We were visiting from Illinois and chose this cruise because it fit our schedule and the price seemed reasonable. We did spend additional money on entertainment and drinks, but in the end it was still a good value, especially with kids. Weather was great!
Pluses: Nice looking ship with a variety of live entertainment, shops, bars, and activities. Great itinerary with interesting ports. Wide stairways made it easy to skip the elevator wait. Getting on and off the boat was generally smooth. The kids loved the mini-bowling. The cabin had adequate room even with the sofabed opened up. Beds were comfy.
Minuses: Quite a few maintenance issues. Among the things which did not function for most or all of our cruise were one of the bowling alleys, the racecar simulator, some of the indoor hot tubs, several treadmills, and the air hockey games. The cabin bathroom was rusting in parts and smelled faintly of sewage. The pools tended to be overcrowded. There is a lack of public toilets, mainly due to poor design (one toilet stall covers a ridiculously large amount of area, even with a full sink inside!).
- The food. Breakfast was fine but repetitive. The buffet was OK but seafood and fresh fruit tended to disappoint. Snacks and desserts were often the best items. Main dining meals were slow to arrive and not consistently high quality, although they were sometimes good. We got the Fantastica package which offers free bottled water in the main dining room. When in Europe we are used to paying for water, Americans who complain about that forget that even a 15% tip is now considered stingy stateside.
- The ship design. It takes some getting used to, although there are maps everywhere. Lots of zigs and zags. Among the more confusing areas are the buffet, the virtual world, and Deck 5 (where you have to wander among cabins to find the reception).
Service: We found all the staff friendly and polite, and room service was very prompt. However, the customer service procedures were often baffling. I sometimes was bounced around between places to get charges dropped, and it would usually take about 5 minutes of a staff person pecking away at their keyboard to get even simple account changes made. Communication with guests could certainly be improved. I suspect one reason the lines are reception are long is that the onboard systems are poorly integrated.
Ports: We did not do any excursions, and avoided the paid shuttles. Going independent did make things a bit harder, especially when the port was in an industrial wasteland, but when the official bus costs more than a taxi it doesn't make much sense to use the bus. We encountered a number of MSC-organized tours, and given the large group sizes and lack of English we don't feel we missed much. It's definitely worth buying an internet package if you're going independent, you will need to do a lot of searching and mapping.
Passengers: Mostly Italians, but a fair number of French and Germans too. It's Europe so people smoke on the balcony. Lack of a common language made it harder to strike up casual conversations, and we didn't really get to know anyone the entire time. I can imagine this could be a drawback for the kids club, though to be honest our kids tend to shy away from kids clubs anyway.
Well-located cabin, good climate controls, some issues with the bathroom (mainly the unpleasant odor), TV a little hard to operate.
Embarked here. From the train station it's quite a distance to the old port, from which the free buses leave for the ship. The city runs a 2-euro bus from the train station to the port. Trains to Rome are rather infrequent and thus overcrowded on disembarkation.
Norman Palace is impressive but a fair distance from the port, about 30-40 minutes walk. We took the red tourist train and instantly regretted it because it was slow and infrequent. A hop-on hop-off bus might be better.
Beautiful place, enjoyed Poetto Beach though not all buses take cash. Unfortunately a lot of hawkers roam the beaches and it gets annoying.
Nice touristy town, with lots to see and do.
Taxi fares are quite reasonable. When we learned that the cruise provided shuttle would not stop at the City of Arts and Sciences we decided to use taxis. Unfortunately our time onshore was too brief. Definitely visit the central market.
Big city, ended up taking the free bus but it's some distance from the ship.