This was our first cruise with MSC. We are experienced cruisers, having sailed before with many other lines (European and North American cruiselines). We did our homework before sailing and we knew what not to expect at MSC cruises (for example no free table water nor coffee or tea after dinner). For that reason many things already mentioned on this board have not bothered us. We were prepared and actually our expectations were not very high. My review touches many aspects, which I would like to rate individually.
1) First some words to the Itinerary and ports of call. We have chosen this cruise because of the Itinerary. We found it a very nice way for us to travel from South America to Europe and a good alternative to flying. The ports of call were Buzios, Salvador Bahia, Recife, Arrecife, Cadiz, Coruna, Dover, Amsterdam and Hamburg.
I would rate the itinerary and ports of call as very good with five stars.
2) Precruise booking process. For South America, MSC has not the option of booking online. The website is of no use for us, because we cannot even determine the prices of the cruises. We are always directed to a travel agent. Being fairly independent, I usually do my own reserach for my cruises online. Once I am ready to book, I tell my travel agent already all the details and ask her to do the booking for me.
This procedure was not possible with MSC Cruises. Even for the small question I had to go through the travel agent. Fortunately I have for MSC cruises a very good travel agent and things worked out fine. However since I would prefer to have more freedom for booking, making reservations and managing my reservation online, I would rate this aspect as poor with two stars.
3) The ship. The MSC Magnifica is a very nice and elegant ship. It is also in a very good condition. The fitness center does not have enough machines as other cruise lines though. I would rate the ship and facilities as good with four stars.
4) Fellow passengers. Having read several comments from other cruise critic members about how unpolite passengers on MSC cruises are, and being used to the very considerated and polite manners from Northamerican cruisers, I was a litle aprehensive before boarding MSC Magnifica. I have to say, that I was nicely surprised. Passengers were from different countries in South America and Europe. Well educated, wealthy and well travelled Brasilians were the mayority. We have enjoyed the internationality among passengers. I would rate this aspect as very good with five stars.
5) Food and Wine. For us it was a pleasure to enjoy Italian style of food. Yes the portions are not large, but they were large enough for us. We have missed a proper steak after such a long cruise but we have enjoyed pastas and rissotos. I had the best Ossobuco at sea onboard the MSC Magnifica. The German style bread was excellent. Wines were good. We could not have the allegrisimo package because of a funny explanation that South Americans drink too much and this is why it is not available on those itineraries. Really? Well, we did not need the package. Our thanks to the sommelier who always gave us a good advice on the wines. I would rate food and wine as very good with five stars.
6) Cabin and facilities. We were in a balcony cabin. It was nice although small. The television was too small for any cabin. The programms on the TV were very limited with almost no news while the ship was on the Brasilian coast and during the crossing. Only once in Europe, several European channels were available. I would rate this aspect as good with four stars.
7) Friendliness of the crew. Cabin attendants and waiters were very friendly. I would rate this as excellent with five plus stars.
8) Interaction with officers and management response to problems. Unfortunately this is our main critic to MSC Magnifica. Officers were seldom to see. We have never met the hotel director. Every thing seemed to be fine as long as we did not need to communicate with Management. If we had some concerns, we were blocked by guest relation's personnel without being able to access the management. It gave us the feeling that if more serious problems were to arise we would receive litle help. I would rate this aspect as poor with two stars.
9) Hygiene on board. We had the feeling that not enough measures were taken on this ship to control outbreaks like Norovirus or others. Sanitizers were many times empty or nobody paid attention if they were being used. I would rate this aspect as poor with two stars.
10) Entertainment. We have loved the music from Musica in Maschera. We have enjoyed the Brasilian music in the different bars. We would rate this aspect as excellent with five plus stars.
In summary we had a good cruise (according to my rating this means three stars). We would sail with them again if we like the itinerary. We would like to try a different ship instead of the Magnifica to be able to compare among ships of the MSC cruiseline.