This will be a slightly different review as we were on a theme cruise and not a regular sailing. In other words, there are some things that I cannot rate on behalf of MSC because they were not under MSC's "control." This was a Moody Blues cruise, featuring the band along with several other performers, and for a theme cruise it was fantastic. Lots of music all the time (except when the ship was in port). With that in mind, I cannot rate the entertainment or shows because none of it was originated by MSC. Still, there were lots of things that were under the control of MSC and on several occasions, they needed some work.
EMBARKATION: The worst I've ever experienced in 27 cruises. Since we live in Florida, it only takes us two hours to get to Port Everglades, and on most occasions, we get there a little early and are either asked to wait or they just let us board. On this occasion, we arrived at around 11:50, and after going through security and check in, we had to wait. And wait. And wait. They didn't start the boarding process until around 1pm and we didn't get on board until after 2. WHY? It was horrible.
Once we got on board, we were directed to the elevators to go to our cabins. I didn't want to go to our cabin; I wanted to get something to eat first. Nope, we HAD to go to our cabins first, as if the ship couldn't sail without me first going to my cabin. Whatever.
FOOD: Lots of things have been said about the quality of MSC's food. We cruised with them once before and actually went hungry the food was so bad. This time, however, we don't have much to complain about. The food in the dining room was hit and miss (don't order the veal as it was pretty tough both times I tried), and the buffet seemed to have a nice variety and was pretty good for the most part. Some foods had temperature issues, usually not being hot enough. I like that the buffet had the choices of water, iced tea or juices, including grapefruit, cranberry, orange and pineapple. Great idea! We did not use either of the specialty dining venues so we cannot rate them.
CABIN: Most of the balcony rooms I've had in the past have room for a small couch but this room only had a chair. Still, the cabin was ok. Cleanliness was a different story. To sum it up, a word of advice to MSC: DUVETS! I absolutely hate when there is only a sheet that separates you from a blanket that you aren't sure of its last washing. Our blanket had hairs on it that were not ours, so it was a little icky. Might want to change the mattresses too because ours were quite lumpy. Also, the floor could have used a real vacuuming, and not what they might have considered vacuuming. We couldn't say much about it as we never met our cabin steward (a first for us). They might want to change the bag to his/her vacuum because it didn't work very well.
The shower curtain could have used a nice dunking of bleach as the bottom was a bit grungy. The showers offer a body wash and a shampoo have a very strong odor, and it's not a pleasant one. We had no shower cap, no lotions, nothing else. Take your own toiletries.
SERVICE: This is where the term "Celebrity snob" will probably come in. While it is true that my wife and I are Celebrity fans, I don't think it's too much to ask to get a smile, a nod and/or a salutation when someone from the staff or crew passes me by. We got it seldomly from the MSC staff yet we get it 95% of the time from the Celebrity staff. For that matter, many of the staff seemed downright moody. They had frowns, looked upset and generally like they didn't want to be there. Not all of them, but most of them. This is something that MSC could rectify with one company-wide memo: "when a customer passes you, smile/say hello/acknowledge them." For us, it never gets old and really makes us feel that our patronage is appreciated.
SHIP: The one thing that MSC has done right is their ships. Both that we have been on have been stunningly beautiful. And there was never a time that I didn't see several crew members cleaning or polishing something. They get high marks for cleanliness in public areas.
However, they should tighten their smoking policy much like the other lines have. Way too much smoking on this ship. Yuck.
CYBER CAFE: They are miles behind other cruise lines in this department. I used their cyber cafe twice and in both instances I had a keyboard that didn't work very well. I had to beat on the space bar or else it didn't work. Perhaps some keyboards that were from at least the 90's would be better.
SPA: We didn't use it, but I just had to wonder why the spa was CLOSED on a port day. I've never seen a spa closed in the middle of the day before, but during one of our port days, we walked by and it was closed. HUH?
PHOTO LAB: This is probably one of the biggest plusses we could find. Their photo staff is the best on the seas. They take lots of pictures, lots of styles and lots of different poses, and far more than any of the other lines we've been on. Absolutely fabulous work, bordering on artistic.
BAR: They only offer Heineken on draft. I thought that was very strange. A couple of times I heard people say that they were told the ship was out of certain beers. On a cruise with a bunch of classic rockers, you need to make sure everything is stocked, especially the beer.
VALUE: Since this was a themed cruise, we paid more than a normal rate, but I still think that the line is doing some things better than they were a few years ago. I'll try them one more time, but I'm not in any hurry. Though I would have loved to share my thoughts with them, they didn't issue a comment card on the last day of the cruise (as everyone else does), so I guess they know they've still got some work to do and didn't need me to tell them so.
Keep trying, MSC. You're getting there. Slowly.