The price was quite competitive as we booked just about 4 months before and got a balcony cabin on deck 11. The confirmation was sent out pretty quickly by the Travel Agent but that's where the efficiency ends!
We received the tickets about 10 days before departure and I noticed that the cabin on the tickets was completely different to the one we booked. It was on a different deck on a different side of the ship and had that cabin been the only one available we would not have booked it. The cabin we were changed to was not even an upgrade. When I contacted the Travel Agent about this it was only changed to a more suitable cabin after much to-ing and fro-ing and after I threatened to make a major official complaint.
We arrived at about 11am by taxi to be told that we had to go to the far end of the terminal to drop off our bags. We went past a queue to get there only to be told we had to go back to that queue to drop off our bags. We joined the queue and the major disorganisation meant that we had to wait nearly 45 minutes to check our bags in outside - good job it wasn't raining! The baggage staff seemed to have no clue as to what they were doing.
Saying that, once we checked our bags in and went up to the check in desks to get our cruise cards, it only took about 10 minutes to get on board the ship.
We went to the restaurant which was heaving but we still managed to find a table to sit at after searching for about 5 minutes. We also had a nice glass of wine to start the holiday from one of the drinks waiters.
The ship is very nice with plenty of bars and places to sit and we even went out on deck and used the Jacuzzis on the deck as the weather was actually quite nice during our cruise.
We were allocated a balcony cabin on deck 11 near the lifts. I was a bit apprehensive of this thinking that it would be noisy but it wasn't which was good. The cabin steward also introduced himself on the first day asking if there was anything we needed. There was quite a bit of storage space and the beds were able to have the cases stored below them which was good. The bathroom was adequate with a powerful shower and somewhere to put your toiletries on. The balcony was small but housed 2 chairs and a table with a glass front on the balcony itself.
We were seated in the Villa Borghese restaurant on the lower of the 2 decks and instead of one big restaurant it was 2 separate restaurants, the upper one being L'Ibiscus. For our evening meal we were sat at a table for 6 with 2 Austalian ladies who were very funny and a couple from the UK who did not turn up the first night, on the second night they spent the whole time complaining then we did not see them the third night! Waitress service provided by Georgia was excellent. Anything that you wanted she would get for you and she worked very hard. We also drank the house white wine whilst we were there which was good. Breakfast that was served here was of good quality and overall hot! It was an open seating affair for breakfast and there was also plenty of tea and coffee available but it took a while for you to get it after asking for it.
The buffet restaurant which, annoyingly, was not open in the evenings if you wanted to help yourself was turned into a pizzeria which cost $15 for a pizza. The food at lunchtime was okay but nothing special and even a bit cold. There was a good variety however. I also object to using plastic plates to eat my food on. It was also heaving at times which meant difficulty in finding a table. We did not use this restaurant for breakfast as it was too busy instead going to the main restaurant where it would be served to you. The buffet restaurant also had a different midnight buffet - one night serving crepes which were fantastic.
There were plenty of seating in all the bars - we especially liked the Savannah Bar if we wanted it lively or the Shaker Lounge to chill out. The Shaker Lounge was also where the Royal Wedding was screened but this wasn't advertised so you had to find out for yourself and we only stumbled on it by accident. The reception area bar was nice as they always had a string quartet or pianist on which was nice to listen to.
The bars out on deck had very slow service and they struggled to understand what you were saying at times which meant you sometimes got the wrong drink. Also, don't even think of asking for a cocktail at one of these bars as they cannot make them!
The R32 disco was very good but it needs to be promoted more as there was hardly anyone in there at night.
The shows at the theatre were of a good quality but did not last for very long (40 minutes maximum). On one night we had a mime artist who was very clever, singers on the second night then a Broadway type show on the third night which was the best show of the cruise. Oddly, drinks are not served in the theatre and it was almost discoursed to drink in there.
The staff were very friendly (except the reception staff - more of that later) but it was a little difficult to communicate with them which meant that sometimes you got something that you didn't quite ask for.
Kiel was just a port really and we took the Kielius bus to Hamburg to stay there overnight before flying home.
Well, what can I say, an absolute disaster from start to finish.
The night before you can leave your luggage outside for collection which means that you get no sleep at all as all you can hear is banging and shouting of the staff as they are collecting the bags from the corridors.
The morning of disembarkation was absolute chaos. Our bill turned out to be wrong so we were told to join the long queue at reception to get it sorted. After 1 hour of queuing we got to the desk and were told "We don't sort that out here - go to the accounting desk". The receptionist, Francesa, also commented about another passenger on the phone to her colleague "Can you get down here as he is breaking my f***ing balls here" - very professional!
So we went to join another queue at the accounting desk who then said that we needed to go to the restaurant to sort it out - of course, the restaurant to sort out your bill, very logical! Well the queue here was for another 30 minutes and they finally sorted it out. No apology but then I didn't expect them to care that much. Also be careful about your bill - we had £1.50 per day added on for a charity donation to Unicef which we weren't told about beforehand. Now, I don't mind donating to charity but it should be my choice and not forced upon me. There were also many people asking for refunds on the $9 per person per day service charge due to the particularly poor service received on occasion which was met by the staff with arguments and rudeness.
The cruise was okay. Would I go on another MSC cruise again? Probably not as I do not really think it is anywhere near the best out there and they have a long way to go to compete.