So this review was written two years ago, and I have such fond memories of the MSC Armonia!
Since writing the below we’ve been on Splendida twice (Sept & Oct 16) Fantasia three-times (March and April 17, then April 18), Meraviglia once in November 17 and most recently MSC Seaview… We will be sailing MSC Armonia’s sister MSC Sinfonia this Christmas – Hope the review is useful! Apologies for the lack of pictures
This cruise was for my 30th birthday. We have been on numerous MSC cruises before, on both Fantasia Class (MSC’s largest ships) and Lirica Class, to which Armonia belongs. Our previous cruise on Lirica was pre-stretch (MSC’s Renaissance Program involved cutting and shutting the ships to add more cabins and public space).
Embarkation was fairly quick. MSC have changed their check-in procedure so that at the initial check-in desk you just fill in some forms and they check your passport. You’re then ushered towards the ship where security staff then take your photograph. Your cruise card is waiting in your cabin. This seemed a little strange at first, but in hindsight it probably speeds up check-in as there isn’t quite so much for the staff to do with each passenger.
As always with MSC we found the ship to be spotless, and although Armonia is aging, all the public areas and cabins are kept immaculate. I dare say you wouldn’t realise how old she is if it weren’t for the styling of things like the atrium and some of the fixtures and fittings which do look a little dated.
We had a suite, which we found absolutely lovely. There was a bathroom with glass shower screen over the bath – no annoying curtain! A large walk-in wardrobe offered plenty of storage – both hanging space and drawers. If you were to consider a long cruise with MSC on one of these ships, I’d recommend the suite! The bed was ever-so comfortable, a nice sitting area and what could be described as a sideboard with a couple of cupboards and the mini bar. If you have the premium drinks package the contents of the mini bar are free – we found this very useful for juice in the morning and a night-cap before bed! We normally only have the standard drinks package, but decided to treat ourselves to celebrate!
On this class of ship, if you have a balcony cabin or suite dining is ‘my choice’ in the La Pergola Restaurant which offers some excellent views from the back of the ship. We were lucky to have a table by the windows every day. The menu in this restaurant was also different to the main dining room for other passengers. We had some beautiful meals in the evening; the service was always top-notch. Th extensive wine list included with the drinks package was also an added bonus!
In many reviews of MSC people say they didn’t enjoy the food. My advice here would be to go with an open-mind. MSC is an Italian line, therefore the food is Italian style. Every dinner menu has a couple of appetizers, salad, soup, risotto / pasta, main courses and desserts (sometimes cheese as well!) If you can’t make a meal out of that then I do wonder what people eat at home! In comparison to other lines, there isn’t steak every night but the rest of the food in my opinion is lovely.
My partner and I tend to use the Main Dining Room for breakfast and lunch. Here is where I think the expansion of Lirica Class ships has not worked. Owing to the increase in passenger numbers breakfast and lunch is a mix of buffet and a la carte. This was a slight disappointment to us as we’re not fans of buffets and much prefer the high level of service we are used to. I think the waiting staff were too stretched at these key times and this had an impact on service, which was a shame.
The entertainment was up to the usual standards of MSC, with some excellent deck parties during the day and at night! We had a wonderful time! We went to some of the shows, Fantasticats and Dirty Dancing really stood out and were great fun.
We didn’t take any ship organised excursions as we did some research beforehand so did our own thing. The ports of call were Majorca, Ibiza, Sardinia, Livorno and Genoa. In Livorno we got the train to Pisa – this was a bargain at just a couple of euro for the train tickets. The train station is a long way from the port in Livorno. You can take a bus. We had a taxi back to the ship from the train station which cost 20 euros, which was quite reasonable for the distance.