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MSC Armonia vs MSC Meraviglia, old vs new, small vs large, Caribbean vs Mediterranean So far this year I have taken two MSC cruises -- on the beautiful new Meraviglia in the western Mediterranean and on the nicely refurbished Armonia in the Caribbean (including Cuba). Both cruises were very enjoyable, and each ship has its strengths and weaknesses. This review is a brief comparison of both. The bottom line is that I prefer the newer larger Meraviglia for transatlantic and other itineraries with many sea days because of its stability and numerous onboard venues; and I prefer the older smaller Armonia for port intensive itineraries because of the excellent personal service in the dining room and public areas. The Armonia is the oldest and smallest ship in the MSC fleet. It was enlarged some years ago and was nicely refurbished more recently. Like most older ships, the cabins are a bit smaller and there are fewer balconies than on the newer ships. The fewer number of passengers on the Armonia is a definite advantage in the public areas and theater. More important, the service is more efficient and more personal, especially in the main dining room. Although the menus are comparable, the quality of the ingredients is better in the Caribbean than in the Mediterranean, probably because good meat and produce are so much cheaper in the USA (Miami) than in Europe (Genoa). The exception is fish, which was always the best item on the menu in Europe but was cooked until dry (American style) in the Caribbean. Both ships suffer from an old-fashioned buffet layout, with straight cafeteria-style lanes that make for slow going. The Armonia buffet area is too small for a ship of its (later enlarged) size, but extra dining areas have been set up on the open decks. The dining room service on the Meraviglia was disappointing not because of the wait staff but because of the enormous size of the dining rooms. My table was so far from the galley that delivery was quite slow -- I tended to order fewer courses than on other ships just to save time. Also, passengers in Europe did not respect the dining start times, but wandered in gradually during the first half hour. As a result, the Meraviglia waiters did not even take orders during the first 20 minutes, and this was further slowed by the waiters' bulky touch screen order pads. In addition, the wait staff work station for my table on the Meraviglia was located up some stairs and around a corner, so I was invisible to the wait staff during most of the meal. Last but not least, passengers on the Meraviglia are not allowed drinking water with dinner -- if you want anything at all to drink with your meal, even water, you must buy it. That would cause a mutiny in US waters. Both ships have MSC's philosophy of unbundling services and charges, to the point of having different levels of service and different fares for otherwise identical cabins. Airlines now do the same, so this is not surprising. For economy-minded cruisers like myself, this is fine. One related frustration that I experienced on both ships was that delivery of a pre-purchased drinks package (coupons) was delayed for two days on each cruise and was proffered only after a few calls and visits to the reception desks. Make sure you take your pre-cruise documents to prove what packages or services you paid for prior to your cruise. Perhaps my favorite thing about both cruises is that MSC offers reduced prices to solo travelers and very reduced prices for late bookings on some itineraries. You may get a little less gourmet dining than on some cruise lines, but the pleasure of a MSC cruise is equal to almost any of the ten other cruise lines I have sailed. In summary, MSC offers great values on very enjoyable cruise ships. Give it a try if you find the right itinerary at the right price.

Armonia vs Meraviglia, old vs new, small vs large, Caribbean vs Mediterranean

MSC Armonia Cruise Review by Iowa cruiser

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: April 2019
  • Destination: Cuba
  • Cabin Type: Interior Stateroom – Fantastica
MSC Armonia vs MSC Meraviglia, old vs new, small vs large, Caribbean vs Mediterranean

So far this year I have taken two MSC cruises -- on the beautiful new Meraviglia in the western Mediterranean and on the nicely refurbished Armonia in the Caribbean (including Cuba). Both cruises were very enjoyable, and each ship has its strengths and weaknesses. This review is a brief comparison of both.

The bottom line is that I prefer the newer larger Meraviglia for transatlantic and other itineraries with many sea days because of its stability and numerous onboard venues; and I prefer the older smaller Armonia for port intensive itineraries because of the excellent personal service in the dining room and public areas.

The Armonia is the oldest and smallest ship in the MSC fleet. It was enlarged some years ago and was nicely refurbished more recently. Like most older ships, the cabins are a bit smaller and there are fewer balconies than on the newer ships. The fewer number of passengers on the Armonia is a definite advantage in the public areas and theater. More important, the service is more efficient and more personal, especially in the main dining room.

Although the menus are comparable, the quality of the ingredients is better in the Caribbean than in the Mediterranean, probably because good meat and produce are so much cheaper in the USA (Miami) than in Europe (Genoa). The exception is fish, which was always the best item on the menu in Europe but was cooked until dry (American style) in the Caribbean.

Both ships suffer from an old-fashioned buffet layout, with straight cafeteria-style lanes that make for slow going. The Armonia buffet area is too small for a ship of its (later enlarged) size, but extra dining areas have been set up on the open decks.

The dining room service on the Meraviglia was disappointing not because of the wait staff but because of the enormous size of the dining rooms. My table was so far from the galley that delivery was quite slow -- I tended to order fewer courses than on other ships just to save time. Also, passengers in Europe did not respect the dining start times, but wandered in gradually during the first half hour. As a result, the Meraviglia waiters did not even take orders during the first 20 minutes, and this was further slowed by the waiters' bulky touch screen order pads.

In addition, the wait staff work station for my table on the Meraviglia was located up some stairs and around a corner, so I was invisible to the wait staff during most of the meal. Last but not least, passengers on the Meraviglia are not allowed drinking water with dinner -- if you want anything at all to drink with your meal, even water, you must buy it. That would cause a mutiny in US waters.

Both ships have MSC's philosophy of unbundling services and charges, to the point of having different levels of service and different fares for otherwise identical cabins. Airlines now do the same, so this is not surprising. For economy-minded cruisers like myself, this is fine.

One related frustration that I experienced on both ships was that delivery of a pre-purchased drinks package (coupons) was delayed for two days on each cruise and was proffered only after a few calls and visits to the reception desks. Make sure you take your pre-cruise documents to prove what packages or services you paid for prior to your cruise.

Perhaps my favorite thing about both cruises is that MSC offers reduced prices to solo travelers and very reduced prices for late bookings on some itineraries. You may get a little less gourmet dining than on some cruise lines, but the pleasure of a MSC cruise is equal to almost any of the ten other cruise lines I have sailed.

In summary, MSC offers great values on very enjoyable cruise ships. Give it a try if you find the right itinerary at the right price.
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Cabin Review

Interior Stateroom – Fantastica
Cabin I2
Interior cabins are smaller than on most newer ships but meet the needs of economy minded cruisers. Bathroom is snug, especially the shower, but no problem for an average sized person. Elevators can be confusing since the two center silos do not go to the upper (buffet and pool) deck. If that is important to you, take a cabin more forward or aft.
Tormalina Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins