As the title states this was a winter cruise on the continuous west med route starting in Barcelona and ending back there 7 days later. OK up front important news - The staff were brilliant throughout the ship and the modern systems all worked well. After a dozen cruises I can report the staff were the best I have encountered and I was very surprised as this was a hop on hop off cruise where staff are usually stretched and stressed and sometimes less than cordial. Customer services queues were kept short at all times and staff numbers dealing with issues were the largest I have seen ( NOT LIKE PRINCESS!!) Very , very good and it makes such a difference. We had a balcony room at the rear. It was modern functional, smart and above all QUIET. It was an upgrade so no complaints at all. The ship can take 5714 customers and is huge . In winter with most of the deck and deck bars impossible to visit in the cold , my guess is that we were at about 80% capacity. Inside that is full enough. There are areas of the ship that are not available to ordinary fare payers, either staff or yacht club areas, so the number of public accessible decks in winter is about 6 and almost all activity takes place on 6 and 7 with customer services on 5. At this level of capacity the ship is OK. We managed to get a table for 2 in one of the 3 dining rooms but it was set for 4. The table for 4 people was far too small. Overall MSC have taken packing people into the dining rooms to it's physical limit with some very large oval tables cramming 10-12 people round them. This is not for me. Such a shame when the service and quality of the food was high. The ship design makes any privacy or quiet impossible, It is one long massive tube with no doors relying on design and sound control to give the impression of different areas. The exceptions are the pub and the shops and impossibly expensive special restaurants (empty) which are behind doors. On ship like MSC Lyrica you could listen to a classical trio in the library for a concert and it was magical. Now such performances are rare and are given in the centre of a roundabout with 3 lanes of heavy traffic going round - quite pointless. It is a truism that as ships get bigger and more modern, the number of chairs goes down. At peak time you cannot find a chair near a bar and if you are having a private drink you just have to allow other people to join you because people are desperate for a seat. People give up and go away. The strategy seems to be, sell the drinks packages hard and then reduce the speed of service in the bars, take a away the chairs and ensure people drink less. For me you would have to be crazy to buy a drinks package on this type of ship. The stress of paying , maybe in excess of 100 euros a cabin per day for 7 days and then having to fight for a seat and then wait for very slow service would be unendurable for me. So there it is. In fairness to MSC this cruise cost about the same as it did 10 years ago. By the way if you take this cruise in winter avoid Marseilles. We visited the old town. It was shut, unwelcoming, and very run down. Might be fine in the summer but it was a miserable experience and the worst stop I have ventured into. Take a trip or stay warm inside. Cocktails 8- 10 euros Bottles of wine from 23 euros and beer at 6.5 euros for 330 ml - all plus 15%. There was even a service charge on using your mini bar. Would I cruise on this ship again? Yes but only in winter. At capacity it would not be for me.
Fine in all respects (jan 19)
The very worst you could imagine
Went to the museums in walking distance and for 7 euros each saw Van Dykes -wow
Nice old town -very accessible