We had an amazing time, in spite of MSC Cruises. From beginning to end, this cruise line's customer service and SOPs lacked immensely. Our itinerary said that we would be boarding the ship at 10:30am and departing at 6:30pm, and recommended that we be at the port two hours before boarding time. We arrived at 8:30am and there was only one other couple there, and no staff. The staff started showing up and informed us that we could check in after a little longer. A line started to form sometime around 11:00 am, so we got in it only to be told that we all should sit down again since they would not be checking anyone in until noon. A little before noon, the line started forming again and by now a mob had formed around the area as well. When they started motioning that people could finally check in (1:30 pm), everyone rushed the counters, paying no attention to the barriers. We were finally onboard at 5:00 pm. However, the cruise tickets stated something to the effect of "we are not responsible for service you receive while not onboardthe ship." so we figured that was why they put in that disclaimer.
We had chosen late dining thinking it would be around 8:00 pm. It was actually 9:00 pm every night, which would have been okay, except every night it didn't start until 9:30 pm and in the case of that first night on the ship, 10:15 pm. We had wanted to attend a show that was supposedly timed for the late dining crowd to begin at 11:30 pm, but we made it right on time for the final closing of the curtain. This was true of every show, since dinner always started late, and it also ran late.
We had assumed they would at least provide tap water with dinner, but no drinks at all were included. You could purchase a bottle of water for 4 euros (over $5) or a can of soda for 3 euros ($4), or you had the option of buying a book of coupons which discounted these by 1 euro each.
The food on the ship was okay. It was not bad, but not up to the standards I had heard about with other cruise lines' food.
The excursions were extra, which we knew, but somewhat expensive. So we had decided to just catch a cab or the shuttle buses that were offered for many of the ports at a 9 euro charge. Taking the shuttle bus out was fine, but returning on one proved to be a feat. Again, it reminded me of the chaos at check-in -- people in a huge mob trying to push their way onto the buses. We may have been able to maintain some sort of line, except that the buses kept stopping at different places along the street instead of pulling up to the sign. Sometimes they would go past the sign. We made it back after waiting to get on a bus for almost 2 hours.
We met some friends on the boat that had booked a private excursion to Santorini and invited us along. We had been informed in the daily newsletter that we would be receiving numbers indicating what order we could disembark at Santorini, beginning after the people who had booked the MSC excursion. According to the itinerary, we were docking at 7:30 am and everyone could leave the ship sometime around 8:30 am. Our friends had arranged to meet the driver by 9 am. When we all received our numbers, they had number 10 and we had number 16 (no idea how these were allotted). When they asked the front desk roughly what time they would be disembarking with this number, they were told sometime around 11 or 11:30. Essentially, after they not-so-calmly argued about this, they were given number 1 for all 4 of us. We were able to meet the driver at 10 am and had a great but somewhat rushed tour. When we returned to the boat, we found out that people who had numbers 15 and up ended up getting off the boat with only 2 hours left before they had to return.
The stop at Mykonos was scheduled during the evening, so we had decided not to leave the ship since it would cut into our dinner time. Apparently they had decided to make the early seating open and have no late seating. It was printed in the newsletter, but not very clearly. It did not specifically state that late seating was cancelled completely. Our friends had not even received a newsletter that day, and every other one they had gotten was in German. Bottom line, there was no food except the restaurants where you could purchase food. After arguing with the customer service desk again, our friends were able to get us dinner at the sushi restaurant on the house. Had they not spoken up, we wouldn't have gotten a meal at all unless we paid for it.
All of the spa massages, facials, etc. couldn't be booked because there was one person there at any given time running the reception/appointment desk AND giving the massages/facials. They had no openings for the entire week when we checked the second day. We were also unable to use the jacuzzis because the rules were not enforced about a 20 minute time limit and a maximum of five people. There were at least 10 or more kids in all four jacuzzis every time we checked.
We were given a letter about two days before the end of the cruise stating that they would be automatically charging our account 6 Euro per person per day for gratuities, totaling 84 Euro (over $100) for my husband and myself. We had been giving tips to the wait staff that deserved it and we had planned on leaving something for the woman who serviced our room, but had not been told this at any point, even by those we had tipped. We were informed that the only way to change this amount was to fill out a request at the Accounting Desk, which was only open two hours a day. We not only made it a point to visit the desk, but we also changed the amount to zero, citing on the request exactly why and that we would leave what we thought was fair for the housekeeping staff. The staff at the desk responded with a rude, "thanks a lot" to my husband when they saw that.
I know some of this may seem trivial, but in my opinion this was a lot of money to spend to experience this level of stress and inconvenience. After my experience with MSC for my first cruise, I am not sure if I will ever take another cruise period. If I do, it will definitely not be with MSC. I filled out their comment form and mentioned all of this in it, but I do not know if they will take it seriously. But talking to several other people on the ship, including the new friends we had met before check-in, no one was at all satisfied with the quality of this cruise line.
The ship was beautiful, the rooms and the balconies are the smallest I have ever sailed on. The announcements are in about 5 languages before English. There were lots of noisy kids on our cruise (kids sail free) and out of 3000 pasgeners, only 50 of us spoke English. The food was horrible. We finally found out that the pastas come in frozen (which would explain why they were not any good) THe ports were great, the entertainment was good. I would not take another cruise on MSC cruise line. THere was no food after 10:00, the coffee machine was shut down after that also. You could not get iced tea all day.
We just came back of our first cruise expirence on msc musica. It was crowdy but allright for younger people. Food was plenty and allright. (At dinner you can ask free drinking water at the table.) Waiters and housekeeping were very good but they had to work up to 18 hours a day. This was not acceptable to me.
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.
Clean smart ship but all rather impersonal. Anything purchased on board was very expensive, whether it be a drink, a shore excursion or a photo ! "Posh" restaurants were too posh and slow, buffet was too crowded and chaotic ! Not enough time in port, shore excursions all left far too early in the morning. We always seemed to be leaving port during dinner or lunch or breakfast, rarely had an opportunity to witness arriving or leaving port from the decks.
We are a Brazilian couple, mid 50's, restaurant ownwers in Rio who love to work and sail.
This sail was with MSC Musica, a Transatlantic (Venice-Rio de Janeiro) that began on November 8. It was our 26th cruise, and the first and the last with that company.
Since Rio is a bit far from Europe we normally travel for some days before to have a car looking for scenic drives to the ports we will sail. So this time we came from Munich and drove to Sirmione, Italy and then to San Casciano in Tuscany, for a 6 day trip through these beautifull parts of Italy. On the last day we drove from San Casciano to Venice, a 2.5 hour drive. We arrived on the day before the cruise in Mestre (beside Venice) at Novotel (EU$95). Mestre is less than 7 miles from Venice. We returned the car easily near the port at Piazza Roma.
Embarkation I never forgot a maxim I've heard -- "You never have a second chance to make a good first impression" and embarkation was CHAOS. We arrived 11:30hs and there were thousands of people waiting on hugeunorganized lines. Check-in was supposed to start at 13,00hs. Then we decided to leave our hand luggage in a locker at the pier and return to Venice to enjoy more of this marvelous city. We returned at 16:00hs and waited for another half hour in line, and we heard the stories of people fainting, fights, etc. This was the worst check-in we have ever seen. Every guest we've met was horrified with the poor service.
Ship and Cabin No one took us to our cabin. Our cabin was on the very last of the stern. It had a small and dirt balcony, average bathroom size, small and few wardrobes, outworn carpets and chairs, shampoo and soap -- but no conditioner or moisture cream. The robes available were good ones, a 20'LCD TV, and a mini bar. The decor was not bad.
The ship does not have a nice atrium. It is only 3 floors high, with a piano in the middle. The stores were little and unfriendly (no refunds, no exchanges). There were 2 pools (salt water) which were ok, and 4 dirty jacuzzis. There was a small area for mini-golf, a sports area, and excellent chairs with shades for your face, but again you had to wake up early in order to reserve your chair, especially when you travel with German people. There was a ridiculous gym academy, 6 treadmills for a 3600 passenger ship! There were 2 bicycles, but a big salon for paid activities, with a small audience for that. There was no sauna available unless you paid US$30 a day for use of the spa facility, sauna, turquish bath, and 2 small private jacuzzis.
The theater was ok, but not the shows! The restaurants were nice, with 2 differents decors. There were 2 specialty restuarants at US$30 cover charge pp. The one Chinese restaurant was always empty, and the other "Italian" restaurant is in the same area where the buffet is served at lunch! It too was always empty. Then there were some "nothing special lounges," and that's it. Not too many places to go or stay -- just a minimal library, minimal cigar room, 12 computers for internet, a small casino, and a very classic decoration, which you will forget on the day you disembark. The common areas were well maintained, though.
Service As I said, no one took us to our cabin on embarkation day. Then on the very first day, in the dining room, the waiter and his helper did not greet us, nor even a good evening! Then we decided to change tables, and a better waiter served us for the rest of the cruise. We've heard that more than 50 new waiters embarked with us in Venice, and the cruise director and other managers embarked the next day since the old ones had quit! The day we ate at the specialty restaurant we waited 3 hours to be served, and there were only 2 tables to be waited on! Our room steward needed 4 days to understand that we wanted ice in the room, more hangers, and more blankets. After that, though, she only forgot small details such as soaps, towels, etc. We had to call reception twice for help with her. The reception desk was ok depending upon who attended to you, ditto for a nice person to help you. I wrote a letter to Mr. Franco, a food and beverage manager, but got no answer, although the Maitre'd assured me he received the letter. So, this was the nature of the service.
Food and Beverage Would you believe they prohibited waiters to serve water at the tables in order to sell mineral water? I've never seen a petty attitude like that on any ship we've sailed. People were offended with this.
Breakfast was the same everyday -- bread, eggs, omelettes, cold cuts, fresh fruit (good), but no salmon. Milk and coffee needed to be served by waiters, and I heard people complaining about the milk quality.
Lunch in the main restaurant was better than in the buffet, with 3 salads plus tomatoes, lettuce and carrots. That's it, with sometimes some cucumber. Hamburgers and hot dogs, fries, and some hot stews. Everything was second class quality.
Dinner was better, although rarely beef or a steak. Everyday they said you can have salmon, chicken or beef. It made me laugh when we ordered beef, it was like a "carpaccio," it was so thin. No comment. The bread and butter was the best part of the meal. And, the desserts and ice creams were surprisingly good.
There was also a midnight buffet. We only attended the chocolate one. It was good. They also served tea with 2 kinds of sandwiches, and some sweets. There was no tea available during the day. Also, there was a charge for room service, and with only a small selection available too.
Ports These were okay. Bari, Tenerife, Malta, Funchal, Malaga, Recife, and Salvador. We did not take any excursions since we've been to these places before. The excursions were an average of US$130!
Shows and Entertainment There was no live orchestra, only recorded music! The same show was always playing, with 6 female dancers and 4 men for 45 minutes shows. The second sitting shows were at 23:30hs. There was no live band on the pool deck, although the weather was fine. There was plenty of live music onboard in the inside areas of the ship, including some good Brazilian musicians playing.
The entertainment was led by a transvestite looking boy, would you belive it?
Kids games were held in the pool! Some stretching classes and dancing lessons took place there too. There was also a huge screen showing only MSC ads, instead of films and shows. Also, you have to pay to watch movies on your cabin TV. During the 5 day transatlantic crossing we had nothing to watch on TV except MSC ads -- not even a music channel!
Disembarkation It was surprisingly good with no queues. We easily found our luggage. Disembarkation was on time too.
Conclusion If you have ever sailed with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Holland America or Princess, or even Carnival, you will be extremely disappointed with MSC, although their prices are almost the same. Don't sail MSC. But, if you are a first timer and have no point of comparison, then you will probably not notice the points I've mentioned and could enjoy more of the MSC cruise experience than we did. For us, we'll never sail MSC again.