This was my first time on MSC and experiencing the "European Style" of cruising. I arrived in Santo Domingo a day early and did a half-day tour of it the day of the cruise, as the ship didn't leave until 11pm I think. Embarkation is a complete nightmare. I got to the port about 1pm, but was told they don't board until 3pm. You then sit (if you can get a seat) and people that show up 2 hours later than you can get on before you, as there's no order at all. People started lining up by the metal detectors close to 3, but then they didn't even let people go thru until a half hour later.
The lines at the two metal detectors are then divided up into like 4 lines for customs --- but all their computers were down so we stood there 20 minutes while they fixed that. The 4 lines are then condensed to one line to pay one person set up at a folding table to collect a $20 departure tax --- even though you are returning to the DR the next day since the first port is La Romana. Things backed More
up quickly and lots of cutting in line, pushing, and general rudeness, since it was every man for himself. You are then sent to the traditional long counter of people checking you in. Once on the ship the hectic-ness went away.
Things that were different about this cruise as opposed to traditional American cruises: there were woman and girls sunbathing and using the pool topless. Most men/boys wore speedos. Even older women wore thongs and sunbathed topless. Announcements were always done in 6 languages, including before and after shows. This could get tiresome at the shows. No free ice cream. Later dinner seating times. English speakers were the minority. Only about 60 total on the ship. Maybe like 20 Americans. All times in the daily program were in military time. All temps were in Celsius. All prices were in Euros. No nightly towel animals. Shows were all acrobatic/singing/dancing because of the language issues. No comedians, magicians, ventriloquists, etc.
People embarked and disembarked at every port. So your fellow passengers would change daily as some depart and you get new ones. Most people on the ship seemed French, as it seems to be marketed to them. They fly over from France and get on at the ports on the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. The next biggest group was Spanish (having gotten on in the DR), then Italians, then other miscellaneous Europeans.
Ship and all public areas were nice. Cabin was nice. No complaints there. I ate in the buffet every night. Always a big selection of items for any meal there.
We had a different port every day, no "days at sea". I like these kinds of cruises and I'm bored by sea days.
La Romana - On my own. Took a shared taxi (minivan) to Bayahibe beach and did a tour of La Romana from the taxi driver
Antigua - Beach day shore excursion at Dickenson Bay Beach.
Martinique and Guadeloupe - Since these are French speaking islands where not many people speak English and they are not used to tourists, I did shore excursions for both, doing island tours and seeing a lot of stuff
St. Martin - Maho Beach on my own to see the planes land and take off.
BVI - Shore excursion to Virgin Gorda to visit The Baths.
Overall I enjoyed MSC and this different style of cruising and would use MSC again. Less