We love cruising. We find it the perfect way to explore and take it easy when travelling with kids – something which is not easy to do!
The readily available food, good room servicing, awesome kids club and interesting port stops make it so easy.
When we read about the brand new massive cruise ship, MSC Meraviglia, joining the MSC Cruises fleet in Europe, it felt like the perfect excuse to add this cruise to our Europe itinerary for our winter 2017/18 trip.
We have done one cruise since adding a fifth member to our family and that was hard work thanks to a crazy tiny cabin. We were even more sold on the Meraviglia when we saw their new “superfamily” cabins. Just perfect for “bigger” families.
In this MSC Meraviglia review, I am going to show you around the ship and tell you all about the good, the bad and the ugly of taking our 7 day Mediterranean cruise. I’m also going to tell you what to pack.
This is my fifth cruise across three cruise lines (Royal Caribbean, Carnival and now MSC Cruises). All the other cruises were from the US and it is impossible for me not to compare.
First of all, we took this cruise in January 2018 for 7 days starting and finishing in Genova.
Our MSC Meraviglia itinerary included:
with one day at sea. However, bad weather meant we skipped Malta and went to Cagliari, Sardinia instead.
This was incredibly disappointing since it was the only stop I was really excited about having visited Rome and Barcelona multiple times in the past but what are you going to do.
Otherwise, the weather was perfect for our trip and I have no complaints there at all.
In fact, I think it was a great time of year to visit this part of the world with everything being far less crowded than I experienced in the past.
MSC Meraviglia Cruise Ship And MSC Meraviglia Cabins
This is the fourth largest cruise ship in the world and, at only about six months old when we cruised, it was in great condition and very beautiful.
The best way to describe it is to show it to you.
My seven year old made this great video tour of the ship and you can hear her thoughts in the following MSC Meraviglia video.
In the MSC Meraviglia YouTube, she also walks you through our Superfamily cabin which is just awesome. There was one big problem with it which I will go through with you below.
However, it is great finding a cruise line that caters well to families larger than four and the cabin was very good.
MSC Meraviglia Cruises – The Good
There is so much to love about the MSC Meraviglia ship from the Swarovski staircases to the many pools and restaurants.
We found the food very good with enough variety that we did not need to visit any of the paid restaurants.
In fact, the food served by the MSC Meraviglia restaurants was much better than any of our previous cruises. The portion sizes were smaller but we found this a good thing as they focused more on quality. You can order as many as you like anyway so it’s not going to be an issue.
There is an awesome promenade which is lined with shops and restaurants and feels like you are walking down a usual street (be it a very happening one) and it has a fun roof like shown in the above video.
One end of the promenade
The entertainment was superb – there are two Cirque du Soleil shows and usual cruise ship entertainment as well and dancing, parades and events in the promenade. The events in the promenade, in particular, brought people together in a fun way which wasn’t possible on other ships I have been on.
The Cirque du Soleil shows aren’t as good as ones I have seen elsewhere – there is a space problem which contains things somewhat, but they are very enjoyable and way above the standard of usual cruise ship entertainment. I highly recommend them.
The kids club is fabulous. The kids loved going. It starts from three years old for the main programs and they have a whole wing of great facilities. It’s not even comparable to other kids clubs we have used.
There is also a program for under 3s including a special room. There were times of day where we could have left our one-year-old, but it never worked out for us. There is also a family lego time every afternoon so you can all play together in their amazing lego room.
We really liked our cabin. It was superb.
I also liked the mixture of nationalities on the ship.
Most our problems with this ship were minor and not that big a deal. However, we found a couple of financial things that were not disclosed how I wish they had been.
For example, you can buy different levels of service for your cruise with different inclusions. Our level included room service.
However, this actually meant they didn’t charge for delivery of room service but they charged for the food itself (except at breakfast). Their advertising of this is misleading.
We also were never informed about there being a gratuity payment. I assumed since it was an Italian cruise line in Europe, there wouldn’t be one. I was wrong. You can read about unexpected extra costs to cruises here.
This was an extra 30 euros a day in total for our family. On the upside, our 1-year-old was excluded and kids were half priced.
Some of the transfers were very overpriced from the cruise ship to the town. This happened in Barcelona and Marseille and it was cheaper for us to get taxis.
A bigger problem was the service on board the ship in bars. It was always so slow!
Many times we sat down at one then would give up and leave when we couldn’t get served. This was disappointing. On the upside, the service was always very good once we did get served.
It was also incredibly slow at lunch on our ship day. We ended up giving up on getting half our meal and left the restaurant.
Finally, one of our cabins also had a connecting door to another cabin and the sound travelled through which was annoying.
Our cabin. It was very well laid out for a family although slightly annoying we had to pay for a second one when the five of us fit very well into this one.
Our biggest problem on the MSC Meraviglia is that our cabin was directly above the theatre showing Cirque du Soleil. During the shows, it was very loud and our cabins would vibrate a lot.
We asked to change but the ship was full and we were stuck.
It especially annoys me that this is where the family rooms are placed. Often, it was finished by about 11 and, for most people, this wouldn’t present much of an issue. They’d be having dinner and at a show.
For a young family, this is a massive hassle and given we are paying a lot more than most people (with 5 people to pay for), it would be nice to not be stuck in the worst location.
Mostly the kids slept through it (thankfully!), but Josh and I couldn’t sleep and midnight is just too late for us to go to sleep with busy days and a 1-year old that likes to wake up frequently in the night. By the end of the cruise, we were exhausted. Not the end of Europe relaxation we had hoped for.
The worst part about this is that there was no way to pick a particular family room on booking like there is for other cabin types. It is assigned on check-in.
As much as I loved this cruise and the MSC Meravigilia, I would never book with MSC Cruises again until they fix this problem.
The very cool water park on top of the MSC Meraviglia
I wish I didn’t have to finish my MSC Meraviglia reviews like this because I did enjoy most aspects of it a lot. However, we need our sleep! And they shouldn’t put people in a position where they are stuck with a cabin where this can happen.
What To Pack
First of all, there are no passenger laundries on board so I recommend you take everything you need if you can.
Failing that, you can pay to get your washing done. We paid for a package beforehand which was about 60 euros for 40 items. This was cheaper than the price onboard and it was enough to get us through the week.
I highly recommend you take a solid daypack for shore days. We like this Tortuga Outbreaker because it is comfortable and spacious enough to take everything we needed for the five of us. We would take some extra food from breakfast in the mornings for snacks.
The MSC Meraviglia does have formal nights but no dress-up nights. It had two formal nights on our seven night cruise. We did not dress in formal clothes and plenty of other people did not either. I did not feel out of place. I do recommend nicer clothes for the evening though.
For a baby/toddler, I recommend taking all the baby supplies you need.