Though you won't find the headline grabbing attractions you find on the American big ships, MSC Virtuosa has plenty to keep you occupied during the day including two large pools, an indoor Solarium with hot tubs, top-deck waterslides, a ropes course, basketball and football tournaments in the Sports Complex and all manner of fun in the Games Arcade, including a 4D cinema where you don 3D glasses and shoot zombies, a VR maze, two F1 simulators and two bowling lanes.
Tip: Note all the activities in the Games Arcade carry a charge and rather than pay-as-you-go, we recommend getting a Fun Pass card.
Le Grande Theater
The 975-person, Broadway-style theater at the front of the ship that hosts several different shows a week, twice a night. Most of these are revue-style performances with lots of energetic dancing and music through the ages or themes, such as a Moulin Rouge-style Paris-themed show, or one set in New York. As MSC caters for multiple nationalities most of these shows don't have much dialogue, but rely on great singing, dancing and often acrobatics.
The show runs twice a night, timed to fit in with meal times and guests are encouraged to book (it's free, it's just for capacity restrictions).
MSC has created two outstanding new shows to fill this space after a tie-up with Cirque du Soleil ended during the pandemic. Drawing heavily on Cirque-style and aesthtic, both productions showcase dancing, acrobatics, juggling and astonishing moves such as "walking" perpindicular to the walls (on ropes). There is no real plot or dialogue, it's more about loosely knit set pieces showing off the extraordinary skills of the artists.
Arkymea is themed round a nutty professor and his various experiments, which manage to combine some quite astonishing gravity-defying body popping as well as some extraordinary steel cube spinning; Ajedrez has a chess theme, combined with rock music. Two opposing queens challenge each other to win the king's heart. Throughout the story, you meet the various characters of the chess board, from bishops to knights, characterized by life-size statues, as the teams battle it out to the sound of a ticking chess clock.
At 45-minutes long, these are also ideal for kids of any age. There is also a small fee, which includes a drink.
Tip: Limited seats means this is worth booking ahead.
Red Gem Casino is toward the back of the ship on Deck 7, split in two by a walkway that leads to the Carousel Lounge. There is a circular bar in the center and gaming tables and slots on both sides.
Tip: Promotions take place every day; check your Daily Program for details.
This is the heart and soul of the ship, where there is always something going on night or day. Split across two decks, here you will find the majority of shops, bars and restaurants.
MSC Virtuosa has the largest retail space at sea with a variety of shops including a logo shop, an essentials shop, duty free and a number of high-end watch, jewellery and handbag stores. Listen out for the "events" often announced over the PA or in your Daily Planner for BOGO offers and deep discounts, usually toward the end of the cruise.
But look up for the real standout -- a truly stunning 80m, ever-changing LED ceiling where different scenes are projected throughout the day and where there is a Dome Show at set times in the evening. It's breathtaking.
The Galleria is also where the ship's biggest theme parties take place such as Flower Power or Space-themed nights in which the animation team stand on podiums dressed up encouraging passengers to get up and dance as a DJ spins tunes from one of the walkways across the promenade (note this is currently quite a muted affair due to COVID restrictions).
You'll also find master chocolatier Jean Philippe Maury's chocolate shop and café, where you can pick up a chocolate ship if you wish; and opposite an ice-cream stand selling gelato and crepes.
MSC Virtuosa is no slouch when it comes to nightlife -- there are at least 10 places to drink till late spread across the ship. The majority are along or just off the main promenade and Atrium, which is where almost all the night-time action takes place.
Heart of the Action: Virtuosa Bar. This is a prime spot just outside the Theater, where you'll find a dance floor and constant crowds of people. It also gives you a great spot for the events that take place most nights in the Galleria Virtuosa.
For a Sing Song: TV Studio and Bar. You'll find a stage and karaoke most nights.
For Something Different: MSC Starship Club Bar, in which Rob the Robotic Bartender will serve you up a cocktail of your choice -- plus you get a free plastic glass. It's gimmicky and over-priced, but fun.
For Something Elegant: The Champagne Bar. Wrapped around the Atrium, with its Swarovski crystal staircases, this is the place to dress up, come for a pre- or post-dinner Champagne and do some people-watching or have your picture taken. It's very blingy.
For a Pint n' Fish n' Chips: Masters of the Sea Pub is an English-style pub which will serve you up a wide range of pints, drafts and bottled beers with a side of fish n' chips. Trivia takes place here most evenings. In a great spot with outside tables overlooking the main promenade.
For a Quiet Drink: The Sky Lounge. This is the one bar that is not on or just off the main promenade, but high up on Deck 17 overlooking the pool deck. There is often a piano and a singer and it's one of the few quiet-ish places onboard. You'll find the cigar room adjacent.
The Aurea Spa at the front of the ship on Deck 7 has 20 treatment rooms and a wonderful Thermal Suite.
It's a Balinese spa, with Balinese therapists, so the emphasis is on those treatments, but you'll also find Swedish and Thai, as well as the signature Aure del Mare treatment with shells.
Treatments are not cheap -- way more than you'd pay on land, plus there's usually an upsell at the end and also a 15 percent service charge added. You have been warned. Other treatments include anti-cellulite and water treatments in a futuristic-looking pod.
Top tip: there are lots of offers, especially on port days, so look out for those in your Daily Program.
The Thermal Suite is in our opinion one of the best at sea, with 10 rooms to experience -- two steam rooms (one dark, one light), two saunas (one Finnish, one Mediterranean), a salt room, two relaxation rooms, two aromatherapy rooms, a snow grotto, as well as a walk-through shower and two thalassotherapy pools.
You get use of the Thermal Suite if you book a massage, or you can get a daily or weekly pass.
The Jean Louis David Salon is at the spa entrance offering haircuts and treatments as well as a wide range of beauty therapies, including manis, pedis, waxing and men's grooming.
In a great spot on Deck 16 overlooking the main pool deck, with brand new equipment and separate rooms for Pilates and yoga. It's well equipped with 14 treadmills, six bikes (three pro and three reclining), cardio equipment, Kinesis and a weights training area.
Use of the gym is free, the classes are for fee. If you plan on taking regular classes, you might want to consider one of the packages on offer.
There is a jogging track which encircles the back of the ship on Deck 16, with clearly delineated tracks for walkers and joggers (we also liked that there are no loungers in this area). One lap equals 200 yards (0.33 kilometers).
MSC Virtuosa's family offerings are second to none. The Kids Club (Doremi Land) and programming is up there with the best at sea (sister ship MSC Meraviglia won the Best Ship for Family in the 2017 Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards).
What sets this apart from so many other kids clubs we see at sea is the sheer size of the space (7,500 square feet) and where it's positioned -- in a prime spot right at the top of the ship -- with age-appropriate rooms, the number of facilities across the ship, the quality of the programming and the excellence of the team.
It's also worth noting that kids clubs and programming are completely free, except for out of hours care.
There's also the embracing of kids -- rather than seeing them as an annoyance -- which the line as a whole does so well.
MSC has partnerships with Italian baby wear company Chicco, which supplies free diapers, wipes and baby food, so you do not need to pre-order or bring your own. And LEGO, which is the main theme throughout the kids' club area.
There is no minimum age to sail, although the line does advise that babies have had their first vaccinations and have a fit to travel note from the doctor.
There is supervised late-night play and napping for a small fee. There are no in-cabin babysitting services available. The line also offers family-friendly excursions on which the entertainment staff come along, too.
All kids must be registered at the start of the cruise. They receive an RFID wristband, which has the added bonus (if you use the MSC app) of allowing parents and guardians to track where the kids are at any time. It also gives their muster station and allows them to make purchases in the games room (though you can block this).
MSC Virtuosa offers a Happy Dinner program through which kids eat with you, but as soon as they are finished, they are whisked off to the kids club. There's also a Fun Time Dinner, where they eat in the kids' corner of the buffet.
The kids club mascot -- Doremi -- often turns up for meet-and-greet sessions with the younger kids.
Baby Club (6 to 36 months): MSC offers Baby Time, which is a stay and play program and Babycare through which parents can leave their children (from 1 year old) for short periods of time. Both offerings vary by day (check the Daily Program), but as a rule of thumb Baby Care takes place for an hour and a half in the morning, afternoon and evening. Feeding must be done by parents, but youth staff will change diapers.
There are two dedicated play rooms for 3-6-year-olds and 7-11 year olds, Miniclub and Juniors Club, both LEGO-themed with boxes and boxes of bricks to play with.
Young Club (12 to 14 years old): There's more emphasis on technology here, so although there is a Ping-Pong table, some old-school board games and foosball, you'll also find virtual reality headsets and PlayStation (though game times are limited by the ever-vigilant counsellors).
Teens Club (15 to 17 years old): Teens get their own private room, which is accessible from, but not a part of, the kids' club. It's a circular lounge, with seating right round, surrounding a dance floor. There are huge TV screens, beanbags and numerous video games including PS4, Nintendo Switch and VR headsets.