One thing you should know beforehand is that I'm not experienced in cruise ships. This was my first experience overall, but I'll still give you my two cents on it and give some advice to those who embark on a cruise ship for the first time.
I initially got scared when I booked a 7-Day trip in the MSC Meraviglia and saw the reviews in the site: A lot of them were overly negative, and I noticed that some of them were unbalanced: For just one inconvenience or negative aspect of the ship they'd put a 1 star rating on the trip. Not fair, in my opinion.
So after taking this cruise I'm gonna rate the most important aspects of my trip, from worst one to best one:
Worst part: The price. Your overall spendings can, and will, be more expensive than what you first planned when you booked the trip. This ship wants your money, and while they don't strictly force you to buy the things they offer, they will encourage you daily to do so. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were included in my plan: Breakfast and lunch only available in the buffet restaurant, and dinner available in both the buffet and one of the restaurants that they will assign you to once you get to the ship. They do have more restaurants: An English-like pub, a meat-focused restaurant, an italian restaurant, a chocolate factory, and an asian restaurant. As amazing as they may seem, you have to reserve and pay for them in order to eat in them, as they are not included. The beverages are also not included. You can drink coffee for free in the buffet restaurant (But the quality of it is average at best), and drink juice or water for free only during breakfast. For the rest of the beverages you have to pay, either with drink packages or with an "all inclusive" pack that lasts for the cruise but is individual, so it will cost you a lot if you go with your family. I put "all inclusive" in quotes because it actually doesn't apply in the Champagne bar, so it's not entirely inclusive. Entertainment options like the Spa, the Cirque du Soleil show, the waterslides, the F1 simulator and the arcade machines are not included as well and you will have to pay for them. They also charge for the movies if you want to see one in the cabin. Internet usage is only accessible by payment as well: They have different internet packages but all of them have limited data usage, which can be reaaally inconvenient. If you haven't ever been on a cruise, keep in mind that you will be charged with a daily fee of 10 euros per person as a way of tipping to the service tripulation. Also remember that you won't use cash while buying onboard: You will be given a cruise card that can be charged with cash or linked to a credit card to make the payments.
Normal parts: The cabin. I had a balcony cabin that was always kept clean and tidy by the personnel. You will be given both towels to use in the bathroom and in the pool. If you've never been on a cruise the cabin will most probably seem narrow to you compared to a hotel room (And keep in mind that my cabin was bigger than the normal cabin). It has a flat 40 inch TV, a desk, and a minibar (Of course they'll charge you if you want to get something from it). The bathroom is okay, with a nice shower that has hot water and has both soap and shampoo available. I'd recommend bringing your own body soap to the cruise, though.
Nice parts: The ship and the food. The ship itself is massive, and it has a lot of commodities and applications. Live music is always present in the reception lounge, and musical numbers or theatre plays (Besides Cirque du Soleil) are available for free in the Theater. It has both outside and inside pools, 4 or 5 lounges and bars as well as a small disco, and places where children can stay during the day. The food in the buffet is pretty nice and varied, and the dinner plates in the assigned restaurants are delicious. The ship itself would be an excellent feature of the trip, but as I've said before, some of the facilities that would be entertaining to be in aren't included unless you pay for them. The embarking processes are generally really fast: I personally didn't have any problem with them.
Very Good parts: Activities and excursions. Excursions offered in the ship are not obligatory to take (You can even stay in the ship if you wanted to, of course) and are more expensive compared to the ones that they offer outside the ship in the ports or in websites, but they are really good. The guides are helpful, always caring for the passengers, they have a ton of knowledge of the sites you visit, and are also always aware of the time so that you don't get left behind the ship on the longer excursions. Most of the excursions will be available in different languages, mainly in English, Italian, Spanish, French and German. They offer different activities when you're inside the ship as well. As most of the passengers in these cruises are above 50 years old the activities will be focused towards them, but you can also find some activities for all ages alike.
Best part: The personnel. Easily the best part of the cruise, and along with the excursions, they made the experience worthwhile. These people are always eager to help you, master different languages (English and Italian are the most important to know when you're onboard though) and are generally very kind. These people don't have an easy job at all (Imagine trying to keep all kinds of people in a good mood 24/7!) but they pull it off perfectly. The waiters at the Olivo D'oro restaurant are really good, the musicians are really skilled, professional and well-mannered; and the people in the entertainment parts are, to put it simply, some of the best people I met at the trip overall. Hats off to them!
So, overall, would I do it again? Most definitely yes, but I'll have to save my bucks for a looong time to go on a ship this expensive again. Here are some advices for the newcomers on the cruise:
- For the love of God, read the indications manual. Some days before the embarking, a large document will be sent to your email where they will give you all kinds of indications: How to get to the ship, what stuff to bring in the embarking processes, the things that are included in your package, the taxes you have to pay for, even the dressing codes. Please take your time to read it and I swear your trip won't be as stressful. A lot of complaints in the reviews here are from things that are directly adressed in the indications.
- Try to have breakfast and lunch early. The later you arrive to the buffet, the less varied food options you'll have, and you'll be left with only pizza or hamburgers to choose from. Keep in mind that even if the buffet restaurant is really big there will be a lot of people (Specially during breakfast), so be patient when going through the stations to pick up food.
- Always keep an eye on the things they can charge you for. For example, before embarking, a photographer will take a photo of you and your family all together: This photo isn't your obligatory security photo (The security photo is individual and will be taken when you get inside the ship) it will later be sent to your cabin and you will get charged for it unless you say you don't want to keep it. There will be photographers in the dining hours offering you some photoshoots: keep in mind that they will totally charge you for them in the last day. Same with your photo with the Captain.
- On the cruise you'll have an elegant night and an all-white night: Carry an elegant dress or suit and a white one too.
If something else comes to my mind, I'll add it to the review, as well as if you have some questions about the cruise overall. Hope you find this review helpful!
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