After entering through one of the more efficient boarding processes into the beautiful atrium, we were keyed up for a really fabulous cruise - our fifth. After checking out our cabin which was of the usual style and standard we were still feeling great about the experience before us. On reading the information provided we discovered there were a few issues of concern regarding the ship and cabin facilities.
These were: No laundromat nor passenger ironing facility; No tea/ coffee making facility in cabin. These amongst some other issues would detract from what could have been a great cruise. The following are areas that I consider were extremely poor aspects of the MSC Orchestra and would have to be addressed before cruising with or recommending MSC to any other person or travel agent:
Lack of Drinking Water The only available water, for drinking, provided was in the buffet, at meal times, or afternoon tea. In the dining room, or at any other time drinking water was only available as bottled water @ 2.60 Euro for 750ml. After much discussions with the various levels of the dining room hierarchy I eventually managed to get three glasses of iced water served at dinner each night. I contacted the reception of the ship to find out if the water in the cabin taps was suitable to drink and they said that it wasn't. After discussions with the ship's purser he advised that the water in the cabin was drinkable? I am still unsure.
Tea/ Coffee As there was no tea or coffee facility in room, one could reasonably expect that instant coffee or tea would be readily available, free of charge, at various stations around the ship. Not only wasn't this the case but the only time tea/coffee was served was at breakfast or afternoon tea. At lunch, dinner or at other times passengers were expected to purchase from a bar at inflated cost. After raising this as part of an overall lack of available water/ fluids available we were given coupons to address the issue - under strict secrecy requirements. As an average a person requires two litres of water per day which works out at 10 Euro per passenger at MSC rates.
Smoking Whilst I acknowledge that smoking in Italy is allowed in far more places than Australia, I found it incomprehensible that you had to walk through a smoking lounge to get to another bar or the theatre and that all the major entertainment activities were held in a smoking bar. As a non smoker this precluded me from many activities and by the time I left the cruise, having had walked through smoking areas, with clothing that reeked of cigarette and cigar smoke.
Laundry/ Ironing As this was part of a longer trip with the constraints of luggage allowances, we had anticipated, like others we met, that we would have access to laundry/ironing facilities on board as had been our previous experiences cruising, or the option of sending out laundry and ironing. It came as a shock when the only facilities were send out at extortionate rates and we are supposed to look presentable to enter the dining facility.
Dining Hygiene Being conscious of the rapid way in which infection can travel through passengers on board ships, I was appalled at the lack of basic facilities at the entry to the dining areas. Whilst the buffet had hand wash machines at the entrance, these were not always working, and the dining rooms had no such facilities at all. When I asked about the dining room facilities I was told to go to the nearby toilet to wash my hands by the Assistant Maitre D'. Other Facilities Internet Cafe- 25 euros an hour and then it would drop out when you sent a message. There was never a problem finding a computer because passengers refused to use it. Gymnasium - the size of the gym and equipment in relation to passenger numbers was totally inadequate. Coupled with this was the exercise classes which had to be conducted in public areas and so my wife did feel comfortable to attend.
Incorrect Information - Reception As mentioned previously I received information from reception which was then contradicted by the Purser. This one of several occasions that reception provided misleading or incorrect information including refund information for day trips as well as questions relating to various aspects about the ships processes- room service, accounts etc. It was very difficult to trust any information provided. What I found extremely disappointing, apart from the issues raised above was the attitude of the ship's "management team" - who when asked to address an issue would respond with - "It's company policy". Whilst it may seem from the above list that we didn't enjoy or value any aspects of the MSC Orchestra. This is not true.
MSC does the big things really well - the onboard environment is fabulous- with the exception of the smoking issues, and the entertainment was first rate, especially as it was designed for such a diverse audience. The cabin staff, wait staff in the dining facilities, the bar staff and the ship's medical officers provided outstanding service throughout the cruise. They were always extremely helpful, professional and willing to go out of their way.
I have since raised these issues with MSC and the response was basically like it or lump it. I guess it is one company who I am reluctant to recommend.