Abandon Ship!: MSC Orchestra Cruise Review by gladlotus
Overall Member Rating
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Our trip was booked in a fairly large group, although we only knew 3 other families in the group. Several members of our group purchased a "forfeit" drink deal that our agent had More worked out when booking the cruise. We arrived at the port around 3:00, were on the ship quickly and settled in to have a cocktail while we were waiting to leave port. We noticed that the bartender was rude...but our excitement over came that. The bartender noted the sticker indicating our drink deal on our card, but asked us to sign a room charge slip any way. When questioned he said that it would all be taken care of later. Several drinks later we started to hear rumors that there was a problem with the drink package. We resolved to go to the information desk the next morning to find out what the issue was. At the desk, we were told that there was a problem with some people paying for the package. We had the credit slip to confirm our payment and were told not to worry. But all day we kept hearing more and more rumbling. As it turns out, the department that deals with drinks on the boat determined that a bad deal had been made and they were not going to honor the original agreement. After several visits to the desk, we were told that they would honor the deal on a limited basis and that we would be expected to pay for day one's drinks. The deal cost $398CAD, fairly substantial, so we were not very happy with this. We asked several times to speak to the head purser and were told at first no, but when they figured we would not go away we were told they would call with an appointment. That call never came.
The food was mediocre at best. I have read comments that rave about the food, suggesting that those who don't like it are too used to Olive Garden Italian food. I can tell you that is not the case. The food is mediocre, generally not hot, definitely not Italian cuisine. Often, the pizza was the best option, though it was frequently burnt. Also, many of the "salad" dishes on the lunch buffet looked like they were actually made up of left overs from previous meals. Our dinner waiter was lovely and very attentive. Several times he went to herculean efforts to provide us with food that was actually cooked properly, but to no avail. Steaks were never delivered as ordered. Vegetables were often cooked to mush. Desserts...well, lets just say that the only bright spot is the gelato served on deck that you have to pay for. On the 2nd gala night he attempted to bring us a lobster that was not overcooked and tasteless...brought 3 plates of lobster over in an attempt to get the least overcooked. His attempt failed and I ended up eating the last one because I felt sorry for him.
The port stays were very frustrating. None were long enough to truly enjoy where you were or do any exploring. Best bet: Antigua, pay one of the taxi drivers to take you to a secluded beach. They will take you to a beautiful beach where they have an arrangement with a friend and it will likely have a drink/meal hut with very friendly service and a clean stretch of Caribbean post card beach. Many staff members were cold bordering on rude, and some where outright rude. And, if they think that they can make jokes and disparaging remarks about guests on the ship without being understood, they should think twice...many of us speak more than just English! Some of the staff did get real attentive about 2 days before the cruise was finished. One staff member actually said to my husband "don't pay for a Chevette and expect a Ferrari" ! Now really, what does that say about how (at least some) of the staff feels about the ship and the guests on it? We did not pay for a Chevette, we paid for what we thought was a reasonable deal for a new ship trying to gain a reputation. Some reputation. In the library, we asked what the hours were. The response: it changes...okay, but what hours can we come back...the response: when it is open. Doh!
The kids programs, while well talked about and frequently noted in the daily events paper, seemed non-existent. Every time we took the kids (11-14) to partake in any of the events noted, there was no one to be found running any thing. The teen get together turned out to be a bunch of teens sitting around some tables in a brightly lit disco. Also, it was near impossible to get onto any of the sports areas, primarily due to lack of equipment. A couple of the kids went down to get pingpong balls for the two tables and they were told it was too late in the day and that there was only one ball any way.
I thought our cabin person was outstanding. Until, that is, I found out that other cabins in our group received fresh fruit every day, cotton house coats and a complimentary bottle of wine. We received none of this. Additionally, we were in such a hurry to leave the ship, my husband left his suit in the closet. We would have expected the cabin staff to have turned it in. Over 3 weeks later, having tried for the first two just to get a response from MSC Cruises head office, we were finally advised that they had no suit in their lost and found. In case you think the suit issue is limited to our experience, another in our group whose cabin was at the other end of the ship with a different cabin crew also left their suit on board and they have run into the same issues. The line up at the accounting desk started the day before the ship returned to Fort Lauderdale (actually, the complaint line started way before that!). There were a lot of frustrated and angry people in that line. It was taking about and hour to an hour and a half to review receipts etcetera. Even so, we were glad we spent that time the night before. Some members of our group were doing it the morning of and the scene was even uglier.
The icing on the cake was the shuttle bus back to our parking. We were talking about the "adventure" and having a general relieved giggle at what we had just experienced. After about 10 minutes of this, the shuttle driver hollered out "Just got off the Orchestra did you?" We asked how he knew that and he said that he has done that drive for a long time, and for the past 3 months or so, every person he picks up at the end of a cruise who is complaining is coming from the Orchestra. He said he feels bad when he is taking people to the ship because it was too late for him to give the advice to choose another line...in his words..."any other line". I can honestly say, in over 25 years of travelling, sometimes in luxury sometimes not, I have never had a bad vacation. Until now. Luckily the company and some bright spots made up for this ships clear shortcomings. Less
Interior room without balcony = sensory deprivation chamber. The room was clean and a great example of space utilization.