My wife, son (7 yrs old) and I just returned from an 11 day cruise on MSC's Fantasia. We boarded in Civitavecchia, Italy on 27 December 2011 and disembarked 7 January 2012. Overall we were treated poorly during our trip and have a low opinion of MSC, Fantasia and its managing crew. They were unprofessional and treated us rudely. We will never again cruise with MSC. If you are in the planning stages, my highest recommendation is to avoid MSC if at all possible. I'm including a brief description of our vacation and few tips if you decide to go with MSC. For those who have already purchased cruise tickets, ask your travel agent if you can buy drink packages before your cruise begins. All drink packages MSC pushes from the moment you prepare to board to when you're on board is more expensive than if purchased in advance. The soft drink, ice cream shake package we brought for our son, 26â‚¬ for 10 drinks was worthwhile although the drinks tasted like ice water rather than milk shakes. Not sure what kind, if any ice cream was actually used.
Civitavecchia-the train station by which we arrived from Rome is about 400 meters away from the port. It is an easy walk to the port's entrance. Once you reach the port's entrance, you'll find free shuttle buses that transport you to your ship. These shuttle buses are within the port's gates and are different than the city buses and are run by the port of Civitavecchia. Try to arrive early to avoid long lines during check-in. Our cruise tickets said check-in was 1630 but checked in at 1330 with only a small wait. Once aboard, our luggage arrived to our room within an hour. During that first hour, we had lunch at their buffet. As we had read in previous reviews, the Europeans were pushy and their personal space was much smaller than that of Americans, which we are. The food was not very good as one would expect from an Italian ship. Their main hot foods were hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, meatloaf and pizza. Their other dishes were disappointing and bland. Lots of salads though, which was a thumbs up.
MSC Fantasia has a buffet restaurant and two general sit-down restaurants with wait staff and both have two seatings each. Although the menu is the same in each restaurant at either seating, the tables are large where you must sit with other families. We purchased our cruise tickets 4 months prior to our cruise and had requested the first seating having a young son. We were only given the first seating after two requests and during our second day of cruising. The times of the seatings were 6pm and 8:30pm. The quality of the dinners gradually improved during our cruise but it started off bland and very salty. Meanwhile, water is not free at these restaurants during lunch or dinner and must be purchased in bottles. Cost is 2.20â‚¬ per liter. The buffet on the other hand always has free water, from the water dispenser. Coffee, tea, water and ice is available free of extra charges at any time in the self-service buffet area only. Juices were only free during breakfast, which was also true in the restaurants.
In our opinion, the management of different departments in this cruise ship performed really poorly. For example, the matre d' and his other managers behaved oddly and said rude things to us thinking we couldn't understand Italian. We were made to feel uncomfortable many times, which is unacceptable during a vacation. The cruise director had his wife and son with him during our New Year's cruise and thus barely had time to do his work. For example, several aerobics and stretching classes were cancelled without any notice and with people waiting. When asked, no answer was ever given other than we'll find out and let you know. We were never informed afterwards. Communication from the cruise director and his staff was only to promote their excursions desk. The evening shows were decent although much of the music and even the singing were pre-recorded and lip-synched at times. We know this because typically we enjoy sitting up front in the theater and noticed the lip synching. Although there were plenty of musicians spread out in the ship playing at different bars, music in the theater for the most part was prerecorded.
Excursions: Information for anything was difficult to attain on this ship especially when it came to the cities we were to visit. This kept the sale of their excursions at a brisk pace. We did not take any of their trips and managed to enjoy ourselves tremendously. Genoa -- The ship docks very close to the city and can be explored by either a double decker bus or by metro which are both accessible with tickets on sale just near the port. We chose to walk over to the aquarium which is an easy and really beautiful 20 minute walk from the ship's dock. The cost to enter the aquarium was 19â‚¬ per adult directly at the arena while the ship offered the same at about twice that cost. This is a wonderful place.
Barcellona-The port of Barcellona is a healthy 30 minute walk over a bridge to an area called Rambles, where you can take a metro to other parts of the city. To save time we paid 8â‚¬ per person for a round trip shuttle bus to and from this Rambles area of the city using the ship's excursion buses. Afterwards we found out that a one way taxi cost was 5â‚¬ for up to 4 people. We noticed there was also a city bus that came by the port terminal where the ship docked. This was probably the most economical way of going to and from the city but the taxi option was most convenient. The walk over the bridge is OK but time consuming. My advice, avoid the shuttle bus offered by the ship and go for the taxi. The cost for the shuttle buses offered by the ship was more expensive than taking a taxi if you are with at least one other person.
Funchal, Portugal-An easy 15 minute walk to the city center. We then took an all-day double decker bus tour of the island for 12â‚¬ per person from city's center. This was great and saw just about everything you want to see. Additionally, the public bus system is plentiful and many of the sights can be reached using the city buses. There is a ticket counter at the city center where people speak English and many locals are available and willing to help.
Tenerife-The ship claims there is a free shuttle bus service to the city center. Not sure what happened to those buses but we saw only 2 buses for 4000 people. We chose to walk to the city center, a 20 minute walk, and from there we gathered information from the info kiosk, maps, etc. Local buses are a great idea and inexpensive.
Casablanca-We walked a lot in this city. The city is very poor, dirty, smells bad and the taxi drivers are desperate and thus aggressive. These taxi driivers want you as passengers and will try to get you to go in their taxis, but we managed to avoid all and walked to the main highlight of the city, the Mosque. It was a memorable city to explore, the mosque was breathtaking, beautifully done with wonderful architecture. The city is poor but worth exploring. We got into the nooks and crannies of the city and enjoyed it. We managed to speak with local kids in French about their school and their studies since our son was curious. We found our way to the bazaar and made some very good buys. We did a lot of walking that day and it amounted to a really fun, adventurous day. We did not feel threatened at all and were never scared. The people appeared friendly and generous other than the aggressive taxi drivers we met at the port. We resisted and kept walking without saying anything other than "no, thank you" to the drivers We didn't eat outside of the ship in this city.
Malaga, Spain-A quick free shuttle bus brings you to the passenger terminal. From there to the city center you can either take the ships excursion shuttle bus for 6â‚¬ per person, 3.5â‚¬ for the city's shuttle bus or a free 20 minute walk. Once in the city there is plenty to do. A small beach is within a stone throws distance and there are plenty of shops, churches and more stores. Buses are plentiful with a large information office ready to help.
As we reached the end of our vacation, disembarking the ship in Civitavecchia was a nightmare. Poor organization, poor communication was the standard on our MSC ship. We arrived into port late because of stormy weather but were not informed until after checking out of our room. For our disembarkation, information was by word of mouth and chaos ruled the day. We were asked to gather in the casino where Russian and European smokers didn't understand the casino was closed but insisted on smoking even with children present. No one from the ship came to tell us when to leave the ship and so by the time we decided to leave, the port with the free shuttle buses were overwhelmed. We managed to find our luggage in a mass of confusion. The people trying to get on the shuttle buses were desperate. People were shoving, pushing and screaming to get on the buses. It felt like and looked like it was the first time ever that MSC had people leaving the ship at this port. When one of the ship's manager's was confronted by an angry passenger with questions, his only reply was to point to the port of Civitavecchia and say it was their fault and not MSC's. His smile while saying the same confirmed MSC as being voted the worst company that I've had to deal with. At least I know I will never again spend my hard earned vacation time and money with this company. And I think I did my part in writing this review. My hope is you will avoid vacationing with them too. But if you do, save your money, enjoy your free time, and explore the cities on your own without their excursions. Hope this helped.