We decided to do this cruise to 'test' MSC as we had heard bad things, but also good things about the ships themselves. Really glad we did! I appreciate that 2 night cruises tend to be a bit different to longer ones, in terms of atmosphere, but the issues we encountered were a much wider problem that it just being a bit of a 'booze cruise'. In fact, half the problem was trying to get a drink in the first place! So let's start there . . .
Bar service was dreadful as they were very under staffed. You had to queue up to order drinks from one person at a till (at one end of the bar) and pay, then one of the bar men would make the drinks, in amongst doing the same for seated people who were having tray service. So once you'd paid, it could take as much as 20 mins or more before you got your drink, and not really in any kind of structured order. It seemed to be pot luck and who shouted loudest! However busy it was, we never saw more than two people behind a bar making drinks at any More
one time, even when the bar was heaving with people and there were about 6 tray waiters taking orders - the maths just didn't add up.
We saw people queuing round the deck to get to the bar, and also people shouting at the staff and banging their fists on the bar in frustration. It was a train wreck. Added to that, because of the system - it totally ruins the 'sitting up at the bar' experience that we usually like. Getting to know the staff in your favourite bar, and having them remember your order, is all part of the fun - but instead you have an empty bar (no idea why they even bother to have bar stools!) and just a huge depressing queue at one end getting in everyone's way.
We spoke to one barman who said he'd worked every day for 6 months and never had more than 4 hour's sleep at once. I also talked to another guest who said she'd been told by a barman that there were only 600 crew on board instead of the allotted 730 approx as the ship was constantly sailing only part full. Yet I think our cruise was pretty much full, hence the problem.
Another major issue was the (only two) jacuzzis being full of kids, who weren't behaving at all well, so you either couldn't get in at all, or if you did, you were constantly kicked and splashed. I asked one little girl to stop 'divebombing' and splashing everyone else and just got a load of attitude - and none of the parents seemed to be keeping an eye on their behaviour in any way! We saw a couple of deck stewards trying to police an 'adults only' policy but when the parents objected (saying the main pool was too cold) they just gave up and wandered off. I fully accept that parents might want their kids to go in the jacuzzi, but they need to keep an eye on them - and the ship's staff needs to manage the system properly, with at least one adults only pool.
Buffet was good, though a slightly more limited selection than other cruise ships I've been on - and the pizza and burger bar on the pol deck was excellent. The main restaurant however was not as good as
the fancy menus would have you believe. You definitely needed all 7 courses in order to be full up. We made the mistake of skipping a couple on the 1st night and then when the (very small) main course arrived we wished we hadn't! Presentation was also minimal, and the 1st evening's dinner came with no veggies at all apart from a few saute potatoes which looked as if they had been randomly thrown at the plate!
Another factor is that, although they let you choose a 1st or 2nd dinner sitting as RCI or P&O would, they don't let you choose a table size, and at least 70% of the tables in our restaurant (La Caravela) were for 4. So you ended up sitting with one other couple that you didn't know (if you were a couple) in very close proximity, as the dining room is so stuffed full of tables. Happily our table companions were brilliant and we had a great time, but it could have been a very different story! Again, there was definitely a lack of staff, and certainly no time to get to know your waiter and he you, in terms of preferences etc. So a very different experience from RCI et al.
A major concern we also had was around safety. They did not ask us to complete a health questionnaire, use of hand gel was never enforced, or even suggested by staff, and the lifeboat drill took about 90 seconds! We saw people arrive without their drill cards and the staff just said they should hand them in at reception or they would have to go and do another drill - but I have no idea how that was enforced. In fact, we saw some people in the jacuzzi immediately afterwards who I'm sure never went to the drill at all. The standard of English across the crew was also very poor - and if you went 'off script' at all (asking something a bit out of the ordinary) they simply couldn't understand you. We saw one little girl trying to ask a crew member something by the pool and it was clear they just couldn't communicate - which could be a real issue if the child was lost or hurt.
We asked to have our tips removed on the last full day, due to the dreadful service, and we were assured they would be - but when we got the bill under the door on the last morning they were still there. I went to guest services and of course the queue was miles long with other people who had bill problems. I managed to speak to someone in accounts without queuing, and it just hadn't been done! She printed out a copy of my bill and made a note on it, and told me a colleague (who was standing at a screen working through a pile of bills, doing the same thing) would sort it, then walked away, leaving the paper on the desk.
It was good that I stayed (I just don't trust people anymore!) as someone promptly placed a huge pile of folders on top of my bill and buried it - and no communication had taken place between the two people to explain what needed to be done. I had to tell the other girl, ask her to fish my bill out of the heap, and then stand over her until she did it, then wait again for someone to print out a new copy to prove it had been done. I have no idea whether this was all about incompetence, or whether they just try to get away with not taking the tips off and hope you won't bother to chase it.
I also noticed that no-one asked me why I wanted the gratuities removing, as other cruise lines do (NCL for example, you have to explain why on a form, which is good feedback for them - if anyone reads it!) - the woman behind the desk when I asked originally just said OK , as if it was standard practise. The fact that they don't even bother to ask speaks volumes about how much it concerns them that guests are unhappy.
We had a good time despite everything, as we always do, but it was a real shambles and I heard so many people say 'never again'. I would definitely give MSC a miss based on our experience, and am so glad it wasn't a longer cruise. There are so many things wrong with it - and you can see it's a management issue in the main not the staff's fault. Some of the systems just don't work. Even getting off was a problem, as we registered my credit card for both accounts, but when we tried to get off they said my partner hadn't paid his bill and refused to let him leave as they said he 'hadn't closed his account'! This was happening to lots of other people too and it was all getting quite unpleasant as the security staff were saying ti was nothing to do with them and we had to go back downstairs and stand in the queue again! But of course people had transport arranged and so on, so it turned into a it of a nightmare as by then people just wanted to escape! Which is far from how it should be at the end of a cruise . . . Less
MSC Opera Cruises to the British Isles & Western Europe
Excellent cabin, which we only got by accident after booking a guarantee balcony. Would it have been worth the extra? Not sure - but if you get one, enjoy! Never saw the cabin steward, but that's a separate 'service' issue.