MSC Cruises Reviews

Year Started: 1987
Ships in Fleet: 12
Category: Mainstream

Summary: A pan-European mainstream cruise line that competes with Costa. New, massive ships with decent food and entertainment, Look for bargains in Caribbean.

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MSC Cruise Ships

2 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Transatlantic

Good for: Foodies. Seniors. First-time Cruisers.

5 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean, Transatlantic

Good for: Group. Families. Value for Money.

3 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean, Transatlantic

Good for: Children`s Programs. Families. Foodies.

28 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean

Good for: Foodies. Families. Group.

4 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, South America, Transatlantic

Good for: Foodies. Children`s Programs. Families.

6 Reviews

Regions:Southern Caribbean, Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, South America

Good for: Foodies. Children`s Programs. Families.

21 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, Transatlantic

Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.

15 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean, South America, Transatlantic

Good for: Foodies. First-time Cruisers. Families.

16 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, Transatlantic

Good for: Value for Money. Foodies. Group.

0 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean

Good for: Foodies. Children`s Programs. Families.

6 Reviews

Regions:Africa, Mediterranean, Transatlantic

Good for: Foodies. Group. Families.

6 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean

Good for: Foodies. Group. Families.

User Ratings

Overall Rating
3.73
from 112 reviews

Cuisine

Service Level

Value for Money

Ship Décor

Public Rooms

Staterooms

Kid's Programs

Daytime Activities

Nightlife

Shore Tours

Itinerary

Alternative Dining

User Reviews

112 User Reviews of MSC Ships
Southern Caribbean
Publication Date: February 4, 2005

Wow, what a great trip. Everything was wonderful. Very comparable to HAL, Celebrity, RCCL & Princess. Cabin stewards among the best. I can remember every single dinner. What fantastic food! The appetizers, soups & main courses were gourmet. Because they have no "gourmet room" that charges like Holland America, Princess & Royal Caribbean have, I think the food on MSC in the dining room is better!!! The fish and meat dishes were A+ at every dinner!

And the ports were simply the best - What a fantastic time: Went on a memorable Rainforest "Arial Tram Tour" while in Costa Rica (saw a wild parrot); Went ashore and visited up close the Panama Canal locks; Took a taxi into Colon, Panama; Visited the unique and never to be forgotten San Blas Indians; Toured the old town in Cartagena, Columbia and scaled Dunn River Falls in beautiful Ocho Rios, Jamaica. All quite memorable.

Only small negative were the fellow cruisers who kept saying "This isn't as good as..HAL, RCCL, Princess, etc." I highly recommend the MSC Lirica.

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: January 29, 2005

We just returned for a delightful week on the MSC Opera. As the 'new girl' in the Caribbean I think she rates very high overall.She is truly Italian in feel but will have problems in the North American market. Americans think they want the 'Italian epxerience' but they realy want it 'American style'.

We recently sailed on Costa Atlantica and that is more what they want but we all know who is Costa's boss!

The ship itself is beautiful. A little confusing with some elevators going only so far but you learn fast which ones do that. I found it a bit strange there was no single deck that circled the whole ship but again thst was easy to overcome.

The cabins were a bit smaller than Costa but quite adequate with plenty of storage space and the bathroom was roomy. The shower and curtain were great! The balcony was narrow but it still had plenty of room to sit and enjoy the sea air and the sliding door was delightful as we like to keep the door open.

I was a little disappointed in the dinner meals but overall the food

was good and there was a good choice each day. Our waiter Americo was a delightful man as was the bus boy (whose name I cannot remember,I'm sorry.The lunches in the dining rooms were usually very good and the Pizza was amazing. We did not do the late buffets but looked a few times and they did look very good.

The Animation staff were unequalled to any on any other cruise we've been on. There were very friendly, not pushy and always on the go.The cruise director Marco was great and what can I say about Joe? He just floated across the dance floor.

I found the reception and cruise tour staff a bit abrupt but that's Italian style. The non-Italian staff seemed to be more abrasive.

The American hostess Vanessa was the most unfriendly person I met on the ship. I heard this from many passengers who also all felt she was totally disinterested in everything about the cruise. I tried to have a converstation with her(I had NO complaints)but gave up as she really didn't care and did not want to talk to me and she was on duty at the time.I felt this was quite unfortunate because a a travel agency owner I was interested in passenger feed back to help me in selling this cruise. I did not meet Amanda but Patrick showed some interest in talking to me. The impression I got was if you don't have a problem don't bother me.

The entertainment was excellant and the bands were great. The music in the lounge for Afternooon Tea was wonderful..especially the violinist who made his violin dance.

It was wonderful not to have assinine photographers in your face all the time. There was action around the pool a good part of the day for those who wanted to partake but there were no loud annoucements telling you about it. There was plenty to do..a good library on board,internet for those who just can't escape 'the net' even for a week,lectures,dancing in the evening in many venues,a wonderful piano bar and quite lounges.

I like the size of this ship as you can get to know people because you see them more than once!

The embarkation/disembarkation were very smoothe.

This ship has to be sold as an Italian experience not 'Italian style'.It has the wonderful 'flavour'

of Europe without having to go to Europe. As long as your passenger knows this in advance they will enjoy this cruise much more.

I hope you do well in this market but it will be difficult as some Americans think there is only one way to do things and will not adapt to any change.Instead of complaining about the different languages why not learn a few new words?

Overall,this was a very enjoyable cruise and as I said being an agecny owner I feel comfortable selling this ship and MSC. We had some clients on the Lirica on your Jan 15 sailing and they loved every minute.

Keep up the good work.

Caio!

Carol Hamilton

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: January 28, 2005

If you are contemplating taking a cruise on the OPERA read this first. I just came back today from a 7 day cruise Jan 29th-Feb 5th 2005 and I must say that this is the most disappointing cruise I ever made (last 7 years). This cruise line will not be around if the attitude of their personnel does not change in the next few months.

On the positive side, getting onboard was quick and easy. The ship is new thus very clean. However many things need a special attention from the top management of the company. I have already given these infos to the hostess of the Opera but I do not know at what stage these comments are going to get lost

1 The magnetic card they provide you to enter your room shows your room no. All hotels and other places that use this system do not show the room no because should someone lose their card , the room could be emptied by whoever should find it.

2 The first morning I went to get a drink from the orange juice fountain on the top deck. It smelled

and tasted like it was part orange juice mixed with grapefruit juice. I tried to bring this up with the personnel on the deck but nobody seemed interested. I got in touch with the assistant maitre D later on and explained to him that it could be very dangerous for people who have to take pills with grapefruit juice. He didn't seem to be aware of this but he said that it was impossible that they would have grapefruit juice in the orange dispenser. We were having this discussion beside some people that were sitting at a dining table and they told the asst maitre D that they also were sure that there was at least part of the mixture that contained grapefruit juice. He just walked away. The following day, I went to the Maitre D himself and explained to him the same concern and that I had been in the main dining room where they served real orange juice. He just told me ''then if you want real juice, you just have to come down to this dining room and get some'' I was only trying to be helpful and this is the way you get treated by top management of the ship what can you expect on the way down the ladder. Later on during the week, we did have real orange juice. I am not saying this was done by the ship people, but someone should have the open mind to accept that there is a possibility that there could be a mistake made by someone and take note to correct it

3. The attitude of the waiters is arrogant in many instances. Several times, I returned the food that arrived cold and as soon as I would do this, their attention becomes nil to our needs. They start talking between themselves in Italian about the different guests not knowing that some people will not volunteer the fact they understand Italian. On Thursday noon, there was meatloaf on the menu and when the other couple asked it the meatloaf was made with beef or pork, the girl said that she didn't know and didn't feel the need to find out. 20 minutes later the couple had not been served anything, so they just left. In case you want to know, it is important to know if the meatloaf is made with beef or pork IF YOU ARE JEWISH. When you go to the dining room for breakfast or lunch and you see 8 waiters chatting between themselves and no one comes to serve you because the waiter that serves your table is gone to the kitchen and it seems that only he can serve you coffee or a glass of water, it gets me mad. Saturday morning, I dared to ask one of the other waiter to serve me a cup of coffee and when I took a sip, it tasted exactly like the water that you drink from the faucet in our room CHLORINE

I told the waiter that it tasted awful and he replied to me that I should drink Expresso.

4. When you get onboard your ship, you are completely cut off from the rest of the world. You have 2 preacher channels but not one single news channel so that you know what is going on in the rest of the world. . It would be nice to have at least one location on ship where you could see a news channel CNN, FOX or whatever during the day.

When you get up in the morning, if you happened to be before 6:30 you cannot get any food. Coffee (if you can call it that) is served only on the open deck. It it is windy and cold like it was this week you are out of luck. I wonder what happens to people who are hungry in the middle of the night.

There are no Laundromats on any floor. The only way you can get some clothes cleaned or ironed is thru your services. At $1.15 for a pair of socks and 4$ for a shirt, it turns you off.

The casino is opened only certain hours of the day. You can't play blackjack between 6.30 and 8.30 at night even when you are at sea There are many complaints from the blackjack players about the special rules made by the operating company that stack the odds in their favor. The only place I have seen this in North America is on that ship. The rooms are very small 9 X 15 but that I can live with if the price is advantageous At both St Thomas and Ste Croix, you are stationed at the complete opposite side of the other cruise ships. A 30 minutes ride across the island in the case of Ste Croix. That I can also understand since they are the last kid arrived in the block. BUT..... In St Thomas we got off the ship and we were told there would be buses to take us to town or the other side of the island where all the other major ships were. We got on the bus and halfway between the ship and the town the driver stopped and told us we all had to pay $4 or get off the bus and walk the rest of the way. If we would have been told before getting on the bus that there would a charge of $4 it would have been acceptable but everyone onboard felt that we were being hijacked by the driver.

The food on the top deck is very ordinary and lukewarm at best. I asked for a pepperoni pizza and no kidding there was only 6 little slices of pepperoni on a 12 inch pizza. If you like pasta, you will be happy for 7 days.

On Saturday we were sent to the 12th deck and told to be there for 7:30. We got off only at 10:30. Again I am willing to accept this because MSC has last priority at all ports

I am planning a cruise for next year for the whole family and you can be sure that MSC will not be on my list of options

I met 3 travel agents on the ship that told me the same thing and one of them told me there is travel magazine evaluator that was also onboard and that he felt the same way.

If you intend to have a wonderful experience when you take a cruise, consider Carnival, Celebrity, Sun Princess, Royal Carribean instead .

I strongly would recommend MSC to send their top management on other ships with an open mind attitude to see how American and Canadian people like to be treated. If they are planning to make headway start with Carnival and then when they want to get more money for their rooms, move on to the Princess line and see how people are pampered there instead of being treated like they know nothing about cruises ships.

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: January 22, 2005

I'm back from another great cruise and wanted to share some initial thoughts. A full review will follow sometime in the future. I had hoped to fly directly home after the cruise but mother nature decided against that. An ice storm in Atlanta wreaked havoc and almost every flight into the city was canceled. I spent the night at my mom's who lives across Florida outside Naples and made it back to Atlanta on Sunday. As fate would have it, I'm missing a bag and I only hope it turns up. After working 11 years at Delta I've never had them lose a bag, and I hope my luck doesn't change now. Regarding the ice storm ... well it's a distant memory and it's all but melted.

I sailed on this cruise with my mom and a couple friends and I like to think we all had a great time. I know I did! I absolutely loved the ship ... there is so much public space per passenger. The MSC OPERA is practically a brand new and her size is around 58,000gt so she is not too big or too

small. She is considered a medium to small sized ship by today's standards. For a smaller ship, the amount of public rooms is amazing not to mention the variety of bands, bars, and dance floors. In fact there seemed to be more public areas than ships almost double her size. Most of all, I loved the Italian/European atmosphere. MSC Cruises is an Italian cruise line that is just breaking into the North American market. It was a breath of fresh air and the most refreshing cruise I have taken in a long time. I can't say enough about the staff, entertainment, and of course the energetic Animation Team! They were amazing. What other cruise line schedules an activity at 1:15am?? These guys (and gals) always looked like they were having such a great time and I just wonder where they get all their energy from?? I really admired them.

Dinners were fantastic. The best I've had since Silversea. The pasta dishes and bread were to die for. Our dining room staff was excellent and food was served at a very good pace. Our waiter Pepe would never bat an eyelash at special requests or orders for extra entrees. We were even granted a specific table I requested in advance. I had faxed the Maitre d' directly before the cruise and requested a large, round table by the aft windows of the smaller L'Approdo Restaurant. A reservation card was waiting in my cabin, and sure enough we were escorted the first night to the exact location I had requested.

There were a few minor details that could use improving. Better cabin TV programming. More equipment in the gym (such as elliptical machines). More MSC logo items in the gift shop. Larger cups in the buffet. As I stated, they are minor and easily corrected. Even so, MSC gets really high marks from me and I would sail them again in a heartbeat. My only wish is that they don't change and become too Americanized. It was everything European about the line that I truly enjoyed. I felt more like I was cruising the Mediterranean than the Caribbean. English was definitely not the first language spoken by the staff, crew, singers and musicians. Italian was #1 but everyone did know at least some English. It was also the things MSC Cruises doesn't do which I found refreshing. No bargain basement tables in the lobby selling $10 t-shirts. No art auctions. No revenue producing announcements. No "inch of gold" being hacked everywhere. No pushing drinks. Unlimited large towels by the pool. No waiters singing "hot, hot, hot" in the dining room. Fresh fruit everyday in the cabin. No automated gratuities. No pushing for "excellent" grades on the comment form. In a nutshell, it was very civilized. I might also add it was the easiest and quickest embarkation I have ever experienced.

On a side note, I felt the officers, staff, and crew onboard were probably the best looking I have seen on a cruise ship. ;) There was also much more officer/staff interaction with passengers then I have seen before. This made for a great evening atmosphere in the lounges. The entertainment staff such as the dancers and Animation Team also worked much harder compared to other cruise lines. They were everywhere at all hours interacting with passengers and trying to make sure everyone had a great time. The dancers and entertainers also don't get away with just two production shows during a 7-day cruise (as on most lines). In fact they had some type of performance almost every night in the show lounge, either with their own show or complimenting the other entertainment acts where were featured.

In closing, I truly wish MSC all the success in the world. They are not for everyone but for those that enjoy a multi-cultural experience at sea on a quality product you can't beat it.

Ernie

Click Link for pics: http://public.fotki.com/eroller/msc_opera_-_1222005/

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: January 22, 2005

MSC Opera, sailed to try thr line. I read it was superior class service..Not even close. The ship was very cheap, laminate oak and mirrors..not quite the elegance that you see on all ships that are new. ship was not clean and cabin so so small..I could not use my chair at vanity as it was stuck under vanity and it would hit the bed when you tried to pull it out. The cabin staff not friendly and did not stock the mini bar when requested.

I called for room service, a pot of coffee and was advised no they would not as I did not fill out form and hang on door. again cabin staff did not place any in cabin..Not a ship or line I would reccomend considering all the great choices out there..they have a long way to go to livce up to their advertising..also food was so salty..

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: January 15, 2005

This cruise line was billed to be an upscale line with a former head of Celebrity directing the operations; forget about it. While Celebrity Cruise lines are known for their superior cuisine this new line, MSC cruises, will soon be known for their inferior cuisine. Truthfully this not only my opinion but also the opinion of many other people on the ship. A young couple said it best, this is our first cruise and we always heard that the dining experience was the high point of the cruise but this food is nothing to write home about.

It was not so much the preparation or the style of the cuisine as it was the ingredients or more accurately the lack of ingredients. Italian rice and pasta dishes on the menu stated shrimp, scallops and, etc., as ingredients. One tiny shrimp on an entire plate. Turkey loaf at the carving station at lunch and that was the only item that day at the carving station. How expensive is a whole turkey? On the positive side;a new beautiful ship, very clean, all service personnel was top notch, and fine entertainment particularly in the lounges.

Also there were four ports of call not three as on some others.
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South America
Publication Date: January 4, 2005

I disembarked the MSC Armonia in January 2005 after we sailed seven days from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador and back. For anyone thinking about booking this line, my advice is to do some homework first. As detailed below, I thought this was a horrible cruise, although in fairness to MSC I have heard that the Armonia experience outside of Brazil is not as bad. It could hardly be worse.

I have been on 35 cruises, on Seabourne, Crystal, Orient, HAL, Carnival, Celebrity, RCCL and others. I am knowledgeable and do not consider myself a snob. I have no axe to grind. This was by far the worst cruise I have been on, both in absolute terms and in terms of value.

The Food

Since we sailed over the New Year, prices might have been inflated. An inside cabin cost about $300 per day per couple. I can usually get outside cabins on Carnival and RCCL for that price or less. Without regard to price, the food was horrendous. The only breakfast available free from room service is a continental one of bread and coffee. Other room service breakfasts came with a charge. There

was also an extra charge for all other room service snacks. The breakfast buffet was scrambled and hard boiled eggs only -- no omelet station -- sometimes accompanied by reheated hot dogs, greasy bacon or unappetizing cold cuts. The fruit was all canned except for the melon; there was only white toast -- forget English muffins or bagels. The juice was like Kool-aid. There was no variety day after day.

The lunch buffet was not much better. It seemed like the food was recycled. The desserts were bad. As Italians, they ought to be ashamed of what they call pizza: It was worse than any improperly cooked frozen pizza I ever tasted (and I was a bachelor for a long time). They served poor quality hotdogs and hamburgers at the poolside grill, and there was no option for a cheeseburger or veggie-burger; nor was there any relish or pickles. Food handlers often were not wearing gloves, so it didn't come as a total surprise when I got sick the last day of the cruise.

Curiously, in the buffet lines and at the grill there are no food trays, so you must carry a large plate and put everything on it, including utensils and drinks. This was quite challenging for even the most dexterous of passengers. Forget about service: The waiters were there to clear the tables, nothing else. My wife and I played cards for four hours one afternoon at a poolside table on deck, and no one ever asked if we wanted a drink. The ice cream bar was closed - I was told it wasn't profitable.

Dinner in the dining room was bad. Service was marginal at best. I attribute the poor service to senior dining room staff, including the manager. An incident that occurred right boarding provided a clue to the level of service. Through no fault of our own, we were not provided with a dining room seating assignment. I called Reception to get one, but I was told (after some delay and a couple of follow-up calls) I would have to go to the dining room to get one. Consequently, I had to wait in line approximately one hour just to get a table assignment. Though service was lackluster, it was nowhere near as bad as the food itself. Pasta was served every day -- which is fine, but with only the identical mundane tomato sauce every day? Breadsticks and rolls were ordinary – there was no bread tray. Soups all tasted the same no matter what they were called. The food was over-salted. The meat was as tough as shoe leather. Fish came without all the scales removed. Some dishes were downright inedible. My tablemates concurred.

Entertainment

The dancers were OK as performers, but the production values of the shows were poor. The costumes, lighting, props and decor were all amateurish. Music in the lounges was very limited and ordinary at best. We like to dance and have a cocktail before dinner, and we couldn't find a decent spot to do so.

There was no functioning library or card room. On the last day, the library was open one hour. It had only a small selection of English paperbacks, probably left behind by passengers, and one Spanish-language Scrabble set.

Accommodations

The cabins were smallish at 144 sq. ft., but had adequate storage space, some of which would have been better devoted to making the uncomfortably tiny shower larger. There was a small refrigerator - good for keeping your own drinks cold, although the price of drinks aboard was reasonable. TV in the rooms advertised pay movies, but they were not operable in any language. There was not much programming at any time, though we did get CNN for a while one day. The cabin attendant provided the best (in fact, the only) decent service.

The shops were only open limited hours, but that was no problem since they didn't have much to offer. I thought the layout of the shops was disorganized. The underutilized casino had a couple of roulette and blackjack tables and a modest number of slot machines. I don't remember a craps table although there was ample space to install one.

The pool was always crowded because on this South American run there were loads of kids...to whom I have no objection. It's just that it was noisy and crowded. The ship had a smallish gym with minimal weight and cable machines. It cost extra to use the steam room and sauna - a first in my experience.

Bad First Impression

Probably the worst part of the cruise was the very first part -- embarkation. We somehow got left off the passenger list. A friendly land agent of MSC (I later learned) who didn't want me to recognize his affiliation told me to go F* myself as we frantically tried to convince MSC staff we had indeed paid for this fiasco. When I complained to MSC management (after boarding and in a detailed written memo), I was told they would get back to me. No apology was forthcoming while we were on board, nor was any explanation given as to why we were not on the passenger list. When I contacted MSC management after the cruise, they told me my complaint memo had been lost, and could I please resubmit it! I did. No apology or explanation was ever given. They just ignored me.

Unless this cruise was an aberration I advise against spending your money with MSC: Caveat emptor.

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Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: November 15, 2004

About Us

We are 55 and 60 years old, and have traveled extensively. We took the westbound transatlantic crossing of the Opera in November 2004, starting in Genoa, Italy and ending in Ft. Lauderdale. This was our seventh cruise together.

The Ship

If you have a specific idea of what cruising should be, with a thousand detailed requirements, you will not enjoy this ship. It does not offer the same experience as Carnival, Royal Caribbean or Norwegian and probably never will. If, on the other hand, you find the interplay of cultures fascinating, and find differences stimulating, you'll have a wonderful time.

MSC is an Italian company. It is the second-largest cargo line in the world and is relatively new to the cruise market, so it offers some good values.

At least half the passengers on our crossing were Europeans, and the blessedly few PA announcements were in English, German, Italian, French and Spanish. Service personnel must function in most of these languages. Some do this better than others, but all seemed pleasant and patient.

The new MSC Opera is a sleek greyhound. It was designed for the luxury trade before the company decided to pursue

the budget end of the market. The interiors are quietly elegant in dark blues, smoky plums, corals and creams. There's no art in particular, but lighting fixtures are designed like big sculptures. The ship lacks glass-sided elevators, high atriums and Vegas-style metallic glitz, but makes up for it by being really comfortable and human-scaled like a good European hotel. It has lots of small places to settle in, lots of glass and views of the sea.

The top deck has two pools and is very lively. (There is often an excitable host screaming in several languages, and running incomprehensible games and contests with enthusiastic passengers, as Euro-pop blares on the speakers.) If you want quiet, there are lounge chairs on the Boat Deck most days and also at the stern of many of the cabin decks.

We had an inside cabin. It was not the largest we've been in, but the mirror layout was the best we've seen, giving more light and sense of space than we expected. The bathroom was equally well-planned, and generously sized with an excellent shower. Water heat and pressure were both good.

Food and Restaurants

The smaller of the two restaurants, L'approdo, is a jewel box of red and pink. The larger restaurant, La Caravella, is very sophisticated in green, cream and yellow, with lots of columns and divisions so it seems more intimate than its size would indicate. A cafeteria on the top deck provides indoor and outdoor seating.

The Opera's northern Italian cuisine was extraordinarily good. We were aboard for 17 days and they didn't miss on a pasta or risotto once; good pizza, superb homemade ice cream, excellent bread, good soup. We found the meat entrees a little lacking but others singled them out as exceptional. You could always get a grilled sirloin or chicken if you didn't like the chef's entrees.

The cakes were of the baba au rhum variety -- very airy and not much chocolate, but plenty of variety. There were lots of salads and fruit, and fresh fruit was available in the rooms.

The Staff

The Italian waiters joke a little too much at first and aren't always successful in their attempts to charm you. On the whole they are very good. When I expressed a preference for iced tea and breadsticks rather than rolls, I found them waiting every night. Luigi was an excellent waiter, Mario and Carlo excellent maitre d's (and Sylvie was a superb cabin steward).

MSC has a policy that you don't have to tip if you don't want to. This is churlish -- the staff deserves it, they work hard. We followed the policy we have always followed. We ignored management's guidelines and tipped what we wanted to and felt was appropriate.

Best and Worst Aspects of the Opera

The intimacy and sheer livability of the ship were the main virtues for us. But one of the most civilized things is that they allow you to get duty free liquor and open and consume it in your room. They don't seal it for the voyage so you'll order more from the bars -- like many other lines do.

There are two really bad things about the ship:

1)Smoking. Many Europeans smoke like chimneys. And seemingly they aren't even aware it might hurt others. Fortunately smoking is not allowed in the restaurants, but the outdoor patio area was rendered unusable for non-smokers. This was a big disappointment to us, but didn't ruin the cruise. We don't go to the lounges at night (we like to get up for the dawn), but we heard there were fights in the lounges when people ignored the no-smoking designations. And there's nothing like being in a jammed corridor trying to exit the ship in a port and having someone light up.

Some Americans complained to the offenders, but many of the smokers didn't speak English, so it was futile. We never saw staff do anything to enforce the no-smoking areas. I am asthmatic and suffer from smoke, but I was able to get away from it. Judge for yourself whether it makes a difference to you.

2)Management. The operation of the ship was charming but utterly chaotic -- generally inefficient and sometimes maddeningly so, and in odd ways. The loading of the ship in Genoa, for example, was the most efficient I have ever seen. You checked in, reserved your dining table, and booked your shore excursions in one very smooth line. But once on board, both the purser's and excursion desks were uninformed and uncoordinated.

For example, we tried to book a transfer from the dock to Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Reception said Shore Excursions handled that, Shore Excursions said Reception handled it; they bounced us back and forth, called each other and yelled into the phone. We eventually got to the airport and made our flight, but a little more coordination would have worked wonders.

Similarly the 24 hour Internet service broke down periodically because the satellite gave them problems. Nobody had any idea when it would be fixed. There is a technician on board but service remained unreliable.

Our two valiant American hostesses, Amanda and Vanessa, bravely took a barrage of passenger criticism, justified and otherwise, and relayed the complaints to management. Often the response from the bridge was an automatic "no," but then the problem would be mysteriously solved 24 hours later.

Other Passengers

The Americans on this positioning cruise were largely retired, many from Florida. They are very experienced budget cruisers -- they have taken every line and have fixed expectations about what they want from a cruise. When they don't get what they are used to from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, etc., they don't perceive this European ship as different, they perceive it as WRONG! This makes some of them very hostile.

For example, there are only small cups of ice water on a hot day -- not spigots of iced tea or fruit juice like on other ships. There is iced tea but only in the dining rooms -- not in the cafeteria or outdoor patio. This made a lot of people hostile. (Until management gets around to this one, bring a tall insulated mug and make your own).

We were told there is little music for ballroom dancing at night -- only disco (I guess their Mediterranean cruises have more young people; Europeans have longer vacations than us and the American passengers skewed older).

There are movies on the TV but they are dubbed in many languages, and the English-language originals are often not on at convenient times, nor are the schedules reliable. "Welcome to Mooseport" loses something when dubbed in German.

Some passengers just don't like being around so many people they can't talk to, and grow impatient when instructions have to be translated. Also, some cultures are trained to get on line, while others just crowd in, which makes for conflict. If management would put rope lines in front of the reception counter, that might defuse a lot of bad feeling.

We read some hostile reviews of this ship and its sister ship, the Lirica, before we booked this, but we must say we enjoyed the experience thoroughly and found it a phenomenal value. You just have to know what you are getting in to.

Shops

The shops are very tasteful and expensive, which made no sense. The shops were one aspect of the ship not recalibrated for budget cruising. The stock was entirely for the European market, the wrong weight clothing, and not even in American sizes. They didn't sell bottles of aspirin or Tylenol, but did sell several kinds of expensive anti-cellulite cream. Considering the average age and needs of Caribbean cruisers, this is pretty odd. Also, one lone bottle of SPF sun block shared shelf space with plentiful supplies of old-fashioned tanning butter.

If they sold some insulated mugs with the ship's logo, they'd clean up and stop the no-iced-tea hostility, but they are not yet that sensible. The $350 sweaters didn't sell, even at 50% off. When the temperature outside went to 90 degrees, people wanted tee shirts. They only had a few, and they were expensive and for sale only in the liquor store! A simple $29 item in the jewelry shop would have sold out. But they didn't have anything in that category.

Shore Excursions

The stops on our crossing were: Barcelona, Casablanca, Funchal, Barbados, Antigua, Tortola, St. Maarten, and Nassau. Excursions were generally well run. Remember to bring euros for Barcelona and Funchal (not all the Americans on board did). The ship charges 3 percent to change money (and to cash travelers' checks!).

The full-day excursion to Marrakesh from Casablanca, which includes a four hour bus trip both ways, is exhausting but worth it! In Madeira, we found riding a wicker basket down a mountain in Funchal is terrifying without much thrill. They don't tell you you're riding down a HIGHWAY with trucks coming at you and you're being steered by two guys with string. Take a cab to the top of the cable car instead. Also, Tortola is the most beautiful place I ever saw in the Caribbean.

A note on luggage: Our luggage was lost between Paris and Genoa. The idea of a 17-day cruise with no luggage was really frightening, but it was found and delivered to our hotel at midnight the night before we departed. We met people whose luggage was lost connecting from Rome, Frankfurt and London. Some bags caught up with the ship before we left, some joined us at our first stop in Barcelona, some never caught up at all. Since the art of transferring baggage seems to have been lost, travel insurance is a good idea, at least giving you some money for replacement clothing. And pack your carry-on bags carefully in case your big suitcases go AWOL.

Hope for the Future

MSC has hired management from American cruise lines to explain American cruise culture to them, so improvement should be swift. They are really trying hard. But I don't expect they'll ever be "plain vanilla." If you like, by all means give them a try, but only if you understand it's going to be different, and that's not a bad thing.

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Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: May 15, 2004

Embarcation was fast and efficient,luggage delivered within 3 hrs.Cabin was adequate, twin beds/window.Lots of cubby holes,plenty of storage space.Nice touch was fresh pitchers of ice water all day.

Lirica is beautiful,lots of marble,brass and mirrors.Although booked solid,elevators and public toilets uncrowded. Terrific seating in theater,always a seat to be had.Great Las Vegas type shows with beautiful girls and costumes almost every night. Service and food very good.Great pancakes,pasta and gelato.

Live music all over the ship with a fun group of youngsters leading the way. We saw great operas,had fun and games,4 cocktail parties. Great cruise,best of 7 we've taken.

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: January 26, 2004

Joseph Lee/Angela Howard - Cabin 12029

Re: MSC Lirica Cruise - 1/26/04 - 2/6/04

We have the following comments regarding the cruise, which, in all kindness, we feel should be passed on to the owner(s) of the cruise line:

As you are may be aware, some of the comments posted on-line from fellow passengers on our cruise and comments posted by passengers on the previous cruise (which unfortunately were not available prior to our departure), identify the MSC Lirica as the "Cruise Ship from Hell," among other labels.

Here are some of the deficiencies specifically identified:

1. Our trip started off by having our photos taken as we entered the gangway. Our request to have the picture of the four of us taken was denied as being "not possible." In trying to find our pictures in the photo gallery, we became aware of the fact that there were pictures of three, four and even five people in one shot. Are there different rules for different photographers? As it is, this issue became irrelevant since the ship lost our pictures along with about 25 other guests' pictures.

2. The cabin was acceptable and quite spacious.

However, the refrigerator stopped operating the second day and someone came to look at it approximately 5 days later. By that time it was working marginally and we were advised it was "just defrosting." At the time of the inspection of the refrigerator, the maintenance personnel also checked out the very pronounced indentation in the floor in front of the sliding glass doors. We thought for sure we would end up on the deck below before too long. The electrical outlets for the American products were exposed because some of the covers were missing; there were no outlets in the bathrooms and the doors to the wardrobe did not latch properly and thus the light inside was on most of the time.

3. The robes provided by the ship in our cabin were a nice touch. It would have been really nice to have had the use of them when it really mattered - the evening/morning before debarkation. Since everything was packed except what we were wearing the next day, it would have been nice to put on a robe when we put our luggage out instead of trying to wrap a towel around us.

4. The service at our dinner the first night on board was intolerable and rude. We were served in an abrupt manner and only very grudgingly received water upon request, forget about a soft drink or ice tea. Also, coffee was not offered at any time. We had a recommendation to request Ciccio as our waiter and our request was accommodated, but also very grudgingly. The service we received from Ciccio was superb, proficient and professional. Unfortunately, even very fine service could do nothing to improve the quality or presentation of the food in the dining room.

5. The food at the buffet and grill was marginal, to say the least. The first few days were almost unbearable in that we were served rather large rolls with one thin slice of meat in the middle, very dried out white bread sandwiches with the crusts cut off, marginal salads and very, very dry cakes and desserts. As shown on tours through the galley on other cruise lines, pastries, rolls, breads, etc. are freshly baked. Not on the MSC Lirica - and we can see why there were no tours of the galley given

6. Further to the issue of food and service, we have never been on a cruise where one could not get some kind of snack at any time of day or night. On this cruise, not only were the meal times rather limited, but the buffet, especially, would close 15-20 minutes early. On several occasions, but most pronounced and noticeable to all of us at the outing at the Gatun Yacht Club, was the fact that no food was served on the excursions, and no food was available upon return to the ship. To be fair, there was plenty of fresh fruit and ice cream, and, wonders never cease, free water, soft drinks and beer. Fortunately, none of our party were medically required to have some kind of "real food" between departure at approximately 9:00 a.m. and return approximately 3:00 p.m., so we waited until we could be elbowed by the tremendous rush of bodies to the mid-afternoon buffet when it finally opened at 3:45 p.m.

7. Most mornings we requested breakfast service in our room. Even though we noted that there were 2 people in the cabin, we received our requested order, BUT with one plate and one knife. We do not mind sharing in the least, but can they spare a plate and knife for each of us? We had to note 2 plates, 2 knives on our order, along with 2 people in the cabin and continuously received just one if not otherwise requested.

8. As far as the formal dinners were concerned, unfortunately we could not enjoy them as we had intended since the Ship took it upon themselves to reject - not once, but twice - the delivery of Joe's tuxedo to our cabin. We have never experienced a ship refusing delivery of any kind, since it is quite popular to send and receive "bon voyage" flowers, candies, champagne, etc. Without the proper attire, the experience of the formal dress nights were totally ruined and almost inappropriate - with Angela wearing quite formal attire and Joe in the suit he fortunately brought. The dinner at the formal nights did not differ from any other night, so the atmosphere was only enhanced by the clothes worn, but again diminished by the fact that most of the Europeans must not have been informed of the "formal attire nights" and were notably inappropriately dressed for these occasions.

9. The tours: Fortunately, we did not book any tours, with the exception of the Cartagena City Tour - since we were advised not to venture out on our own into this country, and the Panama/Gatun Yacht Club - since we would not be able to leave the ship otherwise. We also question the appropriateness of having to pay to "get off the ship."

10. Since the ship was usually either late arriving at a given port, or did not dock and tendered the passengers, the time allotted in these ports and our opportunity to experience the various countries and activities offered was diminished and spoiled.

11. Activities on Board: I would highly recommend that someone purchases the "Cruise Video" to get the full effect of the activities offered. We decided not to waste $29.95 on this experience, since we could not justify putting our friends and relatives through the antics of "Mr. Cortez," dressed up in various women's and otherwise unrecognizable attire, hosting contests where, at various times, two guests put their faces into bowls filled with some kind of "goo," a few of the men passengers perform a half striptease and three male passengers have wine or some other liquid squirted into their mouths to win an MSC Lirica t-shirt. Other activities included water balloon tossing around the pool, aerobics (or some form thereof) by the pool (which was the only time there was music by the pool), napkin folding demonstration some place, unhosted chess and bridge club meetings and Italian lessons. Judging by the winner, the Ms. Lirica contest most definitely must have been fixed.

12. The evening entertainment was, if possible, even worse. We looked in and walked out. Our friends looked in, nodded off, and walked out. Definitely not a fun experience.

13. As far as the decor of the ship is concerned, since it is still pretty new, the decor was sparse, but still within acceptable limits. The decorations, such as they were, left a lot to be desired. Not a fresh flower in sight, and even the very, very cheap fake flowers looked wilted.

This experience definitely does not fall into the "want to recommend to anyone" category. We understand that some guests may have "jumped ship" at the first port - we certainly thought about that and more often than not wished we had, and we were told by one woman that her husband was marking off each day of the voyage left with felt-tip marker on their cabin wall. We didn't think it worth the effort.

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