We booked the MSC Rhapsody for a British Isles cruise after an internet search showed it departing from Amsterdam on a date we already planned to end a river cruise in Amsterdam. The price and itinerary were good and thus we set aside our concerns about the passengers and crew being primarily non-english speaking. We've taken a dozen cruises as a family.
Embarkation went smoothly. My wife and I traveled with our two teenage daughters and reserved two low cost rooms on deck 4 forward. The rooms were of reasonable size, but oddly required standard brass room keys with bulky attachments rather than the now familiar thin plastic key cards. The room temperature was controlled by a dial in the ceiling which essentilly moved a vent to full open or full closed. There was no thermostat. It was thus difficult to maintain a comfortable temparature. In short, the ship showed its age.
The deck 4 forward rooms were very noisy during docking or manuvering. Docking or passage through locks included incredible vibrating, pounding and banging as the thrusters were used for 30 to 90 minutes in the wee hours of the morning. I've had lower deck accomodations on other ships and this was far beyond what goes with the lower price of the room.
The ship itself is small with a capacity of around 800. The indoor public areas are limited to the Showboat Lounge where entertainment is held in the evenings and the Casino which commands the forward view space above the bridge. The limited indoor space was an issue due to the italian proclivity to smoke. I'm not hypersensitive to tobacco smoke and I've never asked anyone to stop smoking in my presence, but perhaps that's because I've always been able to escape the smoke when it bothered me. On the Rhapsody, there was no escape. People smoked on deck, in the lounges, in the halls, and in the stairwells.
The food was very good in the main dining room. Our assigned english speaking waiter was excellent. The breakfast and lunch buffets were average. There was no dinner buffet. If you miss your early dinner seating because you are in port (which happened to us) you are out of luck. Room service costs extra and has a very limited menu. There is no 24 hour pizza or pasta bar.
Entertainment was average. The showroom has a low ceiling which limits visibility, but that's to be expected on a smaller ship. They did have a good tenor who did a couple of performances. The dancers made up for limited ability with limited costumes.
In summary, we paid a low price and got a low price cruise on an outdated ship. The Itailian passengers were fun-loving and the lack of english wasn't that big a problem. Unfortunately, the smoking alone would keep me from booking again with MSC in Europe. I'm not sure MSC cares as it is not marketing to Americans.