Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 381 out of 500
Accommodation: 153 out of 200
Food: 233 out of 400
Service: 294 out of 400
Entertainment: 55 out of 100
Cruise: 270 out of 400
Overall Score: 1386 out of 2000
MSC Armonia Statistics
Size: Mid-size Ship
Cruise Line: MSC Cruises
Former Names: European Vision
IMO Number: 9210141
Builder: Chantiers de l’Atlantique (France)
Original Cost: $245 million
Entered Service: Jun 2001/May 2004
Length (ft/m): 823.4/251.0
Beam (ft/m): 94.4/28.8
Draft (ft/m): 22.4/6.85
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (31,680kW)/2 azimuthing pods
Passenger Decks: 10
Total Crew: 710
Passengers (lower beds): 1,566
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 37.4
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.2
Cabins (total): 783
Size Range (sq ft/m): 139.9-236.8/13.0-22.0
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 132
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 2
Wheelchair accessibility: Good
Cabin Current: 110 and 220 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 2
Hot Tubs (on deck): 2
Self-Service Launderette: No
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: Euros
This is a comfortable large ship for pan-European cruisers
Overview. MSC Armonia will suit those comfortable with multilingual fellow passengers, although the staff is more focused on Italian passengers. It is best for adult couples and solo travelers, and families with children, who enjoy constant activity accompanied by lots of noise, late nights, and entertainment that is loud.
The Ship. As European Vision, the ship began its working life auspiciously, having been selected to be a floating hotel to accommodate the leaders and staff of the G8 summit in 2001. When its owner, Festival Cruises, ceased operations in 2004, it was bought by MSC Cruises for €215 million and renamed MSC Armonia. The exterior deck space is barely adequate for the number of passengers carried. The Lido Deck surrounding the outdoor swimming pool also has whirlpool tubs and a large bandstand is set in raised canvas-covered pods. All sunloungers have cushioned pads.
Inside, the layout and passenger flow is good, as are the ‘you are here’ deck signs. The decks are named after European cities - eg Oxford Deck (with British public room names), Venice Deck (with Italian names), and Biarritz Deck (with French names). The decor is ‘European Moderne’ and includes crisp, clean lines and minimalism in furniture designs - including some chairs that look interesting but are impractical. However, the interior colors are good; nothing jars the senses, but rather calms them.
Facilities include Amadeus, a nightclub; Ambassador, a cigar smoking room with all the hallmarks of a gentleman’s club; and Vivaldi, a piano lounge. The Goethe Library/Card Room has real writing desks - something many ships omit. There is an extensive Internet café, and an English pub, the White Lion. The Lido Casino has blackjack, poker and roulette games, plus an array of slot machines.
Standing in line for embarkation, disembarkation, shore tenders, and self-serve buffet meals is part of cruising aboard large ships. Announcements are in several languages.
Wheelchair-bound passengers should note that there is no access to the uppermost forward and aft decks, although access throughout most of the interior is good. The passenger hallways are a little narrow on some accommodation decks to pass when housekeeping carts are in place.
In August 2014 the ship underwent a ‘chop and stretch’ operation which added an 82ft (25m) mid-section, almost 200 additional cabins, more public rooms, entertainment facilities and new shops (but no additional elevators), and more exterior deck space which includes a large waterpark for children.
Accommodation. There are numerous categories, the price depending on the grade, size, and location you choose. These include 132 ‘suites’ with private balcony (whose partitions are only of the partial and not the full type), outside-view cabins and interior (no-view) cabins.
Suite-grade accommodation - they are not true suites, as there’s no separate bedroom and lounge - has more room, a larger lounge area, walk-in closet, wall-to-wall vanity counter, a bathroom with combination tub and shower, toilet, and private balcony with light. Bathrobes are provided. In general, the ‘suites’ are practical and nicely furnished. However, except for the very highest category, the bathrooms are plain, with white plastic washbasins and white walls, and mirrors that steam up.
Even the smallest interior cabins are acceptable, with plenty of space between two lower beds. All grades of accommodation have a TV, minibar/refrigerator, personal safe cleverly positioned behind a vanity desk mirror, hairdryer, and bathroom with shower and toilet. But standard grade cabins, at a modest 140 sq ft (13 sq m), are really small when compared to many other ships.
Dining. The principal dining room, the 610-seat Marco Polo Restaurant, has two seatings for dinner, and an open seating (meaning you’ll be seated when you turn up when the dining room is open) for breakfast and lunch. However, during an open seating, you may well be seated with others with whom you may not be able to communicate very satisfactorily, given the wide mix of nationalities and languages on board.
In general, the cuisine is acceptable, but unmemorable. Even so, the menus are varied and the presentation is generally sound, and should prove a highlight for most passengers. Regional and seasonal specialties are also sometimes presented. The wine list has quite a wide variety of wines at fairly reasonable prices, although most of the wines are very young.
La Pergola, the most formal restaurant, features stylish Italian cuisine. It is assigned to all passengers occupying suite-grade accommodation, although others can dine in it too, on a reservations-only basis.
Other dining options. Chez Claude, on the starboard side aft, adjacent to the ship’s funnel, is a grill area for fast food. La Brasserie is a casual, self-serve buffet eatery, open 20 hours a day (including a sit-down, casual dinner each evening with waiter service). The selections are quite standardized - ie minimal. Café San Marco, on the upper, second level of the main lobby, serves extra-cost Sagafredo coffees, and pastry items.
Entertainment. La Gondola Theater, which is two decks high, is the main venue for production shows, cabaret acts, plays, and other theatrical presentations. It is a well-designed room, except for the fact that no space was allocated for a live showband. Consequently, production shows are performed to pre-recorded backing tracks. The sight lines from most seats are good, and four entrances allow easy access and exit.
Other shows consist of unknown cabaret acts such as singers, magicians, mimes, and comedy jugglers. A number of bands and small musical units provide live music for dancing or listening.
Spa/Fitness. The Atlantica Spa has numerous body-pampering treatments, a gymnasium with ocean views, and high-tech, muscle-toning and strengthening equipment. A thermal suite has different kinds of steam rooms combined with aromatherapy infusions such as chamomile and eucalyptus, and a Rasul chamber provides a combination of two or three kinds of application mud and gentle steam shower. The spa, operated by the Italian concession OceanView, offers a wide range of wellbeing treatments. Gratuities to spa staff are at your discretion.
For active types there’s a simulated climbing wall outdoors aft of the ship’s funnel, as well as a volleyball/basketball court, and mini-golf.