The Ship: A brand new, gleaming white ship. I was in awe of the size as I walked towards the harbour at how high she sits above the water. The embarkation in Genoa as absolutely seamless. Basically no queues and excellent service. From arrival to boarding it took about 15 minutes. There were plenty of check in staff, so i have no idea why there have been so many people complaining on the forum about embarkation being stressful. Issued with room card and wrist band which we could use to open doors and pay for goods, an excellent idea. Once onboard security was quick and easy to get through. Initially we were asked if we wanted to avail of package upgrades, but because we already had premium plus drinks package all we did was politely decline. I can see why some people think there is a "hard sell", but we didn't experience that. You can choose to just walk on, stop stressing out!
In photos and videos I got the impression that the ship looked a bit tacky in places, but I couldn't have been more wrong. It really is very tastefully done and looks beautiful in all areas. The layout of the ship is excellent, easy to navigate and has interactive screen throughout to help you find where you are going, make bookings and see what is happening each night. Plenty of lifts and never waiting more than a minute or two for one to arrive. Deck areas are nicely laid of and plenty of places to lounge in. I tended to find the aft (Horizon Pool area) of the ship a bit quieter and more chilled, especially on a day at the dock. We had access to the aurea package members only 'Top 19 Solarium Deck' which was nice. Its a little quieter and has plenty of loungers if you want to chill out. The only thing I would say is the MSC could make it feel a bit more special. Some plants and greenery wouldn't go astray to give it a more exclusive feel and the service here wasn't always very good to be honest. There is no bar, you have to order from the attendant or go to the "pantry" which looks like a little kitchen and i found this a bit odd.
Dining: Ok people, the food on board is incredible. Let's start with the Marketplace Buffet. I really do not understand all the moaning about "lack of choice" and so on. Seriously I never found myself wanting, which begs the question, what do some people want!!?? I found all the found tasty, fresh and plentiful. They put a lot of pride into onboard cooking and food presentation. From the mozzarella factory to the breads, cakes, pizza and beautiful pastries etc. If anything it appears that a lot of people are just downtright greedy and wasteful gluttons. Try a little of everything, but waste less people! Yes, the Marketplace can be busy at peak times, but a top tip is move to the rear of the ship and you'll find lots of space, emptier buffet points and a more calm atmosphere. We ate 50/50 between the assigned restaurant and speciality restaurants. Both were fantastic. The lighthouse restaurant had great set menus and plenty of selection. Service was top notch, we never had to ask for service, they always anticipated our needs. Top tip is to go slightly earlier, about 1900 and you'll find it less busy and bag a seat by the amazing aft full height windows. We tried The Butchers Cut and teppenayki restaurants, both had fantastic service and it was well worth the extra supplement - you're on holidays, spoil yourself! **DRINKS PACKAGE** we took the premium plus package and I have to say it was well worth the money! We had whatever we wanted, when we wanted it. Everything is included on it. Everything. Even if you're not a big drinker I think it's worth it. We had champagne/cocktails in the champagne bar before and after dinner every night. We got to know the champagne bar staff well and they were absolutely incredibly good to us. We tried every cocktail on the menu, Moet and Chandon, Veuve Cliquot etc, I really can't think why you wouldn't get the drinks package!?
Entertainment and activities: There is so much to see and do on board, particularly at night that you really do need to be well prepared. I suggest planning your evening carefully around theatre shows, dinner, galleria light shows and Cirque du Solei. The evening along the Galleria were my favourite. It's a real riot of colour and fun. Lots of music and dancing made it a sociable and interactive experience. The entertainment staff were excellent. For those moaning about this being a "party ship", well you need to wise up. If you don't like the music and dancing there are plenty of places for you to go, like the jazz bar (Sky Lounge) or the British Pub. You're on holidays, enjoy yourself and embrace there relaxed European vibes.... or alternatively go on a Cunard cruise if you're worried you might have fun, good forbid! Cirque at sea was a great experience. The purpose built theatre was wonderful and the shows incredible. One of the evenings it was used for the MSC Got Talent show where crew members from around the world sang and danced - Don't miss this!! Honestly it was one of the most fun and enjoyable parts of the cruise, especially the Haka Dancing ships firemen from Maori. The whole crowd was wild for it. The theme nights were fun - White night, 70s night, space night and pool party - the staff put a lot of effort into making sure people have a lot of fun and you can see it when you look around and see guests dancing and smiling.
Service: Again I cannot find any reason to complain here as so many feel the need to! Never once did I find myself wanting for anything. All needs anticipated and catered to. Once some of the staff got to know my name they greeted us personally. Plenty of people on deck taking orders for drinks and atttending to all needs. On a side note it's not all about who you see, it's what you see. The ship is spotlessly clean, shining and well maintained. I never once saw a grubby surface or dirty public area. Well done to all behind the scenes staff.
Recommendations: book the aurea package if you want access to the spa, it's well worth it! Great facilities and really relaxing. Because I had this package I rarely got off the ship and spent most port days here chilling out. One of the nicest spa areas i have ever used. Ignore the hard sells in the spa and you'll be good. The Sky Lounge seems to be very under used which is a shame. Head there for unique cocktails and great service with special treats!
We didn't travel with children, but I think my nieces and nephews would have really enjoyed this ship and I'd love to take them some time. Great places for kids to be entertained all day.
Stayed in a duplex suite. Very spacious and an incredible offering on a ship. Felt more like a small apartment. Two bathrooms, two walk in wardrobes, private deck with hot tub - real luxury! Positioned right under the bridge so we felt like we were getting a really unique view as we sailed. Unable to see to the side of the ship however, so if this would annoy you then this room isn't for you. Due to being right at the front of the ship it was a bit of a walk from the main elevators, so if you want somewhere close by an elevator or don't like walking too far then this room is a bit of a trek.
Made full use of the mini bar in the evening before going out and enjoyed the terrace in the evening, however it is pretty sheltered being under the bridge and because the ship is rarely facing the sun you do not get much sun, or at least we certainly didn't (a minor problem if anything). Zoe the personal assistant (like Siri) doesn't work very well at all and we got fed up with it not understanding so we never used it after the first day!