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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2014
We travelled from the UK and joined the ship in Dubai. The flights on Emirates were excellent. There is good service, good entertainment and good legroom on the aircraft. The transfer to the cruise ship was OK on arrival but chaotic on ... Read More
We travelled from the UK and joined the ship in Dubai. The flights on Emirates were excellent. There is good service, good entertainment and good legroom on the aircraft. The transfer to the cruise ship was OK on arrival but chaotic on return. There seemed to be insufficient buses to take us from ship to airport and I could see no system of accounting for which passengers have been transferred. The ship itself was comfortable and clean. The standard of catering is reasonable but nothing special and there is much higher quality food to be found on other cruise lines. Having said that, there were plenty of dishes to choose from. Be prepared to share a table in the self-service area, this is unapologetically café-style and often very busy. The waiters in the dinner restaurant were very good and the cabin steward was brilliant, always there to answer questions and very, very helpful. Unfortunately, the safe in our cabin was not working. We reported this and a flickering light bulb on the first day. The light bulb was changed on the day but we never got to use the safe! The cabin steward was not allowed to touch it, so we were let down by the maintenance team which failed to act when notified of the problem. The evening entertainment was acceptable, but not special, and there was some repetition even within one week. Given that there is an audience of mixed nationalities and much translating work for the compere, the entertainment works best when focused more on visual than audio. The entertainers are quite capable but there is just not enough variety. Overall my experience has been that you tend to get what you pay for when cruising. MSC is at the cheaper end. I would travel with them again but I would not pay a premium price for the privilege. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2014
Having experienced several cruise ships we were tempted to try a Venice/Greece/Turkey/Romania/Bulgaria/Venice cruise with MSC as the travel agent described them as "Think P&O or Cunard, but Italian." All I can say is P&O ... Read More
Having experienced several cruise ships we were tempted to try a Venice/Greece/Turkey/Romania/Bulgaria/Venice cruise with MSC as the travel agent described them as "Think P&O or Cunard, but Italian." All I can say is P&O & Cunard must have gone way down market if that is the case. The whole cruise was infused with the ability to create chaos in the simplest of situations where a little pre-planning would have helped considerably. Starting at the embarkation in Venice, the majority of the "stowage" passengers were herded into a massive hall where ID cards and administrative details were completed and then followed a two hour delay to get groups on to coaches to take them to the ship - some 800 metres away. The ship itself is modern, well kept and reasonably clean with plenty of space enhancing mirrors and shiny brass. The cabins are quite well designed and make the best of the standard rectangular floor space with large sliding balcony doors on to an abbreviated balcony with table and chairs. If you go on this ship, take one or two standard rubber door wedges with you to stop the dividing balcony doors banging against the steel stops in the least sea breezes. It would have been pleasant to have hot food when it was supposed to be hot and equally cold food kept at a cold temperature but I'm afraid the potential for food poisoning raises its head when the hot food arrives luke warm and the cold seafood is at galley room temperature. This is basic food hygiene, drummed into UK catering staff but apparently a whole new science to onboard catering personnel. I'm afraid the daily automatic taxing of passengers - the service charge of 6 euros p/p - replaces earned gratuities or tips and this has led to an apparent grumpy, unsmiling and disinterested group of staff who don't need to "earn" tips by good service as they get them anyway. The uniformed senior staff are almost invisible unlike other cruise lines where they often "walk the walk & talk the talk" with passengers to provide both a sounding board and an excellent PR link between the company and customers. One thing the do have in common with other lines is the exorbitant cost of excursions - my advice is to check on cruisingexcursions.com - we used them in Istanbul and had a small group with an excellent guide for about half the onboard cost. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2014
Just back from our one week cruise with Orchestra, and we are a little disappointed I must say. This is my second trip with MSC Cruises, and we have been with Costa Cruises and RC before. My English is not perfect, so I will focus on the ... Read More
Just back from our one week cruise with Orchestra, and we are a little disappointed I must say. This is my second trip with MSC Cruises, and we have been with Costa Cruises and RC before. My English is not perfect, so I will focus on the "bad" things. Read the over reviews for the good stuff. :-) The ship have been refitted with extra bunk beds in all inside cabins, and can now accommodate 3200 passengers. Public areas have not been updated to fit so many people, and the buffet area was a nightmare! Same goes for the restaurants to some extend. Tables are very close and two person tables does almost not exist on the ship. Waiters a very busy and look stressed. Again I don't think the Restaurants was build for this many people, or simply badly designed. Our cabin was on deck 11, and at full speed you could feel the ship shaking. It was so much that I believe there is something wrong as my 2009 trip with Poesia (sister ship) was nothing like that. I have sailed with cruiseferrys from 1980's that was shaking less. In the aft lounge you could see and hear the ceiling shaking as well. Food was below average, and we found a insect in a salad we got at the restaurant. (Yes, it was alive). ..We got a new salad. :-p Nothing like the other cruise lines. But I must admit that the buffet was quite good compared to Costa Cruises. The shows was really bad, and had no story to tell at all! One of the biggest shows was the Ninja Turtles show, but there was no story, and only the same crew doing the same routines as the days before, just different songs. (The Italians loved it). Nothing like Hairspray on Oasis of the seas (unfair to compare maybe?). By the looks of the ship it looks like it's time for dry dock, and if you think about it you see many broken things. The elevators did not sound not good, and sometimes it "restarted" and forgot to which floors it was going. Lights not working some places. The bare code scanner in the gift shop was barely working and the lady told us "it has been like that for years" and was hold together by tape. 7 years of cruising is visible. Well, we will not sail with MSC Cruises again I think, Costa Cruises prices are almost the same, and their Concordia ship class clearly beats this ship any day. :-) Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
We have just returned from a double cruise promotion in the Mediterranean and Black Sea -- 11 nights on the MSC Opera 21 October, two nights' stay in Mestre (Venice) and 11 nights on the MSC Orchestra 3 November. Whilst the food ... Read More
We have just returned from a double cruise promotion in the Mediterranean and Black Sea -- 11 nights on the MSC Opera 21 October, two nights' stay in Mestre (Venice) and 11 nights on the MSC Orchestra 3 November. Whilst the food quality and temperature issues are the same for both vessels, these comments refer to our experience in the MSC Orchestra. This was our 4th cruise with MSC and having cruised with ten major cruise lines and four short river cruises (China, Vietnam and Egypt) I feel that I am quite qualified to make these comments, based on past cruising experience. Talking to other Australians and New Zealanders (English speaking people) the general impression was that as a group we were left lacking and the question was raised quite a few times: Why bother to market MSC Cruises in Australia and New Zealand when we felt ignored compared to the Italians and Germans on board? For the price we paid it was a good deal, but for MSC to successfully compete in Australia and New Zealand, more consideration needs to be given so that English speaking passengers feel equal. Overall we enjoyed the cruises, the transfers were smooth and the Hotel Tritone in Mestre, Venice excellent and well located. Ship overall: spotlessly clean, staff were continually cleaning the brass on the handrails and outside deck. The layout was good, with plenty of lounges to relax in, and the areas for smokers did not interfere with non-smokers. Passageways and staircases vacuumed at least twice a day, spills in buffet area cleaned up promptly. Cabin: We were on Deck 8 and had upgraded to a balcony cabin -- we would have preferred an "ocean-view" cabin as it offered a lot more storage space, however there are only 8 cabins on Deck 8 that are not "obstructed" by the life boats -- some are so bad that the view is just of the (red painted) side of the lifeboat. Lighting was excellent, with good overhead downlights as well as bedside lights. There were four powerpoints -- two 220w with European/Asian two pin (round) plugs and two US 110w for two (flat) pin plugs. The shower had more room than that on the MSC Opera; liquid soap and shampoo were supplied but no body lotion. The beds were very comfortable, extra pillows supplied on request. The three drawers in the bedside cabinet were very shallow - only deep enough to take a medium sized paperback novel. Our cabin attendant Ayu Ari was the best that I have come across when cruising -- nothing was too much trouble and if she could supply/fix what we wanted it was attended to immediately. Food: Hot food never hot -- breakfast cooked eggs often placed on cold ceramic dishes with the hot plate underneath not turned on. Grilled tomatoes, bacon, baked beans luke warm to cold. Twice I bought this to the buffet supervisor's notice, but nothing was ever changed. I was told that serving so many people it was impossible to keep food hot!!! The food served in the buffet -- with the exception of the soup (hot) and desserts (cold) would not pass Australian food standards. MSC states that they "have achieved ISO 9001 (Creation of an efficient, effective operation, increasing customer satisfaction) and ISO 22000 (hazard analysis) certification for the quality and food safety of our catering". Breakfast usually available until 11.30am, lunch until 3pm, dinner from 7pm. No afternoon teas catered for -- only pizza available 3pm -- 7pm. Tea and coffee (free) always available in the buffet, however if you wanted tea or coffee by the pool, you either had to pay for it, or get dressed and get it from the buffet area -- no outside tea/coffee/water stations. Dinner times -- First seating 6.45pm and second seating 9pm. We ate dinner in L'Ibiscus Dining Room on deck 6. The room was so crowded it was hard to move through to our table. Heavy high backed chairs in a light mustard yellow did not give an elegant dining atmosphere. Quality of the food fluctuated greatly, mostly not hot -- except for soup. Green vegetables were lacking, but supplied on request. One night in the dining room I had mussels in a marinara sauce -- supposedly a hot entree, but the mussels were straight from the refrigerator and cold. After this the Matre 'D, Gusti (Indonesia) always checked to see if we were satisfied with the temperature and quality of our food. Drinking water not supplied in the dining room -- it had to be purchased in not so eco friendly P.E.T. bottles. Wine was available by bottle, glass or in 500ml carafe (for E7.00). The menu for this cruise was exactly the same as we had on the 11 night cruise on the MSC Opera. Extra cost dining. We only used the Asia fusion "Shanghai" Restaurant -- the food was an excellent mix of Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian and Thai, and very well priced. The Italian specialty restaurant was set price E24.00 TV and Communication: English channels on TV not available at all for 8 days -- all German programs were clearly coming through. Movies available in cabin -- at a price -- E5.00!!!! In the "Daily Program" the English description for the "Nautical Information" was atrocious -- obviously there are no native English speakers in the Administration section and no grammatical concept checks were done. Itinerary excellent - a change had to be made due to a 48 hour strike in Greece and we were unable to go to Herakilon, Crete or Piraeus, Athens. Santorini (Greece) and Izmir (Turkey) were substituted and a great many people took the opportunity to visit the fantastic Greek ruins at Ephasus. Shore Excursions: No shore or port talks given. No port maps available on board (common on other cruise lines). No information other than briefly described on printed excursion tour listing that accompanied the booking sheet. No pricing of tours available on internet prior to boarding. Entertainment and Information: No native English speakers at Reception. No ship navigation chart displayed in public area. Entertainment - very limited choices due to multi language problems. "Puzzles of paper" (their terms) Sudoko, general quiz, crosswords etc. not available. The Library had no reference books -- not even an Atlas and no "book swap" section. However, the range and variety available was quite good due to people leaving their own books behind. The concerts were at 7.30pm for those at Second seating dinner and 9.30pm for those at First seating dinner. From what I heard all were very short -- the one we saw started late and only went for 20 minutes. The quality and length of time certainly did not compare with those of other shipping lines. Internet: The "internet cafe" was always unsupervised. For those with their own computers etc., there was WiFi hotspots on decks 5, 6 and 7; or broadband via cable in the cabin. I was unable to log-on to the internet with user name and password given at the desk (both on the Oopera and on the Orchestra) and had to use my husband's details. To use cable in balcony cabin required an extension lead (fortunately we had one!) as the power point was diagonally as far away from the cable connect as was possible and still be in the main cabin area. I was unable to log out of cable connection, and therefore lost 57 minutes of 100 minutes paid for. I received a printout from the IT Department showing the lost time. I was offered 2 hours free in the Internet Cafe, but as I had all the information I wanted to send on my Netbook, this was of no value. Question -- why give 2 hours instead of 57 minutes -- it didn't make any sense to me. I wrote a letter of complaint, but had to do it on small "telephone" note paper as there was no A4 paper available. I was not the only person who lost time -- I have spoken to others who had similar problems with the WiFi Hotspots, with complaints unresolved. As a repeat cruiser with Princess Cruises I receive 250 minutes of free internet time. MSC Club and Future Cruises: The representative was not really interested in the fact that our MSC Club points were not credited correctly. She did not listen to what I was saying. After I sent an e-mail to Head Office, this was adjusted within 24 hours. She was also the Future Cruise Representative (we were unlucky again). No information on future cruises available in English -- only German and Italian. Would I sail with MSC again? Maybe, but perhaps not on the MSC Orchestra. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
Just returned from the MSC Orchestra 8 day cruise from Genoa to Lisbon and back. We picked the cruise re the cost and itinerary. The ship was really nice, clean, cabin was quite spacious and again very clean. The cruise was well timed ... Read More
Just returned from the MSC Orchestra 8 day cruise from Genoa to Lisbon and back. We picked the cruise re the cost and itinerary. The ship was really nice, clean, cabin was quite spacious and again very clean. The cruise was well timed arriving and departing of ports. The embarkation at Genoa was relatively quick but then staff pounced trying to sell this package and that package which we felt was too much as like many others had been up early and just wanted to get on the ship and to the cabin or get a drink and a bite to eat. Once onboard the ship we did not find staff who could point us in the right direction. Alot of the staff lacked friendliness, no smiles, lack of understanding when asked for things in dining room or bars and had to explain. The Brazilian staff were very friendly happy people, although there were with some a language barrier and unable to understand or had only basic knowledge of English. Found alot of the Indonesian staff and european staff to be quite frosty and at times asked a few if they knew what a smile was. Food was well OK, however in the evening dining rooms, felt it was very poor not to have jugs of water on the table and that water was only available at a cost of 2 euros a litre bottle. Also very disappointed at not been offered coffee at the table unless it was purchased. English people like vegetables and potatoes with their food and these were found to be lacking unless asked for extras. The organisation for breakfast and lunch was a shambles, trying to find tables, walking round with food and nowhere to sit, if only a staff member could show people to a table and stopped people from reserving tables for groups. Breakfast in the restaurant was fun, been shown to tables where other people were halfway through their meal, instead of tables been filled at the same time so they could eat together. The shows most were ok but they only lasted 30 mins or so and that was after the cruise director had explained in 5 languages what they were all about. Gym well equipped, but was most disappointed that was unable to take a sauna or steam unless I paid 16 euros, this was extortianate by any means. So would I use MSC again, well I would have to think twice, but the cost was good, itinerary good, food was ok but have had better choices on other ships. Please go back to jugs of water on the table and coffee. The cost of alcoholic drink was above average prices plus 15% tax. A number of ports required shuttle bus into the centre, these are not cheap to use and we found it was easier to walk or jump on the service bus which ran from the ports to the centre for half the price of the ships shuttle bus. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2011
Having subscribed to MSC newsletters for some time, we were keen to try one of their cruises. When this great deal of 3 b2b cruises came up, we were eager to sign up and with CC reviews in hand, went with an open mind to experience the ... Read More
Having subscribed to MSC newsletters for some time, we were keen to try one of their cruises. When this great deal of 3 b2b cruises came up, we were eager to sign up and with CC reviews in hand, went with an open mind to experience the good and bad. After the first 7 days, I was still keeping an open mind and focussing on the good. By the second 7 days, some things had begun to be quite irritating and when entering the last leg of 11 days, we now saying, "never again MSC"! EMBARKATION - quick, once it all started but waiting for a few hours in an unlit temporary terminal on a thuddery day was not much fun. We did have drinks available! This was our first encounter with MSC's unusual admin ways. Although we were booked on 3 cruises our cards showed the dates for only 2 cruises. When questioned about this the answer was so absurd that I knew we would experience some unusual ways! THE SHIP: Really lovely - quality, relaxing decor and furnishings in public rooms,easy to navigate, good pool deck. Cabins were clean, a little smaller than other cruise lines with less drawers but bathroom ok. The things that annoyed us were that every bar had loud music playing constantly, so that it was difficult to find a quiet area to sit and read when blustery conditions prevented sitting on the balcony. Smoking was alowed inside certain bars and therefore again restricted our presence. THE STAFF - Our cabin steward was delightful,speaking good English and always attentive to any needs. The restaurant staff were fine but not outstanding. Fortunately we drank little. With only adequate bar staff, it sometimes took a while to order a drink. We had no real administration problems but those who did had a dreadful time at Reception. Some staff spoke good English but others were very poor in their communication skills and we heard some appalling tales that other passengers encountered. THE FOOD - OMG where do you start - maybe with the water that you had to purchase for 2 euro each time, whether in the restaurant or buffet. The food was continuously inconsistent! We dined in the L'Isbiscus restaurant every night and found the food boring and overcooked. On many occasions certain ingredients described in the menu were either in the Chefs dreams or so disguised that were unrecognisable. We discovered after the first 7 days that the menu was recycled every 7 days and even thouh the last sector of the cruise was advertised daily as a food and wine cruise, there were only 3 days of a new menu. By the last night, i was ready to throw the Darn of Salmon at the waiter!It was yet again dry and if you are thinking why didnt I order something different, well on several occasions, i rejected my first order for something else, only to find it was also either overcooked or salty. Then, every now and again a dish would surprise us, The rack of lamb, which was actually only 2 cutlets, was beautifully cooked and tasty!! At least the L'Isbiscus restaurant had a reasonable amount of space - even though we were squashed in a corner and never saw the sea at nights- the Borghese restaurant was ridiculously sqashy for lunch, hence we went to the buffet for lunch. Again, the food was consistly bad - inedible bad- and good -great indian curries and roasts on some days. Breakfast was GOOD - great German style rye breads, great tasting bacon, good eggs, yoghurt, heavenly waffles and despite the fact that they did not replace my cereal when it ran out, good variety of cereals. However, if you wanted fresh orange juice that had to be paid for! We tried the Oriental specialty restaurant for lunch- I think the only ones to do so as we saw no other people there day or night. The quality was acceptable but I could not label it good. We did not go to the 4 Seasons restaurant as it had no extra decor than the buffet and those who did use it said that the food was not much different to the usual. We do not know why they have specialty restaurants - they were a BIG dissapontment SHORE EXCURSIONS - good, very happy with the content and value of the excursions. Getting your bus number was typically chaotic as was much of the administration. ENTERTAINMENT - hmmm interesting! The night time entertainment in the theatre was excellent - just as well, as it recycled every 7 days also. We therefore saw all the shows 3 times and 1 for the fourth time. MSC's 'production shows' are different from all others. While only 30 mins, the shows had the usual dancers and singers and in addition, incorportaed contortionists and acrobats of very high quality. The theatre was beautiful but each night the CD introduced each show in 5 different languages which took 10 mins. During the first 7 days, I laughed at his amazing abikity to go so fluidly from 1 language to the other. By the second week, it began to be irritating and by the third week, it was more than annoying!! The ships activities - those things you participate or watch on sea days or in between times were carried out by 6 or 8 young enthusiastic guys and gals who again were fluent in several languages. In addition to ball games, we had cooking demonstrations, napkin folding and flower arranging. Needless to say, sea days were ultra boring - I am so glad I took my e-reader, otherwise there was not much to do - a complaint by many!! DISEMBARKATION - Hmmm again - words cannot adequately describe the chaos. Since our passports had to be handed in from Portugal onwards, we were told to retrieve them at 9 am onwards on day of embarkation. While that sounded strange, it was nothing compared to the debarcle that occured. Humongous lines- I am not exagerating - of 3000 passengers all trying to retieve their passports caused some passengers to resort to barging and near fisticuffs. I wish I had taken photos!! Having had to be out of our cabins at 7 am, we had to wait till nearly 10 am to get off and we were some of the early ones. This was far from MSC's finest hour!! In summary It seems to us that MSC supplies cheap cruise by undercutting all else - staff, food, entertainment and whatever else they can. Maybe if you only want a 7 day port intensive cruise and can put up with the announcement in 5 languages continuously and the lack of manners by some passengers, then by all means try MSC but for us, we would rather pay a little more and know that we will dine well, not have to sit in tobacco scented public areas and be entertained with slightly more sophistication. Not much to ask for in old age!! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
All my recent experiences have been on Cunard where the meals are a highlight to be looked forward to, the ambiance of two thousand passengers dressed in evening dress is electric and the lectures are of a high standard and the floor shows ... Read More
All my recent experiences have been on Cunard where the meals are a highlight to be looked forward to, the ambiance of two thousand passengers dressed in evening dress is electric and the lectures are of a high standard and the floor shows are West End standard. This short cruise on the Orchestra was a total contrast to this. The ship was ok but the public rooms were in general very brash and lacking in taste. The food in the self service cafeterias was very poor and in the restaurants just poor. There was no attention to detail - a waiter came around trying to sell grapa and limoncello - both of which I like - but at the beginning of the meal and they were not available at the end. The food was very works canteen standard. The cabin was quite good and having a balcony overlooking the stern was a new experience for me and an enjoyable one. The wine bar was also to be recommended. Overall, if this was my first experience, I wouldn't be going back. Cunard you're fantastic!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2010
Review of MSC Orchestra June 26 2010, Scandinavia and Russia. We travelled from Dublin to Copenhagen on the day before the cruise and overnighted in that lovely city. It was the day the College student finished and the whole town was ... Read More
Review of MSC Orchestra June 26 2010, Scandinavia and Russia. We travelled from Dublin to Copenhagen on the day before the cruise and overnighted in that lovely city. It was the day the College student finished and the whole town was buzzing, up to the not so early hours of the morning. As there were 20 of us in the group, staying in two hotels, we arrived by taxi at Langelinie just after midday. The 'Orchestra' was sharing the dock with the beautiful 'Jewel of the Seas', which is my favourite ship and during the cruise I found myself frequently comparing the two. MSC check in is a fairly painless procedure, albeit split into two. Initially your tickets and passport are quite extensivly examined on the Quayside, before you are directed to a lounge on deck 5 where the actual check in takes place. The process finishes here if paying your bill by Credit card, but continues in the Pursers Office if paying cash, as the check in staff cannot accept it. There was no reference made to how you wished to pay the gratuities and it seems that unless you say otherwise, then €7 per day is added to your account. Whether this sum is justified or not, I will deal with later. ITINERARY. We were on the Copenhagen-Kiel-Stockholm-Talinn-St Petersburg-Copenhagen sailng. It seems that Kiel is included primarily to drop off/pick up around 1,000 German passengers per sailing. Germany is closed on a Sunday and we were lucky that the annual Kiel regatta was on when we were there, with its colourful ships and a few of us headed of to Laboe, near Kiel to see U995, the last surviving Uboat. It was a lovely, warm Sunday and the locals were getting in the mood for the World Cup match with England. Needless to say, the 4-1 win for Germany went down very well with the German passengers on board, many of whom were watching on the huge screen over the pool deck. Monday was a sea day, and we arrived in Stockholm early on Tuesday. The 'Hop on Hop off water taxi is close to the Cruise port and we made good use of it. Stockholm is a wonderful city, with beautiful buildings and well worth a longer visit in its own right. The highlight was a visit to the Vasa Museum, where the wonderfully preserved warship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 is on view in all its glory. Remarkable. Talinn was next and this a lovely, quaint old town, with a mixture of Russian and western influences. We used the Hop on Hop off bus for €10 per day, and it leaves from beside the cruise port. Talinn is really compact and easily negotiated on foot, but watch out for the cobblestones and wear strong footwear. A short hop across the bay had us in St Petersburg at about 6am on Thursday. This is rightly the highlght of the cruise for many and it is a shame that the Orchestra only stays about 12 hours. Note to MSC, overnight in St Petersburg like many other cruise lines. One day is not nearly long enough to do this wonderful city justice. Our group prebooked a day long Tour with Red October, and it was really excellent. Despite MSC's unsuccessful attempts to keep us from disembarking until all their own Tours had got away , we were passing through the newly built Cruise Terminal at St Petersburg within minutes of the ship being cleared by the local authorities. Our guide. Helen, was waiting for us and we had a full 50 seater coach for the 20 in the group. After a short drive around the city centre , we took off fo Peterhof, which is about an hour outside the city. This is a really stunning Summer Palace, and the famous Fountain Park, which starts at 11 each morning is a real spectacle. There are 150 different fountains , and all are naturall y powered, no electricity used at all. I've been to Pushkin on a previous visit, but preferred Peterhof. We took the hydofoil back to the city,this takes 30 minutes and is really enjoyable. The boat docked right outside our next port of call, the amazing Hermitage Museum. Do not miss the Hermitage when in St P. But try and arrive, like we did, between 12 and 1. The morning tours have ended and the afternoon ones haven't arrived. we spent 2 hours there and when we were finished there were literally thousands of people waiting to get in. It was very hot and uncomfortable for those waiting to get in. After the Hermitage, we went to the Spilled Blood cathedral, with its 7000 sq mtrs of mosaic work. This is a lovely church, which like most attractions, can get very crowded. After this we went to the Peter and Paul Fortress, where the Czars and their families are buried. As time was pressing, we had time for some shopping and then it was back to the ship by 6p.m. I really can't praise Red October enough. They organised the itinerary as we requested it, and ensured that we were never caught up in the crowds that builld up at the main attractions. The guide, Helen, had perfect English, and was so knowledgeable. The tour cost about €20 per person more than the bi-lingual MSC Tours, but for the first class service we received, it was well worth it. Friday was another sea day before arriving back in Copenhagen early Saturday morning. ENTERTAINMENT. Unfortunately, this is where the comparisons with RCL etc kick in. I have done about a dozen cruises, mostly RCL and Celebrity. The heads at MSC should take a long hard look at what they class as entertainment. One word describes it. Poor. What is the point of having a 1300 seat theatre, only to put on second rate cabaret shows ?. That is what we were offered every night by a Cruise Director who was as prominent as the Invisible Man. The only music of any quality on a ship called the Orchestra was an all girl string quartet who were easy on both the eye and the ear.Other than that there was a dreadful 'pop band' who seemed to be straight out of Eurovision and a band specifically for the large German contingent who were even worse. All the entertainment was focussed on the German/Italian market. As they formed the majority on board, thats fair enough, but NONE of the above would have made it past an RCL audition. The daily activities were very limited and bland, carried out by a staff who were collectively tired and uninspired. The Casino was busy in spots and features the usual slots, poker, blackjack and roulette. All the slots were 25cent machines and it seems the biggest win of the week was €175 !!! FOOD/SERVICE RESTAURANT I had read with concern some earlier reviews about this aspect of the Orchestra. Unfortunately, they proved to be remarkably accurate. Now, again its probably not fair to compare the Orchestra, with say The Jewel of the Seas or indeed any other RCL/Celebrity ship, but I'm going to, because when you pay a lot of money for a cruise you are I believe, entitled to a certain level of food and service. It started rather badly for our group. We had requested the main sitting and when I rang MSC prior to the Cruise, I was assured this was indeed the case, despite it stating Second sitting on our tickets. When we checked in, our room card confirmed second seating and when I approached the rather surly MD, was met with a shrug of the shoulders and only when I persisted did he relent and switched us to the Main sitting, but not until the second day. We had two tables for 8, and one for 4, adjacent which was fine. The two 8's had a really great waiter but we had the server from hell. He didn't speak, he was surly and literally banged the plates down in front of us.In all my previous cruises, I have always build up a rapport wih the waiters. Not this guy. The food. I found it bland, unimaginative, poorly presented and with extremely small portions. This was greasy spoon stuff compared to RCL, and I can totally agree with some American comments about it. If MSC want to break into the US market, they require a radical review of all matters relating to their food service. It is just not good enough in all repects. BUFFET, This was even worse. Poorly designed food stations which leave you lining up for too long. Very limited choice of food and at breakfast, its nearly impossible to get a table. This is due mainly to people seemingly not prepared to share a table. MSC treat coffee like its the next item to become extinct.No self service here, you wait in line to be served. And after breakfast, you have to pay for your coffee. They would be better putting the staff to use cooking eggs you can eat. Every day, without fail the fried eggs could be best described by one word...mush, broken and overcooked. Unlike RCL etc, the buffet does NOT open in the evenings, another big mistake. ome of our group went to the Shanghai Chinese Restaurant and were not impressed. Bland food and poor service. The best experience we had was the seated lunch in Villa Borghese. It was very pleasant. BARS. Bar prices are rather high, although the service was generally good STATEROOMS. From what I saw, pretty good. We had an ocean view on Deck 5. It was adequate, but I have to say that our attendant did not do his job to an acceptable level. Apart from making the beds. INTERNET. €4 for 10 minutes. If you stay on for 1 minute, its still €4. I went 2 seconds over the 10 minutes and was charged €4.50. Speed was o/k, but the Internet cafe is one of the least used parts of the ship. It shouldn't take a genius in MSC to work out why. They need incentive packages here and quick.. RECEPTION. Our group had a minor problem that took two days to sort out. Four different staff were involved and all gave conflicting information. These people have a difficult job to do, but I felt they just fobbed me off, hoping would go away. THE SHIP The Orchestra is in pretty good shape. The pool area gets very crowded and there is little or no poolside entertainment. Didn't try the spa. THE STAFF. Having become used to the maybe overbearing cheerfulness of RCL/Celebrity staff, it was rather surprising that MSC staff, with a few exceptions that we came across, were rather unfriendly. No one says 'hello' when you meet in the corridors, and it looked to me as if the Staff manager has a rather demotivated team here. There was something about the body language of many of the crew that wasn't quite right. GETTING OFF AT THE END. No better or worse than any other ship. Our group had 3 or 4 different coloured tags and when I insisted we all be allowed leave at the same time, this seemed to beyond the comprehension of the staff member. Eventually, he realised what I was saying and let us go.. There are very few taxis available at Copenhagen Port by the way. OVERALL. Disappointing. MSC have a lot of work to do before they can even claim to be on the same level as RCL/Celebrity. Maybe they are trying to grow too quickly, I don't know what the underlying reason for their shortcomings are. Despite what you might think, I am not hard to please. MSC did not reach an acceptable level on several counts. Would I cruise with them again ? I have no choice. My wife and I (she wasn't on this trip) are booked on the new Magnifica from Venice in September. This trip was work, the next one is a holiday, so hopefully I will be able to report great improvements then. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
We were encouraged to cruise by many of our cruising friends. They raved about 24 hour buffets, loaded with seafood and fresh produce. They raved about friendly and helpful staff, and idyllic days around the pool. So, that is what we ... Read More
We were encouraged to cruise by many of our cruising friends. They raved about 24 hour buffets, loaded with seafood and fresh produce. They raved about friendly and helpful staff, and idyllic days around the pool. So, that is what we expected when we booked MSC Orchestra for an 8 day mediterranean cruise in September. The first disappointment came at the embarkation, nobody had a clue. We were sent upstairs, then downstairs, then finally after about 4 hours, up the escalator to board the ship. When our luggage arrived it was soaking wet right through! At this point I want to point out that our cabin crew (mostly of Asian extraction) were wonderful! They did their utmost to make our holiday special. We found the food at the buffet very ordinary (hospital cafeteria comes to mind) I don't think we saw any seafood, apart from the baked white fillets of fish. Even so, a choice of buffet for evening meal was denied us, as the buffet closed at 3pm (for the day). That meant the ONLY free option for the evening meal was to be at your assigned seating in the dining room. The food was disappointing there too, even though served by formally attired waiters. Once, we ordered lobster soup (by this time we found it all hilarious) and we renamed it "sweat of lobster soup", it may have required DNA evidence to prove the presence of lobster. In general if that food was served in any Italian cafe in any city in the world, there would be loud complaints. I regularly eat at Italian restaurants, and it bears no resemblance to what the Orchestra kitchen serves. Most of the other passengers were Italian, and unfortunately most of them were smokers. Many of them also ignored the designated smoking areas too, making it uncomfortable for non smokers. There were areas set aside just for smokers (the shaker lounge and the casino) but no such kindness was extended to non smokers. We always had to share a room with smokers on one side. Even our own balcony was contaminated by smokers on either side. (Smoking is strictly banned on balconies, due to fire risk). The management were not interested in enforcing the rule, as they didn't want to upset the smoking passengers, too bad for the rest of us. Finally disembarking was as chaotic, but at least it meant we could get off the ship (that was at least 2 hours late, and some people missed connecting flights). We haven't given up on cruising but we will definitely look more closely at reviews etc. in future before booking. And certainly MSC cruises will not be on our agenda!! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
About a week before the April 4th sailing of the MSC Orchestra, I called MSC  Cruises to ask if they had an available balcony cabin foe that date. They sadi they did and I booked it. We just fely like getting away and we had never ... Read More
About a week before the April 4th sailing of the MSC Orchestra, I called MSC  Cruises to ask if they had an available balcony cabin foe that date. They sadi they did and I booked it. We just fely like getting away and we had never cruised the Western Carib. We are cruisers having sailed Europe and Asia numeropus times. It is always interesting to me how two (2) reviews about the same cruise can be polar opposites.  That phenominan exists on reviews fro this cruise. That said, here is my take on the MSC Orchestra.Arrival at the port and boarding was easy. We dropped our luggage curbside and when we wnet thru check-in (two hours later) the luggage was in our cabin. The cabin was OK. Not overly large but sufficient for a week cruise. We toured the ship and did not find it difficult to find our way around. By chance we came across the Maite D' who was taking dinner reservations. They had placed us at a table for 8. We had requested a table for 2. He was able to find us a table for 4 with a very nice couple from Canada. I'm not a fan of Traditional dining (more on that late), the four of us got along great and it made for pleadsant dining.We never went to the pools (too many kids). We did not do the buffet so we're unaware of closing problems as mentioned in other reviews.All in all, the cruise was ok. We enjoyed the ports - private excursions - cost less than the ships and are better. Cruise critic folks know that. That was the good.The Bad - We always go on cruises  with little, if any, expectations. In that way, it is difficult to be dissapointed. However, there were some annoyances on this ship. MSC must know that Caribbean Cruises have mostly English speaking customers. Why do they insist on every announcement be in 5 different languages. It was, to me, annoying. And Marco, the cruise director was annoying - like he wished he was somewhere else..  The staff was a cut below most other cruise lines. The show stopper for me was the dining. As mentioned, I do not like Traditional Dining - 5:45PM is too early and 8:15PM is too late. Also, by having half the ship early, and the other half late, dinner takes too long. We didn't finish dinner till 10:15 to 10:30PM. Most other cruise lines ahve adopted Anytime Dining along with Traditional. It works.MSC has to adapt to an English speaking customer some of whom want English as the language on board and the ability to have dinner at 7:00PM in 1.5 hours. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Really would have liked to write a positive review of this ship so I will start with the good stuff.  We were upgraded to a suite (Category 14 from a booked Category 13).  This may have been due to the fact that prior to the cruise I ... Read More
Really would have liked to write a positive review of this ship so I will start with the good stuff.  We were upgraded to a suite (Category 14 from a booked Category 13).  This may have been due to the fact that prior to the cruise I complained vehemently to MSC about the price we paid compared what was being advertised online in early Spring.  We booked in January.  Here are the facts:The ship is indeed a beautiful ship in pristine condition.  Brass etc. being polished constantly, smell of paint everywhere-I personally do not like the smell of paint. Guess they have to do it sometime. Majority of Crew really makes a big effort to be accommodating and provide good service.  Some were downright rude. I asked a female directions to the restrooms and she replied "There's a bathroom in your cabin"."Go There" This is not  a good thing.   I should have noted her name and reported her.  This gal should not be in the service industry.   We love having breakfast in our cabin on a cruise but MSC provides only a continental breakfast-not a good thing. The cocktails are reasonable at only $4.00 each.  Tip is included in each drink.  So that's a good thing.There is no wine steward in the dining room.  I love wine with my dinner so quickly realized I had better tell the waiter right away that I wanted wine.  That way I might get it by the time I get my entree. Not a good thing!  No point in ordering cocktails in the dining room-get them before you go to dinner.  They have only bar person-my husband likes a martini while looking over the menu so I guess you can figure this is not a good thing.Now I have to tell you a really bad thing, especially if you are a foodie.  The food is bad.  I lost two pounds so thats a good thing.   My neighbor who is Italian found it hard to believe that an Italian ship could screw up the food but indeed they managed to do a good job of it.  Had veal one night that I think was frozen since 1986.   Had a filet mignon only a dog could enjoy.  NOT A GOOD THING!The ports were both good things.  We loved Bermuda and have been to Nassau many times but it is still an interesting place.  We have fond memories because we honeymooned there.  Please do not take the Atlantis tour.  If you want to see Atlantis just get a taxi for $4.00 outside the ship.  You have to walk miles on the tour to a boat and then more miles to the hotel.  I haven't figured this one out yet.  I cost $50.00 each.  Big waste of time and $$$.  Definitely not a good thing.The entertainment was great.  Innovative shows, great singers and dancers and some influence of cirque de soleil.  This is a very good thing.  Would I take a cruise on MSC again.  I think you know the answer by now and it's not a good thing!NRL Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
Last month my wife Carol and I sailed aboard the MSC Orchestra to the ports of Key West, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Cayo Levantado, a lovely beach island located in beautiful Samana Bay in the Dominican Republic. Our primary reason for ... Read More
Last month my wife Carol and I sailed aboard the MSC Orchestra to the ports of Key West, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Cayo Levantado, a lovely beach island located in beautiful Samana Bay in the Dominican Republic. Our primary reason for doing so, other than the need for a relaxing week at sea, was to see how the product that MSC Cruises is currently offering compares to that of the more well-known cruise lines which have been sailing in the Caribbean for many years. In order to gather as much information as possible I took notes throughout the cruise, we collected all daily programs and other related literature, and with two trained pairs of eyes observing as much as possible, we attempted to see and experience as much as we could. We spoke to many of our fellow passengers to get their positive and negative opinions of their cruising experience. In addition, we had numerous extremely beneficial conversations with members of the onboard staff to gain even more insight into what the cruise line has been trying to accomplish, what problems have been encountered, and how it has been going about its tasks until this time. Our general conclusion, after a week at sea which overall was truly quite an enjoyable experience, is that MSC definitely has the potential to be an excellent cruise line. We determined that while a number of aspects of the cruise were truly exceptional there is much improvement needed in certain critical areas in order to reach the overall level of their competitors. After spending a week onboard, experiencing virtually every aspect of an MSC cruise, and returning home armed with a great deal of in-depth knowledge, we would certainly sail with them again and you will probably have a fine time as well if you choose to do so. In order to increase the probability of your having a good experience you need to know what to expect onboard, MSC's strengths and weaknesses, and, most importantly, how to work around certain potentially problematical areas that you may encounter. As described below, I will be reviewing and analyzing, in as objective a manner as possible, numerous aspects of our experience on the MSC Orchestra. Throughout this review high marks and accolades will be given without hesitation when they are deserved, and where shortcomings exist or when criticism is warranted it will be presented in an equally objective manner. Hopefully this rather lengthy review (would you expect otherwise), will accomplish its goal and I am always available to answer any questions that you might have and provide you with additional information about the Orchestra or MSC cruises in general. EMBARKATION This was the first area where the information provided by the representatives at MSC's offices and in their cruise documents was contradicted by what actually occurred at the cruise terminal. For starters, the MSC Orchestra sails from Ft. Lauderdale at 7 P.M. which is considerably later than most of the other ships that leave from Port Everglades. Their office staff told me that boarding would begin at 4 P.M. one time and at 2 P.M. during another call. In either case, one could have concluded that the late boarding might be intentionally done by the cruise line in order to avoid having to serve the traditional lunch buffet that is offered on every other ship. This assumption, however, would turn out to be completely false. I later discovered that all disembarking passengers are usually off the ship by 10:15 A.M. or so, and that subject to unforeseen delays boarding generally begins between 11:00 and 11:30 A.M. Obviously, this is an area where the major discrepancy between MSC's verbal information, their printed cruise documents, and what actually occurs at the cruise terminal needs to be eliminated. Since we live only about a 30 minute drive from Port Everglades we arrived at the port around Noon and were onboard before 12:30 P.M. Once inside the terminal the boarding process was as quick and seamless as we have experienced with any other cruise line. The check-in counter was manned by 35 individuals and it was no more than 15 minutes from the time that we entered the terminal until we actually boarded the ship. CRUISE IDENTIFICATION CARDS When you check in at the terminal each passenger is given their cruise card which, typically, is used for identification purposes when you leave or board the ship, serves as your stateroom key, and is used as a credit card for purchases that will be billed to your onboard account. These cards also show your assigned dining room and table number. Most disturbingly, however, MSC's cards also show your stateroom number. This is, in my opinion, a major error and one which, should a card be misplaced and subsequently found by another passenger or crew member, may result in a severe breach of security. Obviously, finding a card with an actual stateroom number would enable someone with nefarious intentions to enter a person's cabin and then damage or steal valuable personal possessions. I have sent this recommendation to MSC's home office and hopefully they will soon change the printing of their I.D. cards so that the stateroom numbers are eliminated. OUR STATEROOM We had a Superior Balcony stateroom located on Deck 10 which measured 191 square feet in size plus a 48 sq. ft. balcony. As far as the other accommodations on the Orchestra the Inside and Ocean View Cabins are 150 sq. ft., Standard Balconies measure 164 sq. ft. plus a 48 sq. ft. balcony, and the Balcony Suites are 278 sq. ft. plus a 48 sq. ft. balcony which is about the size of a mini-suite on a Princess or Royal Caribbean ship. There are, however, no larger Owner's or Penthouse Suites on the ship. The Orchestra was launched in 2007, weighs in at 92,400 tons, carries 2550 passengers at double occupancy but has a maximum passenger capacity of 3,103 when all of the triples and quads are included. The ship has a crew of 987 and this 3:1 passenger-to-crew ratio, as I will discuss at numerous times later in this review, is simply not adequate to provide the level of service that a passenger should expect on a large, ultra-modern cruise ship. MSC continues to promote family cruising quite vigorously by only charging the government taxes for all children age 17 or under who travel as the 3rd or 4th passengers in your stateroom. On our cruise, for example, kids sailed for the entire week for only $ 97.40 apiece!!! Upon close examination of our accommodations we were most pleasantly surprised. The cabin was impeccably clean upon our arrival, it was beautifully decorated with a primarily navy blue patterned carpet and bedspread and the furniture and cabinetry was done in a medium brown veneer dEcor. There was a huge floor-to-ceiling mirror across from the bed, a two-cushion couch which could be converted to a bed for a third passenger, a small cocktail table, two nightstands with reading lamps and drawers, and a desk/vanity table across from the couch with a large mirror. The cabin had ample closet and drawer space, an in-closet safe with a handy shelf, and a flat screen television set that sits on top of a cabinet which holds a fully-stocked mini-bar. The balcony, which was small but certainly adequate, included two faux-wicker arm chairs and a square wicker table. The pure white bathroom has the typical shelf space and a good-size cabinet under the sink for additional storage. The shower is small but definitely similar in size to that which is found on many other ships. It includes an excellent hand-held showerhead and a three-inch high barrier on the floor which completely prevents any unwanted flooding. The shower and the sink had exceptionally strong water pressure and virtually instantaneous hot water which never varied throughout the cruise. The towels and wash cloths were of excellent quality, large and soft, and whenever they were left on the floor or in the sink they were promptly replaced by our cabin steward. As far as bathroom amenities MSC only provides a few small bottles of shampoo for their passengers. Unfortunately no hair conditioner is provided nor is there a typical basket of hand and body lotions or a shower cap such as you find on most other cruise lines. The addition of these items, whose cost is certainly quite nominal, would certainly make a good impression on MSC's passengers and they should definitely be considered by the cruise line. One excellent feature of the cabin, which naturally was noticed by Carol, was that the cabin lighting was bright, perfectly positioned, easily adjustable, and significantly better overall than one finds on other ships. There have, however, been numerous inaccurate postings on the Internet about the operation of the lights in the cabins so here is some clarification. When you enter your stateroom there is a slot in a box on the wall across from the closets for you to insert your I.D.Card/Room Key. When you do so all of the lights in the cabin will go on simultaneously and you can then turn those in any area on or off using the wall switches. Inserting your card also activates a signal light which is located outside of your cabin. This light tells your cabin steward that you are inside your cabin so he will not enter to do any of his housekeeping chores. When you leave your stateroom you remove your I.D. card and take it with you. Doing this turns off all of the lights in the cabin within a few minutes, which is an excellent energy saving feature, and it also turns off the signal light in the corridor. This tells your cabin steward that you have vacated the cabin and that he is now free to clean or deliver any cruise related literature without disturbing you. As far as the air conditioning in the cabin it is controlled by a separate thermostat, has no relationship to the operation of the lights, and it operates continually whether or not you are in your stateroom. CABIN STEWARD & ROOM SERVICE Our cabin steward was extremely friendly and proficient at his job and any special requests that we made of him were taken care of promptly. A number of times we found him working a few cabins down the hall and when we asked him to take care of something in our cabin he often stopped what he was doing to handle our request and then went back to work in the other stateroom. Because of the clever corridor light signal system the cabin stewards on our deck were able to take care of their housekeeping chores as soon as passengers left their staterooms. Whenever we went for breakfast, for example, our stateroom was cleaned in its entirety upon our return. Obviously, we can only judge MSC's housekeeping system by our experience with one cabin steward, but our observations of the other stewards who were assigned to the cabins in our corridor left the impression that their system is well designed and works extremely well. MSC's nightly turndown service, while certainly efficient in every regard, was a bit disappointing in that it did not include the traditional pillow chocolate or any towel animals. Perhaps the cabin stewards make the towel animals in those cabins where children are staying but the cruise line really has no excuse for cutting corners by eliminating the chocolates. We ordered coffee and some pastry items every night before retiring for delivery the following morning. You do this in the usual manner by completing a form and hanging on the door knob outside your cabin before you retire for the evening. This form enables you to select a delivery time, starting at 7:30 A.M. and then in 15 minutes intervals thereafter. I would always circle 7:30 A.M. to have our order delivered as early as possible, and without fail our food was delivered between 7:20 and 7:30 A.M. every morning of our cruise. MSC's Room Service menu, which along with the breakfast order forms is found inside a blue ship guidebook in the cabin, is an area where a great deal of improvement is needed. The options are extremely limited and definitely need to be expanded to match those offered by other cruise lines. The one time that we did order from room service the item which was requested, a fruit and cheese platter, was extremely skimpy and included only three small slices of cheese, two packages of crackers, and a meager five grapes. The staff also forgot to send napkins and there was no knife included to spread the cheese on the crackers. OVERVIEW OF THE SHIP Without a doubt the MSC Orchestra is a beautifully decorated ship where every public area exudes a sense of style, class, and the ambiance of a modern, upscale resort hotel. The interior design of the ship's public rooms and staterooms was done by the Giuseppe De Jorio Company in Genoa, Italy, and the fabrics used for the chairs, couches, draperies, and window treatments are designed and manufactured in Milan. Truly outstanding in every way, the color schemes flow perfectly through the interior public areas and within each individually themed lounge. The ship is also extraordinarily clean and during recent surprise inspections it, along with other ships in the MSC fleet, scored a perfect 100 which is truly outstanding in the cruise industry. Between the constant polishing of the brass railings, the rapid clearing of dining tables at the buffet restaurant and by the pool, the vacuuming of hallways and public areas, and the placement of dozens of hand sanitizer dispensers, the appearance and cleanliness of the Orchestra is obviously a top priority. The ship has four elevator banks where the visual feeling of the landings is expanded tremendously by using lots of mirrors and brass to offset the beautiful marble trim and flooring, perfectly coordinated carpeting, and attractively patterned brown veneer walls. The colors are restful and this style of decorating is used in many areas of the ship to provide an open and expansive appearance. Forest green, accented by brass and wood, is a common color scheme in many of the public lounges. The three-story atrium, which features a faux waterfall as the artistic focus, is decorated with lots of glass along with gleaming brass accents and railings. The floors, columns and curving staircases are made of light colored marble of various patterns and textures. The center of the main level of the atrium features a piano and bandstand where the classical string quartet or the folkloric trio from Ecuador performs, and the comfortable wood accented furniture is offset by forest green fabrics. There are a number of boutiques on the second level of the atrium. These include the mandatory logo and sundries shop, some upscale clothing retailers, and numerous watch and jewelry shops including an actual branch of Colombian Emeralds. The main information desk is located on the first level of the atrium along with a number of large casual sitting areas and bars. The shore excursion desk, where the port and excursion literature is printed in five languages, is located on the second level of the atrium. This area is supplemented by a number of video screens which constantly play movies about the ship, its route and current location, the ports of call, and the numerous shore excursion options. Curiously, there was no future cruise consultant on the ship to assist passengers in booking future cruises nor were there any brochures or any other promotional literature on display. When you leave the atrium and head towards the front of the ship you will find a number of bars and entertainment lounges, a small card room and library, the casino, a specialty Chinese restaurant and, of course, the main show lounge at the very front of the ship. Heading towards the rear of the ship from the atrium one enters the two dining rooms on the lower levels, while from the third level of the atrium you will find the photo gallery, the wine bar, the sports bar, the cigar room, and another large show lounge at the rear of the ship. The public decks of the ship are numbered from 5 up to 15 and the areas noted above are found on Decks 5, 6, and 7. The pool, buffet restaurant, spa and fitness center, and another specialty restaurant are located on Deck 13. Deck 14 includes the children's pool, game and playroom center, a jogging and sunning deck, and the discotheque in the rear of the ship. Deck 15 offers a miniature golf course, shuffleboard, and deck quoits. GRATUITIES MSC charges $ 12 per person, per day for gratuities and this amount will be placed on your shipboard account towards the latter part of your cruise. The daily gratuity charge covers the services of your cabin steward, waiter, busboy, and, apparently, every other member of their onboard staff. Most interestingly, however, MSC does not add the traditional 15% gratuity to any of their bar drinks, sodas, wines sold by the bottle or by the glass, or to the price of their specialty coffees or home-made gelato at the pool deck. When you order a bottle of wine or a drink the receipt does not even include a space to add your own gratuity even if you wanted to. Obviously, not having to pay the extra 15% gratuity will certainly be quite a money saver over the course of an entire cruise. From what we were told, Europeans would stage a general revolt if a gratuity was automatically added to the price of anything that they ate or drank. Because of this, MSC has kept the policy of no automatic gratuity in place on all of their Caribbean cruises and the prices of their bar drinks and wines are extremely nominal. INTERNET CENTER The Internet Center is located adjacent to the third level of the atrium. This is an ultra-modern area with 18 terminals located at individual desks or on circular counters surrounded by bar stool-like seats. This area is decorated in silver and grey brushed aluminum and is accented with purple carpeting and ultra-modernistic light purple lighting. To open your Internet account you simply insert your room key into a box located next to the monitor or on the front of the desk of your desired terminal. As always, the speed of your Internet connection will vary depending upon the positioning of the communication satellites. The first time that I used this facility the connection was painfully slow, yet when I switched to one of the desks the following day the connection was quite satisfactory and it remained that way for the remainder of the cruise. The Internet service is priced at 50 cents per minute however this rate is only applicable to the first 10 minutes that you log on to use the service. After that the price is reduced to 40 cents per minute for all of the additional minutes that you use. A record of your usage briefly appears on your monitor after you log off and all of the daily charges were accurately reflected on our shipboard account. MAIN ENTERTAINMENT VENUES The Covent Garden Lounge is the main theater onboard where the nightly shows are presented. It features a creative variable color lighting design on the walls and ceiling, an excellent sound system, and some unique visual effects which are employed during many of the production shows. The seats, while no where as oppressively tight as those found in many Broadway theatres, have seat cushions which are not especially comfortable and leg room could certainly be a bit more generous. The best visibility is found in the orchestra which slopes upward quite adequately from the stage to the rear exits. Visibility in the balcony is very problematical in many areas with your view potentially blocked by railings, Plexiglas barriers, a few support poles, and a number of entry staircases. The Savannah Bar is one of the largest combination bar, live music, and entertainment venues that I have ever seen on a cruise ship. Beautifully decorated in a jungle motif it is definitely the hot spot on the ship for live music, dancing and dance lessons, and numerous unique and very entertaining contests. The bar is huge and the cocktail waitress service is excellent. The room is always packed after dinner and you will definitely want to spend part of every evening in this lounge. Most of the music in this location is provided by the Ocean Band which is an exceptionally good four-piece band for all types of dancing. This band also backs up the extremely popular daily dance lessons as well as the contests and musical games that are hosted by members of the ship's entertainment staff. The Amber Piano Bar is located adjacent to the Savannah Bar. It is a lovely venue where music for dancing or your listening pleasure is provided by a duo or a solo piano player. Live music generally begins around five o'clock in the late afternoon and continues until one o'clock in the early morning. This room and the Savannah Bar are also used for activities such as Trivia contests, Italian lessons, the weekly art auction, and the not to be missed Mister and Miss Orchestra contests. The Shaker Lounge, located in the rear of the ship, is another large entertainment area where live music is provided in the evenings and where onboard events such as Karaoke, dance lessons, and the ship's passenger talent show take place. The lower level of the atrium is where classical musical entertainment is provided by the ship's superb string quartet or one can enjoy the guitar playing and traditional Latin and South American folk music presented by Los Paraguayos. Finally, the R32 Disco provides late night music and dancing. This ultra-modern room is decorated in a combination of metallic finishes offset by orange lighting and a lit dance floor. CASINO The Palm Beach Casino is smaller than one would expect on a ship that can carry 3,000 passengers at full capacity. While it includes slot machines and all of the usual gaming tables we were informed that Europeans, in general, do not gamble to the extent that Americans like to do while on a cruise and thus the casinos on MSC's ships are smaller. In addition, the casino only opens in the late afternoon or early evening and there were reports of a shortage of trained dealers. We spoke to one fellow passenger who told us that when a significant number of guests wanted to arrange a high-stakes poker game they were told that the ship only had one qualified poker dealer. Besides offering longer hours of operation this is an area that MSC obviously needs to improve in order to bring their gaming facilities up to the level of their competitors if they are going to continue to sail in the Caribbean. BUFFET RESTAURANT Our first exposure to the cuisine onboard the Orchestra was at the buffet where we had lunch shortly after boarding. The buffet is divided into two sections and virtually the same food selection is available on either side of the ship. Entering from the pool deck the first section is called La Piazzetta Cafeteria and further back you enter the 4 Seasons section. Both areas are beautifully decorated with a dark green and beige color scheme offset by brass, marble and mirrors. The tables, chairs, and booths are well spaced and comfortable. Whether you have breakfast or lunch at the buffet there are multiple serving stations on both sides of the ship. Breakfast features the traditional offerings including four types of eggs, the traditional full English breakfast items, pancakes, waffles, cheeses, yogurts, and fruits including baked apples. There is also home made oatmeal available along with the thoughtful addition of packets of brown sugar. The baked goods at the buffet are exceptionally high quality and that statement applies to all of the home baked breads, pastries, and Italian dessert items onboard the ship. Breakfast features items such as bagels, croissants, brioche, plum cake, Danish, and numerous types of artisan breads. The condiments are logically arranged at every serving station and the staff provides table clearing service that is extremely prompt and attentive. The machines that serve coffee (strong and much better than is available on most cruise ships), tea (a complete selection of Twinings is available), and juices are located at the ends of both sections of the buffet. As you would expect the section of the buffet closest to the pool tends to get quite crowded at times while the section further towards the rear of the ship, which includes some outdoor seating, is usually an easier spot to quickly get a table. The walking area of the buffet could be more spacious and at times the combination of the lines at the serving stations and the people walking by made things a bit crowded. We were informed that on their newer ships, such as the Poesia which will replace the Orchestra in the Caribbean later this year, a redesign of the buffet will allow for significantly more walking space. Lunch at the buffet features a salad bar which, while certainly adequate, could be enhanced by the addition of a wider selection of items. A large variety of hot foods are prepared and the menu changes on a daily basis. The specialty regional Italian dishes, including a fresh pasta station and even home-made Paella on one day, were among the best and most reliable offerings. For those seeking the standard offerings burgers, hot dogs, and fries are always available. Pizza is prepared daily and in the evenings between 5 and 9 P.M. when it is the only food available other than room service. DINING ROOM OVERVIEW The ship has two dining rooms. The Villa Borghese Ristorante is located on Deck 5 and L'Ibiscus Ristorante is located on Deck 6. Both venues are staffed primarily by Indonesian waiters and busboys while the maitre d's and their assistants are Italian. Be prepared for the fact that due to a lack of experience or their very recent exposure to the English-speaking traveler, the communication skills of many of the waiters and busboys definitely need improvement. Pointing to the item that you want on the menu and making sure that they have written your order correctly will go a long way to insuring that your meal will be delivered just as it was ordered. Dining on MSC is a bit different than on the more well-known cruise lines. For starters, the seatings for dinner on their Caribbean cruises are at 5:30 and 8 P.M. Primarily because MSC does not have an adequate number of waiters and busboys in their dining rooms your dinner will take approximately two hours from start to finish. Based on our observations MSC is assigning far too many tables to each waiter and thus any delays in service or the taking of your orders is really the fault of the cruise line rather than their overworked staff. Because of the above described shortage of personnel MSC has made a couple of adjustments in their dining rooms. For starters, when you get to your table you will see that your bread plate is already set up with a fresh baked roll, a bread stick, and a slice of one of their delicious fresh-baked artisan breads. A serving tray with lots of butter and one with coffee creamers is already on the table, obviously as a time saving measure. Most unusually there is also a pitcher of ice water on every table. Your waiter or busboy will pour the first glass of water for you after you have been seated but afterwards the pitcher is left on the table so that you can serve yourself. Actually, not having to summon your waiter when you need your water glass filled is a very nice convenience especially since these fellows are trying to handle far more tables than they should. The appearance of the tables could also be improved significantly by eliminating the tacky vase of artificial flowers on each table and replacing it with fresh flowers. Salt and pepper shakers are also found on each table, quite obviously because neither your waiter nor busboy will have the time to grind some fresh pepper on any of your dishes. I can handle this situation easily, of course, but for goodness sake don't cut corners by giving me a shaker of plain ground pepper when many of your dishes are crying out for a generous application of freshly ground pepper. MSC also has an extremely large and very reasonably priced wine list. There are plenty of domestic wines and an extraordinarily wide selection of Italian wines which are listed and described by their geographical region. Unfortunately, MSC has also made the decision not to have trained sommeliers in the dining rooms to assist passengers in making their wine selections. Obviously, this would be extremely helpful where the many Italian wines are concerned since you would have to be a true wine expert to know enough about the vineyards or vintages to make an educated choice. Considering that many of the Italian vintages are priced at less than $ 20 per bottle (when was the last time that you saw a $ 15 bottle of really good wine on a cruise ship?), and that there are many unique after-dinner wines and liqueurs to choose from, not having at least four sommeliers in each dining room is costing MSC a tremendous amount of potential income. From what we heard from our assistant maitre d' the only real wine expert on the ship is assigned to the Wine Bar while guests in the dining room are left on their own when it comes to selecting wines either by the glass or the bottle. For passengers desiring a cocktail with their dinner there are numerous waitresses who continually circulate in the dining rooms to take your order. Finally, because of the way that the waiters are scurrying around, if you order a bottle of wine be prepared to pour any additional glasses for yourself since waiting for your waiter or busboy to notice that you need a refill will simply be an exercise in frustration. DINING ROOMS - THE CUISINE Overall the food aboard the Orchestra ranges from fair to very good and there is certainly the need for improvement in a number of areas. Appetizers are generally very good although it would be nice to have a few additional selections to choose from during dinner. The salads are fine although they could be enhanced quite easily if the chef demonstrated some additional creativity with the ingredients and the presentation. Soups, whether hot or chilled, are only fair to good and could stand some significant improvement. Entrees are basically good with some dishes excelling while others fall far short of expectations. Desserts, especially those with genuine Italian roots, are very good to excellent with a good balance of flavors, textures, and sweetness. Between the breads, baked goods, and desserts it is obvious that the Pastry Chef onboard the Orchestra is blessed with far more creativity and a higher skill level than is the Executive Chef. Naturally the Executive Chef is from Italy and thus you will be well advised to favor dishes from that country rather than venture into other cuisines which, obviously, are not the strength of the kitchen. The various beef dishes are adequate, although as one can experience on many major cruise lines the quality of the cuts is not as high as one would like. Fish is prepared properly and numerous varieties are offered during the week. One disappointing feature of virtually all of the entrees is the complete lack of creativity in the design and presentation of the side dishes that accompany the main course. Potatoes and vegetables, whether boiled, blanched, or roasted, are very simply prepared without any attempt whatsoever at demonstrating the kitchen's ability to wow their passengers. The presentation of the entrEe is also as plain and simple as one might find at one's kitchen table at home with the meat or fish just lying on the plate with the potato and vegetable on the side. Visually these dishes are unexciting and in many cases even a simple sprinkling of chopped parsley would go a long way towards enhancing the appearance of the main course. MSC appears to be under the misimpression that the American palate is far less sophisticated than it actually is. With their U.S. offices located in Ft. Lauderdale, a city with dozens of superb, cutting-edge restaurants, it is hard to believe that the menu planners at the cruise line do not understand how adventurous and knowledgeable Americans are when it comes to food. After having spent thirty-five years as an executive in the cruise industry, the President of MSC cannot possibly offer any excuse for not being aware of the variety, quality, and presentation of food that is currently being served on all of the other major cruise lines. As devotees of the Food Channel the American traveler wants to see and taste new dishes that invigorate their palates when we go on a cruise. MSC's half-hearted efforts in many regards, or else their complete misunderstanding of what passengers are looking for when they sail, often results in a significant under application of herbs and spices on many main courses. In some cases these essential ingredients are neglected to the point that flavors that should jump out at you and excite your palate are missing altogether. As an example, an order of Mahi Mahi, described as being coated with Cajun spices, turned out to be a plain piece of fish with scant evidence that it had come anywhere near to the required spices. The timidity of the chef, or whomever selects the recipes and determines the method of preparation, is very disappointing. Interestingly, however, when it comes to Italian dishes such as their excellent pasta preparations, the sauces are fresh and very well seasoned and are certainly the strongest selections at any lunch or dinner. There are two specialty restaurants onboard the Orchestra which carry a nominal surcharge and require advance reservations. We did not have the opportunity to dine at either of these venues but I can provide you with a brief description of each one. The Shanghai Chinese Restaurant, which is open for lunch and dinner, is decorated beautifully with an authentic red and black lacquer theme and offers numerous dishes from a range of regions in the country. The 4 Seasons Restaurant, which is open only for dinner, is actually the back half of the buffet which in the evening is transformed into an upscale dining venue. Based on conversations that we had with some passengers who had dined there it appears that the quality and presentation of the food in this locale is significantly higher than that which we experienced in the main dining room. Where the 4 Seasons is concerned, MSC does very little to promote the existence of this dining venue and one night the restaurant was actually closed due to a complete lack of customers. MSC also offers late night buffets on the pool deck or special snacks which are distributed in the lounges around 11 or 11:30 P.M. These late-night snacks, which overall were really excellent, can range from club sandwiches to flaming crepes to zesty hot from the oven snacks such as the delectable chocolate-filled mini-croissants. The more expansive buffets on the pool deck included Italian night along with the Magnifico buffet towards the end of the cruise. Despite the numerous shortcomings noted above, if you pick and choose carefully you can have a good dining experience onboard the Orchestra. The overall quality of the food at the buffet will probably satisfy most passengers, and you can enjoy a pretty satisfying meal in the dining room in the evening if you understand the chef's strengths and weaknesses and make your choices accordingly. ONBOARD ENTERTAINMENT Combining a good variety of live music for your dancing and listening pleasure, an exceptionally talented and active entertainment staff, and truly unique production shows, MSC's onboard entertainment is as good if not better than that which is found on virtually any other cruise line. Offering what can be described as International entertainment, the nightly production shows are quite different from the typical offerings on most cruise lines. Instead of the ad nauseam singing and dancing to Broadway tunes which tends to keep more people away from the theatres than draws them in, MSC has put together an extremely interesting and varied top-notch entertainment program. The shows are scheduled before dinner for passengers with the Late Seating and after dinner for those in the Early Seating. As I mentioned seats in the orchestra of the theater are the most desirable and arriving at least 30 minutes before show time is definitely recommended. With hundreds of non-English speaking Europeans flying to Florida to sail with MSC, there wasn't any comedian onboard since interpreting his performance into three or four languages would be futile. Instead, the nightly shows focus on themes such as the circus (highlighted by an incredible performance by a troupe of acrobatic gymnasts from Africa), plus a magic and illusion show which is an amazing full-stage production. Music is the focus on a number of evenings including a classical piano concert where the star is supported by the string quartet, the trio from Paraguay, and a troupe of operatic singers. On another evening the focus is opera where many world-famous operatic songs are performed by an excellent tenor and a soprano while being backed up by the ship's truly superb dancers and the string quartet. A highlight of the cruise was the Celtic Spirit show where incredible music and dancing is enhanced by magic and acrobatics. The final show of the cruise was a wonderful musical journey featuring all of the week's stars and supporting performers ending with a truly wonderful finale. Every performance was awarded well deserved standing ovations by the audience and overall our evenings in the main theatre were enormously entertaining and enjoyable. The ships entertainment staff is composed of ten individuals who apparently work from early in the morning until very late at night. They host the daily morning walk, aerobics, stretching, tournaments and dance lessons on the Pool Deck, and in the evening they conduct the various games, dance lessons, and unique often hysterical contests in the lounges. The group on the Orchestra is full of life and their ability to speak at least four languages only adds to the enjoyment of their zany antics in the lounges and in the main theatre before the evening shows. They are an exceptional group who obviously love working together and they truly work their butts off to make the cruise as enjoyable as possible for passengers who come from all over the world to sail with them. THE POOL DECK If you are like most cruisers you will probably spend a great deal of time on the Pool Deck when you sail in the Caribbean. On the Orchestra this area is extraordinarily large and includes a number of features that are truly unique. For starters, on the end of the deck closest to the buffet restaurant the outer sections of both sides of the deck are furnished with large wicker tables and chairs. These areas are protected from the sun by the sunning and jogging deck above and are perfect for your lunch or just relaxing and people-watching with friends. The center of the deck features the pools, along with two elevated sun decks with recliners and the Jacuzzis. There are plenty of recliners available and one much appreciated feature of them is a moveable sun visor that is attached to the end closest to where you place your head. Towels are distributed at one end of the deck and there are plenty of very unobtrusive and pleasant drink waitresses who continually walk the deck taking orders and emptying ash trays. Since many people bring their lunch out to the tables there are busboys with rolling carts who promptly clear the tables. Many of these fellows were from Italy and it was not unusual to see them stop and chat with travelers from their homeland and even burst into song with the mothers, fathers, and grandparents who were traveling together. The far end of the pool deck includes another pool and a large expansive area with more recliners. There is also a large multi-function wood floor which the entertainment staff uses for the morning programs, dance lessons, and other related activities during the day. Additional pool chairs and smaller bars are located on other higher decks of the ship and while walking space can be a bit tight at times, and the recliners are positioned a bit too close to one another, it is a very lively deck that was always busy during our cruise. The main feature of the pool deck is the El Sombrero Pool Bar. Situated mid-ship, this is where you can get a tropical drink or a bucket of beer, or order a latte, cappuccino or an espresso. With movies under the stars being shown on most nights, this bar remains open quite late into the evening. The highlight of this bar is the gelato station where you can chill out during the day with as many as sixteen different flavors of genuine, homemade, Italian Gelato. Served with the traditional tiny spoon, this is the perfect snack before retiring for the evening and if you are a big fan of superb gelato you will find yourself drawn to this location many times during the day. Truly a stroke of locational genius, the mouth-watering gelato is available in a small cup for $ 1.50 or in a large cup or large cone for only $ 2.00. Once again, whether you order a drink, coffee, or gelato the price that you see is what you pay with no 15% automatic gratuity ever added. SHIPBOARD DEMOGRAPHICS & RELATED ACTIVITIES MSC's Caribbean cruises are scheduled only in the winter, and between December 20th of this year and April of 2010 the Orchestra will be replaced by the Poesia, their newest and largest ship. If our voyage was a typical one there will be many Europeans onboard who have traveled to Florida for their winter vacation and naturally are sailing with MSC as they do back home. On our cruise, for example, there was a group of 400 Italians traveling together along with many passengers from Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, and a large contingent of French Canadians. Because of the international composition of the passengers and the fact that many of them did not speak a single word of English all of MSC's entertainment staff and onboard hosts are required to speak a minimum of four languages. Announcements, while thankfully kept to an absolute minimum during our cruise, were done in four or five languages. This practice also applies to the evening dance lessons and contests which are conducted in the lounges, as well as the tender announcements which were necessary when the ship anchored off Grand Cayman and their private island. It is interesting to hear so many languages spoken during a week at sea, and MSC does offer Italian lessons, but admittedly it did get a bit tiring towards the end of the cruise. MSC continues to appeal to families traveling with young children by only charging the nominal government taxes for kids under the age of 17. Obviously, if you can sail for a week and only pay less than $ 100 apiece for your children MSC may have a tremendous amount of appeal to you. This was certainly in evidence during our voyage when there were hundreds of children of all ages and lots of newborns and infants being carried or pushed around in strollers. MSC appeared to have an exceptional children's program and wonderful onboard facilities. Always very security and safety conscious, MSC requires all children to wear a yellow I.D. wrist band at all times that shows their names and the cabin numbers of their parents. Programs are separated by ages (3 to 6, 7 to 12 and 13 to 18), and there is a large and extremely well-trained staff who do a marvelous job with the kids. The smallest ones seemed to get a great deal of attention and their parade on the pool deck after their face-painting class was one that put a smile on everyone's face as the wee ones made their way by. MSC'S BEACH ISLAND MSC's beach island is named Cayo Levantado, and this small, tropical getaway is located in the middle of La Samana Bay just off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Naturally it is necessary to tender ashore and I can report that the early morning distribution of the tender tickets, the calling of the tender numbers, and the entire back-and-forth transportation process ran extremely smoothly throughout the day. We did discover, however, that MSC does not actually own or lease the island as is typical of the major cruise lines that have their private getaways in the Bahamas. In fact, the island is owned and operated by the government of the Dominican Republic and because of this you will have to pay for your food and drink on the island as opposed to the complimentary lunch time barbeque buffets that are provided by other cruise lines. As with the other ports of call a number of shore excursions are offered at the island. You can go whale watching in Samana Bay, on a 4 x 4 jeep safari, or you can actually swim with sea lions. Parasailing and a catamaran sail and snorkel are offered or you can head to the mainland for an excursion to the waterfall, caves and tropical mangroves. SUMMARY & CONCLUSIONS Based on my experience on the Orchestra I believe that at the present time MSC is a good cruise line with the potential to evolve into a very good to excellent one. If I had to rate our cruise from one star to five I would probably give it 3 or 3 ½ stars. There were a lot of positive aspects during our week at sea and this ship does excel in a number of areas. On the other hand there are a number of areas, ranging from the minor to the most critical, where a bit of tweaking or a significant amount of improvement is needed. Reviews of this ship on the Internet are extremely varied and one can certainly become quite confused when one passenger gives their cruise one star and another person awards the identical cruise five stars. Having carefully observed everything onboard for an entire week in an extremely detailed, diligent, and professional manner, I can say without hesitation that many of the statements and negative comments that are posted on the Internet are either totally inaccurate or presented in an extremely subjective manner. To lapse into a bit of pure subjectivity for a moment, if you read between the lines of many reviews, and back that up with the actual observation of passenger behavior on the ship, it becomes evident in short order that ones attitude towards the personnel on a cruise ship will set the tone for the type of response that you will get and the level of service that you will receive. The fact that language barriers exist onboard an MSC ship, or that a staff member is being exposed to a totally new language and unfamiliar culture for the first time, is neither a flaw nor a fault of the individual. It is, on the other hand, a situation, or a circumstance that exists on this European based cruise line and is one which can be handled without any difficulty if the "Ugly American" attitude is left at home where it belongs. As with any voyage on any cruise line if you go onboard believing that the ship's personnel are basically dirt underneath your fingernails then you will not be satisfied no matter what the staff does for you. On the other hand, if you demonstrate some basic respect for people who come from other countries, work extraordinary long hours, are away from their families for many months at a time, and understand that under circumstances like these that a smile is a universal greeting that is immediately understood by anyone, then you can have an extremely pleasant time. I cannot defend MSC for not doing their homework and adequately or completely preparing for their entry into the Caribbean cruising market, yet at the same time I believe that they are headed in the right direction and that hopefully over time they will make the necessary changes to their overall product. My objective in writing this review has been to provide you with as much objective, in-depth information so that you can make an educated decision as to whether a cruise on a MSC ship is something for you. As a moderately priced cruise line where a cruise with the kids is an extremely economical way to travel, you can definitely have a very enjoyable time on an MSC ship. The strengths of the ship and the cruise line are readily apparent and based on the information in this review you should be well aware of the shortcomings and how you can make adjustments to overcome any potential problems. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
HEEDING THE WARNINGS THAT CAME BEFORE I saw all of the reviews online before I went on this cruise and also spoke with people at work who had been on this cruise line before and there was pretty much a mixed bag aside from the ... Read More
HEEDING THE WARNINGS THAT CAME BEFORE I saw all of the reviews online before I went on this cruise and also spoke with people at work who had been on this cruise line before and there was pretty much a mixed bag aside from the commonalities which were that you need to like authentic Italian food and that you need to be aware that it is not American style cruising. Having understood that, I prepared my husband for the potential differences and he said fine. We both held an open mind and said fine...let's try it out. FIRST IMPRESSIONS Embarkation took less than 20 minutes. I will preface my next sentence by saying that I have a very keen sense of smell and our room was as I expected although I noticed that the duvet cover had a bit of a funk to it like it hadn't been washed in several sailings. (They disembark passengers at 7am and reembark new passengers at 1pm so...no telling how many weeks the duvee covers and pillow covers go without washing.) There was an odor so I'm not sure where it was coming from but it seemed to be from those coverings. Either way, having thrown all of those items off of my bed promptly upon entering the room - I did think the room was beautiful and had tons of storage. My husband and I brought a total of 4 medium to large suit cases so there was plenty of room to store everything we had. Our balcony was very spacious and we were situated toward the back of the ship (one room away from the back of the boat). One of the first pleasant European surprises we did find on the ship was that all the water and minibar items are Italian (aside from Pepsi products) and we enjoyed sampling the Limoncello and Campari soda. It was also a nice treat to have cold bottled water out of an actual glass bottle. Everything seems to taste better that way! There was fresh fruit in our cabin the first evening and our room was made up appropriately for the time of day each time we came back to our room. It was pretty amazing actually. I really got the feeling right away that the crew on the ship work...a lot. They are always visibly working and it almost made me feel bad because it seemed to be every time I turned around there were 4 or 5 crew members near me doing work of some kind. They definitely have the attention to detail when it comes to cleaning. Bathroom amenities include small pink bottles of shampoo and soap and showercaps. No conditioner. Glad I brought mine... Oh, also - highly recommend bringing in your checked baggage some bottles of wine and/or liquor. We brought on 5 bottles of wine and one of liquor with no problem. Also brought on one bottle of rum from a port with no issues whatsoever. This was a nice feature of this cruise...I must say as it saved me quite a bit of money. Dinner the first evening took almost 3 hours...it got better each night after that so I'm not sure what happened that evening but it was a bit of a surprise. I must say that our server Ruslan was very helpful and accommodating to even the most critical of guests (2 were at our table). We did have a strange and rude encounter with the Maitre d' on the first night because he wanted us out of the dining room as it was time for the next seating and he didn't realize that it was our servers who had kept us there that late. So, everyone got up abruptly and left in a state of shock. I'm pretty sure one of my fellow tablemates had words with him afterwards as they were syrupy nice the next evening. It did get better as the cruise went on...and our table took every opportunity to tease them about wanting to yell at us again. One night when the restaurant was mostly empty they even played around with the guests by riding one of the guests scooters around the dining room. Everyone had a good laugh and the owner of the scooter especially enjoyed seeing them have fun for a change. The show the first night was hilarious, the second was good, and the third was interesting. This night I noticed that they were playing recorded (simulated) music over the top of a classical concert and it was obviously strange. I didn't go to any shows after that until the Celtic Spirit (5th night) and they went from Celtic music and dancing straight into a Michael Jackson song followed by We are the world...which felt like a strange ploy for better tips. Strange to say the least. Didn't go to the show the next two nights. I think having lived in Chicago and Las Vegas for many years - I am probably not the best person to judge what entertainment should be on a cruise ship. I have high expectations and I was a bit disappointed in this area. I really enjoy cruise ship comedians and there was not a hint of comedy on this boat except for the first night. I was not prepared for that realization. WHAT'S NEXT? Husband got sick on the 3rd night (sore throat, coughing), I did too around the 6th night. I heard the ships out of south Florida are known for the virus due to the recycled air so it probably hasn't much to do with the ship itself however there was not one mention on this ship of handwashing. There were Purell stations set up at embarkation and disembarkation points but that was it...I can't help but think this could have had something to do with it. Even our cabin steward was coughing non stop. When I asked her how long she'd been on the boat she said it was a 9 month contract. I also asked her how long she'd been sick. She said weeks... The food in the dining rooms was most always good to excellent. Buffet was fair to good. Every breakfast was exactly the same items in the buffet(included scrambled, fried, plain omelets, sausage, bacon, variety of bread, cereals, yogurt, milks, fruits, pancakes, waffles, juices). One strange note...there was not one berry to be seen on the ship the entire time I was there. Most lunch items were the same from day to day as well although they did change up the main entrees from day to day and added fresh pastas. The pizzeria was fair to good depending on how good of pizza you are used to eating. If you are from Chicago or New York you will probably judge it more harshly as we did...it was decent and hit the spot when you were hungry. They have basic cheese, pepperoni, veg, then you can add some additional toppings if you want. Breakfast at the buffet cuts off distinctly at 10:30am and there is no food available between 10:30am and noon when lunch starts. The buffets are abruptly cut off in between meals so if you get up late you need to order one of the 4-5 items from the room service menu which includes tuna salad or chicken club sandwich, ceasar or mixed green salad, fruit or cheese plate, or desert. That is it... You can order a continental breakfast (rolls, juice, coffee, tea) for delivery to your room in the morning but it is a pretty disappointing breakfast unless you are used to a small breakfast. Tried the Chinese restaurant and while their Dim Sum is on par with what I would expect from a high end Chinese restaurant, the rest is your average Chinese food in any decent sized city. Service was a bit slow for the price and the price was high when I went in with the expectations set by previous reviewers who stated "Best Chinese at Sea". It may be, but it isn't better than the three Chinese places that are within one block of my house in Las Vegas, or what would have been near my house in Chicago either. Again, a matter of what is available to you on a daily basis vs. how much you enjoyed the experience. Port times and excursions were the most disappointing part of the cruise. If you noticed when you read the excursion descriptions that you had a hard time choosing because they all sounded the same...it is because they are very run of the mill. There was not one moment of "Wow" factor in either of the mid range excursions that we attended. If you are looking for wow, spend your money on the experience based excursions like parasailing, jeep tours, zip lines, etc. That would be the only way I would recommend paying for an MSC organized excursion. I would think twice about paying for the touring excursion. The two that we attended were boring and not worth the money. We would have been better off taking a tour on our own, renting a car, or staying on the beach. The port times are WAY TOO SHORT to do much and they will leave you if you don't make it back to the ship on time. Several people were left throughout the cruise. One guy fell asleep at Cayo and had to catch another cruise ship to catch up at another port with us. The best recommendation I can make is to stay close to the port so you are on time or carefully plan your time so that you have enough time to do something realistic and get back in time. Beach would be best. My favorite port on this cruise was Cayo Levantado which was the first port to visit...after I left there I had a bad taste in my mouth. It wasn't until I went to the other islands that I realized that it was the best of the 4 which wasn't saying much. I do think that all of that could have been remedied if I had chosen to just go to the beach on the first three ports and then shopping at or near the port in Nassau. In Antigua, I highly recommend searching out the best beaches in a guide and going there in a group if you can.(adds a factor of safety). There were some magnificent beaches there that we saw on our way back to the boat and it made us sick to our stomachs that we had sat for 4 hours on a boring bus tour when we could have been at that beautiful beach. If you stick to that you would be much better off and would save the excursion costs. You could easily take a cab wherever you need to go using a guide book. The ship has a ton of swaying and vibration. I have never felt it like this before and it was worse in the back so if you think this will bother you then I would advise booking in the front to middle of the ship. Also, the back of the ear patches are very necessary on this ship. I didn't do it and I regretted not getting them the whole time I was on the ship. Instead, I had to take Bonine and was either half sleepy or sick for most of the "at sea" portion of the trip. LAST IMPRESSIONS ARE LASTING IMPRESSIONS I didn't see one moment of disrespect until the night before disembarking when I went to the Accounting office to see about an issue with my credit card. They do not authorize transactions on your card as most companies do...they do multiple authorizations across the cruise in $50 increments and after a few authorizations coming from outside the US - my credit card company saw it as fraud, called my house, and promptly disabled my card. This happened on two cards. When I went to explain that they needed to settle the authorizations they already made on my card they told me no...it was declined. I had to tell them several more times to settle the authorizations they already made and I would pay the remainder in cash. I was met with some attitude and when I asked the person to listen to what I was saying I did end up with what I needed, however the next morning I also heard a passenger raising their voice and being an ugly Canadian (threatening) and the crew at the Accounting office sneered and spoke to each other in Italian but never responded to the passenger. I think it may be a cultural thing to avoid the confrontation but I'm not sure. I do know that they had a steady line for 3 hours on the morning of disembarkation full of passengers who were disputing their bill or portions of it...so there probably was a reason for the anger on both sides of the equation. My husband also reported that the disembarkation crew members were very rude to him when I was at the accounting office dropping off my final paperwork. I believe they were tired of seeing him standing there and we were suppose to be self assist disembarkation but it took me longer to get thru the hoards of people in Accounting than I thought it would so he was left standing with them for 20 minutes or so... Once I appeared and we moved out of their way they looked pleased. I later found out that they have to have all of their self assist passengers out before the other passengers can leave. So, all in all...I was happy to leave the ship and was looking forward to eating food that wasn't Italian. I was happy to leave the room that made my sinuses clog up in a few minutes. This was the first time I have ever felt this coming back from a trip. Luckily, I do have a few days in south Florida to sit on the beach and relax. I would probably not recommend this cruise line to anyone unless they have kids and could benefit from the kids sailing free. Everything is scheduled and unless you skip most of the activities you can't really just sit and relax. If you were looking for a low cost vacation as I was in this case, I do think we got our money's worth but I think we could also have done that and gotten some better entertainment and port times by going thru Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
We drove to Fort Lauderdale on Friday, February 20 and stayed at the Rodeway Inn and Suites Airport/Cruise port. The hotel is currently doing some remodeling to become a Quality Inn soon. Overall the room was nice with a king size bed. The ... Read More
We drove to Fort Lauderdale on Friday, February 20 and stayed at the Rodeway Inn and Suites Airport/Cruise port. The hotel is currently doing some remodeling to become a Quality Inn soon. Overall the room was nice with a king size bed. The hotel provides complimentary shuttle services to the airport and cruise port. On Saturday we took the shuttle to the ship at about noon. When we arrived there were only a few people in line and we were soon onboard. We were told that our cabin would not be ready until 1 pm so we went up to the buffet on deck 13. The food was okay as far as buffet goes. Once we got into our cabin we unpacked and relaxed some. The room safe is very sensitive and will enter numbers more than once if you are not careful. I had to get a technician to come and get it open. We did not have any soap or shampoo in the room the first night. We were suppose to have first seating at dinner and found out that it was wrong even though we had confirmed it online weeks in advanced. We waited in line to correct this error. Our dinning room staff were excellent. I found that during our cruise, the buffet often closed before the posted times. On the Orchestra, the buffet closed at 9 pm. I am not accustom to a ship that does not have food available 24 hours a day. The food on the buffet was the same all week long. The fish was cold and chewy. In the main dining room, the portion size was very small compared to other cruises I have been on. Overall the food did not live up to what I was expecting from the Italians. Little or no garlic in the dishes. In ports we had to tender into, it was total chaos. We were required to get a tender ticket and wait for the number to be called. In the Grand Caymans we had tender ticket number #1. When they called for tender numbers, they called numbers 1 thru 4. This put 500 people in the stairwell waiting to get on tenders. The tender staff were not very organized. I attempted to get a hundred dollar bill changed at the accounting desk and could only get twenty dollar bills. Another cruiser said they had to go to the Casino to get smaller change. I ended up using the Casino for change. I also had problems with my shipboard account and tried to get it corrected at the accounting desk. I was sent from one place to another without it being corrected. I finally told them I would just file a complaint with my credit card company and they would not get paid for it. Hardly anyone spoke fluent English and most of the staff were just plain rude. This was my sixth cruise and by far the worst I have ever been on. It is a shame that MSC has such a beautiful ship and thats about all they have to offer. Perhaps if they take a few lessons from other cruise lines they can compete in the American market. If they don't get their act together soon, they will not survive here. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
my fiance and i have been on several cruises and last year we strayed from our norm and booked a cruise with MSC. their price was very competitive and we would give it a try. were we sorry ! the ship is beautiful and kept up quite well , ... Read More
my fiance and i have been on several cruises and last year we strayed from our norm and booked a cruise with MSC. their price was very competitive and we would give it a try. were we sorry ! the ship is beautiful and kept up quite well , the food was fantastic and the wait staff was great! but that is it, the entertainment lacked from what we were used to and was very dissapointed. and then it gets worse the lay out of such a huge ship is ridiculous, crowded every where, and not much to offer on shore excursions, the next was the wait staff was over worked and pushed to their limits ,one couln't even joke or talk to one at the bars for a supervisor giving them the "stinky" eye! then the worst ! the other passengers! they are mainly italians from chicago and the upper eastern sea board! what a bunch of rude,disrespectfull, smelly, hairy, egotistical charecters you are! WOW i don't wanna be any where near you dudes! let alone trapped on a ship with you! well all in all we made the best of it and did have a good time finding one of the uncrowded public areas and just enjoying each others company.and taking in the beautiful scenery of the eastern carribean. MSC has yet to learn how to cater to Americans and what they want in a cruise vacation. I suggest not letting msc reel you in with a cheaper price because you'll be dissapointed! stick with a US based cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
I have just returned from the 1/24/09 western Caribbean cruise. First off I had a wonderful time!!! I am a 51 year old widower and this is the first opportunity for me to take a cruise with a lot of family members. I normally cruised with ... Read More
I have just returned from the 1/24/09 western Caribbean cruise. First off I had a wonderful time!!! I am a 51 year old widower and this is the first opportunity for me to take a cruise with a lot of family members. I normally cruised with my late Wife, and the last few cruises I've gone with her twin Sister as my travel companion, so this was a very different experience for me. I went with my Father, Sister and Brother-in-law, 2 Aunts and an Uncle and his wife, so I have several view points to draw on. The first thing that stood out to me was, when traveling in a group, ensure everyone knows this is THEIR cruise! Don't pressure or insist others do what someone else wants to. We quickly came to that understanding and I didn't feel pressure to try and please everyone. We all did what we wanted and never expected others to feel obligated to do likewise. We all had the same dining arraignments (after a little work when we boarded, our initial request wasn't met) we did give each other the courtesy to let someone know if we didn't plan to attend dinner that evening. With that said, let's get to the details and my observations of the experience. DINING First, I guess I should tell you my perception of the dining as this seems to be the most discussed issue of this cruise ship/line. The first issue encountered, when we booked the cruise, we had requested that our group of 8 be seated together, first seating. When we checked on board, we were given 3 different tables, in 2 restaurants, 6 of us dining late, the other 2 early. As soon as we got on board, they had someone handing out numbers in the Savannah bar to everyone who had issues with the dining arraignments, and there were more than a a few. We waited about 30 minutes for our turn, and when we got our chance the issue was resolved quickly and efficiently. The table assignment was less that premium, we ended up in the back corner right next to the kitchen door. But we did get our early seating and all together. OK now for the actual dining. If you enjoy the attentive pampering, or are the steak and potato type, you will be disappointed. Our waiter was pleasant, and improved as the week went on but you got none of the personal attention you usually get on many other lines. Part of this may be due to the dining room being understaffed. One item that disturbed me was seeing a waiter being reprimanded by a supervisor for "socializing with the guests", he was told be pleasant, do his job, and no small talk with the guests, he was a waiter, not an ambassador!!! Now I have no idea if he was spending excessive time chatting and his work suffered, but if a crew member who interacts with the guests on a daily basis isn't an ambassador for the cruise line, who is? We did have an assistant waiter, but we never saw him during most of the dinner service. He spent all his time shuttling trays between the kitchen and the staging area. He never had a chance to do much else for most of the service. He did get us our coffee after the desserts were served, speaking of coffee, my Aunt likes a cup with her meal, and that seemed to throw everything off a bit, day 1 she didn't get it until the main course, day 2 not until the rest of us got ours after dessert, day 3 after the salad, but by day 4 they had it worked it into their routine and she got it soon after being seated. They also made sure we had extra ice on the table without asking from day 3 on, along with the salted butter my Sister requested and the extra roll my other Aunt wanted. Now the food. Day one I ordered the Cajun Mahi Mahi and was extremely disappointed!!! I got a small piece of grilled fish without even a HINT of Cajun spice!!!! It was very bland and tasteless!!! The same meal I got a shrimp risotto that was very good and the melon soup was outstanding, all the chilled soups I tried were always very very good. That is the experience of the entire week for us, very hit or miss. I had a veal cordon bleu that was paper thin, with a small thin slice of prosciutto ham, very little cheese and a soggy breading, I didn't finish it, but the Talappia I had later in the week was wonderful. The fillet night we had 5 orders at our table, 2 were great and the other 3 were not. Mine cut with 2 gentle strokes, my uncle needed a chainsaw. The desserts were all in all pretty good, but don't expect it to be as you would think. For example, the last night they had chocolate meringue "pie". What you got was a small pudding cup with a chocolate pudding on top of some white creamy sweet mer ague type sauce and sprinkled with a hard meringue on top, it was good, but it didn't fit my definition of pie.The dessert selections are very limited, especially on the buffet lines, mostly just a couple types of cake and an occasional cup of jello. I never saw a piece of what we would call pie. They did also offer ice cream of the day and a sorbet, those that I tried were very good. The "always available" alternatives of sirloin steak, grilled chicken breast or salmon filet are NOT available on either of the Gala nights. For the steak and potato type the choices are very limited, if you like seafood, pasta and a variety of other items you should be able to find something to suit you. They did serve a lot of veal and lamb. Now on to the buffets. The salad bar was always top notch, the rest,again depends on your tastes. They had a pasta of the day each lunchtime that I found to be usually very good. They have a wide variety of thin sliced meats and cheeses, plenty of seafood and past salads. At most cruise buffets I have a hard time not wanting to take everything on the line, here I had a hard time choosing what to take. All that said I still feel the buffets were adequate and you could find something to suit your tastes. The staff working them were hit and miss, one staff member would jump to help my elderly Aunt find a table and make sure she had everything she wanted each day (this is hear-say from my aunt, we usually didn't eat lunch together) but I did see another staff member standing by the drink station, when informed they were out of glasses, he told my brother in law to use a coffee cup for his juice and he did nothing to correct the problem. (when we left about 15 minutes later, still no glasses and only a couple cups left and he was still standing in the same spot!) As for the specialty restaurants, I never got the opportunity to give them a try. A friend of mine, who's opinion I deeply trust, did try the four seasons. She had nothing but great things to say about it. The food was head and shoulders above the main dining room and the service was a show in itself! With the exceptional food and service, she would be willing to pay several times more than the $25 a head and still feel she got a bargain!!!! On her recommendation I tried to make a reservation, only to find they were booked for the remainder of the cruise!!! I guess that tells you how exceptional food, service and the word of mouth worked for them!! If you want to enjoy this exquisite dining experience on your cruise, book early and book often!!!! With all that said, I never went hungry even if I didn't like everything offered, I always found something acceptable to eat. All things considered I don't think it matched up to other lines I've been on, but it was adequate. If the staff's attitude and efforts were more geared to pleasing the guests, it would go along way to improving the perception of the guests. All in all in my opinion the dining needs some attention, it was a disappointment but not a deal breaker! STATEROOM My Father and I had a balcony stateroom on deck 12 forward. The room was well decorated and functional. it was a bit smaller than some, but not to the point of being excessively cramped. You have a good amount of storage and suitcases are easily stashed under the beds. When we first arrived they had the beds together as a queen bed, one request to our steward and when we returned after dinner they were split into twins, the ice bucket was full and everything was done. Our steward was on top of things all week and greeted us each time we saw him and asked to make sure we had all we needed. Unlike the dining staff, he took time to talk with us and get to know us, I guess his boss DOES think he is an ambassador!! ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES This was by far the highlight of this cruise for me!!! The main showroom is stunning! My only complaint is the railings in the balcony are a bit high and if you sit back they tend to obstruct your view a bit, but hey, listen to your Mother and SIT UP STRAIGHT and it's not a big issue!!! They don't put on the standard Vegas style show, it's more a European style theatre show with nice choreography, dance and acrobatics all blended very nicely. If you go to the first night, I found it to be very good and very entertaining. It had a good blend of dance, song and acrobatics. I left that show feeling very good about what was to come. I wasn't disappointed, the following shows were every bit as good and some even better. The second night's Circusland show was even more stunning!!! I didn't attend each night (I kind of wish I did) but every show was wonderful!!! I really found the two acrobats doing the ribbon routine during the Celtic show exceptional. If you are a fan of the stage shows, you will find these to be some of the best at sea, in my opinion. The lounges are another highlight of this ship. All the lounges had entertainment all night from about 5 PM till 1 AM, even when the entertainers were on break they kept you entertained. The Savannah was the dance bar with dance music, I didn't spend a lot of time there myself, but it was always packed and the noise and excitement often drifted up into thee casino!!! The Shaker lounge also had dance music most nights and also some karaoke, the guest talent show and other types of entertainment. The main atrium area had the classical quartet that covered the purple, L'incontro and Zaffiro bars. They also did have a poolside dance party that I didn't attend but I heard nothing but rave reviews from everyone who was there!!!! The wine bar was one area that was overlooked by most of the guests, it was a really nice spot with a very good piano player, I guess being a wine bar that only served wine, most guests didn't stay and enjoy it. I did spend some time there several nights, when I needed a drink I'd sneak back to the Shaker bar, get my drink and return. I really felt bad for the piano player, he played many nights to an empty or near empty room, and he was too talented for that. Now for my personal favorite, the Amber bar, this is a nice quiet piano type bar with very good entertainment. Edo was a solo piano player/singer who was very good and they also had the duo of Fabrizio and Ivana that I really enjoyed. This bar did have a small smoking section off to one side, but the ventilation system did it's job and it didn't offend others in the main, non smoking area. It did however make the ship's logo shop patrons walk through the smoking area to get to the shop: bad planning there. I have read on other reviews negative comments about the staff members from Bulgaria, if they ever had the pleasure of being served by one young Bulgarian cocktail waitress named Maria, their opinion would change I am sure!!! Maria has a bubbly personality and infectious smile!!! She rarely stood at the bar as some of the other girls did, she walked around spinning her tray and making sure empty tables were cleared and cleaned, and kept herself accessible to those who needed it. She was always offering to take pictures for the guests. She was always available, without being intrusive. If there was one cruise staff member that made me feel welcome and gave me exceptional service, Maria would get that honor hands down!!! Now the casino. I did spend a little time there, welllllllll, OK maybe a lot. My opinion is that it is a little small for the number of passengers they carry. There were a few things that bothered me about the way they operate. First they allowed a passenger to play multiple hands at the black jack table when they had several players waiting for a seat, that would be fine if they didn't have players waiting, but the pit boss let the complaints fall on deaf ears. They wouldn't open the craps table until late most nights for some unknown reason, every time it was open it was packed. Same with roulette, 4 roulette tables and a majority of the time they had all 4 closed, I never saw more than 2 ever open. The Texas hold-em table didn't open till around 10 each night, you could buy in for $50, but the blinds were $5/$10, so if you didn't buy in for 4-500 bucks you were dead money. I only budget so much for the casino each night, and a $1/$2 table would be much more inviting for the majority of the guests. They could have had a full table all night long, instead they chose to have 4-5 players begging passers by to join in. I also found out they will not cash travelers checks at the casino cage, never encountered that on any other cruise line. You can only cash them at the accounting office which is only open 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the early evening (4-7), not to mention they charge you 3% to cash them!!! I waited till Grand Cayman and the RBC charged me 89 cents to cash 3 travelers checks, a far cry from the 3% the ship would have charged!!!! They are a lot of changes they could make to maximize their casino bottom line, but they seem indifferent to those suggestions. It doesn't make a lot of sense to let easy money walk out the door, but they had no problem with it. The amount of money I see novice craps and roulette players loose on cruises always amazes me, not to capitalize on that is puzzling. I also noted they only had 5 penny slots, I don't play slots bu they always had a large group fighting for the seats, while 12 line quarter machines stayed empty all night. Keep more people in the casino and you'll make more money, seems to me that should be the way to go. The rest of the entertainment I can't comment much on. The poolside never had the crazy hairy chest or sexy leg type contests. What I saw was very mundane and generic. They had no marriage show or other types of very funny but less classy type of shows or contests. The pool was always crowded and if you want a chair get there very early, as I noticed going to breakfast, most chairs were claimed long before the pool even opened. As the pool goes, I was disappointed that the pools and hot tubs closed at 6:30. No romantic drinks in the hot tub under the stars, of course I was alone on this cruise so it wasn't an issue, but when my Wife and I did our cruises, we'd spend several nights kicked back in the hot tubs under the stars with some rum based drink special, enjoying each others company!! PORTS For the most part there aren't many ports here that are that special. Key West, the conch republic, with it's usual special flare, nothing most cruisers haven't seen before. Cozumel, we booked a day pass to the all inclusive Windham resort. Good food, good drinks, poor beach. All shell and coral for sand, rocks everywhere in the water. The pools were cold and so-so. The food was good, but nothing great. At least we had an open bar and took advantage of that. If I had known, I would have skipped the resort and gone to Mr. Sancho's and do the pay as you go route. Of course on the way back to the ship we did hit Carlos and Charlie's, can anyone stop there and not have fun? After that my Sister and I went shopping, if your going to shop for the standard items, Cozumel is the best. On to Grand Cayman, I didn't do a lot here, I've been to stingray city, which is a really unique experience but I need to do the rum point and snorkel trip, maybe next time. I did buy my duty free liquor there, in port my bottle of Jim Beam was $9.50, on board it was $12.95. I recommend this, it was a simple process, they deliver to the ship and it's delivered to your stateroom they last night. The last stop was Cayo Laventado in the Dominican Republic. I wasn't sure what to expect for this stop, but it was great!!! The beach is beautiful and all seemed to be having a great time!!! Negotiate with the vendors, you can usually cut the first price by at least 50%. I found a nice tree on the grassy hillside overlooking the rocks and surf and did absolutely nothing for hours and enjoyed every minute of it!!! SUMMARY A cruise is what you make it. This ship, as with all others, has it's pluses and minuses, but it's up to you to make the most of it. I feel they need do to improve the dining. Overall the ship is beautiful and they are always cleaning something, even polishing the brass hinges on the doors. I found the entertainment to be very good and the shows outstanding. The staterooms were nice and functional, not the biggest but comfortable and well above average. Embarkation and disembarkation both went very smooth. Do I regret going? No. Would I sail them again? Probably not, unless they improve the dining, that's one area I always look forward to if they do then yes. I'll be watching the reviews to see if they continue to improve. Right now I feel there is better value for my cruise dollars out there. Would i recommend it to others? It depends on what they are looking for, if they have kids and want real value, then this ship with their kids free offer gives them that value. I'll just make sure they are aware of the dining issue. I wouldn't tell anyone they shouldn't go, just tell them what I've said here and let them decide. Overall I had a great cruise, the weather was super and I got to spend some quality time with family I don't see often enough. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
This was our 2nd MSC cruise and we were neither amazed or disappointed. We've cruised 24 times in total with all the major cruise lines. The ship itself is immaculate although we felt there could have been more garbage bins. That said ... Read More
This was our 2nd MSC cruise and we were neither amazed or disappointed. We've cruised 24 times in total with all the major cruise lines. The ship itself is immaculate although we felt there could have been more garbage bins. That said we seldom saw any garbage around so the crew was obviously doing a good job on clean-up. The major disappointment for us was the dining room. We had asked for early sitting and got late. When we approached the maitre d he said the first sitting was full but he would put us on a waiting list. He lied about it being full and NEVER got in touch with us. Our waiter was accommodating but never seemed to catch on with regard to going that little extra bit re service. For example I informed him that I could not eat rice and he assured me that I would get potatoes instead. Three nights in a row, I got rice even after I had reminded him "no rice". The kicker was the night we got lobster. He delivered mine with rice and seemed totally surprised when I reminded him. He never picked up on simple things that waiters on other cruises have. For example, although I told him how much I liked shrimp or even chocolate ice cream, I never got any extra. When I left most of my meal uneaten, he never asked if I'd like something different. By the way, if one wanted ice cream at any time other than dinner or lunch, one had to pay $2.00. Something that took many of us by surprise. Our cabin steward was excellent as were the men and women of the entertainment team. There are tons of bars on board and the only negative was not the ship's fault. There were 1300 or more cruisers from Ohio on board celebrating the Super Bowl. They partied everywhere and totally dominated the pool areas. They constantly complained about the MSC Orchestra and referenced that it was not as good as Carnival. I have no problem with them partying but this "Carnival type" atmosphere does not suit many of us "older" cruisers. The Carnival cruise line advertises itself as The Party Boat.If one wants to party, I'd suggest going with that line. Our first port was Cayo Leventado (?) in the Dominican Republic. Tendering was so slow, we and quite a few other cruisers just gave up and stayed on board. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
Cabin: Category 10, Balcony Stateroom, Mid-ship, Deck 11 The room was pleasant and spacious. Bed was king-sized. Full sized desk (with vanity type mirror.) Drawers on both sides of the desk. Small sofa. Mini-bar with LCD TV above. Ample ... Read More
Cabin: Category 10, Balcony Stateroom, Mid-ship, Deck 11 The room was pleasant and spacious. Bed was king-sized. Full sized desk (with vanity type mirror.) Drawers on both sides of the desk. Small sofa. Mini-bar with LCD TV above. Ample closet space (2 closets side-by-side.) A third closet had floor to ceiling shelves plus the mini-safe. There were ample, shaped hangers available. Bathroom was typical cruise line except that the sink/vanity had cabinets and shelving below (nice touch.) Balcony had two chairs and a small table (man-made wicker.) The TV had a very user friendly on-board system for messages, calendar of events, account checking, etc. Access is through a single button on the remote - no channel surfing to find it! If it is used as intended, it would be very nice on longer cruises. There were no note pads or writing instruments in the desk. At evening turn down there are no chocolates on the pillow and no clever towel animals. Lacking a personal touch. Cabin attendant was very attentive and helpful. Left telephone wake-up call that never happened. The center elevator (closest to our room) does not go to deck 13 and there are no stairs at that point. Must go down hall to next elevator station to get to 13. Elevators are generally very slow and have a tendency to skip floors when going up/down for some reason. Important note: Once inside your room, there is a little box on the wall near the bathroom door. You must insert your sea card into that box for the room lights to function. This also activates a small led light outside the room to alert your room steward that the room is occupied so that he/she will not disturb you. Nice touch! Dining: Villa Borghesi Ristorante, Deck 5, Mid-Aft. Single level dining room, nicely divided into smaller eating areas of 6-8 tables. Attractive and warm in appearance. Quite noisy. Each table had a waiter (shared with other tables.) There was not an assistant waiter. Service was slow. Had to request water (several times) and on last evening it only came at the end of the meal. Bread/rolls we never refreshed/offered again after original serving. Language was a problem and waiter did not understand "salad dressing on the side' at all. We were never asked if we wanted coffee at the end of the meal. Same evening our waiter disappeared and other waiters had to fill-in for him. Food, overall, was mediocre at best. Rice was undercooked and crunchy. Steaks were not prepared as requested. Requested baked potato was brought to table many minutes after all hot foods had been delivered. Waldorf salad was a lettuce salad with one very small piece of apple smothered with a very unusual Thousand Island dressing. Vegetables were mushy. Some desserts were actually pretty good, but cakes were dry. Never saw a head waiter. La Piazzetta Cafeteria, Deck 13, Aft. The Cafeteria is very nice in appearance. There is a separate salad bar area (cereals and fruits in the am.) Two additional hot food lines (grill area), a desert area, and separate drink area. There is an attendant to pour your coffee. Ample seating both inside and outside. Tables at breakfast were set with silverware and napkins. Seating areas were quieter than the dining room. Lines were long and personnel would direct people to other areas to shorten lines even though what they wanted was where they were in the first place. Like the dining room, food was mediocre at best. Many empty pans were not promptly filled. At breakfast there was a sign alluding to the availability of eggs cooked to order - but no personnel available to perform that task. Entertainment: Both nights the entertainment was provided by the ships' own entertainers that would have to be classified as very good to excellent. Those on the second night received a well-deserved and prolonged standing ovation. It was, without a doubt, the best cruise line provided entertainment that we have seen. Although we expected one, a cruise director never did appear. The Covent Garden Theater is very nice and has good sight lines overall with only a couple of pillars that only obstruct a very few seats. There is not any in-theater bar service before the shows. Family & Children: We were two adults traveling so it is difficult to address this area. There is a separate pool area for children on deck 13; as well as a protected play area for younger kids. Public Areas: Overall, the ship is absolutely beautiful. Decoration is tasteful and refined. Getting from one area to another is not difficult. A majority of the public areas, including outside on deck 7, like the cabins themselves, are non-smoking. There is limited smoking on deck 13. Purser's desk had more than its share of lines due to embarkation problems. Personnel behind the counter were not well versed in English and spent more time (at one point) arguing with each other in Italian than taking care of customers. The reception area is very nice and had a very nice string quartet playing many times. Very pleasant and relaxing. There are several shops in the vicinity with a better than average selection. Resort/vacation type clothing was priced below what one would expect on a cruise line. The lounges were all very nice, and most offered areas where you could easily have nice, quiet conversations. Entertainment was on par with most cruise lines. Bar service in the lounges was far superior to that available in the Casino area. The Palm Beach Casino was nice even though small when compared to those on smaller ships. Beverage service (at the bar and on the floor) was extremely slow due to the apparent lack of personnel. Attendants to handle machine problems were difficult to find and slow to respond. General announcements (minimal) throughout the public areas were difficult to hear and/or understand. There is a definite need for improvement here. Most announcements were made in English only. Embarkation: Parking ($15 per day) is available only a 100 yards or so from the terminal building. In a nutshell, the embarkation was a nightmare. We had been told by MSC that embarkation could begin at 1PM and planned accordingly. At 13:15 we joined a very long line of people outside the terminal building (they were not letting people in yet.) Very quickly the line became a serpentine. About 14:15 they started to let people in (a few at a time.) By 15:15 we were in the building to join, yet another, serpentine line leading up to the TSA scanners. The line would move for a while, then stop for many minutes before resuming the minimum progress. Eventually we made it past the scanners only to be given a number for a seating area. Only after our number was called did our 'Web Express Check-In' take on any meaning. As a result we got to wait in a short serpentine line instead of a long one. Actual check-in went relatively smoothly except for the fact that they could not establish the on-board account due to computer problems. By 16:30 we were in our room with our carry-on baggage. From there we proceeded to the purser's office to join another long line to establish the on-board account. While there we inquired about the SBC (ship board credit) for the fuel surcharge refund - something nobody knew anything about. (footnote: The SBC did show up on our final shipboard account prior to debarkation.) The ship was scheduled to depart Port Everglades at 19:00. Actual departure due to the numerous problems did not take place until 20:30. Because of the delays, the mandatory muster drill was held the following morning at 08:30. Probably the shortest muster drill we have been through as most people were still sleeping and nobody bothered to get them up. One plus on embarkation. Once on-board the ship, a cabin steward was there to take us (and our luggage) to our room. By luck-of-the-draw ours was the steward for our room. He was pleasant and helpful and made us feel right at home. Exactly what went wrong here, I do not know. I heard a lot of stories and excuses (from MSC personnel and other passengers.) I strongly suspect that it was a combination of many things (ship being late, delayed debarkation of the transatlantic cruise, lack of trained MSC personnel, etc.) but standing for 4-5 hours in a line did little to give a "vacation" feel to the cruise. Debarkation: I have always felt that you should learn from your mistakes; and truly felt that this would be the case for MSC on debarkation. We signed up for the 'self-debarkation' as we always do on all cruises. The notice said that we would receive a special luggage tag (never did) and debarkation would go by decks. We were told to be out of the room by 07:00. Because it was a short, 2-night cruise, most people opted for 'self-debarkation' in hopes of getting off the ship quickly. We were in line shortly after 07:00. Consequently almost two thousand people and their bags crowded into the reception area; there were lines going in several directions. Nobody with MSC seemed to be directing things at all. Children were crying, and at one point 2 men almost got into a fist fight to gain position in line. Shouts for "Security" seemed to quiet them down. The nightmare of embarkation was replaying itself, only this time passengers couldn't wait to get off the ship. It left an unpleasant aftertaste that tainted the entire trip. While waiting in line I spoke with several couples (first time cruisers) about their experience. Further, I went into detail explaining to them that this had not been a 'normal' embarkation/debarkation experience. I hated the idea that people would be turned off on cruising because of this experience - especially since the experience on most of the cruise had been positive. All things come to an end; and ours finally did at 08:30 when the line to debark started to move. Once we exited the ship, everything went smoothly. We were in our car and en-route home by 09:00. Comments: I would normally end a review with what has been said before this. In this case I think that there are a few more things that need to be said here. It was apparent throughout the cruise that MSC had fewer people than they should have had to perform certain functions. It was also apparent that many of those that they did have should have been trained better than they were. Why was this? I do no know. Cost savings reductions? Possibly. The availability, or lack thereof, of qualified people. Maybe? I really don't know. But little things -like chocolate on the pillows -matter. I only know that there is room for improvement in many areas. It is the job of a cruise line and its personnel to make people feel special; to pamper their passengers. That's why they are paying the money to cruise in the first place. MSC failed in many areas in this respect. I can only hope that MSC has learned from this cruise and that many things change and do improve. I think that MSC really missed an opportunity here. Had they truly excelled on this simple 2 night cruise, they would have won a lot of followers. That did not happen and I think, I'm sorry to say, that they lost a lot of potential long time customers. Sorry MSC, I had hoped for more from you! I spent a lot of time talking to people on the cruise about what they expected and what they were getting. Many of these people were first time cruisers and I only hope that I was able to get them to understand, and believe, that the bad experiences that they had endured were the exception and not the rule as far as cruising was concerned. I would like them to come back to cruising, if not MSC, at least another cruise line. Perhaps, later, they will give MSC another chance. They truly deserve it - they have a great ship but need to improve the service to make it a better product. Will we sail MSC again? I cannot say at this point. We had said that if we liked this cruise we were going to book the 'Cruising to Music' cruise in late February. At this point, that is not going to happen. I have a hard-sell with my other half! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
The Good : Terrific shore excursions, ports, cabin/balcony great, Balinese spa, massages great, good new workout facilities next to spa, and loved the coffee bar for lattes and espressos. Buy your wine package from your agent before you go ... Read More
The Good : Terrific shore excursions, ports, cabin/balcony great, Balinese spa, massages great, good new workout facilities next to spa, and loved the coffee bar for lattes and espressos. Buy your wine package from your agent before you go -- I got 6 bottles of red and 7 of San Pelligrino water in my red wine package from travel agent for $157 pre-purchase and that was much less than the 149 Euros they were charging on board (about a $50 savings). You could also BYO wine and pay 3-9 euro corkage but we did not do this. Cabin and dining room service was excellent. Pasta, desserts, salads and sorbets were good. Our English speaking table mates were great -- a British couple, Canadian couple, and couple from New Yawk. The shows were among the best I have seen on any cruise line. We particularly liked the Leopard Lounge for after dinner drinks (that was the motif although it was really called the Savanna Bar). Frozen drinks poor (mostly ice) but the Frozen Lemoncello and Liquor drinks were good albeit pricey at $7-10 each. The Sassi, Olympia and Ephesus/Mary's house tours were great. We did Istanbul and Venice on out own using taxis, vaporettos, trams/buses no problemo. We took the ship shuttle for a few euros in Dubrovnik and walked the wall ($20 US for two people for wall access plus 6 or 7 euro per person for shuttle). The Bad : The food, particularly the cooked meat was mostly bad as pork and beef were fried well done in olive oil. The risotto was OK but same thing each night with a different added ingredient. The filet was good on gala dinner night as were all the other items that night, so they could do it well every night if they wanted but were saving money in the food area. Their pizza was worse than any I have ever had in my life, even worse than the tasteless '60s drive-in pizza that we used to toss around like frisbees. We did the Chinese restaurant one night at about $11 euro extra per person. It was a nice change mid week. The balinese chefs gave the food an unusual twist, but at least the meat was tender. All that said there was still plenty to eat and I gained two pounds. I saw no winners in the Casino, and they never got a quorum for the Texas Hold Em table (6 players with 5/10 Euro blinds and 100 Euro maximum bet). Smoke was bad in Casino and some bars but plenty of smoke free bars too. The Ugly: The Italians don't queue (as our British friends said) and stampeded the cafeteria, buffet, buses, etc. Even the Italian crew butted in for their free coffees at the coffee bar and were also rude, but perhaps this is just the Italian culture. The other foreign crew displayed better manners but spoke little English and often gave out wrong info or knew nothing. There was one English speaking cruise hostess gal that provided good info and was available a couple of hours each day. We heard a rumor that most of the Italian passengers delete their 6 euro daily per person tips added to your bill and stiff the cabin/dining service people. Most of the junior cabin/dining staff were from Madagascar and Bali. We gave ours a bit more directly as we received very good service and feared that most of the tips they did get might be siphoned off by the Italian managers. Read Less
MSC Orchestra Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 3.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 2.0 0.0
Service 3.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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