MSC allows kids under 18 to travel free. It also offers military discounts as well as other discounts, just ask. We were 3 people, me- the mom, one daughter in college, and one daughter in high school. We went in October when most schools are in session, and passengers their ages, especially the teenager, were few. Someone must have cancelled a vacation because we were able to pick up the cruise in Genoa, Italy with a very nice balcony room on the 9th floor. The balcony made the room feel more spacious. The 9th floor is a great location. 8th floor is decent as well. Lower floors may risk a view of the life boats, so ask before you book. We were a September booking and were thrilled to get any room!
Recommendations: Throw out expectations and be happily in the moment when you take this cruise. Also, if male, pack a nice jacket, collared shirt (possibly tie or bow tie),or formal wear; if female, pack a very nice dress, nice slacks or long skirt with a formal blouse, or formal wear for one or two dress-up evenings. Formal wear is not required but if one is more casually dressed, one might opt to have dinner in the cafeteria and try to avoid the busier lounges. No one will say anything if a passenger is not dressed up, but know ahead these evenings do take place, many people put effort into looking particularly nice. I was surprised at the level of formal dress.
Highlights - My daughters loved the Day at Sea and just enjoyed being on the Mediterranean, reading books on the balcony. I understood a birthday cake was ordered at the time of booking. I double checked the morning of my daughter's birthday and found the order had not been recorded. Yikes! I ordered a new cake, but alas, at dinner, a nice but different cake arrived. It was of lesser value, so the price was adjusted with apologies for their error. Trust, but verify any special arrangements. Frankly, I was disappointed the previous order was not recorded, glad I checked, and was surprised a same day order was even possible. Yay! Our table mates were wonderfully enthusiastic and cheered with great spirit! My daughter was delighted to have her birthday recognized!
Other highlights, we all seemed to enjoy hot chocolate at the coffee bar at night. Loved the company of our dinner table partners, liked the interior design ( esp the sparkling staircase and enclosed swimming pool), the shows in the evening. Dinner and a show, available every night! A fun way to spend an evening.
Money - I paid $180 for Internet because my daughter attends an internet based high school. Still, the internet at sea is poor- regardless of the ship or cruise line. It took over 5 hours to watch a one hour academic video. Better off not planning to do school lessons while on the cruise but do consider paying for the internet because without the package, you will have pretty much non-existent connections.
On beverages and the beverage package. Upon arrival we were given a one on one presentation. I ended up spending $571 for a discounted $651 drink package that covered the three of us and included alcohol. Mainly because I wanted freedom to order a beverage without penny-pinching or counting up our beverages every night. Compared to other cruise lines, this was a very good deal. This meant we could get chilled water bottles, j fruit juice drinks, coffee at any time; but when I added up all the drinks we had on board and included a mandatory tip ,as it does when purchased per drink, it came to under $180. We just didn't drink as much on ship as I thought we might, but we did have the freedom I sought.
The allowable $6 glass of wine with this particular package was okay but not the best.The better drinks started at $7 and up. I would have been better off allowing $350 for a very generous drink budget that would have more than covered the three of us- and getting the drinks I prefer. Then again, that would require paying attention to every purchase and a potential reckoning if one did not agree with MSC's tally. Everyone we met had taken a beverage package.
You can fill up water bottles for free at the dining facilities on the 14th floor. Still, because of my daughter's free ticket, I figured the overall cost of travel was still a good deal.
Required Service tip was $210 ($70x3 people in the room) this tip is to include behind the scene workers, and I hope it does, but all the crew were working hard so we tipped privately anyway. We went on one MSC excursion for a total of $190. The rest we arranged with private tour guides or we went on our own.
Including a few gifts from the gift shop, the money spent on the ship, beyond the price of the cruise, came to $1,600 or $533. per person.
Americans, Canadians, and those who have traveled other cruise lines - please note, I understand only 4% of the passengers on this ship in the Mediterranean are English speakers from the USA, Canada, (I am not sure if this percentage includes Great Britain). English will not be the first language with announcements. This is a lovely cruise, not a luxury cruise. Don't look for mints on the pillows, no turn down service, but your room will be clean. You will not be pampered or overly attended to, but if you are willing to walk a bit, you might be also willing to wait in line to find the answers to your questions. You will have questions because communication could use some improvement. This cruise line seems to work well for independent folks who don't expect others to wait on them. Some experience on other cruise lines helps as well. You might want to forgo room service or other fancy separate pay meals ( They promote these expensive meals and I am taking this from other guests who took the plunge) because, while a cooperative good natured crew, and safe and a pleasant trip for all aboard is critically important to MSC; fussiness and a highly discriminating sense of quality is not. Save your funds for a special excursion or desired meal in a port of call. This is a great cruise for many who can truly appreciate and enjoy adequate to nice travel on a modest budget.
Meals - In Europe, they dine late - I was told second seating was 7:30 but it was 8:30 . That was too late for us, so we requested and were allowed to change to the first seating at 6:30. This means diners arrive between 6:15-6:30. Diners arriving after 6:30 will need to go to self-serve cafeteria style on the 14th floor. The meals were well presented and were enjoyable in flavor, but I would say the meals were a bit shy of being in the fully delicious category. Then again, mass produced meals, plated and individually served hot, to hundreds of people at the same time, is always an amazing production to me, especially when all the different cultural cuisine preferences are considered! We ate breakfast and dinner on ship. They offer a lunch but we never tried it.
Excursions - As noted above, we only went on one with MSC and it was very well done. We had another planned and ticketed, but bad weather forced a port of call change and that excursion was cancelled and promptly refunded. If you go independently and hire your own guides- be aware the ship plans are flexible and you may find your port-of-call changed. You might want to wait until the night before to find a guide or plan to explore on your own, hire taxi's and use guidebooks or the Internet (using the Internet in Europe may require some additional arrangements) If you use an independent guide, you may want to make the return to ship time 2.5 hours before departure from port. This allows some space for travel delays. So your day touring might be from 9:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. for a 5 p.m. departure or be back by 10 p.m. for 12:30 a.m. departure. We looked at excursions as simply a sample of an area. There are several places we would like to visit again!
Would we go with MSC again? Yes! We had fun and saw ports of Italy, France, and Spain, met friendly people and managed transportation, meals, lodging, and even gifts, within a moderate budget. Thank you MSC!
Nicely appointed. We needed three single beds, so we separated the two that were together. When the sofa bed was in bed mode, there wasn't half an inch to spare. The beds were a bit firmer than I like, but I did not wake up with a bad back, so that was very nice.It is hard to get a bed firmness to meet everyone's desires. Both my daughter's thought their beds were fine. One day the water didn't work but it was something to do with the whole pipe line. It was quickly fixed. Another day, water dripped down from the ceiling onto my bed. We called, and maintenance came quickly and solved the problem. When I asked about possibly getting dry sheets, I was told housekeeping would be on the floor at 6:30, we could ask them at that time ( only we needed to be at dinner at that same time). We managed to catch housekeeping a bit early and all was well. It is a ship- space is at a premium. Mainly, we loved the balcony .