Who could not get excited about being one of the first to sail a brand new ship? The smell of the new carpets and furniture and how everything shined and glimmered was just perfect and it was a pleasure to sail her. However her maiden voyage was not plain sailing and we were stuck in Southampton due to bad weather in the Atlantic, thus missing the port of Lisbon and overnight stay. Yes this was very disappointing but when you saw the forecast you could understand why the captain chose to delay departure.. why take a brand new ship through a huge storm!?
The ship itself is simply beautiful. As soon as you board you are greeted by the stunning Galleria and it took us the whole first day to walk around and discover the ship. Although I know its big it was bigger than expected The ship was kept spotless throughout the cruise and it the design throughout is stunning. From the signature crystal staircase to the impressive Galleria with the LED roof and the lovely pool deck, everything is beautiful.
Food and Drink - Expectations were low as MSC does not get a good rap for food, however the MDR food was well above par. Food in the Buffet restaurant was also very good. We found the speciality restaurants a little overpriced and also you could not use your drinks package in any of them (unless you are on premium deluxe package) so adding drinks to the cost would mean around €50-€60 per head which is not worth it given the MDR was very good anyway. Bars were all very nice. We loved the British Pub which was very authentic and also the Sky Lounge which was the most relaxing bar on the ship with the best service. Entertainment seemed always be shoved in the Grandiosa lounge and never anywhere else. Drinks package was a bit confusing.. so we took the easy package which allows you to have any drink up to €6 value.. easy right? Wrong.. So in the British Bar you can have a pint of Heineken for €6 but if you want a pint of Heineken Lite for €6 you can't because this is one of many exceptions. OK so if I want a drink that's €6.50 (like most are) then I just pay the difference, right? Wrong, you pay the full amount! Fancy a tea in L'Atelier Bistrot lounge, watching the world go by on the Galleria.. this will cost you, even though the very same tea is available for FREE in the buffet area or the same coffee included in your drinks package.. MSC just don't do easy!
Facilities - It was a shame this is a winter cruise as the facilities outside are fantastic. Thankfully we had great weather when we were in off the coast of Portugal and the ships outside space came alive. The rope walk is fantastic!! Very scary at first and a lot harder than I thought but once I conquered it I did it again and again.. and the views are breathtaking! The aquapark is also really good fun with 3 slides which would wow both adults and kids. The indoor facilities such as bowling and the virtual race car all acquire an extra fee and a large one at that. If you want to do them all you need to pay well over €100pp. Bowling for a family of four is over €60 for one hour with show hire!! Keeping a family happy on this ship will cost you! In the safari pool there are fusball and ping pong tables which are free however you need to go to the other side of the ship to ask for the equipment.. like a lot of things on MSC this did not make sense!
Entertainment - This is a mix of amazing, good and VERY bad.Firstly the amazing - We went to the Cirque de Soleil show 'Eccentrics' and loved it. My only complaint is it was too short, under an hour. However well worth it. All the theatre shows were very good but short (35 mins), from an amazing pianist to the general shows put on by the dancers and singers. Theatre is a little small though so on busy cruises make sure you book. (easy to do on the screens around the ship) Now the bad - the entertainment crew were AWFUL!! They all congregate in the Grandiosa lounge and either shout and dance like drug fuelled teenagers or drag you up to dance and then instantly look uncomfortable and uninterested. The whole thing was just cringy and uncomfortable to watch. Activities during the day were either dance classes, which were actually done quite well by two dance teachers, or games put on by the awful entertainment crew. Quizzes were terrible with the crew (around 10 of them) screaming down a mic and yelling and dancing at any given moment. They actually turned an art quiz into a rave!! This was cruise number 16 for me and by far the worst, most immature and unprofessional entertainment crew experienced.
Cabins - We were originally in a cabin on the 8th deck with obstructed view. The view itself was not an issue and its compensated by bigger balconies, however we were above the British pub and my parents were above the TV studio bar and sadly there is NO sound insulation so the music thumos through til 1am. AVOID these at all cost!!! Another negative about the cabins (all cabins) is the lack of sotrage. Cabins seem slightly smaller than the most ships and the storage is tiny! 12 hangers for 2 people on a 7 night cruise!!! Pack some from home if you don't want to double up. Beds are very comfy though.
Lastly I cannot write a review without mentioning ZOE, the in room virtual assistant! MSC, what a huge waste of money!! Unless they use it to listen in on you I cannot see why they thought this was a good idea.. it was so pathetically bad it was entertaining. The only thing ZOE can say is ask customer relations or turn on the info on your tv!!
So overall, and despite the delay, we had a fantastic cruise on a beautiful ship. I loved the ship but am not a fan of MSC.. if this ship was Celebrity or even RCCL it would be the best. Our sailing was just over 2000 passengers so my experience was quite unique. I don't think it would be the same at full capacity and I fear it would be awful when full. Even with 2000 it felt busy at certain times. Due to lack of entertainment I would say this is more a summer ship than winter ship but that all depends on what you want out of the cruise.