The Royal Theatre is a raked split-level venue located at the front of the ship on Decks 6 and 7, which can seat 850 passengers in the lower auditorium and 292 on the upper level. It's an impressive looking venue, with a myriad of lights twinkling in the walls and ceiling before the house lights go down for the show. The majority of seats provide an unobstructed view of the stage. Due to the broad mix of international passengers, the shows are mostly variations on a theme of song and dance routines, along with some exciting acrobatics to liven things up. Anyone craving the dazzling West End-style and high-tech performances of other lines will be disappointed, but the shows are easy on the eye and will appeal to anyone who likes old-style traditional revue-style shows and speciality acts. Youngsters who have enrolled in the kids' programme get their chance to appear in the limelight before one of the nightly shows, and members of the crew also take to the stage in an innovative finale after one of the performances. Most notably, and in keeping with its Italian heritage, MSC is the only cruise line to feature live opera performances. On our cruise this was a potted and suitably fiery version of "Carmen" starring an accomplished soprano, tenor and flamenco dancer alongside the resident onboard entertainers.
Shows generally last 45 minutes and are performed twice a day -- usually at 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. to accommodate passengers on both dinner sittings.
There is no bar service in the Royal Theatre and, officially, passengers are not meant to take drinks inside. However, the closest bar is the Tiger Bar located next to the entrance to the theatre on Deck 6, and plenty of theatregoers wander in with drinks while crew members turn a blind eye.
From the "muscular awaking" class at 9 a.m. there is never a shortage of things to do onboard, and the daily programme, left in the cabin each night, lists a host of free daily activities. Typical events include dance lessons (usually several per day) led by the onboard dance duo, aerobics, trivia quizzes, napkin folding and cookery demonstrations, arts and crafts such as making paper flowers, meetings for card players, pool parties, karaoke, a talent night and various light-hearted challenges with members of the entertainment team.
There is a small Virtual World video games arcade, at extra charge, on Deck 14 in a space that also includes the 4D cinema (where the seats move and viewers experience effects such as blasts of air). Passengers can choose from a selection of around six films, including some suitable for younger children. Virtual World packages are available and cover unlimited use of the 4D cinema, bowling and billiard games. The two lane bowling alley can be found in the T32 disco on Deck 14, which is open during the day. Live sports are screened in the L'Olimpiade Sports Bar.
On Deck 7 the slot machines in the Atlantic City casino are generally open from 10 a.m., and the gaming tables open at 2 p.m.
On port days Magnifica offers a wide variety of shore excursions, as well as customised and exclusive tours. Parents going on trips can leave children between the ages of 3 and 11 in the kids' club.
Enrichment activities are pretty limited, mostly comprising a daily port talk and information shown on the interactive TV in cabins.
The fun continues after sunset with activities including more dance lessons, karaoke, talent contests, big-screen sports coverage and themed parties, such as a white night. There is excellent live music throughout the ship. In the atrium you can find solo pianists on the grand piano and classical trios, along with acoustic duos, singers and bands in the various bars. The L'Ametista Lounge hosts evening dance classes and music for dancing, and members of the entertainment team will ask members of the audience to dance, which is great for any solo travellers or passengers with partners that have two left feet. There are also visiting acts, including some geared to a British clientele. On our sailing this was comedian and singer Paul Fredericks. Atlantic City casino is open from 7:30 p.m. until late, and night owls can also head to the T32 disco where the resident DJ aims to get everyone on the dance floor from 11:30 p.m. through to the early hours.
For a ship of its size, Magnifica has an extensive and diverse range of bars and lounges --14 in total -- and a mix of indoor and outdoor venues. An extensive and reasonably priced drinks menu of cocktails (around 7 euros), mixed drinks (from 6.50 euros), wines (from 4.40 euros a glass), beer (from 2.95 euros), non-alcoholic mocktails and kids' cocktails (4.50 euros), soft drinks (from 2.50 euros) and coffee (from 1.50 euros to 5.70 euros for specialities such as Irish coffee) is available in each bar and prices are the same throughout the ship, with the exception of the special mixologist cocktails in the Topazio Bar. Brits used to buying drinks at the bar might find themselves standing there for a long time as -- in the larger bars in particular -- it is the norm for orders to be taken by waitresses who circulate between the tables and quickly spot who needs to be served, rather than the bar tenders who are busy making up the orders.
MSC offers a variety of money-saving drinks packages ranging from drinks with meals, priced at 16.50 euros per day for adults and 9 euros for children, to an all-inclusive deluxe package covering all drinks which costs 50 euros per day for adults and 21 euros for children. There are also packages covering specific drinks, such as 15 coffees for 26 euros, 14 beers for 59 euros, 14 soft drinks or juices for 34 euros, and 14 large bottles of water for 27 euros.
Le Gocce Bar (Deck 5): Serving early morning coffee through to post-dinner drinks, this bar is situated in a busy location at either side of the atrium. It's well positioned for an aperitif before going into the L'Edera restaurant, watching evening entertainers, including classical musicians and the pianist tickling the ivories on the grand piano, or simply sitting and indulging in a spot of people watching. Open from 6:30 a.m. to 11.30 p.m.
Purple Bar (Deck 6): Situated outside one of the entrances to the Quattro Venti restaurant, this small bar is primarily used by passengers waiting to go into the first or second dinner sitting, or for post-dinner drinks, and can accommodate around 45 people. Open from 5:15 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Ruby Bar (Deck 6): The twin bar to the Purple Bar is situated at the other entrance to Quattro Venti restaurant. Open from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Topazio Bar (Deck 6): Situated midship, this is an intimate bar with deep seats and an Art Deco decor. It has a small stage with a grand piano, and a dance floor, and has the feel of a jazz club and music bar with assorted live acts from 6 p.m. For those looking for a change from their regular tipple it also has an interesting mixology bar menu featuring ''molecular ", "smoked" and crafted premium cocktails priced at 8 euros. Open 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Tiger Bar (Deck 6): Seating more than 400, this is the ship's largest bar and is situated next door to the Topazio Bar and the Royal Theatre, which means it becomes something of a busy thoroughfare when passengers go to and from the shows. As the name implies, it is decked out in animal print and tiger murals, and it is the most opulent bar on the vessel, with a grand, sweeping staircase leading down from the casino. It also has a stage and a dance floor, and is used for themed parties such as the white night. Open 8 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.
L'Ametista Lounge (Deck 7): The main entertainment lounge is L'Ametista, situated at the aft of the ship and seating 330. Open: 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
L'Olimpiade Sporting Bar (Deck 7): This bar is one of the most popular on the ship and is a really unique spot that has the feel of a bar on dry land as it is divided into different areas and also has a pool table. Original sporting memorabilia lines the walls and is displayed in glass cabinets, and there is a choice of seating including cosy booths and high stools. It features an extensive menu of familiar and craft beers, and for passengers that can't make up their minds there is a "metre of beer" for 22 euros (which comprises ten craft beers of your choice). As the name suggests, it is used to screen football games and live sport, and the audience can get very vocal. Open 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Cuba Lounge (Deck 7): This smoking lounge serves drinks from noon to 1 a.m. and is open throughout the day for passengers who want to smoke indoors. With its studded leather chairs that seat 32, dark maroon decor and small bar with a fine selection of whiskies, it has the atmosphere of an old-fashioned gentlemen's club. A wide range of cigars and cigarettes are available to buy.
Casino Bar (Deck 7): The ship's second indoor location where smoking is allowed (technically only for people playing in the casino), the bar in the Atlantic City casino is open from 10 a.m. until late.
Aurea Spa Bar (Deck 13): This peaceful lounge is part of the spa complex and can be used by all passengers. It serves protein shakes, smoothies and healthy drinks that are linked to colours, such as yellow for healthy skin, purple for deep cleansing and green for relaxation. Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
La Barchetta Bar (Deck 13): Serving the covered pool area, this bar is open for coffee from 7 a.m. and serves drinks until midnight.
La Conchiglia Bar (Deck 13): Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., weather permitting, this bar serves the outside La Grotta Azzurra pool. There is also a small separate bar selling the popular Italian cocktail Aperol Spritz.
T32 Disco (Deck 14): The bar in the nightclub is open from 11:30 p.m. until the early hours.
Il Bar del Sole (Deck 16): For passengers who pay to get into the Top 16 sun deck, the bar is open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (weather permitting).
The two main pools are both on Deck 14, where the covered La Grotto Azzurra pool leads to the Le Grand Bleu pool area, which is the main outdoor hub. The covered pool, which has two hot tubs, is the quieter of the two. It is surrounded by tables, chairs and loungers, with more chairs and tables on the mezzanine overlooking the pool. On sunny days Le Grand Bleu gets very busy and is a very lively area with piped music playing throughout the day and night, along with live music events such as themed pool parties, which take place on a large open deck area in front of the stage. The attractive mosaic-tiled pool has three whirlpools and is surrounded by decking. The area nearest to the pool boasts plenty of loungers, and tables and chairs are situated under covered areas at both sides of the ship (including a smoking area).
Pools and whirlpools are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
There are shuffleboard areas on Decks 14 and 15, plus a tennis and outdoor sports court on Deck 16, which is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sports shoes must be worn.
Away from the lounging areas around the pools is the quiet haven Top 16, which, as the name implies, is situated overlooking the bow at the top of the ship on Deck 16. This private sun spot, with a bar, two splash pools and showers, is a for-fee area (free to Aurea passengers) that is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Rattan loungers and cabanas cost 30 euros for the day or 15 euros for the afternoon (from 3 p.m.), with reduced rates available for the entire cruise. Standard sunbeds are priced at 10 euros per day or 5 euros per afternoon, and again can be rented for the cruise. On port days two sunbeds are available for the price of one.
Loungers, available for everyone to use, are also set out on Deck 14, including the area that circles Le Grand Bleu pool and beyond. The further you are from the pool the quieter it is, particularly towards the back of the ship, which is a pleasant place to read and snooze in relative peace. In common with many cruise ships, "chair hogs" can be an issue on sunny days. MSC states that towels and objects left unattended on loungers for more than 30 minutes "may" be removed and taken to the reception. At best this is something of a deterrent.
Two large 24-hour reception and guest services' desks are located midship on Deck 5. Immediately above the reception area on Deck 6 is the excursion office, and further along on the same deck is a meeting room with fixed seating for up to 24. There is a second room, without fixed seating, which can also be used for private meetings and small receptions. Also on Deck 6 is the shopping area. This includes a mini mall selling everyday essentials along with boutiques selling clothes, bags, jewellery, perfumes, accessories, souvenirs and MSC logowear.
On Deck 7 is the large walk-through photo gallery (which also sells cameras and photographic equipment), a future cruise desk, and the Cyber Cafe, which is open 24 hours a day and has eight terminals available for passengers to use. On the same deck is the library (also open 24 hours), which, as expected, is a very quiet and peaceful spot, with deep padded chairs and a restful green decor. Novels and non-fiction books are available in multiple languages and can be freely borrowed by passengers for the duration of the cruise. Crossword and Sudoku puzzles are available from the desk in the library. Next door to the library is a card room with six tables and walls decorated with giant playing card suits, which is a fun touch.
There is Wi-Fi throughout the ship, and there was good connectivity throughout our cruise. Unlike some cruise lines that charge by the minute, MSC offers three different packages based on individual requirements, which is infinitely better than seeing precious minutes tick away when service is slow or patchy. The Chat & Social Apps package costs 39.90 euros for one device, with a data limit of 2GB. It is suitable for social media and apps, but does not support audio calls, video and web surfing. The Standard Internet package, with access for up to two devices and a data limit of 3.5GB, is priced at 84.90 euros and is suitable for social networks, chat apps, email and web browsing. The Premium Internet package is priced at 129.90 euros for up to four devices and a data limit of 7GB, and provides full internet access including audio and video streaming. The amount of data used is shown at every log in.
There is no guest launderette onboard, but a very efficient next day or express (same day for a 50 percent surcharge) dry cleaning and laundry service is available, along with an ironing only service. Dry cleaning ranges from 3.50 euros per item of underwear to 20 euros for a man's suit, and laundry ranges from 1.70 euros for a handkerchief and 2.50 euros for underwear to 13 euros for an evening dress. A new laundry package is also available priced at 30 euros for up to 20 items per cabin, per cruise, or 50 euros for up to 40 items. A special laundry service is also available for baby clothing (see MSC Magnifica for Families).
The ship has an onboard medical centre on Deck 5, which is open from 9 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Charges apply. Out of hours it is also available for emergencies.
Southampton, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Stockholm, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Skagen, Southampton
Southampton, Bilbao, Ferrol, Lisbon, Lisbon, Tangier, Valencia, Marseille, Genoa
Hamburg, Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Brugge (Bruges), Le Havre, Southampton, Hamburg
Southampton, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Stockholm, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Skagen, Southampton
Southampton, Bilbao, Ferrol, Lisbon, Lisbon, Tangier, Valencia, Marseille, Genoa
The Aurea Spa complex, open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., is located forward on Deck 13 and is a very restful and tranquil area. There are a total of 10 treatment rooms, including some used for couples and Thalassotherapy treatments. Unlike spas on many cruise ships, which are managed by large external spa chains, the Aurea is run by MSC. It specialises in Balinese spa treatments, which offer something a little bit different from the norm -- for example, a Balinese Holistic Massage combines stretching with Shiatsu techniques using pressure points followed by a full body massage with oils. Therapists personalise the massages according to requirements -- such as soft or deep pressure and any preferences on areas to concentrate on -- and you never get the feeling they are clock watching. In our experience, treatments always covered the time specified, and did not include an overly lengthy preamble eating into the time. The extensive spa menu also includes dedicated treatments for men.
In common with most cruise ships, the spa treatments are not cheap. They range from 50 euros for a 20-minute head massage to 195 euros for 80-minute treatments such as a Thai massage. As expected, there are usually deals and discounts available early in the cruise and on shore days. The spa uses its own Aurea products alongside others such as the Italian brand Collistar and French-owned Carita, thus providing more choice than other spas. In our experience there was, thankfully, none of the heavy sales pitch that can come at the end of a treatment, and the therapist simply pointed out that products were available. Again, there are often discounts on treatments and products, which are flagged up in the daily programme.
The spa, which has separate changing rooms and showers for men and women, also has a small thermal area comprising two hot tubs and a relaxation room with loungers overlooking the sea, along with a unisex sauna and steam room. It is available to use for an extra fee, with day passes costing 29 euros per person or 39 euros for two, or 99 euros and 129 euros respectively for the duration of the cruise. The thermal suite is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and to save an early morning surprise it should be noted that from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. passengers can go in without wearing swimming costumes (although the use of a towel is recommended).
The "spa doctor" offers a range of treatments including Botox, acupuncture and other cosmetic and anti-ageing therapies, such as pigment lightening, from 120 euros, and anti-cellulite treatment from 145 euros.
Next to the spa reception is the Aurea Spa Bar, open to anyone, which can be used as a relaxation area before and after treatments.
The Jean Louis David salon -- part of a well-known hairdressing chain in mainland Europe -- is situated at the entrance to the spa and overlooks the sea. It has four wash basins and styling stations, and offers cutting and styling services for men and women, again using a variety of different products (including Japanese Shu Uemura products) rather than one particular brand. Services include a shampoo and style for 30 euros, 44 euros for a colour, and 25 euros for a men's cut and finish. Beauty services include manicures for 55 euros and a full make-up session for 33 euros. Waxing and tanning services are also available.
The large fitness centre, adjoining the spa on Deck 13, occupies a great spot at the front of the ship with panoramic windows overlooking the bow as well as the port and starboard sides. Available to passengers over the age of 14 wearing appropriate clothing including sports shoes, it is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The gym is well laid out with a variety of TechnoGym equipment that includes three cross-trainers, three step machines, five treadmills, three upright bikes, three recumbent bikes, resistance machines, free weights and a stretching area. The latter section is also used for daily fitness classes such as yoga and step classes, which cost 11 euros. One-to-one sessions are also available, such as personal training sessions which cost 38 euros for one hour, and body composition analysis priced at 9 euros. There is a 20-minute time limiter on the aerobic machines and they automatically stop after the time has elapsed. Although it is designed to stop people having to wait to use equipment at peak times, this can be frustrating for dedicated gym goers that want to train for longer, particularly as we found the gym was never overly busy. However, there is nothing to stop keen exercisers from re-starting the machines after they stop, if nobody is waiting. Towels, but not water, are provided.
Outside, there's a tennis and general sports court at the back of the ship on Deck 16, which is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and a jogging/walking track on Deck 14 that circles above the pool area on Deck 13.
Italians love children, and as MSC is a family-owned Italian company it is no surprise that Magnifica is incredibly family-friendly. The line has teamed up with Chicco and Lego to provide activities that are both educational and fun. Children up to the age of 2 cruise for free, and there are various special deals for families including single parents with children. Magnifica has complimentary kids' club programmes and separate dedicated facilities for youngsters of all ages, plus children's menus in every restaurant where waiters make a huge fuss of youngsters. Although babysitting isn't provided, the Kids Around the Clock for-fee service offers supervised late-night play and napping from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., while parents take the night off. There's also a one-hour babycare service for children aged from 1 to under 3, where babies and tots can be left in the care of the Miniclub staff from 11 a.m. to noon and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. That said, in Mediterranean countries children are not tucked up in bed at the same time as youngsters in the U.K., so seeing children up and about with their parents very late at night -- after resting during a traditional afternoon siesta -- is the norm rather than the exception. This is definitely a ship where parents won't get any stern looks or glares when their children are having fun. The 24-hour room service also means that parents can ask for warm milk to be brought to the cabin at any time, and for kids' meals to be reheated at any time of the day. It is also worth noting that MSC offers a baby laundry service which washes the clothes of children up to the age of 6 in a separate machine using a sanitising programme and gentle detergents to clean at temperatures as low as 30C.
Children under the age of 3 can join the Baby Club, with an accompanying adult, for play sessions every morning, afternoon and evening. Times are generally 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and 7p.m. to 11 p.m. This is a bright and inviting area on Deck 14, with a wide variety of toys and games. For parents with very young children, items such as bottle warmers, pushchairs and bouncers are available to hire, and day-to-day baby necessities are sold in the shop.
The Miniclub, also on Deck 14, is for children aged 3 to 6. The aquatic themed area is called Underwater World and is filled with exciting things such as a submarine and giant octopus. It generally offers sessions from 9 a.m. to noon, 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and 6:30 to 11 p.m.. There is a mix of indoor and outdoor activities offered, such as playing with Lego, puzzles, dance, circus games, karaoke and themed evenings such as a pirate night and carnival night. Happy Dinners offers a speedy children's dinner for Miniclub members, where the youngsters are served their meals while the grown-ups enjoy their starters. The children are then escorted to the Miniclub by the entertainment staff while the adults sit back and have a leisurely dining experience. This is a free service.
The neighbouring Juniors Club is for 7 to 11-year-olds and has the same opening hours as the Miniclub. With a football table and video games, it offers age appropriate sessions covering arts and crafts, sports, theme nights and activities themed around the popular web series starring Kelly & Kloe (also shown in the Miniclub). Youngsters have the chance to become Kelly & Kloe stars themselves by taking part in a casting session and making a video of their performance to take home as a souvenir. Children also get the chance to dance on stage at one of the shows in the Royal Theatre.
There is an outdoor play area with a small waterslide on Deck 14, along with a children's swimming pool for youngsters who are out of nappies.
All children up to the age of 11 are issued with an electronic bracelet for the duration of the cruise, which shows their name and cabin number and enables kids' club staff to contact parents quickly if necessary.
In common with the rest of the ship, members of the kids' clubs are multilingual, but language is never much of a barrier as far as children are concerned and parents are often amazed at how quickly youngsters from different countries start playing and communicating with each other
Teens are divided into two age groups, 12 to 14 and 15 to 17, called Young Club and Teens Club respectively. They have their own suitably cool and grown-up area on Deck 14, which is also close to the small games arcade and 4D cinema. Opening hours are generally 10 a.m. to 1pm, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and 8 p.m. to midnight. Various activities are arranged throughout the day for each group, including sports, challenge games, karaoke, themed parties and a nightly disco. They can also go to the Generation Dinner in the buffet restaurant with members of the entertainment team, which is a free service.
A prepaid Teen Card, for 30 or 50 euros, is also available, which doubles as a cabin key and offers under-18s the opportunity to buy items onboard. It cannot be used to buy alcohol or tobacco.