As I said in the headline, I knew what I was going to get-- I read the brochure but more importantly, I studied the reviews. The MSC Armonia is a budget cruise, specifically for Italians, going to great ports, on a budget, budget (how many times shall I say budget?).
Embarkation: easy, fine, but Venice is a very expensive city for cabs. Ask if you really want to go from Venice. We shouldn't have- its not a city for the disabled (obviously) although don't let that put you off as an included port in an itinerary. The procedure when you get to the ship (don't ask me how to find it, the cab knew) is easy- they hand you physical tickets (why not post them out?!?), they take your luggage and you are on. From that point, if you're in a wheelchair, the fun is over. We got on up a steep ramp to deck 4. Nobody meets you there. We spent half an hour lost, in a state, pushed and shoved by rude Europeans (literally shoved), until we found our way back to reception and joined the wrong end of the line to be shown to our cabin. MSC really has no idea how to help disabled people (its not just the ramps guys).
When the hell of getting on is over (and it should be simple if you walk on, honestly, very quick very nice). The cabin was fine. It's small. The shower is tiny (think motorhome), but it has all you need. We had two inside cabins (one for my parents, one for me). Yes we should definitely have booked another cruise with a disabled one available, but heck we made do.
Once you relax into the ship, you'll find it a pleasant place to be. It's clean--- really clean. The staff are lovely (where did you lot get the impression otherwise? Perhaps they fired the old lot?). The drinks are affordable (very for a cruise) and if you're into listening to a pianist for hours each evening or lying by the pool all day, you're going to be ok.
It's a busy ship. It's small (for my experience the bigger the better really) and after dinner there's nothing to do really. There's no interesting lectures I could find, no-where for a British lad to chill for a few hours (the club doesn't open till midnight, sorry boys I'm in bed by then). The show is ok- quite sweet, but seriously does everyone have to stand in the aisle and block the disabled view???? I'm going to stop mentioning disabled now- because this wasn't a disabled holiday, I didn't pay for one (and you need to) and the rest of our party had good legs.
Now, I like meeting people from all countries- honestly I do! But you're going to get a bit of a culture shock being with 2000 Italians for the week. You know when you find your quiet spot on the ship, take your book, lie down and enjoy... that isn't going to happen. Shouting across the deck, piling up their chairs, pushing yours out the way-- a different respect for "personal space". I guess it's fine, it's not my option to say it should be any other way. Hey, they have passion and they enjoy themselves. Nobody was ever drunk, nobody directly rude, it's just not peaceful.
The ports- yes, nice, but I wanted to just walk away after a few days. I didn't want to get back on. It just wasn't a cruise in my opinion. The food (in Pergola, by far the nicer of the restaurants) was fine/good. The buffet -- well you get what you pay for, but well made, no tummy probs. Plastic trays... etc.
Look- it was like Â£400 through my agency. Â£800 because I didn't share my cabin as a single person. If I paid Â£1000, I'd be annoyed. If I paid Â£2000 I'd have gone for a very long swim.
It comes across in the lack of personalised service (forgot a birthday, big problems with trying to just get a cake made, very slow room service one night, one beer on tap, no alternative places to eat, nothing much to do apart from sit, maybe 30 books in the library, no proper ramps, nobody just out there to make my vacation amazing)... I can't say it enough, you get what you pay for.
I hear the bigger MSC ships are better. This was... it's ok... don't worry if you've booked, you won't hate it... you will have a great time if you choose to-- I just decided I never want this sort of thing again. I want to pay more, half as often and enjoy heaven for a week, not "a journey".
A lot of British people held the tips back- how mean!!! Just pay up.
If you want this price, but a bit more flair, more to do if you're under 50 and like something memorable-- try NCL. If you can afford it do Crystal, if its the only ever cruise you'll go on go for Cunard. And if you have a wheelchair, for goodness sake just sail from Southampton, you know it makes sense.
Would I go again: No.
Should you: Sure, but don't overpay for this one ok!
-Oh by the way, I know I said I wouldn't bang on about wheelchairs but seriously-- not one excursion in the main ports I'm allowed on????