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8 Night South America Cruise from Rio de Janeiro

8 Night South America Cruise from Rio de Janeiro

MSC Fantasia
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  • Day 1
    Rio de Janeiro
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    Punta del Este
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    Buenos Aires
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    Rio de Janeiro

MSC Fantasia

MSC Fantasia - MSC Cruises

75 percent of cabins have private balconies

International pax mix makes for festive ambience

Has one of Europe's best ship-within-a-ship concepts

Cruise Reviews

7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
This was my 20th cruise across many lines and my wife's 12th. With us was our 9-year-old daughter on her 3rd cruise. We booked in a balcony (non-Yacht Club) and had a rate I would call exceptional (helped out by the fact that our ... Read More
This was my 20th cruise across many lines and my wife's 12th. With us was our 9-year-old daughter on her 3rd cruise. We booked in a balcony (non-Yacht Club) and had a rate I would call exceptional (helped out by the fact that our daughter sailed for free). Overall Review: Our cruise on MSC Fantasia was a great vacation but mainly due to the itinerary. The ship is fine, seemingly heavy on bars and lounges with (as expected) a heavily-European crowd, mainly French and Italian with some from the UK and a limited few from the US. The cabin was in great condition and looked identical to those we've had on Celebrity and other lines (minus the TV which as other reviewers have noted was comically small but we only turned it on once). Should be noted that Fantasia is due to have a refit sometime in 2019-20. The crew as good overall... top-tier managers and supervisors really get customer service and there are some at the rank-and-file level that do as well but generally service is average at best and can have issues. Our dining room service experience, though, was exceptional and one of the absolute best we've had on any line in a main dining room. Food, as noted in other reviews, was average at best and could be below average in areas. Pastas and pizzas were good as expected but cost-control methods elsewhere take their toll on the overall quality. The upside was really the itinerary which was amazing but the downside was the constant feeling of being upsold, even more so than on other lines. From the drink package being pushed at the beginning to the specialty dining to - and this was a surprise to me - a €24 upgrade to add a lobster tail to your entree on Gala Night. The increases, in my mind, were extreme on some notes (such as the lobster or a €68 per person Chef's-Table tasting menu in the specialty) but some things were surprisingly low. While a can of soda (Pepsi by the way) was €3.50, a glass of wine was only €5 and bottles of wine were from €25 to €50 with a strong list of decent Italian wines. In short it was a great value and itinerary. We would consider sailing MSC again on an itinerary that gave us in-port dining options but would avoid the line for itineraries like the Caribbean where in-port dining is more difficult and/or expensive. Dining: Putting this first because, frankly, this is the one with the most ups and downs and as a self-confessed "foodie" it's an important part of my vacation experience. Food in the dining room for dinner was good to very good - the pastas were the natural highlight for an italian cruise line. Cooked to perfection with delicious sauces... if you see a pasta dish you might like, order. Portions could be small (one dish had three medium-sized ravioli) but waiters understand and are ready with backups. Meat dishes are hit-and-miss... all are sliced, mostly very thinly, with good to very good sauces. Give up the concept of ordering your steak to temp (unless you opt for the €24 T-bone upsell) - you're getting a slice. If you skip the sauce be prepared for dry meat... not the best. Seafood is good but they're obviously cost-conscious with their portion sizes - a seafood risotto featured one langostine, two shrimp and about 5 small bay scallops. Desserts were OK - but there are always free pastries next to the gelato bar (delicious and priced the same you'll see in port). In an odd twist though – there was a stunning lack of chicken dishes on any menu. Not a downside, just an interesting note. Now... beyond the dining room.... essentially, you're going to have the buffet. This is an insane zoo of a place with a feel that’s straight out of Lord of the Flies. The crowds are everywhere even at non-peak times and the flow is poorly laid out. Essentially there are 6-7 areas (pizza, hot items, bakery, salad, desserts, vegetarian/healthy) that are repeated throughout the expanse of the space. The food there is average to below-average with the exception of the pizza which is quite good (skip the charcoal though - bad attempt IMO). Breakfast is repeated daily so if you don't like it on day one you're gonna be in for a long week. Juice is offered at breakfast… should be “juice” as the orange juice tasted suspiciously like Tang. But the big fun was to happen on the at-sea day – which was chaos from about 7am until 3pm. The food was average as noted but what was insane was the pushing, shoving, shouting and lack of order of the other guests. All three of us – including my daughter – were shoved or pushed or had people cut in front of us in buffet lines as we waited patiently for our turn in a station. There was neither a right-to-left nor a left-to-right flow of the pax in each section but rather an olly-olly-oxenfree cacophonous scrum. Beverages at lunch were limited to water or the bar – unless there was some leftover “juice” from breakfast. However, service in the buffet though is good - lots of waiters around ready to take your money for a beverage. We attempted lunch in the dining room on the at-sea day (our 2nd day) but based on the choices and quality we opted to eat in port on the rest of the days and that - not shockingly - turned out to be the absolute highlight of the food on our trip. We did not attempt dinner in the buffet but a walk thru there showed some of the entrees in the dining room available with some other regular choices - and the aforementioned pizza available from 11am until Midnight so if you're in a pinch grab a slice. Lastly, one of our group needs a gluten-free diet. We had selected MSC in part knowing that they dedicated themselves to a quality GF diet and options. While generally true in the dining room there were elements that were phoned in… for example the same exact “dessert of the day” was served three days in a row. It was a simple sponge cake with chocolate cream (days 2-4 after the first day being the same cake with a strawberry cream) which was fine but by the third day it was redundant. It wouldn’t have been hard for the staff to swap chocolate for other flavors daily at a minimum. GF options were present but limited in the buffet and we didn’t note any GF pizza options. GF bread was always available in the dining room and some wasn’t bad. Cabin: Shortest section... it's a fine cabin. We had a balcony on deck 11 and found it to be just like any other standard balcony. No complaints on the cabin. However, our service in the cabin was a low point. Staff on the cruise, much like many of the guests, rotate on and off at each port meaning sometimes your waiter or room steward will leave mid-cruise which happened to us. Our attendant got off mid-cruise and was replaced with someone who actually smiled and was accessible. However before that we had a request for an extra blanket for the pull-out bed my daughter was in... which took four calls and over an hour to happen when we were initially promised 15 minutes. In typical fashion on the 4th call we were told a supervisor was notified and we had the blanket within 2 minutes (see below). Embarkation/Disembarkation: Really one of the hidden highlights of the cruise. Since the ship has a rolling embarkation/disembarkation as it sails there wasn’t a huge crush. We arrived in the terminal in Mallorca about 11:30am and were on the ship by about 12:30pm. One nice touch – you just turn in your paperwork and have your ID checked and then walk on the ship. Keys are waiting in your room and you simply visit a self-service kiosk to activate payment on your cruise card. Very efficient. One note – when you get to the terminal make SURE to get a check-in number. Find an MSC rep and get one – some people snuck past only to get to the embarkation area and find themselves without a number and pushed to the back of the queue. Disembarkation was by deck and was equally fast…. At least we think it was. We had an issue with formal photos not being ready (see below) that held us up. But we walked off the ship, found our luggage in the terminal and went on our way in about 5 mins from the time the photos were sorted. Ports/Itinerary: This is why we loved the cruise. The itinerary was amazing. We left from Mallorca then to Ibiza, at sea, Naples, Livorno, Genoa and finally to Marseille. We flew into Mallorca the night before and overnighted there before checking into the ship on Monday. After Embarkation we decided to go into town. In a silly move we opted for the MSC shuttle to the town – WOW, what a ripoff. We paid nearly €50 for the three of us to ride in and out – that’s more than a round-trip to the AIRPORT would have been in a taxi. Lesson learned. Palma was amazing, great to walk thru the city and shops and stopped at a little café for some great tapas. The next day was Ibiza… we planned on doing very little and decided to go into town. This time we skipped the shuttle and instead of spending €48 for the three of us we spent €12 on a local bus that was a 2-minute walk past the MSC shuttle. This was a pattern we saw in every port – a VERY expensive MSC option that should be avoided at all cost. We expected very little and had a great visit to the cathedral/fort on the top of the hill and lunched at a café in the old section of town. If you have kids there’s a nice little playground right along the main street by the bus drop off – great to let them burn off some energy! Then we had our at-sea day. This is where the other passengers really “shined.” The day started in the gym which opens at 6am. There’s a limited number of cardio (6 treadmills, 4 bikes, 2 elliptical and 2 arm bikes) and a decent set of weight machines and dumbbells. I never saw a wait for devices but each has a computer-enforced 20 minute time limit. Once that was over at 6:45 the crew was setting out chairs for the day and just about as fast as they were being sat down people were reserving with towels. We were ready for this but it was a near feeding frenzy. It should note that the starboard side of the pool deck is smoker-friendly so if you’re bothered by smoke it can be troublesome. The bigger problem on the deck was the music. Starting about 7:30 with “stretching” and then going well into the morning the crew was BLASTING music at concert-level volumes. If you’re looking for a quiet day poolside look elsewhere. We actually moved from the outdoor pool to the quieter indoor pool to avoid the deafening roar. Formal night was this night and there was a wide variety of attire. A few men were in black tie and some women were in gowns but they were the exception. I wore a black suit and tie, my wife was in a lovely dress and our daughter had a very cute semi-formal gown and we were at- or slightly over-dressed. Despite the “no shorts” rule in the dining room we even saw people in shorts in the dining room on formal night. Most guests were wearing jackets or dresses but there outliers on all ends of the spectrum. Photographers were set up around the ship and were very available. The photos they took were good to very good and prices were reasonable for cruise photos – they have a €30 option to add on to any package that gives you digital copies of any photos you buy which is a nice option. In Naples we had opted for a Family tour of Pompeii. When we got back from the pool on the at-sea day a note in our room informed us that our tour had been cancelled. A visit to the shore excursion desk later it was determined that there weren’t enough people who were interested in that tour so it was cancelled. We were “offered” to join the more expensive standard Pompeii tour without any discount or apology. So we took the larger tour. Note on tours on MSC – they are LARGE. Typically 45-60 people per group with a single leader. Guests are given headsets so they can hear the guides (par for the course really) and the guides are informative. However. We quickly learned the difference in the “regular” and “family” tour when 1/3 of the 2 hour tour in Pompeii focused on the brothels and prostitution in the city. Fun explaining that one to a 9-year-old. More on that later. After the Pompeii visit we had time to wander into Naples and visit the oldest pizza restaurant – dating back to 1738 – for a delicious lunch, opting to skip past the more tourist-oriented places in the city square. We did wander past the beautiful castle in the city center through the square for an amazing Italian coffee and gelato before returning to the ship. Next was Livorno and we had opted for a Florence & Pisa combination tour. Again, 50 of us were loaded on a coach and herded into Florence. Given that both the tower and the museums in Florence have timed tickets and the tour couldn’t tell us if we were going to Pisa and then Florence or the reverse we were unable to visit the museums or walk up in the tower on this tour. Not the end of the world but if I had known that right in the cruise terminal there were several car rental companies I would have rented a car and done a self-tour. The tour was informative but S L O W. Once we did get to Florence it took 5 minutes to get the group to cross the street given the number of people, their lack of speed and the shortness of traffic lights. Sensing this we left the group opting to meet back at the meeting spot later in the day… which was a wonderful choice. Our daughter wanted to see some specific sites (she’s a science fan so seeing Galileo’s grave and other sites were a must) including the Duomo exterior and the copy of David in the city square. After Florence it was back into the bus for the ride to Pisa – after we lost 30 mins waiting on several couples to get to the bus. Our guide simply extended the overall time of the tour which gave us more time in Pisa but necessitated us going from the bus directly to dinner. After Livorno it was on to Genoa. We opted to take the train to Portofino on our own which was wonderful. A quick walk to the train station about 5 mins from the ship and we hopped a train to Santa Margharita where you take a bus to Portofino. The train was about €12 per person round trip and the bus was another €4 per person each way. Portofino was insanely crowded and expensive but having checked that off our bucket list we came back to Santa Margharita and had a fantastic seaside lunch before taking the train back. One note – if you do take the train you MUST validate your ticket on wall-mounted time punch machines BEFORE boarding the train. They are not well marked and you need to seek them out or face a €50 per ticket fine on board. The last stop was Marseilles. Another booked tour, another cancelled tour, this time the Avignon/Aix-en-Provence duo tour. This was cancelled for a lack of English-language participation. So, again, we went on our own to Avignon which was WELL worth the visit. The tour at the Palais du Papes was the best self-guided tour we’ve ever done anywhere with an amazing virtual-reality-type tablet experience that gave the history and perspective of the amazing palace. The second formal night was on the Marseille night – slightly inconvenient as we were disembarking in Mallorca the next morning but still nice. Service: As noted we had an issue with the shore excursions with two cancelled and the non-family tour of Pompeii not preparing us nor noting the content. I discussed this with the Shore Excursions staff and was initially told that nothing could be done. When I escalated this to a manager my issue was quickly and efficiently handled and a reasonable credit was posted to our account. This was a trend we saw throughout the ship. One night at dinner we were approached by a photographer who instructed us to cluster for a photo – which we politely declined saying “No thank you” to which he audibly scoffed and uttered a curse word under his breath as he turned and left. When I raised this to the photo manager as a point of information he was appalled and pledged to make sure the employee was instructed differently. Lastly, we had photos made on the 2nd formal night and ended up picking a package of photos from both nights. Since we were early seating they had proofs done by 10pm and promised to have final prints ready in the morning at reception. In the morning we found that one of the three pictures we needed to get was of us but the other two most clearly were not of our family. When I raised this with the agent at the reception desk it was met with a “I’m sorry” and nothing much else. However, when I raised this to a manager she worked diligently to find someone from the photo team to finally answer the phone (took 30 minutes just to find someone with the keys) who then re-printed the photos including a couple of “extras” slipped in for goodwill. It seems clear that MSC is working hard to establish a culture of service at the top levels and has trained senior staff to embody this culture. However, it’s not made it all the way down to the full crew. Some are amazing (like our dining room staff) while others are uncaring. As a passenger know that when you escalate politely and professionally things will be handled quickly and effectively. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Firs the positive, the embarkation was smooth. But the company lacks in communications with the guests. It has no processes to keep the guests engaged after they book the cruise. They live in an old world where communications with your ... Read More
Firs the positive, the embarkation was smooth. But the company lacks in communications with the guests. It has no processes to keep the guests engaged after they book the cruise. They live in an old world where communications with your customers was nil. But the most important point is they bring in your luggage in batches. So you will get some pieces first and for the rest you will have to wait till the ship sets sailing. My bag which contained toiletries and shoes etc did not arrive even after we checked in at 12.30 am, the earliest time one could check in. I complained, but the cruise officials were not helpful. They said it would take time and they cant help. Second, if you have purchased internet, good luck to you. The speed sucks. They cant do anything about the speed. Third, there is iron for basic pressing in the room. If your clothes have wrinkles, there is nothing you can do but give them to the laundry for ironing. It will cost your a princely 4.90 euros for a dress. Overall, not so good experience on day one. I will do a full review after the cruise. This is just the initial impressions. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2019
MSC Fantasia Review Intro I have read quite a few reviews of this ship (few of them positive) and thought I would add my own. We are a large family group and between us have probably cruised nearly 100 times on many different lines, ... Read More
MSC Fantasia Review Intro I have read quite a few reviews of this ship (few of them positive) and thought I would add my own. We are a large family group and between us have probably cruised nearly 100 times on many different lines, so I'd say we have a broad range of cruising experience. We chose this cheap and cheerful cruise for our annual family holiday because, well, it was cheap. We travelled by train from London and sailed from Marseille, via Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza, Naples, Livorno and Genoa. We were concerned, to say the least, after reading so many poor reviews but overall, the experience was acceptable. Embarkation was surprisingly all right. I think it is because for this particular cruise, people are boarding and leaving from every port so you don't experience the usual huge lines and long waits for your baggage. A couple of things to note, however, is that firstly you need to validate your cruise card and link it with your credit card *on the ship* rather than at embarkation, and at checkout you need to physically go to reception to receive any refund due on your credit card. This isn't something we knew about before boarding and not something that was made clear to us on board. In fact a lot of the things we knew about the ship were down to reading Cruise Critic boards, and because a few of us had sailed with MSC before. Generally, information is not particularly forthcoming. You are either expected to know, or find out for yourself. In addition, the answers you get from the crew depend entirely on who you ask. At times it felt like a crew training cruise, when just about every query was received with puzzlement and a long discussion with someone else. A major point which I think others have also made is regarding smoking. If you cannot tolerate smoking, do not cruise with MSC. Smoking is officially banned on balconies and only permitted outdoors on Deck 7, one side of the pool deck and in the cigar bar and casino. However, despite numerous complaints, nothing was done to stop our cabin neighbours puffing away on their balcony, constantly, and indeed taunting us about it. There are plenty of hidden corners where people can and do smoke, and little is done too prevent it. Tacitly, it seems that this is a smokers' cruise line in spite of the obvious fire risk this poses. The Atlantico bar is directly above the casino and connected with a grand staircase, so that too is quite a smoky area. Another point of concern was the random way in which rules were applied. I left the ship every day with my daughter and niece (who was travelling with her parents) – some of us went for a run, and we walked to meet up with them in each port - with no problems except on the last day when I was informed that I could not take her off the ship as we had different cabin numbers. This sort of thing should not come as a surprise! We had no idea this was a rule of the ship and it was embarrassing, to say the least. Ship environment and layout Perhaps uniquely among ships I've travelled in, the Fantasia has almost no internal clues as to where you happen to be. For example, on NCL, the design of the carpets and art in the stairwells indicates whether you're fore, aft or midships, and little fish point to the front of the ship. There are no such design elements on Fantasia – there are few maps on the wall and paper maps of the ship are only available at reception. This led to a great deal of getting lost. This is a ship of dead ends and going round in circles. I would advise anyone travelling to get a deck plan in advance and study it carefully. This is an older ship and there were stained carpets and leaky air conditioning, flickering lights and broken toilets. Most of the water park was closed for refurbishment. Overall it was clean but it has seen better days. The room stewards were highly overworked – they never get a period of time when there are no passengers on board on a schedule like this one and the ship is permanently full. Our cabin was cleaned daily but sometimes it wasn't turned down until quite late in the evening. Facilities/entertainment We used the Kids' Club – this was fine but if there aren't many kids there, the staff put on a movie and this may be in a different language to the one your kids happen to speak. This may not bother your kids – it didn't bother mine, but it bothered her cousin. Registration, drop off and collection all happen in the same queue, rather than having registration take place at a set time every day. This led to very long lines at busy times. Children get either a red or green wristband. Red means they are not allowed to roam the ship alone, green means they can check themselves out of the kids' club whenever they like. If your child is sensible and can navigate the highly confusing ship, that is.. The pools are fine – they do the job! There is a large indoor pool, an outdoor pool complex, a water slide (with random opening hours), a pool and hot tubs at the back, and a water park which was under refurbishment and therefore closed. The theatre shows were pretty good, if at times incomprehensible. At the poolside, there are often dance classes and other fun activities. There's a tiny library and cyber café, hidden by the reception area. The bars are OK, with little to distinguish one from another. There's a constant pressure to buy drinks packages but these can only be applied to everyone in the cabin – there's no way that between the three of us we could get through €90 worth of drinks a day for the most basic package. Our travel agent negotiated a deal where we could have sparkling water at the buffet or dining room, which was all we really wanted anyway. The photo gallery was incredibly crowded and finding your photos was haphazard – people seemed to be moving photos around. However, the photographers were really good and we actually bought quite a few, which we don't usually. We had a small balcony cabin which was fine, it had enough room for us and our stuff. It got quite noisy at night with stuff going on in the corridors and neighbouring cabins but nothing too bad (apart from a big fight next door one night for which we had to call security…). Staff The staff are nice, they all speak basic English and do their jobs well, but I refer to my earlier remark about how it seemed that this was a training cruise. Food We ate in the dining room and the buffet. We did not try any of the speciality restaurants so I can't say anything about those. The food was a bit hit and miss – nothing horrible, but few things were amazing. The prime rib was great. I really missed the sort of hot puddings you get on NCL or Princess. The dessert section of the buffet was mostly little cakes and jellies, but there was plenty of fruit available. The buffet had a good selection most of the time, the pizzas were excellent. There's little enforcement of the hand gel and often the dispensers were broken, which probably explains why most of us now have colds. In the dining room the portions were very small – my nine year old had room for two main courses from the adult menu one night. Ports of call We did like all the ports we visited. Most of the time we walked off the ship and did not use the shuttle buses. It's worth noting that in Livorno, there is a €5 bus that takes you to the centre of town, or a slightly secret free bus that gets you to the entrance to the port, and then it's a 10 minute walk to the town centre. If you're able to walk for 20 minutes, you don't really need the shuttle buses, but they are heavily promoted. Additionally in Livorno, the town centre itself is OK but a bit boring – however the area around the aquarium (worth visiting, much cheaper than the large one in Genoa) is a newish development with some interesting shops and cafes, a lovely park, lido and playgrounds. It's only a 15 minute walk from the port to here and it's where we wish we'd spent most of the day. We didn't book any excursions. What we tended to do was find a central point of interest and wander towards it – this paid off well in these dense, rambling towns. We hired bikes in Palma de Mallorca (but note that the cycle lane along the seafront can get busy and isn't great for novice riders). The beaches at Palma and Ibiza were really nice, clean and with decent facilities. In summary If you're looking for cheap and cheerful, you don't mind smoking and you're OK with haphazard customer service, then MSC is fine. However, if you have high expectations then you're going to be disappointed. Do your research first and go in with your eyes open. Read Less
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