Unfortunately, my wife and I had to cut our back to back cruise of 1/10 thru 1/24/2009 short due to a death in the family and fly home from Fort Lauderdale this past Saturday. At our insistence, our daughter and son-in-law continued onboard for the second week. But let me set the record straight by our experience on this our 34th cruise - having sailed previously with Royal Caribbean (Diamond Plus Members); Celebrity; Holland America; Carnival and NCL. I many respects, we found MSC Orchestra comparable to Royal Caribbean and Celebrity and most certainly hands above Holland America; Carnival and NCL.
To begin with, embarkation was flawless - took less than 15 minutes. Debarkation equally as efficient. This ship is FABULOUS, perfect size unlike the vehemoth floating cities RCL is introducing. Our cabin was luxurious, balconied on Deck 15 facing forward overlooking the bow of the ship - cabin steward and assistants more than accommodating and efficient - morning room make up completed within 30 minutes of our leaving for breakfast.
Food was typical cruise food - one expecting gourmet should try the ilk of Crystal and PAY for it! Don't know why there is any criticism of lines for the casual dining at the buffet in La Piazzetta - there were NO lines (certainly not out to the pool) - there are six identical stations within that venue which allowed for easy access to the typical variety of breakfast fare - the same is exactly true for lunch. We had breakfast in the dining room only once but found the convenience and atmosphere of the La Piazzetta more appealing for breakfast and lunch (especially at the outdoor dining tables aft). We had late seating in the Villa Borghese Restaurant which proved to be a pleasant experience each evening - our waiter and assistant were most accommodating with impeccable service and special requests were executed flawlessly, notably nightly plates of a variety of cheeses awaiting us each evening. Again, the dinner menus were typical of RCL and Celebrity with some interesting and DELICIOUS departures such as succulent Rack of VEAL; absolutely delicious leg of lamb - not to mention the awesome lobster tail, of which we had 3 servings - and more if we wished.
The formal entertainment, in the most gorgeous theater at sea that we have ever seen, was all European, mostly Italian, were all quite unique and not the typical revue type shows. Other evening entertainment, in addition to beautiful dance music in the abundant lounges, lead by the young and very friendly Italian Cruise Staff, was HILARIOUS and the FUNNIEST and MOST UNIQUE programs I have ever witnessed on any of our previous cruises. One in particular was a "beauty" contest for Mr.Orchestra which had the standing room only audience in an absolute frenzy of gut splitting laughter.
Earlier negative comments on CruiseCritic.com referred to the "stare". Well, I looked for the stare and could not find it.
Remember the adage "you only get what you pay for" - in the case of MSC ORCHESTRA it is not true - YOU GET MUCH MORE!