At over 1036 feet in length and 141 in width, with 15 passenger decks and a passenger capacity of 4500 in 2,250 cabins, MSC Meraviglia entered service in June of 2017 as the 6th largest cruise ship in the world behind Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships and AIDAnova. With bigger and bigger ships coming out all the time it has currently fallen to number 14 with Wonder of the Seas joining Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class as the current biggest. Following all of Royal’s Oasis class ships there are now 2 other MSC ships, 2 AIDA, 2 from Costa, one P&O, and one Carnival larger than MSC Meraviglia that are now sailing the seas. Of course that place won’t last long as various lines bring out bigger and bigger ships. Royal has ships that once launched as the biggest in the world and don’t even make the top 30 anymore. Meraviglia means a thing of beauty or something remarkable, marvelous, or wonderful. Google translate’s one word translation is wonder, which seems pretty coincidental for us since we boarded the Meraviglia directly after disembarking Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas.
One of Meraviglia’s most impressive features is the dome over the promenade area, AKA the galleria. The lower level has shops and eateries. A second story runs along the edges with a pub and premium (pay extra) restaurants on either side. A curved dome roof runs the length the promenade, but it’s not any ordinary roof. It’s a video screen with visuals that change often. It can display anything from fancy ceilings to puffy white clouds in a blue sky – clouds that resemble continents. Sometimes there are dome shows which vary from randomly changing color patterns to sequential shows like the one depicting a submarine dive to an Atlantis full of mermaids. It even displayed the lighthouse show while the live lighthouse show happened outside when the ship was docked at MSC’s private island, Ocean Cay. The lighthouse show is an ever-changing colorful display of lights on the island’s lighthouse.
Meraviglia has all the things people have come to expect in a large cruise ship with pools, hot tubs, waterslides, a ropes course, a gym, and a spa. There is an indoor pool and hot tub area as well as the ones on the outside deck. It has a walking/running track, but it is the crappy sort that is pretty much just painted onto the upper deck exposed to the elements and often crowded with people who just need to get from one place to another rather than using it as a track. In addition to the main theater for typical cruise ship production singing and dancing shows, they have another theater called the Carousel Theater with a round revolving stage and lots of aerial acts.
Another feature is the Swarovski crystal stairway to the main lobby by guest services.
There was an extensive area of pay-extra entertainment near the kids clubs. Far more than the usual cruise ship arcade, it had an interactive movie theater, a bowling alley, and some rides. There was also quite a large indoor sports court in that area.
Some areas of the ship are exclusive for guests of their “ship within a ship” called the MSC Yacht Club where an inside cabin costs nearly as much as a huge fancy suite that is not in the Yacht Club area and the prices go up from there. Yacht Club guests have their own bar (with unlimited free drinks), sundeck, pool, and exclusive restaurant. They also have 24-hour butler service and priority boarding and check-out, free wi-fi, and some exclusive shore excursions. If the ship sails to MSC’s private island in the Bahamas, Ocean Cay, they also have a private beach on the island just for Yacht Club guests. One of the ship’s elevators was also usually exclusively for their use.
We booked an 11-day cruise as all one segment, but it was technically a back-to-back with a 7-day cruise followed by a 4-day cruise. The first 7 days was over Thanksgiving and the ship was packed full. Apparently it is a thing for extended families to book a bunch of cabins and all cruise together for Thanksgiving. About a quarter of the passengers onboard were kids. Maybe the parents figure since there’s already a couple days off that week they only have to take them out of school for a few days for the cruise. Some of them are probably home schooled or do online school, but with that many a lot must attend regular schools. The second segment of our cruise had just about 1000 passengers, nowhere near the over 4000 from the first week so it was more peaceful as nothing was crowded then.
Although some of the pictures around the ship aren’t necessarily what people would choose to decorate their homes, there wasn’t near the amount of weird, odd, strange, or ugly art found on most cruise ships. A few questionable statues here and there, but nowhere near the crazy decor some ships have. Most of the decor was tasteful. One unique feature in the artwork of this ship was decks named after various places in the world and photos of those places near the elevators, with each deck displaying photos of the place it is named after.
While ships from American cruise lines tend to not have a deck 13, this one did have deck 13, but was missing deck 17. MSC is an Italian cruise line and apparently in Italy 17 is considered an unlucky number because one anagram of the Roman numeral XVII is VIXI, which in Latin translates as “I have lived” with the implication of “My life is over” or “I’m dead.” Also the biblical flood began on the 17th day of the month, and in Greek mythology Odysseus floated on a raft for seventeen days. On the other hand in tarot cards 17 is lucky – the card of the stars symbolizing wishes will come true.
There were free shows in the main theater most nights, which had 3 times to choose from that had to be reserved in advance on our first cruise when the ship was booked full, but only 2 showtimes nightly and you could just walk in without reservations on the last 4 days when there was less than a quarter of the number of people onboard. Some of their production shows were good, but one was pretty boring. We were most entertained by a couple of the cast whom we referred to as happy guy and awkward girl. Neither of them were the star dancers. Happy guy always had a huge smile, engaged with the audience, and looked like he had a lot of fun performing and loved being onstage, whereas awkward girl always had her eyes facing up and never once looked at the audience. Her dancing was probably technically correct, but she looked stiff and uncomfortable while doing it. In one of the shows the two were paired up together, though their dancing styles couldn’t have been more opposite.
There were also several performances each of their special shows in the carousel theater. These required reservations even when the ship wasn’t crowded and the small fee covered both the show and a drink. The fee was not much more than the price of a drink, so not a major expense. There were 2 different shows at that theater, of which the rock show was better than the Houdini show. The same cast performed in both shows, but were a different group than the ones from the main theater.
The food was usually good, but their idea of making things gluten or lactose free was generally to limit the options you could choose from to things that already didn’t have any noodles or breading and then take away any sauces, gravies, or side dishes containing gluten or dairy. They did not make much if anything specifically gluten-free in house so the only gluten-free bread items came from a freezer and had to be thawed for use.
Their app could definitely use some improvement. Hopefully they have worked on it since our cruise because it was lacking some useful features other ships have, not as easy to navigate as others, and some of the features it was supposed to have didn’t work. At the start of the cruise I was logged into the app on my phone with my info and password. John’s info and password had never been used on that phone, yet it showed his profile instead of mine. His phone where he was logged in with his own info and password also showed his profile. It didn’t seem to acknowledge my existence at all. I got that fixed the next morning from one of their internet guys (who are found in the photo section because there isn’t a specific area for internet). A bit later that morning when we tried to charge something to the room card we discovered that fixing the app to show my profile on my phone deleted my credit card from our account. It had been registered to the account online before the cruise and had worked for both of us up to that time, and neither after. Fixing that issue required help from the screener guy who decides who gets to see customer service or not. The kiosk that is supposed to fix that sort of thing wouldn’t solve the problem even when he tried to do it for me until he input a bunch of info into his tablet. It was good when the screener guy could help because he got through about ten people in the amount of time it took customer service to help one even when they had several desks open. (I was in line about 25 minutes before the screener got to me and only 1 person from the line moved up to the customer service desk in all that time even though there were 3 desks open.) Their customer service definitely needed improvement – like faster people or more desks open during busy times since the main movement in that line came from the screener either helping people himself or sending them elsewhere.
That’s not the only line that didn’t move fast, which really isn’t that surprising because speedy or efficient lines just really aren’t MSC’s thing. The app was not working for booking some things and they had just one person at the seafood restaurant doing all the bookings for all specialty restaurants and the premium shows. That line mainly only moved when people got tired of waiting and left. If the app had been working I wouldn’t have needed to be in that line at all. We had pre-booked a couple specialty shows at the carousel theater before the cruise and signed up for showtimes with somebody in a little booth on the promenade on boarding day, but that booking did not show up in the app so I had gone to see if we actually had showtimes reserved or not. It turned out the times were booked, it was just one more thing on the app that wasn’t working. The app did not show those particular shows for anyone, though it would show the free ones which you actually could book through the app. Later we tried to book a shore excursion for the lighthouse climb at Ocean Cay through the app and that didn’t work either. I had to go to the shore excursion desk to book it. That excursion is cheap and well worth doing so best to book it online pre-cruise if heading to Ocean Cay.
More unique and interesting things the Meraviglia has are a place at the buffet where they make their own fresh mozzarella cheese and a chocolate shop on the promenade that makes its own chocolates. The chocolates are pretty expensive, but look tasty. There’s also a coffee bar there. You would think a chocolate shop would specialize in fancy flavors of hot chocolate, but the selection is mainly coffee, though you can get hot chocolate there. The display cases around the chocolate shop have some pretty fancy chocolate sculptures they made there.
We thought it was a bit weird that people had to sign a waiver to use the waterslides. We’ve not seen that previously on any ship. Waivers are sometimes required on shore excursions, especially if you’re doing something like snorkeling or zip-lining, but the only things we’d previously seen them onboard for were things like rock climbing walls, flow riders, or an ice-skating arena, none of which Meraviglia has. Two of the three waterslides were fun ones used with your choice of single or double tubes. The third one is the bowl sort that I personally avoid. The reason for the waivers was apparent when getting to the top of the slides and finding no crew member up there to monitor when people go down making sure nobody slides while somebody else is still on it. You just go when you want to.
Overall we enjoyed our cruise on the Meraviglia. It’s a nice ship with a lot of things to do and a variety of places to go onboard.