The Fantasia is one of the new ships in the MSC line. We were told it is currently the largest ship sailing the Mediterranean. the public areas of the ship are extremely attractive and inviting, with great attention to detail. Every asspect of the ship appeared to be well maintained. the cabin was nicely done, but not much different from other ships. Cabins could use a little more storage space. Though ships seem to get larger, the shower stalls remain the size of an upright coffin.
We boarded and disembarked at Barcelona without any problems, The circular route of the western Mediterranean made for an interesting situation. At every port, except Tunis, passengers were embarking or disembarking. the fact that you could begin your cruise in Spain, France, or Italy, seemed to make for continual upheaval. Every day the staff had to unload luggage and bring new luggage onboard. The staff had to treat each day as the first day of the cruise. Apparently the ship was repeating this same route for weeks at a time.
As the ship is Italian, that is the primary language. For the English-speaking passengers who boarded at Barcelona, a brief life-jacket presentation was done in one of the lounges, followed by a short introduction to the optional excursions. Two ports later, at Genoa, we finally had a "mandatory" lifeboat drill for the entire ship. It amounted to exactly what we did two days prior. As for "mandatory", there seemed to be no checks as to whether or not passengers attended.
Apparently certain cabins are designated as English-speaking. The daily newsletters deliver to our room were in English. Few announcements are made, so you must be certain to read the newsletter. As we booked our excursions in advance, our tickets were delivered to our cabin, nightly. Europeans typically do not use wash cloths, but once it was determined we were Americans, wash cloths were provided daily. Though there was an ice bucket in the room, we never had ice, even though we had requested it at one time. That could be due to a policy of advising Americans and Canadians to use bottled water.
As for the problems we encountered, the major one appeared to be the overall attitude of the crew. At best, we found them to be indifferent to barely cordial. A maitre 'd and a customer service rep were particularly gruff. Our best experience with our waiter at table 902 in the gold dining room. Perhaps some of this is a result of the continual turn-around in passengers. It is understandable that the constant coming and going could be frustrating to the staff.
The dining experience was, shall we say, "different", from nay other cruise lines. The cafeteria/buffet was only open for breakfast and lunch. Your choice at dinner was the dining room, to which you were assigned, or, one of the them restaurants, where you must shell out additional money. The beverages at breakfast were water, coffee, tea, or watered-down juices. At lunch, the ONLY provided beverage was WATER, from the machine. There are two bars in the buffet dining room. If you want coffee, tea, iced tea, etc. during lunch you MUST PURCHASE them. At dinner, American and Canadian passengers were provided with coupons to get one two-liter bottle of water, per cabin. All of the Americans at our table had coupons, though not all had received them the first night. The Lebanese couple had to pay for their water each night. You can purchase soda or alcohol, but coffee is NOT available at dinner. If you want coffee, you would need to purchase it at one of the coffee bars after dinner. It is interesting to note that if Americans and Canadians are given the coupons for the bottled water at dinner, then there are no beverages available to them at lunch, if they should not be drinking the machine water. As for the overall food, it was satisfactory. The breakfast selections were exactly the same each day. the lunch menu varied, plus pizza, burgers, and hot dogs were available each day. Dessert choices were always fruit, jello, or a choice of two pastries. It seemed as though the same cake was used several days, with simply different frosting on top. If you wanted ice cream, your only chance was to get a scoop for dessert at dinner, otherwise it had to be purchased. The big problem at lunch was the number of people. It was often difficult to locate a seat, silverware, or drinking glass. Overall, people seemed to be rude. they pushed in line for their food, then many wasted an enormous amount. The dinner menu had a sufficient number of selections and was nicely presented. The problem was that it took almost two hours to compete the meal, especially if you had were assigned to a large table and people at your table were ordering a number of items. You had to sit and wait through each course.
As for the entertainment, the shows were short (about 25-30 minutes), unless you count the 15 minutes prior to each show when Enzo, the cruise director, enjoyed hearing himself talk. He spoke mainly in Italian, though he did throw in a little of some of the other languages. The English was definitely the condensed version of what he had said in Italian. Of course, foreign speaking travelers on an English-speaking ship, probably feel the same. The majority of the passengers on this ship were European. The production shows had different themes each night, but for the most part, were variety shows. There were some excellent acrobatic acts. It wasn't until we went to the "Son Amar" dinner show on Palma de Mallorca that we realized the Fantasia shows were really a rip-off of the large Palma show, including a Michael Jackson tribute. We cannot speak for any of the lounge acts, as we did not spend time in the bars.
As many other reviews have indicated, some Americans would not enjoy traveling on an MSC ship. You do feel as though you have been "nickel and dimed" with the mealtime beverages. The gift shops are very pricey. In Marseilles, if you wanted to travel from the port to town, MSC charged adults 15 Euros for a round-trip on a shuttle bus. There is more smoking on European ships than what is permitted on other lines. Though instructions were given not to smoke in the cabins or on the balconies, it did happen. We had problems with cigarette butts showing up on our balcony, as did the people next to us. They were being dropped from cabins above. One time an empty cigarette package appeared. Obviously, there is a lack of concern, by passengers, about polluting the world's waters.
As previously mentioned, the ship is quite lovely, but MSC does need to take lessons from other cruise lines as to how to better provide a more comfortable trip for their passengers.