MSC Armonia review
Each person that cruises will have their own set of criteria for evaluating a cruise. Complaints by some are rejected by others. I accept that. Having been fortunate enough to have traveled on many cruises across ... Read More
MSC Armonia review
Each person that cruises will have their own set of criteria for evaluating a cruise. Complaints by some are rejected by others. I accept that. Having been fortunate enough to have traveled on many cruises across several cruise lines, I will do my best to be objective.
Overall MSC is a very successful company for cargo transport that has expanded into the passenger cruise business. As such, they are well behind the power curve compared to other cruise lines. Some of the issues I will identify may have been addresses in their newer ships. I only have my experience on Armonia to evaluate. For example, their app does not work with Armonia at all.
This Caribbean cruise was booked two years in advance for the sole reason of the stop in Cuba. Because of a recent change in policy, no new passengers could be added for trips to Cuba. Since the ship was not full, MSC (and other cruise lines) cancelled the Cuba stop in order to keep adding passengers for the trip. At this point MSC fell apart. At no time was I notified of any changes. I found out when my credit card was credited for a Cuba excursion. I tried calling but after 90 minutes on hold, I gave up. I tried their CALL ME link several times, even asking about a new cruise, but never got any return call. The itinerary seemed to change over a dozen times, stopping in Ocho Rios or Cozumel at various points. The website never listed any itinerary at any time. The only way to figure out ports was looking at excursions and seeing the ports. Over time Ocho Rios disappeared and Montego Bay appeared. Similarly other ports changed, the schedule changed, and the passenger was never notified. Even shore excursions appeared then disappeared. They didn’t even have any excursions for Ocean Cay listed. Eventually, about 3-4 months prior to departure did things become more finalized. At times the webpage wouldn't even load (message said it was LOADING but nothing happened on multiple computers at different times). The website also had numerous other problems but no one at MSC seemed to care. I tried to get a refund for an excursion that we upgraded to a better on (after all the changes MSC made to excursions), but could not find a way to do it online. I tried to do it on the ship but was told I had to do it 2 days before sailing. They were completely unwilling to make changes or give me credit. Then on a MSC excursion, a portion (the catamaran) was cancelled. MSC refused to give any refund on it, blaming it on the contract company. Yet this was a MSC excursion. After arguing for a bit, they gave us a $10 cushion for Ocean Cay. I gave up at that point.
We were given a time to check in and showed up at that time. It didn’t matter as hundreds of others ignored any time periods and just showed up. The result was Disney-esq cue lines and over an hour wait. On top of that, we had been to China 2 years ago and were pulled aside for additional screening. Seriously! Two years ago and they are worried we had the virus!
The long lines should have been a clue for future embarkation procedures because the lines to get on/off the ship were always huge. MSC had not yet figured out efficient boarding procedures. Re-boarding is a joke. Big lines snake around in a very tiny space to go through the scanner. Everyone is jammed in so tight that they can’t even unload from the tender until the lines move forward a little. Very inefficient and cumbersome. Expect wait times for re-boarding.
MSC is truly an international cruise company. Our cruise had almost 25% citizens from France. As such, Americans need to be prepared for this. Personal space is not the same. Announcements take several minutes as multiple languages are broadcast. But the experience of talking with so many different cultures is amazing. Granted some do not speak English so you may not be able to communicate with everyone you might want to. Smoking is allowed, so be aware of the designated smoking sections (even on the pool deck) in order to avoid them. Also, this is a budget family cruise ship. Expect lots of kids, tons of loud music and parties. That is the one thing that it seems MSC excels at, and this is working with the children. They even performed for us at the evening shows!
The buffet food is good but nothing exceptional. I think they try to appease so many cultures with such a variety of food that they end up going for quantity and sacrificing quality. The restaurant food is very good, especially the Surf and Turf restaurant.
The ship is an older, smaller vessel last in dry dock 2014 where they added 80 feet in the middle and a bunch of cabins. In Nov 2019 the ship was in Freeport for three weeks for minor maintenance for the public area. Unfortunately they didn’t adjust the buffet area either time, so it is a total zoo with inadequate number of seats. On our cruise they decided to do maintenance work on the outside seating area, taking away 25% of the available seats. People were very angry as they just wanted any place to sit. Some passengers revolted and sat in the outside area anyway, ignoring the workers. The dining area is just too small for a ship that has 2000 passengers. I was going to say I don’t think the outside windows in the public area have been cleaned in months, but then in the Port in Miami, a robot washing arm went by and sprayed water on the windows. So while they may have been washed, the were not cleaned at all and no squeegee wiping, so the windows were opaque with a mineral film over them. Disappointing.
Also, because the ship is older, there is a definite need for some work. We like the older ships. They have an ambience missing in the newer glitzy ships that focus on avant-garde looks and cosmic design that does nothing for the passenger. Older ships are more personable. But Armonia needs work. From broken seats, bar stools, cracked windows, faded and sun streaked curtains, and mold in the bathrooms, and missing balcony door handles, she is showing her age. The kids spray park was shut down for the week for some maintenance. The main pool was shut down and emptied for maintenance for a day. Rooms come with a single outlet for charging your devices, and it isn’t by the bed. Some modernization is needed and MSC doesn’t show any future dry dock schedule for Armonia.
The entertainment is good, but after six days with the same dance group, it becomes routine. Lots of criticism from many guests about the Beatles/Elvis/Queen show and the singer. He just couldn’t hit the notes and people all around us were squirming in their seats. I like those cruise lines that bring in outside entertainment at least for one or two days. It gives variety. Perhaps one of the best things about the entertainers is that for a couple of nights they have some amazing gymnastic performers (acrobats, or whatever you want to call them). They were incredible.
Ocean Cay is not quite ready for Prime Time, with lots of construction still going on, and problems with the lack of beverage servers (hour wait to get something from the bar). The area and the beaches are great, and there is so much beach space you will never be crowded. They have a kids area also. What they are missing is an area for smokers, as several around us were smoking. They also need to designate an adults only area for those ladies going topless (remember this is an international cruise). I just didn’t think it appropriate around younger teens, at least for Americans. The evening light house performance was neat, but though it was scheduled, MSC had no chairs for the guests to view the show. Some wise people brought some over from the pavilion but most of us had no place to sit.
The saddest part about Ocean Cay is the lack of trash receptacles, at least on the Southern beach. There wasn’t a single trash receptacle at any of the cabanas. MSC spent millions redoing this island and to see the trash blowing around, and all the cigarette butts in the sand, it is very disappointing. It is much like the decay in California beaches and others.
The best thing about MSC is the staff. Most all the staff we dealt with were exceptional. The room attendant, the dining staff, the cruise staff, and the entertainers were very friendly and helpful. They were enjoyable to talk to and find out about their experience on MSC. The only issue we had was with the Filipino pool bar staff. Since the Easy beverage package is restricted to $6 per drink, they are only a couple mixed drinks that are available. The suggestion on various MSC forums is to order the non-alcoholic version of a drink, and then order a shot (like order a Coke them order a shot of rum to get your rum & Coke). The pool bar attendants on the 2nd day came up with a new rules that you had to wait for 30 minutes between orders. Clearly this is not listed in the package restrictions but something they were doing on their own. I say this because it seemed to happen to passengers only when using a bartender from the Philippines. The bartenders from Indonesia and other places didn’t seem to care at all. Again, a minor issue but sure cheap tactics.
In conclusion, a cruise is what you makes off it. While there port stays were short (4-6 hours is all) until Ocean Cay, there was still time to relax and enjoy the sun. Our cruise was very pleasant but the issues keep it from being outstanding. Maybe the newer ships have learned from Armonia and the other smaller ones and corrected the issues. Read Less