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: Overall Service. Value for Money. Foodies.
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.
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).
We recently cruised with MSC cruises for the first time and it will definitley be the LAST!! The itinerary was satisfactory and the cruise ship was acceptable. However, the food was horrible! It was equal to school cafeteria food!!I have been on several (10 or more) cruises and never had such horrible, inedible food. The only good news is that I lost weight! There are NO free beverages, except at breakfast and water which is so sparcely given out that you'd think it was liquid gold! You have to purchase a costly beverage package before boarding in order to have decent drinks.
You are nickled and dimed to death. The matches for cigars even cost extra, according to our dinner mates.
As far as tours, they are cancelled frequently and take forever to be organized. You lose the time that is paid for in advance because of the incompetences of the cruiseline. In the casino, I did not receive full credit on a ticket voucher from the machine when attempting to cash it and was told that the cashier did not have coins for change!! The nightly entertainment was lame with the sameperformers in different scenarios with a different twist from the night before. The midnight buffet had one serving line for the entire ship.
Needless to say, we were very dissapointed with this line and will not even consider sailing with them again. If you are thinking about sailing in the Scandanavian waters, think of Costa or any other line beside this one, I now wish that I had!!
MSC Cruises-For so many reasons don't bother.
We booked the MSC Sinfonia from Livorno Italy in July 2010. Although I have been on smaller cruises, this seemed like a good option for my retired mother and me to see some new sites and have a new experience. Unfortunately, these gigantic cruises are a failed concept and coupled with other issues, made it an entirely disappointing experience. This is by no means a “Luxury” cruise nor is it billed to be, but I guess I kind of expected more. I thought once we booked & paid for the cruise, that would be the majority of the outlay. That was in incorrect assumption.
I call this cruise a failed concept because the entire IDEA of a cruise is to be able to sail to different ports & get a flavor of each place. Primarily, these boats are so large that they are forced to dock at freighter terminals that are typically MILES away from the locations you are scheduled to visit. Thus, to actually visit the ports that are promised, one needs to pay daily for shuttles or pricey tours, to each city. Thenthe big kicker is that you are only in each port for 5-6 hours. Sometimes the hours of port are not just inconvenient, but crazy-1.30 am-12 noon???? Unless my 72 year old mother wants to party the entire night in Ibiza, what is the point??? More on Tour Excursions detailed below.
Of course there are shops on board which is convenient when you have forgotten something, although pricey. However, it seems like at every turn they are selling stuff on deck, so it often feels like a floating flea market.
The most disappointing issue is the Management. I have had a few problems and asked for the Managers name so I can write a letter and have been denied this information!!!! It seems the buck stops nowhere and each desk employee is happy to explain how every problem is not their fault. I feel like in being denied the name of a manager, a great disservice is being done, as the managers don't hear the complaints or issues. How can these be fixed if they are not being heard??????? One can only assume that the Management prefers it this way. The Desk personnel are often quiet snippy; however dealing with issues and unhappy customers, is part of customer service in the hospitality industry. Then sitting next to them in the lounge, having to listen to them complain about their jobs, seems a bit unprofessional. Especially, when I felt like no one wanted to listen to me when I had a complaint or an issue that needed resolving.
The food is reasonably good at the dinner seatings, but the breakfast and lunch buffets are like a feeding frenzy & is nothing exceptional. I have found things in my food that I didn't want to, at nearly each meal at the buffet, and there seems to be an issue with clean dishes, glasses & flatware.
The one shining light seems to be the wait & housekeeping staff. ALL the waiters and waitresses and housekeeping staff greet you daily and ALWAYS have a smile on their face. I cannot say enough how well they both do their jobs.
Summing it all up..if you want a vacation on a large, impersonal, floating bus, go on an MSC cruise. If you want a more meaningful experience, look for a smaller cruise line.
Details on other problems experienced: Onshore Tours/Excursions: We had ENDLESS issues with the off shore excursions. Firstly, the MSC website allows you to download paperwork to book these tours in advance & at a slightly lower cost. This sounds convenient, but as it happened our paperwork was lost, even though I had received a confirmation that my fax went through, so we ended up paying full price on board. Then, once we did book, one of our tours was cancelled and we were not informed early enough to take another cruise. Luckily we found an independent tour guide(at a lesser cost than the tour offered thru MSC cruises) to give us a personal tour. It is worth noting that the MSC tours are quiet expensive; at least 40-50 euros per port(minimum 7 x 40=280 additional Euros per adult for sightseeing if you care to see every port). I actually would not mind paying these prices if I felt the tours were a value, however once you get off the ship, you are loaded onto buses & most of the tours are conducted in this fashion. It would be nice if these tours were more personable.
On another note: if you take the tour in Tunis that includes the Medina market..don't bother to buy anything there-it's like a feeding frenzy for tourists & everything is marked up 200%!!! There is a REALLY lovely, clean shopping area directly in front of where the ship docks. Prices are marked on the merchandise & the shopkeepers seem much more respectful of their clientele. I only wish I had waited to buy everything there.
The MSC Valencia City Tour & MSC Taromina Tour were decent.
There is a bit of on board bait & switch too-you need to be aware. My favorite example is the daily Bingo games. It is advertised that you can win 300x the cost of your bingo ticket(yes you have to pay to play), which seems like an interesting risk, however they don't properly explain that the large payout is only offered for the ONE ‘magic' number that is called; thus if you don't get bingo on the statistically slim number, you win only 25 x your investment.
Then there are the costs for internet use-60 Euros for 2 hours(!!!), or if you get lucky you can get the special which is 40 Euros for 24 consecutive hours.
We also sent in Laundry for next day service..in by 10 am & back by 5pm the next day. 48 hours later, we finally have it back, but it took us NUMEROUS calls to the desk and it was only after 36 hours did they bother to call & follow up what had happened with it. I just wish they had done that on the first call.
The Splendida is new and very modern ship with splendid facilities. The cabins (or staterooms) are quite spacious and well equipped. Unfortunately there are a few problems with the additional costs. Coffee, tea and even water are charged for at lunch and dinner in the dining rooms. The Gratuities charge is now compulsory as explained by the Customers Serives Manager and cannot be removed. The library/internet room is quite small and internet facilities are expensive, slow and quite often are not working.
Great ship with very good itinerary. Having done five cruises in the Caribbean, the food was substandard along with the quality.
I would suggest the open top bus tours around the cities, they are great for seeing the various places. Be sure to ask about times of the buses though.
I am a 20 time cruiser and this line has totally disappointed me right from the start. Dealing with MSC-USA (booking agent for North America) is almost like they don't want North Amaricans on board.Published prices (drink packages etc) were changed and charged for as much as $5 per day more
Phone calls were never returned. All in all a bad start. Ship is new and clean ,cabins OK. Children all over. no rules obeyed (kids always in adult only areas).Dress code non existent, gratuities way to high for service rendered, food terrible. Itinerary very good with many ports of interest for a 7 day cruise. Overall never MSC again but take their itinerary and look for another Line.
This was our 17th cruise, and we've been on all the major cruise lines except Costa, from 3 star to 5 star ships, and never had a cruise we weren't glad we took. We picked this cruise because it hit 2 ports we hadn't been to, it was a new ship, and the price was good.
We booked a category 2 (inside) several months before the cruise, and about a month before the cruise the price dropped $140pp. Often when this happens the cruise lines will offer early bookers some compensation to reward and encourage early bookings, like shipboard credits, refunds, and free upgrades. We asked our TA to call MSC and see what they would do. They told our TA they would not offer any immediate compensation, but they would put us on a "courtesy upgrade" list if we would agree to accept whatever upgrade might occur. Since this was our only option we agreed. Four days before the cruise and no word, so our TA called them and was told that they disqualified us from any compensation because at the time of the price reduction there were no cabinsavailable in our category, what a clever loophole (lots of cat 2's opened up through the month). And then we found out that they had taken our preferred cabin location and given us another one in the same category in a worse location. But they would offer us a balcony for $180pp. To make the best of a bad situation we decided to accept, and when our TA called back they broke their word and said we couldn't have that offer any more, it had to be $300pp. Sounded like they were hustling us with bait-and-switch like a car lot, we'd had enough, and said no.
So there was no advantage in booking early with MSC, no compensation for a price reduction, and you're better off sitting on your money and waiting until you think the price has bottomed out. As a guideline, a month before the cruise the prices had dropped to $399 inside, $519 oceanview, and $659 category 6 balcony in peak season, and stayed there right up to the cruise.
No cruise docs were ever sent to us so we had to find out ourselves which terminal in the port the ship was at (#4) in case the taxi didn't know, we had one once that took us to the wrong ship.Embarkation
If you fly into Fort Lauderdale a cab to the port is $15, and the dispatcher at the a/p expects a tip for loading your luggage into the cab. At the port entrance all traffic is checked and you have to show photo ID before your cab can enter. We dropped our luggage at the ship porters at 12:45 and walked on the ship at 1:10. It would have been maybe 5 minutes quicker if we hadn't discussed the wrong cabin number with them. If you don't want to get stalled lining up for an embarkation photo from the ships photographers there is a little room to bypass them as you enter, walk along the side of the lane and tell people why you are going ahead, some will like the idea and follow you. The embarkation buffet was fine, a bit crowded as you enter as would be expected, just go to the back at the second buffet area and there are lots of tables. Service was great, we were even offered more ice tea and ice water when ours was getting low. Fire muster at 4:30 was the most civilized ever, seated in a cool lounge.The Cabin
Our cabin steward was great, started her off with a tip to keep the ice bucket full and get robes and more hangers, done immediately. The cabin is small, rated at 141 square feet, compared to CCL and HAL at around 185 sq ft. It was a quad, don't know how 4 people would manage. You can't open the bathroom door and the closet doors at the same time. Cabin card operates the cabin lights, your steward knows when you are gone and can make up the cabin b/c your card is out of the slot. Shampoo and body wash, no conditioner. Nice shower wand, good pressure and temp control.
The first 2 nights our cabin was noisy, banging and doors slamming, and we noticed a crew work room next to us, so we snuck in to check it out and found 2 service elevators and other equipment, and a nice big door to slam. We told Francesca, the new Customer Service Manager, and she found us a quiet cabin, thanks Francesca. It was a stern cabin, and had some strong engine vibration one night, but not the other nights.
These cabins only have seating for 1, a stool under the vanity. 2 electrical outlets on the vanity, another in the ceiling of the bathroom. Good sized mini-bar to keep your drinks chilled. Good hair dryer.The Ship
As every other review has noted, the ship is beautiful. We liked the atmosphere on the ship, low key, no drink waiters bugging you. Past reports of the crew being rude or indifferent did not fit, they were polite and helpful all week.
The atriums on some ships are very impressive, soaring up many decks with glass elevators rising out of sight, a nice place to have a drink a enjoy the view. The Poesia's atrium is the older traditional lower style, only going from decks 5-7, more room for extra cabins. The promenade shops area is also traditional, shops down hallways instead of the new open street concept.
The configuration of the ocean view cabins surprised us. All the ocean view cabins either have a porthole (cat. 4) or have a window with an obstructed view behind the lifeboats (cat. 5). There are no ocean view cabins with both a regular window and a open view, just tons of higher priced balcony cabins, all the way from deck 8-12. Other newer ships have this same pattern of many balcony cabins, which would increase revenue if they sold them all, and if they didn't sell, they could discount them to the price of an ocean view, so probably nothing lost. But many cruisers only want an outside cabin with a view, and won't take a balcony unless it drops to an ocean view price.
We've never been on a ship on a nice sea day when there have been any loungers available in the pool area after mid morning, and it was the same here, the last ones by the pool were taken by 10am. You have to sign your pool towels in and out from the towel police. We like listening to the bands at the pool, but if you don't need to use the pool or want to listen to a band, there are many open loungers in other areas, go up to the deck above the pool and walk end to end and you'll find tons of loungers. No pool band most days anyway. There are 2 pools, the Coral Bay pool near the entrance to the spa, and the Cayo Levantado near the entrance to the buffet, plus a kids pool on deck 14. Self serve soft ice cream cones at the pool 1-4pm.The loungers are good and bad, the good is they are a nice mesh, no buggy straps, and they have a great adjustable shade to keep the sun off your face, a first on a ship for us. The problem is the backs are short, and won't support your head if you lean back, so you have to scrunch down, but then your feet hang over the end. If you're petit you got it made.
If you don't want to lay in full sun all the time there are a few great private spots near the pool where you can slide your chair in and out of the sun. For the first 2, stand on deck 14 (above the pool), with the giant screen above you and 3 hot tubs below you, and look back in the 2 corners past the staircases by the tinted windows. 2-4 loungers fit nicely there, but you have to drag them in there. And if it's windy you'll be out of the wind. The Solarium sounded spa-ish, but it's just an open deck area with loungers, but no shade or wind protection there. The other nice shady/sunny spots are on either side of the big screen, slightly behind it, you can move your lounger around for sun or shade and adjust to sun movement too. Generally the loungers in front of the big screen don't get wind.
The gym is good, 4 ski motion elipticals and 4 straight ones, several treadmills and bikes, free weights, machines, floor mats, but a water fountain would have been nice. The tennis court is about half size, sort of like platform tennis.
As all ships do, gratuities are added to your ship account, but it's more than the other lines charge, $12/day pp instead of $10. MSC prefers to call it a service charge, and the amount is not published in the daily newsletter, just a small statement a couple times that it will be on your account and not to tip the crew, and that the amount and conditions are in their brochures and web site. So there is no comment that it can be adjusted or cancelled, but when you ask about it you find out there is a 3 hour window the last sea day to do that, held in the DR. The long 20 minute hassles previously reported did not happen, and people were done in a few minutes. No line up around 9-10, just a steady stream coming and going. We asked why the charge was more than other ships, and he said he didn't know. People on our shore excursion who had talked to the crew told us the ship does not give this money to the crew as on other ships. Some crew said they were told it was built into their salary, and others said they got $10 a week. It's supposed to be a secret, and the crew are warned not to discuss it with passengers, and not to accept tips, a lose-lose for them. The ship notice says the procedure is to encourage service excellence, but how a non-merit system does this is a mystery to us. Anyway the whole procedure seems sneaky and underhanded.
Accounting was efficient, there were a few charges on our card that weren't ours which they quickly corrected. You can view your account on the TV the last 3 days, and get a print-out at the desk on days before that. You can also book tours on your TV.
The ship overall: when we evaluate how much we've enjoyed a ship, our method is to think of one (or more) features that were special to that ship and to which we would really look forward to having again, sometimes simple little things. Like the solarium on the Vision, the indoor street promenade on the Mariner, the private upstairs level on the old Destiny lido buffet, Sabatini's alternate restaurant on the Crown, the French and Chinese alternate restaurants on NCL, the private little tables out the back of the buffet on the Century, the big cabins on HAL and CCL. But although the Poesia was lovely we couldn't find a special feature that appealed to us, it was just a pretty ship in the traditional style.The Food
The breakfast buffet was the same as most other ships. There are 2 buffets on each side, and many people stop at the first one as you enter. If you bypass the line and go to the back buffet there are less people and more empty tables. These 2 rear buffets have a few less items than the first ones as you enter (from the pool), like at the back ones there are no pancakes, French toast, waffles, or ready made omelets. And there is no cooked-to-order omelet station at any buffet.
Reports about rude people in the buffet lines was not evident, it was busy as on all ships, and people would reach in for just an item, no problem, or they would enter the line if there was big gap, and it worked fine. Orange and pineapple juice was available at several stations. If you get your food at the first buffet and there are no tables just walk through to the back at the second buffet.
The lunch buffet was also the same as on most ships, interesting selection, no problem finding something that appeals. The open hours change from day to day depending on shore times etc, sometimes it closes at 2:30 and sometimes it's open as late as 5pm, check the newsletter. Free ice tea and ice water, lemonade is $2.
We had all our dinners in the main dining room. We wanted a 2 person table for some private time this cruise, which can't be selected when you book the cruise as usual. So after boarding we went to the meeting room set up to handle dining requests, deck 6 next to the Zebra bar, and were fixed up. We thought the food was about average compared to other ships. There are usually 3 entrée choices on the Italian menu, 4 on big nights, and an American entree on the other side, plus 3 standards that can be ordered any day, beef steak, chicken scaloppini, and salmon. These were generally adequate, and we always ordered an extra entrée different than the first 2 so we'd have an alternate if one didn't appeal. One night it was a bit wanting, the choices were meatballs with boiled potatos, red snapper, and spaghetti with clams. They could throw the first and last one together for a pretty good combo. Another night the 3 choices were swordfish, veal scaloppini, and mini-pasta, with the American alternate being pot roast which was delicious. Swordfish was good too. Loved the cannelloni, Cajun tilapia, prime rib, pot roast, and great lasagna. As a benchmark, we thought the seafood except for the lobster was as good as the Red Lobster chain, but the pasta dishes were not as flavorful as the Olive Garden chain except for the excellent lasagna. Service was efficient, food was never cold.
We pre-ordered the dinner wine package #556, 7 bottles for $67, which has to be done no less than 1 week before the cruise by printing the form on their website and then faxing it to MSC. They sent no confirmation that they received it, but it was processed through our credit card 2 days before the cruise. This package says you get a choice of wines, but you don't, you can have either the house red or white each night. The red is the ship's Italian house wine, Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 2008, which luck for us we found acceptable. If you wait till you're on the ship to order the package, it's $105, but you get choices, 3 reds from California, 5 whites (2 CA, 2 Italian, 1 German), and 2 roses (1 CA and 1 Italian). If you pre-order, the wine coupons are supposed to be delivered to your table the first night. Ours wasn't there, and fortunately I packed the order form, so I had to go and get it to show the head waiter before getting the wine. They ended up keeping this form, so you might want to black out your credit card number before giving it away, they don't need that info since it's been paid for.
We always select anytime dining on other cruises, and it's always worked out well, short waits for tables. After returning from ports it's usually about 7 by the time we're cleaned up and ready for a drink before dinner, so making the 5:30 time for first seating was quite a rush, and second seating is too late for us. When we mentioned this to our waiter he said 6pm would be no problem, and it was nice to have some extra time. Many people just came in then anyway, not too considerate of their table mates.
The dining room dress code is not enforced. Nice that the code allows jeans on casual nights, but we also saw shorts which are not allowed, and on a formal night there was a t-shirt and ball cap. Overall this was not a dressy crowd, we saw only a few tuxes on formal nights. Average age was mid forties.Entertainment
The entertainment in the main theatre was good, interesting shows much like the other ships, one Cirque du Solei style, some magic, and a Michael Jackson tribute that was probably the hit of the cruise, he had Michael down pat, had everyone hopping. Most of the other big action is in the large Zebra lounge, get there before the theatre next door empties out at 9:30, standing room only after that. One night a conga line dance party, another night the crew dressed passengers in carnival costumes for some mob dance lesson laughter, quite a hoot, and another night a Travolta/Newton-John dance contest, pairs of crew and passengers doing a hilarious routine of 4 or 5 famous moves flipping the girls etc, to the tune of You're the One That I Love. The crew did a great demo first, and then 2 chubby good sport passengers won top prize, they had us in stitches, got a bottle of champagne. The staff in the lounge really work hard to interact with the passengers, and succeeded in involving them in all the action.
The Captain's cocktail reception the first formal night was the most bare bones we've been to, no oer d'erves, what tasted like virgin martinis, and champagne. The MSC club past cruisers party was the same, no snacks, and the drinks were a red virgin fruit drink and champagne, I guess he thought we'd had enough to eat. Honeymooners and anniversaries were also invited to this one.Ports
Most ships hand out port maps at the gangway or have one on the daily newsletter, but none were available this cruise.
Key West Cute port, rented bikes and toodled around. Not much time here, 7-2, which seems to be the norm for most ships stopping here, they don't seem to stay for the whole day. We did a recommended route from the Little White House down Whitehead to the Southernmost Point, then east on South St, and right on Reynolds to get down to Atlantic Blvd along Higgs Beach, then a right onto Bertha and continuing along Smathers Beach on Roosevelt Blvd. Then we made it back on board before the lunch buffet closed. A pretty route along the beaches, took about 1 hour. Bikes are $8-25 per half day depending where you rent.
Playa Del Carman This port was one reason we chose this cruise, we hadn't seen it and also wanted to take a side trip to Cancun. When the ship started doing this itinerary before and after Xmas we saw the cruiser reports that the ship always canceled Playa and went to Cozumel, citing weather too rough for tendering. Finally one cruiser reported that on the day Playa was canceled for them, the sea between Coz and Playa was calm, a row boat could make it across. So weather doesn't appear to be the real reason, just the convenient one. So anyway we got prepared for either port, and sure enough Playa was cancelled for us too and we docked at Coz, at the International Pier outside of town, on a beautiful calm day. With the short time in port (10-4) and the ferry from Coz to Playa eating up 1.5 hours return, and running irregularly (one ferry missed the ship), we decided to stay in Coz instead of doing Playa on our own.
We often like going to a resort in port and having snacks and drinks at the pool and beach, and Coz has several options. For the morning we fooled around the ship pool, then had a quick lunch as soon as it opened, then headed ashore. Since we'd be leaving a resort around 3 to make departure time of 4, we wouldn't get our money's worth from an all-inclusive deal, and wanted a pay-as-you-go deal, which the Fiesta Americana offers cruisers, so we went there and had a nice time, a pretty resort. It's about 7km, a $6 cab if you get the cab at the road 50 feet beyond the cue at the dock, those cost more, about $9. Drinks cost $7.50 and loaded nachos were $8. Loungers with towels are free. The main pretty pool area is on the hotel side of the small road, and they also have a beach club if you walk across the small road, with a smaller pool and loungers under thatched papillas umbrellas. Tell the waiter at either location that you are paying cash for food and drinks.
Restrooms in the lobby. Swim up bar at the pool, and there are cute cabanas with mattresses, free too. If you want all-in there it's $45 which includes all food, only beer and pop for drinks, and a day room.
The Presidente InterContinental offers a day pass for $130 which includes a pool-view day room, food/booze credit of $45 per room, and full resort access. The El Cozumeleno has an all-in day pass for $65. The Coral Princess had free use for cruisers a few years ago. The Melia Cozumel used to be $45 all-in for day use, one of the Wyndham's is currently $50 all-in, the Occidental Grande used to be $50 all-in, Cozumel Palace used to be $75 all-in, and the cute little Ed Cid La Ceiba right by the ship used to be $10 a la carte and $25 all-in.
Grand Cayman Cayman was a tendered port and previous reviews said the tenders did not take people to the Georgetown dock, but somewhere outside town requiring transportation to get to town. This time the tender took us to the main pier downtown. The ship uses it's own lifeboats to tender, but a large private tender took a couple loads too. We read reports that the tender service was very slow here, so in the morning we did the gym and some other stuff and didn't try till after lunch. Later we heard that there were some tempers flaring in the lineup. We did note that tender numbers 1-6 were called at 10:20, then numbers around 17 were called at 11:15, then numbers around 22 were called around 11:30, then numbers around 28 were called around noon, and then at 12:20 numbers were no longer required.
We've been to Grand Cayman several times and never made it to the famous 7 Mile Beach, did the rays and other stuff. So this time we wanted to check out the beach, and decided to walk a few miles of it, starting at the Westin/Ritz Carlton area and ending around the Marriott/Comfort Suites, stopping for drinks and snacks whenever needed. Two choices to get there, either the local bus routes WB 1 (yellow) or WB 2 (lime green) for $2.50 pp or a cab for $5-6 pp. The bus depot is now north of the ship on North Church Road just north of the yellow Waterfront Center bldg. Wave your hand and the bus will stop for you. Sit near the door in case the bus gets crowded. Pay when leaving the bus (it's a big van), exact change requested.
Jamaica We didn't need the hassles in downtown Mo Bay, and booked the Chukka Canopy Tour through the ship, a zip line over the forest, only $10 more than doing it privately. The tour began with a bus ride through the mountains, transferring to camo style army trucks for a wild ride through the jungle to a gorge. There we did pretty zip lines through the tree tops over the gorge and rivers. Well run, good equipment, very safe. Free ice water thermo after, then at a jungle café where you can buy snacks and drinks. They have photographers at each location taking shots of each person, which you can buy after, we got the 7 pack on a CD for $25. You can choose the ones you want from a computer screen. Also take your own camera, there are good opportunities for that as well, just have your hands free.
In the afternoon we checked out the Sunset Beach Resort near the ship, $60 all-in, a 10 minute walk but through a dirty construction area, take a $9 cab from the ship or $6 cab at the road. For the afternoon they wanted $30pp but it was 2:30 and not worth it to us for a couple hours, and they aren't set up to accept cash purchases, so we went back to enjoy the pool at the ship. The 3.5 star Royal Decameron is half way to town and $70 all-in, the Riu is $99 all-in, the Rose Hall Resort is $65 apparently with lunch but no booze, the Holiday Inn Sunspree on the other side of the airport is $55 all-in, the new Palmyra timeshare is free, pay as you go but you might get a speech, and the Coyaba Beach Resort is free, pay as you go. We read that Breezes was $98, and Sandals Mo Bay and Sandals Royal Caribb were $85, but avoid the Sandals Inn, different place. Our cabbie said the Ritz was free, a $15 ride.
Nassau In the afternoon we went to the British Colonial Hilton, an easy 10 minute walk from the ship, to the right of Senior Frogs, easy to see from the deck of the ship. It offers a $40 pass which includes towels and a $30 food and booze credit. We chose pay as you go, which allows you to use loungers and the pool and beach, but not their towels. Beer was $6 and cocktails were $8. Bar and food service was very slow, glad we passed on the AI, 5 ships in port, the bartender was shaking his head at the huge Oasis of the Seas.
The Sheraton Nassau offers a $25 pass without food or booze, and Breezes Superclub is $55 or $60 all-in. The Wyndham Nassau Crystal Palace is $40 incl buffet lunch, don't know about included booze. There are no buses to Paradise Island, just cabs, about $11/2ppl, or $4 pp for 4 or more ppl. Buses (jitneys) are $1.25, bus depot at Bay and George, #10 goes to the Sheraton. Day pass deals change all the time, email or call the resorts to be sure.
DisembarkationOur flight was at 11am so we needed to get off right away and get to the airport, so we did express self-disembarkation where you take your own luggage off the ship, and you have to sign up for this ahead of time. The line started moving at 7:15 and we were at the cabs at 8, and at the a/p at 8:15. If you need to get off sooner than that you could save about 15 minutes by waiting at the Place Vendine boutique which turned out to be near the front of the line. Delta doesn't allow checkin more than 2 hours before your flight, so we had to wait till 9.
Overall we did fine on the Poesia, but it reminded us how much we like to have anytime dining on the other cruise lines, and there wasn't a particular feature of the ship that was unique and special for us. We would cruise MSC again if it hit ports we wanted, and if the price matched the guidelines in the intro, but if the prices were higher than that we wouldn't book early.
If anyone has questions feel free to email us at: Bob7 then the "at" sign, then canoemail, then .com (written out to foil spambots).
The MSC Poesia is beautiful and awe inspiring. The cabins and beds are larger than most ships I have sailed. The embarkation was quick and uneventful.
The BAD: Food does not leave dining room! Portions for room service. A JOKE! Gala night is dining room only or pizza -- NO BUFFET Children's areas are poorly supervised and possess NO organization Ports of call - flip a coin for port and location -- NO JOKE Docking time was always late except on disembarkation day! Most of the staff was unfriendly Most did not speak very good English. Only two desserts every night with one being Jell-O. The smell of raw sewage every morning at 6:00am on the jogging track.
The VERY UNACCEPTABLE: Adults can come and go in the children and teens areas. HUGE No - No! Staff arguing with guests. Children could drink water or coffee at any time during the day. Cords running down the middle of jogging track.
The bad explained: Every other cruise ship has allowed us to bring a dinner up to the room when someone in our party could not make it for dinner. Not MSC!! The firstnight my father could not make it to dinner so we asked if WE could take his meal to him. We were informed that no food is taken out of the dining room. The Maitre D’ informed me that my dad could order room service and it is free. Yeah right! It is free but it turned out to be a tuna sandwich! MMMMMM So much for the free room service. There is also not food available all hours of the day except room service. Just hope you are not hungry because three small pieces of cheese (cheddar, pepper jack, and Swiss - this is the assorted cheeses) and two packs of crackers with a quarter size of marmalade or three pieces of fruit is it. The only thing to drink during the day is coffee or water unless you want to purchase milk, juice, soda, ice tea, or alcohol. Who ever heard of a cruise ship with two desserts maybe a third? One was always Jell-O. Jell-O is great if it is sugar free and your a diabetic or you have no teeth left to chew the "real" desserts. MSC get with the program!
Children's areas are pathetic at best in the 7-12 and 13-17 areas. I peaked at the younger kids area but I have no comments because of lack of viewing of that area. The 7-12 yr olds are crammed into a small room with a ping pong table and foosball/soccer table for 20 to 30 kids. There is no gate keeping children in and adults out. In fact, my mother and a friend walked right into the children’s' room trying to convince my kids to join in. Adults walking into the kids area does not happen on any other ship that I have been on. The rooms are usually gated and you have prove who you are before your kid is brought to you! I also observed a little girl about 7 - 9 hitting the behind of the male counselor in the room. This is inappropriate behavior for both child and the staff. He never said a word to her! I saw no organization at all during any of my observations of this center. My 15 1/2 year old said they never ran the activities scheduled for her age group. She also said the teens were allowed in the Disco/teen center at 10:30pm approx. but it was suggested that they leave by 11:00pm for adult dancing. However, adults could roam freely in this room at any time and interact with the teens. NO NO NO! I was told my another adult that a "drunk" adult came up to her teen. What is wrong with MSC? Shame on MSC and the drunk adults hanging out with teens. This is unsafe and extremely unacceptable. I work in a high/middle school and work the after-school program for the elementary, this would NOT be and should NOT be tolerated!
The ship never docked on time nor did you know which port you will be going. It seems MSC likes to dock in "no mans land" and lets you pay extra to get into the town. I have been to Grand Cayman three times before and this was the only time we ported/tendered in a residential area where you needed to pay $5 per person each way to go into Georgetown shopping. The cost would have been $40 each way or $80 to go shopping. We found out how to use the public transportation for $2.50 per person each way.
The majority of the staff did not speak very good English but you can eventually find someone to communicate with to help. Hello, MSC CEO, a smile is a UNIVERSAL HELLO -- teach your staff to smile. You very rarely (3 times on the 7 night cruise with the exception of the room stewards and waiters) get a smile, good morning, good afternoon, etc. I finally could not take this one guy at the buffet line that just looked mean (convict looking mean) and scary so I told him he had a great smile and needed to smile, however I really did not know if he had a nice smile. After that he always smiled at me and said hello, he really was scary before.
The jogging track is great to use on a cruise ship. Just to walk briskly with the wind in your hair, sound of the ocean all around you, the smell of salt water, and the wonderful sunrise. The Poesia had a jogging/walking track. I had the wind in my hair, sound of the ocean, and wonderful sunrises but the smell of salt water was masked with the smell of raw sewage every morning about 6:00 am. One word -- Nauseating! I have used the jogging track on every boat (except Disney - did not have one) and the staff is always cleaning it between 5 - 6:30 am but every other ship the cords for the vacuums are run along the sides the track not down the middle. Of course, it makes it more exciting when all of a sudden the cord gets pulled taunt and you trip. Yes, this is the MSC Poesia.
Send the MSC back to the Mediterranean
On Friday, February 19, 2010, we were packing to leave our cruise on the Poesia. When I went into the "belly" drawer of the desk, I discovered that the ship's information book was missing. I immediately called down to reception to inform them that it was missing. The lame explanation was that they do this to make sure that it is up to date for the next cruise. I said that it is an invasion of privacy and it is not right to go into drawers of the passengers until after they have vacated the cabin at the end of the cruise. I also informed the person at reception that our cabin had been missing the bath towels that day and we had had to request them to be brought to us. The answer I received was not to worry and that I was not going to be charged for the towels. The implication I felt from reception was that I had taken the towels and requested others to replace the "missing" towels.
After dinner, I returned to the cabin to get some medication and vitamins only to findthe door wedged open by the bathroom door making it impossible to see into the room. I pushed the cabin door to full open and pushed the bathroom door shut to enter the cabin. I found the maid standing in front of the desk with the drawer open and her going through the items in the drawer. She tried to make excuses, but I was infuriated and told her to get out of the cabin immediately. I told her and the cabin steward to stay out of my cabin and not to enter my cabin again. I gave him the two bath towels we had used to shower before dinner and he gave me two clean towels to shower with in the morning.
Then I went down to reception and insisted on meeting with the guest relations manager and the head of security. The concierge told me that they were not available. She tried to get me to explain the problem, but I refused as I was not going to repeat the story 3 or 4 times. I said I would stand there and continue to request on seeing the aforementioned people, and I was going to stand there and repeat my request until it was met. She knew that I meant what I said, so she brought me to the offices behind the desk. I met with the guest relations manager, some woman, who was obviously not the head of security, and some man who was supposedly the head of housekeeping.
Only then did I tell them that I was extremely annoyed and angry that my privacy had been invaded. I also explained that I have traveled enough in my 60 years and I have never had any hotel, motel, or ship employees go into drawers while I was still a guest in that room or cabin let alone remove any of the contents that belonged in the room. The lame excuse was that they have a lot today to prepare for the next guests. I told them they have 5 hours from 7:00 a. m. until 12:00 noon to do that. I told them that I understood that they have about 1275 rooms and between 2500 and 3000 passengers whereupon the head of housekeeping chose to ridicule me. He ridiculed me a couple of more times during my tirade because I spoke to him in Spanish so maybe he would comprehend the gravity of the invasion of privacy. What he didn't know is that I understand some Italian as well. He ridiculed me be saying to the others in the room that I had no reason to be so angry as to "mange" him. (as if to say bite his head off).
So far I have told this story to about 6 or 7 people including one woman who we met on board who is a travel agent. The 100% consensus of opinion is 100% for me 100% against MSC Poesia. I'm certain that if this hits the internet, it will not be a pretty picture for MSC. I have read the mixed reviews about MSC, but most of them are nit-picky nonsense. This is a very serious allegation that many Americans will not take lightly considering all that we must endure to travel since 9/11. Here are my nit-picky complaints which add insult to the injury:
1. Hal Brand from Americas Vacation Center, ordered SWEET TEMPTATION Tray of Petit Fours (10 pieces) because it was my birthday. What a disgrace! 10 cookies does not equal 10 Petit Fours. He deserves a credit back of $14.00!
2. We booked this cruise on November 30, 2009. We requested a small table (2-4) and early seating (see chart below from the MSC web-site). However, the daily programs state 1st seating at 5:30 pm with the "threat" "Restaurant doors will close 10 mins. after opening for the seating dinner."
Evening Dining Times Caribbean Sailings & Ocean Voyages 1st Seating 5:45 & 6:00pm / 2nd Seating 7:45 & 8:15pm
3. We were originally seated at a table for ten. When I balked at that I was told to go to talk to the maître d'. There were signs posted that it is impossible to change tables. He told me he would see what he could do the next night. I told him that we had made reservations for L'Obelisco for the nights of 2/14 & 2/15. He said he knew because he had made the reservations. He sent us back to the table for ten, but I refused to sit with a pole between me and my wife. Amazing they sat us alone at a table for six in the upstairs dining room.
4. The maitre d' failed to tell me that 2/14 was also the CAPTAIN'S WELCOME COCKTAIL & the GALA DINNER. By the time I got the program it was too late to change our plans from L'Obelisco to the GALA DINNER. Even though the program mentions the San Valentine's Menu $58 per couple, it states: "Tonight, our Chef suggests Sautéed king prawns." which were not available! The dinner was a disgrace with undercooked risotto and overcooked filet mignon, and very meager portions. So we had a crappy dinner, missed both cocktail possibilities, missed meeting and hearing the Captain. Lovely; all because the maitre d' did not have the courtesy to inform us of the festivities of the 14th.
5. I saw that the wine list in L'Obelisco did not include Veuve Clicuot Ponsardin Champagne. I asked the maitre d' if I could order it for my birthday dinner in L'Obelisco. He was not at all helpful. He told me to go to the bar manager to see if it could be done. Luckily I found Conrad, the Asst. Bar Mgr., and he managed to arrange it for us.
6. My birthday dinner turned into a fiasco too. I ordered the prawns and my wife ordered pasta with lobster and seafood with the pasta well-cooked not al dente. They brought the pasta and tried to serve it to me. We said no it's for her. Ten minutes later they brought me my prawns which were medium shrimp at best and no pine nuts as advertised.
7. On Wednesday, February 17th, they stated that the outside of the ship was going to be washed. When we came back to our room, we found our balcony washed but the balcony sliding door was left WIDE OPEN!
8. On Thursday, February 18th, we came back to the room and found the balcony door left open about 6 inches. Of course I have already expounded on the piece d 'resistance above which had my blood pressure way up there.
I hope that you can come up with something reasonable to compensate the ineptness of the Poesia staff, but don't even think about another cruise!
In spite of the last paragraph they have only offered a $400 credit on another Carribean cruise!