Year Started: 1987
Ships in Fleet: 12
Summary: A pan-European mainstream cruise line that competes with Costa. New, massive ships with decent food and entertainment, Look for bargains in Caribbean.
Regions:Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Transatlantic
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. Value for Money. Families.
Good for: Children`s Programs. Families. Foodies.
Good for: Foodies. Families. Group.
Regions:Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Good for: Foodies. Children`s Programs. Families.
Good for: Foodies. Group. Families.
Regions:Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Foodies. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Southern Caribbean, Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, South America
Good for: Foodies. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Mediterranean, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Foodies. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Value for Money. Foodies. Group.
Regions:Africa, Mediterranean, Transatlantic
Good for: Foodies. Group. Families.
MSC POESIA Eastern Caribbean Cruise Feb. 18 - 25, 2012 By Mary & Vincent Finelli
Frequently, in various ports, we have seen the Mediterranean Shipping Company's (MSC) beautiful ships. However, this was our first cruise on one of them, the MSC Poesia. We had attempted a few times to book a wheelchair accessible cabin with balcony on this ship, but without luck until now. We are always seeking new cruising experiences, and now we have had the pleasure of cruising Mediterranean style. Thanks to Hotel Director Neven Zdunic and his assistant Mandy Leigh Castle and the two very interesting books they provided us with, we are able to give some pertinent background on this line and its founders.
Commander Gianluigi Aponte's grandfather Luigi Aponte, a venerable sailor, won the 50th Edition of the Italian Unification Trophy, so sailing is in this family's blood. The love of the sea and ships has been passed down for generations. In 1970 the Commander founded the MSC Fleet and it has become the second largest container transportation company in the world. Today, there are two divisions of MSC: the Cargo sector headed by Diego, the Commander's son; andthe MSC Cruises (1987) headed by Alexa, the Commander's daughter. Of prime interest to us is the MSC Cruises which accommodates millions of passengers, sailing from five different continents on more than one dozen ships.
The first liner fleet included the MSC Monterey, the MSC Achille Lauro, the MSC Symphony, the MSC Rhapsody and the Flagship the MSC Melody, which was proclaimed "the most beautiful ship in the world" in 2000.
EMBARKATION Pier 4 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL is a very small area near the Princess Pier. Even though we did not have our luggage tags prior to departure, they were tagged by the porters and arrived very efficiently in our stateroom. Check in was simple and speedy, since priority is given to wheelchairs. Upon entering the ship, passengers are greeted by a long line of cabin boys at attention. They take hand luggage and escort passengers to their cabins, how elegant, just like the golden era of famous "Blue Riband" passenger liners.
THE SHIP The MSC Poesia is designated Keel S32 , designed by De Jorio International of Genoa and built in Aker St. Nazaire Shipyards, France. Embedded in her keel are two gold coins: one from the Aponte family and one from the ship builders, as a tribute to their collaboration. The Poesia is 964 ft. long, 106 ft. wide, her draft is 26 ft. and she weighs 92,400 tons, with a cruising speed of 23 knots. She has 1,275 cabins and 72,000 sq. ft. of Public Areas. Sophia Loren is Godmother of the MSC Fleet and christened the Poesia April 8, 2008 in Dover, England. Each MSC ship displays on her navy blue funnel the starred rose wind compass once used by ancient mariners.
The Poesia is poetry in motion. This extravagantly decorated ship evokes memories of last century's liners (circa 1960s) where modern art intersected with furnishings. The many armless contour chairs throughout the ship and the bold use of repetitive geometric patterns create the feeling of moving in a modern art museum. Yet, the natural lines of the Zebra Lounge on Deck 6 are welcome. Moreover, this lounge is reminiscent of the Zebra Room of the elegant Olympia ship, on which Vincent in the spring of 1956 made his first transatlantic voyage, from Napoli to New York. What follows is a deck by deck description of the 13 Public Decks which are all named after famous Italian Poets.
Decks 1 through 3 are non public areas.
Boccaccio -- Deck 4, at mid ship and prow are the accesses to tenders, aft is the galley.
Petrarca -- Deck 5, from mid ship to forward are all passengers' staterooms and the Medical Center. Mid ship are Le Rendez-Vous Reception Desk and bar, then the Foyer and aft is Le Fontane Restaurant. The Foyer is three decks tall with clean modern lines shiny brass rails and glass etched to simulate ocean waves. It also has the ubiquitous starlight ceiling found throughout the ship.
Dante -- Deck 6 is all passenger areas, forward is the Teatro Carlo Felice; toward mid ship is the Poker Room, Zebra Lounge, duty free shops and boutiques and aft is the Palladio Restaurant (with a picture of the Venetian villa, Palladio's "La Rotonda").
Manzoni -- Deck 7, forward is the theater balcony, then toward mid ship is the Casino Royal, the Library with fine wood and comfortable leather chairs, then there are the Sushi Bar, Cyber CafÃ© and the Photo Arcade. Perhaps the most elegant and interesting place on board is "Il Grappolo d'Oro" Wine Bar with its two arcades of wine history and informative vetrines. The 89 or so larger than life sepia photos of life at the end of 19th century documenting the vinous cycle and those people who participated in wine making are enthralling. But, alas there were no identifying plaques. Perhaps this display was meant to symbolize all vineyards of yesteryear. In the second corridor are a series of massive wooden tables surrounded by substantial black leather chairs. The combination screams solidity as does the elaborate curved bar.
Tasso -- Deck 8, Ungaretti -- Deck 9, Carducci -- Deck 10, D'Annunzio -- Deck 11 and Leopardi -- Deck 12 are all passengers' staterooms. Most are outside cabins, 1000, with only 275 inside cabins. There are 17 wheelchair accessible (12 inside, 2 ocean view and 3 balcony).
Foscolo -- Deck 13 (yes, unlike most other lines the MSC has a Deck 13) forward is the MSC Aurea Spa, toward mid ship are the Pirana Bar, the Coral Bay Spa and pool area, and the Cayo Levantando Pool Area. Aft is the Villa Pompeina Cafeteria with Pompeian art work reproduced on canvas screens. All the way aft is L'Obelisco Ristorante (a la carte).
Pascoli -- Deck 14 forward has cabins. Mid ship is the jogging track and aft is the youth area with Disco, Virtual Games, etcâ€¦.
Alfieri -- Deck 15 forward are suites with balconies and a wheelchair accessible cabin (ours), aft is mini golf and shuffleboard.
Sports -- Deck 16 forward is the Solarium and aft the Sports Center.
This ship is beautifully appointed and very luxurious. The area which needs improvement is in the comfort of the physically challenged passengers. Thresholds should be flat or properly ramped. From our cabin to the dining room, we had 7 thresholds to traverse and each bump causes physical discomfort to anyone using either a wheelchair or walker. The wheelchair accessible cabins, public bathrooms, and egresses to the promenade and the open decks of 13 & 14 need automatic door openers.
There are four sets of elevators/lifts: one forward, two mid ship, and one aft. They are of various sizes and most have narrow doors. The forward set had three small elevators and one, portside near our stateroom, large enough for the wheelchair; we usually waited for this one, rather than brave the others.
CABIN Wheelchair accessible cabin #15025 on Alfieri Deck 15 is forward port side, the first cabin near the elevators. When entering on the left is a long desk/mirrored vanity with six drawers. Next to it is the huge bathroom with a 4'x4' shower with fold away seat. There are safety rails all around. Next is the triple armoire, with two sections for hanging clothes and one section with a private safe and three shelves, then a small mini bar and refrigerator. There is a narrow single chair, armless and one low hassock ottoman.
Straight ahead is the king size bed, flanked by two night stands, each with three drawers and a reading lamp. The dÃ©cor is modern, red carpeting and drapes with black accents. Two huge bolsters are at the head of the bed. Three pictures by Raimondo Briata, dated 2007, decorated the walls. One is titled "Red Rain," the next "Red Sky City," and the third "Flow." The colors complement the dÃ©cor.
There are sliding doors to the huge balcony (20 ft. x 8 ft), which has a rattan set of a table and two chairs. Our fantastic cabin stewards Wayan and Adi added a chaise lounge to it for Vincent. The balcony is covered, providing shade and shelter from the elements. Wayan also procured a small stuffed chair with arms, for our comfort. Alas, no chocolates on the pillows at night.
SERVICE & FOOD This cruise had 2,800 passengers and 980 crew, we were told that 30% of the crew are from the Island of Bali. They were extremely pleasant and polite. Upon arrival on board, the crew was lined up on both sides of the entry in their snappy short jacketed (Bell hop) uniforms ready to escort passengers with their hand luggage to their cabins. This is a nice touch, reminiscent of the Costa lines of last century, and it makes passengers feel pampered. Despite the crew being shorthanded, service was pleasant and prompt.
When contacting the Reception desk, there was a language disconnect at times. For example, we called for breakfast menus for in cabin service -- we were told that they would be delivered the next day. We tried explaining that we wanted the menus tonight for breakfast the next morning. It took three calls to set the message straight, but the menus were delivered to the cabin in fifteen minutes.
The food is excellent on MSC. Normally, we have breakfast in our cabin. Only Continental breakfast is served: rolls, brioche, croissants, toast and cold cereals, fruits, juices, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate (hot chocolate was not on the menu, but we wrote it in and it was delivered). If you want American style breakfast, it is available in the Buffet and the Dining Room.
The Luncheon menu in the restaurant is huge: fried calamari, Greek and Cobb Salads, chicken wings, Italian antipasti, fruit plates, soups, fish, steak and hamburgers. Pasta dishes are also available. Dinner we had at a table for four shared with Henry and Mary Ann from New Jersey. It was always very pleasant and informative, since they had several MSC cruises behind them. We usually judge the food by the quality of the bread: Excellent, well cooked and hot and fresh bread sticks daily.
The piece de resistance in desserts was the Grand Parade of the Baba au rum cakes! Another night there was also a Baked Alaska Parade. Desserts: cannoli, cheesecakes, bread and rice puddings, fruit and cheese plates and ice creams and sherbets.
For us the portion sizes were perfect. We had terrific service in the Palladio Dining Room from Asst. Maitre D' Antonio Ferraiuolo, even to an update on the International Soccer scores (Napoli vs. Chelsea). Our waiter Bobby Kurniawan and his assistant Gede Suardana were quick and efficient -- Great job!''
ENTERTAINMENT This cruise was a special Baseball Greats Invitational. There were Baseball Hall of Fame players who participated in pitching contests, trivia contests, story telling, autograph sessions, question and answer sessions and memorabilia sales.
The Cruise Director Maddy was MC for the shows in the Carlo Felice theater -- a truly beautiful room with deep royal purple seats and excellent acoustics. MSC presented several spectacular shows: "Stars on Broadway" featured Mimma Barra, an excellent soprano, and Giuseppe Fedeli an accomplished tenor. "Follies Barock" was a presentation of the Entertainment Team. Also "Extraordinaire" and "Isha", "Little Italy" and "Sam" featured the MSC singers and dancers.
The buzz on the ship was continuous about the Russian gymnasts and their amazing balancing act, and two other performers -- one on a bicycle and the other with a ladder. All three acts were remnants of old circus days. There were also the usual standards: Captain Raffaele Pontecorvo's cocktail party, Culinary demonstrations by Executive Chef Vincenzo, Wine Tastings, etc., etcâ€¦.
The MSC Poesia is an ebullient ship with many attractions.
PORTS OF CALL Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Depart 6:00pm Day 2. At Sea Day 3. At Sea Day 4. St. Thomas, USVI Arrive 7:00am Depart 7:00pm Day 5. San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive 7:00am Depart 5:00pm Day 6. At Sea Day 7. Nassau, Bahamas Arrive 10:00am Depart 6:00pm Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Arrive 7:00am
DEBARKATION Since both of us have limited mobility, we requested wheelchair assistance for debarkation. A crew member came to our cabin at 8:00am and he accompanied us through a steep gangway to collect our luggage. After passing through customs, our son Marcello picked us up, and we were home in less than half an hour.
SUGGESTIONS Throughout this elegant ship there are varieties of special plants, trees and floral decorations of preserved real foliage which must have been initially beautiful; however, after four long years these decorations look shop worn and battered. In Mary's professional opinion, they should be renewed with more lively ones.
Perhaps an inspection of the ship in regard to wheelchair mobility and access to various places should be conducted with the assistance of a specialist in this matter or by touring the ship in a wheelchair to identify the problem areas which should be made wheelchair friendly. The major problems are thresholds and the lack of automatic door openers in specific access areas.
CONCLUSION This was our first cruise on a MSC ship and it was a nice one. Although we would recommend this ship for the general public, we would not take another cruise with MSC, unless something is done to correct the inconveniences for wheelchair passengers. We hope that, at least for the projected ships, MSC will make them more wheelchair friendly than the Poesia.
We look forward to our next cruise on our old favorite the Grand Princess, March 17th and some future cruises on Princess, RCI and Norwegian Cruise ships, yet to be determined. Happy Cruising!
Review of our 11 Day Cruise on MSC Poesia.
To begin My daughter Celeste and I drove my car, with Scooter in trunk, On Novermber 26 to one of my other daughters home in Pompano Beach. She drove us then to the port where we boarded the Poesia. By arrangements she will pick up on December 6 after we disembark. Good thing to have kin folks spread around. Other members of another daughter, who lives in Taveras, rode in a bus for 6 hours. Not too good. She said next time she will drive.
We passed through emigration and check in with flying colors. Good to have my scooter so we used the handicap lanes to our advantage.
Our Cabin: We had a balcony cabin towards the bow of the ship. Nice cabin but we had to rearange the furniture so I could get the scooter in each nite for battery charging. So we put on the twins against the head wall and the other across the other wall. This left a passageway of about 4 feet adequate for my scooter to pass thru. Good arrangement and the Cabin Stu wentalong with it. The cabin was very nice but the balcony was very narrow. Only about 4 feet deep. But we got along very well.
Food: I was disappointed with the dinning room food Not up to par IMO. One steak was not good and sent it back. The service was also not up to par. Too long between servings. I blame this on the Galley not the waiters. We were allowed to make daily coments about the food and service each day. Some comments were not to good but other times it was OK. At least we did not starve.
Intertainment: There were several acts that was excellent. But the Production events were not as good as other cruise lines were.
Interior of the Ship: IMO it was excellent. Very colorful and oddly arranged and nice. Got lost several times but that did not matter because we had 10 full days. The Show Room had a very bad safety hazard. There was not a hand rail going down the steps in the room. I wrote this up on my survey and recommended they install rails. I watched, especially the elder folks walking down and they had to hold onto the back of the seats to keep from falling
Excursions: I did not go any excursion. Celeste went on one in Jamacia. She took the Zipline one and had a very good time. There was 12 platforms they had to use two longs ones and the rest were short. They had to propell themselves to get upon each platform. Took a lot effort but she made in flying colors. There was one guy 81 years of age. He had a very difficult time so she said. Other ports we went into town and messed around, me with my scooter.
Itin: Almost forgot. We were on he Carib cruise visiting Curacao, Aruba, Cartagena, Panama and Jamacia. We had a very good time..
I have mailed the following to MSC twice, once from France, and the next time from NY. I have also tried (without success) to get an email response from them. The second letter outlines the 'highlights' of our cruise from hell. Believe me, I could have gone on and on, but my better sense told me to just elaborate on the parts of the cruise that were the most annoying. We complained on a daily basis while we were on board, but this too, fell upon deaf ears.
MSC Cruise Lines
6750 North Andrews Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33309
ATT: Customer Relations
Re: Conf # 5924138 and 140 August 14-21, 2011
I sent the attached correspondence to you on August 22, 2011 from France. I think that you have had ample time to address the issues that were briefly outlined in the letter. To date, I have not heard a word from you by phone, fax, mail or e-mail. It is my intention to send a copy of this letter to CLIA and to all the professional and non professional travel publications in order to get my point across. That point being that MSCabandons the client once they have received payment. This is unheard of in a service industry. I think my issues should have been given some credence and consideration. I also think that as travel professionals, you should have responded to me long before this date; almost 2 months have elapsed since I sent the original correspondence to you and today.
August 22, 2011
MSC Cruise Lines
6750 North Andrews Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33309
Re: Conf # 5924138/40 Musica Aug 14-21, 2011 Passenger #''s 1590730, 31, 32, 33
1500753, 54, 55, 56
Cat 4 Original Cabin #'s 5038/40 Upgraded Cabin 12074/76
We have just returned from our week aboard the Musica. Initially, we were happy that our cabins were upgraded. Knowing that there were 2 adults and 2 children in each cabin, we should only have been upgraded into cabins that slept 4 passengers (this is why I booked the lower quad cabin class in the first place), why would you place us into cabins without adequate bed space for our family? One of the children in the second cabin was a child, 16 months old, yet we were not even offered a crib. In order to fit a porta-crib, which my daughter brought along with her, into the cabin; the night stands and bedside lamps had to be removed. The baby slept face to face with her mother, and the storage space was even more limited. In my room, two children could not sleep on the small sofa bed made for one person. Reception offered us a mattress that was to be placed on the floor at the foot of the bed (1. It didn't arrive until after 11 pm the first night. 2. There was no place to walk around the bed if one had to get out at night). I would also like to tell you that the mattress couldn't even lay flat in the space provided. To my mind, this was both a fire and health hazard. Reception also told us that after the disembarkation and embarkation in Bari, they would change our cabins. This never happened.
Now would also be a good time to mention that I am handicapped and have tremendous difficulty walking. I would also like to say that I have cruised over 30 times in my life, and I have never had an experience such as this. I am now retired, but did work in the travel industry for many years, and I know that this situation is unacceptable.
I have other issues as well:
1. In the past, the staff at MSC was outstanding, but this was not so on this cruise. The staff had poor/no command of the English language.
2. We paid extra for the privilege of having kosher food on board for us. Since we do not eat non kosher meat, we wanted to have kosher meat available to us. Each and every time we ordered a kosher meal, it was served partially frozen. On the second formal night, my daughter waited over 1 hour and 15 minutes for her food to be served; only to have it brought to the table unthawed.
3. Why is it that this ship charges for drinkable water. A ship should have the option of potable drinking water that can be poured from a pitcher or carafe.
4. Has decaffeinated coffee become a luxury? You don't offer any brewed decaf aboard this ship (in the dining room), and you don't offer coffee at the end of a meal. I understand the charges for cappuccino and espresso, but not for normal coffee (or tea).
5. We were unable to visit Santorini, because of the thousands of people waiting for the tram standing in extreme heat for hours to get to the top of a hill. The line queued the length of the port. We got off a tender, and had to fight our way back through the crowds in order to get to the return tender station so we could go back to the ship. We were also unable to disembark in Mykonos
6. My grandson wanted to participate in an activity in the game room and he was told it was only for grownups; when he wanted to play in a ping pong tournament, he was turned away as well. This unkind and did not leave him with good memories of this cruise. My granddaughter and I went to pool deck for an arts and crafts activity on Saturday morning at 11am. We were told that since we were the only 2 who came, the activity would be cancelled. She was totally disappointed as well
We took my daughter and family on this cruise as a gift for their 13th wedding anniversary. All of us suffered enormously from start to finish. This cruise was both a waste of time and money for our whole family. You need to find a way to make up the financial loss to us.
The whole time you are on this ship you can't wait to get to land. A British man I talked to compared it to being in the army and he hit the nail on the head. If you go on this ship drink HEAVY to cope with no service and no entertainment…BTW you will pay through the nose for it!
Food The food was for the most part is inedible. One morning the eggs were cooked is a dirty pan that fish (with bones in it) was cooked in the night before and I threw up. You can only eat when they tell you it is time and if you are late by 15 minutes…YOU DO NOT EAT! Room Service you need to pay for and the menu consists of bad pizza, boiled hamburgers, and soup. The "juice" is Tang unless you pay for it. All of the food is the cheapest crap they could buy. Every meal you need to fight for a glass of water and most times you loose. There is no service and if so none of the people understand English. Avoid the buffet unless youlike hospital food!
Customer Service There are only three answers at MSC if you can find a slave from a third world country that speaks English. NO, I don’t kNOw, or that is closed! I bought a cigar in the shop and the guy told me to go cut it with scissors or poke a hole in it and he had a cutter right behind him. I bought a 200 euro amber bracelet and had to fight to get a box. Checkout they made you stay on the ship in the lounge for 5 hours with your carry on bags.
Entertainment The entertainment was the worst! Unless you like country western music in sang in Dutch or comedy in Italian, or dancing the Achey Breaky Heart and the Macarena...I am not kidding! I have seen better stuff at the High school level. They have one good singer in one of their 70's style lounges other than that it was awful. I forgot if you want some real entertainment go to the smoking bar and watch the bartender yell at the staff and customers…that is funny!
Casino They only have Roulette, 21, and poker for table games. The machines are from the 1980’s from Vegas and some you need to put the Tokens in each pull and they do not pay.
Laundry "Misplaces" your clothes and then calls you a liar when you ask for it all back.
TV There is only one channel in English (BBC) and two movies that loop the whole time but if it has subtitles you can’ read them because the TV is two small and the volume does not go high enough to hear most of the time. Also it goes out all the time! BBC went out while in South Hampton.
"Beds" - Cots They are not beds!!! They have COTS that are less comfortable then the ones I have for camping!
Safety They do not go over the safety plan for the life boats! You watch it on TV and in England the port authority would not let us leave because there were not enough people that spoke English to properly execute the safety plan.
If you are an American you will not enjoy this cruise! It is geared for large, loud herds of Italians. The help is rude, the passengers are rude, the food is sparse and not good, the rooms are tiny and stained, you can't have ANYTHING to drink at dinner without paying extra, and the time in ports was too short. The public areas onboard have poor traffic flow, so with 3,000 passengers you feel like cattle. The only thing good was the entertainment! Don't waste your money. THis was my 7th cruise, and the worst cruise line by far.
Very disappointed in cruise. Most cruises are known for their food and this one is definitely not. For an Italian Cruise Line, the pasta was over cooked and rubbery. The steaks were either overly fatty or very tough. On formal night they had Fillet or Lobster choice, we had both. The fillet (Medium Rare) should cut like butter or close to it. You had to saw your meat and chew it forever. They will not give you drawn butter with your 1/2 tail of a lobster which was also overcooked and bitter tasting. The desserts - many were pre-made out of box. I saw one day them pulling out Eclairs from a container and they tasted just like the frozen ones from Costco. Their chocolate sauce was squirted out of a "generic" brand bottle. The breakfast buffet was awful. Had some fresh fruit but the pineapple came out of a can. It is crazy busy with passengers and very rude passengers that would constantly cut into line in front of you. If you have the time, eat breakfast in the dining room. More calming and you can order omelets. Thesoups and sauces they used had no zing to them. Very blah. Food overall disappointing.
If you eat your meals in the dining room - and you only speak English, be ready to be very patient and keep your fingers crossed that you get what you order. I wanted grapes for my boys (which I got before at another breakfast) but he brought Grapefruit. The wait staff's English is very poor overall. Our dinner waiter kept apologizing because he knew his English was so bad. He at least tried - the breakfast and lunch staff didn't even try.
The ice cream was good in the dining room. Every night they had a flavor of the day. Free Ice Cream on the pool deck too all day.
Wait & cabin steward staff was nice but no nice towel animals or personal touches on the cruise. Like chocolates on your pillow at night.
When we left the cruise at the port terminal we had help with our luggage the lady asked how the cruise was and we said not soo good. She said she has heard lots of people complaining about it. We also meet 3 girls from Germany that we shared an excursion with in the Bahamas. They had the same thoughts on the cruise.
If you have kids under 3 - you can't participate in any of the children activities even if you are there.
Entertainment was ok - only had 2 people that sang so you got tired of listening to the same thing every night. It became a joke - here she comes again. The girl sang 80% of the time.
Highly recommend looking at other cruise lines before booking on this line. I only recommend this to someone you don't like.
Good things about the cruise....fast elevators, nice towels, good ice cream. Energenic entertainment team.
The ship itself is nice. The itinerary however was way too fast; the ship was overcrowded (long lines at buffet) and the personel quite rude and overworked. Be prepared to spend for everything on board (including water and coffee at lunch and dinner). Overall not a good experience.
Must Save Cash Cruise
With the credit crunch impacting the family finances it was time to rethink the family cruise. For a family of four, cruising in the school summer holidays was becoming prohibitively expensive. Having sailed Celebrity, RCI and Princess in the recent past, it was with some reservations that we booked our first MSC cruise.
The prime and only reason for booking MSC was cost, and therefore we took MSC up on their promotional offer of full fare for the first adult, only £1 for the second adult and kids travelling free. We chose the brand new ship MSC Magnifica and paid a total of just over £1,200 for a weeks med cruise for family of four in late July, which to us seemed like the bargain we were looking for.
So what was it like?
Embarkation: A lot of waiting around and the MSC Express check-in didn't make a jot of difference. We were provided with free juice and water whilst we waited – in all, it took about 2 hours from the time we arrived at the terminal until we actually got on the ship.
Ship: The ship was onlya few months old when we travelled, (July 2010) so it was extremely well presented. The style was of a contemporary design with the use of rich warm colours of orange, brown, green and gold used throughout the ship. The layout of the ship has a number of pinchpoints especially on the upper outer decks, the atrium/shop area and just outside the main restaurants. In fact, do expect a lot of congestion on the ship at peak times. This is not a ship to get away from it all.
Cabin: With four of us sharing an inside cabin it was a squeeze, but it was clean, modern and comfortable.
Service: This was the weakest part the cruise. The service in the main restaurant was poor. We were often kept waiting for our drinks and had to pour the wine/ water ourselves, basically the staff were looking after too many tables with just one waiter to serve with another providing partial support. This was the biggest difference compared to other cruise lines where we have had up to three very attentive waiting staff serve our table.
The waiting staff in the Sahara buffet restaurant were equally lethargic and did not clear tables quickly and stood around in groups yawning watching their guests struggling to balance plates of food and cups of drink. I think MSC must be working their staff quite hard as we saw our main restaurant waiter at the midnight buffet, breakfast next morning and at lunch – great for cost control but not for providing excellent service.
The cabin staff were however excellent and we were amazed at the speed they cleaned up behind us. My daughter was pleased with the animals they made out of towels - a nice touch.
Food: The food was generally good. The main restaurant was fine if nothing exceptional. The buffet restaurant was good if lacking in depth. However, eggs were not cooked to order, there was no omelette station or freshly made waffles. This is not a ship to offer many (paid for) alternative dining venues (a small oriental restaurant, the back section of the buffet and a pizzeria (the front section of the buffet restaurant) was all that was available. The majority of customers took their evening meal in one of two sittings: 7.30pm or 9.45pm (which did lead to major congestion at change over time).
Drinks: We took advantage of the drink packages available on board (wine, water, spirits) which worked out at good value - they provided you with a book of paper vouchers which you exchanged for a drink of your choice. Slightly old fashioned but it worked nonetheless.
Fellow guests: MSC is an Italian line so the vast majority of guests were Italian. The next largest contingent were the Turks followed by the Germans, Scandinavians, Spanish, French and mere handful of Brits. Travelling with MSC was like being on a United Nations group outing. All announcements are made in at least four different languages. English was the working language of the ship so we had no trouble communicating the basics with the staff. However having to listen to umpteen messages in four different languages became tiresome after a time – especially when guests can embark/ disembark at Bari and Istanbul and the associated announcements that entails. With so many different nationalities aboard certainly creates a different atmosphere to that of an American or British line.
Entertainment: Poolside entertainment was enthusiastically provided by the mainly Italian 'animators' most afternoons. The evening shows were mainly colourful dance shows, mime and magic acts or singing or novelty acts - basically anything that didn't require the performer to speak! The shows were entertaining enough to pass half an hour, once you had endured the cruise director's evening message four times over in four languages!
Itinerary: We liked the itinerary, the highlights being Venice, Istanbul and Dubrovnik. Unfortunately, some of the stops are very short (Dubrovnik was just 4 hours). The ship organised excursions are very expensive (especially for a family of four) eg a tour of Istanbul was priced at Euro 145 per adult, Euro 102, a total cost of Euro 494/ £420, or a third of the price of the cruise itself!! We caught a taxi at Istanbul port for £12 (each way) and saw most of what we wanted to see. We would suggest that you do you homework and try and arrange your own tours – the money you'd save could be used to treat yourself to another cruise!
Our verdict: This was an excellent value for money cruise - a fraction of what we could have paid on an equivalent American/ British line. For the price we paid for a family of four we got a very good cruise experience, which came close to but did not surpass those we had had on other lines. We are now looking for our next 'bargain' on the MSC Splendida!
We would recommend this cruise to a family looking for a cost conscious foreign holiday.
We would not recommend this cruise to a couple (the cost difference to that of a premium line is not great enough to offset the lack of service), somebody looking to celebrate a significant event, such as a birthday or a once in a lifetime trip as again the experience could be bettered elsewhere or those not willing to embrace a full continental experience!
OVERALL Terrrible. Will never, ever cruise with MSC again. I'm from Canada and have not been on a cruise that is primarily European in customers (booked it via Travelocity, later found out that this particular cruise actually wasn't available from MSC's N. American website. So, I'm assuming that thet cruise targets the European market only). So, I don't know if it's a cultural thing. But even so, I'd caution any N. American to NOT go on any MSC cruise that does not target N. American customers. Here are some of the problems:
1. You have to pay for water - even in the dining room. I've been on a number of cruises. Never did I have to pay for water. It feels like they're nickel-and-diming you to death. Makes for a very unpleasant start. Then, on the last night, they actually REMOVE all the water bottles from your room - for fear that you'd open up one and drink it and then leave the crusie ship without paying for it. So from 7:00 p.m. onwards, you don't have ANY water in your room. You have to call the reception desk andask someone to deliver water to your room and sign for them. That was just ridiculus.
2. NO coffee in any of the restaurants for lunch or dinner - not even if you are willing to pay for them. You can purchase coffee at the coffee bars only. Again, I have never been on a cruise where coffee is not available during lunch or supper.
3. Staff are exceeding rude and unhelpful. They don't treat you like customers at all. Rather, it's like you're a bother to them. Not once did I hear the word 'please', 'excuse me,' or 'thank you' coming out of their mouths, and they are prepared to argue every little point, or just outright ignore you.
4. Out of a 7-night cruise, ALL the bathroom malfunctioned on 3 separate days - ranging from a couple of hours to almost 6 hours. It was hell. Worst yet, the manager were completely unapologitic. I (together with a bunch of other cruisers) were extremely unhappy and complained to the manager at customer service. Instead of apologizing, the guy actually started to argument with us, saying things like: "What, the plumbing in your house never has any problem? These things happen, so stop complaining about it." In the end, we tore a few strips off his sholders.
5. You can have in-room meal service unless you're sick - and you have to prove that you're sick by providing a doctor's note from the ship's doctor (which you have to pay, of course). Then , you can only order from the "sick people's menu" which has about 3 items on it. My daughter simply wanted to eat in the room one night and we were shocked. We could not even order a class of 7-up because it's not on the "sick people's menu" I felt like I was in the twilight zone!
6. All the staff are unprincipled and spinless. As rude and unhelpful as they are, once you started screaming and yelling at them, they relent and you get your way. By the third day, I was screaming at everyone (4 to 6 times a day). Then, you pretty much get your way. For example, myself and 2 other cruisers (don't know them) wanted our passport back (all non-EU cruisers must leave their passports with the cruise ship). We just don't trust the cruiseline to keep our passport. We spoke to the manager to have our passports back because we really weren't satisfied with the reasons they gave us for keeping our passports. At first, he refused. Then, I started to tear into him and he relented - and returned the passports to me. But he wouldn't gve the passports back to the other 2 cruisers. So, one of them pointed to me and said, 'well, you gave the passport back to him!' At which point, the manager replied, 'Yes, but that is because he was angry at me!' That was just so shocking to hear, the other cruiser didn't even know how to respond to that!
FOOD: I would feed them to my dog. Both my father, myself, and my daughter lose weight simply because we could take the food onboard. No, it's not because we're to 'North American' in our tastes. All three of use has travelled extensively and on past travels (including cruises) had enjoyed local foods tremendously (including insects in fried eggs in Macau and fried scorpions in N. E. China, and conk 'penis' in the Carribeans [it's a glass-like tube you eat raw right after the conk is removed from its shell]). But the food served on this crusie is just terrible. They could not even cook a plate of spagetti well). I order cabbage roll one evening as the main course - the rice inside it was uncooked, the cream they used was thick and sour. I took one bite and almost threw up. It was worse then trash.
ONBOARD ACTIVITIES: Poorly organized and too crowded. The ship was at full capacity (almost 4,000 cruisers) but many of the venues and held in areas that just simply could not accommodate that many people. Everywhere to go, it's crowded. Again, it would be a cultural thing, but I found people generally to not care about personal space. They tend to push their way through you without something as simple as 'excuse me' (or something equivalent in their own language). Parents tend not to discipline (or even take care of) their kids so they're going wild all over the ship, and what I considered as common decency was missing among many of the cruisers (e.g.: pressing the 'door close' button while people are still stepping into or out of the elevator, spitting into the swimming pools, letter toddlers go into the swimming pool with diapers on even though there are signs that clearly prohibit that, cuting into lines, etc.). So, we ended up avoiding many of the onboard activities.
EXCURSIONS: We joined 5 English speaking excursivers. TTwo of them, the guide dose NOT speak English (and of course, no refunded). One excursion was cancelled by the ship, but I had to fight to get the refund (basically, if you don' t ask, they won't refund you).
please read the other reviews. If you want a relaxing holiday do not under any circumstances use this cruise line. Other than the waiters / room staff, the crew are either "that stupid" or seriously dont care. If english is your first language you will be treated as an interloper by the staff and the masses of rude, eastern bloc passengers. Perhaps pushing in and queue jumping should be olympic events! I dont care how cheap it is ( and it wont be after you pay for EVERYTHING) I would rather stay home and give the money to a random religious sect.The man was right, "you get what you pay for". The food is average at best, kids run riot ( remember they travel free). Cabin doors slam and walls are paper thin. Seriously, take ear plugs. Worst holiday ever. Perhaps msc should concentrate on container shipping as the level of service may just pass muster there.