we saw this Norway itinerary advertised by a different travel agency to the one we have booked with for August at what looked like a very reasonable price so we signed up for it in an inside cabin. As we booked 7 months prior to travelling we were hoping to be given an upgrade to an ocean view which is the class of cabin we have opted for on our August trip to Iberia, but we ended up in an inside cabin on deck 10 and it was fine. We mentioned to another passenger that the only thing that bothered us about being inside was that we did not know what the weather was like and therefore didn`t know what clothes would be appropriate for the day, but we were told that channel 27 on our tv showed the front of the ship and we were then able to judge what the weather was like outside.
There were a few English channels on the tv but it was not always possible to get a picture owing to the coverage of the area we were in, but mostly we were able to get bbc world news which kept us up to date with what was happening at home.
The cabin was quite spacious when the beds were separated as you then had this large space in between which was far better than struggling with a small space either side of a double bed. The shower was very small and the curtain inadequate as no matter how you placed it, you always ended up with a wet bathroom floor, but apart from that we had no reason to complain as our towels were changed twice a day, the cabin stewardess came in whilst we were at breakfast to service the room and again whilst we were having our evening meal to turn down the beds and change the towels. This was really nice as it is the first time we have stayed anywhere that changed your towels for you every time you used them.
Before travelling down to Southampton we were disappointed that the free coach travel to the port that had prompted us to purchase the cruise, was to take place the day before travel and to return us to our home town the day after disembarkation. This fact in itself put a huge damper on our spirits as it would mean that the only choice if we still wished to take the coach would be to spend £348 for hotels and transfers for the 2 nights in between the cruise. We eventually decided to drive down and spend the night before the cruise in a Premier Inn situated approximately 3/4 of the way down to break the journey and ensure we were nearer to the port in case of mishaps or breakdowns on the day itself.
This we were told by our travel operator ROL travel was down to MSC as they did not let them know until nearer the date of travel when and what time the coach would operate from various areas. Fortunately we did not suffer any hold ups on the journey down although it was extremely stressful at various stages as neither of us are used to driving long distances, and if we had known we would have to drive to Southampton we would never have booked the cruise.
Once at Southampton it was chaos in the waiting area with it appeared every passenger being given 12.00 as the time to be there, and people were being given coloured cards so that they would then have to queue to be checked in according to their colour. On entering the building I immediately needed the toilet and headed for the area where the toilets were. There was a portacabin with steps for both the ladies and gents and one disabled toilet. The door to the disabled toilet was locked so I assumed someone was using it and sat on the one chair that was left outside for it to become vacant, however after waiting several minutes I asked a member of staff that was nearby if there was anyone inside and was told it was out of order. There was no sign to say it was out of order and this was totally unacceptable given that the only way to use a toilet was to use the rickety steps up to the ladies section of the portacabin. I have rheumatoid arthritis and have difficulty climbing steps but not impossible so was left with no choice but to use the other toilets. By the time I got back to my partner we were given a different colour card to the one that we would have got if I hadn`t been so desperate for the loo, which meant our wait to board the ship was going to be even longer. After waiting around 30 minutes we noticed that some people were going to the area where they were being fast tracked onto the ship, some were in wheelchairs but not everyone was, so my partner told a member of staff that when it came to our turn to queue we would not be able to stand for long as we both had health problems, he having a pacemaker and suffering from heart failure, so we were given permission to go into the fast track section and were on board about 10 minutes later.
Upon finding our cabin we were pleased to find our luggage waiting and apart from having to request that they change the layout of the beds to singles rather than a double, we were happy with our room. We had been allocated second seating for dinner even though we had requested first, however reception guided us to the matre`d who arranged for us to change to first seating, then after the first evening we were given a table for 4 nearer to the window for the rest of the evening meals which suited us fine.
We have no complaints about the service or the quality of the food in the restaurant, and for lunch times we mostly used the buffet restaurant as it was next to the pool area where we spent most of our time on good weather days. The best I can say about the grill area which is located on the patio section of the restaurant, is that they served vegetarian burgers that I ate most lunch times. I would have liked the option of vegetarian sausages for breakfast but they were not available in either the restaurant or the buffet area, but there were plenty of other options available so I always had enough to eat, and the desserts were plentiful and varied in the buffet area, far more so than in the restaurant where the choice of desserts was more limited.
We had paid for the Allegrisimo package which entitled us to free drinks throughout our cruise and we were pleasantly surprised to find names brands of liquers were included. Our biggest complaint about this is that on the last day of our cruise we were unable to order any drinks with the card once we had settled our account and the only way we could get a drink was to go up to the tea and coffee machines on deck 11. This was inconvenient as we were instructed to stay on a much lower deck in the various lounges according to your colour code until you could disembark. We were not due to leave until almost midday so from 8am in the morning when we settled our account we were not able to take advantage of the drinks package that we thought would be available to us until we left the ship, and even the notes regarding the disembarkation read that for passengers convenience our cruise cards would be active until disembarking, so despite going to reception and complaining we got nowhere and were told that we should claim back one days drinks package from our travel agent which we think is going to be a pointless exercise as they have already decided no compensation is in order for the fact that the coach travel was not available to coincide with the date of the cruise. What was particularly annoying was that although our cards got cancelled, there were other passengers that had also paid their accounts whose cards were still able to be used and they could purchase drinks, so why the difference between passengers, it was just unfair and left us with a sour taste that as it was our last day, customer service was no longer important.
Another point that we thought was unfair was that passengers were being given the option to purchase cruise credit for 10 euros that was valid against any other MSC cruise taken in the following 18 months, and as the credit was worth much more than the 10 euros we wanted to take advantage of it seeing as we were already booked, but we were told it was not valid for anyone who had already booked.
The best part of the cruise was the theatre as we attended each performance and enjoyed them all. We also enjoyed the quizzes and the Jacuzzi and we were quite lucky with the weather at the ports of call and enjoyed looking around the various areas near to where the ship was. We didn`t manage to get on the Flam railway as by the time we went to get our tickets there were no trains that would get us back to our ship on time, so we went on the little train that took us around the village taking in all the pretty areas that would have been too far for us to walk to.
Despite our being on the ship for 7 nights we still could not find our way back to the Caruso lounge on deck 6 or 7 having had to go to deck 11 to get coffees whilst we were waiting to get off the ship. No wonder it was one lounge we hadn`t seen during our stay, but it is a very nice area and when we go back on the ship in August we will make a point of visiting and enjoying a drink there.
As this was our first cruise we have no other cruise line to compare with, but our experience has been that the customer service during our cruise was excellent, it was only the day of departure that the situation changed and the situation before getting onboard was awful, but the bits in between were really enjoyable and despite the niggles we look forward to going back and maybe meeting some of the friendly staff again.