This is a long review. It has a lot of info that I wish I knew before we went.
We are a family of 4 from Ohio. This is our 5th cruise, first time on MSC. My wife and I (43 & 45) and our two girls (11 & 9) have sailed on Princess, Celebrity and NCL. This was probably the best cruise we have ever been on. We sailed on the MSC Meraviglia from Barcelona, Spain on 3/21/2019. We opted to stay one night in Spain before and after the voyage. We had the Fantastica package. We also traveled with our parents. Both pairs stayed in an inside cabin with the Bella package, one on deck 8, the other 5. Their experiences were similar to ours.
We arrived to the cruise port at around 11:00 AM. We dropped our bags off at the entrance to the port. They had a stapler there in case you didn’t already attach your luggage tags as we did. Check in was easy. They gave us a numbered card and we had a seat until we were called, which took about 10 minutes. A couple of minutes in line and we were at the desk. We got our cruise cards and packet and were told that our room should be ready around 1:30. This left us plenty of time to eat lunch at the buffet and explore the ship. As we embarked, they took our picture for their computer ID system and gave our kids wrist bands which are required to be worn at all times.
Our room was 13163, Deck 13 Aft Port. We were right by the aft stairs in a Balcony cabin. We loved the location. It was a decent size room. The couch converted in to a bunk bed for the girls. We had a queen-sized bed. The bunk bed was not converted daily, but for us was a permanent bed and never a couch. All beds were comfortable. The room, although comfortable for the four of us, is still pretty small. Don’t plan on living out of your suitcase. It is much better to unpack and store the bags under the bed. Otherwise there will be no room to move. We use these convenient organizer bags where each person has their own color. That way we only have to half-unpack. We just stacked the bags in the closet and pulled out what we needed. There is a TV and a phone. There is not much to watch, and only 2-4 English speaking channels.
Our room was pretty quiet, even for being only 2 decks down from the buffet and right next to the stairs. None of use were ever awoken by noise; even my wife who is a light sleeper. The bathroom was big enough for one person to fit comfortably, 2 to squeeze in. The shower is plenty big and gets super-hot. Be careful! Our room was attended to at least twice a day by the cabin steward who we only saw if we sought him out. He was very friendly and thorough. My wife was extremely sick one day (we suspect norovirus). I let the cabin steward know that our bathroom needed some additional attention. He seemed more concerned for my wife’s health than the extra work. He definitely earned an extra tip beyond our daily fee. The balcony was lovely with a couple of chairs and a small table. The railing was plenty high so were not at all concerned about our or our children’s safety. The door locked up tight to keep the noise out.
My in-law’s room (8102) had a smell of some sort coming out of their bathroom drain. The crew came out and bleached it. That didn’t really help. My in-laws just lived with it.
The buffets were awesome. Crowded, but awesome. Their pizza was excellent (as it should be from an Italian line). Everything was fresh and there was absolutely no shortage of food, except for bananas. There are 3 stations, one port, one starboard, and one aft. We usually didn’t have a problem sitting on the port side, which was the busiest side. But the aft portion we the most available and least crowded. On the port side, forward of the general buffet, is a kids’ buffet with hotdogs, hamburgers, fries, pizza, pasta, and various other daily items. My kids never used it and always ate from the regular buffet. There are water/ice dispensers there and also juice, tea & coffee. Bottled water, soft drinks & alcohol are available for purchase. As a general rule, the water/ice dispensers are too small to fill up your own water bottle and it is usually so busy that you will be holding up the line if you do it. I only filled ours when it was slow there or I would go all the way aft where it was much quieter. I used a cup to fill our bottles daily. We never had dinner at the buffet, only breakfast, lunch & snacks. There are hand washing stations at the entrance to the buffet.
We had breakfast every day at the buffet. Some days as early as 7am, others as late as 10am. Every morning there was fresh and canned fruit, meats and cheeses, fried and scrambled eggs, omelet stations, bacon, sausage, cereal and milk, yogurts, bread, jams, and a ton of other stuff. Milk, coffee, tea, juices and water were available. If you want a banana, get there early. They go fast.
The main lunch buffet had various cruise standard foods. Everything from pizza to pasta to fresh cut meats and deserts. They usually had an Asian, Indian or other ethnic food area. Their hamburgers were excellent. Water, coffee and tea were available. There is no free ice cream in the buffet or anywhere else on the ship except for the main dining room.
The buffet staff was not particularly friendly, but not rude either. They had a job to do and they were going to do it. It didn’t affect our experience in any way. The buffet is mostly a free-for-all, but there is some flow. It was not nearly as bad as I had read on other sites. We never went hungry.
Main Dining Room
All 8 of us sat together. There are hand sanitizers on the way in to the dining room. Our waiter and his assistant were excellent. They also earned extra tips from all of us. Because we booked in North America, we had free bottled water in the dining room. There were 4 bottles on our table every night, and more if we needed it. He didn’t bother asking, he would just bring it. We shared a few bottles of wine over the course of the week. They were very reasonably priced and had a nice selection. Dinners were very good to excellent. We would usually order one or two appetizers and one entrée. There were always various selections of delicious desserts to choose from including ice cream every night. Only once did I have a second entrée because the first one was just not enough. The waiter knew it and suggested it right off the bat. He was very attentive and kind, especially seeing how busy he was every night. One night I stayed in the room with my daughter who was sick (again, probably norovirus). I went to the buffet for myself but there was nothing there she could eat. The dining room sent up some plain chicken for her. She didn’t eat it, but it was a nice gesture none the less. The food was very good and sometimes excellent. It always amazes me the quality they can produce when serving so many people. My youngest is not an adventurous eater, but always found something she wound up liking. If she only ate a few bites, the waiter was eager to bring her something more to her liking.
We dressed for dinner every night like almost everyone else. I wore slacks and a button down; my wife would wear a nice dress or skirt. Two nights were “formal” nights. We did see one or two tuxedos, but most people did not change from whatever they wore the night before. I opted for a jacket and tie, which, in hindsight, was unnecessary. I could have stuck with the slacks and shirt or just added a tie and I would have been dressed completely appropriately. I would suggest no jeans, shorts or other casual clothes for any main dining room dinner.
Activities & Entertainment
We purchased a “fun pass” before embarkation. This gave us a $180eu credit for $120eu cost in their entertainment area. It wasn’t worth the money. We didn’t use it all. Things you must pay for: Flight simulator, F1 simulator, video games, bowling. The girls did the flight simulator and loved it. I did it once and it made me nauseous. I can’t take that movement anymore – spinning, rolling, flipping. It was all too much for me. I tried the F1 simulator. It was OK, but difficult to control. We bowled on our day at sea. That was fun. The high ropes course and water slides are free, but you have to sign a waver and get a wrist band before you can do them. The kids didn’t even do the water slides just because it was pretty chilly. We all did the ropes which was fun. You can go as much as you want. They close at 4:00pm though, so usually we were back to late to do them. The outdoor pools were nice, but again it was too cold to swim for us. A few people were swimming. We preferred to hang out in the hot tub or in the indoor pool. The indoor pool was crowded but warm.
We only saw one show. It was a magic/shadow puppet show. I figured the magic would be cool, but the shadow puppets would be cheesy. It was the exact opposite. The shadow puppets were amazing and the magic was boring. We also sat and listened to music on deck 5 aft or 6 forward. It was very enjoyable. Frankly, we were too tire to go to any other shows. My parents went to a few others and really enjoyed them. Our package came with cirque du soleil, but we never made it.
My kids had no desire to go to the kid’s club. They thought it looked too juvenile for them. They were probably right, but I can’t say for sure. They did make use of the soccer/basketball court. It is multi-use and there could be many people playing different games all at once. It was fine just to kick around a ball, though. My girls were never bored there (their words, not mine).
We had only one problem which required customer service. They had charged our account twice for the same day’s daily fee for our children. It was an extra $10eu. It took two visits to correct. I also had the remove the $1eu they automatically charge you for Unicef. I don’t mind giving to charity, but I don’t like being forced in to it and I prefer to donate to a charity of my choosing.
I also went to Customer service to exchange money. It is the best place for this. You get a MUCH better rate than at an exchange at a port or even at a bank. I highly suggest it. They don’t have much in small bills, though.
They automatically charge $10eu per adult per day and $5eu per child per day for tip to be shared amongst the crew. You can opt out of this and tip personally in cash if you choose. We chose to let them charge our account and supplement where we saw fit.
My mother was a bit upset when there was a man cleaning the ladies’ bathroom with guest using it.
Elevators are always an issue. People will barge in front of you to get on. I had to stop people from forcing themselves in to a completely full elevator. We usually used the stairs during busy times.
Barcelona, Marsaille, Genoa, Rome, Palermo, Malta.
Most ports we walked around at our own pace. Obviously, we spent a lot of time in Barcelona. Definitely don’t miss La Segrada Familia. It is truly a wonder. And if you want genuine FCB gear, go to the team shop. It’s not cheap, but it is authentic.
We scheduled a private tour in Rome. They picked us up at 8:00am and brought to Gianicolo Hill, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, and Vatican. It was $300eu plus $30eu tip for the day for all eight of us in a private van. I talked to several others who paid that much for just 2 people. They saw more, but they were rushed from place to place. We were able to go at our own pace. I wish our driver Mario spoke better English. Fortunately, my father speaks Italian. It was totally worth the money. If you are interested, contact Albertina at email@example.com.
In our opinion, Barcelona was the best. Marsaille for me was the worst, Palermo for my wife was the worst. Get out of the city of Palermo if you can. Go to Santa Rosalia or Monreale. In France, Notre Dame De La Guarde is beautiful. Malta was absolutely gorgeous, friendly and clean. Just beware of the taxis. They are expensive. If you have a chance, be on deck as you pull in the port of Valetta. It is a sight to see. There is not much in Genoa to see. We took a quick bus tour and then walked around the port by the aquarium.
Be aware of pickpockets EVERYWHERE. We were not targeted, or at least we weren’t pickpocketed. But there are signs everywhere. Just stay aware. Don’t flash your wallet. Keep your purse close.
Simple and easy. They took our bags the night before. We ate breakfast and headed to the meeting area. We sat for 20 minutes and then they took us off the ship. Our bags were waiting for us along with a line of taxis.
Wide mouth refillable water bottles are much easier to fill. Bring lots of hand sanitizer & sanitizing wipes. If you don’t generally have pockets like my wife and kids, I suggest some lanyards with card holders. They are convenient and secure. Wear comfortable shoes, especially in Rome. These ports are very old. Most of the time you are walking on uneven cobblestone or concrete. Shoes make the difference. Get a private tour from a reputable company instead of booking through the cruise line. There are plenty of suggestions and reviews on trip advisor. They understand that you need to be back at a specific time and will probably get you back with and hour to spare. Bring some plastic bags to make some sandwiches for a snack on shore, but don’t miss out on the local foods – tapas and jamon in Spain, Arancine in Sicily, and gelato everywhere…
Barcelona was out favorite port. Don't miss La Segrada Familia & La Rambla. If you have time go to Boqueria Market. It is awesome.
Tied for our least favorite with Palermo. Dirty and uncomfortable if you go down the wrong street. Notre Dame De La Garde is beautiful and a must-see.
A nice port. We got on a city tour bus. It was informative and drops you off right by the aquarium. We took a little walk and found a nice non-touristy restaurant for some pesto.
They picked us up at 8:00am and brought to Gianicolo Hill, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, and Vatican. It was $300eu plus $30eu tip for the day for all eight of us in a private van. I talked to several others who paid that much for just 2 people. They saw more, but they were rushed from place to place. We were able to go at our own pace. I wish our driver Mario spoke better English. Fortunately, my father speaks Italian. It was totally worth the money. If you are interested, contact Albertina at firstname.lastname@example.org.View All 157 Private Tour Reviews
Palermo was tied for worst with Marsaille. Get out of the city of Palermo to get a feel of the real Sicily. The people are not friendly and it is just a big city. It is not representative of Sicily. I am 100% Sicilian American and have been to Sicily twice before. Palermo is always the least favorite of my visits. Go to Santa Rosalia or Monreale if you can. Those places are definitely worth the drive.
The port of Valetta is simply beautiful. We had a port side balcony so I was able to watch as we made our arrival. The walls and forts are astounding. I suggest doing everything you can to have the same experience. You can easily walk to the elevator which takes you to the city. It cost $1eu and is an even in itself. The people are friendly and the city is extremely clean. I don't like the taxis. My daughter was not feeling well so I tried to get a cab no more than 5 minute drive from the ship and he wanted $20eu! that is highway robbery. We settled on $15eu which is still way to much for the duration of the trip.