Length: 964 ft
A true bargain on a classy new ship with family activities and children's menus.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
All American cuisine for every meal; a smoke-free environment.Onboard Experience
MSC is a tasteful cruise line that has refined its product over the years after experiencing early growing pains. While MSC Cruises tries to accommodate American tastes during the Caribbean season, the onboard vibe remains European, with Italian officers and a mix of Italian, Balinese and International crew. The onboard enetertainment, pianists and vocal duos with guitar, feature excellent European performers. As in the Mediterranean, announcements are in five languages, but in the Caribbean English is the first.
The Musica-class of MSC Cruises is the second generation - started in 2006. There are four Musica-class ships including the Musica, Orchestra, Poesia and MSC Magnifica with a debut in 2010. At 90,000 tons for 3000 passengers, these ships belong firmly in the mainstream market and are comparable to Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise lines in America. Keep in mind that MSC cruises is marketed to the European masses.
There is 236,000 sq. ft. of public space inside the ship, most of it supported by an Art Nouveau design theme straight out of 1930s Europe. The main attraction is a three deck tall atrium, where the focal piece is a clear glass platform suspended a piano over a waterfall. On the bottom floor of the atrium you will find the reception desk and shore excursion offices. There are also plenty of shops nearby, including the perfume shop, the jewelry store and a kiosk for everyday notions.
There are three large showroom lounges with plenty of a grandstand style seating on raised platforms facing the stage. The entertainment may be a jazz quartet or a single piano player accompanied by his own technology. The main showroom is the Covent Garden Theater with fine sight lines and a state-of-the-art theater featuring fairly large cast production shows.
Altogether, there are 11 bars and lounges on the ship, and music is the common cruise denominator for all of the various nationalities onboard. During the day, one can join in trivia games, cooking demonstrations and various other activities, but keep in mind that each of these must be conducted in five different languages.
To navigate the ship, one must walk a through each public room and it is not possible to bypass the bottlenecks that are bound to occur. There is no unifying passageway or atrium from which every, or even a few, public rooms are accessible.
As expected for a European cruise ship, the highlight is the cuisine and the best on board comes in the buffet area and specialty restaurants. These alternative dining spots, served on an a la carte basis instead of fixed per person service fee, makes them more convenient and accessible. Best of all, the price will not go beyond the typical cruise ship alternative dining experience.
With MSC Cruises' "kids sail free" policy all year round these ships get especially crowded with youngsters during the summer. That policy applies to anyone 17 or under. Keep in mind that the foremost nationalities onboard are Italian, Spanish, French, German and English - in that order. While the American component becomes stronger whenever an MSC ship enters the Caribbean region, the European onboard flavor is persistent and continues to appeal to the Europeans. U.S. cruisers are advised that taking an MSC Cruise in the Caribbean does not necessarily mean that English and will the dominant language onboard. It depends on the passenger mix onboard.Decor
Each of Orchestra's public room has its own distinctive color scheme, all more subdued than the earlier ships, and each room blends well with the next, giving a sense of unity. Cabin decks are similarly color-coordinated, each in its own hue. Abundant polished brass, mirrors, glass and marble make the insides of these immaculate ships resplendent.Public Rooms
Orchestra offers 11 different bars and lounges, each of them unique, and most of them situated on Decks 5 and 6 connected by a grand marble staircase.
At the other end of the scale, the L' Enoteca Wine Bar offers a selection of varietals and an even better selection of food pairings to go with them. You can choose from, Spanish, Italian, French or German cuisine traditionally consumed with wine. For under $10 one can get a plate of a cultural delight, such as pickles and sausages from Germany or breads and cheese from France.
On deck five is the Casino Palm Beach with a traditional Monte Carlo flair. One will find blackjack, slot machines ranging from one penny to five dollars, or euro as the case may be, and of course roulette. There is no craps table, however, as that is an American game. Behind the casino is a the Shanghai Chines Restaurant, and beyond the stairwell comes the cyber café and the Havana Club where cigar smoking is not only allowed, it is encouraged.
Deck six has the outdoor promenade deck encircling nothing but staterooms. Decks seven through 11 are all staterooms as well, but deck 13, Vivace Deck, begins with the Aloha Beauty Farm and Fitness Centre all the way forward. Referring to a fitness spa as a beauty farm, well I'll leave the jokes to you. Deck 12 midships is the pool and suntanning area followed by a large buffet restaurant. Fully astern is the à la carte restaurant Il Giardino.
Deck 14 forword is comprised of penthouses. Midships is the jogging track around the pool area and astern we find the golf simulator, children's area, shuffleboard, a simulated space trip to ride and a virtual games parlor. Fully a stern is the discotheque Q32. The small Deck 14 has a tennis court and secluded tanning areas. In Europe topless tanning is still acceptable.Cuisine
Delicious pasta and risotto dishes are featured nightly. The menu lists appetizers, soup, salads, pasta, main courses and garnishes, as well as vegetarian and alternative dishes. The dessert menu includes cakes, pastries, ice cream and sorbet, along with after-dinner drinks.
While the buffet area on earlier MSC cruises ships was a source of several complaints, over the years they have gotten their act together and managed to provide a variety of cuisine with something to appeal to almost every culinary gene pool. in Europe one well have to pay for every beverage including bottled water and ice tea. Ships in a Caribbean will offer these drinks on a complimentary basis. It is possible to get water free if you can find the ice dispenser where glasses and water are available.
the only time you will get coffee free onboard MSC ships is during breakfast at the buffet area were from room service. The good news is, that you can get a fantastic espresso or mocha at any bar on the ship. The bad news is you have to pay for it.
Made to order snacks are available 24 hours a day from room service, allow 30 minutes for preparation and delivery. Continental breakfast can be ordered at bedtime for morning delivery. Expect coffee and rolls, only. In Europe, room service items will be charged for on an a la carte basis. In the Caribbean room service is gratis.Restaurants
There are two seatings in each of the two dining rooms (5:45 and 8:00 p.m. respectively in the Caribbean, 7:30 and 10:00 in Europe), and casual alternatives in the Lido buffet (6:00-8:00 p.m.) and poolside grills. The grill area on Deck 12 opens for alternative dining until 9:30 p.m. It is well protected from wind and there's plenty of shade.
Villa Borghese and L'Ibiscus dining rooms are situated on Decks 5 and 6 respectively. Those prone to seasickness may prefer the mid-ship location of Villa Borghese but L'Ibiscus has the better views, with the full picture windows looking out over the stern. Breakfast and lunch are both open seating, while dinner is assigned tables.Service
Most of the service personnel onboard are Indian, South African or European. Dining room service is provided by Europeans.Tipping
In the Caribbean, a daily gratuity for cabin attendants, bellboys and wait staff of $12 per person is automatically added to the onboard account, unless you're under 18 and sharing with two adults, in which case it's only $6.00 per day. The amount can be adjusted at the front desk.
A gratuity for bar staff is already included in the price of drinks. Spa and casino staff may be tipped in cash at the discretion of the passenger. In the Caribbean, they have come to expect a tip from the North American clientele. In Europe, tradition dictates that tips be presented to service personnel on the last night of the cruise. The cruise line suggests $3.50 to $5.00 per person per day for the Waiter and Stateroom attendant and $1.00 - $2.00 per day for the Maitre D'. Children under 12 pay half those amounts. Again, the gratuity for bar service personnel is included in the price of the drink.Entertainment
The cruise staff, called Animators or Pagliacci, double as entertainers who foment a lot of lighthearted fun and mischief. Every evening, musicians perform in the various lounges, and there's jollity in profusion in the Covent Garden Theater .
A large deck area behind the swimming pools is used for games and dance classes. Bingo is offered on board, but pay attention or you might miss it.
Baseball and music-themed Caribbean cruises allow passengers to meet up to half a dozen baseball legends and Orchestral greats. Hitting, pitching and batting clinics, interview, Q&A, storytelling, and autograph sessions are all popular.Cabins
interior cabins are 152 sq. ft. with two twin beds that can be converted to a Queen. They come with a hair dryer, Internet access, safe, minibar and a chair with a desk.ocean view cabins are similar, except that they have a window. Balcony cabins in categories 10 and 11 add a 40 square-foot balcony with floor-to-ceiling glass doors. Categories six through nine are smaller veranda staterooms at only 126 sq. ft. Balcony suites are 229 ft. with a 40 foot balcony. They come with extra-large bathrooms including a tub and shower combination.
With the kids sail free policy, which requires that the kids stay in a room with two full fare paying adults, there are plenty of cabins with one or two upper berths and cabins with a double or single sofa bed. For families with money to burn there are connecting staterooms.Fitness/Spa
The Aloha Beauty Farm and Centre, deck 13, offers aerobic equipment in a light-filled room with floor-to-ceiling windows. The spa offerings are the usual cruise ship fare of facials and massages. There are two swimming pools and two whirlpools (deck 11). And although the pool area is surrounded deck chairs, more can be found on deck 13, nicely shielded from the wind. Topless sunbathing is allowed in specified locations.
Aerobics classes are free, with personal training sessions available for $35. Step, Pilates and Stretching classes are a steep $12 per lesson, five for $55. There is a jogging track is on Deck 12 above the pool.Attire
The dress code is resort casual with two formal nights on ten-night, three on 11-night, and four on 17- and 18-night cruises. On our cruise we found the Europeans dress surprisingly casual, even on formal nights. Not a single tuxedo was in sight, and on the jacket and tie required informal nights we saw casual shirts and pants were everywhere. A simple jacket and tie would have been enough to qualify as fully dressed on our MSC cruise.Fellow Passengers
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.
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.