22-Night South America to Europe cruise – MSC Magnifica review 2015
Moni & I recently embarked on a 22-Night South America to Europe Cruise with MSC aboard MS Magnifica from Buenos Aires to Venice. We had 12 sea days and visits to Rio, Salvador & Recife in Brazil before crossing the Transatlantic to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Cadiz, Malaga & Palma de Mallorca all in Spain, next was Valletta in Malta, Dubrovnik in Croatia before ending in Venice. You can read up about each day on the cruise beginning with us boarding MSC Magnifica in Buenos Aires
“Some stats about the Magnifica”
The Magnifica is one of the Mucisa class ships from MSC and can hold 3223 passengers and around 1000 crew. Built in 2010 puts her in the newer bracket of ships these days. She is what I would say in the larger scale of ships, but not a huge ship by any means.
- Tonnage: 95,128
- Length: 293.9m or 964 ft
- Beam: 32.2m or 105.6 ft
- Draught: 59.6m or 195.5 ft
- Cruising Speed: 22.9 kts
- 3223 Passengers
- 1038 Crew
We arrived at the terminal by taxi early and joined a very long line of people who obviously had the same idea. Check-in was the worst so far for any cruise. It was very unorganised which is surprising as MSC cruise from Buenos Aires often.
The terminal was quite ok but the way you had to wait to go through security was a nightmare. Then another wait to actually check in before a passport control leaving Argentina before getting on a bus to take us to the ship. To then join another line of people waiting to board.
Boarding MS Magnifica
Finally stepping foot on the Magnifica and once again another security scan… before having to hand over our passports. First impressions from the staff was not great, a small cup of juice before being forced further along by more passengers towards the end of the restaurant where we handed over our passports eventually arriving back in the lobby area. No staff to usher people around whatsoever.
Balcony Cabin #9027
The good thing about boarding quite late is that there was no waiting to get access to our cabin. Our home for the next 22 nights was port side and towards the front.
The colour was a rather dark blue, curtains, carpet, bed covers even the pictures on the wall, you’d think it would be quite dark yet to our surprise it was not.
A rather small balcony
The balcony cabin was pretty standard with all things you’d expect, safe, mini tv, desk, hairdryer, minibar. The bed was two singles together and comfortable, bedside tables with lamps.
What was missing here was a peep-hole in the cabin door or a post box outside the cabin.
The balcony looked small, and compared to some we have had it was. It was clean and we had unobstructed views, two comfortable chairs and a small table. You got access from a sliding door which is great, saving space and allowing it to stay open easier.
The bathroom had all the basic needs and was a decent size. There were no fancy cosmetics, creams or soaps, ear buds etc. only a shower cap.
Hand soap and hair shampoos are in pump dispensers, no name brand. No bathrobe or slippers available, these are only in the Aurea class cabins not Fantastica.
A standard two door only wardrobe set up with fixed hangers, six drawers and a couple of shelves above, a safe.
The MSC Magnifica emergency drill was very civilised for us (others have reported to us was not the case). You must collect and take your life jackets to the muster station allocate to your cabin, at your muster station you have your cruise card scanned which is an awesome way to count and know who has attended the drill, kudos to MSC for this. The entire demonstration is repeated in 6 languages, yet it was over quicker than many English-speaking only drills.
After having a walk around, the Magnifica looks and feels great and she is very clean and in good condition. I’ll walk you around the ship and look at all the public areas starting at the lowest deck from front to back…
The theatre is on three levels and is subtly decorated and good use of lighting. The downside is that there is no drinks service inside the theatre.
The seats are very close to the row in front and each time someone wants to get by you have to stand up and either exit the row or let them squeeze past. With the outside end of the row seats being prime real-estate for ease of escape at the end of the show. I know that normal theatres are the same, but for comfort on the ship it fails.
As for the shows, well we only saw a few of them and what we saw did nothing to excite us for more. Sure they were ok, but not that I would be jumping to go and see again.
Le Gocce Reception
The reception staff were often kept busy and on each occasion we required their help the staff were very good. You can get access to the reception on both sides of the ship as they have two desks which is really good.
This area is in the center of the ship and what I call the lobby with atrium. There are a good number of comfortable seats here and it leads into the Le Gocce Bar.
The reception also has copies of newspapers which you can pre order at a cost, they do not have the small A4 size paper print outs of the top stories that many ships offer.
Le Gocce Bar – cafe
This is a bar but really needs to be called cafe or chocolate bar. The starboard side is open all day long and they make some of the best coffees we have had on any cruise so far. Complimentary baked goods are available until 12pm.
The drinks list is extensive offering a variety of chocolate drinks as well. The seating is comfortable, and if you include the port side as well offers plenty of seating, except the port side is more quiet with the open bar and pastries being on the starboard side.
I highly recommend buying the non alcohol drinks voucher card (more for less) for $48.30 USD which gets you 18 drinks, like coffee, chocolate, even ice cream. It works out much better value than paying individually $3.20 USD plus 15% service charge.
The service here was very good, and as soon as you return, the staff know your name and what you liked to drink. We did notice that the coffee was not as good later in the day, 10am was best.
The L’Edera restaurant serves breakfast lunch and dinner. It gets very busy for breakfast & lunch as a lot of passengers chose to dine here. The service was very hit and miss and on the first day the maitre’d tried to seat guests with others that spoke the same language, but only on the first day!! all other times it was whatever came.
Dinner is also served here as well as in the Quattro Venti restaurant on the deck above and your table and time was assigned to your cruise card.
Royal Theatre (see above)
There is a poker room which is just before the Tiger bar entrance port side. We didn’t use it or see anyone there.
This bar is huge, it covers the entire width of the ship and has a long bar, a dance floor, a stage and lots of seating.
The decor, as the name suggests, is all tiger patterns which could be overpowering but somehow it blends in and works well. It got very busy and loud in here, the drinks service was ok.
You can get coffee served here, actually every bar has a coffee machine but most bars open only after 6pm. Just outside here walking towards the rear on the starboard side only is a meeting room where crew were often talking and then a duty-free shop.
Duty Free Shop
This shop stocked your standard items, chocolates, alcohol, smokes basic medication etc. Next up…
This bar which also had live music was very busy as well, depending on time of night. During the day some of the craft events were held here. The band that played here were very popular with the South American crowd. I liked this bar as it was not as big as the Tiger bar but still had a good atmosphere. Just off the bar you find…
MSC Logo Shop
On the port side of this bar you can find the logo shop tucked away in the corner. If you think it, they have got it… everything covered with MSC, some of the tackyiest stuff you can imagine, yet plenty of people were buying up goodies to gift people at home.
Next, depending on which side you walked you either passed the Bond Street Boutique and Le Parfum or Il Rubino Jewelry store. These places were not just happy with having a storefront, they insisted on setting up tables to display items every night around dinner time.
I know most ships do this, which on some is out-of-the-way of the dining room or bars, but that’s not the case here. This entire area becomes a very congested place and takes away the atmosphere of a nice bar for a drink before or after dinner. Getting out of the Quattro Venti restaurant between first and second sitting is a real battle.
MSC Travel Agency
Tucked into a corner before the Ruby bar is the tour bookings desk. They have lots of tours listed for you to read about and then book. It was busy the entire cruise and some of the tours booked out which is normal. There were plenty of staff that were very helpful in booking your tour.
Ruby Bar / Purple Bar
We enjoyed the service at this bar before dinner as we found it to be less hectic than the others and it was just outside the Quattro Venti restaurant where we had dinner. Drinks service was better here, probably due to the bar not being too big. Also from here you can look down to the lobby/reception area and listen to the live music. The other side of the ship is the Purple Bar similar bar area which is very busy between sittings.
Quattro Venti Restaurant
The Quattro Venti restaurant does not open for breakfast or lunch, however it was our dinner restaurant. The decor in this restaurant is nice and is was quite comfortable. Both Moni & I prefered this venue over the L’Edera restaurant downstairs.
We had a table for 4, and on one side another 4 the other and 8. To the table of 8, we were very close, too close really as our waiter couldn’t even get to us! I’ll get to the food later in this review, but I must mention that the service every night from our waiter was excellent. Most of the waiting staff seemed to be very good and comments from lots of passengers were all praising their waiters.
The dining rooms had two sittings one at 7.30 pm the other at 10 pm and you had to be out by 9.45, this is fine but you do need to be on time or not eat all five or six courses. There is no tea or coffee served after dinner at the table probably due to the lack of time or they want you to buy them from the bars.
This deck is where you can go outside and walk along the promenade. Unfortunately you can’t go all around the ship, meaning you can walk from the back port side to the back starboard side and then return. The L’Ametista Lounge at the back is directly at the rear of the ship and looks out over the water stop
Royal Theatre (see above)
Atlantic City Casino
The casino was nice and open, not packed full with machines but still adequate for those that played them. The negative thing here was that smoking was allowed. Smokers were obviously very happy, but with it being just outside the theatre and above the Tiger bar, often smoke would fill the corridors and travel down to the bar or into the theatre, especially as comfortable tables and chairs were right by the entrance ideal for smokers.
We never played at the casino but they did have some specials on now and then to entice you into playing. Walking through the casino, which is a must on this deck unless you go down or up, you come to the card room and library on either side of the ship.
The Card Room
The card room was at times full with people not just playing cards but reading and writing at their laptops.
The library is a decent size with a few huge chairs available. You can find a variety of books in many languages, the only downside to it is the way it operates. You must sign your books out, and to do this requires a member of staff writing out a docket and putting the details into the computer which takes forever, and similar when returning your books. Note that there is a fee for not returning your books which will be added to your account.
Just outside the library is the only speciality restaurant on Magnifica the Oriental Plaza. For a ship of her size, having only one speciality venue is rather poor. They used to have two but according to the website.
The Oriental plaza had a menu with many items all priced individually. From sushi to spring rolls to many other dishes. A small display is outside the restaurant showing some sushi trying to tempt passengers into going. For some reason we were never drawn to going to try it out, strange I know, but sometimes you just don’t get excited.
On asking the waiter who stood at the entrance most of the time if they were regularly busy, he replied a simple ‘no’.We did make some new friends who were regular MSC cruisers and they loved it.
According to the ships plan, along the walls here should be some art, the lighting is in place but just empty spaces. The ship had no art on display at all, and there were no art auctions on the MSC Magnifica which was a first for us. What, no art!!
Walking along from the Oriental Plaza, port side you have the Cyber Café without the café part!! not sure why it’s called cafe when there is no cafe to be found. There are plenty of computer stations available and most of the time not used at all. Compared to all other cruises, this would have to be the quietest internet area ever. I saw only a couple of people using these computers, most passengers had their own laptop or tablet.
Internet on MSC Magnifica
We bought the largest internet package for $259.00 USD for 24 hours of internet. The internet connection was quite good in most areas of the ship and quite stable. There were cheaper prices for less time but the price per minute then went up, unfortunately I can’t find my internet pricing details.
Cuba Lounge Cigar Room
Sorry no photo!!
On the other side of the ship you can find the Cuba Lounge Cigar Room which was really nicely decorated with big leather chairs and a bar. This is the sort of bar that the ship lacked without the cigar smoking part. Continuing along on the port side you have the L’Olimpiade Sporting Bar and starboard side the Photo Gallery.
L’Olimpiade Sporting Bar
The L’Olimpiade Sporting Bar is an ok bar. The area has lots of tv’s showing football, F1 etc. The only thing was, that the control for the tv’s was at reception and so the barman couldn’t change a channel… duh. I’m not sure how popular this bar was, on some occasions when I walked through it was never that busy.
The commentary on most of the games was always in Italian, Spanish or Portuguese, not once was it in English when I walked by to take a look. This was probably due to the majority of passengers from these speaking countries.
There was a pool table that had a nasty gash in the green base which doesn’t make for a good game (costs as well).
Photo Gallery & Shop
This is a nice long gallery, and when not open for guest photos, it displays some sporting photos to compliment the sporting bar on the other side. As per usual, we didn’t but any photos.
From here you only have one place to go and that’s to the L’Ametista Lounge, the same from the other side at the sporting bar you can enter this lounge.
During the day this is a quiet place to sit. The huge glass windows offer views out the very back of the ship and was a favourite spot for readers to sit and relax with a book. Sometimes there would be a talk or craft event going on as well.
The decor is very dark purple and in the evening it is the darkest of the bars. The bar here is only open in the evening and we enjoyed a few drinks here with live music. Each time we visited this bar it was very quiet, by far the busiest bars on Magnifica are the Tiger & Topazio bars.
These are all cabins only.
The Aurea Spa is at the front of the ship and shares this space with the gymnasium which has the best views in the house. The gym was very busy each time we visited the spa. I’m not sure why cruise ships still keep putting the gym in such prime real estate, sure it’s very popular, but do you really need to have such a great view when pumping iron???
MSC Aurea Spa
I booked a Spa package online prior to the cruise and got a better deal. Relaxing Touch $85 per person included the use of the thermal areas for the entire cruise and a 30 minute Bali massage plus a welcome tea (wow, not really) which is much better value than when buying onboard. The onboard price was $169 USD +15% for the entire cruise, slightly cheaper for a pair.
The Aurea Spa is really nothing flash and sounds better than what it is for sure. The service here was pretty average at best which was most disappointing. We are not the type of guest that demands to be waited on every second, but we do appreciate just a little bit of service. Don’t expect to be blown away here.
Our massages were good, nothing more nothing less and considering that after our time was up (to the minute) the masseuse just stood around. This area needs some better management.
The spa was never over busy and we found that we could rotate from sauna to whirlpools and relaxing day beds fine, probably as not many people were using it, a good job really as it only had 6 day beds.
The Hair Salon
This is at the front of the spa area on the right and appointments can be made at the spa desk. We had our hair cut on the second last day at a very reasonable price with the stylists doing a great job. Walking away from the Aurea Spa you head outside to the open deck.
Le Grand Blue Pool Area
This pool was constantly full and the entire deck area the same. It was often a sea of lobster coloured fat bodies toasting themselves under the sun. It is a very nice pool area for sure and kept clean all the time. The entire port side is smokers heaven and the starboard side smoke free. A stage with plenty of dancing or play area is created when the sun loungers are removed.
La Conchiglia Bar
This bar was always busy especially when good weather. Walking further back and returning inside you enter another pool and bar area.
La Grotta Azzurra Pool area
Again a really nice pool this time under the cover of a retractable roof. This pool was never as busy as the outside one but still busy. Here is also a bar where they sell ice cream and other treats.
La Barchetta Bar
This bar also has the ice cream on display and a Nutella stand which I never saw anyone at. The service here was good and we didn’t have to wait long. The ice cream was fine and we did enjoy them and you can use the drink vouchers here. There is plenty of seating all around and with floor to ceiling glass windows makes for good viewing and lots of light. Also this area is often used as an overflow for people wanting to eat from the buffet.
This is the self-serve buffet which at most times for breakfast and lunch very busy and you often struggle to find a table. The area is kept clean and there was always lots of staff. The drinks service was rather slow and sometimes non existent though. I found going to the bar myself the best way to get a drink.
The really nice thing in the Sahara is that you can sit out at the very back of the deck and eat. If the weather was not so pleasant the windows allowed for plenty of light and good views.
The choice of food here was not overwhelming with each day being quite similar, saying that, we always found something to enjoy.
The chefs certainly produce a variety of bread and pasta dishes. Pizza slices were always available as well. The other main selection needed a lift, the salad area as well.
Breakfast also left you wanting something more, in variety that is. There was not any ‘live’ cooking station for eggs either.
There is a jogging track here and the children’s area. Inside is seating that looks down onto the Grotta Azzurra pool area and bar which is nice. Further back and going inside again you find the 4D cinema and video arcade which we never saw open plus it costs extra.
T32 Disco & Bowling
Then you enter the T32 Disco area which is quite large and glitzy with tv screens everywhere. Apparently it was often very busy well after midnight as before then nothing much was going on. Also here is a bowling alley, a smaller scale than normal which also costs $6 USD for a token and we didn’t see anyone playing when we walked by a bit average really to have not a full length at least, more a gimmick than anything.
You can walk outside behind the disco here and up to the next deck which is rather nice.
Up here are more sun loungers and shuffleboard and deck quoits.
This has the sport court where they entertainment crew with passengers play tennis, football, basketball etc. At the front of the ship on this deck is the Il Bar del Sol which is only for the Aurea class passengers in those cabins and is patrolled by staff at the entrance.
So there you have it, a quick tour of the ship and the public areas as we found them.
Now let’s talk food
Overall, the quality of food was good, but it did lack the wow factor. The variety was also rather limited with the same style of dish nearly each day at the buffet. Dinner menus were repetitive and the presentation very basic even though they did have many different themed evening menus.
We were very surprised by this as MSC proclaim to have awesome food. We found it a little disappointing and maybe it was us with our high culinary standards, but no, many others we spoke to also commented the same concerns about quality. Just a little more attention to detail and a rewrite of the menus could really solve this problem.
However, the service at dinner was fantastic, and our waiter can be highly recommended, actually lots of the waiters were good and quite attentive. The up selling of beverages was a bit dull. The gala nights were nice and yet a mixed bag of attire was allowed. The parade of Pavlova was one of the best.
With our cruise reservation we received a drinks package (Cheers Adult Forfait mealtime drinks) with lunch and dinner only in the restaurants (not speciality) not from the bars. This was great value, even if you had to buy it separately. We didn’t have any limit to the amount you could drink, only the assortment, wine, beer, soft drinks, mineral water, fruit juices. Service was very good in the dining room, less so in the buffet restaurant, but you could easily go to the bar yourself.
Massimo was our cruise director and he had a tough job, especially with so many different languages and cultures on this cruise. He did a good job that’s for sure, but he lacked something to really impress us. Actually, none of the entertainment staff really stood out, neither did the senior officers and their interaction was also very limited or subdued.
The multiple language announcements might get on people’s nerves, and depending if your language was first or last you could either here it or not, due to the lack of respect and silence for the other languages…
There were some activities but not a massive amount. Dancing was ever-present and also the craft classes, which were over busy and people were sitting in at least 30 minutes before they started just to get a spot.
There was no Galley tour which was disappointing, but you could have paid for a behind the scenes tour.
Live Music on Board
The live music in various spots throughout the ship was on average pretty good, in some places very loud though.
The clientele onboard were middle age to older age range. There were a few families with children but only a handful. The most were from Argentina and other South American places. The rest came from many countries with around 50+ Australians. Each culture has its good and bad points and you can either chose to be annoyed or go with the flow, some people were rather peeved about the South Americans and their behaviour.
It is a good point to note when looking for a cruise like this. Obviously depending on its starting port will predominantly influence the majority of the passengers onboard, please take this into account when booking. Saying that, we loved the interaction with everyone we had contact with and shared some wonderful experiences.
Room service for breakfast which is included in the cruise fare was always delivered 15 minutes earlier than ordered. The breakfast choice could be improved, actually the entire menu could be. We never had room service for any other meal as the choice was poor and that also costed an extra fee per meal.
The majority of staff were more than helpful and always had a smile. Mostly from the South America, mainly Brazil and a few other places in between.
We saw the officers on a few occasions walking around the ship and the Captain (Raffaele Russo) twice, once performing a wedding ceremony in the atrium. They were not as visible as on many of our other cruises. Maybe a sign of the times.
The Ports of Call
The ports of call on this voyage were great apart from Recife in Brazil, but maybe that was due to the limited time there. Actually a couple of the ports we stopped at were at odd times which is not ideal for sightseeing.
At all the ports of call of this voyage the disembarkation procedure was easy even though we had a few large crowds or long waits. The staff were always on hand to help out. As for the final disembarkation, we were delayed due to fog and this made for some unhappy passengers. We were fine and in no rush to get off the ship.
Once we had clearance to disembark we made our way off with ease and managed to collect our bags, the hardest part was getting out of the terminal and securing a taxi…
So that completes the review of the MSC Magnifica ship and all its public venues on our 22 night cruise in March – April 2015. As you can see we did not do or experience everything onboard.
The Magnifica and what she offered on this voyage was very good. We had an awesome cruise and visited some amazing places.
Would we travel with MSC again? – YES (not the best, but still good value cruising)
Would we travel on MS Magnifica again? – YES (a wonderful ship)
Would we recommend MSC & Magnifica? – YES (but with a little insider information of what to expect)
Would we cruise this voyage again? – YES
If you’d like to see more detailed posts about the restaurants and other parts of the ship then please visit various pages from our 22 night cruise here.
Oh and by the way, keep an eye out for the next cruise review towards the end of the year, this one will be extra special as it’s on the newest ship to date, the Norwegian Escape which is due for her maiden trip in October 2015.
Happy cruising people and don’t forget… Don’t dream your life – Live your dream.