This was my families first cruise and in preparation, we had read many of the negative reviews about MSC and the Orchestra ship. Since this was our first cruise, we had no other comparisons other than family members who were on the ship with us.
The reasons we chose this cruise.
1. Price - This cruise was priced lower than most comparable cruise lines with similar agenda's for a 7 night cruise. 2. Kids were free on these cruise. As we had 5 children in our party, the kids go free was a huge impact on our families decision to use MSC. 3. Under 6 month rule for children. One of the children in our group was under 6 months. Most cruise lines do not allow children of this age. Disney and MSC are the only exceptions.
After reading the reviews, I set my expectations lower, hoping mostly to enjoy warm weather and be able to see new ports of call. What we found was far above our expectations.
First, the cleanliness of the boat was impeccable. We constantly saw people cleaning and painting around the ship. Our room was cleaned no less than two times a day, and many times three. With the unique room card occupancy system, which indicates you are in your room, we only ran into the room attendants once during our stay. The rooms were very small, but we had expected that already.
The food on the ship was very good. We especially enjoyed the sit down meals everynight. The staff did an excellent job of keeping food moving, and really catered to our children. Our children enjoyed the food as well. Which many times they can be very picky. Our youngest thought the hotdogs were the bomb! And yes, I tried one and they were very good, but not as good as the veal or lobster. The buffet could be crowded at times, so we found ourselves by the end of the week eating in the sit down restaurant for many of the meals.
The entertainment was very good. One caution here, we are fairly conservative family, and the first show started out with the dancers in less than full clothing. The shows had very good talent, and the magic, circus and Celtic dance shows we found to be very good.
The shore excursions were probably the highlite of the cruise. We found most of them to be reasonably priced. My brother and I both snorkeled in Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Both were excellent snorkeling experiences. The only real complaint is the shore excursions did leave late, and left no time to explore the port.
So, for my disappointments with the cruise. Well, probably my largest item is the amount of rolling of the vessel and vibration. For as new and large of a ship as Orchestra is, it really shocked me as to how much the ship moved around. The engines had a very heavy vibration, which just didn't seem right. Although, I don't have issues with motion sickness, people who do should probably take caution. Second, I found there were almost too many activities and too much of a schedule. I was actually worn out by the end of the week. Part of this is just having kids along for the ride. But the complaints about lack of things to do just didn't seem to be an issue for us.
Finally, my overall impression of MSC and Orchestra is that it is a very European ship. I think the standards for service are much different that US passengers expect. The staff's attitude is not rude at all, however, most prefer to stay out of your way and do their job. More an attitude of we aren't to be noticed. Anytime we asked for assistance or help, the staff always obliged and helped. I really believe MSC is trying to appeal to the European traveler who wants a European feeling cruise. My assumption is they are charging a premium for those travelers, and filling the ship with US clients at an extreme discount. We really enjoyed the European flair. Our kids were able to meet kids from many other cultures and see a side of life they haven't before. I would highly recommend this cruiseline, especially for cost conscientious passengers. Just go with an open mind and take motion pills if you have issues with that.