6 People in three cabins with balconies for an 8 day cruise starting in Venice starting October 30, 2011 aboard the MSC Musica. Stopped in Bari, Rhodes, Piraeus, Dubrovnik and Katakolon.
Check-in. Although we were not able to use the advance check-in, the procedure was very organized and quick. We arrived at 12:30 for the cruise that left at 4:00. Early, but not too early. The lines to check in were short, and moved quickly. The MSC employees were courteous and helpful. Total check in time was about 30 minutes (or less).
Facilities. It's a nice ship, pretty new and very clean. The cabins were small, but what's new? The rooms have a flat screen TV, a minibar, and both Italian and U.S. electrical outlets. Bathrooms were about average for a cruise ship.
Customer Service. Two different styles. The waiters, bartenders, cocktail waitresses, and cabin people were very nice and always eager to please (although I technically never met our cabin steward, but the other couples liked theirs). Even though English was a second language for most of the staff, there was never a problem communicating with them. They were helpful and friendly.
However, the customer service from the Administrative Staff, like in Reception or the accounting office was completely different. The six of us had three different occasions to talk to them for minor issues, and every time the results were unsatisfactory. They seem to take lessons on how to convey the feeling that they are completely disinterested in what you are saying. None of them have any problem solving skills whatsoever, or at least they didn't try to use them. Clearly they need some improvement here.
Ports. We were supposed to stop in Egypt, but with the unrest, changes were made. A couple of the ports like Bari and Katakolon were only 4 or 5 hour stops. That's not really enough time to do much, although there isn't much to do there either. Getting on and off the ship was orderly and efficient. The other stops were fine. We took private tours so I can't speak about the ship's tours.
Food. Disappointing. My wife and I have been on 4 other cruises and the two couples traveling with us have been on about the same number. We would rate the food on the other cruises a 6 or 7 out of 10. We thought the food on the Musica was about a 4 out of 10. None of the food was bad, it just wasn't very good. The style of food is typical Italian. Most of the dishes are prepared very simply, and presented the same. Very European, except not as good as any of the restaurants we ate at in Italy. Lots of pasta and risotto, cooked very al-dente, but that's the style. Lots of fish. We thought the pasta was generally good, the fish was pretty good, but the other entrees weren't very good. You generally left dinner feeling unimpressed. Frankly, that's not what I hope for on a cruise. Plus, no coffee after dinner in the main dining room. That's different, but we just went to a bar for cappuccinos. Breakfast in the main dining room was ok, typical European breakfast, but you could get coffee in the MDR for breakfast. Breakfast was probably about equal to other cruises.
We did try the buffet a couple of times. The pizza was great. The rest of the food was pretty bad. However, in fairness, I almost never like the food in a cruise buffet and the buffet on the Musica was probably about the same as other cruises. The big issue with MSC was that the tables in the buffet were completely packed whenever it was open. There were usually a few seats outside, but remember this is November and it was pretty cold. We didn't try the added cost restaurants.
Overall, the cruise was inexpensive and we had fun. However, I just don't think it is geared toward Americans, especially the food. I would not recommend the cruise to my friends, even if it is cheap.