MSC MUSICA -â€“ Adriatic -â€“ Monday November 7th
A review of an 8 day cruise of the Adriatic on board the MSC Musica leaving Monday Nov 7th.
Outbound flight was from Heathrow at 08.35, an early start but as it transpired one that was required in order to be comfortably aboard before departure at 4pm. Surprisingly for MSC there were a number of British passengers taking advantage of a Travelzoo offer, and unsurprisingly the complaints started at the airport when people found that the BA flight was not to their satisfaction with couples being seated apart due to the seat allocation, not a good start for some who let it be known that it was going to be dreadful before they had even boarded a plane at the airport!
Our transfers from Venice Marco Polo airport was a little unfortunate as again it played into the hands of the moaners, whilst we all expected to be met at the airport immediately on stepping through arrivals a fairly large number of us were not aware that MSC have a presence down in the far right end of the airport and as nsuch it was more by luck than judgement that we found them. MSC should either place a greeter to meet passengers coming through arrivals or increase their presence in the arrivals hall and make it clear to those arriving where they are located. Transfer to the cruise terminal was by coach, and was uneventful, apart from those who would rather not have wheeled their luggage the few yards to where the coach was parked.
Embarkation was an eye opener though, it was well under way when we arrived to what looked like an overwhelmed check in, however the answer is in your own hands as when previously cruising on MSC Splendida out of Genoa we pitched up as soon as embarkation opened and sailed through check in. Whilst check in was not enjoyable it wasn't that bad given that some 3000 people were joining and people need to remember that, either turn up early or join the rest of us and be patient.
If there was one area MSC could work on it would be to have a more organised check in with more check in desks and to actually have the fasttrack web check in available to passengers.
MSC Musica we found to be slightly smaller than MSC Splendida and was lacking in only one area, notably the lack of enclosed sitting area on the open pool deck that is a feature on Splendida.
It should go without saying that MSC is an Italian cruise company based in Italian ports in the main, their passengers will be European and American, British passengers should bear that in mind and not expect the same type of cruise as one offered by either a UK or US based cruise line. A major difference between MSC and other operators is the fact that they pick up and drop off passengers at all their cruise destinations, but why that should affect or bother passengers I can't imagine.
Contrary to other reviews that I've read I found the food on MSC Musica, and on MSC Splendida, to be most acceptable with the dining room to be pleasant if a little on the warm side. The service was always superb, how someone could complain that they had been waiting 2 hours in a dining room is beyond me seeing as the first sitting was completed comfortably in less than 2 hours, please don't make up complaints that are patently not true, it only goes to substantiate the moaning Brits label that some compatriots are happy to perpetuate, and only lessons the effect of true complaints.
The service from our waiter was second to none and his humour was a joy and added to the cruise, the menu was most acceptable with different menus from various Italian regions every day, this may disappoint some but there was always sufficient choice and not once did I difficulty in choosing.
For those that find the food not particularly volumous perhaps you should do what other tables did and not limit yourself to starter, main and dessert but order from the entire menu, problem solved. When I commented on the lack of meat on my dish of cockerel the waiter immediately asked if I wished anything else in addition, my no thank you met with the delivery of one of every dessert.
Some people may find the casual approach to the dress code in dining in MSC a little annoying, what does it matter what other people or tables are wearing, dress to impress yourself and don't get hung up on whether others are wearing dinner jackets or not, I didn't and did not feel out of place.
Mention must be made of the Itailian night and of the Baked Alaska, both most enjoyable dinners.
Of course with some 3000 passengers on board buffet dining at breakfast and lunch isn't likely to be a walk in the park and will be particularly irksome to some and particularly disliked by others, we never found it a problem as neither breakfast or lunch were particularly time limited or lacking in food, on occasion we ate out on deck and varied our arrival at the buffet and were happy to share a table. There was nothing wrong with either breakfast or lunch buffet food with plenty of different choices available if one bothers to look further than ones nose. One criticism of Splendida was the lack of free coffee, this is not a compalint that can be made of Musica as the buffet beveridge stations always had coffee or hot water for tea making and cold water available free 24 hours a day.
Not everyone will be happy with either the choice of dishes, the food or the service, mine was superb, the choices were mine and if I wanted more or something different all I had to do was ask.
The shows on Musica were superb, an improvement on MSC Splendida of a couple of years ago. The theatre is comfortable and impressive, the shows were all different and at around 40 minutes passed very quickly being so enjoyable. The performers on Musica are superb, the vocalists can ideed sing and sing well but special mention must be made of Franco who can certainly hold a note. Whilst all the usual acts are performing special mention must be made of the Riverdance / Lord of the Dance sequence in the show Excalibur which had me on my feet at the end.
Overall we found MSC Musica a very pleasant ship, with plenty of bars, restaurants and facilities, it even has a kiddies play area, a tennis court cum football playing area and a few holes of mini golf. The ship is not as large as some but the outside cabin was spacious enough for two and there was both plenty to do and plenty that we chose not to do or areas that we chose not to visit this time.
The itinerary was superb sailing from Venice down the Grand Canal was still spellbinding even on a wet afternoon. The first port of call was Bari in southern Italy, a pleasant stop with an old town woth exploring for its cathedral, basillica and castle. Whilst the little train from the port seemed expensive at 20 Euros each it did include a guided walking tour of the old town including a demonstration of the making of the local pasta speciality. The Basilica of Saint Nicolas is superb.
Bari was followed by a day at sea, only broken by a special stop made at Katakolon in Greece. The next port was Rhodes whose old town was remarkably pleasant and particularly quiet in the morning. The open top bus was not brilliant but the tourist train when operating would be as good.
The port of Izmir inTurkey was enjoyable for the massive bazzar and the differences between western and eastern Europe, shopping to the call for prayers was an experience. The next port of Pireaus for Athens was also an eye opener, mainly for the agression displayed between the multi national sightseeing bus company who didn't appreciate the compettion from the local company, we chose the locals and were not disappointed and enjoyed a trip into Athens with a bus to ourselves.
Athens was superb, a bustling city with lots of shops to be explored on our next visit, this visit was to see and hopefully visit the Acropolis dependant on the climb. Well the clinb wasn't as bad as feared and the visit to the Acropolis was well worth while and was to prove a highlight of the trip.
The next port was Katakolon which offers trips to Olympia. Whist we stayed in the seaside village we found that quite adequate for a morning visit, the only disappointment being the proliferation of what can only be assumed were fake branded goods in the tourist gift shops, shame to spoil them.
The final port of call was Dubrovnik which was much anticipated and didn't disappoint at all. The city walls had to be walked and at a couple of hours or so it was a very pleasant hike in the sun, the views were stunning and in some cases what you found round the corner was quite unexpected. The cable car and further exploration of the town will have to wait, but we will be going back for more.
Thecruise finished as it had begun with a sail down the Grand Canal to the terminal in Venice, this time the weather was on our side with an arrival to the sun coming up over the Venice Lagoon.
Disembarkation was the usual MSC affair of awaiting your turn to dismbark, for which some patience is required, butgiven that you disembark to find your luggage waiting for you there can be no complaints really. The transfers to the airports and flights home gave some people cause to complain, some quite embarrassingly vociferously. The cause of the complaints was that some passengers had transfers and flights later in the day and had to complain, to no one in particular, of having nothing to do in the meantime, well my transfer was at 4pm and I had no trouble amusing myself. Why anyone would think that a cruise ship was obliged to cater for you until your transfer, particularly when people were already queueing to board is beyond me, common sense was in short supply with some of our fellow British passengers I'm afraid and I found it very irritating. We spent our day in Venice, and even though the shuttle buses to the people mover didn't appear we happily walked the relatively short distance to the people mover which sits just outside the port proper. A moment later we found ourselves on the edge of the centre ofVenice for all of 1 Euro each and enjoying a coffee for 2 Euros in a cafe. We set out to walk to St Marks, a walk which seemed never ending and which took a good hour and a half but which introduced us to the canals, shops, sights and wonderful architecture of Venice. A quick visit inside the stunning St Marks Basilica and we were on a wlk back to the people mover pretty much retraing our steps through the streets and shops and over the canals to our starting poing of the cafe where the coffer had surged in price to 5 Euros, what a shame some of our European cousins still see fit to milk the tourists that bring money to their city and economy, I can't recommend the cafe down the steps behind the information booth.
I must mention MSC's policy on tipping, they do not encourage tipping individuals and I agree; where and how often and how much would you tip? And to those of you who baulk at paying a mere 7 Euros a day and queue to argue the toss at the Accounting desk when paying your bill - get real - even a measly 1 Euro everytime a waiter delivered would soon mount to more than the 7 Euros charged daily, and what about your 2 cabin stewards and your wine and table waiters, not forgetting the bar staff, the chefs and buffet staff, the entertainment team and performers. You are aware of the charges, just pay what is arguably much less than expected in a restaurant and be done, after all the staff deserve it and with MSC they do get what is charged to you int their wages.
Overall the cruise was superb, very much enjoyed and one that would be repeated at a shot. At the price purchased through a Travelzoo offer, with onboard credit and an unexpected upgrade from inside cabin to outside MSC surpassed themselves, brilliant, marvellous Musica, I want more!
My advice to other potential cruisers is to do some homework on the cruise company, the ship and the cruise, and to go with an open mind and not to be too quick to write off an entire holiday even before boarding a plane, and not to pay too much attention to reviews, afet all like mine they are personal and we're all different, thank goodness, I couldn't bare to be a whinger like some I heard!