1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. MSC Cruises
  4. MSC Fantasia Review
  5. MSC Fantasia Cruise Reviews
Sail Date: December 2008
We booked this special Christmas cruise for our family of 5, and the fact that we were all together at Christmas was the only saving grace for this appalling debacle which was the MSC Fantasia maiden cruise. We arrived in Genoa to total ... Read More
We booked this special Christmas cruise for our family of 5, and the fact that we were all together at Christmas was the only saving grace for this appalling debacle which was the MSC Fantasia maiden cruise. We arrived in Genoa to total chaos. Embarkation was dangerous due to the fact that nearly 4,000 people arrived in a very short space of time to check in. Some children were trampled and two people fainted. There was no organization by the port staff (which was MSC's final excuse, even though it was the Fantasia staff on the ground checking people in!) It took over 2 hours for us to get on board (some people were waiting for almost 5 hours). There was no proper explanation and certainly no apologies. When we got to the front of the queue, we were quite understandably unhappy about the situation, but the staff member said he didn't speak English (we later found out that he did, quite well!). We had booked our cruise direct with MSC in the UK and had booked first sitting, but were given the second sitting. We were directed to the maitre'd on the ship, but found a whole line of others trying to change their dining arrangements. The maitre'd refused to do anything for anyone. I guess we were lucky really, at least our party was all seated together; some parties were put on different tables, different dining rooms at different sittings! I guess we were also quite lucky with our cabins. We had booked two particular cabins adjacent to each other and actually got what we had booked. Some parties were split up onto different decks at different parts of the ship. Apparently MSC's response to this was "we put people where we want them and not necessarily where they want to be" - how nice and very customer friendly! The ship is undoubtedly beautiful and was spotlessly clean and tidy all the time - there were staff constantly cleaning and polishing, and our cabin stewards were helpful, cheerful and friendly, as were most of the bar staff. Unfortunately, the people who really needed to be all of the above were not. The reception and information staff were at best surly and at worst downright rude. According to MSC all staff speak 5 languages - what they omitted to say was that no one spoke any one language well enough to hold a conversation with foreign guests, certainly not the English ones! -We were constantly reminded to wash our hands to help avoid spreading germs and told that we must use the disinfectant handwash stations throughout the ship - there were NONE anywhere! -We found that everything on the ship was to pay for, even water on the dining table. We did manage to get a jug of tap water after some time trying. There was not even water in the gym, just a juice bar selling drinks! -The cafeteria was always extremely busy and chaotic and was only open certain hours (not most of the day like other cruise lines). On port days, MSC seemed to like having visitors aboard and offered them lunch in the cafeteria which only added to the problem of overcrowding as well as their being no proper security (as far as we could see the visitors did not have to go through security before boarding,even though we did). -The restaurant food was quite good with 7 courses offered every night. MSC advertise several other restaurants on board in you fancy a change to the main restaurants but all are to pay for. -The evening entertainment in the theatre was adequate but the performers still appeared to be learning their routines - surely something which should have been done prior to the maiden cruise! -DO NOT SAIL WITH MSC unless you like an inefficient, unorganized cruise line, indifferent staff and have nothing better to spend your money on. If having read all of the above you decide to still book with MSC, stay away from having a cabin at the back of the ship - the vibration was bad all the time and absolutely horrendous when the ship was maneuvering into port. Someone on board who knew about these things said there was definitely a misalignment with one of the pods. If you have already booked with MSC despite all the poor reviews (as we did, thinking that the launch of their new flagship would surely change the way they operate - unfortunately they did not!) GOOD LUCK and I hope it improves for your cruise! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2009
I believe that it was me who had the bright idea of taking a Mediterranean cruise in January with a 17 month year old baby and a 5- month pregnant wife. I thought, "Man, this ship is new, looks great and it will give us a very ... Read More
I believe that it was me who had the bright idea of taking a Mediterranean cruise in January with a 17 month year old baby and a 5- month pregnant wife. I thought, "Man, this ship is new, looks great and it will give us a very European cruising experience". I tried to downplay the fact that the weather would be in the cool 50's and nobody in my circle of friends and acquaintances had even heard of a cruise line called MSC! So, I twisted my wife's arm by enticing her with the idea of taking along her mother and aunt, as well as my parents- all as potential babysitters for this 11 night journey on the Fantasia. In the end, after a lot of pressure and persuading, she obliged (my plan worked flawlessly I thought!). I mean, what could be more fun than a family cruise in Europe visiting exotic places like Funchal, Tenerife, Barcelona and Malaga to name a few highlights. BTW, did I mention that this was in January yet and that we live in Southern California? In any case, prior to departure I there was a lot of anticipation for the launch of the Fantasia and to see some of the first reviews that were posted online- both pictures and write-ups. We looked with much excitement on the website nearly everyday to read the news- even saw the webcast at launch (including Sophia Loren!). I mean, heck, I had a lot riding on this cruise. Not just my wife and daughters (born and unborn), but also my own parents and even my mother-in-law and her sister would be travelling on this UNKNOWN cruise line. Thus, there were many sleepless nights after reading on CruiseCritic.com and other sites about the first cruise on the Fantasia! People complained terribly about the embarkation process- even people passing out and getting trampled! People complained about the staff. People complained about some of the 'differentness' about MSC compared to other cruise lines. Basically, you name it and there was a bad review. I thought to myself, "OK, now I have really put the last nail in the coffin with my wife's family! They are going to hate the cruise and my family standing will only sink faster than somebody can say TITANIC!" Trust me, I was sweating bullets! We decided to board the ship in Rome, versus the more popular port of Genoa. There were better connections into Rome for the motley group in our party flying in from California, Houston and Montreal. The embarkation process was a breeze- I would highly recommend that if you are looking for a place to get on the Fantasia (and it looks as if you can pretty much get on at any port along the way!), I would definitely recommend Rome. There were easy connections from the States and Canada and it gave us a few days both before and after the cruise to explore the Eternal City. There were very few people boarding in Rome and despite the excessive baggage that we had with us, when we got off the shuttle bus, porters quickly came up and swooped it up (unbeknownst to us what they were doing or where they were going with it) and processed it so we could smoothly get onboard. The entire process of registration, passport collection and photo taking for cruise cards was swift and efficient. We were done within 5-10 minutes max! One caveat though... instead of photographing my wife for her cruise card, the guy took a picture of the side of the face of my wife's aunt who was 15' away! Kind of a hassle when we first boarded, but was quickly resolved at the desk on deck 5. When we got to our room, already 2 of the 3 suitcases were placed in front of the door. We opened the door and were pleasantly surprised with the look, smell and overall appearance of the room. We did not have the crib we requested when we first got in the room, but we were able to quickly find our cabin attendant who assembled the crib as well as made sure we got our 3rd suitcase immediately. The feel of the room, I would describe as a Westin or W hotel. It was not colored in pastels and bamboo, nor teak and fuschias. It had the look of a modern, classy hotel- just a little more snug. We had a balcony stateroom on the 13th deck, right up near the captain- who we passed by on several occasions. The ship is new, so you expect things to be in great shape and they were- but beyond that the look was very appealing and modern- not old and tacky. The rest of the ship was also extremely tastefully done. Not gaudy and flashy, just clean and fresh looking. There were a lot of bars and lounges- each with a different and unique- but equally impressive look. You can tell that MSC did not skimp on this ship's design. The entire atmosphere on the ship was very different than that of other cruise lines and between the 7 members of our party, we had covered most of the major lines. For one thing, after 11 days at sea, we did not come across a single other North American. Not that that is a bad thing, as most of the members of our party are multi-lingual, but just very different. Most of our fellow cruisers came from Germany, Italy, Israel, Russia, China, France and Spain. It made for a very interesting mix of people and it also meant that when there were any announcements, they were in 5, count them, 5 languages. You can just imagine the fire drill performed on the 2nd morning....Did I mention that they said every announcement in 5 languages??? Fortunately, there were not that many announcements. Back to the international atmosphere of the ship. Besides having a very international clientele, there was also a large contingency of older travellers. Maybe they were the only other people who had the time (or thought they did not have any time left) and could take a cruise for 11 days in January. Of course, for many Europeans, it was warmer in the Canary Islands than it was in their hometowns! This diverse crowd did make the ship a little less friendly as nobody ever knew which language to use on the people that sat with or met in elevators. Not a lot of people smiling and greeting each other in general. But again, it was still winter, so maybe everybody was still in hibernation mode. The biggest irritation I would have to say with this very much older European clientele group was the smoking onboard. I don't think most North Americans are used to it. Even after having lived in both Europe and Asia and know how the rest of the world loves their cigarettes still, I was surprised to see how this ship had almost unrestricted smoking (except in the dining rooms). They CLAIMED that there was no smoking in certain areas of the ship, but hardly any compliance to their rules. There would be signs saying no smoking at tables on certain decks, yet there would be ashtrays on every table waiting! The surprise for us was that they allowed smoking in the covered pool (which was the only pool opened during our polar expedition cruise). This area was where they hosted water aerobics and many children were playing (or hoping to play) but the place was a like a smoke-engulfed bar! WE all had to hold are breath, or avoid being around the only pool open because the smoke was so bad! Same goes for many areas of the ship that one had to pass through to get to another. Smoky! The MSC Fantasia touts itself as a very green ship, but I thought that they should also apply some of those policies to their position on maintaining a healthy indoor environment for ALL guests. After seeing the volume of cigarettes being smoked throughout, we all agreed that it would be detrimental if they made such a ship smoke-free, but on the other hand, we strongly feel that they should have had some sort of restrictions in place to make it more enjoyable for those non-smokers on the ship. Otherwise, this beautiful new ship will smell like an old Las Vegas gambling hall in no time flat! Food was reviewed negatively on the postings we saw, but we did not find the food to be as bad as reported. Yes, some things are on the menu were a little strange- like when my dad order Turkey Cordon Bleu. I had never even heard of that before. You can only imagine how much my dad enjoyed it! Fortunately, every meal consisted of 6 courses- so you could quickly ask for that one to be removed and try something else. Portion sizes were just right- we did not feel as if they were trying to impress us with the large quantities of food. One weird thing was that the food was sometimes spotty. We could have had three people order the same thing at the table and each serving would look differently! One night when we asked for spaghetti, it came with one little scoop of marinara sauce - teaspoon on top! As Forrest Gump would describe it the food was like a box of chocolates- "you never knew what you were going to get!" Some of the food was really tasty, other food was bland or weird (such as the sandwiches onboard!). Service in the dining room was excellent- all Indonesian waiters that were friendly, courteous and prompt. The same can be said about our Indonesian cabin attendants. Every time we stepped out of the room, we would come back and see our clothes folded and the room tidied up. They really worked for their tips! We rewarded them for their strong work ethic as well. One thing I did notice on the ship was that some members of the Italian staff in the dining room treated the Indonesian staff as second or third class citizens. I saw one Italian waiter purposely bump into an Indonesian assistant waiter on several occasions, then angrily scold him. It was pretty evident that there was a caste system onboard for the staff. That didn't leave the best taste in my mouth after dinner. If anything, I thought our team of waiters was superior to the Italian waiters- as they left their attitude at home! The buffet, as some buffets are, was like a cattle call! Some people just do not understand the concept of standing in a line behind others. I am not sure if it was a cultural thing, but it seemed that there were more times than not a German or Russian speaking group trying to crowd into the buffet lines, cut in the embarkation lines or jump in front of our stroller and pregnant wife when we were waiting patiently ahead of others for the next elevator. We would wait for the others to unload before getting in, but then others would just sneak up the side and cut, leaving me and my pregnant wife to carry the stroller up the stairs on many occasions. That was another issue, not enough elevators- and elevators that skipped floors all the time! The wait for elevators sometimes was really really long! As for the entertainment onboard- first rate. As others have said, the shows were very Cirque d' Soleil in style with acrobats and music. They had some really good performers and my mother-in-law noted that it seemed as if the entertainment just got better and better every night! And it started off great. Shows were typically short- like 30 minutes, but the quality was high, so they were enjoyable. Even our baby enjoyed the shows with the music and lights- despite the green lasers often shining right in the eyes of the audience! To keep the little one busy at other times, there was also a nice playroom for kids (although with really limited hours) that was enjoyable. Same can be said about the gym- limited hours but nice facility- too bad the treadmills were all closed when we hit rocky seas (everyday in the Atlantic!). Bottom line... would we go with MSC again? My wife felt strongly about it- although next time maybe closer to home in an environment with more English speaking people and on a ship that had stricter smoking rules. MSC has a very appealing offer whereas kids under 17 cruise for free, so it could be a real bargain, which gets us back to the start here. So the ship was beautiful, the people were diverse, the ports were interesting and overall the family had a great time together- so the despite the cold weather, the trip was a success (as well as great deal!). So, if you want something a little different, kind of an adventure with new twists and turns everyday (like when it said on the itinerary that we would stop in Gibraltar and never did!), then MSC and Fantasia might be just right for you. If you can be open and flexible to the different way that MSC cruises, then these quirks might entertain you- heck, we did a lot of people watching on this cruise! Next cruise though, this family is going to try something more conventional- maybe Celebrity or Carnival. With two kids, we want something a little more close to home and did I mention warmer? Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
My husband and I (37 and 42 years old, from Norway) had talked about taking a cruise for some time, and when we received a very favorable offer on a 11-nights cruise onboard MSC Fantasia, we decided that this could be a chance to check out ... Read More
My husband and I (37 and 42 years old, from Norway) had talked about taking a cruise for some time, and when we received a very favorable offer on a 11-nights cruise onboard MSC Fantasia, we decided that this could be a chance to check out this form of vacation. We arrived Genova by train from Milano and booked into Hotel Continental a few minutes' walk from the Principe train station. A very nice hotel, with a view of the harbor. We paid 95 euros for a double room. We took a taxi to the ship and paid a few euros for a short ride. After reading some (mainly American and British) very unfavorable reviews before departure, we were a bit apprehensive when arriving the terminal. Luckily, the problems facing the maiden voyage passengers had all but disappeared on our trip. Embarkation was easy - no waiting at all at the check-in, and plenty of room to sit in the lounge before going through security and boarding the ship. The ship is beautiful! It is colorful, elegant, cosy, BIG, and efficient in the layout. The color layout is warm and inviting. Our cabin (standard cabin with balcony, most cabins are like ours) were big, about 20 m2 with a large window facing the balcony with wicker chairs and table. We had a big double bed (my husband is 191 cm tall and felt comfortable) and a nice sofa and a desk - the cabin was bigger than most European hotel rooms. The bathroom was bigger than expected, with lots of storage space. There were shampoo and soap dispensers and thick towels. I was happy to discover thick white bathrobes in the closet. The cabin held warm green colors and we enjoyed every minute of our stay in it. The service onboard is fantastic. We had a wonderful cabin steward and cleaning lady - always smiling, always ready for questions. The crew in the restaurants and bars were professional, smiling, talkative and personable. We really enjoyed the best of service onboard MSC Fantasia. The only stressed people we encountered were the ladies in the reception desk. We used the pleasantly fully equipped fitness room every day on our cruise. It was completely new and a joy to use. Very clean and did not smell like our ordinary fitness facilities ;-) The personnel were always courteous, smiling and pleasant to be around. We had a table at sitting no. 2 every evening in the Red Velvet restaurant, with the same personnel every evening. We got to know them quite well and brushed up on our Spanish (some of them were from Honduras). The menu featured the regions of Italy, one new region every evening, and we ate five courses every night. Wonderful food and many new delicacies to encounter. Lunch we usually enjoyed at the buffet on 14th deck, and with a huge range of dishes to choose from we were very always very satisfied. Our cruise had stops in Barcelona, Madeira (Funchal), the Canary islands (two stops), Malaga and Rome. We did not take part in any of the tours organized but went on our own in most ports. We really enjoyed Funchal and Malaga, two wonderful cities! In Malaga, be sure to visit the delicate Picasso museum. We usually walked from the ship to the city, but in Malaga and Barcelona the ship 'parked' so far away that we had to take a taxi, especially since the number of hours on land were limited. We did not take part in many activities onboard. There was a huge range of activities but we enjoyed ourselves, our cabin, playing cards, reading, exercising and talking. And eating of course. Most morning we had breakfast in bed (no extra charge) and enjoyed life on our balcony, wearing thick white bathrobes and curling our toes from pleasure. We spent one night in the huge theater, when a soprano and a tenor sang opera highlights, and a dance troupe performed. Very good quality entertainment. Did we have any bad experiences at all? No. But we would like to say that for us, not used to smoking and coming from a country where smoking in public/bars etc is forbidden, the number of smoking areas is too large, even for such a big ship. We are no longer used to smoking indoors and it was surprising to notice the extent of it. We could for instance hardly use the casino since most of the gamblers also were smokers. Disembarkation was even easier than getting onboard. We placed our luggage outside our cabin the night before arriving in Genova, departed our cabin at 8am the next morning and at 9am we were in a taxi to our hotel in the old town of Genova (Best Western City hotel, very nicely located and only 95 euros). We had a wonderful first cruise and enjoyed it a lot. Next time we will go in spring or fall and get a bit more sun. We also believe that 11 days were a day or two too much and will settle for a shorter cruise next time. But we will think fondly back on our time on MSC Fantasia. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
Arrival at Genoa - to find chaos in the hall to book onboard. Arrived on board - beautiful - cabin spotless. Super balcony. The ship is fantastic - glittering from top to bottom with shimmering lights. With so many floors the lifts just ... Read More
Arrival at Genoa - to find chaos in the hall to book onboard. Arrived on board - beautiful - cabin spotless. Super balcony. The ship is fantastic - glittering from top to bottom with shimmering lights. With so many floors the lifts just cannot cope - they often do not stop on your floor. The areas permitted to smoke are far too many - even one huge lounge with dancing was used for several meetings etc but as the smoke smell was so bad we did not attend. The areas running down the side of the ship by the side of the swimming pool (part enclosed) was smoking permitted. The entire indoor pool area full of children - smoking permitted). The restaurant service was poor to start - no time for coffee we were originally told at dinner the first night - every night after coffee was served as the order for sweet was taken. Lights go up after one and a half hours to tell you to leave!! A glass of water was served HOT. Many meals for the table of 6 were completely missed - forgotten or brought out of sync with the other meals. We had ordered the wine in the UK - they knew nothing about it on board. Had to find our documentation to convince them - and they worked out what it involved. They used a book of vouchers to tear out a bottle each night. They originally had no person responsible for the wine. Water had to be purchased at almost £2 per bottle. Tonic £2.80 - (Beer 2 bottles) £9. It cost 6 Euros per person one day & 5 Euros other days, to get out of the port on the local coaches. The hazards within the port made the coach essential. The gym was part closed to the public because of poor conditions at sea and the spa sauna was closed because a VIP had wanted it to himself. VIP passengers are the elite with their own facilities - but it did not stop them using the midnight feast to gorge themselves silly with the rest of the passengers. The daily newsletters were repetitive and the information for the Germans had included film shows etc that the other nationalities did not get. The dress code of formal when at Sea - informal in-port did not apply. Smart jackets was the order every day, apart from two Gala nights - one night informal. The shows started as rubbish but gradually improved - and the quality of performers became outstanding. Poor stage lighting was a major factor and my comments on board were noted and acted upon. Overall the ship was excellent, the friendliness usually associated with a cruise was totally missing. Meet one of the few English speakers - standby for a criticism and a moan. Stella looked after the cabin really well - Ice each night!! Overall - just about value for money - but would never set out to choose a large ship again. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
We arrived at the embarkation port of Barcelona on at 17 Jan 2009. There were no staff available to give directions about luggage, boarding or anything else. The day before 90% of the passengers on our hip had boarded in Genoa. So while we ... Read More
We arrived at the embarkation port of Barcelona on at 17 Jan 2009. There were no staff available to give directions about luggage, boarding or anything else. The day before 90% of the passengers on our hip had boarded in Genoa. So while we were trying to board they were leaving the ship for excursions. Any available staff were directing them to buses and were oblivious to our presence. We eventually found our own way. There was no safety drill for us as it had been done the previous day with the other passengers. The dining arrangements were,sit down breakfast ended at 9am and the buffet ended 10am. So if you missed them you waited until noon to eat. Second sitting for dinner varied from 8.30pm to 9pm. There were six items on the menu. The system was that everybody ate at the slowest persons pace ie if you decided to have three courses(starter, main course and dessert) and some one else decided to have all six you waited and all courses were served together. One evening we ordered our soup at 8.40 and got it at 9.20, lukewarm. Dinner always exceeded 2 hours and left very little time for anything else. Our itinerary stated quite clearly that we would stop in Gibraltar on day 2. This did not happen. When we enquired why, we got the standard shrug of the shoulders. As a result of missing this stop we spent from from 5pm on Sat until 8am Tue at sea. While at sea all of the swimming pools were emptied and netted even the indoor one. Again when I enquired why and got the shrug again. I went to have a sauna and was asked for €12 for one hour. On other ships while at sea there was always entertainment arranged around the pool.Not so here.All in all I feel the entertainment was dreadful. I dont believe I have ever seen so many people absolutely bored out of there minds. Drinks were also quite expensive. A small bottle of guinness (30cl) €5.80. My stateroom was quite comfortable on first impressions. But while we were at sea the panels in the ceiling creaked all night. It nearly drove us loopy. We reported it and the maintenance people drove a wedge of wood between the coving and the ceiling to remedy it. This did not work. We asked about a change of room and were told the ship was full.We had to put up with the noise and sleep came with complete exhaustion. Before leaving home I enquired about the system for paying gratuities. I was told they were optional and that envelopes would be supplied at the end of the cruise and you could tip as you saw fit. This was NOT the case. On your first news letter it is pointed out that the gratuities are €6 per adult per day and this would be billed to your account. There is a system whereby you can check your account at any time. Some of the passengers checked there accounts around day 3 and the gratuities were already added at €66 per adult. When I was paying my account after 7 days I was being billed the full amount €132.00 The one positive I found was that the stateroom attendants and waiters were lovely naturally friendly people. Maybe if they were running the ship our cruise would have been a lot better. MSC never again. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
We had a very interesting cruise of the Western Mediterranean (March 09) on board of MSC's Fantasia. This sturdy new ship is large (130 K tons) but nevertheless manageable, that is if you have a good sense of orientation. I will give ... Read More
We had a very interesting cruise of the Western Mediterranean (March 09) on board of MSC's Fantasia. This sturdy new ship is large (130 K tons) but nevertheless manageable, that is if you have a good sense of orientation. I will give you a summary of the ship in case you are considering it for future cruises. In general terms, the ship is nice with many but many lounges , bars and other public rooms, mostly decorated in sober good taste, a few are somewhat tacky or eclectic, ie. Disco. The Library is miniscule for the size of the ship (although it was not much used in this port-intensive cruise). The internet corner in the library is very small, but you could get a computer immediately if you went late at night, early morning, or when everybody was busy on land. Cabin: We had one with balcony, mid-ship on the 12th deck, approximately 190 square ft, it was very comfortable and practical. It featured a sitting area and sufficient storage space, flat-screen TV, phone, hairdryer, and a safe. The bathroom is small but adequate, the shower stall is ok, but has an unpleasant curtain that seemed to be in the way all the time. Very occasionally, a mild tobacco smoke could be felt coming either from the next door cabin or from the ventilation system. Cabin service was excellent, unobtrusive and thorough. The balcony was also very comfortable with two chairs and a table. In summary the cabin was nice, new and quiet. Dining: It is not outstanding, just marginally ok. I found the food to be healthy, and abundant but not exciting. One would expect a better cuisine from an Italian line. The ingredients are mostly fine, but the preparation was inconsistent sometimes good, sometimes tasteless. Service in the Dining rooms was impeccable, especially when provided by East-Asians and Indonesians, Italians were a little less attentive. There were vegetarian options on every lunch and dinner menu. Breakfast and lunch buffets are also served in the buffet (cafeteria style, you serve yourself) and were passable or mediocre. We went twice, and after the experience, equivalent to a poor or average cafeteria in Europe or North-America plus several hundreds/thousands hungry passengers out of control, we took all our meals at the main Restaurants. In these venues, even the lunch and breakfast experience was slightly better, probably due to the excellent service provided by the waiters. Interestingly, the sanitizing Purell stations were not of compulsory use, a rather unusual and risky policy of MSC. In summary, if food is your number 1 priority, this line is not for you. Public Rooms and Others: There are many and you never got a crowded feeling (although the ship was full). One nice feature is that there are few announcements (although in many languages) and the music is not blaring all the time as in some other cruise ships. Everything looks very clean and tidy. MSC Fantasia has a nice gym, with many treadmills and exercise bikes, , etc. There is a spa installation aboard. There are several swimming pools, the indoor pool is large and was used a lot in this Winter-cruise, I did not like it because of the over-chlorination and the smokers. The out door-pools looked much better but it was too cold to use them. Entertainment: We are not that interested in this type of activity, although we missed real classical chamber music that is provided even by run of the mill lines such as RC on European cruises. We watched for 5 minutes a silly bunch of comedians and for another 5 min a Las Vegas-style opera-aria show and decided not to return. I guess it is the same quality as in other average cruise lines. Embarkation and disembarkation: All were very well organized and there were no complaints. Excursions: We did the excursions on our own. Many complained that the MSC- organized excursions were not recommendable. Most cities such as Barcelona, Naples, Palermo, Palma, etc can be explored on your own if you do so homework prior to sailing. The ship docks too far out in some cities (Palma, Barcelona, Marseilles) and you need to walk for 20—30 min to reach the city center. A shuttle provided by MSC is a good, albeit a little expensive solution. Dress Codes: Two formal nights out of seven. Most men wore regular suits, or sport coat and tie, many were casually dressed even on formal nights and women choose cocktail dresses or simple outfits. The remaining nights were very casual. Passengers: MSC typically appeals to all ages including families with children. On our cruise the median age was under 50, with many teenagers and younger couples. Most passengers were Europeans mainly Germans and Italians, and some Spaniards. English speakers were a small minority. Smokers are a problem, there are many and sometimes you could feel smoke in areas that were supposedly for non-smokers. Nevertheless, MSC is making an effort to discipline smokers and I felt less tobacco smoke than described in other reviews. Conclusion: Quite good, but with many areas requiring improvement, especially cuisine, more enforcement of non-smoking areas, more attention to sanitation, (and why are passports of non-EU citizens retained at the reception, I never experienced this in other lines). Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Our family of 6 took a seven day cruise leaving from Barcelona Spain and returning seven days later. Although we have no major complaints, we were glad to get off the ship at the end of the cruise. Here are some of the highlights and ... Read More
Our family of 6 took a seven day cruise leaving from Barcelona Spain and returning seven days later. Although we have no major complaints, we were glad to get off the ship at the end of the cruise. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights. Ship: The ship is new and being so is in excellent condition. The staff works almost around the clock cleaning and polishing so it is spotless. Although it is a big ship it was full, it never really felt crowded except between sittings of dinner and at the indoor pool on cloudy days. Shows: Excellent. The first night our children did not want to go. After that they insisted that we go every night. Amazing acrobatics and some good singing. Food: The food was always just okay. After 7 days it became repetitious and tired. The sit down dinner was by far the best meal with 6 courses offered. The portions weren't large but adequate. Even our children liked most of the food offered, which included local dishes and the standards such as chicken and french fries. The buffets were large, but food just okay. However, most people I see on cruises seem more concerned with quantity versus quality, so the average cruiser may rate the food higher than we would. The buffets for lunch and and breakfast were always crowded, but the dining rooms empty. My wife and I would eat in the dining room for these two meals and send the kids to the buffet. We did not try the specialty restaurants, and it seemed as though now one else did. We never saw more than a dozen people eating in any the specialty venues. You are paying so much for a cruise, why pay more for the meals? The choice of speciality venues seemed odd. A tex mex restaurant on a Mediterranean cruise ship? The italian venue had no feeling of an Italian restaurant. The bard and the restaurants all felt like something you would find in a food court at any US shopping mall. Also they had a midnight buffet listed on the daily schedule, but in honesty it was not a buffet, it was some waiters carrying around trays of food in the lounges at midnight Drinks: This is one of our biggest complaints. The standard coffee and juices were pitiful. If you wanted something decent you had to pay more. Soft drinks were almost $5 each, a glass of juice $4 and coffee almost $5. The beer was expensive at $7. The only relative bargain was wine at $3 a glass (a small one). There was no place on the ship to even get a glass of water even at the gym or spa (they charged $4 for bottled water). Our soda bill for 4 kids was larger than the bar bill. Stripping out our spa bill, the extra charge for the cruise was almost $1,000, almost all of it for drinks (1 bottle a wine /day, sodas, and the occasional beer). At many times the whole purpose of the ship seemed to be to run up people's bar bills. I guess is where most cruise line make there money anyways. Staff: This was the best part. Its hard to complain about people who on average work 12 hours/day for 6 months straight. Our cabin and dining staff were excellent . Since there were so many nationalities on board the staff had to contend with the language issue, and may could speak english, french, Italian and spanish. The dining staff to a special liking to our children and were always trying to please them. Kids programs: Almost nonexistent. There was really nothing for children other than the pool. Everything else was ridiculously expensive. They show things on the ship's website but fail to mention charges. A video game cost 1 Euro for 2 minutes. Our 4 kids went through 20 Euros in about 5 minutes and we had to stop this activity after 1 night. The race car simulator and 3D theater were also expensive at $10. Our children had no desire to do these anyways. There were very few children anyways, and almost none spoke English I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND THIS CRUISE FOR CHILDREN ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE AMERICAN. Our children said they would like to do another cruise but asked that it be something to the Caribbean on a U.S. ship. Cruise Experience: This is a great cruise if you want to visit a number of good ports in a short amount of time. If you want the typical experience of a cruise I would not recommend it. First, passengers can embark and disembark at any port the boat visits, so the passengers change every day. In this regard, it felt more like being on a city bus. If you are American and only speak English, you won't be able to speak with many of the other passengers anyways. Embarkation: Earlier reviews mentioned this a problem, but it wasn't for us. We were on and off the ship in Barcelona in about 30 minutes. Ports: We took no excursions. With the exception of Tunis, if you have some sturdy legs, a map and guidebook you can experience each of the ports on your own. Marseilles: Nice port that we liked. The cruise terminal is rather far ($20 Euro cab ride each way). We walked around the old port and went to an big outdoor market that occurs on every saturday (ask at tourist office in town). Some very good places to have lunch near the old port. Genoa: Very lovely old gothic town worth walking around. We docked on Sunday so everything (I mean everything) was closed. They have a famous Aquarium but it is expensive at $35 Euros/person. You can walk to most of town from cruise port. Naples: Much more run down than most other Italian cities but has certain charm. Boat dock is right in the heart of town so you can walk everywhere. There are some nice outdoor markets in old section of town. Many people seemed to take tour to pompeii Palermo: Small city worth walking around. Boat docks downtown. Tunis: Odd choice for cruise port. The port is 20 Kilometers from old city and they boat only stays a few hours. We spent $150 Euros for a taxi and guide and only had about a hour in city after leaving time to get there and back. Palma: Lovely town, especially on a sunny day. Walk to old section of town or gab a taxi. Barcelona: Big city with lots to see. A must is the Sagrada Familia and the food market off the las ramblas. Grab a taxi to las rambles. The metro is quite excellent and can get you anywhere in the city. Summary: If you have no children and want a good way to see the ports on itinerary go. If you want a cruise experience or have children think about it. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
The cruise started at Gatwick Airport at a sensible time for the 2 hour British Airways scheduled flight to Genoa. We are not fans of BA and think that a charter flight could offer better facilities. We were met by 2 Msc staff at Genoa ... Read More
The cruise started at Gatwick Airport at a sensible time for the 2 hour British Airways scheduled flight to Genoa. We are not fans of BA and think that a charter flight could offer better facilities. We were met by 2 Msc staff at Genoa and were quickly loaded onto 2 coaches for transfer to the ship. We did not see our luggage again until it arrived in the cabin. Check-in took about 10 minutes and we were escorted by uniformed staff to our cabin and introduced to the main features. The cabin was on deck 8 and had a balcony with table and 2 chairs. We had a very large bed, flat screen TV, fridge and ample storage space. The bathroom was spacious by hotel standards and included a standard sized bath-tub with shower above. The cabin was kept meticulously clean throughout the cruise and it seemed that every time we left the room the steward did some cleaning. Breakfast was available in the buffet and dining room plus a restricted menu cabin service. In the buffet everything was available from a number of stations and although it was busy there was no queuing and no difficulty finding a table. We also enjoyed a room service breakfast when you can specify what and how many of each item you require. We did not use the dining room facility for breakfast. Lunch was again available in the buffet and dining room and we experienced both. We are both fish-eating vegetarians and found a good choice of meals in both venues. Initially it was not easy to find all the food because different types of food were located in different places throughout the restaurant. The quality was good considering that up to 3000 people were being fed in a very short time. Coffee and juice were available in the buffet but did not appear to be in the dining room. Evening meals were served the dining rooms and again offered a wide range. Portions were not large but with 7 courses available this was not a problem. We had 2 formal evenings, 3 informal and 2 casual but it was disappointing that most people took no notice of the dress code for the day. There were 3 specialist restaurants which we did not use but our table-guests, an American family, spoke highly of the TexMex restaurant. Afternoon tea was available in the buffet and we were told that midnight supper was also served but we did not try it out. Musical entertainment was available every evening in a number of lounges and catered for most tastes - a string quartet, and excellent jazz quartet, a South American trio, a pianist and 2 vocalists. In one lounge there appeared to be "holiday-camp" type entertainment with a duo but we avoided this. The theatre presented a different and varied show every evening and all the productions could only be described as excellent, if not all to our taste. A wide range of daytime activities was available but with a port stop every day we did not take advantage of them. Arrangements in the ports were good with a wide range of excursions. One criticism was that no advance notice was given as to what could be seen at each port, whether a shuttle coach was needed etc. We have suggested to Msc that they could provide more details in future. Being a multi-national cruise announcements were made in a number of languages but we had no problem understanding what was going on and they seemed to get the sound-bites down to the right size to suit all nationalities. Disembarkation was as smooth as the embarkation and all too soon our week's cruise was over. On reflection we have tried to look for faults and cannot find anything to complain about except the comparative price of everything but this was not just on the ship but everywhere in the eurozone. It is hardly fair to blame Msc for the pound-euro exchange rate! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Background I'm a single European woman in her forties who has travelled extensively in the last 30 years. This was my ninth cruise with MSC although my first on such a large ship. I normally travel alone but on this trip I was ... Read More
Background I'm a single European woman in her forties who has travelled extensively in the last 30 years. This was my ninth cruise with MSC although my first on such a large ship. I normally travel alone but on this trip I was accompanied by my cousin. This was her first cruise. Before going I was slightly apprehensive about the size of the ship as I feared that it might take a long time to get on and off at ports and that it might just feel far too big with too many people whilst onboard. I need not have worried, I had no problems on either count and now worry that I may have spoiled myself for the smaller and older ships after having experienced the well named Fantasia! Embarkation MSC had provided our flights with British Airways from Edinburgh to Genoa (via Gatwick) and all went smoothly as planned. There were several Brits arriving at the same time as us and a coach was waiting to take us to the port. Unfortunately the coach park was about a 5 minute walk from the terminal building which normally would not have been a problem, however as it was raining very heavily, we ended up soaked by the time we got to the coach and waited to see our luggage loaded. Normally when I travel to the Continent, I'm used to the weather being a marked improvement than home - unfortunately on this occasion it was quite the reverse! It took us just over half an hour to reach the port as there were several road traffic accidents (don't think that the Italians are used to driving in such atrocious conditions!). It was still raining heavily when we got off the bus and had to walk about 200 yards to reach the terminal building. We'd already used the Online Express service to check in, so went straight to that section which only had one couple in front of us. The other queues did not look that long either. We quickly registered our credit cards and received our cruise cards before passing through in to the embarkation area. We were given ticket no 61 and told to wait until our number was called. They were boarding passengers with no 60 at that time. We therefore went and had a soft drink and browsed the tables that had information about drinks packages, excursions and the spa etc. We'd only been sitting about 5 minutes or so when they called our number and we were able to proceed fairly quickly to the ship. We could have done without the ship's photographers taking the customary embarkation shots since we were both resembling drowned rats! A cabin steward met us as soon as security had checked our cards, and escorted us straight to our cabin. From the time we arrived at the terminal to the time we were in our cabin, it could not have taken more than 30 minutes maximum. First Impressions of the Ship My first impressions as we were led through some of the public areas on deck 6 and then later wandered around to get our bearings, was that this was not only an enormous ship but one that was stunningly beautiful and somewhat awe inspiring, particularly the three level atrium with its glass lifts, crystal chandeliers and very impressive spiral staircases with each step having embedded Swarozski crystals, edged with some type of gold coloured metal. There was also a glass grand piano in La Fantasia bar at the base of the atrium on a raised dais. At the top of the Atrium was the lovely Cappuccino Coffee bar overlooking this glittering spectacle. One deck down was Le Vele (Martini) bar which had the most beautiful shade of green bar which resembled Malachite, some of the floor area was similar coloured and looked to be highly polished marble. The furniture where it complementary shades of green.. Next to this bar through a short walkway was the delightful Piazza San Giorgio with its beautifully tiled floor to resemble an outdoor area, white marble fountains and lovely wrought iron bistro style tables and chairs. What made this area even more delightful, if you have a sweet tooth, was that in addition to serving a variety of coffees, soft drinks and cocktails, it also has the most wonderful selection of pastries, cakes, chocolates, ice creams and yogurts. The Casino was next to this area and you have to pass through it to reach the L'Avanguardia theatre or access it from deck 7 as it has a balcony at that level. The two main dining rooms the Red Velvet are on the other side of the Atrium towards the aft of the ship. The RV can be accessed from both decks 5 & 6 (but they only open 6 at breakfast and lunch). As its name implies, this is very red - red carpets and red upholstery on the seats and the dEcor too. It was almost too much but strangely worked. The other smaller restaurant and my personal favourite is on deck 6 but rather confusingly, you can not access it from this deck, you need to go to deck 7 and follow the signs for it and go down one flight of stairs to reach it. Alternatively it can be reached directly at deck 6 if you use the bank of lifts that are next set of lifts you reach after passing the central (glass) lifts as you progress towards the back. This is a beautifully decorated room in ivory and gold. After wandering through a variety of other bars, lounges and shops on decks 6 & 7 all with a different theme, we then headed up to deck 14 to take stock of the quite large spa and gym area and covered pool. The covered pool has a variety of different shaped pools in it and hot tubs along with water fountains, some greenery and seating around it and a balcony area above overlooking it. As it was still raining very heavily this area was very busy and the outside pools obviously deserted. Whilst MSC is 4 star rated, overall the ship itself was in my opinion 5 stars. Cabin We had booked a category 10 balcony cabin on the starboard side, midship of deck 12. The balcony has 2 comfortable chairs and a small table and is fine for 2 people but would be a bit of a squeeze if there were more than that. I was pleasantly surprised about the size of our cabin. I've only been on MSC's smaller ships before and this cabin was almost as big as a suite on their other ships. This particular cabin had a connecting door to the one next to it. I had thought that we might get a bit of noise from them, but we only heard them talking once during the cruise - just hope they had a similar experience with us! We had a very comfortable 2 seater sofa and coffee table, mini bar with a cupboard on one side and a dressing table that is fitted with 2 European and 2 US power sockets. It had 2 small drawers with a hairdryer in one of them. The (interactive) TV is mounted on the wall and has 2 small corner glass shelves under it, which we found very useful, for storing smaller items that we used daily. We had the room configured to 2 twin beds although these do convert to a queen bed. There are also 2 bedside cabinets either side. The wardrobe is reasonably sized and had about 12 hangers in it, although had space for many more as we'd both brought a few extra with us. There is a cupboard alongside it that has a few shelves and 6 drawers. There was also a full wall mounted mirror in addition to the one over the dressing table. The safe is also located in here and we had absolutely no problems operating it throughout the cruise. The bathroom is not that big but does have quite a bit of storage space in the 3 cupboards under the sink. There are also 3 glass shelves. Whilst the corner shower was about the same size as those on their other ships (not very big), and had a plastic shower curtain, it was not as annoying. In fact it was no bother at all. It was fixed completely down one side and as long as it was pulled fully across to rest against the glass on the other side, it never attacked you at all! The water pressure was excellent and the water temperature never varied. We had it on one setting and never had to fiddle with it the entire week. It was always just a perfect temperature. There was also a few wall mounted baskets for toiletries. Instead of giving you small bottles of shampoo and shower gel, there were wall mounted dispensers for both. We'd both brought our own with us, so did not try theirs, so I can't comment on how good or otherwise they were. Above the shower is a retractable clothes line which came in handy for drying swimsuits on. In case any of you are tempted by the bottles of beer in the minibar, there is a wall mounted bottle opener on the right just inside the bathroom door. We had 2 nice but not that big bathrobes. If you are a lady and any bigger than a UK size 18 or a US 20 bring your own. Fortunately I managed (just!). There was also a fruit bowl provided. There were more English TV channels than normal (3 news channels) but movies had to be paid for. I liked the interactive facilities which could be used to view your bill, order excursions and room service etc. However on the one occasion we did order room service, we found it quicker to use the phone. It was about 4.45pm and the first available slot on the TV was 5.30-6pm. I decided to use the phone and we were sitting on our balcony eating it by 5.05. I found the bed extremely comfortable and whilst I would have preferred a duvet rather than sheets and blanket, the bedlinen was of a good quality. The cabin was well maintained and my cabin steward (who must have been the cheeriest person I have ever encountered) kept it spotless. You were never disturbed by the stewards as they have a system whereby when you put your card in the slot by the door to activate the lights, the stewards knows you are in and leave you alone. As soon as you remove your card, it shows up that the room is empty to housekeeping and they bustle along to sort it out for you. On 5 out of 6 mornings, our cabin had been cleaned and tidied by the time we returned from breakfast. Restaurants and Food Breakfast - You can choose from continental served in your cabin (except the last morning), buffet in the Zanzibar cafeteria on deck 14 (usually 6.30-10am) or a la carte breakfast in either of the main dining rooms (7.00-9.30am). We didn't order the continental breakfast or use the buffet at all on this cruise as we both prefer waiter service of the dining rooms. Whilst we ate in both the Red velvet and Il Cerchio D'Oro, we much preferred the latter as not only did we prefer the dEcor, but also found the service to be better too. The choice there was reasonably extensive with a variety of fruit juices (carton variety rather than fresh squeezed), fruits, cereals, variety of bread, rolls and pastries (I particularly recommend the pain au chocolat - avoid toast as they don't make it like you'd expect - stick to the fresh bread, rolls, pastries etc). You can have eggs pretty much anyway (the omelettes are very nice as is the scrambled eggs), bacon (bit on the crispy side for British tastes and it is only streaky - no back available), ham, sausages, potatoes of the day (usually sautEed), grilled tomato. They also have smoked salmon which you can have on its own or with cream cheese and a bagel. . Lunch - we only ate in the Zanzibar cafeteria on deck 14 on our first day as we arrived too late at the ship to eat in the dining room. I'm not really a fan of buffets anywhere, so only use them when there is no alternative. There are many different serving areas all with different types of food including pizza (not the really good stuff just tray bakes cut in to squares); a reasonably extensive salad bar; various hot dishes which included past dishes too; breads; soup and probably a whole lot more. My plate was pretty full after visiting just 3 of the many stations so I didn't waste any more time trying to see what else there was as I didn't want my food to get cold. We wasted a wee bit of time trying to find cutlery only to find they are on the tables. We didn't have any problems finding a table but it was almost 4pm. A drinks waiter came over within a minute or 2 to get our drinks order. I didn't go back to look at the desserts but my cousin did and reported that they had a fair selection of Italian cakes and pastries and fresh fruit. She enjoyed the cake she chose. We also ate once in each of the main dining rooms. The menus are identical in both, there are 6 courses to choose from - appetizers; salad; soup; pasta and rice: main; dessert. Meals at lunch time tend to be more international than in the evening. I particularly liked the variety of soups especially the chilled consommEs and fruit soups (very varied and absolutely delicious). Appetizers were invariably good and very varied. Pasta was always good too, although the rice dish which was usually some kind of rice salad, which could be a bit bland or dry on occasion. Main courses would always include eggs (e.g. omelette. Eggs Benedict; a fish dish; meat and a sandwich (which could be on ciabatta, foccacio or just bread) they always have hamburgers, cheese burgers etc available too. Desserts always include the ice cream of the day as well as sugar free alternatives and fruit is also available. On the whole I enjoyed both meals. On previous cruises I sometimes found the food was warm instead of hot, but either I was lucky on this cruise or it is less of an issue on this ship. Whilst I didn't have any of the chicken dishes on this trip, be warned they tend not use boned pieces and I can't be bothered trying to get the meat off the bones, especially when it is smothered in a sauce. I had the veal dish which was cooked in a mushroom sauce one day and I thought it was delicious. . Dinner is served in the dining rooms at allocated tables. There are 2 sittings; we chose the second at 9.15pm as the first at 6.45pm was too early for us and a bit of a rush to get ready in time with some of the later departure times. Dinner also has 6 courses available which are less international, usually with the food from a different region of Italy each night (although on a longer repositioning cruise of 18 nights last year, they did do themed dinners from other countries e.g. Mexico, Asia, France, Spain etc) they also have grilled salmon, chicken or steak available every evening and spaghetti Bolognese, if you don't fancy the main courses available. We had 2 gala dinners in during the week. The first is on Wednesday when in Tunis and the last on Fridays when in Barcelona. I'd hoped to be allocated to Il Cerchio D'Oro but would have been absolutely fine with the Red velvet. I was however disappointed to find out that they also use L'Africana cafeteria for dinner (It's right beside the Zanzibar buffet on deck 14). To be honest it was slightly less grand than the main dining rooms but it did not look like a cafeteria in the evenings once the tables were dressed. It also had an identical menu and wine list. One plus was that the ship's photographers only appeared there on one occasion! Again my food was hotter in general than on previous cruises. I'm also pleased to report that the beef was greatly improved. I was almost reluctant to order it as I'd experienced the shoe leather variety on previous sailings but I had it several times and it was tender and tasty on all occasions. Like lunch my favourite courses were the appetizers, soups and pasta (particularly the Lasagne Emilio Romagno and the Fusilli Norma (aubergines). If you love aubergines like I do, I also recommend the Melanzane Parmigiana. My cousin had the risotto a few times and particularly liked the pumpkin one. Most main courses were either good or ok. I rarely eat dessert and only had the crème brulee (which was a bit disappointed this time as the caramelised topping was a wee bit soggy but it still tasted great) and the obligatory Baked Alaska. Normally I have ice cream at some point as it is usually excellent. I didn't have it this cruise but my cousin had it and the sorbet regularly and had no problem scoffing every last drop. Our dinner companions were a lovely couple who live only about 3 miles from where I do and he was a stock broker, she was retired from a finance house and I'm a banker so we got on very well! Our waiter however was a bit of a disaster (see the section to follow on crew for more info). If we hadn't got on so well with our dinner companions, I'd probably been twisting my cousin's arms to go to the one of the many speciality restaurants (she wasn't keen because she didn't see the point of paying extra for dinner when she thought the food was fine where we were) Midnight buffet - this used to be every night but now is only once on the cruise when they do the Buffet Magnifico on the Friday (Barcelona) at 12.15am and Magnifico it certainly was. We only went up to look at it as we were on 2nd dinner and it was stunningly beautiful. The fruit and vegetable sculptures alone were amazing ranging from all types of animals and fish, to various other things, all painstakingly and beautifully executed. I think the only creature missing was a locust but it turned out that we had hundreds of those - you would have thought that they'd bee refusing to feed some of the passengers the entire cruise by the way the fell upon it and basically inhaled 8t!. Although no actual buffet on other nights, there was always something being served in the lounges around midnight. Speciality Restaurants There are quite a few to choose from, I particularly fancied trying the French, Tex Mex and the Wine bar but my cousin was not to be persuaded. Any way here is the full list for those that are interested. La Cantina Toscana (wine tasting bar) Deck 7 - 12noon-3.00pm/6.00pm-3am -, Not sure about the menu but liked the rustic theme and the seats made from wine barrels. (This was our muster station) La Pizzeria Deck 14 beside L'Africana - 8.00pm - Midnight. Certainly looked and smelled good as we passed by to reach our dinner table El Sombrero Tex Mex Deck 7 - 12.30pm-5.30pm/7.00pm-Midnight - had a look at the menu and it looked possible to have 3 courses for about 15 euros. Really great dEcor too. Sports Bar - Deck 7 - 4.00pm -12.30am - great if you like karaoke and typical American style Sports bars, didn't check the menu but presume normal sports bar menus. Seemed popular with some of the guys especially those wanting to avoid dressing up for gala evenings! L'Etoile, French restaurant at the back of Deck 15 overlooking the adult only Zen Pool area. - 12noon-3.00pm/6.30-11.00pm. This is an a la carte menu which looked great and not that expensive considering it was billed as the premier speciality restaurant Bars and Lounges There are a lot to choose from both day and night and they all have very different dEcor and ambience. The bulk are situated on decks 6 and 7 close to the dining room, although there are a few up on deck 14 (pool deck). The opening hours and details of which have live music are as follows 7.00am - Midnight - Fantasia Bar - which is situated on deck 5 at the base of the Atrium. It has a glass piano in it and great views of the 3 levels, glass lifts and crystal staircases. There is live music here from 6.30pm through to 12.30am. There are 2 different acts who do a half hour slot at a time - Roberto - a pianist; Elegance Quartet - a classical female quartet whom I thought very talented. This is a very popular area and difficult to get at seat there at times. There is always a lot of bustle and people passing by due to its location. You can still see and hear the music from the level above. 12noon-midnight Le Vele (Martini) Bar - whilst it doesn't have live music in it per se, you hear and see the acts in the Fantasia below. This was a favourite of hours for a pre-dinner cocktail 5.00pm-1.00am - The Cigar Lounge - deck 6 - as a non smoker I gave this a wide berth, so can't tell you any more about it 8.00am-1.00am Piazza San Giorgio - also situated on deck 6 between Le Vele and the casino. This is a beautiful area that serves as a continental style cafe where you can buy teas, coffees, full bar menu, pastries, chocolate bar, ice cream & yogurt shop. It has a lovely tile effect on the floor to resemble an outside courtyard and a couple of lovely white marble fountains. This also has live music 6.15pm-1.00am. 2 acts again alternating. Alberto Eleuteri - electric guitarist playing a wide range including some Shadows numbers for those of you old enough to remember them and Los Paraguayos - a Latin American trio playing traditional Latin American music. (Not sure if this group gets around a lot or if there are lots of them, as they have been on every MSC ship I've been on) 6.00pm-until late Casino Delle Palme - basically the casino itself towards the front of deck 6, just behind the theatre. It is a smoking area and also the full width of the ship, so has a steady flow of traffic passing through it as people go to and come from the theatre. 5.00pm-2.00am L'Insolito Lounge - back of deck 7 and is the main show lounge. It has a beautiful ceiling with fabulous lighting. It has a dance floor and also hosts the captain's Welcome Cocktail party. There are 2 bands with Duo International Sound on from 9.1510.30pm and then Silio's Band from 11.00pm- 2.00am. They also have bingo in this lounge (top prize 2000 euros); embarkation and disembarkation talks by Catherine the South African English speaking Host; different type of dance lesson each evening by the very enthusiastic and lively Entertainment and various other activities 12noon-3.00pm & 6.00pm-3.00am La Cantina Tosca (Wine bar) deck7. This bar also serves food and has a lecture by the sommelier on the history of wine and various wine regions in Italy (in English & Italian) on the morning of Palma de Mallorca. 7.00am-1.00am Il Cappuccino Coffee Bar - on deck 7 at the top of the atrium, so you can also experience the live music from La fantasia as well' I recommend the Amaretto cappuccino - it's delicious! 12noon- 1.00am The Sports Bar - the only live music is when the Karaoke is on. Food is also available here (at extra cost) 6.00pm -1.30am Manhattan (Jazz) Bar situated on deck 7 - whilst I loved the music in here, the dEcor was pretty garish with too many neon dashes of colour too be easy on the eye(in my opinion). Live music from 8pm- 1.30am with most of it being the rather good Easy (jazz) Quartet. Roberto the pianist also does a couple of slots to give the band a breather, 6.00pm-2.00am Il Transatlantico Pub - another bar on deck 7 and a very nice bar (although not that like a traditional British or Irish pub). It is overlooking the casino, with a stairway leading down to it. We initially we avoided it because we worried about smoke drifting up from the casino, but later discovered it wasn't a problem. The live music here was very good, particularly Mario who plays the guitar and sings a wide variety of songs from the 50s-70s very well. There is also a pianist and singer called Mattia. Music is from 6.30pm-2.00am 9.00am-9.00pm Bar delle Fontane - on deck 14 in the I Tropici Covered pool area close to the Pool Shop 8.00am- 9.00pm The Glass Bar (Ice Cream shop) also on deck 14 at the back of the Aqua Park, close to the entrance of the Zanzibar cafeteria (buffet). They sometimes had a German band playing near here during the day. 9.00am-8.00pm MSC Aurea Spa Bar - in the Spa itself at the front of deck 14. It has a wide range of very delicious Vitamin drinks and smoothies as well as the main bar menu. This is a lovely relaxing area with very comfortable "conservatory" style seating to relax after a treatment or even a workout in the gym 10.00am-6.00pm Gaudi Bar - at the back of deck 15 beside the over 18 only, Zen pool and hot tub area. Very peaceful area for those wanting to escape the nose from the main pool areas. 11.00pm until late Liquid Disco - midships deck 16 and another one I found a bit garish - very very red. It also had strange seating that was covered in some synthetic material resembling pillar box red dog hair. I found it very irritating as I could sometimes feel it scratching my legs through my clothing. My cousin never noticed anything. It was already showing some signs of wear too. Despite the "hairy" seats, it has huge windows with great views and even if you are not the "disco" type, it is a great place to hang out during the day if you want peace to read, relax or just watch the view (Not all the seats are the "hairy" ones!). For those with teens, they have their own disco I Grafiti directly under it. . Drink packages We purchased 2 drinks packages onboard for 115 euros Cocktails - 12 cocktails Vitamin Package - 14 non alcoholic cocktails, smoothies or vitamin drinks There were also packages for 14 Soft Drinks, 14 Small beers, 14 Large beers, as well as various wine packages. (Unfortunately I seem to have lost the price list that I thought I'd brought back with me!) Cocktails were at least 5.70 and non alcoholic at least 4.70 euros, so we found we not only saved a bit of money, but found it easier to keep track of our bills without loads of little amounts for all our drinks. We did not buy a wine package as the smallest was for 7 bottles and we only had 4 bottles over the week. Crew For me the real stars (as always on MSC) were the dining room, bar and cabin crew. However on this cruise there was one exception to this and fortunately not a good exception, and that was our waiter for dinner. Whilst he was never rude, he was fairly incompetent. He was absent for huge periods of time and the tables in his section were always finishing ages after all the other tables. We frequently had to run to catch the show. He never did any of the nice little touches that we experienced with other waiters when we had lunch (or on my other cruises with MSC), like holding your chair out for you, putting your napkin on your lap, filling your glass with water, asking you if you'd had a nice day or some other pleasantry. To be honest if that was the extent of his shortcomings, I would not have minded. It was even the basics he could not get right. We'd have some people's food arriving ages before others. He sometimes split up the courses for example 3 of us ordered from the pasta/rice course, 2 of us got it at the same time whilst the other got it with a different course entirely. Despite the fact that we and the other couple at our table always had wine, we had to ask for the wine list every time. He never brought it with the menus. On one occasion he gave it to me first, once he'd taken my order he took it away, instead of giving it to the other couple, who then had to wait ages for him to reappear to order theirs. Frequently the wine took ages to come to the table. He blamed the bar boy for being slow, but we often saw it arrive and sit at the bar for a while before he got it to us. On other occasions, we got our food before our cutlery (On MSC they only ever give you the cutlery for the course you are about to have, they lay it out just before the food arrives. After the clear away that course, they bring the cutlery for the next course, then the food). He did however always manage to get us the food we had ordered and get it to us whilst it was still hot. This was the only cruise when I did not give my waiter an extra cash tip as I felt that he really had not deserved it. I was disappointed for my cousin as this was her first cruise and I wanted things to be as good as they usually are. The waiters in the other dining rooms when we had breakfast and occasionally lunch were the exact opposite from our waiter. Some mornings it almost felt a bit overwhelming the amount of attention we were getting from so many of the waiters, all eager to serve you and talk to you. My cabin steward done a great job too, cleaning my cabin twice per day. Although we never spoke to him in our cabin, we frequently met him in the corridors. He invariably was grinning from ear to ear, he really had the sunniest of dispositions and the most infectious smile. The other cabin stewards always acknowledged and greeted us too. From previous cruises with MSC I knew that the Italian Officers and Reception staff were usually aloof and occasionally unhelpful. However this was not the case on this cruise. Although we did not have a lot of contact with the reception or tour desk staff, other than for minor requests or buy shuttle bus or port info and maps, we found them to be polite and helpful. One lady in particular was extremely friendly and provided us with lots of useful information about the port we were about to visit when we were purchasing a map from her (50c). She did this despite the couple before us having been extremely arrogant and rude to her, despite all the effort she had made to answer all their questions. Instead of thanking her they stomped off saying "That was a complete waste of time" within earshot of her. No idea what the problem had been as she had answered every question they'd had. She never let their rudeness affect her or impact on the service she provided to the other passengers. Entertainment There were 2 showings of the main show in the L'Avanguardia theatre each evening to coincide with the end of each dinner sitting. Do check your programme each day as they twice swapped the show for those on second sitting to before dinner instead of after dinner. The theatre itself is beautiful and has good sight lines regardless of where you sit. The shows had to cater for 5 languages so tended to be either visual acts (such as cirque oleil style acts; magicians; dancers; or musical. They were all excellent and really not to be missed. My favourite was Bolero which featured Ice Dance routines as well as the most amazing Chinese gymnastic trio. It was breathtaking and amazing that they were able to stage this on a relatively small stage (compared to an ice rink) and with the boat tipping to and fro. The Irish dancing in Excalibur was good too, especially one of the lead male dancers who must have had a solo role in Riverdance some time in his past. The operatic tenor and soprano who boarded the ship in Barcelona and featured in the Tribute show were really talented and got a standing ovation from the crowd. There is no food, drink or smoking allowed in the theatre which means you can enjoy the shows undisturbed by drinks waiters bobbing about and the sound of munching! There is live music ever evening, throughout the evening in a variety of lounges. Some just to listen to and some to dance to. On the whole they ranged from ok to good. There was usually some kind of entertainment hosted by the very energetic group of young Italians forming the Entertainment team going on day and night. Day time tended to be dance lessons, quizzes and bingo (in 5 or 6 languages); competitions and games on days at sea there were also Italian lessons, arts and crafts and other demos and talks) Gym, Spa and other facilities The gym seemed fairly well equipped although treadmills may be at a premium when the ship is at full occupancy. The Spa area itself is very nice and has a Vitamin bar where they do lovely fresh juices and smoothies and there are plenty of comfortable seating there to finish chilling out after a visit to the spa. The steam room and saunas are mixed rather than separate facilities for each sex. There is also a nice relax area but there are not a lot of loungers there for the size of the ship. Watch out for passengers hoggiung them by leaving towels on them. Unfortunately some also leave the towels on the relaxers after they have left, so my advice is if a towel has been left on one for a while without any sign of anyone claiming it and you want somewhere to sit, just remove the towel. There are a wide range of treatments from the Balinese staff. The treatments are not cheap but very good. You can save quiet a lot by buying a spa package from your TA before you sail. We booked a package which cost £72 that included a 30 minute facial, a £30 Balinese massage and entrance to the Thermal Area. Onboard it would have cost well in excess of £100. There are 4 swimming pools on the ship. One is for the exclusive use of Yacht Club members, one is an adult only one at the Zen area at the rear of the ship (very nice and peaceful there), on large outdoor one with water features and another large one also with various water features that has a retractable magrodome. There is also an upper level in the magrodome with lots of tables and chair and bar service available from passing waiters. As well as the pools there are also 13 hot tubs dotted about the ship. Sunloungers (like all the MSC ships) have adjustable face shields on them and are plentiful, although not always at the most popular spots right beside the main pools. There are plenty of other decks and areas that have places to sun bathe and some have a hot tub too. Towels can be obtained from the pool attendants - you just need to show your cruise card to obtain as many as you need. Make sure you also show your card when you return them or you may be charged for them. Other facilities include a formula one simulator; 4 D movie theatre 9very small) a nice library (that seemed to have a reasonable selection of English books) card room, very well equipped medical centre, casino; slot machine area; cyber cafe; photo shop and a variety of other shops (clothing; jewellery; sweet shop; duty free; perfumery; electronics and a limited range of toiletries) There is also a children's club but as I don't have children, can't tell you anything about it. There is no self service laundry onboard, but they do have a laundry service which is quick and good. If you area MSC Club member you get 10 items of laundry (or dry cleaning) complimentary. MSC Yacht Club This is an exclusive VIP area located on 2 decks at the front and top of the ship. Passengers that are booked in Yacht Club suites get 6 star service that includes their own pool area, butler, concierge service; their own dining and bar area and a few other perks (like Egyptian cotton bedding, pillow menus and the like). Ports of Call I don't do shore excursions. This is not a reflection on those provided by MSC but rather my aversion to getting up early whilst on holiday and being shepherded about in a group. I'm far too independent and I prefer being on my own or with a few friends to being in huge groups. One of my concerns before going on this cruise, was that because of its size and the number of passengers onboard, there would be huge queues to get on and off at ports. However this fear was unfounded as we either walked straight off or only had a handful of people in front of us. That said, the ship was not full (about 2000 passengers onboard) and we were not trying to get off the minute they announced you could go ashore. Whilst getting back on the ship was not a problem, getting a lift on decks 4 or 5 often was. This was not helped by the Italians complete aversion to waiting their turn and just barging in front of you or mowing you down with their pushchairs. We found 2 solutions to this issue - 1. forget your manners and force your way through when you'd waited a bit or2. my personal preference, walk forward or back to the next bank of lifts and get one to yourself. Naples - we docked a little bit ahead of the scheduled time at about 10.30am. We got off shortly after that time as we wanted to go to both Pompeii and Sorrento. We'd decided to get the train and I'd printed all the train times before going on the cruise. Our first challenge was getting a taxi to take us to the station. All the ones in the port were determined to persuade as that they could take us to Pompeii and back quicker and for the same price as the train, (at 80 euros for the return trip - I don't think so) Anyway we ploughed our way through them declining their offers in both Italian and English and made our way to a taxi rank just outside the port itself. Again the driver was determined to drive us all the way to Pompeii but when he realised he was going to get no fare at all, he relented and took us. I'd asked him to take us to Stazione Garibaldi but he actually took as to another station that was one stop closer to where we were which cost 10 euros. Train fares are Napoli-Pompeii Scavi is €2.40; Pompeii Scavi - Sorrento is €1.80; Napoli-Sorrento is €3.30. The train takes about 35 minutes to Pompeii (you get off at Pompeii Scavi), turn right when you get out and walk about 100 yards or so down the street and you will see the entrance on your left. For those of you who like to know about WCs, they are just inside the gate way on the left close to where you queue for tickets. I think we paid €8 to get in and got a free map. My cousin also bought a more detailed guide book from the shop. We ended up spending about 2 hours there and whilst it was interesting and we probably did not see every last building, personally I'd have been happy to go after an hour as it was very windy and getting volcanic ash blown all over me all the time was not filling me with joy. After that we headed back to the station and only had about 10 minutes to wait on the train for Sorrento. The journey takes about 30 minutes and the station is very close to the centre of Sorrento. Unfortunately because we'd spent longer at Pompeii, we only had about 90 minutes in Sorrento (we did not want to risk getting the last possible train back in case something went wrong). We had a lovely lunch in a nice cafe on the central square and then had a wander along some of the nice little streets that run off it. We found a great little Limoncello shop, where they were making it on the premises and you could watch them at work through the back of the shop. As well as making their own liquor, they also did hand made chocolates too and let you have tasters of both the Limoncello and the chocolate - both were great, so we each bought a bottle. (they had them in all shapes and sizes). It was a bit of a rush to catch the train back to Napoli but we made it with just a few minutes to spare. We decided to get off at Garibaldi so that we could have a look around for a bit before grabbing a taxi back to the ship, but as it started to rain heavily we just got a taxi straight back. I was glad we did because being rush hour, the traffic was really heavy and it took a while to get back. Taxi cost €15 this time. So total cost for the 2 of us was €40 to go to Sorrento and Pompeii whilst the taxi drivers had wanted €80 just to take us to Pompeii and back. If I were doing this again, I'd probably skip Pompeii all together and spend us much time as possible in Sorrento or also try and see Positano. Palermo - We decided to do the Hop on Hop Off bus tour which was €20 for both the red and blue routes. The red line operates morning and afternoon and includes the Royal Palace, cathedral and Botanic Gardens. It goes through the oldest parts of town. The blue route which does not start until 2.00pm goes through the New Town (which like my home town is about 250 years old). It also goes to the castle and you can get off at the port. Both lines start at Teatro Politeamo which is about 5 blocks up from the port entrance. We did the red route in the morning and had to wait for about 30 minutes to get on a bus. They have a booth that issues you with a numbered ticket and when the bus arrives, they call the ticket numbers out in strict order. Just as well they do too as the Costa Concordia had arrived within minutes of us and about 70% of the people waiting to board the bus were Italian and clearly not about to q to get on. We made the mistake of getting off at the Royal Palace at 12.10 to discover that it closes from 12 until 2, The cathedral was the next stop, so we just walked on down to there and went in to have a look around. It is a beautiful building from the outside but not quite as grand inside (compared to others that I have seen). After having lunch in the vicinity, we got the bus back the rest of the loop and got back to the first stop about 15 minutes before the blue route was due to commence. We decided not to do any hopping off this time as we had seats at the front of the bus and had a great view of everything. We got off at the port and headed to a lovely cafe nearby for an espresso and to try the famous Sicilian cassata. It was nothing like I was expecting - in the UK Italian restaurants have cassata but it is basically different ice creams with some glace fruit through it. This was more like a small cake with glace fruits - it was very lovely though. Tunis - as neither of us fancied getting off here, we'd planned to spend the day onboard. We were only in port until lunch time anyway, so we elected to chill out by the Zen (over 18s only) pool & bar area. We then had a wonderful lunch in Il Cerchio D'Oro followed by an afternoon in the spa. We had purchased a spa package through our TA which was £72 instead of £106 and included a 30 minute body massage, 30 minute facial and an hour in the Turkish bath/sauna area. We both really enjoyed it and found the spa facilities amazing. I really liked the relaxing area near the reception where you could get all sorts of vitamin drinks and fruit smoothies - very nice. Palma de Mallorca - We bought the shuttle bus tickets from MSC which cost ^ euros. The bus drops you off at the waterfront more or less opposite the cathedral. My cousin wanted to go to the castle as it looked like it had great panoramic views from up there, so we took the HOHO bus which has a stop just across the road from the drop off point. Unfortunately we'd just missed one, so had about half an hour to wait. The tickets cost 13 euros. With hindsight it wasn't the best idea. The commentary was very minimal and because we did not dock until 2pm it was well after 3.30 before we joined the bus. We spend over an hour at the castle, which not only has fantastic views over the city and bay, but is surprising more like a palace on the inside despite its austere exterior. We were also impressed at the efforts that had been made to make it accessible to wheelchair users. They had a lot of ramps and a stair lift to reach all but the top level. By the time we left the castle, and got the very busy bus, we realised that it was in fact the last bus, so could not get off at any more stops and just had to head back down to the cathedral. Given the port time, I think it would have been much better to have just grabbed a cab up to the castle and then had more time to wander about down town, before heading back to the ship for dinner Barcelona - Again MSC provided a shuttle service for 6 euros return. My cousin is a huge fan of HOHO buses (I'm not so keen). However she persuaded me that this was the best way to see as much as possible, so we bought tickets as we got off the shuttle bus for 23 euros each (1 day ticket that covers the blue and red route). We'd planned on getting the bus up to Playa Catalunya and then changing over to the red route. However it was raining really heavily and there was quite a big q at the port stop. Only a few people were able to get on at a time as the upper decks were not being used. After waiting about 30 minutes, we gave up trying to get on and walked about 5 minutes to the nearest metro and took it the few stops up to Casa Mila. By the time we got off the train, the sun was shining. However when we got to Casa Mila, we discovered an enormous q to get in. We estimated that it would take about 90 minutes to get in, so decided not to bother and get the red bus up to Parc Guell. It was a public holiday, so the city was incredibly busy and there were at least 6 or 7 cruise ships in port. For some strange reason, they were running 4 or 5 blue route buses for every red. It took almost an hour to get on the bus. We had both been to the Sagrada Familia before so decided to go straight to Parc Guell, which was just as well as the qs at the Gaudi cathedral were even worse than those at Casa Mila. The Parc was amazing - do not miss this - it is the most unusual and amazing place. We only spent about an hour there and had to wait about 30 minutes to get back on the bus. We had planned on trying to do the blue route as well but soon realised that this was simply not going to be possible in the time we had left. We therefore stayed on the bus back to the starting point at Playa Catalunya and had a pleasant stroll down Las Ramblas with a wee detour to the Playa Real half way down. We made it back to the Shuttle bus with about 30 minutes to spare. Personally I found the HOHO not only a waste of money but very frustrating given the crowds of tourists everywhere. I think we would have been far better getting a bus or taxi to the Parc and then spending the rest of the time wandering around Las Ramblas and Barrio Gotico. As it was I'm fairly sure we spent more time in qs waiting to get on buses than anything else. Marseille - The MSC shuttle service was 10 euros as we were quite a distance from the old town. There is a tourist info kiosk as you leave the ship, where we'd picked up a larger map (MSC sell them for 50c each or 2.50 for the full set for all the ports). I'd asked where the train station was as we'd planned on going to Aix en Provence. The lady in the TO told me it was close to L'Arc de Triomphe and had marked it on the map for us. However when we got off the bus and walked the 5 minutes to L'Arc we could not find the station anywhere. We'd also noticed on the way in on the bus that the old port area of Marseille looked far nicer than we had been led to expect, so decided to spend our day there instead. We made our way down to the waterfront and bought tickets for Le Petit train, that goes up to the Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde perched high above the bay. It was a beautiful ride up, passing through some quaint narrow streets and with great views across the bay as the train climbed higher and higher up the Mount. The Basilica itself is amazing although not for the less able bodied as there are 200 steps to climb up to get in. The little train stops here to let you off and you catch another one back. Inside the cathedral itself is incredibly beautiful, with the most lovely mosaic floors, not to mention the art works on the inside of the domes. Getting back on the train was a bit of a challenge (those Italians pushing and shoving again!) We missed 2 trains as we got pushed out the way. By the time the third train came, we were determined we were getting on and just ploughed on through. It was pretty frantic and we witnessed a young French couple get really upset as those pushy Italians had knocked their pushchair over with their baby in it. The ride back was a little shorter but no less pretty. We then had a walk along the waterfront and had lunch outside in the sunshine at a lovely cafe overlooking the waterfront. My cousin's Moules Frites were excellent, as was my salad and we washed it down with some lovely chilled. crisp rose wine. We then spent just over an hour exploring the historic artisan district which was fascinating, with it's little narrow winding cobbled streets and lots of different family owned businesses selling various arts and crafts. There is also a Basilica in the old port are that is in a similar style (inside and out) but not quite as grand as Notre Dame de La Garde (but not so busy either) Marseille has a reputation for its hand made soaps and we found a kiosk near the ship when we got back. I bought 4 for 10 euros (they had quite an array of fragrances). My mum has been road testing them and swears by them - looks like I'm going to have to do a return trip when she runs out! Disembarkation On this particular cruise there were passengers joining or leaving the cruise at every port with the exception of Tunis. We were disembarking at Genoa which is the busiest disembarkation day of all the ports. We were supposed to vacate our cabins by 8am and be in our meeting points by 9am. Breakfast was being served from 6.30 onwards in the dining room as normal and slightly earlier I think at the buffet. Room service is not available on the morning that you are due to leave. We had all to hand in our passports after sailing from Tunisia as we were told that the Authorities in Palma de Mallorca wanted to have them all available for a full inspection. We had twice tried to get them back before the end of the cruise but were told that we would get them back in Genoa. (Not sure why they still needed our as we have EEC ones but perhaps they failed to recognise our accents as being British). After breakfast and leaving our cabin, we went to reception to get our passports, only to be told that they were still required and would not be available until 9.30am in the Liquid Disco on Deck 16. There were a few other British passengers waiting there but the vast majority were Australian and New Zealand. By the time they came up with the passports, they were already calling our colour for disembarking, so we never went to our meeting point but just straight off the ship. It only took us a few minutes to find our cases and make our way to the exit. We had MSC Transfers and knew that there were many due to leave to all different airports that morning, so tried to find out from a member of staff in the baggage hall which coach was for Genoa Airport. We were told to go outside and we would find them. When we did get outside, there were a lot of coaches but there were some staff sorting things out and pointing people to the correct coach. Whilst there were plenty of seats left on the one for Genoa Airport, there was no room left in the luggage store, so we had to wait about 5 or 10 minutes for another coach to arrive for us and about 10 other people. We Arrived in good time for my flight home to Edinburgh via Gatwick. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Boarding in Barcelona was simple. The ship was less than one year old and in good condition. The cabin was a good size but the toiletries were rubbish. Public areas were a bit bling - lots of sparkle and "I don't believe its not ... Read More
Boarding in Barcelona was simple. The ship was less than one year old and in good condition. The cabin was a good size but the toiletries were rubbish. Public areas were a bit bling - lots of sparkle and "I don't believe its not wood". We felt the ship was far too big and impersonal. The restaurant and bar staff were very helpful and friendly, but the waiters appeared to have too many tables and the service was poor. Other more senior staff were aloof. If met in a doorway they assumed right of way and walked through, avoiding eye contact. Apart from during breakfast and lunch all drinks and beverages were charged and prices were very high. A bottle of (warm) water cost €2.30 and 400ml draft beer was €4.90. On other cruises the drinks were duty free and cheaper than at home. There were no tea/coffee facilities in the cabin. Any drinks brought on board, including water, were confiscated and no coffee was served after dinner. The meals were edible bit not great. They became quite boring after only a few days, especially lunch. There was a dress code but it was not applied. It was disappointing to be formally dressed. sitting next to other diners in jeans, t shirts, shorts and trainers. It takes away from the magic. There were too many smoking areas - almost everywhere! The information on board was poor so it was difficult to plan port visits. Reception staff did not seem to be interested. A couple of the shows were good but most were quite strange. One show on Excalibur ended with a poor mimic of Riverdance! and one that started with songs from musicals became a Queen tribute. Also there is only so much acrobatics and balancing acts we can take. The juggler was good though. There were charges for shuttle buses in ports and street plans which are free on other cruises, so although the basic price of this cruise was low the extras soon made up for this. Ports tended to be large cities rather than interesting small towns. Overall we were disappointed. As an alternative to a cheap package in a Mediterranean hotel it was ok, but as a cruise we felt that MSC had missed that point. As a hotel it would rate as 3* but as a cruise experience only 2*. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
Review of May 29th Mediterranean Cruise on MSC Fantasia   We completed an 8-day 7-night Mediterranean Cruise on MSC Fantasia on June 5th. Here is a fairly complete review. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to post them ... Read More
Review of May 29th Mediterranean Cruise on MSC Fantasia   We completed an 8-day 7-night Mediterranean Cruise on MSC Fantasia on June 5th. Here is a fairly complete review. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to post them or e-mail them to me at jacknolan17@yahoo.com.   Embarkation   We boarded the ship just before noon on May 29th in Barcelona. Total check-in time was less than 20 minutes from the time we reached the terminal to the time we were in our cabins. It was the quickest most efficient embarkation we have ever experienced. The fact that passengers get on and off the ship in each port surely had something to do with it.   The Ship   MSC Fantasia is brand new and kept in impeccable condition. We had a standard size balcony cabin on Deck 12. It was among the nicest and was the roomiest standard balcony cabin we have had.   MSC touts Fantasia as the most beautiful ship in the world. It is nice, but I did not think it had a "wow" factor. We have found the Princess and Royal Caribbean Ships we have sailed on to be much more impressive both from an architectural and interior decoration perspective.   The main drawback with the ship was expected. Lots of smokers. In fact the first three nights our cabin reeked of smoke. My wife has mild asthma, and if we had not left the balcony door open at night she would not have made it through the cruise. We actually thought it was coming through the ventilation system. MSC claims they have instituted a no smoking policy except in designated areas on the ship, but this is not being enforced. In fact the welcome version of the daily newsletter we received in Barcelona stated smoking was banned on the balconies (something numerous passengers ignored) but only strongly discouraged in all cabins. In other words smoking is allowed in your cabin. Ashtrays are mounted in the bathrooms.   Dining   We were looking forward to the authentic Italian Cuisine and were not disappointed at dinner. We thought the food in the dining room at dinner was outstanding and so was our waiter. We thought the food in the buffet at breakfast and both in the buffet and dining room at lunch was mediocre.  Continental breakfast from room service is free and the coffee from room service was terrific, the best we had on the ship. We got breakfast in our room everyday, even if we later went to the buffet, just so we could sit on our balcony and sip the coffee.    Major Drawback We were originally assigned to the buffet for dinner. So there we were on night one in our formal night best, sitting in the buffet. Much of the food was cold the first two nights we ate in the buffet, probably because it had to be sent up 8 decks to be served. Our table was not pleased.  When we asked at the Reception Desk (which we nicknamed the "I don't know desk", more on that later) why we were assigned to the buffet, they said our travel agent had made the arrangements for us to eat there, which of course was not true.  On the second day when I went to the head maitre d' to see if we could be moved to one of the dining rooms, he told us we were already going to be moved the next night after a "big group" got off the ship in Genoa.  We have never had this happen on another ship. I will give MSC the benefit of the doubt that rather than shift people from early seating (7:00 pm) to late seating (9:30 pm-too late for our group) when early seating fills up, they shift folks to the buffet. But passengers should be notified of this in advance and at least given a choice. About 200 passengers were assigned to the buffet the nights we ate there.   Entertainment   We went to the show in the main theatre every night but one.  With passengers from so many different countries speaking different languages, MSC faces quite a challenge here. The shows are musically based Broadway style revues, with plenty of acrobats performing as well. One night they even had ice skaters on artificial ice. We found the tenor and soprano on the first formal night and the Irish dancer later in the week to be quite good. Overall we thought the shows were well done, but very similar each night.  There are many talented musicians who play throughout the ship as well, many of whom we enjoyed. We did miss the comedy acts we have enjoyed on other ships, but knew there would be none on this cruise in advance because of the makeup of the passenger population.   Ports   The ports of call were the main reason we chose this cruise, and the itinerary was terrific! Here is a brief rundown of what we did in each port.   Barcelona   We spent three days in Barcelona before boarding, although two full days probably would have been sufficient for us. We bought a two-day hop on hop off bus pass and this allowed us to see the entire city. We took the buses with "Barcelona Tour" on the side. While less crowded, the buses were less frequent (at one stop we waited an hour for a Barcelona Tour bus, during which time five of the competing company's buses stopped) and the audio system did not work well.  You might be better off with a Barcelona Bus Turistic bus, the other hop on hop off company in Barcelona. The prices were identical.   Favorite stop. Parc Guell. A planned subdivision by legendary architect Antoni Gaudi includes a home he lived in. We found it fascinating.   Marseille   We took a cab to Aix-En-Provence (50 Euros each way for four) and spent the day walking thought this lovely city. Saw a beautiful tapestry exhibit in the historic bishop's palace and just missed seeing a Monet/Picasso exposition at the local art museum because we ran out of time.   Genoa   The stop in Genoa falls on a Sunday, so almost all the stops were closed. That said you can walk to the historic section of town, which we found fascinating. We also visited the house Christopher Columbus grew up in and my entire family enjoyed the visit. I had always been told Genoa was an "industrial town" but it exceeded our expectations.   Naples   Because we had been to Naples before and had already visited Pompeii, Sorrento and the Island of Capri, we decided to visit Herculaneum.  Because my Dad has some trouble getting around (does a great job at 80 years of age, just a bit slow of pace!) We hired a taxi at the dock for $120 Euros for 4 people. Taxi waited two hours plus for us and returned us to the ship.  Probably need three hours to completely absorb Herculaneum, which is much like Pompeii but much smaller and in some ways better preserved which many second stories of buildings still standing. It was an interesting trip. However is you choice comes down to Herculaneum or Pompeii, I would choose Pompeii.   Sicily   This was probably the highlight of our trip. I had arranged for a van and driver for our group of eight. The drivers name is Gaspare and you can reach him at gasparecracchiolo@alice.it. He lived in the US for 12 years and speaks very good English.  He took us on an all-day tour, that started at the Greek Ruins at Segesta, then to the mountaintop medieval town of Erice (beautiful), then to a seaside village for lunch and finally a complete tour of the huge city of Palermo. It was terrific and the total cost was 62.50 Euro per person, plus tip and everyone wanted to tip Gaspare after the great tour he provided us.   Tunis   Another highlight. I hired another outstanding cab driver for this stop, Ali Ali. His wife has been the translator for the US Ambassador in Tunis for nearly 30 years. He speaks terrific English, seems to know everyone and provided us with a great tour. We were only in Tunis for 5 hours, so time was of the essence. Ali took us to view a number of Roman ruins in Carthage (including a fascinating water storage area), by the Presidential Palace and to the new mosque built for the president where we were able to walk inside.  He also took us to the seaside village of Sidi Bou Said and to Tunis itself where we were able to walk through the Medina. He also took us to the official government crafts store where we found some high quality examples of the work of Tunisian artisans.  Ali also brought another driver with him since we needed two cabs for the eight of us. His associate spoke French, as does my wife so this worked out well, although Ali was the main guide at each stop. The price per person for this great four-hour plus tour was just 20 Euros per person. You can contact Ali at alibenmeftah@yahoo.fr.  I learned of both of these gentlemen from postings by others here on cruisecritic.com, and I would like to thank those posters for their efforts.   Palma de Mallorca   This is a beautiful city on the Spanish Island of Mallorca.  This being the seventh port in seven days, we took a city bus to the old section of town and enjoyed a very pleasant walk back to the harbor and another bus to the dock. The city bus was $1.25 Euro. The MSC shuttle was $6 Euro. Aside: This is the first time in 11 cruises we have had to pay for a shuttle bus provided by the cruise line to the city center. A Costa ship shadowed us on this itinerary and their shuttle busses were also free. That added to the impression that we were being nickled and dimed by MSC. Coffee on board after breakfast, ice cream, water at dinner and at the bars (although 3 of our 4 couples were given the free USA water dinner package), even maps of the port cities all cost extra, something that we were warned about but still found slightly irritating.   The crew   We found the crew to be polite and cheerful (with the exception of our cabin steward). The ship arrived in port and left port precisely on time each day, although some of the arrival and departure times were different from the ones on our original itinerary. Unfortunately we also found the crewmembers whose job it is to interact with the passengers to be woefully uninformed. Everything from something as simple as dinner times (one couple was late for dinner the first night when the Reception Desk representative insisted dinner was at 7:30), to confusion over where we could pick up our passports at the end of the trip. We were originally told the Reception Desk, only to receive a notice we had to go to the disco on deck 16, which is served by only two elevators.  People were already disembarking before we got our passports back, somewhat problematic for those of us with early flights back to the U-S on this day, which is all that were available. On every other ship we have sailed on, people at the Excursion Desk could give you some information about the next port. On MSC they hand you a list of the ship excursions and respond "I don't know" to other questions.  We did not take any ship excursions on this trip because we thought we could do better both cost wise and enjoyment wise on our own.     Disembarkation   After getting our passports, this was again very quick. However the cruise line did misplace the luggage of one of the couples in our group (who had the proper colored tags for first off the ship) for over an hour, forcing a crewmember to go back on the ship to search for it. This led to the couple missing their original flight home, although they did get home much later that day.   Summation   We are firm believers there is no such thing as a bad cruise.  We had a good time on this cruise and the ports proved to be as interesting as we had hoped. We did miss many aspects of the American focused lines we have been on in the past, like port lecturers. We thought we would get a European flavor on board, but the vibe was much like other ships we have sailed on in the past.  Had there been sea days on this ship we would have been less pleased. I am not about to say MSC needs to change how it operates. It is my understanding they are selling out every cruise on Fantasia. But our bottom line is we have enjoyed the four other American focused cruise lines we have sailed on more than we enjoyed MSC, but we are glad we tried MSC.  Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
I recently cruised on MSC's newest ship Fantasia and would like to say that while I feel every sympathy with those who experienced a less than successful cruise on her maiden voyage, I can happily report that no catastrophe was ... Read More
I recently cruised on MSC's newest ship Fantasia and would like to say that while I feel every sympathy with those who experienced a less than successful cruise on her maiden voyage, I can happily report that no catastrophe was encountered on my cruise! What an amazing ship - a stunner and certainly the largest ship I have been on! Embarkation was easy. Using MSC Express check in DOES get one through check in very quickly but DOESN'T make the slightest difference to the amount of time spent in the 'waiting room'! (Certainly those who hadn't used this facility had to stand in queues but I couldn't say how long for) The waiting room has masses of seating, a table with complimentary soft drinks and water, and the usual 'drink package' tables where you could buy tokens for the various drink packages on offer. This is exactly how I have found it on my previous cruises with MSC. All in all it took just over two hours from arrival at the port to entering my cabin and when I arrived in my balcony cabin, my luggage was already there! My cabin was spacious and beautifully fitted and I am now completely won over to the pleasure of having my own private balcony! Once again I had the pleasure of being escorted to my cabin by a white gloved gentleman who carried my hand baggage! A minor nicety I know but most appreciated on a ship of this size! The cabin was an excellent size and although I personally prefer the blond 'wood' trim on Armonia to the 'mahogany'in my cabin on this ship - it a matter of personal taste! The majority of public areas on the ship have been designed with what I would call 'Italian retro panache'!!! Some were a trifle startling when first glimpsed, but further inspection showed incredible design flair, although the upholsters probably thought it was a nightmare!  Masses of custom made sofas and chairs! I am in full agreement with Mulliner regarding the Tex Mex (El Sombrero) and the Wine Bar (La Cantina Toscana) in finding these areas lacking in cutting edge style. The design was more 60s 'oldy worldy' pub than anything else in my opinion! I never saw either of these venues well attended which rather surprised me since their offerings were very reasonably priced (An Ensalada Tijuana, classic Caesar salad was €2.90 or Barbecued spare ribs at €4.90 in the Tex Mex and a glass of wine with meaty nibbles €4 or a Bottle of wine with two plates of Italian Cheeses and cold meats at €26 (for two people) Perhaps the majority felt like I did and preferred more congenial comfortable surroundings. Il Transatlantico was my favourite bar not least because it was the closest to my cabin! I was assigned to a window table in the Cherchio D'Oro restaurant with very pleasant dining companions. I certainly saw no lack of space as described in previous reviews and in general the service was excellent, always delivered with a smile and impeccable manners. On occasion service was a little slow but never late enough to disrupt any of the evenings' planned activities (shows etc).The food was perfectly acceptable and at times exceptional! While at times it wasn't piping hot, it was NEVER cold.  I would say that perhaps the menu descriptions in English leave a lot to be desired and MSC would be well advised to use better English descriptions in their menus. A thing I also missed on this cruise is that I never once saw the Dinner/Lunch Menus displayed in the custom built display cases outside the restaurants. I have experienced this on other MSC Cruises and find it odd that they were missing on Fantasia, particularly in view of the fact that there are other eating venues on board, including fee paying restaurants! A missed opportunity for MSC I think! After the first evening when I accepted an offered glass of iced water, it was there within seconds of my arrival in the dining room on every other evening! Breakfast was slightly different! The staff were too speedy in that the cooked items arrived before the fruit or cereals!!! A polite word was all that was needed to cure that problem! I only visited the cafeteria once at breakfast time but it was too much of a bun fight for my liking so I generally went to the dining room! (Admittedly I did attend fairly late on the first morning of the cruise and I think the majority of people on the ship had the same idea so it was very crowded!!!) I must say though that I saw no unruly behaviour among people queuing at the various service stations and the waiting/clearing staff gave very prompt service. I would also point out that I ordered juice and coffee from room service each morning (free).  My biggest complaint about the food on this cruise is that I personally found the coffee very very poor indeed and the fruit juice a very watered down version of what I would term fruit juice , all obtained from room service, cafeteria and restaurant). I also disliked the fact that the only coffee available on breakfast room service menu was decaffeinated! The coffee available from bars was excellent and not too expensive at €2.10 for a latte. Quite often when I didn't want a full breakfast, I had a latte and a warm croissant (the croissant was free!) in the Fantasia lounge. I didn't try the tea but did see that the teabags available in the cafeteria were varied flavours and of good branded quality. Computer time is expensive with the minimum amount of time being €25 for an hour. MSC should consider introducing a half hour time slot at half of that price. I also wish that MSC would remove the 'free' games (the usual Microsoft culprits, Free Cell, Hearts etc) so that people did not feel they had the right to sit and play these games for hours thus preventing people who had paid for computer time from using the computers! In this respect I was at fault for not reporting this problem to reception however I have since reported this problem to MSC. Children were not the only culprits here and when asked, the adults were the ones who refused to allow paying customers access!!! I hope they were suitably ashamed when the children willingly gave up their seats and waited patiently for paying customers to finish! For those who continually complain in reviews about announcements (in five languages!) I counted precisely 7 announcements which were broadcast over the public PA system and just 2 broadcast in the cabin itself(the latter relating to safety drills). Thankfully I heard NO entreaties to attend art auctions or buy an inch of gold, nor announcements about cocktails of the day (all necessitating spending money!) Admittedly I did not attend other functions where this would be necessary (i.e. entertainment activity such as Bingo, Dance Lessons, Quizzes) but since these are all timed leisure activities, I really do not see the problem with hearing everything 5 times although it is very slightly irritating but CERTAINLY NOT a reason for complaint on a ship of non-British/English origin. On this cruise, I would hazard a guess that Germans were in the majority and I believe that changes radically during the months of July and August to Italian. Should you have a dislike of lots of children on board, July and August would be the months to avoid. There were some children on this cruise and I have to say I didn't see any really badly behaved 'loose' children. The whole mix was very interesting with Spanish (both mainland and Canary and Balearic islands), French, Turkish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Polish, Romanian, Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish, and these were just the people I spoke to!!! Very cosmopolitan! I didn't attend any of the shows personally. I heard some good and mixed reports about the content, for example two people I met who had diametrically opposing views of exactly the same show! This does rather proves the point that shows, whether at sea or on land, are a matter of personal taste and it would be impossible to please everyone!!! This especially applies to ships with a multinational passengers list which necessitates the shows being visual and musical only because of the problem with languages. It always strikes me as odd that those who complain about the lack of comedians in the shows are generally also the people who complain most about announcements in five languages! The Theatre was designed for its purpose therefore sight lines are excellent. I didn't book any excursions (which did appear to be quite expensive but definitely on a par with every other cruise line I have been on). The shuttle charge of €5/6 euro is definitely common to other cruise lines I have sailed on. On previous cruises with MSC, there were talks given on every port of call (given by the English speaking representative) It would seem that these are no longer available. Also previously, all of the excursions were outlined on a channel on TV but I was unable to find such a thing. Perhaps I just didn't look hard enough! Like every other cruise ship, one is plagued by the ubiquitous photographer! At €19 the prints seemed very expensive to me! Last time I bought one on MSC they were £10 (then €15) so they have increased by 26% in 3 years in real terms but 70% including current exchange rate! Drinks were decidedly expensive at €6.90 for a G & T.  Some of this is assuredly in the exchange rate but surely not all!!! The prices were known to me at the time of booking but taking what I paid for the whole cruise in to account, I cannot complain too much!!! A glass of wine at €3.50 or a half carafe at €8.80 didn't seem too expensive to me. In several local restaurants here in the UK, the cost of a glass is £4 and £10 for ½ carafes. Many people I met solved the problem to some extent by buying alcohol and mixers when in port and would accordingly have a pre dinner drink in their cabin and ditto for a nightcap! I was told (by other passengers) that bringing bottles on board was not a problem. At NO time did I see any passengers in the bars drinking anything other than drink purchased from waiters. One person also informed me that when they purchased DF drinks in the on board shop on the 4th day of the cruise, they were allowed to take it directly to their cabin! This is certainly not what is printed in the brochures/newsletters! Disembarkation was smooth. Passengers were asked to go and sit in specific areas according to destination. Contrary to a remark I have read, all nationalities gathered in the theatre, not just British!. Coloured labels (which denote your flight) were provided for luggage and as is customary on cruises, luggage is left outside your cabin and is removed at some early hour. It is taken to a holding area where it is set out in bays according to label colour from where it is collected. You then take it to your coach in the car park where it is loaded prior to your journey to the airport. Would I cruise with MSC again - CERTAINLY - perhaps on one of the smaller ships next time though! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
We arrived in Naples from Rome to board the ship around noon and found our way through the terminal with lots of helpful MSC staff along the way. The only thing I would note that at other ports I think there was more of a welcome than at ... Read More
We arrived in Naples from Rome to board the ship around noon and found our way through the terminal with lots of helpful MSC staff along the way. The only thing I would note that at other ports I think there was more of a welcome than at Naples. Once we left the terminal there was only the ship's photographer and then we were on board. No one explained the drink packages etc., until we got to the cafeteria for lunch. You can buy various packages of beer, wine and/or water at different levels depending on how much you intend to drink. I didn't think it was too expensive, as I believe one package was for 4 bottles of wine and 7 bottles of water for 78 Euros. We went to the cafeteria area for lunch that day for the first and only time. It was very crowded and very large with people, particularily a lot of children dashing around loading their plates. You have to first get a table, then take turns getting food which is spread over numerous serving areas and by the time we each found something the other person would be finished their food.We left the ship to visit Naples and soon as we were finished eating. We did check out our cabin but our luggage had not yet arrived so we headed out on the streets of Naples. The ship docks very close to the older part of the city, so no need for a cab or bus. We saw the Archaelogical museum which has a lot of things from Pompeii since there was no time to go out there as we had to be on board by 6.30p.m. We had taken the early seating for dinner which is now at 7 p.m rather than 7.30 which it had been when we booked. We took in the show at 9.30 p.m.We attended all of the shows, some were better than others but they were all worth going to for the 40 minutes or so they last. Lots of very good acrobats, dancers etc. The kind of shows you would expect with 5 or more languages in the audience. We thought that the MC and the dancers which did all of the shows were most professional compared to some of the animation teams we have seen at the all inclusive resorts.The food was very good in the dining rooms. We had breakfast and dinner in either the red or gold rooms, most of the time they weren't that busy and we could find a table with a view out the window. Tip.. if one of the entrances has a closed sign just go to the other entrance or other room some where will be open...avoid the cafeteria if you can.We used the pools on board but mainly the adult one at the rear of the ship. Way too many children at the other pool areas.We visited most of the bar areas and danced at on two different bar occaions. Lots of nice music from very good performers. Way too many children here as well. We aren't use to seeing children in strollers in bar areas at midnight.I'm sure you can see a pattern here. We enjoyed our cruise but we think we would have liked it better with a few less children. This was early June and we thought they may not have been on school holiday yet. Our only other comment would be that we would have liked being in port a little longer and perhaps a bit more local port information would have been nice. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
As a first time cruising family,we didn't know what to expect read everything we could find about Fantasia.Must admit that we sometimes did hesitate this the best of ideas?But we are all glad that we didn't´t cancel our trip.It ... Read More
As a first time cruising family,we didn't know what to expect read everything we could find about Fantasia.Must admit that we sometimes did hesitate this the best of ideas?But we are all glad that we didn't´t cancel our trip.It was mostly a great experience.We=two adult´s in the 40´s and our 13 year old daughter,from SwedenEmbarkation: Easy as anything we were able to embark att 11pm,even though our tickets said not until 12 pm.No que at all.Everything went really smooth.Cabin:We ha a outsidecabin on Fantasia deck, with a big window,had some regrets about not getting a balcony cabin,but when we asked the agency about a balcony cabin we where told that they were sold out.The cabin was more than ok,big enough for the three of us.One king size bed and an extra hanging from the wall. The cabin was cleaned twice everyday.The cleaning lady did a great job,for a lousy pay....2 euro/our and 11 ours working shifts!!Food: Breakfast,everything you could eat,bread,yoghurt,cereals,scrambled egg,bacon,etc nice coffee btw.Lunch, you could choose buffet or a la carte,we tried both.The food at the buffet was more than ok,but very noise and crowded,lot´s of people.The a la carte restaurant, The Red velvet,was a better choice.Dinner,attentive waiters,a lot to choose from and often very tasty.Nothing negative about the food then ? Yes,you eat too much,we gained some extra kilos........have to start exercise.Breakfast 07.00-10.00 pmLunch 12.00-16.00 pm in the buffet restaurantLunch 12.00-14.00 pm in the ordinary restaurantsDinner 19.00 am or 21.30 pm Entertainment:every night it was a show in the theater entertaining,but sometimes it was a bit boring.Some acts tends to be too long. Pool areas:nice but too croweded,to much noise,and the music was far to loud.Remeber that kids under 18 travel on a discount!!!! That means a lot of kids.So what did we think?A nice cruise,but very noicie and crowded.Will we go again,yes,but on a smaller ship. BTW smooking is not a problem!! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2009
Even though there were 3800 passengers, there were times when we thought that we were the only ones on board!Because the weather was generally great the outdoor entertainment areas and pools and jacuzzis were very well utilised. As there ... Read More
Even though there were 3800 passengers, there were times when we thought that we were the only ones on board!Because the weather was generally great the outdoor entertainment areas and pools and jacuzzis were very well utilised. As there were many kids we especially enjoyed the adults only pool area at the rear of Deck 15, although as the pool itself was unshaded we somtimes joined the many in the main pools. The staff generally, and especially tghe many Balinese/Indonesian workers were friendly and very helpful. The food in all venues was very varied and of good quality, there was plenty of fruit and salads and many choises at all meals. Generally we ate our meals in the retaurants, and we didn't need to wait at any stage to be seated and served. The meals were of very god quality and mix and there are many vegetarian dishes to choose from if you want it. the restaurant service was First Class, fast and efficient, fresh and delicious and prepared to order. The sweets were worth waiting for eg., on our last night our waiter recommended the almond and pear tart with icecream. Our whole table ordred it and it was exceptional. We loved our cabin, it was very spacious and bright and contained everything we needed. Our balcony was well utilised for a pre-dinner drink, for drying our wet bathers and for the awesome views when arriving and leaving ports and viewing passing ships and numerous islands and village lights.We enjoyed most of the theatre shows includind an outstanding acrobatic performance by an Asian trio that we think were mum an dad and their daughter. We've seen Cirque de Soleil in Vegas and Australia and this performance was their equal.At no time was their any problem with getting seating in the theater. We had a wonderful time and met wonderful people at Dinner and on excursions. We also had the good fortune to see the brand new Splendida moored next to our ship in Palma de Mallorca before it left to begin its maiden voyage! This trip was to celebrate my 60th birthday and our 35th Wedding Anniversary and we are pleased to highly recommend this line and this ship, although we,d look at something smaller next time, we'll certainly go MSC if we can! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2009
I will go over all the good and bad points about the cruise, which I think are important considerations when selecting a cruise. First order of business, I am not new to cruising. I have been on 9 cruises from 1992 - present. Not ... Read More
I will go over all the good and bad points about the cruise, which I think are important considerations when selecting a cruise. First order of business, I am not new to cruising. I have been on 9 cruises from 1992 - present. Not only was this my first MSC cruise, it was my first European cruise experience, and it was a little different than a typical Caribbean or Mexico cruise. Also, from what I understand, MSC cruises in the US are different than the ones in Europe, so this review is specific to the Fantasia itinerary starting at Barcelona. Ship: The MSC Fantasia is stunning. Probably the most beautiful ship I have been on. I found it to be classy and elegant; stylish but not the Vegas style of a Carnival ship. Normally on a cruise I find I am always freezing. On this ship, I found the temp to be a little warm and stuffy, which was kind of a drag when dressed up. Granted it was Sept in the Mediterranean, but usually the air conditioning is pretty cold. I also understand that Europeans are environmentally focused, and noticed that air conditioning was lacking everywhere we went. No biggie. Atmosphere: The most astonishing thing about this cruise was how quiet it was. I don't mean that I didn't hear other passengers, rather, I didn't hear announcements. While this could potentially make you feel a little disconnected from what is going on, I really loved that the announcements were kept to an absolute minimum. Since disembarkation happened at every port except Tunisia from what I understand, I never even heard the announcements to disembark except when I was waiting for it in the designated lounge. Somehow this cruise has the chaotic task of embarkation and disembarkation at every port (i.e. people starting and finishing on different islands) and still managed to run like a well oiled machine. The ship did feel a bit crowded, as some people were a little pushy and cut in lines etc. Probably true of anywhere, but we were particularly aware of it because we made an extra effort to be very quiet and polite, since we had heard that our reputations (as Americans) precede us in Europe. Safety: For anyone who has been on a US cruise, you will remember that the ship doesn't move 2 feet until the muster drill is complete. Well apparently, the maritime laws dictate that this needs to happen once in a 7day cruise. Since most passengers get on this cruise in Genoa, Italy, we did not do the muster drill until the 3rd of our cruise. For those who got on in Naples, it seems they wouldn't do this until the last day of their cruise. No big deal, but a little odd to me. Shows: These are musical in nature because so many languages are spoken by passengers. We only went to one show, and it was awful. People who went to more shows had nice things to say, but from the one that I saw, it was not up to the RCCL or CCL levels of talent I had seen. Service: This was very different than a US cruise. Neither or waiter or stateroom attendant went out of their way to introduce themselves, and the amount of English spoken by our dining staff was minimal. In the past I felt that everyone got very chummy thru the week. This was not the case. The service was very, very good, but much less personal, and some might say intrusive than what I am used to. Stateroom attendant fixed our room up spotlessly and left us ice per request every day without being reminded. Dinner staff was efficient. Ordering drinks was difficult because of a language barrier or maybe no bar selections in the dining room...hard to tell. We just had a hard time getting anything besides wine. Even beer, they asked large or small, but not what kind. The servers in the lounges and poolside wait until you look as though you need something. It was not a constant barrage of servers trying to take orders. Food: It was pretty good, not outstanding. Some was good, some was just okay. We at dinner every night in the dining room, so we didn't try all the other specialty restaurants. I would say do not eat in the sports bar, that food was weird. It was trying to be American themed (wings, sliders) and really missed the mark. The buffet food was good, but pretty heavy. I got sick of it by the end. Dinner was the best meal of the day. The dining room is a good bet if you are a foodie. Allow 2 hours for dinner in the dining room. The buffets don't run around the clock, and there is a bit of downtime between 5pm and 9:15 (for second seating) and that is when my husband started getting hungry. We either ordered room service for a snack or waited it out. Most people would not go hungry on this cruise, especially if you sample some food in port. There was a themed midnight buffet every night, including a CanapE night, Fruit Fiesta, Desserts, etc. Nothing too lavish, but many cruises have done away with this anyway. Gym, Spa: Didn't use...we just ate ourselves silly on this cruise, and didn't do a darn thing about it! Lounges, music: Very good, wide variety. Casino was also great. They had slots, poker, Blackjack, craps. Stateroom: We booked an outside stateroom, and ended up with a balcony. As such, we were in the room more than we would have been. It was wonderful. The room was bigger than usual, very comfortable, and had a couch and large bed. Bathroom was comfortable, shower was small, but typical. Most rooms on the outside had balconies, so you could get upgraded. I loved having this. It made the room feel so open and large. Cost: It is very important to note that the cost structure on this cruise is different than NCL, RCCL, etc. They charge for almost everything. Room service, water, coffee other than the HORRIBLE stuff served at breakfast. I am used to a specialty meal having a cost, but our bill was higher than what we were used to on a cruise. Add to the fact that US Dollars are low compared to Euros, the economy of this cruise shifted to being fairly costly. Just know that when you go in. If you are American, remember that a $6 drink is really a $9 drink, etc. All in all, we loved the ship, and would do this again. This cruiseline may not be for everyone, but is very good and we think it will grow in popularity. People just need to know what they are booking and what they like. It's no Carnival, maybe just a refined version of RCCL, in my very humble opinion. Happy Cruising! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
Was totally impressed with check in process on this ship. This was my eighth cruise and I was pleasantly surprised to find no lines and was checked in and taken to my room by a white gloved bellgirl within 20 minutes. I realized later ... Read More
Was totally impressed with check in process on this ship. This was my eighth cruise and I was pleasantly surprised to find no lines and was checked in and taken to my room by a white gloved bellgirl within 20 minutes. I realized later that this cruise line has passengers checking in and out at every port. It doesn't seem to disrupt any of the other passengers in any way. High marks for this, I have not seen it before. Loved the fact that they stop every day in a different port, no sea days. The other impressive feature was that they check everyones temperature, unbeknownst to them, for the reason of the recent H1N1 outbreaks. Evidently no one with a fever is allowed on the ship. This ship is probably the most beautiful I have ever seen. Room was great and comfortable with a balcony. My issue with this cruise was the fact I ever felt CROWDED in the public spaces. The breakfast and lunch buffets were ridiculously CROWDED, you could not find a seat after you struggled to get your food. The food all over was mediocre at best, except the pasta which was great. I was disappointed in the dining room food but the staff were amazing. Another big issue for me is that you cannot get water with lunch or dinner without paying extra. If you do the lunch buffet the water is locked down you have to buy, only available at breakfast along with juice and then handled only by the few staff. This CROWD factor and the food, water and short staff issue would make me NOT select this line again, IT totally spoiled this lovely ship. They need more staff. I think they had 4000 passengers and only 1000 staff. We never even met our cabin steward nor did we get ice unless we made a call. Other passengers told us that room service was extra. We did not use it so you should check before ordering. We took a "shopping" excursion thru the ship to the Medina. If you're not familiar with a medina my understanding was that it's origin is from the middle ages when a city's first defense was the wall around the town then the streets were purposely made into a maze, laden with secrets, narrow alleyways, small shops, huge mosques, and palaces to further confuse their enemies if they got thru the outside wall. Our guide told us not to leave on our own cause we would never find our way out and he was right. We were never left to "shop" on our own. First we were taken to a rug shop, led up a small crooked and very old staircase and brought into a small room for the purpose of selling us a Tunisian rug. They served us all a hot tea (it was gross),then proceeded to pressure sell us on their rugs, camel hair to silk. (I never did find out if they had to kill the camel to get the hair, does anyone know). The silk rug were very beautiful but very expensive. The excursion list did not mention this rug sale. Next we were whisked away to one shop that was just opened to us with many sales men trying to get you to buy something. They all expect you the haggle with them. Next we went to another village painted all white with blue trim called Sidi Bou Said. We were oriented to the area and shopping. The men (I didn't see any women) really try hard to sell you something whether you want it or not. Well I guess it was a 'shopping' excursion. These areas are miles from the ship and other than pay a taxi, which I hear are very good, this would be difficult to do on your own. The area is very interesting and should not be missed. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
Having carried out extensive homework before boarding the MSC Fantasia, I must admit to a tiny niggle of reluctance about several aspects of what lay ahead for my wife and I and our two grandchildren (aged 13 and 11) knowing that a couple ... Read More
Having carried out extensive homework before boarding the MSC Fantasia, I must admit to a tiny niggle of reluctance about several aspects of what lay ahead for my wife and I and our two grandchildren (aged 13 and 11) knowing that a couple of negative reviews can colour expectations. I have to admit, however, that some of the negatives (I think I remember a complaint about no smoked salmon and grumbles that the cabin towels had not been twisted into shapes of animals) were easily dismissed as irrelevant - I've stayed at some of the best hotels in the world and have yet to experience the latter. We'd chosen to board at Barcelona as the timing suited us. Our bags were whisked away as soon as we alighted from the taxi at the port to view the enormity of the vessel towering above us. We were shown to the check-in terminal. Having filled in MSC's priority boarding page and printed it off from their website, there was a special area for us to check in (complete with red carpet) where the whole procedure took no more than a few minutes. After being handed our boarding cards, we went aboard and were immediately escorted to our balcony cabin by a white-gloved steward. At this stage, one couldn't help be impressed by a). the service so far and b). the sheer opulence (and cleanliness) of the ship itself. Our cabin was a delight, large and airy. The decor was classily muted; a king-size bed for us, a similar sized bed-settee for the children (made up later that evening while we were at dinner, and our bed turned down). A flat screen television, desk, table, chair, bathroom with shower (and handy drying line) - toiletries provided. We'd actually arrived in time for a late lunch, so off to the Zanzibar on Deck 14. A wide variety of food here, crowded at one end (why is it that people seem to attract more people? Do they feel safe in numbers?). A quick perusal indicated there was far more room - and less noise - towards the rear of this massive restaurant which was where we headed from then on. Attentive waiters (a smile always evoked one in return), any amount of pasta, soups, a roast of the day, salads, you name it - and, yes, chips and burgers - also deserts galore and plenty of fresh fruit. Okay, so if you want a bottle of water, it's 2.30 euros, but there's an iced water machine were you can help yourself for free. Next, a stroll around the ship to admire its splendour. Bars everywhere, from the sophisticated to the slightly brash and glitzy. Several coffee shops, a shopping mall leading to the 'piazza' where an afternoon dish of delicious Italian ice-cream went down a treat. An adults-only sunbathing area with pool was available on Deck 16. The view of Barcelona from our balcony was magnificent against the setting sun as we silently slid out of the port at 6pm. One of the features of this cruise we really came to appreciate was that the majority of the sailing was at night - so, to awake each day in a new destination was delightful (and the Fantasia is so well-balanced that it was often difficult to determine we were actually moving). Dinner in the Red Velvet dining room was a six-course affair (it wasn't Michelin-starred but, hey, did you seriously expect it to be?). Still, the fayre was plenty stylish and adequate - we had lobster on our first night and a ceremonious fanfare of chefs ferrying the flaming pavlovas in a grand entrance. I took a dark suit for our two formal nights which was fine (a few guests never bothered with other than shirt and casual slacks). Then off to the show in the impressive 1600-seater theatre. The imaginative professional productions lasted around 45 minutes which we found just right...singers, dancers, a magician, cirque du soleil-type acrobats all set off by truly spectacular lighting. I found these shows far superior to others witnessed on a six-star cruise. One of the great attractions of MSC Cruising - especially in these credit-crunch days - is that the kids go free. Plus, of course, the Italian reputation for their general love of children which was clearly evident by all of the staff. On a couple of mornings we ordered continental breakfast in our cabin - no charge. Being independently-minded, we skipped the organised excursions and did our own thing - the 90 euro taxi (for four) to Pompei from the port of Naples was much appreciated and our friendly driver picked us up at the allotted time to return us to the ship (just in time for complimentary tea and cakes) at 4pm. I could go on here, but I hope that, by now, you've got the message. It was a most enjoyable cruise among an array of nationalities, fellow Brits, Americans, Japanese, French, Spanish, and, of course, Italian. It's a big ship carrying lots of people - but, surprisingly, it never felt crowded and, because of the Fantasia's itinerary, one could always find somewhere quiet during the day (some bars were completely devoid of people). Yes, you have to pay for coffee etc (except at breakfast) and, of course, alcohol, but MSC's lower cruise price structure surely allows for this contingency. Would I recommend the Fantasia? Yes. Would the children? Definitely. Enough said. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
MSC Fantasia Western Med. week cruise review. Relax and enjoy this wonderful cruise . After reading so many negatives we were a bit nervous about our choice of MSC since we are first time , American English speaking only, cruisers in our ... Read More
MSC Fantasia Western Med. week cruise review. Relax and enjoy this wonderful cruise . After reading so many negatives we were a bit nervous about our choice of MSC since we are first time , American English speaking only, cruisers in our mid sixties. We had a great time. The ship is lovely, the rooms are excellent, large, immaculate, as is the entire ship. The food was abundant, varied, and something for everyone. If you have a special request, such as blue cheese for your cheese platter , it is taken care of quickly and amiably. The crew the room stewards, the waiters, towel guys, deck hands, maitre d, reception , etc. were all very polite, well groomed, and eager to help. When language was a barrier , ( happened very seldom) they were most patient muddling through until we all were clear on the question and the answer. The nightly entertainment in the wonderful theater varied each evening and lasted about 45 minutes , we went to all but one. Go, do not expect Broadway Stars, but very talented , multi cultural , enthusiastic performers. Each presentation was a delight to the eye, extravagant costumes, brilliant lighting, and great musical numbers. All can be enjoyed by any language or age. We changed our dinner seating after two nights , we were assigned a table with French speaking only couples. They were very nice, but we felt sort of awkward doing charades etc. People change every evening for a variety of reasons, often as we did , they meet people they want to eat with . The procedure is easy, just go to the dining room you are assigned between four and six. Speak to the maitre d and they will switch you . We found, that a smile or a laugh , and common courtesy is the best way to get anything , just as anywhere else in the world. We did not encounter any rude Italians, French, stodgy, whiny British, that have been alluded to in other reviews . Everyone was friendly, and in a vacation mood. I wonder, after reading so many negatives reviews , if these people are unpleasant when seeking help etc. , then are met with the same attitude . Just a thought. Coming on board was easy in Marseille, a que of about twenty minutes , baggage checked , and off we went. Our luggage was at our door by the time we had walked around the public spaces . ( There is an orientation meeting held in your native language and you are met by a liaison who speaks your language , but we were not aware of that . It is listed in the daily paper that you will find in your room when you arrive. We just didn't read it right away. So check that as soon as you get to your room . Would have saved us some confusion . ) Disembarkation was easy, there is a meeting the night before ( also listed in your daily paper) and you also get papers on what to do with passports etc. It was fairly simple, only thing I would say is you do not need to be in the lounge at 8 am, but you do need to pick up you passport at reception AFTER 8 am. We didn't leave until around 9:45. We hurried to get there, didn't have time for breakfast , and sat until 9:45. A hint : The ship sells good walking tour maps of each town at Reception for .50. Well worth it so you can plan ahead. You can get free ones in town or of course use the internet. We basically did our own thing in each port except Naples and Barcelona. Naples we did the Pompeii tour, it was good, but would suggest you do the Museum in town instead since most of the artifacts from Pompeii are housed there. Barcelona: we caught a BLUE bus to town, meets at the terminal, 3 Euros round trip compared to the MSC shuttle at 6 euros. Then caught the Hop on and Off bus right at the drop off spot. There are people at the terminal with information and pamphlets, just ask. This was a more reasonably priced way to go than a tour. Some places we loved . Marseille: The Old Port. You need to take a taxi or walk out of the terminal ( about a mile and a half ) to the bus stop at the entrance the terminal or take a Hop on and Off bus which was there at the dock, too far from town to walk . ( We flew out of Marseille the taxi was about 18 Euros. ) Genoa: the port and the back streets. We just walked to town, you can walk to the Aquarium too. There are inexpensive harbor tours , like 10 euros. Palermo: we walked to town , head for the old town and the main shopping streets. We found an old market street that was absolutely glorious in colors and foods along with some old, incredibly beautiful 1600s churches tucked in among the food vendors. Tunis , get a cab right at the dock for about 40 euros for about three hours , the driver will wait for you when you want to get out and walk, shop or eat etc. and tell you about the area . Palma, again we walked to town. The harbor is vibrant, some fun seafood spots, the Cathedral is at the far end of the harbor, a couple of miles. Worth the leisurely walk .The grounds are interesting as are the back streets . Wonderful little shops tucked in the side streets with pastries, and other goodies. Barcelona: ( done on Hop on and Off ) the HUGE food market was immaculate in the old town area, a good place to have paella for lunch. The Olympic Games grounds offers a good view of the city. We were impressed at how clean the city is. We ran out of time, but the tram to the fort was hit with others in our dinner group. The itinerary of cities was excellent. A couple of suggestions. Take some wire hangars and a few clothes pins for use on the clothes line in the shower, ask for a room on the left side of the boat since that is the side that faces the coastline. We took two insulated/covered coffee mugs and instant ice tea and lemonade . Used the ship water and had ice delivered every day ( no charge). The ship's water is fine to drink. We chose the soft drink package for 29 euros. You need to buy the drink, ice cream packages at check in and they don't push it. If you don't you pay more later. Same with tours. If you want to go on an excursion you need to book them within the first day or so to save 5%. They do their darndest to book you on a tour in your language, but sometimes it may be two languages. Big Deal. You are in Europe where many languages are spoken. We thought it was fun hearing all the languages and trying to communicate. Meals: The waiters bend over backwards to make you happy. Get to know them. We had breakfast and lunch ( when on board) in the dining rooms. The Zanzabar Cafeteria on deck 14 is a bit of a mad house. But, the view is wonderful. There are hundreds of choices and a super place for kids with huge appetites. All you can eat.) The dining rooms have a more limited menu , but much quieter and civilized. Breakfast and lunch in there are casual attire, but no short shorts , swim wear etc. Some reviews complain about not having twenty four hour food etc. Well breakfast starts in the cafeteria at 6:30 am and is open until 10. The lunch opens at 12 and closes at 4. Tea is at 4 to 5 at the Zanzabar , first dinner starts at 6:45 , there is a midnight buffet . So there is ample time to eat. PLUS you can buy gelato, pastries, etc. through the day. No one starves. Actually some passengers seemed downright gluttonous.( A reason we chose to skip the cafeteria.) Dress: Again posted in the daily news letter what the dress of the evening is. Sadly, there were some who chose to ignore the dress code and came across as crass . Tuxedos are too formal , but a dark jacket, slacks, shirt and tie for the men works for Formal and Informal evenings. The Causal night is shirt with no tie and jacket. Ladies usually wore cocktail dresses, but basically a snazzy black, wrinkle free dress with a couple of dressy jackets or wraps and you are set. I took one dress and a pair of dressy pants and interchangeable tops. I did see a few people turned away from dinner because of their extremely casual attire. ( flip flops and bermuda shorts ). I felt people were allowed to flaunt the dress code because the crew were too polite to embarrass them. On Deck: We spent quite a bit of time on deck when it was hot. Upper deck in the BACK is the ZEN area , no children allowed. There are deck chairs all over the ship, no need to worry about getting one. The pools were a bit chilly for us, they are emptied each night and didn't seem to warm up much. On deck 15 and 16 there are areas with hot tubs, we were often the only ones there. The main pool areas were busy with families , games, dance classes, and a GIANT screen showing a variety of things going on . The exercise area is in the front of the ship , you have to go through the spa. A wonderful panoramic view, lots of exercise equipment . The Room:Shampoo and soap are included, some reviews have said they aren't. Plug ins are various types , I took a dual curling iron. Blow dryer is in the drawer. Towels are changed almost every time you step out of the room by the wonderful room elves. Pool towels are provided by the pools and hot tubs. Beds are turned down each night , and the steward ( Patricia) made us feel spoiled. We would recommend this line , the price was about $3500 less than friends who are going on a similar cruise on another line with a balcony room. That's another two trips! There were few children , but this time of year that was to be expected. We were in minority as Americans, but we weren't going on the trip to be with Americans. The service was excellent, we were comfortable, the ship is huge and lovely, and we didn't feel like we were being hustled at all. We spent a total of 129 Euros on board for a tour and pop. Plus our tipping fee at the end. So we felt we certainly got our money's worth and had no surprise charges. Bon Voyage ,,, Arrivederci... Ciao... Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
Having only been on a much smaller cruise ship previously we were swept away by the Fantasia. Although the ship is huge, we found our way around easily and after 2 days we didn't even need our deck plan map. We were extremely happy ... Read More
Having only been on a much smaller cruise ship previously we were swept away by the Fantasia. Although the ship is huge, we found our way around easily and after 2 days we didn't even need our deck plan map. We were extremely happy with our cabin (having been upgraded by 3 decks), the room was spacious and clean and the balcony was perfect for sitting out in the early evening watching the sun setting. The pool area, although busy, was never too crowded and we discovered a much quieter adults only pool at the back of the ship. As we are not early risers we took advantage of the breakfast room service which was ideal although the times that we ticked were not always the times that it was delivered! We ate in the main restaurant a few times but we also tried out the speciality restaurants, El Sombrero Tex Mex was a particular favourite. We found the waiters & bar staff were always very friendly and chatty. We wasn't too keen on the entertainment as one show featured Irish dancing, acrobatics and ballroom dancing all within 10 minutes with no relevance to the storyline that started and ended the show. The embarkation and disembarkation procedures were a bit confusing but this may have been due to the staff speaking mainly Italian (there were not many British tourists on the ship) and a lot of the announcements were made in 5 different languages, with English being the last. This may have been easier if we had been experienced cruisers and knew what to expect. The ports of call were interesting and the excursions were adequate although we only went ashore at three ports of call, one being an escorted tour. The ship itself is very well laid out with light, airy bars and plenty of seating areas. The gift shop and duty free shop were well stocked and the sweet shop was a delight! The crystal staircase and elevators in the main atrium are spectacular. We would definitely cruise again on MSC Fantasia and would consider trying another MSC ship although we prefer the larger ships. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
My first European cruise was very disappointing. This ship, the MSC Fantasia was absolutely beautiful. Our cabin was perfect. That's where the good news ends. The food was atrocious! The ship had only two special full service ... Read More
My first European cruise was very disappointing. This ship, the MSC Fantasia was absolutely beautiful. Our cabin was perfect. That's where the good news ends. The food was atrocious! The ship had only two special full service restaurants. French, mediocre at best, and a Mexican (why Mexican on an Italian cruise ship when they did not even have an Italian Restaurant??). The Mexican restaurant served a Caesar salad - iceberg lettuce with Italian dressing and some parmesan cheese. Their Fajita was decent and the steak was very good. We ate there 3 times. Breakfast buffet - scrambled, fried, and hard boiled egg. Cold white hard toast and some other breads and rolls. Raw bacon, a few meats and cheese and limited fruit, mostly canned. The same exact buffet every single day. Day one - Genoa - the excursions were cancelled because of weather. Very little information. As a matter of fact, the staff gave us very little information on anything. The port of Gibraltar was also passed by and no information given. We were told we could not pull in and we would go straight to Malagar and arrive at 5 PM. We pulled into Malagar at 2 PM - no further announcement. The food for lunch was boring, lots of stews, goulash, rice, pathetic pasta, more like a hospital cafeteria. Some sliced meats and cheeses, and extremely limited choice of desserts. The pizza was of the quality of supermarket frozen pizza (on an Italian cruise line) no salad bar unless you call iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and onions a salad bar. The fruit consisted of apples, bananas sliced melons and canned fruits. We spent an extra $800 going to the French and Mexican restaurants for something edible. The "crowning glory" was departing in Civitavecchia. We needed to get to the train station from the ship. The day before leaving we asked at Reception. We were told that the taxis would be available. Upon disembarking (in the rain) the taxi driver refused to take us because the trip was too short and told us to walk to the far end of the parking lot (with our luggage) and get on a bus provided by MSC which would take us to the train. Me and my 76 year old husband dragged our luggage to the bus only to be dropped off at the only destination which was far enough from the train to take us a good ten to fifteen minutes walk in the pouring rain again dragging our luggage. We had to stay in these wet clothes for several more hours as we took the train to Rome then changed to the train to Florence. I spent the next few days nursing my sciatic nerve which was killing me since I had to drag my luggage from the bus to the train station. The highlight of this trip was the trip to Mijas (Spain) and Marrakesh (Morocco). The excursions were well run and the guides were terrific. It's too bad the rest of the trip was so disorganized and the food was cheap and mushy. There were very few activities and over-all extremely disappointing!! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
We were excited at our first opportunity to cruise the Mediterranean. The ship was beautiful and our stateroom was lovely and spacious. We were told that we may have to switch rooms (our cruise was booked at the last minute and for a great ... Read More
We were excited at our first opportunity to cruise the Mediterranean. The ship was beautiful and our stateroom was lovely and spacious. We were told that we may have to switch rooms (our cruise was booked at the last minute and for a great price)and although we didn't have to switch rooms, it became clear why they left that option open for themselves; they were taking on and letting go of passengers at every port we stopped at. Now that's very different from the U.S. Some of the other differences became apparent quickly. We went up to the gym to check it out and found out that we had to pay to use the sauna - like over $100 Euros (approximately $150). Then we found out that they don't serve any liquid refreshments with lunch and dinner with the intent of getting more Euros for bottled water. (at breakfast they do serve juice and coffee free of extra charges. Like U.S. cruises they did sell discount tickets for soda and water and beer. But no iced tea which is served on U.S. cruises. The other thing that bothered me is that they provided buses out of all the port areas - just barely out of the port area and charged 5 Euros for each person. It's like they wanted to make it nice BUT wanted to make a profit on every silly little thing they did. I don't like that. I start to feel like I'm being taken advantage of. They charged a lot for internet use, but they must need a bigger satellite because you couldn't get through half the time. The internet connections were very slow when they were working. The food was pretty good. They did have specialty restaurants (TexMex and French) for added fees, but they were virtually empty every night. They were too expensive and everything in them was al a carte. Their food each day at the ship's restaurants was okay - not sensational. The food at the buffet was good, except at breakfast, the bacon was practically raw and the sausage was also undercooked. And then there was the lack of English speaking people on the cruise - not MSC's fault. That just started to bother us after a while. There were primarily Germans, Italians and French on the cruise. There were a few Americans, but only a handful. Because of this experience, I don't think we would go on a European based cruise again. After a while you just feel lonely for someone to speak to - lonely while you are surrounded by 2,000 people! We are very friendly, but it didn't help us and we just didn't like the fact that there were so few English speaking people on board. All in all, it was great to get away. We loved Rome and had a great day in Barcelona visiting Parc Guell. The stops in the Canary Islands and Madiera were okay. I would do it differently next time. And I'm pretty convinced that cruising is not the best way to see Europe; goodness knows you need more than a day in Rome and Barcelona. It is a good way to get a taste of each city and then schedule to come back to the ones you love. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
The ship is really beautiful, the decor is the best I've seen on any cruise line. They had it decorated for Christmas from top to bottom, every area was decorated with Christmas lights and trees. We were so excited about trying the ... Read More
The ship is really beautiful, the decor is the best I've seen on any cruise line. They had it decorated for Christmas from top to bottom, every area was decorated with Christmas lights and trees. We were so excited about trying the food from an Italian cruise line, but the food was terrrible. We always try the main dinning room for dinner but after two nights we had enough of the terrrible service and the food, our server had only 3 tables to take care of and we always had to ask for stuff, on most cruise lines after one night the sever knows what each guest is drinking but not this one. We were expecting some great Italian food not just spaghetti everynight, and WHO EVER HEARD OF CHARGING FOR WATER, that's something we all need to live, come on after paying the cruise price at least through in the bottled water. We tried the French restaurant but the food was just fair, after, the food in the tex-mex place was ok, but the best food was in the sports bar we had some fish and chips in there that were great, the buffet area was ok, not much of a choice, always had pizza not to good. The bar service was the best on any cruise line and they don't skimp on the liquor in all the drinks. But come on charging for WATER, we need that to live. They do sell bottle water coupons so buy them if you drink alot of water, they also have beer coupons, wine coupons, and mixed drink coupons, we only bought the bottled water coupons because we drink alot of water. The rooms are really spacious, we had a room with a balcony and loved it, my daughter spent alot of time in there since there was not many activies planned throught out the day and the weather was alittle cool so you couldn't lay out around the pool. The shows at nigth were great, the best we've seen at sea and this was our 15th cruise, but they do not serve drinks in the theater, you could bring on in but no where to set them down since there where not tables. Really check on this cruise before you go and take snacks in your suite case cause you'll need them. We were worried about the language barrier, but had not problem, and unlike other carnival they do not bug you to have those picture's made all the time. The only good thing about this cruise was the ports and you can catch the ship at any of the ports which worked out for us since we wanted to spend extra nights at some of the ports. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
Background- We are a couple in our early 30's from the U.S. This was our second cruise together, and our first med cruise. It was also our first anniversary. Pre-cruise: We had spent the week before our cruise in Germany, so we had ... Read More
Background- We are a couple in our early 30's from the U.S. This was our second cruise together, and our first med cruise. It was also our first anniversary. Pre-cruise: We had spent the week before our cruise in Germany, so we had a short (around an hour) flight from Munich into Turin. As a U.S. traveler, I was very impressed by the Munich airport. We didn't have to take off our shoes to go through security! In fact, the entire time from when we got dropped off at the airport to when we were standing at our gate was about 20 minutes (this included checking bags.) The Turin airport was similarly easy. We collected our baggage, and went to the tourist information desk to buy bus tickets into the city. The bus took us to the main train station and our hotel (the Majestic Hotel) was across the street. Our hotel was fine. I did not sleep much b/c there are no clocks in the room, and there was a fair amount of light coming into our room due to very thin curtains, and the bright sign outside our room. We enjoyed walking around Turin that evening and had a very good dinner that was quite reasonably priced. We would have liked to have more time there. The next morning we took the train to Genoa. We took the regional train because we wanted to get to Genoa earlier than we could on the IC train. It was easy to use, and the journey took about 2 hours. It was drizzling for most of our ride, so we couldn't see much. We arrived in Genoa about 10:30. Upon arriving at the Genoa train station, we walked around the train station to see if we could see the port. We could see the Fantasia! We thought about trying to walk, but we couldn't really see how to get there, and it was raining harder, so we went back up to the train station and got a cab. Embarkation: We weren't sure if we would be able to get on or not, since it was about 10:45 at this point, and we had found the documentation about when embarkation starts to be sort of vague (but mostly seemed to say it would start at 2pm) but in light of the rain we thought we would try. There were plenty of people there, and upon arriving at the port we were greeted by an MSC representative and a bellhop who put on our luggage tags and whisked our luggage away. The entire check in procedure took about 45 minutes- not much at all, and we were on board! We proceeded to explore the ship, and then we went to the buffet for lunch. OUR ROOM: We had booked the lowest category of balcony room. Our room was really nice. It was bigger than the balcony room we had the year before on the Crown Princess. Our balcony was bigger as well. We really liked the balcony furniture- very comfortable wicker instead of plastic furniture. The bathroom had a full tub rather than just a shower. We were on deck 8. Our location on deck 8 had pluses and minuses. The pluses, we took the stairs almost all the time and didn't need to wait for the elevators, which could be quite crowded. The minuses- The promenade deck was directly below us, so if anyone was on the promenade, they could see our balcony. The lifeboats are on deck 7-so looking down from the balcony, that is what we saw. (Looking out we saw the ocean and whatever we were passing.) For some odd reason, every morning around 9am they crew would clean the lifeboats by spraying them with water, and would also turn and spray the deck 8 balconies. This meant that our deck furniture was soaked. We only really noticed this on the days that we didn't have early port calls. We weren't sure if we needed a balcony for a winter med cruise, but we loved having it. During the day we were comfortable on the balcony in jeans and long sleeve t-shirts, at night I would add a sweatshirt and be fine. We loved being able to see different islands and the Italian coast line from our balcony. We passed through the straights of Messina from 11:15-1am or so on New Year's Eve, and we were able to watch fireworks going off all over Sicily- this was an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately, we were less impressed by our room steward. She was fine, and we are not that picky, but I expected better. We ran out of toilet paper, and had to track it down, she took away 1 washcloth after 1 day and didn't replace it until day 6. At one point we couldn't find DH's sweatshirt- we found it late that night when we went to bed- it had been made into the bed. Also (and I guessing this may be the company, not her fault) she took away our robes and the MSC book the day before disembarkation. This was annoying, partly because we did not realize the robes were gone until we were about to put them on. FOOD & DRINKS: drink package- We had pre-purchased drink package 704, which for $16 a day gave us unlimited bottled water/ soda's/ beers/ and wine in the restaurants. This worked out really well for us. I am a HUGE water drinker, and this meant that the common MSC complaint about no tap water was irrelevant for us. Every night in the restaurant our waiter automatically brought us a bottle of quite good red wine, and a bottle of water. He would bring us another bottle of water at the end of dinner to take with us, and offered us more wine. (1 bottle a night is enough for us, so we declined additional wine.) At lunch we got bottles of water, and soda in cans, and then would get additional cans of soda and bottles of water to take with us at the end of the meal. I used the water on our excursions as well. Dinner in Dining Room- We were in the C' di Oro dining room second seating at a table for 6. Our waiter was truly outstanding. He was fast, efficient, polite, and accurate. The food was in general pretty good. The pasta dishes were the best things on the menu. Every night there was a 'regional' menu featuring a different region of Italy, ordering the straight regional menu generally resulted in the best food. We were seated with two other lovely couples, one from Switzerland, and one from Belgium. Our seating arrangement was somewhat awkward b/c one of the couples clearly preferred to be speaking french, and were quite disappointed to discover that we spoke no french. A few nights when we wanted to finish dinner a little sooner we just ordered through the pasta course, which also worked fine. I did miss the anytime dining options on Princess, while we loved having the same waiter, dinner did get somewhat tiring, the combination of struggling to communicate with our table mates, and not eating until 8:45. Lunch in Dining Room- we had lunch in the dining room several times. It was quite good. Lunch was in the Red Velvet restaurant, and we did like it better than our dining room. Lunch in Buffet- we ate lunch in the buffet 3 times. The first time we thought it was okay. The second time was as we were leaving Naples, all aboard was at 2:30, and the buffet closed at 3. We were not the only ones who had the idea to go there right before closing, and it was insane. After lapping the tables twice and being completely unable to find any seats we carried our food down to our room and ate on our balcony, our food was completely cold. We weren't that hungry on the second sea day and decided to go there for lunch- we were able to find a seat without a problem, but the food just wasn't very good. It always took a LONG time to get drinks in the buffet. Another odd thing about the buffet is that they put plates on both sides of every station- which means there is no correct way the line should flow, and people are sort of colliding with each other reaching around and getting food. Room Service Breakfast- a fairly basic menu, but perfectly fine. We especially liked the yogurt. Buffet Breakfast- we only did this once, and thought it terrible. There was a quite limited selection, and all of the egg varieties were completely cold. Dining Room Breakfast- We did this twice. Both times it was quite good. Le Etoile, French Restaurant- We made reservations here for our anniversary. We were somewhat disappointed in it. We loved the atmosphere, it was quiet, there was a nice piano player, we had a wonderful view, and a table for 2. The food was just okay. The service was just okay, our service in the main dining room was better. The wine we ordered (for some 39 euros) was significantly worse than the wine we got as part of our drink package in the main dining room. Tex Mex Restaurant- we went here twice for snacks. The prices were pretty good, and the food was fine. A warning to any American guests- at least what we got was not what I think of as Tex/ Mex- it is more Central American. The quesadilla was good, but quite spicy, and much thicker then a traditional tex/mex quesadilla. The toppings on the tostada were cold, as in just out of the refrigerator cold. La Cantina Toscana- we LOVED this wine bar and went here several times before dinner. Both of the Ukrainian waitresses were excellent and quite knowledgeable about wines. They would make great recommendations to us, and would bring us tastes of wine before we ordered. Our glasses of wine came with perfectly paired appetizers, that were included in the price of the glass of wine. ENTERTAINMENT: We went to two of the shows and thought they were quite good. They were both cirque de soleil style acts. I was impressed by the quality of the performances. We also went to several of the bars after dinner and sat and listened to the music, all of the musicians were very good. There was a band and dancing every night in La Insolita lounge. The dance floor was always pretty full with lots of people dancing, most of whom were much better than us! DISEMBARKATION: I seriously doubt there is a good way to disembark that many people from the ship. That being said- I found disembarkation to be fairly odd. We were given luggage tags with colors, and we got the sheet the night before which identified which groups should get which colors. But the sheet did not give any times, or priority to which color would be disembarked first. The morning of disembarkation it appeared rather random which color would be called over the loudspeaker. Fortunately, we were not in a hurry, so we just sort of ignored it. The papers that we got had said our passports would be ready for pickup at 9:15, but about 8:15 an announcement came across the loudspeaker saying that the passports were available for pickup. MISC NOTES AND IMPRESSIONS: I loved the more laid back atmosphere of the Italian cruise line, I did not feel like MSC was trying to make sure that I was fully entertained at every minute of the day. There appeared to be 1 activity at every time slot, rather then multiple things at all times. I did not feel at all pressured to buy drinks, it was perfectly acceptable to sit in the bars and listen to music, we were generally only asked once if we wanted something to drink- I enjoyed this. Having everything done in 5 languages, and struggling some to communicate, tired me more than I thought it would. I also discovered how much American slang I use in every day speech. (ie- in response to a question such as would you like more bread, if I say "I'm okay" more bread is likely to appear, when what I really meant was no.) The elevators were quite crowded, and fellow passengers did not help this. It appeared that most people simply got in the first elevator that came, whether or not it was going the way they wanted to go- and rode it until it got to where they wanted to be. This did not help with crowding, we generally avoided this by taking the stairs. I was quite surprised at how many children were at the second seating. At the tables near us there were several children under the age of 5, who were not coping with the late long dinner well. They spent a significant amount of time rolling on the floor, which was a constant threat to our poor waiter trying to step over them. At one point a child knocked over an ice bucket into my husband's lap (this did result in him getting taken out of the dining room.) I was even more surprised by MSC's decision to pass out noisemakers to the children at dinner on New Year's eve- they blew them all through dinner this was REALLY annoying. On our formal nights, people were VERY dressed up- this might have been because one was NYE. There were several men in tuxes, and almost all other men were in nice dark suits. Women were more mixed, but very well dressed over all. The weather was better than I expected it would be- we were generally comfortable in long sleeve t-shirts, and it only rained the day we embarked. The seas were very choppy- I felt the motion of the boat much more than I had in the Caribbean last January. (This directly contradicted what our travel agent had told us- that the Caribbean was choppier than the Med, he was wrong- but then again he was wrong about most of the things he had told us, so this doesn't really surprise me.) Read Less
Sail Date: June 2010
I traveled with my 16 daughter and 20 year old son. My daughter and I cruised on MSC last summer, too, since she is free until she is 18 with two paying adults. This cruise is not like a Carnival cruise. Dinner and snack options are ... Read More
I traveled with my 16 daughter and 20 year old son. My daughter and I cruised on MSC last summer, too, since she is free until she is 18 with two paying adults. This cruise is not like a Carnival cruise. Dinner and snack options are rather limited. There are many courses served at dinner, but none is particularly good. This is an Italian ship, and there are few American guests. Nonetheless, the staff is very helpful, and I didn't find much of a communication problem. The ship is very clean, and the rooms were well maintained. There were only two afternoons that we were on the ship, and I looked forward to lying by the pool. Unfortunately, everyone else did, too, and finding sunchairs was difficult. Drinks, including water, are expensive. The ship offers a Sports Bar and Tex Mex Restaurant which offer decent (better than the dining room)food, for an extra charge. I thought the cruise itself was very affordable. Drinks, extra food and excursion costs add up, but those items are all optional. There were a number of great ports of call. If your number one concern isn't delicious cuisine, I'd recommend it. Read Less
MSC Fantasia Ratings
Category Editor Member
Rates 3.0 3.5

Find a MSC Fantasia Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise