MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review by sdbmc
- Sail Date: December 2018
- Destination: Mediterranean
- Cabin Type: Aurea Balcony Stateroom
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.
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BarcelonaA 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.View All 2,153 Barcelona Cruise Port Reviews
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