Just returned from a 7 night trip with MSC and was compelled to write a review. What a great time we had!
The check in at Miami was very good, prompt and efficient, our only negative comment on this was that other cruise lines we have sailed with have allowed each guest to bring on board a bottle of wine each, however MSC do not permit this so our two lovely bottles were confiscated at check in but returned to us the evening before we disembarked.
Our room was extremely comfortable, modern, well appointed and reasonably spacious. For the first time we had a balcony which was great especially on the 2 days we spent at sea. The rooms are well designed and made good use of the space. We were provided with plenty of towels and each had a robe to wear. The mini bar was well stocked and very reasonable in price, $2.50 for soda, $6 for spirits and $5 for a beer plus snacks. We seldom used it but it was good to have. You need to use your key card to insert into the wall to get lights on which when in place notifies the housekeeping staff if you are in the room so therefore do not disturb you. The housekeeping service was excellent.
We opted for formal dining but did use the buffet area for breakfast and lunch on a few days. The food has a Mediterranean twist and the variety was immense in addition to being well presented and very tasty. There was something for every palate although some Americans we met during the cruise did complain. If you want monster steaks and food coated in melted cheese or breadcrumbs accompanied with copious amounts of fries then the formal dining might not be to your taste. However there were burgers, fries, hot dogs etc available every day in the buffet area in addition to the other dishes. Going back to the buffet restaurant we'd say it's the usual scrum of people scooping the food on their plates as if it was their last meal and the obligatory mounds of waste. Not sure what the answer is to this as it seems to be common practice on each cruise we have been on. There is always tea in a variety of flavours, coffee and soft drinks on tap 24/7. There are a number of dining rooms that you are required to pay for the food, however they appeared to be under utilised and we're not sure why you would need them when the formal dining
was so good and varied.
We thought that the drinks packages were rather expensive so we just bought what we wanted on our cruise card. Wine anything from around $5 a glass, cocktails etc around $6.50 and up and there was an excellent selection. There were 2 gala nights and a 'white night' while we were there which were great fun and most of the ship joined in.
The crew were always pleasant, professional, efficient and impeccably dressed. They were friendly and always seemed to be relaxed with other crew members and guests. There was a wide variety of shows and entertainment on board to suit every ones taste including the children who were on board. The shows were amazing and would give some top dollar west end shows a run for their money.
There was a wide variety of shops on board and were comparable in some cases to other duty free shops on land. Cigarettes were particularly good value we were told but being non-smokers we can only take their word for it. Jewelry was expensive even though they were offering 40% and up discounts.
Guest services were very professional and able to deal with the day to day running of the ship, most were multi lingual and in cases where they could not speak the language proficiently they took no time in finding the right crew member to assist. The is a small although comprehensive library on deck 16 at no cost usually once or twice a day, this was good for those days at sea and when relaxing on the island of Grand Stirrup Cay.
There are plenty of pools (5) and Jacuzzis (?12) spread around the upper decks including an indoor one. The pools and Jacuzzis are salt water and emptied each night then refilled, very clean and the pool is kept around 79 degrees. Getting a sun lounger especially on the days you are at sea can be a bit difficult especially once people have staked their place and reserve the bed all day but barely use it. You are told that towels will be removed within a set time if they are not used but we didn't see this happen. It would have been better to perhaps have more deck space by utilising the space taken up by under used restaurants as most of us were packed like sardines on the decks except on the days we were in port.
It was spring break from school and there were a lot of children on board, however you would never know other than the occasional encounter, there was lots for them to do and it was fun watching them in the pools, water slides, dancing and generally having a great time. We'd definitely bring the grand kids once we get the chance.
The spa and gym were excellent and quite reasonably priced. On some days they had special offers on such as a hair cut for $15!
The one thing that we thought let it down was the disembarkation, which was a bit of a frustration. We opted for self assisted disembarkation so we could get through Miami before the traffic built up. Due to weather conditions and a technical error the process was delayed, but we received no information for approximately 1 hour. Needless to say some folk were getting rather frustrated which was compounded by guests pushing into line. One of the crew had quite unfairly been caught in the middle of some altercation with a few guests.
In Falmouth Jamaica the ship docks right into port which is modern and very attractive with the usual shops of duty free, gifts, hair braiding, bars and restaurants. However once out of the immediate port area things pretty much go downhill. The area is very run down and untidy, however the local people are very pleasant and friendly. We had intended to do a planned walk around the area to see what was described as some excellent Georgian architecture which I'm sure would have been interesting but we didn't feel so comfortable so opted to stay in the immediate area, than an early trip back to the ship. A number of people we met had opted for excursions and all said that although they enjoyed the excursion (which there are many to choose from) they thought the island was dirty with rubbish lying all over the place. Perhaps the cruise lines going there might encourage the parish to put some remediation plans into place.
Grand Cayman is a place we have visited before and definitely worth a visit. Probably the place also to buy your duty free alcohol. Smirnoff $10, Brandy $16 for 2 bottles, Gordons Gin $12, Jamesons $12. Plenty of excursions and you can always go to 'Hell' and back. Try and go somewhere near the waters edge and you are bound to see huge Tarpon swimming really close to snorkelers and divers.
Cozumel, great for gifts and don't be afraid to have a go at haggling, they love it. You do get a bit of hassle from the locals to get you in their shops but don't push too hard if you make it clear you are not interested. We have been to Cozumel before and must admit we have seen some significant improvements. Again it has a lot to offer and you're spoilt for choice on excursions.
Grand Stirrup was a lovely day on the beach. It seems to be still work in progress but you can imagine how lovely it will be once the plants have matured. Great for snorkelling and diving plus very safe for children. Lots of interesting and varied fish and the colours were amazing. The buffet are was a bit of a bun fight with long queues, we didn't bother to eat so can't comment on the food. The island is a bit shy of shaded areas but I guess this will improve. You can however rent open cabins and seats with shades at an additional cost.
All in all it was an enjoyable day and would go again. To get to the island you need to take a tender which means you can take quite a while to get off the ship, loaded onto the tender and get to the island. It took us over an hour in total so be prepared.