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MSC Orchestra Cruise Review by StormingtheCastle

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MSC Orchestra
MSC Orchestra
Member Name: StormingtheCastle
Cruise Date: March 2009
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Destination: Western Caribbean
Cabin Category: OV
Cabin Number: 8092
Booking Method:
See More About: MSC Orchestra Cruise Reviews | Western Caribbean Cruise Reviews | MSC Cruises Cruise Deals
Member Rating   5.0 out of 5+
Dining 5+
Public Rooms 5+
Cabins 5+
Entertainment 3.0
Spa & Fitness 4.0
Family & Children Not Rated
Shore Excursions 5.0
Embarkation 5.0
Service 5+
Value-for-Money 5+
Rates 4.0
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Ship Facts: MSC Orchestra Review (by Cruise Critic!) | MSC Orchestra Deck Plans
Loved the Orchestra and Accessibility information
I think it has been well established that the ship is clean and beautiful. There was always someone cleaning something somewhere. So much brass and glass and not a fingerprint to be found. And for the narcissists there is an over abundance of mirrors! Embarkation: We had some trouble at the airport (FLL) getting a taxi. I had made numerous phone calls to try to arrange a shuttle but no on could accommodate me with a scooter, manual wheelchair and week's worth of luggage. Well, okay, one company did say they could and for just $65 EACH WAY, they would get us there. I did finally have one shuttle service tell me that my best option was just to get a Handicapped Taxi at the airport. We found the taxi stand and made our request. We were told to go way over by the building to wait. So we waited. HC taxi drove by and left. We waited. HC taxi drove by and left. We waited. HC taxi drove by and left. I went back over to the desk and asked why none were stopping. The taxi "wranglers" were putting other customers that arrived after us in cabs but ignoring us. I was told a Taxi had been called and to just to move away and keep waiting. I decided that I wasn't going to move. I left just enough room for customers to get around me (between their desk and the curb) and told them I would just wait there for my taxi. The two guys argued with me and said I was blocking their business and had to move. I showed them that there was plenty of room and I preferred to wait there to make sure they didn't forget me :D . Needless to say the very next HC van that came by was immediately flagged down by these guys and I was loaded on.

Cabin:

We didn't have a fruit bowl in ours. I thought it might arrive later but it never did. Now I am sure that if I asked for one our Cabin Steward would have brought it right away, but that wasn't the point. MSC seems to put great pride in that little "touch" being in every stateroom. As a travel agent if I tell my clients of this small amenity they shouldn't have to go and track it down if they want it.

We were in an obstructed view cabin on deck 8. I knew that it would be obstructed so I wasn't surprised. And it is pretty much fully obstructed! We did like having the light be able to come in though. For this cruise price it was worth the upgrade. Not sure what the regular price is to upgrade from an Inside to this category but if it is more than about $100 total I wouldn't think it was worth it. Also, I had a bit of a shock one morning when I pulled the curtains back and there was a maintenance man on top of the lifeboat working on it right outside the window! Sure was glad I was dressed!

Beds were made quite quickly. On MSC you put your cruise card in a reader near the door when you enter in order for the lights to work. This also activates a light outside your cabin so your Cabin Steward knows if you are in or out. It seemed like he ran in and cleaned the room up as soon as we walked out because no matter how long we were gone it was done when we returned. There is a sign in the bathroom about hanging up your towels to conserve energy vs. replacing them. We hung ours but they were replaced twice daily (if they were used). And the towels were not your standard bath towels. These were very generous sized "beach towel" length. I am a big girl and they went all the way around me with room to spare! I am always impressed to find a nice sized bath towel. There was a ton of storage in the bathroom, in the shower, over the vanity and under the sink. The shower has a clothes line that you can pull across. The shower was small and I found myself getting to know the shower curtain quite intimately most mornings! There were extra paper supplies under the vanity so if you needed more tissue in the middle of the night it was right there. But our Cabin Steward changed it before it was close to running out (which begs the question, what do they do with all those rolls with ¼ of it left?)

There is an outlet (220 and 110) in the ceiling of the bathroom. However it only works if the bathroom light is on. That was disappointing because I like to put a nightlight in the bathroom for those middle of the night trips. The hairdryer is in a drawer in the vanity/desk area. It won't work unless you have your cruise card in that reader. On the vanity are 4 more outlets, 2 of them 220 and 2 are 110. So essentially you had 2 outlets. Fortunately I carry an extension cord in my laptop case or this would have been a problem. J. uses a CPAP machine and the vanity was the only place to plug it in. Without the extension cord it would have been difficult to configure it.

Our suitcases fit easily under the bed. The bed could be lifted to put them under if needed also, and the closet was deep enough for one or two suitcases if needed. The refrigerator is also your mini bar. There is some limited space to put your own personal things in like a few drinks.

Each bed end table had 3 drawers that were good for a book or some papers or meds. Our room was a quad meant for 4 people so we had a lot of storage space. There were 6 drawers, and I think about 8 shelves. We didn't use all the space, but if my 2 kids had been with us I am sure I would have. The safe was temperamental but we were able to get it to work when we needed it, it just took a few tries.

There was one extra pillow in the closet and we found out later in the week that the pull down bunks had pillows in them also we could have used if we wanted! We found the pillows to be adequate and had no problems with them. I was having problems getting the temperature in the room comfortable. It seemed that I was either freezing or sweating. J said that he thinks the A/C only cools, but doesn't dehumidify which is why I was freezing but still felt sticky. And probably also why our swimsuits never seemed to get dry.

Beds were remade (from our afternoon naps) and turned down every evening. Some nights the Daily Programs and other flyers were left on the bed and some nights they were just put under the door.

The room was very generously sized in my opinion. I traveled with my electric scooter and a manual wheelchair. We left the w/c folded up by the couch and even with my scooter over near the vanity there was plenty of room to move around. Obviously the standard cabin is not handicapped accessible but we were able to get the scooter in through the door. My scooter is "streamlined" and doesn't have large fenders/ tires/ bumpers like some. It is the same width as a wheelchair and it fit through the door with no room to spare! There is a raised threshold at the door that was difficult to get over in the scooter. This and the step up into the bathroom could be a problem for passengers that have major mobility issues. It is not a barrier free room at all.

I visited a Standard Balcony Room. It was smaller than our room but of course the balcony was beautiful. They had less closet space but the room was also only intended for 2 people so I have to wonder if that accounts for the smaller space and storage.

Staff:

Wow! What amazing friendly people! I was sad to leave some of them. The Italians at the Accounting and Information Desk didn't go out of their way to be friendly, but they were all receptive to anything I needed/asked and helpful. Even a little thing like needing to borrow a pair of scissors was done quickly and with a smile. The only real "rude" encounter I had was on the phone when I called the number that was by the phone for Room Service. It put me to the Information Person who told me I had called the wrong number when I asked for Room Service. I very nicely said "I am so sorry, I called the number that is here by the phone". She then softened a bit and said yes that is the number listed but it has been changed to xxxx, I will transfer you. I think that smile and kindness goes a very long way.

I talked to Accounting 2x to try to deal with my lack of an onboard credit for my fuel surcharge. They were nice but there was just nothing they could do. I am afraid they have had to deal with this a lot in the last few months and the corporate office hasn't given them any power or means to deal with it effectively. As it ended up I had to call MSC when I got home and found out that the credit had been put back on my credit card a week before I left but no one bothered to tell me or the ship accounting office. It would have saved me and them a good deal of time and energy.

Everywhere we went on the ship the staff smiled and said Hello or Have a Nice Day, or Enjoy your Dinner or even stopped to chat as best they could. Now maybe something about scooter decorated with sparkly pink rhinestones just brings out the best in people but I would also like to think it was just because if you are friendly to them they are friendly back. These were some of the hardest working people I have ever seen. The Buffet Manager was always present and visible no matter what time I was in there. I don't think he ever took a break! There was an incident where a woman next to me in the beverage line spilled her hot tea on herself and was burned. I was helping her to get some ice and the Buffet Manager appeared quickly to help and was concerned with making sure she was okay. Only after she left did he and the staff worry about cleaning up the mess that had been made.

I even had several staff members that were kind and friendly while "off duty", while riding the tender over because they had a few hours off. This was their time but they were still chatting and asking how our vacation was going.

I had an encounter one night with the epitome of the American Jerk. He came into the Photo Gallery and demanded to know where the Late Night Food was being served. The person he asked didn't understand him and immediately signaled another guy to help. The man repeated his demand (and yes, his tone was demanding). The 2nd guy didn't know either so I said "Sir, the Daily says that they are in the lounges so you might ask in the Wine Bar right there or check in the Savannah or Shaker Lounge". At the same time the Photo Shop guy pointed to 2 officers that were sitting in the Wine Bar and said "They might know also". Jerk said "I don't want to keep asking, and I want someone on this ship that DOES know, not might know. No one on this ship knows anything."

Now I wanted to slap him silly ( or run him over!) I told him "Sir, they work in the Photo Shop, not in the restaurants and bars. How would they know where the food is being served? That is not their job." Jerkface responded with "Well they are crew on this ship, they SHOULD know."

Yeah, hubby pulled me away. I so wanted to ask Jerkface where he worked and find out if he knew absolutely every detail of what everyone he worked with was doing at all times. Boy I sure hope foreigners don't judge all of us by these jerks.

Food:

My husband and I absolutely loved the food and think we had some of our best meals ever on this ship. I had read very negative reviews of so much of the food and of people "starving" we were certainly worried. And mainly that they can't cook beef, which is our dietary staple since we don't eat seafood. I only wish I could say I starved instead of putting on a few pounds! J is very picky about how his food is cooked and it was all perfect. Beef was tender and juicy and cooked perfectly. We enjoyed lamb and veal, two things we don't get much of at home and it was all so beautifully cooked and seasoned. I had heard that the food was "bland" but we didn't find it that way at all. We thought the food was "simple" but in a very good way. We don't like a lot of heavy sauces, or overspiced accompaniments that cover up the natural taste of things. The sauces for the lamb, veal and beef were all light and made from the meat stock so they just enhanced the flavors, not covered them up. So often "gourmet" foods have so many complicated and strong ingredients that it all ends up being overpowering—like a terrible episode of Iron Chef. When you have good quality meat and other ingredients you don't need Mango Chutney, Tarragon Infused Butter, or a Pistachio Crust. We really enjoyed this style of cooking.

We heard complaints of the pasta being undercooked, raw or crunchy. This is true Italian al dente! We Americans like our pasta overcooked and gummy. It was nice to have penne and spaghetti that was truly "to the tooth".

I preferred to eat in the dining rooms. The buffet was a madhouse! There were 4 main serving areas and those were divided into smaller stations. Often a line backed up at the front of the first stations with the pizza and burgers but if you just went around you could access the other stations with other selections quickly. Also the back area was less crowded and a much prettier place to sit anyway! I also realized that they served some of the same entrees on the buffet as were on the main dining menu. So you could go in there before or after dinner if you wanted to try something you might not order!

Room Service: We had breakfast by room service a few times. We ordered the night before with the hang tag that was left in the room. It was delivered each time exactly at the time we specified. The rest of the menu was rather limited. We ordered the club and Tuna sandwich. The club was just 2 small triangles, basically ½ a sandwich. The tuna though was 2 rolls with a nice amount of tuna salad. Both were served with chips and delivered within 10 minutes of being ordered.

One big food disappointment to us was the Cheese Plates. With this European/Italian cruise line we were looking forward to trying some wonderful varieties of European cheeses. We ordered cheese in the main dining room and from room service it was beyond dismal. Cheddar cheese and some other plain ho hum cheeses served with a package of Saltine Crackers. :P This could have been so much better.

Photographers:

I am including my separate impressions of them because there was some good and some bad. They were all very friendly and we certainly became known to a few of them. We did witness them being a bit pushy at times though. I guess they must have a quota of photos they must take, but that needs to be balanced with the customer desire to NOT have a photo taken. We saw several "no thank you's" met with a bit of an argument by the photog. While I am the type that just lets the take the pic knowing I am not going to buy it just so they will move on, others said no and they should have moved on then. In one case, on the beach, the photographer actually got pretty miffed when the woman said no and made a rather loud comment under her breath that was very unprofessional.

Photos were taken nearly every night at dinner and as a new cruiser I was fine with this. But I didn't like the "silliness" with it I would have loved a selection of photos of J and I from each night to choose from. Instead we had a photographer dressed up as a Uniformed Officer the first night, a pirate the next and then one dressed up as a clown. The first night they took the pics with the officer with no explanation and we were all left going "Who the heck was that?". It became obvious the next day that it was the photog dressed up and not even an officer for the photo. Could they not have spared one if they thought the picture was so important? They did take the formal night table pictures of just the couples. The clown was the most ridiculous thing and was just very out of place for this elegant cruise. I even asked to have our picture taken without the clown but was told it was not possible. There were several spots around the ship to have formal pictures taken either on the beautiful steps or with various backdrops. We did these each night. My main disappointment with these photos was that the photographers were not able to meet my request to make me look 100 pounds lighter. . .

I did find the photographers to be very kind and respectful of my needs because of my mobility issues. They all asked if I was okay with a certain pose or position. None of the tried to rush me and in fact told me to take my time. Often they would lend a hand to help me onto a chair or up or down stairs.

But there was an issue with the photographers that I would like to see them address. I started to notice that some of the pictures of teens were in poses that I would certainly never allow my 13 year old to be photographed in. Pictures of them at the pool in "Playboy" like poses. Posed formal photos of teen girls (sisters?, friends?) that were more sexy than friendly. A formal picture of a teen boy taking off his shirt. I brushed this off as just my prudish nature until I talked to some of the parents. Apparently the photographers were encouraging the young girls to "be sexy" when taking the pics and were putting them in the poses and positions that were really not appropriate. One mom was absolutely livid when she saw the pictures taken of her 12 year old by the pool. They took absolutely adorable pictures of the young children and it was too bad they didn't apply that to the rest of the children. My suggestion is that you let your kids know that you don't want them to be photographed unless you are there to supervise.

Shows:

Kind of a mixed review here. The theater was absolutely amazing and there was a lot put into these shows. My main complaint about most of the shows was that the lighting, while spectacular consisted of strong spotlights on the stage that went out into the audience shining an extremely bright light directly in your face. I suffer from migraines and a sudden bright light like this is a huge trigger for me and other migraine sufferers. For many of the numbers with this lighting I had to cover my eyes and J noticed others in the audience doing the same.

I was not happy with the show the first night "Moonlight in Paris". This was NOT a family friendly show in my opinion and wish that the cruiseline would maybe put a warning on it. The dancers were in thongs that bared all in the back and they spent a decent amount of time shaking and gyrating that end towards the audience. There was one number where the male/female dancers were "grinding" on each other. And in the worst taste was an entire number centered on a male dancer dressed as a female that ended up with anatomically correct breasts that were doing their own dancing and swinging. I guess it was supposed to be funny but I just found it to be in bad taste—and I have a great sense of humor! I would have been very upset if my kids had been with me. Heck, I would also have been upset if my Grandmother had been with me! In another scene someone is gunned down with a machine gun for no apparent reason. The show was bawdy and risque and really not appropriate for children. This was a show for a very limited audience and in poor taste for the general cruise ship audience in my opinion. The acrobats and other acts were enjoyable but I would let other families know to see them another night and skip this first one and watch the ship leave port instead.

The rest of the shows were enjoyable. The Classical Concerto was also nice. T he music was very enjoyable, but they used a back up recording to "fill in" with other instruments and I found that annoying. When I am looking at 4 instruments on stage those are the only ones I expect to hear. To have a percussion section, and the sound of a full orchestra to me takes away from the authenticity of the performance and the musicians on stage. I would have much preferred they had just found arrangements that only used the instruments on stage. They had a great vocal performance of songs from West Side Story. Hearing West Side Story sung with an Italian accent was quite interesting! These same string players were often in the lobby playing and were just magnificent.

Oh and if you were hoping to talk with the Cruise Director, Marco I hope you have your cell phone with you. He was extremely stand offish and I think just about every time we saw him he was on his cell phone. Not at all what I expected from a Cruise Director. The Captain was more personable than he was!

Animators/The Excellent Entertainment Team

The Entertainment Team hosts most of the activities on board. For the most part I found them to be very funny and enjoyable. We went to several of the evening shows that took place in the bars after dinner and while they were sometimes also on the risque side, it was a bar at 10:45 pm and in my opinion that was an adults only venue so it didn't bother me, in fact I laughed so hard my sides hurt! At the Pool Party I enjoyed watching them work with all ages, from the little 4 year olds to the older men and women. Their antics were very funny and more fun to watch than the line dancing that was also going on.

That said, I also went to show they were doing on the pool deck during the last Day at Sea. It was at 11am and the pool area was filled with families and children. I was shocked when their game took the same sexual turn that the evening shows did, and in fact worse! Couples had to break balloons between their 2 bodies and were told what positions they had to use. Needless to say they all simulated sex acts and I could not believe this was going on in front of a mixed audience. I also talked to another passenger that had been shocked at some of the things she had seen them do during the week and said often they didn't respect passengers wish to be left alone, and that they took their sexualized humor way to far with pax that were clearly not comfortable with it. The men would try to "grind" on unsuspecting passengers or shake themselves in front of them. I am surprised that they haven't been knocked out cold by someone for their unwanted antics. They were very funny and had a lot of good things but just needed to tone down the bawdy, sexual play.

Accessibility

Since I used a scooter much of my time on the ship I got a feel for the overall accessibility. Of course there are huge differences between an electric scooter and passenger with a self powered wheelchair. There were a bunch of Orchestra Manual Wheelchairs available outside the port terminal as we entered. I saw a good handful of pax using the Orchestra wheelchairs the entire cruise. I wouldn't have brought my manual if I had known that they would have so many available. Usually there are only a few for emergency use and if you need a chair you need to bring it yourself, according to the research I had done. It was nice to see that were so many for use on the cruise.

The biggest inconvenience on the ship were the transitions at doorways. These always were a huge "bump" and if I didn't pick up my bad foot could be uncomfortable. For a pax that uses a scooter for arthritis, joint issues etc this constant jarring at these transitions could get to be pretty painful. And as I think is pretty standard there is a very large transition at the doors to the decks. For many of these my scooter just couldn't get over the lip and had to be picked up a bit in the front or back. Fortunately I am able to do that on my own.

Elevators are always a challenge with you are not mobile. It always amazes me that so many people can be so inconsiderate to the fact that I have been waiting, and will cut me off to get on in front of me. I was actually rolling onto an elevator when an older woman decided to step in front of me and try to push her way into the elevator. While I try to be respectful of my elders I had been waiting a long time, through several elevator cycles and had HAD IT! I just told her "Excuse me but this is MY elevator and I am getting on!" What also amazes me is the number of very able bodied people that will push their way into the elevators ahead of the handicapped when they are only going up or down one or two floors! And people of all ages seem to think nothing of just stepping in front of the scooter and cutting me off. They don't seem to realize that scooters and wheelchairs do NOT have brakes. They don't stop on a dime and there is nothing I can do if you step in front of me and I can't stop in time.

But that said I have a pretty good attitude and have been using it for over 2 years so I am a good driver. I had a lot of fun with staffers that would ask for my drivers license or say they couldn't serve me because I would be drinking and driving! I even gifted my horn to the wait staff because they enjoyed it so much and loved to honk it as I went by.

I only attempted the buffet one or two times with my scooter. It was probably the least accessible area on the ship. There was just not enough room to get through when people were lined up to get food. That was frustrating, and I really was worried about hurting someone or running over toes. But staff in the buffet ran over to help me with my plate when I was trying to get food and got what I needed and offered to carry it for me. That was much appreciated.

I did not try to take my scooter on the tenders but I saw others that did. The staff were extremely helpful in offering a strong arm or hand to those that needed it. I used a cane and was obviously very unsteady and they were never pushy and always told me to take my time. For the passengers with scooters they helped them on the boat and then lifted the scooter on to the tender. These were all small type scooters, not great big ones. There was a passenger that appeared to use a wheelchair full time but I never got a chance to talk to him and find out how he was finding the ship and if he was able to tender.

The other place that was difficult with the scooter was Deck 14. I went up there the last day and tried to get around but there was just not enough room between the open lounge chairs and the deck railing for me to squeeze through so I gave up.

Kids Activities:

There were some interesting differences of opinion on the issue of kids on this cruise. J and I felt like we really never saw many kids and the ones were did certainly never concerned us. But we also didn't spend a whole lot of time on the pool deck. We talked to others that complained there were just way to many kids and they wouldn't be back to MSC because the Kids Sail Free meant way to many families with kids. I did find out from the kids counselor that there were 450 kids on board. Of course that is 17 and under. The kids in the mini club (3-6) and Junior Club (7-12) seemed to be having a good time when ever I saw them. The mini club area was small but looked like a lot of fun.

My concern on this cruise was for the teens. I talked to several teens and parents of teens and heard over and over that they were bored. There was just not enough for them to do. They would "hang" out in the R32 Disco with each other (unsupervised) but that was about it. There was just not much going on to keep them busy and interested. I saw groups of them just hanging out in the R32 Disco but they said that was because there was just nothing else to do. I also heard reports of a fight breaking out among some teen girls, and that some of the teens were sitting on top of the ship railing at the back of the ship which is very dangerous.

There were a few supervised activities but the teens I talked to said they were not even appropriate for their age group. They mentioned a scavenger hunt where one item was for the girls to remove their bras and tie them together, and another event where the boys were supposed to simulate a strip tease for the girls. Really inappropriate things for the 13-17 crowd. The main teen hangout was the R32 Disco on Deck 14, but it also was used for an adult disco in the late evenings. So they sometimes had an 11pm teen activity in there then a 12am adult time, but they didn't require the teens to leave so they were left unsupervised with the adults and alcohol etc... If you have a teen I would suggest that you have them bring along some things to do. The kids I talked to said that even some cards and board games would have helped. Some movies and a laptop if you have it, and books to read and maybe hand held game systems.

Ports:

Key West: Loved the Old Towne Trolley tour. I have enjoyed this company in Savannah, GA also. Would have loved a few more hours so we could have done a few more things here.

Cozumel: We just went shopping! I enjoyed bargaining and got some great stuff but after a few hours the pushiness started to get on my nerves. We had a good time looking through the kiosks and shops. I found the workers at the stands to be a bit easier to deal with than in the shops. They took your "no thank you" and backed off. The men in the shops would follow you and continue to try to get you to bargain for anything. If they sensed you really liked something then they were like sharks! But the worst was in the Diamonds International Shop. The store was packed with shoppers so getting around in my scooter was difficult. But one of the salesmen latched on and followed us throughout the store. If I so much as lingered on something he was trying to get me to buy it. I made the fatal mistake of actually POINTING to something to show my husband and it was immediately pulled out of the case the pricing began.

"$900. But I will give you the cruise ship discount so only $825. No? Well, it is a day that ends in "y" so you get another discount $750. Oh, I see you dressed yourself today so you get that discount, $695"

I had now made my way to the other side of the store and he was following me with this pendant that I had no interest in and a calculator and continued to hound me. I finally gave up telling him no and just left. I might possibly have found something I was interested in and might have purchased, but not with those sales tactics. Although I did think about telling him I would give him $10 for the $900 pendant and see what happened! We did buy some other jewelry at more reasonable prices in a few other places, and then headed back to the ship.

Grand Cayman: We did the Reefs and Wrecks Snorkel Excursion through the ship and really enjoyed it. This is the company that ran it : http://www.kirkseatours.com/index.shtml We had plenty of snorkel time and great instruction and a lot of fun. Met a lot of great passengers and we chickens bonded!

In great contrast to Cozumel I found GC to be almost apathetic! It was as if they felt they were doing me a favor if I wanted to buy something. Needless to say we only bought a few things and just went back to the ship.

Cayo Levantado:

This has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! (but I don't get out much so what do I know?) The tender over was easy. There was a stone path that would be easily h/c accessible. The vendors were ready to make a deal but not overly pushy. I heard that the bathrooms were "disgusting" so I decided to hold it and get back to the ship so I never verified that!

At first we were going to just sit in the sand because most of the chairs we saw people in were pretty gross, they appeared to be moldy and I wasn't going to sit on them. But a man brought us 2 nice clean ones and I tipped him $10 for them (that was the smallest bill I had and $5 per chair was worth it to me). I think they were his last two because I never saw him again.

There was a big bar with servers that walked around among the chairs. There were also several places to get some lunch. I had heard later that night that some that ate at the lobster buffet got sick, but I was never able to verify that first hand. I just heard it from our tablemates and our Asst. Server.

I went in the water but it was cold so I only went in to my ankles. So much for my day in the ocean! There weren't a whole lot of people in the water, kids mostly. I loved that there was lots of shade available and also a large grassy area where people could go if they didn't like the sand. That also gives a nice place for those with wheelchairs that can't navigate in the sand.

Pool Deck:

We didn't spend much time here but I did like how the pool was set up. The center pool was 5 ft deep but there was an exterior area where it was only a few inches deep. It was great for little kids or for just sitting and reading a book or dipping your feet in just to cool off. The sunbeds were awesome. They were all solid fabric and very comfortable. Of course the best part is the movable sunshade that could be adjusted to however you liked it to keep the sun off and made reading more comfortable. I did wish that the back of them would have been able to move up to a full upright position. They were either in a recline or flat.

I think the biggest complaint that I heard over and over from passengers was the fact that the Pool closed around 6:30 each night. This was really a huge problem for most of the families and may be the make it or break it issue that causes them to not return to MSC in the future and one to keep in mind when considering this line for families.

As with all cruise ships, people saving loungers was a huge problem. There were signs at the towel pick up and notes in the Daily telling people that saving was not allowed and that after 20 minutes their items would be removed and could be found at Lost and Found. Of course I never actually saw that happen. I really don't get this entitlement mentality that because I threw a ships towel on this chair 4 hours ago it is mine.

As you are lounging there are servers walking around to take your drink orders but they are not pushy at all. In fact I don't think I ever saw or heard them approach anyone. They were just prominently available to be called over.

Disembarkation:

I am not sure how the order is determined for the luggage tags. We had a late flight out that afternoon but were in one of the earlier groups to leave. We went into the Amber bar to wait instead of the theater because that was where handicapped pax were supposed to wait. I am sure the theater was packed. The line was long when our group was called but we just sat back and waited for it to get shorter before we joined it. It moved pretty quick. I was disappointed that we didn't get to keep our Cruise Card for my scrapbook, but I did get a photo of mine when I heard that we might have to turn it in.

The biggest problem with the end of the trip was the FLL airport. We heard there were anywhere between 13-18 cruise ships that had come in that day and the airport just couldn't handle that. The line to check in for Southwest airlines was out the door and several blocks long. We were told it was taking 2-3 hours just to check in. To their credit though they were pulling people out of line for upcoming flights to be sure that everyone made their flight. We had to wait several hours to check in (can't check luggage more than 4 hours before flight) and were told that by 1:00 the line should be gone. It wasn't! There was a handicapped access and we were sent to use that around 1:30.

We had heard Security was an over 30 minute wait that morning. It wasn't that bad when we went but I didn't really keep track because getting through security with a scooter and wheelchair is always problematic. Once in the gate area the crowds were heavy. They food vendors were all running out of food. It was lunch time and people had been at the airport since the early morning. The sandwich kiosks were empty, a burger place only had Chicken Tenders and Fries and several other places were almost out of food. We did manage to get pizza from an Uno's stand but the line was quite long.

Overall Impressions

We loved this cruise. However it was only our 2nd cruise and our first one had major weather issues so I really have nothing to compare it with. This was also my husband and I's very first vacation alone together so we were just pretty happy to be away from our wonderful children for a week!

We would love to cruise with MSC again and area already looking at their Eastern Coast and Med itineraries for next year. We found this to be a completely relaxing trip. We did not want to leave!


Publication Date: 03/19/09
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