Fodor’s Expert Review
A modern, mid-size ship (Poesia-class) with lovely interior and a variety of cuisine and activities.Read More
Best For People Who Want
A true bargain on a classy new ship with family activities and children’s menus.
MSC is a tasteful cruise line that has refined its product over the years after experiencing early growing pains. While MSC Cruises tries to accommodate American tastes during the Caribbean season, the onboard vibe remains European, with Italian officers and a mix of Italian, Balinese and International crew. The onboard entertainment, pianists and vocal duos with guitar, feature excellent European performers. As in the Mediterranean, announcements are in five languages, but in the Caribbean English is the first.
The Musica-class of MSC Cruises is the second generation – started in 2006. There are four Musica-class ships including the Musica, Orchestra, Poesia and MSC Magnifica with a debut in 2010. At 90,000 tons for 3000 passengers, these ships belong firmly in the mainstream market and are comparable to Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise lines in America. Keep in mind that MSC cruises is marketed to the European masses.
There is 236,000 sq. ft. of public space inside the ship, most of it supported by an Art Nouveau design theme straight out of 1930s Europe. The main attraction is a three deck tall atrium, where the focal piece is a clear glass platform suspended a piano over a waterfall. On the bottom floor of the atrium you will find the reception desk and shore excursion offices. There are also plenty of shops nearby, including the perfume shop, the jewelry store and a kiosk for everyday notions.
There are three large showroom lounges with plenty of a grandstand style seating on raised platforms facing the stage. The entertainment may be a jazz quartet or a single piano player accompanied by his own technology. The main showroom is the Covent Garden Theater with fine sight lines and a state-of-the-art theater featuring fairly large cast production shows.
Altogether, there are 11 bars and lounges on the ship, and music is the common cruise denominator for all of the various nationalities onboard. During the day, one can join in trivia games, cooking demonstrations and various other activities, but keep in mind that each of these must be conducted in five different languages.
To navigate the ship, one must walk a through each public room and it is not possible to bypass the bottlenecks that are bound to occur. There is no unifying passageway or atrium from which every, or even a few, public rooms are accessible.
As expected for a European cruise ship, the highlight is the cuisine and the best on board comes in the buffet area and specialty restaurants. These alternative dining spots, served on an a la carte basis instead of fixed per person service fee, makes them more convenient and accessible. Best of all, the price will not go beyond the typical cruise ship alternative dining experience.
With MSC Cruises’ “kids sail free” policy all year round these ships get especially crowded with youngsters during the summer. That policy applies to anyone 17 or under. Keep in mind that the foremost nationalities onboard are Italian, Spanish, French, German and English – in that order. While the American component becomes stronger whenever an MSC ship enters the Caribbean region, the European onboard flavor is persistent and continues to appeal to the Europeans. U.S. cruisers are advised that taking an MSC Cruise in the Caribbean does not necessarily mean that English and will the dominant language onboard. It depends on the passenger mix onboard.
Delicious pasta and risotto dishes are featured nightly. The menu lists appetizers, soup, salads, pasta, main courses and garnishes, as well as vegetarian and alternative dishes. The dessert menu includes cakes, pastries, ice cream and sorbet, along with after-dinner drinks.
While the buffet area on earlier MSC cruises ships was a source of several complaints, over the years they have gotten their act together and managed to provide a variety of cuisine with something to appeal to almost every culinary gene pool. In Europe one well have to pay for every beverage including bottled water and ice tea. Ships in a Caribbean will offer these drinks on a complimentary basis. It is possible to get water free if you can find the ice dispenser where glasses and water are available.
The only time you will get coffee free onboard MSC ships is during breakfast at the buffet area were from room service. The good news is that you can get a fantastic espresso or mocha at any bar on the ship. The bad news is you have to pay for it.
Made to order snacks are available 24 hours a day from room service, allow 30 minutes for preparation and delivery. Continental breakfast can be ordered at bedtime for morning delivery. Expect coffee and rolls, only. In Europe, room service items will be charged for on an a la carte basis. In the Caribbean room service is gratis.
There are two seatings in each of the two dining rooms (5:45 and 8:00 p.m. respectively in the Caribbean, 7:30 and 10:00 p.m. in Europe), and casual alternatives in the Lido buffet (6:00 – 8:00 p.m.) and poolside grills. The grill area on Deck 12 opens for alternative dining until 9:30 p.m. It is well protected from wind and there’s plenty of shade.
Villa Borghese and L’Ibiscus dining rooms are situated on Decks 5 and 6 respectively. Those prone to seasickness may prefer the mid-ship location of Villa Borghese but L’Ibiscus has the better views, with the full picture windows looking out over the stern. Breakfast and lunch are both open seating, while dinner is assigned tables.
Most of the service personnel onboard are Indian, South African or European. Dining room service is provided by Europeans.
The Aloha Beauty Farm and Centre, deck 13, offers aerobic equipment in a light-filled room with floor-to-ceiling windows. The spa offerings are the usual cruise ship fare of facials and massages. There are two swimming pools and two whirlpools (deck 11). And although the pool area is surrounded deck chairs, more can be found on deck 13, nicely shielded from the wind. Topless sunbathing is allowed in specified locations.
Aerobics classes are free, with personal training sessions available for $35. Step, Pilates and Stretching classes are a steep $12 per lesson, five for $55. There is a jogging track is on Deck 12 above the pool.
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
All American cuisine for every meal; a smoke-free environment.
Each of Orchestra’s public room has its own distinctive color scheme, all more subdued than the earlier ships, and each room blends well with the next, giving a sense of unity. Cabin decks are similarly color-coordinated, each in its own hue. Abundant polished brass, mirrors, glass and marble make the insides of these immaculate ships resplendent.
Orchestra offers 11 different bars and lounges, each of them unique, and most of them situated on Decks 5 and 6 connected by a grand marble staircase.
At the other end of the scale, the L’ Enoteca Wine Bar offers a selection of varietals and an even better selection of food pairings to go with them. You can choose from, Spanish, Italian, French or German cuisine traditionally consumed with wine. For under $10 one can get a plate of a cultural delight, such as pickles and sausages from Germany or breads and cheese from France.
On deck five is the Casino Palm Beach with a traditional Monte Carlo flair. One will find blackjack, slot machines ranging from one penny to five dollars, or euro as the case may be, and of course roulette. There is no craps table, however, as that is an American game. Behind the casino is a the Shanghai Chinese Restaurant, and beyond the stairwell comes the cyber cafe and the Havana Club where cigar smoking is not only allowed, it is encouraged.
Deck six has the outdoor promenade deck encircling nothing but staterooms. Decks seven through 11 are all staterooms as well, but deck 13, Vivace Deck, begins with the Aloha Beauty Farm and Fitness Centre all the way forward. Referring to a fitness spa as a beauty farm, well I’ll leave the jokes to you. Deck 12 midships is the pool and suntanning area followed by a large buffet restaurant. Fully astern is the a la carte restaurant Il Giardino.
Deck 14 forword is comprised of penthouses. Midships is the jogging track around the pool area and astern we find the golf simulator, children’s area, shuffleboard, a simulated space trip to ride and a virtual games parlor. Fully a stern is the discotheque Q32. The small Deck 14 has a tennis court and secluded tanning areas. In Europe topless tanning is still acceptable.
In the Caribbean, a daily gratuity for cabin attendants, bellboys and wait staff of $12 per person is automatically added to the onboard account, unless you’re under 18 and sharing with two adults, in which case it’s only $6.00 per day. The amount can be adjusted at the front desk.
A gratuity for bar staff is already included in the price of drinks. Spa and casino staff may be tipped in cash at the discretion of the passenger. In the Caribbean, they have come to expect a tip from the North American clientele. In Europe, tradition dictates that tips be presented to service personnel on the last night of the cruise. The cruise line suggests $3.50 to $5.00 per person per day for the Waiter and Stateroom attendant and $1.00 – $2.00 per day for the Maitre D’. Children under 12 pay half those amounts. Again, the gratuity for bar service personnel is included in the price of the drink.
The cruise staff, called Animators or Pagliacci, double as entertainers who foment a lot of lighthearted fun and mischief. Every evening, musicians perform in the various lounges, and there’s jollity in profusion in the Covent Garden Theater.
A large deck area behind the swimming pools is used for games and dance classes. Bingo is offered on board, but pay attention or you might miss it.
Baseball and music-themed Caribbean cruises allow passengers to meet up to half a dozen baseball legends and Orchestral greats. Hitting, pitching and batting clinics, interview, Q&A, storytelling, and autograph sessions are all popular.
Interior cabins are 152 sq. ft. with two twin beds that can be converted to a Queen. They come with a hair dryer, Internet access, safe, minibar and a chair with a desk. Ocean view cabins are similar, except that they have a window. Balcony cabins in categories 10 and 11 add a 40 square-foot balcony with floor-to-ceiling glass doors. Categories six through nine are smaller veranda staterooms at only 126 sq. ft. Balcony suites are 229 ft. with a 40 foot balcony. They come with extra-large bathrooms including a tub and shower combination.
With the kids sail free policy, which requires that the kids stay in a room with two full fare paying adults, there are plenty of cabins with one or two upper berths and cabins with a double or single sofa bed. For families with money to burn there are connecting staterooms.
The dress code is resort casual with two formal nights on ten-night, three on 11-night, and four on 17- and 18-night cruises. On our cruise we found the Europeans dress surprisingly casual, even on formal nights. Not a single tuxedo was in sight, and on the jacket and tie required informal nights we saw casual shirts and pants were everywhere. A simple jacket and tie would have been enough to qualify as fully dressed on our MSC cruise.
In Europe these ships appeal to the part of the European market that still does not speak English – so in Europe expect to hear a lot of Italian, French, Spanish, German and everything else.
The second ship in Cruises’ Musica-class, MSC Orchestra debuted in 2007. Like other ships in the MSC Cruises fleet, MSC Orchestra is designed to offer an affordable cruise vacation and attracts a varied demographic as illustrated by announcements made in six languages—including Japanese.
MSC Cruises took a giant leap into mainstream cruising with the introduction of this large and entirely new ship class. Highlights of the Musica-class design are a three-deck central foyer, where a piano is suspended on a transparent floor, à la carte restaurants, large-screen outdoor cinemas, and, on MSC Magnifica, a covered outdoor pool with retractable roof.
Italian culture prevails throughout, and serves as an important part of the entire cruise experience. Interiors are a blend of art deco and art nouveau themes as well as the authentic Italian designs for which other MSC Cruises ships are known. The extensive use of various colored marbles adds a luxurious quality to public spaces. In addition to its soothing Zen garden and Oriental music, the sushi bar is a bonus to the dining experience.
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.
- 12 passenger decks
- Specialty restaurant
- 2 dining rooms
- 2 buffets
- ice cream parlor
- 2 pools
- children’s pool
- Fitness classes
- hot tubs
- steam room
- 9 bars
- dance club
- show room
- video game room
- Children’s programs
- Laundry service
- Internet terminal
- No-smoking cabins