We booked this cruise largely because friends of ours invited us to join them. We were quite excited to try out MSC, having previously tried Royal, Disney, Norwegian and Carnival. Some Pros:
1) Loved the status match. It made it a very easy decision to consider MSC when we've already got status with several other cruise lines. Getting the 5% off just by being a part of their loyalty program was amazing. And getting the free hour in the spa was fun.
2) The ship was gorgeous. Incredibly clean (there were ALWAYS staff cleaning) They cleaned out balcony with a full pressure wash twice while we were on board for our 7 day cruise.
3) Our room steward was amazing - always prompt, incredibly polite, he noted that we were Canadian and was more than happy to speak to us in either Official language (French or English)
4) All in one package - this add on was amazing and totally worth it. The easy package was just fine for us (no real need for fancy cocktails.. I'm very happy with a Vodka Cranberry or a Coco Colada with a shot of rum on the side;)
5) Cirque du Soleil - Sonar was AMAZING. Viaggio was ok. The cocktails offered at both weren't worth it. The seats for the cocktail only bookings were better than the ones for dinner (the tables for dinner are on the outer circle around the stage with all the cocktail seats nearer to the stage). Both shows used the entire theater in incredible ways.
6) Embarkation and Disembarkation: both were among the smoothest I've ever experienced. Disembarkation took maybe 15 minutes from the time we heard our number called to the time we were through customs and looking for our transport to the airport.
7) The pools were gorgeous and the Bamboo pool area was great. The pools themselves filled up fast though.
8) The app chat feature - it was great. We had a group of 11 people in 4 different cabins and were able to very easily keep in contact and coordinate. However, kids under 16 aren't allowed to use the chat feature, so that made it REALLY inconvenient when they'd be in the kids club. Definitely room for improvement on that aspect.
9) The elevators. For a ship that size, it was really easy to get an elevator. Most of the time we avoid them like the plague due to the wait (or waiting and finding out the elevator is already full). This ship though, we rarely had an issue.
10) Smoking area and smoking enforcement. The ship seemed to actually enforce the smoking areas, it was at the back of the ship next to a bar near a smaller pool with a huge deck, and of course in the casino (which was on a lower level and enclosed to help prevent smoke and smell wafting in the rest of the ship). As an asthmatic I struggle being in areas with smoke and the only time I had an issue on this ship was going to circle du soleil (as you have to go through the casino to get to the show's theater). Our neighbour smoked on their balcony the first night so we called down to guest services who very promptly dealt with the situation.
10) the Aurea spa - we're not spa people so this was our first experience with the spa. We only went since we had the hour included with our loyalty status. We went during a port day so we had the entire area to ourselves. There were easily 10 different rooms, each with a different feature (lights, smells, hot/cold, whirlpool, salt room, etc). My biggest complaint here was that it was entirely inside with no views of the water. Otherwise I enjoyed it. Also, the staff did not track time at all (perhaps because we were the only two using the facilities) so we stayed for about an hour and a half.
11) ocean cay. I cannot stress enough how amazing this island is. I'm eager to return, particularly in a couple of years when the island has had more time to develop and grow. It's already gorgeous, but it will be even that much more amazing. Sitting at the bar by the lighthouse enjoying a cold refreshment watching the sun set over the water and listening to the soothing sounds of the waves is one of those experiences that stays with you for a lifetime.
The not so great:
1) the activities. We would routinely go 2 - 4 hours where there would be NOTHING on the schedule (literally, the time slots wouldn't even be listed on the app). This regularly happened during the day time, leaving the over crowded pools, the board games (most of which weren't in English so if you didn't know how to play... good luck? although Clue in German was pretty hilarious for a non-German speaking family ;) Then, in the evening, the activities would be stacked between the shows, some game shows, trivia, movie by the pool and of course dinner. So we'd be starved for planned activities during the day and at night, we'd have to miss some of the best activities.
2) The food experience: The food was just ok. There were some dishes that just a bit... different. (IE: My husband ordered eggs benedict for breakfast.. and got a hard boiled egg on ham, with an english muffin. But only about 2 tablespoons of hollandaise sauce (the point of the dish I thought?) and the whole thing was covered in easily 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. So it just tasted like salty Parmesan. 2 nights in a row we ordered pasta dishes and the noodles tasted like clarified butter and nothing else.) Dinner ALWAYS took an hour and 45 minutes or more. The first night we arrived 15 minutes early so that we'd get to our table first (and we were literally the first people to walk through the doors) and dinner took over 2 hours. We ended up late for the show. When we mentioned this to our waiter, he informed us that we should make sure to be first to the restaurant.... which we were. It improved the rest of the nights, but it was incredibly clear that the waiters were given far too many tables to be able to handle so we missed out on getting to know our server and assistant server.
3) The buffet. My husband and I differ here - I really enjoyed the buffet. The carve station was always great, there was always delicious mashed potato. I was a happy gal. My husband though, felt that the food was either very 'plain" (meat and potatoes) or it was a little weird (fettuccine Alfredo with whole anchovies on top, or nachos but no cheese, pepperoni pizza with no cheese but there's fresh mozzarella made on the ship, steamed veggies then tossed in yogurt).
4) The easy drink package - both a plus and not so much here. They don't make you sign anything so you can't really check to see what you got charged for. At one point my husband ordered a drink on their easy menu called a "Canadian and Coke" (which should have been according to their menu, a Seagrams 7 and Coke). The bartender (not necessarily wrongly... per se) poured him and charged him for a $9 Canadian Club and Coke (which wasn't included on the easy drink package). Not really a big deal, but if that's your drink of choice for the week, you could be faced with a hefty bill if you aren't checking your bill (which you can do on the app or on the TV).
5) The sales pushing - When we got on board the ship, in this big, beautiful promenade area with the gorgeous LED screen that spans the length of the ceiling.. all you really want to do is take a moment, look around, orient yourself and figure out where you are supposed to be going for lunch. Instead, we were immediately surrounded by easily 5 different staff members holding up papers advertising various packages (internet, specialty dining, drink packages, excursions) all calling out as though you were in the middle of a straw market and pushing their papers towards you. Once you break free of the first group, there's another 20 staff lined up all with the same papers to make sure you weren't missed in their attempt to upsell you something. While embarkation was smooth, the initial experience on the ship was a little overwhelming. Particularly when those staff continued to try to sell you those packages in almost every public area (and at dinner) for the first 2 days of the voyage.
Our cabin was on the floor immediately below the pool. There was a large overhang resulting in our balcony being inset so we could only look out straight/down towards the water and most of the time could only really see if we were sitting. Our view of the sky was almost 100% blocked. Because of the location of our cabin, we could hear the chairs being moved (one night at 3am, but most nights around 5 or 6am) right overhead, resulting in a less than great wake up call. The one night that they had a dance party by the pool with music going until about 130am we were unable to go to sleep until after the party ended (which wasn't a problem really, since we were at that party.. but if you are an early to bed kind of person, this could be problematic, especially with the 5am chairs banging over head)
The cabin was really clean, the balcony was pressure washed twice during our 1 week cruise. The cruise doesn't offer kleenex/tissue anymore, so be aware of that (we weren't)
the closet was a little disappointing. The sliding doors made it incredibly hard to get into the back half of the closet and we only got 5 hangers. There's 3 shelves and 2 drawers and that was it for storage outside of the small shelves in the bathroom, or leaving stuff on the desk/couch. There was 3 hooks by the door though, to hang jackets or bags. And 2 hooks on the bathroom door.
Location was great, midway between two different set of elevators and located right below the buffet as well, making it easy to grab a late night snack.