Family group of 12 in 5 cabins.
This was our first cruise and it didn't get off to a good start. The security staff at Marseille managed to lose one of our passports which caused all sorts of issues getting on the ship and then involved a lot of emails, form-filling and calls to the Consulate in Malta. It was finally resolved by leaving the ship at Malta, a night at a hotel there, a visit to the consulate, a flight to Barcelona, a night in a hotel in Barcelona and rejoining the ship there.
Although the loss of the passport was due to the chaotic security system at Marseille, MSC did not seem to make any efforts to locate the passport.
Lesson 1 - Don't let anything out of your sight at the security/x-ray area.
Coming aboard was fine, the cabin suited the two of us and having a balcony was great.
In the cabin there is the MSC version of Alexa/Google/Siri/etc called Zoe. We found it to be useful in telling us the weather, but nothing else. It was laughably bad, just responding with 'ask a member of crew' to the most obvious of questions.
Surprisingly, for a ship just a few weeks old, the pillows smelt a bit of smoke at the beginning of the week. Not enough to make you discard them, but definitely noticeable. On the penultimate night we found that the air-conditioning was blowing smokey air into the cabin. Not nice at all. I told reception the following day but was instructed to report it when it happened. When you are half asleep in bed you don't want to be ringing reception to report issues.
Lesson 2 - report issues immediately if you can.
In advance of the cruise MSC try very hard to get you to spend money on one of their drinks packages. So much so that they do not show the price of drinks on their website. Any search on the website like 'what is the price of a drink?', or 'what are the bar prices?' return you to the drinks packages page. So if you want to compare having a drinks package with buying individual drinks, you can't do it. I contacted MSC to ask the price of drinks and they refused to let me have any information for quite a while with excuses like, 'Because our stocks are subject to availability, prices might change', and 'We don't have a bar list, so I can't give you the prices'. It is a shame that they were dishonest here because the real reason for not telling me was that MSC wants everyone to buy their drinks package (they make more money out of you that way). After quite a few emails dancing around the question MSC were able to tell me the 'approximate' price of some drinks, which enabled me to see that a drinks package was not good value for us. The basic package does not cover a gin & tonic, or most of the cocktails, so if you want anything like that you need to be buying the higher priced packages. We spent a lot of money on drinks, but it was still cheaper than the drinks package. Bear in mind that most days we were ashore so not buying day-time drinks from the ship.
To help out others in this respect I have taken photos of the bar prices and will attach them below. Remember they add 15% to these prices to cover the cost of putting the drink into a glass (!).
Lesson 3 - MSC want you to buy their drinks packages because it makes them more money
Having spoken to various people before setting off I was expecting something a bit classier than what we encountered. The ship itself is very new & shiny, but we found that lots of people are happy to wander around in wet swimming trunks carrying plates of pizza from the buffet. Often we shared a lift with people wearing pyjamas taking a plateful of sausages or similar to their room.
The gala night was a lot more formal and many people dressed up for that, which made it much more special, but on the whole I was surprised at the casualness of it all.
There was a 'white night' where we were encouraged to wear all-white, but perhaps 10% of passengers bought into this. Given the amount of clothes space available in the suitcase and cabin; I guess a one-off white outfit was not going to be a priority.
Lesson 4 - This is more of a party ship than a classy cruise, pack accordingly.
I was also expecting there to be informative/educational presentations (I guess I had heard this from people who had been on other cruises). There were none on this cruise.
In the evening there were basic dance classes which were good fun and the crew did a great job of encouraging and helping people along. Aside from that it's Karaoke or a band or a 35 minute theatre show.
The cirque-de-soliel show was excellent and worth the price. The other (free of charge) shows were also good and worth booking in to.
You can book into these things on the interactive screens around the ship or you can use the Msc-4-Me App on your phone. Both systems worked well for us.
Lesson 5 - It's all showbiz, nothing cerebral. But do go to the shows.
We didn't use the MSC shore excursions at all - they seemed to be crazily expensive and we are not afraid of negotiating for a taxi. For example: before arriving at Barcelona you find a shuttle-bus ticket in your cabin for 9.99 Euros. This is for the bus that saves you a 40 minute walk into the city. As soon as you get off the ship you can see the shuttle buses lined up with the 4 Euro fare shown on the front.
A few prices we found:
Naples to Pompeii return taxi 17 Euros per person
Messina to Taorina return taxi 15 Euros per person
Marseille to Airport taxi 10 Euros per person
Lesson 6 - Don't use the MSC excursions unless you really can't be bothered to do anything by yourself.
Food on the ship was good. Our children enjoyed the all-day availability of the buffet and the range of options there was very broad. Our evening meal was in the standard deck 6 restaurant and the food was varied, plentiful and well presented buy the attentive staff. Really enjoyed having the same servers each evening and they very quickly got to know us and our drinks choices - excellent. They were happy to hold half-used bottles of wine over from day to day.
Lesson 7 - Food is plentiful and good quality
Finally, just before you join the ship they get you to stand in front of a picture of the ship and hold a pretend wooden ships wheel. Part way through the cruise an envelope containing 6 of these comical pictures arrived in our cabin. The idea is that you tick a box and leave the photos for your cleaner to take away. All of our party returned the photos in this way, but nevertheless 3 of the 5 cabins had 35 Euros added to the bill for the pictures. That seems to be more than just a coincidence to me! Just 10% of people overlooking this on their bill brings nearly 16,000 Euros a week to MSC.
Lesson 8 - Watch out for the hidden costs
Would I go on this cruise again?
Would I go on another cruise?
Possibly, if there were more grown-up activities going on.
Love the balcony. Bed big & comfortable. Wardrobe slightly narrow.