Date of departure: 27th September 2013
I travel with my elderly Dad and disabled son, we are frequent cruisers as cruise ships (and crews) are geared up for the elderly and disabled. We always share a triple berth cabin.
We chose this cruise for the itinerary - Ancona, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Gythion (we had to omit because of bad weather),Cefalonia and Kotor. All ports access to World Heritage sights - and despite reading adverse reviews of MSC were prepared to give them a go.
We flew from Newcastle direct to Venice with Jet2, and had a night in Ca` Formenta hotel pre-cruise, a lovely hotel that we`ve used before. Easy to walk from the hotel to the Arsenale vaparetto stop where we picked up the public Alilaguna boat which took us straight to the port for embarkation.
Embarkation time was 14.00, but we arrived early and after queuing (standing) for 30 minutes were through to check-in. Not sure who the "Priority Boarding" is for, but it certainly isn`t for elderly or disabled people, though I didn`t make a fuss at the time as I was too frazzled.
Once onboard we navigated ourselves to our cabin only to find that 2 of the beds we pushed together to make a double. After reporting this 3 times, they were finally separated at 10 p.m.
The cabin was just OK - very clean but nothing special about it. We could hardly see out of the windows because they were so dirty on the outside, and I object to paying almost '£100 pp more for an outside cabin, only to find that we can`t see out of the windows.
The soap dispenser in the bathroom didn`t work at all, despite our cabin stewards best efforts to fix it. I asked if we could have a bar of soap instead, but this never materialised.
Looked forward to getting to bed (although I have the top bunk and at nearly 60 I`m getting too old to use a top bunk!) I was horrified to find that the sheets smelled faintly of vomit. I complained about this the next day and the sheets were changed. Same thing happened, so I guessed it must be the mattress and asked at reception for a clean mattress. "Right away" they said, but that also did not materialise. I spent the rest of the week sleeping between the top blanket and the spare blanket, well away from the mattress / sheets.
We always use the buffet restaurant on ships, but the food in La Brasserie was the worst food I`ve ever had on a cruise ship. It seemed that the quality of the food itself was poor, and the hot food was nearly always lukewarm. We are not gluttons,but do like to eat well when we are away - the sea air gives you an appetite! The kitchen service was excellent, but with the exception of a couple of boys, the waiter service was terrible. However, as mentioned in other reviews, the staff were overworked and looked worn out and disheartened.
Although there was a hand sanitizer at one of the doors to the buffet, the machine was empty several times, and on the penultimate day we arrived at breakfast to find no machine at all. I asked where it was, and was told that there was no more hand sanitizer! Euw :(
I thought that the entertainment team was fantastic. Yes, the shows were just a re-hash every night with a different theme, but the team worked so hard, and were always helpful and pleasant when met elsewhere on the ship. We also used the casino as my son is a whiz on roulette. The staff were helpful and very friendly.
Ports - outstanding for me were Corfu and Kotor. In Corfu we walked from the ship towards the centre of town and picked up a horse and carriage. We then had a very pleasant 30 minute drive around both the old and new towns with full commentary from our driver for €40, which I thought was great value. Kotor is like a mini medieval Dubrovnik in a stunning setting, but I was disappointed that we only had half a day to explore.
Disembarkation: We have never had to leave the cabin at 7.30 before, which I felt was unnecessary. We then transferred to another hotel, Ca` Angeli, for 2 more days in lovely Venice.
To summarise: This was the cleanest and most stylish ship we have been on - with the exception of the hand sanitizers, badly let down by the quality of the food and the shortage / attitude of service staff. Our cabin steward worked very hard, but seemed to have more than the usual numbers of cabins to cover.
I have written a letter of complaint to MSC, so far no reply.
We would not use MSC again.