We have just returned from 7 nights on the Armonia and the only saving grace was the places visited. Embarkation was smooth and quick and we were on board in less than half an hour, The ship itself is beautiful and very clean everywhere. The cabins are ample as cabins go with a good sized window. Nicely decorated and very comfy. Shower a bit on the small size but again adequate.
We arrived in Venice and immediately went sightseeing. The ship did not leave until 7 pm. On our return to the ship we looked for the buffet. Here the negative comments begin! Food was 98% Italian. Pasta was everywhere and melon. LOTS of melon! It seems we British eat a staple diet of beefburgers, hot dogs and chips as that was the choice day in and day out. Salads consisted of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, if you were lucky and Brussels sprouts and broccoli!!! 1 serving dish each of cold Italian meats and processed cheese. Portions were absolutely tiny to say the least. As each slice of cake/quiche/dessert was placed on a plate for you, we were inclined to just take 3 or 4 at a time.
Any meat dish was served by a server behind the food counter (strange buffet; always thought the point was you served yourself) who gave you 1 of whatever it was. 1 slice of meat, 1 hot dog, 1 beefburger. If you asked for more you did get it but you shouldn't have to ask. The portions really were so tiny a small child would have eaten at least 3.
The buffet was NOT open all day as on other ships and between 2 and 4 there was absolutely nothing to eat! At 4 they re-opened for afternoon tea which comprised of sandwiches cut in triangles, rolls about 2 inches long and cakes so small you could fit a whole one in your mouth at one time. This was the only time you got free tea and coffee with a meal. At all other meals you had to pay for drinks, including water, unless you went outside to the Pizza bar and walked back into the buffet with your drinks. During this afternoon tea time not one of the sandwiches were marked up with their ingredients. This could have been very dangerous for anybody with allergies as they were serving egg mayonnaise and fish sandwiches. You could ask the servers but more often than not they did not know themselves.Another problem in the buffet was the number of children running riot. Their parents didn't seem to care what they were doing and allowed them to run around knocking into people. Apparently all under 18 year olds travel free.One thing we found on this ship and no other we have used is that there was no ice cream for anybody in the buffet. Yes you had to pay for it if you wanted it.Every other ship has supplied it at least as a dessert and several have had it on deck as free.
The variety of all food was non-existent with the same things night after night.
Breakfast again was a joke with barely cooked scrambled eggs, burnt bacon and baked beans which looked as though they had been re-heated more than once and were disgusting. Sausages were frankfurters. Toast didn't exist! There was a variety of cereals but none of it tasted 'right'
Tried the restaurant (Marco Polo) just 3 times, once for dinner and twice for breakfast and on all 3 occasions the waiters messed up our orders. Needless to say we did not use the restaurant again after that which was a shame as it was a beautiful restaurant.
The entertainment was OK but very amateurish. We have sailed with other cruise lines and they have had excellent West End style shows. 2 main singers every night who were not very good. Dancers seemed to use the same dance steps, just to different music! All the introductions were in Italian, Spanish, German and then finally English.
When we booked this cruise I did check out reviews and decided that everyone wants something different and that is exactly what you get with MSC especially if you have cruised with other companies. Sadly we did not find it a pleasure.
Staff were without a doubt the rudest, most arrogant people we have ever met and yes they were all Italians. I am sure that all Italians are not like this generally but it seems to be part of the interview process; 'how rude can you be? Very? Great the job is yours!! Those on Reception were definitely the worse. They would not acknowledge you and would carry on chatting to each other. The other main problem was the language barrier. Most of the staff spoke very poor English if they spoke it at all. If you advertise yourself as an International Cruise Line, English should be a basic language.We have never encountered this on previous cruise lines, This lead to several problems like when we ordered 2 large draft ciders and were given 2 small bottled ciders. When I pointed out that was not what we ordered the waitress said 'but I've opened the bottles now' Totally unacceptable.
The best piece of advise I can offer is this; On MSC Cruises EACH passenger is charged 7 euros PER day for gratuities.This goes to people like the Head Waiters and Wine Waiters. Go to Reception and tell them you want it lowered (if you feel you have had some sort of service) or removed completely as we did. It is NOT compulsory and you do NOT have to pay it. They won't like it but they will remove it from your end of cruise statement. Just stand firm. We told them we had not received any service worthy of a tip and when we listed our complaints they were not in the least bit interested. STAND FIRM. It works out to just under another Â£100 a week on top of what you have already paid for the trip. Not to mention the 15% service charge on top of any drinks you order. Disembarkation is a shambles to say the least. By now they have had your money and want nothing more to do with you. Our flight was at 5.35pm and were originally told we would leave the ship at around midday. By 10 am we were on our own. Dumped in the port terminal for the next 4 hours with no information. When we asked what time the transfer coach would arrive to go to the airport we were told 2 pm. The coach arrived at 1 pm so if anybody had decided to go out some where thinking they had 4 hours to spare would have missed the transfer coach. There was an area to leave your luggage which charged 3 euros. Not sure how secure this was as we did not use it.
As I said the only saving grace of this cruise was the ports we visited which were all stunning. Venice, Ancona, Corfu, Pireus, Santorini and Kefalonia. Would definitely NOT use MSC ever again. Not even particularly good value in the price. Came home very hungry.