Having sailed on MSC 5 years ago and had no complaints I felt confident in using them again for a belated 80th birthday celebration for my cousin along with other members of our family. Things went wrong almost from the first as I tried to book on line but the figures did not show the MSC Club discount. On phoning I was told that the figures had taken this into account although it was not shown as a discount on screen so I booked during this conversation. Unfortunately a couple of weeks later a family member had a serious accident which involved surgery in two different hospitals so we were traveling to and from Somerset for several weeks.
It was not until September ( I booked in July) that I realised that I'd had no confirmation of the booking so I rang them again to be told that I should have received one - something I wasn't disputing - and they would issue one.It was basically a single sheet of paper addressed to my cousin but at my address (I was the lead name, or should have been) . Although it showed the balance due there was no indication of a date on which this was to be paid. In April I emailed msc with this enquiry only to be told that it was due the previous Friday at which point I phoned to pay by debit card. I was then told the information was incorrect as the balance was only due the coming Friday! When I queried why the date is not given on the invoice I was told that the information was shown in the brochure and they only contact customers who have not paid on time!! It got to 2 weeks before we were to sail and I still had no tickets. I saw that on line checkin was available so I did this expecting tickets to be shown on the website. All this did was ask me to print off a document which showed the passport information I'd input with the instruction to present it on the ship. Why I don't know , as nobody asked for it. So I emailed msc who informed me that the tickets would be emailed to me the following day. 2 days later I had to contact then again as I still had another tickets. When they arrived the car parking voucher had been issued in my cousin's name! That was the end of our problems, so I thought but it continued in the same vein throughout the cruise .
We were disgusted with the so called Terminal which was a fruit and veg warehouse -cold and draughty. Arriving just before 1pm we felt we would be able to take lunch on board. How silly a thought was that? We were asked to take a seat and wait. The only form of refreshment was a trestle table manned by two young ladies who were selling tea and coffee made with hot water from an urn. Suddenly we noticed that the group checking in had been told to sit down again. The only announcement made which was not broadcast very clearly informed us that they we experiencing problems with check in and thanking us for our patience. Over TWO hours later check in restarted. The explanation was that there was a problem with the computers which was to do with the Border Agency and nothing to do with them. When we went to board the gangway was to Deck 6 and at a very steep angle. My cousin has mobility problems and although she does not use a wheelchair has a walking stick and finds stairs a little difficult. She was then offered the use of the ramp which led to the same deck and was just as steep . No one offered any help to her and she was quite exhausted by the time she got on board. There was no one to welcome us or guide us to our cabins but as my husband and I have cruised many times we just asked the nearest person where the lifts were and found our own way up to the cabins. This in spite of the fact that as MSC "Club Members" we were entitled to priority checkin and a welcome drink!
As we had not eaten since breakfast and it was now past 3 .30 we decided to order room service but before we had chance to do it the announcement came for the muster drill. After the drill we were joined by 2 other family members who had booked the trip as a surprise and they informed us that we were on " ship's time" which was an hour ahead of the actual time in Southampton so within half an hour we were due for the 1st sitting in the restaurant which is at the ridiculously early time of 5.45
Food in the restaurant was mediocre and every fish dish and some of the meat dishes were overcooked and dry. We came to the conclusion that a lot of the food was precooked and reheated.. Service at our dinner table was excellent but the attitude of some waiters at breakfast left a lot to be desired. On one occasion we were served with juice,coffee and croissants and then sat for 20 minutes before our orders were taken with not hint of an apology. We were especially concerned about the time as we were going on an excursion. The only person who apologised was the young man who served tea and coffee who told us that he was not allowed to take orders for food ( which we knew). At dinner that evening one of the head waiters passed by tables to enquire if there were any a problems with food or service. When it was mentioned that we had had a problem at breakfast he appeared not to have heard us and moved away. The next morning we complained and all the explanation we were given was that they were very busy,!! This even though people who had arrived after us were being served.
There was a shortage of staff in the bar and lounge areas and long delays in getting served although the staff were very pleasant they were obviously overworked.
One thing which also stood out was the lack of insistence on hand sanitizing before entering bars and restaurants. Although there were cleansing gels at the doors of the restaurant and the buffet it was left up to individuals as to whether or not to use them.
The shows in the theatre left a lot to be desired although the entertainment (animation) boys and girls who worked throughout the ship were really good and worked very hard.
Our cabin was on deck 10 and was very noisy at night. For some reason the buffet restaurant on deck 11 closed at 9.15pm and re opened at midnight until 2 am. Don' t know what was happening but at midnight it sounded like heavy furniture was being dragged across the floor to be repeated at 2.00am. If you did manage to sleep then you would be woken again.There was also a smell of frying food in the early morning which must have been coming through the air conditioning vent. One night were we're woken at around 1.30am as the carpets in the corridor was being shampooed!! When we asked about it at reception the guy was horrified to think we had been disturbed and on making a phone call was told that important guests were coming on board!!! Why the cleaning could not have been done while in port when most people were off the ship I don't know.
Leaving the ship didn't go any better that embarkation. We had to be out of our cabins by 7am and then at 9am had to go to the theatre for face to face immigration checks with Border Security. We were still sailing at 9am and customs officials didn't board until getting on for 10. After presenting our passport we then had to have our card swiped which actually closed our accounts down. By the time we got to our meeting point where we were to wait until escorted from the ship we and many others were ready for a cuppa but were unable to get one as we had no means of buying one and the buffet restaurant on the top deck was closed. Eventually we left the ship at 11 .30 - a long time from breakfasts at 7am! Would I cruise with MSC again? Definitely not.