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MSC Virtuosa


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MSC Virtuosa is the fourth in the line's popular Meraviglia Class of ships and the second Meraviglia-plus class ship (the first is MSC Grandiosa), which means it's bigger, has more features onboard and can carry a whopping 6,200 passengers at full occupancy. For cruisers who like a big ship experience with large production shows, multiple drinking and eating venues and always something going on, day and night, topped with a European flair, then this is the ship for you. And for cruisers who are perhaps put off by all that commotion and want more of a sophisticated experience at sea, then Virtuosa could also be the ship for you. How so? The MSC Yacht Club -- the keycard access-only, all-suite enclave across three decks at the front of the ship, complete with lounge, restaurant and sun deck -- which for our money, is one of the best splurges at sea.

The ship is vast, and when you are in the main promenade, the Galleria Virtuosa, it's quite possible to forget you are even on a ship. Galleria Virtuosa is lined with shops, bars and restaurants across two decks, and topped with an extraordinary 80-meter-long LED ceiling display, which changes throughout the day. At one end is the triple-deck atrium, where you'll find more bars, all connected by a criss-cross set of stairs studded with Swarovski crystal. It's a feast for the senses, and simultaneously stunning and overwhelming, especially for the first-timer.

Compared with American-based lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, there are not the large number of speciality dining venues to choose from, just a handful of tried-and-tested ones including an American steakhouse, Butcher's Cut; a Mexico-themed restaurant, Hola! Tacos; and a Teppanyaki/sushi bar, Kaito Teppanyaki. You also won't find quite as many high-adrenaline activities as you would on those lines, such as go-karting, simulated surfing or bumper cars, but the ship does have a waterpark and a ropes course, as well as a fantastic games arcade. One area MSC in general leads the way, and Virtuosa is no exception, are the family facilities, from the LEGO-themed kids club, to the onboard activities, family cabins, mealtimes and sports court, this ship is like a giant playground for kids of all ages.

Tech plays a big part in the MSC Virtuosa experience, and you are encouraged to download the MSC for Me app, which allows you to make bookings in restaurants, shows and the spa, keep track of your booked activities and your onboard spending, as well as keep track of your kids. You'll also be presented with a wristband that acts as your cruise card, so it opens your door and pays for drinks and onboard purchases, like a SmartWatch. Virtuosa delivers across the board, whether that's for kids or adults, families or couples: it's fun, frenetic and fabulous. 

Daytime Fun

Though you won't find the headline-grabbing attractions you find on the American big ships, MSC Virtuosa has plenty to keep you occupied during the day including two large pools, an indoor Solarium with hot tubs, top-deck waterslides, a ropes course, basketball and football tournaments in the Sports Complex and all manner of fun in the Games Arcade, including a 4D cinema where you don 3D glasses and shoot zombies, a VR maze, two F1 simulators and two bowling lanes.  *Tip: Note all the activities in the Games Arcade carry a charge and rather than pay-as-you-go, we recommend getting a Fun Pass card.*

At Night

Le Grande Theater

The 975-person, Broadway-style theatre at the front of the ship hosts several different shows a week, twice a night. Most of these are revue-style performances with lots of energetic dancing and music through the ages or themes, such as a Moulin Rouge-style Paris-themed show, or one set in New York. As MSC caters for multiple nationalities most of these shows don't have much dialogue but rely on great singing, dancing and often acrobatics. The show runs twice a night, timed to fit in with meal times and guests are encouraged to book (it's free, it's just for capacity restrictions).

Carousel Lounge

MSC has created two outstanding new shows to fill this space after a tie-up with Cirque du Soleil ended during the pandemic. Drawing heavily on Cirque-style and aesthetic, both productions showcase dancing, acrobatics, juggling and astonishing moves such as "walking" perpendicular to the walls (on ropes). There is no real plot or dialogue, it's more about loosely knit set pieces showing off the extraordinary skills of the artists. Arkymea is themed around a nutty professor and his various experiments, which manage to combine some quite astonishing gravity-defying body-popping as well as some extraordinary steel cube spinning; Ajedrez has a chess theme, combined with rock music. Two opposing queens challenge each other to win the king's heart. Throughout the story, you meet the various characters of the chess board, from bishops to knights, characterized by life-size statues, as the teams battle it out to the sound of a ticking chess clock. At 45-minutes long, these are also ideal for kids of any age. There is also a small fee, which includes a drink. *Tip: Limited seats means this is worth booking ahead.*


Red Gem Casino is toward the back of the ship on Deck 7, split in two by a walkway that leads to the Carousel Lounge. There is a circular bar in the centre and gaming tables and slots on both sides. *Tip: Promotions take place every day; check your Daily Program for details.*

Galleria Virtuosa

This is the heart and soul of the ship, where there is always something going on night or day. Split across two decks, here you will find the majority of shops, bars and restaurants. MSC Virtuosa has the largest retail space at sea with a variety of shops including a logo shop, an essentials shop, duty-free and a number of high-end watch, jewellery and handbag stores. Listen out for the "events" often announced over the PA or in your Daily Planner for BOGO offers and deep discounts, usually toward the end of the cruise. But look up for the real standout -- a truly stunning 80m, ever-changing LED ceiling where different scenes are projected throughout the day and where there is a Dome Show at set times in the evening. It's breathtaking. The Galleria is also where the ship's biggest theme parties take place such as Flower Power or Space-themed nights in which the animation team stand on podiums dressed up encouraging passengers to get up and dance as a DJ spins tunes from one of the walkways across the promenade (note this is currently quite a muted affair due to COVID restrictions). You'll also find master chocolatier Jean Philippe Maury's chocolate shop and café, where you can pick up a chocolate ship if you wish; and opposite an ice-cream stand selling gelato and crepes.

Bars & Nightlife

MSC Virtuosa is no slouch when it comes to nightlife -- there are at least 10 places to drink till late spread across the ship. The majority are along or just off the main promenade and Atrium, which is where almost all the night-time action takes place. 

Our Picks

Heart of the Action: Virtuosa Bar. This is a prime spot just outside the Theater, where you'll find a dance floor and constant crowds of people. It also gives you a great spot for the events that take place most nights in the Galleria Virtuosa.

For a Sing-Song: TV Studio and Bar. You'll find a stage and karaoke most nights.

For Something Different: MSC Starship Club Bar, in which Rob the Robotic Bartender will serve you up a cocktail of your choice -- plus you get a free plastic glass. It's gimmicky and over-priced, but fun.

For Something Elegant: The Champagne Bar. Wrapped around the Atrium, with its Swarovski crystal staircases, this is the place to dress up, come for a pre- or post-dinner Champagne and do some people-watching or have your picture taken. It's very blingy.

For a Pint n' Fish n' Chips: Masters of the Sea Pub is an English-style pub which will serve you up a wide range of pints, drafts and bottled beers with a side of fish n' chips. Trivia takes place here most evenings. In a great spot with outside tables overlooking the main promenade.

For a Quiet Drink: The Sky Lounge. This is the one bar that is not on or just off the main promenade, but high up on Deck 17 overlooking the pool deck. There is often a piano and a singer and it's one of the few quiet-ish places onboard. You'll find the cigar room adjacent.


The Aurea Spa at the front of the ship on Deck 7 has 20 treatment rooms and a wonderful Thermal Suite. It's a Balinese spa, with Balinese therapists, so the emphasis is on those treatments, but you'll also find Swedish and Thai, as well as the signature Aure del Mare treatment with shells. Treatments are not cheap -- way more than you'd pay on land, plus there's usually an upsell at the end and also a 15 percent service charge added. You have been warned. Other treatments include anti-cellulite and water treatments in a futuristic-looking pod. Top tip: there are lots of offers, especially on port days, so look out for those in your Daily Program. The Thermal Suite is in our opinion one of the best at sea, with 10 rooms to experience -- 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, as well as a walk-through shower and two thalassotherapy pools. You get use of the Thermal Suite if you book a massage, or you can get a daily or weekly pass. The Jean Louis David Salon is at the spa entrance offering haircuts and treatments as well as a wide range of beauty therapies, including manis, pedis, waxing and men's grooming.


In a great spot on Deck 16 overlooking the main pool deck, with brand new equipment and separate rooms for Pilates and yoga. It's well equipped with 14 treadmills, six bikes (three pro and three reclining), cardio equipment, Kinesis and a weights training area. Use of the gym is free, the classes are for a fee. If you plan on taking regular classes, you might want to consider one of the packages on offer. There is a jogging track which encircles the back of the ship on Deck 16, with clearly delineated tracks for walkers and joggers (we also liked that there are no loungers in this area). One lap equals 200 yards (0.33 kilometres).

Included Dining

The quality of the food onboard MSC Virtuosa, both free and for fee, is of a high standard and a lot of it (mozzarella, bread, pasta) is made fresh daily. All meals are included in your fare and if you're on a seven-day cruise you will not be bored if you eat in the main dining room every evening (note, depending on which "Experience" you opt for, you will be assigned a specific dining room), and the buffet during the day, so varied are the food options. However, just for a change, you might wish to try out one of the speciality restaurants, which are not included in your cruise fare, one evening. In all four main dining rooms, dinner is a three- or four-course affair, with a different menu every night, which will always include a freshly made pasta dish and a fish dish. There are also always-available dishes including steamed fish fillet and grilled chicken breast. There is also a suggested Healthy Option menu, complete with calories, fat, carbs and protein. Twice a cruise there is a gala dinner, which ups the ante even higher. The Executive Chef will prepare a five-course menu which might include cream of asparagus and beef consomme to start and herb-crusted tenderloin or pan-seared salmon as entrees.

Marketplace Buffet

If you're after a quick casual bite, then the buffet is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks throughout the day and into the early hours. Pasta, bread and mozzarella (made in a machine at the entrance) are made fresh daily. There will always be some sort of regional cuisine on offer as well as salads, pizza, a daily roast, burgers, soups and grilled fish and chicken. For dessert, you'll find sweets and cheeses on offer. Note that the buffet is not self-serve, you simply point to the dish you want and are served. Same with drinks.

Speciality Restaurants

Unlike the big U.S. cruise ships, there are relatively few fee dining options, but what the ship lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. There's no need to eat in these, but if you wanted a change and you craved a specific cuisine or you have an occasion to celebrate, it might be fun to try one. The line also offers a Dining Package, which includes three restaurants at a set price which you can buy onboard or before you set sail. *Tip: Check your MSC for Me app to see what special offers these restaurants might have on. Sometimes they will throw in a free bottle of wine, especially on the first night or on a port day.*

Indochine ($$$$)

A new-to-the-line venue which is a Vietnamese-French fusion concept, in a beautiful setting nestled at the back of the Bistrot. It's not cheap, but it is definitely the most refined of the five for-fee options, with exceptional service, décor and cuisine. Also note, although it's billed French-Vietnamese fusion, the emphasis is much more on the Asian flavours so expect spring rolls, tom yam soup and pork belly.

Butcher's Cut ($$$$)

This American-style steakhouse gets our vote for one of the best at sea, with a wide range of excellent cuts of meat (Really hungry? Go for the Tomahawk cut), great sides including mac n' cheese and outstanding desserts including lava cake and New York Cheesecake. The red booths and black and white prints on the walls add to the authenticity. There's a great wine list, with some full-bodied reds as a perfect accompaniment. Tip: Opt for the set dining package rather than a la carte which is a lot more expensive.

L'Atelier Bistrot ($$$)

A French-themed bistro off the main promenade serving with French classics, such as pate, vichyssoise and, of course, escargots to start; and moules mariniere, boeuf bourguignon and steak frites for mains. There's a small stage and live music most evenings.

Kaito Teppanyaki ($$$)

If you are after a show as well as a meal, then this is for you. Anyone familiar with the Teppanyaki concept -- sitting around a hot plate as your chef creates your meal for you -- will feel right at home. There's egg-throwing, food flipping, utensil juggling and a constant stream of cheesy gags and songs to keep you permanently smiling. Choose from three different set menus, including a veggie-only. The food is great too!

Kaito Sushi ($$)

This is in contrast to the craziness of the teppanyaki, a quiet, authentic sushi bar situated just outside the restaurant, this serves fresh-made sushi at very reasonable prices. Excellent for a light lunchtime option.

HOLA! Tacos ($$)

Another new-to-the-line venue, this Mexican-themed restaurant is fun and reasonably priced and great for a quick bite. It also does mezcal tasting. Not ideal for a romantic night out, but fun if you are in a group.

Our Pick: If you're going to splurge we're torn between Butcher's Cut and Kaito Teppanyaki. Butcher's Cut gets our vote for truly top-notch steak in a refined setting and would be ideal for a couple. Kaito Teppanyaki has great Asian cuisine and is so much fun for families with young kids.

There are numerous different room types onboard Virtuosa, as well as different "experiences" (see below) unique to MSC, so how do you choose the right one? There are three basic cabin types (this is applicable to all cruise ships): Inside, Outside, Balcony. Everything else is a variation on this, including the suites, of which there is a wide range. Note also, MSC Virtuosa has the MSC Yacht Club, an exclusive area, similar in many ways to an Executive Lounge in a top hotel, but even fancier -- think all-suite, private dining, private lounge and a top-deck sun deck, only for Yacht Club guests (see below). Expect everything you would expect in a hotel room, just in a smaller space. (A standard cabin on Virtuosa is 204 square feet. By contrast, a typical hotel room in the U.S. is around 330 square feet.)

All cabins have a double bed that can be divided into two (except the 12 solo cabins which have a single bed), interactive TV, wardrobe, fridge, sofa, fixed desk and stool and numerous charging and USB points (including two hidden below the light fixture by the side of your bed). Virtuosa also boasts a desktop AI assistant called Zoe, which doubles as a Bluetooth speaker.

All standard cabins have a shower room with a shower stand with glass doors, a footrest for leg shaving and a clothesline for drying. You'll find generic shampoo and gel in fixed dispensers in the shower. There is a single basin with a fixed soap dispenser and a small cupboard with shelves.  There are also 55 accessible cabins.

Our picks:

Solos: If you're travelling solo, opt for one of 12 Interior Studios, which are 129 square feet.

On a budget: Interior. These are 172 square feet and there are 650. Bookable with Bella and Fantastica experiences only.

Splash: If your budget stretches to it, we would recommend a balcony cabin on Deck 8, which are 5 sq feet bigger than those on Decks 9-13.

Splurge: Opt for a Yacht Club cabin (*Tip: all cabins are all billed as suites but there are a number of interiors that come in at considerably less cost than the balcony cabins, but you still get all the YC perks*).

Family: There are 175 interconnected cabins and three cabin types designated as family. We recommend the aft-facing family suites, which come with bunk beds, bath and a balcony.

Special: The Duplex Suite. There are just eight of these, all located at the front of decks 9 and 10, and 12 and 13, and come in at 559 square feet. And would suit a family or two couples sharing.


MSC differs from all other cruise lines in the way it sells its cabins, preferring to offer "Experience" types rather than sell by cabin size or type, and it's worth noting that some cabins are only available with specific experiences. Each one of these experiences comes with a different range of perks and benefits. *

Bella: Represents a value-for-money cruise that includes all meals, entertainment, activities and your preferred choice of dinner seating (subject to availability). *

Fantastica: Layers on extra perks, such as 24-hour room service, priority choice of dinner seating and cabins on the upper decks. *

Aurea: Includes even more extras, including an all-inclusive beverage package, a spa package that includes a welcome cocktail, one massage of your choice, wellness consultation and free access to the Thermal Suite and the flexible My Choice dining priority boarding and cabins on the upper decks.

MSC Yacht Club

Special mention must be made to the MSC Yacht Club, which on Virtuosa (and sister ships), the line has taken it to a whole new level, dedicating three decks at the top and front of the ship to this exclusive enclave. The space includes a large lounge area with a bar and food and drinks served all day; a dining room for YC guests only and a top-deck sun deck with a small pool and a hot tub, plenty of loungers and a bar serving food and drink throughout the day. Fares can vary, but in general, cabins in the Yacht Club cost double what you'd spend on a regular cabin. So why should you upgrade? The list is long, and includes: all drinks included, all meals in the private dining room, butler service, priority boarding and private island extras. And also that intangible feeling of being very well looked after and away from the crowds on what can be a very busy ship.

Deck 19 - Mendelssohn
Deck 18 - Schumann
Deck 16 - Debussy
Deck 15 - Morricone
Deck 14 - Tchaikovsky
Deck 13 - Bizet
Deck 12 - Paganini
Deck 11 - Puccini
Deck 10 - Gershwin
Deck 9 - Strauss
Deck 8 - Wagner
Deck 7 - Verdi
Deck 6 - Beethoven
Deck 5 - Mozart
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