Jamey Bergman
Cruise Critic Contributor
3.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Entertainment

MSC Armonia Entertainment & Activities

Theater

Teatro La Fenice, on decks 5 and 6, is decorated in an Art Deco style with modern touches. Gold and grey are the primary colors, from the carpet to the seats and the stage curtains, and the palette makes the space hum with energy. LED lights made to look like stars accompany the paneled wall lamps to set the mood when the lights go down.

The theater shows six separate shows each week with two performances each night to accommodate both seatings in the ship's main dining rooms. However, though Armonia carries about 2,000 passengers at a time, the La Fenice theater holds just 565 people. On busier sailings, the line might hold a third performance each night, but that would still leave a number of passengers without a seat. To cope, MSC has instituted a first-come, first-served electronic self-booking system at the theater entrance to try to keep things fair.

Because so many different nationalities and languages are onboard, shows tend to be heavy on music and spectacle and range from dance and acrobatic acts to musical revues. Other shows include cabaret acts and concerts. The "Cleopatra" performance is perhaps the best illustration of the type of evening entertainment you can expect in Teatro La Fenice. It involves several Egyptian-themed dance numbers as well as a female contortionist and a double strongman act where the larger of the two acrobats does things like lift the smaller of the two acrobats into standing position on his own head.

Teatro La Fenice is also used as the meeting point for shore excursions.

Daily Fun

Daytime entertainment options on MSC Armonia are numerous. Active options include morning stretching classes and aerobics, as well as dance lessons in either the Armonia Lounge or Bar del Duomo; soccer tournaments and other sports take place in the Sport Center at the back of the ship, on the top deck. More sedate options include trivia quizzes, arts and crafts sessions, bingo and other games in either the Armonia Lounge or Bar del Duomo.

At Night

The Bar del Duomo and Armonia Lounge both play host to evening activities, too. Themed nights are in Bar del Duomo and dance lessons happen in the Armonia Lounge. The Red Bar on Deck 6 hosts a pianist most nights.

For a ship of 2,000 passengers, the casino -- Palm Beach Casino on Deck 6 -- is relatively small. The atmosphere of the casino is actually quite pleasing and open. A semicircular bar in the forward corner looks out onto gaming tables and slot machines. The casino does allow smoking.

MSC Armonia Bars and Lounges

The bars and lounges on Armonia are pretty standard cruise ship fare. There's a classy piano bar, an English-style pub, a pool deck bar and a smoking lounge. Bars and lounges -- apart from Bar del Duomo and the Armonia Lounge, which host activities during the day and stay open late for dancing and acts -- get up and running at about 4:30 p.m. and close around 1 a.m.

The White Lion English Pub (Deck 5): The English-style White Lion Pub is arranged between reception and the Teatro La Fenice in the forward section of Deck 5. The pub is one of the few areas on the ship where smoking is allowed, and with its proximity to the Cigar Room, the area does get very smoky in the evenings. The decor is traditional -- tartan carpet, dark woods and brass -- and the space is most heavily used between and after the theater performances. The wine and cocktails are the same as elsewhere on the ship, but there are more beer options, including Newcastle Brown Ale, Amstel and Murphy's Irish Red on draught; more than 20 beer varieties in bottles; and a handful of beer cocktails.

Cigar Room (Deck 5): Adjacent to the White Lion Pub is the simply named Cigar Room, the ship's smoking lounge. It's decorated in wood paneling and offers small clusters of leather armchairs and couches, seating 10 with plenty of standing room. They sell a selection of Dominican, Cuban and Italian cigars and cigarillos as well as digestifs such as brandy, rum, tequila, cognac and whisky/whiskey. Cigar prices range from €1.80 to €25. The room is open the same hours as the White Lion Pub.

Bar del Duomo (Deck 5): The show lounge onboard is the Bar del Duomo on Deck 5, which features live entertainment and dancing later in the evenings. Red semicircular couches and tables and chairs surround the stage and a small, black-and-white marble inlaid dance floor. Hovering over the dance floor like a flying saucer is the circular Art Deco-inspired lighting. Seating at the back of the room is quieter, although it can be difficult to chat depending on the type of act that's playing. The room rarely got crowded on our cruise, and it was always a nice spot to meet before dinner. The semicircular bar tucked in the back corner of the room provides snacks with its drinks throughout the day and evening.

The Red Bar (Deck 6): This classy little cocktail bar features a pianist in the evenings. An enormous blown-glass light fixture -- that is stunning in presentation as well as size and (presumed) weight -- dominates the space. The bar is open to the corridors on either side and because of that has a lobby-ish feel to it, with chairs arranged around small cocktail tables and people milling about. It gets very busy in the later hours of the evening.

Armonia Lounge Bar (Deck 7): Armonia's other show lounge offers nearly double the space of the Bar del Duomo lounge. This is where the secondary acts that don't play in the Teatro La Fenice are shown. Passengers will find late-night cabaret, live musicians and bands, with music ranging from Latin classical guitar to European pop and dance music. You can also request board games and decks of cards to use in the gold- and green-bedecked lounge.

Il Lido Bar (Deck 11): The pool bar is open from 8 a.m. until the end of the evening's second dinner seating at 10 p.m., and serves the ship's standard list of cocktails, wine, beer and spirits.

Starlight Disco (Deck 12): The Starlight Disco is the late-night venue onboard. Situated at the back of Deck 12, it's very quiet during the day, but offers nice views over the stern of the ship. Typically, the younger passengers onboard convene at the disco around 11:30 p.m., when the ship's DJ sets up to spin some tracks, and the dancing goes on well into the night. The venue is open from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m.

MSC Armonia Outside Recreation

Pools

Armonia has a single pool deck, amidships on Deck 11. The two pools -- one family and one adult -- and the two whirlpool hot tubs in between are not big, but there is plenty of room for loungers, and the shaded areas along the outside of the pool deck have both tables (near the bar) and loungers for those who prefer to stay out of the sun. A colorful, interactive water feature called the Spray Park is aimed at the children onboard and brings to mind a McDonald's Playland park. The area around the Spray Park truly feels expansive -- almost to the point of dwarfing the pools -- and it's hard to imagine it getting crowded.

Recreation

One area where Armonia shows its age is in the top-deck recreation options. There are no waterslides or climbing walls -- and forget skydiving, surfing or bumper cars. Apart from the pool deck, the recreation options are all clustered together at the aft end of Deck 13 and include a mini-golf course, shuffleboard and an enclosed sports center with a multi-purpose court that has basketball hoops. The sports and activities on Deck 13 are open from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m., and equipment can be collected from the Entertainment Team.

Sun Decks

Apart from the main pool deck, there is only one additional sun deck, located at the forward end of Deck 13. The Top 13 adults-only retreat is tied in with the Aurea Spa onboard and costs €15 per person, per day, and offers comfortable loungers, showers, whirlpool baths and a dedicated waitstaff. Massages are available on sun loungers, but must be paid through the spa desk. Your day pass gets you a plush towel, a cold facecloth, a water mister and complimentary fresh fruit skewers served every hour. You can rent cocoon beds -- pod-shaped wicker, rattan beds with a mattress and pillows -- for €30 per day. The sun deck is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

MSC Armonia Services

Many of Armonia's services are located towards the forward end of Deck 5. Shopping (jewelry, clothing and accessories) is clustered around and just forward from reception on Deck 5, and is open on sea days only, from 8 a.m. until midnight. Moving toward the back of the ship, you'll find the photo gallery, shore excursions desk and the Internet cafe, where you can purchase Wi-Fi packages.

The cost of Wi-Fi packages is based on a set number of minutes. When connecting to Wi-Fi onboard, you can stop and start your session whenever you need to use the Internet -- and whenever it's available. As on most cruise ships, access can be spotty. A 60-minute package costs €16.90; the 100-minute package is €24.90; the 300-minute package is €54.90; the 480-minute package is €69.90 and the 1,440-minute package (24 hours) costs €169.90.

Also on Deck 5, the Via della Spiga Shopping Area opposite from the Bar del Duomo -- subject to the same hours and restrictions as the rest of the shops onboard -- is where you can find your duty free items (spirits, cigarettes) and necessities (sunscreen, toiletries).

One level up on Deck 6 is the photo gallery, where you can buy prints from your time onboard.

Smoking areas include the casino, the White Lion Pub and the Cigar Room, both of which are just forward from the reception area. Smoking is also permitted on the port side of the main pool deck.

MSC Armonia Spa & Fitness

Aurea Spa

The expansive spa is located at the very front of Deck 11. Its light and airy treatment rooms are arranged around the exterior of the ship to make the most of the windowed views. The spa offers both single and couples massage rooms, as well as offering massages on the Top 13 adults-only sun deck. A 30-minute, full-body Balinese massage is €70, while a cleansing facial with face massage is €50. The most expensive single massage treatment is the "Four-Hand Special Balinese Massage," which costs €169 for a 45-minute massage simultaneously conducted by two masseuses.

At the beauty parlor adjacent to the spa, a haircut is €24 and a manicure is €39. If you're looking for more unique beauty treatments, you can get semi-permanent mink eyelash extensions, which cost €320. There is also a facial package called the "Renewed Youth Face Package," which is administered by the trained practitioner and costs €315. There are also numerous spa and beauty packages that can be booked before the cruise or while onboard, and most include facial treatments of varying type and duration, and/or manicures, pedicures or massages.

The thermal suite and relaxation area makes up the rest of the Aurea Spa and offers steam rooms, showers, sauna and thermal loungers as well as a heated relaxation area overlooking the sea. A daily pass is €30, a cruise pass is €99 and a cruise pass for couples is €169, but you have to go together. Aurea experience passengers have complimentary access.

Fitness

The ship's gym is in the spa complex and is free to all passengers. The sizable space offers a padded floor for aerobics classes, yoga and stretching. There are Technogym treadmills, stair climbing machines, exercise bikes, weight benches and rowing machines. Fitness classes include aerobics, yoga, spinning, Pilates, stretching and dance lessons. Classes cost between €10 and €20 each, and a one-on-one session with a personal trainer costs €35 for an hour.

MSC Armonia For Kids

MSC has gone all out to provide fantastic facilities for children on Armonia, starting with the line's family brand partnerships with Lego and Chicco. The facilities are clustered around the ship, with the younger kids' facilities on Deck 11, the Teens Club on Deck 12 and the tweens down on Deck 6. The spaces are open and bright (the Teens' Club is a bit more of a night spot than the rest) and full of age-appropriate activities.

Kids

The baby-sitting program onboard is called MSC BabyCare, and allows parents to leave children in the Chicco-designed Baby Club under the supervision of trained MSC staff during lunch and dinner times on sea days, between 1 and 2 p.m. and 6 and 7 p.m. Children must be between 1 and 3 years old. The bambinos doze in name-brand cots or are kept busy with activities by the staff.

The MSC BabyTime program is set up so that parents have a dedicated space onboard to play with their children in the Baby Club between 8 and 10 a.m., 4 and 6 p.m. and 8 and 9 p.m. on port days. On sea days, it is available from 8 to 10 a.m. and from 8 to 9 p.m. Again, children must be under 3 years old to participate.

Diapers and baby food are not available to buy onboard, but MSC does sell wipes, bottles, bibs and other products in the Chicco shop onboard. Chicco-branded high-chairs, travel cots, bottle-warmers, strollers and baby backpacks are available to borrow free of charge.

The Mini Club (3 to 6 years old) and Junior Club (7 to 11 years old) are both sponsored by Lego and offer varying levels of Lego-themed play, from the biggest Duplo blocks to the kid-sized "Vertical Play Wall." Both clubs are monitored by trained staff and are open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on sea days and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2:30 to 6 p.m. and 7:30 to 11 p.m. on port days

Other activities include team challenges to see who can build the most impressive Lego structure, copycat competitions to build the Lego figure displayed on the play wall and Lego games on the PlayStation, X-Box and Wii. Each child taking part in the competitive activities receives a Master Lego Builder Diploma.

A private "Kids Around the Clock" baby sitter costs €6 per hour for children ages 3 to 11 years old. The service is available every night from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. and must be reserved in advance.

Teens

The Young Club for tweens ages 12 to 14 years old is full of arcade games, table games (foosball and air hockey) and televisions for movies and gaming systems. The club is open between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. on sea days and 10 to 11:30 a.m., 3 to 4:30 p.m. and 9 to 11 p.m. on port days.

The Teens Club (for 15- to 17-year-olds) is situated near the Starlight Disco and has a dance floor, a game system and circular, recessed wall seats (watch out for canoodling). Open hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on sea days and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 4:30 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight on port days.

Staff are on hand at all times when the Young and Teens Clubs are open. Organized activities for both age groups include sports tournaments, discos, dance contests, video game challenges, DJ lessons, talent shows and karaoke.

MSC Armonia Ship Stats

  • Crew: 700
  • Launched: 2001
  • Decks: 9
  • Passengers: 1,952
  • Registry: Panama

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