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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
MSC ORCHESTRA ANTILLES GRAND CRUISE, B2B, Trans-ATLANTIC GRAND CRUISE (28nights) Choice of Itinerary This was driven by a number of factors. Most importantly was my wife’s desire to see where “Death in Paradise” was ... Read More
MSC ORCHESTRA ANTILLES GRAND CRUISE, B2B, Trans-ATLANTIC GRAND CRUISE (28nights) Choice of Itinerary This was driven by a number of factors. Most importantly was my wife’s desire to see where “Death in Paradise” was filmed. Secondly was the fact that we didn’t cruise in 2015 because of the wedding of my younger daughter, which had to be moved from its original April date to September for reasons to do with the venue. Thirdly I booked it in rather a rush as MSC decided to discard the 20% discount for Black card holders. They gave two weeks warning of the event. So the first 14 night cruise was an easy choice and the dates fixed themselves when I realized I could make it B2B with the eastward repositioning cruise. The other important fact is that the repositioning cruise was such good value that the 20% discount on the first cruise paid for the major part of the second cruise. The ship chosen MSC Orchestra Technical data Musica Class Gross tonnage:- 92409 tons Length:- 293.8 m Beam:- 32.2 m Draught 7.7 m Height 59.64 m Decks:- 16, incl. 13 for guests Lifts:- 13 Voltage (in cabin):- 110 / 220 volts Maximum speed:- 23 knots Stabilizers Stabilized with 2 fins Number of passengers:- 3,013 (on double basis)(max. 3,223) Number of cabins:-1275 Balcony suites:- 18 Balcony Cabins:- 809 Ocean View:- 173 Inside Cabins:- 275 Disability Cabins:- 16 (11 inside; 2 OV; 3 balcony) Crew members 1,054 Pools 3, 4 whirlpool baths Choice of Cabin Initially I wanted a balcony suite on deck 15 on the port side. There are only 9 on the port side of the ship and none was available for the entire 28 days, unless we changed cabin half way through. An idea my wife won’t go with. This was probably due to the rush pf Black cardholders getting their last discounts. There were 40 on the first two weeks and 205 on the second, and on the repo leg the ship was over 1,000 guests below capacity. That meant that over 10% were Black card holders. This left us having to have a balcony. Again there were none available, at my preferred location, on the forward hump of decks 12 and 14. So we had a cabin on deck 12 in the recessed area. The cabin came with the “Aurea” experience, which comes with the all inclusive drinks package and other perks. By comparing prices with the next level experience down, “Fantastica”, I worked out the AI package was £15pppd. If you purchased it as a Fantastica guest it was £22pppd, so it was a bit of a no brainer to have the better experience with the AI package and several other perks, which I’ll mention later. The only drawback was we had to have a cabin on deck 12, which is below the pool deck, as the Aurea package isn’t available on any other balcony cabins on lower decks. This is probably why the cabins on the hump were sold out first. Pre-cruise arrangements We had the outbound flight, BA, through MSC, as I couldn’t get as good a price, independently, as they were offering, which was a surprise to me. It was an early morning flight from Gatwick direct to Bridgetown. We booked in to the north terminal Premier Inn so as to be close to the baggage drop off point which can be used the evening before the flight. I was very surprised that they had no parking for the night and only offered a discounted price on short stay parking. Next time I’ll use the Sofitel as it has its own car park. We checked in and dropped our bags off and were told by the BA rep that we had been wise to do it as there would be chaos in the morning. How right she was, MSC had overbooked their allocation by six people. This was when we had our first bit of good fortune, the upgrade fairy allocated us seats in “cattle class plus” instead of cattle class. (World Traveler Plus in BA speak) The flight was delayed by 1 hr as they changed a wheel, after everybody was on board, but before luggage and cargo was loaded. Embarkation Because our flight was delayed we found there was a long queue on the dockside and up the gangway and on into the ship. There is no terminal building at Bridgetown so the queue was standing in quite a hot sunny area. As an MSC Black card holder I am entitled to priority embarkation, it is also a perk of the “Aurea” experience and there was no facility available. Not to be deprived of my benefits I spoke to an MSC security officer and showed him my black card. He said he didn’t know of the benefit, so I got the table of benefit entitlements out of my information folder and proved it to him. He immediately radioed the guest relations manager, and in less than 1 minute a nice lady appeared from another gangway. I called my wife who was dutifully queueing (she hates making a fuss and being different to others) and we were taken into the ship by the alternative gangway and led straight to the front of the queue at reception. The queue was the typical convoluted snake type rope system which had about 100 people in it and then tailed off out of the area and off out to the dockside, probably 250 – 300 people all told. The guest relations manager, his assistant, the head waiter of the Aurea dining area and the nice lady all made sure everything was correct and spent at least five minutes with us. They spotted a mistake on our cruise card, no code for the drinks package, and had it corrected as well as operating the strange activation machine that links your credit card to the cruise card. The service we were given by all four of them was brilliant and I overheard quite a few people in the queue asking how we got that level of service. We also were asked by people who had spoken to my wife in the queue why we were taken away by a member of the crew. The Aurea Experience This is premium service level and the top level on Musica and Lirica class ships, only exceeded by the Yacht Club on the Fantastica class ships. The other levels are Bella (No frills service); Fantastica (what I consider standard service levels); and from next year a Wellness (for fitness fanatics). The Aurea extra benefits include:- All Inclusive drinks package My Choice Dining Priority Boarding Spa package, including a complementary Bali massage Access to a reserved sundeck I was due to have one massage per person in the cabin per cruise, i.e. two in total. However due do some administrative errors we actual received four each. This also affected the benefits we received as a Black card holders. The error was that my wife was booked on two 14 night B2B cruises whilst I was booked on two 7 night cruises. This became evident when I asked to have cruise cards that covered the entire 28 days instead of having two separate cruise cards for each 14 nights. I was stunned when reception told me my wife was booked on for 28 nights but I was only booked on for 14 nights. I was then asked if I had a ticket for the second 14 nights and having said yes was asked if I could produce it. I duly fetched said ticket from my cabin and showed it to the reception manager. After a quick look at his computer and checking with sales at HQ he profusely apologised for the computer system error. As a result I received benefits for both the Aurea and Black card as if I had booked three B2B cruises and in the case of the massages as if I had booked four 7 night cruises B2B. Still I’m not complaining about these MSC booking errors. Dining on board As we had My Choice dining we were asked at what time we would like to dine. They suggest that the same time each evening is best as you will have a designated table and waiting staff. This was fine for us for most nights, but on three occasions we chose to change our time. This is no problem to arrange, it is simply a case of informing the Aurea head waiter of your requirements. However, he did point out that he couldn’t guarantee our designated table. As part of the drinks package we were entitled to dessert wine, which I like, so on the first night I had a very nice Sauterne. When I asked for it on the next night I was told it was out of stock and would I like the alternate choice an Italian wine. This was equally palatable so I asked for on the following night and was told this too was now out of stock. Not good enough, so I went to reception, waved my Black card and asked if I could meet the Food and Beverages manager (FAB as he is known). The meeting took place the next day and I politely asked if he was aware that the two dessert wines for the AI package were out of stock. He immediately phoned his stockman and was told there was none available, so he then said to get a bottle from the premium AI package list and send it to the MDR for exclusive use at our table. This lasted well into the third week by which time they had replenished the other choices. That’s what I call good service and possibly the power of asking politely, not complaining as such, and having a Black card. Breakfast and most lunches we had in the buffet which does not have sufficient seating at full capacity, which was a problem on the first two weeks. The second two weeks were no problem at all as the ship was sailing with more than 1,000 guests below capacity. We had the occasional lunch in the MDR, which on MSC ships is open every day for breakfast and lunch, with open seating and waiter service. The only alternative dining was the “a la carte” Asian fusion (Chinese, Thai and Japanese) restaurant, which we used twice and had the set “taster” menu as a perk of the Black Card. We could have gone four times but the taster menu twice was enough, four times would have been too much. The big disappointment was that the quality of the food, in the MDR, has slipped to perhaps 2.5 stars (out of 5) from the usual 3.5 to 4 stars I would give to MSC food. This may be only on this ship rather than a general slippage throughout the fleet. The buffet offerings were at my expected quality level. Entertainment For the theatre shows there was a production cast of 21 people, within his number were a three man tumbling act, a three-man gymnastic balancing / strength act, a male/female duo who were aerial artistes, 3 lead singers and 10 dancers. One couple from the dancers were the ballroom/latin experts. The full production shows were:- Mon Amour; a French style variety show which included the obligatory can-can sequence. Gold; A lavish show with costumes based on ancient Egyptian styles. Starwalker; a Michael Jackson tribute show. Grease; from the film of the same name. Samurai; again a lavish costume production. Carnevale di Venezia; a modern tribute to Italian musical tradition. Gotham; based on Batman All the production shows included at least two routines from “gymnastic” acts as well as the resident singers/dancers. Working tirelessly from early morning work outs by the pool, afternoon “party” games by the pool and hosting the evening after show “party”, where they acted as dancing hosts, until the early hours of the morning were the “Animation” team. A group of eleven young people with seeming boundless energy and enthusiasm which they used to encourage people to let their hair down and join in, but in a nice polite manner without being pushy. Evening entertainment also featured live music in some of the bars and lounges as well as the atrium. There were eight acts: Duo Italy, a guitar and mandolin combination who I thought were brilliant. Alegria Tropical, A keyboard player and a singer who played a good mix of pop music both new and old. Fransesco Medas, a pianist (with a computerised box of tricks) who played all sorts of music but specialised in playing the whole of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album which sounded as if it were the actual album being played. He was brilliant!, but then I love Dark Side of the Moon. He also did a Supertramp set. Other acts were, Tropical box, Sabor Latino, Diego and Opera2band. None of whom I can comment on as I tended to stay with the three acts I enjoyed. One act that was dire, and murdered every song they performed in English, were Duo Celine jazz. They were always the alternate act in the atrium sharing either with Duo Italy or Francesco, and when they came in to change over I took it as a sign to move elsewhere. The staff at reception, who were great people and with whom I had many good laughs as they tried to solve my sequencing puzzles and other table top puzzles; the type that involve moving matchsticks to change the number of squares or triangles, had to endure the caterwaul most evenings. I had a great deal of sympathy for them as they expressed the same sentiments about Duo Celinejazz’s performances. For the crossing extra entertainers were brought onboard; a Classic Italian trio (soprano, mezzo-soprano and a great tenor). They did four classical shows with a touch of acting humour thrown in just to make it different. Three other acts were also brought on but were aimed at the predominately French speaking guests who made up about 80% of the passengers. The tenor also did an impromptu singalong with “Duo Italy” in the atrium, which resulted in most jam-packed atrium I have ever seen. The entertainment was of an excellent standard although most of the production shows were repeated but we still enjoyed them second time round. For the crossing daytime “enrichment” activities were introduced and were organize by specialist people embarked for the purpose. The activities were diverse and included Tai Chi, Creativity (making small arts and crafts items), Bridge, Italian Lessons, English Lessons (with emphasis on pronunciation) and the 5-day team quiz (teams were for up to eight people). There were also table tennis and table football competitions. Al these events were additional to the usual dance lessons, stretching classes, morning walk, and a wide variety of cooking demonstrations. All in All there was plenty of activities to occupy your time and the entertain was of a very good standard. Staff I’ve already mentioned how good the guest services staff were, and now I’d add that our waiters in the MDR were great as well and four of the bar services waiting staff were excellent, greeting us personally (without reading your name from your cruise card), as well as remembering our usual order. There is a feeling among some MSC cruisers that the bar service is poor, I would not agree, the fact is they don’t pester you all the time but rather wait for you to catch their eye as the walk around their designated station. There were occasions when the bar tenders were working at full stretch, in the more popular bars, and there was a delay in getting your drinks brought to you, but by and large the service was efficient and discreet. They have a method of indicating that you have been asked for your order by putting the drinks menu flat on your table and putting small circular absorbent coasters in front of you. This acts as a signal to other staff so they don’t keep asking you and as a reminder where there should deliver the drinks to. tHe one odd thing is that even if you have a drinks package, which is a code on the front of your cad, you still sign for your drinks even though the total reads €0.00. It must be some sort of internal monitoring system, either of the staff or for stock control or both. And finally we had an excellent cabin steward who seemed to work all the hours god sends and sorted out small issues and sent and fetched our laundry, even if we were outside the 10.00 am deadline for handing it over. He also became a convert to Sudoku as he noticed I had two books of puzzles. I showed him the rudiments and gave him one of the books of easy puzzles so he could get to grips with it. He was delighted to be given a small personal gift from a guest PORTS OF CALL Bridgetown Barbados This was our embarkation point and a port of call later on in the cruise. I’ll deal with it later Port of Spain, Trinidad This was our first port of call on the cruise and were we felt somewhat jet-lagged, but we dutifully got up, not too late in the morning, and went for a walk around the town which is close to the port. On the way we found the lovely Trinity Cathedral, with its religiously significant maze, Woodford park, the National library which is built around the old fire station, and the old police station. The inside of the Cathedral was refreshing cool, but that had a lot to do with the huge number of fans whirring away all around the nave. Woodford park had plenty of trees for shade and was just bounded on two sides by the city hall and the cathedral, a pleasant place for a stroll and just adsorb the local feel of people having leisurely picnic lunches. On the way back to the port we found the monument to all the Olympic medalists from Trinidad and Tobago. A nice idea and far better than a gold post box. Roseau, Dominica A short walk to outside the docks and we were able to join forces with four others, 2 French and 2 Swiss, and book a taxi for a tour of the town, a visit to the botanical gardens and nearby rain forest area which included a visit the Trafalgar Falls. The road system in Roseau is all one way streets and so a guided tour is inevitable as the driver works his way around the system to leave the town. Our driver only spoke English, so that was fine for us but meant that we had simultaneous translations into French and German from the couples with us. The driver was keen to point out the severe damage done by Hurricane Erika in August 2015. One such sight was a crushed yellow school bus still lying under the tree where it had been parked, fortunately nobody was in it at the time. The other evidence left by the hurricane was the large amount of rock debris in the river beds. This is put to good use as all buildings are built from the rocks, so building material is free, you simply fetch your rocks from the local river bed and (re-)build your house with them. There was a $5, (government agency), fee to walk to the water falls which were a brisk 5 minute walk down a good path. On the way to and from the falls the driver pointed out the abundance of flowers, fruiting trees, and herbs growing everywhere. Locals are allowed to take as much of the fruit, flowers and herbs as they like but damaging or cutting down trees is a criminal offence. The tour lasted about 2.5 hours and cost $20 each which was only payable at the end of the tour and if we felt it was worth it. That was information the driver gave us before we agreed to using his taxi. We all paid. St. Georges, Grenada Another port in which we walked out of the port and strolled around. Firstly to Fort George ($2 entry fee) up a steep climb were there was not a lot to see but had great views. Then we went and walked around the harbour where the sea life was abundant with brightly coloured fish next to the harbour wall. Whilst walking around the harbour we heard a cacophony of car horns and watched as a long line of minis wound its way around the road. It was the Trinidad and Tobago mini owners club Easter week end jaunt. There must have been 150 - 200 cars, most in showroom condition. A quite spectacular sight and it must have been a bumper payday for the inter island ferry. Martinique We had no great plans for this visit as it was Easter week-end and we expected most things to be closed and this was the case, so we simply followed the blue line on the ground, put there for cruisers to follow to the small beach, paddled in the sea and walked back. We were due to return in a week. Guadeloupe This was what my wife had come for, a visit to the area used in “Death in Paradise” (DiP). As we walked out of the port we were asking for a taxi driver who spoke English, not many did. Eventually one was pointed out to us and we went over to him. He already had two French ladies and was looking for two more passengers. We asked him if he would go to the area we wanted and he agreed but said the other two wanted to go to some “Cascades” and the botanical gardens. Everybody agreed to go to all the sights and the ladies said it would be €50, I said I would pay €40 each and to the surprise and glee of the ladies the driver agreed. It turned out that the ladies spoke no English at all, the driver only spoke a few words of English and our French is almost non-existent. Despite that we had a brilliant day. First was a drive through the rain forest to the cascades, one set of rapids and one average waterfall. Then on to the North West tip of the Island to Deshairs which was our goal. Here the driver asked the locals for the sites used in DiP, and we were shown “Caroline’s Bar”, the Police Commissariat, the jetty, and the church as well as one of the restaurants used in the end “reveal”. In fact we all had lunch in the restaurant, we split the cost of the driver’s lunch between the four of us. During lunch we were in stiches as we tried to hold a conversation about DiP but somehow it worked and the ladies worked out why we wanted to see the place. After lunch it was a short journey to the beach and the house used as Humphry’s abode. A short stop to paddle and we were off to the botanical gardens, €10 entrance fee except the driver who was not charged. The gardens were excellent by far and away the best we saw on the cruise, and we visited a lot of them on other islands. Finally on the way back the driver suggested a visit to the Rhum museum but sadly being Easter Sunday it was closed, so back to the ship. We spent 7.5 hours in all with the driver and ladies on a most memorable and enjoyable day despite the language issues. I let the ladies pay the driver first then I gave him the full €100 and the ladies just laughed and expressed surprise that I’d relented on my own haggling rom which they had benefitted. But I felt that he deserved it. Over the next seven days we bumped in the ladies many times and they always had a “conversation” with us. Tortola, BVI Here we had a 15 minute walk to the botanical gardens, $5 entry fee, which although very nice were not a patch on the ones we saw on Guadeloupe. After about an hour we decided to return to the ship early. St. Maarten A morning walking along the beautiful beach near to the port follow by some souvenir shopping, which ended up as bottles of Rhum for everyone, which certainly challenged our luggage allowance at the end of the cruise. Careful juggling of weighty items between hold luggage and hand baggage and we made full use of the generous BA allowances. Dominican Republic This is one of the few places where we went on a ship’s tour. The tour was to Las Maravillas caves which is the site of some cave paintings created by some of local populace about 1000 years ago and they depict animal forms, mainly iguanas, and the burial of tribesmen. The images showed how the dead were beheaded to allow the spirit to escape. Unfortunately no cameras were allowed, nor were guns!! The tour then went on to a cigar factory, where I learned they were not rolled on “the thighs of dusky maidens” but rather they were rolled on a wooden table. The main mode of transport in the Dominican Republic is the motorcycle, they have motorcycle taxis which lots of people were using, they can be distinguished as they wear uniforms. There were many instances of three adults on one m/c and even four and five people, presumably families, where there were two adults and two or three children. We drove past shops which had literally thousands of them for sale, our guide pointed to shops and said 1,500 for sale in that one; 2,000 in the one across the road. St. Kitts and Nevis Here we had fun a games getting on an open sided tour bus, not an excursion, as we got on the bus we were told only to be told it was the wrong bus. So we changed buses. Then an Italian family got on and protested when the driver/tour guide said he only spoke English. They had been told he could speak their language. They decamped to the first bus we got on. Along comes the manager who told us to get back on the original bus, so the French people behind us shouted that “no way” were they going on the same bus as the Italians. In steps our driver and says he’s going to take our bus and overruled the boss. So some 50 minutes after first getting on a bus we set off. We did the usual tour of the “White Egret’s” nesting site, (the birds are protected by law and it’s off to gaol if you harm one), the sugar factory and Rhum distillery, past the Rhum bottle tree and on to the end of the island where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean. We’d done the sugar-line train before and it’s only possible to do it on a ship’s excursion as they book the train for the entire day. We didn’t think it would be the same second time round and the excursion was very pricy. Antigua A beach day for us here, we caught a taxi and asked to go to Runaround bay a 10 minute drive away. The driver told us it was an OK beach but if we wanted a really nice beach then we should go to Jolly beach. We agreed and after a 20 - 25 min drive we were there. We arranged a time to be picked up, so far we had paid nothing to the driver, and were reassured that he would be back at the appointed time when he said payment would be when we get back to the port. After walking and paddling the whole length of the of the beach in both directions we had just enough time to get a drink at the beach bar. Back to the car park any a sense of relief to see the taxi parked and waiting for us. On the way back we stopped off at a neighbouring beach to pick up other guests from our ship for the return journey. The extra taxi fare was well worth paying as the beach was far nicer than we had originally aimed for and the neighbouring beach where we stopped to pick up the others. Martinique The weather was against us for our return visit to the island, with heavy showers at frequent intervals, so we had a quiet day on board ship. Guadeloupe Again another return visit so we caught a taxi to the aquarium, you will have gathered by now that Andie’s favourite places to visit are botanical gardens, beaches and aquariums (this will become apparent further on in the review). We had done our homework on the distance to the aquarium ( ~ 3 kms) and checked with the tourism office the fair price for a taxi which they said was about €5 pp each way. The bulk of the taxis were asking €10 pp each way. We did get one for €6 pp each way and again we arranged to be picked up. The driver left her business card with the entrance ticket seller and asked the ticket seller to call her when we were ready to go back. This worked well and we only had to wait around 5 mins for the taxi to arrive and take us back to the port. St. Lucia This was one of the places we planned to take the ship’s excursion to the rain forest aerial tramway. It’s the next best thing to a botanical garden. The journey up the mountain was bumpy and the road was twisty which made Andie feel queasy which resulted in her being very sick into a plastic carrier bag whilst we were riding the tram. She felt a bit better after the event. The gondolas carried eight people plus a guide and in order to keep them balanced you were allotted your seat by a member of staff. Heavy people in the middle with the lighter ones at the front and back. We were in the front. Being the rain forest tramway it lived up to it name and the heavens opened up on us, which meant that we got very wet whilst the ponchos, which the guide in our gondola had available for such an event, were handed out to everybody. At the end of the ride you could elect to go on a “hummingbird hike”, a twenty minute quite strenuous walk around the forest to see if you could catch a fleeting glimpse of humming birds. We did the walk and saw several humming birds at close range. Strangely enough if you decided not to go on the walk you had to sign a disclaim saying you had been offered the walk but had declined. Barbados This was the end of the first cruise and the point where several people we had got to know disembarked. There were also major disembarkations at Martinique and Guadeloupe which meant a significant shift in the demography of the guests. Off got the Afro-Caribbean families who were mostly in their 30s and 40s with children of all ages, from babes in arms to late teens. These were by and large French speakers and made up about 85% of the guests on board. Embarking were older couples and singles, mainly Caucasian Europeans, again with many French speakers but there were now more Spanish, Italian and English speakers. The number disembarking far outweighed the number embarking and what was a ship at near full capacity became a ship with over a thousand guest below capacity. The feel of the ship changed, it felt a lot more spacious than before, and the number of child buggies you encountered dropped to almost zero. As for doing things ashore Andie didn’t feel like doing our excursion so we cancelled her booking and I went on my own to the Atlantis submarine. We had looked at doing this DIY but it only worked out about €3 cheaper than the ship’s excursion which wouldn’t entail the hassle of finding a taxi in both directions. We first had to sign a disclaimer in block capitals, which seemed odd, but it became apparent why when we received “dive” certificates after the event. Then we boarded a large tender and headed out to the sub which was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly the sub’s bow leapt out of the sea at about 20 degrees of angle before it slammed down on to the surface. A most impressive arrival. It tied on to the small surface command vessel and open the hatch and disembarked the people who had just had their journey in it. Now it was our turn to board. I managed to get a seat just behind the pilot who went through all his checks and welcomed us on to the 14,867th dive before enquiring as to how many people spoke English, the only language used on board, and got two “Yes’s”. It had clearly stated on all the information and booking forms that this was the case., so nobody had grounds for complaint. We had a safety demonstration and told that the sub was rated for a 140ft depth of dive, remember that when you look at the images. We dived and disappointingly the water was quite murky and photos were hard to get with any clarity. There was an abundance of fish and the obligatory wreck to see. All too soon we were at the surface, climbing back on to the tender and speeding back to the “office” to receive our personalized certificates. Back on the ship for lunch and just in time before the rains started giving some spectacular rainbows. The Trans-Atlantic crossing We set sail from Bridgetown with full 6 days at sea ahead of us. This is where my choice of a starboard cabin was designed to maximize the amount of sun shining on to the balcony, which is what my sun-loving wife would really be pleased about. This strategy would have been fine if we had had my preferred choice of a Balcony Suite on deck 15 or even a balcony cabin on the forward hump. Our eventual choice of an Aurea balcony, in the recessed portion of deck 12, which was 12 under the pool deck, but far enough forward so as to be under a quiet part of it, only partially fulfilled the requirement. The main factor for the disappointment came about because deck 14 overhangs these cabins, and so cuts out the direct sun for the major part of the day. The only times that the sun shone on the balcony was for about 1 – 2 hours after sunrise and in the early evening. Sunrise varied a bit as on five of the days we had to put our clocks forward by one hour. This was one small point that detracted from the holiday, but is what is to be expected on a long oceanic voyage going west to east. Activities we did Spa Treatments We had been fortunate to be told that we could have four complimentary Bali massages during our cruise. As they were part of the Aurea experience you were supposed to have them during the day the cruise they are associated with. This would have meant that we should have had two each in the first of the two week back to back cruises. This is where the Black card came in handy. I had approached the head of guest services, on day two of the twenty-eight days, and asked if it would be possible to al four during the sea days on the crossing. He told me that it was perfectly OK to do that, especially as I had a Black card. He even rang the Spa and told them of the arrangement and suggested that we might like to go and book the appointments straight away, just to ensure we were given times that were suitable for us. We went to the spa, who were waiting for us to arrive and chose the massages we wanted. Now I was led to believe that the entitlement was for a straight forward Bali massage of about 45 minutes duration. I was delighted to find out we had a free choice from the many massages on offer. We chose:- “Hot stone” massage (1hr duration) for second sea day. ”Bali holistic” massage (45 minutes) for on the sixth sea day. “Bali” massage (45 minutes) for the sea day between Funchal and Malaga. “Bali massage with Reflexology” (1 hour) for the last sea day, between Malaga and Barcelona. We both found the “Hot Stone” to be the most enjoyable but differed on our ranking of most enjoyable choices. I had a tie between “Bali” and the “Holistic” with the “reflexology” a long way back in fourth. Basically it hurt or should I say was a tad uncomfortable. Andie on the other hand had the reflexology as her second favourite and the remaining two equal third. If we get them again we’ll both opt for the “Hot Stone” massage. Tai Chi This was one of the “enrichment“ activities specially arranged for the six day passage across the Atlantic. Andie chose to attend the lessons, held twice a day on all the sea days, eight days in total. She thoroughly enjoyed them mostly because it complemented her yoga which she had missed during the first two weeks. 5 day quiz This seems to be a standard thing to do on MSC’s repositioning cruises. Teams of up to eight guests try to answer 10 questions each day filling in the answers on a sheet of paper which is handed in after each session. It is run by the animation team in the theatre, where they patrol the event to ensure no electronic devices or crib notes are used. There were 14 teams entered mostly complete strangers put together on language spoken as a first criterion. The quiz was held in 5 languages. I was in a team with six Australians and one Swedish lady. Teams of people who knew each other had distinct advantage over the others. This showed up on day 1 when my answers to two of the questions, which I knew were correct, were voted down in favour of answers given by an Aussie. These questions involved recognizing a bank note as Egyptian, and the flag of Kenya. Consequently we only scored 5 instead of 10. I had to miss the second day, when the team again scored 5, as I was involved in a wine tasting event. I was a popular returner on the subsequent days when we averaged 7 points per day. This lifted us from a lowly 12 place to a respectable joint fourth by the end with 31 points. The third placed team scored 32 and the runners up scored 33 and the runaway winners 39 points. Had my two answers been accepted on day one we would have been joint second. Wine Tasting This was a very popular event, so much so that they had to run it a second occasion. It was held in the MDR and there must have been 150 people in the one I went to. There were six Italian wines to taste. (abv = alcohol by volume) A Sparkling Prosecco (11% abv) A white (12% abv) Two Reds (13% and 13.5% abv) A Rose (11% abv) A sparkling Red (9% abv) A plate of various morsels of food, some cheeses, breads and hams to accompany the various wines was provided. The sommelier gave a brief lesson on the art of wine tasting then a description of each wine and what food types it should accompany. Assigned to our English speaking table was the English Speaking Hostess. She told us she would translate what the sommelier said. Well she did read a pre-prepared script, hardly translating for us. Almost universally on our table was the verdict that the white was not very nice and the rose was terrible. The sparkling red was judged to be a BBQ wine, i.e. one that could be quaffed liberally at a BBQ and would go down well (in both senses of the word) with guests. A pleasant surprise from the sparkling red. Other things of note for the sea days. Because the hour changed five times during the six days, and in the direction which resulted in the loss of an hour’s sleep, we tended to get up later than usual and then have Andie would go off to Tai Chi, and we would forgo breakfast and have an early leisurely lunch. We also made good use of our balcony to sit out and read and look out for wildlife. We saw plenty of flying fish, two smaller members of the albatross family, a couple of smaller seabirds which I thought were terns of some description. But the highlight was the sighting of some dolphins, travelling at speed and a pod of whales, quite possibly pilot whales judging by the dorsal fin. The use of the reserved sun deck, “Top 16” on deck 16, was limited by the high winds experienced when travelling at 20 knots into a headwind. On a couple of occasions access to the area was closed. There was however a smaller area on deck 15 which formed part of the “Top 16” area. It did get a bit crammed full on these occasions. There was also King Neptune’s party for “crossing” the ocean. I thought that these ceremonies were just for crossing the equator, but obviously MSC use them for a bit of fun on extended periods of sea days. The participants were baptized with the usual concoction of “champagne” (Prosecco to you and me), raw eggs, flour, tinned tomatoes, cocoa powder and baked beans before being pushed into the pool. The state of the pool afterwards meant that five men spend the best part of the afternoon emptying, scrubbing clean and refilling the pool. Ports of Call Santa Cruz The first landfall after the crossing was Tenerife and here we walked out of the port and got on the HO-HO bus doing the complete circuit and part of a second circuit before getting off and walking around a pleasant park, past the Auditorio de Tenerife and the Iglesia-Parroquia Matriz de Nuestra Señora de La Concepción. On the walk we were surprised to see that the trees had knitted and crocheted jackets. It seemed a nice way of decorating the park. We did buy one souvenir, a fridge magnet in the shape of a bottle of wine. I used it to make joke “Special Offer” by creating a sign saying I attached the fridge magnet to the sign and holding it, in the same fashion as our head waiter held the sign and bottle of wine when he came round the tables with that day’s special offer, presented it to the head waiter ,as we entered the dining room saying “ today’s special offer not 50% discount! Not even 75% discount; but to you a 100% discount on this magnificent 2016 wine bottle fridge magnet ; Look at the date, a very fine year for fridge magnets. This is especially for you and is only for today.” He roared with laughter and proceeded to show all the waiters and head waiters and even the Maitre ‘d who happened to be near the door He really got the joke as I had paraphrased the words he used. |The only thing missing was the chance for him to attempt to haggle the price down, as I did each time he tried to get us to buy a special offer bottle. I would ask for an additional 20% off for the Black card holder discount. He thanked me for offer adding that he thought he would be able to stick the poster to his cabin wall with the magnet as was sure it was metal. As an addendum to this story, on a previous port of call he asked about our day ashore and said in his usual jocular fashion," You had a great day but forgot to bring me a fridge magnet." Funchal Another port where we walked out of the docks and into the town, we’d been before and seen the botanical gardens and cable cars. Andie had no desire to try the downhill sled ride. We arrived during the town’s Flower Festival and were treated to some beautiful floral displays and even a group of local folk dancers strutting their stuff. Mid-morning we had a very heavy down pour, so we sought refuge in a café and indulged in the local madeira cake with a nice cup of coffee. When the rain stopped we walked through the streets admiring the displays but were forced to go back to the ship by another series of heavy downpours. Malaga Again we walked off the ship and out of the port to the to the Alcazaba fort, the Castillo de Gibralfaro fort and the Roman Amphitheatre. All three are close together about a mile and a quarter from the cruise terminal, a reasonably paced walk took 25 to 30 minutes to arrive at the ticket office. Price for entry was €3.20 for an adult and was valid for both forts. The Amphitheatre was free to enter. For senior citizens, who had a means of proving their age entry to the Alcazaba fort was €0.60, with another entry fee of €0.60 if you wanted to ego inside the Castillo de Gibralfaro fort. The strenuous climb up to the latter was a steep zig-zag path and is not for people with mobility issues or heart or breathing problems. The HO-HO bus offers an alternative way of reaching the top. We walked to the top where we met one of my Team Greece Australian guests who enquired as to whether I’d walked and was amazed when I said yes. “Good on yer mate I came up on the HO-HO” was all he could say. After pondering a while he asked for directions to the zig-zag path and set off saying ”I think I might try the walk down”. The gardens in both forts are well worth the visit and are reminiscent of the Alhambra Palace. Barcelona We have visited Barcelona seven times before on cruises and seen the sights we want to see, so as you can guess by now we walked out of the port and into the area around Las Ramblas. MSC were charging €8.50 for an all day multi-use ticket on their shuttle bus or, the port bus cost €2.00 one way, €3.00 return. After a couple of hours roaming the back streets and squares on the North side of Las Ramblas went ventured along the marina where a replica of the first Russian frigate (1703) was docked. Then we decided to catch the port bus back. Marseille Again a port we’d visited many times, the weather was inclement and it was costly to get from the port to the old harbour area. A shuttle bus return ticket was €15.90, So as it was the day before disembarkation we just stayed on board and took our time over packing. Genoa Because BA had cancelled our original flights for disembarkation day we booked a hotel for an overnight stay. Disembarkation As Black card holders we were allowed to retain use of our cabin until 10:00 and could disembark at any time of our choosing up until late morning. Our cases would be with the first unloaded in case we wanted to be off with the first group. We chose to get off about 10:30 and roll our cases the 600 yards or so to our hotel, the Grand Hotel Savoia, and get the at round 11:00. We had requested an early check-in time of 11:00 as part of the deal. We were finally checked in at around 12:15. This left us the rest of the day to explore the old city, visit the Aquarium (brilliant, but not cheap. €25 per adult) and have an evening meal. The alternative scenario would have been to be first off, put our cases in the MSC left luggage room in the terminal. This is one of the good things about MSC’s Genoa Terminal. You have to collect your luggage before 14:30. This would have allowed us to do the sightseeing and visit the aquarium before checking into the hotel, but would have meant an extra walk from the town back to the terminal with time restraints to consider. The route we rolled our cases (12 – 15 minutes), the dotted line is through the station. The next day, after a good breakfast, we got a taxi to the airport (€31.50) at 10:30, checked in our baggage and then went to the special MSC lounge on the first floor. This is another facility that MSC offer at Genoa, reserved for MSC guests. I presume it’s only open on disembarkation days, luckily for us MSC Fantasia was in port that day. The lounge is manned by MSC staff and has very comfy chairs unlike the rest of the airport which has hard plastic chairs. Conclusion We had a great cruise which for the most part had only positives, the only real negative was the standard of food not being its usual good to very good rating. The staff were excellent and the entertainment top notch. Glitches in the system were speedily dealt with when brought to the attention of the relevant staff member and for the most part worked in our favour. Would we sail again with MSC? We’re already booked on a cruise next year and who knows if the right offer comes up we’ll jump on one in between now and then. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
We have cruised with many cruise lines and this was by far the worst experience. you were not even allowed to take on board water or soft drinks. you had to pay for almost everything. the service was awful and slow. the food was average ... Read More
We have cruised with many cruise lines and this was by far the worst experience. you were not even allowed to take on board water or soft drinks. you had to pay for almost everything. the service was awful and slow. the food was average and the buffet was only warm with pasta, pizza, burgers etc. the ship looks wonderful but a lot of the ship was reserved for select passengers. I would recommend looking at a different cruise line and enjoy your holiday. It appears to us that this is the ship that they send staff for retraining as they they were discourteous and not help full at all we asked our steward for ice 5 times and ended up fetching it from the buffet and fetched it ourselves. we should of read some of these reviews about the orchestra before we booked. we asked for compensation from MSC but they say there is no problem with the ship. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
So before I start I want to acknowledge all the other reviews for MSC and the Orchestra and appreciate that everyones expectations and experiences are individual and I will just be representing ours as 6 family members including ... Read More
So before I start I want to acknowledge all the other reviews for MSC and the Orchestra and appreciate that everyones expectations and experiences are individual and I will just be representing ours as 6 family members including Grandparents and an 11 year old. For the past 5 year we had enjoyed a 5 star winter break to Sharm but with this not being an option in 2016 we decided to try a cruise over half term. MSC and the Orchestra provided everything that we were looking for. The ship offers something for all the family and is flexible in terms of dress code, so whilst its lovely to dress up a couple of times for Gala night this wasn't required every night which for us was perfect. Everyone on board works really hard and does their best to ensure all the passengers have a great time. Yes Brtis were definitely in the minority but this didn't bother us and we enjoyed the language exchanges in the lift each day. Food was great, yes the self service is busy at breakfast and lunch but eating outside was a preferable option. We enjoyed the pay for restaurant which was reasonable and they supplied a lovely birthday cake and bottle of bubbles. We thought the food in the sit down option was exceptional. We only had inside cabins and yes they were small but had everything we needed and the delivery of a continental breakfast each morning was lovely. We felt at £500 each for a weeks holiday this cruise was an absolute bargain and fitted in with half term dates visiting some of the most beautiful islands on earth and I have travelled extensively. We are already looking forward to our 2017 cruise to Dubai with MSC. Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
Just back from the 'holiday of a lifetime' what a joke. From the arrival at the ship, until disembarkation, MSC seemed determined to make every step a battle, from herding us on with the people on excursions, to a complete ... Read More
Just back from the 'holiday of a lifetime' what a joke. From the arrival at the ship, until disembarkation, MSC seemed determined to make every step a battle, from herding us on with the people on excursions, to a complete refusal to listen, deal with, or generally assist with any issues. The 2 week cruise turned out to be 2x1 week cruises back to back, with the start being either Martinique or Guadeloupe, when 2000 embarked/disembarked, this meant that on those days you had the incessant safety drills when everything shuts down, bars, lifts and other services, for half an hour. The food was awful, with little Caribbean food. The buffet had only half open for the evening, so the best (of the worst) was served at lunchtime when most people were out. No water with your meal unless you bought it. A constant sales barrage from the staff who were on commission to sell drinks pack, steak pack, beer pack, lobster pack, wine pack etc. We had pre booked/paid for several excursions prior to the trip, to find them cheaper on board, no reason, no apology, no recompense. The same with the Internet, costing us an additional €120. The staff (not the cleaners or bar staff) were rude, surly and unhelpful. This was my 4th (and last) cruise with MSC, and having spoken to many people on board, this was how they all felt. Very very bad Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
Arrived back last Wednesday, only just recovering from an on-board virus that includes a seriously bad cough, it started on day 3. You hear the cough everywhere on board. Judging from past reviews, it seems it is affecting many newcomers ... Read More
Arrived back last Wednesday, only just recovering from an on-board virus that includes a seriously bad cough, it started on day 3. You hear the cough everywhere on board. Judging from past reviews, it seems it is affecting many newcomers on board continuously. The food is awful. Reminded me of bad school dinners. You are also constantly hounded by staff trying to sell you alternatives while you are trying to eat. For instance, fresh orange juice at 3.90 euros each, several glasses on a tray, shoved under my nose 5 different times during the course of trying to eat one omelette! The buffet area is a pandemonium. Very difficult to find anywhere to sit. However, we did find that the buffet was do-able in the evening when other guests preferred the dining rooms. At least then you can pick what you can find that is edible! The alternative restaurant was a glorified sushi bar, so just snacks, no Chinese dishes of substance. None of the staff appeared happy. Some of the staff complained to us and our fellow guests about their various grievances with the company. On the plus side however, the balcony room was large and comfortable, and the ports of call - [the itinerary that attracted us to the cruise in the first place]- were good. Although some of the islands the ship only stayed for a very few hours so time was limited as to what you could actually do. The entertainment was good in the theatre, but the shows were repeated the second week. This cruise has put me off cruising in the future. I have had very good experiences with Cunard and P&O in the last couple of years but at the moment I think that I would prefer to stay in a hotel as at least then you can get out to other places and escape if its bad! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
This was our 2nd cruise with MSC, having previously sailed on the Divina from Miami around the Caribbean in early 2014. We were attracted to the port intensive itinerary with no full sea days throughout the whole 14 day cruise. Embarkation ... Read More
This was our 2nd cruise with MSC, having previously sailed on the Divina from Miami around the Caribbean in early 2014. We were attracted to the port intensive itinerary with no full sea days throughout the whole 14 day cruise. Embarkation in Barbados was rather unusual in that there was no one from MSC to greet us upon arrival at the Port building and none of the usual queues of people expected when embarking a cruise ship. Port officials simply pointed to the ship and told us to take our cases up to the ship to embark. Upon reaching the ship our cases were taken for screening and we had to battle with passengers trying to get on and off for excursions whilst we handed over our passports and paperwork to security. After a few minutes we were welcomed aboard and 10 minutes later we had our cruise cards and were ready to find our cabin. A good start. The reason for the rather unusual embarkation procedures was explained to us by a waitress as we ordered our first drink on board. Only around 100 passengers were embarking in Barbados, the remaining 3,000 would embark at the weekend in either Guadeloupe or Martinique. More on that later. The ship, its outside decks and the public lounges are all in good condition and there are a good variety of bars on board. Due to the itinerary there were plenty of loungers available and the pools were relatively quiet until mid-afternoon. We ate breakfast and lunch in the buffet most days and the food was pretty good. Dinner in the main restaurant was a bit hit and miss. Our balcony cabin (11169) was a reasonable size and well maintained by our steward, although I had to request a change of bed linen after 7 days which is poor. The majority of passengers on board were French speaking and included a large number of natives from both Guadeloupe & Martinique. I think it is fair to say that some of these passengers had little understanding of cruise ship etiquette and this did spoil our enjoyment overall. Large groups spent hours in the buffet piling up their plates with food, and putting food into bags to take ashore on trips. If you sat at a table in the bar area on the outside decks you would likely be surrounded by a large group who would move chairs so that you were blocked in, or they would talk over you to people on neighbouring tables. This behaviour could be quite intimidating. Young children were taken in the swimming pool naked – and older children were unsupervised and spent all their time running and jumping in the pool annoying the other guests. The pool attendants seemed at a loss at how to deal with this behaviour and simply seemed to give up and move away from the pool area. Entertainment was certainly not geared towards English speaking passengers and most of the live music was terrible. Service was variable, we had a great waiter in the dining room and a few of the waiters and waitresses in the bars were friendly and efficient, but it was almost impossible to get a drink on the sun deck unless you went to the bar. Disembarkation should have been simple as there were so few people disembarking in Barbados, but we had a really bad experience. We went to the disembarkation meeting where the lady holding the meeting had the wrong information. The following morning our key card stopped working at 7.30am when we weren’t due to disembark until 11.00am. Two trips to reception and they couldn’t resolve this! There were only 2 groups leaving the ship, 11.00am for those making their own arrangements and 13.45pm for those with MSC transfers. We left the ship at 11.00am only to find my suitcase which was left outside our cabin alongside my husbands, was nowhere to be found. We had to wait another ½ hour for them to locate my suitcase (they didn’t seem too bothered about helping us as we had disembarked) and we didn’t even get an apology. All in all a good cruise due to a great itinerary and fabulous weather, but I wouldn’t cruise MSC again, service poor overall and English speakers were treated like 2nd class citizens. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
we went on this cruise thinking it was wheelchair friendly the staff were very rude the only person that helped us was the cleaner I had to get my partner off the ship by myself twice as there was no one to help nearly lost him ... Read More
we went on this cruise thinking it was wheelchair friendly the staff were very rude the only person that helped us was the cleaner I had to get my partner off the ship by myself twice as there was no one to help nearly lost him overboard.the lifejacket drill was a joke,when you hear a certain noise you must go to your cabin an retrieve your life jacket do not use the lift then she spotted my partner an said I surpose you will have to .we couldn't get in the pools as they are 5 foot7 one end and 6 foot the following end an the steps are in the deep end.the disabled cabin was worse the only way you could tell it was disabled there was a seat in the shower it wasn't a none slip floor had we of known this we would of got a balcony cabin.we only paid to go on one excursion due to the fact when we went on the trip we had to get off at deck 4 others got off at deck 5 by time we got off the ship our group had disappeared I had to find someone who then accused us of being late which we wasn't we a just slower cause of the wheelchair no one waited they are more friendly off the ship than on it .if your a wheelchair user I wouldn't recommend this cruise it was an experience like no other.the dinning started off bad as soon as staff noticed the wheelchair they were mortified and our starter was missed the only good thing about the holiday was the places we went to an some of the other English on board . Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
This was without doubt the worst cruise we have ever been on. We have cruised the Caribbean on 7 previous occasions with other cruise lines, typically in balcony cabins or sometimes a suite, so do have a reasonable knowledge and ... Read More
This was without doubt the worst cruise we have ever been on. We have cruised the Caribbean on 7 previous occasions with other cruise lines, typically in balcony cabins or sometimes a suite, so do have a reasonable knowledge and comparative benchmarks. On checking in we were informed that the cabin we had booked 18 months in advance and paid for, had been changed !!!!! We were allocated to a lower deck and an inferior forward cabin with a restricted view. MSC had clearly been overbooking with the cabin we had booked being occupied by somebody joining the cruise at an earlier port. This cruise is essentially 2 one week cruises starting in Guadeloupe or Martinique, on week going north and returning to the embarking port with the second week - from both back to back ports going south. This is essentially to board predominantly local indigenous passengers for a one week cruise to the other islands on the itinerary. These passengers were supplemented with passengers flown in mainly from France and some from Germany. There were few UK passengers, all of whom we spoke to would never cruise with MSC again. The main restaurants food and service was fine. The buffet facility was reasonable but the staff service and replenishment was poor, inattentive and at times surly. At key times the facility was extremely overcrowded. requiring multiple walks around the seating to find somewhere to sit and eat your meal. Drinks are expensive - NO very expensive. A UK £5 max price bottle of wine was being charged @ 26 Euros with 15% service added to everything. 8.5 Euros pppn service charge was automatically added to on board accounts, however this was removed when requested at checkout. The main theatre entertainment seemed initially good, until you realised the show was essentially the same every night under a different theme with a colour change of costume. We gave up after 4 nights. The identical show was repeated for the second week of the cruise. Port visits were poorly timed - St Kitts for instance allowing only about a 5 hour visit. Martinique and Guadeloupe port stays were extended to facilitate MSC's embarkation and disembarking requirements with no facility for returning passengers to re-board the ship. We had to join a circa 600 boarding passengers queue - lasting about 1.5 hours to get back on the boat in Guadeloupe - it was chaotic. If you have booked the mirror image of this cruise for this Caribbean season, cancel if you can. If you can't 'manage your expectations' Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
Upon arrival, after travelling more than 15 hours, we were constantly harassed by employees from MSC to sell beverage and other packages before allowing us to check-in. The check-in was very brief and we were given almost no information ... Read More
Upon arrival, after travelling more than 15 hours, we were constantly harassed by employees from MSC to sell beverage and other packages before allowing us to check-in. The check-in was very brief and we were given almost no information at all. Therefore we did not realy feel welcome, only a number. Travelling with our parents we found a note in the cabin that there was a problem with the luggage of our parents and had to report at the guest services desk. At the desk we were told they would send somebody straight away. Unfortunately that did not happen. After reporting a second time at the desk, we were told that an employee from the security department would come and escort us to the luggage. That took ages before he finally arrived. In the meantime we lost more than one hour, being hungry, tired and only wanted to unpack and go to bed. Apparently they claimed to see something suspicious in the luggage, but after searching the luggage found nothing. The telephone, the safe deposit box and remote control of the TV did not work in the cabin. After reporting several times at the desk, it was finally fixes after 3 days!!! Our excursions were booked several weeks in advance and payed for. MSC choose to cancel some excursions because there were not enough english speaking guests that wanted to do the tour. We received a letter explaining that the tour was cancelled. However received the vouchers for the tour in our cabin some hours later. Very confusing. Had to report to the excursion desk and lost more of our precious time. The English excursion that did go through, we were put in a bus with several other guests but with a Spanish speaking guide. After complaining at the excursion desk, we finally got hold of the supervisor after one hour. Again more of our precious time lost. Apparently with MSC they cancel English speaking tours whenever they do not have sufficient guests attending. Even when the tour is confirmed in writing before the actual cruise. MSC puts Spanish speaking guides on busses with English tours. The staff of the excursion desk did not even offer an apology and was very unfriendly. Having travelled with Norwegian Cruise lines, Princess Cruises and Carnival we found MSC staff very unfriendly. Not even saying goodmorning, ... after seeing some guest on the way. The excursion desk forgot to take the excursions from the invoice even after they were cancelled!!! For future guests: check your invoice twice! After our excursions were booked before the cruise and payed for, they changed the price and we had to pay the difference. They were not able to provide the tour at the same price as on our confirmation letter. The food is bad, bad, bad. Comparing to other Cruise lines, the food lacks presentation, taste, finesse ... We usually eat out in the main dining room in the evening enjoying being served. But we were forced to eat in the buffet restaurant, because the food in the restaurant was appalling. In the buffet restaurant you could at least see what you can get. So if you want to be treated like durt, feel free to book with MSC. Otherwise stay away! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
The ship is nice and the balcony cabines are looking good also. The food was low cost quality. The strongest point of this cruise was the staff, with special remarks for Miguel, the waiter in cigar bar. Ship and entertainment ... Read More
The ship is nice and the balcony cabines are looking good also. The food was low cost quality. The strongest point of this cruise was the staff, with special remarks for Miguel, the waiter in cigar bar. Ship and entertainment information are delived on board daily. Trips organized are expensive and is better to do your own programm on each stop, according to your preferences. Dinning in a la carte restaurants is for people having patience to be served with medium quality dishes. Overall it wasn't bed, but didn't meet our expectations. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
The trip started off poorly when our bags were not immediately delivered at the airport carrousel. we were about 10 people and waited 1.5 hours. We were told by Air France they had been transferred to the ship directly, "like ... Read More
The trip started off poorly when our bags were not immediately delivered at the airport carrousel. we were about 10 people and waited 1.5 hours. We were told by Air France they had been transferred to the ship directly, "like Costa". when we get outside the incompetent Rep from MSC was unable to answer anything. We found out later the bags were actually sitting on the tarmac and got the bags ourselves. Check IN went OK but makes no sense - Example you do not give your credit card at check IN. you need later to one of 8 machines once on board to activate your card The service in general was extremely poor quality. There is no sense of client centricity, courtesy that you find with other cruise lines. This means to me that the Hotel manager is not doing his job, nor is their a corporate culture of client satisfaction The security people I believe are Israeli and very serious from a protection perspective (appreciated) but not at all friendly and only speak English. They made you feel like a criminal every time you got on and off the boat. Literally I was affraid of being thrown up against a wall with the looks they gave. There was only one competent person in the Excursion desk. the others were just helpless. excursion are expensive for what they give. If you wanted to visit the ship 39 euros. on other lines it was free Food was really bad. the only really good meal was the Christmas Eve dinner and the pizza! The wine package publicized as being 215 ended up being billed for 264.50. don't ask me how it got to that price Their Casino allows smoking which is horrible and I found it very dubious personally. In the end it was the lack of client focus, lack of courtesy that has push me to write this negative review. The cruise was a Christmas gift from my in-laws for the whole family. MSC comes off is being money hungry, ill-bred and just bad. I have traveled on Costa, Carnival, Celebrity, Paul Gaugin, Cunard and Pontant – this was my first and last trip with MSC Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
Food, cleanliness, service all really good, always found something nice to eat, staff amazing. Aurea package good with massage, priority embarkation,dressing gown and slippers, access to jacuzzi etc, my-time dining and (adults ... Read More
Food, cleanliness, service all really good, always found something nice to eat, staff amazing. Aurea package good with massage, priority embarkation,dressing gown and slippers, access to jacuzzi etc, my-time dining and (adults only)top sail 16. Entertainment good especially Tai Chi classes and Spanish mother & son duo opera. Only slight complaint, top sail 16 needs to be monitored to prevent passengers who had not upgraded to the Aurea package climbing over the rope with their drinks taking up sun beds and one occasion, children charging around with their toys. Otherwise no complaints Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2015
The ship itself was gorgeous & kept beautifully. However the variations in levels of service we experienced were just too great for the money paid. We were unfortunate that on our cruise was a group of almost 1000 French accordion ... Read More
The ship itself was gorgeous & kept beautifully. However the variations in levels of service we experienced were just too great for the money paid. We were unfortunate that on our cruise was a group of almost 1000 French accordion aficionados. We were actually told at lunch one day by a waiter that because we were not French our service would not be as good! We were more than a little upset by this so went to the English speaking "point of contact". She took lots of notes & we never heard another thing. We had a tour cancelled which we had previously booked. The reason given was not enough English speakers to warrant the trip. We were led to believe that the ship catered to all languages but alas if you speak English you will not enjoy your cruise! The only great thing about the whole trip was the food. We never had a bad meal. Everything was perfect with the food itself. Again however the service levels were budget to say the least. A quick list of what we experienced: 1. A waiter sneezed into his hand and continued to serve people as he thought no one had seen. 2. Basics of serving, placement etc just not there. Most waiters needed a lot of training. 3. Staff not aware of what order to serve meals in. More than once we received mains before entrée. 4. No idea on basic tea & coffee prep. The saving grace for us were the bars wait staff. All encountered were amazing, knowledgable and very helpful. One even showing a barman how to make a certain cocktail. Again training! The shore excursions were very overpriced and poorly run except for Morocco where it is run by a private company. We were told in one port of a cab strike so we must pay to use specially arranged buses. The line of cabs on arrival was staggering! Organise your own tours or simply jump in a cab. Will work out cheaper in the end! Overall a very disappointing cruise and we will never again sail with or recommend MSC. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2015
We chose a cruise on the MSC Orchestra after Norwegian Cruise Lines decided to change the dates of the cruise on which we had made a confirmed deposit (without notifying us, I might add). Since we already had flights to Barcelona paid ... Read More
We chose a cruise on the MSC Orchestra after Norwegian Cruise Lines decided to change the dates of the cruise on which we had made a confirmed deposit (without notifying us, I might add). Since we already had flights to Barcelona paid for, we looked for alternatives and found an MSC cruise, out of Barcelona with interesting destinations ( Marseille, Genoa, Malaga, Casablanca and Lisbon) on the MSC Orchestra. Not knowing anything about MSC we researched it on line and found that half the people liked it, and the other half were extremely disappointed with it. The complaints ranged from the lack of adequate pillows on the bed, poor attitude of the crew, and the quality of the food. Since my wife and I are the adventurous types, we decided to take a chance and reserved the trip. As it happens, the cruise actually “starts” in Genoa, but they allow people to embark and disembark at the other ports, at least the European stops. Our initial reaction was that either someone at the home office had been reading the online posts, or we were on the wrong ship . The boarding process in Barcelona was quick and efficient. Our room was ready for us and our luggage was delivered quickly ( probably due to the fact that there were not too many people boarding in Barcelona). Having packed a pillow for each of us, thanks to the online reports, we were surprised to find 4 large pillows on the bed for us. Our cabin attendant, Mark, made a point of meeting us and welcoming us on board. He, as well as all of the other crew members we had contact with were extremely pleasant and helpful. Then there’s the food. My daughter, who cruised on MSC in the Caribbean described the food as “beige”, and I have to agree with her. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t really good. The ship only has one specialty restaurant, serving Asian food, which was really good, but a 2nd specialty restaurant would be an improvement. We had a couple of problems on the trip. One was finding a dinner table at the first seating. Out of about 2500 guests on board, there were on 89 people who listed English as their main language. The head waiter, Alphonso, couldn’t find an English speaking table with room for us and went out of his way to accommodate us, arranging for a table for 2, for my wife and I. Like most cruisers, we reserved excursions for the ports we visited, but 2 of them were canceled for lack of participation. We went on alternative excursions, but these were not the ones we wanted. The excursion from Casablanca to Marrakesh was long, with a 3 ½ hour bus trip each way, and a lot of walking through the Souk, but disappointing as we only had a 30 minute window to go shopping in the main square, which was not nearly enough time. All in all, I would have to give the cruise a 3 out of 5. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
The ports of call appealed to me and I have always wanted to see Barcelona which was the embark/disembarkation port. I flew from Australia and it was a simple transit. I decided on the spur of the moment after receiving an email from the ... Read More
The ports of call appealed to me and I have always wanted to see Barcelona which was the embark/disembarkation port. I flew from Australia and it was a simple transit. I decided on the spur of the moment after receiving an email from the company and sailed with in 4 months. Everything went smoothly and the staff were very attentive and friendly, remembered my name and inquired after my well-being when I had not been around for a day or so due to a sore throat. The ship itself is quite opulent and my cabin spacious and kept beautifully clean by my very amiable and good humored cabin steward, I travel solo and he always inquired as to my comfort. The passengers were predominately European and took great delight in my attempts to converse with them using hand signals and smiles. Would I travel again with MSC ? it depends on the itinerary. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
I read a lot of different reviews for this cruise line and this ship and started to get a little worried before my cruise. This cruise was fantastic! I will say that if you have a bad attitude or can't just go with the flow when you ... Read More
I read a lot of different reviews for this cruise line and this ship and started to get a little worried before my cruise. This cruise was fantastic! I will say that if you have a bad attitude or can't just go with the flow when you are on vacation then you might have a different outlook, but I loved this cruise. Don't go on this cruise and try to compare it to your average American cruise line. This cruise line is Italian owned and Americans are the minority. You will meet many different people and hear many different languages. I found it to be great fun! The food is fantastic! My travel companion and I ate breakfast twice at the sit-down restaurant and 8 mornings at the buffet. Depending on the time you get to the buffet it will be crazy! My friend and I would just find a table and take turns fighting the crowds. I never found it to be horrible, but if you don't like crowds then go to the restaurant. The food is equally delicious at both locations. Lunch is the same with certain peak times being crazy, but if you go a little off peak to the buffet it isn't bad. Dinner is delightful. They have a 6 course menu! The risotto is delicious. I only had a few things that I wouldn't have eaten again, but trying new things is what it's all about! My friend is Vegan and she never had a problem finding good things to eat! I did get the coffee cuddle package because I love coffee drinks and really enjoyed it! We got free bottled water in the restaurant with every meal. The itinerary for this cruise was the main reason that I chose to cruise with MSC. We embarked in Barcelona, Spain while the majority embarked in Genoa, Italy. The embarkation and debarkation were smooth as there were very few of us. We also received our luggage in about 30 minutes from boarding the ship! Our first stop was Marseilles, France. We took a tour to Aix en Provence that was wonderful. Next stop Genoa, Italy. We took the city tour and I wouldn't recommend it. Skip this tour and do the hop on hop off bus. The third stop was Malaga, Spain and we did a city tour with a stop at a café for Churros and Hot Chocolate...yum! The port that I was most excited for was Casablanca, Morocco. My friend and I did the full day tour of Marrakech that was delightful! The day was long, but we saw all kinds of things and had a really nice traditional lunch. The last port of call was Lisbon, Portugal where we did a walking tour and pastry tasting. Great fun! The entertainment on this ship is wonderful ! I don't usually attend the shows, but I only missed one! They were all different and equally enjoyable. The singing was excellent, fantastic dancing, and acrobats! There were a few mishaps, but they were taken care of immediately. The first was that our excursion tickets for Aix en Provence said Espanol. So I asked the excursion desk and they replaced them with English tickets so we were on the correct tour. No big deal. Secondly we had asked to be in the first seating for dinner and we were put in the second. The maître d put us on a waiting list, but we enjoyed our tablemates and were ok with being in the second seating. My friend had a tray of drinks spilled on her during the first Gala evening! They were very apologetic and took her clothes to be cleaned. So, they definitely seemed to always try to make things right! The only thing that was annoying was getting back on the ship at a port. The first couple of ports they only had one security line running. The wait was quite long. They seemed to open more lines as the cruise went on, but this is something they need to work on. They do not give out ship plans and do not have them available so print one out if you need directions. The plans are on the floors at the elevator and then all the major areas are posted on the wall with the floors and directions they are in. This made it easy to find what you were looking for. We were on the Lira deck. Room 10079. We had an interior room that was really nice. Twin beds and a night stand for each bed. There was a make up table with lights and the outlets are both American and European outlets. This is great when you have a lot of things to charge. The bathroom was standard. We weren't too far from the stairs/elevators. We stayed one night pre-cruise and one night post-cruise in Barcelona. We took a taxi to the port the day of our cruise with no problems. The day we disembarked we met a private tour guide without any issue. The ship was a little late coming into port, but we were off and to our tour very quickly. So, overall I found this cruise to be wonderful. I loved the ship, the itinerary was great, and the food was fantastic. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
It was our first cruise with MSC. We've worked on cruises for quire a few years as entertainers and have also done over 30 cruises in a passenger/tourist capacity, with lots of different cruise companies, from luxury and impressive ... Read More
It was our first cruise with MSC. We've worked on cruises for quire a few years as entertainers and have also done over 30 cruises in a passenger/tourist capacity, with lots of different cruise companies, from luxury and impressive Azamara to basic, but very enjoyable Pullman Tours. THE GOOD: I have to admit that the ship is gorgeous and spotless, our Balcony Cabin on Deck 11 (Flauto) was luxury with loads of storage space and was kept very clean, with towels being constantly changed. Majority of passengers were Italian, but there were lots of different nationalities on board also (English, American, Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian, French, Greek, German, Lebanese), and every effort was made to provide services, information, excursions and entertainment in every possible language, so there were absolutely no issues with any kind of language barrier, also helped by the fact that the crew were from all over the world (50-60 different countries at least). The atmosphere was terrific, Cruise Director Sonya - wonderful! Even though the ship was full (over 2,500 passengers), everything worked like clockwork - Embarkation, Disembarkation, Excursions, Shuttles, Account Queries - no problems whatsoever, nice and smooth. We really enjoyed the shows - sound quality and production, spectacular costumes, young, but truly amazing singers, dancers, gymnasts - compensated for complete lack of props on stage (apart from 3 backlit staircases) and absence of live orchestra/band at the theatre, all backing music was pre-recorded. Very disappointing :((, so maybe I should've mentioned it in THE BAD column below... The string trio, pianist and classical singers were superb!! Most performances drew standing ovations and screaming from adoring fans :)) We took only one Ship's Excursion in Marseille (in English) and were quite happy with it. The pools were lovely, with plenty of sunbeds and towels, so no problems there either. The waiters attentive and friendly. Captain and the officers very friendly and engaged with passengers on numerous occasions. THE BAD: Apart from food and coffee/tea stations provided, you have to pay for EVERYTHING! And the selling of the ridiculously priced drink packages started on Check-In. There was an army of smiling crew members, waiving brochures and flyers in the air, and trying really hard to sell-sell-sell whatever they could to the unsuspecting passengers, some of who have just flown from the other side of ther world, and looked quite weary and confused. No complimentary water was provided even on the first day. You had to pay for everything - soft drinks, juices, ice cream, water, coffee and tea (except hot drinks station at the La Piazzetta Cafeteria). We were lucky enough to have a bonus of 12 cocktails each with our cabin, so it wasn't too bad. If we were to buy this package, the cost would've been 75EU for 1 cocktail package, so we were happy. But, to tell you the truth, we couldn't taste or smell any trace of alcohol in any of them at all, doesn't matter which bar or restaurant we ordered them at. As a joke we have even asked some barmen to make sure they go easy on ice and heavy on other ingredients, so it got a bit better then. They also charged exhorbitant prices for shuttles in every port. In some cases there was public transport available to the town centres, but the passengers weren't informed and wer encouraged to pay for transportation. On most other cruise lines, the shuttles are usually provided free of charge, at leat to the port exit, but not with MSC. The food was quite awful! The smell, the taste, the presentation was very poor at the main restaurant, so we went there only twice. The lunch and dinner buffet at La Piazzetta were the same food every day/night, boring and tasteless. By far the worst food we have ever had on any cruise. A week into our 11 night cruise they ran out of lemons!! Not a single lemon in site - limes everywhere. Explanation was - we get our supplies in Barcelona. But wait, Barcelona is almost at the end?! Never mind, bought my own lemons in Lisbon and carried them with me everywhere lol! There were 3 bands in different venues on the ship at night. The Italian band was 'so-so', a bit more professional than the rest of them, who were absolutely hopeless. The Dominican band had a guitarist/vocalist, who had a pleasant voice, but could hardly play the guitar. The bass player couldn't play his 6 string bass. I'm sure the traditional 4 string bass would've been enough! The keyboard player and the drummer - embarassingly inept and unprofessional. The Duo in another lounge were even worse, just used backing tracks for everything, could hardly even hear the singer's voice at all. Another guitar/singer duo was more professional, but the repertoir very boring and outdated. I understand MSC is cutting corners and trying to save money wherever they can, but c'mon! Food & entertainment shouldn't be so hopeless! Because of all of the above we opted out of paying compulsory gratuities and instead tipped in cash only the people, who really deserved it & provided great professional service to us personally. Will we be going on another MSC cruise? We don't think so. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
In April 2015 our friends and us booked two adjoining balcony rooms on the MSC Orchestra leaving from Kiel, Germany on Sept. 19, 2015 for a 9 day cruise. We had previously sailed on MSC Musica and MSC Splendida in addition to other cruise ... Read More
In April 2015 our friends and us booked two adjoining balcony rooms on the MSC Orchestra leaving from Kiel, Germany on Sept. 19, 2015 for a 9 day cruise. We had previously sailed on MSC Musica and MSC Splendida in addition to other cruise lines. On our previous MSC cruises we had good experiences and had even recommended MSC cruises but not this time. Our room descriptions stated that we would have sofas in our room, which we have always had in the past. All documentation up until departure verified our room numbers consistent to the rooms we had picked. However, at the time of embarkation we were told that they had moved our rooms. We were no longer on the same floor nor were we anywhere close to our friends. When we complained we were told they were allowed to move our rooms any time up until boarding and we had no recourse. We asked to be moved by our friends as we had booked months in advcen. We were told the ship was full and they could do nothing. Additionally our rooms did not have sofas, instead they had one very narrow armless chair. The rooms were much smaller than the pictures shown or description given in advance. We were never given any apologies, the staff seemed shocked that we were upset. Their attitude was we had rooms, we should be happy. Their customer service was the worst I have ever seen. I would not recommend MSC cruises. Our trip began by flying into Frankfurt, Germany renting a car and driving to Hamburg for a couple days. We loved Hamburg, what a beautiful city. From Hamburg we took the train to Kiel where we boarded the ship. Embarkation was fairly quick and easy. Our first stop was in Copenhagen where we took a 2 hour Segway tour. It was rainy and cold in Copenhagen, however, we enjoyed the segways thoroughly. We booked that tour in advance with Segway Tours Copenhagen and I would highly recommend it. Our next stop was Cherbourg, France where we took a private tour with Bayeux Shuttle to tour Normandy beaches and American cemetary. Would highly recommend it. We would have loved to have more time there. Our next stop was Vigo, Spain. We took the ships excursion to Santiago de Compostela. The tour guide did a good job of explaining and touring this famous pilgrimage site in north-west Spain. Would recommend that excursion to anyone. From there we sailed to Lisbon, Portugal. What a beautiful city. We toured it using one of the local taxi drivers. He gave us a good overview of the city and took us to Pastels de Belem for their famous desserts. What a treat! Gibraltar was our next port of call. It was very crowded. We hired a local taxi to give us a tour and it was so worth it. There are lots of steps and people, so having a taxi take you makes it much easier. Enjoyed our time in the caves and on the lookout points with the Barbary Apes. Also did some shopping there. Our last port of call was Barcelona, where we departed. As the ship was going on to more ports few people departed with us making the debarkation very easy. We found the food on the ship to be good. We ate all meals in the dining rooms. Our evening servers were great. The dining room tables are close together making it congested but otherwise enjoyed the meals. We enjoyed the nightly entertainment. We thought the shows were some of the best we have seen on all of our cruises. In spite of the poor customer service by MSC, we enjoyed our trip. What beautiful places. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
It was the worst cruise I’ve ever joined and will never ever set foot on MSC again….a total write-off. It was a disappointment, an awful experience and an embarrassment for me because I got a friend and family to come along for what ... Read More
It was the worst cruise I’ve ever joined and will never ever set foot on MSC again….a total write-off. It was a disappointment, an awful experience and an embarrassment for me because I got a friend and family to come along for what is supposed to be a relaxing/enjoyable holiday. They were just as disappointed and agree to never again get on board an MSC cruise. The itinerary/port of calls (western Europe) were good and the primary reason for going on the cruise. - Shore excursions catered mainly for non-English speaking passengers. On-shore tours with English-speaking guides are non-existent or very limited. Most of the time it’s cancelled to accommodate an overflow of non-English speaking passengers wanting to join a specific tour. Coordination and organisation of tours are disorganised. Ship disembarkation directions for tours is incorrect or confusing. Staffers were stressful and unhelpful. - Food variety was almost non-existent in Deck13 buffet La Piezetta. Breakfast menu is the same day in and day out; hardly any good serving of . The fruit juice dispenser is only available at breakfast. For lunch, menu is the same with an addition of at least 4 different hot variety the quality of which is unpalatable. The vegies are overcooked and mushy. They’re always running out of tables for diners and use the disco for overflows during lunch hours. This Deck13 café is too small to accommodate the passengers during peak dining hours such as breakfast or lunch. - Menu in the main dining restaurant is a little improvement but still leaves a lot to be desired for what is supposed to be fine dining. Bread is cold. I had to ask for a serving of warm bread rolls which took awhile for them to serve. And the clincher…the waiting staff had no idea what soy sauce is when we asked for it because the noodle they served was tasteless, too bland. Someone (waiting staff team lead) had to go to one of their restaurants on another deck, got the bottle of soy sauce, plonked it on our table and walked off in a huff. - The theatre shows were pathetic with same entertainers doing all the shows and packaged differently . Their shows are nowhere near the shows I’ve seen in other cruises I’ve travelled on. - Basically everything had to be paid for , such as soft drinks, games. There was a constant offer of drinks package which was rather annoying on Deck13. - Port arrivals and disembarkation could be as late as 10-12N with departure times between 5-7pm. This was not enough time for any on-shore walkabout on your own and allowing for timely re-embarkation. Shuttle bus fares from ship to city centre was highway robbery. Cab was cheaper. Re-boarding the ship again was uncoordinated. Ground staff do not make an effort to direct passengers to entry points where there was more than one available, therefore, a long queue develops and frustrated everyone. Most of the time there was only 1 scanner and nobody attempted to be of assistance to passengers. It is beyond me how these staffers were trained for their duties. - The main dining restaurant staff are pleasant, always smiling but rather slow with the service - The Deck13 waiters can be indifferent and unhelpful or not focussed on what they’re doing but overall, generally ok. - Staff at reception or the shore excursion desk were unhelpful and can be rude. They do not make any effort to provide a solution to any issue raised. One has to raise your voice to get any attention and assistance. How pathetic can that be. This cruise company has a total disregard for good customer service. The front line staff are poorly trained and lacks the right attitude in discharging their duties and responsibilities. The lack of procedural arrangement overall only indicates total disregard for customer care and bad management, which is unthinkable in all the other cruises I’ve been on with family and friends. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
We are a family of 6 and we were Booked in a 14 night cruise Kiel/Baltik/Kiel/Norwegian Fjords/kiel. Arriving in Kiel main train station and already informed (not personally) that the embarkation port had changed to Osturfehafen, we ... Read More
We are a family of 6 and we were Booked in a 14 night cruise Kiel/Baltik/Kiel/Norwegian Fjords/kiel. Arriving in Kiel main train station and already informed (not personally) that the embarkation port had changed to Osturfehafen, we used a public bus to go to the dock. The bus took us a 15 minutes walk with luggage away from the pier. However, arriving in Kiel next week we found out that there was a free shuttle bus from the pier to the train station and back for which nobody had informed us. An informative e mail from the company would have been very useful and respectful for customers ! Embarkation was easy because we arrived early and after avoiding all these people who tried to sell us free drink packages (costing 26 euros per day????) and the photographers standing in our way like Tunisian bazaar carpet sellers, we went to our cabins, which were basically nice. Msc Orchestra is big ship with very few outside public places though. Aft deck at the back of La Piazetta Cafeteria (deck 13) is very small with only a few tables. Most of deck 13 is occupied with the open air pools which by the way are unsuitable for northern climate cruises like ours because of the cold and rainy weather. The two pools were never cleaned and the Jacuzzis' water was yellowish. In the front section is an open air deck but it is reserved only for the spa customers. Alternatively, one can spend his time in the lower decks' lounges and bars. The glass panels around the pools in deck 13, were we spent most of our time on board. were stained inside and outside by salt droplets and they were never cleaned during the 14 night cruise, ruining the view. Speaking about deck 13, it's the most proffered place for breakfast and lunch, not capable however of accommodating 3000+ passengers. Everyone grabbed a dish with some food and ran around from side to side, in and out the La Piazetta trying to sit somewhere. The inside of the "cafeteria" is very narrow and everyone was frustrated and stressed. Signs like "There is available sitting places in the Disco on deck 14" were common. The food was the worst we have ever eaten. As a former flight attendant, I have spent half my life in hotels around the world. Nothing compared to that! Buffet was pasta with vegetables and cheese baked in the oven and such inspirational recipes of the ship's "cook" together with eggplants and beans everyday-even in breakfast. Meat dishes were completely uneatable! Dining in the main ding restaurants was no different. Same dishes as buffet served by waiters. There was a half hour theater show every night featuring the same actors in different costumes. In the second week of our cruise the theater program was exactly the same as the first. Table games, ping pong, basket ball, golf etc. were not free. We paid 15 euros (because we didn't know about it) for an one time game of UNO. Shame!!! Disembarkation day was a nightmare! Everyone had to leave their cabin by 07:30 in the morning. Deck 13 was in a state of war. All 3000+ people were there struggling for a seat to have breakfast. Many sat on the sunbeds and others ate on the handrails. The ports of call were ok but 12:00 to 17:00 is not enough time to see many things on your own. You had to take the ship's excursions which were expensive. Also in a port where disembarkation was with tenders boats, this tender boat service was referred to as "complimentary"- well thank you very much MSC for letting us get out of the ship for free. Returning to the ship was also frustrating. Only two entry points, often with one luggage scanner each and with security staff barely moving their hands, looking at you with contempt because you had them standing there all this time waiting for you. Long lines were forming and the people waited for long under the sun. The rest of the staff were indifferent and not welcoming but in general ok. Overall, we found this cruise very stressful and nor relaxing and we are very disappointed because we had planned and booked it one year ago. We wouldn't travel with MSC again even for free!!! Anyone who has cruised on a Holland America ship before should never set foot on MSC. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
Review of MSC Orchestra Norway Cruise 4 July to 11 July 2015 Returning from my recent cruise with the MCS Orchestra to the Norway Fjords on 4 July, totally exasperated, disappointed and stressed out. I had decided to pick an European ... Read More
Review of MSC Orchestra Norway Cruise 4 July to 11 July 2015 Returning from my recent cruise with the MCS Orchestra to the Norway Fjords on 4 July, totally exasperated, disappointed and stressed out. I had decided to pick an European cruise company for the Norway Fjords cruise as it seems they dominate this route and also I had a good experience with Costa in a Mediterranean Cruise a few years back. A string of awful experiences to our group of six and the poor treatment we received from MSC meant we can totally write it off in the future. 1. Embarkation Terminal We have to book through an agent in Hong Kong as MSC won't allow China and Hong Kong residents to book on the web. The tickets indicated that we will leave from Kiel, German without specifying name of the terminal. When I checked on Google map, it indicates Ostseekai is the main cruise terminal, so we booked a hotel within walking distance for the night before the cruise. We were surprised on arrival at the Ostseekai, the whole terminal was deserted. We found out later at a small convenience store nearby that MSC had changed the departure terminal just two weeks prior to Ostuferhafen which was almost 10 km away and costed us another 30 Euro to get there by taxis. The only explanation I got from MSC curtly was that all passengers knew that our cruise would leave from Ostuferhafen, except us, implying we must be total idiots! 2. Hellesyet/Geiranger Port Stop 6 July 2015 The cruise ticket, the website and brochure all mentioned Hellesyet/Geiranger, Norway's arrival as 8 am. Based on this information I booked a private excursion at Geiranger for 9:30 am thinking that would give ample time for getting ashore. Only upon my checking with the reception the night before that I was informed these were two separate stops with arrival of 8:00 am at Hellesyet and Geiranger at 10 am. When I raised my issue of missing my tour with the reception, I got the same "I should know better" answer. As a first time traveller to Norway and coming from Far Eeat, how would I know that, if not properly informed in advance, it meant two different ports with 2 hours apart. The worst part was the service desk felt it was our problem and when I requested for assistance, the answer from the cruise staff was the familiar "No" again. When I asked if we got off at Hellesyet, would there be land transportation which could get us to Geiranger in time for our private excursion. Their answer was the stop at Hellesyet was exclusively for MSC excursions and other passengers were not allowed to get ashore. This really upset me as the itinerary should have either shown as Hellesyet/Geiranger 10 am arrival or clearly specified both arrival times. When I asked for a courtesy internet connection to contact my excursion company for possible changes or cancellation, the reply from the manager of the reception desk was another definite "NO" and only upon raising my voice in sheer annoyance that she offered a cruise call to the tour company office which clearly was fruitless as it was already late in the evening. Next morning when we arrived at Hellesyet, she directed a front desk staff, who did not seem know how to make a cruise call, to make the call. After several trials in front of us, I was told there was no ship phone or Internet connection because we were in the Fjords. This time I was really furious and raised the issue of safety and security of the whole cruise in case of emergency under such circumstances. To my dismay and total frustration, I immediately tried calling my tour company at Geiranger from my mobile and got through in one dial, loud and clear. This costed me at least 30 Euro for the international roaming charges. Again, the service desk offered no help, explanations or apology. 3. Disembarkations There were chaotic operations both at port stops and end of cruise disembarkations. Priorities were always given to MCS excursions or transfers. Other private and non group passengers were always left to the end or kept in the dark in the arrangements. We were given priority tender tickets for the first tender at Geiranger to catch our tour and were told to wait at the Savanna Lounge for call up, but later found out that MSC excursions were led from the theatre through another gangway to board the first tender. The day before disembarkation, we duly attended a briefing about disembarkation in the morning, during which we were told private passengers like us were free to leave at our leisure. However, in that late afternoon, we found we were assigned arbitrarily a late time slot after all passengers who booked airport transfers or end cruise excursions with MSC. Again only after a heated argument that we were allowed to leave earlier together with MSC transfer passengers to catch our pre-booked transfer arrangement. With all cruises I have been, they all requested for departure time ahead of time and assigned departure slot accordingly. 4. Others The theatre shows and other live entertainments were pathetic with the same entertainers being repackaged with various costumes, music and performed basically the same acts every night. Most of the entertainers were proficient in their acts, but they were obviously tired and the passengers were bored at the repetitions. The only plus I could say were the food was better than expected and the balcony room layout was quite efficient. The service of waiting staff at dinner and the cabin attendant were commendable. However, this could not be said of the waiting staff at lunches and breakfasts, who either appeared to be tired, lack of knowledge on the menu, uninterested, or downright surly or even irritable at times. At times the staff were rude and not well mannered, particularly the reception crew who were totally unhelpful and lacked customer orientations. Their unfriendly faces have the haughty "NO" on their faces while the giddy ones did not have a clue on how to help. I understand MSC caters more to European customers, but we were definitely not treated fairly, especially when we were not with a group, being independent travelers who had not booked their excursions or transfers. I must say that this is the first time and definitely will be the last time I will ever take a cruise with MSC again. I have never experienced a cruise company with such total disregards to customer cares. There was not a shred of customer respect to speak off, the poorly trained staff and the chaotic logistical arrangements all showed a complete lack of management which is rare in all other cruises I have travelled on with friends and families. I will never recommend MSC to any cruisers at all. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2015
Round trip cruise Kiel/Baltic/Kiel/Norway/Kiel. Booked the Aurea package which included priority boarding which was a slow process as rude and impolite fellow passengers wouldn't give the staff a moments peace interrupting them ... Read More
Round trip cruise Kiel/Baltic/Kiel/Norway/Kiel. Booked the Aurea package which included priority boarding which was a slow process as rude and impolite fellow passengers wouldn't give the staff a moments peace interrupting them consistently asking questions and not having the good manners to wait, in line, to be attended to next. Shore excursions lacked co ordination in leaving the ship, as there were few fellow English speaking people, several tours were with guides who would speak in German and then English which made it difficult for them, more difficult for us as others would talk loudly amongst themselves when English was being spoken and remained quiet when their language was being spoken! Our excursions were pre paid (in Australia) and were considerable more expensive than if they were purchased onboard. Cabin on Deck 15 was great, excellent service from the housekeeping staff, no request was too much of an effort, always smiling and obliging. Dining in main restaurant was excellent, good menus but only on a seven day turnaround so there was no changes in the menu for the second week. Breakfast and lunch fare never changed and it is nigh on impossible to keep food hot for 2600 guests which was not often enjoyable. Entertainment had it's difficulties for those who didn't speak another language and the shows we saw really only filled in time prior to dinner. Disembarkation was an absolute shambles! 150 plus people, all arriving at the meeting place (theatre) at the one time, sitting around for over an hour waiting, so they screened a Mr.Bean show, I suppose to try and amuse us, that didn't happen. When given the word to disembark, it became a stampede as everyone, many with their baggage in tow (having chosen not to place their luggage outside the cabin evening prior as recommended,(imagine looking for a fast getaway) all tried to get off the ship at the one time. Finding your luggage in the terminal was a bonus, then you had to stow it yourself onto one of three Hamburg airport transfer coaches and then try and find a seat on the coach. Some people who had stowed their luggage and couldn't find a seat, then had to locate their luggage and try another coach. Plenty of staff standing around smiling and wishing you a safe onward journey but no one available to help the elderly with their luggage. Having cruised several times with other companies, the only way I would chose MSC again would be for the itinerary alone and very little else. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2015
The trip was sold as a luxury cruise it was NOT The idea of sailing to Gallipoli and following in the footsteps of our soldiers was a good one but that was where the dream ended.In fairness the Gallipoli component was very well done and ... Read More
The trip was sold as a luxury cruise it was NOT The idea of sailing to Gallipoli and following in the footsteps of our soldiers was a good one but that was where the dream ended.In fairness the Gallipoli component was very well done and there could be no complaints about that, the lectures were wonderful and going onto the peninsular was very emotional but that was no thanks to the MSC cruise line. As I read someone else wrote we only saw the captain twice , first night and second last night, he nor any of his underlings had the decency to make their presence felt on the actual Anzac Day dawn service or any time during that day. How rude!!!!!!!! The food was woeful, and don't even talk about the buffet, it was the worst array of excuse for meals that we have ever had the misfortune to have to eat. So many meals were not touched and just sent back from rotten prawns to a roast lamb dish with a side of baked beans!!!!!! I got so very ill with a lung infection, and believe me I was not the only person with the most vicious cough, it seemed like the entire ship was infected. Three days in a row down to the medical centre, 2800passangers 960 crew, ONE doctor ONE nurse at any one time-a disgrace, and the doctor I did see made Dr. Martin look like Santa Clause. The excursions were expensive and a waste of time ,no such thing as English speaking guides, I couldn't understand most of the spiel and just gave up trying. I would NEVER EVER recommend MSC to anyone and do not even think of coming into the Australian market, we expect a better class of cruise for the money they charged and we were also led to believe the $700 we had to pay up front for gratuities would never be given to the staff that we were led to believe would receive their tips. How disgusting!!!!!! If I could sue someone I would. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
My wife and I were among the many who paid 5 star fare for a 2 star trip. I will not rehash what has been said by many others although I feel Porky 55 was a bit unkind to "Frankie Forever". Last Thursday I had a hip replacement ... Read More
My wife and I were among the many who paid 5 star fare for a 2 star trip. I will not rehash what has been said by many others although I feel Porky 55 was a bit unkind to "Frankie Forever". Last Thursday I had a hip replacement and left hospital yesterday. I must say 35 days on Orchestra was a worse experience. Any thought MSC had of getting into the Australian market were certainly dashed by their sub standard 2 cruises from Dubai to Fremantle and Fremantle to Rome. I must say I also witnessed the handling of food by children and this alone could have contributed to the illness on the ship although I do know the coughing was there from the previous cruise. A reputable company would have made arrangements to cleanse the ship prior to our embarkation.(Speaking from experience Celebrity did it and also confined the ill passengers to their cabins). 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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