Line” Access to St Pete’s Basilica (money extremely well spent since the regular line snaked like a line for a new ride at Disney). We then took a taxi to the Trevi Fountain, did some shopping in that area, and visited the Colosseum. TRANSFER TO CIVITAVECCHIA AND BOARDING THE SHIP We enjoyed our morning in Rome. We returned to St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus with the Pope. Once again, our hotel’s location proved to be ideal. We entered St. Peter’s Square using a side entrance where the line was much shorter. Watching the Pope and listening to the Angelus was a definite highlight of this vacation, specially since the last time I had been to such an event had been 30 years prior when I was a child, and when St. John Paul II was the Pope. We then returned to our hotel for our transfer to Civitavecchia. Our RomeCabs driver was already waiting for us! We were promptly driven to Civitavecchia, one hour away. We were dropped off right in front of the terminal around 2:00pm. Our driver told us where to meet our driver upon our return and bid us farewell. I must say that I was a bit surprised at the facilities, which were basically an oversized temporary tent-like terminal. There was a line for passengers dropping off their luggage but we decided to skip that line since we were traveling with carry-ons only. We later learned that this was a mistake. We passed the security checkpoint and entered the check-in area. The smallish waiting area was pretty packed and they were calling group 22 to proceed to the check-in line. Since we had the Aurea Experience, I inquired about the priority line. The agent asked me for my Aurea priority boarding card and when I said that I didn’t have one, he said that I had to go back outside and get it from the luggage drop off checkpoint which we had skipped. I showed him my paperwork clearly stating that we were Aurea passengers, hoping that he would allow me to proceed to priority check in without the card but he wouldn’t budge. So I went back outside, got the card, and returned. I handed the card to the same agent which now smilingly allowed us to proceed. I found the inability to think outside the box a bit off-putting and the extra hassle unnecessary, but I understand that he was probably trying to strictly follow rules that he’d been told to enforce. In the grand scheme of things, it was just a small blip in an otherwise easy check in process. We proceeded to the next available check-in agent who quickly scanned our paperwork and gave us our key cards and wrist bands. These wrist bands could be used in lieu of key cards to open the cabin door and to charge things around the ship, but it couldn’t be used to embark or disembark at ports of call. Still a pretty nifty idea. We had our welcome aboard photo taken and we quickly proceeded onboard the ship. As we entered, our paperwork was once again scanned, our security photos were taken, and then we proceeded to the next desk which was for the kids club wristband for our children. We continued walking and were met by another agent who had a handheld device. She warmly welcomed us onboard, swiped our cards, and told us that our stateroom was ready and that we could proceed to it. She also informed us that lunch was being served at the buffet marketplace. In reality, this was another stop to try to “upsell” us to a drinking or specialty restaurant package, but since we already had a drink package included with the Aurea experience, she skipped that part of her speech. We then proceeded to a self-help kiosk to set up our onboard account. Quick and painless. Because passengers embark and disembark at the various ports of call, smaller groups of passengers are checking in each day. I found this to be a welcome change. The general feel of organized chaos normally associated with embarkation days when an entire passenger compliment is being disembarked and embarked, and hordes of passengers are rushing to the buffet for their first lunch onboard, was greatly diminished. The ship never felt packed. In fact, on embarkation day, the ship felt quiet and uncrowded, most likely because most in-transit passengers were off the ship and touring Rome when we embarked. OUR STATEROOM This was the moment that I had been waiting for since I had booked the cruise 1 year and 4 months ago. Would this Aurea Duplex Suite be everything that I had hoped for? In a nutshell, it was! It was an amazing 2 deck loft suite, and the only thing that I regret about booking it is that we are now spoiled for life! Two bathrooms, two walk in closets, one that doubles as a dressing room, separate sleeping quarters in separate floors, dining area, Nespresso machine, and a large, forward facing balcony with loungers and our own jacuzzi tub! The views from the loft were breathtaking. We truly couldn’t have asked for better accommodations! One drawback about the suite’s design is that it doesn’t have an open balcony. Since it faces forward, there’s a large glass wall to block the oncoming wind, but it also limits the ability to enjoy the ocean breeze, and it also limits the views left and right. Still, it was an absolutely fantastic place to watch the scenery, specially going in and out of port. Just be aware of this hindrance, specially if you’re someone who enjoys taking photos from your balcony like I do. Although this suite was truly the definition of luxury, I believe that it would’ve been better suited as part of the Yacht Club, not the Aurea Experience. The service and perks didn’t quite match a suite of this caliber. Toiletries consisted of a wall mounted shampoo and body wash dispenser, which made the suite feel just a bit less luxurious. Room service (except for continental breakfast) incurred an extra charge, and the items in the mini fridge also incurred an extra charge unless we paid extra to upgrade our included drink package. Yes, it came with perks like the mentioned drink package, access to the thermal suite at the spa, access to a private Aurea passenger deck, and complimentary massages, but our cabin steward seemed unfamiliar with features specific to this suite. For example, he failed to replenish the Nespresso pods, or provide new coffee mugs, and one day he removed our used bathrobes but never replaced them. But once again, I had to remind myself that we had literally paid a fraction of what a similarly appointed Crown Loft Suite on Royal Caribbean would’ve cost. Those do come with a butler, a long list of suite specific perks, and are located in a private, exclusive section of the ship, but they would’ve cost $16,000 thousand dollars. In retrospect, I was grateful that MSC provided a way to experience a suite of this caliber but without the overinflated price tag, even if it didn’t come with all the perks on Royal’s Crown Loft Suites. THE SHIP WOW! is all I can say. My wife and I both agreed that we hadn’t been this wowed about a new ship since we’d sailed on the Allure of the Seas during her inaugural season. Everywhere we went on the ship, we were wowed by something. It’s indeed a beautiful, well appointed, and a huge ship. It never felt crowded. In fact, during the day while the ship is in port, the ship feels blissfully uncrowded and quiet. At night, the main promenade would get crowded, but that added to the excitement of this area, which is the heart of the ship. Electronic signage can be found near most elevators, which were helpful in determining daily activities, how to get from here to there, and to make reservations for shows and other things. Technology is used for other things, like to electronically locate photos taken by the ship’s photographer which was much better than browsing walls filled with hundreds of photos, like on older, less technologically advanced ships. Entertainment on this ship is much more elaborate. The water park was absolutely fantastic. The water slides are fast, specially the one that lands you in a bowl. And even though the air temperature hovered in the 50F’s-60F’s, the water was heated which meant that we could comfortably use the outdoor pools and slides. We purchased a Fun Pass for 70 Euros which gave us an additional 30 Euros. We used them for the flight and roller coaster simulators, the 4D cinema (which is more advanced and realistic than the one on the Divina), and for a night of bowling. Overall, great fun for the whole family. Cirque du Soleil at Sea truly helped take the onboard entertainment to another level as well. The Carousel Lounge is the purposely built theater for the Cirque shows onboard. There are two exclusive shows; Sonor and Viaggio. Initially, we had booked both shows, but halfway through the week, they had technical difficulties, which required Cirque engineers to be flown in to fix the problem. As a consequence, shows were canceled 2 nights in a row, including our Sonor performance. Luckily we were able to attend Viaggio towards the end of the week, although we were assigned to the absolute worst seats in the house (back row against the wall, in a corner, so we had a sideways and slightly obstructed view which took away from our enjoyment). Still, it was a great show, with all the elements and special effects of Cirque shows on land. It is a shorter, somewhat watered down version of land shows, but still well worth the 15 Euro admission. Main theater shows were a bit lackluster. The Broadway Theater is a wonderful venue, with unobstructed views and great acoustics, but the performances felt a notch below what we had experienced on the Divina. Scenography is not as elaborate or awe inspiring, and it’s compromised of mostly LED screens. Shows were mostly a tribute to “something”, like rock bands, musicals, etc, which felt less original than the shows that we’d seen on the Divina which had a more unique feel and theming. Singers and dancers were talented, but not more talented than what you’d expect for cruise ship entertainment. Still, we attended three shows: Paz, Born to Rock, and One More Day. All were about 40 minutes long. We had access to the Thermal Suite as part of the Aurea Experience. I somewhat liked the setup on the Divina more, with a relaxation room facing floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the ocean. On the Meraviglia, the thermal suite is fully enclosed with no windows, which made it feel a bit claustrophobic in my humble opinion. It is bigger, with more features, but it also seemed to be more crowded. They do have a thalassotherapy pool which I missed on the Divina. Maybe one of the reasons why the thermal suite on the Meraviglia felt more crowded than on the Divina was because it’s a fully coed facility, which provides a more inviting environment for couples. On the Divina, several facilities are gender specific, which forces couples to split up and spend less time using the facilities. We spent more time at the Thermal Suite on the Meraviglia than on the Divina, but there were times when we couldn’t use some facilities because they were so full. FOOD AND DRINKS Overall, I feel that cuisine has improved since we sailed on MSC back in 2016. There seemed to be a wider and tastier selection, both at the main dining room and at the buffet. On the Divina it felt as if we ate a lot of pizza because we just couldn’t find more appealing options. That wasn’t the case on the Meraviglia. We enjoyed most of what we ate, although things started to feel a bit repetitive as the week progressed. For the record, we did enjoy the pizza several times, but not because there wasn’t anything else to eat. This ship does have plenty of other places to eat, but not for free. I feel that MSC has taken the “extra fee” concept a bit to the extreme. While it’s still possible to enjoy complimentary venues in addition to the main dining room and buffet on other cruise lines, on the Meraviglia we were pretty much limited to only two complimentary venues. I normally like to enjoy a night at a specialty restaurant when I cruise, but on the Meraviglia it seemed as if these venues carried a heftier fee than on other cruise lines. The one way to make the per restaurant cost more palatable was to purchase a 3 specialty restaurant package, but for someone like me who just wanted to select one specialty restaurant, these packages were not really useful and I saw them more as a way to force me to pay for something that I normally wouldn’t have purchased, so I skipped the whole concept completely on this sailing. As part of the Aurea Experience, we had a drink package included. A week before our sailing, MSC decided to “downgrade” the drink package included to the “Easy Package” (meaning cheaper, more limited). However, we were grandfathered to our original package since we’d booked before the announced change. Still, there was some confusion at the beginning of the sailing. The first bartender that I spoke to told me that I had the Easy Package, but another bartender quickly corrected him and proceeded to inform me of what I was entitled to. This included all cocktails costing less than 10 Euros, draft beers, select wines by the glass, sodas, bottled water, specialty coffees, juices, and mock cocktails. One thing that was a bit of a head scratcher is that bottled water and sodas were free, but if we grabbed the same exact item from the mini fridge in the cabin, we’d get charged for those items. I just learned to grab these items from the bars around the ship free of charge and bring them back to our cabin. Overall, we calculated that having a drink package included in the Aurea Experience saved us about $500. ITINERARY AND PORTS OF CALL First of all, our arrival and departure times at pretty much every port of call was altered from what was printed on our embarkation papers and which we had used to book activities ashore. We would learn the night before arriving at each port of call that our arrival time would be an hour later, and/or our departure time would be an hour earlier. This proved to be a nuisance because we had booked activities with a scheduled admission time based on the itinerary the way that it had been published in advance. We had to unnecessarily rush to make our admission times several times. Because we were traveling with 6 and 9 year old children, I ditched expensive shore excursions, conducted some research, and selected kid friendly activities ashore. Here’s what we did at each port: - Palermo: We booked a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus tour. In all fairness, Palermo isn’t the prettiest city, but there are some interesting landmarks and sights throughout. This tour was a good way to see these sights in a kid friendly way. - Valletta: One of my favorite ports of call in this itinerary. We took the ferry across the bay to The Three Cities and booked a self guided tour through Rolling Geeks. These are golf carts which provide turn by turn directions and audio commentary of what you’re seeing. If you make the wrong turn, you receive a call in your cart from their head office and they tell you how to get back on track, A really neat way to see the beautiful cities of Cospicua, Senglea, and Vittoriosa. - Barcelona: We pre-booked admission to La Sagrada Familia and the Camp Nou Experience, home of the FC Barcelona. We moved easily around town by taxi. We had planned on spending a bit of time along Las Ramblas, but my 9 year old lost his embarkation card which he had been wearing on a lanyard (I know, bad parenting choice), and he started freaking out about being left behind in Barcelona. Even though we knew that he wouldn’t be left behind, we decided to return to the ship a bit earlier than planned because we didn’t know how long it would take to get him a new card and board the ship. The process was fairly quick and simple. The agent at the entrance to the terminal had a printed copy of the passenger manifest. She quickly verified that he was indeed on the list and then proceeded to ask for his passport to verify his identity before allowing him to proceed onboard. Thankfully I did have his passport with me, so I showed it, and we proceeded to the ship. As we boarded the ship, the security officer asked for our cabin number and with that, he pulled up his embarkation photo on the computer. From there we proceeded to the information desk where new cards (for the whole family) had to be issued for security reasons. Moral of the story is that, even though many savvy cruisers recommend leaving passports in the safe on the ship when going ashore, having our passports with us allowed me to expedite and quickly resolve this hiccup in our travel plans. The MSC security officer also recommended to always take passports ashore, not only for what happened to us, but for a myriad of other things that could arise. - Marseille: We had planned on taking it easy in Marseille, head to the city center, explore the Cathedral, walk around the Vieux Port, have lunch, and return to the ship. MSC left vouchers in our room the night before offering bus transportation from the cruise terminal to the city center. If we chose to use them, our shipboard account would be charged 9 Euros per person. We decided to ditch those and take advantage of the complimentary bus provided by the city. Finding the bus was easy enough. All we had to do was follow the green line painted on the sidewalk. This would’ve been a great idea if it hadn’t been cold and rainy, if there hadn’t been three other ships in port, meaning hundreds of other passengers with the same idea, and if we didn’t have to walk 1 kilometer from the cruise terminal to the bus stop at the entrance of this industrial port. We then had to wait 40 minutes in line until we were able to get on a bus. Needless to say, we took a taxi back once we decided to return to the ship. But once we got to the city center we truly enjoyed the sights. The Cathedral was beautiful, Vieux Port was charming, and we enjoyed our lunch. Since it was raining and cold, we couldn’t enjoy sitting out on the patio as we had planned, but we still enjoyed our time. Once again, we chose to return to the ship early, first because MSC had posted an unusually early “all aboard time”, and second because we noticed an unusually large police presence as we walked along the Vieux Port. We asked a local person if that was normal and he said no, and that the police were there because of the ongoing riots throughout France concerning the escalating fuel prices. He recommended that we return to the ship soon because many roads were being blocked by protesters. Sure enough, our taxi driver had to take several detours to get us back to the ship since roads had indeed been blocked. He would stop and wave down another passing taxi and ask which way they’d gone back to the terminal, and then he’d take another detour. We finally made it back to our ship, but the uncertainty got our hearts pounding a bit. Genoa: Our last port of call. Because we were getting off the ship early the next day, I wanted to keep things simple so that we could return to the ship, pack, and get a good night rest before our return trip home. We went to the Acquario di Genova, located near the cruise terminal. It would’ve been a fairly easy 20 minute walk, but we decided to take a taxi. 15 Euros flat fee. The aquarium is a bit old, but it’s comprehensive and extensive. It is considered the largest aquarium in Europe. It was what the kids needed after a long week of sightseeing. We returned to the ship early, packed our bags, and enjoyed an afternoon of family activities on the ship, bowling and 4D cinema. DEBARKATION As mentioned before, our arrival and departure times at each port of call kept getting changed which was annoying, but nothing proved to be truly nerve wrecking until they changed our return time to Civitavecchia. When I booked this cruise and flights, the itinerary showed a 7:00am arrival so a 12:30pm return flight seemed reasonable. About 6 months before the cruise, the airline changed our departure time to 11:25am which gave me reason to consider changing the flights, even if we couldn’t fly nonstop back to Atlanta. After asking on these forums, I was reassured that I’d still have enough time to make our flight as long as there were no further changes or delays. Well, the day before our return to Civitavecchia, MSC posted a delayed 8:00am arrival time, and to make things tighter, I learned when I checked in for our flight that Delta had posted an early departure of 11:15am. Now I barely had 3 hours to disembark, gather our luggage, drive 45 minutes to the airport, check in, go through airport security, go through customs with small children in the longer, general lane, and get to our gate. Overstressing about the compressed timeline and logistics and being snippy was not how I wanted to spend my last few hours onboard an otherwise fantastic vacation. We received our disembarkation information packet in our cabin which provided red tags with an 8:30am MEETING time at one of the lounges. No mention of any other options, like self-assist debarkation. I went to the information desk to ask about the quickest way to disembark once we got to Civitavecchia. First the agent said that the arrival time had ALWAYS been 8:00am (liar, and I had the paperwork to prove it), and then she said that we had already been given red tags which meant that we’d be off the ship with the first group. I then asked her if there was such a thing as self-assist debarkation in Civitavecchia and that’s when she finally said that I could proceed on my own to the disembarkation point and that I’d be allowed to get off the ship as soon as we received clearance from local authorities. The next morning, we had breakfast at the buffet marketplace at 6:00am, and based on the hordes of passengers having breakfast that early, I was sure that debarkation would be a nightmare. One hour prior to our arrival in Civitavecchia, I lined up at the debarkation point and thankfully secured the second spot in line. The debarkation point was ideally located on deck 6, right on the Galleria Meraviglia, so my wife and kids sat at one of the bars and comfortably enjoyed one final cappuccino and hot chocolate before we got off the ship. Based on the number of people that we’d seen at breakfast, and based on our experience with self assist debarkation back in the US where half the passengers on the ship are trampling each other to get off the ship as early as possible, I was expecting a similar scenario here, but it never materialized. Only about 15-20 people total lined up to do self assist, either because nobody really cared to get off the ship in a hurry, or because nobody even knew about it. In all fairness, it wasn’t printed anywhere in the debarkation paperwork, and I only knew about it because I dragged the information out of the information desk agent. But whatever the case, it didn’t matter. I was just glad that the mob that I expected didn’t materialize. The only passengers in line were also families from the USA with early flights home, all stressed out as much if not more than us. Maybe this was another lesson on how Americans like to do things in a more and unnecessary stressful way than the rest of the world! I know that I learned my lesson and will never book a tight flight or stress over things that I have no control over while on vacation. Promptly at 8:00am, we were cleared to disembark. We walked in the terminal and realized that no customs are required getting off the ship in Civitavecchia! We were on the sidewalk within minutes of getting off the ship. It was storming with gusty winds, but standing in the rain was our Rome Cabs driver holding a very wet and soggy sign with our name on it! I could’ve hugged her! She quickly handed out umbrellas to my wife and children, and between the two of us we loaded all the luggage in our awaiting car. She helped us dry off before departing. We were literally the first car to pull away from the parking lot! Before we knew it, we were on the highway, on our way back to the Fiumicino airport. We arrived at the airport shortly after 9:00am, but it wasn’t until we had cleared the customs checkpoint and found myself sitting at our gate at 10:30am when I started relaxing again. We left Rome behind but took with us amazing memories that we will always treasure. IN CONCLUSION Our cruise on the Meraviglia was absolutely fantastic, and after 32 cruises across several cruise lines (Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Costa, Holland America, Princess, Disney) I can say that it was without a doubt one of the best cruises I’ve ever taken. Overall, MSC has greatly improved their product since the last time we sailed on them in 2016. Friendlier, more attentive and pleasing crew, better food options, less snafus and technical glitches, amazing new ship with more amenities, and an overall better experience. With the Meraviglia repositioning to the USA next year, MSC’s expanding presence in the region, and improved product, I believe that they will provide some stiff competition to the US based cruise lines, and I won’t hesitate to sail on them again. There’s always some room for improvement, but the positives far outweighed the negatives. I did feel that MSC’s product is designed to force people to spend extra (buy or upgrade their drink package, limit dining options to force people to purchase specialty restaurant packages, downgrading some of the perks included with the different experiences, cutting back in some free entertainment to entice people to pay for upgraded entertainment, and charging for some basic things that should be free). But then again, all cruise lines are in some way or another doing the same to increase their onboard revenue, so I can’t really point fingers specifically at MSC for this practice, but instead at the whole cruise industry. Once again, this was a wonderful cruise, and the Meraviglia truly lived up to its name, which translates to “Wonder”. This ship and experience were indeed wonderful. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
I would like to start off by saying that this cruise was booked whilst on-board a previous MSC cruise in the year (Voyagers Club), therefore understandably chuffed with the already discounted trip/cabin/onboard credit ect. The ... Read More
I would like to start off by saying that this cruise was booked whilst on-board a previous MSC cruise in the year (Voyagers Club), therefore understandably chuffed with the already discounted trip/cabin/onboard credit ect. The Meraviglia is huge, well planned out and therefore should provide any passenger with a pleasant experience, over the duration of the holiday not once did I see an unclean part of the ship nor did I have reason to complain about the facilities. Travelling with my wife it is fair to say that we know what we want from a holiday and can easily compare the Meraviglia to past MSC holidays! DO NOT DO THIS ! this is where we learned very quickly that this trip is going to be different in many ways. If you are willing to sail away and embrace the new you will have an excellent time..... If you natter on to your newly found friends at dinner about your last cruise and think that that the waiters will have time for you then you will probably have a terrible time... > forget that honeymoon cruise in the Caribbean or that time that you took the kids away on a cruise where you found all the fun to be had at sea! It is very hard to repeat the same experiences, my thoughts below are reasons why I state this....... 1. Technology, your granny will hate it but get used to it as the MSC is top class with scrolling information boards at every lift point (much like scrolling on a mobile phone), scan your card or wristband at the terminal to get a map, book dinner of to simply check on tonight's shows. In room TV info is just amazing with on demand movies, news, safety info and future cruising info 2. Cleanliness - Its clean and tidy, almost OCD level so don't mess up the ship or your room for that matter as your cabin man/woman will notice. 3. Entertainment - Excellent but you'll need deep wallets to get rid of the kids for an hr, 100 euros will get a arcade pass to the flight simulator and F1 car simulator and similar, the water park and high ropes are FREE though so just make sure you use this facility. 4. Adult entertainment - Cirque du soleil, I didn't know what this was at the time but just book and see the show before you board to avoid disappointment, most easily the best show that you will witness on water. SONAR was so so cool. 5. Dining, Expect busy waiters and long wait times at the bar the STAFF versus PASSENGERS ration is miss managed, the only way to have a nice little chat to staff would be the Anchor pub, and that'll be because they know that mainly English passengers go there. Strongbow will be part of your drinks package if you have it. 6. Meeting friends - Not likely, If you are really lucky to keep in touch with your allocated dinner guests and make a point of meeting up or suggesting paring up on land to do some shore excursions then maybe you will> my experiences when even trying to strike up a conversation with others are that the ship is so so big why bother as I wont see you again for the rest of the cruise, even at the voyagers exclusive party and meet the captain it was like being in the middle of a busy shopping mall surrounded by (yes like minded) strangers. Summary - I had an excellent time with my wife and can say that the ship itself is amazing and takes all week to discover each and every facility, MSC have some nice touches, ill try not to spoil all of the quirky tricks that make you feel good about being on holiday but here are two (x2) must have experiences.... A. Get up before six (6am) and walk under the dome (dome show) to see the sky and hear the morning birdsong. B. Be up on deck (poolside) when sailing away from ports to experience Andrea Bocelli's TIME TO SAY GOODBYE song (the younger cruisers will be more familiar with the film step brothers - either way its a nice touch) .......If this is your first cruise I would consider starting with other smaller ships within MSC's fleet before you go big time. Whatever you decide or if you have already booked you will have a nice trip so make the most of it and put in a little effort with others- you'll be grateful when staff remember you for the right reasons and not just because you were complaining at reception- have fun guys. Mr Lee Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
MSC Meraviglia Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 3.8
Dining 4.0 2.9
Entertainment 5.0 3.3
Public Rooms 5.0 3.6
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.6
Family 5.0 3.6
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.1
Enrichment 2.0 2.9
Service 4.0 3.2
Value For Money 5.0 3.0

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