We cruise twice a year, and have been on almost every cruiseline out there. When our travel agent called and told us about a short, 2 night cruise on a European line attempting to break into the the American market, we jumped on the chance (as did about 30 of our friends) to take a quick getaway before Christmas break ended and the kids went back to school (our son is a junior in high school). We did some research on the MSC Orchestra and it looked like a beautiful ship, in the same class as Holland America or Celebrity. The only good thing that I will say about this cruise is that the ship was elegant and beautiful. It goes downhill from there.
We arrived at the port at about 12:15. We had no luggage to check, so we parked in the parking garage ($15 per day) and proceeded down the stairs to the terminal. We encountered a huge line, which was a bit surprising because the paperwork said that check in would begin at 11am. Looking into the open parking lot, we realized that people were just LEAVING the ship from the previous trip (a 21 day trip we later found out.) The terminal was completely filled with people waiting to check in, and the line began to grow outside waiting to get in the terminal. Employees of MSC were no where to be found, leaving the port security to attempt to answer questions. Over an hour later, check in had still not started. Once the check-in started, the computers were going down every 15 minutes or so, and it took some people over 30 minutes to check in. We finally checked in after over 3 hours in line.
The ship was just not ready for American passengers. Many of the crew was new and spoke little English. By 4:00 less than 500 people were on the ship, and looking down into the parking lot revealed an angry mob of over 1000 people trying to get into the terminal to check in. Little to no information was available to anyone. Crew members were unfamiliar with the ship and could answer almost no questions regarding where things were, or what time things were scheduled. They cancelled the lifeboat drill, and finally everyone was on board by 7pm. We had the late dinner seating, and again waited in a huge line to get into the dining room. Waiters had no idea where tables were, and groups of people were following waiters in circles around the dining room trying to find their tables. Once we were seated, it was 15 minutes before anyone came to the table. We were not offered water, and could not order drinks. To make a long story short, we walked out of the dining room 2 hours later with only half our table getting their meal. We had to go buy bottled water to have something to drink. It was just completely disastrous.
The next morning we got off in Nassau, which was a relief after waiting 50 minutes in the breakfast buffet line to eat raw bacon, undercooked sausage and "breakfast potatoes", which were left-over french fries from the night before. That is the absolute truth. We spent the day in Nassau and returned to the ship. We ordered room service, which never arrived at all. We avoided the dining room and went to the dinner buffet. The only thing edible was the pizza. Everyone commented that the food looked like leftovers. It tasted that way also.
When the ship docked the next morning, we were told we would be called by floor to exit the ship. We noticed from our balcony that people were leaving, and finally heard the announcement that our floor was able to go. We walked down 6 flights of stairs with our luggage into absolute chaos. The stairs, halls and lobby area were jammed with people who just wanted off the ship. We stood for almost 1 hour without any movement, and the PA system continued to announce floors to exit. There were no employees with any information, and people started just piling up in every space. It was the most disorganized thing I have ever seen. When we finally got to the exit to scan our sign and sail cards, we found one young frazzled girl running a scanner. It was the perfect ending to our trip.
One member of our party asked to see the hotel manager on the ship the night before we left to voice his concerns. He was told to see his travel agent and that was it. I have never been on a ship with employees so clueless, officers so indifferent, and so disorganized. If this line thinks it is going to make it in the American market, it needs to think again.