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7 Days on Europe’s Biggest Cruise Ship – Mind Blowing!

I recently disembarked a cruise on one of the biggest and most exciting cruise ships in the entire world. I braved an 11-storey slide and went to a secret bar that doesn’t exist on the deck plan.

The cruise was onboard MSC’s newest cruise ship the MSC World Europa.

Plenty of people love MSC – and lots hate them with a passion. MSC definitely are a controversial cruise line...

Normally when I book an MSC cruise it’s because I’ve found a bargain and paid half the price of the mainstream American or British cruise lines.

This time though I just really wanted to try this ship – so I paid far more than I ever have for an MSC cruise in the past – and I hoped I’d get more in return.

The ship certainly looked impressive from the promotional videos I’d seen.

If the bad reviews were to be believed, I’d be spending the week hungry, overwhelmed, uncomfortable and generally miserable – but I knew the only way to find out was to get on board for myself.

We boarded the ship in Barcelona, Spain and as soon as we walked up to the World Europa I knew that this would be an interesting cruise. Realising that every little square on the side was a balcony that would have between 2 and 4 people in it blew my mind a little bit. 

The ship holds almost 9000 people so I was worried that it would feel really busy and that we would be waiting ages for everything, but it only took us 8 minutes to get through check-in, security and to embark the ship.

The embarkation was faster than almost any other cruise I’ve been on. and was a great sign. 

It reminded me why I love cruising over flying, can you imagine getting through an airport in 8 minutes? That’s the dream. 

On MSC cruises guests get on almost every day so embarkation is spread out, as the cruise went on I’d find this great in some ways, but really annoying in others. 

When we walked in we were right in the middle of this incredible central street that stretches almost the length of the ship, it’s lined with bars, shops and restaurants and has an L.E.D. screen on the ceiling.

I would see whales on the screen on the LED ceiling a little later on the cruise.

It is a bit odd to be literally on a ship, looking UP at whales – usually something’s gone very wrong if you can do that! It was very impressive. 

World Europa cost 1.2 billion dollars to build and I could certainly see why.

We were asked if we wanted to buy a speciality dining package and said no, I knew that MSC had a reputation for upselling but I could never have guessed the real number of how many times I’d be asked the question. I did keep a log – but right now it didn’t matter I just wanted to get on to explore. 

My embarkation time was fairly early and that meant that when we boarded it was time for lunch.

We headed up to one of the buffets and were very happy with what we found, cruise ship buffets on embarkation day can often be extremely chaotic, but it wasn’t too busy and there were lots of seats free.

I really liked the design of the buffet too, but that of course is personal choice. 

There was a good variety of food and I of course went for some pizza, vegetables, bread and mozzarella as – in my opinion – that is what MSC do best.

They make mozzarella fresh onboard and I ate a lot of it during the cruise. MSC do get a lot of complaints about their food but I knew that if it was all like this for the rest of the week I’d be more than happy.

Of course, you can’t base a cruise line food off one meal though – so I would have to keep eating. 

It would turn out that the buffet that I tried first was the smaller of two buffets.

I’ve never been on a ship with two main buffets, one on top of the other. We would often sit in the outside area that looked down over the street at the back. 

The promenade area looked incredible and I knew we had to go down to check it out, the scale was unbelievable.

Looking into the ship this way it was hard to remember that this was a ship at all but then I’d turn round and it would be confirmed by the ocean view. 

Our cruise was taking us around the Mediterranean and we had 5 ports on the schedule, we actually did miss the first – but at this point, I had no idea that would happen – I was just so excited to be in this space. 

There were lots of things I didn’t know on the first day:

  • that there was the phonebox which was a secret passage to a secret bar
  • I had no idea how fast the eleven-storey slide was
  • I didn’t know that I’d end up roller skating a little later in the cruise. 

Earlier in the year I’d taken a cruise on what I would say was Royal Caribbean’s version of this ship, Symphony of the Seas. I was looking forward to comparing the two and assumed I’d find things I preferred about both ships. 

Find out more about what I thought of Symphony of the Seas here:

MSC are an Italian cruise line and as we were sailing in the Mediterranean, I was surrounded by Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, French – you name it.

It just added to the excitement for me. It feels more like I’m actually abroad when I can’t understand what people are saying. 

I had booked a drinks package pre-cruise so we decided to head to a bar to find a drink. I usually don’t buy drinks packages but the price to buy the alcoholic package when booking was the same as adding the non-alcoholic onboard -so I figured I really didn’t have a lot to lose.

All I needed to do to make it worthwhile was to drink 1 alcoholic drink – and I managed that on day 1. 

Find out why I don’t normally buy drink packages here:

Drinks Packages Aren’t Worth it For Me – Here’s How I Decide (Price Lists & More)

We headed outside to the main pool and the area was massive. There were so many Sun loungers and little carts where you could get a drink instead of queuing up at the bar.

I mostly was drinking Coke Zero and they would just hand me the can, which was perfect. 

MSC do sometimes get bad reviews about their service because it isn’t always overly friendly or above and beyond. You ask for a thing and they give it to you – I love it, but I think some people enjoy more crew interaction. Just getting what I asked for with no additional ‘banter’ suits me perfectly. 

It’s important to remember people are far more likely to take the time to review something if they didn’t have a good time so always take cruise reviews with a pinch of salt.

We quickly decided it was too chilly to sit outside so we headed into the inside pool area. At the top, there is a bar and we sat down to get our bearings. 

I decided to go onto the MSC App on my phone, on there was the daily schedule and we could book things like theatre shows.

I am a massive fan of the theatre so we decided to book every show for different nights throughout the cruise, I also noticed that there were other shows at the back in a big lounge so I booked these too. 

I figured I could always cancel if I changed my mind, but I never did I went to them all.

I’ve watched a lot of MSC shows in the past of varying interest to me, I think that’s the best way to put it, sometimes they are great, sometimes really really weird but always entertaining and usually around half an hour.  

Another thing that I could do with the MSC App was look at the menus for dinner. I LOVE knowing in advance what’s on the menu.

To be honest I probably could have just used my memory as the menus had a lot of dishes I recognised from my past MSC cruises but still, I like to be prepared. 

MSC have both fixed and flexible dining and I usually choose early if given the choice.

Flexible is usually only available to people in suites or who paid the more expensive cruise fare but I’ve never had any problems with the fixed dining, and if I have been given late I’ve always been able to change to early with no problem.

You don’t need to buy the WiFi to use the cruise ship’s App. Find out more about that here:

You Don’t Need to Pay For Wi-Fi To Use a Cruise Line App – Here’s Why

Every day we would decide if we wanted to go to the main dining room or to to the buffet or somewhere like the pizza and burger grab and go – or maybe speciality dining. I did have a speciality meal during the cruise. There was no shortage of food options. 

Food at Hola Speciality Restaurant

I get a free speciality meal with my MSC Loyalty Status. It turns out the free meal I chose was “all-you-can-eat” and we tried almost everything on the menu – they suggested we did.

The food was fantastic and we had frozen Margaritas that were included in our drinks package. These aren’t included in the drinks package on all MSC sailings, but on this one they were. It’s complicated…

Hola Speciality dining restaurant. I get one free speciality meal with my MSC loyalty status.

After dinner we headed to the theatre to watch a show, the cruise director came out and introduced himself in about 6 different languages and welcomed those of us who had joined in Barcelona. I am amazed by people who can flick between languages so easily, it’s incredible. 

I thought the show was good, if a little odd, but that was to be expected. The singers and the dancers were all brilliant it’s just a little tricky to create theatre shows without really using language, so sometimes they are a bit weird. 

The majority of songs were in English with some in Spanish Italian and other languages. 

To make up for the lack of spoken word and story, it felt as though they had really invested in how many performers they had and what crazy stunts they could do. The costumes were very interesting too, and I was able to film which was amazing! 

At one point we had people zooming around a cage on a motorcycle, a lady hanging from her hair and a guy who would flip round and round and round.

It’s important to to remember this is on a ship too, a ship that is moving slightly! It made me feel dizzy just watching them.

Watch some of that show in my full-ship tour video below:

The theatre itself was fantastic, not a pillar or post in sight – just comfortable chairs – some of which were wider than others for some reason. 

After a quick drink in the pub in true British style we decided to call it a night. 

The Pub

I knew that we hadn’t even seen half the ship yet but we had the whole week to explore. At this point I was expecting us to go to Marseille in France the next day but as I looked through the paperwork in our cabin I saw that it had been substituted with Toulon in France due to bad weather. 

That suited me just fine, I have missed port cover on my travel insurance and I’ve been to Marseille before.  

The ‘bad weather’ didn’t cause much rocking and I didn’t feel seasick at all even though our cabin was right at the back. The cabin did judder and vibrate a lot more than I expected but overall the ship felt very stable and comfortable.

Find my full cabin tour video here:

On a lot of smaller cruise ships breakfast will close at 9 or 10 am, but I was happy to find out on this ship it went on until 11 am – then lunch started at 11.30 am.

On paper, the buffet was hardly closed at all – and in reality, it never seemed to be completely closed. Even between the set times, they would have a section with a few sandwiches and some fruit available.

We would often come here to get a tea in their big mugs or get a drink from the bar.

MSC cruises are fantastic for people-watching, there’s normally a real mix of nationalities and ages

Next on my to-explore list was the casino and the big lounge at the back, I was looking forward to seeing some shows in here and I always do a little €10 gamble when I cruise. Just in case. 

The casino does have a smoking section and you do have to walk through it to get to the lounge, which I know some people don’t like.

Smoking is a lot more accepted in Italy than in England or America though and as a result there were a lot more smoking areas onboard, including a smoking bar at the back of the ship. 

Some cruise lines actually let you smoke on the balconies of their ships. Find out which here:

Cruise Line Balcony Smoking Policies – On These Four Lines You Can Still Smoke On The Balcony

The lounge was huge and very impressive, it reminded me of the Two70 lounge on Symphony of the Seas but the difference was that this one on MSC wasn’t open at all during the day which I thought was a shame. Well it was open technically but the bar wasn’t. 

Heading outside I found a whole deck that I hadn’t found before with two pools, a glass walkway and this massive snake slide.

The pools were heated so I knew that I wanted to give it a try at some point, you could see them steaming. 

The ship actually has a lot of pools and a lot of outside space, it was autumn when we sailed so people weren’t sunbathing but even still people would be enjoying the big hot tubs and the kids would be enjoying the slides and splash parks. 

Behind the slides, I found a go-kart arena, which is also used as a rollerskating rink.

I’d actually never roller skated before, only rollerbladed but I figured a cruise would be as good as any other time to try it, and I did a little later. 

World Europa has an area that is a new addition to their ships, usually you’ll find the main dining rooms, buffet and poolside food included in the cruise fare but that’s about it, on this ship they had also added a massive area called Pizza and Burger.

Here you could get freshly made food and the best doughnuts anytime. We decided to head here for lunch and I loved being able to pick up little pots of onion rings or chicken nuggets. 

I imagine this area would be great if you had kids and although MSC very much is a family line it didn’t feel as though there were too many kids on board.

We were cruising outside of school holidays I suppose, and the children were most likely in the kid’s clubs.

I didn’t go near those and I didn’t go near the gym, well I did to film but that’s about it. Walking around this massive ship was exercise enough for me. 

Wandering down the central street we found this random corridor where you could smell different types of tea, it didn’t make much sense – until we found a tea lounge at the other end. 

It was such a lovely calm venue but it would be so easy to never find it, the doors were always closed to keep it quiet and I’m sure some people weren’t brave enough to randomly walk in. 

It was well worth walking in though, there were loads of types of cookies and a huge drinks menu. All the drinks were included in our drinks package so we stopped here fairly often. 

There were a couple of other venues like this in the central street which were lovely but it would be easy to never find. The door to the karaoke bar for example was there.

We did go to Karaoke one evening later in the cruise, everybody was singing in Spanish and Italian, sometimes in English too but I liked how they had the lyrics on the screens. I could follow along even if I had no idea. 

We had the higher package so drinks were included everywhere apart from the secret bar that I would find later. 

Trying out frozen Margarita in Hola. These were included in my drinks package.

We always found the staff onboard to be friendly and they didn’t seem as rushed and busy as they have on some of my past MSC cruises. 

After dinner, we headed to the big lounge at the back and watched the show that we had booked earlier.

It started with two people handing out what I assume was Prosecco while hanging from the lights. That isn’t something I’ve seen on a cruise before! I’d expect it on Celebrity or Virgin Voyages maybe

We watched two shows in here as the cruise went on, one which was Rock “n” Roll themed, and another was Disco themed.

Both the shows were great, the singers and dancers were fantastic and it was just such a fun vibe in the room. The dancers would dance within the crowd too. Some people did get dancers wiggling in their faces. 

My favourite place to spend my evenings was on my balcony, not watching the sea or the views but watching everybody else dancing below.

They had a silent disco out here one day and every day the trees would do a light show to music. As we sailed away there would be a DJ and everybody was just having such a good time, it was very relaxed and I liked that. 

I knew that I still wanted to have a go on this slide but I figured I would do that tomorrow along with the rollerblading, the daily schedule let me know when both would be open.

It also told me that tomorrow would be MSCs ‘formal night’.

Our cruise took us to Toulon, Genoa, Civitavecchia and Valletta. We headed to the aquarium in Genoa. We were so lucky with the weather in Valetta – I even took my jumper off at one point. 

It was when we were in Civitavecchia that we decided to brave the 11-storey slide. Purely because we were at the top after having breakfast and wanted to go down to the bottom to wander off. 

We had to sign a waiver, and the crew member working at the top warned us that the slide would be slow.

I’d seen lots of people slide down it from my cabin and it seemed fast enough from the outside but from inside it was So So slow.

For me, that was great though because the sides were glass and I could film the view on the way down. 

I didn’t find it scary at all, not compared to the drop slides I’ve tried on cruise ships in the past but that was good, I like a nice calm slide! 

Another thing that we had to sign a waiver for was roller skating. They gave us the skates and helmets and we were the only people on the rink when we started. By the end another couple had joined us, but it really was very quiet. 

A main benefit of guests getting on every day was that a lot of people disembarked in Civitavecchia / Rome. In the mornings and early afternoon, there would be a big percentage of the guests that had left the ship altogether.

I’ve certainly been on some busy MSC cruises in the past, but this ship didn’t feel like busy at all. If I had to guess why I’d guess that the ship had been designed to spread people out well.

The theatre and the main dining room were the only times we would see big groups, but even then it wasn’t too many. Everybody did come out to see the Captain speak. 

The one thing that was annoying about people getting on and off every day was that we would be asked if we wanted to buy a speciality dining package every day – all day, every day.

I started counting and was asked if we wanted to buy a Speciality Dining package between 3 and 6 times a day – sometimes even when I was eating in the buffet or eating somewhere else which was weird.

The crew were so friendly and lovely and we often chatted to them but I felt so bad that they had clearly been sent out with their clipboard trying to sign people up for speciality dining. 

I do have a couple of friends who always do an MSC “upsell challenge” – where they try to walk from one end to the other without getting stopped and asked to buy something. It’s quite funny.

Still, it was okay, just repetitive. If that was the reason that MSC cruises are usually cheaper, I’ll take it. I’ll let you know how much I paid for this cruise at the end.

We decided to have lunch in the main dining room and were in and out within an hour – which I love.

We were always asked if we wanted more drinks and I was amazed by the waiter’s ability to switch between languages when moving to different tables. I don’t think I could even remember which language was which table – let alone speaking the language too. 

The default was looking at the menus on our phones using the QR codes on the tables but they do have paper menus for people that want them, 

Food is very subjective so I’ll let you decide if you’d be happy with these menus and this food, I have a full guide on my website with photos of every single dish.

Find out about all the food I ate on my cruise on MSC Seaview here:

Everything I Ate on my MSC Cruise (Photos and Menus) – Food Review

We were happy, I’d never describe MSC’s food as gourmet but we were never hungry. The bread is always so good, one of the best cruise lines for bread. 

MSC are a very casual cruise line when it comes to dress codes and in the day there are no rules apart from no swimwear in the restaurants.

Basically, you have to be dressed, that’s it. They have one night a week which is their formal night but I’ve never seen it be enforced much and there are lots of places you can go to avoid the dress code. 

We did decide to take part in the formal night and it just so happened that this would be the day that we would be invited to the secret bar. 

These little tokens arrived in my cabin and scanning the QR code gave me instructions on how to book a time slot. 

I did that and when it was time we had to go to the phone box and to call a number. This part was kind of awkward because the box is used as a photo spot so the people who were behind us who I think were Italian thought that we were just hogging the box and taking a very long time to take a photo.

They did ask us what we were doing and we tried to explain. Find out more about that secret bar here:

I Went To A Secret Bar On A Cruise Ship That Isn’t On The Deck Plans

After a little while the back of the box opened and we were taken through the crew areas. I expected it to be just behind the door but it was actually quite far away. 

The bar was Speakeasy-themed and there was live music playing. The venue definitely felt exclusive and we both had a cocktail.

Sadly for me even though we had the highest package there were no included drinks served in this bar, so two drinks cost us €38.

The drinks were nice enough, the staff were fantastic and the venue was cool but that cost probably would have put me off if I wasn’t doing research for this channel, just because my drinks were already included in every other bar. 

Still, I suppose it’s more about the experience than anything and we did have fun.

Nobody knows how you get an invite to the secret bar – and you’re not meant to ask.

The capacity is 70, and I’m pretty sure they book in hour slots – so there’s definitely not time for everybody onboard to try this bar out.

I loved having a drinks package on this cruise, but it isn’t something I’d usually get the value out of. 

I paid £1034.55 for this cruise – and that included all the daily tips and gratuities, my drinks package and my balcony cabin that faced inside the ship.

The only money I spent on this cruise was €10 in the casino. The price is based on two people sharing the cabin, that was what I paid, and my brother paid the same again. 

This cruise was slightly cheaper than the Royal Caribbean equivalent I took and included the drinks package which my Royal Caribbean one didn’t. 

One thing that I did prefer about my MSC cruise was the view from my balcony cabin – but the sliding bathroom door without any proper handle drove me bananas!

Before You Go

Compare my equivalent cabin on Symphony of the Seas to my cabin on World Europa Below. Symphony of the Seas suffered from soot on the balcony…!

MSC vs Royal Caribbean – I Cruised on The Biggest Ships: (Differences)

Find out why you should try a Mediterranean cruise like the ones I took on Symphony of the Seas and World Europa here:

7 Reasons Why Your Next Cruise Should be in The Mediterranean

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

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