Sinfonia Reviews

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6 User Reviews of Sinfonia Cruise Ship

Western Mediterranean
Publication Date: July 3, 2010

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. Then

the 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.

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Eastern Mediterranean
Publication Date: March 19, 2008

From the time we started the cruise at Venice and finished up at Genoa, we had a brilliant time. MSC Sinfonia is a fabulous ship, very clean and the staff are helpful and obliging, although sometimes under pressure from their clients.

The food was excellent in quality, quantity and presentation, but we found it "warm" rather than hot. The same for tea and coffee. Luke warm tea is not nice!!

However, the evening entertainment more than made up for any other failures. Professional shows, very entertaining and not too long. There was lots to do and see for those that wanted to, and quiet lounges and decks for chilling out. We would definitely cruise with MSC again and are already looking at cruises for next year.

The majority of people complaining about the cruise ship were those who could not get food 24 hrs round the clock, which is available on North American cruise lines. It IS aimed at Europeans we felt, and they tend to eat light and less often. It was normal to see Italians and Germans just having fruit and cereal for breakfast rather than the huge platter of fries

readily available.

We were happy with MSC Sinfonia and rate it 8/10.

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Eastern Mediterranean
Publication Date: October 13, 2006

We were very disappointed. The majority of the staff were borderline-rude and there seemed to be a bias against Americans. We would never use, nor recommend, MSC to anyone.

The food was limited and the quality hit-or-miss. The only way we got any satisfaction was to bring our complaints to the managers.

It all started the first day when we entered our room. It was filled with paint fumes. The woman at the reception desk was not receptive to our concerns and told us there were no fumes, even though she did not go there to see for herself. The safe would not open so they sent someone, who did notice the fumes. When we returned to the reception desk, the same woman was still unreceptive to our concerns and had a take-it-or-leave it attitude. Very similar to the young man in the Four Eyes commercial. After we talked to her manager, the room was ventillated so that the fumes disappeared and the same woman could not be nice enough to us.

A similar situation concerned the dining room. The waiter was indifferent to our requests. Although we had notified the cruiseline that

I was a vegetarian, we had problems. The vegetarian meals that were available were ladened with creams -- something I try to avoid because of high cholesterol. When I asked for a salad with the dressing on the side, I got a soup bowl half-full of lettuce with oil-and-vinegar dressing (actually my favorite). It was an interesting evening. Even our table mates -- all four from Norway -- commented at how mediocre (at best) the food was. So it wasn't just our tastebuds.

When my husband requested that spaghetti be served with his eggplant parmisan, the waiter didn't want to do it. Eventually the waiter got his way.

We spent a lot of money and were very disappointed. Never again! We will only go Royal Caribbean in the future. I didn't want to go to Europe in the first place and plan to never to return again.

Save yourself a lot of money and disappointment by avoiding MSC cruise lines -- especially if you are an American. The only time the staff will act friendly is the day before you disembark. It made no difference -- we only tipped our cabin crew because they kept it clean -- even though they never brought any ice, was was noted in the cruise line materials.

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Eastern Mediterranean
Publication Date: March 22, 2006

Background/Itinerary: The itinerary was intriguing and very rewarding. We sailed from Genoa, Italy, visiting many ruins of the ancient world from Egypt to Greek to Roman ruins. Malta was a wonderful stop but way too short to even sample what this island country has to offer. Other ports of call included Naples (for Pompeii); Syracuse (Sicily) with a charming old town and ancient Greek ruins; Alexandria, Egypt (for pyramids at Giza & Sakkara plus Memphis); Tobruk (for the 2006 Total Solar Eclipse which was fantastic); Tripoli, Libya, where we visited the fabulous Roman ruins at Leptis Magna; Valetta, Malta; Salerno for the well-preserved Doric temples of the ancient Greek/Roman city of Poseidiana/Paestum; and back to Genoa. Weather was cool in Genoa becoming more pleasant and warm as we ventured southward.

Travel to point of departure and hotel: We booked our air ourselves, flying Air France from San Francisco non-stop to Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport (what a nightmare to negotiate). Then we flew to Genoa on an Air France small plane operated by regional carrier Brit Air. Unfortunately, one of our bags did not arrive for 2 days but was finally delivered to

our stateroom the second evening of our cruise. Fortunately, my husband and I had divided our clothing so we had something to wear; some passengers were not so lucky. Up to 30 passengers experienced luggage delays from a variety of airlines and airports.

Stateroom: The cabin was well appointed with more than enough space for all we brought, including formal attire and a small telescope, tripod and camera gear for the eclipse, which was the reason we booked this cruise. Our cabin had two single beds which could be made into a king plus two bunks folded up on the walls. There was a minibar, television, make-up dresser and safe. A fruit bowl was filled on our arrival.

Ship: The ship was immaculate, if not a particularly attractive ship in the classic sense. Because a mid-section had been added to this ship, getting around was confusing. One could not reach all venues from each deck.

Dining: Dining itself was also a disappointment. Being on an Italian ship for the first time, we were looking forward to the cuisine which turned out to mediocre at best. Meat was tough, fish was "fishy," soups were bland and most dishes were uninspired. For dinner there were no options except the main dining room at one's assigned table. The breakfast buffet was run-of-the-mill but there was an ample amount of food. The best lunches were had at the Caffee del Mare grill where we ate delicious hamburgers and french fries (pizza was edible but nothing special). We actually ate one of the best pizzas ever while ashore in Valetta, Malta.

Services: For first timers or less experienced cruisers, this ship may have been adequate or better but for experienced cruisers this ship was a big disappointment. It seemed that they were unprepared for the number of English-speaking passengers. Previous reviews by such individuals seemed to indicate that there were only a very few English speakers cruising with MSC. The majority of crew did not speak much English making it difficult to communicate our desires or even have an amiable conversation. For example, our cabin steward was from Madacasgar and seemed more fluent in French.

The crew member who escorted us to our cabin simply left us there, showing us nothing in the cabin including the location of our life jackets. Most announcements could not be heard inside the cabins–one had to open the door to listen. And the one and only (mandatory) life boat drill was a joke. Not all passengers even attended and no roll was taken. Instead it was used as an photo opportunity by the ever-present paparazzi who intruded on us during dinner, followed us on shore excursions and frightened young children with their clown and pirate costumes. The ship's photographers were truly shameless in their pursuit of money.

It seemed that we had to pay for everything. On the Marco Polo (Orient Lines), ice cream was served daily for free. On the MSC Sinfonia the Gelateria was never open but occasionally ice cream out of a cart was served on the pool deck–at a cost. On arrival there were two bottles of water in the cabin but again, they were not gratis. As we left the ship for our excursions, water at a cost was offered. Most cruises we have taken provided water bottles for free.

In the dining room we had requested a table for two and were located was in a back corner with servers who hailed from Bali. When we ordered off the menu printed in English our waiter often could not understand what we said unless we pointed to the menu.

Service was probably the worst we have experienced for dining but perhaps we were assigned servers with less experience or training. We had to repeatedly ask for water, or even get it ourselves and our primary waiter never seemed to learn that my husband wanted coffee after his meal (The bus boy actually learned that by the end of our cruise and brought it himself.). Other passengers were satisfied with the service they received in the dining room so our experience may not be representative of the entire dining staff. However, no maitre'd ever spoke with us. Often the servers would shout and argue among themselves which was very annoying.

The crew had not anticipated dealing with such a large contingent of English speakers, most of whom were American. The Travel Quest/Sky and Telescope group for the eclipse accounted for more than 70% of the passengers who numbered between 1500 and 2000. In the past we have cruised on large vessels with much better organization than this one run by Italians.

Entertainment & Activities: These were very limited for individuals with our interests. Fortunately, there were regular astronomy-related lectures which were informative, interesting, and quite entertaining. The lecturers had a good sense of humor which the crew seemed to lack.

My husband and I particularly enjoy ballroom dancing and we were looking forward to an opportunity to dance on the MSC Sinfonia. However, the quality of music was lacking and one of the best bands on the ship refused to play if only one or two couples were in the Sinfonia lounge. The program would list the times they were to play in the daily program, we would appear, and the group would sit in their corner chatting for 45 minutes or more of that scheduled time. The best dancing music was available in the Buddha Bar provided by one Gianni Dale and his piano. Unfortunately, there was no dance floor in this bar but we danced on the carpet anyway, often joined by one or two other couples.

Children's Club: There were a number of planned activities and events for children, however, and this ship may be more enjoyed by families.

Embarkation/Disembarkation: Embarkation was long and tedious, taking about 2 hours to actually arrive at our cabin. There was much disorganization aboard the MSC Sinfonia from embarkation, shore excursions, collecting passports, and disembarkation. Rarely did anything begin on time (except for meals) and we had to wait for everything.

Summary: Bottom-line: Fabulous itinerary with a chance to visit Libya and see our 5th Total Solar Eclipse. However, we will never cruise with MSC again and would not recommend their ships to any experienced or English-speaking passengers.

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Other (Specified in Review)
Publication Date: March 20, 2006

This was a cruise in the central Mediterranean, Naples, Salerno, Sicily, Malta, Alexandria, and Libya, for 12 days.

Get used to everything being late - and don't expect to be warned so you can do something with your wait time.

Of 30 plus cruises, this was near the bottom.

Biggest Disappointments

1. Service was uniformly poor - in the cabin, in the dining areas, on the excursions, in the show rooms.

2. Food was minimally adequate to awful.

3. Excursions were cancelled in Libya - the reason we booked the cruise.

4. Americans are not really welcome here.

5. The bed was hard as a rock - reactivated an old shoulder injury.

Service

In the cabin, we never figured out the names of the people handling our room. One never spoke, and the other was unintelligible. Immediately we noticed no ice in the cabin, and virtually always had to either ask or get it ourselves. Early in the cruise, we found our evening turn down service had occurred prior to 5 pm, though we had late seating. We informed the crew we did not want turndown before we left for dinner. To their credit, this never happened

again. Crew would enter either without knocking or after a very brief interval. (Our neighbor was highly offended that a male crew member walked in on his teen age daughters without knocking). Do not disturb signs disappeared or were ignored.

In the dining room, our waiter meant well, but could not get orders right and had no help from the assistant. We got a new assistant after complaining, but this did not improve order taking, pace of the dinner or quality. Our table mates seemed happy with the service, but we attributed this somewhat to the waiter's penchant for bringing extra deserts.

We rarely found anyone informed or helpful at the excursion desk or the reception desk.

When meeting any crew member, be sure to step aside and make way as they surely do not ever give way to a passenger.

3. As to food, we looked forward to having 12 days of Italian experience, but were sorely disappointed. The pastas were good, as were the bread sticks. Also, salads were always fresh and tasty. Even here, however, the waiter was never sure whether she had the dressing described on the menu, and usually just offered 1000 islands. Deserts were tasty, but not a great selection. The safest bet was the good ice creams, though some nights chocolate sauce was inexplicably unavailable.

At dinner, choices were limited, fish was usually full of bones, and ordering beef was a crap shoot whether you would get it cooked right - and the dice were loaded against you.

Soups were unusual, often served (unintentionally) cold. Of the two intentionally cold ones, gazpacho was excellent, but the vichysoisse was really just some cold potato soup that had never seen a drop of cream.

Lunch was okay, both in the dining room and the buffet.

NOTE: No evening buffet for those who like casual dining. This was strickly for the kids.

Breakfast was okay at best. The selections were limited. However, you could get an omelette cooked to order - but only after the chef had prepared as many sunny side up eggs as he thought necessary to fill the buffet tray - though in 12 days I saw one person eating them prepared this way.

In the dining room there were no pancakes, French toast, eggs Benedicts, or other goodies on the menu. There was a chef special, never volunteered by the waiter. When I asked, two days the special was chicken meatballs, another it was scrambled eggs and toast! What is special about that?

Condiments were often served from jars - with signs of great age from less popular ones.

Excursions in general on any cruise are a disappointment attendant to large groups. However, when there is a place you don't want to miss, the excursion booked on ship can be the safest alternative.

Not on this ship. Our Libya excursion to Leptis Magna was cancelled - the buses did not show up. Some were put in mini-vans (for a 1 1/2 hour ride over, and similar one back) and never got their box lunches or a guide. After the cancellation, an announcement was made that there would be more buses, a full 3 hours after the planned departure, leaving inadequate time for the entire itinerary. My basis for booking this cruise was because of the Libya stop. We salvaged the day by going into Tripoli on our own. The ship did offer a free shuttle into town. There, we found the Libyans to be friendly, willing to help, and so the day turned out okay.

We still do not have a refund for the prepaid excursions!

Americans were told we complain too much. There is apparently something wrong with expecting to get what you paid for.

Many announcements were in Italian, but not in English. Every afternoon there was something done only in Italian. Still not sure what that was. One evening after the show, the cruise director came on stage and spoke in Italian for nearly 15 minutes - we never did learn what he said.

On the day of the Libya excursion fiasco, the cruise director came out and yelled at the passengers who refused to accept that the cruise ship had a responsibility for the problem (though excursion staff indicated they knew there would be as there always is in that port). He ended up telling the Americans it was because they had a problem with Libya - he of course did not, as he is Portuguese!

Other issues were a lack of activities. Bridge was offered only once; there was no wine tasting; no special dinners (French night or Greek night). There was no pre-dinner dancing. Dance class was often during our dinner hour. Shops' merchandise was limited and expensive.

There were no port talks, no port maps offered.

Disembarkation was awful. EVERYONE was told at 8 am to line up in the lounge. An hour later, still in line, we learned that the passports had not even been returned from port authorities.

At the same time the passports were released to the crew, they began announcing the colors to disembark. The people with the first colors were not the people first to get passports.

I suggested to a crew member that it would have been a better plan if they had told everyone to stay put until passports had been released by the authorities. Then when they were released, they could have told the first color group to proceed to get their passports and disembark the ship. Then the next color group could be called.

It was like a light bulb went off in her head! Unfortunately, her response was for me to find someone important to make such a rational suggestion. When I suggested that she could make the suggestion to someone important, her answer was that "No one listens to me."

Why was I not surprised?

This is the only cruise we have ever been on where all dishes were clean, all of the time. This and a very pretty ship are not enough to redeem the experience.

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MSC Sinfonia
Publication Date: December 22, 2005

Summary: On first glances, this is a typical cruise ship - but scratch the surface and you'll find poor service, terrible food and a lack of attention to detail. Not recommended for first time or seasoned cruisers!

Ship exterior: An attractive ship, with sleek lines and a nice profile. My only question remains over the basketball/football court which appears to have been tagged on to the stern of the ship as an afterthought. Looks like a jail cell which could fall overboard in heavy seas and not a pretty sight when returning from day trips. Equally unpleasant when seated in the lounge directly beneath the courts.

Beware that the ships rolls every which way in high seas - however Reception hand out complementary seasick tablets to passengers (but this isn't publicly announced).

Ship interior: The public spaces are simple, clean and uncluttered. The 'less is more' approach has worked well and does not make the passenger feel overwhelmed (or hysterical) from facing excessive, often ridiculous, artworks and mirrors on a daily basis such as on other cruise ships. Christmas decorations were understated, but New Year decorations were childish paper cut outs.

A 114.8 ft-long mid-section was

added to increase the ships length before it came into service for MSC - this was noticeable. Some lifts only went as high as Deck 9, leaving you to either walk the additional two decks to the upper decks or to walk the length of the ship to find a lift that would take you up the remaining two decks. Corridors would unexpectedly come to a dead-end, meaning you'd need to walk up the stairs and along, then back down the other side. This was a problem frequently incurred while attempting to get to the restaurants on decks 5 and 6. Very frustrating.

The balcony cabins (referred to as 'suites'), are spacious and well laid out. There was plenty of cupboard space, a good wardrobe, and room under beds for stowing luggage. Balcony cabins benefited from a bathtub with overhead shower. Basic toiletries were provided, but bring your own facecloths. All cabins have hairdryers and safes - although we only found this on the last day as they are so well hidden!

The beds, in typical Italian style, are rock hard. We used every blanket possible to line our mattress, along with the extra bedding off the sofa bed, and yet we still suffered from aching backs each morning. We were also woken by the pool attendants at 6.30am each day as they noisily arranged the deck chairs above our heads (a problem for those with a cabin on Sibelius Deck).

Facilities: The ship provides all the usual facilities - the San Carlo Theatre for shows (beware the seats at the back right/left - you won't see a thing), and the vast but incredibly empty Casino San Remo. Unsurprisingly there's a Cigar Room for the heavy European smokers and numerous bars, one of which is made out to be an Irish Pub, but I couldn't spot the Irish quirks that make a pub 'Irish'. The Library holds a few battered hand-me-down books, a limited number of which were in English. There is also an ice cream parlour but don't get too excited as it wasn't open once on our cruise (although perhaps we missed the one and only opening time?!).

The pool area is pretty standard, with deck chairs all around and a few spa pools in the middle of the pool complex. The deck games you'd expect to find here were a huge disappointment. There was one rusty old table tennis table for which you had to collect ping pong balls from the Capri Bar - or was that Cafe del Mare - or was that Reception? The crew always treated me as if I'd demanded the earth whenever I attempted to track down the elusive ping pong ball. In the end, we gave up. Obtaining mini golf clubs/balls was no easier but we finally managed to secure them after leaving a eu10 deposit at Reception. Shame we couldn't have a scorecard and pencil - perhaps that costs another eu10?

All in all, be prepared to entertain yourselves as the ship is certainly unwilling to do it.

Embarkation: Our MSC arranged flight was delayed, meaning we arrived at about the time the ship was meant to be departing. Hence, we experienced absolutely no queues (and next to no crew). The ship eventually left port a good three to four hours late.

Passengers: Fellow passengers on our cruise were mainly families (quite often with young children) from the European nations. There were also a smattering of older passengers from Britain and the US. Inevitably, the ship is tailored towards the Europeans, so an open mind is absolutely necessary. Announcements are made in numerous languages - but only when deemed necessary, the entertainment is bland, and smoking really is permitted everywhere (the token 'no smoking' sections were laughable). Also beware that your fellow European passengers on a whole will not waste time queuing or holding open doors.

Crew/Service staff: To put it simply, the service experienced was absolutely disgusting and it started the second we got on board. We were escorted to our cabin by a disgruntled crew member, who proceeded to moan about the passengers to another crew member while in the lift with us. She then took off at a rate of knots in what appeared to be a vain attempt to lose us in the corridors. While this 'escort' service is a lovely touch, I would have preferred to have found my own way to our cabin.

Service staff in the bars were stressed and incredibly slow. Expect to wait at least 20 minutes before attracting the attention of a waiter to take your order. A word of warning - check your receipt to ensure you're getting what you paid for. My husband ordered a large ginger beer only to be given a small bottle at the higher price. Their excuse? They ran out of large bottles. Upon pointing out the overcharge they grudgingly agreed to give us another small bottle for free.

The captain made typical appearances at the cocktail parties, and seemed fairly jovial. However, he let himself down by not informing passengers as to why, on a sea day, the ship had changed course and was anchored off shore of some unknown island in the Mediterranean while a helicopter took over ten attempts to land on the pool deck (all outside areas being out of bounds in the meantime).

Cabin attendant: Our cabin attendant briefly made an appearance and mumbled her name, never to be seen again. We'd heard rumours that other passengers were receiving ice in their rooms but our bucket remained empty for the entire cruise. Soap was also a rare commodity and we were only given a new bar once our current one had become a see-through scrap of nothingness. Fresh fruit was also placed in our cabin on arrival, but closer inspection showed it had seen better days. Despite the mould growing on the fruit, our attendant would not remove it until I threw the entire lot in the bin. It seems she took offence to this action, and refused to provide new fruit until half way through our cruise - despite being told that fruit would be provided daily in cabins.

Restaurant staff & cuisine: We thought we'd seen the worst of it, but then we went to dinner in the Il Covo restaurant. Our waiter was surly and rude, and only seemed to speak/understand English when the mood took him. I was frequently handed a shabby menu in German (no fancy menus for this ship - only a horrible thing printed on cardboard) and was served the wrong dish on numerous occasions. Meals were cold, over cooked, tasteless and uninspired. The pasta dish, from which I expected great things, was doused in salt to make up for lack of flavour, and the steak offered every night was tough and never served with vegetables or sauce. Desserts were no better, being insipid and dull. In fact, the only creative aspect of the cuisine was the fancy name given to an ordinary sponge cake each evening. Coffee was never once offered, and it was a struggle to get water at the best of times. Needless to say, the Maitre d' only made one appearance and on the last evening only schmoozed with the Europeans who had racked up extensive alcohol bills.

Unfortunately the buffet grill is not open for dinner; hence you are forced to eat every evening meal in the main restaurant. The Christmas menu was the same as every other night, and by New Years Eve we were so disheartened that we bought our own food ashore and ate it in our cabin. We knew we hadn't missed anything special though, as the same meals turn up in the grill the next day for lunch.

One good aspect of MSC is that you are allowed to bring onboard your own food and alcohol. I recommend you make the most of this lenient policy otherwise you'll be facing weight loss by the end of your cruise - an absolute sin on any cruise ship!

Excursions: After spending a day at sea before our first port of call, we decided not to partake in any optional excursion offered by MSC. It was the best decision we ever made and actually ended up saving eu400 by finding our own way round the main sights. We never experienced any queues disembarking.

Disembarkation: Appeared to be organised but in reality was a complete shambles. It was the only time we arrived in port early, with the first group of passengers being disembarked before the arrival time advertised in the brochure. From what we could tell, announcements were made in multiple languages for all groups being disembarked except for our own. Ours was conveniently read out in Italian, which I do not speak, but in no other language. We subsequently missed our transfer to the airport, and subsequently faced a barrage of verbal abuse from the five reception members who insisted they had made the announcement in English. Numerous other English speaking passengers also missed this mystery announcement. We were hustled off the ship at a rate of knots and then told, once in the arrivals hall at the port, that the next shuttle would be here in an hour. Staring at the excited faces of the embarking passengers, I only felt joy at being off the ship and had an overwhelming desire to tell them all to run for the hills.

Other points: The lifeboat drill was incredibly laid back. Many passengers stayed in their cabins and no roll call was taken. Keep an eye on your valuables. This is the first ship I have come across where multiple thefts have occurred (digital cameras, leather jackets etc) - and the crew just aren't interested. If you want a questionnaire, then you may have to request one at Reception. None were provided in our cabin despite being told they would be. TV channels cater for all nationalities, so there is only one English Channel (BBC World) and the odd, incredibly old, movie (which may or may not be in English). If you are travelling with or are disabled, it may pay to check your transfers to/from the ship are for all your party. We heard of one instance where a taxi was arranged for one disabled person plus four adults, but when it eventually arrived it could only take one disabled person and three adults. The remaining party member had to pay for his own taxi to take himself and their luggage to the airport. Flights arranged through MSC are not at the best of times (early mornings and late evenings) and are often indirect. No tours are offered to those with late evening flights - but you are transported to the airport 6-8 hours before your flight just in case!
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