My husband and I, along with another couple, have just returned from an 8 day Mediterranean cruise with MSC. We have cruised, both ocean and river, on a number of occasions so thought this would be the perfect, relaxing end to our European holiday. We were wrong.
'Fantasia' is a very attractive, glitzy ship and our stateroom was roomy and well appointed. Our cabin was kept clean and tidy at all times and our cabin attendant was unobtrusive, which we appreciated. The public areas, toilets etc on the ship were always clean. Housekeeping staff did a good job. Towards the end of the trip we took advantage of the laundry special package- 20 items of clothing for 20 Euros- and they were laundered beautifully.
Compared to other cruise lines, the rest of the crew on this trip left a lot to be desired. The attitude of the majority ranged from indifferent to surly. Some reception staff were most unhelpful. The shore excursion staff and security staff when getting on and off in ports were downright rude. They spoke to passengers in an offensive and discourteous manner. There was definitely a language barrier for us as most of the crew seemed to speak little or no English.
The ship was overcrowded. The majority of passengers were Italian, French, a small mix from other countries and a smattering from English speaking countries. They were loud, rude and pushy and didn't seem to have grasped the concept of queuing and waiting your turn.
Mealtimes were a nightmare. We tried breakfast in the restaurant once, but simply placing the order with a non- English speaking waiter was difficult, so we then opted to breakfast in the 'Zanzibar' buffet. That was an experience in itself. No matter what time we arrived, and we tried staggering the times, it was jam-packed with loud, yelling, pushing people. There were only two toasting machines to cater for about 1000 people. It was almost impossible to find a table to sit at in the buffet area so we often had to take meals out to the sundeck. There was a variety of good food although it was usually luke warm. Dinner in the restaurant wasn't a particularly pleasant experience either. Although the food was good and varied, the tables were crammed in close together and the room crowded. On one occasion, MSC changed the time for an onshore excursion so, through no fault of our own, we arrived back on board at 2 pm. we went to the restaurant for lunch we were simply greeted with 'restaurant closed'.
We pre-paid for a drinks package, which also included gelato, coffee & bottled water, and seemed worthwhile. Getting served with drinks on the sundeck often meant a lengthy wait though. It was usually quicker to front the bar yourself rather than wait for table service.
Apart from our cabin, there was nowhere remotely quiet to escape the crowds and the constant blaring of incomprehensible messages on the PA system. On four mornings out of eight, we were awakened between 4 and 5 am by loud banging and crew yelling out to each other on what we assumed was the sundeck. So much for our quiet, relaxing holiday!
We took two of the on-shore excursions offered, one to Bari in Italy and one to Katakolon in Greece and we enjoyed the experience. The tour guide taking the Katakolon trip was particularly good and was very interesting and informative. The rest of the time we went ashore in our own time and did our own thing.
Disembarkation when we returned to Venice was horrendous. Colour coded baggage tags were allocated to each passenger, based on the required departure time to meet on-going travel. We had an 11 am train to get, so were allocated white baggage tags, which we were assured meant we would disembark at 9.30 am. At 10 am, waiting in the lounge as directed, with seven other 'colour-codes' in front of us, we realised we would miss our train, so joined the queue to get off. OMG! With about 3000 passengers on board, they opened ONE gangway and closed one side of double doors leading on to the deck. People were squashed in like sardines, pushing and jostling for position to get out. It was a disgrace!
Frankly, I am at a loss to understand why MSC advertises so heavily in Australian newspapers, because in my opinion they are not geared to cater for Australian passengers at all.