I have sailed Holland America, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess. Now I can add MSC to my list. I can honestly say that I have never had a bad cruise or sailed on a ship that would cause me to say "Never again". MSC Orchestra is no different. I had a wonderful cruise and several unforgettable experiences on the Orchestra. We sailed with 34 other families and the ones I've spoken to all say they had a great time and have thanked me for booking them on this cruise. Some were first time cruisers, some had cruised a few times before and at least one person has sailed over 20 times.
We arrived at the port at 11:55am and were in the buffet by 12:30pm. LOVED the salad bar- the best I have seen on any cruise. There was a very good variety of food being offered in the buffet and none of us went hungry at any time. I know that the food has been a source of debate over these past several months. I will honestly say that we always enjoyed HOT food, plenty of variety, great service and availability whenever we were hungry. There was never a time that we wanted food that there wasn't something available to us. The gelato was wonderful and we were glad to pay $2.00 for a cup or a cone each day. We were told that it is made fresh on the ship daily. The hazelnut and coffee flavors were my personal favorites! One more comment about the food.....one of the couples traveling with us felt that the food was BETTER than what they have been served on Royal Caribbean. Except for the lobster- they said it wasn't "bad", just "different". I don't eat lobster, so I can only tell you what their impression was. My daughter ordered steak nearly every night and thought it was very good. Dinner service usually took around 90 minutes- give or take. My opinion of the food? Very good, plentiful and on par with any cruise I have ever been on.
We were able to enter our cabins at 1:00. We were in cabin 11165. Friends were in 11167. My daughter, her husband and their two children were in 11161 and 11163. The balcony doors were opened between all 4 cabins, giving us the ability to walk from cabin to cabin on the balconies. Gino was our cabin steward and did a great job of keeping our cabins clean and stocked with ice. We requested all 4 refrigerators to be emptied to make room for our soft drinks and water that we had brought onboard with us. This was done with no problems at all. There have been plenty of detailed reviews of the cabins, so I will simply echo what many others have said- the cabins are a good size (ours was a Superior Balcony cabin) with plenty of drawers, closet space and under- the-bed storage for the suitcases. Since our 4 cabins were connecting cabins, we had a chair and a small table in place of a sofa and table in our cabin. That was fine, since the times we were in our cabin we mostly spent on our balconies.
Luggage was delivered to our cabin later in the afternoon- I guess around 3:00 or so. One of our families found that their cabin smelled of cigarette smoke (why some people insist on smoking in their cabin is beyond me- even though there is a sign in the cabins stating that MSC strongly discourages smoking in the cabins). Since their children both have asthma- they requested a change of rooms. The ship was completely sold out, however they were told that there were a couple of "no-shows" and that if the families did not show in Key West MSC would be able to move them to a different cabin the next day. In the meantime, MSC did their best to clean the cabin of the smoky odor- a nearly impossible task. When Sunday came and the families didn't board in Key West, our friends were moved from their inside cabin to a balcony cabin at no additional charge.
Our Roll Call group was honored to be able to have a meeting with Mr. Rick Sasso, the President of MSC/USA division. He was gracious and available to each of us and spent time with any and all who approached him. I will say that I am very impressed with his accessibility and his willingness to spend time with the passengers of his ships. Thank you, Mr. Sasso for making time for each of us!! I know that we all appreciated your willingness to meet with our Roll Call group.
The ports we visited were Key West, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Cayo Levantado. We (my husband and I) waited no more than 5 - 10 minutes to disembark at any of the ports. I did hear that there were some problems with the tendering service at Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We were told in the morning that our time there was going to be shortened due to an approaching weather system. That may have accounted for passengers rushing to get off the ship to have more time in port, thereby causing crowds at the disembarkation areas. I heard from another CC member that a "rude passenger" attempted to start a small riot by trying to induce everyone to begin a rather childish chant. The husband if the CC member put a polite but immediate stop to the rude passenger's attempt. BRAVO to the CC member's husband! Being very early risers, we were always eating breakfast by 7:00 and ready to get off the ship as soon as we were cleared to do so. The late risers seemed to be the ones that had trouble getting off from time to time. That included my daughter and her family in Georgetown! They waited in a rather long line to tender over to Georgetown. But again, I feel that the lines were long due to the shortened amount of time we were going to have on the island.
Cayo Levantado is truly a beautiful island. Again, we were off the ship by 7:30 - 7:45 and found chairs on the beach. Those that chose to sleep in a bit and get off later did have trouble finding chairs, but they didn't seem bothered by that at all. They simply laid their ship-provided towels down and sat on those. The kids all had a great time playing in the calm water. I will mention here that it would have been nice to have been able to go over to Samana in the Dominican Republic without having to book an excursion to do so, but the tenders only went to Cayo and not to Samana, so sadly that is not an option at this time. We did not purchase food on the island and opted instead to return to the ship for lunch. Again- the buffet was plentiful with lots of variety and choices.
MSC is a different type of cruise line and they do not apologize for that difference. They embrace it, as should anyone looking for something a little out of the ordinary and a bit more laid back. They DO NOT have all the announcements that the other lines do all day long. They DO NOT chase you around the ship hawking their drink of the day. They DO NOT continually invite you to Bingo Games, Art Auctions, Belly Flop Contests, etc. They DO have good food and plenty of it. They DO keep the ship spotless. They DO take care of your every need. They DO have wonderful evening shows. They DO care about their passengers comfort and safety. Those that like to participate in ship-board games have the opportunity to do so with the Excellent Entertainment team. Those that like to relax and avoid those things can do so in many quiet areas around the ship.
I can't personally speak about the children's programs since I do not have young children, so I will leave that for those that utilized the program to review the Juniors, mini and teen clubs. I was traveling with my daughter, son-in-law and two young grandchildren, but I did not have personal contact with the children's counselors. However, I know of several CC members that do have opinions about the children's programs and I feel certain they will be sharing their thoughts here soon.
I, for one, am very glad that I booked this cruise and invited friends, family and clients to come along. I enjoyed my experience on the MSC Orchestra immensely, as did my group. Were there any "issues"? A couple- as there are on every ship I have ever sailed- but nothing earth shattering, nothing that wasn't resolved satisfactorily or nothing to cause me to bash what I feel is a wonderful cruise line and one that I will highly recommend to friends, family and clients in the future.