My Wife and I have just returned from a supposedly 4 day, 3 night cruise on MSC Opera, in which as part of the itinerary we were manet to stop and do an overnight at Portuguese Island just off Mozambique. The cruise was the 5FM "Oh Ship" cruise, for which we paid R13000.
Sadly, after a high energy sail-away, courtesy of the awesome 5FM DJ's, the remainer of the cruise descended into a total NIGHTMARE, and Major disappointement, our first let-down coming at dinner, only to find that the seated dinner venue options had been slashed from 2 restaurants to one, that's excluding the 11th deck buffet. The dinner was disgraceful in terms of food quality, and even the waiters, who barely managed a smile, seemed to concuir when we sent away 3 different fish dishes because they were either drenched in oill, and/ or had absolutely no taste. The chicken breast waas my next choice, and this came as a thin slither of leather tough, over-grilled meat that I again sent back. Thankfully, the waiter was understanding enough and at my request gave me a number of starter shrimp cocktails (3 shrimps in each), to make up for some of my days' protein requirement. He also brought me a number of plates of pineapple, so all was not lost...yet!
Our first night was spent dancing wildly to the endless mixes of totally awesome songs played out by the 5FM DJs in the really way-too small BiBlos Discoteque.....Try squeezing a couple of thousuand eager party goers into this small space, because the open deck was deemed too windy for poolside action. WE handled that and all was good.
DAy 2:....This is when I hearts sank. We woke up all excited about the prospect of a first time snorkel on Inhaca Island, only to race down to the embarkation point and be met by a Phillipino deck hand who told us that the transfer to shore.was cancelled. We raced back up to the Shorex office, and were told that we just needed to wait another 30 mins due to a delay. Then exactly in 30 mins, the cruise director spoke over the PA saying that the ship to shore transfer via Zodiac was cancelled due to poor weather conditions. Granted this decision was made by the Captain who obviously had advanced forecast warnings that these conditions would prevail for the duration of the next 2 days, BUT my question is this: Why could we (as is done on most cruiseships, and certainly all 16 cruiseships that I worked on) not have used the 150 seater tenders (lifeboats), which I have personally been on in way rougher conditions like these...to equally rough and ready piers...??
Consequently, we spend the entire day and night at anchor off Portuguese Island, looking at the beautiful white sandy beaches but not able to set foot on them, or swim in their hardly rough water. The swell could hardly have been more than half a meter!!..and the wind no more than 15 - 20 Knots. What if we were happy just to go ashore and explore the island?
That day 2 was a day from Hell. The poolside dancing went on, despite a couple of short showers, and I went and had a brief workout in the Gymnasium, where thankfully there were some benches and dumbells, because the weight machines were in poor maintenance. The Chest Flye Machine was totally out of balance, as one arm offered way more resistance than the other, despite running off the same weight stack. The other machines were in equally poor shape, either the weight plates did not run smoothly up and down the rods, or the movement arms were loose. The aircon was pumping warm air, as opposed to our cabin, where even the warm thermoregulatory setting was still freezing cold!! So, after we could dance no more, we went to dinner, same place, same time...changed menu, but still very poor quality food..under-cooked pasta...on an Italian Cruise Line!!!..Fish was disgusting ..again....so I had pineapple!! The worst part however was right as we were seated by the head waiter. We just couldnt believe it when no sooner had we sat down, another couple was ushered to our table and sat down right next to us!! So much for our "Romantic" dinner. Of course I objected..and apologized to the couple saying that it was not a personal matter at all. The excuse given by the head waiter was that they had aside from cutting things down to one restaurant...for the entire ship, they had also cut out the second seating, and furthermore, were now required to "fill sections" to capacity before moving to the next...despite there being a massive abundance of straight faced waiters clogging up the isles.That was probably the most emotionally disturbing part of the cruise for my wife, who had been really excited about dressing up for the dinners and shows ( of which there were none.....just a late night comedy show on the last night, which was mainly focused on the DSTV VIP's!! ). We left the dining room very unhappy and went straight to bed, bitterly disappointed in how MSC handled the cancelled shore excursion, and in the way we were treated as cattle on this ship of theirs.
Day 3: We woke up looking out onto the same island, with similar overcast weather, feeling totally imprisoned, having had zero sleep due to excessively rowdy and totally wasted (drunken) fellow guests, and just wishing we'd never listened to all the 5FM publicity about this supposed to be Amazing Oh Ship Cruise. About 8am the ship began moving VERY slowly back south, probably at about 10 knots, covering in a FULL day what had taken just half a day to cover on the way up. As the close by land slowly dragged past, my disappointment became intense depression, such as I have never experienced before, counterbalanced by intense anger that a cruiseline could be so pathetic in not even attempting to look for other port options, and yet so callous in milking us of ever dollar possible. The fruit juice dispensers didnt work properly, and all that came out was over-diluted, highly sugared juice nectar, meaning that we had to BUY juice and water from the bar to quench our thirst.
Again, all deck dancing was transferred to the cramped up BiBlos disco due to winds on the deck, and by afternoon, we threw in the towel and drank our sorrows away as we danced to the 5FM music, which was the ONLY decent thing on the entire ship!! Unfortunately, the drinks cost, and so MSC milked us even more....a week end away for R16000 ($US 1 600), just to float on a ship that resembled a prison with dead dummy crew than a cruise ship the likes of which we used to work on. Thankfully I never WORKED on an MSC ship!!! Every single crew and staff member we saw looked desparately bleak!!!..No surprise when you work on a ship as appallingly poor in services as this one!! My advice: give MSC a miss when it comes to choosing with which Cruise Line you take you next cruise!!!!