We booked an 11 day cruise with the MSC Splendida due to the itinary and price. Having cruised several US based cruise lines before, I had an idea of how the experience can vary based on cruise line as well as ship to ship. We were immediately impressed by the Splendida. She is a beautiful ship. The decor was beautiful throughout, and our balcony room was fairly spacious with plenty of storage. The bathroom was pretty standard of that I have had on every ship I've been on. The service in the room was also pretty standard. We were way in the back of the boat. I mean, very back. This ship is supposed to be new...and when we backed up we nearly vibrated out of bed. We talked to people who were close to the front of the ship and they said even they felt it. You don't need a wake up call. When the ship backs into port it will wake you. I generally like being near the very front of back of the ship as there is less hallway noise (true on this ship as well). I have never felt a ship shake like this one does.
Check-in...what a freakin' nightmare. Or could have been anyway. We arrived so early we weren't even sure we would be able to check in yet. The line was so long it was literally out the door. There were 2 lines. One for yacht club members and people who had pre registered and had express passes and another for everyone else. Thank god I had pre registered. We waited about 15 minutes, got our on board payment squared away and received our roomcards. Then we took a walk through the building where processing was done. We hit another line, very poorly organized, with overhead announcements we could barely hear. And couldn't understand. We waited about an hour through this line. They took our US passports and let us board the ship.
The food is my biggest gripe of all. The buffet was TERRIBLE both at lunch and breakfast. Everything that should be hot was served cold (hence the title of my review). The selection was pretty limited, the lunch buffet closed way too early, too. Forget eating upon returning from an excursion. There was no dinner buffet at all. You either eat in the main dining room, or you pay to eat in another restaurant. There is no option. Early dining was at 6, and late dining at 8:30. We requested early dining and were put in late dining. Thank goodness they were able to change it once on board. We dined with another English speaking couple from England (it seemed they tried to seat people of the same language together). Food in the main dining room was OK. Never any steak or lobster, as we usually see at least once on an american cruise line. Our dinner tablemates said this was the best food they had ever had on an MSC cruise...and they have been on many. If this was the best I can not imagine how horrible the other ships' food is. The service was fair; our waiter's english wasn't great. There was no bar service in the main dining rooms. You can get wine or 2 kinds of beer. No cocktails at all. Never saw a head waiter for matre d'. The food was a serious low point on the ship.
The shore excursions were pretty good. They would seperate people based on the language they speak...though sometimes 2 languages would end up on the same bus. It really wasn't a big deal. The way they had people meet was actually much better than I've seen on any other cruise line. They have people meet in different lounges based on the excursion they are taking, give you a bus number based on the language you speak, then call people down to the buses by their number. Our favorite was the excursion in Rhodes, Greece. We toured an ancient castle with a great guide. Alexandria, Egypt was a HUGE let down. The guide was poor.
Activities? Forget it. We were so bored on the ship. About the only thing we could find to do was to go to the sports bar and hope they had some american sports on TV. MSC definately catered to an older crowd on this ship. If you wanna karoke and play scrabble, you are in luck. With the weather being pretty cool in mid-november, we spent a lot of time in our room napping.
Entertainment. We never went to a show. We admit that we are spoiled. We live in Las Vegas and cruise ship shows are just awful in comparison. We don't even bother anymore. There ws a good jazz band on board. Usually after dinner we'd go have a drink in the jazz bar.
We did not travel with kids, so we can not comment on children's activities. We didn't see very many kids on the ship.
Disembarkation was fairly smooth. We were given colored baggage tags and were asked in disembark in order based on the color of our tags. Our flight wasn't til the next day, so we were in no hurry.
Other things to note is just the culture difference. People had a real problem waiting in the "que" (line) wherever you were in this ship. Whether in the buffet line, waiting to get on or off the ship or to buy a picture...you can be sure someone will be trying to cut in front of you in the line. And after a few days it gets really old. Also, MSC really tries to make sure everyone knows what is going on while on the ship. It wasn't uncommon for them to make announcements in about 8 different languages. There were 3 english stations on the TV and all were news.
Overall, after crusing MSC's Splendida I can tell you, without a doubt, that I will never, ever cruise any of MSC's ships again. With terrible food and at best fair service I was not impressed.