I’ve cruised with lots of companies before but this is the first time with MSC. We were a large family celebrating a 70th so the price of the cruise was the main attraction - I honestly cannot fault MSC on their child prices as it really brings the cost down especially when booked early. Also, the ship was new and other members of my family have cruised with MSC before and rated them highly.
In the run up to the holiday, perhaps because it was a complicated booking, I had many administration issues with MSC - they kept getting details of our booking wrong - but in all fairness with some persistence from my end MSC did sort everything out and we did get everything we had booked once on board. The systems MSC use for pre-booking activities, etc. just aren’t as slick as other companies but again for the price I could handle this.
Check-in was slower than other companies but it was well organised and for the price we paid I certainly wouldn’t moan about it.
The ship itself was lovely and I really couldn’t fault it. If I had any gripe it was that there seemed to be a lot of wasted space but really that was such a minor thing compared to how beautiful the ship actually was. I’ve sailed with Cunard, P&O, RCI regularly including Symphony and MSC definitely compete on the standard of their ships.
We had pre-booked the all inclusive package and this was also great. Not as good as RCI’s package but then again it was nowhere near the price. The Venchi ice-cream and milkshakes included in our package were out of this world good. Word of warning, we booked early and so still received the old Classic package, which was truly wonderful. If I was to book again with the new drinks packages I honestly wouldn’t bother with the Easy package - looking at the menu it seemed a total and utter waste of money.
Pre-booking seemed to be the way to go with MSC, despite the admin. hiccups, and we saved a lot of money. We pre-booked the thermal experience pass for the week and this was well worth it. The spa was lovely and with a quiet area dedicated to spa guests it was a nice place to get away from it all when the kids were off having fun. It was missing a bar if I’m honest but again a minor gripe.
We also pre-booked the Trio dining experience and were glad we did. I read a lot of reviews in advance that slated the food so I hedged my bets and booked the speciality dining package, again saving a lot versus on board price. The food in the main dining room was not awful at all - neither was it the best but again for the price we paid I honestly wouldn’t grumble. The meals though did feel either rushed or took far too long - it never seemed quite right in terms of length - but the quality was OK. The buffet restaurants were some of the best I’ve had - a little repetitive but to be honest I think the quality on all of the main cruise lines is dipping now so MSC buffets were not only comparable but better.
What I felt was seriously lacking was the range of free dining venues on offer. You could get everything that other lines offer in the buffet or in the MDR but I never thought about how nice it is to have a large choice of where to dine until I was left with pretty much no choice - MDR or buffet. That was why the Trio package was worth it - to add a bit of variety. We couldn’t use our all inclusive package in the speciality dining though because everything was out of the Classic price bracket. I thought this was off-side but again I could handle not drinking for a couple of hours whilst I ate and there was nothing stopping me taking a glass of wine in with me and savouring it during the meal.
The cabin was nice too. We booked a Fantastica inside and what I really liked was that we could have a double bed and two bunks - I’ve never been offered that on an inside before, just 4 singles. We used the room service on Fantastica as a wake up call and just got coffee and juice delivered at the time we wanted to wake up. To be honest though, if Bella was significantly cheaper I’d just book that in future. Word of warning, if you are booking an inside for a family of 4 then pack lightly or be prepared to wedge your clothes in to any hole going as storage is limited - adequate for 2 people but not 4.
Check-out was a delight. We asked for a late check-out and were able to stay in our cabins til 9am and even after that no-one was herding you off the ship. We had a night in Barcelona booked before our flight home and at 2.30pm we were still on the ship, enjoying our all inclusive and the facilities, with no-one being anything other than nice. We could have stayed on til sail away but wanted to get settled in our hotel. Last year we were literally forced off Symphony and that was at 9.30am - this was far more relaxed.
The only thing I found truly shocking and can’t forgive even despite the price is the entertainment. It’s woeful and repetitive and dull and needs a thorough shake-up. There literally was nothing to do - and believe me we did give the meagre offerings a good go. I actually caught myself regretting not bringing some travel games with me, which is appalling. My family assure me that on every other MSC cruise they’ve been on the entertainment was spot on but without having experienced it myself I remain wary. In fact, had we not have pre-bought the Fun Pass I honestly am not sure what as a family we would have done for entertainment.
So all in all, would I cruise with MSC again? If the price was right, maybe. If I couldn’t afford the other cruise lines then definitely. In all honesty though, I’d save up a little longer and book RCI because I just couldn’t get over how bored I was. I do feel I’m being unfair here though as, I’ll repeat, my family are adamant that the entertainment on other MSC ships is far superior.
Overall, at the right price point MSC are a lovely way to experience cruising without breaking the bank but if they up their prices then I’m not sure what they offer that would tempt me away from the other companies.