Here is some info about me:
I'm 48. Live in USA. have cruised 51 days with Carnival, 14 days with princes, and now 7 with MSC. Have cruised a lot of Caribbean, one Norway, one Alaska, and now one Mediterranean. We started and ended our cruise in Genoa.
Before the cruise, I registered myself and my husband for the status match program. NOT user friendly, i must say. Make sure your photo that you upload with your other cruise-line info is a small data file. It took me several tries, but i finally got it done. we got silver level by providing our carnival info. Other than a bowl with 4 pieces of fruit in our cabin, not sure we noticed much difference.
I was the one in our group of 16 friends/family that did the research and planned most of our trip. i went into the cruise having read MANY reviews. Having read the reviews, i would say that i agree with many of them.
1. very nice ship. clean inside. nicely decorated. clean.
2. entertainment above average. they had 3 lead singers who sang to a prerecorded soundtrack. they sang well. the dancers danced well. there were a couple of songs that they had one of the dancers (very obviously) lip-sync. I would have preferred that they did not do that. they were far better at dancing than lip-syncing. Just let the dancers dance!!
a. dining room. Although our wait staff was very friendly, i did not feel the same level of personal involvement or level of attentiveness with them as i have felt with previous cruises. They just didn't seem to "have it all pulled together". some in our 2 tables of 8 did not get things that they ordered and it did seem to take a long time for one of our tables, who had a different waiter.
as far as the food goes, well...... as many other reviewers have said, the selection is lacking compared to other cruise lines. maybe 5 options for starters (soups, salad, etc). another 5 for main dishes. then maybe 4 or 5 desert choices. they did have something like 3 items that are on the menu every night, but i can't say that i looked at them more than once. they did not seem very interesting.
the food was NOT awful as some in my group claimed and some reviewers have claimed. Yes, i have had better. I think if they had more selection, the complainers in my group might have been happier. Maybe if the food had been catered to Americans, maybe they would have been happier.....i just don't know. Maybe i just had low expectations because of the reviews i read before the cruise, but MAYBE I had more realistic expectations since I have been to Europe many times and know to expect things to be a little different than in a cruise that caters to Americans. The fact is that on this cruise you can expect to be surrounded by lots of french, german, spanish, and italians. English speakers were by far in the minority. Not a problem, but something to be aware of.
Of note, we went to the dining room the first 3 nights, then never went back. we found that the food on deck 14 was just as good and a lot quicker. we had 7pm dining. if we ate in the dining room, we had to go to the 945 show. a little late for me.
b. informal dining......breakfast and lunch were perfectly adequate. lots to choose from. they did a good job trying to have selections that cater to different cultures. they had the bacon (actual bacon, not British bacon that is actually ham), but the link sausages were more British than American. lots of pastries, different types of eggs (scrambled, etc), pan cakes, etc. I very much enjoy experiencing what other cultures eat. some in my group are not what i would call cultured. they just thought some of the items were bad....in reality, the food items were that way, not because they were bad, but because that's the way other cultures eat them.
Of note, as other reviewers have said, the pizza was very much above average for cruise pizza. it was nice to not have to wait in a long line for mediocre pizza like you do on carnival. Of note, I expected the dinner in the casual dining to be at least a small step up from what you get in there for lunch, but i did not find that to be the case.
4. Drink packages...... most in our group chose to purchase drink packages. my husband got the $10 per drink max package for $39 per day. I got the $19 non alcoholic package, and my son got the $14 per day non alcoholic kids drink package. Of note, i only got mine because i had to have a package for my son and husband to have one. I think they might have gotten their money's worth, but i'm not sure that i did. I don't like to drink a lof of sugary drinks or ones with artificial sweeteners.
Large bottles of mineral water were like 2.50, so not crazy bad without the package. It was nice that I was able to go to the bar and order 2 cappuccinos and a mineral water at the same time and not have to wait or come back for the others. I think you have to wait 15 min between the alcoholic drinks. You could also get soft serve ice cream with the non alcoholic packages, but not with the alcoholic packages. Had i not gotten a package, the free drink selections would have been fine with me. Of note, no decaf coffee that i could see for free.....i found that strange. lots of different flavors of tea bags to choose from.
5. staff members.....including the dining room staff, i found the staff to be very friendly. they were very good about making eye contact and greeting you. most of them that I encountered, spoke a good amount of english. I was pleasantly surprised by that.
6. excursions...... we did not choose to book any excursions through the cruiseline, although a couple in our group did. My mom was pleased with the cave trip and another tour she and her friend took. What we did pay for was 3 transfers! No tendering with free shuttle for this cruise line. we paid $12.99 per person for 2 of them and like $16 for Marseille. I did read about the other options (hop on hop off close to port, free shuttles, and city buses), but we decided that our time and lower amounts of frustration from having to find where to go made it worth it for us to just fork out the dough. We just weren't up for the adventure of all of that. 16 people is a lot to have to wrangle up.
7. transfers. we used a company called www.airportstaxitransfers.com to get us from the genoa airport to the hotel in genoa, hotel to ship, ship to milan, then hotel in milan to airport in milan. highly recommend them. extremely punctual, we had not hitches with any of the four segments. with our number of travelers it was very cost effective. something like 50 euros total each for all 4 segments. door to door service.
Of note, we spoke to an Australian couple who were on the last of 3 consecutive msc cruises. they nearly missed the ship because the transfer that was arranged through the ship didnt work out. they had been told a later time for it and so they missed it. it cost them 1000 euros to take a cab from venice and made it there with 1 hour to spare. the cruise line was going to reimburse them for the 1000 euros and the ship's employees were very apologetic to them and seemed to be very interested in making it right for them. I would have written that bad experience off as a 1-off, but we got word that the cruiseline had also messed up their transfer at the end of our cruise. they had them going to germany, instead of to the airport. Not sure how that all came out, but im sure it was frustrating for them, considering the other snafu......
Not saying dont use the cruiseline for transfers, but just make sure that you check all of the details very carefully.
8. nickel and diming..... Yes, it did seem that they charged extra for A LOT of things. We heard one passenger wondering if they were going to be charged extra for toilet paper! What I would say about that, though, is that you get what you pay for. This was, by far one of the least expensive 7 day Mediterranean cruises that i could find. If we had booked with one of the others, maybe some of those things would have been included....maybe not... Maybe the food would have been better, probably so. But if you are doing well to just get yourself in the door of this ship (financially speaking) and you need the lower price, then you may have to just understand that some things won't be included in the base price. At least they give you the option of having a less expensive trip if you are willing to not use the things that cost extra.
9. I do want to tell you about an excursion that we booked on our own in Cagliari. we booked it through www.sardiniadreamtours.com before the cruise. you can find them on youtube and instagram. highly recommend this company. This tour was the highlight of our cruise. we got in 4x4 landrovers and went off-roading to some awesome lookout points in the mountains, then spent time at two beaches (chia was one of them). it cost us about 60 euros each and it lasted the whole time we were in port. they even took us on a quick trip through the historic area just before returning us to the ship. Francesco was awesome! They all went above and beyond.
10. The fact that each of the stops can be your start/end of your cruise. .....as i mentioned, we started and ended in Genoa. we were told that about 900 passengers boarded and disembarked with us. we found it to be pretty stress free, having done the same with 3000 passengers on other cruises where you feel like cattle. we carried our luggage on and off, and it was pretty easy. prior to cruising, i wondered if it would be a pain in the butt having them do a safety drill every day. i have to say that i hardly noticed it, other than the announcement and a few people around the ship with live preservers in their hands.
Of note, once you board on your embarkation day, you cannot leave the ship until the next day. If you want to spend more time in that city, do it before you get on. we chose to spend that day in Genoa and board at around 3:30 instead of earlier in the day since we wanted to have a little more time in genoa. we breezed right through the boarding process, since most everyone had already boarded for the day. Our room was ready, we walked right in.
Also of note, they put your key in the room and the door will be open when you get there. *****Be sure to go register your form of payment of on-board purchases. they have kiosks by the reception desk that make it pretty easy. you do not have to wait in line at the reception desk to get that done (lines ALWAYS long at the reception desk)
10. would I do it again if I had the choice? I would say yes. some in my group might say no. again with the unrealistic expectations...... I would just tell the nay Sayers to just fork out the big bucks for the other cruise lines next time if you want better food, etc. If they can't afford more, then maybe consider a land vacation or a Caribbean cruise. Just my 2 cents worth.....
Hope that this helps you in some way,
Our cabin was very nice. we took our 16 year old son with us and had plenty of space. we did note, though, that we had less clothes storage in other cabin than others in out group had in their inside cabins. makes no sense. our cabin steward was very friendly and helpful. it was interesting that they have evidently stopped providing tissues since our tissue dispenser remained empty the whole cruise. it was nice that there was plenty of cabinet space under the sink, although we did not use it. Many reviewers have noted that they were pleased to not have a plastic curtain for the shower. instead, you have curved glass doors that swing in and out on a hinge. The jury is still out for me. although it was nice not to have a curtain sticking to you, it becomes difficult to shave your legs or bend over to pick anything up from the floor because of the doors.
For those who may be wondering about the electrical sockets, there were 2 US sockets and 2 Euro sockets. we took an adapter with two plug in slots, so we had 4 places to plug stuff into.
I found the bed slightly hard. not hard enough to request an egg crate, though, so not awful.
we did not find ourselves using our balcony much, although it was nice to have the ability to step out there. i found it odd that there was not glass below the railing. if you sat down, you could not see below the railing. wasn't crazy about that.
Some of our friends learned the hard way that they charge you for the service of replacing your drinks from your fridge, even if you have a drink package. their steward was nice enough to let them run and get the used drinks and replace them so they did not have to pay. so the lesson here is, if you use it out of the fridge, next time you go to your room, replace it.
My son reported that the fold out couch bed was pretty bad. he said that he either had to sleep in a sunken in spot or with a bar pressing into him. we wonder if we would have been better off not getting the balcony and just having a bunk. others in our group seemed fine with theirs. we got the balcony room because we were afraid that we would feel cramped in the smaller square footage inside and window cabins. others in our group had 4 adults in an inside cabin and the problem was with sharing the bathroom, not the space in the cabin. i guess an option would have been for them to shower in the spa, but i caught wind that you have to pay extra for the spa too.......