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All Aboard MSC – An MSC Grandiosa Review

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MSC is Italy’s foremost cruise company, running its first cruise in 1988 and growing every year. They offer some amazing value cruises around the world with lots of great extras included in the price. In January 2023 my friend (Caz) and I were lucky enough to bag a spot on MSC Grandiosa for a week-long Mediterranean cruise. Here is my full MSC Grandiosa review.

This post may contain sponsored content or affiliate links that help support the blog. All opinions are our own.

A quick note: I am not going to review every last spot on the ship, but those that are worth a mention.

The Ports

Our Mediterranean cruise was due to visit six ports over seven days:

  • Barcelona, Spain (where we embarked and disembarked) – A fun city full of amazing tapas, plenty of culture, art and history. Add to that a generous helping of Gaudi architecture and you have a wonderful city for a short break at either end of the cruise.
  • Marseille, France – Marseille gets a bad rap but it has some lovely areas. Head up to the pretty Notre Dame de la Garde for beautiful views over the city or take a seat by the port full of little boats and slurp down some iconic bouillabaisse chased with some anise-flavoured pastis.
  • Genoa, Italy – Walk quickly around the port and up to Genoa‘s old town for a nice relaxing stroll through cafe-lined streets. Grab some pesto-smothered pasta and an Aperol Spritz or a prosecco for a taste of local life.
  • Civitavecchia (for Rome), Italy – The most popular thing to do from this port is a long day trip into the city of Rome. You can check out the most famous sights (Trevi Fountain, The Colosseum etc) or visit Vatican City. It is wise to take one of the prearranged trips as the boat will wait for them at the end of the day and it can be a long journey independently.
  • Palermo, Sicily – The capital of Sicily has two beautiful concert venues, plenty of pretty churches, delicious markets and beaches nearby. We organised a food tour with Palermo Street Food during our stop here which was a brilliant way to explore the city.
  • Valletta, Malta – Probably the most gorgeous of the stops in this itinerary, Valletta is a wonderful walking city. There is a wonderful blend of cuisines to savour, churches to explore (the cathedral is incredible) and world war two tunnels to take you back in time. We love Malta, and here is our Malta content for you to have a nosy!

The Weather

Due to some inclement weather, our journey took longer than expected and some changes were made. The entry to Civitavecchia took a very long time so day trips to Rome became unviable. Instead, we checked out the spa. The visit to Valletta was also cancelled to allow the ship a chance to get back to Barcelona and back on track. Unusually, passengers could embark at many of the stops, a nice way to ensure people don’t have to travel too far to cruise. I wonder what happened to the people who were meant to travel to/from Valletta?

Let’s head back on board and have a look at the ship.

Our Interior Stateroom

Firstly, let me apologise for the quality of most of these pictures, they were screen grabs from a quick room tour.

We had an interior stateroom which is the smallest and darkest of the rooms on board. I missed the window massively, having no sense of the weather or time when I woke up. We had an unexpected day at sea due to the weather and we spent much of the day in the dark as the ship rolled. It was nice to doze but so weird without the daylight.

When we boarded, the beds were set as a double but our steward assured us that he would redress the room for my friend and I to have twin beds.

By each of our beds, we had a little table, a wall light and a plug which was great.

Over to one side of the room was a dressing table/desk. There were some plugs here so it became both our hair station and charging station. There was a shelf with clever glass inserts, keeping our in room glasses safe.

Under this was a strange electronic device. This was called Zoe and it was meant to be the MSC version of Alexa. We couldn’t really get it to work (turns out, she speak Italian…and we don’t) but we could use it as a Bluetooth speaker, which we enjoyed. It was nice to listen to music out of a reasonable speaker whilst getting ready for dinner.

To one side of the wardrobe was the TV which we only used for the safety video as we preferred to be out of the room where we could see the outside world.

The bathroom was small on one hand but very roomy on the other. The sink was in the corner, with a double mirror, making this area feel much bigger. The toilet and shower were both on the same side, giving a large space to walk in and out of the bathroom. Finally, as there was a towel rack and a reasonably large shelving unit, the countertop could be kept clear, again giving the illusion of space.

The Ship – A Look Around MSC Grandiosa

The Food and Beverage

Buffet Breakfast

Breakfast on MSC Grandiosa is spread over 5 hours, which really puts less of a strain on the room. This isn’t the case on popular port days where everyone is there at the same time and it is quite hard to find a table.

The buffet itsaelf had a lovely, large variety of options. A big, bread selection sat next to two delectable cake selections. Italians do very good breakfast cakes! There is lots of fresh fruit and two stations for hot items like sausages (frankfurter style), egg and tomatoes. Then of course, there was loads of cold meats and excellent cheeses from all across Europe. It was nice to see a section with chilled fish too, including rollmops and other Scandi options.

Yes, we did make sandwiches to take off the ship with us using the cream cheese and cucumbers.

A La Carte Breakfast

I can’t believe we didn’t know about this until our very last morning. We thought that the Purple Carb, another dining room, was serving another buffet but it was actually a la carte! I chose a ham and cheese omelette with smoked salmon on the side. Paired with some more of that excellent coffee and I suddenly wanted another week on board!

Buffet Lumch

The lunch buffet was a little lack lustre in my opinion. There was plenty of pasta dishes, Asian noodles and pre-made burgers. It was all pretty stodgy. That being said, I loved watching them prepare mozzarella in the glass-fronted area as we walked into the buffet. This cheese was readily available, fresh on the buffet and used on the pizzas that were coming out every few minutes next door.

The Main Dining Room

The main dining room we were in was called La Perla Grigia. It had a cool central area, lined with bottles of wine which was very stylish. Guests are assigned a table for the length of their cruise. It was nice not to share but we were in a corner, in close quarters with the same English couple next to us the whole time. It would have been nice to meet some new friends every day…or not be so close as to have to make friends.

The food options were wide enough that we found something we wanted to try every day. Caz is gluten-free and our waiter was brilliant, bringing her a different menu every night, and her own bread too. I felt the food was presented reasonably, with a few stand out dishes which looked great. However, many of the dishes felt cheap. I ordered a prawn risotto and it had a grand total of three prawns. The meat and two options seemed a bit like they came from a fancy school canteen. There was a marked improvement in quality on the formal night so obviously, the food got a glow up too.

Speciality Dining

MSC Grandiosa has four specialty restaurants. For an extra cost, you can add a dining package which allows you a set selection to choose from. Doing this in advance saves up to 40%. There are lots of upcharge options in each restaurant but you can have a delicious dinner with no extra, extra cost if you want.

  • L’Atelier Bistrot – The French bistro-style spot was our first speciality meal and it was alo of fun. Sadly, the restaurant was nearly empty so it was lacking a lot of atmosphere. However, the food was fantastic. The snails were not too tough and didn’t look too scary. Then the chips were really crispy and fluffy, and the roast chicken super tender. Top marks!
  • Keito Sushi and Teppanyaki – Seafood is my happy place, so of course I jumped at the chance to try the ship’s sushi spot. The grilled prawn were perfectly cooked, shame there was only one each. The sushi was pretty good, but it was a shame not to be able to pick our own dishes. I got lucky, as the selection included some of my favourites.
  • Hola! Tapas Bar – Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the tapas bar. We were planning to but the gluten-free otions were almost non-existant so we made our way to Butcher’s Cut instead.
  • Butcher’s Cut – Mr Fluskey doesn’t love a steak so I don’t get the chance to go for a fancy slab of meat very often. We started with some egg-cellent (yes, I had to) devilled eggs. It was so fun to finally try these after years of seeing them on TV for years. Caz opted for tartare and said it was perfection. Then it was time for steak! I was a bit disappointed in the size when it first arrived but it was tender, juicy and just the right amount…so what do I know. To finish I had a skillet cookie and it filled me to the brim so it was lucky the steak wasn’t any bigger.
The Drinks

We decided to buy the drinks package for the duration of our trip. This just meant we could relax and not worry about prices throughout the trip. I am so glad we did as we ended up with an extra sea day and having a few cocktails throughout the day eased the disappointment. It also meant we could try some silly things. This flaming shot for example, supplied by the brilliant guys in the Masters of the Sea pub. I worked my way through a fair few strawberry bellinis.

You can pay as you go when you cruise with MSC or get a package. If you plan to have a package buy it before you board, it is 15% cheaper. You must have the same package as those you share a room with so it may take some negotiation. We opted for the Easy Package which is the cheapest of the alcoholic options. We had a selection of wines, sparkling and still, and about 12 cocktails to pick from. It was plenty.

The Entertainment

The Main Theatre de Comedie

There was a show in the main theatre every night. It houses just under 1000 people so you need to be there and ready to go when it opens. This was not a big blockbuster musical or a headliner comedian. Instead, these were jukebox type shows with lots of singing and dancing. They were clearly catering for the vast array of languages on board, making sure the maximum number of people could enjoy them. I had fun singing along…not sure those around me enjoyed my singing but hey ho. The singers were talented, and I loved some of the sections in the shows but it would have been nice to see somehting more narrative on a couple of nights.

The Circus Shows

For an added fee (I think it was around £25), you can see a show at the other end of the ship, in the Carousel bar. This involves a lot of circus performers and makes a nice change from the other shows. Again, it is a series of acts but the physical prowess and upgrade of production values made it feel like it was worth it. Plus, the tickets price included a welcome drink…so that was nice.

Parties and Live Music

MSC knows how to throw a party. The main thoroughfare was turned into a crazy disco on more than one occasion. Worthy of note were the silent disco (always hilarious from both inside and outside of the party). We also got involved in the white party with lots of singing along to Italian songs we didn’t know, copying dance moves from the crew and jumping up and down. We were so happy to see not one, not two, but three conga line moments on evening as we sipped our drinks and watched from the balcony of the Masters of the Sea pub.

Earlier in the day, and dotted around the ship, live bands entertained the crowd, and dance lessons kept people limber. On our cruise there was one particular couple that strut their ballroom stuff at every chance they could get. They were ship celebs. We never joined in with the dancing but on an itinerary with more sea days, I would absolutely have been up and wiggling too.

The Recreation Areas

Galleria Grandiosa and The Infinity Atrium

Referred to as “the main thoroughfare” earlier in the post is the Galleria Grandiosa. This area runs through the centre of the ship on two levels and is home to the shops and speciality restaurants. Along the roof was a huge, curved screen….at least, I think it was a screen. This had beautiful scenes throughout the day from sunny skies to stained glass windows, pretending to be an art gallery to displaying abstract art itself. In the early evenings, they had cool animated projection shows that lasted 10-15 minutes. It was nice to grab a drink and watch, or just to be surprised by one that you didn’t know was coming. At one end was the theatre, and at the other the space opened up and down into the Infinity Atrium. This housed some impressive décor, including the iconic Swarovski stairs. These glitter with crystals and it is so hard to capture just how pretty they are on camera.

The shops, known in an enclave called Piazza del Lusso didn’t hold anything for me. Designer brands aren’t my cup of tea and to be honest, a week long cruise with hand luggage meant absolutely no shopping anywhere. For those who are into retail therapy, there was a nice selection of jewellery, watch, clothing and beauty shops to play in.

The Best Bars

Given a drinks package, and week to try it out, we made it to many of the bars….maybe all of them. As all the bars served the same menu, this is all based on the bar, not the beverages. These were our favourites:

  • Edge Cocktail Bar – This bar seemed almost tucked in the corner of the Infinity Atrium but it is a very handy to grab a walking drink. Some people were propping up the bar here every time we passed but it was a little dark to make it our best spot.
  • Masters of the Sea Pub – Our most frequented bar. This nautical themed pub area was a great spot for watching the Galleria Grandiosa shows and parties. The air con inside was a bit chilly so we grabbed a table by the railing and settled in. The bar staff were so funny and friendly and even got us to try flaming shooters one night which was madness.
  • TV & Studio Bar – Across from Masters of the Sea but enclosed, TV & Studio Bar was the place to be late at night. They played host to karaoke a lot but we didn’t fancy joining in so we only popped in here for a quick one. If you love to sing, or to see other people attempt to sing, then its worth an evening.
  • Champagne Bar – This was a nice, bright bar at the top of the Infinity Atrium. It had nice views to the outside and who doesn’t love a champagne!? Despite not being on our package, we had to buy a glass here and indulge. I would say that the carpet stopped it from being truly classy but that is just a nitpick.
  • Sky Lounge – Our best spot for a late night cocktail, or an early morning coffee was th Sky Lounge. This was above the buffet and gym, and had a nice view across the pool deck and wrapping around the sides to the horizon. The mid-century colour scheme seemed a little dull and I thought it a little strange that there were sofas with their backs to the window, not allowing you the view, but the staff here were great.
  • Horizons Bar – The bar that overlooks the back of the ship isn’t much itself, but it is surrounded by chairs and tables with lovely outside views of the wake.
The Attic Club

We made our way here one night and it was a weird atmosphere. The club was split across two rooms dark, shiny rooms. One was full of the young people (teenagers) and one with older cruisers (40s-50s). We felt like we had slightly slipped through the cracks and didn’t fit in anywhere. The bar was really crowded and people were happily pushing in front of others and pushing in general. It all felt a bit hostile and awkward so we danced for about half an hour before deciding to go back to a nice quiet cocktail bar. We found out later that the teens club was held in one of the rooms so it makes total sense that they all gravitated there in the evening.

Sportplex and the Kid’s Areas

Let’s be real, we didn’t use most of these. We don’t have kids to use the kid’s clubs so can’t comment on them. However, I love that this is an option, allowing their parents some true relaxation time.

Being a big kind, I was interested in the games arcade but sad to see this cost extra. I was also tempted to use the ropes course, including the Himalayan Bridge and the Aquaforest Waterpark. Sadly,. due to winds and chilly temperatures, these were closed. I saw someone up on the ropes on our first day but thuoght “I have a whole week to try it”…and it was never open again.

The Aurea Spa

One of our planned excursions was a day trip from Civitavecchia port to Rome. Due to bad weather delaying our docking by three hours, there wasn’t time to take the tour. The very kind tours people and travel agent gave us our onboard credit back and so we used it for a spa session instead. There was enough for one massage and we decided Caz needed it more than me so she head off for a massage, leaving me to explore the thermal suite. I had a blast in the hot tub. The rocking of the ship sloshed it around and I was giggling away when she came back thoroughly blissed out. Sounds like it was perfect, a great antidote for the locked-in feeling we had after missing out on the excursion.

The spa was spotlessly clean, with big lockers and shower facilities. Inside the Thermal Area was an array of rooms offering a sauna, a steam room, salt relaxation, warm relaxation, an ice room and hot tubs. We left after three hours so happy.

The Pools

There were three pools available for use (with another in the separate MSC Yacht Club area.) As well as this, there were three whirlpools too. As the weather wasn’t ideal, we had these to ourselves. We head up for one sunrise and it felt pretty special watching the sky change as the warm water bubbled our sleep away.

The outdoor pool is on deck 16 is the Atmospheric Pool. This is split into two and was definitely in “winter mode”. Usually, the water is a little higher so the first row of sunbeds is actually in the water. Plus, the sculptures in between the two halves are fountains. Clearly, It was too cold to use the pool in January but I did it for the ‘gram! It was a lovely large pool and I think there was plenty of room around to relaxation. At one end was a huge screen. On our sailing just had ship messages etc but I think it is used for movies in warmer weather. I’d love to watch a film from the water. At the other end was the Atmosphere Bar. In summer, this may have been our go to but it was shut for much of the time and too cold to be a nice spot.

It is worth noting that the covered seating was very popular with smokers as it reduced the win greatly so if you are hanging by the pool and don’t like smoke, try and work out where the wind will whip it away from you.

There is a small infinity pool at the back of the ship, called The Horizon Pool. I think this could be a nice place to take in the sailaway but the statue here, aimed at the kiddos, took away from the class of the spot.

The Safari Pool is inside and also has some more whirlpools. This pool is quite small and crowded with children in the day but does have the advantage of not being in the chilly air if it’s winter. The whirlpools were packed with groups but I guess this wouldn’t be the case if there were more outdoor areas accessible.

The Gym

Oh come on, you don’t think I actually used the gym!? No, but honestly, it was well-equipped and had a great view of the pool. There were plenty of people in there making use of the facilities…I just wasn’t one of them.

Final Thoughts for this MSC Grandiosa Review

My mood and opinion when I originally sat to write this review were obviously coloured by the bad weather we experienced. Looking back, it was actually a great week.

Pros

  • Being with a friend was a lot of fun. She is both silly when I am feeling wound up (in the best way) and the most amazing cheerleader.
  • The ship was big enough that everyone could find their own space to relax or have fun. 19 decks really spreads people out.
  • We got to see beautiful places which Europe is just loaded with!

Cons

  • I do hate the drinks package nonsense on cruise lines. It would be much nicer to just have reasonably priced drinks available for when the desire strikes rather than paying out a big whack at once. This leads to feeling like you have to make the most of it every single day of the cruise. This is hard-going when you need to have six drinks a day to break even!
  • I think the food and evening shows could do with some improvement as these were the weakest part of the experience.
  • I think that cruising the Med has its advantages, if you are short on time then you can see a lot but I found the clock-watching a little stressful. I think I could get used to it but it might take a few more cruises!

Overall, I really enjoyed the time I spent on MSC Grandiosa and I would love to see some of their newer ships…or just sail in the warmth as I think it would be a very different experience.

Rosie xx


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