MSC Cruise

I Went on My First MSC Cruise, Here is My Honest Review

When I booked my first MSC cruise, I’ll admit that I had serious doubts. I had read so many negative reviews about MSC cruises, criticizing the subpar service, basic food options, overcrowding, and chaotic embarkation process. However, my experience on the MSC Meraviglia, departing from New York to the Bahamas, was surprisingly positive. In this review, I’ll share all the details of my first MSC cruise. Having been on over 25 cruises, I’ll be comparing my MSC experience with that of many mainstream cruise lines.  

Since I didn’t book a stateroom in their exclusive Yacht Club, this review focuses on the regular non-Yacht Club cruise experience on MSC. It’s important to note that this is an unsponsored review, and all opinions in this article are based on my personal experience.

The Food

I was a bit hesitant about going on an MSC cruise because I thought I’d be stuck with basic food like pizza and pasta. I had come across reviews praising the Italian fare but hadn’t heard much else. 

Frankly, I didn’t want to go on a cruise just to eat pizza and pasta. To my surprise, the food exceeded my expectations. Despite being a budget cruise, they served sophisticated dishes such as shrimp cocktail, escargot, osso bucco, steak tartare, braised short ribs, steak, and lamb shank. They even had a gala night with lobster and steak and baked Alaska for dessert! The best part was that the food tasted amazing. 

Honest review of MSC Cruise

Kudos to the chef on MSC Meraviglia. The food was some of the best cruise food I’ve had. Every dish was delicious and well-seasoned.

I have to mention that they served the best Caesar salad I’ve ever had on a cruise. In fact, my son, who typically avoids vegetables, is now a huge fan of Caesar salad thanks to our experience on this cruise. I’m forever grateful to MSC Meraviglia for transforming my son into a vegetable eater!

I also want to give credit to the pastry chef for the amazing cakes on board. The carrot cake is incredible, and I had the Grandma’s Chocolate cake almost every night!

The only thing that reminded me of a budget cruise line was the rule allowing only one entrée per person. If you wanted an additional entrée, there was a $5 charge, and certain premium entrees like the NY Strip steak also had a $5 surcharge. However, in my opinion, the $5 charge was negligible considering the quality of the food, so it was definitely worth ordering that second entrée!

The Wait Staff

I was honestly worried that my experience would be disappointing due to poor service. One of the main reasons I go on cruises is to be pampered by the cruise staff. 

I heard that MSC might have a bad staff-to-passenger ratio, resulting in subpar service. However, my experience was fantastic and comparable to major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruise, and Holland America. 

Our waiter, Panarta, was attentive and friendly. The assistant waiter did a great job with our drinks, and the head waiter took good care of my son and niece, who have food allergies.

The Cabin Steward

I was also worried that the quality of service I would get from my cabin steward would be subpar. I thought my cabin steward, Komang, might be overworked and not be able to clean my room properly. 

However, I was pleasantly surprised. Komang did an outstanding job, even better than my experiences on more high-end cruise lines. The bathroom was clean when I arrived, with no lingering odors, which is a widespread issue on many other cruise ships. I usually have to ask for a re-clean on the first day due to bad odor, but not on this MSC cruise! 

Also, Komang was very attentive and promptly fulfilled all my requests. I always had fresh towels and even received evening turndown service. I wasn’t expecting it since other cruise lines, like Norwegian Cruise, have eliminated turndown.

I want to point out that my own experience with the cabin steward isn’t a one-off experience. My mom and sister’s cabin steward, Agus, was also exceptional. He put in a lot of effort to ensure their staterooms were promptly cleaned, with fresh towels, and the best part was that their cabins didn’t have any lingering bad odors. Agus was also always friendly and went the extra mile.

Honest review of MSC Cruise

Guest Services

I was pleasantly surprised by the guest services desk. Unlike the long lines I’ve encountered on other cruise ships, the guest services line on my recent MSC cruise was always short. It seemed like there were only 1 or 2 people in line whenever I walked by. 

I’d like to think the short line is due to the happy passengers who don’t have many complaints! But I honestly think it’s because of the efficient guest services staff. The MSC Meraviglia is one of the most efficient cruise ships I’ve been on. They have assigned a dedicated guest services staff to assist passengers while they wait in line, which speeds up the process. 

For example, when I needed to link my credit card to my cabin, a staff member pulled me out of the line and guided me through the kiosk, reducing my wait time. When my nephew lost his key card, a staff member quickly reprinted it, minimizing our wait time again. Their efficiency and organization was truly impressive. 

On one occasion, I had to speak to a guest service staff member at the desk, she was pleasant and helped me solve my issue. 

Free Onboard Texting

One thing that I liked about the MSC cruise is the free onboard texting. You can text other passengers via the MSC cruise app chat feature even if you’re not subscribed to their WiFi plan. 

This made it so convenient to stay in touch with family members and locate them on the cruise ship. It was especially helpful for keeping track of my teenage daughter’s whereabouts!

The Buffet

I was really impressed by the buffet experience. On the first day of the cruise, the only option for lunch was the buffet, and I was worried it would be chaotic and overcrowded. 

To my surprise, the buffet was manageable, and we easily found a table for 8 people. We got on the cruise ship at around 12:30 pm, so it was peak lunchtime!

Even on sea days, the buffet was comfortable. There were always plenty of tables available and the lines were not too long. 

I think it’s because they have a lot of buffet staff whose main job is to clear the tables. In fact, their staff was almost too efficient – if you got up for seconds, you might come back to find your table cleared! 

Honest review of MSC Cruise

Public Space

I’ve been on cruises where the public areas of the ship get overcrowded, causing bottlenecks. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the layout of the MSC Meraviglia. The ship is designed in a way that the public spaces are well-distributed, so you never feel like you’re in a bottleneck or caught in a big crowd. The only time it feels busy is when you exit the theater after a show, but that’s normal for any cruise ship.

Pool Lounge Chair

One of the things that I always find on cruise ships is that it is hard to get pool lounge chairs. But not at MSC. I’ve had no trouble finding an empty lounge chair by the pool, even by the indoor pool. I think it’s because they have a policy of clearing lounge chairs if they’re left unattended. I really appreciate how organized the cruise staff is on this ship.


I was pretty worried about the embarkation process. My mom had watched a YouTube video of the embarkation of MSC Meraviglia at the Brooklyn Cruise terminal, and she described it as a complete nightmare with endless lines. 

I was mentally preparing myself for the same experience! However, I was pleasantly surprised. When we arrived at the Brooklyn Cruise terminal, there was a line, but it wasn’t too long, and it kept moving. The staff was well-organized, and getting through security and the check-in process was easy. 

Once we boarded the cruise ship, they informed us that our room wouldn’t be ready until 1 pm. However, we could leave our carry-on bags in the cabin and pick up our cruise keycards, which were hanging on our cabin door. The embarkation process turned out to be smooth and effortless.

The Theater

I liked the theater on the MSC Meraviglia. Unlike other cruise ships, the theater wasn’t too big, so there were no bad seats, even if you sat at the back. They also had a reservation system, and the staff scanned your cruise card to let you in. Even if we were late, finding seats for 8 people wasn’t a problem because they had 3 shows every night, unlike other cruise lines with only 2 shows per night.

The shows were quite enjoyable. While they weren’t exactly Broadway shows, there was a good variety of performances, including singing and dancing to popular songs from different eras, some mild acrobatics, magic shows, and stand-up comedy.

Honest review of MSC Cruise

Ocean Cay

One of my favorite experiences during my Bahamas cruise is the MSC private island, Ocean Cay. It’s probably one of the best cruise line private islands. 

Ocean Cay is stunning- soft, white sand and turquoise water. What’s great is that the cruise ship docks right at the island, so there’s no need for tender boats. 

Families with kids will love the calm, shallow, clean, seaweed-free lagoon—perfect for a relaxing day at the beach. Finding lounge chairs was easy. Overall, we had an amazing beach day, which is a big reason why I will go back on a Bahamas cruise on MSC.

The Bad

So far, I have been giving you all the reasons why my MSC cruise was such a positive experience. Now, let’s discuss the negatives. To be fair, there aren’t many, but they are significant enough to turn some people off.

The main dining room was the biggest letdown for me. The tables were set up too close together, leaving little room to move around. They also crammed extra chairs at the tables, making it feel overcrowded. 

We were squished into a table meant for six people despite being eight people. Thankfully, we had four kids on our table, which made it less cramped, but I can imagine that it would have been extremely uncomfortable for eight adults. 

Also, because of the table set-up, the main dining room ambiance is that of a noisy restaurant rather than a refined dining experience. It doesn’t feel fancy like what I’m typically accustomed to on other cruise lines. 

Another downside is the size of the staterooms and bathrooms, which are smaller compared to other cruise lines. The cabins felt narrow, and there was hardly any closet space. Even with just myself and my two kids, we couldn’t fit all our clothes in the closet. My son had to keep his clothes in his luggage! 

Honest review of MSC Cruise

One more thing that didn’t sit well with me was the electronic daily planner and menu. They don’t leave a printed daily planner in your cabin. As a result, I missed many onboard activities on the first day at sea because I didn’t realize I had to scan a QR code to access the daily planner. 

At the restaurant, there was a lack of printed menus, since they expected passengers to scan a QR code to view the menu. As a result, we were forced to share menus at my table, which was inconvenient and took away from the dining experience. 

Finally, the service in the main dining room always felt rushed towards the end. We barely had time to enjoy our coffee with dessert! I later learned that the restaurant I was assigned to had three seatings, causing the rush. Other restaurants on the cruise ship had two seatings.

Will I Cruise on MSC Again?

The answer is a definite yes. In fact, we’ve even booked another Bahamas cruise through their future cruise program on the MSC Meraviglia for the same week in June but in 2025!

We decided to sail on MSC again mainly because it’s a great value – you get good food, great service, and an amazing private island at an affordable price. I’m willing to overlook the small cabins and crowded main dining room for these benefits! (If they were to raise the price, then I don’t think I would sail on MSC.)

If you have been on the fence like me about sailing on an MSC cruise, don’t be. Don’t let the fact that it’s a budget cruise line scare you off. To be honest, I believe labeling MSC as a budget cruise line is a misconception. Apart from the small cabin size and crowded main dining room, the food and service are comparable to other cruise lines like Princess Cruise and Royal Caribbean, but at a more reasonable price! Check out: 12 Disembarkation Day Mistakes People Make When They Get Off the Cruise Ship

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