(4:33 p.m. EST) -- MSC Cruises has long catered to a European crowd, but a new focus on attracting American cruisers has seen several of the line's newest ships (MSC Divina, MSC Seaside, MSC Meraviglia) positioned in, and targeted to North Americans. Then there's MSC Armonia, a ship that's been sailing in the region for several years, but was always targeted at Europeans and doesn't feature all the bells and whistles the newer ships have. And now it's drawing a North American crowd too. But will everyone enjoy this ship?
When we embarked on our seven-day cruise out of Miami, we weren't sure what to expect regarding passenger makeup, and after hearing seemingly every language under the sun, we finally asked Guest Services for a breakdown. Of the 1,944 passengers aboard our cruise (the ship can accommodate 2,400), 56 nationalities are represented. Of that, a little over 600 passengers are American. The rest is a wonderful mix of nations from every corner of the world, from Armenia to Vietnam.
No matter where anyone is from, a common theme we've found among our fellow passengers is a love for the nightly shows; overwhelming participation in group activities (from poolside aerobics to dance competitions); an appreciation for the relatively small-scale size of the ship, which allows you, the crew and other guests to get on a first-name basis quickly; and a welcoming attitude towards kids.
Here are the five types of travelers we think will love and appreciate MSC Armonia.
In our experience, it usually takes a day or two for passengers to get into the swing of group activities, or least until after a few cocktails -- not so with Armonia passengers. On Day 1, mere hours after boarding the ship, a crowd was out by the pool for Cha Cha Cha dance lessons. After the safety drill, everyone was back by the pool for more dancing for the Sailaway Party. This is a ship full of people ready to have fun and the vibe is infectious.
As mentioned above, the diversity onboard MSC Armonia makes the ship a virtual melting pot of people and cultures. Within a couple of days, we had chatted with passengers from Brazil, Scotland, Canada, England, Mexico, Australia and Americans from all across the U.S. Frankly, we're finding it refreshing not to be completely surrounded by just our own fellow countrymen. We're loving getting to know people from around the globe.
Oh boy, is this a ship for nightlife lovers. After the second, usually full, theatrical show of the night (which have ranged from an ode to the movie "Dirty Dancing" to a French Follies-themed evening), passengers don't head to bed. Instead, they make a beeline for everything from pub trivia to dance parties in the nightclub, which, by the way, don't start until 10 p.m. at the earliest.
Theme parties have included a 70s night, Glow Party, White Party and more. Passengers have come fully prepared, with clothes ranging from bell bottoms to elegant white attire. The casino even has special late night/early morning enticements from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., and yes, people are there to play.
MSC Armonia's smaller size (compared to most newer ships) makes the ship feel manageable and easy to get around. Even if you walk in the wrong direction to go to dinner (and who hasn't done that?), it's not an epic trek to turn around and get to where you want to be. Another great perk is that the truly friendly crew gets to know you and you quickly get to know them. And despite there being almost 2,000 passengers onboard, we have never waited more than a minute or two for a drink or not been able to dine in the restaurants whenever we choose.
MSC Cruises is committed to families and it shows with its great kids' clubs. With branded partnerships with companies like Legos and Chicco (an Italian baby care brand), there is plenty to occupy young passengers. MSC Armonia even dedicated half its pool deck to a spray park that is irresistible to children. Teens also have their own space, with plenty of organized activities and games. Despite it being mid-January, our sailing has 179 children aboard, all clearly enjoying themselves all over the ship.