Having subscribed to MSC newsletters for some time, we were keen to try one of their cruises. When this great deal of 3 b2b cruises came up, we were eager to sign up and with CC reviews in hand, went with an open mind to experience the good and bad. After the first 7 days, I was still keeping an open mind and focussing on the good. By the second 7 days, some things had begun to be quite irritating and when entering the last leg of 11 days, we now saying, "never again MSC"!
EMBARKATION - quick, once it all started but waiting for a few hours in an unlit temporary terminal on a thuddery day was not much fun. We did have drinks available! This was our first encounter with MSC's unusual admin ways. Although we were booked on 3 cruises our cards showed the dates for only 2 cruises. When questioned about this the answer was so absurd that I knew we would experience some unusual ways!
THE SHIP: Really lovely - quality, relaxing decor and furnishings in public rooms,easy to navigate, good pool deck. Cabins were clean, a little smaller than other cruise lines with less drawers but bathroom ok. The things that annoyed us were that every bar had loud music playing constantly, so that it was difficult to find a quiet area to sit and read when blustery conditions prevented sitting on the balcony. Smoking was alowed inside certain bars and therefore again restricted our presence.
THE STAFF - Our cabin steward was delightful,speaking good English and always attentive to any needs. The restaurant staff were fine but not outstanding. Fortunately we drank little. With only adequate bar staff, it sometimes took a while to order a drink. We had no real administration problems but those who did had a dreadful time at Reception. Some staff spoke good English but others were very poor in their communication skills and we heard some appalling tales that other passengers encountered.
THE FOOD - OMG where do you start - maybe with the water that you had to purchase for 2 euro each time, whether in the restaurant or buffet. The food was continuously inconsistent! We dined in the L'Isbiscus restaurant every night and found the food boring and overcooked. On many occasions certain ingredients described in the menu were either in the Chefs dreams or so disguised that were unrecognisable. We discovered after the first 7 days that the menu was recycled every 7 days and even thouh the last sector of the cruise was advertised daily as a food and wine cruise, there were only 3 days of a new menu. By the last night, i was ready to throw the Darn of Salmon at the waiter!It was yet again dry and if you are thinking why didnt I order something different, well on several occasions, i rejected my first order for something else, only to find it was also either overcooked or salty. Then, every now and again a dish would surprise us, The rack of lamb, which was actually only 2 cutlets, was beautifully cooked and tasty!!
At least the L'Isbiscus restaurant had a reasonable amount of space - even though we were squashed in a corner and never saw the sea at nights- the Borghese restaurant was ridiculously sqashy for lunch, hence we went to the buffet for lunch. Again, the food was consistly bad - inedible bad- and good -great indian curries and roasts on some days. Breakfast was GOOD - great German style rye breads, great tasting bacon, good eggs, yoghurt, heavenly waffles and despite the fact that they did not replace my cereal when it ran out, good variety of cereals. However, if you wanted fresh orange juice that had to be paid for!
We tried the Oriental specialty restaurant for lunch- I think the only ones to do so as we saw no other people there day or night. The quality was acceptable but I could not label it good. We did not go to the 4 Seasons restaurant as it had no extra decor than the buffet and those who did use it said that the food was not much different to the usual. We do not know why they have specialty restaurants - they were a BIG dissapontment
SHORE EXCURSIONS - good, very happy with the content and value of the excursions. Getting your bus number was typically chaotic as was much of the administration.
ENTERTAINMENT - hmmm interesting! The night time entertainment in the theatre was excellent - just as well, as it recycled every 7 days also. We therefore saw all the shows 3 times and 1 for the fourth time. MSC's 'production shows' are different from all others. While only 30 mins, the shows had the usual dancers and singers and in addition, incorportaed contortionists and acrobats of very high quality. The theatre was beautiful but each night the CD introduced each show in 5 different languages which took 10 mins. During the first 7 days, I laughed at his amazing abikity to go so fluidly from 1 language to the other. By the second week, it began to be irritating and by the third week, it was more than annoying!!
The ships activities - those things you participate or watch on sea days or in between times were carried out by 6 or 8 young enthusiastic guys and gals who again were fluent in several languages. In addition to ball games, we had cooking demonstrations, napkin folding and flower arranging. Needless to say, sea days were ultra boring - I am so glad I took my e-reader, otherwise there was not much to do - a complaint by many!!
DISEMBARKATION - Hmmm again - words cannot adequately describe the chaos. Since our passports had to be handed in from Portugal onwards, we were told to retrieve them at 9 am onwards on day of embarkation. While that sounded strange, it was nothing compared to the debarcle that occured. Humongous lines- I am not exagerating - of 3000 passengers all trying to retieve their passports caused some passengers to resort to barging and near fisticuffs. I wish I had taken photos!! Having had to be out of our cabins at 7 am, we had to wait till nearly 10 am to get off and we were some of the early ones. This was far from MSC's finest hour!!
It seems to us that MSC supplies cheap cruise by undercutting all else - staff, food, entertainment and whatever else they can. Maybe if you only want a 7 day port intensive cruise and can put up with the announcement in 5 languages continuously and the lack of manners by some passengers, then by all means try MSC but for us, we would rather pay a little more and know that we will dine well, not have to sit in tobacco scented public areas and be entertained with slightly more sophistication. Not much to ask for in old age!!