I recently cruised on MSC's newest ship Fantasia and would like to say that while I feel every sympathy with those who experienced a less than successful cruise on her maiden voyage, I can happily report that no catastrophe was encountered on my cruise! What an amazing ship - a stunner and certainly the largest ship I have been on! Embarkation was easy. Using MSC Express check in DOES get one through check in very quickly but DOESN'T make the slightest difference to the amount of time spent in the 'waiting room'! (Certainly those who hadn't used this facility had to stand in queues but I couldn't say how long for) The waiting room has masses of seating, a table with complimentary soft drinks and water, and the usual 'drink package' tables where you could buy tokens for the various drink packages on offer. This is exactly how I have found it on my previous cruises with MSC. All in all it took just over two hours from arrival at the port to entering my cabin and when I arrived in my balcony cabin, my luggage was already there!
My cabin was spacious and beautifully fitted and I am now completely won over to the pleasure of having my own private balcony! Once again I had the pleasure of being escorted to my cabin by a white gloved gentleman who carried my hand baggage! A minor nicety I know but most appreciated on a ship of this size! The cabin was an excellent size and although I personally prefer the blond 'wood' trim on Armonia to the 'mahogany'in my cabin on this ship - it a matter of personal taste!
The majority of public areas on the ship have been designed with what I would call 'Italian retro panache'!!! Some were a trifle startling when first glimpsed, but further inspection showed incredible design flair, although the upholsters probably thought it was a nightmare! Masses of custom made sofas and chairs! I am in full agreement with Mulliner regarding the Tex Mex (El Sombrero) and the Wine Bar (La Cantina Toscana) in finding these areas lacking in cutting edge style. The design was more 60s 'oldy worldy' pub than anything else in my opinion! I never saw either of these venues well attended which rather surprised me since their offerings were very reasonably priced (An Ensalada Tijuana, classic Caesar salad was €2.90 or Barbecued spare ribs at €4.90 in the Tex Mex and a glass of wine with meaty nibbles €4 or a Bottle of wine with two plates of Italian Cheeses and cold meats at €26 (for two people) Perhaps the majority felt like I did and preferred more congenial comfortable surroundings. Il Transatlantico was my favourite bar not least because it was the closest to my cabin! I was assigned to a window table in the Cherchio D'Oro restaurant with very pleasant dining companions. I certainly saw no lack of space as described in previous reviews and in general the service was excellent, always delivered with a smile and impeccable manners. On occasion service was a little slow but never late enough to disrupt any of the evenings' planned activities (shows etc).The food was perfectly acceptable and at times exceptional! While at times it wasn't piping hot, it was NEVER cold. I would say that perhaps the menu descriptions in English leave a lot to be desired and MSC would be well advised to use better English descriptions in their menus. A thing I also missed on this cruise is that I never once saw the Dinner/Lunch Menus displayed in the custom built display cases outside the restaurants. I have experienced this on other MSC Cruises and find it odd that they were missing on Fantasia, particularly in view of the fact that there are other eating venues on board, including fee paying restaurants! A missed opportunity for MSC I think! After the first evening when I accepted an offered glass of iced water, it was there within seconds of my arrival in the dining room on every other evening! Breakfast was slightly different! The staff were too speedy in that the cooked items arrived before the fruit or cereals!!! A polite word was all that was needed to cure that problem! I only visited the cafeteria once at breakfast time but it was too much of a bun fight for my liking so I generally went to the dining room! (Admittedly I did attend fairly late on the first morning of the cruise and I think the majority of people on the ship had the same idea so it was very crowded!!!) I must say though that I saw no unruly behaviour among people queuing at the various service stations and the waiting/clearing staff gave very prompt service. I would also point out that I ordered juice and coffee from room service each morning (free). My biggest complaint about the food on this cruise is that I personally found the coffee very very poor indeed and the fruit juice a very watered down version of what I would term fruit juice , all obtained from room service, cafeteria and restaurant). I also disliked the fact that the only coffee available on breakfast room service menu was decaffeinated! The coffee available from bars was excellent and not too expensive at €2.10 for a latte. Quite often when I didn't want a full breakfast, I had a latte and a warm croissant (the croissant was free!) in the Fantasia lounge. I didn't try the tea but did see that the teabags available in the cafeteria were varied flavours and of good branded quality.
Computer time is expensive with the minimum amount of time being €25 for an hour. MSC should consider introducing a half hour time slot at half of that price. I also wish that MSC would remove the 'free' games (the usual Microsoft culprits, Free Cell, Hearts etc) so that people did not feel they had the right to sit and play these games for hours thus preventing people who had paid for computer time from using the computers! In this respect I was at fault for not reporting this problem to reception however I have since reported this problem to MSC. Children were not the only culprits here and when asked, the adults were the ones who refused to allow paying customers access!!! I hope they were suitably ashamed when the children willingly gave up their seats and waited patiently for paying customers to finish!
For those who continually complain in reviews about announcements (in five languages!) I counted precisely 7 announcements which were broadcast over the public PA system and just 2 broadcast in the cabin itself(the latter relating to safety drills). Thankfully I heard NO entreaties to attend art auctions or buy an inch of gold, nor announcements about cocktails of the day (all necessitating spending money!) Admittedly I did not attend other functions where this would be necessary (i.e. entertainment activity such as Bingo, Dance Lessons, Quizzes) but since these are all timed leisure activities, I really do not see the problem with hearing everything 5 times although it is very slightly irritating but CERTAINLY NOT a reason for complaint on a ship of non-British/English origin. On this cruise, I would hazard a guess that Germans were in the majority and I believe that changes radically during the months of July and August to Italian. Should you have a dislike of lots of children on board, July and August would be the months to avoid. There were some children on this cruise and I have to say I didn't see any really badly behaved 'loose' children. The whole mix was very interesting with Spanish (both mainland and Canary and Balearic islands), French, Turkish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Polish, Romanian, Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish, and these were just the people I spoke to!!! Very cosmopolitan!
I didn't attend any of the shows personally. I heard some good and mixed reports about the content, for example two people I met who had diametrically opposing views of exactly the same show! This does rather proves the point that shows, whether at sea or on land, are a matter of personal taste and it would be impossible to please everyone!!! This especially applies to ships with a multinational passengers list which necessitates the shows being visual and musical only because of the problem with languages. It always strikes me as odd that those who complain about the lack of comedians in the shows are generally also the people who complain most about announcements in five languages! The Theatre was designed for its purpose therefore sight lines are excellent.
I didn't book any excursions (which did appear to be quite expensive but definitely on a par with every other cruise line I have been on). The shuttle charge of €5/6 euro is definitely common to other cruise lines I have sailed on. On previous cruises with MSC, there were talks given on every port of call (given by the English speaking representative) It would seem that these are no longer available. Also previously, all of the excursions were outlined on a channel on TV but I was unable to find such a thing. Perhaps I just didn't look hard enough!
Like every other cruise ship, one is plagued by the ubiquitous photographer! At €19 the prints seemed very expensive to me! Last time I bought one on MSC they were £10 (then €15) so they have increased by 26% in 3 years in real terms but 70% including current exchange rate! Drinks were decidedly expensive at €6.90 for a G & T. Some of this is assuredly in the exchange rate but surely not all!!! The prices were known to me at the time of booking but taking what I paid for the whole cruise in to account, I cannot complain too much!!! A glass of wine at €3.50 or a half carafe at €8.80 didn't seem too expensive to me. In several local restaurants here in the UK, the cost of a glass is £4 and £10 for ½ carafes. Many people I met solved the problem to some extent by buying alcohol and mixers when in port and would accordingly have a pre dinner drink in their cabin and ditto for a nightcap! I was told (by other passengers) that bringing bottles on board was not a problem. At NO time did I see any passengers in the bars drinking anything other than drink purchased from waiters. One person also informed me that when they purchased DF drinks in the on board shop on the 4th day of the cruise, they were allowed to take it directly to their cabin! This is certainly not what is printed in the brochures/newsletters!
Disembarkation was smooth. Passengers were asked to go and sit in specific areas according to destination. Contrary to a remark I have read, all nationalities gathered in the theatre, not just British!. Coloured labels (which denote your flight) were provided for luggage and as is customary on cruises, luggage is left outside your cabin and is removed at some early hour. It is taken to a holding area where it is set out in bays according to label colour from where it is collected. You then take it to your coach in the car park where it is loaded prior to your journey to the airport.
Would I cruise with MSC again - CERTAINLY - perhaps on one of the smaller ships next time though!