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MSC Bellissima is a big, bold, boisterous ship with a lot going on morning, noon & night. & it's all a lot of fun. It's also very much a family ship, with an outst&ing kids club & programing, superb entertainment facilities & a large number of cabins designed for family groups.
The ship carries just about 4,500 passengers at double occupancy, making it one of the largest in the world, both in terms of passenger numbers & size. It caters to everyone with a large number of drinking, dining & entertainment options, including the second Cirque du Soleil at Sea (MSC Meraviglia claims the first), four pools, an water park, a ropes course & a large central promenade lined with shops, bars & restaurants.
The ship also has a number of excellent specialty restaurants, including Japanese, Spanish, French & a steakhouse.
In a first for the line, & indeed the industry, the ship boasts a personal assistant called Zoe powered by artificial intelligence in every cabin, which is programmed to answer a wide range of cruise-related questions. The line also has an excellent app MSC for Me, which lists your personal agenda & the ship's itinerary, as well as allows you to make bookings, chat on the app & locate your kids.
MSC Bellissima can seem overwhelming at first -- it's designed for fun & most of the passengers hail from Southern Europe, so they know how to party -- but it never felt too crowded to us, even on a sea day. The public spaces are well designed, the multiple dining & theater times means there are rarely bottlenecks & there is a huge amount of open deck space.
However, this may not be your ideal ship if quiet time is important to you. There are a h&ful of spots for an evening cocktail, including the for-fee Top 19 Club & the gorgeous Sky Lounge, but little else. Unless, that is, you can afford to book a suite in the ultraluxurious, suites-only enclave called the Yacht Club, which boasts its own private bar, restaurant & sun deck. Here you will find an enclave of calm, exclusivity & outst&ing, intuitive service.
Our advice? Let yourself get swept up in the exuberance, & you'll soon be partying till midnight & beyond with the best of them.
The London Theatre (Deck 6) is a 975-person, Broadway-style theater at the front of the ship that hosts six different shows a week, three times a night. Most of these are revue-style performances with lots of energetic dancing & music through the ages or themes, for example "Pink," a tribute to the finest women composers & singers in popular music; "Ritmo," where the music is Latin-inspired; or "Solid Rock," which showcases popular rock music. Note that even though all shows are free, you have to reserve; show times are at 7:45 p.m., 9:15 p.m. & 10:45 p.m.
During the day the theater is used as a gathering place before shore excursions, for port guide presentations & the safety drill (worth noting that MSC Cruises, like a number of European lines, embarks & disembarks passengers from every port during the cruise, so there are safety briefings every day). Once per cruise, the in-house "Kelly & Kloe On Board" takes place here.
Carousel Lounge (Deck 7) is situated at the back of the ship (you have to go through the casino) & is the bespoke theater created for & designed by Cirque du Soleil. The stage is round, with seats ranged around it in a semicircle with a raised bar area on one side. All along one wall is a long, flowing LED screen, on which projections are shown throughout the shows.
Cirque du Soleil launched its first productions at sea on sister ship Meraviglia, & Bellissima sees the debut of two more original 45-minute shows. As with most Cirque du Soleil shows, it doesn't really matter what the plotline is, it's more about gawping at the extraordinary acrobatics & mind-bending contortions.
"Valeria": "Valeria," like most Cirque du Soleil shows, has a loose plot tying together the incredible circus skills on display here. There is a tightrope artist who manages to balance on both a unicycle & a ladder & juggle at the same time, someone who juggles a giant cube & a woman dressed as a lizard who spends most of her time walking upside down on all fours. & if you get here early enough, you may also have time to interact with the "Donnie Darko"-esque rabbit & a giant rooster.
"Syma": A woman gets caught up in a storm, her boat sinks & she uses the mast as a prop on which to swing, flip & fly. But the performance that drew the most "oohs" & "aahs" came from someone dressed as a monk who uses a small pole that looks as if it is floating in front of him (it's on just-visible strings). He then proceeds to whip the pole around his body, toward the audience, up in the air & while performing a back flip. There is also a man who does amazing things with a skipping rope & a woman who juggles with her feet. Again, completely nonsensical, but a wonderful spectacle.
Performances start at 6:30 p.m. & again at 9:30 p.m. if you're having dinner before the show, or 7 p.m. & 10 p.m. if you're just doing cocktails & show. Shows run 45 minutes & alternate six nights a week.
Most of the daytime activities take place around the main pool deck. Here you will find early morning stretch classes, dance lessons, quizzes & pool party games. In the adjacent Gr& Canyon (solarium), you can take part in a Ping-Pong tournament & one deck up (at the back), in the Sportplex, you'll find basketball & football tournaments.
You can take a fun Behind the Scenes Tour, which not only takes in the galleys but also the theater, storage areas & laundry room (59.99 euros per adult & 29.99 euros per child; ask at the shore excursions desk).
MSC Bellissima has a virtual reality arcade on Deck 16, which features a number of different experiences including a 4D cinema, a VR maze & two F1 simulators. There are also two bowling lanes. All these carry a charge. You can opt to pay as you play or get a Fun Pass card, which works out cheaper. There is also a video games room next door.
Bellissima is a lively ship & there is always some music or dancing going on somewhere. You'll find music in a number of spots around the ship, including the Atrium on Deck 5, the Bellissima Lounge & the TV Studio & Bar on Deck 6, & in the Sky Lounge on Deck 18.
After dinner & the main shows, karaoke kicks off in the TV Studio & dance lessons back in the Bellissima Lounge. The late-night parties take place either on the Pool Deck or in the Galleria Bellissima & can range from a White Party or 70s-themed party to a Latin Caribbean dance party.
One of Bellissima's st&-out features is the 80-meter-long LED ceiling (The Dome), which crowns the main promenade, Galleria Bellissima. Think Bellagio meets IMAX & you'll be part way there. The ceiling changes throughout the day & the Daily Program indicates when there is a "show" on, which lasts about 10 minutes & is impressive to watch.
You'll find the Imperial Casino toward the back of the ship on Deck 7. It's split in half by a wide walkway that eventually leads to the Carousel Lounge. There is a circular bar in the center & gaming tables & slots on both sides. Promotions take place every day; check your Daily Program for details. MSC Bellissima Bars & Lounges
Bars are buzzing at night on Bellissima, with the action centered along the Galleria & the Atrium; for something more sedate, head upstairs to the Sky Lounge.
Edge (Deck 6): This bar, which leads onto the main promenade, is split by a stairwell, with seating on both sides, but the actual bar on just one side. There is table service & the coffee is some of the best on the ship.
Champagne Bar (Deck 6): Wrapped around the Atrium, with its Swarovski crystal staircases, this is the place to dress up, come for a pre- or post-dinner Champagne & do some people-watching or have your picture taken. It's very blingy.
Bellissima Bar (Deck 6): This is the main bar on the promenade where there is always something going on, whether that's dance classes or the start of the nightly parades. Bellissima Bar serves cocktails & has a dance floor.
TV Studio & Bar (Deck 7): This multipurpose space houses a TV studio that broadcasts live across the ship. It also doubles as a comedy club, & karaoke & live music venue.
Masters of the Sea (Deck 7): This English-style pub serves a wide selection of draft, craft & bottled beers, including Guinness & Newcastle Brown Ale. & if you can't decide, you can always order a yard of beer, to sample a few. There are also vodka & whiskey tasting sessions & it also offers small snacks.
Sports Bar (Deck 16): This small bar services the games area with st&ard drinks & free hot dogs if you buy a drink.
Sky Lounge (Deck 18): This is really the only bar onboard where you can find a quiet spot to read during the day or for an after-dinner drink. It's in a beautiful spot at the top of the ship overlooking the main pool deck. There is live music in the evening, but it's mainly classical or soft jazz. There is an indoor smoking room with a humidor adjacent.
Attic Club (Deck 18): This is a small club overlooking the basketball court, which plays dance music till very late.
Horizon Bar (Deck 18): This outdoor bar at the back of the ship is a nice spot to sit & watch the sunset. It serves the Horizon Pool area.
Arizona Bar (Deck 19): This is a small bar situated beside the water slides on the top deck. It serves a small selection of drinks including sodas, water, slushies & milkshakes.
MSC Bellissima Outside Recreation
Bellissima has four pools, three of which are open to all (the fourth is for Yacht Club passengers only).
Main Pool (Deck 15): A large, noisy, smoky (on the starboard side) area that gets extremely crowded & raucous on most days, with loud music & poolside games & dancing going on every day, all day. There are two pools connected by a shallow area in the center. Double loungers are built into the side of the pools, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are plenty more loungers set back from here.
Gr& Canyon Pool (Deck 15): Just beyond the main pool area, you'll find the Gr& Canyon Pool, which consists of a pool with two large hot tubs on both sides. There is a retractable roof, a bar & plenty of loungers. On the upper level are two more hot tubs, table tennis, foosball & plenty of chairs & tables.
Horizon Pool (Deck 16): A small square-shaped pool right at the back of the ship with lovely views. It is surrounded by a tiered amphitheater with loungers on the pool deck area, & tables & chairs on the tiers & beside the bar. (Note: There is a smoking area on the right.) At night this area transforms into more of a party spot.
Yacht Club (Deck 19): Yacht Club cruisers have exclusive use of a small saltwater pool & hot tub on Deck 19. There are plenty of loungers, highly attentive service & even on a sea day, this tranquil area high atop the ship is never full. Breakfast & a buffet lunch are served up here, & drinks are available all day.
At the back of the ship, high up on Deck 19, you'll find the Arizona Aquapark, which includes three water slides, a kids' splash area & the 82-meter long Himalayan Bridge, a ropes course that takes you around the side of the ship & includes two tracks side by side, one trickier than the other -- & neither for the fainthearted. The views are breathtaking.
The splash area includes a shallow pool, tiny slides, spray guns & water dunkers. The water slides twist & turn above here. You need to be 1 meter & 20 centimeters, or 4 feet, to go on these, & you have to sign a waiver at the start of the cruise.
Directly below is the Sportplex, which is a multiuse facility, mainly for basketball & football, & for kids' organized games during the day. After dark, it sometimes evolves into a disco, if the Attic Club (directly above) gets too crowded.
You'll find plenty of loungers on Deck 16, on each side above the main pool deck & stretching to the back of the ship. There are also plenty of spots right at the back, surrounding the Horizon Pool, & we did not find chair hogging to be an issue. You'll find two hot tubs up here, jutting out slightly from the ship.
There is a second, exclusive sun deck on Deck 19, available only to Aurea passengers, right at the top of the ship. Towel service is available, but you will have to get your own drinks.
MSC Bellissima Services
All the shops are on Deck 6, either at the start of the main Atrium or along the Galleria Bellissima. Here you will find a logo shop, essentials, high-end watches, h&bags & other duty-free goods. There are daily promotions which you can read about in your Daily Program.
The Photo Studio is on Deck 6, while the guest services & shore excursions desks are on Deck 5, in the main Atrium.
The Wi-Fi onboard is strong but expensive at 39 euros a day. You are better off getting a full cruise package, which works out at 139 euros & you can connect up to four devices.