Our Surprising Experience Aboard the MSC World Europa | Cruise Review

We just got off a Mediterranean cruise on the MSC World Europa, and I’m excited to share our thoughts about our trip. This was our first experience with the MSC cruise line and, spoiler alert: We absolutely loved it.

Keep reading for more details about the MSC World Europa itinerary we went on, what we did at each port stop, and even some of the nitty-gritty things that we didn’t like (there weren’t that many).

This cruise was not sponsored in any way. We paid out of our own pocket, and everything mentioned below is our own opinion.

Our Overall Thoughts About the MSC World Europa

Overall, we genuinely enjoyed this cruise, which honestly surprised us. I’ve always assumed (and heard) that MSC was a few tiers down on the hierarchy of cruise ships, especially after cruising with Disney and Royal Caribbean, but everything we experienced proved that theory was incorrect.

The staff went out of their way to accommodate us, and speaking of accommodation, we loved our room. When we booked, the only room available for the five of us was an “Aurea” Premium Suite, and it was PERFECT. I’ll share more about it below, but if you have the opportunity to book an Aurea Experience room, DO IT.

It comes with extra benefits like free spa access (with reservation; we always got in when we wanted to go), a free bottle of prosecco, a smaller exclusive dining room, discounts on things on board, and more.

I didn’t have to cook for a week and they had pizza, hot dogs, and burgers any time you wanted it!; the kids loved the kid’s club and they even stayed on during a couple of port days (yes, it was open!!); the entertainment did its job and wowed us, the Mediterranean port stops were phenomenal, the spa onboard was top-notch, and the ship was fun for everyone!

The ship, y’all, was HUGE. It was built in 2022 and reminded us of pictures we’ve seen of the new Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas (but at more than half the price!). Apparently, it was at capacity (6,500+ passengers), but I promise it didn’t feel that way. There were a few times we’d have to wait a little while for an elevator, but that was to be expected. In most parts of the ship, it felt like everything was spread out. We found a place to sit almost every place we went.

We will 100% consider sailing with MSC again.

When We Sailed on the MSC World Europa

The five of us (kids ages 10, 9, and 6) sailed during Germany’s Carnivale break in the middle of February. We desperately needed some sunshine after a long wet and windy winter, and the itinerary looked too fantastic to pass up.

We booked this slightly last minute (in January) on a whim one night. The price was unbelievable (under $5,000 for five of us on a 7-night Mediterranean cruise), and the port stops checked off several places we wanted to visit.

I was slightly nervous about the weather in February and even leading up to our cruise it was looking like we might have wet weather, but things changed and we had great weather.

I’d imagine it would be very hot in the summer, though.

There were multiple (heated) pools, including a great indoor pool area with massive hot tubs. There’s also a splash pad for little kids and slides on the top deck for older kids. Even though two of them couldn’t ride the water slides, they still had fun at the pools.

The Not-So Fantastic Things

If we had to be nit-picky there were a few things we didn’t like. And seriously, this is us just being extra picky.

The dining room food was just okay.

There were more paid-for, specialty options on this ship than we realized, and MSC seems to cater to them. (Again, we booked this last minute so we didn’t have much time to research that part.) The dining room food just tasted like they were preparing it for thousands of people…so kind of bland and lukewarm, and it took a little while for dishes to come out.

We ate at the buffet most often because the turnaround for food was faster and we could all get a variety of whatever we wanted. It was the same food on the dining room menus (plus more!) at the buffets.

There Are a Lot of Specialty Places on Board.

I think if we planned for this it wouldn’t be in the negative column, but since we didn’t know/realize, we didn’t prepare for it. The specialty restaurants looked fantastic and at around 30 euros a meal (for adults), they weren’t that expensive. You had to pay extra for the fun, retro ice cream place and the coffee shop on board, too. If/when we sail with MSC again we’ll probably ask grandparents for on-board credit for the kids/us for a meal out or some fun treats.

*For what it’s worth we did treat ourselves to a couple of “fancy” meals and some ice cream. All I’m saying is that we just weren’t prepared for how many extra-paid options there were.

The height/age requirements for the slides.

There are several water slides on this ship, but you have to be at least 130 cm (my 9-year-old daughter was, like, 125cm and they wouldn’t let her slide – pun intended). For the “Venom,” the indoor dry slide you had to be 120 cm AND 8 or 9 years old. (Sorry, I don’t remember the specifics; my son (127cm is 6 and he was not allowed to ride it).

The Kid’s Club Entry/Exit Took FOREVER.

I’ll talk about the kid’s club more below because we loved it. But getting the kids in there and out of there TOOK FOREVER. Plain and simple: they need a better system set up, so plan extra time to drop off and pick up your kids.

There was also a cultural difference that we noticed. We’re used to standing and queuing in lines, but a lot of Europeans don’t stand in lines; they’ll just walk up to the front and “cut” in line. It’s a hard concept to get past for us, so it was frustrating when it happened (and it happened often until we finally just sucked it up and made sure we stayed in the very front when it was our turn.)

You can’t bring alcohol on board.

Some (most?) cruise liners will let you bring at least one bottle of wine with you, but—at the time we boarded—you couldn’t bring any on. We had a drink package (included in the price when we booked), so it was fine, but I did find that interesting.

I think that’s about it, and those things aren’t in any way a dealbreaker. When I say we liked sailing on the MSC World Europa, I mean it!

Our Port Stops on the MSC World Europa

The Mediterranean itinerary for the MSC World Europa is what sold us on this cruise. And here’s the cool thing about MSC: You can embark (begin your cruise) at any of the ports.

This ship basically does a loop on repeat (I think the itinerary changes a little bit in April). So if beginning/ending in one port is better than another, check into those dates.

For us, we wanted to start and end in Rome because we wanted a little more time in the city. Our cruise departed on a Monday evening (we had to be there by 2 pm), and we arrived in Rome the Saturday before, giving us all day Sunday and Monday morning to explore.

Except for a few places, we didn’t book things ahead of time. We also almost always opted to not do excursions with the cruise. They’re often way more expensive and we don’t like to just sit on a bus the whole time. However, MSC had a bike tour in almost every port city, and those looked great.

Here’s a very quick look at what we did in each Mediterranean MSC World Europa port:

Rome, Italy

On Sunday (the day before we embarked) we went on a Golf Car Tour of Rome. I highly recommend this tour, especially if you are short on time. It took us all over the city.

After the city tour, we just walked around and went back to the Forum and Colosseum area. It was a very low-key and enjoyable day.

On Monday we went to Vatican City. I bought entry tickets for the museum and Sistine Chapel the day we booked our cruise (absolutely do this because it will sell out!!). We chose not to do a guided tour so we could go at our own pace, but we did get the kid audio guides once we got inside.

After checking out the Vatican we walked over to see St. Paul’s Cathedral, but the line snaked around so much we just called it a day and decided to have lunch at the most delicious spot near where we stored our luggage.

We stored our luggage at a place right around the corner from the entrance to the museum before our tour, and then we took a taxi from there to the cruise port in Civitavecchia.

Palermo, Sicily

Our two younger kids stayed on the ship that day and our oldest went out with us. We’ve been to Sicily before, but on the other side of the island, so we were excited to see Palermo. I booked a Street Food Tour, so we ate our way around the city.

I highly recommend it if you like getting a literal taste of a place combined with some great historical info.

Valletta, Malta

This port stop on the MSC World Europe was a new country for all of us, so all the kids got off the ship and explored with us. We planned to just walk around, but then I found this scavenger hunt that was inexpensive, fun, and would take us all around Valletta.

If you want an easy day and want to see the city, I highly recommend it.

Barcelona, Spain

We LOVE Spain so we were thrilled to be back in the country.

Along with booking Vatican tickets, I also booked these tickets as soon as we booked the cruise because I heard they sell out fast. We took a taxi from the port to Park Güell and walked around for about an hour. (I’m going to write a longer post on this place; it was fun to see, but we didn’t enjoy it very much for various reasons. I think if we booked this ticket that included a guide we would have liked it more.)

We took another cab to Sagrada Familia — if you go to Barcelona you have to go inside the church. It’s magnificent. We did not do a guided tour but did use the audio guide on the Sagrada app.

My husband and girls went up the Nativity tower (but he said he might not recommend it. “Usually you get the high-altitude, vista panorama. But this one was just like you’re on a scaffolding in between the towers, so the view is limited. You can see the church a little more up close, but that’s the only benefit.”)

Marseille, France

All three kids stayed on the MSC World Europa this time, and my husband and I went off to explore Marseille.

We didn’t plan any excursions here; we just walked around and enjoyed the city. While we wish we took a taxi into Marseille, there is a free city bus that will take you into town. (We just had to wait a while for it; get off the ship and follow the green line on the ground until you get to the bus stop.) We took a taxi back when our day was over.

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Genoa, Italy

The kids stayed in the kid’s club again for this port stop, so we had another day date! It was another port stop that we planned on just walking around and seeing the sights, but then we found a Rickshaw Tour.

As you walk out and go down the escalators there’s a little booth with someone selling tours and that’s where we bought it. (You can also book ahead of time; recommended if you’re going during peak travel time.)

There was a 1 or 2 hour option; we picked the one-hour tour and I’m so happy we did it! The guide was great and gave us insight into the city from a local’s perspective, plus it went to places without tourists. The Rickshaw tour will bring you back to the ship, but we asked him to drop us off at the cathedral. The walk back was easy.

Our Room on the MSC World Europa

We stayed in an Aurea Premium Suite, room number 12166, which fit all five of us with room to spare. We never felt cramped; in fact, it always felt like there was a decent amount of space if you’ve ever cruised before then you know that cruise rooms can feel like a shoebox! Not so with this room.

Here’s a walk-through video of our MSC World Europa Aurea room

There were bunk beds for the kids right when you walked in, and a pull-out double bed from the couch. We asked our steward not to turn it back into a couch every day (no need for all that extra work), and there was still enough room.

Let’s be honest, you’re not hanging out in your room that much, so you just need enough space to get ready in the morning and throw all your stuff when you get back.

There was plenty of room to store all of our things, and of course, I brought extra helpers like heavy-duty magnet hooks and our other favorite cruise essentials.

Having a balcony was a must for us, and this one was pretty large. It was great to see each city as we rolled into town every morning. I would’ve liked to have a table outside, but a place to prop my feet up was nice, too.

The Kid’s Club on the MSC World Europa

Truth be told…we (the parents) didn’t go into the kid’s club to see the space. We could have (they have open house times), but we always just let them go in on their own.

They were all in the Junior Club. (Logan was supposed to be in the “Mini Club,” but they graciously let him be in the one that his sisters were in.)

Here’s what my kids said about the kid’s club when I just asked them for their thoughts on it.

It was extremely fun. there’s a lego room and in the lego room there buckets of legos to play. You can just build anything you want, but then you need to destroy it before you leave.

-Logan (6 years old)

There’s a lego room, a movie room where you play games and watch movies, and a home room where we wait until there’s an activity. They take you to lunch and dinner at the buffet. I liked it because there were games and drawing and anyone could play anything. Every night was also a different theme (we didn’t know about this), but you could bring costumes and dress up. If you didn’t have costume they could paint your face!

Julia (10 years old)

I liked the kid’s club because every night after dinner there was a dance party with Do-Re-Me (the MSC mascot), and it was just awesome. I liked all the different people and I met four new friends. Going to dinner and lunch with them was fun and yummy. I liked watching movies in the movie room even if they were sometimes in another language. There was also a Master Chef at Sea competition and I won! You get to also go to the sportsplex every day to play inside a gym. And the leaders were really nice. There were lots of activities and I liked getting my face painted every night! There’s also a craft every day and the leaders would dress up, too!

Madilyn (9 years old; she turned 9 on the ship!)

The Shows on the MSC World Europa

If you go into this not expecting a Broadway or West End performance, you’ll have a great time. There are multiple shows every evening and they have that “wow” factor. Everything we saw was entertaining with talented artists doing everything from aerobatics and fun dancing and singing to illusionists and themed nights. Sometimes the kids went with us and other times we enjoyed the shows alone.

You do have to reserve your spot ahead of time with their app, but it was pretty easy and we were able to get into almost every show we wanted to see. Our favorite lounge was the Panorama Lounge since you have a table to set your drink down.

Book Your MSC Cruise

I’m totally ready to book another MSC cruise, although I’ve gotta admit that it will have to be on one of their newer ships. This one impressed us so much that I’d be worried about how much we’d like one of their older ships. But the itineraries up to Northern Europe look so great.

If you’re interested in booking a cruise, I highly encourage you to get in touch with my travel advisor, Jennifer, at Endless Routes Travel; she can help you every step of the way.

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