As Blackpearuk stated, "Cruise companies tell their customers that they risk missing the boat by organising their own excursions." That message is further parroted by their travel agents, and I would strongly recommend Bulgarian passengers avoid Europatour and Stefan Roussinov if a pleasure-filled holiday is what they have in mind. Unfortunately, booking an MSC cruise seems to require the use of a travel agent. Direct contact with MSC appears to be impossible. For five passengers traveling from Bulgaria, this translated into find your own flights and transportation to the port of Sharm El-Sheikh and deal with MSC on your own! Lord knows, I would have dealt with MSC on my own if I had travel agent computer access to MSC, and the experience would have featured a far more harmonious experience. Please note, embarkation was at Sharm, not Safaga, but Sharm was not on the port list.
All five of us were on the only direct daily flight from Istanbul to Sharm, and the travel agent knew it. This flight arrived at 0440 in the morning. MSC was told to expect us to board at 1300 by this travel genius. We arranged for transport from the airport to the cruise ship at the Sharm port through www.holidaytaxis.com quite unaware that the Port Authority had not been paid off by Blue Sky, their local subcontractor, to travel from the entry to the port to the cruise ship. We had to walk about 2 kilometers with luggage that weighed in excess of 25 kilos in humid 37 degree early morning temperatures. To MSC's credit, they allowed us to board the ship and get out of sun and heat, but they were in no way prepared for our early-morning arrival. They stored our luggage and we were left to wander and doze in the public areas of the ship until after lunch.
The cabin was small, but clean and adequate. Everything from MSC's site seemed to indicate that we would be entitled to a complimentary litre of mineral water each day. One litre for 3 women in one cabin seemed a bit stingy, but we were inclined to make do. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the genius travel agent had not arranged for this minor detail either. When 2 liters of water were removed from the nini bar on the assumption that we were entitled to it, we learned in a hurry not to assume. We were harrassed for a signature on the minibar tab for days, and 2 liters of water cost us â‚¬8.63! I was not going to be allowed to disembark in the end until this was paid. The only free water we were entitled to was Egyptian tap water in the self-service buffet. As stated elsewhere, there was no real fruit juice at breakfast, either...only some fruit flavored beverage that was sweetened with God-knows-what. We were limited to coffee or tea in desert heat unless we purchased something else, or were graciously offered cold water and drinks on private shore excursions we had arranged in advance.
The private shore excursions were a blessing. We had the company of knowledgeable guides, drivers, and security officers that personalized our excursions, were gracious and hospitable, and very timely and punctual. Their professionalism was impressive, and we never felt unsafe or at risk of "missing the boat." All of them were less expensive than the cruise excursion offerings. None of them pulled any unexplained cancellations on us, as did MSC when an excursion to Cairo had been cancelled for some of our fellow-passengers. I heard nothing directly from MSC about this cancellation, but the stories I heard from the affected passengers were ridiculous and far-fetched. They ranged from renewed rioting to a cosed Egyptian Museum, etc. None of it was actually true. I have no clue who had an imagination on overdrive.
Some staff members were exceptionally good. Others were obviously overworked and indifferent. I feel everybody tried to do their very best, but difficult circumstances left room for improvement at all levels.
Some staff members were exceptionally good. Others were obviously overworked and indifferent. I feel as if most truly tried to do their best, but circumstances did not make anybody's job an effortless breeze, and this directly impacts the experiences and opinions of the guests. There is room for improvement at all levels.