MSC Meraviglia: What You Should Know

Written by Joel
Posted in: Cruise

My first cruise with MSC was on MSC Meravigila out of Brooklyn, NY in December 2023 and since I’m familiar with the brand and it’s ships, and you very likely aren’t, there are some things you should know about MSC Meraviglia before you get onboard.

Introduction to MSC

You may have noticed what seems like a new cruise line being heavily advertised on TV. The ads feature beautiful, environmentally friendly ships that are currently sailing and their goal of achieving zero emissions for operations in the future. The message is clear, people of all ages can enjoy a vacation on a cruise line that cares about the environment and uses a lot of technology to do it.

What you (probably) don’t realize is MSC is the world’s third largest cruise brand and they’re wildly popular in Europe, South America, and Southern Africa. As of December 2023 MSC has 19 ships (23 by 2025) and plans to build six more through 2030. They are the biggest cruise company American’s have never heard of.  The MSC vision is to offer enriching, immersive experiences, provide international dining, and family friendly entertainment and activities.

Buffet on MSC Meraviglia gets crazy – go to the back

Buffets are a mainstay on cruise ships and Marketplace Buffet is on deck 15 of MSC Meraviglia. Good selection? Sometimes. tasty food? Sometimes. Plenty of seating? Rarely. Long lines? Only when you’re hungry.

What’s the first thing most people do when they get onboard and realize their stateroom isn’t ready? You’ll likely find me looking for a bar, but since you’re probably like most people, you’ll go to the buffet for lunch. It’ll be chaotic. People everywhere, long lines seemingly at every station, and no empty tables in sight.

Not surprisingly, you’re most likely to find chaos at the buffet on MSC Meraviglia at mealtime (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), on port days when everyone is in a hurry to disembark, and on sea days — although the busy times on sea days is a little different. My rule for whether or not there would be a lot of people in Marketplace Buffet was, “if I’m hungry, so is everyone else.”

You’ll partially avoid the crowd if you keep walking toward the back of the ship. It’s a big buffet, and most people don’t realize (even after a week) how far toward the back they can go. There’s even a “bonus” section outside the main buffet where you’re likely to find a table most of the time. It’s not only tables that are available toward the back, the food stations have shorter lines, too.

There’s another option, too. If you happen to be an early an early riser you’ll have no trouble finding a good table or getting food between 6-7am. For other meals, Marketplace Buffet closes on a consistent schedule throughout the day. Grab a table right before it opens.

Related: When will my stateroom be ready?

Crowded buffet on MSC Meraviglia
Shortest line at Marketplace Buffet on MSC Meraviglia

Bring your own Hot / Cold travel mug

More than once during my week on MSC Meraviglia finding a coffee mug at breakfast in the Marketplace Buffet reminded me of a scavenger hunt… Where the whole game was a cruel joke because none of the items on the list were real. For what it’s worth, they were also difficult to find at lunch.

If you believe, like I do, that coffee in the morning is a basic human right, you would be wise to bring a travel mug. There are few things as frustrating as standing in a line for 10 minutes only to find out that there aren’t any cups, then repeating that experience at three or four other coffee stations. Your mug will also save you trips from wherever you are on the ship back to the Marketplace since that’s the only place you can find free coffee. That is, if you don’t have a drink package.

If you drink a lot of water, pack a travel mug or some type of insulated cup for that, too, unless you don’t mind using the same cup for coffee and water. The glasses at the drink station are very small and having a large glass will again save you frustration and steps back and forth to the water machine. If you have a drink package bottled water is included so you can ask for a bottle at any bar but I would have preferred having a large cup with or without bottled water.

Infinity Atrium has very limited seating

I don’t know about you but one of the things I love is listening to musicians perform onboard. They’re not only talented — they’re usually friendly and fun to chat with between sets or around the ship. During my week onboard Meraviglia there were two musicians I really enjoyed and went out of my way to be at as many performances as possible.

One of them performed through the day and evening in the Infinity Atrium, a venue on deck 5. There are only about 15-20 seats which means, in the case of a popular performer, you’ll end up standing most of the time. Being an open area, if you can’t find a seat on deck 5 you’ll also be able to stand to listen and see the stage on decks 6 and 7. There is also a small number of seats on 6 and 7 if you just want to listen. It’s not ideal, but it works.

Like with the Marketplace Buffet, know the schedule of the performers you like (or just when performances are taking place in general) and arrive early to get a seat. Despite having limited seats, Infinity Atrium is where I spent a lot of time. If you like live music, you will too.

Standing room only. Infinity Atrium on MSC Meraviglia December 2023
Infinity Atrium on MSC Meraviglia – December 2023

Finding your stateroom is like walking through a maze

Usually by the second day of a cruise I’m clear about where my room is and the best way to get to it but that wasn’t my experience on the Meraviglia. On the third day, I still felt like a mouse running through a maze to get a piece of cheese.

Closed and unmarked doors right near the elevators, hallways that end up at the same place even though they divide and are separated by a 6 inch wall, and signage that is often so close together you’re not sure which one to look at — and they point different directions for the same destination.

Finding your room may be somewhat of a challenge but even if your sense of direction is better than mine — which wouldn’t take much — unless your room is right next to a bank of elevators you’ll get your steps in. Instead of steps and elevators being at the front and back of the ship, there is one bank in the front but the other is in the middle which, although convenient to all the public spaces, feels odd.

There are a LOT of bars on Meraviglia but sports on TV is limited

With 17 bars (three exclusively for Yacht Club), you’ll never walk far on Meraviglia to find a drink. Bars near the pool, in the Atrium and casino, and in the beautiful adults only section both inside and out. Each serves the classic cocktails everyone knows and loves and some “updated classics” if you’re not tied to traditional flavors.

What the MSC Meraviglia lacks is a traditional sports bar. If the game you want to watch is on ESPN or ESPN2 you may be in luck. Brass Anchor has about 8 small TV’s grouped in pairs (one showing ESPN one showing ESPN2) behind the bar. If you’re at the bar you have a clear view of the screens, otherwise you’ll have to crane your neck to see a screen clearly.

Casino Imperiale Bar also has screens behind the bar showing games but other than the 10 or so seats at the bar, there is no seating. It’s not ideal for watching sports unless you’re taking a quick break from gambling to catch a score and see who’s covering the spread. Again, not ideal for even a moderate fan of a sport or specific team.

Depending on the importance of the game, it may be played on the huge screen on deck 15 which is near a bar, and it is a fun place to catch a big game (like we do on the Superbowl Cruise every year), but at the moment, Meraviglia is sailing from Brooklyn, NY so it may not be much fun if, in the Winter, Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.

The good news for football fans is all the Sunday games are available to watch in your stateroom. Not nearly as much fun as celebrating (or crying) after every play with your fellow fanatics, but better than missing the game entirely.


Sailing on the MSC Meraviglia had it’s ups and downs, and not only due to the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Following my suggestions and managing your expectations will make your cruise much more enjoyable. MSC is making a name for itself in North America and provides a good experience for value conscious cruisers who have outgrown Carnival.

Ready to book your next cruise? Schedule your free vacation planning call and I’ll help you decide if MSC is the best choice for you or whether you’d have a better experience on another cruise line. If you prefer to do your own research, click here to find the best price — and get me as your personal concierge!

Joel - Partner at JJ Travel Associates

About The Author

Joel is a co-owner of JJ Travel Associates (a Dream Vacations franchise) and a history geek fascinated by world cultures and what we can learn from each. His specialty is planning vacations that combine history, culture, and fun.

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