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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
Was the largest cruise boat we have booked on, but nevertheless ran like clockwork with few long waits compared to Princess when it comes to getting on and off. Purchased cruises were excellent and as advertised. MSC for Me, the app ... Read More
Was the largest cruise boat we have booked on, but nevertheless ran like clockwork with few long waits compared to Princess when it comes to getting on and off. Purchased cruises were excellent and as advertised. MSC for Me, the app wasn’t much good, as you cannot message your fellow traveller, many things priced as extra such as F1 and flight simulator, teppanakki restaurant difficult?impossible to get the price, several days when the daily activity list and menus was zero/blank; paper based backup worked though. Bookings system worked though. Cirque at Sea was good, especially the food but our seating (dinner) was terrible and room very hot. For approx 1/3 of the audience the view is from side or behind some of the explanatory visual. We attended opera, dance and rock presentations. The rock was not well received , sung and phrased by non English speakers. We should have thought it through. Some very talented singers too!! The opera and flamenco dance was fabulous. Dining in Panorama and Waves didn’t give us a view, but the view from the Market Buffet and Sky Bar is terrific. In March we were lucky and had no rain, but you need to have several layers when you go ashore as there is plenty of shade even if forecast is 16-18. Take note: Feb/Mar usually wet. Hand hygiene is not overly policed onboard, most of us caught varying degrees of ‘colds’. There are plenty of hand sanitizers and hand wash stations - please use them. Overall, food quality is patchy. Breads and pastries excellent, salads and ‘healthy options’ quite good, cold meat and cheese great, hot offerings and deserts OK to good. The more special it is supposed to be the more disappointing it can be. This is in the general and buffet dining rooms, not necessarily the specialty restaurants. Other than Cirque, we went to the Sushi - food fabulous, but staff not knowledgeable, just salesmen. We knew what we wanted and they weren’t pleased. The lonely little expert guy (chef) in the corner doesn’t get a look in. Don’t ask for sake ‘warm’ - it causes a frenzy and I received a thimble of molten microwaved sake!! You might leave hungry from this restaurant as they never leave you alone for even 5 minutes. Drinks available in different areas varies in range. For instance I could only order Chardonnay (there are lots of beer and beer related options) at the British Pub. Package drinks purchase not economical if you will be ashore most of the days-see exclusions and fine print. Service is 50-50. Waiters tended to be a tad difficult, room and customer service terrific. Some waiters were fine but.. not all. Problem being the service daily charge added automat to your bill ( you can have it removed) doesn’t give some of them any incentive. I emphasise there were some terrific waiters!!! Room was very comfortable (balcony) and with Fantastico package we were able to order early morning cuppa from room service. Room had small fridge, small wardrobe, no robes, great big bed, 2-3 seater couch, lovely big shower/loo. You can request no mini-bar otherwise it is stocked. 1lt water €2.90. So many new people leave and board every day!! With about 4000+ passengers most of the time there are patches of noisy or rude people. Lift and queue etiquette very interesting. Kids are well catered for onboard and attend shows and dinner at all hours. During our week they were no problem! Noisy teens another matter Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
Overall, this was an enjoyable cruise and I would sail on MSC again. My husband and I sailed with our 13 mo daughter and both sets of grandparents (in their 70s). We have all cruised several times on a variety of cruise lines. This was ... Read More
Overall, this was an enjoyable cruise and I would sail on MSC again. My husband and I sailed with our 13 mo daughter and both sets of grandparents (in their 70s). We have all cruised several times on a variety of cruise lines. This was our first time on MSC. EMBARKATION: We spent a week traveling around Italy prior to making our way to Genoa, where we embarked. We found the locals in Genoa to be the least friendly (and some even hostile) to tourists, compared to the rest of Italy. We were glad we were only spending one night there. The port itself was quite confusing. We took the metro to the stop close to the port. Once we arrived, there were very few signs. We followed what signs there were, which sent us upstairs, only to have to go back downstairs to drop our luggage off. Luggage drop off was not labeled. We ended up at a tent that looked like the right place, only to be told (after waiting a few minutes) that we were in the Yacht Club drop off. Steerage passengers needed to just leave their luggage in the road. It was a little odd. But we eventually got it to the right place and got ourselves on the ship. Our luggage arrived without issue, despite our misgivings. Once embarked, there was definitely a push for up-selling drinks and dining packages, but the staff members left us alone when we declined. We were able to immediately drop off our hand luggage in our rooms and head up to the buffet for lunch. All in all, it took us about an hour to get from the port entrance to lunch at the buffet. So despite the lack of signage and the confusion about luggage drop-off, it was a relatively quick and easy process. SHIP: The ship was stunning and always clean. There are multiple dome shows daily and it's worth catching at least one. The area that felt the most crowded was the Bamboo Pool area and the buffet (partially because they would block off parts of the buffet seating at various times). DINING: BUFFET: There was always seating at the very back of the buffet--even during peak times. The lines there seemed to be the shortest, as well. The stations repeat themselves a handful of times throughout the buffet, so there's no need to stand in a long line at the beginning of the buffet. Staff members from the pay-for-restaurants would walk around asking if we wanted to make reservations for dinner that night. Again, they left us alone when we declined. We found breakfast at the buffet to be one of the best meals of the day. There was a good variety of food, although it did not vary from day to day. There was an omelette station, a ham carving station, eggs, bacon/sausage, yogurt, fruit, cereals, muesli, Asian rice and noodles or dumplings, pancakes, waffles, sticky buns, etc. Lunch at the buffet was also pretty good. The pizza, pasta, and fresh mozzarella were always delicious. A few members of our group had pizza that had been sitting out for awhile and it wasn't as good as the fresh slices. There was also a salad station, bread, carving station, and a variety of dishes of the day, some of which were good, some not. The mass-produced desserts were similar to other cruise lines--usually not delicious, but ok. There were a few that were really enjoyable. MDR: We ate dinner in the MDR each night. Our waiters were very friendly, but hadn't been trained as well as on other cruise lines. They weren't trained to pay attention to details or anticipate needs. Some nights there would be butter for the bread, but no butter knife. Other nights there were small dishes for olive oil and vinegar, but no olive oil and vinegar. Some nights there would be a place setting for the baby, other nights there wasn't (there was always a high chair). The staff were always responsive when asked to do something, but failed to anticipate needs. Not a deal breaker, but something the training could improve upon. The food quality was inconsistent. Some nights the food was really good (ie the mushroom risotto), others it was quite bland or even not good (ie the prawns). CABIN: We had an inside cabin that was relatively spacious. Obviously smaller than ocean view or balcony rooms, but larger than the one other inside cabin we've had on another cruise line. The bathroom was small, but well designed. Our cabin steward was very attentive and always called our baby by her name when he saw her. THEATER SHOWS: There was a really great variety of shows ranging from rock to opera to flamenco. The dancers and singers were more talented than I've seen on other cruise lines. The singers did sing in English with an accent, but overall put on excellent performances. The one miss was when they had the opera tenor sing Frank Sinatra's "My Way" during a tribute show. Opera just isn't the right style for Sinatra. On the sea day, there was an opera, which was really well done in less than an hour. They had some subtitles, but they were intermittent. Unclear why they didn't provide full subtitles, which would have made it even better. GYM: The gym was small and crowded no matter when we went (early morning, mid-day, or evening). There's a waiver that has to be signed to use the gym, but they didn't ask us to sign it until our last day. ROPES COURSE/WATER SLIDES: There's also a waiver that has to be signed to participate in the ropes course and water slides. There are no signs to advertise this, so you could end up waiting in line for some time, only to find out that you had to go two decks down (to the Sportsplex) to sign the waiver and get your wristband before being allowed to participate. Once the wristband was obtained, both the ropes course and water slides were fun. The waits were never very long. POOLS: The outdoor pool didn't get much use given highs in the mid 50s to low 60s for most of the cruise. The indoor Bamboo Pool was almost always packed when we saw it. At one point on the sea day, there was a 15 person line for one of the hot tubs in the Bamboo room. This is likely less of an issue in the summer/warmer climate as passengers are more willing to use both the indoor and outdoor pools. GUEST SERVICES: I'd read several very negative reviews about Guest Services, but had no issues with their services. I went to Guest Services twice. Once was to have the UNICEF donation removed. The line was short and they were quick to comply. The second time was the last night of the cruise at 22:00. We found the embarkation pictures in our room, but left them there based on what other reviewers have said. The last night, we read the fine print that we were to return them to our cabin steward 48 hrs before the end of the cruise or we'd be charged. As we were packing up the last night, we saw this and I thought we'd have to eat the $E30 since we hadn't returned them, but thought I'd give Guest Services a try. I got in a line of about 10 people, but there was a guest services team member going through the line asking people what their issues where. He redirected me to the Photo Shop. I figured I was really out of luck at that point given the late hour, but they were still open and quick to take back my photos and refund the money. PORTS: As others have said, the published port hours are different than what actually happens--by up to an hour on both sides. For example, we were to arrive in Barcelona at 7:00 a.m. and leave at 6:00 p.m., but we arrived at 8:00 a.m. and left at 5:30 p.m. This is important to keep in mind if buying timed tickets for something in port. Civitavecchia: There's a free port shuttle from the port to the city. There are many taxistas waiting where the shuttle drops passengers off ready to take passengers to Rome and show them the sites. They were quite persistent despite declining their offers, then offended when they finally realized we weren't interested. We walked the mile or so to the train station and took the train into Rome for the day. Round trip it was Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
Summary: Good vs. Bad These are just things to be aware of - some of them aren‘t easily changeable, some are management issues. Good Food quality in the buffet restaurant. Really quite new and showing it. Cirque du Soleil ... Read More
Summary: Good vs. Bad These are just things to be aware of - some of them aren‘t easily changeable, some are management issues. Good Food quality in the buffet restaurant. Really quite new and showing it. Cirque du Soleil on board. Bad Ship design and construction: There are many issues with the way the ship was designed and built that I found to be quite negative as compared to other ships I‘ve been on. Customer-facing personnel: Unfortunately, the few black sheep amongst the crew really pull the average down, though the people we dealt with generally seemed subdued. Ship interior is quite drab. My Take: There are other ships and other companies out there... The Ship The Meraviglia is huge - at the time of our cruise, I believe it was the second biggest cruise ship in the world, taking on up to 5.714 passengers at fully booked (which likely rarely happens, as this means 4 to a cabin for many cabins on the ship). We had a good size comparison to an older MSC ship in La Valletta (the „Sinfonia“) and the difference is just stupendous. With its Christening in June, 2017, it had just over a year and a half of service under its belt when we were on it. The condition of the ship is in line with its age. Our cruise was in the 3rd week of February in the Mediterranean, so likely the ship was not near booked solid. We didn’t get stats like „passengers on board“, unfortunately, and interestingly, people got on and off at nearly every port we stopped at. There are several aspects to this ship that make me subjectively think they have to do with the French manufacturer. I‘m not a great fan of French technology products and this ship makes this feeling all the more assertive. The creaking in the cabin (remember, it‘s a pretty new ship) and the odd, intermittent shuddering or continuous vibration despite absolutely reasonable wave levels gives me the impression that the engineering that went into the ship isn‘t on par with other builders. In fact, it brought back a memory from high school Physics class, where we watched a video of the Tacoma Narrows bridge getting driven into its resonance frequency by a storm and then basically „exploding“. Not a nice thought and certainly not a noise to make you sleep well without ear plugs. While then central Promenade with a projection ceiling is a nice touch, reminding me of some casinos or even the downtown area in Las Vegas. The possibilities of such a projection screen are not utilized fully, in my opinion. Think of the Venetian, where a complete day/night cycle is gone through every half hour or so, it would have been simple and a real added value to make more of this feature here on board. The rest of the ship is rather drab. The staircases (which we used frequently - who needs a stairmaster?) have identical pictures all the way from the bottom to the top and the carpeting is held in the same rust color. I‘m not a fan of overly colorful interiors, but this is boring even for me. You have the occasional piece of art (mostly around the reception area) and one or two other highlights, but really, the ship is poorly decorated. The same goes for many of the bars. A real downer is the „Studio Bar“ - seldom have I seen a place so lacking in luster. On the other side of the promenade, the "pub" tries to add some flair and comes fairly close to looking like a British pub, though it looks like one that was just built and never used before. This is a shame - a touch of relicing would really have gone a long way here. Another negative aspect to the ship‘s construction is the way the movement of groups is restricted. As an example: all the ships we were on before (Celebrity, Norwegian and Costa) have had multiple entrances into resp. out of the main theater. This ship only has a single way out. If you‘re not sitting at the top, don‘t bother getting up until the masses have pushed their way through the catheract of an exit. It really isn‘t a pleasant experience. Lets hope there is never a mass panic in this theater or there will likely be people trampled to death. The same goes for the Carousel Lounge, where they have Cirque du Soleil performances 6 nights a week. The only entrance to the theater is through the casino. This is annyoing for two reasons: for one, the casino is a smoking zone, and while the air is obviously vigurously exchanged you still smell it quite clearly. It is also annoying if you‘re with kids, because you will be told quite rudely that you can‘t be standing near any of the gambling machines even if you‘re behind the cordon that at least optically separates the entrance to the theater from the casino floor. The impression that employees of MSC are less happy about their jobs comes across too often. From people that deal with customers being rude or just unfriendly to being told that „this is the first time working for MSC and hopefully the last“, one gets the impression that MSC is not a company with the best people management, nor one that educates customer-facing employees on the proper way to deal with those that, at the end of the day, pay their wages. The Cabin The cabin (we were in 10212) is modern and - at first glance - spacious for this category. However, that spaciousness comes at a cost: there is very little room to put stuff, especially when the couch is converted to bunk beds. Essentially, you have a double sliding door closet with hangers and a few shelves. The only drawer is in the desk, and a good quarter of it is taken up by the hair dryer. Other ships we‘ve been on provided a whole series of drawers next to the desk and cubbyholes around the TV. The bunk beds that are made out of the two-seater couch are fullsize single beds, the best I‘ve seen in a standard cabin. These come at a price, however - the unneeded upholstery from the couch goes under the bed, which leaves less space for your luggage. In fact, we weren‘t even able to fit two medium-size, upright suitcases under the bed without one of them sticking out about 10cm. Luckily, our kids had cabin-size suitcases with them, otherwise we would have been stumped at a place to put them. The bathroom is the most modern I‘ve seen (then again, the ship is quite new) and quite spacious. The shower is great, with a glass door and large enough to not feel cramped. Two drawbacks: the air is - as is the case in every cruise ship I‘ve been on - sucked out of the cabin here (which makes sense), but apparently the opening is so small that the sucking noise is very loud. It is so loud that inside you can‘t hear that people are conversing in the cabin, much less what they are saying. The other drawback is that there is no built-in nightlight, something we‘ve had in older ships. I can‘t think of any reason not to put a nightlight into a modern bathroom, but it fits with my general opinion of the ship‘s planning and construction. Because we‘ve had ships before without a nightlight in the bathroom (mind you: older ones), I had brought one with me. Unfortunately, the same „reasoning“ used throughout the ship’s design has been applied to the receptacle in the bathroom as to many other aspects of the ship: when you turn the lights off in the bathroom, the power is turned off here, too. How annoying is that? So: no nightlight. Nor can you charge your shaver overnight. Oddly enough, the TV works even without a keycard in the central power switch... There are two European (Schuko) outlets, a USB charging outlet and two US-style outlets at the desk - and the shaver outlet (110/220V) in the bathroom that turns off with the light switch. That‘s it. The cabin door provided absolutely zero sound proofing towards the hallway, which is unfortunate when you have neighbors that find it adequate to have a conversation right in front of your door at nearly midnight. Actually, you get a lot of audio from everywhere around you - subjectively a lot more than on other (older!) ships. Put that on the „bad design“ list. What also surprised me in a negative way is the poor air circulation. When you have a small cabin with four people sleeping in it, continuously getting fresh air into the cabin is absolutely imperative. In spite of the very loud suction noise in the bathroom, either the air fed into the cabin wasn‘t fresh or there simply wasn‘t enough of it, as the air quality in the morning was attrocious. This is an issue I‘ve had on no other cruise ship, not even ones as old as the Norwegian Jade! Poor ship design, once again. Food - Marketplace Buffet As our kids are not old enough to enjoy a sit-down dinner, we mostly ate at the buffet restaurant. While the food quality is really very good (better,subjectively, than on the Costa ships we were on), it is very limited in variability, all stations basically seem to have 90% identical food every day - for both, lunch and dinner - with variance only in things like the rotissary meat or salads. It is perhaps an unfair comparison to make, but if you consider the unbelievable choice in food we found on the Celebrity Constellation, this ship’s buffet restaurant comes across like a food court at a shopping mall. Unfortunately, it is way too busy for making for a pleasant meal: as with many other cruise ship buffet restaurants, the „Marketplace Buffet“ on the Meraviglia is often packed to the hilt. Sometimes, we weren’t even able to find seating anywhere. Especially beverage stations can be annoying, not only because there are obviously too few of them, but also because especially coffee seems to run out frequently. When the coffee isn‘t out, the coffee cups are. One morning, the cups were out at every station I squeezed my way to! Picking up used plates and silverware - or wiping down a table - is also something that can be improved on. It sometimes seems that there are more people walking idly around to provide (paid) bar service than people to do basic restaurant service. Unfortunately, this was also the case when the buffet wasn‘t as busy, which is disappointing. Food - L‘Olivio d‘Oro Restaurant We only visited the assigned restaurant once, without our kids. As we later found it, it was a specialty evening and the food was quite good, albeit not extraordinary. The table we were at was oddly US football-shaped and the two of us found sitting in this configuration to be a strange experience. Unfortunately, the noise level in the restaurant is so high, that aside from the friendly personnel serving your dinner at our table, we didn‘t see much of an advantage over the buffet restaurant, especially since there apparently isn‘t a kids menu (this we heard from other people). The Shows We visited both Cirque du Soleil shows: Viaggio and Sonor in the „Cocktail & Show“ variant. Without knowing the menu, we were glad not to have booked the dinner & show version, as you simply sit at tables around the circular stage and listen to guitar music while eating. Unfortunately, here too we found employees dealing with customers that would better be placed in the kitchen or in the engine room. You are led to your table by a waiter. The table number is on the paper tickets you get the night before in your cabin, and you pass by a table that holds various drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, which are the cocktails for the evening. An older gentleman in group before us was yelled at by the waiter „one drink per person, one drink per person!“ when he picked up the drink for his wife with his other hand (she was right next to him, not carrying a glass). Not a good impression. Both shows were a flurry of impressions and really quite good, though both were completely different. For small children, Viaggio is your better choice - at least our kids liked it better than Sonor (and I did, too), but both are impressive. Beside Cirque du Soleil, we also took in a very good live music and dance show and a magician. Pools + Other Entertainment There are various pools on the 15th and 16th decks, as well as several hot tubs. One pool and one hot tub are in an enclosed area (with a roof that can slide to the side). Due to the air temperature, we really only used the indoor pool, though this only made sense at offpeak times. With just one pool indoors, you can imagine how crowded it got at other times. The ship also has what they call the „Himalayan Bridge“ (a rope walking parcours) and a cool-looking waterslide that takes you over the side of the ship for part of the „ride“. The rope walking parcours is pretty cool - I did it with both kids, though you really have to hang on to your camera up there when the wind blows (and anything else that isn't attached to you)! Unfortunately, it was only available while docked. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
We chose this cruise for the itinerary but were sadly disappointed with the overall service experience. Service was non-existent from the staff. The do not greet you or welcome you at all. The F&B experience was terrible. We ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary but were sadly disappointed with the overall service experience. Service was non-existent from the staff. The do not greet you or welcome you at all. The F&B experience was terrible. We purchased the Tryptic dining package, but you don't get the full menu from the restaurants. They give you the choice of a few items only. We also had the drink package, but you can't use your drink package in the specialty dining rooms, which makes no sense at all. The ship itself was nice, but the true detractor was the service. Getting a good morning, afternoon etc was almost impossible. Maybe this was the European influence, but if MSC is wanting to expand their presence in the US, this type of service won't fly. Our cabin attendant twice left our balcony door open, not just unlocked, but fully opened. Apparently they have no concern for security either. Overall I rated them poor and would say the only bright point was the excursions were great. Sorry MSC, but you just don't measure up. It's back to Norwegian for us. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
After reading many reviews after booking nearly 12 months prior, it was with concern that I arrived dockside to begin my cruise. Wow was I wrong, one word sums up the greeting and embarkation, 1st Class quality.But, and it is a big but, I ... Read More
After reading many reviews after booking nearly 12 months prior, it was with concern that I arrived dockside to begin my cruise. Wow was I wrong, one word sums up the greeting and embarkation, 1st Class quality.But, and it is a big but, I have to confess I booked the Yacht Club experience. But and another big but, our experience was not limited to this area, in fact we spent most of our time aboard the ship in the general areas and used the Yacht Club to dine only. I will try to be brief,,, save, save and put off until you have enough to pay for the Yacht Club. Similar to the Haven on NCL the privileges it affords you are numerous beyond a room and dinning, which both where fantastic.For example waiting to embark after day excursions, long lengthy queues where avoided as you simply moved to the front.I am surprised by some reviews, the shows each night are great,even a afternoon operatic performance, The main promenade had dancing each evening and the local Europeans loved it, similar to RCL street party but for adults, the bars poured great cocktails,everyone meticulously measured and garnished so they tasted great,not just free pouring and be happy with this.All this was in the general ship, not the Yacht Club. The Buffet restaurant was super clean and fresh looking, three separate areas serving the same, but with a better breakfast choice than the a-la-carte Yacht club.I found the whole experience on par with Celebrity, but better as it had a European Flair Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
I just finished my cruise trip embarked on Barcelona. I bought the Bella package with a balcony. That's my first time to travel in a cruise and I was quite satisfied with the amenities, services and entertainment on board. The ... Read More
I just finished my cruise trip embarked on Barcelona. I bought the Bella package with a balcony. That's my first time to travel in a cruise and I was quite satisfied with the amenities, services and entertainment on board. The cruise was beautiful and clean, and so the cabin. Thanks for the effort of the crew who made our beds every day and clean the balcony twice during the stau. Staff were generally polite, helpful and humorous. And the MC & PERFORMERS of the entertainment were energetic! I watched shows in the Broadway theater almost every day and they were all as excellent as the paid show by Cirque du Soleil. The aqua park and the rope facilities were fun. I spent my cruise day there without a moment of boredom. We were lucky that not much people were there as the weather was still quite chilly. Some setbacks were below: Similar to other comments, the cruise held 5000+ people, thus very often the public area esp. The indoor bamboo pools and jacuzzi were full of people. We managed to have "private" experience just because we went there at 930am. The buffet area ie market place was full of people from all ages at all time. But if u were early, u still manage to get seat at the window, which was definitely a better seating compared to the one assigned for you at the complimentary restaurant. (Unless you upgrade your package) The food at complimentary restaurants were so so. Not much variety n nothing luxurious. So i joined the dining package at 96 euro for 3 restaurants,namely Eataly, japanese restaurant kaito n Butcher cut. Eataly and Butcher cut were delicious yet the sushi from the package was overpriced and not worth it. (As an asian, i could tell the food was not fresh enough to be sashimi and no smoke salmon should be used for sushi roll lol) Quite a lot of things were charged items, e.g the drinks (even water!! at restaurants except marketplace , the virtual games, bowling, sauna, spa (tried the Bail massage, slightly more expensive than other spa experience outside but is their skills were up to standard.) Non alcoholic drink package costed 19euro per day per person which was really too ex to join == No external wine or beer were allowed so got to save the pocket money for that! Bingo was 10 euro per card which was again expensive compared to the casino games. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Just got back from cruise in Rome beautiful ship cabins good size restaurant waiters cabin staff excellent I don’t know how they put up with so many rude customers. Food in Buffett lukewarm was told to ask for freshly made if I wanted it ... Read More
Just got back from cruise in Rome beautiful ship cabins good size restaurant waiters cabin staff excellent I don’t know how they put up with so many rude customers. Food in Buffett lukewarm was told to ask for freshly made if I wanted it hot . Ridiculous this is how health issues start also no regard for health standard where was the hand sanitizer that all other cruise ships insist you use when attending Buffett. I saw many customers not using tongs supplied filing water bottles when clearly states not to no one stopped so I wouldn’t drink free water purchased bottled . This cruise company would be my last pick of all other cruise lines I have used. Shuttles not supplied like many other companies do profit put first used taxi instead same price. Security staff some rude butted in on conversation need more scanners for this amount of customers. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
A little about us: my husband & I are 45-50 yrs old. We have cruised a total of 34 cruises on RCCL, Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian (2) & Carnival (2). This was our 4th European cruise but our 1st MSC cruise. The ship is ... Read More
A little about us: my husband & I are 45-50 yrs old. We have cruised a total of 34 cruises on RCCL, Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian (2) & Carnival (2). This was our 4th European cruise but our 1st MSC cruise. The ship is very pretty. The dome area in the center of the ship is a real feature. I hope MSC utilizes it in many other ways.The Stairs are beautiful. The dining rooms could have more flare. But the area outside the dining room is very nice. Food- this is where things go downhill. Food is mediocre, verging on terrible. The food in the dining room is mostly terrible & the food at the cirque show which we paid for, was not good either. The buffet was very European & we found it difficult to find anything tasty. Even the pizza was a 5 out of 10. Another Con is that MSC charges for things that are included on other cruises. For example, there’s no ‘free’ water in the dining room, no tap water. You must pay 3.50 euro for bottle water. There’s no lobsters at captains night dinner Entertainment was also lacking. That wasn’t a big deal for us because we had been out touring Europe all day, most days. But on sea days, there wasn’t anything fun to do that didn’t cost. Also, Cirque de soleil Sonor show was so very lame, almost odd. There was a singer in the lounge area who did perform a song in a different Cirque show that was really good. She had an amazing voice. Re: staff, mostly they were very nice. But, they didn’t seem to have any power or limited power to resolve issues. For example on a windy night, something on the balcony partition broke. It banged from 8pm until the next night. We called & went to guest relations several times with no resolution for almost 24hrs. I have to admit that embarkation & disembarking was really quick & easy. MSC needs to do better with everything else. Back to my usual cruise lines. Read Less
26 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
I have taken more than 50 cruises on nine different cruise lines, but this was my first cruise with MSC, and the new Meraviglia was a very pleasant surprise. It is an absolutely gorgeous ship with a very polite and helpful crew. I had ... Read More
I have taken more than 50 cruises on nine different cruise lines, but this was my first cruise with MSC, and the new Meraviglia was a very pleasant surprise. It is an absolutely gorgeous ship with a very polite and helpful crew. I had seen all the western Mediterranean ports on our itinerary before, but they are some of my favorites. I will give you ideas on what to expect on your cruise and how to enjoy each port on your own, at minimal expense. Because this review is so long, I will divide it into sections so you can skip to the parts that interest you. THE SHIP: The MSC Meraviglia is enormous, one of the largest cruise ships in the world at 171k tons, with more than 4,500 passengers and 1,500 crew. The interiors are stunning, mostly white and shades of gray in the public areas and muted colors in the cabins, with none of the cheesy decor that one often sees on low priced cruise ships. There is a good online video from MSC that will give you a look at the Meraviglia's elegant (contemporary Italian design) interiors. The deck plans are standard for the industry, with a few exceptions. Long hallways are zig-zagged into shorter segments, and the two elevator silos (forward and midship) are in alcoves, which can be confusing as one exits them. The open deck was too cold and windy to be enjoyed midwinter, so I cannot comment on how well the pools, sundecks, and jogging track might function in a tropical environment. The spa and gym are separated, and the gym is relatively small for such a large ship. As a result, the usual complimentary stretch and exercise programs had to be given among the chairs in the public lounges since there is no aerobics area in the gym. There is a large indoor basketball/soccer court separate from the gym, a court that was rarely used on this cruise but is probably busy during school vacations. I did not use the spa so I cannot comment on its services or prices. As on other ships, most dining, entertainment, bars, and lounges are clustered on decks 6 and 7. The central promenade between these two decks is open and its ceiling is covered with an enormous LCD screen that provides glamour in the daytime and entertaining sound and light shows each evening. The best place to view these LCD shows is from the balcony on deck 7 at either end of the promenade. MSC uses similar large LCD screens instead of the usual stage scenery in its main theater and circus lounge, and also next to its open-deck pool. This is ingenious and entertaining, and is one of the highlights on this ship. Kids of all ages will love the effect. The atrium spans decks 5 though 7 and sparkles with millions of glass crystals embedded in its spiral staircases. Similar sparkle is present in the walls shelving wine bottles outside some of the dining rooms. Reception and cruise services are clustered on deck 5. I found the personnel there were very helpful and efficient. Waiting lines for these services are common on a ship this size, but the lines moved quickly on the Meraviglia. As an aside, we experienced two nights with hurricane force winds (72 knots actual, 83 knots perceived, Beaufort scale 12) and the ship handled them with ease. There was minimal list in spite of the ship's enormous wind profile, and I felt minimal rocking and no pitching in my upper deck cabin, which was far above the ship's center of gravity. There was the usual thud of the hull against waves that one hears in severe weather, but no noise from structural flexing. I felt very safe and would trust this ship to be comfortable even on a transatlantic itinerary. FELLOW PASSENGERS: On this western Mediterranean itinerary the passengers were an enjoyable mix of nationalities -- something I enjoy when I travel in Europe. Based on overheard languages, I estimate that about 20% were native English speakers, 20% Chinese or Japanese, 5% Russian or South Asian, and 55% an equal mix of European languages (Italian, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and French). Announcements are multilingual but reasonably infrequent. Ironically, the Japanese and Chinese announcements were the easiest to understand because they were done by native speakers. The European languages were sometimes less clear because they were often rushed and given by non-native speakers. In this age of smartphone apps and smart TVs (each cabin has a smart TV), MSC would be wise to give all (except its safety and emergency) announcements via smartphone or TV. The ship already has a TV channel in each language where announcements and updates could be posted. Overhead announcements could be limited to one sentence in each language, giving the topic and referring passengers to their smart devices for further info. Also, most announcements are standard in content and could be pre-recorded at reasonable speed by native speakers. In any case, the variety of nationalities and languages is one of the pleasures of traveling abroad. If you want a Disney version of the world, then stay home. CHILDREN: I am not fond of children running loose on cruise ships, which is one of the reasons I chose a midwinter departure. Another bonus is that we were the only cruise ship docked in each port, and each port was relatively free of tourist crowds during the off-season. Our cruise had about one or two hundred children at most, preschool age or Australians on school summer holidays. The children were easily accommodated by the extensive play areas and children's programs on this ship. The school holiday calendar and a ship's quota on younger passengers is something to consider whenever booking cruise. CREW: All crew members I met were very polite and did their jobs very well. Even though this is an Italian cruise line, the crew were of diverse nationalities and usually used English as their common language. A special effort is made to provide some crew members for each language group, although passengers and crew were not always matched in this regard in the dining rooms or cabins. The ship is new, and it is maintained spotlessly clean by an excellent housekeeping staff. The officers are not as visible as on some other cruise lines, although opportunities are made to introduce high ranking officers to passengers. This is a non-issue for me as long as the junior officers maintain the safety standards of the ship so that fires and evacuations can be handled well in an emergency. CABINS: MSC is unusual in that it has relatively uniform cabins over four cabin grades called "experiences" -- Bella, Fantastica, Wellness, and Aurea-- based on what amenities are included at each price level. In addition, there are are the Yacht Club cabins, which I believe are not that much nicer than standard cabins but are isolated in a locked area of the ship with special dining, decks, and lounges (corresponding with the old first class). You can read further about this system on the MSC website. I was fortunate in that I applied to MSC and was ultimately given reciprocity (MSC gold status) to correspond with my elite status on some other cruise lines. In addition, I booked this cruise relatively late before departure when the price was so low that I thought it must be an error, but fortunately was real. It was by far the most "bang for the buck" that I have had on any cruise. I also got the 12 free drink vouchers with my Fantastica level cabin, a bonus that will be discontinued in late March 2019. My upper deck mid-ship Fantastica grade balcony cabin was absolutely beautiful. It was a little larger than the standard for the industry. Most of the extra space was devoted to a long (2m) sofa that could be converted to a queen size bed for two more adults. The cabin came with all the usual amenities, but no robes and no body lotion, so bring your own if needed. The bathroom was compact but had a shower large enough for almost anyone. The balcony was large enough for two standard chairs and one ottoman/table. The glass wall of the cabin and glass railing of the balcony offered beautiful views. Given the choice, I think that a starboard cabin provides nicer views in most ports on this itinerary. I did not realize how enjoyable a balcony view can be, even in winter, in this part of the world. For those with an inside cabin, there are two TV channels showing the view to the port and the starboard sides of the ship, which is an improvement over the usual single forward-facing bridge-cam channel. My cabin was especially well-maintained by my cabin steward. After a severe wind storm that coated my balcony with sea salt, the huge glass windows were immaculate the very next day. I did not go on a cabin crawl on this ship, so I cannot comment on the inside cabins or the suites. My cabin was a wonderful respite in the evenings, when the public areas and the entertainment venues tended to get too loud for my taste, as is too common on cruise ships. I do not understand why louder entertainment is considered better. To me, louder entertainment just sounds more amateur. DINING: The food on the Meraviglia is usually good to excellent, with only a few disappointments. For me the buffet breakfasts were by far the best meal of the day, equal to or better than that of any other cruise ship. The light and flaky croissants are some of the best I have ever had. The meats, fruits, cereals, and eggs at breakfast are all very good. The waffles (tough and soggy) and the orange drink (real orange juice is available at a surcharge) were breakfast disappointments on this cruise. I cannot comment on the coffee and tea, since I tried neither. There is only one sea day on this itinerary, so I tried the buffet lunch once and the dining room lunch once (I skipped Rome because of heavy rain and the usual transportation hassle of going from Civitavecchia port to Rome and back). The dining room lunch menu is limited but good, and the buffet lunch on the Rome day featured the best beef (rare filet mignon) of the cruise. The afternoon buffet snacks are also good, although the pizzas are surprisingly soggy rather than crisp. No free ice cream is available in the buffet (it is a favorite of mine on other ships), but very good ice cream at dinner in the main dining rooms is free. The food and service in the main dining rooms (based on my limited experience) is not up to the level of that on other cruise ships. The menu tends to be limited compared with other cruise lines (one appetizer, one soup, one salad). Upscale choices (lamb, beefsteak, lobster, salmon, etc.) are absent, although some of them can be purchased with a surcharge of about 15-20 euros. The fish is invariably the best main course on the menu, in small portions but perfectly prepared. The beef at dinner was often a disappointment on this cruise. The "chef's special" prime rib, for example, was a thin slice of lean, over-cooked beef that was as tough as leather. My waiter offered to bring me another item from the menu, but I was already running late for a show I had reserved. Similarly disappointing, the veal shank was a large cross-section of bone with a scant rim of meat along one edge. The dining room service is also not on par with other cruise lines for several reasons, and not the waiters' fault. There are fixed dining times -- early or late. Only the most expensive cabins have the freedom of flexible dining times. Diners are supposed to arrive within 15 minutes of their designated time, but they tended to wander in gradually. With flexible dining, a table fills quickly and the service begins promptly. With a fixed dining time, I usually spent the first 20 minutes eating bread until there were enough diners at his station for the waiter to start service. There are no sommeliers in the dining rooms, but if you enjoy wine and know your labels, you will do fine. There are multiple choices of wine by the glass in each major category (red, white, rose, sparkling). Unfortunately, the waiters are delayed in starting service in part because they show newly embarked diners to their assigned tables. Also, table assignments did not make sense on my cruise. Waiters' native language often did not match that of their diners. Worst of all, my waiter and his assistant were at a work station up one level and around the corner from my table even though my table was just a few feet away from another waiter's work station. My waiter had no way to anticipate my needs or see any of my requests. Finally, all waiters are burdened with bulky touch screen tablets the size of a library book. Most restaurant waiters make written notes at table and then enter them into a computer at their work stations. Entering each order in the computer as it is given slows down the entire process. If MSC spent just a little more on ingredients (especially the beef), trained and assigned waiters in a logical way, and allowed dinner service to start promptly and progress efficiently, dining on the Meraviglia could be second to none. The one thing that disappointed me the most in the main dining room was the absence of free drinking water. If one wants to drink water at dinner, one must pay for it -- a new bottle of water with each dinner. If only half of the 4,500 passengers have water with dinner, that generates more than 800,000 bottles of plastic waste every year, not to mention the fossil fuel wasted in shipping bottled water to various ports. Since water is free in the buffet area, making bottled water a requirement in the dining rooms is hypocrisy for a cruise line that claims to be environmentally sensitive. Bottled water should be available for purchase in all venues for those who need it, but it should not be the only source of water in any venue. DRESS: The Meraviglia passengers were well-dressed (no ball caps, rare slashed jeans) but were still casual during the day. There were two formal nights when about a third of men wore a suit and tie, a third wore a sport jacket, and a third wore a good shirt with no jacket. Women dressed correspondingly. SANITATION: Hand washing is much more effective than alcohol gels at killing bacteria and viruses. The good news is that MSC wisely installed multiple hand wash stations at the entry to the buffet and in restrooms near the main dining rooms. The bad news is that almost no one used them. There is no one to remind passengers to wash hands, and unfortunately the automatic sinks in the restrooms rarely functioned properly -- the spigots and sensors are hidden by a shelf, and it takes multiple attempts to get any water. Those sinks would never pass a health inspection. Not once did I see a man successfully use the sink in the restroom. To protect my own health I not only washed my hands before each meal, I washed my hands again after touching any buffet tongs, which hundreds of passengers had already touched. Then again, I am aware of infection risks because my former profession involved infection control in hospitals. ENTERTAINMENT: The Meraviglia has very talented singers and dancers on the main stage, and talented musicians in the lounges and atrium. Because of the multiple languages represented, almost all entertainment is musical -- no lectures or enrichment activities. Most of the music is popular and familiar to Americans, but there is one abbreviated opera performance (La Boheme) by two well-trained opera singers. The opera used ballet dancers onstage to interpret the music, which added interest for those not used to opera performances. As I mentioned, the scenery relies on huge LCD screen backdrops, which worked very well and added interest (and sometimes humor) to each performance. In addition, Cirque du Soleil presents two different shows (Viaggio and Sonor) on various nights during the cruise. These can be reserved online prior to the cruise, but schedules usually change, so check soon after embarkation to verify your reservations or to add new ones. The Cirque desk is adjacent to the reception desk. Of the two, Viaggio is probably better for kids since it involves a little more clowning around. Both programs are surcharged via a drink or a dinner package. Ironically, the less expensive drink package offers the better seating. The problem with all of the entertainment on the Meraviglia is the decibel level. Singers are over-amplified to the point of distortion -- one can feel the sub-woofer bass in one's gut. I tried the stage shows each evening (wearing ear plugs) but gave up after a few days and instead just relaxed in my cabin in the evening. This problem is not unique to MSC -- it occurs on most cruise ships. Only the luxury cruise lines seem to keep the amplification at a reasonable decibel level. Parents taking their kids to the Cirque performances should definitely consider ear protection for the younger ones. EMBARKATION AND DISEMBARKATION: This cruise was unique in my experience because passengers embarked and disembarked at every port. This made embarkation much easier -- just 1,000 new passengers daily instead of 4,500 on a single day. I am not certain, but I believe that demand and pricing varies by embarkation port, so check this if you want the best price for your cruise. This system also makes disembarkation easier at the end of the cruise -- far less baggage to offload and claim each disembarkation day. It does add a bit of a disturbance each afternoon as the newly arrived passengers are summoned to their mandatory safety drill, but this is a minor inconvenience. If you are just spending the day ashore and then returning to the ship, check the daily program since the arrival and departure times for several of the ports were changed from the original cruise schedule. SUMMARY: The Meraviglia is a beautiful ship, the crew is wonderful, and the western Mediterranean ports are enjoyable. At the right price, you will enjoy this cruise very much. WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN PORTS ON YOUR OWN AT MINIMAL EXPENSE: GENOA: I love Genoa because it seems so completely Italian, especially in the historic center, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. Our ship docked in the main harbor in the middle of the city's waterfront -- an easy walk to almost any attraction and just a few minutes from the main (Principe) train station. Genoa is built on a hillside, so there is some climbing, but the waterfront alone has enough attractions to fill a half day for those with mobility issues. Pick up a map in the cruise terminal and exit right (east) along the waterfront until you reach the Galata Museum del Mar (Museum of the Sea). This is a large, modern, very enjoyable museum that is worth at least an hour or two when you are returning to the ship. See their website for hours and current prices. From the museum, cross the street and head uphill through the narrow lanes (gritty but safe) to the main street (Via Balbi). From there continue east to the Palazzo Real. There are five major palaces remaining from the days of Genoa's peak power and wealth. The Palazzo Real is the most interesting, but combination tickets are available, and it is fun to see more than one. From the Palazzo Real walk farther east to Via Garibaldi, where there are beautiful historic buildings and three more palazzi -- together called the Palazzi dei Rolli on the Strade Nuove, designated a UNESCO world heritage site. Combo tickets for the palaces are available at the nearby bookshop. The fifth palace, and the one with the most art is the National Gallery of Palazzo Spinola, on Piazza Pelliceria nearby. From there walk downhill to the cathedral and nearby fountain on Piazza de Ferrari, where you will find the Genova sign/sculpture for a photo op. The view down the historic Via XX Settembre is grand. It is an easy walk back west to the waterfront for either (or both) the maritime museum or the modern aquarium. Even if you do not enter the aquarium, there is a cute floating park at the end of its pier, with good views of the ship and the city. From the aquarium and maritime museum it is an easy walk back to the ship. ROME: I usually skip Rome when it is just a single day visit from Civitavecchia. The shuttle/walk/train/metro each way takes more than an hour (about the same as a rental car). If you decide to go into the city, I recommend getting a BIRG ticket, which covers the regional train and all transport in Rome. Rick Steves guides have excellent info on what to see and do in Rome, with self-guided walking tours. His Mediterranean Ports of Call guide includes detailed info on how to get from the port to the city. Highly recommended guides. PALERMO: Palermo has a gritty beauty and vitality that I always enjoy. Some of its main streets have been blocked off and are now pedestrian friendly. The ship docks at the maritime station near the ferry terminals. As you exit the port, pick up a city map at the TI in the small wood cabin near the gate. From there it is about 15 minutes to the Teatro Massimo, another 10 minutes to the Quattro Canti intersection, and another 15 minutes along Via V. Emanuele to Piazza Independenza where you will find the bus #389 to the fabulous Cattedrale Monreale. The best place to get on the bus is at its rest stop on the far (inland) side of the plaza across from the row of small gas stations. You are more likely to get a seat from there because when the bus starts up, it swings past the wall of the Palatine Chapel and quickly fills with tourists. Check the schedule on the internet -- I believe there is a convenient departure at 10 am and about every 30 minutes thereafter. The trip into the hills takes about 30 minutes and costs 1.80 euros each way, ticket purchased from the driver. The cathedral is near the end of the bus line and there is a gorgeous view of the entire Palermo city and harbor from the walk between the bus stop and the cathedral. Inside the cathedral are the most extensive and beautiful byzantine mosaics in the western Mediterranean. It is absolutely breathtaking. For a restroom there is a friendly cafe across the plaza, and there is a small park ideal for picnics if you pass the front of the cathedral on your left, and walk under two arches past the mini-post office. The return bus leaves from exactly the same spot where it dropped you off. Back in Palermo, the new tourist entrance to the Palatine Chapel is on Piazza del Parlamento, on the opposite side of the palace from Piazza Independenza and the former tourist entrance. If you are there Fri-Mon when parliament is not in session, you can see the royal palace at the same time that you see the chapel. The chapel is a mini-version of the Cattedrale Monreale, and just as breathtaking. The chapel can be a mob scene in high season, so go early or during the lunchtime lull. From there it is a leisurely walk back to the ship. A detour through the Palermo Cattedrale and the Ballaro street market is worthwhile. On your way back, near the Quattro Canti, is the too-sexy-for-prudes Pretoria Fountain. Near the fountain are some old Norman churches, useful because all the Norman sites have free wi-fi access. VALLETTA: Almost the entire walled town of Valletta on the island of Malta is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ship docks on the waterfront below the city walls. The easiest way to enter the city is by the new elevators which are an easy 10 minute walk to the right (northeast) as you exit the port (the TI has free maps of the city as you disembark). The elevator costs just 1 euro to go up and is free to go down. Best of all, the elevator leaves you in the upper Barrakka gardens, which have a fine view over the harbor. From the garden make your way to the Triton fountain, which is at the new gate to the city and is the terminus of bus lines that cover the island (in case you want to take a bus to one of the beach towns or to the historic town of Mdina. Bus fares are cheap and many towns are within 30 minutes by bus. From the Triton fountain walk down the main street (Republikka) to visit the spectacular St. John's (co-) Cathedral, the impressive Grand Master's Palace, and (least interesting) the archeology museum. In high season the cathedral can be a mob scene, so best to go when it first opens before the tour groups arrive. In the afternoon you can take a bus to picturesque Mdina (again, heavily touristed) or to a beach town. The only annoying thing about Valletta is that the return to the ship zig-zags through a gift shop with no apparent exits. BARCELONA: Barcelona is so heavily touristed (and so filled with scams and pickpockets) that I tend to avoid the crowds and spend my time on the periphery. The Gaudi sites, Ramblas, Picasso museum, and Gotic old town area are all worthwhile, but not fun in crowds. From the cruise ship I like to walk over the bridge (30 minutes) to the Drassanes metro station near the Columbus monument at the base of the Ramblas. Most ships offer a pricey shuttle, and later in the day the city offers the T3 shuttle bus for about 4 euros round trip. I buy a T10 packet of metro tickets (about 1 euro each, can be shared) and am on my way. I take the metro to Paral-lel for the funicular up Monjuic or to Placa Espana when the funicular is closed (it is under repair as I write this in early 2019). Bus #150 goes up the mountain from Placa Espana, with spectacular views over the cruise ships from the fort at the top (terminus of the bus). Along the way I always stop at the Catalan National Museum. The view over the city from its entrance is worth the trip, but the museum is also one of my favorite museums in all the world -- I usually spend 2 hours there every time I visit Barcelona (seniors are free -- a bonus for the elderly). The museum has Catalan art from the Romanesque through the 20th century, an amazing collection in a beautifully modernized building. I also check the Caixa Forum near Placa Espana to see what special exhibits they have. In the afternoon I usually visit some of the other tourist sites or simply amble through the old town. There are nice bike tours, walking tours, and many other things to do. The Rick Steves guide to Barcelona has great suggestions. Be aware that the current price to enter Gaudi's Sagrada Familia is now 33 euros! TOULON (and La Seyne-Sur-Mer): If you are on a large ship, you will probably dock across the bay from Toulon at La Seyne-Sur-Mer. From that dock you exit the port and turn right (west) to get to the ferry (#8M) dock about 10 minutes away. It helps if you view the port area from the upper deck of the ship first, so that you can see where the ferry stops -- it is at Espace Marine in a somewhat bleak industrial area. Any local can show you the way. The ferry costs 2 euros each way, but is included in the day pass available at the Toulon tourist information office. If you are on a smaller ship, you may dock southeast of Toulon's center, just a 10 minutes walk away from the tourist information office. Whichever dock, I suggest that you first go to the Toulon tourist information office at Place Louis Blanc. They have all the information and maps that you will need to enjoy your day. They also sell the 4 euro transit pass, which is good for all buses and ferries in the area. Just outside the office is an enjoyable street market that extends for several hundred meters up the hill. There is a pleasant walking tour of Toulon on the tourist map, or you can hop on a bus #3 or #23 to go to the attractive beaches and parks of the Mourillon district southeast of town. Alternately, you can enjoy the beach and park at Sablettes, south of La Seyne-Sur-Mer. From Toulon ferry # 18M (or less enjoyable bus #18) goes there. Bus #18 passes a few blocks west of the La Seyne-Sur-Mer cruise dock on its way north to Toulon or south to Sablettes. For those who want to see Marseille rather than Toulon, bus #23 and bus #3 go from near the waterfront area up the hill to the train station (Gare Toulon) for the ride to Marseille's St. Charles train station. Check the internet for prices and schedules. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
For anyone considering MSC I thought I'd share my thoughts on my recent cruise. DH & I travelled from Dublin to Barcelona on 17th January to celebrate DH's 60th birthday. This was only our 2nd ever cruise, the first one ... Read More
For anyone considering MSC I thought I'd share my thoughts on my recent cruise. DH & I travelled from Dublin to Barcelona on 17th January to celebrate DH's 60th birthday. This was only our 2nd ever cruise, the first one being 3 years ago for our 20th anniversary on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas on an Eastern Med and Greek Island 10-day tour, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We booked through a local travel agent who are cruise specialists and were fantastic. Private taxi transfer from the airport to the ship (and back again) was part of the package which was great - though it is only about 15 mins away by car. We arrived about 11.30 and the waiting hall at the port was already quite busy when we arrived. About 12pm they started to board and we were on about 15 mins later. We were totally amazed by our first impression of the ship - she is stunning! We went straight to our cabin (deck 12 balcony cabin) and dropped in our cabin bags and headed straight for lunch in the market place buffet. Now our only previous experience on RCI was that the buffet was just 'ok', so we didn't have high expectations. However, this was in a different league altogether. Being an Italian company, they really know their pizza, pasta, salads :tongue: They also make fresh mozzarella which is delicious. They have a Rotisserie with different roast meats, different cold meats and cheeses, fresh fruit, yogurt, breads and pastries among many, many more dishes!! They have water, tea/coffee on tap and on each table is a call button to get waiter bar service. The drinks package came included in our balcony room deal, along with free WiFi. I would have happily ate every meal there - so much variety and everything I tried was delicious. We had a wander around the ship, taking photos and enjoying the sun with a wee cocktail (well, you have too, don't you ;) We had our mandatory drill at 5pm which takes a bit of time as they have to go through it in about 5 languages! There are 3 main dining rooms for dinner. You are pre-assigned to one and you can choose if you want early or late sitting. We chose late (7.30pm) so that we wouldn't be rushed out (I'd read reviews that the early sitting gets pushed through) but hadn't realised that our restaurant 'Waves' actually had an even later sitting (9.30pm) not that I'd have wanted to eat at that time, I guess it was mostly the Spanish and Italians as they are used to eating at that time. We were put at a table with 3 other English couples who had all cruised extensively and had great stories to tell. We thoroughly enjoyed our table mates and often were the last table to clear the restaurant! The food in the MDR was mostly good. Again, typically Mediterranean style, small portions but good choices and well presented. If you didn't like your chosen dish, they are only too happy to bring you another. Usually choice of 5 or 6 starters, mains and desserts. We also pre-booked the speciality dining experience on the website before we went. If you pre-book things like this, the drinks package, the Cirque shows they are cheaper that booking on board as you don't incur the 15% service charge. The speciality restaurants were great, especially Butcher's Cut steakhouse. My filet was the tastiest I've ever had - even better than Longhorns Flo's Filet!! The Italian restaurant was good, but not much choice on the dining experience menu and you can get just as good pasta in the buffet. The third part of the experience was Sushi. Now, I've never had sushi and was a bit apprehensive about it but the restaurant was always busy any time we walked past so I was looking forward to the new experience. We had arranged it for lunch the day we were at sea and I really did enjoy it. The only part I didn't like was the octapus - too chewy :confused2! The entertainment on the ship was good - not as good as RCI, but we still enjoyed Broadway performances, opera, Cirque du Soleil and much more. There is a heated indoor pool and jacuzzis. It was too cold for the outdoor pool but we did go in the outdoor jacuzzi which was lovely. There is a water park on the top deck, but again too cold to try out. I can imagine in spring and summer it is great! We had pre-booked MSC excursions for Marseille, Genoa, Sicily and Malta (didn't get off ship in Rome as we had done it on our other cruise). The excursions were good, but for Marseille and Genoa the bus was half English speaking and half German, so it wasn't ideal as the guide had to spend time translating things in English and German and often you'd be past the building our point of interest by the time she explained it in English! In Sicily and Malta it was all English speaking. We loved Malta and would definitely like to go back for a holiday. We felt the excursions were good value and informative. We enjoying going to different places and learning about the history in the area. Overall, we really enjoyed our MSC cruise - it was so different to our previous one. The first ship was much smaller and older (only 1400 passengers versus 5000 on this one). The MSC ship was absolutely beautiful, exceptionally clean and very good food and service. People on another cruise forum complained about many things, including service but we only experienced friendly, helpful staff. We had reason to visit guest services as our return flight was booked by the agent for 10.30am (arrival in Barcelona port was originally scheduled for 7am, so should have been ok for time). However, we received notification that we wouldn't be arriving until 8.30am. Our private taxi was booked for 7.45am so guest services rang our taxi company to try to change it for us but as it turned out, because we had booked through a travel agent they had to make any amendments on our behalf (which they did, re-booked for 8.45). Guest services checked us in to our Aer Lingus flight and printed boarding passes for us, so that we could go straight to bag drop once we arrived at the airport. They couldn't have been more helpful! I was shocked to see that most people in the queue were there to get the gratuities removed from their bill. On MSC 10 Euros per person per day is added for gratuities. I wouldn't dream of removing it unless there was a serious complaint, but it seems lots of people are getting it taken off, just because they can. Honestly, I've never seen a cleaner ship or more hardworking staff. I think they deserve every cent they get! We were also advised not to leave our luggage outside our room the night before disembarking but to take our cases with us in the morning. This worked really well, in that once we were allowed to disembark we were straight off the ship and in to the waiting taxi in less than 5 minutes. I would have no hesitation recommending MSC and would certainly cruise with them again. Read Less
MSC Meraviglia Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 5.0 0.0
Public Rooms 5.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 0.0
Family 5.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 2.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 5.0 0.0

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