My goal for this review is to help other (Americans) not make the same mistakes we did by choosing to sail with MSC.
We just returned from the Christmas sailing with MSC, and if it weren't for the cleanliness and newness of the ship and the nice ports of call the cruise would have been a complete loss.
I was wary of booking with them but wanted to try a new line despite the reviews. I can say that every single negative review is deserved and accurate, and unlike a recent reviewer posted, is not due to being a "fat, rude American". The only downsize to being American on this ship is that we have higher standards for customer service, quality of food, and children's programs than some of our foreign neighbors. With that being said, MSC does not "get" the value of good service = repeat customers like every other cruise line we have sailed.
Let's start off with Embarkation; this went smooth and equal to other lines. We found the escort to our rooms a bit much, perhaps a way for extra tips? Probably a nice touch for first time cruises though that are not familiar with the general outlines of ships.
We had our first ever balcony room and was not disappointed. I could not see any difference from a standard balcony to a deluxe balcony however; they looked the same. The bed was made into a nice king- nice linens.There was a twin+ fold out couch by the balcony door for our 5 year old daughter. The A/C worked better than any cabin we have ever had. A nice touch were the terry robes!! The Bathroom was clean and standard size if not slightly larger than ones we had before. No toiletries are provided- They have a shampoo/soap dispenser in the shower stall. (Ours had the i.d. label missing so the first time I used body wash in my hair--no biggie) The safe never worked in our room. Their was ample storage for clothes for our family of three that packed light. We did find an unopened yogurt container under our bed and some left behind earrings when storing our cases under for the week. I thought the cabin stewards should check under for the next guests sake. Their is a stocked mini bar that we had emptied for our own use as well as bottled water that is the usual mark up$$ We never really got used to having a room key placed in a special slot while in the room (keeping the lights on and alerting the stewards that someone is occupying the suite)
Dining. This is where the bad service set the tone for the rest of the cruise. Our family, along with another we went with had confirmed 1st seating. Traveling with young kids would make 2nd seating impossible. This confirmed request, also stated on our documents was not honored and we were placed in 2nd seating the first night. My husband was told to talk with the Mait'rde upon boarding but by the time he made it to the dining area he was too busy helping many other unhappy cruisers and made an appointment to go back and fix later that night. On the second night we were told that we had it corrected to 1st seating but it was on the 13th FL in the buffet restaurant. Up we went, with 15 other tables (on a formal night no less)to be seated with horrible service, no kids menus, no photographer available, cold food, no ambiance, etc etc. I asked the head waiter why we weren't down on the 6th FL at our restaurant "Le Fontane" and he said very abruptly, "This is the same thing!" I asked where the photographer was? Why it took 30 minutes to get anyone to greet our table and offer bread, water etc? He just ignored me. I left our table and walked down to La Fontane and talked to the Asst. Mait'rde who admitted that they made an "emergency" run over restaurant to accommodate the mistakes with seating assignments! I told him our dismal experience thus far and that I just want a table for 6 in the main restaurant like everyone else got. I also told him we booked the trip 6 months ago when 1st seating was available so it was their mistake. At the same time 4 other tables were going over the same issue- I have never seen or experienced anything like this, ever- By the third night we were in the 1st seating, crappy location and service to mostly match.
Food. One word, bad. Not one time at any meal was water offered or tea, or coffee or any other drinks. Refills were rare and needed multiple requests. The food was overcooked, like other reviews Lobster night was SO bad there are no words. Poor things died for nothing as it was leather dry tough and barely edible. The pizza was odd for an Italian line. My daughter liked the macaroni and cheese off the kids menu and the spaghetti. I am mostly vegetarian and found that only one option existed every night plus a Boca patty plain offered. Lame. All side veggies like broccoli and such were killed several hours before so they barely resembled what food group they belonged to. I mostly ate bread which was awesome and a cheese platter and had the salmon 4 nights in a row. My husband liked the turkey dinner best at the end. Desert made me rethink I should be a pastry chef as their creations were flavorless and stale. Surprisingly breakfast was good; the eggs cooked to order with nice European breads to pick from.
Entertainment was fine, not exceptional. We liked the shows (30 min long)and enjoyed the trio band from Paraguay outside reception every night! The children's program was absolutely awful compared to Carnival ( I will not even try to compare to Disney as that is not fair). The counselors do not even try to be fun and creative. The room is tiny and boring. The other family that traveled with us sat in on the first activity with their 5 year old and said it was so stupid and lame the kids were dying to get out of there. When we picked our daughter up the first time she begged to never go back (after an hour) right in front of the counselors (who could care less). The presence of a cruise director was missing from this boat and the overall feeling was odd-
General Customer Service. Forget it, it won't be there even when it is their fault. 1) Dining- we were treated like how dare we complain and ask for what was scheduled/promised. 2) Shipboard credit- this was missing from our account and they never corrected even though it was stated on our tickets from MSC. The other family got theirs just fine. We went to Accounting every damn day and the same story "you can figure it out with the travel agency after your cruise" I asked, what was the point of shipboard credit once off the cruise??????? 3) On the last night we went to the Internet cafe to print boarding passes for our flight out and after 18 minutes (slow slow service) their printer was broken. We went down to Reception to report the trouble with 4 other passengers and ask for our refund, the rude Italian lady behind the desk said it was up to MSC whether or not they would charge us and it would be decided the next morning after we debarked. Sure enough it showed up on our bill. No surprise.
Ports Of Call. 4 stops, odd times and shorter than normal durations made excursions challenging.
Summary. For us, trying a new line despite horrid reviews seemed fair because of the kids sailing free deal. We learned our lesson and will never sail MSC again. Normally I would move on and chalk it up to a bad cruise, but their rude demeanor and lack of finding ONE happy American passenger during and after the cruise makes me want to go on a "Stay Away From MSC Crusade". I do appreciate their environmental efforts of European minimalism along with a beautiful ship but all the negatives attached are just not worth it. It really feels like they hate Americans and do not want our business.