I have just returned from the MSC Preziosa (disembarked on May 17th) and thought I would right a quick review as it is a new ship and there are few reviews around.
We were a travelling party of 2 adults and 1 infant, and this was not our first cruise, although all other cruises had been with RCCL. We were looking forward to the new experience. The cost effective child places, coupled with short flights and a new ship made MSC Preziosa and exciting proposal.
We arrived in Barcelona late the night before the cruise and after a 20 miniute taxi drive (Approx €25 I think) we arrived at our hotel that was in a great location just off La Rambla. The next morning we took another short Taxi drive to the port (approx. €20 I think) and we arrived at around midday. We were met by a porter who took our bags (we gave him a tip) and we went inside the terminal, where there were very few guests waiting to check-in. We were greeted and our names checked off a list, we went to the check-in counter and were only waiting a minute or so for a person to check us in. The whole check-in process took minutes and we went upstairs and walked straight onto the ship. From arriving at the port to walking onto the ship was no more than 15 minutes, with an infant being pushed in a stroller too, so all good in relation to terminal and check-in.
Once we stepped on board we were immediately greeted and welcomed on board by a member of the hotel staff (I guess) who introduced one of his colleagues (room attendant) who was going to show us to our room. We were shown straight to our room, where the room was checked and we were asked if everything was ok and to our liking. We asked for a cot for the baby, and this was in place and dressed within an hour. Initial thoughts of the ship and stateroom, this ship is stunning. It still has the new car smell about it. The interior design of the ship is amazing, with dark timber, marble, mirrors etc. It is an absolutely stunning ship. The room was as tasteful and well designed, with the exception of a very large mirror at the end of our bed, which we were not keen on but the baby loved. The room felt wider than those on RCCL, even though I am unsure if this is the case, and it was very nice. The bathroom has a great door design on the shower that swings inwards and outwards, and other than that everything was as you would expect. So we set off exploring the ship..........
As mentioned above the ship is amazing. The Atrium is really nice, and is the hub of the ship, well it was for our cruise. There are people bustling about, a pianist playing music, or a bit of classical singing (both in the evenings) there are also numerous bars etc. located around here on different floors. We found the ship slightly difficult to navigate and work around, possibly hindered by the face that we had to use elevators for the baby stroller each time. While everything is very nice and shiny and new, it can be tough to navigate. We felt that there was often a dining room in the way of where we wanted to go, and that every time we did want to go somewhere we felt we were always walking through La Locanda (the Pizza restaurant). Overall the ship is very nice, a pleasant place to be. They are constantly cleaning it, with vacuum cleaners on all day, cables across the floor, and guys cleaning and polishing every door you want to walk through. I like a clean place, but not when it is getting in the way of what I want to do.
The on board experience was where things were a real let down for us. Firstly we found that when we arrived at a life lobby and called an elevator, even if we were first in line, and we had called the elevators, others would climb in ahead of us, often leaving us with the baby and stroller to wait for the next elevator. In most cases people coming out of elevators climbed over the baby and stroller, as we stood outside. There were a lot of people walking around in robes (as has been mentioned before) and the buffet was always chaotic. People did not ever queue and simply jumped into line when they saw something they wanted. There was little or no general courtesy or manners on board in my experience. Sadly we found the crew to be of a similar mind set. They were short and sharp, seldom helpful, and we often felt avoided. It was difficult to get a baby seat/high chair in the buffet, and in general I felt the crew were no where near the standard of our previous cruises. The reception staff were cold, unhelpful and rude, and could not be depended on for much. With the exception of our room attendant who was excellent the crew were a disaster for our cruise.
Entertainment was difficult with such a small baby etc. but that aside I could not tell you who our cruise director was, what shows were on or what was happening. The flow of information to passengers is terrible. The daily planner is uninformative and only one quarter of one A4 page is dedicated to telling you the activities that are happening on board. It is impossible to review the shows etc. when you do not know what is on or where, and it feels like if you want something to do you have to really go and source it out yourself!
Where we felt let down the most was in relation to our daughter. MSC is promoting itself as the child friendly cruise line, more cost effective child places than others, lots of children on board etc. and that may be true, but in our experience the child facilities on board are poor at best. We went for a walk around the ship when we arrived to find the kids areas etc. for our daughter. With the exception of one outdoor area with a slide on one of the outside decks there was nothing else for her to do. There were no playrooms, no play areas, nothing. Secondly, there are no child pools on this ship. No children or adults in diapers are allowed in any pool at any time. Finally, there are no services at all for Children under 3 in relation to kids clubs etc. We did go up to the kids club to look as we are considering our next cruise with friends who have 3 kids. The children all looked bored, uninterested and disenagaged and this was confirmed to us one evening in the buffet. The kids club arrived and the children and team staff sat at different table. There were 3 children there who refused to eat and were obviously protesting at something. This happened a few evenings while we were in the buffet area, and at no time did the staff sit with or engage with the children. These sound like minor things, but for a cruise company aiming itself at families we felt it was very very poor.
Food, we did not eat in the main dining room, as the meal is a 6 or 7 course, 2 hour affair, and we did not feel it would be fair on our fellow guests or our daughter to try and keep her content in a dining room for this amount of time but we did eat in the Buffet and in La Locanda. The buffet was mayhem, with people skipping queues and pushing in where they wanted. The food was often not hot and we found the selection to be limiting. The buffet area is quite large on this ship and it was always impossible to tell whether or not you had seen the full selection, but in general the buffet was not ideal. La Locanda was great. Pizza restaurant, with fresh made pizzas. It is a pay venue but it is worth it at only €5 for a fresh pizza, very very tasty and worth a look.
Ports. We did not book any excursions, choosing to entertain ourselves in port as best we could. In Marseille we availed of the MSC shuttle bus that brings you right to the centre of Marseille. Lovely place to walk around and explore with a lot happening and lots of people. Well worth a look with decent shopping and nice small bars and cafes for lunch etc. In both Naples and Genoa we did the city bus tours. Both are easily accessible from the pier and are not overly expensive! You can hop on and off, have a good walk around, and checkout local sights such as Aquariums, museums etc. Both of these cities were very accessible via the bus, and it really is a great way to get around and see things. I think tickets were around €12 for Genoa (45 mins) and around €20 for Naples (2 lines approx. 1 hour each). In Genoa the bus leaves you at the Aquarium which is a really lively spot along the waterfront, with lots to see and do! This was possibly our favourite post. In Naples the bus has a stop right back at the ship leaving only a few minute walk to the ship. We like these open top bus tours as you get to see a lot and you can hop on or off if you want to see something particular, and they were great value. Tunis, there was a note that there was a limited shuttle service available to Medina (I think it was) but for one reason or another we were unable to book in time and we missed out. Aside a couple of camels with guys trying to sell you pictures, and a few local port shops there is nothing at the port in Tunis. Make sure you book an excursion or at the very least the shuttle bus or you will be left on the ship. During our cruise the ship remained very busy in Tunis and it appeared not many people left the ship this day! Maybe something to do with the large "for security reasons do not approach within 50 meters of this ship unless previously authorized" banners that appeared on the side of the ship! We were late leaving by about 4/5 hours due to weather, but you can't change some things.
I mentioned above that there was little interaction between guests and crew, this is evident from what happened the day we boarded. We knew having cruised before that there would be a safety drill, we expected it and we had been received a life jacket for our daughter. At 4pm we went to the Galaxy lounge for a drink, as it over looked the whole outside of the pool decks. In there I asked the bar tender what time was the safety drill due or usually held. His answer was, I don't know, maybe 5pm or something like that. So, we waited. There were no announcements, no calls for guests, no crew in life jackets or high viz vests looking for guests, no bars closed.....nothing! So the day went on and the ship sert sail. Later that night (after dinner) we received a letter in our room saying we had missed the drill and we should report to the theatre at 18.00 (we got this letter at around 9pm). Confused about what day or when I went to reception where I was told the letter was very confusing and not clear by the receptionist, who herself had to go and ask a manager what it meant. I was told to be at the theatre at 18.00 the next day. Next day we made sure we were back on the ship in plenty of time, went and got our life jackets and headed to the theatre. On arrival our cards were scanned and in we went. It was madness. People (crew and guests) all over the place with no idea at all what was going on. There were random crew members holding up paddles with letters on them and we quickly realized these referred to our stations. I asked one crew member could we stay at the back with the baby in the stroller and I was told no I had to take a seat in the right section. So, we left the stroller at the back, and went to our section. Around twenty minutes later the drill began, and each and every paragraph was read out in maybe 6 lnaguages. Then, when the life jacket donning demonstration began guests everywhere decided to join in. So now there are guests in a very full theatre all trying to put on life jackets in their seats, with the instructions being given in multiple languages. When this was complete we were told (in multiple languages again) to follow our team leader to our muster point so we would know where it was. We gathered up the baby, the stroller and the life jackets and when called followed our team leader, with lots of people in life jackets to our point. When we got there we waited a couple of minutes and I asked my wife to check if the drill was complete with the leader. As she walked over to him, he turned and walked out as people were still arriving from the theatre. So now we were about 100 people, left in a bar, many with life jackets on etc., clueless as to what was to happen next. We waited around 15 minutes and the crew member never came back so we left. This was undoubtedly the single most shambolic thing I have ever seen, heard or participated in on a cruise ship, and this was the safety drill!
Disembarkation. We had to be out of the room at 7am. We then waited in La Locanda with no real announcements etc unitl approx. 8.30 when a movement of people told us it was time to go. Again, there were no announcements that we heard of that it was time to leave. We were off the ship within 10 minutes. There is a taxi rank right outside the terminal, but again there is no queue or logic as to how it progresses and we just had to be patient and wait. We returned to the same hotel, so same costs etc. were associated.
We had purchased a pre paid drinks package and it is my opinion that a lot of the lack of attention to detail, and lack of customer care in bar and lounge areas may have stemmed from this. On the pre paid packages there is no gratuity on the drinks you order on board. On numerous occasions I had my bills almost thrown at me, scattering across the bar for me to gather them up. They were very very seldom given in a folder, or together or even with a pen. I think as there was no gratuity for the bar tender in question, they felt that they did not have to deliver a decent service level. In fact, we removed all service charges from our bill and I directly tipper our Stateroom attendant who looked after us so well.
Here is something that we were not aware of and did not know until we boarded. People embark and disembark this ship at every port. This means that every time the ship stops there are people leaving and people getting on. So as we boarded, there were people who were already a few days into their holiday. For us this made the cruise experience a little incoherent. No welcome aboard party etc. no continuity in relation to people around the ship or people you see. Having cruised with another line where everyone boards and disembarks together we felt that the constant joining and leaving of people made the whole thing feel disjointed as everyone was at a different point in their holiday all of the time. For instance, the day we boarded turned out to be a formal night. How can we possibly unpack, press and dress for a formal night the day we board. This does have advantages as the queues are never long to board and disembark, but it is not something that we liked, and we felt it disjointed people and the experience.
Overall we enjoyed the cruise, but we had to work at it to enjoy it, if that makes sense. We made the most of what we had and what it was, and we found ways to enjoy ourselves and to maximize our holiday.
While I thought that the ship was really nice, I feel it was let down by it's people, both crew and other guests. It is a shame, because I really wanted to have a great time, to come away looking forward to another MSC cruise and to wanting to book another one, but this is not the case. Yes there is a saving to be made by cruising MSC, especially with children, but in my experience the saving is not proportionate to the reduced cruise experience, reduced service, reduced facilities and other trade offs we feel we encountered. Whilst not a bad experience, it was not as enjoyable as we hoped and would have liked. We have decided we will most likely not cruise MSC again.