By far the most standout and popular entertainment are the shows that appeared nightly in the Teatro Carlo Felice on Decks 6 and 7, forward. If the theater itself isn't awe-inspiring enough (purple carpeting and chairs with glittering stage curtains and shimmering ceiling lights that look like stars), the performances do a great job of dropping jaws. On two nights, we left scratching our heads, and the same group of singers and dancers did get somewhat tiresome after a week, but variety shows featuring jugglers, acrobats and the like were flat-out breathtaking. (On one night, during noticeably rough seas, one acrobat fell from a particularly high perch, dusted herself off and went right back to work to the applause of a gasping audience.) If nothing else, MSC does a great job of designing its entertainment around various languages; for example, you won't find comedians onboard, as they would have to perform in several different tongues.
Each night, cruisers can relax at Il Grappolo D'Oro with glasses of wine and mellow piano music. When it comes to dancing, the Le Rendez-Vous, Giada and Smeraldo Bars and Bar dei Poeti (Decks 5 and 6) offer well-known favorites, while the Zebra Bar (Deck 6) features international tunes. The Pigalle Lounge (Deck 7) also hosts Latin dancing and karaoke on select nights throughout each sailing.
We found the Hitchcock Lounge on Deck 7 to be one of the most underused and serene locations onboard. It's themed after famed horror guru Alfred Hitchcock, and it's bedecked with comfy green-leather couches, dark wood accents and its own bar. Although this was designed as the ship's cigar lounge, we never saw it used as such, and it lacked the typical smell of a place frequently used for smoking.
Younger passengers will find a DJ playing pop and hip-hop music in the ship's S32 Disco on Deck 14 (Pascoli Deck), aft. Besides the Zebra Bar, which (as you'd expect) looks like a zebra has been deconstructed then reconstructed, the disco is the hippest place onboard, with silver geometric seating, industrial-looking walls and tables, and crazy green-and-black geometric carpeting.
Other nighttime entertainment features dance lessons, games (trivia, scavenger hunts, hula-hoop contests, couples games) and movies on the pool deck. Themed events on our sailing included "Grease," "Toga Night" and "Tropical Party."
Deck 7 is home to Casino Royal, where cruisers will find a black and red theme with starred carpeting and crystal chandeliers. When it comes to game offerings, roulette, slots, craps and Easy Stud poker are the order of the day. Texas Hold'em is offered in the Poker Room throughout the sailing. Stairs lead down to the Zebra Bar directly below, but there is also a bar located in the casino itself.
Hourlong wine-tastings are offered during the day at Il Grappolo D'Oro wine bar on Deck 7 (Manzoni Deck, aft, port side) for an $18 fee, which includes samples of six different wines and appetizers (prosciutto, ham, cheese, breadsticks) with which a sommelier will instruct you to pair them. Our sommelier was extremely knowledgeable, and we think it was worth the price, whether you're a wine expert or know nothing but have always wanted to learn. A mini-tasting (three wines) is also available for $9.90.
Each morning, ship staff offer walking, stretching and aerobics. Throughout the day, passengers will find plenty of other activities to keep them busy, including Italian lessons; spa, culinary and cocktail seminars; bingo; casino gaming lessons; lectures on topics like Caribbean history and pirates; and wacky pool-deck contests (think sexy legs). Times and locations vary, but a complete list can be found in each day's program.
MSC also mixes themes throughout some of its sailings. Our voyage also happened to be a Baseball Greats-themed voyage. Although these are hosted each month throughout the ship's winter Caribbean season, they are unadvertised. The likes of Ken Griffey, Sr., Stan Bahnsen and several others led pitching contests, told stories and signed autographs for free during special sessions throughout the itinerary. (Imagine our surprise when we ended up sharing a cab with Art Shamsky on our way back from the beach in Jamaica.)
Also onboard were members of a Florida-based clown college, who were in attendance for a clown wedding on the ship. On one day, they offered a clowning seminar in one of the lounges, where they made balloon animals and passed out red clown-nose stickers to excited children (and adults).
MSC offers a decent variety of shore excursions, but they may not be quite as active as the ones you'd find on other lines. Some of the ones on our sailing included typical sightseeing tours, glass-bottom boat rides, zip-lining, snorkeling and horseback-riding, among other things. Prices seemed to be about the industry average.