Travelling as a solo passenger, I have just returned from a cruise to the Canary Islands and Morocco with MSC Armonia. We usually sail with Thompson but the MSC cruise seemed a cheaper option as there is little no single supplement ... Read More
Travelling as a solo passenger, I have just returned from a cruise to the Canary Islands and Morocco with MSC Armonia. We usually sail with Thompson but the MSC cruise seemed a cheaper option as there is little no single supplement surcharge. Here are my thoughts and impressions.
The ship and services
After its recent upgrade I found the ship to be well maintained and modern. My cabin (an inside on deck 8) was roomy, smart and clean. There were plenty of bars etc. which were easily accessible although some of the more popular entertainment venues could have been bigger with more seating. The pools and splash areas were well kept with ample seating and loungers, although, of course, it was not a summer sailing and therefore quiet. Because of the range of Nationalities, all announcements (including the entertainment) were given in five languages, which can be laborious but I did learn a few words! Wifi packages are available but connection is quite slow. Contrary to popular opinion the added daily service charges are NOT compulsory. You can request to have these removed or reduced, leaving you with the option of tipping whom you choose.
Food and drink
There are several drinks packages on offer but they also sell voucher packs for people like me who don't drink alcohol but might like a fruit cocktail which can be expensive. All drinks are subject to a surcharge. I found the food, both in the self service restaurant and in the main restaurant, very good indeed, with enough choices to suit all tastes, and the service was excellent. Be aware however, that although everything is free and available in the self-service, you have to buy your water in the main restaurant (take turns and share!) and there is no tea or coffee to follow the meal. Nationalities tended to be grouped (everyone on our table was British) and I am told there are always options to move.
I cannot praise the animation team enough. They are all friendly and attentive and work incredibly hard. However, as others have pointed out, most of the entertainment is in the form of dance lessons, although these are given light heartedly with fun in mind. The more interactive fun started at about 11.30 pm. The Casino is popular mainly for Roulette but the minimum stake at all tables is 5 Euros which is expensive when compared to other ships. There were a few daily quizzes which covered all Nationalities, and, of course Bingo, but at 10 Euros for one card and one game! I'm afraid I found the evening shows only adequate, although the speciality acts such as the acrobats were great. There are only two singers and the male (Livin La Vida Loca with the young dancers) must be well into his 60s! Seasoned MSC travellers tell me entertainment varies from ship to ship.
Ports and Excursions
Ship excursions are very expensive so research your ports beforehand! There is nothing much to do or see in Casablanca and the day trips out to places like Marrakesh cost more than you can fly out from England to! There is a beautiful Mosque or shopping, but they are distanced from each other. The worst part is the very long walk into the city where you are met with barrages of men aggressively trying to get you to take their taxi or excursion. In Agadir, principally you have the beach or the souks. A good idea is to negotiate with one of the many taxi drivers waiting for customers and they will take you where you want to go and wait to return you to the ship again for around 20 Euros. At Arrecife the ship offers a return coach for around 8 Euros but frankly, the port is not too far to walk and is very pleasant, taking you past a modern shopping centre and marina. Finally, Santa Cruz is a just big city. Unless you want to shop, take a cheap city bus to the beach or Laguna. The city tour bus is a rip off!
Would I sail with MSC again? Possibly, but I'd do more research first and expect to pay more in the end. As a solo traveller on this occasion, I met some lovely people, was never lonely and felt well looked after and safe. Personally, I would have just preferred a little more to do.