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. Families. Value for Money.
Good for: Children`s Programs. Families. Foodies.
Good for: Foodies. Families. Group.
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, Western Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. 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.
Good for: Foodies. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Africa, Mediterranean, Transatlantic
Good for: Foodies. Group. Families.
Good for: Foodies. Group. Families.
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...
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 just completed a 12-day Baltic Sea cruise on the MSC Opera. In a word: GRAND.
Check-In (in Copenhagen) was a breeze. MSC was very well prepared and remarkably efficient. We heard there had been a line-up when embarkation began at noon, but we arrived about 1:30 pm and had no line-up whatsoever. Note, however, that many passengers had embarked the previous day in Kiel -- the Opera lets you embark at either Kiel or Copenhagen. We had no problem bringing on board a few bottles of our favorite wine.
Cabin We were very pleased with our cabin. We had a 12th deck "suite." The Opera has no real suites -- ours was a slightly larger room, with a bathtub. We had ample storage space and a reasonably large closet with plenty of room for 10 dresses, 4 suits, 10 or so shirts, -- we did not pack lightly. The regular rooms have less closet space, and no tub, only a shower. NOTE -- the two forward facing suites face into the wind, and on a Baltic cruise you will be typically cool if not freezing. The port and starboard suites aremuch better protected from the wind. In fact, we hardly ever sat on the balcony -- it was too cold (~9-14 C / 48-57° F) most of our trip.
Food The food was excellent. Not everything was sublimely superb -- but could your favorite restaurant give you 36 consecutive sublimely superb meals? When cooking for 1,000 diners twice a night? Let's be reasonable. The pasta was consistently sublimely superb. I recommend a pasta course with every meal; you can diet later. Some main course meat dishes were very good, some were ok. Based on our traveling companions' reviews, I never ordered beef. Instead I had chicken cacciatore, guinea fowl, duck, fish, etc. Remember that this is an Italian cruise line, and the menu reflects this. I was pleased; I'll order steak some other time.
LUNCH we usually ate ashore. For the few lunches we had on board, we always had pizza (& beer). The pizza was superb. But remember that it's ITALIAN style pizza -- not Domino's or Little Caesar's.
BREAKFASTS were great -- either in the self-serve cafeteria or in the table service sit-down dining room. Lots of choices, and excellent waffles.
We found only two disappointing things about food: we ate far too much and we had to leave after only 2 1/2 hours (we had the first sitting). We could have quite happily lingered longer over our dessert and cheese. Overall, I enjoyed the food far too much -- it's not good for your waist line.
Service The service was excellent throughout the ship. Everyone was friendly, helpful, and eager to please. We travel a LOT, and we have never come across a more friendly, accommodating, eager-to-please staff. Language was not an issue. Some staff have better English than others, but (a) it's better than my Italian or Indonesian; and (b) if foreign accents annoy you then why travel?
Activities I can't really comment because we do not gamble, did not partake in any organized activities, and only rarely watched the entertainment. We went with 2 other couples so we amused ourselves with conversation when not ashore sightseeing. The bars & lounges, etc. were all very nice, in a Holiday Inn lounge sort of way; but I reckon that this is par for the course on any cruise ship. We spent most of our lounge time in the 12th deck disco at the stern. Its ceiling-to-floor windows (on 3 sides) gave a panoramic view, and it was quiet, since the disco music doesn't start til 11 or 12. Some entertainment struck us as a bit hokey (again reminiscent of a Holiday Inn lounge) but others (such as the "special guest" Swiss Dixieland jazz band) were entertaining. But we spent almost no time in show bars. We preferred to visit & chat in quieter bars, catching up with old friends.
Facilities It was too cold to swim, so no one used the pools. Early June in the Baltic is too cold for pools unless you're very, very hearty. I tried the "hot" tub once, but at its advertised 22° C / 72° F, it was a tad too tepid for my liking.
Drinks We bought the buy-ahead beer package (14 bottles for US $38 or so), and it's worth it. Otherwise bottled beer is 4 or 5 Euros, depending upon the brand. We bought a wine package at embarkation -- saves you 20 Euro, but I didn't find it to be any big deal. The house wine at 8 Euro per 1/2 litre was cheaper than the package and quite drinkable. We also pre-purchased an embarrassingly large number of bottles of wine for our cabin, at about US $19 each -- this I recommend if you enjoy a glass of wine on your balcony. But you CAN take unfinished wine from the restaurant to your cabin or a lounge.
Ports of Call Great! The ports were the primary reason for us taking this cruise, and we were not disappointed. I like medieval old-town centers, and we saw a few of them.
Gdansk: Dluga Targ (pretty much the medieval main street) was gorgeous. But my camera broke so I was able to take only a few pictures on my PDA. A great place for lunch in Gdansk is "Salonik" on Deluga. It's a wonderfully decorated room, featuring traditional Polish food. At about 4pm it started to pour and got quite cool, so being creatures of comfort we took a taxi back to the ship, thus cutting a bit short our sightseeing. Note that it's about a 45 minute taxi ride from the cruise port (in Gdynia) to the Gdansk Stare Misto. Six of us shared a min-van taxi, and he charged us 200 zloty. We suspect this is about half the meter rate, but Poland's hurting, and split 6 ways it's not a bad fare. Anything to help a suffering economy, I say.
Riga: Riga was very nice, but has not yet completed its post-Soviet makeover. Once their EEC economy kicks in and they complete their medieval old-town center renovation, Riga will be as strikingly beautiful as Prague or Tallinn. Depending upon your ship's berth and your walking pace, it's a 20-40 minute walk to the medieval old-town center. It is NOT a scenic walk (from ship to old town), but we welcomed the exercise so we enjoyed it. It poured (again), so we spent more time than we would have planned having a thoroughly enjoyable lunch. Our friends reported a superb lunch at a different restaurant. I'll try to track down restaurant names if anyone is interested. The Latvian Museum of Occupation (soviet & nazi) is an educational MUST-SEE. Missus bought a very nice amber bracelet in Riga for what seemed to us to be a better price-to-quality ratio than other Baltic ports. But we are in no way gemological experts, so buyer beware. Riga also featured the cheapest beer -- CAD $2 / pint at an otherwise expensive, trendy, fashionable & good-food restaurant. The primary reason we chose MSC was the inclusion of Riga (and Visby) and we were NOT disappointed. If you're only going to take one Baltic cruise -- capitalize on the opportunity and sample as much as possible. GO to Riga.
Tallinn: Tallinn was the gem of the trip -- an absolutely gorgeous medieval old-town center. There is too much to see and enjoy during a 1-day port call. Tallinn is the only port-of-call to which I would gladly make a special trip to re-visit.
St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg is ... St. Petersburg. You've already read all about it. Glorious churches, near-decadent architecture, Romanov legacy, and the Hermitage. But it's also bureaucratically tourist-unfriendly, and most of the city is 200-year old run-down and seedy following years of neglect. Call me a Philistine (I shan't protest it), but a 2-day cruise call is sufficient.
Helsinki: Helsinki. Sigh. More rain, more chill. This is the only cruise ship excursion we took -- to Porvoo -- and I cannot recommend it. On the other hand, Missus highly recommends the fresh-fried smelt (?) at the dockside market. At the risk of once again revealing my Philistinity, I declined the opportunity to eat entire fishes -- heads, tails, bones, GI tracts and anuses.
Stockholm: Stockholm was fun, architecturally interesting, wet, cold, rainy, and expensive. A gorgeous (big) city, with lovely looking cafés galore, but with $20 soups and $15 beer (or glass of table wine), it's not high on my list of must-go-back-to places.
Visby: Visby was picturesque. Unique in its small-town densely packed old-town "cottages" combined with long-lost Hanseatic glory. MSC may be the only cruise line stopping in Visby, and it's well worth it.
Kiel: Good shopping, just past the block or so of sex-trade merchants. But (at the risk of being racist), with typical German gemütlichkeit, it's a tasteful, well-scrubbed, tidy and not in the slightest bit seedy sex-trade block.
Copenhagen: Copenhagen -- the start & finish. We spent 2 nights prior and one night after the cruise. One of the most vibrant cities we have visited. Cafes everywhere, generally busy with people enjoying themselves, evidently immensely. The old-town core is full of people enjoying themselves. It's catching.
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.
Excellent cruise value especially considering kids under 17 yrs sail free.
Ship was immaculate although considerable ship movement/vibrations felt regardless of deck level or location.
Superior embarkation/disembarkation process. Picked up kids' life jackets and yellow identity bracelets upon boarding the ship.
Maitre 'D was available upon boarding (12:30-3:30pm) in the Orchestra meeting room (Deck 6) for any special requests.
Room cards are inserted inside room for operation of lights and also acts to notify room stewards of room occupancy/do not disturb.
Easy operating safe without the need of swiping credit card, etc.
Some passengers, including myself, experienced dark blackish water while showering and after flushing toilet. Apparently this occurs occasionally and we were told to run water for 5 minutes to flush out the system. Inquiry made at information desk seemed to suggest this problem was a well known fact.
There are two identical pool areas, except one is without a kid's wading pool and stage, which provides for quieter ambiance if desired. Amazing deck chairs, each with an attached shade canopy.
Smoking areas well adhered to.
Large washrooms throughout the ship.
Fitness area small, but adequate to achieve a basic workout. 25 minute limit for cardio machines. No water infitness area. Need to bring your own water bottle.
Mini putt is only 5 holes and very unremarkable. Found that the supply of tennis balls and ping pong balls becomes depleted during the latter part of the cruise.
There is a large jungle gym for kids. Advertised age groups (3-8yrs and 8-13yrs) were actually 3-6yrs (Minis), 7-12yrs (Juniors), and 13-18 (Teens), although there were times where Minis and Juniors combined for common activities. No pager available for kids' programs.
Passengers must pay for soft serve ice cream which is located behind poolside bars.
Draft beer ($59 for 14x14oz) and tropical/mixed drink ($69 for 12) packages available from the bar. Purchased as a coupon booklet which equals two free drinks compared to buying separately.
Dining room only wine packages available (7-10 bottles of house white and/or red for $70-$100 or choose from select wine list for $105-$150). Best to pre-purchase these wine packages as all package options do not seem to be offered when onboard. Wine bottles (corked or uncorked) can be taken from the dining room for later use. Bring your own corkscrew for opening corked bottles.
There is no activity sheets/crayons handed out to children in the dining room. No Spa (low calorie) menu items offered.
The MSC Orchestra is a peanut-free ship.
The Four Seasons Restaurant, located at the back of the ship, opens as part of the buffet during breakfast and lunch offering almost identical choices (except fast food options and pizza) and is significantly less chaotic with no lines. There are no trays to use for the buffet, although they do offer extra large oval plates. Soy milk is available for those with dairy allergies.
Port times sometimes differed from those advertised, causing some problems if private shore excursions are booked. Tender coupons to Cayo Levantado unnecessary as far as needing to present them for tendering.
Quality of shows was excellent and they were very refined.
Just back from an 11 day cruise on the MSC Lyrica. I loved the ship -- it was extremely clean.
The shows each night in The Broadway Theater were wonderful and there was a different one each night for all 11 nights of the cruise!
There was exceptional entertainment provided by very talented people.
The live music in each of the lounges was outstanding and geared for mature people. There were many couples dancing.
Our room was nice and the cabin personnel did a great job and were always friendly.
It was a nice experience to hear four other languages spoken other than English.
Our excursions in each port were well planned and well organized.
I found the food to be good and had no complaints about the meals.
I would definitely book another trip on the MSC Lyrica!
I was concerned about our pending cruise after reading some of the reviews -- however, I was pleasantly surprised. The staff was very courteous and very attentive. Our room attendant was very helpful, and we received superior service from our dinner staff.
The room service menu was very limited compared to other cruises we have been on, and the amount of smoking on the ship was also annoying.
The food was good (not spectacular), but the Chinese restaurant was overpriced for the quality.
>I noticed that the Americans were very attentive when the announcements were first made in English, but very rudely began talking loudly when the announcements followed in the other languages! I, for one, really appreciated the variety of languages!
There were plenty of lounge chairs available -- unlike other ships we have sailed with.
The bar service was good and not "pushy."
The time in port was limited -- that could be improved upon so that we are not so rushed.
All in all, I think it was an excellent cruise experience for the price.
As a travel agent with 57 cruises, I feel qualified to post this review. While it is impossible to please all, I will give you my feelings on MSC. We sailed the Lirica in 2005 and loved it. Cabins are small, even for 2, but every other aspect was excellent. I have sold many cabins on MSC, and raved over the line. I just sailed the Orchestra, and would not recommend this line to anyone. As an agent, I have a duty to tell the truth, not just to agree that every ship and every cruise is fantastic. We had a Category 11, Luxury Balcony. The room was small for 2, let alone 4 or 5.
Children love movies, especially on a cruise. Movies cost $10.70 each. So if you really want to pay that to see The 40 Year Old Virgin, Wall-E, and other old movies, you will love MSC. Also, no ESPN or sports channels. CNN Europe is the only news channel, and most of the channels are blank. No movie channel, unless you like the 2 channels of TNT, one in English and one in Italian.
Thebath comes with no washcloths, and the room stewerd is invisible until the second day, no matter how many times you call for him. Room service is a joke. If you misplace a single sheet of info on the first day with all the papers given, you have no idea you can get food and sandwiches. A club sandwich is a turkey club only, and when you order one you get a half one. But you can BUY many items on room service.
When you get onboard, there is no free glass of bubbly for repeat cruisers as mentioned in the info. The balcony glass and the entire balcony is coated in salt. It will be cleaned half-way through the cruise, though. And toward the end of the cruise you are given an info sheet telling you that if you bought any wicker items, they won't be allowed back into the States. Give that info on the 1st day, please!
Dinner was a big joke. Lousy service, lukewarm food. We ate at the 4 Seasons specialty restaurant for 5 days. It was the best thing on the ship, but at $25 a person, it can add up. But it was worth it. Avoid the Chinese restaurant. I would not eat there again even if it was free. You pay per item, and will pay $30-40 per person easily. The 1st night we had a very large table of Italians that shouted, laughed at the top of their lungs, even had the wait staff giving them ugly looks. And, to top it off, they started smoking at the table, and nothing was said to them.
The only free ice cream is at dinner, and when the kids want ice cream at other times it is $1.50 a cone. Great ice cream, but start adding. And pizza is offered only at night for free, so during the day you can purchase it! For such a large ship, there are too few shops onboard. But the best thing, or worst, depending on your view, you can buy liquor off ship and bring it back to the room and drink it there, or to the dinner table like the table next to us did. You love Coca Cola but not Pepsi? Only Pepsi is sold, at $2.50 a small glass. No soft drink cards.
I was really looking forward to their private island, as the other lines have great ones. We finally got off the ship at noon, had to be back onboard by 3:00. And NOTHING is free on the private island. Food and drinks all cost a very high price. And if having 1000 chairs for 3000 people is your idea of fun, you will enjoy it. If you get up to take a dip in the water, your chair will be gone when you return. People will dump your belongings and take your chair, nobody will stop them. We found all ports had a very short stay. Better planning by the cruise line is needed here. I could go on and on -- but you get the picture.
Oh, I almost forgot. Of the 3 main elevators midship, 1 was out of service the whole cruise. No excuse for this, especially when this is a new ship, on its fourth US sailing. And for free fun, you can push a button, watch the other 2 elevators pass your floor 6 times before stopping. Enjoy!
I forgot to add about smoking. It is allowed in the cabins, but not on the balcony. Yet everyone who smokes does it on the balcony. Get used to the smell in all the hallways! Just remembered! We sailed with 3 other travel agents, and we all got a special invitation to a private cocktail party for a group sailing onboard. We all show up, and are told halfway through the party that we were given the invite by mistake, and their own members were not given invites. Along with the invite in the cabin were 2 tickets to an excursion in Key West. We all thought it was a freebee from MSC. I was hesitant to go, and upon arriving in Key West, looked at my room bill. We were being charged for the excursion. It took 5 days to get a credit after returning the tickets. They said we were charged in error. I believe this is their way of selling, as both of the other travel agent couples went on the excursion, thinking it was free, and did not get a credit. And everyone we asked how they liked the cruise so far, we got ugly looks, nasty comments, etc. And if you go on a baseball cruise, as we did, and you need a baseball, no problem, they sell them onboard for $14. And I have been known to send a birthday cake to unsuspecting others (Tom), and they used to be free. RCCL charges about $8 for a small cake, but you can get the same small cake on MSC for $45. But they sing for free.
Just remembered about service. On many occasions I and the wife, or Doug (travel agent) and his wife, went to the lounge for a cocktail. We would be the only ones in there, and the 3 hostesses and bartender talked together, ignoring us. Doug went to the bar, and could not get their attention for quite some time. And Doug is very mild mannered, quiet, not like me. And it wasn't just us being ignored. Other couples would come by, sit, wait, get up, and leave.
And I just remembered, I need to add this to my report. Everyone at the table ordered escargo for an appetizer. We loved RCCL and other ship's escargot, 5 in a pool of garlic butter. What we received here were 2-3 pieces of escargot swimming in a heavy brown sauce filled with mushrooms. And at the Shangai Chinese specialty restaurant, my tablemates ordered the peking duck. Expecting a leg or a quarter of duck, they received 4 tiny pieces of duck in a bed of rice. I ordered a 'tang combo,' for $25, and was told it was 16 different items, and would be hard to eat all by ourselves -- the wife and I. It was 16 small appetizers, 8 each, on a single plate. The 'corn crab soup' had 2 pieces of corn and just the flavor of crab, no crab meat, for $8.50. I may seem to be picky, but until I win the Powerball and can throw away money, I will expect value received for money spent, and I don't feel MSC delivers such a product. I almost forgot, well, I did forget, but I remembered when I looked at my receipts -- All I drank at the lounges were shots of Jack Daniels. They cost $6.90. A Jack and water, or on the rocks, with the same amount of Jack, was $4.95. Go figure.
Maybe it's best I don't remember this cruise. It was very difficult to write this review. Rick Sasso is trying hard to make this a positive experience, but as much as I enjoyed the Lirica, this was a true 180 degree turn in service, food, activities, etc. The food would have been acceptable had it been hot. It would arrive lukewarm, and if you asked for a hot serving, it took over 30 minutes to arrive, lukewarm again. A tip, should you go. The coffee is so strong, spoons kept disappearing in the coffee. Order room service, 2 coffees, you get a pot. But also order 2 hot chocolates, and you get a pot of steaming hot milk and 2 packages of instant chocolate. Mix the coffee and hot milk half and half, and you have drinkable coffee, not weak at all.
As my wife will quickly admit, looks can be deceiving, don't judge a book by the cover. Seriously, the ship is not open enough inside. The dining room on 2 levels is 2 different restaurants on 2 levels. The lobby is open for 2 levels, very small. The 5 shops are in so small a space you can shop in 5 minutes. The library has 4 chairs. The internet cafe has 5 desks. The ship is very clean, but stuffy. And the 3 main elevators, with only 2 working, hold 8 people each. When full, they skip other floors, so you wait forever for an elevator.
On a positive note, this ship sails at 7 pm. I flew on a later flight non-stop from New Orleans, arriving at 2:40. Woke up at a normal hour, not rushed to airport, non-eventful flight. Got a taxi to port, arrived at 3:15. Only a handful of guests checking in, was on ship at 3:35. Luggage arrived by 4 pm, very fast. A bowl of fresh fruit was waiting in the room. And though the bathroom is small, there is ample room around the toilet. The shower stall is huge, as long as you don't close the shower curtain. I was able to sit on the toilet while bathing, or use the toilet seat to reach my toes. Whenever we left the room, it was cleaned very quickly.
On a final (hopefully) note, the one souvenir I enjoy is my stack of past key cards. MSC now picks up the cards as you leave the ship. As I said, maybe it's best I don't remember this cruise.
Service was not up to par.
Food was acceptable to good.
Age of other cruisers was way past 60.
The crew did not interact with passengers, except for the entertainment staff. They did an excellent job.
Bottom line -- take another cruise line.
There were good and bad aspects to this cruise. However, there was more bad than good.
The crew at times seemed lost. Yet when we had a problem with our cabin, they were right there.
Much was done in French or 4 other languages.
The entertainment was a little too much for me. Food was okay, but that's just it -- it was just okay.
I would have to say that if you are from the States, stay away from MSC.