Like its legendary godmother Sophia Loren, MSC Meraviglia is full of show-stopping style that gives more than a nod to her Italian heritage. Christened in a firework-filled celebration in May at the Channel port of Le Havre, which was celebrating its 500th anniversary, MSC’s new flagship is no shrinking violet.
I loved the bold, blingy designs that smack of glitz and glamour and the mix of innovative attractions with distinctive continental flair. Meraviglia’s lavish atrium sets the scene as soon as you get on-board with lashings of marble, chrome and glass interspersed with staircases of Swarovski crystals that glitter like crushed diamonds. This is a big ship, with an even bigger personality, and has been hailed as the largest to be built by a European cruise line with enough space to take more than 5,700 passengers. Her launch took MSC’s fleet to 13, but this total will jump again by the end of this year with the unveiling of MSC Seaside, which promises innovation a-plenty as part of MSC’s ambitious expansion plans to add 11 new ships in a decade.
Where to eat
Until now, MSC’s cuisine could be rather hit and miss; varying from excellent to distinctly below par. But during my short stay on Meraviglia, not only did the choice of cuisine seem better, but so did the standard of the dishes. With 12 restaurants plus 20 bars and lounges, Meraviglia boasts the widest choice of dining options of any MSC ship – beer fans can even down a pint in the English-style Brass Anchor Pub. This is definitely one of the more authentic-style pubs I’ve seen at sea. There was even a dartboard, though sadly no darts due to health and safety!
In addition to the three main dining venues, guests can immerse themselves in speciality restaurants with artisanal Italian cuisine at the expanded range of Eataly spots; premium steaks at the Butcher’s Cut steakhouse; or the exotic showmanship of traditional Japanese dining at the Kaito Teppanyaki restaurant, which makes its debut on Meraviglia.
Where to sleep
Balcony cabins are a decent size and decorated in tasteful muted shades – the focal point of which is a very large and very comfortable double bed. There are the usual features you’d expect - a minibar, safe, sofa and flat-screen TV on the wall - while the en-suite shower in pale grey and ivory was modern and crisp. Families are catered for with new 'SuperFamily' modular cabins that can be connected to accommodate up to ten people, and I was impressed by bunk beds tucked into a handy little recess which stopped the cabins from feeling cluttered.
I wasn’t so taken with the new Duplex suites. The balcony area with its hot tub was rather nice, but the small living area with its low ceiling felt rather cramped. Single cruisers aren’t forgotten either with MSC’s first solo cabins on-board.
What to do
The famous acrobats of Cirque du Soleil have injected world-class sparkle into Meraviglia’s entertainment line-up thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian theatrical giant. Guests can take in two exclusive shows in the spectacular custom-designed Carousel Lounge at the ship’s aft. Sadly, the shows weren’t ready for review during my inaugural stay inboard, but early reports have been predictably positive. The ship also debuts a high-tech TV studio as the setting for talent contests and games broadcasts, while the expansive 985-seat Broadway Theatre stages six new production shows.
Whizz-kids looking for more interactive treats can take their chances on hair-raising roller-coasters, battle with zombies, or go full throttle in a Formula One racing car in a set of sophisticated F1 simulators in the Sportplex zone.
Youngsters haven’t been left out with seven different children’s areas that include the line’s biggest teen’s space, new family music activities and a kids’ lounge modelled on a TV studio. There is also the fabulous Polar Aqua Park on-deck with its twisting waterslides and ropes course.
What I loved
- The new Mediterranean-style promenade, Galleria Meraviglia. Similar to the Royal Promenade on Royal Caribbean International’s larger ships, but refreshingly continental and lined with boutiques, cafes, a gelato stand and the mouth-watering temptations of the ship’s own opulent chocolate ‘boutique’ run by renowned French chocolatier Jean-Philippe Maury. Above it is an 80 metre LED sky – claimed to be the longest at sea – that had us all transfixed as it magically transformed from a beautiful stained-glass ceiling into an oceanic wonderland of mermaids and exotic sea life.
- The wonderfully exclusive MSC Yacht Club: Meraviglia’s elite 'ship within a ship' where pampered guests enjoy butler service, their own exclusive restaurant and a private deck with its own pool. On Meraviglia it has been fine-tuned and expanded so it now sits across three decks, meaning you never have to leave its uber-exclusive confines if you don’t wish to.
- The impressive Aurea Spa – one of the best at sea - where serenely smiling Balinese therapists offer a long list of tempting Asian-inspired pamperings.
If you want a taste of exclusivity but your budget doesn’t stretch to the Yacht Club, book an Aurea or Wellness experience package that will give you access to the Top 19 Solarium deck area, which is adult-only and open only to these guests.