MSC Armonia Cruise Review by Richard Barrett: Food for Thought!
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Food for Thought!
This was our first cruise with MSC and were very disappointed with many things. This was also our fifth cruise in 18 months having been on cruises with Costa, Royal Caribbean and Princess and so naturally we had many comparisons to make.
Our major disappointment was with the food and general eating/dining experience:-
With no alternative dining, we ate each evening in La Pergola Restaurant, second sitting. Firstly all the "hot" courses were barely luke warm; the vegetables were always over-cooked and soft and limp; the meats were cooked to beyond "well done" and more like shoe leather and the fish was also over-cooked and dry. Whilst there were several courses and choices within each course, one had the feeling of eating in a fast food establishment in that the waiters wanted to get you out of there as quickly as possible. Coffee was not on offer ever!
Breakfast was mostly a nightmare in the self-service on deck 11. Getting a table was at times like More winning the lottery. With the weather not particularly pleasant or warm, eating outside was not really an option for most of the trip. Whilst one could go down to the Marco Polo restaurant and be served breakfast, the food was again not that hot. Limited choice of juices (2); no muffins, waffles, pancakes, maple syrup. Bacon over-cooked and greasy. The toast was a disgrace and so hard that it was sometimes impossible to cut through the crust!
Lunch times was also a similar scramble if you wanted to snack in the self service but if you wanted french fries you had to go out in the cold open deck to get them from the burger bar and they were always less than luke warm and hard.
Tea and coffee was only available at breakfast (until 10.30); lunchtime (but no choice of teas - just what came out of the machine); tea-time from 4 -4.45. Outside these hours you had to pay for them.Water was not available unless you bought it!
Not all night food available, although they did have mid-night snacks brought round the public spaces some nights and of course the usual midnight buffet, which was not that brilliant.
At first the layout of the ship was quite irritating, in that you would wait for a lift, get in and find that it did not go to all the deck levels as indicated on the outside of the lift! Often you would get out on deck 5 for example and find that you had to go through the Marco Polo restaurant when open if you wanted the other end of the ship. When it was closed you had to go back up to deck 6.
In our opinion the best lounge of all was on deck 12...the Oasis lounge with its 280 degree view through floor to ceiling windows. This was ideally situated at the aft of the ship, but the annoying thing was, it used primarily for the disco which started at 11.30 at night. With the lovely bar, and fabulous panoramic views, you could not get a drink of anything at all until 11pm at night. So during the day, it was almost empty bar a few who braved it by going down one deck to deck 11, outside in the cold to a bar there and bring back a drink or tea/coffee. Sometimes if you were lucky you could persuade one of the waiters to bring it up for you. There was no waiter service at all during the day. Such a pity.
The standard of cleanliness was exceptionally high to the point that one was constantly confronted with stepping over vacuum cleaner cables or circumventing the poor staff who constantly and continually were cleaning the same area for most of the day. This was particularly evident on the aft stairs at decks 11 and 12. It was humiliating for the crew to be seen to be going over the same stair rail that they had down a couple of hours earlier.
The shows were pretty amateur as regards the dancers. The general choreography was basic; however there were a couple of shining stars (contortionist/balancing acts/high wire). It was the sameness each night, called a different theme but mainly was the same. the Entertainment staff (Animators) were just great. Fun, polite, helpful and had a genuine desire to get people mixing and enjoying the events.
The sauna/steamroom suite was beautifully appointed, but for me, I prefer separate male/female. These were mixed. But annoyingly again you had to pay for the use of them. 16 euros a time!
After a while the piano/music lounges became monotonous.
The general crew members such as cleaners, cabin staff, waiters were all lovely. Smiling, helpful and efficient but not so those on the Accounting Desk or some on the Reception. In fact quite abrupt.
Embarkation and Disembarkation was a delight. Quick, efficient and easy.
We only went on two organized tours which were up to expectations, but the port of call in Bremen in our opinion, was a waste of time. Nothing much to see and being a Sunday, even the shops were closed as were most of the eating establishments.
Our cabin was large, light and lovely. Couldn't fault it.
Overall value for money was very good, if only they could get to grips with the preparation, cooking and presentation of the food, from all aspects.
This has put us off MSC and I doubt we would ever use them again and certainly would not recommend them to any of our friends. That is a pity, because all of these points are quite simple to put right. Less
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