In 2014, MSC Armonia emerged from a major renovation that added approximately 80 feet to the vessel’s midsection. The expansion created nearly 200 more cabins and new facilities such as a solarium, music lounge, and water park. It also refreshed the cabins with TV upgrades and bedding by Italian designer Dorelan. Although MSC Armonia, which means "harmony" in Italian, does not have the razzle-dazzle diversions and décor of its much younger and larger cousins, it does deliver a pleasant way to sail to far-flung ports of call at a price you’d be hard-pressed to find on other lines. Bonus: Even at its larger size, MSC Armonia remains cozy and relaxed, and its understated decor aligns with traditional vessels of yore.
What We Love
Family-Friendly: MSC’s commitment to little ones is obvious aboard MSC Armonia, which turns into a kiddie haven during holidays and school breaks. Besides partnerships with LEGO, the baby-gear brand Chicco, and video arcade maker Namco, it’s generously outfitted with cheerful junior spaces that cater to ages up to 17. In addition, a water park gushes with musical fountains and interactive water jets, plus strollers, baby bouncers, bottle warmers, and shore excursion backpacks are available for loan.
Big Variety of Bars and Lounges: For a midsize ship, MSC Armonia has an impressive number of watering holes with different personalities. Red Bar concocts fun alchemy-inspired brews, such as jelly and molecular cocktails. Bar del Duomo focuses on wine and aperitifs with European-style bar bites. At the White Lion Pub, you can savor cheddar cheese with English beer.
Quiet Corners: MSC Armonia has many spots for downtime. Slip into the Relaxation Room overlooking the bow, cuddle up with a book in the library, or melt into a Balinese massage at the serene Aurea Spa.
Best Known For
A Mediterranean Vibe: From the cuisine (hello, cappuccinos and cornetti) to the love-of-life exuberance, the ship borrows generously from Italy, MSC’s mother country.
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Who It's Best For
Budget-Conscious Families and Multigenerational Groups: The ship’s varied activities mean there’s something for all age groups. MSC Armonia’s also great for travelers yearning to explore exotic destinations such Rio de Janeiro and Casablanca but who want to keep their expenses at bay (The ship has three tiered packages that allow cruisers to choose service levels according to their budgets.).
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It’s Not for Gourmets: There are no specialty restaurants or fancy tasting menus. And don’t expect celebrity chefs either. Focus instead on what the kitchens do best: pastas, pizzas, breads, gelato, and tiramisu.
La Fenice Theatre Requires Bookings: The shows are free, but they require advance reservations. Not a big deal if you’re a planner, but it could be a bummer if you’re a last-minute showgoer.
Expect Long Shipboard Announcements. Messages are delivered in multiple languages for the predominantly Italian, German, French, and Spanish passengers (though all service staff speak English). Depending on the itinerary, English tends to be last ... so prepare for some wait time.
Laura Manske is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Redbook, InStyle, and Cosmopolitan.