This was my 8th cruise, the good lady's 4th and children's 3rd - though the first with MSC. We booked at Fantastica package which included 24 adult beverages and 24 non alcoholic ones for the family.
I think if you approach MSC with an open mind, that it won't be the same as RCCL etc, there will be more of 'Mediterranean' feel to certain things, rather than a US polish / efficiency - I think you'll have a great time.
The embarkation in Dubai involved no queue at 4.30pm and our cabin was already available to use. Disembarkation, we walked off with our own bags with ease and straight into a taxi to the airport.
We used the dining room for breakfast as one of party is gluten free and there was always a gf menu available. Choice of menu items cooked to order or hot and cold buffet options.
Lunch we always used the buffet, where we never had an issue finding a table and enjoyed the freshly made pizza along with wide range of hot and cold food plus deserts. Buffet is open almost all day.
Dinner we ate 5 times in the main restaurant (1st sitting at 7pm) and twice in the Butchers Cut, speciality restaurant. We liked the variety in the main restaurant, though portions are not large. Given how much we'd already consumed throughout the day, this was not an issue!
Butchers Cut was ok, but not a stand out meal for the additional price paid.
Unlimited bottles of mineral water were available at lunch and dinner, which was a nice touch. (Not sure if due to Voyager Club / where we booked cruise or included with Fantastica package).
Wine included with drinks package included a nice Puilly Fume in the main restaurant.
Ports (we did not book an MSC excursion as I didn't feel they were good value):
Abu Dhabi - took a taxi and visited Yas Waterworld. Really enjoyable and I suspect less people and queues than Atlantis in Dubai.
Sir Bani Yas - beautiful island, particularly the views to the far side. Kids played on the aquapark, I rented a paddle board for an hour. Buffet served on the island. Tender service worked well.
Bahrain - port is 40 mins+ from Manama so chose to stay onboard
Doha - Nice, compact city. Walked to Souq Waqif. Well worth a visit, particularly to the Falcon section
Dubai - docks for 24 hours before disembarkation. Took a taxi to the Dubai Mall to see the aquarium (impressive) and Burj Khalifi (also impressive).
Given the multiple nationalities on board it was mainly dance, acrobatics and signing. We went to a couple of shows, they were fine. Huge theatre with plenty of seating.
Outside public areas:
There was sports court that the children, and several others had a great time on playing football. We never had an issue finding space to grab a couple of hours in the sun (we always looked away from the main pool area). Even on the day at sea there were sunbeds free at 11am.
Our cabin steward was quite quiet, but the room was cleaned well twice per day.
The restaurant staff were all uniformly excellent & friendly.
Given the price paid, versus the price we paid for a similar cruise with RCCL, MSC wins hands down. We all enjoyed the cruise to the extent we booked another one for December.
Yes, there is a definite difference between MSC and the major US lines, though I don't see this as a bad thing. You could argue it has its plusses.
I'd happily recommend as we all had a really enjoyable week onboard.
Good size sleeper sofa and the positioning on deck 12 was such that we did not have a cabin next to us on one side. We also had a deeper (larger) balcony.
No noise from other cabins, bed was comfortable, empty suitcases easily fitted under the bed, so enough space to move around.
Water pressure from shower was ok. Soap and shower gel dispenser in the shower plus under and above sink storage.