We are a couple in our sixties, who have cruised 13 times, using Celebrity, Costa, Festival, Royal Caribbean, Airtours, NCL and MSC covering The Med, Caribbean, canaries and the Baltic. After a great Caribbean cruise on MSC Lirica, we were really looking forward to our first transatlantic crossing, and first visit to South America.
Travel to Port
Flew to Venice, Marco Polo with BA. Good flight.
Embarkation was an absolute nightmare. Not all passengers from the flight to Marco Polo airport at Venice were able to get onto the first coach. We were successful, leaving the airport at around 11.30am, reaching the port terminal some 30 minutes later, we joined hundreds of passengers waiting to hand over their luggage to porters. This took around another 30 minutes. This was the easy part, as when we reached the main terminal building to check onto the ship, there were even more people! No organized form of queuing, just every man for himself. We eventually got onto the ship at around 2.30 pm.
As we got onto the ship we were escorted to our cabin. The cabin was fantastic in every respect. Bright, well lit, comfortable, very clean and with a nice balcony. Our cabin steward introduced himself and I raised a couple of issues, regarding no facecloths and frayed handtowels. (NB Bath sheets were first class). Flatscreen TV, but only 4 channels, although you could pay for English language films. NB During the transatlantic crossing there was no reception of any TV broadcasts.!
The ship was beautiful in all respects, lounges, theatre and pool decks. Modern, colorful and spotlessly clean.
We used the cafeteria Gli Archi for a late lunch and were surprised to find the only drink available was iced water. Coffees or tea had to be purchased from the bars.NB There were drinks machines, but they had been covered up and taken out of use! Modern colorful and spotlessly clean! Lifeboat drill was carried out on the second day of the cruise in Bari at 6.00pm, although we were not due to sail until 7.00pm and passengers could still have been ashore. We were happy that we had been allocated to main seating for dinner in the L'Oleandro restaurant. Main seating was 6.30 pm, with second seating at 9.00pm which was too late for most of the passengers that we spoke to, as the show in the main theatre was always after dinner, at around 11.30 pm. The food was generally pretty average, and main courses generally disappointing! The menus read well but often the food fell short. We like hot dishes to be served hot, and our regular dinner waiter and assistant always obliged, but during open sitting in the restaurant for breakfast and lunch we had to demand that our food be hot!
On the Lirica, we took advantage of the wine package, which was any 10 bottles from a list of 14 different wines. On Musica you could buy a package of 7 wines, one each of the 7 listed, so we went for the wine list.
There seemed to be a high percentage of new Brazilian staff on the ship, who appeared to be still under training, this meant standards at breakfast and lunch were very variable. For example, when offered fruit juice at breakfast I asked for tomato juice, only to be met with blank stare. I was eventually brought two glasses of passata (Tomato cooking sauce). The assistant maitre D' remedied the situation.
At dinner on the first evening we asked for a jug of iced water. This was duly supplied and we served ourselves. On the second night we requested the same and were told by our waiter that he was not allowed to bring us iced water. I asked for the asst maitre D' and he told me that he was following the instructions of the new Maitre D', that there should be no "jugs" in the dining room. I requested a meeting with the Maitre D' at the reception desk. I was told that he would contact me. Failing to be contacted by him, I approached him in the dining room, and asked whether, "no iced water" was his policy, or the policy of MSC. He told me that it was MSC policy. I also asked the policy on tea and coffee after lunch/dinner, as we had been requesting and receiving tea or coffee after meals but many fellow passengers were being refused. He said that tea and coffee should be available. (NB espresso and cappuccino had to be paid for) Several days into the cruise the issue of iced water, and some passengers not being offered or in fact refused coffee and tea after meals was still a major bone of contention amongst the English speaking passengers, so I asked if reception could email these issues to MSC head office in Naples. The receptionist was concerned by my request and suggested a meeting with Giuseppe Pane the Hotel Manager. I met signore Pane on the 7th day of the cruise, along with his assistant and the Maitre D'. He confirmed that it was MSC policy that no jugs of iced water were to be served on Musica and that no tea or coffee should be served after meals. The MD' confirmed that in fact tea and coffee were being served, and they continued to be served throughout the cruise. S Pane also confirmed that the MSC Lirica was in the Caribbean, and would be offering jugs of water, and free iced tea, fruit juice, tea and coffee. So the MSC offer appears to be inconsistent! Many English speaking passengers said that they would never cruise MSC again, and daily visited the accounts desk to cancel their tips. They were eventually able to do this when the ship reached Brazil.
The only alternative dining venues in the evening were Il Giardino and the Sushi restaurant and they were invariably empty. Our table companions booked Il Giardino for 7.00pm. When they got there the restaurant was locked and a team meeting was taking place. They got in, and were the only couple dining that night. They enjoyed their meal, but at a supplement of $30.00 each, and with the same wines as the main dining room, but at a higher price.
Entertainment The La Scala theatre was beautiful, we enjoyed 3 classical concerts, 3 bigger shows, and an illusionist. There were many lounges with live music. The Delicia Quartet were excellent. The entertainment team were busy during the day with simple deck games and quizzes, and at night with fairly juvenile competitions in one of the main lounges. There were four formal nights, with two of them preceded with a captain's cocktail party.
Crossing the Line Ceremony was carried out the morning after the actual crossing. And involved around 100 passengers being christened with Champagne, tomato juice, milk, cream, flours and raw eggs. So be warned!
We generally did our own thing, and enjoyed visiting, Bari, Malta, Malaga, Madeira and Tenerife. We were only in Recife for a morning, and that was long enough! The old town was very very poor, ruined buildings and people living on the streets. Salvador was smarter, the old town was quite attractive, but a couple of people had chains and watches snatched. We took a ship organized tour of Rio as we were disembarking that day, visiting the statue of Christ the Redeemer and the beaches. Unfortunately the weather was very wet.
We took the tour of Rio in the morning, as we had to transfer to Rio International Airport in the afternoon. We were told that our luggage would be kept separate and secure in the Port Terminal building, but that we could check our luggage before joining the tour bus. In fact we were taken directly from the ship to the tour bus. Fortunately when the tour was finished, we found our cases safely in the terminal building. We then had to carry our luggage a couple of hundred yards to the transfer coach through a wet and puddled car park. A couple of ships porters with trolleys would have been appreciated.
Would I cruise with MSC again? I doubt it!