Loved the ship, staff, destination and of course the food!!
My husband and I have been on about 15+ cruises with various cruise lines. We have gone with many couples, by ourselves and with family. Our cruise on the MSC Orchestra was with another couple which are very good friends. I always read reviews before traveling and feel very strong that if they help me....then maybe I can return the favor. We are in our mid-50's, physically fit and enjoy traveling. We like the senior discounts but hate being called senior citizens just quite yet. We all have children who are grown now and a couple grandkids. I mention this for I have found that couples with children tend to appreciate more when they themselves have a chance to be waited on, meals cooked and rooms straighten twice a day. Those that have never had the chance to be second to a child tend to demand more from the staff and complain more.....just my observation after taking many cruises and listening to those that complain about anything and everything.
Let me first say that I read the reviews on the MSC Orchestra and had some reservation on some of the comments before taking this cruise. But then again, many said very positive things about this ship so I was anxious to see what it was really like and how we would like it. Having taken 15+ cruises over the years, I have found that many people go on cruises and complain from when their feet hit the deck to when they leave the ship so I always take that into account when I read reviews. And now my review:
We arrived about 11:30 handed our bags over and got in line with our friends for our 1st day of cruising. The lines went pretty quickly (15 minutes) and we were up on the ship. We first headed to our rooms to check the location and condition. What we found was a spick and span room, no smoke smell, a little smaller than some ships I have been on, nice balcony but a tad smaller as well, bath about standard, closet space about standard. There was a refrigerator, blow dryer, desk area, small table and chair. The colors were tans and blues and very eye appealing.
Off to the buffet or as I refer to it "the feeding frenzy". Once again everything was very clean with a nice selection of food items from fresh fruit, salad bar, roast beef, hot sides, dessert, soup, veggies, breads, hot fresh pizza. If there isn't something you can find to eat in this array of items then you are a very picky eater or not hungry. I made myself a large salad added a piece of fresh hot pizza and I was set. I found everything to be cook correctly and very tasty. The other couple that came with us also found the food to be good for a buffet. Throughout the cruise we visited the buffet just a few times for breakfast or snack and felt it very good. The buffet staff was superb. My husband did enjoy the pizza throughout the cruise!!
Off to the spa and gym area to check it out. The spa area was very clean and oh does it smell good!! The gym was used by my husband during our cruise and he said it was very adequate. They have a very nice area available for free that has two dry hot saunas and two large moist saunas with nice changing facilities. Both couples used this area and enjoyed it very much. Later on in the cruise the girls both had a hot stone massage which was wonderful and got a special of $99 for an hour!! I don't normally get massages at home so they are a treat on a cruise. Worth every penny!
We snuck down to the dining room to check our table out. We were in the Ibisquis Dining room which is one of two formal dining rooms and they are identical. Our table was for 4 (perfect) and we had ocean view windows. The dining room is decorated with a formal dEcor and is very eye appealing. Seats were comfortable and the area and table never seemed crowded. Our waiter, assistant and head waiter were wonderful. They were always there to greet with a smile and gave us very efficient fast friendly service. There has been some negative discussion of the food in the dining room on the past reviews. I am not sure where these people that write negative reviews eat out, but I am guessing that since they are not going on one of the top expensive cruise lines, they eat at normal for the most part inexpensive average restaurants like most average Americans. With that being said - the food was great and better than most moderately to upper priced restaurants!! There are almost always 3 choices for appetizers, soup, salad, and about 7 choices for the main course and 4 choices for dessert. Now if you can't find something you like with those choices - stay home!! This is not to mention the items always on the menu like steak, chicken, pasta, Caesar salad and ice cream. I love the appetizers! My husband's favorite is chilled fruit soups and this ship did not disappoint!! He said he had the best soups and such a variety from any ship we have been on in the past. We also had some of the best salads we had had on a cruise ship. Some of my favorite main dishes were - rack of lamb, prime rib, veal dishes, penne pasta, mahi mahi. We did try the lobster which hasn't gotten great reviews but we thought it very good. Now we are from Florida so I am sure Maine Lobster can't compare. We ate every meal for dinner in the dining room and most lunches and about half breakfast. Desserts were fabulous with my favorite being panna cotta. Many times at dinner we just ask for one of each and then our table of 4 friends would put in the middle and share. This way we tried everything and never once left hungry!! I LOVE the portions that they give you on this ship. Just enough and not overwhelming and you never leave hungry. I say if you want to not see the edges of your plate....go to the buffet and pile high and often!! At lunch and breakfast you are sat with many people you don't know....my rule at the table I sat at is "this is a no complaining table". The last thing I want to do is sit down to a nice meal and have someone complaining about the ship, food, waiters, spouse, kids, or anything really. Save those times for your husband in private or close friends that are use to you complaining and don't mind the constant whining. Public complaining is in poor taste and rude to those around you!!
On a side note: What happens to people as they age.......their world many times turns inward and they concentrate so much on themselves and their wants and demands they forget about those around them. They forget about the people that work to make their life and trip enjoyable, they are so stuck on their wants that they forget to appreciate those around them; they are so busy complaining that they miss the small things in life that make you smile, they concentrate so much on the negative that they can't see the positive......I don't want to be one of them!!!! Unfortunately since cruises are made up of many senior citizens......you find many of the ME people on board. I am 58 and my goal is NOT to be one of them!! Life is way too short to not smell the roses.... So thank your waiter, thank you room staff, thank those that are trying to make your stay with them nice. Will they be perfect....probably not but then again.....life is not perfect and neither are you. You have a choice - you can live with a smile or frown.........people can enjoy being around you or avoid you at all cost. Is your choice to leave this world with a smile or leave it miserable? That is an easy one for me! I want my grandchildren to remember me smiling and with a kind word to say about life and people when I am gone. How will yours remember you?? Our actions speak our life!
Now on with the review but I comment about people on board for they are a part of the overall ship review. It will help put into perspective your outlook and others outlook of the ship and staff. Don't be sucked into that dark unhappy hole!! Our room.....we had room 9029 which is a balcony. We loved our room and our room steward was great along with his assistant. How do they know just when to clean it and when you are gone?? It always amazes me and is for sure a talent. The room was a little smaller than some ships but large enough for the two of us. I don't think I would want anymore than two in the room though. We loved our balcony and so did our friends. We were right next to each other so the room steward opened up the partition so we could enjoy each other's company. The views.....I miss them already!! There is more than adequate storage for the two of us. The room also has a small refrigerator. We took the items out of the frig so we could put things we brought in.( By the way...they don't give you the 3rd degree or make you feel like a criminal when entering the ship with liquids like Norwegian did the last cruise we took.) There is a built in blow dryer by the desk which makes it convenient. The lights are tricky. You need to put your room key in the slot to keep them on for an extended period of time. I guess this way energy is not wasted when you are gone. I would say that I have had more comfortable beds before so if they were to improve.....I would say make a softer bed or mattress and pillow. Our room steward kept our room clean and our ice chest full.....what more can I ask for?? He was there when we needed him and gone when we didn't!!
The shows........I loved those that we attended. Most cruises have the Vegas style shows but MSC was upscale from that!! They had a small version of Cirques Oley which we enjoyed. The "glow in the dark outfits" was really spectacular along with the aerobatics. But my favorite was the concerts. We attended two of these and loved every minute. The pianist got standing ovations for both performances and the classical music he played along with his history of the musicians were great. The string ensemble was spectacular as well. This group of women also played in the center of the ship many nights!! The four of us are not smokers so we stayed far away from the casino and any lounges that allowed smoke. But our days were pretty full so after dinner we played cards or headed back to the room if we didn't attend a show.
There is a jogging track on 7 that we tried to walk daily. Also the stairs seems to be abandon by most so getting up and down floors for the 4 of us was a breeze. We avoid the elevators and choose to get exercise on the stairs working off all those great meals.
The extra eats and drinks....We got the wine package online for 7 days. Very reasonable and we had a bottle each night. I did mention to the head waiter that I was hoping for some Italian choices with our wine package since it was an Italian cruise liner but there were just California wines which we found some we liked. We drink red and our friends enjoy white so 14 bottles was more than sufficient!! Drink specials were $5.50 each day and they actually put high quality liquor in the drinks and are very tasty. They also had some tasty coffee drink specials too. I had one of the best Cosmo's on the ship that I have ever ordered anywhere!! Gelatos are very tasty and one of my husbands favorite. They cost $2.00 at the Gelato bar but are well worth it!! Normally we go to the additional pay restaurants when on a cruise but my husband is not a Chinese dinner fan so we passed it this time. But to be honest, the food in the dining room was so tasty we didn't feel we missed out at all!!
Normally unless there is an excursion that we can't resist we go on our own when visiting an island. We LOVE Bermuda and have been there 4 times before so no tour needed. We always rent those scooters they tell you to stay away from, and have a great time riding the island from one end to the other. This trip was unique for it left out of Ft. Lauderdale to Bermuda which is very rare. Living in Florida we booked this quickly for most of the time you have to go the NE (Boston, NYC) to cruise to Bermuda. The weather was fabulous when we were there - not to hot....not to cold. Perfect for scootering!! We visited the beaches, shops, and historic sites and loved every minute of it. Our friends had never been to Bermuda and said they would love to go back. The trip there and back was smooth sailing. You arrive when taking a big ship to the Dockyard versus Hamilton which is fine with us for scooters can be rented throughout the island. This is a Very inexpensive way to sightsee for they cost $50 a day.....but I always get the extra cruise insurance "just incase" of a mishap. I don't advise renting scooters in the Caribbean islands though for they drive crazy there and you do put your life in their hands. Tried it but will not do it again
We did stop in Nassau for a day. We played golf on our own at Cable Beach Golf Course which is $130 a person. Cab fare there is $20 and about 25 minutes away. I am not a fan of Nassau so golf was perfect for us for the day was beautiful!! The course there is average but who could ask for better weather and more fun with friends!! We did bring a travel bag of clubs and chose to play in Nassau instead of Bermuda just because we had so many other things to do in Bermuda. But the courses are great in Bermuda too!! If we would have had an extra day in Bermuda we would have played both places.
Now a few miscellaneous items......The sun deck never seemed crowded to me on the MSC but we always look for an out of the way spot to catch some rays. Front upper is normally my favorite. I loved the deck lounge chairs. They were very comfortable and have a flip top flap that you can put over your face which my husband liked. We were NEVER bothered by "do you want a drink". I hate to be approached continually about drinks so this was perfect. They have a big screen TV outside and night viewing of shows. The pools and spa's were emptied and cleaned nightly which may shorten the swimming time but I would much prefer cleanliness!! The crew was constantly cleaning, polishing, painting and vacuuming this ship. It was spotless in everyway!!! I loved the layout and our room location. The ship was very easy to navigate. I never felt crowded and could always find a spot to enjoy the view if not on our balcony. They do all announcements in many languages - this is an Italian ship that sails mostly ports overseas where people speak many languages. If this bothers you - pick one of the other more American ships like Carnival or the familiar ones you see all the time. I found it fascinating that they could sound so fluent in so many languages. We actually arrived early to all our ports which was great. We were fortunate to have wonderful weather all 7 days. So many times you hear people give reviews of ships based on the bad weather they have and the rocky ride they endured.....reality check - bad weather equals larger waves and usually a rocky ride. The ship and crew have absolutely nothing to do with your weather!! I loved the location of our room but before I book any cruise I check out the location in relationship to other space on the ship. I will gladly pay a little extra to get the room number I want instead of selecting a category and they pick my room. Everyone normally has that same option. Room temp was perfect....safe didn't work but I try not to bring expensive jewelry when I travel. If it was that important I would have called and had it fixed. Smoking is not allowed on the balconies and discouraged in the rooms - Yeah!!!! Announcements seem to be a lot less frequent on this ship so read and keep your daily newsletter. I have a smart phone with Verizon and called and changed my service so that I could get emails when in Bermuda. Only cost me $20 more a month and they prorate it.....great deal in my book!! Something to check on if you are traveling overseas and have Verizon.....just a tip!
Would I travel again with MSC cruises.....YOU BET!! From the crew, view, ship, food, entertainment and destination I loved it all!! Feel free to email me with questions or comments at Shopinful2@yahoo.com.