This was our first time with MSC. Previously we have cruised with Norwegian and Princess. Also our first European cruise.
I was traveling with my wife and two kids (daughter 14 and son 11).
Scheduled itinerary was Rome-Sea Day-Sicily-Malta-Barcelona-Marseilles-Genoa-Rome. Itinerary changed, actual itinerary was Rome-Rome-Corsica-Majorca-Barcelona-Marseilles-Genoa-Rome.
Embarkation: We arrived to embark at the recommended time, and it was chaos. The ship was berthed on the "old" side of the port, access was through an ancient quonset-hut style building. There was virtually no signage, we found our way by following crowds. First building was to check in luggage, no orderly queues, everyone trying to get to one little table to check in luggage. Once we fought through that, we went to a second building next door to actually check in. This was far more orderly and went smoothly. Once past the luggage check in, all went smoothly.
Itinerary Change: We got on board, found our room, and set out to see the ship. During our walk around the ship we saw on the many large screens around the public areas that the itinerary had changed. I waited in a line at the concierge desk for about 30 minutes to learn that I should have received notice of the change at embarkation and via a letter in my room (neither happened). This was annoying on several levels. First, we needed to change excursions (we had booked outside of MSC). Secondly, had I been informed about the change prior to embarking, I would have delayed embarkation for a day and spent the extra day in Rome and not on the ship. MSC knew about the change and could have notified me prior to embarkation, and chose not too. This made me unhappy. Wasn't going to ruin our trip though!
The Cabin: We had a balcony Fantastica room. It was set up with a queen and bunk beds. The cabin was clean and organized. It was crowded with 4 people, and there was not sufficient room for all of the luggage under the bed, so 1 of the 4 suitcases had to live "in the open." All 4 of us were comfortable for the entire journey, although there wasn't much space to spare! The room was set up with 2 pool towels, and our steward was able to correct that right away. They also notified us one day that our balcony would be cleaned so we needed to ensure our door was closed and locked. The cleaning never took place though.
The Ship: Brand new and fancy! The main gallery was pretty cool, with the overhead screens. Getting around was easy, lots of signage. elevators are SLOW. you will wait a long time during busy times, but stairs are plentiful and easily navigated. Shopping was typical of cruises or Duty Free in airports. Lots of bar space. Crew was very attentive. The pools appeared nice, not really pool weather. The inside pool was crowded. There are several "hot" tubs. They were NOT hot. The fitness center was way too small. Over 6,000 guests, and there are about 10 treadmills and 6 bikes. Ridiculous. We were on board for Christmas, and the ship was very nicely decorated for the holiday.
Entertainment: The nightly shows were fine. The kids loved them, wife and I thought they were OK. Cirque show was good if a bit short. Lots of bands/singers throughout the ship. Casino was good, lots of slots and a fair amount of table games. Not crowded but not empty, dealers were engaging and made it fun.
Dining: We had the early seating (5:30) at the La Loggia restaurant. The service was outstanding, the menu was varied, and the food was good. The Market Place Buffet was not a great experience. The food was bland and uninspired. There was variety, but the crowds were out of control. The beverage service was slow, drinks ordered at the very beginning of the meal arrived after most of the meal was completed. The experience was the same for breakfast, lunch or dinner (we tried the Market Place for one evening meal). We discovered on the third day that the Purple Crab dining room (deck 5) was open for seated/plated breakfast. Learning this improved our journey considerably, because we could avoid the Market Place buffet. The Purple Crab for breakfast was quite nice. WE did not take advantage of the specialty restaurants. Quick note on "formal" nights: They are not formal. We were dressed per the guidelines and felt fine. We saw a few people in tuxedos, but not many. We also saw several people dressed down, some even in t-shirts. I was a bit dissapointed that casual dress was allowed. Also, the early seating might have impacted this, as later seatings might have been more formal.
Excursions: We got off of the ship every day. The first day (was supposed to be Sicily but got changed to Rome/Civitivecchia) we booked a last minute excursion through MSC. it was a bus tour to Tuscania and Tarquinia. For a short notice excursion (MSC had a day or two to put it together) it was good. The buses were on time and comfortable and the guides were knowledgeable. The towns themselves were charming, I am glad we visited. We didn't do any other excursions through MSC. In Marseilles we took an e-bike tour to the Parc National des Calanques that was outstanding (booked through Get Your Guide), and in Genoa we booked a walking food tour (also through Get Your Guide) that was really exceptional. In Corsica, Majorca, and Barcelona we did not use an excursion. All cities were easily reachable by walking and/or cab, and are great to explore on your own. MSC did offer bus service into town centers in Majorca, Barcelona and Marseilles, but it was extremely expensive and I would not recommend if you are able to walk. Getting off of the ship was a bit chaotic in some ports, but not a big problem. Getting back on the ship was just fine in every port other than Corsica. in Corsica, I got the impression that the port was not used to a ship of this size on Xmas eve, and wasn't staffed for it. Also, because of the itinerary change they might not have had sufficient time to prepare. One minor complaint: crew had to embark through the same doors that passengers use. The crew was not shy about skipping the queue and voicing complaints about their jobs.
Kids: We traveled with a 14 year old daughter and an 11 year old son. They did not participate in the kids club or teenage area. The kids loved the ship, and had a great time. My son did use the ropes course, and it was fun.
Overall: Overall, the cruise was good. Very international passenger group. Crew was good. Ship was clean and very nice (also brand new, so expected). Even though the itinerary change was disappointing (as we wanted to go to Malta), net of everything it worked out as we didn't have a Sea Day. We feel we would have been bored if we had a full day on the ship.
The Cabin: We had a balcony Fantastica room. It was set up with a queen and bunk beds. The cabin was clean and organized. It was crowded with 4 people, and there was not sufficient room for all of the luggage under the bed, so 1 of the 4 suitcases had to live "in the open." All 4 of us were comfortable for the entire journey, although there wasn't much space to spare! The room was set up with 2 pool towels, and our steward was able to correct that right away. They also notified us one day that our balcony would be cleaned so we needed to ensure our door was closed and locked. The cleaning never took place though. TV in the room had 2 english channels, one was extreme sports and one was BBC Earth. The extreme sports channel repeated programming, BBC Earth had new programming each day.
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great town to walk around in.
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Outstanding. Walking tour of the city with knowledgeable guide, learned about the city and had outstanding food!View All undefined undefined Reviews
Great town to walk around in, no excursion necessary