MSC FANTASIA - March/April 2011
This was our 13th cruise ~ unlucky for some!!
CHECK IN: We went on this 11 night cruise with two friends and both my husband and friend use a walking stick and need extra help when travelling. We boarded the ship in Barcelona and experienced a chaotic check in. As we had once previously cruised with MSC we were entitled to priority check in but this never happened. As soon as the check in desks opened everyone surged forward and we had to join the queue like everyone else. The crew did nothing to help and, in fact, a couple of them didn't seem to have a clue what was going on.
SHIP: The ship is big and beautiful. No expense has been spared on the decor, it is truly stunning. Everywhere is spotless, there are always crew around, cleaning and polishing everything in sight. The majority of staff were attentive and helpful. Staff on reception and accounts need a special mention as they always had a smile and nothing was too much trouble. There are lots of different lounges to choose from and the entertainment in the lounges was good, something for everyone.
There are public toilets throughout the ship but there were no proper signs evident and you had to hunt them out. Nearly every one we visited, both ladies and gents, had one or more washbasins out of order. The toilets were always spotless but occasionally ran out of paper, only to be expected I suppose with the volume of people using them.
The ship was very crowded even though it was not full. Sea days were the worst, not a sun bed or chair to be had around or near the pool unless you were up at the crack of dawn. There were some available on the upper deck but it was too cold to sit there. The only time it was nice and peaceful was when the majority of people had gone ashore and, even then, you had to be up on deck to secure a sun bed in the sunshine. The pool deck is quite a bit smaller than some other ships with a lot fewer sun beds as the rear is taken up with tables and chairs and these areas do not get the sun.
If you are expecting courtesy and respect from fellow passengers forget it as the passengers were mainly European and barged into lifts when you were trying to get out, pushed, shoved in the queues. One of our party was kicked by a child and, another time, he had his foot run over by an invalid trolley which caused severe bruising and swelling. The passengers concerned never even apologised. On one occasion there was nearly a punch up in the lift when a man who was last in refused to get out when the sign came up to say it was overloaded. He did move eventually after strong words with another man, luckily we couldn't understand what they were saying!!!
On day 6 I was walking across the deck and fell heavily injuring my knee, back and toes. This was caused by one of the plastic palm trees at the edge of the pool which squirted water from the top, usually back into the pool, being caught by the wind and the water had been blown across the deck making it lethal. Of course, within a minute crew came to mop it up and put a cordon around it. A lovely waitress immediately brought me ice for my knee. I went to the Infirmary where I was given an injection for the pain, pain killing tablets and ointment for my back. The doctor was very nice and said "NO CHARGE" Luckily I only sustained bruising and no lasting damage but please be aware of wet decks especially if you are elderly.
CABINS: The cabins are good. It was not the biggest one we have ever had, that was on MSC Lirica, but very close. There was a flat screen interactive television, mini bar, dressing table, large double or twin beds with bedside cabinets. On the balcony two wicker chairs and table. In the bathroom, white bath robes, lovely large fluffy towels, tissues and soap in dispenser. The shower is a good size with shampoo and shower gel in containers on the wall.
The cabin was kept very clean by an obliging Steward.
The sheets and pillowcases were not changed regularly as have been on other ships - sometimes the pillowcases would be changed, on another day the sheets but not the pillowcases, seemed very strange to me.
Ordering Continental breakfast in the cabin is a fiasco. The first morning everything worked fine. Thereafter nothing was right, mainly the timing. You have to select a time slot i.e. 8.15-8.30 or 9.00-9.15. It NEVER arrived within the right time slot. One morning it didn't arrive at all and when I rang up to complain was asked what time I had put the request on the door. Upon telling the guy at the other end he said, "are you sure?" ~ yes, I do know what time I put it out!!! He told me I should put it out about 8.00 p.m. the previous night whereas on the form it clearly states PUT OUT UP TO 2.00 a.m. If that was not bad enough, we never got what we asked for. Butter would be missing, some days no jam, on others one or two of the requested breads would be missing.
FOOD AND DRINK: As we had cruised before with MSC we had a loyalty card and were entitled to a few "perks" one of which was dinner in the French restaurant. When we got on board we were told this was not available and we could only have dinner in Tex Mex instead. We did take advantage of this and our friends ordered steak which looked lovely but was very tough. I ordered cactus pads for a starter as I like to try everything but was very disappointed, they tasted of nothing.
We were supposed to have a fruit basket in the cabin on arrival which actually arrived Friday night, 6 days after boarding. The loyalty card wasn't worth the plastic it was printed on to be honest.
The buffet restaurant is not really worth a mention. The only really good items there for lunch were the meats carved in front of you. Sometimes the fries were OK and hot, other times they had been there a while and were lukewarm. Compared with other ships we have been on it was all very unimaginative.
There were two dining rooms and we were allocated a table in Cerchio D'Oro [Golden Circle]. I would describe the food more as pub grub than fine dining. We are not fussy eaters and I have to say that some of the courses were delicious but there were a good number that were not. Potatoes always seemed to be the same even though given different names. The vegetables were nearly always disgusting, overcooked and tasteless. One evening the carrots were brown in the middle.
The soups were usually good and hot which is more than can be said for the main courses which were certainly not as hot as they should have been. The salads were a joke, for example the feta, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, olives and onion salad consisted of lots of lettuce, two tiny pieces of cucumber, a few onion rings, two small pieces of tomato probably 1/8th of a very small tomato, if that, 1 olive and two of the tiniest cubes of Feta I have ever seen, our friend got three pieces, lucky him!
On many evenings I had the cheese after the meal. The cheese consisted of three pieces of plastic cheese, a scant teaspoonful of marmalade and a few grapes. There were no biscuits available and if you wanted anything you had to make do with bread which is offered at the start of the meal - a slice of bread, bread roll or a grissini stick, we ended up buying water biscuits from the shop and taking them to dinner. One night my grapes were disgusting, brown and split and only fit for the bin. I did complain to the waiter and, in spite of him telling us to tell him if anything was ever amiss he didn't like it. We felt that in order to cut costs the chefs were using the cheapest foods available. We didn't have many prawns and when we did they were totally tasteless.
We had elected to go All Inclusive which, on reflection, was a good move as we wouldn't have been able afford to drink, most cocktails are €6.70, 4 cl whiskey is €5.30, premium brands €6.50. 33cl beer varies between €3.90 and €5.20, Corona and Budweiser are €4.50. Wine by the glass either €3.20 or €3.60 depending on quality, soft drinks including coke, Fanta etc €2.70 coffee varies between €1.50 and €1.90 for a cafe latte or capuccino but don't expect very large cups, they are what we would call medium.
On the AI you can only have a bottle of wine in the restaurant and only glasses of wine in the bars where you do get a choice of a number of different wines. The quality of restaurant wine on AI was not good and there was no choice only one white and one red, if you don't like it, tough. You cannot get any other drinks in the restaurant unless you pay extra.
This is not a dressy ship, why bother to take tuxedos when people are wearing jeans and caps on formal nights!!!!! We couldn't see why they bothered to have a formal night at all. On most other ships formal nights have been special with a parade at the end of the meal of the waiters carrying lighted Baked Alaska around the restaurant. There was nothing like that on Fantasia. On every other ship we have cruised on our serviettes were folded in various shapes every night. The waiters used to take pride in this and enjoy the comments from the passengers but only on Gala evenings on Fantasia were they folded in the shape of a fan.
Two nights before the end of our cruise the bar we frequented ran out of Merlot and they had not been supplied any even though it had been requested. The ship had been moored up in Rome for the whole day!!!!
ODDS AND ENDS: I did not use the internet. I think a charge of 10 euros for half an hour is extortionate. The management showed no concern for the passengers. They only wanted the money. Everyone normally gives their credit card for the service charges as well as other charges on board. We opted out of the 6 euros a day per person charge and instead gave tips to those of the crew who had given us good service including some of the cleaners as we have done on previous cruises. If you are going to opt out you have to fill in a form at the start of the cruise and the charges are taken off at the end. They make it as difficult as possible for you to do this but we were persistent. They also take a contribution from your credit card for charity which we were happy to pay but would like to have been consulted first.
CONCLUSION: I have never written such a bad review as this before. There were some good points about the holiday but we would never choose to go on this ship again.