This was our first ever cruise. I travelled with my wife my 2 kids aged 12 & 13, my sister, brother in law and nephew aged 13 who are hardened cruisers (5) plus friends (family of 3) their daughter was 14 and this was their first ever cruise also.
I had read many reviews prior to our voyage and did have several concerns thinking we were going to have many issues around things like getting off at ports, food, unhelpful staff etc and I feel obliged to write this report with total honesty and from a realistic view.
Before I start I want to have my say to people who have been on other cruise liners before and set their standards to them ships costing a lot more money. The cost of this cruise compared too many others is probably classed as budget. With having no knowledge of other liners this experience was anything other than budget in my opinion.
Embarkation at Southampton:
Arrived early and was able to drop off luggage we were met by handlers armed with trolleys ready to take your bags to the luggage bay. The process to embark the ship was effortless, cold drinks offered after you have shown passports and check in forms free of charge. Only negative was the jobs worth in the carpark who insisted on us waiting until 11am to park.
First impression of the ship:
On boarding the ship I was in ore of the cleanliness and the decor of the coffee bar. No sooner as we sat down we were greeted by a charming waitress asking if we would like a drink. Several drinks later we went to look at our cabin. On travelling to our room the it became quite apparent that this was not a budget holiday at all, the ship was fantastic decorated with lots of brass and mirrors, it had a modern feel about it even though the ship was 10 years old.
We had an ocean view cabin and on entry to the room I was quite impressed, it was not the biggest room I had been in but was ample for the amount of time spent their, the bath room was very clean and had everything we needed. the room was well presented and had all the information we needed in the room manual. Only negative was the size of the shower cubicle many a night I fought to unstick the shower curtain of my wet body.
Immediately after we had left the cabin and had a few more drinks we went to sample the food. There were several areas where food was available and I did not sample them all however I will try to sum up my experiences. There was a fast food type buffet serving chips, hotdogs, burgers on one side and on the other there was freshly baked pizza. All this type of food was a good standard and the pizza were delicious. There was an area that we called the cafe restaurant this served many types of foods although we did not spend time in this one too much however I did sample the roast beef and roast turkey from here and it was very nice.
I wanted to dedicate a section to the restaurant of its very own. I would highly recommend that you book your table before you embark. This will ensure you have your table all the way through you cruise. We were on the 2nd sitting at our request. Every night you enter the restaurant you are always greeted by a very polite member of staff. You have your very own waiter who you have throughout your whole cruise. We had the best waiter you could have asked for and quickly built up a bond and he made our experience even better. Every night you are offered 7 courses and trust me I tried to do all 7 (never succeeded). The quality of the dishes on the menu were all of a fine dining grade. The food was excellent and if you chose a course that you didn't like it was no trouble to try something else. You could even have 2 or more of the same course if you enjoyed it so much. What ever you wanted you could have. Your wine glass never became empty as soon as it was getting low the waiter continuously top it up (hiccup)
Ports and disembarkation:
In many reviews I have read people have said it takes ages to get off the ship, well I did not experience this at all, We only booked an excursion for Amsterdam due to how far away it was from the port otherwise we made our own way at every other port. The longest it took us was 10 minutes from the doors opening to getting off the ship. no hustle and bustle no pushing or any other issues previously mentioned. It was well organised through out.
There were several bars with mixed entertainment, shows in the theatre, quizzes, game shows, Karaoke etc. the 2 shows I watched were good, some of the singers could have been a better quality however we made our own entertainment. We hardly ever saw the kids through out the cruise as they attended the teen club until the early hours of the morning. They said it was brilliant and the games were fun and suitable for their ages 12-14. They made lots of new friends of different nationalities German, Luxembourg, Italian, Portuguese and Welsh.
there were many staff on board and majority always had a smile, what is quite apparent is how hard they work. Many of them for long hours so I can understand why sometimes they may not have a smile every time you see them. They were all very helpful and communicated extremely well. Nothing was too much trouble for them and very rarely did you have to carry your drinks from the bar to your seats. They were either taking your order at your table or offered to bring your orders over if you had gone to the bar. The entertainment team tried to get everyone involved in game and respected you if you didn't want to participate. Many fun games through out the day with prizes on offer, which I won a few. Overall they were great.
One must no matter if you do not drink a lot the Allegrissmo package is tremendous value for money. for the sake of 23 euro a day it gives you unlimited drinks and ice creams, 4 drinks a day pay for itself.
We all thoroughly enjoyed this experience and would definitely travel with MSC again. It was value for money and even though it is priced at a budget cost it delivers a very high standard