MSC Orchestra Entertainment & Activities
The ship's entertainment is tailored to multinational passengers, so there are fewer acts that rely on the spoken word (such as comedians) and more that emphasize music. The expansive Covent Garden Theatre is the venue for daily shows, usually with two sittings, at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. In addition to Las Vegas-style -- or should I say Paris-style cabaret -- the evening shows were wildly varied, featuring, for instance, a classical concert and a magic show.
Nightlife is hopping on Decks 6 and 7 with their clusters of bars and lounges. The Savannah Bar is the center for silly game shows and bingo. The Palm Beach Casino, smaller than those found on U.S.-oriented lines, was rarely busy.
The aforementioned Amber Bar, which sells coffee and chocolate treats, and the Shaker's Lounge, with a huge dance floor, feature different styles of entertainers each night, from piano players to house bands.
Speaking of dancing, MSC Orchestra obviously tailors its entertainment offerings to people who love to dance. There are classes in everything from rock and roll to merengue to the cha cha. Some are complimentary and are taught in the lounges (Amber Bar or Shaker's Lounge) during the day or early in the evening; a heads up, though: lessons related to the fitness program (Latin dancing was one I noted) carry a fee of 12 euros.
For the late-night crowd, there's a D.J. in the R32 Disco from 11:45 p.m. onwards -- being a European ship, the disco is open for all passengers 18 and over.
During the daytime, onboard activities are on the slim side. Aside from dance classes, you'll find quiz shows and game shows. There is no enrichment program.
MSC Orchestra Public Rooms
MSC's design approach with Orchestra (as with sister ships Musica and Poesia, which launches this year) is to create more smaller, cozier rooms than larger ones. The three-deck Covent Garden Theater is the biggest, and yet, despite two showings per night, it can't always accommodate everyone (though one of MSC's strengths is to offer a wide range of entertainment all over the ship, so in all honesty, not everyone was descending on the theater at the same time, and finding a seat was only occasionally a problem).
L'Incontro, Orchestra's three-deck high lobby atrium, which holds the The Reception; the all-purpose purser's area, where you can buy Wi-Fi cards, borrow clubs for mini-golf and make reservations for alternative dining venues; and an onboard credit desk for issues relating to charges on your account or to simply settle it. Ringing the atrium on various levels are a tour office, duty-free shop, Internet Cafe and La Cubana Cigar Room; Decks 6 and 7 house most of the ship's public rooms.
The Internet Cafe was poorly operated. There is an immediate charge of 4 euros for the first 10 minutes, and then it's 40 euro cents for every minute afterwards. The Internet was fairly fast when it worked -- but when it didn't, the initial 4-euro charge applied anyway. When we were docked in Istanbul, the connection didn't work the entire day -- and yet no one could be bothered to put up a sign warning passengers (several of us, at the very least, wound up paying 8 euros for no connection at all).
Beyond the cafe, you can use your own laptop in many of the ship's public areas (buy a card at the reception desk), but there's no wireless in cabins (you can, however, borrow a cable from the front desk).
MSC Orchestra Spa & Fitness
While not revolutionary in options offered (there are no surf parks here!), MSC Orchestra's sundeck is well-designed and beautifully appointed -- two large swimming pools are each framed by a pair of Jacuzzis, and there's a teaked deck area for pool activities and dancing. The downside is that on sea days the space is very congested, and it can be nearly impossible to find a lounge chair anywhere near the pools.
The pool deck is also fitted with a large L.E.D. screen, similar to those found on some Princess, Costa and Disney ships, but oddly enough, it was used not for showing movies but for showing the videos shot by onboard photographers (these are ultimately sold as souvenirs to passengers). The plan, however, is to show movies with a nominal fee, which will include headsets.
There is a jogging track on Deck 14, but it's rather unusable during the daytime as the space is also used for the sun deck. Other recreational features include mini-golf, paddle tennis, ping pong and shuffleboard. Passengers can borrow equipment at the reception desk.
The ship's Body & Mind Spa, which blends a fitness facility, beauty salon and spa, is a beautifully designed area with floor-to-ceiling windows. It's located at the best part of the ship (as is the case on most vessels), and fitness buffs can enjoy the view above the bridge when using treadmills, exercise bikes or weight machines. There are daily fitness classes -- such as Pilates, aerobics and Latin dance -- that cost 12 euros apiece (or 38 euros for four classes).
The salon offers the usual services -- haircuts, pedicures and manicures.
The Balinese-inspired spa provides a myriad of treatments, but as rates are euros, they don't come cheap. For example, using the sauna for an hour cost 15 euros, and a Balinese massage is either 120 euros (60 minutes), 95 euros (45 minutes) or 67 euros (30 minutes).
MSC Orchestra For Kids
If you're used to the expansive facilities onboard Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships, you'll be disappointed in the kids' areas on MSC Orchestra. First, the Children's Mini Club has tailored activities for ages between 3 and 13, but you won't find the further age breakdowns so popular on American ships.
Activities include games, acrobatic lessons, puppet shows, arts and crafts classes, and Playstation video games. (On the day I looked in, there were nine kids, speaking Italian and German, on a scavenger hunt for hidden puzzle pieces.)
There are also pizza parties, ice cream parties and hot dog parties.
And, in a real break for parents, there's even complimentary "baby parking," as MSC calls it, during shore excursions.
Playland, the outdoor kids' area on Deck 14, has two slides, a maze and wading pool. All activities are supervised.
Beware of one thing: If traveling with older teens, know that MSC is a European company and can legally serve alcohol in the bars to anyone over 18 years old. What is more, wine can be served in restaurants to teenagers though parental approval is required.