We did try to find something good to write about this dreadful experience but apart from looking out over the lovely seas that was it! It was 17 days cooped up in a tin can. Toward the end it felt like prison and one person actually kissed the ground when we reached Fort Lauderdale. I stood and breathed a sigh of relief as I was halfway across the elevated walkway. I was back in America where things work and people are good mannered.
Embarkation in Genoa
Very poor with little organization. The small door where you can deposit your luggage was was obscured so I struggled with the cases right down to check in. Mind you that could be because we had two cabin numbers instead of the one we had booked months ago. OK we went back out in the pouring rain and sorted it out. Passengers could not get on board as they were pretending to board by numbers. Walking to the front of the queue we found the real problem. The photographers were stopping everyone to take their photos. This was the not wanted by many but it held the line up for ages. When we bypassed the photographer we found the security line completely empty. On board nobody showed us where our cabins were. Just told we couldn't go to them until 1.00 p.m. We just ignored that and found our cabins.
Basically this was a farce for something so potentially important. The passengers arrived on time and in good order. Not so the staff. They arrived after us. The muster station was on deck 7 and it was awash with rainwater. We stood there while the staff were sweeping an inch of water away. We could not hear a single word from the Public Address system so we politely stood in line for about 30 minutes and then wandered off. It was that casual. (dangerous in an emergency).
Our table was suitable for two people but set for four and placed in a throughway for all the waiters. My head and chair was hit everytime they walked past. The noise was overwhelming as the deck height was very low. So many people were crammed in and so close together it was a miserable experience. People were complaining on the first night. We managed two nights only and then gave up eating bad cold food. Without asking the waiters started to pour bottled water. Fortunately we are experienced cruisers and we had already checked the price list and knew it was $4.50 a bottle. (Do the math for 17 days of bottled water!) We asked for a jug of iced water, which is normal. This was reluctantly brought to the table. Other passengers went four or five days before realizing there was iced water available at no extra charge. Coffee was not available without an extra charge. This was changed after the first round of complaints. The Maitre 'D told us that this was going to be the first cruise that MSC would give FREE coffee and water. Those asking for iced tea had to pay for a small tin of sweetened ice tea. There was no option. Those of us who actually had the cheek to ask for a decaffeinated coffee were provided with a cup of hot water and a sachet of instant nescafe. Should you want cream or milk you would have to wait. However to be fair the nescafe was the smart option because the regular coffee was dreadful.
Having given up our evening meals, we had to review our options. At first the 13th floor cafeteria was not open in the evening. This did open after considerable complaints to the staff. We decided to eat our main meal at lunchtimes in the restaurant. As we had 17 days of complete boredom it did not really matter that it took one and a half hours for three small courses which included one or two cold starters. The food was rarely up to standard, rarely hot and not always completely cooked. For instance, we understand al dente but we do not understand three quarters cooked pasta. I did ask the waiter why the food was cold. He said it was cooked hours previously and left to keep warm.
We felt that the staff resented our presence in the dining room. Not a smile until the last day when they were looking for tips.
13th floor cafeteria
Had to open in the evening because so many people refused to eat in the restaurant. By the end of the 17 days it was packed. The food was mediocre and the same day after day. There might be one new item each day. We lined up for hot french fries which were about the only hot thing to eat. (in the dining room they were half cooked and warm, at best) The flow in the cafeteria was dreadful. We have no idea how electric wheelchairs are supposed to use the circular food stations which were surrounded by pillars. Half of the evenings we collected small rolls at 4.00 p.m. and ate them in our cabin. What a cruise! One passenger asked for a donut which was under the counter. She was told that they would all go if he put them out!
Noise levels - We did not need an alarm clock. At 5.30 a.m. every morning the sunchairs and other equipment was thrown across the deck above our cabins and we were awake for another long day. MSC made sure were enjoyed the maximum number of hours we needed to be awake. Twice a week they scrubbed the deck at 1.12 a.m. to give us more time awake. Our written formal complaint was responded to well by the Guest Relations Officer. He said that it was not the way we told them to do it, if they don't stop we will put them off the ship. What a thing to say to the customers. How unprofessional and the noise never stoppped. The walls between the cabins were paper thin and everytime the person in the adjoining cabin shut their door our wall bounced. It was a very thin ship.
Sanitization - Dispensers - often not there, often empty. Arrived one lunchtime at the restaurant to find no dispenser, asked Maitre 'D where one was and he told me rudely to use the toilets. I was also told by the same person that I should not speak in German to some ladies as I was English. Yep, we are still working that one out.
Billing and Interactive TV - Not working three or four days. Reception comment it is a general problem - attitude - go away. Our billing was correct on screen on the last evening. The paper bill at 6.08 a.m. and every item had been entered twice. Spent 45 minutes in line to have a correct account issued. No apology, just a joke to them. During this time we should have left the cabin by 7.00 a.m. Cruise details prior to boarding said all transactions would be in euros. Confirmed by check in so we provided a euro credit card. Ship changed to dollars without advising people.
Sports - All sports equipment could only be obtained by going to the 5th floor reception and signing for one tennis ball and the minigolf clubs and ball. Then go back to deck 15 to play before going back to deck 5 to return them and sign for the one ball and equipment. What a joke.
New Year's Eve - Health and safety - Many of the passengers were on the outside deck. Not enough chairs were set out for a New Year's Eve buffet so passengers were obliged to remove every single chair in the cafeteria and take them outside. Good job that most people were sitting as the lights went out and the deck was in complete darkness. There was no safety secondary lighting. It was very dangerous.
Premium Restaurant - Friends of ours had a meal costing $25 each. At the end of the meal they received the bill and found they had to pay extra for bread and coffee. Unbelievable.
Attitude of staff - If they could understand or speak English we didn't find out. Just told it was the Italian way, take or leave it. They need to be advised that the Italian Way would be great but only if it is superior, or at least equal, to the competition. We asked to see the Hotel Manager but he hid in his office the whole cruise.
Disembarkation - Words cannot describe the chaos that ensued. We docked at 7.45 a.m. and finally got off the ship at 11.30. We did not wait for our correct color tag to be called as our transfer bus would have been long gone. We finally got away from the port at 1.03 and could see the lines and lines of people trying to get on. How we felt for them not knowing what they were about to experience.
In conclusion, I could go on and on with our complaints but what is the use? MSC were not interested in anything to do with passengers and our only way to express our disgust with the staff and management was not withhold payment of tips. The lines of people holding pink no-tips slips was a sight to behold. On other boats we have occasionally withheld a few of the tips but it was always done discretely. On this ship you could see people walking round with the pink slips and discussing it with others.
Do not go on this ship, it was nickel and dime and they could not arrange a party in brewery. A complete waste of time and money.