Designed and built as European Vision at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire, France, the 58,625-ton, 1,554-guest Armonia was the first of four nearly identical sister ships built for two completely different companies, MSC and Festival/First European Cruises. When the latter went bankrupt in 2004, MSC scooped up European Vision and her sister ship, European Stars, renamed them Armonia and Sinfonia, and added them to a fleet that already included sister shipsLirica and Opera.
Of moderate size and unpreposessing natures, these four sisters offer an almost old-fashioned kind of cruise experience, giving guests venues in which to socialize and then encouraging them to do so — rather than, say, building in a lot of “wow” features and attractions to get peoples’ adrenalin pumping.
Designed long and low, they offer a surprising amount of public space balanced by a fairly small amount of personal space in their staterooms. Decor is modern and simple, relying heavily on blonde woods, solid-colored upholsteries, and geometric and floral-patterned carpets. Lots of mirrored walls brighten the rooms and add a feeling of extra spaciousness.
Indoor public spaces are mostly arrayed on Decks 5, 6, and 7. Deck 5’s rooms mostly splay out from the main reception desk, and include the Bar del Duomo (essentially a lobby bar); and internet center; shops; a cozy, clubby cigar room; the not terribly pub-like White Lion English Pub; and, in the bow, the two-deck Theatro La Fenice theater. Deck 6 offers a fairly large casino, the Red Bar piano bar, a business center, and the comfortable Caffe San Marco coffee bar, which wraps around the ship’s small atrium.
On Deck 7, the attractive Armonia Lounge offers audience-participation games in the evenings. There’s also a small library/card room here. At the top of the ship, the Starlight Disco has several dance floors that generally hop until far into the night. During the day, the room is an observation lounge.
Kids and teen facilities are also located up here, with the teen center right next to the disco and the Seven Dwarfs–themed “17 Nani” kids center tucked into the same complex as the spa, beauty salon, and tiny gym.
Outdoors, Armonia’s pool deck isn’t terribly fancy, but nonetheless sees heavy use during days at sea, with guests swimming in its two pools, boiling in its two hot tubs, and sunbathing in its comfortable, canopied deck chairs. A jogging track wraps around the deck above, and there’s a sun deck, miniature golf, shuffleboard, and a sports court for basketball and other sports on Deck 13.
For dining, Armonia is very traditional, with all dinners served in two old-fashioned, one-level Marco Polo and La Pergola restaurants. Casual meals can be had at a buffet restaurant in the stern on Deck 11. There’s also an outdoor grill serving pizza, burgers, and other pool-deck food.
As is true generally of MSC, only a few stateroom categories are available on Armonia, the most common being 140-square-foot oceanview staterooms, each of which includes a tiny vanity table, TV, mini-bar, small bathroom with tiny showers, adequate closet and storage space, and a picture window. Inside staterooms are identical, minus the window.
At the high end, the ship’s 132 balcony suites are “suites” in name only, measuring a stingy 248 square feet and outfitted with a double bed, sitting area, 54-square-foot balcony, a bathroom with tub, TV, vanity, and mini-bar.
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