The MSC Meraviglia is a beautiful ship overall. However it struggles with service levels and other amenities.
This was the second MSC Cruise that my wife and I tried. The first was the MSC Seaside in July.
Although some of the physical layout deficiencies of the Seaside have been corrected on the Meraviglia (such as the difficult location for the specialty restaurants and the elevator banks) there are deficiencies in which no improvement occurred and several areas where they have actually gotten worse.
For example, any rooms separated by a door are far from being sound-proof. Expect that you will hear your neighbors' TV at night as well as their conversations, if loud enough.
The balconies are laid out poorly. The mid-ship balconies are recessed so that you may face another balcony at an angle. So much for privacy.
Shows are excellent BUT YOU HAVE TO BOOK in advance. There are three shows per night and the middle one is the most packed.
Food was significantly worse than on the Seaside. Even though we saw several staff who had transferred over from the Seaside, the food in the dining room is, at best, average.
The choices on the buffet are mundane and not as varied as Celebrity or NCL. They have vegetarian choices that are nicely labeled but they are very limited on vegetarian hot proteins. This is mainly because their Asian and Indian choices are limited due to the small numbers of people of those cultures who cruise with MSC.
Unlike Celebrity, NCL and RCL, there is no special night for lobster or steak. Both lobster and steak do appear on the menu every evening but for an additional price of up to $24.
The specialty restaurants, however, are excellent. Much better, in fact, than the food served in the dining room. The maitre-d for the specialty restaurants had transferred from the Seaside and does an excellent job.
Staff tends to be less overworked and more engaged than they were on the Seaside, but still not nearly at the level of service as Celebrity, NCL or RCI. There were very, very long lines at the customer service desk due to numerous problems. I waited 45 minutes on the second day of the cruise and I had to return to customer service several times over the subsequent days, which I have outlined below.
Here are some of the nightmares that we experienced on board this ship's maiden cruise from the US:
First, the prices for inside cabins dropped a week before the cruise. I booked a separate cabin for my sister-in-law who joined us on the cruise. Despite obtaining a confirmation and having the money withdrawn from my credit card account, our travel agent checked the day before sailing only to find out that MSC did not have the booking in their system. At this point, all the regular inside cabins were gone. I had to pay a second time (I did get reimbursed for the first booking) but there were only studio inside cabins available. A supervisor told our travel agent that he would send a message to the ship so that my sister-in-law could get upgraded for this confusion and stress. However, when my family arrived at check-in, confirmation letter and proof of payment in hand - we were told that there was no record in the system for that cabin. As a result, we waited for FOUR HOURS before we could board the ship. We were offered no food or drink during any of this ordeal and we were, literally, among the last few passengers to be able to board the ship. No passenger should be treated this way but, as "Diamond" level passengers, this was completely unacceptable. Moreover, there was no message to anyone from the supervisor asking for the upgrade.
Things went from bad to worse when we arrived at dinner. Despite having requested a table for 3 people, months in advance of the sailing, we were led to a table for TEN PEOPLE. The difficulty is that my wife is a vegetarian and cannot stomach the smell of meat. Yet, the Maitre-D could do nothing to help us.
The next nightmare came in trying to speak with customer service. I waited in line for 45 minutes. The customer service agent wrote everything down and sent a message to her supervisors on board ship. The result? No answer from them for 4 days, and no change in our dining seating, while other people were dining together at smaller tables and were being upgraded to balconies.
Finally, with only 2 1/2 days left to the cruise, we were offered an upgrade to an inside cabin from the studio which we rejected. The move would have simply not been worth the effort. We remained at the table for 10 for the entire trip. Fortunately, the table was not full for the week and we were seated with some very nice people.
For all the trouble that we endured, we were sent a bottle of champagne and some chocolate-covered strawberries from one of the customer service agents; a very nice gesture but too little, too late.
MSC appears to be positioning itself to compete with such higher end lines as Celebrity and Princess. They fall very far short of that goal, however. Although they have good pricing and their main entertainment is high-end, we find that their reservations department is chaotic, their communication is poor, their service level is almost non-existent, and their food is average at best.
My family will never cruise with MSC again.