Having read some very mixed reviews on the MSC product I decided to try it for myself on the magnificent Splendida and write my own report. I love to cruise and dont believe it is possible to have a bad time on a cruise ship and find that some people tend to exaggerate their experiences a little. My feeling is that all the big cruise companies do a pretty good job, some better than others.
Boarding in Barcelona, the check in process was quick and simple and all passengers are escorted to their cabins by a cabin attendant, a very nice touch. I had a balcony on the 12th floor which is comfortable and well appointed. A good bed with a decent sized balcony, bathroom with an excellent shower and impeccably clean, as is the whole ship. The Splendida is a huge vessel at 130.000 plus tons and is well laid out.
I had my first lunch in one of the buffets and the rest in the full service main dining rooms. They do a 5-6 course meal for lunch and dinner and you are expected to choose all courses with your initial order, not a problem. I found the quality to be reasonably good throughout if not excellent. Dont forget that this is an Italian cruise line so the focus is very much on Italian food and it was all nicely presented.
I have to say that the coffee served at breakfast time bears no resemblence to coffee I have tasted anywhere else. It is coffee coloured but thats about it. Same thing with the juices, imagine juice concentrate from a bottle of undiluted cordial and thats what you get for breakfast. Of course proper coffee and capuccino is available for a fee in one of the bars. MSC likes to charge you for everything, drinks is fine but this includes water with your meals. Yes you get a bottle of San Benedetto but you spend much of the cruise signing bills for expenditure. I wish they would just charge a little more at the outset and then include water and coffee in the total. You get the distinct feeling you are being nickle and dimed at what I find to be excessive prices. 3.00EUR or almost 4USD for a Coke is not reasonable. I also found what I ordered for the 1 room service breakfast was missing items I had placed on my order which was a disappointment.
The entertainment team put on a show for 6 of the 7 evenings and I have to say that these are some of the best shows I have ever seen at sea. Their dancers, acrobats and gimnasts are all superb and deserve credit for some excellent performances. These shows however, are all introduced in 5 languages and instead of keeping them to a minimum, they become long and overbearing. The Splendida has a magnificent and huge theatre at the front of the ship as always. I think the language issue also equates to their being being little entertainment during the day that you get on many of the US cruise lines, talks about subjects of interest or about the places we will visit just dont happen. I found the English speaking guide uninformed to the point of not even being able to pronounce the place names of some of our destinations correctly.
The ports of call are interesting, Tunis/La Goulette with a visit to the ruins at Carthage and the village of Sidi Bou Said, spectacular and beautiful Malta, Messina for Taormina or Etna, Civitavecchia for Rome and Genoa for Portofino. Some wonderful seamanship with 180 degree turns in limited spaces in a 1000 foot vessel is fun to watch from the top deck. The pool area is impressive and having the kids disco up on the 16th deck in the centre of the ship is also good design. Yes there is cigarette smoking on board but I wasnt bothered it unduly. MSC charges well over the odds for excursions but you can find cheaper and better options locally in each port.
The front of this ship is home to MSC Yaught Club and offlimits to us mortals with accomodation elsewhere. This means you cannot get to a location on the ship with a forward facing view and that is something I missed. This is the first cruise I have been on where the ships collects and disembarks passengers at various points and I am not a fan of this process. It means that the central lounge areas are often full of people waiting to leave the ships and therefore not a place you want to be if you are not leaving the vessel. It also means there is a lot of commotion and noise and very little down time or restful periods.
MSC does a 25EUR laundry service for the week with up to 30 items for the price which is a no brainer for me. It means not having to take so many items of clothing with me and comes back washed and neatly folded every day. Baggage handling to and from the cabin on embark/debark days is proficiently handled and as is often the case, my cabin attendent was superb. I also saw some excellent service in the dining rooms and one Maitre d looked after me superbly each morning at breakfast. However, I didnt get the feeling of the crew being the happiest at sea in general and this was noticeable after experiences on a couple of other major lines recently. I like it when crew members greet you and that doesnt happen here.
So in conclusion I had a great week on a superb ship with some fascinating points of call. MSC could do some things differently which would improve the product greatly but I wouldnt let that put you off. If the itinerary was right, I would go again.