Apologies if this is a bit long... there is just so much to say about this ship! I'll add a photo album shortly!
MSC Meraviglia – 13th to 20th November – Naples to Civitavecchia
Treated like a Celebrity
We had booked this cruise for a number of reasons, the first being that even though we have visited the majority of ports on the Western Med circuit we had never visited Naples. Knowing that we would like to see Pompeii, Herculaneum, Sorrento and some of the other main attractions, this itinerary meant we could spend a few days in Naples before the start of the cruise and tick these destinations off our lists.
The other reason for booking the cruise was to experience what the latest flagship of the MSC fleet had to offer. Being launched earlier in 2017, MSC Meraviglia was billed as the most technologically advanced ship at sea. Since this cruise, MSC have launched another new ship, MSC Seaside, as part of their impressive expansion plans.
Seaside and Meraviglia are completely different ships, with the design being poles apart. Meraviglia was built by STX France and Seaside by Fincantieri. Seaside focuses on getting guests ‘closer to the sea’ and is the ship that follows the sun, whereas Meraviglia is billed as the ship for all seasons. As I’m yet to sail on Seaside and can only comment on what I’ve seen on the Internet, I’ll refrain from any more comments or comparisons between these two ships.
Boarding at Naples was convenient, with the cruise terminal having decent facilities and a short and inexpensive taxi ride from our hotel helped us to relax. The signage within the terminal could have been better – luggage needed to be dropped off in one side of the terminal, with check-in / boarding being completed in the other. This could have been confusing had we not sought assistance early on.
As we are Black Card members of the Voyagers club we were able to take advantage of the priority boarding – this meant that as soon as the Yacht Club passengers had been taken through security we were able to sail through the crowds. We were given our cruise cards at check in – on recent cruises the cards had been waiting in the cabin.
Once aboard we went to find our cabin, a Fantastica balcony, 14153. We had not fully appreciated on paper just how much bigger than the Fantasia class ships Meraviglia is, with extra corridors and inside cabins it would certainly take some time to get used to the layout.
MSC Cabins are priced on cabin type (inside, outside, balcony, suite etc) and experience type (Bella, Fantastica, Wellness, Aurea, Yacht Club). Each experience type offers different perks. We tend to always choose Fantastica as the cabins are generally in a better location (mid-ships) preference of dining time (although not guaranteed), continental breakfast room service.
The cabin itself was up to the usual MSC standard. It was spotless. It did feel perhaps a little smaller than some of the cabins we have stayed in, but still plenty big enough for two people for a week’s cruise. Storage space appears perhaps a little lacking as there are only two drawers, however suitcases fit under the bed, there is an extra rail in the wardrobe that folds down to provide extra hanging space. Lifejackets are also now stored at the muster station rather than in the cabin which again frees up some space. Our cases were soon delivered and we unpacked; alas there was still room for more clothes.
To our delight the cabin also had a bath with glass shower screen; the bath was particularly nice when coming back to the ship on cooler days; great for relaxing with a glass of wine whilst getting ready for dinner!
As our boarding time was 2pm, we had missed lunch, so it was off up to Deck 15 to have a look at the Market Place buffet. The buffet is simply huge! There are so many different stations including carvery, rotisserie and oriental, as well as the usual pizzas and salads.
Following lunch, it was off to explore round the ship, with our first stop being The Horizon bar – an adults only area at the stern of the ship on Deck 18. This reminded me a little of NCL Epic’s Spice H2o area, only it was more spacious with a much more open feel. There were plenty of sunbeds in the staged amphitheatre area, a decent sized plunge pool and a large hot tub.
We finished our glasses of champagne (Nicholas Feuillatte) which was included in our premium drinks package, which offers excellent value at £36 per day for unlimited consumption of alcoholic beverages, items in the mini bar and room service – there are very few exclusions to the package, with only some super-premium single malts, Beluga Vodka and Zacapa Rum being the main ones.
Back inside and to the Edge cocktail bar on Deck 6. We were delighted to meet up with Francisco, a bar tender who remembered us from our very first cruise, and he was also very pleased to see us. From The Edge bar, it is impossible not to be wowed by the sheer size of Meraviglia; you really get a feel as to how wide the ship is, and how long she is with a spectacular view down the central promenade “Galleria Meraviglia”
Meraviglia boasts the longest LED dome at sea and WOW what an impression it made! The domed ceiling is the focal point of the central promenade, with the LED screen used to show a variety of vistas, from fireworks in London, Paris, Sydney, famous ceilings of the world, ‘under the sea’, in to space, dinosaurs…
Along the promenade are the speciality restaurants, the TV studio / comedy club, the chocolate shop and the Meraviglia lounge, which generally hosted the animation team’s evening games and dances.
One of the reasons many people decide to book cruise holidays is the reputation that cruising has for providing plentiful high quality food. On various review sites MSC seem to take a beating over the food provided in the main dining rooms, with writers suggesting the food is not good.
Let me just say: Food is subjective. What I mean by this is that what suits the taste of one person may be completely against what others feel. I like to think of myself as a good cook and am somewhat a foodie. For me, the food on MSC is varied and well executed. Being a company of Italian heritage, it should come as no surprise that Italian cuisine has a heavy influence on the menu.
Personally I found the food to be of a good standard and with a varied menu. The menu choices have been pared down since I first started cruising with MSC; there are now fewer options for each course and seemingly a push towards a three course dining experience. Portion sizes are adequate, and it is never an issue to have more courses – my partner and I quite often had four or five courses, as we love to try the different options available.
We were assigned ‘My Choice’ dining in the Panorama restaurant and were waited on by Marcello and his team. They were knowledgeable about the menu and offered advice on wine pairings from the list of wines by the glass included in our package.
Highlights of food throughout the week include the sparkling wine risotto and fillet of beef in marsala wine sauce on the first elegant night, the seafood mixed grill served on the Med night was also very well presented, consisting of a whole king prawn, swordfish and cuttlefish.
Traditionally, MSC have not had numerous speciality restaurants. For example, Fantasia and Splendida have just the Tex Mex / Steakhouse, Divina and Preziosa Eataly / steakhouse. Meraviglia is almost a break from this tradition with several options over and above the main dining room. These include a Teppan Yaki and sushi restaurant, a steakhouse, Italian, a British pub. With these choices, in addition to the assigned dining room and buffet options it is impossible not to find something of interest.
As we are both Black Card holders in MSC’s Voyagers club, a perk is a meal for two in a speciality restaurant. We had decided to take one of these meals in the Kyoto Teppan Yaki and the other in the Butchers Cut steakhouse.
The in-cabin TV and the MSC for me app now enables passengers to view the menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As such we checked out whether we would really enjoy the dinner menu ahead of making reservations in another restaurant.
On the second night of the cruise we decided to take our first complimentary meal in the speciality dining and were able to secure a table for 7.30pm. Paul, our chef for the evening was great fun – making a real show out of the whole experience. The complimentary Black Card menu was the ‘Emperor’ selection, which would usually cost €28 per head. It consisted of delights such as sushi, miso soup, fried rice, salmon and steak. The whole experience resulted in a synergy that in my opinion exceeded our expectations. We enjoyed the experience so much we decided that we would take our second complimentary meal in the Teppan Yaki Paul was delighted to see us again when we joined him a couple of nights later for another meal!
For those who have heard of MSC before, it will come as no surprise that there are a number of nationalities onboard, and therefore multiple languages are spoken. English is always the first language, then Italian followed by French, German, Spanish etc. Announcements are therefore limited compared to other cruise lines which seem to constantly have the cruise director on the Tannoy advising passengers of activities going on around the ship.
Just because the announcements aren’t there that doesn’t mean that these activities don’t happen. The daily programme is delivered to the cabin in the evening. The MSC for Me app and the interactive screens around the ship give information about what is happening, where and when.
Everyday during the cruise there was a quiz of some description, multiple games, dance lessons, and even Master Chef at Sea! MSC have partnered up with the TV programme to bring something different to their cruises. To qualify, contestants must take part in a quiz. The top scoring individuals are then chosen to take part in the live show in the theatre.
I was lucky enough to be chosen and was paired up with another contestant from Portugal. It was certainly an experience and quite nerve wracking to try and prepare something tasty and well presented in front of a crowd of 700 using the following ingredients: galia melon, honeydew melon, watermelon, strawberries, feta cheese, balsamic vingar, olive oil, salt and pepper… By a sheer miracle we won and came away with various MSC and Masterchef branded goodies!
On Meraviglia, MSC have teamed up with Cirque du Soleil who perform two different shows. Unfortunately, for much of our sailing there was an issue with some of the equipment in the Carousel Lounge – the special area deck 7 aft beyond the casino dedicated to these performances. This unfortunate issue meant that there were no shows until our penultimate night. We managed to secure two seats for the final night of our cruise to see the Sonor show. The show was absolutely excellent. We’d pre-booked our show and cocktail ticket online so we were really glad we managed to get to see Cirque. It is almost impossible to describe the show other than breath-taking. The comfortable and well-designed lounge with excellent views of the stage even from near the back, the amazing acoustics, wonderful costumes and of course the excellent artists.
There are also three theatre shows per night, of two different shows, which allows passengers to perhaps see something they might have missed. We attended the Opera based around La Boheme which was very good indeed, with live opera singers.
There is far more to Meraviglia than I have mentioned so far – so many bars and lounges, waterslides, simulators, night clubs, sports parks – it would take weeks to write anything further in detail on all these aspects.
We were certainly wowed by the ship and can see why she is the eighth wonder of the world.
During our week onboard we were made to feel like celebrities; so many of the crew recognized us from previous cruises and were genuinely pleased to see us. Nothing was ever too much trouble. My only criticism would be that there did seem to be a lack of seating on occasion. This wouldn’t normally be much of an issue for us, however my partner is recovering from a broken ankle. It was always possible to find somewhere to sit by moving to a different bar or lounge, however this could be inconvenient when wanting to listen to a certain act.
I’m confident that there is something for everyone on this ship and that she is a real game changer. For the moment though MSC Fantasia will still remain my favourite and hold a very special piece of my heart having spent so long on her and her sister Splendida. Being that bit smaller than Meraviglia Fantasia has all of the facilities of a big ship but offers the familiarity of a well-loved holiday home.
Would I sail on Meraviglia again? Yes, I would, but possibly only for a week or ten days – the ship has so much going on it’s impossible to ignore the multitude of activities and attractions and just ‘switch off’ and relax.