The London Theatre (Deck 6) is a 975-person, Broadway-style theater at the front of the ship that hosts six different shows a week, three times a night. Most of these are revue-style performances with lots of energetic dancing and music through the ages or themes, for example "Pink," a tribute to the finest women composers and singers in popular music; "Ritmo," where the music is Latin-inspired; or "Solid Rock," which showcases popular rock music. Note that even though all shows are free, you have to reserve; show times are at 7:45 p.m., 9:15 p.m. and 10:45 p.m.
During the day the theater is used as a gathering place before shore excursions, for port guide presentations and the safety drill (worth noting that MSC Cruises, like a number of European lines, embarks and disembarks passengers from every port during the cruise, so there are safety briefings every day). Once per cruise, the in-house "Kelly & Kloe On Board" takes place here.
* May require additional fees
Carousel Lounge (Deck 7) is situated at the back of the ship (you have to go through the casino) and is the bespoke theater created for and designed by Cirque du Soleil. The stage is round, with seats ranged around it in a semicircle with a raised bar area on one side. All along one wall is a long, flowing LED screen, on which projections are shown throughout the shows.
Cirque du Soleil launched its first productions at sea on sister ship Meraviglia, and Bellissima sees the debut of two more original 45-minute shows. As with most Cirque du Soleil shows, it doesn't really matter what the plotline is, it's more about gawping at the extraordinary acrobatics and mind-bending contortions.
"Valeria": "Valeria," like most Cirque du Soleil shows, has a loose plot tying together the incredible circus skills on display here. There is a tightrope artist who manages to balance on both a unicycle and a ladder and juggle at the same time, someone who juggles a giant cube and a woman dressed as a lizard who spends most of her time walking upside down on all fours. And if you get here early enough, you may also have time to interact with the "Donnie Darko"-esque rabbit and a giant rooster.
"Syma": A woman gets caught up in a storm, her boat sinks and she uses the mast as a prop on which to swing, flip and fly. But the performance that drew the most "oohs" and "aahs" came from someone dressed as a monk who uses a small pole that looks as if it is floating in front of him (it's on just-visible strings). He then proceeds to whip the pole around his body, toward the audience, up in the air and while performing a back flip. There is also a man who does amazing things with a skipping rope and a woman who juggles with her feet. Again, completely nonsensical, but a wonderful spectacle.
Performances start at 6:30 p.m. and again at 9:30 p.m. if you're having dinner before the show, or 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. if you're just doing cocktails and show. Shows run 45 minutes and alternate six nights a week.
Most of the daytime activities take place around the main pool deck. Here you will find early morning stretch classes, dance lessons, quizzes and pool party games. In the adjacent Grand Canyon (solarium), you can take part in a Ping-Pong tournament and one deck up (at the back), in the Sportplex, you'll find basketball and football tournaments.
You can take a fun Behind the Scenes Tour, which not only takes in the galleys but also the theater, storage areas and laundry room (59.99 euros per adult and 29.99 euros per child; ask at the shore excursions desk).
MSC Bellissima has a virtual reality arcade on Deck 16, which features a number of different experiences including a 4D cinema, a VR maze and two F1 simulators. There are also two bowling lanes. All these carry a charge. You can opt to pay as you play or get a Fun Pass card, which works out cheaper. There is also a video games room next door.
Bellissima is a lively ship and there is always some music or dancing going on somewhere. You'll find music in a number of spots around the ship, including the Atrium on Deck 5, the Bellissima Lounge and the TV Studio and Bar on Deck 6, and in the Sky Lounge on Deck 18.
After dinner and the main shows, karaoke kicks off in the TV Studio and dance lessons back in the Bellissima Lounge. The late-night parties take place either on the Pool Deck or in the Galleria Bellissima and can range from a White Party or 70s-themed party to a Latin Caribbean dance party.
One of Bellissima's stand-out features is the 80-meter-long LED ceiling (The Dome), which crowns the main promenade, Galleria Bellissima. Think Bellagio meets IMAX and you'll be part way there. The ceiling changes throughout the day and the Daily Program indicates when there is a "show" on, which lasts about 10 minutes and is impressive to watch.
You'll find the Imperial Casino toward the back of the ship on Deck 7. It's split in half by a wide walkway that eventually leads to the Carousel Lounge. There is a circular bar in the center and gaming tables and slots on both sides. Promotions take place every day; check your Daily Program for details.
Bars are buzzing at night on Bellissima, with the action centered along the Galleria and the Atrium; for something more sedate, head upstairs to the Sky Lounge.
Edge (Deck 6): This bar, which leads onto the main promenade, is split by a stairwell, with seating on both sides, but the actual bar on just one side. There is table service and the coffee is some of the best on the ship.
Champagne Bar (Deck 6): 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.
Bellissima Bar (Deck 6): This is the main bar on the promenade where there is always something going on, whether that's dance classes or the start of the nightly parades. Bellissima Bar serves cocktails and has a dance floor.
TV Studio and Bar (Deck 7): This multipurpose space houses a TV studio that broadcasts live across the ship. It also doubles as a comedy club, and karaoke and live music venue.
Masters of the Sea (Deck 7): This English-style pub serves a wide selection of draft, craft and bottled beers, including Guinness and Newcastle Brown Ale. And if you can't decide, you can always order a yard of beer, to sample a few. There are also vodka and whiskey tasting sessions and it also offers small snacks.
Sports Bar (Deck 16): This small bar services the games area with standard drinks and free hot dogs if you buy a drink.
Sky Lounge (Deck 18): This is really the only bar onboard where you can find a quiet spot to read during the day or for an after-dinner drink. It's in a beautiful spot at the top of the ship overlooking the main pool deck. There is live music in the evening, but it's mainly classical or soft jazz. There is an indoor smoking room with a humidor adjacent.
Attic Club (Deck 18): This is a small club overlooking the basketball court, which plays dance music till very late.
Horizon Bar (Deck 18): This outdoor bar at the back of the ship is a nice spot to sit and watch the sunset. It serves the Horizon Pool area.
Arizona Bar (Deck 19): This is a small bar situated beside the water slides on the top deck. It serves a small selection of drinks including sodas, water, slushies and milkshakes.
Bellissima has four pools, three of which are open to all (the fourth is for Yacht Club passengers only).
Main Pool (Deck 15): A large, noisy, smoky (on the starboard side) area that gets extremely crowded and raucous on most days, with loud music and poolside games and dancing going on every day, all day. There are two pools connected by a shallow area in the center. Double loungers are built into the side of the pools, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are plenty more loungers set back from here.
Grand Canyon Pool (Deck 15): Just beyond the main pool area, you'll find the Grand Canyon Pool, which consists of a pool with two large hot tubs on both sides. There is a retractable roof, a bar and plenty of loungers. On the upper level are two more hot tubs, table tennis, foosball and plenty of chairs and tables.
Horizon Pool (Deck 16): A small square-shaped pool right at the back of the ship with lovely views. It is surrounded by a tiered amphitheater with loungers on the pool deck area, and tables and chairs on the tiers and beside the bar. (Note: There is a smoking area on the right.) At night this area transforms into more of a party spot.
Yacht Club (Deck 19): Yacht Club cruisers have exclusive use of a small saltwater pool and hot tub on Deck 19. There are plenty of loungers, highly attentive service and even on a sea day, this tranquil area high atop the ship is never full. Breakfast and a buffet lunch are served up here, and drinks are available all day.
At the back of the ship, high up on Deck 19, you'll find the Arizona Aquapark, which includes three water slides, a kids' splash area and the 82-meter long Himalayan Bridge, a ropes course that takes you around the side of the ship and includes two tracks side by side, one trickier than the other -- and neither for the fainthearted. The views are breathtaking.
The splash area includes a shallow pool, tiny slides, spray guns and water dunkers. The water slides twist and turn above here. You need to be 1 meter and 20 centimeters, or 4 feet, to go on these, and you have to sign a waiver at the start of the cruise.
Directly below is the Sportplex, which is a multiuse facility, mainly for basketball and football, and for kids' organized games during the day. After dark, it sometimes evolves into a disco, if the Attic Club (directly above) gets too crowded.
You'll find plenty of loungers on Deck 16, on each side above the main pool deck and stretching to the back of the ship. There are also plenty of spots right at the back, surrounding the Horizon Pool, and we did not find chair hogging to be an issue. You'll find two hot tubs up here, jutting out slightly from the ship.
There is a second, exclusive sun deck on Deck 19, available only to Aurea passengers, right at the top of the ship. Towel service is available, but you will have to get your own drinks.
All the shops are on Deck 6, either at the start of the main Atrium or along the Galleria Bellissima. Here you will find a logo shop, essentials, high-end watches, handbags and other duty-free goods. There are daily promotions which you can read about in your Daily Program.
The Photo Studio is on Deck 6, while the guest services and shore excursions desks are on Deck 5, in the main Atrium.
The Wi-Fi onboard is strong but expensive at 39 euros a day. You are better off getting a full cruise package, which works out at 139 euros and you can connect up to four devices.
The joint-biggest spa of any MSC ship, The Aurea Spa on Deck 7 has 20 treatment rooms and an amazing Thermal Suite.
There are 18 Balinese therapists offering treatments, including facials and traditional Balinese massage techniques, as well as Thai massage, candle massage and the signature Aure del Mare treatment with shells (110 euros).
Treatments are not cheap -- a 30-minute Hot Stone massage costs 65 euros, rising to 110 euros for a 45-minute Bali Holistic massage. Note there is also a 15 percent service charge added. Other treatments include anti-cellulite and water treatments in a futuristic-looking pod.
However, there are lots of offers, especially on port days, so look out for those in your Daily Program.
The Thermal Suite is 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 could easily spend a day in here trying it all out, and prices are reasonable: A daily pass is 40 euros per day (60 euros per couple), weekly is 120 euros (165 euros per couple).
The Jean Louis David Salon is at the spa entrance. It offers hair treatments and a wide range of beauty therapies, including manis, pedis, waxing and men's grooming. A shampoo and style starts at 27 euros.
Open: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For a ship this size, we were slightly underwhelmed with the fitness center on Deck 16. Yes, the equipment is brand-new and top of the range and powered by Technogym, but it's just not that big, relatively. There is a separate spinning room and an area for circuit training, but none for Pilates or yoga -- if you want to do your exercises, you have to share the space with the weightlifters or on the open deck.
The setting is prime, directly overlooking the main pool deck and with windows all round in a semicircle. It's well equipped with 14 treadmills, six bikes (three pro and three reclining), cardio equipment, Kinesis and a weights training area.
Pilates, yoga and group bike training are 10 euros per person, per hour.
If you plan on using the gym often, consider one of the packages on offer: five group lessons for 49 euros or one class plus one hour in the Thermal Area for 21 euros. There is also a prepaid package including three personal training sessions for 172 euros.
No child under 12 is allowed; over-12s must be accompanied by an adult. Open: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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 Bellissima's kids club and programming is up there with the best at sea (sister ship Meraviglia won the Best Ship for Family in the 2017 Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards). What sets it apart from so many other kids club we see is the sheer size of the space (7,500 square feet), with multiple different rooms depending on age, plus the number of facilities across the ship, the quality of the programming and the excellence of the team. There's also that intangible -- the celebration and welcoming of kids -- which the line as a whole does so well.
The line has formed partnerships with both Chicco and Lego. Chicco is an Italian babywear and accessories company, which supplies free diapers, wipes and baby food, so you do not need to preorder or bring your own. Lego is the main theme throughout the kids' club area. MSC also has a web-based show called "Kelly & Kloe On Board," which follows the eponymous heroines on adventures on and off the ship. There is a once-a-week family competition featuring Kelly & Kloe.
The ship has different cabin options for families, some specially designed, others interconnected.
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.
Children do not have to be potty-trained to use the splash area, but they must wear swim nappies.
All kids must be registered at the start of the cruise. They get 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 Bellissima 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. Both of these programs must be booked ahead of time.
There are so many fun things to keep kids occupied, it's hard to know where to start, but MSC has helpfully compiled the top 5 most popular kids activities: Group games and competitions in the Sportplex, Lego Master Builder Challenge, Live (for fee) video game tournaments and the Family disco.
The kids club mascot -- Doremi -- often turns up for meet-and-greet sessions with the younger kids.
The kids club, called Doremiland, is divided up into several areas on Deck 18.
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.
This area is sponsored by Chicco, which means there is plenty of free baby stuff -- diapers, wipes, formula, bottles -- even a selection of cots and strollers, which parents can borrow on an ad hoc basis.
There is also a soft play area with age-appropriate toys, books and a TV, with a separate room with cots for naps and a bathroom. In terms of activities, there is a mini-Olympic games and even a cooking class.
Open: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Miniclub for Sailors (3 to 6 years old): It's all Lego next door, with boxes of bricks and Duplo and a number of areas dedicated to building. It's a large space, with windows all-around. In addition to Lego, there is a foosball table, a mini-cinema, age-appropriate toys and books and plenty of crayons and pens for drawing and coloring. Programming includes arts and crafts, sports, treasure hunts, games in the Sportsplex, musical chairs, parade and dressing up. Kids can even try their hand at cooking in the TV Studio on Deck 7. Kids must be potty-trained to use the club.
Juniors Club (7 to 11 years old): The Lego theme continues next door, with a large play pit full of bricks, as well as age-appropriate toys and games, foosball and a mini-cinema. Kids here also do sports, arts and crafts and games. There's a bit more emphasis on educational activities, and every day there is a session in the Doremi Lab (see below). The two rooms are connected and can be combined to create a huge space.
You have the option to give permission for your child to sign him or herself out at this age.
These clubs are open on a complimentary basis, nonstop from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. From 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., there is a 10 euros per child, per hour charge for use of the kids' clubs.
Doremi Studio: This room is beside the Young Club and is used for shows that the kids will have been working on all week. It's similar to a TV studio or a theater, with tiered seating and a big screen and is dedicated to family time, with interactive games and a dance floor.
Doremi Lab: This is separate to the kids' club and has a bank of computers and a 3D printer. It is used for educational programming such as making volcanoes as part of a science experiment.
Bellissima has a robust program for both tweens and teens, with separate rooms for both.
Young Club (12 to 14 years old): Although this is adjacent (and interconnecting) to the Juniors Club, it operates differently from the younger kids' clubs, with programming only in the afternoon when in port and all day when at sea. There's also more emphasis on technology in 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).
The most innovative piece of technology is a multimedia table, which allows kids to post pictures and messages that then are screened on walls around the club.
Programming also includes lip sync battles, generation games and sports tournaments in the Sportplex.
Kids sign themselves in and out of here.
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 virtual reality.
Teen programming is light touch, with teens coming and going as they please. Although the room is open all day (except on sea days), programming is just in the afternoons and might include generation games, dancing and sports competitions, including Ping-Pong, football and basketball. In the evening, when the adults start turning up at the Attic Club next door, the doors are closed. It closes at midnight.