Let me start by saying what is good about this ship as its a short list. The entertainment was the best I have ver experienced, not the round the pool stuff which was largely sub butlins quality, but the evening shows and the regular artists who sing in various bars were very very good. The ship was also very clean in the public areas and the cabins.
The duty free shop is excellent value.
What is bad about this ship.
Fundamentally everything else I am about to describe comes from the management culture on the ship, which is rude, exploitative of their staff, and everything you ask for the answer is "Its Impossible". This caused so many upsets amongst so many passengers. I am British and naturally I mostly holidayed with fellow brits, and almost none of them were happy.
I was offered an all inclusive booze deal by my agent. When I went to book it at an additional cost of approx Â£300, I was told to buy it on board. When I got on board I ordered two beers which are approximately 2/3rds of a pint each. That came to â‚¬12, which was going to make my week very tricky as I was taking my disabled mother recently widowed away for a week. I asked at the bar to buy the all inclusive package, "its impossible" most of the public area staff like bar staff were from Nepal, the Phillipines etc and spoke poor english, so language was a real barrier all week and led to many misunderstandings when ordering drinks.
My extras bill at the end of the cruise (and trust me I didnt want to pay for anything extra on board came to Â£750. if you enjoy a drink and dont have the package that could easily add up to Â£2000. So be warned!
I escalated my complaints through various stewards and members of the pursers dept, who seemed more intent on gaining a tan and looking cool than helping to solve customer queries. Eventually I was taken to reception and met the Customer relations manager, a young woman in her early 30's. She was immediately confrontational and initially refused to even entertain my request, until I lost it and began to shout, as I had been promised by my agent I could buy this package on board.
As I was making a scene she eventually took me to her office behind reception and was soon joined by the stuttering and frankly weak assistant purser. By this time I was angry that all anyone said to me was its impossible. I assured them it wasnt and all they needed to do since their authority was so limited was contact head office and ask, which at the time they refused. They preferred to tell me why I was unreasonable, rude, and thoroughly put me in my place. I later learned upon returning home that they informed the Dutch Police and I suspect expected me to be arrested whilst wheeling my disabled mother ashore at amsterdam. Fortunately it didnt happen. The customer relations manager in particular, had no skill whatsoever in dealing with customers. She behaved like we had been press ganged and we were there to follow her orders, she had zero ability to calm somone who had been offended by te actions of her staff. I suggest MSC give her a job in the engine room where theres no danger she would upset any other paying customer. For she certainly did upset many throughout the remainder of the trip.
With the exception of a Dutch girl who was charming most of the staff on reception, were generally unhelpful but practised at saying "its impossible".
The following day they agreed to my request and I did purchase the all inclusive package, without so much as an apology for causing so much upset.
Myt story began to circulate amongst the british passengers and before long I had a queue of passengers with gripes who seemed to want me to act as unofficial shop steward, which I declined as I was on holiday. When I approached the customer relations manager to arrange a meeting to hear their complaints ie all of them together she simply refused. Talk about not listening.
general gripes of most passengers:
Food, was no better than average, and was quite rushed in the evening sittings, frequently over cooked and canteen style mass catering rather than the experience I have come to enjoy with other lines. The service in the restaurants was frequently surly, with the wrong order being delivered because of language difficulties. Breakfast and lunch were particularly difficult, rather than the regular servcie you get from your waiter at dinner, they were OK.
Excessive pricing and charging for everything. A pot of tea (without the package) was â‚¬5 each time you want a cup of tea!!! nothing free except a Luke warm urn which didnt make proper tea after midnight on the 12th deck!
They were using an italian brand of "english Breakfast tea" which was soo weak it couldnt make its way out fo the cup, it was dreadful. I approached the head of catering, who to be fair did listen and did take on liptons at the next port. Not proper tea but at least it was passable.
Drinks were a massive rip off, hence my fuss about getting the all inclusive package. otherwise its a good place to send an alcoholic to dry out, as they would go broke before getting drunk!
28 channels on TV, not one of them in English. When we were in Southampton I asked if one could be switched via their satellite receiver to english - you guessed it.. Its impossible!
No cinema! and one yes thats right one cartoon in english on the TV for the whole 8 day cruise. That was the entire choice of films on the ship.
The layout of the ship was also awkward when you are with a disabled/ mobility impaired passenger. The public areas were on floors 5 and 6, and 11, 12 and 13. so you are forever waiting for lifts, and frequently needing to travel from one end of teh ship to another, exhasperating. The cabins are between those areas.
health and safety; Muster stations was the most ridfculous affair I have ever attended. Many passengers didnt bother at all which didnt seem to alarm any of the crew. Those that did were kept standing on deck for 90 minutes as thats how long it took them to get those that cared to attend counted, we would have been dead long before they had managed anything in a real crisis.
The general bursars staff, waiters, cleaners, etc were very poorly paid, came from countries that are poor. They told me No tips taken by the line were passed onto crew. All of it went to enrich MSC. That is disgusting. They were made to wrok minimum 11 hour shifts 7 days a week for 9 months, which is illegal in Europe, which they get around by being panama registered. Therefore their wages were exploitative. The european commission should take action against this kind of sharp practice!
The main theatre at the bow of the ship, was almost all staired, meaning my mother had to find a seat while the ship was rolling with not a hand rail in any aisle, naturally she fell, and was very shocked and shaken. No crew member came to her aid, just me and some other passengers. Not good enough.
No midnight feasts! on the last night of the cruise before returning to southampton the chefs laid on a magnificent banquet, with carved fruits and a visual and culinary treat. The rest of the cruise.... absolutely nothing. and no explanation. when asking reception why theres no midnight feast ... Its impossible!
Assistance embarking and disembarkation, sometimes chaotic, with long queue's at the bottom of impossibly steep gang planks, or when actually able to get a wheelchair up the gang planks, no assisatnce at all was offered.
Constantly being ordered to come along for a meaningless briefing such as how to pack a suitcase for disembarkation.
deductions for tips from each passenger with opt out. â‚¬12 per day per passenger, and none of it goes to the staff! many brits opted out and like us chose to individually tip those staff members who had given good service. You are allowed to opt out, which they dont advertise. In the end on this cruise so many opted out, they refused to allow others to do so when they requested it. Also they would only deduct the charge from the day you chose to opt out which again is sharp practice in my book.
All in all remember you have a choice when booking a cruise. My advice would be choose a different line!