MSC Magnifica is one of the Musica-class ships, which debuted in 2006 and include sister ships MSC Musica, Orchestra and Poesia, with Magnifica the last to join the quartet in 2010.
For 2018 Magnifica began sailing the line's first full season round trip from the U.K. -- homeporting in Southampton -- and, as a result, a number of Brit-friendly features have been added, such as kettles in every cabin and Yorkshire Tea (the line even employed a Tea Taster to ensure the quality was up to scratch), bangers and Marmite at breakfast, scones and jam at tea time, and English entertainers for some of the shows. That said, MSC Magnifica remains an Italian ship, so passengers shouldn't expect an all-British experience such as the likes of P&O Cruises or Fred. Olsen. What they will get is the best of both worlds in a warm, friendly and cosmopolitan environment.
A comment often made about MSC is that the ships are too glitzy and over the top, but that certainly doesn't apply to the 3,223-passenger Magnifica, which has no crystal-studded staircases, water parks or the exclusive "ship within a ship" Yacht Club enclave found on the line's newer and larger vessels. So while that will be a minus for some, it's a plus for passengers who enjoy a more traditional style of cruising with less all-singing all-dancing amenities.
What Magnifica does have is a plethora of diverse bars and lounges -- with drinks at very reasonable prices, an elegant atrium with a grand piano as the centrepiece, and virtually round-the-clock dining opportunities (albeit with just one speciality restaurant). It's not an overwhelmingly huge ship, and is well designed and easy to get around. In common with other vessels in the fleet, cruises are sold as three "experiences" -- Bella, Fantastica and Aurea -- with various levels of inclusions. For example, priority dining times and free room service delivery for Fantastica passengers, and anytime myChoice Dining and bathrobe and slippers for Aurea passengers. Magnifica is very family-friendly with a great range of free activities for youngsters, plus unique amenities such as a dedicated laundry service for children's clothes.
While English is the main onboard language, MSC attracts passengers from mainland Europe and beyond. This means that announcements are made in five languages and entertainment is mainly geared to appeal to multinational audiences, with dancers, bilingual singers and acrobats -- although dedicated English acts have been introduced to cater for the increase in British passengers. Also, unlike the majority of cruise lines, passengers embark and disembark at different ports of call, so you can expect a change in the onboard demographics along the way. It is a credit to members of the crew in all departments who manage to switch seamlessly from one language to another.
Another thing to note is that cigarette smoking is more prevalent on MSC than other lines, with designated areas on the pool decks and inside the ship (in a section of the casino and in the cigar lounge).
In January 2019 MSC Magnifica hosted the line's first-ever world cruise, across six continents, 32 countries and 49 ports of call.
Magnifica has a very relaxed, laid-back onboard atmosphere, which will appeal to cruisers who prefer not to have to don their best bib and tucker. Daywear is casual, with beach attire on deck, shorts, T-shirts and jeans at breakfast and lunch, and comfortable clothes for excursions. The daily programme lists three evening dress codes for the restaurants from 6 p.m., but these are suggestions and not strictly adhered to or enforced. For gala nights -- usually two every seven-night cruise -- the recommendation is elegant, which is MSC's less stiff and starchy version of formal. Of the women that did dress up on elegant nights, the tendency was for cocktail dresses, and nobody wore long ball gowns. Some men wore black tie or dark suits, while others simply smartened up a little. Informal nights mean a dress or trousers for women and jacket and trousers (no jeans) for men. For casual nights more or less anything goes (aside from shorts and swimwear), including jeans, T-shirts and sportswear. There is also an optional theme night on most cruises, such as a white party or 70s and 80s night, where passengers can wear anything suitable they might have -- but again, this is only a recommendation and nobody will feel out of place whatever they choose to wear.
The Royal Theatre is a raked split-level venue located at the front of the ship on Decks 6 and 7, which can seat 850 passengers in the lower auditorium and 292 on the upper level. It's an impressive looking venue, with a myriad of lights twinkling in the walls and ceiling before the house lights go down for the show. The majority of seats provide an unobstructed view of the stage. Due to the broad mix of international passengers, the shows are mostly variations on a theme of song and dance routines, along with some exciting acrobatics to liven things up. Anyone craving the dazzling West End-style and high-tech performances of other lines will be disappointed, but the shows are easy on the eye and will appeal to anyone who likes old-style traditional revue-style shows and speciality acts. Youngsters who have enrolled in the kids' programme get their chance to appear in the limelight before one of the nightly shows, and members of the crew also take to the stage in an innovative finale after one of the performances. Most notably, and in keeping with its Italian heritage, MSC is the only cruise line to feature live opera performances. On our cruise this was a potted and suitably fiery version of "Carmen" starring an accomplished soprano, tenor and flamenco dancer alongside the resident onboard entertainers.
Shows generally last 45 minutes and are performed twice a day -- usually at 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. to accommodate passengers on both dinner sittings.
There is no bar service in the Royal Theatre and, officially, passengers are not meant to take drinks inside. However, the closest bar is the Tiger Bar located next to the entrance to the theatre on Deck 6, and plenty of theatregoers wander in with drinks while crew members turn a blind eye.
From the "muscular awaking" class at 9 a.m. there is never a shortage of things to do onboard, and the daily programme, left in the cabin each night, lists a host of free daily activities. Typical events include dance lessons (usually several per day) led by the onboard dance duo, aerobics, trivia quizzes, napkin folding and cookery demonstrations, arts and crafts such as making paper flowers, meetings for card players, pool parties, karaoke, a talent night and various light-hearted challenges with members of the entertainment team.
There is a small Virtual World video games arcade, at extra charge, on Deck 14 in a space that also includes the 4D cinema (where the seats move and viewers experience effects such as blasts of air). Passengers can choose from a selection of around six films, including some suitable for younger children. Virtual World packages are available and cover unlimited use of the 4D cinema, bowling and billiard games. The two lane bowling alley can be found in the T32 disco on Deck 14, which is open during the day. Live sports are screened in the L'Olimpiade Sports Bar.
On Deck 7 the slot machines in the Atlantic City casino are generally open from 10 a.m., and the gaming tables open at 2 p.m.
On port days Magnifica offers a wide variety of shore excursions, as well as customised and exclusive tours. Parents going on trips can leave children between the ages of 3 and 11 in the kids' club.
Enrichment activities are pretty limited, mostly comprising a daily port talk and information shown on the interactive TV in cabins.
The fun continues after sunset with activities including more dance lessons, karaoke, talent contests, big-screen sports coverage and themed parties, such as a white night. There is excellent live music throughout the ship. In the atrium, you can find solo pianists on the grand piano and classical trios, along with acoustic duos, singers and bands in the various bars. The L'Ametista Lounge hosts evening dance classes and music for dancing, and members of the entertainment team will ask members of the audience to dance, which is great for any solo travellers or passengers with partners that have two left feet. There are also visiting acts, including some geared to a British clientele. On our sailing, this was comedian and singer Paul Fredericks. Atlantic City casino is open from 7:30 p.m. until late, and night owls can also head to the T32 disco where the resident DJ aims to get everyone on the dance floor from 11:30 p.m. through to the early hours.
For a ship of its size, Magnifica has an extensive and diverse range of bars and lounges --14 in total -- and a mix of indoor and outdoor venues. An extensive and reasonably priced drinks menu of cocktails (around 7 euros), mixed drinks (from 6.50 euros), wines (from 4.40 euros a glass), beer (from 2.95 euros), non-alcoholic mocktails and kids' cocktails (4.50 euros), soft drinks (from 2.50 euros) and coffee (from 1.50 euros to 5.70 euros for specialities such as Irish coffee) is available in each bar and prices are the same throughout the ship, with the exception of the special mixologist cocktails in the Topazio Bar. Brits used to buying drinks at the bar might find themselves standing there for a long time as -- in the larger bars in particular -- it is the norm for orders to be taken by waitresses who circulate between the tables and quickly spot who needs to be served, rather than the bartenders who are busy making up the orders.
MSC offers a variety of money-saving drinks packages ranging from drinks with meals, priced at 16.50 euros per day for adults and 9 euros for children, to an all-inclusive deluxe package covering all drinks which costs 50 euros per day for adults and 21 euros for children. There are also packages covering specific drinks, such as 15 coffees for 26 euros, 14 beers for 59 euros, 14 soft drinks or juices for 34 euros, and 14 large bottles of water for 27 euros.
Le Gocce Bar (Deck 5): Serving early morning coffee through to post-dinner drinks, this bar is situated in a busy location at either side of the atrium. It's well-positioned for an aperitif before going into the L'Edera restaurant, watching evening entertainers, including classical musicians and the pianist tickling the ivories on the grand piano, or simply sitting and indulging in a spot of people watching. Open from 6:30 a.m. to 11.30 p.m.
Purple Bar (Deck 6): Situated outside one of the entrances to the Quattro Venti restaurant, this small bar is primarily used by passengers waiting to go into the first or second dinner sitting, or for post-dinner drinks, and can accommodate around 45 people. Open from 5:15 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Ruby Bar (Deck 6): The twin bar to the Purple Bar is situated at the other entrance to Quattro Venti restaurant. Open from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Topazio Bar (Deck 6): Situated midship, this is an intimate bar with deep seats and an Art Deco decor. It has a small stage with a grand piano, and a dance floor, and has the feel of a jazz club and music bar with assorted live acts from 6 p.m. For those looking for a change from their regular tipple, it also has an interesting mixology bar menu featuring ''molecular ", "smoked" and crafted premium cocktails priced at 8 euros. Open 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Tiger Bar (Deck 6): Seating more than 400, this is the ship's largest bar and is situated next door to the Topazio Bar and the Royal Theatre, which means it becomes something of a busy thoroughfare when passengers go to and from the shows. As the name implies, it is decked out in animal print and tiger murals, and it is the most opulent bar on the vessel, with a grand, sweeping staircase leading down from the casino. It also has a stage and a dance floor, and is used for themed parties such as the white night. Open 8 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.
L'Ametista Lounge (Deck 7): The main entertainment lounge is L'Ametista, situated at the aft of the ship and seating 330. Open: 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
L'Olimpiade Sporting Bar (Deck 7): This bar is one of the most popular on the ship and is a really unique spot that has the feel of a bar on dry land as it is divided into different areas and also has a pool table. Original sporting memorabilia lines the walls and is displayed in glass cabinets, and there is a choice of seating including cosy booths and high stools. It features an extensive menu of familiar and craft beers, and for passengers that can't make up their minds there is a "metre of beer" for 22 euros (which comprises ten craft beers of your choice). As the name suggests, it is used to screen football games and live sport, and the audience can get very vocal. Open 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Cuba Lounge (Deck 7): This smoking lounge serves drinks from noon to 1 a.m. and is open throughout the day for passengers who want to smoke indoors. With its studded leather chairs that seat 32, dark maroon decor and small bar with a fine selection of whiskies, it has the atmosphere of an old-fashioned gentlemen's club. A wide range of cigars and cigarettes are available to buy.
Casino Bar (Deck 7): The ship's second indoor location where smoking is allowed (technically only for people playing in the casino), the bar in the Atlantic City casino is open from 10 a.m. until late.
Aurea Spa Bar (Deck 13): This peaceful lounge is part of the spa complex and can be used by all passengers. It serves protein shakes, smoothies and healthy drinks that are linked to colours, such as yellow for healthy skin, purple for deep cleansing and green for relaxation. Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
La Barchetta Bar (Deck 13): Serving the covered pool area, this bar is open for coffee from 7 a.m. and serves drinks until midnight.
La Conchiglia Bar (Deck 13): Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., weather permitting, this bar serves the outside La Grotta Azzurra pool. There is also a small separate bar selling the popular Italian cocktail Aperol Spritz.
T32 Disco (Deck 14): The bar in the nightclub is open from 11:30 p.m. until the early hours.
Il Bar del Sole (Deck 16): For passengers who pay to get into the Top 16 sun deck, the bar is open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (weather permitting).
The two main pools are both on Deck 14, where the covered La Grotto Azzurra pool leads to the Le Grand Bleu pool area, which is the main outdoor hub. The covered pool, which has two hot tubs, is the quieter of the two. It is surrounded by tables, chairs and loungers, with more chairs and tables on the mezzanine overlooking the pool. On sunny days Le Grand Bleu gets very busy and is a very lively area with piped music playing throughout the day and night, along with live music events such as themed pool parties, which take place on a large open deck area in front of the stage. The attractive mosaic-tiled pool has three whirlpools and is surrounded by decking. The area nearest to the pool boasts plenty of loungers, and tables and chairs are situated under covered areas at both sides of the ship (including a smoking area).
Pools and whirlpools are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
There are shuffleboard areas on Decks 14 and 15, plus a tennis and outdoor sports court on Deck 16, which is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sports shoes must be worn.
Away from the lounging areas around the pools is the quiet haven Top 16, which, as the name implies, is situated overlooking the bow at the top of the ship on Deck 16. This private sun spot, with a bar, two splash pools and showers, is a for-fee area (free to Aurea passengers) that is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Rattan loungers and cabanas cost 30 euros for the day or 15 euros for the afternoon (from 3 p.m.), with reduced rates available for the entire cruise. Standard sunbeds are priced at 10 euros per day or 5 euros per afternoon, and again can be rented for the cruise. On port days two sunbeds are available for the price of one.
Loungers, available for everyone to use, are also set out on Deck 14, including the area that circles Le Grand Bleu pool and beyond. The further you are from the pool the quieter it is, particularly towards the back of the ship, which is a pleasant place to read and snooze in relative peace. In common with many cruise ships, "chair hogs" can be an issue on sunny days. MSC states that towels and objects left unattended on loungers for more than 30 minutes "may" be removed and taken to the reception. At best this is something of a deterrent.
Two large 24-hour reception and guest services' desks are located midship on Deck 5. Immediately above the reception area on Deck 6 is the excursion office, and further along on the same deck is a meeting room with fixed seating for up to 24. There is a second room, without fixed seating, which can also be used for private meetings and small receptions. Also on Deck 6 is the shopping area. This includes a mini mall selling everyday essentials along with boutiques selling clothes, bags, jewellery, perfumes, accessories, souvenirs and MSC logowear.
On Deck 7 is the large walk-through photo gallery (which also sells cameras and photographic equipment), a future cruise desk, and the Cyber Cafe, which is open 24 hours a day and has eight terminals available for passengers to use. On the same deck is the library (also open 24 hours), which, as expected, is a very quiet and peaceful spot, with deep padded chairs and restful green decor. Novels and non-fiction books are available in multiple languages and can be freely borrowed by passengers for the duration of the cruise. Crossword and Sudoku puzzles are available from the desk in the library. Next door to the library is a card room with six tables and walls decorated with giant playing card suits, which is a fun touch.
There is Wi-Fi throughout the ship, and there was good connectivity throughout our cruise. Unlike some cruise lines that charge by the minute, MSC offers three different packages based on individual requirements, which is infinitely better than seeing precious minutes tick away when service is slow or patchy. The Chat & Social Apps package costs 39.90 euros for one device, with a data limit of 2GB. It is suitable for social media and apps, but does not support audio calls, video and web surfing. The Standard Internet package, with access for up to two devices and a data limit of 3.5GB, is priced at 84.90 euros and is suitable for social networks, chat apps, email and web browsing. The Premium Internet package is priced at 129.90 euros for up to four devices and a data limit of 7GB, and provides full internet access including audio and video streaming. The amount of data used is shown at every log in.
There is no guest launderette onboard, but a very efficient next day or express (same day for a 50 percent surcharge) dry cleaning and laundry service is available, along with an ironing only service. Dry cleaning ranges from 3.50 euros per item of underwear to 20 euros for a man's suit, and laundry ranges from 1.70 euros for a handkerchief and 2.50 euros for underwear to 13 euros for an evening dress. A new laundry package is also available priced at 30 euros for up to 20 items per cabin, per cruise, or 50 euros for up to 40 items. A special laundry service is also available for baby clothing (see MSC Magnifica for Families).
The ship has an onboard medical centre on Deck 5, which is open from 9 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Charges apply. Out of hours it is also available for emergencies.
The Aurea Spa complex, open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., is located forward on Deck 13 and is a very restful and tranquil area. There are a total of 10 treatment rooms, including some used for couples and Thalassotherapy treatments. Unlike spas on many cruise ships, which are managed by large external spa chains, the Aurea is run by MSC. It specialises in Balinese spa treatments, which offer something a little bit different from the norm -- for example, a Balinese Holistic Massage combines stretching with Shiatsu techniques using pressure points followed by a full body massage with oils. Therapists personalise the massages according to requirements -- such as soft or deep pressure and any preferences on areas to concentrate on -- and you never get the feeling they are clock watching. In our experience, treatments always covered the time specified and did not include an overly lengthy preamble eating into the time. The extensive spa menu also includes dedicated treatments for men.
In common with most cruise ships, the spa treatments are not cheap. They range from 50 euros for a 20-minute head massage to 195 euros for 80-minute treatments such as a Thai massage. As expected, there are usually deals and discounts available early in the cruise and on shore days. The spa uses its own Aurea products alongside others such as the Italian brand Collistar and French-owned Carita, thus providing more choice than other spas. In our experience, there was, thankfully, none of the heavy sales pitch that can come at the end of a treatment, and the therapist simply pointed out that products were available. Again, there are often discounts on treatments and products, which are flagged up in the daily programme.
The spa, which has separate changing rooms and showers for men and women, also has a small thermal area comprising two hot tubs and a relaxation room with loungers overlooking the sea, along with a unisex sauna and steam room. It is available to use for an extra fee, with day passes costing 29 euros per person or 39 euros for two, or 99 euros and 129 euros respectively for the duration of the cruise. The thermal suite is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and to save an early morning surprise it should be noted that from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. passengers can go in without wearing swimming costumes (although the use of a towel is recommended).
The "spa doctor" offers a range of treatments including Botox, acupuncture and other cosmetic and anti-ageing therapies, such as pigment lightening, from 120 euros, and anti-cellulite treatment from 145 euros.
Next to the spa reception is the Aurea Spa Bar, open to anyone, which can be used as a relaxation area before and after treatments.
The Jean Louis David salon -- part of a well-known hairdressing chain in mainland Europe -- is situated at the entrance to the spa and overlooks the sea. It has four wash basins and styling stations, and offers cutting and styling services for men and women, again using a variety of different products (including Japanese Shu Uemura products) rather than one particular brand. Services include a shampoo and style for 30 euros, 44 euros for a colour, and 25 euros for a men's cut and finish. Beauty services include manicures for 55 euros and a full make-up session for 33 euros. Waxing and tanning services are also available.
The large fitness centre, adjoining the spa on Deck 13, occupies a great spot at the front of the ship with panoramic windows overlooking the bow as well as the port and starboard sides. Available to passengers over the age of 14 wearing appropriate clothing including sports shoes, it is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The gym is well laid out with a variety of TechnoGym equipment that includes three cross-trainers, three step machines, five treadmills, three upright bikes, three recumbent bikes, resistance machines, free weights and a stretching area. The latter section is also used for daily fitness classes such as yoga and step classes, which cost 11 euros. One-to-one sessions are also available, such as personal training sessions which cost 38 euros for one hour, and body composition analysis priced at 9 euros. There is a 20-minute time limiter on the aerobic machines and they automatically stop after the time has elapsed. Although it is designed to stop people having to wait to use equipment at peak times, this can be frustrating for dedicated gym-goers that want to train for longer, particularly as we found the gym was never overly busy. However, there is nothing to stop keen exercisers from re-starting the machines after they stop, if nobody is waiting. Towels, but not water, are provided.
Outside, there's a tennis and general sports court at the back of the ship on Deck 16, which is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and a jogging/walking track on Deck 14 that circles above the pool area on Deck 13.
Two main dining rooms and expansive buffet restaurants form the hub of the free dining scene on MSC Magnifica. At breakfast, lunch and dinner there's a huge choice of cuisine, with the recent addition of familiar British favourites such as all the components to make up a full English breakfast, scones with cream and jam, Marmite, HP Sauce and Colman's Mustard. On sea days (when the ship is full) the dining venues can get pretty busy, particularly at peak times, but waiters are efficient, friendly and very well organised, and do a great job clearing and cleaning tables.
Passengers on fixed timed dining (either 6 p.m. or 8:30 p.m.) will be allocated a dinner table for the whole cruise. They will be seated, as far as possible, with people who speak the same language. At breakfast and lunch in L'Edera there is free seating and waiters are always on hand to help find tables if need be. Quattro Venti is only open for dinner and also has an area for Aurea Experience and myChoice Dining passengers (who can go in to eat without pre-booking at any time between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.). Both restaurants serve exactly the same evening menu but in a slightly different ambiance. Vegetarian and vegan options are always available and other dietary requirements can be catered for.
Le Gocce Bar (Deck 5): Croissants and pastries are available from 6 a.m. to noon.
L'Edera (Deck 5): The two main dining rooms are roughly the same size, with L'Edera accommodating 780.
This restaurant is open for breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. (times can vary slightly depending on the time of arrival in port and the excursion schedule) and lunch from noon to 2 p.m. A children's menu is available at every meal.
Looks-wise, it is an attractive green coloured room with rich wooden and brass features and inlaid flooring at the entrance, which gives it an Art Deco-style atmosphere. Tables are available for two, four, six, eight and 10 diners, with one that can seat 12. They are fairly tightly packed and it is busy during the two dinner sittings, but the waiters do a sterling job of getting food orders out quickly and will always accommodate anyone who might want, for example, a couple of starters or an additional dessert. It is much quieter during breakfast and lunch.
Breakfast features a buffet with a wide selection of hot and cold dishes, fruit, yoghurt and pastries, plus an a la carte menu with items such as Eggs Benedict, omelettes, pancakes and French toast served at the table. Tea and coffee is also served at the table and waiters walk around with trays of pastries and juices. Freshly squeezed orange juice is available at an additional charge of 3.90 euros. Yorkshire Tea, the chosen brand for Magnifica following a public vote, is served in teapots.
At lunchtime the a la carte three-course menu features starters such as seafood cocktail, Caprese salad and a soup (cannellini bean or cream of chickpea with olive oil and rosemary, for example). The mains always feature fresh pasta made onboard (such as ravioli with spinach and ricotta filling), a fish dish that might be pan-seared fillet of red mullet with aubergine rice pilaf or salmon fillet with asparagus and potatoes, sliced grilled beef sirloin, a vegetarian dish such as vegetable fritters with onion chutney, a burger with cheddar, bacon and chips, or a sandwich served with fries.
Some of the dinners we experienced were hit and miss, with dishes that were rather bland and unimaginative. It would also be good to see pepper grinders on tables rather than old-fashioned pepper pots. Conversely, many were very tasty, and traditional Italian dishes such as risotto were cooked to perfection. In the evening, passengers can expect some themed menus, such as a Mediterranean night featuring a variety of cuisine from Italy and beyond. This could include Spanish tapas, Greek spinach and feta cheese pie, or bouillabaisse fish soup to start, followed by moussaka, paella or Moroccan-style couscous. To follow there will be items such as Turkish baklava or chocolate profiteroles. Gala night menus, created in partnership with Michelin-starred Italian chefs, move things up a notch and feature a wider choice of starters, mains and desserts. Appetisers might include octopus carpaccio and lobster bisque with brandy, followed by pumpkin shrimp risotto, roast fillet of beef in marsala wine sauce, or vegetarian strudel, with desserts including poached pear in honey-cinnamon syrup and the perennial cruise ship institution of baked Alaska. At every dinner there is fresh fruit and a cheese plate, plus the always-available items of steamed fish or chicken breast served with vegetables. There are also two main courses available for a fee, which are T-bone steak with a glass of red wine for 18 euros or Canadian lobster tails with a glass of Prosecco for 22 euros.
If the food sometimes falls flat, wine-lovers certainly won't be disappointed. The list is extensive and ranges from good value wines by the glass from 4.50 euros and bottles (such as a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc) for 19 euros, to fine Italian wines such as a 2016 Vintage Tunina IGT Jermann for 72 euros. Any bottles unfinished will be labelled with the cabin number and served the next day. There is also a notable Sommelier's Selection, which includes a Toscana IGT Avignonesi-Capannelle red produced from Sangiovese and Merlot grapes and priced at 99 euros.
It's worth mentioning that the bread served with all meals -- such as oregano focaccia and tomato grissini -- is freshly baked onboard and absolutely irresistible.
Quattro Venti (Deck 6): Decorated in an opulent plum colour scheme, the ship's second main dining room is the more handsome of the two, with plush high-backed seats and banquettes. It can seat 740. A seating area in the centre of the room is slightly raised and up a small step, which can catch people out even though it is clearly marked with warning signs.
This dining room is not open for breakfast or lunch. It operates the same dinner times as L'Edera and serves the same menu. It also has a section of tables allocated for myChoice Dining passengers, who can come in whenever they want between the opening times, thus avoiding the rush of passengers at the two dinner sittings. Again, the waiting staff are incredibly helpful, attentive and accommodating, and, even at busy times, will chat to passengers and make a fuss of any young diners.
L'Olimpiade Sporting Bar (Deck 7): Open for pastries from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., sandwiches and desserts from noon to 3 p.m., and cakes and snacks from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Sahara and L'Oasi (Deck 13): Although billed as two restaurants on the ship map, the Sahara and L'Oasi effectively run into each other and offer virtually round-the-clock dining that takes up nearly half of Deck 13 at the back of the ship. This duo of dining rooms are a moveable food feast in every sense, and seamlessly shift from breakfast through lunch and dinner -- with other items in between -- without a break. A light early bird breakfast is served from 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., followed by the real deal from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Lunch is from 11:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., sandwiches and afternoon snacks from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., and dinner from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., followed by midnight snacks from 12:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The pizzeria is open from noon to midnight, the grill from noon to 5 p.m., and fruit and salad are offered from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. In addition, self-service coffee, tea, water and ice are available 24/7.
The vast choice of food can seem overwhelming the first time you visit, particularly on busy embarkation day. However, at the entrances, MSC sets out large buffet maps -- for breakfast, lunch and dinner -- which is a really great idea and helps passengers to navigate their way around and find the food they want without circling endlessly. The different stations are also very clearly signed and can be seen from a distance.
Magnifica's breakfast buffet now includes all the components of a full English, with eggs, English-style bacon, black pudding, baked beans and the rather charmingly labelled "English Bangers sausage", along with HP Sauce and Heinz Tomato Ketchup. There are cereals, fruit, yoghurt and cold cuts too.
At lunch and dinner every food station is geared to a particular type of food or cuisine, such as fresh fruit, salads, cooked items, Mediterranean cuisine, burgers and hot dogs, a children's corner and so forth. The choice is huge and we defy anyone not to find something they like. One area is also devoted to healthy foods. A standout feature from lunchtime onwards is the pizzeria, where chefs continually cook a range of thin-crust pizzas in a traditional pizza oven. There are meat and veggie options, along with a daily wholemeal pizza. Also showcasing the line's Italian heritage is the excellent pasta station.
The kids' corner is novel as youngsters are made to feel extra special as they walk through an archway with heights marked down the side and a sign that reads "3 to 11-year-olds only" -- although of course anyone can help themselves to food from the buffet. It is good to see plenty of healthy food in this section and not just the ubiquitous nuggets, chips and the like.
At tea-time the new British tweaks also come to the fore with a daily selection of mouth-watering cakes plus seriously good freshly-baked scones served with clotted cream or whipped cream and jam.
Although they are very busy when the buffet is packed during the main mealtimes, members of staff are very friendly and efficient, and do a great job of keeping on top of drinks orders and clearing and cleaning tables. One useful feature is that tables have a call button for when passengers want to place a drinks order.
While L'Oasi is listed as a separate restaurant, it is really part and parcel of the Sahara and occupies the aft of the ship. It is the place to go to avoid the crowds, as often that's where you will find empty tables.
Fee dining on MSC Magnifica amounts to just one speciality restaurant.
Oriental Plaza (Deck 7); a la carte pricing: The ship might only have one alternative for-fee restaurant but it's an absolute knock out. Discreetly situated midship, many passengers probably pass by without knowing that this intimate 64 cover, 16 table restaurant is there, unless they spot the novel ship-shaped display cabinet showcasing some of the Asian-fusion food on offer. This is a shame as they are missing out on an exceptional and incredibly reasonably priced dining experience in lovely red, black and gilded surroundings overlooked by enigmatic smiling Buddhas.
The restaurant serves an a la carte menu of dishes from China, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan. Diners can opt for a set menu Asian dining experience priced at 28 euros, or select sushi, nigari, sashimi, dim sum and other items individually from the menu with prices starting from just 3 euros. If it all seems a bit confusing, the friendly and knowledgeable waiters are very happy to make recommendations to guide you through the menu (as well as letting the uninitiated into the secret of mixing a pinch of ultra-hot wasabi into the dish of soy sauce to produce a less eye-watering condiment). Chopsticks are set out on the tables but are not obligatory as cutlery is also provided.
To complement the menu the wine list includes sake, Japanese wines and oriental teas (including the wonderfully named Special Gunpowder green tea). There are also other international beers and wines starting from 4.50 euros for a glass and 19 euros for a bottle. The Italian Gewurztraminer at 30 euros a bottle goes particularly well with the food. The restaurant is open noon to 3 p.m., then 6 p.m. to midnight.
La Barchetta Bar (Deck 13); a la carte pricing: Situated at the side of La Grotto Azzurra indoor pool, La Barchetta Bar is open from 7 a.m. to midnight. It includes a gelateria serving delicious Italian ice cream, which is home-made onboard and priced from 2.50 euros. Also in this bar area is a Nutella crepe bar and adjacent HappyPuppy slushy iced drinks stand. Crepes cost 3.30 euros and a drink with a souvenir cup is 4.50 euros (2.80 euros for refills). Candy floss, popcorn, crisps and other snacks are also available.
Room Service: Continental breakfast from room service is delivered free to cabins on request and is available from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Snacks are available 24 hours a day and there is a charge of 3 euros for one dish and 5 euros for two, plus an additional fee of 4.90 euros for a fruit basket. The menu includes salads, sandwiches, a cheese plate and desserts. In-cabin pizza delivery is also available at the times set out in the daily programme, which is usually 9 p.m. to midnight. They cost from 5 euros for a pizza marinara to 9 euros for the MSC classic pizza topped with Mozzarella cheese, ham, rocket and Parmesan. Items to celebrate special occasions, such as chocolate covered strawberries, can also be ordered. Drinks are available from the mini-bar in every cabin, including still and sparkling water for 1.70 euros, fruit juice and fizzy drinks at 2.90 euros, beer for 4.90 euros, and miniature bottles of spirits for 5.70 euros. The mini-bar is also stocked with snacks including peanuts and mixed nuts, from 2.70 euros each. Larger bottles of water are also available in the cabin for 2.50 euros.
Of the 1,259 cabins there are five main types of categories spread over eight decks: deluxe balcony suites (44); family-size suites with balcony (8); outside cabins with balcony (785); outside cabins (173) and inside cabins (249). A total of 16 cabins (two deluxe, two balcony, two outside and 10 inside) are adapted for people with disabilities. There are also some connecting cabins available, which are ideal for families and groups of friends. There are no single cabins.
The decor, depending on the deck, is a muted combination of cream and either red, blue, green or orange,. All cabins have double beds (which can be converted into twins), and two bedside tables -- each with three drawers, a reading light and a master light switch. Two pillows, one soft and the other slightly harder, are provided for each passenger, and further options are available from the cabin steward on request. Other standard amenities in all cabins include a mini-bar, telephone, flat-screen TV (with programmes in different languages, chargeable films and onboard information), hair dryer (annoyingly fixed to a short cord inside the dressing table/desk drawer and fairly low powered, so passengers might want to bring their own), safe, space for suitcases beneath the bed, stool beneath the dressing/table desk, and a small table and chair. The voltage is 110V and 220V with European two-pin sockets and U.S. sockets, so travellers from outside mainland Europe will need to bring adapters. (A point to note is that, in the majority of cabins, there are only two sockets, which sit next to each other on the dressing table/desk -- so it can be tricky charging up multiple devices, especially as the size of some adapters means that only one can be used at a time.)
Cabin lighting is good and there is ample storage, with drawers and shelves in the dressing table/desk unit. Full-length wardrobes have removable coat hangers alongside drawers and open shelving units.
Bathrooms have plenty of shelving for storage, plus cupboards beneath the basin, along with towel rails and two hooks on the back of the door. Shower caps are provided and there are fixed non-branded bottles of shower gel and shampoo -- no conditioner or lotion is provided -- in showers that have clingy curtains. There are two soap dishes in the shower to stow your own toiletries, plus a retractable washing line. A soap dispenser is also located by the basin along with a soap dish, although no bars or soap are provided.
All cabins have stocked mini-bars, which are not included in drinks packages.
Some cabins sleep up to four (or five in suites allocated to Aurea passengers). Note: In some of the outside cabins and inside cabins, the third and fourth beds are either double sofa beds or Pullmans. In common with all lines, some cabins have restricted views, so check the deck plan carefully before booking if you don't want to end up with your view obstructed by a lifeboat.
Interior: The 249 inside cabins are located on Deck 8 and Decks 8 to 12. They range in size from 151 square feet to 226 square feet, with the largest cabins adapted for wheelchair users.
Oceanview: The 173 oceanview cabins measure 183 square feet and have the same interior layout as the balcony staterooms, minus the veranda.
Balcony: Making up the majority of the staterooms, the 785 balcony cabins are divided into six categories. All the standard cabins measure 161 square feet and the disabled cabins are 301 square feet. They are located on Decks 8 through 12, and some are interconnecting. It should be noted that having a door in the wall decreases the soundproofing considerably, so it's not so good if you are next door to complete strangers. Light sleepers might want to take ear plugs. Balconies range in size from 43 to 86 square feet and are furnished with two rattan chairs and a table large enough for a room service meal. There are six Juliet Balcony cabins on Deck 12 with floor-to-ceiling windows that open over a railing (i.e. passengers can lean out, rather than step out).
Suite: The 44 deluxe balcony suites measure 355 square feet, or 452 square feet for the adapted staterooms. They are located at the front of the ship on Decks 13 and 14, and two (15007 and 15008) are forward facing. The bathrooms have a combined tub and shower, again with large fixed dispensers rather than the individual products you might expect to find in suites (MSC says this is down to the line's green commitments). The living area has a large flat-screen TV mounted on the wall plus two desk/vanity units. The balconies have three chairs, a table and a lounger.
The eight family suites measure 291 square feet and are situated on Decks 9 through 12 at the front of the ship. They are nicely arranged with a door in the middle of the room and the cabin effectively divided in two by a partition, allowing some privacy for both adults and children. The fold-down sofa in the living area is large enough to sleep two kids and the balconies are a bit bigger as these staterooms occupy corner positions. However, the bathroom only has a shower.