Fodor’s Expert Review
Built in 2001 for Festival Cruises and christened European Vision, Armonia was purchased and rechristened by MSC Cruises when the original owner ceased operations in 2004. A sister ship to MSC Sinfonia, she was completely refurbished for family cruises.Read More
Though these four sleek, medium-sized ships are almost exactly the same dimensions and differ only slightly in basic layout, Opera holds almost 200 more passengers typically and has almost 100 extra cabins. Light and bright by day, intimate and sophisticated by night, the contemporary design may not measure up to the sizzle expected by those North American passengers who don’t appreciate more understated European tastes.
Public rooms are spacious and uniformly elegant, with grand touches of marble, brass accents, and lots of wood. The refreshing lack of glitz is more than compensated for by the sparkle of glass and a mixture of primary and neutral colors. With most public areas on the lower two passenger decks, getting acclimated is a breeze. Near the elevator and stairway, lobbies make even vertical movement less challenging.
Space around the Lido pools feels particularly lavish, with two swimming pools and hot tubs.
More widely known as one of the world’s largest cargo shipping companies, MSC has operated cruises with an eclectic fleet since the late 1980s. When the line introduced two graceful, medium-size ships in 2003 and 2004, it ushered in an era of new shipbuilding that has seen the fleet grow faster than any other European cruise line. This line is growing into a major player in both Europe and the Caribbean.
MSC blankets the Mediterranean nearly year-round with a dizzying selection of cruise itineraries that allow a lot of time in ports of call and include few if any sea days. In summer months, several ships sail off to northern Europe to ply the Baltic. Itineraries planned for repositioning sailings visit some intriguing, off-the-beaten-track ports of call that other cruise lines bypass.
No glitz, no clutter—just elegant simplicity—is the standard of MSC’s seaworthy interior decor. Extensive use of marble, brass, and wood reflects the best of Italian styling and design; clean lines and bold colors set their modern sophisticated tone.
MSC adopts some activities that appeal to American passengers without abandoning those preferred by Europeans; however, regardless of the itinerary, be prepared for an Italian-influenced experience. Also expect to hear announcements in several languages.
- 9 passenger decks
- 2 dining rooms
- Internet (some)
- 2 pools
- Fitness classes
- hot tubs
- steam room
- 8 bars
- dance club
- show room
- video game room
- Children’s programs
- Laundry service
- Internet terminal
- No-smoking cabins