My Fiance and I have just returned from a 7 night Western Mediterranean cruise on MSC Fantasia. It was my 3rd cruise (but my first with MSC) and his first-ever cruise. I had hoped that this holiday would convince him of the joys of cruise holidays but, unfortunately, MSC let me down and he now remains unconvinced.
I will start my review with the plus points - the MSC Fantasia is simply beautiful. The public areas are beautifully decorated and are very plush. For the most part the ship is spotlessly clean. Our balcony cabin was really lovely and spacious and the cabin steward was very friendly and helpful. Embarkation and disembarkation were very smooth. Unfortunately that is the end of the plus points!
The first problem and, for us the main one, was the quality of the food. We dined in Il Cerchio D'Oro every night and the food, to say the least, was bland. This is an Italian cruise line and I, in particular, love Italian cuisine. Why, oh why did MSC get it so wrong? Everything was tasteless and either under or over-seasoned. Worst of all was the temperature of the food - invariably it was tepid at best or cold at worst. If anyone from MSC reads this might I suggest that the hot food be placed on hot, not cold, plates. That might help for a start! We were not alone in our opinion - all the other diners at our table of 8 were strongly of the same opinion - to the extent that for several of the 7 nights they chose to dine in the speciality restaurant, the Tex Mex. The buffet restaurant, Zanzibar was relatively OK for lunch with enough options to satisfy but was invariably chaotic. Also the "ethnic corner" available at lunch time was never open for dinner. We ended up just choosing hamburger and fries on several occasions in the buffet during lunch and never dined there in the evening. I simply cannot and will not tolerate queue jumpers and certainly the Italian passengers do not ever join a queue. I don't like to single out one nationality here but unfortunately for us it was the Italian passengers that added to our woes all week. Their inability to queue was just one problem but more of that later. We did try the Tex Mex restaurant just once and were underwhelmed with the food quality though they got the temperature right.
The next problem with MSC was the excursions. We availed of an excursion in Genoa - this was advertised as a full-day excursion and was to consist of an open-top bus tour of the city followed by a visit to the aquarium. The cost was â‚¬35 each. Our open-top bus tour of the city lasted exactly 15 minutes - I kid you not! We were then dumped outside the aquarium. Our tour had commenced at 9am. We finished at the aquarium at 11 and being hot and bored decided to return to ship only to find that we had to wait another hour for the return bus. To say we were angry is mild. Our next excursion was to Pompeii from Naples. The cost was â‚¬51 each. In terms of time this was better but our guide could not be heard properly even when using a microphone on the bus. His English, while good, was so heavily accented as to make him very difficult to understand. During our walking tour of Pompeii (in unbearable heat) he did not even attempt to raise his voice so, out of a group of over 40 people, the only people who could hear him were those directly beside him. Anyway, enough about excursions - we chose not to go on any other excursions after those two experiences!
The next issue was fellow passengers - not necessarily the fault of MSC but perhaps indicative of the nationalities that choose to cruise with this company. The Italian passengers, in particular, seemed to be travelling in large groups and would gather in public areas in groups of about 10 and proceed all to talk at full volume. This was particularly a problem on deck 14, particularly the smoking area where they raised their voices even louder to be heard over the music that was constantly thumping at a loud volume in the Aqua Park. They would surround other passengers already seated in the area and I had the experience of one person flicking his cigarette ash in my direction even though I had pushed the ashtray towards him - I had a cup of coffee in front of me and had the impression he was trying to use this as his ashtray.
The MSC Aurea Spa was incredibly overpriced in my opinion. On previous cruises I have always availed of the spa for massages, facials etc - not so on this cruise as I found the prices way too high.
Regarding the pool, we found it difficult to understand why the pool was salt water rather than fresh water.
Now for the evacuation drill. On day 1 of the cruise we had the obligatory demonstration of life-jackets and muster stations. At Naples we also had a compulsory evacuation drill. However a significant number of passengers had embarked at Naples. On embarkation, one is given a red card which one hands over at the demonstration to prove that one has attended. So, during the compulsory drill, all the new passengers were handing over their red cards. In fact, when entering the muster station crew were demanding the red cards. When I explained to a crew member that we had no cards as we were on the ship already for 4 days, she told me the drill was for embarking passengers only and sent us away. Another crew member stopped us leaving the area and sent us back! It was complete chaos and certainly did not leave us with the impression that we would be in safe hands in a real emergency.
In terms of crew attitude overall, we found them to be indifferent mostly and downright rude in a couple of cases. In particular, in the cappucino bar there was one waitress in particular that was incredibly rude. However she was balanced by another waitress in the same bar who was lovely. Our waiters in the main restaurant were very friendly, in particular Bosco. However our experience was that friendly staff were the exception rather than the rule.
On a final note, while the public areas were kept clean, invariably there was little to no toilet paper to be found in the public toilets, particularly on decks 14 and 15.
I will definitely cruise again but NEVER with MSC. When we left the ship I asked my Fiance to come up with a term that described MSC using the initials - I had come up with Must Start Caring (hence the title of the review) - he came up with Must Stop Cruising!! Says it all really!