Background I'm a single European woman in her forties who has travelled extensively in the last 30 years. This was my tenth cruise with MSC although my first on this ship. I normally travel alone and enjoy a laid back, relaxing cruise experience rather than an energetic 24/7 party atmosphere. My reason for choosing this particular cruise was the opportunity to have 3 weeks of relaxation, sunshine, lots of days at sea and the opportunity to visit South Africa. The great price, with the 100% single supplement waived was also a deciding factor.
Getting There I'd originally booked the fly/cruise package from MSC but changed to cruise only when I discovered that the flight was to Nice and coach transfer to Genoa and they were not flying us to Pisa to join at Livorno. I received a refund of £620 which more or less covered the costs of BA flights the day before from Edinburgh to Pisa (changing at Gatwick) and the return flight from Durban. On the recommendation of other people on cruise critic, I stayed in the Max Hotel in Livorno which was a nice modern hotel with a good restaurant and pleasant modern rooms which was only about ten minutes away from the port by taxi. It is on a business park outside the town centre so not very good for exploring the town on foot but ideal for a pre cruise stay.
Embarkation The ship docked at 9am from the previous cruise and they were expecting to embark passengers at Livorno and set sail by 11am before embarking more passengers later that day in Genoa, This was really too ambitious and although I arrived at the port to check in at 9am, passengers were still disembarking from the previous cruise so we had to wait just over an hour before they were able to start the boarding process. They attempted to save time by getting us all onboard and checking us in in theatre which was quite a good idea as it meant we had a comfortable seat and refreshments whilst we waited for our turn. Unfortunately we were still late in sailing which meant that the many more passengers embarking at Genoa had a very long wait. Many were very disgruntled when they finally got onboard and it had been made worse by the fact that port officials had been unable to provide any info. After checking in, in the theatre, I was escorted to my cabin by a cabin steward wearing white gloves, which I think a nice touch. In the following days there were further embarkations in Monte Carlo and Valencia. This is quite a common feature on MSC cruises