I had previously been on 2 Royal Caribbean (RC) cruises as company incentives & relished the idea of spending the December holidays with my family on a return cruise from Durban to Reunion & Mauritius. NO COMPARISON aboard the MSC Sinfonia! What a pity! My kids, 7 & 9, swam all day in the small & crowded 2 pools, played soccer, attended the excuse for a kiddies disco and spent a fortune on the Foosball and other coin machines for kids. No respectable soft drinks- package i.e. Pay upfront, get a plastic 500 ml cup and refill as often as you like, a la Royal Caribbean.
My hubby purchased a couples massage special ($499) which comprised 1 x 45 minute dual massage, 2 x facials and 4 x entries to the often crowded thermal suite, open to both males & females. Unlike RC cruises, that offer surprise spa specials on an almost daily basis, the MSC Aurea Spa offered the same " specials" every day for the duration of the cruise. Ho hum! The spa massage rooms are fully lit (no dim lighting to set the relaxation mood). My husband & I also had the displeasure of our 2 Balinese therapists chatting to one another throughout the session. The sentiment is that these ladies were going through the motion of the massage without giving any consideration to the needs of the clients i.e. Asking where they should concentrate more effort, if we had any medical conditions or injuries etc. The session ended with both therapists trying to sell us products, with mine even venturing to sell me the answer to my cellulite! Thanks a million! My cellulite is the last thing I wanted to think about on my cruise! That issue should remain the concern of the other 353 days of the year! Needless to say, I was super- conscious of this "problem" around the pool area for the rest of the cruise :-)!
As I did not enjoy this massage, I gave the spa another opportunity to redeem themselves by booking a second massage for the princely sum of $84 for a 45 minute session. I took the liberty of guiding the therapist to the knots on my back, neck & shoulders and found this experience more rewarding. The sales pitch at the end of the session was the only damper.
Hubby found the gym a good place to vent and reported the facility adequate.
Sun loungers on the pool decks were in abundance, yet, even though guests are requested to NOT reserve loungers, by 8 AM, the game of 'find-a-lounger-win-a-prize' would begin as every lounger was booked (sometimes 8 at a time by 1 person) with a towel, book, hat etc. The art of booking four in the sun and four directly behind to cool off, by the family "booker" was mastered. The fact that 99% of loungers were booked, with only a handful of guests in sight at 8 AM was due to the fact that the late- night Pasha club party-goers & casino frequenters went back to sleep or headed for a leisurely breakfast. Shady spots were like hen's teeth & in the sweltering heat; the fights & spats that ensued were worthy of WWE awards!
Try as we might, we were unable to secure a cabin with a balcony and had to settle for a room with an outside view. The cabin had a double bed with 2 pull- down bunk beds for the kids. Add 2 ladders, a dresser, bar- fridge cabinet, cupboard with hanging space & drawers a tiny bathroom with a compact shower, basin and toilet unit, cabin- fever was the order of the day after 11 nights. You HAVE to truly love the people you are sharing a cabin with to survive! We saw a few early departures in Mauritius of families & half of a few cabin-sharing couples whose relationships took a knock!
Sadly, with child- rearing needing a major brush-up for some parents on board, there was the daily and incessant stampeding of kids' feet up and down the corridors at night, well in to the wee hours of the morning, as children played hide-&-seek etc. Adult admonishment in every form, had no effect, and after about night 8, you are able to sleep through the pounding :-)!
Food on the MSC Sinfonia was plentiful and tasty. There was something for every palate. Compliments to the South Indian Chef on his fantastic array of curries!
The crew looked tired? disinterested? and gave the impression of not really wanting to be onboard. The entertainment Dream Team tried there best, but there efforts were lost among the other surly staff.
No nighttime baby- sitting services meant that hubby and I could not enjoy the cruise offering beyond 10 PM.
All in all, a long and drawn-out cruise. Suggestions if you wish to take this cruise in future:
1) book a balcony cabin
2) only share with people you really love! The budget- sharing on offer is not worth destroying friendships
3) take walkie-talkie type devices to communicate with your cabin members
4) go hungry :-)
5) plan your land excursions prior to embarking on the cruise as cruise excursions can be costly
6) brush-up on your foreign languages or just learn to thank the crew or compliment them verbally. The response and change in their attitude is heart- warming!
7) take sea-sickness medication for your kids. Adults get free tablets at Reception, but children must have a doctors consultation to get a suppository ($67 later!). Antihistamine cream for mozzie bites in Reunion and Mauritius. If you are sensitive to salt water (from the ship's pools), shower frequently. Cortisone cream if prone to eczema.
8) take washing powder or plenty of light clothing and underwear! Laundry services are expensive. Insecticide - bed bugs & dust mites were a HUGE issue. We stripped our own beds and fumigated regularly as this was not done, even on request.
9) DON'T book loungers! It's ugly and disrespectful. It takes one person to start the domino effect of change. Good Luck!
10) Kindle, factor 50 sunscreen, big hat, manicured toes, lots of dollars for fabulous onboard shopping and a good dose of the Chill-factor!