We have just returned from our first MSC cruise. We took the 7-day Baltic cruise out of Copenhagen on MSC Musica.
After reading all of the unpleasant reviews about MSC on this site, my husband opted to stay home so my 17 yr old daughter and I traveled alone.
Although not on par with Celebrity (our favorite), MSC was on par with Royal Carribbean. Most all procedures onboard with the exception of early embarkation, were standard with other cruise lines.
We arrived at the port early since we were told via MSC online chat that we could board as early as noon. Our intent was to drop our baggage and check out our room and then venture back out into the city for a few hours prior to departure. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to embark until almost 130 pm. Had we known this, we would have left our bags at our hotel and checked in late.
The early arrivals were asked to sit in chairs provided at the port. There were tables where you could book excursions, drink packages, spa treatments, etc. After we had been sitting for almost a half hour, we were told that we were supposed to have received a boarding ticket. However, noone seemed to know where they came from. Eventually someone came around and handed out numbers. Once they started calling numbers, the group called were allowed to get in line for embarkation. The check in was similar to all other cruise lines.
Once we boarded the ship, we were greeted by a welcome staff and were escorted to our room by a waiting housekeeper dressed in full uniform including white gloves. This is above and beyond any other cruiseline that we have traveled with and very welcome and navigating a new ship on the first day can be quite confusing (can you say "elevator to nowhere"?)
Our room was exactly as described. We had a superior balcony room facing off the back of the ship. We requested this room so that we could have a panoramic view of both sides of the ship. We were not disappointed with the view. The only disappointments with our room were very flat pillows (room attendant gladly brought us additional pillows - no problem at all), black mildew on the outside of the light blocking curtain by the balcony (someone must have left the door open while cruising) and a bit of mold in the shower that grew progressively as the week went on. Other than the mold in the shower, the room was immaculate and well cared for all week. A word of caution...although smoking is not allowed on your balcony, smoking is allowed in the staterooms. Our room was not smoky at all, but it sure could have been different! We were very lucky.
Our daily guide sheet was printed in english and left every day. I have read reviews from others that did not have consistent service for this. We had no problem. As with other cruise lines, the weather report seemed to be standard every day and not updated. Don't count on it!
Dinner in the main dining room was better than expected. The selections were consistent: fish, chicken, beef, pork, and vegetarian. The food was not very flavorful which seems to be par for the course for most cruise lines. I guess no flavor is preferable to bad flavor? Our servers were top notch (Naveem was awesome) and were the best that we have had on any cruise line. They worked well together and didn't get stressed out under pressure. The dining room was very well run and food consistent throughout the week. RCCL has been plagued by chronic understaffing in their dining rooms and this was not the case with MSC.
We ate at the buffet occasionally throughout the week. We never had any problems finding a table and there were no long lines at any of the food lines. We expected huge crowds like on RCCL, but no problems here. Maybe the ship wasn't at capacity?
We ordered room service several mornings and it was delivered by the same friendly young lady every time. It was timely, and exactly as ordered.
We didn't use the pools, casino, or spa, so no reviews for those. I did, however, buy hair products in the salon because the Kerastase products that I used at home were almost than 50% less than I would have paid at my local salon! I ended up buying a years supply! Thanks MSC another pleasant surprise~
We purchased the allegrisimo all inclusive drink package for the week. It was a good value. We never had any problem getting what we wanted, when we wanted it. No complaints! There were only two negatives regarding drinks...other cruise lines have quick grab drinks poured such as tea, water and lemonade available all day. With the exception of breakfast, on MSC all drinks have to be ordered. No coffee is offered at the end of dinner service in the main dining room. You have to go to the bar area after dinner for a coffee. I understand that it keeps "lingerers" from straining schedules, but it sure would have been nice to have a coffee with my awesome tiramisu! You can buy drinks 2-at-a-time with the drink package, so it you know that you will slam that pina-colada when you get back from your excursion, simply grab an extra to take back to your balcony.
The staff at the customer service desk were all extremely helpful and spoke good english. Our online purchase tab was accurate all week, so fortunately we never had to deal with the accounting desk.
The shops onboard were smaller than some of the big ships, but had everything that you would need. We had an unfortunate experience in the dress shop with an employee named Daniela. She was rude and abrasive. Definitely a bad representative for the cruise line! We would have purchased items from the shop, but steered clear to avoid her. Prices were higher than on American cruise lines (I have found some good buys on those!).
We took one excursion purchased through MSC in Kiel, Germany. It was to the town of Lubeck. The guide was excellent and the excursion exactly as described. We had purchased an excursion for Stockholm and received tickets in our cabin only to be notified late on the evening before the excursion that ours had been cancelled due to lack of English speaking guests who had chosen it. There were only two other options for English speakers in that port and neither appealed to us. Fortunately, I brought my guide books so we scrambled to make our own plans. Without them, we would have been "lost in Stockholm"! Come prepared for cancellation if you need an English speaking tour.
Would we cruise MSC again? If the price is right and the itinerary good, no doubt we would give them another go. Celebrity will always be our first choice, but MSC is comparable if not better in many areas than RCCL. If the pricing/itinerary were comparable, RCCL might have a slight edge just because English would be the first language of more guests, but MSC was definitely a pleasant surprise and worth a closer look!
Our ship actually docked in Kiel, Germany. Lubeck can also be accessed from other German ports. It is a lovely town with a long history. Unesco site. Definitely worth a visit if you are looking to get away from the port!
Great port...could use several days here! It is safe, clean, and most all signs have both English and Danish.
The room is a reproduction of the original. All amber was removed/destroyed in WWII. You you are a history buff and want to see original items, head to the Hermitage.
A disappointment. The palace was so damaged in WWII that most of what you see if fairly new. The "gold leaf" is just paint and most all furnishings were reproductions or purchased/donated fairly recently.
A beautiful church. It was only built in the last century, so no great history here. Still worth a visit.
It is interesting to see the old mixed with the new. St Petersburg is definitely a city in transition.
Huge crowds made the museum a disappointment. It would have been enjoyed much more it we could actually get close to the art work!
A word of warning...much of the museum is not air conditioned and windows are left closed to keep moisture out. Huge crowds + no air conditioning = hot!
We only visited the outside due to lack of time. Incredible history here, read up on the location prior to visiting to get max benefit from the stop
Beautiful grounds. I would recommend this over Catherine's palace if your time is limited.
Exactly as described by SPB Tours. Our guide was waiting for us when we disembarked from the cruise ship. We were the first ones off (long day...much to see!) and sailed right through immigration.
We were able to see twice as much using a private tour rather than a large ship excursion. We only had one day in town so the pricing difference was well worth it.
Our guide (Helen) was personable and professional, her car new and clean, and everything well planned and organized.
We bought a day tickets on the Hop-on Hop-off bus/canal lines. A great way to get around on your own. Tickets can be purchased when you exit the ship.
The Vasa museum was very interesting, but large tour groups made it difficult to enjoy.
The changing of the guards at the palace was fun, but not sure it was worth the amount of time it took out of our day.
Be prepared for high prices for food, souvenirs, etc
Purchased a day pass on the Hop-on Hop-off bus at the cruise port. Although not necessary (walking distance to old town), there was rain threatening all day so we decided that it would be nice to duck in on a dry bus if the weather got ugly.
We were able to see both the upper and lower towns in about 3 hours. We ended up riding our HoHo bus outside the city and were very glad we did.
This is a great town for souvenirs. We found the shops at the cruise port to be the same price as in town and have a nicer selection. Not all shops in town took credit cards, so you had to go to an ATM to get cash. Wait and make your purchases at the port. That way you don't have to carry them all day.
We found great prices on wool sweaters (1/3rd price of Stockholm) and some very good chocolate.
We had lunch at the Munga cafe to try some local Estonian food and beer. No disappointment, but more expensive than it should have been.