HomeTravelA Listener’s Review of MSC Meraviglia (2020)
A Listener’s Review of MSC Meraviglia (2020)
March 9, 2021
Matt Listener took a cruise on the MSC Meraviglia in 2020 and decided to send us a detailed report on what he thought of the ship and his overall impression. Let’s go!
MSC Meraviglia (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)
My Cruise Course
This is now my 5th MSC cruise and my 19th in total. I have also done the following MSC cruises:
2009 at Poetry (my first cruise).
2016 on Divina
2018 by sea
2019 at Sea View
When I sailed on the Divina in 2016, I said I thought the cruise line had come a long way in catering to an American audience since 2009. Well, I’d say the line has evolved even more over the years.
My favorite 32-year-old bachelor quote is Celebrity. In a perfect world, I would sail with celebrities, if only for their amazing ships, their always exquisite food, and their exceptional service. However, since the introduction of the Edge Class ships in late 2018, Celebrity has nearly blown my budget – and I think the same goes for many young professionals – especially if you like to cruise 3 or more times a year like I do.
When MSC developed the Seaside class of ships, I found a cheaper (albeit more European) version of what Celebrity is trying to do…. Hence my increase to four MSC cruises in the last four years. Plus, on my last two cruises (Edge and Summit), I’ve noticed that with the rise in celebrity prices, fewer and fewer young people are going. If Celebrity doesn’t stop raising prices, I think they will become the newest version of Holland America Line in terms of demographics.
Based on my experience with five different cruise lines since I started sailing 11 years ago, there is no doubt that MSC Cruises is perhaps the most controversial company when it comes to Americans. As many of you have probably read or heard in other magazines, there are many Americans who love MSC (like me) and many who hate it. There seems to be little in common.
Knowing before you go.
This is not Carnival or Royal Caribbean. It’s an Italian line that doesn’t apologize for its glitzy, glamorous and sometimes over-the-top decor, style and attitude. The new ships in particular are absolutely stunning.
If you absolutely love carnival, chances are you’re not interested in the MSC. I recommend that you do as much research as possible before you decide to go on a cruise with the MSC.
MSC Cruises demographic data
If you’ve never sailed with MSC before, you’ll probably have a different feel to other cruise lines you know. When you leave an American port, you can probably expect the largest variety of cruise passengers you’ve ever known.
Without actual data, my observation would be as follows:
45% Generation Y and Millennials (born in the 80s and 90s)
20% baby boomers (56-74 years)
15% of Generation X (born in the late 60s and 70s)
15 percent children (including adolescents, infants and children)
5% of the over-75s
To get started, here’s some basic information. I’m a 32-year-old single man. As with many of my cruises, I sailed with my 77-year-old father who had some health problems. It’s a cruise to spend some time with my father/son while we live in different states. He usually goes to bed pretty early and I enjoy the nightlife in the early hours. So it will inevitably be a lonely cruise for me.
Speaking of dads: Although he can still walk a little, he usually uses a power chair to get around. The staff on board MSC Meraviglia could not have been more friendly or helpful when you needed them. It is a great tribute to their employees, not only as professionals, but also as individuals.
MSC Meravilla Details
As I said before, I travel a lot…. and while I give Celebrities and Norwegians incredibly high marks for their new ships and for their beauty and modernity, the Meravilla is incredible in terms of aesthetics and sheer beauty. I’m young and I like bright/glamorous modern ships. These incredible ships are another reason why MSC has become a real player in the game. All their new ships are works of art.
Swarovski crystal staircases are installed in every corner of MSC Meraviglia.
MSC Meraviglia has three main interiors. There is a bar, customer service and information centers on deck 5. On deck 7 you’ll find most of the specialty restaurants, several bars and a karaoke lounge (all in the style of an open balcony overlooking deck 6 (Galleria Meraviglia).
Finally, on deck 6, you’ll find almost all the shops, most of the bars, the tour desk, the rest of the specialty restaurants, the chocolate factory and many other options.
Deck 6, known as Galleria Meraviglia, also offers the best view of the famous LED ceiling that changes throughout the cruise. Video screenings, art exhibitions, entertainment clusters and various other things play there. The Meravilla Gallery is truly one of the most unique and incredible interiors you will see on a ship. I can only describe it as a luxury shopping mall at sea.
Galeria Meravilla (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)
On the three decks mentioned above you’ll also find the famous MSC Swarovski crystal staircase at the back of the gallery. This area consists mainly of three decks with mirrored bars, lounges and information tables (including guest contact areas, photo booths and the MSC gift shop). There will also be lots of live music and beautiful digital HD canvas drawings, artwork, etc.
READ MORE: 15 tips for visiting the MSC marine reserve Ocean Rook
Like almost all cabins on cruise ships, the cabin was small and fulfilled its purpose. Although I always have a room with a balcony on every ship I sail on, I can’t say I spend much time in my cabin except to sleep and get dressed. But in fact, the cabin was very nice and modern. The balcony was of a decent size, and I took a Bloody Mary or coffee in the morning.
You are on a cruise ship to have fun, be surrounded by people and sunbathe. You can’t do any of that while you’re in your room. I was on deck 14, in the middle of the ship. It was a beautiful place and I had easy access to everything I wanted. My hostess in the room was Elvina from St. Lucia. She was great and was always there for me if I needed anything.
(Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)
MSC Meraviglia’s pool beaches are beautiful and spacious. On deck 15 is the main pool deck, where most of the loungers are, as well as a balcony deck overlooking the pool on deck 16.
There is also a Yacht Club pool deck on a small part of deck 16. Access to the Yacht Club is restricted to Yacht Club passengers and requires a key card.
There is also a small area for loungers on deck 18, above the pool and next to the children’s area. There is also a rear pool on decks 16, 17 and 18. This is an adults-only pool. As with most cruises, the lounge chairs quickly fill up with towel clips, bags and magazines, which sometimes sit on the lounge chairs for hours before they are actually occupied. Pretty overcrowded on sea days.
I don’t know how the MSC can really solve this problem, except by recommending that you leave early. The pool areas were very nice and this is what one normally expects from a large cruise ship pool. There are many neighborhood bars and a poolside drink service.
As I have said several times, I am young and I found that there were many millennium singles on the boat, as well as married couples and others. There would have been about 300 kids on that cruise, but I commend MSC for setting up clubs for kids and teens, because if there were that many kids on the boat, I didn’t really notice and they weren’t a problem at all.
I ate in five specialty restaurants on board.
Meatloaf (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)
By far the best speciality restaurant on MSC Meraviglia is Butcher’s Cut. I know a lot of people are bawling their eyes out at upscale steakhouses these days, as seems to be the case all over the world.
But trust me, you want to try this restaurant ….. try it. My father has also participated in over ten cruises, and we both agreed that it was one of the best meals we have ever had at sea. I first tried Butcher’s Cut on the MSC Seaside, and I liked it then as much as I do now. There are many different cuts of steak, with many different side dishes.
If you have a specialty package, they limit you to a filet or sirloin steak accompanied by an appetizer, two side dishes of your choice and a dessert. If you want to substitute the sirloin steak (as I did), they charge you half the price of the steak menu and you can finish the package with all the other dishes I mentioned.
The seafood was quite good and the atmosphere very pleasant, as in most of their specialty restaurants, but I’m from Louisiana…. So it’s hard for me to find better seafood than what I eat at home. I ate yellowfin tuna and my dad ate lobster. They were both good. Alien, but all right. They get a B+ because there isn’t much variety on the menu. Maybe seven or eight things to choose from.
Kaito Teppanyaki (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)
If you are an avid cruiser, many of you have probably had a hibachi on the boat (probably even Teppanyaki).
As always, the chef’s performance, the variety of meats and seafood, and all the dishes were exceptional. The only reason they didn’t get an A+ is because there are no special lunches for Teppanyaki. You have to pay for your food right away, period. It’s a bit cheap on the MSC side if you ask me.
READ MORE: Review of the MSC Meraviglia (2019)
Cirque du Soleil dinner show
During this dinner show you can choose from meat, seafood or vegetarian dishes. I went for the meat, and it was lamb rack, not garlic mashed potatoes. The food was absolutely incredible. It was the best meal on the ship, along with Butcher’s Cut. My dad had a vegetarian version and he said it was delicious too. I highly recommend this dinner show, both for the entertainment and the quality of the food.
Kaito Sushi Bar
It was the only food special I didn’t really like. I ate here on the last night of the cruise with a friend I had met earlier in the trip. The sashimi (raw fish) was excellent and fresh. Unfortunately, almost everything else has been cancelled. If you have a package with special offers, you have absolutely no control over your order. It was a menu of miso soup (which was cold and bland), fried rolls (California style) which were mediocre at best, and green tea ice cream for dessert.
If we had ordered the sandwiches we wanted, we would have paid $12 to $15 per sandwich and forgotten about my lunch, which was already paid for. If you ask me, it’s really a scam from a specialty restaurant. MSC needs to overhaul the entire menu and make it more user-friendly, so customers understand what they are really paying for. If you buy a special food package, you get value for your money at Kaito’s.
Aside from the lack of food, the sushi bar is located on the main promenade under a huge LED ceiling. Sounds good, doesn’t it? I’m afraid not. You’re in the middle of the main corridor, on deck 7, with ridiculous live music coming from all sides. You almost have to shout from across the table for your tablemate to hear you. I realize they couldn’t really fix the place, but it’s one of the few constructive things I didn’t like about the whole ship that didn’t improve an already mediocre dinner.
Main dining room
Thanks to our MSC status, we could dine whenever we wanted. However, we only ate in the main dining room twice because we went there five times in the evening.
We were assigned the Olive d’Ori (one of the Meraviglia’s three main dining rooms). The food was average – not great, but not bad. I can say that this is a big improvement over my previous experience at MSC minus Seaside (which was great).
L’Olivo D’Oro Main Dining Room (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)
If you talk to other passengers, you’ll hear mixed reviews about the large dining rooms. It’s a problem Americans in MSC have had for years. It seems to be the one thing they don’t always do well compared to the other major cruise lines. It’s not great, but it’s not always good. For example, one evening we had excellent service, but the food was inadequate. Last night the food was excellent, but the service was terrible. Unfortunately, this is quite often the case in the MSC.
That is why I am more interested in MSC’s speciality restaurants than any other cruise ship I have ever been on.
The buffet on MSC Meraviglia is quite standard compared to what you would expect from a buffet on a large cruise ship. We had breakfast and lunch there every day on sea days.
Contrary to what some people said about the buffet, I thought the variety was pretty good. There were American favorites like hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza, as well as salad and pasta bars with a variety of pastas, lasagna, ravioli, and so on. The buffet also has a grill section that changes from day to day with things like roast beef, pork tenderloin and roast chicken.
Total number of dining rooms:
When you add it all up, the overall rating of the food is a solid A- or B+ (I’m from Louisiana, believe me…. if it was bad or not so good, I’d tell you).
Bars on the MSC Meraviglia
The best bar on the ship is the Sky Lounge, on deck 18, overlooking the pool deck. It’s only open at night. It is a very modern piano bar with a jazz singer. But what makes it so special is that it has the best bartenders in Meravilla. Ask Mohammad, Henry from the Philippines or Raul from Honduras. All three are Meravilla’s most decorated mixologists, and all three have been with the company for over 10 years. This bar is elegant and is not a party bar like the others on the boat.
The most enjoyable bar on the ship is the Meraviglia Bar, located on deck 6, near the main theatre. Games for adults and music groups are usually organized.
Sky Lounge (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)
Meravilla MSC Beverages
Well, I’m a snob. And I drink a lot. I can assure you that no matter how much MSC charges for its beverage containers, I’m not the kind of person who makes money at ….. I always buy top quality drinks on all my cruises. On this cruise, the beverage package I purchased cost $434 for the entire cruise ($62 per day). But with MSC status I got 25% off, which saved me $108.50, so I actually paid $325.50.
Types of beverages
Non-alcoholic beverage package ($203 total, $29 per day). It includes all soft drinks and energy drinks.
Easy Package ($245 total, $35 per day, covers drinks up to $6 per drink). I recommend it if you are on a limited budget but still want to drink alcohol. This includes most beverages that have been mixed with domestic alcohol, i.e. vodka, rum, bourbon, gin, etc.
Premium package ($434 total or $62 per day, covers drinks up to $12 per drink). It’s for people who like Patron, Grey Goose, premium rums, whiskeys, etc. This includes almost all frozen drinks and branded cocktails.
Premium Plus Package (only $553, or $79 per day, includes all alcoholic beverages on board). There is only one reason you would want this package, and that is if you want things like Dom Perignon, a very old Scotch whisky, or a rare premium whisky. Honestly, I think Premium Plus is a waste of money, but that’s just my opinion.
An important tip for buying a beverage package on your own.
Crew and maintenance
I have read many criticisms of this ship from people who criticize the staff for service problems. But on my cruise, I only had one night in the main dining room.
If I was in the most critical position,I would set the service to B+ or A…. …or A. If we ever needed anything, we took care of it quickly. On the rare occasions when something went wrong, it was quickly corrected.
One of the complaints I have seen regularly on MSC cruises concerns problems with non-English speaking staff. Personally, I believe that the situation has improved considerably in recent years, especially on Caribbean ships such as the Meravilla and the Primorye. There is still a slight language barrier, but the vast majority of staff are reasonably fluent in English and know how to communicate with clients. If you find yourself in the rare situation where someone can’t answer a question, just ask another crew member nearby. All the major cruise lines have crews from different countries, so the occasional language problem is not limited to MSC cruises.
As I have believed for many years, entertainment is MSC’s strongest area. Even when we returned in 2009 for a very deserted cruise on the MSC Poesia, the entertainment was still good.
The entertainment on this cruise was excellent. The show is just sensational from night to night. Even people who didn’t seem to enjoy the cruise said how good the entertainment was. Instead of thinking of this as a show, let me tell you that you will see a lot of incredible dancing, singing and acrobatics on Broadway.
The best show so far was Sonor in the Carousel Lounge, a theater for Cirque du Soleil productions at the back of the ship. You will need a special ticket for dinner or just buy a ticket to this show and get a free signature cocktail with the show.
Carousel Hall (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)
All the major theatre shows are free and they are excellent. Every night is different. As on most cruises, you’ll need to reserve a seat for one of the three major evening shows in the theater. You can easily change your session times throughout the day. Most major theatre performances take place every evening at 7pm, 8.30pm and 10pm.
My advice? Choose the time that is most convenient for you with your meal plan. Once the booking is made, you can do so via the MSC For Me application, which you can use at any time during your cruise, even without a WiFi package. You can also make reservations on one of the many touch-sensitive video screens on the ship. You can book all show hours for the first day or choose the show hours you want to attend on the same day.
READ MORE: All you need to know about MSC Cruises.
I work in management for the company I work for and I need to keep in touch during a cruise. Mostly I just need wifi in case of a client emergency, or a random glance at my email when I’m on the pool deck, or to have iTunes to work out at the gym.
I have unlimited WiFi for this trip. WiFi was pretty good when it worked. There were times when he was gone for an hour here and there, but that was nothing. If you want to watch TV shows or movies, I would download some videos before boarding, and I wouldn’t try to use Netflix or Disney+ on a wifi connection. I don’t think that would be good for streaming.
For social media, email and using Google, however, he was very good.
Like I said, I’m single and I love long nights on cruise ships. MSC is doing great thanks to the variety of themed parties and the atmosphere in the clubs around Meravilla. There were several theme nights on my cruise, including White Night, a party from the 70s and 80s, Tropical Night and two Formal Nights. Yes, that’s right, the MSC always has two alternating nights during the week-long cruise.
Personally, I think I’m the rare millennial traditionalist who actually likes it. I already wear a sport jacket to work often, and that’s in southern Louisiana, where it’s certainly warm enough most of the year. Anyway, the Elegant Nights, as they call it, are not very impressive. But they don’t allow men to wear shorts or jeans in restaurants that night (except the buffet). Most women wear cocktail dresses and heels.
The casino was nice, but it lacked a good atmosphere…. But I won’t be the best person to evaluate the area, because I’m not a big player and I’m allergic to cigarette smoke. This was one of the few places on the ship where smoking was allowed. Other than that, it looked really cool and people seemed to be having fun.
Casino Imperial (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)
As I mentioned in my introduction, MSC has come a long way since I first sailed with them in 2009. This cruise was consistently good in all areas. The food was delicious, the service excellent, the drinks very good and the ship spectacular. I want to reiterate that I don’t understand why so many people had problems with this cruise.
At the end of the day, if you are considering booking this cruise or if you have already booked it and you are as scared as I am because of negative criticism, you don’t have to! Keep an open mind. The cruise is what you do. I have yet to find the perfect cruise, and the MSC Meraviglia is no exception. But I can say that I had more than three expectations, but I had time for only one.
frequently asked questions
Are MSC cruises cancelled?
MSC MAGNIFICA Following the UK government’s roadmap briefing on the country’s recovery, in which it stressed that international travel restrictions would be lifted until December 17, the UK is now reorganizing. MSC Cruises UK & Ireland has decided not to ease restrictions on the use of most of its yachts before May 31. May 2021 will only be cancelled for our British and Irish guests.
Are there formal evening functions on MSC Meraviglia?
MSC Meraviglia Dress Code Night: The evenings are generally bland, but elegant and casual rather than formal, with the exception of two elegant (non-formal) evenings on the cruise.
Is MSC better than Royal Caribbean?
The MSC buffets had a little less choice, but the food was good quality and the Italian pizza fantastic. Royal Caribbean’s buffet offers many other dishes and a wide range of nationalities, such as Asian cuisine. The large dining room is of good quality and the service is good in both restaurants.
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