How did we end up on the MSC Grandiosa?
If you have been following along on our travel journey, you know our goal is for our children to experience the world. When looking for different ways to do this, we thought, what about a cruise? We also compromised that we would do something different, with culture and experiences, but somewhere warm. When looking for a cruise with a European itinerary, we found that our options were MSC, Royal Caribbean, or Norweigan Cruise Line. MSC was the best deal; the kids were free, and the MSC Grandiosa was beautiful!! We could also point match our status from other cruise lines or hotel brands and receive silver status for some upgrades and other privileges. For example, we booked an interior room but were upgraded to a deluxe balcony! We didnâ€™t inquire about this or ask for it, MSC did it on their own, and we could not have been happier.Â
Before our vacation, we read and spoke to people about MSC. We were given many mixed reviews. People told us it was different than an American-based cruise, there may not be many English-speaking guests, and the food was just ‘okay.’ We appreciate reviews and others’ perspectives but wanted to go on board with an open mind.
The MSC Grandiosa’s beauty…
I want to touch on the decor of the ship quickly. The Grandiosa was just that, grand! Every part of it was beautiful. The main lobby was three floors high with a staircase made with Swarovski crystals. Everything around it matched; the bar and lounge areas were classy, and the Galleria had a beautiful ceiling that changed pictures throughout the day. Fun fact, it will sometimes show images of cruise guests, so keep an eye out for yourself! The ship was stunning, from the lobby to the theatres to the shops and pool decks!
Our Deluxe Balcony Cabin:
The cabin was spacious, providing a double bed, and the couch converted into a bunk bed for the kids. It was not converted back to a sofa during the day, but we were okay with this, as we did not spend much time in our room during the daytime. The room had a nice countertop and two ottoman seats. Under the counter was the mini-fridge. This provided some frustration for us. The fridge was locked, and we had to ask three times for it to be unlocked. We were not planning on drinking the products from the refrigerator but putting in water that we could have when in the room. Once it was finally unlocked, we had to remove some of the drinks to make space for our items. We found it strange that even though we had a drink package if we drank things from the mini-fridge (those included in our plan), we would still be charged for them. Aside from that little mishap, we enjoyed our room. The bathroom was a good enough size and functional, and we could stay organized. And we loved our balcony! The two chairs and little ottoman/table were just perfect for us.
MSC Grandiosa, On Board Entertainment:
The Grandiosa offered a variety of show options. Typically, there were three shows each night, which were approximately 35 minutes long. You had to book a show in the MSC For Me app to see it. When you arrive at the front, you present either the app or your key card to be scanned. Although there were many show options, we only saw one. We saw the show ROCK IT. This show was fun and exciting, we sang along throughout the entirety, and the choreography was great. Even though we did not see many of the shows, I recommend going, as I heard great reviews from other cruisers.
Compared to other cruises, there were fewer activities throughout the day. Yes, there were poolside activities and games, but from previous cruises, we were used to multiple bingos, art shows, comedy shows, quizzo, and more. We wondered, is this due to the many different languages on board? It would be a challenge to have events to accommodate all passengers. There was a nightly bingo in the casino at midnight. Each evening there was live music in the different bar and lounge areas. All of the musicians we saw were amazing! The crowd sang along. Nightly in the Galleria, there were mini-shows. One that we enjoyed was a 70â€™s theme. The performers stood on platforms and danced and entertained the crowd.
MSC Grandiosa, On board activities:
On board, the MSC Grandiosa is the Sportsplex. At the Sportsplex are bowling, XD interactive cinema, a Formula 1 Simulator, video games, a VR maze, and bowling. You can pay for these activities as you go or buy a Fun Pass. You get extra points depending on your package when you purchase the fun pass. We paid â‚¬70 for 90 points. With this, four of us could bowl for 30 minutes (bowling shoes were not included); the four did an interactive cinema show, and my husband and the kids did another without me. It was a bit expensive, but we all enjoyed it. It is important to note that you must make a reservation for bowling. When we went to make ours, we had to book for two days later. This was a fun way to spend family time with the kids.
Additionally, our kids participated in the Kids Club. I am unsure when it opened, as we did not go that early, but it typically closed at 11 pm. Before attending for the first time, a permission form needs to be completed for each child. When dropping the kids off and picking them up, their bracelets and our room cards (or my parents, added as an allowed pick-up) were scanned. The young groups were broken up 3-6-year-olds and 7-11. If there were not enough of each group, they combined. It seemed that this happened often, as my kids were often together. Adults were not allowed in the club, but according to the kids, there were toys and games, electronics, and different activities. They danced, played games in the Galleria or theater, and played organized activities on the basketball/football court. The staff was kind and seemed to enjoy being with the children. Overall, I think it was a great experience, and I am glad my children enjoyed it.
In the Galleria area was a Jean-Philippe Crepes & Gelato. You could create your personalized chocolate bar for approximately 13 Euros in the store. The kids loved this! See the pictures below.
MSC Grandiosa, Pools, hot tub, and water park:
On board were four swimming pools; one was for Yacht Club members only. The other pools were: the Main Pool, Safari Pool, and Horizon Pool. The Main Pool was one of the biggest I have ever seen on a cruise. It was the party pool. We didnâ€™t spend much time there; it wasnâ€™t our vibe. Next was the Safari Pool. This was cool, as I have never had this experience before on a cruise. It has a retractable roof, so it was indoor/outdoor, open until 10 pm. The late closing was attractive; my parents enjoyed it because it provided shade.
Our favorite pool was the Horizon Pool. We enjoyed it because it was at the back of the pool. It was closest to the Aqaupark Wild Forest, the kid’s water park. It allowed us to relax in the pool and pool area and be close to the kids. Also, our favorite bar and bartenders were right there, so it worked out perfectly! The water park area was fun! There was a swallow pool, lots of water â€˜guns,â€™ different spray areas, and a large bucket. The biggest disappointment was the two big water slides. You could not go down them if you were not seven years old. We did not realize this, and our son was highly disappointed. So please, keep this in mind! Either way, the kids loved it!
There were hot tubs all over the upper decks! It was great. However, they could be super busy and allow kids in them. Our kids were happy about that, but I’d prefer the opportunity to relax without kids.
Dining on the MSC Grandiosa:
The biggest letdown on the cruise was the food. On the first night, we had dinner in the Purple Crab, our assigned dining room. We arrived at 6 pm when doors opened, and we were led to our table. The table was set up nicely and orderly; however, the tables were very close together, with some chairs backing up on others. The first issue we faced was using the QR code for a menu. The QR menu was not a big challenge for myself and my husband, but it was for my parents. They are more comfortable using a paper menu. It took a few minutes to get a menu, but they had some on hand. Our meal started with various bread options; we asked for butter, which did not come with the bread, and it was brought to us. When placing our order, we were also asked to order our dessert. I know restaurants often bring the kids’ meals out earlier, but the food needs to arrive later. Their food arrived before our starter, leaving the kids with much time to sit and do nothing, essentially bored.
The drink service was very backed up. It took a while to order our drinks, then even longer for them to come. The food itself was a disappointment. I received an extremely dry pork chop; the steak my father ordered was undercooked and almost raw. The waiter seemed surprised at the request to have it recooked. I understand how hard all of the crew on any cruise work; however, we were bothering the wait staff if something was needed or wanted. What we hoped would have been a pleasant dining experience was an overall disappointment. We decided to try the dining room one more time. We had breakfast in the dining room the following morning. Again, we arrived at the opening at 7:30 am. Only the port side of the room was open as the staff was still setting up the rest of the dining room. Even though we were one of the first groups seated, we had to wait a while for any service, as we were sitting in the back of the room. Rather than trying to flag someone down for a paper menu, we told my parents the options available.
A variety of bread and pastries were available and were delicious. Once again, we had some more negative experiences. First, when our water arrived, we did not have cups to pour it into, and the waiter seemed almost shocked when I asked for one. Our sides (bacon, sausage, etc.) did not arrive with our meal, but significantly later. Most disappointing was the sausage my son ordered. It was barely cooked; it wasn’t even fair to say undercooked; it didn’t seem to be cooked. Upon speaking with the dining room manager, I was surprised to see how shocked and concerned about the fact that this was served. He apologized profusely and said he would speak with the chef. Overall, we felt the dining room experiences were not worth the hassle.
The buffet on the MSC Grandiosa
For the remainder of our vacation, we ate at the buffet. The food was good and changed nightly depending on the theme. I even found the breakfast to be fresher than the dining room. If you want to eat breakfast and not have to deal with the chaos, try to go as early as possible. The buffet is extremely crowded for both breakfast and lunch. There does not appear to be a structure for lines, and people cut in and out. There were ample sitting areas, and the room off the buffet was generally calmer and not as crowded.
One thing we liked about the buffet was the buttons on the table for beverage service. When you wanted service, you just pressed the button, a server took your order on their tablet, and it was sent to the bar. The beverages were then brought to you. Compared to other cruises, a negative is that juices are only available at breakfast. Once breakfast is over, the juice machine is turned off. There also needed to be more water/ice stations for the size of the boat, and multiple times throughout the week, one of the ice machines was broken. Broken ice machines were inconvenient as there were so few ice machines in this area.
Coming from the USA, we decided to arrive in Europe two nights before cruising; we stayed in Paris. We had an additional two nights booked in Lisbon after cruising. By mind cruise, I decided it was time to do laundry. On other cruises, I did laundry on board at a self-service laundry. No self-service was on board, and we found the laundry service extremely pricey. To wash a single T-shirt was â‚¬3.90. As a family of four, this was too expensive. We ended up doing laundry in the port at Genoa.
We found the drink package to be worth it. Between cocktails, soda, iced tea for the kids, and their virgin drinks, we got our money’s worth. All of the bar staff was friendly and generous with their pours!
In conclusion, we highly recommend cruising on the MSC Grandisoa and this cruise line. The price was beyond worth the experience.
Keep an eye out for upcoming posts about the ports we visited! In the meantime, see our post about our favorite products that made traveling as a family of four for 12 nights easier! Check it out
Check out MSC Cruises here.