By Adam Coulter
Cruise Critic UK Managing Editor
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Entertainment

MSC Meraviglia Entertainment & Activities

Theater

Broadway Theatre (Deck 6): The 985-seat, 100 square foot main theater, at the front of the ship, shows six different shows per cruise including a flamenco show, an opera and then a few productions from the school of eccentric theater including Virtual, which is based on phone apps including dating apps, maps and even a sequence of doctors and nurses -- all to an insanely energetic dance background.

The shows run three times a night to cater for the different dining times, and last about 40 minutes each. They vary in quality and theme, with the flamenco and opera being distinctly high-brow, and more adult-oriented; with Virtual being firmly aimed at the kids in the auditorium. There are good sightlines and comfy seats, though, oddly, no glass holders.

During the day, the theatre is used for various activities including some of the children's activity program like Doremi Music Match, part of the Kelly & Kloe program and the Doremi live talent show.

Carousel Lounge (Deck 7): For the first time ever, Cirque du Soleil is at sea, with two 40-minute productions -- Sonor and Viaggio -- designed by the Montreal-based global circus company specifically for MSC Meraviglia (there will be six more original productions on the three forthcoming Meraviglia-class ships). The two productions take place in The Carousel Lounge (Deck 7), which was built specifically for Cirque, and is at the back of the ship, on two levels, with a circular stage, tiered seating and a massive LED screen wrapped around the ceiling. Both shows begin with a short musical session, with two guitarists and a Brazilian singer. Note, there is no option to see the Cirque shows without either buying the Dinner & Show experience (35 euros) or the Cocktail & Show (15 euros), but to be honest to see a Cirque show for even 35 euros is a huge bargain.

Sonor is billed as the "darker" of the two shows, both literally and metaphorically. As the name suggests, it explores sound, and according to Creative Director Susan Gaudreult, is the first Cirque show which had sound (rather than images) as its starting point. The "plot" (in the loosest sense of the word) centers on a villain stealing sound, though as with all Cirque shows, it's more about the visuals and the acrobatics which are, as always, extraordinary. There is a sequence in which a performer whirls himself around the stage in a giant hoop, which is breathtaking; so too the men who march across the LED screen, suspended from the ceiling directly above the audience. That, and the moment a giant ladder emerges from the screen, are breathtaking, but a 10-minute interlude with a human beatbox is just tedious. Overall, this performance doesn't really hang together, it's more of a mish-mash of ideas, some of which work, others do not.

Viaggio is, by contrast, a riot of color, joy and fun with even a vague plot: an artist searching for his elusive muse. This is definitely one for all the family, with flying bicycles, juggling, an LED screen which looks as if the Cirque troupe have gleefully thrown paint all over, and a ladder sequence which is frankly, astonishing. Viaggio has a slapstick feel to it, and there is more obvious audience interaction with the performers walking amongst us, waving from the ceiling and encouraging us to clap along. A real triumph.

Performances start at 6:30 p.m. and again 9:30 p.m. for Dinner & Show; 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. for Cocktail and Show.

Daily Fun

The fun never stops on Meraviglia, pretty well everywhere you are. Throughout the day you'll find most of the action around the main pool, with pool games, dance classes, quizzes, darts and line dancing and table tennis tournaments in the adjacent Bamboo Lounge.

Elsewhere on the ship, you'll find bingo in the Casino, a video quiz in the TV Studio and even midday parades along the main promenade, Galleria Meraviglia. The Galleria's showpiece -- the 80m LED ceiling -- displays various scenes throughout the day and night which are listed on the daily planner.

At Night

You'll find music almost everywhere you go on Meraviglia, whether that's live or pumped out of the speakers. As well as in the bars and lounges, you'll also find live music in the reception area at times throughout the day and in the evenings.

There is a White Party around the main pool area which takes place once a cruise and goes on till late.

There are also various themed parties in the main Galleria Meraviglia, when the whole promenade resembles a street party, with music and dancing till late.

Casino Imperiale (Deck 7): This is a huge casino, but unlike on many megaships today, it's tucked away at the back of Deck 7. There are numerous slots and gaming tables, as well as daily tournaments and bingo.

MSC Meraviglia Bars and Lounges

Infinity Bar (Deck 5, midship): Right by reception, at the base of the atrium, this bar is a popular meeting place for coffees during the day and pre- and post-dinner cocktails in the evening.

Champagne Bar (Deck 6, midship): Classy second deck Atrium bar serving various Champagne brands. The bar itself is on one side, with seats right round the atrium.

Edge Bar (Deck 7, midship): Another popular pre- and post-dinner cocktail bar, with a full-size motorbike and side car signature centerpiece.

Meraviglia Bar & Lounge (Deck 6, forward): This is the main promenade bar, at the aft end of the ship, just outside the Broadway Theatre. It's a lively spot in the early evening, with a dance floor which is usually full.

TV Studio & Bar (Deck 7, forward): An enclosed bar on the upper deck of the Galleria Meraviglia which has live music, a dance floor and late-night karaoke. It's a full TV studio which broadcasts live games, quizzes and talent contests.

Carousel Lounge (Deck 7, aft): The Carousel Lounge bar.

Casino Bar (Deck 7, aft): The Casino bar, in the center of Casino Imperiale.

Brass Anchor Pub (Deck 7, forward): This is MSC's version of a "British" pub, complete with a picture of London on the wall outside, and they have done a pretty good job. It sits on the upper section of the Galleria, with tables outside overlooking the promenade. Inside, it's nicely designed in soft greens, with low lighting and plenty of booth seating. There's even space for a small band, which to be honest makes it more reminiscent of an Irish Pub. There are 12 beers on tap and 47 bottles, though nothing unusual, just a variety of well-known brands from around the world. Can't decide? Have a yard of beer -- a snip at 22 euros. There is also cider and bar snacks, including fish 'n' chips starting at a very reasonable three euros.

Atmosphere Bar North (Deck 15, forward): Poolside bar serving a variety of drinks including beers, cocktails and shakes.

Atmosphere Bar South (Deck 15, midship): Poolside bar serving the same as above, plus various grilled food including burgers and hot dogs for free.

Atmosphere Ice Cream Bar (Deck 15): Serves a wide selection of ice creams.

Bamboo Bar (Deck 15, forward): Inside poolside bar in the solarium area.

Top Sail Lounge (Deck 15, forward): This gorgeous spot in the exclusive surrounds of the Yacht Club is only open to YC guests, so it's never crowded either during the day or night. It's at the front of the ship, with large glass windows right round the room giving great views. There are plenty of tables and sofa chairs and a bar with table service. All drinks are free to YC guests and snacks are available throughout the day.

Sports Bar (Deck 16, aft): Adjacent to the amusement arcade, this American-diner type bar serves a variety of beers, soft drinks, pop corns, hot dogs, snack bars and assorted energy and protein drinks as well as shakes and juices.

Horizon Bar (Deck 18, aft): Outside bar which serves the Horizon Amphitheater and Pool. This gets especially busy at night as it's a tiny bar serving a huge space. You might be better off going inside to the Attic Club or a deck below to the Sports Bar, if it's very crowded.

Attic Club (Deck 18, aft): This is the inside bar area of the Horizon Bar, also encompasses a dance floor which plays predominantly techno music and overlooks the Seaplex.

Sky Lounge (Deck 18, midship): This gorgeous lounge, designed in elegant black and white and chrome, is a sanctuary from the mayhem going on in the rest of the ship. It has floor-to-ceiling glass windows which run right round the semi-circular space, overlooking the main pool deck and either side of the ship. It's a perfect spot for a quiet pre- or post-dinner cocktail. After dinner, a talented trio -- pianist, guitarist and singer -- from Buenos Aires entertain with smoky jazz tunes. The drinks menu includes various "molecular" cocktails. On one side, you'll find a cigar room.

Polar Bar (Deck 19): This is a small snack and drinks bar nestled under the waterslides.

MSC Meraviglia Outside Recreation

Pools

Main Pool (Deck 15): A large, noisy, smoky (on the starboard side) area which 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; and there are plenty of loungers set back from here. Note that tiny kids are not permitted to use the pools.

Bamboo Pool (Deck 15): Just beyond the main pool area you'll find the Bamboo Pool, which consists of a pool with two large whirlpool tubs either side. There is a retractable roof, a bar and plenty of loungers. On the upper level is the solarium.

Solarium (Deck 16): This is the upper level of the Bamboo Pool and has two large whirlpools, table tennis, foosball and plenty of chairs and tables ranged round the gallery.

Horizon Pool (Deck 16): A 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.

Yacht Club (Deck 19): This exclusive pool area includes a small saltwater pool and an adjoining hot tub. There are plenty of loungers, 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.

Recreation

At the back of the ship you'll find the Himalayan Ropes Course and the Polar Aqua Park, both of which are impressive by any standards. The ropes course takes you right round the edge of the ship and includes two tracks side by side, one trickier than the other and neither for the fainthearted.

The Polar Aqua Park is a kids' splash park on the lower level, with spray guns, water dunkers and a small slide. Above it are three water slides, which are open to anyone over 1m 20 cms, or four feet, (no age restriction). Two involve sitting in tubes and take you down to a watery finish via numerous twists and turns, often in the dark. The third is known as the Champagne Glass because after a very fast slide you end up going round and round in an open circular glass-shaped space.

Inside you'll find the Sportplex, which is a multi-use facility, primarily for basketball, tennis and volleyball and for kids' organized games during the day as it's right beside the kids' club, but at night it evolves into a disco, with a DJ, decks and podiums.

Beside here is the extremely expensive Amusement Park, which includes two F1 simulators (10 euros for six minutes), a bowling alley with two lanes (30 euros for 30 minutes), a 4D cinema (eight euros or six for kids), a flight simulator (12 euros for a five-minute ride) and a video games arcade next door. There are also passes available which start at 25 euros, for which you get five euros free credit, and go up to 100 euros (plus 60 euros credit). These can be used on all the games.

Sun Decks

Deck 16: Around two thirds of Deck 16 -- the part overlooking the main pool deck all the way back to the Amphitheatre -- is a sun deck. And despite the crowding on the main pool deck and the sheer volume of people on this ship, you are unlikely to struggle to find a space, even on a sea day. Basically, the further towards the aft you go, the more likely you'll find a spot (maybe even a quiet one). Chair hogging did not seem to be an issue on this ship. You'll find two whirlpool tubs up here, jutting out slightly from the main body of the ship.

Top 19 (Deck 19): This is an exclusive Sun Deck, available only to Aurea and Wellness passengers, situated high atop the ship. There is a towel service available, but nothing else (you will have to get your own drinks).

MSC Meraviglia Services

The main reception area is an elegant space on Deck 5, at the aft end of the main promenade and forming part of the Infinity Atrium. It consists of Reception, the main Shore Excursions desk (there is a second one part-way down the Galleria); the Infinity Bar and a small Business Center, which is a conference room -- not an internet center. There are also several machines dotted around here for activating your key card.

The space above is given over to the photo gallery, a tiny library (really just a few book shelves) and the Champagne Bar.

The atrium rises three decks and is criss-crossed by four chrome staircases, every stair encrusted with Swarovski crystals -- more than 31,000 in total. There is a grand piano on a raised dais, with performances in the early evening.

Most of the shops are clustered along the aft end of the Galleria, just above reception on Deck 6, and include a logo shop, watches, handbags and designer sunglasses; half way down the promenade is Plaza Meraviglia, which includes duty free shops. There are often sales here throughout the day, in this semi-circular space. There are also a couple of shops at the forward end of the promenade selling high-end items.

Meraviglia has excellent Wi-Fi and has three different packages available, depending on how much you anticipating using your phone and/or laptop: Streamer (59 euros, four devices), Surfer (39.90 euros, two devices) and Surfer (19.90 euros, one device). If you run out of data, you can top up for about a quarter of the cost of the package.

There is no self-service laundry, but you can get washing done for 10 items for 15 euros, or 20 items for 25 euros. 

MSC Meraviglia Spa & Fitness

Spa

Aurea Spa (Deck 7): This is the biggest spa on any MSC ship, with 20 treatment rooms and possibly the biggest -- and best -- thermal suite afloat. There are 18 diminutive Balinese therapists offering treatments including facials and traditional Balinese massage techniques to offerings such as Thai massage, a candle massage and the signature Aurea del Mare treatment with shells (110 euros). As with all ship spas, treatments do not come cheap -- the lead-in price for a 30-minute Bali massage will set you back 70 euros. And this is at the lower end of the scale -- a 45 minute Bali "Holistic" massage will set you back 110 euros -- and note this is before the 15 percent service charge is added. Treatments on offer also include anti-cellulite and various water treatments in a futuristic looking pod.

The Thermal Suite is wonderful, a real sanctuary -- there are 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, a walk-through shower and two thalassotherapy pools. You could spend hours in here trying out all these different rooms (which we did) and for what there is on offer, prices really are very reasonable: a daily pass will set you back 40 euros per day (55 euros per couple), and weekly is 120 euros (165 per couple).

Adjoining the spa is the Jean Louis David salon, which as well as hair treatments, offers a full 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.

Fitness

MSC Gym by TechnoGym (Deck 16): In a great spot overlooking the main pool deck, the gym is framed by floor-to-ceiling glass windows which wrap right round the room. It's well equipped with 14 treadmills, six bikes (three pro and three reclining), cardio equipment, Kinesis and a weights training area. There is a separate spinning room and area for circuit training, as well as a separate room for classes. Pilates, yoga and group bike training are 10 euros per person, per hour. A fitness package which includes three personal training sessions and two body analyzer scans cost 59 euros.

The jogging track is on Deck 16 and runs round half the ship. One lap = 200 yards (0.33 kms).

Open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

MSC Meraviglia For Kids

MSC Meraviglia is an extremely family friendly ship, which has no minimum sail age although the line does advise that baby has had its first vaccinations and has a fit to travel note from the doctor. The ship has a multitude of activities including parades and family-friendly quizzes and discos, as well as an outstanding kids' club. Kids are welcomed with open arms, and being Mediterranean-based, do not be surprised to find children (including babies) up till the small hours. There are dedicated children's menus in all restaurants and even a concept called Happy Dinners -- a speedy children's dinner with the family while the grown-ups enjoy their starters. The children are then taken back to the Miniclub by the entertainment staff while the adults enjoy a leisurely dining experience. 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 which the entertainment staff come along too.

Directly above the kids' club is the Polar Aqua Park which is a kids' splash park with mini-slides, dunk buckets and water cannons. Children do not have to be potty trained to play here, but they must wear swim nappies.

Meraviglia debuts a new cabin concept -- dedicated family accommodation which caters for extended family groups to stay in multiple connected cabins (see Cabins section).

There is even a baby laundry service -- dedicated to 0 to 6-year-olds, the service washes baby and toddler clothes separately using a specialized machine, sanitizing program and gentle detergents to clean at temperatures as low as 30°C.

Kids

MSC has always been a kid-friendly line, and offers deeply discounted fares for children traveling with two fare paying adults (infants up to the age of two cruise free), making it a great value family cruise.

Meraviglia takes it up a notch in terms of catering for kids, with a kids' club -- Doremi Land -- that is up there with the best at sea. As well as dedicated rooms by age group, there is also an interactive family room and a "Lab" where kids can use a 3D printer, laptops and conduct experiments. Add to that the fact the whole thing is sponsored by LEGO -- which means every room is LEGO-themed -- and you have an outstanding facility. Doremi Land is in a dedicated space on Deck 18, overlooking the Sportplex.

On port days it opens at 9 a.m. and goes on until 11 p.m. for ages from six months to 11-years-old. On sea days the opening times are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.  to 11 p.m. Programming is exhaustive, and includes age-appropriate activities in the kids' club, water park fun and parades around the ship. Counselors will even take kids to lunch and dinner at the Marketplace Buffet and you can leave your kids (from three-years-old) onboard while you explore a port -- though note, this must be pre-arranged. There are also family activities such as a family disco and a farewell party. All children must be registered upon embarkation and they get a wristband with their muster station on which they wear throughout the cruise. All kids up to the age of 11 must be signed in and out of the club.

Baby Club is open for babies from six months to 36 months and is sponsored by Italian babywear company 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 (you can't pre-book). It comprises a soft play area with age-appropriate toys, books and a TV. There is 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.

MSC offers "Baby Time", which allows parents to play with their kids; and "Baby Care", which allows parents to leave their children (aged from one year old). Times vary by day (check the program), but roughly 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 nappies.

Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Mini Club: Next door is the LEGO-sponsored Mini Club for kids aged three to six years old, which is designed in bright LEGO colors with plenty of bricks and Duplo. It's a big space, with lots of natural light, and there is also foosball, a cinema, books, age-appropriate toys and plenty of crayons and pens for coloring. Programming includes arts and crafts, sports, a treasure hunt, organized games, musical chairs and dressing up. They even get a chance to try their hand at cooking in the TV Studio on Deck 7. Kids must be potty trained to use the club.

Junior Club: This age group (seven to 11-year-olds) also gets a LEGO-themed room with a large play pit full of bricks, as well as age-appropriate toys and games, foosball and a cinema. They 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 opened up to create a huge space.

Young Club: This is for the "tweens" -- the 12 to 14-year-olds -- and operates differently from the younger kids' clubs, with programming only in the afternoon when in port and all day when at sea. Facilities include foosball, table tennis, PS4, some pretty cool double seats in which you lounge back to play video games from a TV in the ceiling -- and even some traditional board games like Cluedo. The most innovative piece of technology is a multi-media table which allows kids to post pictures and messages which then get screened on walls round the club -- rather than sit using their cell phones. Programming includes lip sync battles, generation games and sports tournaments in the Sportplex.

From 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. there is a 10 euros per child, per hour charge for use of the kids' clubs; free otherwise.

Doremi Studio: This room is 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: A dedicated room separate to the kids' club which is given over to more educational programming and includes computers and a 3D printer as well as VR gaming, foosball and board games.

Teens

The 15- to 17-year-olds get their own private room which is adjacent to, but not a part of, the kids' club. It's a circular lounge which is effectively one big dance floor, where teens can hang out. It has plenty of chairs, huge TV screens, beanbags and numerous video games including PS4, Nintendo Switch and VR. Their programming is pretty light touch, again afternoons only (except on sea days) and will include generation games, dancing and sports competitions including mini-golf and ping pong. In the evening, when the adults start turning up at the next door Attic Club, the doors are closed.

MSC Meraviglia Ship Stats

  • Crew: 1,536
  • Launched: 2017
  • Decks: 19
  • Passengers: 4,475
  • Registry: Malta

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