We were told that flights would be arranged close to our travelling date, we were informed 2 weeks prior to travel that we were outbound from Gatwick to Verona and inbound Venice to Gatwick. Not the end of the world, but be aware that you may not get a flight to a local airport. Flights were organised, along with transfers, by MSC.
Gatwick was chaos!! We arrived early, but were unable to sit together. I am a nervous traveller, also being 22 weeks pregnant did not appreciate being split up from my husband. As MSC arrange flights as a large group booking, you cannot check-in online 24hrs prior. Hence, no seats together, as everyone else had checked in beforehand. Flight was ok, nothing special, food poor considering BA flight. Transfer was easy, MSC rep waiting at airport to show you to the correct bus.
Summing up the embarkation to the ship, and the rest of the holiday, chaos and queues!!
Queue to drop off your cases, queue to enter terminal, queue for escalators, queue for compulsory photos, very large queue to check-in and queue for security! A very long and tedious process, not helped by the apparent rudeness of the check-in staff. We were shown to a desk, the man ignored us and carried on talking to his friend. Eventually be acknowledged us and said 'yes' whilst shrugging his shoulders, as if asking what we wanted! I said we were there to check-in, he didn't really speak to us through the whole process and when finished just stood there before shooing us away with his hands!! Not the treatment I was expecting. Have to say the rest of our party arrived earlier and had a pleasant and smooth check-in.
Cabin excellent! Balcony cabin, good storage, nicely sized room, good standard and quality fixtures/fittings. We had cabin 9160, great location! Just off the lifts, which went to the dining rooms, buffet and pool decks. Easy access to everything. Luckily we had a glass balcony, the rest if our family had the enclosed steel balconies which obstructed your view and sun.
The decor of the ship was excellent, very surprised. Public areas very nice. One negative point - in my opinion there were not enough toilets on board and they were always dirty!! Being pregnant, I spent a lot of time back and forth to the toilets. There were so many people on board, you were always queuing.
Ship felt crowded, always being pushed & elbowed by others, always queuing for something. Good luck in getting a seat in the public lounges at dinner time. We opted for 1st seating, which was 18.45, usually finished by 20.45. Second sitting was 21.15.
Dining rooms were pleasant, food was average and nothing special. They made an effort with the menus, but they were generally not to my taste, I did struggle to eat anything some evenings. My Dad has Coeliac Disease, so needed to have a gluten free menu. Gluten free food is only available in the restaurants and not the buffet, this limited him during the daytime. However, the gluten free service and the quality of the gluten free food was excellent!! Made for stress free dining.
Ports: Venice, Bari, Katakolon, Izmir, Istanbul, Dubrovnik, Venice. Sounded a great itinerary, but disappointing. Venice, did not see it other than from the ship & coach. Bari, not much going on. Katakolon, a single street of tourist shops. Here there were local coaches offering return trips to Olympia for €10, don't pay the MSC prices, walk to the town (5 mins) and much cheaper options. Izmir & Istanbul, we opted to remain on the ship due to the recent troubles and unrest. Dubrovnik, €12 each for transfer to the Old Town. However, step off the ship and you can get a taxi for €10 each way with 4 people in!! Dubrovnik was beautiful, but unbearably hot and packed with people.
Day at sea: make sure you stake your claim to a sunbed early!! They were out at 06.00 putting towels down. Despite the rules, no-one listens and no-one removed towels whilst we were there. Dining on this day was particularly difficult. The buffet was always very busy, so we decided to use one of the restaurants instead. This proved to be a mistake. 6 of us were out on a table for 8, then 2 Austrians were also put on our table. Ordinarily not an issue, but we were all on different drinks packages and they didn't speak any English. We sat awkwardly for the duration. The orders were all mixed up, the waiter was very rude and abrupt. My mother ordered a cranberry juice, she received a green coloured drink and was told they had run out!! She did not know what the drink was and was not asked if she would like something different. Our evening dining couldn't be more different, the waiting staff were fantastic! I think it was probably hit & miss, depending on the staff.
The last evening, we were told to attend a meeting to inform us about the disembarkation procedure. This was a complete waste of time, there was no information, we were just told to put the luggage tags on bags and read the info posted in our room that evening. The info advised on your disembarkation time, based on the tag colour. Be warned, you have to vacate your cabin by 07.00!!!!!!! Ridiculously early!!! Cases need to be outside your room by 02.00 and collect them the next day. We had transfers included to the airport. The info stated that our meeting time to disembark was 09.10, but our transfer time was 15.00. We asked if we could stay on the ship - No! Is there somewhere to leave our luggage? - Yes, but you have to pay for the service. The cruise terminal is a good distance from everywhere, are there any transfers to Venice for the day? - No, you need to figure it out yourself and pay for any transport! We were thrown off the ship with our luggage in the baking heat with nowhere to go and not enough money left to pay for luggage deposit/transport/drinks etc. Plus the temperature was unbearably hot and I was pregnant. MSC didn't seem bothered by that!!! I really could have cried! Also, our meeting time was 09.10, we sat for 45mins waiting before we were called.
My husband spoke with the women organising the people for the airport transfers. At first they said that the earlier buses were all full, after pleading they said for us to wait. They squeezed us onto the next bus to the airport. I was very grateful!! At least we could sit in the cool, afford drinks and use the toilets at the airport.
No thanks to MSC. They were happy to abandon us. You're off the ship and no longer their problem. A big thank you to the lady who did help us though.
It's a real shame. The ship was lovely, the majority of staff were excellent. However, a few staff were horrendous, the ship was too busy, organisation poor, uncaring attitude. After the stress of the disembarkation I would not sail with MSC again.