Well, where do I begin? Having previously sailed on the Windsurf in the caribbean we were a bit apprehensive about sailing on such a large ship. Having read the reviews of the Fantasia we started to worry - but hey don't believe the rubbish reviews it's had! We booked 3 weeks before the cruise and only paid £431 each (cruise only) to sail the Western Med. my only prerequisite was that we didn't have an inside cabin. We were sailing from Barcelona then onwards to Marseille, Genoa, Naples, Palermo, Tunis then back to Barcelona.
Check in/cabins/public areas/food/atmosphere etc:
We did the web check-in prior to arriving (recommended - you get to check in first!). it took us less than 20 mins to check in and were straight on board by 12.00 noon. Our cabin ended up on deck 12 with an unrestricted balcony view - Fab!! Deck 13 being the only accom deck above us. We couldn't believe it for the price! the cabin was really nice, plenty of room for all our stuff. Lots of wardrobes, drawers, safe, dressing table, sofa etc and chairs and table on the balcony. The bathroomhad lots of towels (changed twice daily), dispensers containing shampoo and body wash. There was a good hairdryer in the drawer also so no need to take one. Bed was very comfy and all the linen lovely crisp and clean. the cabin was spotless and kept that way by our steward. So, no need to bring towels (including pool towels - you check these out each day) shampoo, bodywash or hairdryer (unless you are very particular). There was also complementary toothpaste tubes. We had purchased the Allegrissimo drinks package 166 euros each (both of us had to purchase it) but it ended up well worth it. we kept all our chits for the drinks we bought (cocktails, beers, spirits, soft drinks, water, coffee etc) and we 'spent' 533 euros, so well over what we had paid. You also didn't have to pay the 15% gratuity if you purchased this package. It could end up quite costly if you have to purchase water, cokes etc (all branded) during the day and then a bottle of wine etc and drinks in the evening. the minibar or water in your room is not included in this package, but to be honest we didn't need it and it wasn't worth it. you could get water/drinks with your card and take it wherever you want. so we got bottles for when we went ashore. Prices (if you pay as you go are in the region of (all in euros) : glass of wine 4.50, cappuccino 2.00, large beer 4.90, cocktails 6.25, small bottle water 1.45, bottle wine 20, coke 2.70, fresh juices 3.50 then 15% on top for gratuity). so, it could all add up quickly.
The public areas of the ship are beautiful and this ship is SO clean. there is not a speck of dust or dirt anywhere. they are always cleaning. The clientele was predominantly Italian, French, Russian, Spanish, South American, English and American. It was all very noisy but great with lots of atmosphere. Don't choose this ship if you want a quiet time. There was always things going on, plenty of activities all day and night. there was a show nearly every night in the huge theatre which included a Michael Jackson tribute night which was great. There was bingo before the show if you wanted your chance to win 25,000 euros. the casino was quite big with a nice bar. Now, for all you smokers out there there are plenty of places to smoke. You can smoke anywhere in the casino, parts of the coffee lounge and various other music lounges together with all along the port side of the ship. You are not allowed to smoke on balconies though which was fine. there was always somewhere to go for a smoke! There were 2 gala evenings whilst we were there so if you wanted to dress up you wanted to though it wasn't compulsory. You just couldn't wear shorts in the evenings in the 2 main dining rooms. (it was ok in the buffet). So, basically you could dress up or down and didn't feel out of place either way. There was no need to take a dinner jacket or tie (which some people did) but it wasn't THAT formal if you get my meaning. There were plenty of places to sunbathe (best part was up on deck 15 at the rear (Zen space). This had lots of sunbathing area with plenty of loungers, near the bar, swimming pool, jacuzzis etc. No real need to move - the waiters come to you! and it was only 1 deck down for lunch/afternoon tea etc. I must say that we had one day at sea therefore the whole ship was sunbathing and there were plenty of loungers for everyone.
now the food - you could eat pretty much 24 hours a day. YOu were allocated a restaurant to eat at for breakfast lunch and dinner but it wasn't compulsory to go there all the time. You could go to the buffet instead. Most people ate breakfast and lunch in the buffet then went to their designated restaurant in the evening. There was plenty of choice of food and anyone who says they couldn't find anything to eat or it was bland must be mad. There was always lots of salads, pasta, pizzas, grill meat, ethnic counter (curries etc), chefs specials, bakery everything you could possibly think of. the evening meals in the restaurants were 6 courses long with plenty of choice in each section. If youwere on the drinks package you could also get your drinks in there with no problem. They gave us bottles of wine rather than by the glass when we asked for it. they were also very flexible if we wanted to swap a starter and have it as a main course etc. Also, I asked for cheese and biscuits instead of a dessert and it was no problem. a couple of nights they had displays in there and had us all singing 'Volare' and waving our napkins around - it was really funny. so, not stuffy at all. With the drinks package you could also get ice creams (loads to choose from). the coffee (cappuccinos) were great. Best of all they make fab cocktails (everything you can imagine) even if its not on the list they will make it for you.
I forgot to mention the speciality restaurant - a tex mex. If you wait they put a sign up saying 50% discount if you book for the next evening, as it is a pay as you go restaurant. It isn't expensive anyway, and the drinks are included half price. so starters end up at about 2 euros and a big rib eye steak for 7 euros.
There are lots of pools (indoor and out), jacuzzis etc, water slide etc for the kids so plenty going on, particularly around the main pool area. It's a bit like being at a water park.
there are also a few shops onboard, clothes, duty free (cigarettes are really cheap 59.95 euros for 4 cartons L&M's). perfume (they also sell a small selection of emergency toiletries, sanitary products etc).
Nearly all the staff who served us anywhere on the ship spoke some English (enough to be understood to ask for things or where things were). They all have name badges which also says where they are from which was useful. There was a mixture from Idonesia, Brazil, eastern europe, Italian and most anywhere else you could think of. They were all very polite and efficient -so the standard of service was great. we didn't have to wait long for anything.
There is a daily service charge of 7 euros per person per night which goes towards the tips for staff and appears on your bill at the end. I believe that you can have this taken off if you really thought it was rubbish but I can't see how anyone would do so as the service is excellent and remember there are hundreds 'down below' who you never get to see but make sure everything runs smoothly.
Our ports of call:
Here I am not going to give you our impressions as I think you can make your own mind up about that, but more about where the ship docks, how you get to the places etc. This is what I was trying to find out before I went with difficulty. Because the ship is so big it docks in commercial ports which means you can, in some places, be quite a way from the town/sights and it's too far to walk, so here you go...
We embarked in Barcelona and got straight on the ship so more about there later....
We set sail and woke up in Marseille. At the port we were off quickly and there was tour buses (City sightseeing tours - hop on/off type). Though where the ship docks it was close enough to walk into the main part (marina and streets surrounding the harbour).
Next stop was Genoa. There were City sightseeing tour buses right outside where you walked out of the terminal building so you don't really need to get a taxi to get into the town. It is within walking distance.
Naples - it is quite a bit away from the town, but like us, most people wanted to go to Pompeii. We booked the tour on the ship which was 51 euros each. this included the bus to pompeii (about 25 mins away), our entrance fee in and a tour guide. We didn't bother going into Naples or to Sorrento as to us many of these towns are very similar. Indeed some people we met did the Pompeii and Sorrento trip and wished they had just done Pompeii because they could have had longer there. When you get to the Pompeii site there are a few stalls, a museum and some cafes etc - though they are expensive (they have a captive audience!). Though there is a shop at the museum and that was quite reasonable for gifts. I think it was worth the ships excursion in this case.
Palermo - we got a sightseeing bus right outside the terminal. YOu got 10% off the price of your ticket if you had already done a trip with them in another place - you just show them your ticket. Palermo has some nice buildings and architecture, but it is dirty, noisy and to be honest I wouldn't go there again.
La Goulette (Tunis):
Now believe it or not this was probably the most structured in terms of transport away from the port. The ship moors right up to the purpose built small terminal building. Awaiting you are some camels that you can pay to have your photo on walking beside the ship. There are 3 main areas to visit - Carthage, Medina (shopping - souks) and Sidi Al Bouid. There is a taxi rank where the prices are shown and are set. So for two trips (we went to Carthage and Sidi village) it was 40 euros for the taxi not per person and you could have the driver up to 5 hours (he waits for you wherever you go). It can be economical to share if you can with other people). Our driver took us to Carthage and paid for us to go in the museum (we gave him the money 10 euros as he paid in Tunisian money. It was probably a lot more than what he paid but it saved us the hassle of changing our money then changing it back again as you can't take their currency out of the country. In any case you can use euros in most places. Our driver took us all over the place where there were other ruins so we could get out have a look and take photos etc. He brought us back to ship with plenty of time to spare.
Finally... Barcelona. We were off the ship by 0930. You have to be out of your cabin by 8.00am. Our flight wasn't until 9.00pm so we had all day to kill with our luggage. As you come through the terminal building there is a kiosk next to the baggage carousel called DW. you can leave your luggage with them (9euros per bag) and they will deliver it wherever you want (airport etc). they tag up your bag, give you a receipt and instructions where to collect and a phone number. they arrange a time with you, then you can go off. we opted to have our bags delivered to the airport. YOu have to meet them outside arrivals at terminal 1 at the specified time in the parking across the road. they have a distinctive van (though they turned up in a UPS van for us). all our luggage was there on a trolley with the chap from the kiosk ready for us to go. it was WELL worth it.
anyhow.. Barcelona. The terminal is quite a way from the centre itself but as you come out there is a shuttle bus (on the left hand side when you come out the door where the coaches are). It is the port bus. It was 3.50 euros one way and it drops you off by the big statue at the bottom of La Rambla (by the marina). it is easy then to walk up into where everything is going on. Be prepared to have your walking shoes on! or you can take the easy option and get the tour bus (hop on/off) though there is still lots where you will want to get off and walk. We went all around the Plaza Catalunya, gothic quarter, Port Vell etc.
well, I think that is about all I can tell you about our trip on the MSC Fantasia. Would I travel with MSC again - definitely. and, for those of you who have kids they go free (think it's under 14). For the price we paid even with our flights and drinks package I though it was a bargain particularly with the upgrade of cabin for free.
We are off on a Carnival cruise over Christmas and New Year in the Caribbean - so fingers crossed!
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).
MSC Fantasia Western Med. week cruise review.
Relax and enjoy this wonderful cruise . After reading so many negatives we were a bit nervous about our choice of MSC since we are first time , American English speaking only, cruisers in our mid sixties. The ship is lovely, the rooms are large, immaculate, as is the entire ship. The food was abundant and varied. The entire crew were all very polite, well groomed, and eager to help. When language was a barrier , ( very seldom) they were most patient muddling through until we all were clear on the question and the answer. The nightly entertainment in the theater varied each evening and lasted about 45 minutes . Go, do not expect Broadway Stars, but very talented , multi cultural , enthusiastic performers. Each presentation was a delight to the eye, extravagant costumes, brilliant lighting, and great musical numbers. All can be enjoyed by any language or age.
We changed our dinner seating , we were assigned a table with French speaking only couples. They were very nice, but we felt sort of awkward doing charades etc. People change every evening asthey meet people they want to eat with . The procedure is easy, just go to the dining room you are assigned between four and six. Speak to the maitre d and they will switch you . We found, that a smile or a laugh , and common courtesy is the best way to get anything , just as anywhere else in the world. We did not encounter any rude Italians, French, stodgy, whiny British, that have been alluded to in other reviews . Everyone was friendly, and in a vacation mood. I wonder, after reading so many negatives reviews , if these people are unpleasant when seeking help etc. , then are met with the same attitude . Just a thought. Coming on board was easy in Marseille, a que of about twenty minutes . Our luggage was at our door by the time we had walked around the public spaces . ( There is an orientation meeting held in your native language , but we were not aware of that . It is listed in the daily paper that in your room when you arrive. We just didn't read . So check that as soon as you get to your room .) Disembarkation was easy, there is a meeting the night beforeand you also get papers on what to do with passports etc. It was fairly simple, you do not need to be in the lounge at 8 am, but you do need to pick up you passport at reception AFTER 8 am. We didn't leave until around 9:45.
A hint : The ship sells goodmaps of each town at Reception for .50. Well worth it so you can plan ahead. We basically did our own thing in each port except Naples and Barcelona. Naples we did the Pompeii tour, but would suggest you do the Museum in town since most of the artifacts from Pompeii are housed there. Barcelona: we caught a Blue bus to town, meets at the terminal, 3 Euros round trip compared to the MSC shuttle at 6 eurs. Then caught the Hop on and Off bus right at the drop off spot. There are people at the terminal with information and pamphlets, just ask. This was a more reasonably priced way to go than a tour.
Marseille: The Old Port. You need to take a taxi or walk out of the terminal ( about a mile and a half ) to the bus stop at the entrance the terminal or take a Hop on and Off bus which was there at the dock, too far from town to walk . Genoa: the port and the back streets. We just walked to town, you can walk to the Aquarium too. There are inexpensive harbor tours , like 10 euros. Palermo: we walked to town , head for the old town and the main shopping streets. We found an old market street that was absolutely glorious in colors along with some old, incredibly beautiful 1600s churches tucked in among the food vendors. Tunis , get a cab right at the dock for about 40 euros for three hours , the driver will wait for you when you want to get out and walk, shop or eat etc. and tell you about the area . Palma, again we walked to town. The harbor is vibrant, some fun seafood spots, the Cathedral is at the far end of the harbor, a couple of miles. Worth the leisurely walk .The grounds are interesting as are the back streets . Wonderful little shops tucked in the side streets with pastries, and other goodies. Barcelona: ( Hop on and Off ) the huge food market was immaculate in the old town area, a good place to have paella for lunch. The Olympic Games grounds offers a good view of the city. We were impressed at how clean the city is. The tram to the fort was a hit with others in our dinner group. The itinerary of cities was excellent.
A couple of suggestions. Take some wire hangars and a few clothes pins fo the clothes line in the shower, ask for a room on the left side of the boat since that is the side that faces the coastline. We took two insulated/covered coffee mugs and instant ice tea and lemonade . Used the ship water and had ice delivered every day ( no charge). The ship's water is fine to drink. We chose the soft drink package for 29 euros.If you want to go on an excursion you need to book them within the first day or so to save 5%. They do their darndest to book you on a tour in your language, but sometimes it may be two languages.
Meals: The waiters bend over backwards to make you happy. Get to know them. We had breakfast and lunch ( when on board) in the dining rooms. The Zanzabar Cafeteria on deck 14 is a bit of a mad house. But, the view is wonderful. There are hundreds of choices and a super place for kids with huge appetites. All you can eat.) The dining rooms have a more limited menu , but much quieter . Breakfast and lunch are casual attire, but no short shorts , swim wear etc. Some reviews complain about not having twenty four hour food etc. Well breakfast starts in the cafeteria at 6:30 am and is open until 10. The lunch opens at 12 and closes at 4. Tea is at 4 to 5 at the Zanzabar , first dinner starts at 6:45 , there is a midnight buffet . So there is ample time to eat. PLUS you can buy gelato, pastries, etc. through the day. No one starves. Actually some passengers seemed downright gluttonous.( A reason we chose to skip the cafeteria.)
Dress: Again posted in the daily news letter . Sadly, there were some who chose to ignore the dress code and came across as crass . Tuxedos are too formal , but a dark jacket, slacks, shirt and tie for the men works for Formal and Informal evenings. The Causal night is shirt with no tie and jacket. Ladies usually wore cocktail dresses, but basically a snazzy black, wrinkle free dress with a couple of dressy jackets or wraps and you are set. I did see a few people turned away from dinner because of their extremely casual attire. ( flip flops and bermuda shorts ). I felt people were allowed to flaunt the dress code because the crew were too polite to embarrass them.
On Deck: Upper deck in the BACK is the ZEN area , no children allowed. There are deck chairs all over the ship, no need to worry about getting one. The pools were a bit chilly , they are emptied each night and didn't seem to warm up much. The main pool areas were busy with families , games, dance classes, and a giant screen showing a variety of things going on . The exercise area is in the front of the ship , you have to go through the spa. A wonderful panoramic view, lots of equipment .
The Room:Shampoo and soap are included, some reviews have said they aren't. Plug ins are various types . Blow dryer is in the drawer. Towels are changed almost every time you step out of the room by the wonderful room elves. Pool towels are provided by the pools and hot tubs. Beds are turned down each night , and the steward ( Patricia) made us feel spoiled.
We would recommend this line , the price was about $3500 less than friends who are going on a similar cruise on another line with a balcony room. That's another two trips! There were few children , but this time of year that was to be expected. We were in minority as Americans, but we weren't going on the trip to be with Americans. The service was excellent, the ship is amazing,we didn't feel like we were being hustled at all. We spent a total of 129 Euros on board for a tour and pop. Plus our tipping fee at the end. So we felt we certainly got our money's worth and had no surprise charges. Bon Voyage. Arivederrci .. Ciao...