We are a family of 4 (kids are 7 and 12) and this is our 3rd cruise. The previous 2 were with Royal Caribbean, albeit on smaller ships (Vision and Rhapsody of the Seas), so this is our basis for comparison.
Please read the all the reviews with an open mind as most seem v critical. Everyone has a different perspective, with some things about the cruise better than others, but we found no one thing spoilt the overall experience.
We picked the cruise for the ship, wanting to try a new and larger one. Not disappointed as it is stunning in most aspects. Amazing how quiet and smooth in all seas (at least from deck 10).
We thought the buffets were good, better than previous RC ones. No buffets are ever a la carte standard, but good choice each night.
Main dining room was poor - rushed, fairly cramped, similar standard to the buffet so we only did it once.
Entertainment - shows were very professional, but are generally variations of the same act each night (heavy Greatest Showman influence).
Kids clubs- not necessarily a criticism, but my 7 year old seemed less keen on msc than RC. The gps wristband was great for my 12 year old, gave her a lot of freedom and we always knew where she was. This was 15 euros for the week.
Drinks - we ŵent for the premium package (one up from easy). About £120 extra for us all, roughly £700 in total -if u r doing a package it’s worth the upgrade as the difference in choice of drinks is huge. Very limited on the easy package. Plenty of drinks waiters around - miles quicker than trying to get served at the bar, which can be frustrating. Top bar overlooking the pool is a great spot for sailaways. Easy to get served and u have a great view of everything.
We got off at each port but didn’t do any excursions as we have learnt from experience they are rarely value for money through the cruise operator. Most ports (other than Pisa/Florence and Rome) have shuttle buses or are easily walkable. Cannes is the nicest stop on this itinerary.
Service charge/gratuities. Keep an eye on this to avoid double charging. The uk website says that they are already included in the cruise fare and mandatory, but ours were being added on on top of what we already paid. I queried this with customer services and quoted the website - they said this additional amount was not mandatory and could be removed.
Overall we had a good experience with MSC. We concluded that Royal Caribbean scores better in most aspects, and if you aren't price-conscious go for that. However, when you look at the difference in price on similar itineraries, MSC arguably offers better value for money.
Very good, more spacious than we were previously used to and would strongly recommend the balcony. Lots of plugs, although the USB ports were a bit iffy on charging apple devices.
Great city - Worth staying near to the beach area
Really nice town, easily done on foot. About 15 minutes drive from the port. Shuttle bus was 13 euros per head return - probably not excessive compared to taxis and noticed a big queue at the taxi rank. You are dropped off right outside the cathedral.
Nice city to walk around, but v hilly. About 10 minutes walk from the port.
We have been to Pisa before so decided to stay in La Spezia. Really nice town with good beaches. Free shuttle bus into town
Really nice whether you are into shopping, sightseeing or the beach. Tender in and short walk from there.
Again, as we have been to Rome before thought we would stay local. Nowhere near as nice as La Spezia