On April 4, 2009, me and my family, a total of 14 people, boarded the MSC Orchestra not knowing what we were going to experience since it was our first time booking with MSC. We head heard from other sources that it was a newer ship and was supposed to be nice-looking as well. Well those 2 comments were correct, but wait until you here our story.
EMBARKATION DAY: We found getting to the ship terminal station was a breeze and dropping of our luggage was easier than I thought. One negative comment was that we had to share parking spaces with a Princess cruise, which was fine since we found a spot not to far away. We made it through showing our passports and travel documents and went to get our id cards, which is used as a room key and charge card. We gave our credit card information, took our pictures, and received our cards. Note: These are VERY IMPORTANT. Try not to lose them. Go up the elevator one level and get your minors life jackets and wristbands. The line moved steadily, and we checked off 4 life jackets and wristbands. From there you board the ship and find yourself into the beautiful lobby. This process was VERY simple and there was absolutely no line watsoever. From there we went to our cabins, since it was around 2 o'clock and drooped off our carry-on bags and headed for the pool deck. Had some gelato, which was $1.50 for a sugar cone, $2 for small cup, and $2.50 for large cup. We went to the buffet on that same deck, which was packed, and found ourselves 2 empty booths and a table right in the entrance. Grabbed some pizza and drinks, and enjoyed. There were other options here as well, like salad, chicken fingers, burgers, hot dogs, fries, and some other dishes and fruits.
DINING: There are 2 things that everyone can agree on. One - the waitstaff at Villa Borghese on Deck 5, (we had Parka and Giri from Indonesia as our main waiters, divided among the 14 of us) was very helpful and caring. Two - most of the food was EXTREMELY DISGUSTING!! I understand that it's not supposed to be the best food in the whole world, but this food was very very very very very very very bad. It was disappointing, especially since it was an Italian cruise line. The pasta was cold and tasted liked it was not fully cooked. The soup tasted like tap water, and the chocolate gelato there was very untasting, I guess is how you would describe it. If you want something good, especially on of the formal nights, get the spinach and cheese crepes. They were probably the best item on the menu for dinner. The bread, of course, was good as well as the vanilla gelato. There was one pasta that was a special one night and I can't think of the name, but it did not have any sauce and had some spices. Very good indeed (about the pasta with spices). Bar waiters and waitresses were usually available whenever you needed them. We would spilt up occasionally for breakfast and lunch onboard and days at sea. Breakfast was good as well as lunch. The cheeseburgers are good.
BARS: At 10 o'clock all of them claimed to be "closed". The bar attendants would say things like "The Savannah Bar is open now." when you were at the neighboring Amber Bar, and the Savannah Bar would say the same thing vice-versa. All of this would get annoying at times, especially if you just wanted a bottle of water. There was one man at La Cantinella bar that was always helpful, so stay get your drinks there when it's past 10 o'clock.
CABINS: Tiny room. Open bathroom door and hit cabinets in front of you and front door. Shower very small, very difficult if you have to bathe young children like some of my family members did. Limited storage for luggage. Lots of drawers. The safe doesn't work properly. Hangers provided. Sheets not changed/cleaned. Bed comfort is ok. Not enough space for max. capacity - 4 adults - to walk in. Ladders for bunk beds have limited space to crawl up. My cousin found a movie when we first opened out bunk beds and another surprise, a dirty pair of wet underwear!!! We informed the cabin steward and he quickly removed it from our hands and apologized, but I would expect more from that terror! The lights or the tv don't turn on unless you leave a room key in the light holder next to the door. We were not informed of this and there are no signs indicating to do so. We saw a housekeeping maid putting her card in and flipping the lights, and that's how we got power the 2nd day.
Positive remarks: It was quiet a lot of the times, rooms were cleaned twice daily, and the room was close to the elevators. Our room always had fresh towels.
PORTS: The ports were fun and exotic. At Key West we got there an hour earlier, leaving an hour earlier. We were not informed that we needed id's such as passport and drivers license on top of our room key to get back on the ship since we were docked at the Navy base, so some members had to get BACK ON THE SHIP AFTER THEY WAITED IN LINE TO LEAVE THE SHIP!! This caused chaos as we had a wedding to attend to (that was the point of the 14 member family vacation, as well as to enjoy ourselves). It was nice there, and we were informed when to get the last trolley to get back on the ship by the trolley driver. In Mexico we docked, Grand Cayman Islands we had to use a tender boat as well as the Dominican Republic. More info on ports below.
POOLS: Were usually crowded, espcecially on the at sea days. We found the pool next to the buffet to be more crowded than the other, and having a higher capacity of kids. The pool in front of the stage with the kiddie pool was a bit less crowded. The water was salt water from the ocean which was good and bad. Good because the salt water is good for you and bad because most people don't know this and jump in or go under water with there eyes open and end up with red eyes. The pool was 6 foot deep all around and there was one ladder if any. Smaller than Royal or Carnival. The hot tubs were not always crowded, and we found these to be relaxing, even though 4 adults were squished in there. There is a kiddie pool about ankle deep between the 2 hot tubs, having glass surrounding it by the bar area. They would close the pools at 6pm no matter what. They say they clean them at night but dont do that till the break of dawn. They just leave the nets over the pool and let the water stay there till the next day at 4am. They had 2 tv's always playing commercials. At night there would be chairs set up to watch either movies or sports (the Final Four was going on during our cruise). You can find this listings in the daily events booklet.
SERVICE: This is the category that MSC needs the most improvement on, well at least the Orchestra. It was very difficult to communicate with employees on the ship. A lady at the front desk didn't understand what we wanted when all we were asking for was a baby crib. Service was a disgrace. The room steward never introduced himself to us, the employees on the ship were always angry and didn't bother to have a smile (except waitstaff, maids, and photoshop employees). One thing that made people angry was that the photoshop never informed anybody that they were having a sale of 15 pictures for $90 plus a cd of the ship until the LAST DAY!! Luckily for my family me and my cousin saved pictures in our families folder. This area really needs to improve.
Thanks to Parka and Giri at Villa Borghese and Lillian and Amy at the Photoshop for their great service. The marachi band and the orchestra with the women were also very good (in the lobby).
ENTERTAINMENT: Only shows worth seeing are the circus show, magic show, and the passsenger talent show. The pool side entertainment was dull and unexciting.
MISC: The announcments on the ship took about 15 mins because they repeated it in 5 languages. English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German or Dutch.
Cayo Levantado, Samana, Dominican Republic was the best. Had to to tender there but it was fine. The beach was the best and the water was perfect and not to salty. The street shops had some good stuff, but bargain your prices with them. Ate at an outdoor buffett that was not crowded right by the bar. The food was good and yummy. You can take a picture with a pirate and parrots and get a copy for $5 or 3 for $10 or $12. Can't remember. Had the best time here.
Overall Grade: D-