I am retired and an avid cruiser. I have cruised on most of the major lines. This was my first trip on MSC. I was attracted to it by the price and my desire to try something different. I had read a lot of really terrible reviews so I arrived at the ship with some hesitations. The load in was a headache. Long lines mostly in the sun. My mind is drawing mental pictures of a ship that looks like a 50's B movie. When we arrived on the ship, I found how wrong I was. I was surprised by the beauty and quality of the furnishings and decor. The Italian flavor of the vessel is everywhere and quite tastefully done. I particularly enjoyed the mosaics in the pool area. My second fear was that I would be spending 5 days eating tv dinners. So my first stop was at the buffet. There were not as many entrees as on some of the other cruise lines, but the choices were adequate and preparation and taste was on par with any ship I have been on. The pizza bar in particular was phenomenal. Ok so the ship is beautiful and the food is very good. I bet our stateroom is going to be the size of a closet. Wrong again. I had booked a room with a window. But when I arrived there, MSC had given us a free upgrade to a balcony. The room was spacious by cruise ship standards and nicely appointed. The bathroom even had glass shower doors.
The staff was pleasant, maybe not overly so but I don't take a lot of pampering. The entertainment was a bit of a throwback to earlier times. Acrobats, aerialists, dancers and singers. It wasn't Royal Caribbean Broadway, but these performers were at the top of their game and their enthusiasm was obvious. The shows were lots of fun. (One caveat, the Cruise Director and Captain talk too much. You can arrive at the show 15 or 20 minutes late and still have time to be bored before the show starts.)
Lest you think I see the world through rose colored glasses I will tell you service in the Dining Room is slow. Very slow. Plan on two hours for dinner. The Buffet is a good alternative for quicker food but will be crowded to the max. Here's a tip, if you don't mind a few steps, there are tables in the adjoining pool area with a lovely ocean view and less noise. Also the public restrooms are small for a ship of this size. You may find it easier to return to your stateroom especially if you are in a hurry. : )
The beaches at the private island are gorgeous. There is some coral so it is best to have water shoes. If you like to snorkel go along the rocks you will see some good size fish. Don't miss the laser light show of the lighthouse. It is a genuine stunner. The plants are recently planted and not what you would hope for in a tropical "paradise." If you have problems with flies near the food trucks. Cover your food with a plate and step away before you eat, or take a short walk back to the ship and eat there.
So was it a perfect trip? No. Every cruise has its own little headaches. But to be honest I recently came off cruises on Royal Caribbean Symphony and Celebrity Edge that cost a lot more and delivered a lot less. Would I cruise with MSC again? I already have booked two more cruises with MSC. That should be recommendation enough.
My advice to you:
When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade, add Tequila. Call it a Margarita, and book another Cruise.
Comfortable room, spacious at this price point. Bathroom was very nice. TV a bit small but adequate. Balcony was small but pleasant.
The Island is a work in progress. It will be a while before plantings begin to mature. The beaches themselves are gorgeous. The sea is Caribbean Blue and the water is clear as a bell. We were with a group that circled our chairs and had a wonderful day. Try to get out early to get an umbrella and a spot close to the ship. Then move down the beach closer to the lighthouse to enjoy the light show.