Let me start by saying that those who take the time to write these reviews do so in the honest hope of helping others make wise decisions before booking a cruise. We all want to have the best time ever after spending of our hard earned money, and whats written here can help to make or break that dream come true trip. I booked this cruise a year in advance based solely on "itinerary". The ports seemed exciting and unusual verses the overpacked overpriced normal caribbean stops. We arrived at the FLL port around 1:00pm for a 7:00pm sailing.
Embarkation was easy, taking all of 20 minutes and we were walking on board. They do take a picture as you board ship, but as I will probably mention again, there is no thought or set-up put into it. It's just kinda "snapped" as you walk by. On board we were escorted directly to our room, and in trying to be correct, I tipped this person who excepted it and seemed to expect it. The cabin (I guess I'll start here!), was clean and TINY!!!! Unless you choose one of the few suites on board (which I HIGHLY recommend), your cabin is 140 square feet. Take out the bathroom, the closet, and the two corner units, and you really have very little room left. Ours was set up as a double for a married couple which meant walk in and jump on the end of the bed. There was one little chair at the desk. The other person, should you decide to order room service, will sit on the bed to eat. Many guests suggested having the beds pulled apart and pushed to the outer walls which opens up the middle space for a bit more room. Those same guests (most have cruised over 20 times) said these are the smallest cabins they have ever seen on a ship. Bathroom is clean, orderly and tiny. You can stand in the tiniest shower ever, and reach every other spot in the bathroom.
Ok...tour of the ship.....nicely laid out.....extremely clean. Here we go.......Food on board......(or lack thereof) Other reviews I read and didn't pay attention to are 100% correct. There is not much food to be had. My husband and I love room service for breakfast. This consisted of coffee, tea and some dinner rolls! There was no other choice. Other choices for the day are 3 cold sandwiches. Lunch and dinner buffets on board were ok, but times were very limited, and the seating inside was pathetic. Once in 10 days were we able to find a seat. There's plenty of outside seating, unless you have 7 days of rain like we did. We actually gave up and carried trays to our room to sit on the bed. Food choices were ok, but like others....I think it was choices left over from dinner the nite before. Dinner in the dining room was our high point each day. We chose "late dinner" a year in advance of this trip, and were assigned to "early"....go figure!!!! We decided to give it a try and were seated at a table for 6 who all spoke English. Our meals were quite good, and our waiter while nice, spoke very little english, and what he did try to say, we didn't understand. Many course were missed. We had three Gala nites on this trip, and all were scheduled on days we were in ports. With a 5:30 seating, there was no time to get back on the boat and change for dinner. I agree with others this is ridiculous and MSC would be wise to schedule Gala nites on sea days where people could relax, enjoy the spa services, salons, and then have time to dress. 5:30 is really early to eat and that dinner time should probably be pushed to 6:00 at the very least. On one Gala nite, we were on tour of the Panama Canal (which apparently always runs late), and got back on board at 5:35pm. We went to dinner in shorts and tank tops, while others were dressed for the Gala evening. Embarrassing, and ruined my evening! After dinner folks......there IS NO MORE FOOD!!!!!!!! By day three, I had learned this fully, and started filling my purse with dinner rolls left on the table!! To be completely honest, MSC could say there is food (snacks) served at 11:00pm each nite in the lounges. BUT....you will only be offered these IF you sit down and order a drink!!! Our midnite buffet was on the 9th nite of the cruise at 11:00pm, and that was the only nite my husband and I saw food after 8:00pm. You will be wise to pack a suitcase of "survival food" for this cruise! Remember....no pizza after 8, no free ice cream at ALL, no drinks, NOTHING!!!!! Quick port review.
Our first stop was to be Costa Maya. On board we're handed a sheet that says tomorrow is "COZUMEL"!!!! HUH??? No use in arguing over it at the desk. No one speaks enough English to have a conversation! MSC will change your ports at their will with no explanation and NO advance notice. The web site said up until our sailing that I was going to Costa Maya. Other ports on this trip were fine altho we were very late in arriving at Columbia due to late departures from Panama.
The Dominican (Samana) stop is to short for much of a tour, and the tender boats tend to waste a good portion of your time there. Tours at each stop were well worth the money with good guides altho the language thing is difficult. Each tour guide explains things in several languages to accommodate those on the tour, and English was always tuff to understand. And may I add that on our other cruises, they have always offered very nice pictures at each port stop while your getting off the ship. I usually buy these as a remembrance of that stop. MSC only took them twice out of five stops, and again....they were just snapped as you walked off. Kind of sad. They just had no quality and meant nothing.
Entertainment........we went to the shows every evening. We like the shows, and there really was nothing else to do on the boat at nite. Your choice is to stand in a smoky rather small casino, sit at the computer lab ($5 for 10 minutes), walk the decks, or go to bed. The theater seating was comfortable, and the acts each evening good. The cruise director who introduced each show and said goodnite, was difficult to understand, and we have to say....that was the only time in 10 days that we ever saw her. Each show for our dinner seating went from 8:30pm to approx 9:15. And after that folks.....if you don't want to drink or gamble.......YOUR DONE!!! Walk the decks alone looking for food or drink? There is NOTHING. Pools are cleaned and closed....everything is shut down and scrubbed down, and it's just a very lonely place to be. For a final note to my review, I'd have to end this by saying we will eventually go cruising again, but never on another MSC ship. The Italians have alot to learn about sailing winters in the Caribbean. And they really need to look into staffing to include some more English speaking employees. And P.S. remember.....it is allowed to change your tipping up until the day before the ship docks. They just hand you a paper to write on what you'd like your total tip to be and who you'd like it paid out to. You couldn't specify a person, just a group, so if you detested your maitre'd, you couldn't really not include him with the kitchen staff. But as far as lowering the total we gave, I had to stand in line quite awhile with others doing the same, and from the comments we heard, I'm guessing everyone on the ship had done so. Maybe MSC will catch onto some "issues" by noting the decline in tips huh? My husband and I were anxious (along with almost the entire rest of the passengers) to get off that boat. We'd had 10 days of what we termed "gibberish",(non-understandable English) and needed a break from not understanding anyone.
Debarking the ship is your normal sit and wait game. We were corralled in the theater area for 90 minutes before being called, and once off, immigration took another hour in a line. I'd say this cruise had an average age of close to 60. If your looking for a family cruise, this is not it. Very few children on board. And so many languages!!!!! When we got home, I signed onto Cruise critic right away, and noticed a review by someone who apparently took this same cruise the 10 days it was offered before ours. I'll finish by saying that everything that person wrote described our story exactly!! So what I haven't written and don't have time to write, they did! Take these two reviews, and please consider your options. If anyone from MSC reads this.......please consider some changes to improve what you have to offer. We are glad to be back home, and while I'm thankful for any vacation I get, this one will certainly NOT go in my top 20 category!!!!