Chosen as first family cruise experience, departure dates and location fit with school holidays. Embarked & disembarked Valencia, Itinerary (Valencia, Marseille, Genoa, Civitavecchia, Palermo, Cagliari, Palma, Valencia.) Aurea Spa experience package with Premium Drinks package upgrade. Deck 10 Forward Suite with Panoramic window.
As others have noted MSC Website coded by a ten-year-old, post booking was impossible to complete web check-in as site rejects valid date and address formats.
NB Even once given over phone to customer support, you will randomly change sex or your passport details will again disappear! Different customer support telephone operators will give you different excuses and explanations. One stated each passenger had to have different emergency contact details! (not true)
In total, Travel booker and MSC regenerated booking confirmation over a dozen times. Four days before embarkation still no e-tickets; took travel booker an hour on the phone to ensure these were indeed generated and dispatched.
We flew into Valencia day before, stayed on land overnight and took sometime time to see Valencia. Taxi to Ferry Terminal for embarkation at scheduled timeslot. (Driver was unsure where MSC cruise embarked, but this was correct, MSC tent and flags outside)
No queue at priority check-in, quick check of e-tickets, luggage handed over, upstairs for Orange juice and water, check of travel documents, through security, on to transfer bus to ship, board ship, photos for security, wristband for youngest child, staff upsell of drinks package not required, upwards to cabin, cruise cards ready on table.
Went for quick familiarisation stroll of the ship, after second drinks purchase, it became apparent that card code didn't have the upgrade and extras in room were also missing. Visit to reception recoded the card and room extras appeared the next morning. Whilst at reception pre-authorised credit card on the terminal and opted out of the daily service charge option. (Our preference was to tip steward and waiter directly).
Had 'My Choice' dining in Black Crab rather than first or second sitting; chose to reserve for 8pm each night which gave enough time to finish and stroll to 9:45 show. NB Without reserving you may well have to queue or be told to come back later. (On In port night, was one show and anytime dining for all)
Menus choices were excellent; even youngest preferred it to set kids’ menu options. Portions were sensible European size. Typically, two vegetarian starters and mains, soup, meat, fish, fruit, cheese and desserts; emphasis on Mediterranean cuisine and sea food; bread, side veg and simple grilled chicken or fish if nothing else takes your fancy. (Main buffet is self-serve for food with simpler fare)
Wines by the glass in restaurants; didn't get to see the bottle, so never quite certain whether it was what was requested. Sometime waiters presumed we were on easy house wine package which is best avoided, (‘premium’ wines were acceptable and grapes recognisable, but not outstanding.)
Wine and beer selection in La Cantina differs from restaurants and other bars and was noticeable better.
Formal night, white night, floral night, dress how you like, didn't notice anyone unsuitably attired for restaurant vs. buffet.
HINT: Black Crab has breakfast and lunch menus in addition to buffet and is quieter than the rear buffet.
Piazza has early continental breakfast and all-day cakes & sandwiches, although they were quite dry. Tasty fancy coffees in Piazza, Cafeteria coffee in bars and buffet.
Sports bar serves food from 2pm till late for anyone who skipped lunch or dinner. Boys liked Hot dogs, burgers, onion rings and fries;( freshly made and noticeable better than buffet premade ones. Although fries pre-salted.)
‘Eataly’ chargeable restaurant was closed couple of days into cruise, as being refitted as Butchers Cut. We weren't advised in advance, but weren't bothered as stuck to our prepaid package options.
We took in the show every night; enjoyable mix of song, dance and acrobatics. Particularly enjoyed Queen and Tina Turner tributes. Principal dancers were excellent, Lead singers good, some of the backing dancers less skilled. Invited dance schools also put on performances.
On Sunny days, we took advantage of 'Top 18' deck once found! Much calmer than the main pool area, although no waitress service and nearest toilet at Aft bar and pool. Rattan beds are extra charge. NB 'Top 18' is not adults only, although 'Garden Pool' is.
All pools are seawater and take a while to warm up during the day, even the indoor one. Jacuzzis are hot and popular on chillier days, decks get hot in sun so bring along some footwear; avoid the Smokers corner on deck 14 and near Casino on deck 6.
Check out Black and White lounge for evening pre-show dance lessons and post show fun if you have the time and energy. Other bars have mix of jazz, Latin, piano and guitar live performers, with particular emphasis each evening. i.e. Beatles / Abba/ 60s.
Gym open from early to late, only busy in afternoon pre-dinner. Extensive range of fixed weight machines plus free weights, half a dozen treadmills and fixed bikes, stretching area. All in working order. Towels and water available.
TIP: Running on lifeboat decks better option than deck 15 which has too many sunbeds and other obstacles.
Our package included Spa access and a massage; eldest son could use gym and spa, but not under 12.
For us and other European couples having separate saunas and steams for sexes was unexpected, particularly since swimwear is mandatory, so we mostly ignored it and mingled.
Massage treatments were competently delivered and at the pressure requested, although if not included in your package, overpriced; look for daily promotion discounts.
NEG: Drinks in Spa bar not covered by Premium drinks package.
Room was cleaned every day and beds made up every evening whilst at dinner. Choice of pillows available. We were all comfortable on the mattresses and pillows provided. Aircon kept a consistent temperature without disturbing sleep. Especially impressed with lack of noise from adjacent cabins, bathrooms or corridor. Far superior to many hotels.
Entry and exit for onboard and embarking / disembarking passengers was well managed. Only queued onetime when arrived at same time as excursion returned.
Safety drill announcements hard to avoid and daily; need ear plugs, plus bar service reduced during drills as staff involved.
Couldn't control temperature / humidity in Sauna or turn off music.
Forward suite chosen for extra space, walk-in wardrobe, plenty of hangers, cupboards and drawers in bathroom, living area and near beds, double sofa bed for two boys. Condition of cabin was excellent and above expectations. ideally one more charging socket would have been good.
HINTS: The 'Do Not disturb' sign fits the card slot and will keep lights and sockets on even if no one’s in room. The walk-in wardrobe light sensor is at floor level, doesn't work if covered by shoes and other stuff!
Cabin was at pointy end of the boat below the bridge so morning wake-up call and heavy vibrations when bow thrusters and winches came into play for port arrivals. Fine, just got up and hit the gym.
Stroll or cycle through the parks on the converted river bed.
Dirty, busy city. Time would have been better spent onboard.
Impressive Cathedral and main promenades. Otherwise not an attractive stop.
Smaller and cleaner than Genoa and Palermo, but no notable sights. Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria was pretty.
Take a taxi or tourist train up to Notre Dame de la Garde for the views; it's a steep hill.
Second visit to Palma; afternoon stroll around old town and sites. Safe, clean city.