I have been on many cruises over the years with many different cruise lines and never felt the need to review any of them as they all tend to be pretty similar but I really felt I should review MSC as the experience was so different from anything I have ever experienced.
This was our first encounter with MSC and as it was only for 3 nights we thought it would be a good taster of what to expect if we decided to book in future. We flew to Genoa the day before and did an overnight stay in a local hotel, the details we had received from MSC which were very limited stated the check in opened at 11.00 so we arrived at mid day. We were met by what could only be described as chaos, there were 1500 people being herded like cattle in to a tiny dilapidated terminal building with no one from MSC on hand to help. We were issued with a number and told to wait until our number was called, three and a half hours later! yes we stood there for three and a half hours! our number was called so we followed the crowds to an escalator but at the top of the escalator there was another huge queue which was so large it prevented people on the escalator from getting off, people were being crushed at the top and its amazing that no one was seriously hurt.
We finally made it on board at 16.00, the time the ship was supposed to sail at. it took a further hour to get everyone on board and we finally set sail at 17.10, there had to be two muster drills as most of the passengers had missed the original one scheduled for 15.45. The second one was done as we sailed out of port. We then had to go to accounts to register a credit card against our cabin as the shore staff didn't have time to do this at check in.
The on board experience is pretty similar to most cruise lines with the exception of the dining experience. You are issued with a table number and on arrival at the main dining room you have to go and find it, you are not escorted to your table. The staff are surly and slow and the meals consist of a selection of 7 courses so expect to be sat at your table for well over two hours even if you only order 3 courses. The staff seem to stand around in groups of 5 or 6 chatting and generally having a good time with no regard to passengers. There is no coffee or tea served at the table and you have to pay for the water, if you want tea or coffee you have to go to the buffet after your meal which we found quite bizarre.
The buffet itself was awful, the worst we've experienced, the four selections were the same every day in the evening and at breakfast you could not get in, 1500 passengers and 300 seats. People would be five deep at the buffet then they would disperse all over the ship trying to find somewhere to sit and eat. Again the staff stand around in groups doing nothing, the tables get cleared every now and again and they do not serve you drinks at the table, you go and get your own, I am not exactly sure what the staff are there for other than to push past passengers and scowl at them. The food was bland and cold, the only good thing was the pizza station out on deck which again had large queues due to it being under staffed but the pizzas were great.
I should also mention MSCs tendering process which was on par with everything else on board. The system is to collect a number from reception which denotes what time your tender leaves. What actually happens in reality is that as soon as the first tender is ready 1500 people do a cavalry charge towards the life boats again with no one from MSC in charge, there are staff around but they're just not interested in anything that is happening around them, it's a theme that is repeated at every level throughout the ship.
On the final night our bill was supposed to be delivered to our cabin but it never arrived. We went to accounts the following morning but the queue was so huge we decided to leave it. There were only two staff on the accounts desk on the morning of disembarkation, it's as though they weren't expecting people to pay their bills on departure day! There were however plenty of staff stood around observing the mayhem but doing nothing about it, again quite bizarre.
I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't cruise with MSC as a lot of the things they do are good and quite different but I would suggest that if you do decide to book then you should retain a good sense of humor and take it for what it is, its just the way they do it and their passenger levels would suggest it's quite popular. I posted this review just to let people know how very different MSC are as a cruise company, I personally would not book with them again but I am glad I experienced a very different way of cruising.