MSC Meraviglia was, at the time of her launch, MSC's biggest ship -- and the fifth-biggest in the world. The 171,598-ton, 4,475-passenger ship marks the start of a massive (nine billion euros) ship-building program that will see a megaship launched each year until 2022 (in fact, there were two alone in 2017 -- MSC Seaside, a new class of ship, launched in December 2017).
Long dominant in Europe, South Africa and South America, MSC Cruises is consciously -- and cleverly -- positioning itself to try to gain a greater slice of the North American market. After two seasons in Europe, this ship will head to Miami, where it will homeport in 2019.
MSC has always emphasized the "Mediterranean way of life" tag for its ships, but Meraviglia marks a move away from strictly that with some international (North American) concessions. Everything is in English (signage, first language, announcements); there are two new restaurants -- a teppanyaki and an American steakhouse -- and a Cirque du Soleil at sea.
So the big question is: Does it work?
The answer is a resounding yes. Meraviglia boasts concepts similar to those made popular by other lines -- the aforementioned teppanyaki restaurant (Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal's Oasis-class ships); a central promenade that is almost a carbon copy of Royal Caribbean's Quantum-class ships; a high-tech theatre that looks like Royal's Quantum-class Two-70; duplex suites (Royal) and so on. Then it sprinkles its own touches -- the extraordinary Yacht Club, possibly the finest key-card-access suite enclave at sea; a chocolate shop and cafe; a link up with LEGO and Eataly and that MSC signature -- genuine Swarovski crystal-studded stairs, which form the centrepiece of the main atrium.
But none of it jars. And it so easily could. Despite the sheer number of passengers, we never witnessed pinch points onboard; there is always a venue or a spot you can go to get away from the craziness. And if there is one criticism, it's just that: Everything is kept at fever pitch, from the pool parties all day and most nights, the clubs, the parades and the shows -- it's nonstop. But hey, if you like that, then this is the ship for you.
The line has also improved significantly in two areas in which it often came in for criticism: food and service. It's linked up with a couple of name chefs (Carlo Cracco and the chocolatier Jean-Philippe Maury); and has clearly been working hard on training. We found service universally of a high standard.
The ship is also the most technologically advanced in the fleet and sees the debut of MSC for Me, an app that will store all your details and preferences and allow you to make reservations in restaurants and shore excursions. The ship also has RFID wristbands, which will eventually replace cruise cards and allow you to get into your cabin and make onboard purchases.
All in all, MSC Meraviglia is a really well thought out and considered design, which takes the best of the brand and adds an international edge, with great success.
Daytime: During the daytime it's casual, with people wandering around in just swim suits and flip-flops.
Evening: In the evening it's dressier, but more smart casual than formal, except for the two "elegant" (not formal) nights per cruise. A jacket for the men and a dress for the ladies would not go amiss, but it's not strictly enforced. A suit or tux or ball gown are not necessary, though on the meet-the-captain night people go all-out.
Not permitted: T-shirts and shorts are not allowed in the ships' public areas in the evenings. No swimwear is allowed in main dining rooms. Jeans are not allowed in the dining room on elegant nights.
Broadway Theatre (Deck 6): The 985-seat, 100 square foot main theatre, at the front of the ship, shows six different shows per cruise including a flamenco show, an opera and then a few productions from the school of eccentric theatre including Virtual, which is based on phone apps including dating apps, maps and even a sequence of doctors and nurses -- all to an insanely energetic dance background.
The shows run three times a night to cater for the different dining times, and last about 40 minutes each. They vary in quality and theme, with the flamenco and opera being distinctly high-brow, and more adult-oriented; with Virtual being firmly aimed at the kids in the auditorium. There are good sightlines and comfy seats, though, oddly, no glass holders.
During the day, the theatre is used for various activities including some of the children's activity program like Doremi Music Match, part of the Kelly & Kloe program and the Doremi live talent show.
Carousel Lounge (Deck 7): For the first time ever, Cirque du Soleil is at sea, with two 40-minute productions -- Sonor and Viaggio -- designed by the Montreal-based global circus company specifically for MSC Meraviglia (there will be six more original productions on the three forthcoming Meraviglia-class ships). The two productions take place in The Carousel Lounge (Deck 7), which was built specifically for Cirque, and is at the back of the ship, on two levels, with a circular stage, tiered seating and a massive LED screen wrapped around the ceiling. Both shows begin with a short musical session, with two guitarists and a Brazilian singer. Note, there is no option to see the Cirque shows without either buying the Dinner & Show experience (35 euros) or the Cocktail & Show (15 euros), but to be honest, to see a Cirque show for even 35 euros is a huge bargain.
Sonor is billed as the "darker" of the two shows, both literally and metaphorically. As the name suggests, it explores sound, and according to Creative Director Susan Gaudreult, is the first Cirque show which had sound (rather than images) as its starting point. The "plot" (in the loosest sense of the word) centres on a villain stealing sound, though as with all Cirque shows, it's more about the visuals and the acrobatics which are, as always, extraordinary. There is a sequence in which a performer whirls himself around the stage in a giant hoop, which is breathtaking; so too the men who march across the LED screen, suspended from the ceiling directly above the audience. That, and the moment a giant ladder emerges from the screen, are breathtaking, but a 10-minute interlude with a human beatbox is just tedious. Overall, this performance doesn't really hang together, it's more of a mish-mash of ideas, some of which work, others do not.
Viaggio is, by contrast, a riot of colour, joy and fun with even a vague plot: an artist searching for his elusive muse. This is definitely one for all the family, with flying bicycles, juggling, an LED screen which looks as if the Cirque troupe have gleefully thrown paint all over, and a ladder sequence which is frankly, astonishing. Viaggio has a slapstick feel to it, and there is more obvious audience interaction with the performers walking amongst us, waving from the ceiling and encouraging us to clap along. A real triumph.
Performances start at 6:30 p.m. and again 9:30 p.m. for Dinner & Show; 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. for Cocktail and Show.
The fun never stops on Meraviglia, pretty well everywhere you are. Throughout the day you'll find most of the action around the main pool, with pool games, dance classes, quizzes, darts and line dancing and table tennis tournaments in the adjacent Bamboo Lounge.
Elsewhere on the ship, you'll find bingo in the Casino, a video quiz in the TV Studio and even midday parades along the main promenade, Galleria Meraviglia. The Galleria's showpiece -- the 80m LED ceiling -- displays various scenes throughout the day and night which are listed on the daily planner.
You'll find music almost everywhere you go on Meraviglia, whether that's live or pumped out of the speakers. As well as in the bars and lounges, you'll also find live music in the reception area at times throughout the day and in the evenings.
There is a White Party around the main pool area which takes place once a cruise and goes on till late.
There are also various themed parties in the main Galleria Meraviglia, when the whole promenade resembles a street party, with music and dancing till late.
Casino Imperiale (Deck 7): This is a huge casino, but unlike on many megaships today, it's tucked away at the back of Deck 7. There are numerous slots and gaming tables, as well as daily tournaments and bingo.
Infinity Bar (Deck 5, midship): Right by reception, at the base of the atrium, this bar is a popular meeting place for coffees during the day and pre- and post-dinner cocktails in the evening.
Champagne Bar (Deck 6, midship): Classy second deck Atrium bar serving various Champagne brands. The bar itself is on one side, with seats right round the atrium.
Edge Bar (Deck 7, midship): Another popular pre- and post-dinner cocktail bar, with a full-size motorbike and side car signature centrepiece.
Meraviglia Bar & Lounge (Deck 6, forward): This is the main promenade bar, at the aft end of the ship, just outside the Broadway Theatre. It's a lively spot in the early evening, with a dance floor which is usually full.
TV Studio & Bar (Deck 7, forward): An enclosed bar on the upper deck of the Galleria Meraviglia which has live music, a dance floor and late-night karaoke. It's a full TV studio that broadcasts live games, quizzes and talent contests.
Carousel Lounge (Deck 7, aft): The Carousel Lounge bar.
Casino Bar (Deck 7, aft): The Casino bar, in the centre of Casino Imperiale.
Brass Anchor Pub (Deck 7, forward): This is MSC's version of a "British" pub, complete with a picture of London on the wall outside, and they have done a pretty good job. It sits on the upper section of the Galleria, with tables outside overlooking the promenade. Inside, it's nicely designed in soft greens, with low lighting and plenty of booth seating. There's even space for a small band, which to be honest makes it more reminiscent of an Irish Pub. There are 12 beers on tap and 47 bottles, though nothing unusual, just a variety of well-known brands from around the world. Can't decide? Have a yard of beer -- a snip at 22 euros. There is also cider and bar snacks, including fish 'n' chips starting at a very reasonable three euros.
Atmosphere Bar North (Deck 15, forward): Poolside bar serving a variety of drinks including beers, cocktails and shakes.
Atmosphere Bar South (Deck 15, midship): Poolside bar serving the same as above, plus various grilled food including burgers and hot dogs for free.
Atmosphere Ice Cream Bar (Deck 15): Serves a wide selection of ice creams.
Bamboo Bar (Deck 15, forward): Inside poolside bar in the solarium area.
Top Sail Lounge (Deck 15, forward): This gorgeous spot in the exclusive surrounds of the Yacht Club is only open to YC guests, so it's never crowded either during the day or night. It's at the front of the ship, with large glass windows right round the room giving great views. There are plenty of tables and sofa chairs and a bar with table service. All drinks are free to YC guests and snacks are available throughout the day.
Sports Bar (Deck 16, aft): Adjacent to the amusement arcade, this American-diner type bar serves a variety of beers, soft drinks, popcorns, hot dogs, snack bars and assorted energy and protein drinks as well as shakes and juices.
Horizon Bar (Deck 18, aft): Outside bar which serves the Horizon Amphitheater and Pool. This gets especially busy at night as it's a tiny bar serving a huge space. You might be better off going inside to the Attic Club or a deck below to the Sports Bar, if it's very crowded.
Attic Club (Deck 18, aft): This is the inside bar area of the Horizon Bar, also encompasses a dance floor that plays predominantly techno music and overlooks the Seaplex.
Sky Lounge (Deck 18, midship): This gorgeous lounge, designed in elegant black and white and chrome, is a sanctuary from the mayhem going on in the rest of the ship. It has floor-to-ceiling glass windows which run right round the semi-circular space, overlooking the main pool deck and either side of the ship. It's a perfect spot for a quiet pre- or post-dinner cocktail. After dinner, a talented trio -- pianist, guitarist and singer -- from Buenos Aires entertain with smoky jazz tunes. The drinks menu includes various "molecular" cocktails. On one side, you'll find a cigar room.
Polar Bar (Deck 19): This is a small snack and drinks bar nestled under the waterslides.
Main Pool (Deck 15): A large, noisy, smoky (on the starboard side) area which gets extremely crowded and raucous on most days, with loud music and poolside games and dancing going on every day, all day. There are two pools connected by a shallow area in the centre. Double loungers are built into the side of the pools, which are available on a first-come first-served basis; and there are plenty of loungers set back from here. Note that tiny kids are not permitted to use the pools.
Bamboo Pool (Deck 15): Just beyond the main pool area you'll find the Bamboo Pool, which consists of a pool with two large whirlpool tubs on either side. There is a retractable roof, a bar and plenty of loungers. On the upper level is the solarium.
Solarium (Deck 16): This is the upper level of the Bamboo Pool and has two large whirlpools, table tennis, foosball and plenty of chairs and tables aranged around the gallery.
Horizon Pool (Deck 16): A square-shaped pool right at the back of the ship with lovely views. It is surrounded by a tiered amphitheatre with loungers on the pool deck area, and tables and chairs on the tiers.
Yacht Club (Deck 19): This exclusive pool area includes a small saltwater pool and an adjoining hot tub. There are plenty of loungers, and even on a sea day this tranquil area high atop the ship is never full. Breakfast and a buffet lunch are served up here, and drinks are available all day.
At the back of the ship, you'll find the Himalayan Ropes Course and the Polar Aqua Park, both of which are impressive by any standards. The ropes course takes you right round the edge of the ship and includes two tracks side by side, one trickier than the other and neither for the fainthearted.
The Polar Aqua Park is a kids' splash park on the lower level, with spray guns, water dunkers and a small slide. Above it are three water slides, which are open to anyone over 1m 20 cms, or four feet, (no age restriction). Two involve sitting in tubes and take you down to a watery finish via numerous twists and turns, often in the dark. The third is known as the Champagne Glass because after a very fast slide you end up going round and round in an open circular glass-shaped space.
Inside you'll find the Sportplex, which is a multi-use facility, primarily for basketball, tennis and volleyball and for kids' organized games during the day as it's right beside the kids' club, but at night it evolves into a disco, with a DJ, decks and podiums.
Beside here is the extremely expensive Amusement Park, which includes two F1 simulators (10 euros for six minutes), a bowling alley with two lanes (30 euros for 30 minutes), a 4D cinema (eight euros or six for kids), a flight simulator (12 euros for a five-minute ride) and a video games arcade next door. There are also passes available which start at 25 euros, for which you get five euros free credit, and go up to 100 euros (plus 60 euros credit). These can be used on all the games.
Deck 16: Around two-thirds of Deck 16 -- the part overlooking the main pool deck all the way back to the Amphitheatre -- is a sun deck. And despite the crowding on the main pool deck and the sheer volume of people on this ship, you are unlikely to struggle to find a space, even on a sea day. Basically, the further towards the aft you go, the more likely you'll find a spot (maybe even a quiet one). Chair hogging did not seem to be an issue on this ship. You'll find two whirlpool tubs up here, jutting out slightly from the main body of the ship.
Top 19 (Deck 19): This is an exclusive Sun Deck, available only to Aurea and Wellness passengers, situated high atop the ship. There is a towel service available, but nothing else (you will have to get your own drinks).
The main reception area is an elegant space on Deck 5, at the aft end of the main promenade and forming part of the Infinity Atrium. It consists of Reception, the main Shore Excursions desk (there is a second one part-way down the Galleria); the Infinity Bar and a small Business Center, which is a conference room -- not an internet centre. There are also several machines dotted around here for activating your key card.
The space above is given over to the photo gallery, a tiny library (really just a few book shelves) and the Champagne Bar.
The atrium rises three decks and is criss-crossed by four chrome staircases, every stair encrusted with Swarovski crystals -- more than 31,000 in total. There is a grand piano on a raised dais, with performances in the early evening.
Most of the shops are clustered along the aft end of the Galleria, just above reception on Deck 6, and include a logo shop, watches, handbags and designer sunglasses; half way down the promenade is Plaza Meraviglia, which includes duty free shops. There are often sales here throughout the day, in this semi-circular space. There are also a couple of shops at the forward end of the promenade selling high-end items.
Meraviglia has excellent Wi-Fi and has three different packages available, depending on how much you anticipating using your phone and/or laptop: Streamer (59 euros, four devices), Surfer (39.90 euros, two devices) and Surfer (19.90 euros, one device). If you run out of data, you can top up for about a quarter of the cost of the package.
There is no self-service laundry, but you can get washing done for 10 items for 15 euros, or 20 items for 25 euros.
Aurea Spa (Deck 7): This is the biggest spa on any MSC ship, with 20 treatment rooms and possibly the biggest -- and best -- thermal suite afloat. There are 18 diminutive Balinese therapists offering treatments including facials and traditional Balinese massage techniques to offerings such as Thai massage, a candle massage and the signature Aurea del Mare treatment with shells (110 euros). As with all ship spas, treatments do not come cheap -- the lead-in price for a 30-minute Bali massage will set you back 70 euros. And this is at the lower end of the scale -- a 45 minute Bali "Holistic" massage will set you back 110 euros -- and note this is before the 15 percent service charge is added. Treatments on offer also include anti-cellulite and various water treatments in a futuristic-looking pod.
The Thermal Suite is wonderful, a real sanctuary -- there are two steam rooms (one dark, one light); two saunas (one Finnish, one Mediterranean), a salt room, two relaxation rooms, two aromatherapy rooms, a snow grotto, a walk-through shower and two thalassotherapy pools. You could spend hours in here trying out all these different rooms (which we did) and for what there is on offer, prices really are very reasonable: a daily pass will set you back 40 euros per day (55 euros per couple), and weekly is 120 euros (165 per couple).
Adjoining the spa is the Jean Louis David salon, which as well as hair treatments, offers a full range of beauty therapies including manis, pedis, waxing and men's grooming. A shampoo and style starts at 27 euros.
Open: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
MSC Gym by TechnoGym (Deck 16): In a great spot overlooking the main pool deck, the gym is framed by floor-to-ceiling glass windows which wrap right round the room. It's well equipped with 14 treadmills, six bikes (three pro and three reclining), cardio equipment, Kinesis and a weights training area. There is a separate spinning room and area for circuit training, as well as a separate room for classes. Pilates, yoga and group bike training are 10 euros per person, per hour. A fitness package which includes three personal training sessions and two body analyzer scans cost 59 euros.
The jogging track is on Deck 16 and runs round half the ship. One lap = 200 yards (0.33 kms).
Open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
MSC and dining quality have not had a great relationship, however, the line has clearly taken onboard the criticism and has rethought its approach to cuisine, drafting in a name chef -- Carlo Cracco, the Gordon Ramsay of the Italian cooking scene (apparently) -- to oversee things. Cracco also does the weekly Gala Dinner. As a result, food-wise, things have definitely picked up, both in terms of quality and presentation. It also helps that pasta, pastries, bread, cakes and mozzarella are all baked or made fresh onboard daily.
There is not a single main dining room, but four, which represent different types of dining experience -- classic, flexi or fixed which you have to choose at time of booking (though note flexi is temporarily suspended). Details below. The food and menus are exactly the same in each.
Despite its size, there aren't the number of specialty dining options on Meraviglia compared, say, to Norwegian Breakaway or Oasis of the Seas, where you are looking at upward of 10. There are just five (six if you count the Cirque dinner), but what the ship does have, it does well. Moving away from its comfort zone of Italian fare (and perhaps with an eye on Meraviglia's move to Miami in 2019) its two new-to-the-line offerings -- a Teppanyaki restaurant and an American Steak House -- are outstanding. All specialty restaurants are a la carte.
MSC caters well for dietary needs and allergies, with a separate galley where specific requests are catered for. It's worth advising at time of booking, but also before each meal.
Waves (Deck 5): This restaurant is for "classic" dining -- i.e. fixed time dining. It is also the only one which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is hidden behind reception on Deck 5 and though at the aft of the ship it doesn't have windows at the back, just porthole windows at the side, so it's quite dark with deep red decor and low ceilings. Tables are closely packed and vary in size from two- to eight-person.
Open 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.; noon to 2 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
L'Olive Doree & L'Olivo D'Oro (Deck 6): These have different names but are in effect the same restaurant, divided by a central walkway which includes a stunning wine display in the centre and Enomatic wine-dispensing machines. These are for Flexi and MyTime Dining -- in other words, you choose when you want to eat. They look and feel upmarket; steel grey and deep green are the dominant colours. Tables are ranged quite tightly round the room in different sizes, and there is a "path" that winds its way through to the back. Open 6:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Panorama (Deck 6): This restaurant, right at the back of the ship, is the one with the most ambience, with large windows looking out over the wake, offering gorgeous views. Panorama is also for Flexi and MyTime Dining. You reach the restaurant via the corridor which cuts through L'Olive and L'Olivo, so passing the wine cellar. It also has a higher ceiling and more of an open feel than Waves. Burnt oranges and browns are the dominant color scheme. If you have the choice, request this over the others, as it has much more of a "special" feel to it. Open 6:15 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Breakfast: Breakfast is only available in Waves. It is served buffet-style, but with an a la carte menu for omelettes and Eggs Benedict, for example. Hot food includes buttermilk pancakes, Belgian waffles and cinnamon raisin French toast, as well as fresh-baked pastries. There is a "MSC Express" meal that consists of eggs, bacon, sausages and hash browns; or you can order your choice of eggs and omelette. There are also cereals, yoghurts, toast and tea and coffee available.
Lunch: Lunch changes daily and is a three-course meal which consists of a choice of starters, a choice of mains which will always include a meat, fish and veg dish and dessert.
Dinner: Dinner is a four-course affair (if you include cheese), but you can always order a soup and a starter, making it five.
Starters might include smoked salmon, Caesar salad or shrimp cocktail. Soups include cream of asparagus and beef consomme, the latter of which -- with delicate parcels of beef-filled tortellini -- was delicious.
Mains always include a pasta dish, a meat dish (beef or lamb) and a fish dish. The quality is surprisingly high: dishes come warm and not overcooked; pastas and breads are all freshly made, and you can tell; service is consistently good -- warm, friendly and helpful.
The only duff note was an inedible Baked Alaska, but there are always alternatives such a fresh fruit or a French vanilla cream.
There is always a vegetarian option and often a vegan option on the menu, denoted by symbols.
There is no obvious "always available" menu, but you can ask for off-menu items such as poached salmon and grilled chicken breast.
There is always a kids' menu available in all restaurants, which will include favourites such as burgers, hot dogs, penne pasta and grilled chicken.
Marketplace Buffet (Deck 15): Meraviglia's buffet is huge, taking up a large chunk of the back of the ship on Deck 15. As a result, it rarely feels crowded. This is largely to do with design: as well as a central food area (the "marketplace"), there are also food areas on either side, plus an enormous number of seats, which include an area at the very back, as well as two wings which get progressively less crowded the nearer towards the open pool area you go.
There are also numerous handwashing stations as you enter, but they were rarely policed.
The food is good, not outstanding, but definitely better than your average cruise ship buffet, with a bit of flair and fun. There are plenty of open kitchens where you can watch the chefs prepare fresh food. These include pasta, pizza, focaccia, an open grill and a rotisserie. There is also plenty of ethnic cuisine including Chinese, Indian, Mediterranean etc. Other features include a mozzarella production area where you can watch it being made and a "fruit and veg market" where you can pick up fresh food.
It's open all day and serves afternoon snacks and offers late-night dining.
Open: 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Yacht Club Restaurant (Deck 18): Only available to YC guests, and serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. There's a different menu every day, reflecting the region in which the ship is sailing through. No fixed times, just turn up when you want to.
Yacht Club Solarium Grill (Deck 19): Again, only open to YC guests, this lovely spot at the top of the ship serves a buffet breakfast from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and a delicious light lunch from noon to 2 p.m., which often includes specials such as grilled shrimp, turbot or fresh pasta. There is also a carvery, a delicious selection of salads and fresh vegetables.
Jean-Philippe Chocolate & Cafe (Deck 6, midship); a la carte: The French master chocolatier gets some prime real estate on the Galleria Meraviglia -- the main promenade -- with this showcase to his and his sous-chefs' talents. The cafe is part open kitchen, part display, part cafe and part chocolate shop, with a few seats by the porthole windows to relax over a cup. The emphasis is really on the extraordinary creations that the chocolate team make onboard (turtles, octopuses, reefs), which are displayed in glass cases, like expensive watches or jewelry, in front of the open kitchen. You can't buy these, but you can buy an exquisite chocolate shoe for a reasonable 29 euros (for one, not a pair), and which are apparently the best-selling chocolate item for sale onboard. The coffee's not too bad, either. Open 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Jean-Philippe Crepes & Gelato; a la carte (Deck 6, midship): Not so much a restaurant, but a spot along the main promenade serving crepes, ice cream and various ice cream sundaes from five euros fifty cents. Open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Eataly (Deck 6, midship); a la carte pricing or 25 euros for the Dining Experience: The well-established Eataly Italian marketplace chain is a regular on MSC ships, and makes its appearance on Meraviglia on the main promenade in a smallish room, with a sit down bar which overlooks the fresh produce on offer and high tables dotted around the room. Produce lines the back wall.
It offers a lovely selection of predominantly cold food such as simple, fresh salads and cold meats and smoked salmon, as well as dishes such as fried shrimp and whitebait. With dishes ranging from six to nine euros each it adds up quickly, or you can opt for the fixed price Dining Experience. This is rarely full and doesn't require a reservation. Open noon to 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Eataly Ristorante Italiano (Deck 6, midship); a la carte pricing or 29 euros for the "Dining Experience": This is the only specialty restaurant onboard where food vs price just does not stack up -- to walk away with a 129 euro bill for two for what can only be described as fairly average fare is a bit of a blow. The restaurant is set off the main promenade and is separate to the Eataly marketplace. There are three rooms -- one at the front which looks out onto the promenade, a second at the back which is darker but has views from the huge porthole windows, and then a separate cordoned off area for the Chef's Table. The theme is simple, almost minimalist, with stone-effect floors and wooden tables: not at all a warm, colorful pizza and pasta home-style kitchen you might find on other ships.
The theme is exclusively Italian, with starters such as chargrilled octopus (tasty), sliced Parma ham with melon and one of the best pea soups (with mussels) we've ever tasted on sea -- or land. However, the mains are a let down -- the branzino (sea bass) was tasteless and a tiny portion (less than one fillet) for 18 euros; the swordfish (16 euros) was tough. We shared a dessert for six euros and had two glasses of reasonably-priced wine (five euros fifty cents) each, yet the bill still hit 129 euros.
Chef's Table (Deck 6, midship); 100 euros per person: For your money you get: seven dishes and seven wines as well as your own chef and your own sommelier to talk you through it! The tailored menu made by the chef consists of two starters, two pasta or rice dishes, two main courses and one dessert. The dishes are accompanied with a different kind of wine, and the sommelier attends your table to tell you all about the wines that will be served. There is a maximum of eight people on this experience.
Kaito Teppanyaki & Sushi Bar (Deck 7, midship); a la carte pricing: Although the Teppanyaki restaurant is new to MSC (and will appear on all forthcoming ships) anyone familiar with the Teppanyaki concept either on sea or land, will know exactly what to expect -- right down to the knife juggling, egg throwing and even cheesy jokes. But it's a lot of fun -- and more importantly, the food is delicious.
There are three menu choices -- Geisha (18 euros), Samurai (24 euros) and Emperor (45 euros). The price differential reflects the meat and seafood choices -- halibut and chicken; shrimp, salmon and steak or tuna lobster, scallop and wagyu, respectively.
The Teppanyaki restaurant, which is on the upper deck of the Galleria, has seating for 32 people -- two cooking areas, with eight people sat on stools either side.
All meals start with miso soup and a small plate of sushi and tempura, before going into the main event. You specify how you'd like your meat done and the chef prepares it in front of you -- keeping up a non-stop stream of jokes and juggling. The whole experience lasts around two hours or so. Reservations essential in the evening; walk-in during the day.
Outside the restaurant is the sushi bar, which is not new to Meraviglia (MSC Divina also has one). You can sit at the bar or at tables overlooking the promenade. Open Noon to 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Butcher's Cut (Deck 7, midship); a la carte pricing: This American steakhouse restaurant is new to MSC, and will appear on all subsequent new builds. It's situated on the upper floor of the Galleria, with a main restaurant and open kitchen, as well as numerous tables outside overlooking the promenade. One wall is given over to a glass wine cabinet and there are windows inside looking out to the ocean. The decor is all rawhide and ersatz old photos and posters.
The food is, as you might expect, no-nonsense: big cuts of various different meats, steak in the main, but also lamb and even bison. The one nod to non-carnivores can be found in the salad starters and prawn cocktail, which is served beautifully on ice, with the dipping sauces on the side, rather than in one big mush.
The steaks are delicious: thick, juicy and tender and cooked and served with real skill and precision. Steak can be tricky to get just right, but they've succeeded here. If you have any space left, there is also a delicious selection of desserts including New York cheesecake and a signature lava cake (made in the chocolate shop just below). Open: Noon to 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Room Service: Available 24/7 and with dishes costing three euros for one dish and five euros for two; with pizza starting at five euros for a marinara. Other dishes include soups, salads and sandwiches. Breakfast is free and includes cold items such as cereals and yoghurts, as well as juices, tea and coffee.
Cirque du Soleil (Deck 7); 35 euros for dinner and show; 15 euros for cocktail and show: The food is way below par. A set menu starts with three small dishes: chewy scallops, tasteless duck and a Champagne-based sorbet-like dish in which you squirt a dark liquid. The mains are a choice of beef, cod drowning in a thick bechamel-type sauce, with so much salt it should be illegal; and a passable tortellini stuffed with pumpkin, again with a wildly-over-salted tomato sauce. Desserts include a white chocolate sphere on which you pour a raspberry coulis: by far the best dish of the evening. Wine is not included and starts at 29 euros a bottle. Our advice: Opt for the cocktail and show, though let's be honest: you're not paying for the meal -- this is for the show, and even at 35 euros it's worth it.
A lot of thought has gone into the cabins onboard Meraviglia in terms of design, decor and little touches. For example, every cabin has a mini-bar, (even Insides), a USB port on the desk and a magazine/newspaper rack underneath the TV. The decor is stylish in muted greys, steels and chocolate, creating an elegant, understated feel. Design-wise there are some nice touches with bedside lights activated by touch, switch controlled Do Not Disturb and Make Up My Room signs and lots of extra spots for storage, such as the bedside tables and magazine racks.
All cabins come with two twin beds (which can be made into a double) and are high enough to store a big suitcase underneath; a double wardrobe, a desk with European two-pin sockets and a USB socket, footstool, fixed bedside lighting, two bedside tables, a phone, safe, hair dryer and a large interactive TV with numerous channels in multiple languages.
All standard cabins have a shower room with a shower stand with glass doors, a footrest for leg shaving and a clothes wire for drying laundry. Products are generic in fixed dispensers. There is a single basin with a fixed soap dispenser and a small cupboard with shelves. There is no trash can.
There are 85 interconnected cabins, as well as specially-designed Family cabins (see below).
Meraviglia also has the biggest Yacht Club in the fleet, which includes 94 cabins.
MSC sells its cruises by "Experience" rather than cabin size or type, and it's worth noting that some cabins are only available depending on the experience you buy. For example, you can only stay in an Interior if you have opted for the Bella, Fantastica or Wellness experience, and you can only stay in a suite if you have opted for the Aurea experience etc.
Interior: These come in at 172 square feet which is a bit bigger than the industry average and as a result, they feel surprisingly roomy, perhaps due to a large open space beside the wardrobe below the TV. It helps that the line does not store life jackets in cupboards, which frees up extra closet space.
As indicated above, these cabins are available for passengers who book the Bella, Fantastica or Wellness experience. Bella represents a value-for-money cruise that includes all meals, entertainment, activities and preferred choice of dinner sitting, subject to availability. Fantastica includes extra perks such as 24-hour room service, priority choice of dinner sitting and cabins on the upper decks. Wellness, the newest experience to be introduced by MSC, is aimed at those who want to try and keep cruising calories at bay. It includes a one-to-one health check, personalized exercise program, with a free daily gym class, a laundry service for gym gear, free water and welcome wellness kit (T-shirt, shorts and sports towel).
Oceanview: These can be a bit bigger than an interior, ranging from 161 to 183 square feet. The rest is the same, with the addition of an oblong window. Bookable on Bella, Fantastica and Wellness experiences.
Balcony: These come in on average at 204 square feet (though note the accessible cabins are bigger). The balcony size varies from between 48 square feet to 59 square feet, depending on where the cabin is. There is enough space for two chairs (not loungers) and a small table.
These are available for all four experiences: Bella, Fantastica, Wellness and Aurea. The Aurea offers all the benefits of the Fantastica package with additional privileges such as the All-Inclusive beverage package, spa package including a welcome cocktail, one massage of choice, wellness consultation, free access to the Thermal Suite, My Choice dining, priority boarding and superior cabins on the upper decks.
Suite: These corner cabins come in at an impressive 301 to 409 square feet, and include a 63-square-foot wrap-around balcony with its own hot tub. The balcony has plenty of space for loungers and chairs; it comes with two loungers and a small table. Inside, you'll find three rooms -- a living room, a shower room, and a separate main bedroom. The living room has a large sofa, small table and five chairs. There is a desk with a wall-mounted TV above. Both rooms lead out onto the balcony.
All suite categories, excluding the Yacht Club which has a separate pricing structure and inclusions, are available to passengers booking the Fantastica, Wellness or Aurea experiences.
Duplex Suite: Another cabin category brand new to MSC, these suites come in at a hefty 559 square feet. There are just eight of them, all of which are located right at the front on Deck 9 and would suit a family or perhaps two couples sharing. They are accessed from Deck 9, but there is a door through the wardrobe to Deck 10, effectively giving them two entrances. The lower floor consists of a living area, with a sofa bed which converts into a double bed; a shower room with toilet, wardrobe, dining area with a table that would seat four people and which leads out onto a 19 square foot balcony complete with hot tub. The upper area (which is really half a floor), consists of a double bed, a bathroom with tub and a wardrobe.
Bookable on Fantastica, Wellness and Aurea experiences.
Yacht Club: The exclusive Yacht Club is MSC's ship-within-a-ship complex, which has been taken to new heights (and size) on Meraviglia. For the first time on an MSC ship, the Yacht Club has been put all in one place: right at the front of the ship across five decks (14 to 19). Most of the top suites are here, with the exception of the eight Duplex Suites at the aft of the ship and the Corner Suites, as well as exclusive access to a lounge, a dining room and a sun deck, with pool and bar.
All Yacht Club cabins, irrespective of category, come with a Nespresso coffee machine.
Other perks include: Dedicated priority check-in and check-out; 24-hour butler service; 24-hour concierge; bathrobe, slippers and MSC Med range of bathroom products; unlimited drinks in all MSC Yacht Club areas, including the in-suite mini-bar; unlimited beverage selection in all bars and restaurants; free Thermal Suite access and direct private lift to the MSC Aurea Spa; free room service delivery.
Interior Suite: There are 15 of these, which are 52 square feet, and it's misleading to label them "suite" as they are clearly not -- they are exactly the same size and shape as a regular Interior cabin. The only difference is the addition of a small table and two chairs, as well as the Nespresso coffee machine.
Deluxe Suite: Although not technically a suite (i.e. two separate rooms), these are a decent size at 301 square feet and do have two areas -- a living area with sofa, coffee table, two chairs and a fixed desk; and a double bed. It also has a fixed desk which runs the length of the room and has cupboard space and the coffee machine atop; as well as two wardrobes. The bathroom, though without a tub, is a decent size with marble fitting, a large shower and products from the MSC Med range, rather than from generic dispensers.
Wellness Deluxe Suite: There are two of these which are the same as the Deluxe Suite, but equipped with a Technogym Kinesis for working out in your cabin.
Royal Suite: There are two Royal Suites, both on Deck 15, which come in at a whopping 699 square feet with a 430 square foot balcony. The layout is as follows: bedroom with its own small private balcony, ensuite bathroom with tub and separate shower stall; living room with L-shaped sofa, a coffee table and two armchairs. Double sliding doors lead out to the balcony which has its own dining table at one end a hot tub at the other.
Family: New for Meraviglia, these "Super Family Cabins" cabins are an exciting addition to the family offerings onboard, allowing family groups of up to 10 (or groups of friends) to stay together. They are basically two Balcony cabins (though aft balconies, so bigger and deeper than a standard balcony), joined by an Interior -- a total square footage of 580 square feet. They are all at the back of the ship. There is a main room in a square shape which has a recessed bunk bed and a small cupboard which you can close off with a curtain, as well as a large double bed. Inside is a small sofa, a desk top and a shower room. It leads out onto a large balcony. The room is connected to an inside room which has a sofa bed and a shower room. It also has a virtual window, another first for this ship. This middle room can be connected to a third cabin, which is a standard balcony cabin shape, leading out to a big balcony. These are only available as part of the Fantastica experience.
Studio Cabin: The small cabin sandwiched between the two cabins which make up the Super Family Cabins is a single cabin and can be purchased as such. It is 172 square feet. Unlike previously advertised, these are not clustered together and nor is there a separate lounge.
Accessible: There are 55 accessible cabins, all with wide doors, ramps and fully accessible bathrooms, across various cabin categories.