This was my first sea cruise - I've taken many river cruises which were excellent but not a sea cruise. I have friends that cruise and speak highly of them but they go with other lines.
Firstly, I'll mention the good aspects of this cruise - the cabin, albeit small, was nicely appointed and kept very clean. The ship as a whole was clean and tidy. My cabin cleaner, my waiters and bar waiters were very pleasant and efficient.
On arrival into my very small cabin I found the seat cushion of the chair was stained (I didn't speculate as to what the stain was). The chair was removed and I found the cabin better without it as, sitting on the chair at the dressing table, I could see only down to my nose. I was better sitting on the corner of the bed which was also very close dressing table in such a small cabin.
However, the food was mostly awful mainly because it had been cooked earlier and left in warm ovens. I had a slice of tuna of which my first and only big felt like chewing carpet. Rice was undercooked (not 'al dente', just not cooked), pasta was hit and miss as to texture. A veal and potato stack had clearly been cooked earlier and left in a warm cabinet - the veal was tough and the melted cheese was so hard I could lift it off in one piece. There was plenty of excellent fruit which I had for breakfast and the salads, although unimaginative, were fresh.
There were smoking areas on the ship which were cleverly placed so that those in the non smoking area of the two public decks would also have to breath in the smoke. The reception area was particularly bad. The theatre could be reached from either of the two public decks but on each it was necessary to walk through smoking areas and the smoke penetrated into the theatre. The emergency drill was held in the casino - a smoking area - I coughed throughout.
The constant selling was tedious, car book style tables around the lounge and everything the Cruise Director said included a sales pitch. The first 15 minutes of the less than 3/4 hour show was selling. The photographers were a nuisance.
The manners of some of the passengers (including Brits) were bad or non-existent: some but fortunately not all - I met some very nice people.
Problems began before the cruise. I didn't receive the documents from MSC and so, with one week to go, I telephoned. No documents had been sent and they were emailed to me later that day. Very meagre with very little information. This lack of information continued throughout the cruise. I had paid for travel to Southampton by National Express. I enquired twice in the previous couple of weeks as to the time of the coach and was given an answer only to find that I hadn't been booked on at all. The answers were being plucked out of the air. When my ticket was emailed to me it indicated that I would leave Bristol at 6.15 to reach Southampton (via London Victoria) at 12.45. Ridiculous. I booked myself on a train that took 1h 45m and asked MSC to cancel the booking. I'm still awaiting the refund.
A 7 euro service charge was to be added to my bill. If everyone has to pay this it should be part of the cost of the cruise. When I instructed a receptionist to withdraw this cost he said he couldn't. I raised my voice a notch and then another so that nearby passengers could hear - at that stage he found it could cancel it. A donation to UNICEF was also charged. I object to charges that are taken automatically and which you have to take action to cancel.
On leaving the self service restaurant after one lunch I stood up and the seat cushion came with me; stuck to my trousers. I pulled it off and found I had been sitting on chewing gum - disgusting. One waiter gasped and then withdrew into neutral mode. I took the trousers to reception and they were laundered and ironed by that evening. There was no concern from the staff regarding this. I don't expect it was a member of the crew that put the chewing gum on a seat but it shows what sort of people this company attracts.
This was a fairly cheap cruise and it showed in the quality of standards, food and some passengers. You get what you pay for.
I'm put off sea cruising for the moment but friends say it's not typical. Maybe I'll try again with a more reputable line.