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357 MSC Cruises MSC Orchestra Cruise Reviews

MSC Orchestra – Baltic Cruise Review August 2018 11 Nights – Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark We arrived at the terminal in Copenhagen at approximately 12:45pm, we were the only people ... Read More
MSC Orchestra – Baltic Cruise Review August 2018 11 Nights – Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark We arrived at the terminal in Copenhagen at approximately 12:45pm, we were the only people in the priority embarkation queue and were on board within a couple of minutes. I had completed the on-line check in, complete with pictures but we still had new ones taken. We were advised that our cabin was ready, Aurea Suite 15013, we headed straight to our cabin. Very impressed with the cabin, very spacious and a lot of storage space. We did experience some early morning noise from the Top 16 above, normally we would sleep through but were always up early for excursions. If you are a light sleeper this may impact on you. After dropping off our cabin bags we set off to explore the ship. We had not previously sailed on this class of ship and liked the more intimate feel of some of the areas. All of the ship was very well presented and immaculately clean, as we have found MSC ships to be. We headed to explore the buffet for lunch, a great selection of food, a good variety and delicious pizza as always. It was quite quiet, and we had no issues with seating, later in the cruise we did experience the usual crowds and difficulty obtaining a table a couple of times during the peak lunchtime rush. The weather was warm and pleasant, so we headed to the Top 16 solarium. A very nice space which felt larger than others we’ve used. Although there are no whirlpools on this one. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to use the area as much as we’d hoped due to experiencing some quite windy conditions. Prior to our cruise I’d read a few reviews which were not very positive about the food on board so we headed off to dinner with a degree of trepidation. We had MyChoice dining in L’Ibiscus. I’m pleased to say we were delighted with the food for the duration of the cruise. All of our dishes were well cooked, well presented and most importantly hot. One of the main complaints previously experienced. Food isn’t ever, just out of the oven piping hot but it wasn’t luke warm, and I do personally have an issue with food not being hot enough. The staff were wonderful, very attentive and the service we received was excellent. It did feel the busiest MyChoice dining area we’ve experienced as on 2 evenings we did have to wait outside in the bar (not a great hardship) but there was at least a 15 minute wait, which we’ve never experienced previously. We had the classic drinks package and only had the 2 red wines offered, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Palatable but not exceptional. We went to the MDR for lunch on only one occasion, we found it odd sharing a table with another group and all ordering at different times. My least favourite meal and the slowest service of the cruise. We always had breakfast in the cabin, the earliest time for delivery is 7.30am but as we had many early starts on this cruise we added a note to ask for an earlier delivery and were very happy to find that our requested was met. I’ll caveat my views on the On- Board entertainment, we aren’t people who need to be entertained and anything interactive and we run for the hills. We know from experience the Aft lounge, the Shaker Lounge on Orchestra, is a livelier more interactive experience and we therefore didn’t venture in. The other lounges had a combination of singers and an instrumental group in the lobby. All of which were pretty good, we decided we liked Pepe in the La Cantinella wine bar best and usually headed there post dinner. The bar staff in there were delightful and added to our experience greatly. We didn’t make it to any of the shows on this trip, we either weren’t ready for the early show or were still at dinner for the late show. From speaking to fellow passengers they sounded pretty standard MSC shows. We had booked our included massages for our last but one day, we were in Stockholm, we’ve visited on land based holiday and decided not to visit on this trip but have a relaxation day. It was a port intensive cruise and thought we’d need time to relax. We had a couples Bali massage, which was nice but not as enjoyable as others I’ve had. Immediately after it was complete the masseuse did try to sell us another massage. Now, I expect this but they do usually wait until after you leave the treatment room and this did detract slightly from the experience. We spent the next few hours in the spa using the steam room, whirlpools and relaxation area. It’s probably the most we’ve used the Spa area, we were the only people in there and it was a very nice environment. We had the misfortune of needing to use the Medical Centre, DH was bitten by something on our first day in St Petersburg, on the second day his hands and arms started to swell badly, turn a very funny colour and were unbearably itchy. It was very unpleasant and quite scary. You could see the poison spreading I’ll spare you the photo’s but it was very bad. In Russia you can’t go anywhere alone so we waited until after our excursion ended and visited the ship Dr. Obviously you’d rather avoid needing the Medical Centre but they were excellent. Sadly, the time came we had to disembark, we were assigned the first disembarkation time of 8.30am, we were a few minutes late arriving and everyone had already left. We just proceeded to the exit, our luggage was waiting and unfortunately our cruise had ended. The itinerary was fantastic, we packed a lot in with excursions and trips so it was a very intensive experience but one we enjoyed. The ship and all of the staff were fabulous, we are looking forward to sailing on her again next year. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
The cruise was excellent. I must admit I was a little uneasy about the cruise line given some other reviews I had seen, but decided to go ahead as the price was very affordable. We certainly had a great experience. The ship was ... Read More
The cruise was excellent. I must admit I was a little uneasy about the cruise line given some other reviews I had seen, but decided to go ahead as the price was very affordable. We certainly had a great experience. The ship was beautiful; our cabin (ocean view) was spacious compared to some cruise lines and taken care of very well. The shows/ entertainment were also very good; this was unexpected given our prior experience on a different cruise line. Drinks/ bars also very nice. Food good-some meals better than others, but no significant difference in quality from other cruise lines. The main issue prior reviewers raised was regarding drink prices/packages. I was concerned as we were given 1drink coupon a day per person and had read that water and juice needed a coupon ( or else pay for). The fine print however was that for non Caribbean cruises booked via US included bottled water at no charge. Juice at breakfast also was included/free. Given this, we actually had drink coupons left over! Overall everyone was very pleased with the cruise and I would certainly use this line again Can’t comment on shore excursions as we went out on our own, but did use shuttle service which worked out well Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Before our very first cruise I checked out the reviews on this site and became quite apprehensive on what our experience of our first cruise would be. I would like to say we were enthralled, our cruise could not have been any better. From ... Read More
Before our very first cruise I checked out the reviews on this site and became quite apprehensive on what our experience of our first cruise would be. I would like to say we were enthralled, our cruise could not have been any better. From the size of our cabin, size and facilities on the ship to the vast range of food ( the 4 seasons restaurant was a daily treat), we were impressed. The staff were all courteous and helpful, and all worked extremely hard to ensure a quality customer service and experience. The excursions were vast and varied although a bit pricey at times, we often used the local hop on hop off bus or boat trip, which we found cost effective and enjoyable. Sunny afternoons the decks and pool areas could become busy but there is enough space around the decks to find a secluded and relaxing spot. I would book this again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
This is a longish review as I had read some very negative MSC reviews prior to leaving Australia for this cruise on MSC Orchestra. However, we still went with open minds and open hearts. Travelling is also an often emotive topic- as ... Read More
This is a longish review as I had read some very negative MSC reviews prior to leaving Australia for this cruise on MSC Orchestra. However, we still went with open minds and open hearts. Travelling is also an often emotive topic- as people may not have much precious vacation time, may have had better experiences on other holidays and so it becomes quite comparative at times. We have cruised from Australia previously - so this was our first European Cruise. We had been to Europe previously but always driven cars and caught planes. We chose this cruise because it represented great value for money. The opportunity to visit France, Spain, Malta and Italy from the cruise ship, seemed too good to be true and our Cabin 8199 cost us just $2800 AUD. Our cabin was right at the end of the ship, with a balcony. We also pre purchased 2 x 2 Excursions, in Florence and Rome. So with the excursions, the service charges and drinks that we paid for (as we went) and some MSC organised buses into towns on top we added around an extra $800 AUD, giving us an all up a spend of $3,600 AUD for us both! The very best part of cabin 8199 was being on the balcony - the view leaving ports like Genoa, Valletta where the views where just stunning, the balcony was also very spacious and quite wide. We did have a little bit of muffled doof, doof but not too bad and not too late, as we were over one of the discos, but nothing that kept us awake. Actually, the cabin itself was absolutely wonderful, with plenty of space, lots of hanging in wardrobes, drawers, safe and coat hangers etc. The bathroom was quite large and even though we did have a couple of issues with the toilet flush mechanism - they were responded too and fixed very, very quickly. The cleaning of the cabin we only wanted 2nd daily and we where happy with that. The meals in the Restaurant were mostly very good, we had a few outstanding meals and a couple of not so good, but overall similar to a wedding reception menu/style. We quite enjoyed the buffet for breakfast and sometimes dinner, as the choices were greater, you could go when you were ready, go back for seconds if you found something you really enjoyed, plus there was cold water, tea and coffee and always nice pastries to enjoy. People formed queues and we didn't see any pushing or shoving, as others have suggested. The embarkation procedure was great, we also had no issues for any excursion times and each time left port without any delays. The entertainment - which we went to 3 nights, was good to excellent! the young performers were energetic and the shows were fun. A couple of opera singers in one of the lounges were fabulous. We are not big drinkers so didn't stay out late, plus we were so tired from the early starts and all the walking in the cities. The Itinerary was excellent, the 3 stops in Spain were outstanding and Valletta was just amazing. We also loved Genoa as well. The amount of time to get into Rome and Florence via the buses, means that the actual time spent in those cities very rushed. The beds are just blissful, OMGoodness did we sleep well, such excellent beds!! We wish we could have brought them home with us. A majority of the people on the cruise were from Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Spain. English speaking people are a minority, but we loved trying to guess who was from what country! Despite my planning to use some learnt Italiano most staff and people took one look at me and just said English? haha and most guessed we where from England, I was even asked was I Danish? So, the language issue wasn't problematic. Many couples with limited English made attempts to be friendly over meals. The passengers like us, were mostly older, with a third of the boat probably under 50. Families with little ones as well. My only improvements which I have also suggested in feedback to MSC 1. was it would be nice to have an English speaking TV show or two on, as we didn't have anything in English apart from CNN NEWS channel. 2. we hadn't realised that we would be charged 16Euro each for the buses into quite a few cities, not a big issue, but good to know, budget wise 3. the amount of times you are asked if you want a photo, became quite annoying 4. people on our dining table went on different excursions and we were puzzled as to why they paid a considerable cost to not even have the option to go into main attractions, such as the Cathedral in Mallorca. The excursions were only 4 hours long, giving them another 4 hours on the boat. Sure this is good for some very old people, but not giving folks the option seems a little underwhelming. Overall, we loved the cruise the boat was quiet, smooth and we would certainly go again with MSC. As a Footnote - Since arriving back home, I had an email regarding a Viking Cruise, Barcelona to Copenhagen - it sounds amazing! No children under 18 (but we like kids), no charges for internet, drinks, one excursion in every port etc etc............. BUT the price for this 15 days cruise is just on $7,000AUD per person. It is true you get what you pay for and many people will think that to be easily affordable, but to us it is not. Our 21 day holiday (we stayed in Italy and went to Venice and Lake Como - Varenna was the best for 5 days to unwind) all up costs - so including, air fares, trains, food, etc - was just on $11,000AUD, so we would recommend MSC highly, to people who want to make their options, money and the amount of times they travel stretch!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
The trip itinerary sounded amazing and what I needed from a vacation. I got much more than I bargained for. Embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly. The cabin was comfortable and I mostly commend the crew. There were a few ... Read More
The trip itinerary sounded amazing and what I needed from a vacation. I got much more than I bargained for. Embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly. The cabin was comfortable and I mostly commend the crew. There were a few crew members who went above and beyond to make my trip enjoyable and comfortable and I am very appreciative of that. The evening entertainment was phenomenal with the exception of the music played in lounges. I found these repetitive and the same songs played almost every single night. I found the shore excursions overpriced but cannot fault the two shore excursions I had done which matched my expectations very well. The food was a hit and miss some nights and I found the food very bland, I had to have Tabasco with every meal. I would recommend catering for a palate that can take spicier foods as well or at least put out condiments to accommodate for this I will most definitely consider doing another cruise in future, as this vacation allowed me to completely unwind and relax. The most annoying thing of the cruise were the consistent hounding of the photographers to take my picture! Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
We wanted a cruising experience - unlike the Sydney based ones where you have a few days at sea before you see anything - and the Orchestra itinerary was the perfect solution. We embarked in Civitavecchia in a very well run and ... Read More
We wanted a cruising experience - unlike the Sydney based ones where you have a few days at sea before you see anything - and the Orchestra itinerary was the perfect solution. We embarked in Civitavecchia in a very well run and professional process to gather the herd of new passengers. We were very impressed with our cabins for their layout, the space and state of cleanliness. Our first night aboard included the mandatory evacuation procedure, a great dinner in our fine dining restaurant with terrific staff and then a brilliant show to enjoy before retiring early as the following morning we were in Genoa. This routine of port hopping continued around the Mediterranean with wonderful destinations and terrific sailing between them enjoying all the features and comforts of the MSC Orchestra. This included terrific food and service enjoyed at every on-board outlet from fine dining to buffets, bars both topside and internally, a cigar lounge, two heated outdoor pools, 4 hot tubs, a tennis court, mini put-put greens and quoits. All capped off with sensational nightly shows and of course the casino and disco to keep going all night. The staff seemed to be mainly Indonesian (from Bali) and from the Philippines so service was generally impeccable under the guidance and leadership of the Italian crew. Our only complaint being our fellow passengers and the way they treated each other, the staff and the wonderful facilities provided... They had a level of rudeness and no-care that was very disappointing. (smoking within the ship in designated no smoking areas, leaving tons of uneaten food because in a buffet environment they load up without consideration of fellow passengers of staff that have to clean up after them, and general rudeness to everyone around them! Despite this, overall we enjoyed a sensational holiday aboard a marvelous ship with a great crew, a really wonderful itinerary and a truly magnificent experience enjoyed in order to discover the magic of the Mediterranean - thanks MSC Orchestra Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
This is my first cruise and i really loved it. We embarked at Barcelona and it was very easy and no hiccups, arrived on board at noon and rooms were ready at 1.30pm. Our room was 8012 no balcony but a large porthole view. Room was a ... Read More
This is my first cruise and i really loved it. We embarked at Barcelona and it was very easy and no hiccups, arrived on board at noon and rooms were ready at 1.30pm. Our room was 8012 no balcony but a large porthole view. Room was a reasonable size and very clean and a nice bathroom, and a bar fridge, fresh towels every day also. Ship was about 3/4 full so not too crowded and we could always get a chair or sun lounge next to pool. We had the first seating for dinner and our meals were always lovely, not huge portions but you could always ask for more, and there was 3 courses and a selection of hot rolls. The buffet was great at breakfast and lunch with many things to pick from, however we quite often went to the dining room for lunch as it was more relaxed and not as noisy. Loads of entertainment during the day and a show every night. A new port every morning and i booked excursions and was not disappointed, tickets arrived in my cabin every evening with the time and location i had to be next morning. very professionally carried out. Only thing i thought was a bit expensive was the photos taken on board 25 Euros for one pic was a bit much in my opinion. We took the 26Euro a day drink package and found it to work out really good value as you could have almost anything you wanted. I was worried about being sea sick but there was hardly a ripple around the Mediterrian. I would love to go again and next time do the Greek islands. We had nothing to complain about loved it all and the staff were fantastic. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
My boyfriend and I are 19 and 20. We are both pretty busy people starting careers and completing various qualifications. Last minute (one month before the holiday) we booked to go on the Orchestra end of may to early June for a week. ... Read More
My boyfriend and I are 19 and 20. We are both pretty busy people starting careers and completing various qualifications. Last minute (one month before the holiday) we booked to go on the Orchestra end of may to early June for a week. First of all the cabin was everything and more than what we expected. It was spacious and bright, despite the balcony being directly above the lifeboats the balcony was private and it was big and very clean. The room was large and had a big mirror opposite the bed which meant a lot of reflected light making the room look even larger. Air conditioning was fantastic, was always the temperature we wanted. Secondly the ship was contemporary, perhaps an acquired taste in some bars (animal prints etc.) however the rest of the ship was clean and modern and there were many other bars to chose from obviously! The buffet was unbelievable. I have been on many cruises where the buffet was perhaps average at best, but the Orchestra had fresh pizza every day all day at the buffet with other wonderful Italian food. It was fresh and a lot of the food really clean and healthy. Felt like a cleansing! Was so much better than I expected. The food in the restaurant was of a normal standard, however the waiting staff made up for the average food. They always made the effort to make a conversation, big smiles and very polite. The was one bar that we went to every night before dinner (The Amber Bar), one barman made the effort to get to know us etc. and he bought us snacks with our beers (and refilled them sneakily after we had finished them). I can't give an accurate report on the entertainment because we didn't engage with any of the activities or entertainment as my boyfriend and I spent everyday all day enjoying the port we were at! The ports were perfect (Barcelona, Ajaccio, Rome, La Spezia, Genoa, Cannes and back to Barcelona). Every port was wonderful. I especially rate La Spezia, if you go there buy the ticked for the boat which travels to all the nearby seaside towns, these towns are called the Cinque Terres, if you stay at La Spezia you are missing out on the most breathtaking scenery, we spent all day off the boat and got very burnt! We had an excursion in Rome and it was fantastic, the guide was patient and very knowledgeable. We went on the Vatican tour which was brilliant and so informative. It's the little details she knew which made it all very special. I think this ship is for all ages, from a casino to a wonderful looking children club. However we didn't travel with children, but we felt that the ship was suitable for everybody. Would 100% travel with MSC again, was brilliant and the staff were incredibly kind. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
This was our second voyage using MSC. Last year we sailed on the Magnifica out of Venice and this year the Orchestra out of Genoa. We are currently planning a trip next year using MSC again. We were concerned when we read the ... Read More
This was our second voyage using MSC. Last year we sailed on the Magnifica out of Venice and this year the Orchestra out of Genoa. We are currently planning a trip next year using MSC again. We were concerned when we read the reviews for MSC last year. There were complaints about the food, as well as the service. However, we did not experience this on the Magnifica or the Orchestra. MSC employees went out of their way to make our stay aboard a wonderful experience. Both ships were very clean and well maintained throughout the voyages. The servers in the lounges were friendly and worked as quickly as humanly possible to get our drink ordered filled. With all the people aboard, several servers even remembered our group and the drinks we normally ordered each day. Our cabin steward was amazing. One morning, I asked if I could have two of six clothing items pressed for that evening. (Normally there is a 24 hour turnaround) He had all items back in our cabin by 5:30 pm with no extra charge. I accidentally knocked over my breakfast tray spilling coffee on the floor and was embarrassed and nervous to tell our steward. But he told me not to worry that he had done the same thing the day before and he would take care of it. And he did, never once complaining. We found no problem with the food or dining service. The few times we ate at the buffet, there was an abundance of food and variety. This year we had the late sitting for the dining room which was 9:30 p.m. We loved Edie our server. He provided excellent service. Yes, the food portions were small, but by the time you ate all the courses, you were full. You can always ask for more. One of the free perks I liked this year, was breakfast served in our cabin. It was a simple menu, but it was so nice to be able to sit in our quiet cabin and watch the scenery go by. I was not impressed with the evening shows on the Magnifica, but thoroughly enjoyed the evening performances on the Orchestra. They were not the high quality of shows I have seen in Las Vegas, but came close. Each cruise we used the excursions provided by MSC and was not disappointed. MSC even provides individual excursions for smaller parties should you not wish to partake in a large group. Here are a few tips: Spend a little more and book a cabin with a balcony - I loved opening the doors and enjoying the scenery from our cabin relaxing with a coffee or drink; Research your port calls and plan your excursions ahead of time because if you wait until you are on the ship, the excursion you want might be full; also, trying to choose an excursion can be overwhelming with a long line of people behind you - we purchased our excursions online before the trip (Some ports you can walk into the town from the ship and do your own tour - hop on hop off buses are great to use and very inexpensive.) Buy a drink package!!! Find one that suits your needs and again research what is available before you go - each trip we purchased the Allegrissimo and I know we saved money! You will need to link your ship card to a credit card or debit card - use the kiosks and avoid the long lines at the customer service desk. There usually are no lines at the kiosk and they are very easy to use. Excursions: Port of Cannes - Excursion to Monte Carlo and Eze - enjoyed the excursion but in lieu of the visit to the perfume factory in Eze, I would have like to have had a walking tour of the medieval village of Eze - it looked amazing. Port of Palma de Mallarco - beautiful port and it is a short and easy walk from the ship to the Hop On Hop Off bus stop outside of the cruise terminal - very inexpensive way to see the city Port of Barcelona - originally we chose the Highlight of Barcelona, Montserrat and Wine Tasting tour, but it was cancelled. We went on the Guadi tour instead and loved it. Park Quell was beautiful and Sagrada Familia was incredible. After the tour, we were given the option to stay in Barcelona on our own and use the MSC port transport to take us back to the ship. We had a lovely lunch in town and walked around before catching the bus back. (Make sure you have your excursion ticket because you will need it to use the MSC bus.) If you want to explore Barcelona on your own you will need to use MSC transport bus from the harbor or get a taxi -too far to walk on your own. Port of Ajaccio - Easy and short walk from the ship into Ajaccio. There is a lovely market when you first enter the town selling anything from fruits, meats to souvenirs. You can take a leisure walk around the historic town and visit the museums and monuments or use the Hop On Hop Off bus. There is also a small train called the Petit Train which we used. For 15 euros the train takes passengers from the harbour and market area up to the monument of Napoleon at the top of the town where you are given time for photos and then on to Sanguinaires for a second stop. Unlike the HOHO bus, there is no narrative on the Petit Train. Port of Civitavecchia - We booked the Gran Tour of Rome, the Eternal City excursion. It is a 9 hour tour with 3 of those hours travel time from the port to Rome. Our MSC tour guide was awesome and kept everyone on schedule and organized. When we got to Rome, we met another guide who took us on a tour through the Colosseum; a walking tour through the streets of Rome to the Trevi Fountain, the Parthenon and Piazza Navona. We were then taken to a restaurant for an excellent lunch with wine and then on to the Vatican City. You are on your own time at the Vatican. Due to the long lines, you are not able to visit the Vatican Museums or St Peters Basilica with this excursion, but it is still awe inspiring to be at St Peters Square. Be very aware of your surroundings and pick pockets!!! Especially near congested areas near the monuments and fountains. Port of La Spezia - What a decision to make - the leaning tower of Pissa or Cinque Terre. We opted for the National Park of Cinque Terrer. We first took a bus to Portovenere, a small picturesque fishing village. You have a lot of time to spend shopping and walking through the medieval alleyways. Then you take a boat to the village of Monterosso - just a beautiful as Portovenere - where you have free time again. Your tour comes to an end with a very short train ride from Monterosso to Levanto where you will catch your tour bus back to the ship. Enjoy cruising with MSC!!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We normally go with NCL and the cruise we were planning to do on the Norwegian Epic was full and our travel agent suggested giving MSC a go. We were very apprehensive about this due to reviews we have seen about food etc. However, it was ... Read More
We normally go with NCL and the cruise we were planning to do on the Norwegian Epic was full and our travel agent suggested giving MSC a go. We were very apprehensive about this due to reviews we have seen about food etc. However, it was one of the best cruise holidays we have had. Embarkation was brilliant. Our flight was extremely early and the ship was not in port when we got there in our taxi from the airport. The porters were so helpful took our luggage away and told us to come back after 1 pm when the ship docked. When we came back to the ship we were given priority boarding because of our early arrival. Our ship card was waiting for us in the cabin and we changed our first sitting to second sitting dining with no problem at all. Within in 20 minutes of getting in the cabin our luggage arrived. Food on board was superb although we avoided the Pizza buffet as it was always crowded and busy. This is the case on all ships we have found. The restaurant waiters and food was excellent. We were on the all inclusive drinks package and were amazed that bottled water and speciality coffees were included. Not the case on many other ships we have been on!!! Entertainment was very laid back and we did not see any shows although the theatre was amazing. We did not do any shore excursions. What was absolutely noticeable in a good way was that there was not constant tannoy announcements from cruise directors letting you know about entertainment etc. We did not do any shore excursions we preferred to do our own thing. Every member of staff treated us with courtesy and they were always more than helpful. Disembarking the ship and collecting our luggage was the most organised I have ever seen. Marvellous. I would highly recommend MSC and will most definitely cruise with them again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We took (and reviewed) a similar repositioning cruise from Genoa to Brazil aboard the MSC Orchestra 2 years ago. At a cost of just £50 per person per day we think MSC offer exceptional value for money. The balcony cabin was just great. ... Read More
We took (and reviewed) a similar repositioning cruise from Genoa to Brazil aboard the MSC Orchestra 2 years ago. At a cost of just £50 per person per day we think MSC offer exceptional value for money. The balcony cabin was just great. We provided our own kettle to brew a cuppa whenever we felt like one. The €287.50 that we paid to access the spa was money well spent. The saunas were even better than in 2014, heated to 80°C rather than just 70°C, and the steam rooms were also hotter and not draughty. The payment also included access to 3 indoor Jacuzzis that were rarely crowded. We thoroughly enjoyed the 5 classical concerts by the 6 talented members of Musica in Maschera in the ship’s main theatre. The in-house entertainment team were good too, although their talents were repackaged again and again, as the same jugglers, acrobats, dancers and strongmen performed in Batman outfits for Gothem, in Asterix & Cleopatra outfits and finally for one last ‘Best Of’ show. High-margin items like perfumes, beauty products and handbags were always for sale from stalls set up in public areas around meal times. I was concerned by the very high suggested manufacturer’s retail prices quoted for a brand of watches, Invicta that are sold exclusively on TV shopping channels, cruise ships and over the internet. They claimed a €1499 price tag for the Invictca 2928B, and left leaflets in our cabin announcing discounts of up to 75%. MSC’s selling price of this watch is €549. I bought one over the internet after the cruise for £70. Beware of inflated sea prices as you have limited consumer protection! MSC Shore excursions were popular but we plumed for our own independent activities except in Rio. We paid $70 for a full day tour in a minivan, for a similar tour priced €140 on board (which included a light lunch delivered to your cabin beforehand). It’s worth noting that MSC provide no maps or practical information about shore stop destinations so do your homework beforehand. (Exceptionally, at Mindelo the local Cape Verde authorities had no information booth nor were there exchange facilities. Banks need to see your passport or a copy of it, but you can pay in most places using euros (preferred) or US dollars). We ate mostly at the buffet, enjoying real mozzarella cheese, fresh fruits & salads penne with tomato sauce, baked whole fish with tomato sauce and jellies amongst the culinary highlights. Dining in the restaurants is the only area I would rate as fair to poor. Breakfast and lunch are now both semi-self-service/semi-served, which is awkward if you have circular bench seats on a table for 8. Dinner is fully waiter served by friendly Indonesians, but the food was served lukewarm rather than piping hot, and most main course choices were either over- or undercooked. Soups were poor, desserts including a sugar-free version, quite good. Overall I stress that MSC offer tremendous value for money. The main reasons we go are to relax, read, sunbathe, enjoy undemanding entertainment. We ate perfectly adequately in the buffet and even managed not to gain weight. However I think next time we shall try another (more expensive!) repositioning cruise… Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
We did back to back cruises and did Greece and Montenegro the week before on the same ship. Awesome itineraries, we were scheduled to stop at Malta but due to rough seas detoured to Majorca which was amazing beautiful place to visit, no ... Read More
We did back to back cruises and did Greece and Montenegro the week before on the same ship. Awesome itineraries, we were scheduled to stop at Malta but due to rough seas detoured to Majorca which was amazing beautiful place to visit, no biggy cause I already been to Malta before, some passengers were upset about not getting to Malta, but good that we had another port to visit as plan B as I believe some cruise lines don't always do this if a port is cancelled. The ship was nice cabins big enough and very quiet. We requested and paid for and upgrade from inside to balcony, but they refunded the money and said it was a free upgrade, WOW!!!... Food was OK in buffet, they do delicious curries and pizzas but don't serve enough curries in the buffet or restaurants. An indian couple on the table behind us asked if they would prepare their table a special Indian meal, request granted, not many aussies on ship (about 40) and we asked if they could organise a quiz for us,,, request granted, also excellent service with captain and ambassador frequently walking round ship asking if everyone happy and anything extra they could do, we asked for a table change and well no request seemed to be to difficult. Probs nearly 3000 passengers on this ship but staff so nice and professional they make you feel your the only one... Didn't like disembarking at Buenos Aries, small terminal busy and hot, took 2 hours to get out, but I think that's the ports problem, not MSC. Most ports easy to get on/off ship. The tours were reasonably priced, same price as private tours. I booked and paid for the thermal spa but didn't use it, only went to gym to weigh myself but then they said scales broke (I'm not that big) so upset that all I wanted to use in the thermal spa area were scales and same not available. I have booked again to go on another cruise with MSC next year. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
We are a family of 4 (parents with 16yo girl and 12yo boy) from Australia. We first cruised the West Mediterranean on MSC Fantasia (which was so spectacular) and then we had free transfers from one ship to the next (Genoa to Venice). The ... Read More
We are a family of 4 (parents with 16yo girl and 12yo boy) from Australia. We first cruised the West Mediterranean on MSC Fantasia (which was so spectacular) and then we had free transfers from one ship to the next (Genoa to Venice). The transfer was well organised and we got priority boarding on Orchestra being part of the transfer passengers. The ship was very tastefully decorated in comparison to the ships we have been on in Australia (a P&O one and a Carnival - both very gaudy), but not quite as fancy as the MSC Fantasia (larger sized ship). The shows in the evening were brilliant, the costumes were gorgeous!! The itinerary was so good, every morning waking up in a new port is so fun, you never get bored. I recommend looking up private tours for some of the stops (we did an Olympia tour and Athens tour). We did do one cruise tour which was in Santorini. This cruise didn't have as much to entertain us during the days etc but that's because you're in port most of the day so it didn't matter. Be prepared that on some days around 5pm the bars/lounges close down while they do the muster drill for the new cruisers (because not everyone embarks on the same day). We think maybe they could keep one bar open for those that have already done the emergency program. The cocktails were very good value at around 7euro and you could also buy books of vouchers that we found good value too (we bought vouchers for beer, soft drinks, mocktails/milkshakes and coffees, we bought the water package on the first cruise but didn't use it all so didn't buy it on this cruise). The kids loved the cruise also but the kids clubs (they were in the 12-14yo and 15-17yo groups) were pretty much non-existent but not because of the cruise, it's teens and them not giving it the go they should so no-one was ever there. We found they spoke English first over the speakers most of the time so we never felt in the minority group. We had lovely waitresses in the evenings as you are seated at the same table each night. This is great as you get to know them and they get to know your likes and dislikes, they remember what you like to drink, etc. They are also careful with who they seat you with and we couldn't believe they found a family for us to sit with that were exactly the same as us (Aussie family of 4 - 16yo girl and 12yo boy, same as ours!) The embarkation and disembarkation was always very good, occasionally you have to wait in line (obviously when there are over 3000 passengers) but they were very efficient at getting us all onboard as quick as they could. Going on 2 weeks of cruising I cannot believe how much we got to see, this really was the best way to travel some of Europe. We would definitely go on another MSC cruise in the future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
We did this cruise as a back to back cruise after MSC Fantasia. Yes MSC Fantasia was amazing and we were a bit let down by this ship, due to its size and pool area not as big as Fantasia, But however the staff were just as wonderful, and ... Read More
We did this cruise as a back to back cruise after MSC Fantasia. Yes MSC Fantasia was amazing and we were a bit let down by this ship, due to its size and pool area not as big as Fantasia, But however the staff were just as wonderful, and the other passengers just as annoying, with their yelling, hogging sun loungers and pushing and shoving at the buffet. I don't fault these cruises its just the customers so if you want to avoid these sorts of people pay for a package where you get to dine in the restaurant all the time and as for pool loungers just take one and when the hogger returns two hours later just argue with them about how rude it is to bags a lounger.... You don't bags or reserve a car park? So why a sun lounger for the day whilst you are out sight seeing. Or just give them the one finger salute. Anyway loved this ship, and the staff, and would definitely cruise with MSC again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We chose this cruise as it was good value for money .having read the reviews afterwards was very wary of what to expect. Embarkation was a nightmare no-one seemed to take control once that happened it went smoothly. The ship was lovely ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it was good value for money .having read the reviews afterwards was very wary of what to expect. Embarkation was a nightmare no-one seemed to take control once that happened it went smoothly. The ship was lovely crew very friendly couldn't fault anything. We went for the premium drinks package highly recommended as it included everything even our minibar. The only thing I was disappointed in was the Wi-Fi I bought it on the Monday and by Saturday it was finished so didn't have the full week that was supposed to have been paid for. There were lovely little touches like free snacks in the bars and tapas/ antipasti in the wine bar. We definitely plan to use MSC again. We had a balcony cabin and that was lovely and spacious it was great to sit there and watch the ship set sail with a drink in hand. The entertainment crew were always involved in trying to make sure everyone enjoyed their holiday trying to get you to dance. Food was also very good plenty to choose from. As previously mentioned we were wary after we booked but there was no need it was an amazing holiday and ship. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
This was my first cruise ever and I was pleasantly surprised, especially after all the bad reviews of MSC (especially their food) which I had read! It took us two hours from arriving at port until walking on the ship so that was the ... Read More
This was my first cruise ever and I was pleasantly surprised, especially after all the bad reviews of MSC (especially their food) which I had read! It took us two hours from arriving at port until walking on the ship so that was the worst part of the trip, though the free drinks helped to ease the long wait. The food was wonderful and especially impressive after all the worrying reviews I had read! Great variety at the buffets of hot, fresh food and the sit down restaurants had delicious food and great variety. Our waiter, Paul (from India) was very accommodating and had a constant positive attitude. After trying to do one port on our own, we signed up for all the ship's excursions and were completely satisfied and agreed it was a great value for the money. I loved how there was a constant commentary on the bus, pointing out sites and history of the places we were passing through. We had a lot of variety and could visit several places, though the short time at each place was hard. The housekeeping service was excellent, we always had fresh towels and our beds made soon after we left the room. Common areas were kept neat and clean. We sampled a number of the different drinks and ice creams, the Pina Colada was the best both with alcohol (for my sister) and zero (for me). We went to a couple of the shows and was impressed with the colorful costumes and high quality of the music and singing. All in all we can't find much to complain about! Read Less
Sail Date April 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
Sail Date March 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
Sail Date February 2016
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
Sail Date November 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
Sail Date October 2015
Everything was as expected.We had a fabulous time,made new friends,enjoyed the shows etc etc. Met some negative people complaining mainly about the food. They shut up when I asked them if they had smoked salmon for breakfast which is on ... Read More
Everything was as expected.We had a fabulous time,made new friends,enjoyed the shows etc etc. Met some negative people complaining mainly about the food. They shut up when I asked them if they had smoked salmon for breakfast which is on the on the menu as much as you like. Admittedly have had only a short cruise with a Greek ship the Sea Diamond so no real basis for comparison but we will cruise again with MSC. One negative remark. One New Zealander was told the as he did not have an Aussie visa he would not be allowed to board sorted out in the end but people should know that New Zealanders do not need visas for Australia and the same for the other way around. We have cruised on a sister ship so no problem finding our way about Plenty of activities bur apart from an hour walk every morning at 7am on deck 7 we were happy to relax,read (good library) or simply talk to people.Plenty of English speakers on the boat as well we are fluent in Dutch and speak some German. We had a number of excursions in Asia well organised and conducted as well as Brisbane and Adelaide.In the other ports we met up with family and friends. We organised our own transfer from the hotel to the port and in Fremantle were met by a former work colleague of mine.Dining was enjoyable with other Kiwis on our table and the food was excellent.Many evening meals were theme or country based. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
This was the third time that we have sailed with MSC, each time on a different ship and each time with the same verdict. Great. Quite why British reviewers generally slate MSC is beyond me. This is not Royal Caribbean, it is not Cunard, it ... Read More
This was the third time that we have sailed with MSC, each time on a different ship and each time with the same verdict. Great. Quite why British reviewers generally slate MSC is beyond me. This is not Royal Caribbean, it is not Cunard, it is not P and O, it is MSC, it is an Italian Line, it has Italians on it. They are not British, they are Italian, they do not eat a full English. They do not queue. They are loud. They do not drink to excess. They push and shove a bit. BUT they do not wear football strips to dinner or breakfast or in fact at any time unless they are under 10. The Brits manage it though, grown men in football strips and shorts for dinner, classy. They eat good food and they like a few glasses of nice wine and they know how to behave. Enough of the slagging off. To the nitty gritty. After an overnight flight to Dubai on Emirates we were met a DBX by an MSC rep and taken straight to the ship. Arriving at around 1030 we were on board by 1115. People are right when they say you are not shown to your cabin but what is difficult about finding your cabin. First two numbers are the deck and last three are the cabin so 11187 is on deck 11 between 11185 and 11189 simple. Luggage is as per every other line delivered to your cabin, in our case within an hour of boarding. The cabins are perhaps on the small side but are absolutely immaculate and perfectly adequate for two people. Straight to the buffet for some lunch and no real pushing and shoving. It is a line system so is not really ideal when large numbers are there but it works OK. The food is good quality, piping hot and plentiful. If you cannot find something to your taste then you must be the fussiest eater alive. There are even chips all the time at the kids section if you need chips with everything, oh and beans and HP Sauce at breakfast if you can't live without them either. The buffet is now available for all meals and is open from 0630 until 0200, a change brought about by people moaning that you had to use the main restaurants in the evening. That meant you had to be sociable and talk to fellow cruisers and didn't suit some people. We always went to the main dining room for our evening meal. We were allocated first sitting which was at 1830, some days it was a bit of a rush but the other option is 2100 and with meals generally taking a leisurely 2 hours it would mean some bad dreams if you had cheese. We were at a table for 6 and shared with more English speakers, a couple from Scotland, like us, and two ladies from South Africa, although one originally from Scotland as well. We mixed well and had some good laughs and good chat. The food was generally good to better than good. Two gala dinners where they went the extra mile. The Tiramisu gets a better welcome than the Baked Alaska but it's an Italian line so to be expected. There are loads of bars on the ship but as usual we gravitated to the same one every night where we were well looked after by Andrii from The Ukraine. We never had to wait long for a drink and he quickly learnt our favourites. We had paid in the UK for the premium drinks package, about £200 each, but this included everything in the mini bar, everything from room service and everything from the fantastic ice cream parlour. We got our money's worth. We only went on two excursions. One to Yas Marina F1 circuit and one to the Fjords in Oman. I had been to Yas before when the F1 was in town but this trip promised "behind the scenes" and true to their word we got in to race control and on the podium, to an F1 buff like me that was worth the 70 euro cost on its own. The Omani Fjords were simply stunning, we got a 20 euro voucher left in the cabin one night, so the trip cost 55 euros each and was well worth it. We were late in booking and the English speaking trip was full so we went with the Italians and it was good fun, especially watching them freeze in the 80 degree heat and put on jumpers and wooly hats. All in all this was once again a great trip to foreign countries with a foreign ship with predominantly foreign people with foreign food. Just what I want from a foreign holiday. Well Done MSC. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
My family and I (son, his wife and my twin grandsons, aged 11) sailed on MSC Orchestra from Dubai around the United Arab Emirates on 14th February. I have travelled many times before with MSC but this was the first ever cruise for my son ... Read More
My family and I (son, his wife and my twin grandsons, aged 11) sailed on MSC Orchestra from Dubai around the United Arab Emirates on 14th February. I have travelled many times before with MSC but this was the first ever cruise for my son and his family, who are based in Dubai. I had joined a Roll Call for this cruise and the group met up on the afternoon we boarded and it was so nice to put faces to the names on the Roll Call. Many at the gathering were staying on the ship and then sailing on to Australia reaching Freemantle 33 days later! We all got on so well and met up several times around the ship during the week. We did not sail until 11 pm (although it was stated in all paperwork that it would be 10 pm). The compulsory lifeboat drill was held at 11.30 pm. As you can imagine those who had had long haul flights or even overnight flights arriving early in Dubai that day were very tired. A lot of the children were half asleep anyway at that time but ours managed to get through it and thought it great fun! We had two balcony cabins on Deck 11 and these were very spacious, even with the family's cabin having a drop down bunk bed and single sofa bed. There was plenty of wardrobe space and lots of drawers, the bathroom was fine although as on a lot of ships the shower was quite tiny. Our cabin steward, Jean-Patrice was very efficient, friendly and most helpful. He kept the cabins spotless throughout the cruise. Orchestra is a lovely ship and it was kept very clean. There was always something to do in the many bars and lounges. All the staff were friendly and helpful and would always acknowledge you if you met them around the ship. The entertainment staff worked tirelessly throughout the week to ensure everyone had a good time. The nightly shows were excellent and the cruise director was very talented with his command of so many languages. It did not bother us having to listen to all announcements in so many different languages. We purchased the All Inclusive 24hrs Drinks Package and the packages for the boys. These were excellent value for money. We certainly enjoyed sampling the various cocktails of the day and the twins thought it great to have their own cocktails along with unlimited milkshakes and ice creams! We opted for first sitting for dinner and our waiters were very efficient and certainly made a fuss of the boys. The food was varied and every meal well presented, nicely cooked and very tasty. The gala nights were very good and the family enjoyed the traditional parade of the Baked Alaska and the staff being introduced to the diners. We tended to alternate between the main dining room and the buffet for breakfasts. It was nice to have a leisurely start to the day in the main dining room as the buffet could be hectic at times. Lunchtime in the buffet was very busy with so many people queuing up and it was difficult sometimes to find a seat easily. We did not go to the speciality restaurant (extra charge there) but heard good reports from some people who did. The pool areas were kept clean and spotless but the sunbeds were packed so close together and on the day at sea, especially, it was difficult to find somewhere with space to move about. The pools were, in my opinion, not very suitable for someone like myself with mobility problems. There was only one step ladder in and out of the pools which were all one depth (6ft) - steps gradually leading into the pools at one end would have been helpful. A lot of people were complaining about the pool water and several were experiencing sore eye problems even though some did wear goggles in the water. The shops on board had some interesting items - some very expensive but there were bargains to be had. The Pandora stand was certainly excellent value with a lot of the items almost half price - needless to say I took advantage of that, as did daughter in law!! The ports of call were interesting. As I had already done the same itinerary on Lirica last year and because living in Dubai the family had already toured ABU DHABI, we spent a relaxing day on board at this port. We were able to enjoy the pool area, played putting and shuffleboard and were able to explore the ship whilst it was quiet. I would recommend that anyone visiting Abu Dhabi for the first time should visit the mosque and the Emirates Palace Hotel - sights not to be missed. Members of the Roll Call who visited these places agreed with my recommendation. KHOR AL FAKKAN - There was not a lot of choice for ship's excursions at this port so we opted to take the ship's shuttle bus to the port gate and there we boarded the free shuttle bus provided by the Oceanic Hotel We were able to enjoy all the hotel facilities - the pool area, where towels and sunbeds were provided, the lovely sandy beach and a fantastic buffet lunch in the hotel's restaurant. This worked out at 120 Dirhams per adult (about £20) and half price for the children. Excellent value when you consider that one of the ship's excursions to a beach resort for just about 5hours cost more than twice the price and did not include lunch. MUSCAT - We decided to take the Hop On Hop Off Bus tour. The ship's excursions were overpriced and we did not fancy being herded on and off coaches with lots of other people. On my previous visit to Muscat I did the Mystical Muscat tour which was enjoyable but it was much more relaxing on the tour bus. The commentary was excellent and we were able to see all the various sights at our leisure, getting off and on the bus at places of particular interest to us. We visited the Duty Free Shop at this port and got some real bargains. However, our drinks purchases were swiftly taken away from us as we re-boarded the ship but we did get them back on the last night of the cruise! KHASAB - I had pre-booked with Dolphin Khasab Tours for their half day Dhow Cruise. At Euros 30 each it was excellent value for money (the ship's own tour was Euros 75). By booking independently we were only a small group of 15 as opposed to the ship's tour where there must have been around 40 people crowded on to the dhow. Once out of the port area the dhow gathered speed and within minutes we saw lots of dolphins and they followed the dhow, jumping in and out of the water, as if they were trying to beat us along. It was magical. The dhow anchored at Telegraph Bay where we were able to swim and snorkel (all equipment and towels provided by the tour operator). The sights beneath the water were break-taking - so many fish and lovely coral reefs. Back on board the boatmen provided refreshments for everyone - various choices of fruit, canned drinks and tea and coffee. The scenery during the cruise was spectacular - a bit like cruising along the Norwegian fjords, I thought, but much warmer! It was a most relaxing excursion and seeing so many dolphins was the icing on the cake. When we docked back in Dubai we remained on the ship whilst most passengers went out sightseeing. I took the opportunity to visit the Spa - tempted by the 50% off promotion. I had a wonderful massage for one hour and felt so relaxed afterwards. There was no hard sell of the products afterwards for which I was very grateful. However I feel I must complain about services in the Hair Salon situated within the Spa area. My daughter in law wanted her hair cut and on the day we boarded they were advertising a " special offer, not to be repeated. Hair Cut for Euros 25". She made an appointment for that afternoon. When she got the bill she saw she was being charged Euros 64 and when she queried it was told the extra charges were for the special shampoo, the conditioner and the wash and blow dry. None of these extras were mentioned to her in advance so make sure just what the special offer gives you beforehand. The annoying thing was that throughout the week the daily programme sheet was advertising haircuts at 25% off! I must say that we were somewhat disappointed with the lack of some of the Children's Club Activities. Having booked the Fantastica package the boys were keen to attend the Chef's Cookery Course (and get a certificate to say they had attended) and the language classes. Although advertised in the Kids Programme these did not materialise and the boys were most disappointed. We complained to Guest Services but they tried to tell us that not enough children had registered on the days in question. We know full well that quite a few children had turned up only to find the room locked and the sessions not taking place. If one is paying for the package to include such activities then they should be provided for the children regardless. The sessions the boys did attend were great fun and it was nice for them to mix with children of all nationalities. On the morning we disembarked there was the most dreadful sandstorm (my son said it was one of the worst he had seen in the 3 years he has been in Dubai). I felt so sorry for those people hoping to do sightseeing in Dubai as the city was covered in a blanket of sand and the wind was so strong. In fact, when we arrived back at my son's villa the wind had blown over the patio chairs which ended up at the far end of the garden (the furniture is very heavy too). Overall we had a wonderful time on Orchestra and we have in fact pre-registered for a future cruise - the voucher has to be used within 18 months. My son and his family really enjoyed their first cruise and it will certainly not be their last. Thank you to all the staff for such a memorable family holiday. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
Just returned from a great cruise. Having cruised previously with P&O, Royal Caribbean and Princess, I had heard mixed reviews about MSC, so was a little worried, but found the ship and the staff excellent. Food was very good too. I ... Read More
Just returned from a great cruise. Having cruised previously with P&O, Royal Caribbean and Princess, I had heard mixed reviews about MSC, so was a little worried, but found the ship and the staff excellent. Food was very good too. I had enquired prior to our cruise whether we could purchase the drinks package on board as it was cheaper and was told this was not possible I was not too happy to find the opportunity to purchase the drinks package as we got to the cruise terminal in Dubai. One other small niggle was that we had a whole day in Dubai on the Friday before leaving the ship in the early hours of Saturday morning. Unfortunately, nowhere in the literature was the information that the main shopping mall did not open until 1pm and also the Gold Souk was closed until 4pm. I feel this important detail should have been highlighted. On a plus point, our cabin was great (10236 at the aft) and we enjoyed the shows in the evening. Travelling in a group of 6, we all agreed the standard was excellent. I would definitely travel with MSC again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
8 Night fly cruise balcony 8046 MSC Orchestra To start with we had faultless flight with Emirates from Gatwick. On arrival the free transfer to the port fast and faultless Embarkation was quick and faultless. The cabin was acceptable ... Read More
8 Night fly cruise balcony 8046 MSC Orchestra To start with we had faultless flight with Emirates from Gatwick. On arrival the free transfer to the port fast and faultless Embarkation was quick and faultless. The cabin was acceptable (clean) storage was again adequate for two passengers over eight nights, the bathroom about the same as others but no soap and all the touches you would get from Cunard/P&O but you get what you pay for + I was warned about this before the cruise, however there was two weird full soap dispensers in the shower cubical. The balcony a little small but adequate two chairs and a table. There was lots of public space on board that was clean and fresh, There is the opportunity to opt out of the gratuities, which I did saving €119.00 for two passengers. Food was of a good standard and plenty of choice, at the buffet could not fault it However the food was a little sparse at Dinner in the evening but of good quality, Service a little slow but when you look at the two waiters (no wine waiter) they had to serve 28 covers so what do you expect its not there fault (I did speak to the matire-d about this.) Other lines I have cruised with have no more than 15 covers max. At no time did I encounter any language barriers; all crew was very well conversed in English. Beware of the service charge of 15% think about paying for the all inclusive £22.00 a day PP if you like a drink, as a bottle of not very good wine costs €25.00 including the 15%. We made one bottle last two nights in the restaurant as you do not get free water or coffee after or during the meal, however free tea and coffee is available in the buffet. If you like good English breakfast tea take your own tea bags. Beware of the excursions they are pricey as is the hop on hop off bus at 45 euro each. Think about a taxi if you’re up to bartering. From the port to the mall then to Atlantis hotel, back to the mall (more shopping.) then back to the port £52.60 (290 Dirham) for 2 passengers. The Mall has to be worth it as its right next to the tallest building in the world Buri khalifa @ 828 mt. Would I cruise with MSC again? Yes   Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
MSC Orchestra Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 4.0 3.0
Entertainment 3.0 3.4
Public Rooms 4.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.3
Family 3.0 3.3
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.1
Enrichment 2.0 2.8
Service 3.0 3.4
Value For Money 4.0 3.3
Rates 4.0 3.9

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