We just arrived home from a 7 day Baltic capital cruise on Msc Orchestra and I couldn't wait to leave a review. Having read some negative reviews before travelling we were a bit worried but the whole experience turned out great.
The embarkation procedure is very straightforward and quick. You just need to present your ticket and passport and they issue you with their card. Then you just proceed on board. Our luggage arrived after just a few minutes.
The ship itself is very nice and we found staff very very helpful. Some of them do not speak very good English but they always went out of their way to help us. Ship cleanliness is second to none. We found that prices of drinks very reasonable although they do add a 15% service charge on top of everything.
Food was of a very high standard. Buffet food was good with an ethnic food station changing everyday. Buffet restaurant tends to be busy and finding a seat was sometimes a problem. Food during at dinner restaurants was very good and always had a different menu. One must keep in mind that this is a European company managed mostly by Italian people so food won't be the American way. There won't be a buffet 24 hours a day but be assured that food is plentiful and of very high standard. Also one of our kids is lactose intolerant and they kitchen staff always prepared a special plate for her.
Being a Baltic capital cruise we didn't use the pools that much but we did use the jacuzzi quite a few times. There are 4 of them and we always found enough space. There is a heated kids pool, very shallow, and the main pools are somewhat heated too but still felt cold.
Now for the entertainment. We were 6 adults and 3 kids aged 3,3 and 4 and we all thought that entertainment on board was not that good. There is a kids area and we did take our kids there but there wasn't much going on. Also one of the staff was a bit too rough with the kids and after the first day they didn't want to go again. Shows were also a bit of a let down. The 'goodbye/thank you' show was very very good and they brought a Michael Jackson impersonator which looked like the real thing but apart from that shows were not the highlight of the ship.
We only took one excursion, St Petersburg and it was good and very informative although a bit expensive. In all other ports we made our own arrangements and it was great. Copenhagen, Stockholm and Tallinn are all nice cities and all of them are easily explored on foot or hop on/hop off. We did some research to check what was worth visiting and it always turned out to be much cheaper than taking an excursion.
To sum it all up we would rate the ship 4 and a half stars. Would've been 5 stars if the entertainment had been better. Make sure you know what to expect before booking. THIS IS NOT AN AMERICAN CRUISE SHIP. If you re nice to staff staff will be nice to you, if you ask politely everybody on board will go out of their way to help you. If you re rude to others chances are that others will be rude to you. So go with the flow and enjoy your holiday.