Teatro La Fenice, on Decks 5 and 6, features six separate shows each week with two performances each night to accommodate both seatings in the ship's main dining room. But, since MSC Armonia carries about 2,500 passengers at a time and the theater holds just 557 people, it can sometimes be a struggle to find a seat. For popular shows, some passengers end up standing or even sitting on the steps.
Because so many different nationalities and languages are onboard, shows tend to be heavy on music and spectacle and range from dance and acrobatic acts to musical revues. Other shows include cabaret acts and concerts. The shows are a not-to-miss activity each night, with everything from strong-man acts to takeoffs on hits, such as "Dirty Dancing" and "The Addams Family," which sometimes went off-script hilariously.
Teatro La Fenice is also used for daytime entertainment, such as a Master Chef competition, during which passengers, both children and adults, have fun competing, just like on the TV show. It's staged once during the cruise.
Daytime entertainment options on MSC Armonia are numerous. Active options include morning stretching classes and aerobics, as well as dance lessons in either the Armonia Lounge or Bar del Duomo. Soccer tournaments and other sports take place in the Sport Center at the back of the ship, on the top deck.
More sedate options include trivia, arts and crafts sessions, bingo and other games in either the Armonia Lounge or Bar del Duomo.
The business center on Deck 6 is used as a movie theater. Usually, during the day, a family-friendly movie is played, with a more adult-themed movie at night.
MSC Armonia is not an early-to-be ship; instead, passengers are ready to party late into the night. The Bar del Duomo and Armonia Lounge both play host to several well-attended evening activities, such as dance lessons with the entertainment staff or late-night bingo. The Red Bar on Deck 6 hosts a pianist most nights, with passengers listening to music while sipping a drink.
For a ship of around 2,500 passengers, the casino -- Palm Beach Casino on Deck 6 -- is relatively small. The atmosphere of the casino is pleasant and open, with windows letting in natural light during the day, as opposed to the usual dark design of casinos where you never know what time it is. A semicircular bar in the forward corner looks out onto gaming tables and slot machines. Nonsmoking gamblers will be pleased that smoking isn't allowed.
The White Lion Pub (Deck 5): The English-style White Lion Pub is located between reception and the Teatro La Fenice, and is most heavily used before and after the theater performances.
The wine and cocktails are the same as elsewhere on the ship, but the menu offers many more beer options, including Newcastle Brown Ale, Amstel and Murphy's Irish Red on draught; more than 20 beer varieties in bottles; and a handful of beer cocktails.
You can also order a few complimentary snacks here, such as spinach and artichoke dip and chips, to go with your drinks. Live music and a nightly trivia quiz are quite popular with passengers.
Cigar Room (Deck 5): Adjacent to the White Lion Pub is the simply named Cigar Room, the ship's smoking lounge. It's decorated in wood paneling and offers small clusters of leather armchairs and couches, seating 10 with plenty of standing room.
Bar del Duomo (Deck 5): This lounge features live entertainment and dancing later in the evenings. Red semicircular couches and tables and chairs surround the stage and a small, black-and-white marble inlaid dance floor. It was often packed for predinner cocktails and later in the evening.
Seating at the back of the room is quieter, although it can be difficult to chat depending on the type of act that's playing. Featured activities, such as the "Majority Rules" game show and dance competitions with the theater cast, bring plenty of people out later in the evening.
The Red/Rum Bar (Deck 6): This classy little cocktail bar, branded by Bacardi, features specialty mojitos and a pianist in the evenings. An enormous blown-glass light fixture -- which is stunning in presentation as well as size and (presumed) weight -- dominates the space. The bar is open to the corridors on each side and because of that has a lobby-ish feel to it, with chairs arranged around small cocktail tables and people milling about. It gets very busy in the later hours of the evening.
Armonia Lounge Bar (Deck 7): MSC Armonia's show lounge offers nearly double the space of the Bar del Duomo. This is where the secondary acts that don't play in the Teatro La Fenice are shown, as well as dance classes and the like. Passengers will find late-night cabaret, live musicians and bands, with music ranging from Latin classical guitar to European pop and dance music.
During the day, you can also find books, board games and decks of cards to play with in a corner of the lounge.
Il Lido Bar (Deck 11): The ship's pool bar is open from 8 a.m. until late into the night and serves the ship's standard list of cocktails, wine, beer and spirits.
Starlight Disco (Deck 12): The Starlight Disco is the late-night dance venue onboard. Situated at the back of Deck 12, it's quiet during the day but offers nice views over the stern of the ship. Typically, the younger passengers onboard convene at the disco around 11:30 p.m., when the ship's DJ sets up to spin tracks, and the dancing goes on well into the night. The venue is open from 11 p.m. until the wee hours of the night.
MSC Armonia has a single pool deck (Deck 11), with two pools -- one family and one adult. The two whirlpool hot tubs in between are not big, but there is plenty of room for loungers, and the shaded areas along the outside of the pool deck have both tables (near the bar) and loungers for those who prefer to stay out of the sun.
An enormous colorful, interactive water feature called the Doremi Spray Park is aimed at the children onboard. The area around the Doremi Spray Park truly feels expansive -- almost to the point of dwarfing the pools -- and it's hard to imagine it getting crowded.
Forget about over-the-top features that newer ships all seem to sport. MSC Armonia has pretty low-key recreational offerings. Apart from the pool deck and Doremi Spray Park, passengers can entertain themselves with shuffleboard, Ping-Pong and an enclosed sports center on Deck 13 with a multipurpose court that has basketball hoops.
The sports and activities on Deck 13 are generally open from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m., and equipment can be borrowed from 9 a.m. to midnight. Ask attendants near the pool or at the reception desk for gear.
Apart from the main pool deck, there is only one additional sun deck, located at the forward end of Deck 13. The Top 13 adults-only retreat is tied in with the MSC Aurea Spa onboard and entry costs $15 per person, per day. The space offers comfortable loungers, showers, whirlpool baths and a dedicated wait staff. You can rent cocoon beds -- pod-shaped wicker, rattan beds with a mattress and pillows -- for $40 per day.
Many of Armonia's services are located toward the forward end of Deck 5. Shopping (jewelry, clothing and accessories) is clustered around and just forward from reception, also on Deck 5. Moving toward the back of the ship, you'll find the photo gallery, shore excursions desk and the internet cafe, where you can purchase Wi-Fi packages.
The cost of Wi-Fi packages is based on usage. When connecting to Wi-Fi onboard, you can stop and start your session whenever you need to use the internet -- and whenever it's available. As on most cruise ships, access can be spotty. An unlimited internet package costs $199, while a standard internet package for two devices and a 3,000MB limit is $99.
A small corner of the Armonia Lounge is carved out for books in multiple languages, plus games and puzzles.
There is no self-service laundry, but laundry service packages are available. A 20-item packages costs $35.
The expansive spa is located at the front of Deck 11. Its light and airy treatment rooms are arranged around the exterior of the ship to make the most of the windowed views. The spa offers both single and couples massage rooms, as well as offering massages on their private island, Ocean Cay. A 50-minute, full-body Balinese massage is $165, while a specialized treatment like a papaya facial is $130.
At the beauty parlor adjacent to the spa, you can get a manicure, pedicure and haircuts. If you're looking to dress up for a special night out, you can book a makeup artist session for $39.
The thermal suite and relaxation area makes up the rest of the MSC Aurea Spa and offers steam rooms, showers, sauna and thermal loungers as well as a heated relaxation area overlooking the sea. Passengers can purchase daily or full cruise passes.
Anyone who purchases three treatments on the first day of the cruise also gets a full-week pass to the thermal suite thrown in for free. Additionally, passengers get access to the thermal area before or after a treatment (on the same day only).
The spa's hours vary, but generally, it opens between 7 and 9 a.m. and closes between 9 and 11 p.m.
The ship's gym is in the spa complex and is free to all passengers. The sizable space offers a padded floor for aerobics classes, yoga and stretching. There are Technogym treadmills, stair climbing machines, exercise bikes, weight benches and rowing machines.
Fitness classes include aerobics, yoga, spinning, Pilates, stretching and dance lessons. Classes cost around $15, and a one-on-one session with a personal trainer costs $35 for an hour. The gym is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Kids age 12 and under are not allowed.
There is no complete walking or running track that goes around the entire ship, as is usual on most ships. Instead, there is a power walking track on Deck 12, but you do have to deal with your fair share of deck chairs and people lounging. We never saw anyone jogging; we suspect there are just too many obstacles.
MSC has gone all-out to provide fantastic facilities for children on Armonia, starting with the line's partnerships with Lego and Chicco.
The facilities are clustered around the ship, with the younger kids' facilities on Decks 11 and 12 and the tweens and teens on Deck 6. The spaces are open and bright (the Teens Club is a bit more of a night spot than the rest) and feature a full day of age-appropriate activities. All the clubs have various hours, depending on whether the ship is at sea or in port, as well as what is going on at any given time.
In addition, there are plenty of family-friendly activities around the ship, including the splash pad by the pool.
Late-night babysitting, called Kids Around the Clock, is available from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. The cost is $6 for the first hour (11 p.m. to midnight) or $10 for the entire three hours (11 p.m. to 2 a.m.).
Families will appreciate the two family cabins, each with a bedroom and living area, which can accommodate up to four people.
MSC's kids programs start with a babysitting program for the youngest cruisers. The Baby Club allows parents to leave children in the Chicco-designed space under the supervision of trained MSC staff during designated hours. Children must be between 1 and 3 years old. The bambinos doze in name-brand cots or are kept busy with activities by the staff. Parents also can stay and play with their babies at certain times.
Diapers and baby food are not available to buy onboard, but MSC does sell wipes, bottles, bibs and other products in the Chicco shop onboard. Chicco-branded high-chairs, travel cots, bottle-warmers, strollers and baby backpacks are available to borrow free of charge.
The Mini Club (3 to 6 years old) and Junior Club (7 to 11 years old) are both sponsored by Lego and offer varying levels of Lego-themed play, from the biggest Duplo blocks to the kid-sized "Vertical Play Wall."
Other activities include team challenges to see who can build the most impressive Lego structure, copycat competitions to build the Lego figure displayed on the play wall and Lego games on the PlayStation, Xbox and Wii. Each child taking part in the competitive activities receives a Master Lego Builder Diploma.
Both clubs are monitored by trained staff. Kids 6 and under must be signed in and out by a parent or guardian. Parents or guardians can choose to let children ages 7 and up sign themselves in and out; a signed form is required.
The Young Club for tweens ages 12 to 14 years old offers high-tech games, table games (foosball and air hockey) and televisions for movies and gaming systems.
The Teens Club (for 15- to 17-year-olds) is situated near the Starlight Disco and has a dance floor, a game system and circular, recessed wall seats.
Kids in this age range (12 to 17) are free to come and go as they wish.
Staff are on hand at all times when the Young and Teens clubs are open. Organized activities for both age groups include sports tournaments, discos, dance contests, video game challenges, DJ lessons, talent shows and karaoke. There's also an arcade next to the Teens Club, but the games cost extra, so consider setting a spending limit for your kids.