We have recently returned from the MSC Musica repositioning cruise from Durban South Africa to Venice. We have cruised with MSC previously so are perfectly aware of some of their 'foibles'. The main reason we chose this cruise ... Read More
We have recently returned from the MSC Musica repositioning cruise from Durban South Africa to Venice. We have cruised with MSC previously so are perfectly aware of some of their 'foibles'. The main reason we chose this cruise was for the wonderful itinerary - we visited Reunion, Mauritius, The Seychelles, Aqaba, Suez Canal Transit, Katakolon, Kotor & Split.
We had hoped that over the years maybe MSC would improve but sadly things were no better and in some cases worse.
Embarkation at Durban was extremely poor - long queues going from desk to desk. Once on the ship we thought that was it, but no, more queues to get pre-paid drinks vouchers - I would have thought that these could have been delivered to the cabins or even put electronically onto our cabin card.
We were not able to get into the cabins until after 3pm as they were still being cleaned, I heard of some passengers who’s rooms were still dirty.
The luggage did not start arriving at the cabins until after the ship left Durban, some passengers did not get luggage until 10pm. This of course meant that many, like us, were not able to change out of their travelling clothes to go to dinner.
The safety drill was held before we set sail. MSC’s safety drills have never been up to much, but this one was the worse - hundreds of people crammed into a show lounge with not enough seats for every one to be comfortable. A short recorded message was played and the putting on of the life jacket was demonstrated (if you could see). No one checked that passengers were putting the life jackets on correctly. We were then dismissed and advised to watch the safety demo on the cabin television (most of which were not working, more about that later).
First night at dinner was chaotic, many ate in the buffet, but we chose to go to the MDR. We were shown to our table which I can only describe as being in a corridor/workstation that the waiters use. It was noisy with waiters charging past and other diners using it as a thoroughfare. The waiter who was looking after us took ages just to bring a drink, the food eventually arrived but it was cold and some of the table's order was incorrect. Additionally there were long queues of unhappy passengers waiting to see the Maitre D' to get their dining arrangements changed. The couple we were sitting with really wanted late dining, so they joined the queue and managed to change. We were happy with early dining, but we were not happy with the table that we were allocated, so we asked the Maitre D' if he could move us somewhere else. We were given a new table for the following night - this was in a better position and we had a wonderful waiter for the remainder of the cruise.
The MDR for dinner, apart from being extremely overcrowded was adequate, the food to my standards was ok, the portions are on the small side and there is very little vegetables served with the main meal, but you only have to ask for extra veggies or whatever you like. Our waiters looked after us very well. The senior server was experienced and professional, the junior waiter was one of the ‘newbies’ and although extremely pleasant he had no knowledge of the wines he was serving or how to serve them.
Breakfast and lunch 'Bistro' restaurant - MSC have an unusual set up for breakfast and lunch in the MDR, they call it a Bistro and basically it means that it is half waiter service and half buffet - you can choose to order from a menu or go to the buffet or a bit of both. Yes, it’s very confusing and it does not work. They also do not have a system in seating passengers, they seem to seat them anywhere where seats are available, making it very difficult for the wait staff. Other cruise lines have a computerised system so that they can see at a glance where seats are available.
There were a lot of new wait staff most of them were totally inexperienced and furthermore had little or no customer service attitudes, rumour had it that quite a few were leaving the ship in Venice!
Buffet - we rarely use the buffet, but from my limited observation, the choice of food seemed fair, but it was a mad house, getting food and a table.
Service in general around the ship was poor, the main problem being there was not enough staff - you often waited a long time to be served in the coffee shops and bars. Reception staff could be rude and unhelpful. I ordered a birthday cake for my husband, it did not arrive in the restaurant on the night I requested it and after some 'insistence' they very ‘graciously‘ presented it to him the following night, but with no apology.
Entertainment - I have mixed feelings about the entertainment. Some nights it was good, others it was very poor. They had an African group of Tenors who performed three times and were excellent. There was also rather a lot of classical music, probably too much for my taste. The MSC production shows tended to be very much the same. There was also entertainment in one of the show lounges, or on deck each evening, but these events did not start until quite late. Additionally there were usually some bars where you could go to dance or listen to music. There were never any movies shown either in the theatre or on deck or on the TV in the cabins. This was a very long cruise with a lot of sea days and I think a lot of people would have appreciated a few films.
Day time entertainment was mainly limited to deck games and handicrafts. There were two 'lecturers'; one a lady who presented very interesting port talks and a man who apparently gave talks on a number of scientific/technical themes.
Shopping was very disappointing - no choice, low stocks, poor merchandise, high prices.
The cabin - we had an aft balcony cabin on deck 11. The cabin was equipped with all we needed, but it was quite small, the cupboard and drawer space (for a long cruise) was a bit of a squeeze. The bed was comfortable. The bathroom was tiny and a bit worse for wear - the water in the shower either scalded you or froze you - there was no in-between. The TV never worked until we were In Europe, although we reported the fault several times. Our cabin boy did his best, he had 22 cabins to look after on his own and was often still working at past 10 pm at night - he definitely was not a happy boy.
Our greatest disappointment was the balcony of our cabin. We had booked this cruise long in advance to secure a balcony cabin over the wake of the ship. However, there was inadequate information on the MSC website, as the balcony had no overhang above and therefore no shade or protection from the fierce sun. This made the balcony unbearable and unusable for much of the day.
Hygiene standards - from quite early on In the cruise it became apparent that there was a nasty cough-type virus going around. As the cruise went on the coughing got worse - you could hear it all over the ship and especially in the theatre. The powerfully cold air-conditioning did not help. Some people seemed to be getting quite ill and needing to go to the ships doctor - some I spoke to were being prescribed antibiotic drugs. I contracted whatever bug it was about 10 days before the end of the cruise and it took me another two weeks after returning home to finally get over it. I think that the hygiene standards could have been better. There was gel available at the restaurants and other areas, but it was somewhat erratic, whether the staff encouraged passengers to use it.
Itinerary and excursions - the wonderful itinerary was the main attraction of this voyage for myself and many other guests that I spoke to. We opted to do MSC organised excursions in most ports and generally speaking the excursions were very good and the guides were of a reasonable standard. The only issue with the excursions was getting from the ship to the excursion bus, the meeting place was generally the theatre or one of the big Lounges and it was pandemonium getting a ticket and getting off the ship.
MSC provided a lovely cruise visiting some stunning ports of call, the weather was wonderful and the sea beautifully calm Is that enough to make a good cruise experience? In my opinion NO. As cruisers I think we want more, we want and expect great service and attitude, good food beautifully served. Fantastic entertainment and enrichment and above all a 'can do' attitude. When MSC can offer me that I may give them another try, but for time being I will be looking around for the best other cruise lines can offer Read Less