Embarkation was quick and efficient and we were on board in minutes and accompanied in person to our stateroom, where our luggage was waiting.
Clean, Tidy, Nicely Furnished and decorated. Wardrobe space sufficient. Free safe, TV with pay for movies, Mini Bar. Bath Tub and shower - nice to have both!
I was disappointed with the balcony - having booked an unobstructed sea view balcony room (9174), I was disappointed to find that the cabin was set back (as many balconies are on this ship) and that our view was actually obstructed looking down on to the deck below and then lifeboats in front of this so you could only view the sea by looking straight ahead.
Ship and Public Rooms
Very Impressive and Grand. Beautiful central atrium comprising crystal staircase. Staff always cleaning and polishing. High standards maintained throughout ship.
Cruising in winter I expected the outdoor pool to be of no use - however I did expect the indoor pool to offer a good alternative. However it is not heated, feels colder than the outdoor pool and I actually only managed to dip a toe in as it was ice cold! So swimming certainly off the agenda for this cruise! Jacuzzis were luke warm.
They were kept nice and clean however.
All public areas are spotless.
Dining / Service
This is what lets this cruise line down severely. Msc has the potential to offer a lovely cruise here but unfortunately they are way off the mark with this.
There is a nicer restaurant which you can eat in or you can choose the buffet.
Villa Verde offers waiter service and a seven course evening menu and includes soups, salads, pasta.
The food is adequate in here - but at times the food was undercooked and inedible. (Not really excusable when it is a rice or pasta dish - and has been slopped on the plate without any attempt at presentation.)
Some dishes were OK. I had steak on the only one night it was available and you got it how they served it no choice of rare, well done etc. (There was a distinct lack of fine dining steak etc on this ship).
The greek salad consisted of a bowl of lettuce leaves with no dressing and my friends dish had a total absence of feta - I felt lucky with my one cube!
Dinner in here is a long affair taking over two hours! The dining times are a little odd. The staff didn't have a very good grasp of English and my friends gluten and dairy free requirements (mentioned on booking) were totally ignored initially. After some explaining an alternative menu was offered but then the dishes came with cheese!???
To make it worse you are crammed in like sardines!
The buffet restaurant is a disgrace.
Ok, yes hot dogs, sausages fast food etc, but every day? Come On!
I have cruised with other companies and am not overly fussy - but this is the only cruise I have been on where the food is EXACTLY the same in the buffet every lunch and tea. For example;
MON - Hot dogs, burgers, fries, buns, pizza, salad station, pasta station,fruit station (some tinned!) ethnic corner (curry), Daily specials
SAME ON TUES,WEDS,THURS,FRI,SAT,SUN
The daily specials ranged from carrots to roast potatoes - hardly a special dish !
No good meat choice or carvery!
On the final day it was so busy in the buffet people were shoving and pushing each other and it felt like 4000 people had descended on the dining room - it was a feeding frenzy and what I can only describe as Butlins at sea.
There is an option to have free breakfast in the cabin up to 10am which we did quite a lot to avoid the plague of locusts upstairs. Service was efficent and comprised of hot tea or coffee, juice and cereals. Very nice.
Service was poor - in the buffet it was often difficult to get a drink, whilst the bars were highly variable. Some staff were nice and friendly and efficient - others in the Splendida bar were rude and ignorant - We were left sitting for twenty minutes on one occasion whilst staff walked past and ignored us!.
Msc also adds a 7 euro gratuities p.p per day to the bill as well as a fifteen percent charge on drinks. On speaking to the staff involved it is apparent that the staff do not actually receive this!
The entertainment in the strand theatre was excellent. The acts were professional, enjoyable and were different each night.
There were piano bars which were also quite good.
Value For Money
You have to pay for everything - even water on this cruise line. The only exception is in the buffet restaurant where there are tea,coffee and squash machines (NOT fresh fruit juice).
We chose all inclusive drinks package which was good, but expensive.
It included any drink at any bar up to 7 euros (including tea and coffee, but not speciality coffees at the special coffee areas). This included beers, cocktails, vitamin bar, soft drinks, juices. It also included drinks in the mini bar and all snacks in the mini bar.
(Mini Bar comprises peanuts, choc peanuts, crisps, 2 beers, fruit juices and soft drinks - and the person who comes to stock the bar will fill it to your needs on request - a nice touch).
Incidentally, I took my friend on her first cruise as I love cruising. She will not cruise again after this experience and I have to say had it been mine - I would never cruise again either - the food and service was that bad!