We chose this cruise as there wasn't a lot of choice for the time of year. We have visited most of the ports before, so the main purpose of this trip was to chill out. We are seasoned cruisers and have used most of the main cruse lines, including 2 previously with MSC and have had all sorts of experiences with them from dreadful to pleasantly surprising, so we didn't have any great expectations. The embarkation at Barcelona was much improved from previous cruises, it was quick and slick and the new method of authorising credit cards once onboard was easy and efficient. Our aft facing cabin was very nicely appointed with a large balcony, sufficient storage but the usual small bathroom. The ship is typically Italian glitz, and the public areas are very attractive on the whole. The buffet, as usual was terrible - lukewarm food, limited seating and disinterested staff, but we only used it on two occasions, preferring to have breakfast, lunch and dinner in the main dining room. Service at breakfast and dinner was a little hit and miss, with on three occasions the wrong meal arriving! Dinner service was much better, but the set times are not ideal 6.30 or 9pm. Food in the MDR was on the whole quite good. I do take issue with MSC's very lax hand hygiene standards, although there were machines located at the entrance to every eating place, only about 1% of customers used them, and no member of staff was making sure that people did. This is vastly different to RCI and NCL where staff are located at the entrance to restaurants and insist that the hands are sanitised. Similarly in the washrooms, although they recommend using a paper towel on door handles, the towel machines are situated far from the doors with no bin hands to deposit said paper towel in!! Also, for the first time in over 20 cruises, we were not asked to fill in a medical declaration on embarkation.
The shows were typical cruise cheese and although the ship has a beautiful theatre, the entertainment was dire. Also the cruise director ( who we have seen on a previous MSC cruise) was diabolical! The pianist and violinists in the main atrium were very good though. The ports were interesting and disembarkation for these was pretty easy. The staff were not over friendly with the notable exception of the lovely Ukrainian lad in the wine bar - where they have introduced complimentary tapas. The drinks package is a must and very good value and included nice coffees and ice cream from the lovely gelateria on the sun deck. Bar staff ( apart from aforementioned) were on the whole not very friendly or efficient. On one occasion we asked for a gin and tonic, and was served a vodka and coke and when we pointed out the mistake were asked " well can't you just have the vodka".
However, the biggest problem we encountered on this trip was the fact that there were vast numbers of very large groups of people who displayed some very bad manners. These groups, were shouting to each other from various balconies above, below and alongside us, were pushing into queues, cramming into the lifts en masse before anybody could exit. In addition there were quite a few groups of young teenagers seemingly on school trips from Spain and Italy. They seemed to spend most of their time running along the corridors, shouting and banging on doors and elbowing people out of the way. If you don't mind this sort of behaviour, you will probably enjoy yourself, but we found it unappealing. So, a mixed bag: a nice ship, decent food in MDR, excellent drinks package, and comfortable accommodation. Wouldn't be our first choice again but decent value for money.