We booked our cruise in January for a March 17, departure. We were able to secure very good rates and this is the main reason that we chose this cruise line. This was my third cruise, my son,Ted's second, and his girlfriend Karin's, first. After reading the on-line reviews of MSC cruises, I must say we were quite concerned, as they appeared to fall well below average in all areas of cruising. We decided to keep an open mind and judge for ourselves. And, if nothing else we were leaving the Pacific Northwest weather behind! How bad could it be?
We stayed in Ft. Lauderdale for two nights prior to our cruise. We stayed at The Hampton Inn and it was super. Check in time was 3:00 p.m., but we flew in at 6:00 a.m., so we went to the hotel to leave our luggage. The desk clerk rearranged his reservations so that we could get our room right then and there was no extra charge. They have a great, complimentary, breakfast buffet every morning from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., and we totally enjoyed that. Everything from ham and eggs, omelets, cereals, pastries, toast, and make your own waffles. Coffee, tea, juices, and milk. It was a fantastic way to start the day.
We had originally booked inside stateroom guarantee, with no specific cabin assigned. Imagine our joy at discovering that we had been bumped up to a cabin with a huge window and great view for myself, and Ted and Karin were bumped up to a balcony! What a great way to start. Embarkation was fantastically quick and easy. We arrived around 11:30 and were in our cabins by 12:30. We had the option to carry our luggage on, which was never offered on our other cruises and it was very reassuring to have everything with us. We had a lost luggage issue on our last cruise and that did scare us a bit. (We also were able to leave the ship first at disembarkation and carry our luggage off. This was great as we had an early flight. We were off the ship and on our way to the airport by 8:00 a.m.) Upon embarking, the lunch buffet was a few minutes behind, as the U.S. Health Department had boarded and was doing an inspection. The Captain made an announcement after they left to apologize for the delay and to thank the crew for passing with a 100% grade. The food was very good, hot, and plentiful. The selection was wide and varied. It continued to be completely wonderful throughout our trip.
Our cabins were immaculate, the service was great, everything was restocked and completely cleaned twice a day. I found the cabins and especially the bathrooms to be slightly larger than on other cruises. The flat screen TV's were great, and we had in room movies available and regular TV programming (limited) and this was a great plus! The prices for mini-bar items were slightly lower than most, as were the cocktail, beer and wine prices in the lounges and dining rooms.
As for the dining rooms, we found the selection to be fantastic, and looked forward to checking our choices daily. The food was wonderful, service was very good, and we didn't have any communication issues. Even if you do, a little patience works wonders. As Americans, we are used to having unlimited food available at all hours day or night, and that did take a little getting used to. We found ourselves adjusting quite nicely, and really enjoyed using complimentary room service(available 24 hrs. a day)for appetizers and snacks on the balcony. Snacks were also available in the duty free store and that was nice. There were self serve ice cream cones poolside all day, every day. Karin even took plates of snacks from the buffet, back to her cabin, as she has low blood sugar, so we had more than enough to eat!
What can you say about the Caribbean? It was everything and more than we could even imagine. The beaches were spectacular, the people very friendly, and the prices good. We sampled the local food in every port and it was fantastic. We did not book any excursions because we wanted to be free to explore on our own. Not only did we have more freedom this way, we actually saved money as taxi's and shuttles are very inexpensive, and all of the activities are available on shore once you leave the ship. All of the shopping and beaches are easily accessible and nearby.
A quick summary: Food, service, cleanliness, amenities, activities etc. all receive an A plus from all three of us. If there were any negatives, perhaps it is the announcements being done in five languages. Or, the fact that you have to open your cabin door to really hear them. This ship is designed with a center bulkhead, so you have to circumvent that at times to get where you are going. Not really a big deal if you remember ahead of time. Other than that, we can't really think of any thing else, so we would definitely cruise with MSC again.