Our cruise was widely promoted in Australia as The Grand European Cruise. In fact, it was broken down into 4 separate journeys, starting and finishing in Kiel or Vienna, and catering for different nationalities. Consequently, the longer-term passengers had to endure repetitive evening entertainment, with the same routines catering for an Italian audience and with no options (e.g even when cabin TVs were actually working, reception was dreadful or you paid an exhorbitant rate for movies).
Let's look at food. Start with cold dinners served on cold plates in both the restaurants and buffet. Menu rotated every second day. How about no water served with your meals unless you pay extra? Neither water, tea or coffee were on offer with meals. (Curiously, all of these were served to the large number of North American passengers). Cost of a bottle of wine was approx. five times you would pay at home (e.g Rawlins Retreat, a standard Australian wine bought at any supermarket, costs about $Aust10. MSC charged the Euro equivalent of $Aust48.
There were no snacks between meals unless you paid for them. So if you want an ice-cream or slice of pizza after returning from a trip around town, be prepared to sign your name on the voucher. Similarly, a trip to the bistro for an orange juice etc between meals is a 'you-pay' experience.
Some of this cost can be avoided if you want to avail yourself of a drink ticket. Unless you're a committed alcoholic or can swallow lemonade by the bucketful, it's simply not worth the cost. But don't think of sharing the drink ticket with others, even your spouse. If you buy a ticket, so must the other occupant of your cabin.
Food hygiene consisted of unmonitored serve-yourself trays in the bistro areas where some passengers could - and did - ignored the serving forks and preferred to lift food with their fingers, putting it back if they had second thoughts. As to be expected, the hand dispensers placed at the entries to serving areas (including restaurants) were also unmonitored and were frequently empty.
Laundry facilities? Not on this ship. Unless you want to pay for the service, wash and dry your clothes in the cabin (MSC has been kind enough to string a line in the shower recess). You're not allowed to bring your own iron.
If you'd like a brisk walk on the open deck, don't use the path set aside for that purpose on Deck 7. At least, not while the ship's at sea during the day. It's closed off for cleaning.
Cabin telephones? Not working. That's what the foyer near the lifts is used for.
Few people would object to the small donations to UNICEF which are automatically deducted from your account. But MSC has been unable or unwilling to explain in whose name the donations are sent to that worthy charity. Surely not in the company's name (where a tax write-off would become available)
If you're a poker machine addict, then MSC Musica is the place for you. There's more space devoted to empty pokies than there is to some of the lounges. But if you're a reader, be prepared to pay E15 if you don't return one of the paperbacks which had been donated by a previous passenger in any case. The multi-language selection is reasonable but confined to fiction.
None of the passengers I spoke with had any complaints about the cleanliness of the cabins. Linen is changed daily and the staff are courteous, efficient, knowledgeable and friendly. Similarly, staff at the medical, reception, tour and in the restaurants are first class. Quite equal to the best of any other cruise line we've been on. The deficiencies summarised above can't be justly foisted onto the ship's crew. It's the MSC management which has laid down the standards, costs and procedures. If the company is intent on exploiting the Australian market, it certainly needs to significantly lift its game. As one well-travelled Canadian said, "It's the cruise liners' equal to a Best Western".