We chose this cruise for many reasons. It started in the U.K., an easy and inexpensive place to reach from the U.S., and also because we were looking for something where American's would be few and finally the price was very ... Read More
We chose this cruise for many reasons. It started in the U.K., an easy and inexpensive place to reach from the U.S., and also because we were looking for something where American's would be few and finally the price was very competitive. But the problems with MSC began almost immediately. Their web site is just awful! The site almost seemed designed to confuse and frustrate the user. One example, the first time you login with your name and booking number it nags you into signing up for their "Voyagers" loyalty program. So I signed up. I now had a Voyagers club users name and password, this I was told by the web site would "simplify" using the site. LOL, no it did not! I would sign in with the Voyagers club account and the first three times I had to go through the password retrieval process because the site would not remember any of the passwords I had chosen. So I returned to signing on with name and booking number, and of course it just kept nagging me to become a "Voyagers" club member, which of course I already had. Well about a month later I tired logging on again with the "Voyagers" club account and it let me in, but now the account had no record of my booking. So at this stage I have two accounts, first the one where I logon with booking number and name, and the "Voyagers" club account which has no record of any booking. Several calls to MSC never resolved the web site usage issue.
Anyway, two months before departure we contacted our travel agent and asked them to inform MSC that we would be disembarking early at Le Havre (last port of call). In a subsequent phone call to MSC (because I was unable to use their web site for anything!) they verified that they had been told of our early disembarkation plans. And this small issue turned into one of a multitude a small annoyances and hassles. This again became a problem when it came time to check in (online of course), well it didn't work..of course. So I once again had to call our travel agent, they contacted MSC and checked us in, I was told I'd receive an email with 24 hours with the tickets and other documents. Well two days later I had not received the expected email. So again I called the travel agent, again they call MSC. Finally, a day later, I receive the email with the tickets and other documents. And for each of the next FIVE days I received another email containing the same information, but oddly several of those emails were visually very different...so strange.
Anyway pressing on, we arrived in London a couple days early to do some sightseeing, then on departure day made our way to Southampton. Check-in was efficient and remarkably unwelcoming. When we stepped in front of the MSC agent at the cruise terminal we handed the man our documents and smilingly said "hello". He snatched the documents from my hand without a word and barley a glance. He spent the next couple of minutes keyboarding and staring at his laptop. Beginning to wonder if there was some problem I asked the fellow, "problem?", there was an immediate and curt "no", again without bothering to even look at me. After another minute, or so, he grabs a couple of sheets off a printer hastily stamps them and hands them to me saying "OK". Thus official "welcomed" by this warm and hospital MSC crew member ,we then made our way on board.
First stop, the obligatory photo with a ship's wheel and photo of the Splendida in background. Then on board to the "Reception-Guest Services" lobby on Deck 5. My first thought was how cramped and tiny it was compared to the photos of it in MSC marketing materials. Once again we show our tickets and then have a photo taken for id purposes and are instructed to proceed to our room where we'll find our "cruise card". So off to the room ,12166, it generally looked as accepted from the photos I had seen. I had known from deckplans that I had been assigned a a joining room. In my mind I thought of a similar hotel room, where ajoining rooms are separated by a door on each side, which provides from some sound insulation. Well in this case it was a single very thin hollow door. I would spend the next six nights listening to coughing/hacking, drunken cackling and idle chatter in male and female blue collar English accents..it was like there was a TV in the next room constantly playing some bad british sitcom. So after a brief stop the room we were off the the Bora Bora Cafeteria, which at first seemed OK. But as the days wore on it kept getting progressively more unappetizing. I actually believe that the quality began taking a noticeable dive on day two and just kept going, but part of the grossness was discovered as we started paying closer attention.
For the most part of food was terrible. There were a few exceptions but by and large most of it was of shockingly poor quality and sloppy preparation. Some of it was just simply inedible. Here is an example; late one night we decided to avail ourselves of the buffet and a salad sounded like just the thing. Well hunger quickly turned to revulsion when I got to the salad bar. It doesn't seem like fresh clean lettuce would be much to ask for, or deliver. But, there before me was the most nauseating excuse for lettuce I had ever seen. It was literally slimy green and brown water logged chunks. The food throughout the trip was unbelievably bad. It was few evenings later when we realized that the same specials served in the "restaurant" were the same as those served in the cafeteria. It was soon crystal clear that all the offerings in the "restaurant" where exactly the same as those served at the buffet.
Well so much for the pretense of dressing for dinner only to be served luke warm cafeteria food. Of course it was no surprise to discover that room service fare was also from the cafeteria. And odd things about the food service just kept coming up, like the fact that they will NOT serve coffee during dinner in the "restaurant", not even with desert. OK, so the food was simply awful in just about every way.
OK! Now on to the public rooms. The Splendida is a large ship even by modern cruise ship standards, yet all of the public spaces seemed cramped and some simply claustrophobic. And perhaps it's Italian notions of what is sophisticated but all the public rooms were a bizarre combination of dark reds, brass, chrome and mirrored surfaces and it was that way just about everywhere. It was hard to tell where you where because much of the interior looks the same. There was not one grand or inviting room on the entire ship. It all had the look and feel of cramped and plastic shopping mall.
On to "Guest Services", I'm sure working on a cruise ship has it challenges and is likely a hardship in many way, but still your in the hospitality business, would it kill you smile and maybe make eye contact? With very few exceptions the crew and hotel staff seemed like the only thing they hated more than life itself was the guests. I don't think I've ever seen a more poorly trained and supervised hotel staff anywhere. If they are trained in anything it was excuse making. Every single contact with guest services staff was a frustration. Rude, incompetent and completely indifferent. On one of the many occasions that I had to go to "Guest Services" I was the only person in line. There were two men standing there chatting and entirely ignoring my presence as if hoping I would simply go away, no acknowledgement of any kind, until I insisted on being noticed. And it was much the same every time I came into contact with "Guest Services" staff. They seemed very well rehearsed in the delivery of excuses. In fact, I heard staff deliver the same excuses to other guess verbatim. This was the staff I had to deal with when on the first night I asked for my room to be reassigned because my loud next door neighbors were also smokers. When I went to "Guest Services" about this issue I was told that smoking was not permitted in rooms or on balcony's, but that a room reassignment was impossible because they were fully booked, but they would take note of my concern and advise me if a alternative room became available. As far as I can tell no staff ever asked the neighbors not to smoke because they never stopped. And so it went for the whole trip every time it became necessary to come into contact with "Guess Services" I simply braced myself for shockingly bad service. Example; our travel agent notified MSC of our early disembarkation two months before the sailing, yet when we inquired about it on board they claimed to have never been notified, even thought they had confirmed this to be personally on the phone months before and blamed "your travel agent". And of course they made it a hassle because they viewed it as being notified at the last moment. I could go on and on with the seemingly endless shortcomings and disappoints with this cruise. But lesson learned, I will never sail MSC again. With all that said where there any good things about it? Sure, a couple of positive things are noteworthy. The ship itself seemed generally clean and well maintained. The safety drills were well managed and effective and in this regard the crew seemed well trained and led. The very best thing was our hard working, friendly and responsive cabin attendant. I feel bad that I don't remember the young mans name because he deserves mention. Oh and a mention of one final annoyance, the gym. It's hours were so limited as to make it inaccessible not to mention that in order to access it during its very limited availability you have to run a gauntlet of sales pitches through the spa to get there. All in all a poor cruise experience. It was like being stuck on an overnight ferry for six nights. Read Less