We chose MSC and this particular cruise because the itinerary Ports of call, suited the half term break for the UK Schools, we booked an Air Cruise, so MSC booked our flights on British Airways, the downside of this, is our flights were booked on a group ticket, therefore, you cannot check in independently on BA website, on day of departure, early morning flight from LHR, we got shunted around Terminal 5, looking for customer advisors to book us in, the matter got sorted out eventually, but we were disappointed and considered it a bad start.
On arrival in Milan, we were transferred ok by coach to Genoa to embark the Armonia, we were bemused by the Italian officials who kept pushing bits of paper around, and bemused at the fact you do not get your cruise card issued at check in, you are pushed on to the ship, only to have to go to your cabin and pick up your cruise cards, then have them activated at electronic data points around the ship, and attach a credit card authorisation up to £250.00 with further authorisations as necessary.
So far so good, then on 1st day the life boat and muster drill went ahead, but no one told us we had to scan our cards with the lifeboat attendants, subsequently, we were reprimanded by letter for not attending when we had attended, again another trip below decks to deck 5 to tell reception we had attended, which they promptly promised to rectify, on day 3 we were asked to do the same again.
The Ship carries about 2500 passengers and about 700 crew, the majority of the crew are Indonesian, Bars, Buffet, cabin attendants, The ships facilities, and we understand this ship has been refitted it has to be said is exceptionally clean, below decks, the public areas are nice and the Cafe San Marco, the Bar Duomo, etc, and other bars are fairly nice, but this ship is not the RCI Harmony of Seas, or similar, its a much smaller vessel, and the entertainment caters for mainly the Italian Cruise crowd, overtime an announcement is made its in 4 languages, which does kind of give you a headache, secondly, the entertainment on board is limited to the Teatro Le Fenice, with mainly Gymnastic style shows, hand standing, and rather bizarre cabaret acts, we did not use the fine dining areas as the buffet seemed quicker and more accessible, however at peak times, seating is an issue, although there is more seating outside in the Pizzeria, and the Burger and Fries areas, plus you have Italian Gelateria, and Juice bar outside, thats a plus, the Burger and Fries area is open all the time for snacks, as is the pizzeria, although I have to say don't expect Dominos or Pizza Express quality pizzas, they are in the main Margherita's with a bit of this and that on top.
The MSC Drinks package policy is rather difficult to get your head around at first glance, since if there are 2 of you sharing a cabin which is the most likely scenario, you must purchase 2 sets of unlimited beverage packages which can be a waste if one of you does not drink, secondly, its pricey, as much as 50 Euro a day per person, or 26 Euro Per day per person if its just unlimited drinks at meals. You can purchase a coffee package for 14 coffees or water package, or soda package, again this to me is bizarre because you are given a book of tickets, which for me is back to school...anyone remember it, every occasion you order a coffee or soda, or ask for water, you have to find the relative book of tickets, to which you must carry them around, and then prefer your cruise card, and sign for the receipt on delivery, again, time consuming, when Norwegian just scan your card and thats the end of it.
We used the Thermal Spa area, which for E120.00 plus 15% tax, seemed attractive until you find that there are no Jacuzzi's only, a Sauna, a Laconic room, and some Thermal beds, however having said that at some times we were the only people in, and on a basis that it costs E39.00 per day per couple it works out fairly good value if you use it 4 times in the week. Also unlike other cruise lines, there was only cold tea, and not juice and water as we had experienced elsewhere.
The Buffet was our main point of dining, after 2 days my wife started to predict the menu, its mainly caters for Italian customers, lots of Salads, Pasta, some meat, but the menu did not have theme nights as seen on RCI or Norwegian or similar, we were getting fed up with the food after day 3, and started to cut down on what we had, and to be truthful we were disappointed with the food, after having a Scandinavia and Russia cruise with RCI in May, where we experienced the food choices there, this was at best underwhelming.
Service on board was fairly good, there did seem to be a lack of drinks waiters during peak meal times, but on deck in the smoking area, we were well looked after with plenty of staff to take our order for drinks, the Cabin attendant was attentive and the rooms made up well every day, and beds put down at night, also one thing I liked was that we had fresh towels every day, the only negative about our ocean view room is that the shower is far too small for most people over a certain body size, the shower has a curtain which sticks to you, every time you go in, which is irritating, I ended up on 2 days going to the Thermal spa area to have a proper shower, however this maybe due to the cabin size, there is sufficient room under your bed for 2 suit cases, but their seemed to be a lack of hangers in the wardrobe, whereas on other cruise lines there has always seemed to be an abundance.
Embarking from the ship at the close of the cruise seemed to work ok, our bags were taken on the green tag, and we left the ship within 25 minutes of sitting in the theatre, we were directed outside to our transfer coach, and that seemed to work very well, the only problem again with doing flights through the cruise line is that they drop you off at the airport straight away, which means you have not got time to do anything, and we sat all afternoon in Milan Airport in a private lounge waiting to check in, we understood other passengers from other ships on the same Cruise Line, had been there since 9am for a 17.45pm flight.
The itinerary was good, which was Genoa-Marseille, Marseille-Port Mahon Balearic Islands, Port Mahon-Cagliari Sardinia - Cagliari - Malta - Malta - Messina - Messina Naples, Naples - Genoa, we initially booked an excursion to Arles in France, but found out after we had booked the tickets, that they cancelled it, because lack of interest, we were offered an alternative, but asked them to cancel, as we were not interested in any other excursions,
In the end we took the transfer at 15 Euros per head to Marseille as the ship docks about 25 minutes away, Port Mahon doesn't require any transfer, the port is just in front of the ship, it can all be done by walking, and Cagliari is walkable as well, we took an excursion for Taormina and Messina, and finally on the last day, Naples to Pompeii, this is an excellent excursion although rushed !!! and lots of hanging around waiting for the tour guides to count up the passengers on the tour at every twist and turn, plus lots of walking, around cobbled streets, however, the opportunity to see Pompeii under Vesuvius is not to be missed.
All in All, I think MSC has not caught up with other Cruise operators, in terms of choice, and needs to improve its offerings, it caters mainly to Italians, and the excursions for english speakers is mixed in with German speakers, which means all your tour guide announcements are made in English, then you have to sit and listen on a headset to the same in German, if you speak German and English great, you get to hear it twice, if you only speak German or English, its going to give you a headache, Would I go again with MSC, sadly, whilst some aspects of the cruise were great, i.e. the Ports itinerary, No I would not, and that isn't because I think MSC is that bad, I just think its not as good as what you can buy elsewhere, for a little more money, so for me its a value for money issue, and other cruise operators just do it so much better and have more choices, with better facilities, to me
MSC is a no frills cruise, with limited offerings both in Dining and Entertainment. Read Less