The whole trip started out badly. We had booked the cruise through an agent, but where trying to sort out drinks packages, etc. ahead of embarkation. This was mostly due to MSC stating on their website that drinks packages had to be booked ... Read More
The whole trip started out badly. We had booked the cruise through an agent, but where trying to sort out drinks packages, etc. ahead of embarkation. This was mostly due to MSC stating on their website that drinks packages had to be booked ahead of the cruise and wouldn't be available on board. The first problem we encountered was that the MSC website seemingly never works. We had tried unsuccessfully for a couple of weeks, but were unable to either access our booking or proceed with booking "extras". Another issue is trying to get through to MSC customer services. You can be waiting for a response for over an hour and when you do get through, they are surly and helpful. They directed us back to our agent, who did indeed manage (with some difficulty) to book the drinks package.
Once we arrived for embarkation, the process was generally ok with no major problems. However, when checking in, we were asked if we wanted to purchase a discounted drinks package (i.e the same one we had tried to book with such problems earlier) at a cheaper price. It became obvious then, that MSC are not particularly scrupulous in their dealings with customers, nor particularly good at telling the truth. They also tried to say we only booked the non-alcoholic drinks package that required a somewhat exasperated conversation to ensue, which eventually got sorted out.
The ship itself is nice and the cabin was comfortable. However, for such a new vessel, it is not wearing well and is very tatty in places. The sheer size of the ship may be off putting to some people, as it takes awhile to get orientated. The size also presents it's own issues, as there are a lot of passengers on board and it can feel cramped and overcrowded at times. Likewise the noise levels in some of the more popular public areas can be unbearable. So if you're looking for quiet relaxation, this is not the ship to go on.
The food on the Fantasis is abysmal. The Zanzibar cafe (the large buffet restaurant) is a massive free for all that is stressful and hideous. The food is of a dreadful quality and is more often than not served cold. We didn't try the main dining room, but were informed by a number of other passengers that it was even worse than the buffet, with slow service and sub-standard food. We did eat a couple of times in the tex-mex restaurant, (that you pay a supplement for) mostly be able to eat some marginally acceptable food. Even here, it is questionable whether the offering was worth the price. The free beverages on the ship are horrible, the coffee is nasty and the fruit juice is really just coloured, sweetened water. We were relieved to have purchased the drinks package, if only to be able to get a decent cup of coffee.
The service on the Fantasia is also horrendous. The staff are surly, rude and unhelpful. There are very few exceptions to this, which really indicates a very poor customer service culture. Waiting staff wander around aimlessly in a bored, lackadaisical manner. It seems like you are asking them to sell their grandmother when you request something from the bar. The room steward, although pleasant enough, did not particularly put herself out to be helpful. On one occassion, she didn't bother to come in the evening to do a turn down. Not getting programmes and replacement items for the cabin was commonplace. The 14th floor, where the pool and buffet are situated is the epicentre of rubbish service. We appreciate that it is busy up there, but either get more staff or replace the hideous specimens that you have up there. After a few days of really bad service, we got fed up and made a complaint. We highlighted a litany of issues, but for whatever reason, they only chose to investigate one of them. This issue (the lack of turn down service) was deemed our fault, because we had left the energy card in the slot. We had not done this, which would have been evident from our cabin cards being used throughout the ship, so it was plainly not investigated at all. We were offered a bottle of "champagne", as a token of goodwill, but this turned out to be a really cheap bottle of sweet, fizzy wine that really just added insult to injury. It just seemed to epitomise the contempt that MSC holds for its customers.
If the port of call requires a tender, then you will be subjected to another quirky system that MSC has put in place. You are required to queue for timed tender tickets (usually starting early in the morning). This would be all well and good, except that MSC don't bother following through on a system that they have put in place. After having queued for tender tickets (sometimes for more than an hour), you will go down to the tender at the alloted time and they will just wave you on. No one bothers to look at the ticket, therefore you might as well have not bothered in the first place. The only positive thing about the queing is the entertainment that ensues when people try to push in (which happens A LOT). We saw a couple of near punch ups through this system, which was more entertaining that the embarrassing spectacles that pass as shows in the theatre. For some reason, the amount of time alloted in each port is staggeringly short. We suspect this is because MSC are too cheap to pay for longer docking in the ports, but this becomes an issue. It is really annoying when you have to get a tender, as soon as you are off the ship, then it is more or less time to get back on. And this was a ship you REALLY wanted to get off of.
There were a myriad of other issues with this cruise that I could speak about, but this would turn this review into an essay, which should in itself, tell you everything you need to know about cruising with MSC. It is worth pointing out that my partner and myself have clocked up over 70 cruises between us, on a variety of ships and have never felt compelled to write an unfavourable review before now. This was our first cruise on MSC and will be our last. We couldn't wait to get off the ship at the end of the 7 days and feel like we need another holiday to recover. AVOID! Read Less