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Sail Date: January 2005
INTRODUCTION This is a review from my cruise aboard the MSC Armonia in January 2005. We sailed seven days from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador and back. The Armonia continues to ply these So American waters so for anyone thinking about ... Read More
INTRODUCTION This is a review from my cruise aboard the MSC Armonia in January 2005. We sailed seven days from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador and back. The Armonia continues to ply these So American waters so for anyone thinking about booking this line, my advice is to do some homework first. As detailed below, this was a horrible cruise, although in fairness to MSC I have heard that the Armonia experience outside of Brazil is not as bad. It could hardly be worse. I have been on over 50 cruises, on just about all cruise lines. Given this extensive experience I consider myself knowledgeable. I had no axe to grind with MSC. This was by far the worst cruise I have been on. Although time has passed since I sailed this review will still be relevant especially to those in the southern hemisphere as the ship continues this So American run. Since we sailed over the New Year, prices might have been somewhat higher than usual. An inside cabin cost about $300 per day per couple. I can usually get outside cabins on mass market lines like HAL, Carnival and RCCL for that or less. Per diem prices for cruises in Brazilian waters are uniformly higher than in most other areas of the world. EMBARKATION - BAD FIRST IMPRESSION Embarkation was special. Somehow we didn't make it on to the passenger list and were refused boarding. A person who I later learned was an MSC land agent tried to help us prove our entitlement to board. Things were frantic and when, out of curiosity (and concern for our bags which he had put aside out of our eyesight) I asked him who he was he told me to "f" myself. This was overheard by MSC staff at the boarding desk, but to my disbelief, no one seemed to care, much less apologize. Subsequently, I learned that it was the chief housekeeper, a senior officer, who had heard this exchange. He later bought me a bottle of wine for my troubles. At her request, I submitted a detailed memo of the outrageous incident to the Hotel Mgr demanding an apology from the MSC agent. When I wrote the home office for a status, it said my memo was lost and I was asked to resubmit it. I did and it went unanswered. DINING and SERVICE Without regard to price, the food was horrendous. The only free breakfast available from room service was a continental one of bread and coffee. Other room service breakfast items came with a charge. There was also a charge for all other room service snacks. The breakfast buffet consisted mainly of scrambled and hard boiled eggs only -- no omelet station, no waffles or pancakes -- sometimes accompanied by reheated hot dogs, greasy bacon or unappetizing cold cuts. The majority of the fruit offerings were canned. Can you imagine that in Brasil where there are fabulous exotic fruits so widely available that they served mostly canned fruit? Unbelievable. Breads were not much better. Only white toast was served -- forget English muffins or bagels. The juice was like Kool-aid. There was a fresh juice (and ice cream) bar, but it was closed because, I was told, it was not profitable. There was no variety from one day to the next. The lunch buffet was not much better. It seemed like the food was recycled. The desserts were bad. As Italians, they ought to be ashamed of what they tried to pass off as pizza. It was worse than any improperly cooked frozen pizza I ever tasted (and I was a bachelor for a long time). They served poor quality hot dogs and hamburgers at the poolside grill. There was no option for a cheeseburger or veggie-burger, nor was there any relish, pickles or a normal variety of condiments available. Food handlers often were not wearing gloves, so it didn't come as a total surprise when I got sick the last day of the cruise. Curiously, in the buffet lines and at the grill there are no food trays, one is required to carry a single large plate and put everything on it, including utensils and drinks. This was quite challenging for even the most dexterous of passengers. The situation was exacerbated by the absence of any servers to assist carrying items. Forget about service. The waiters were there to clear the tables, nothing else. Talk about laid back European service. My wife and I played cards for four hours one afternoon at a poolside table on deck, and no one ever came by to ask if we wanted a drink. Dinner in the main dining room was bad. Service vacillated between inept and surly. I attribute the poor service to dining room management. An incident that occurred right after embarkation provided a harbinger of things to come. Through no fault of our own, we were not provided with a dining room seating assignment. I called the Reception Desk to get one, but I was told (after some delay and a couple of follow-up calls) I would have to go to the dining room to get one. Consequently, I had to wait in line approximately one hour just to get a table assignment. Not to change one, but to get one. Though service was lackluster, it was nowhere near as bad as the food itself. In keeping with the ship's Italian origin pasta was served every day which is fine, but it was offered with only the same mundane tomato sauce each and every day. Bread sticks and rolls were ordinary - there was no bread tray. Soups all tasted the same no matter what they were called. The food was over-salted. On one occasion the meat was as tough as shoe leather. On another a fish offering came with some of the scales still clinging to the fish! Some dishes were downright inedible. My tablemates concurred. ENTERTAINMENT/PORTS The ship's cast of dancers (who doubled as the animation team) were OK as performers, but the production values of the shows were poor. The costumes, lighting, props and decor were all amateurish. Music in the lounges was very limited and ordinary at best. We like to dance and have a cocktail before dinner, and we couldn't find a decent spot to do so. There was no functioning library or card room. On the last day, the library was open one hour. It had only a small selection of English paperbacks, probably left behind by passengers, and one Spanish-language Scrabble set. The "animation" team had a field day because there were oodles of children on board. MSC must have been offering a special kids free type promotion. So the lounges were chock-a-block with kiddies screaming and running about. They and there parents may have enjoyed it, but there was little adult dancing, etc. We ventured into the disco a couple of nights and I was shocked to hear the gross rap music lyrics that came out over the loud speakers. It was in bad taste, but the deejay was oblivious. There were no port lectures or presentations of any kind in any language. We have grown accustomed to skipping almost all ship excursions as I find that they are overpriced and/or geared to a less active person. Those offered by the Armonia were no exception. Generally , one can arrange a better tour with a local cabbie at dockside. Which we did at Salvador, Ilheus and Buzios. We did not go shore in Santos ( Sao Paolo's port). ACCOMMODATIONS/PUBLIC AREAS The Armonia is a compact 58,000 gt, but accommodates about 2100 passengers owing to the tiny cabins, compact dining and public rooms, a small casino, no library/card room to speak of and bizarrely spaced shops. All cabins and public rooms and furnishings appeared clean and well maintained though a bit spartan. The pool area with buffet restaurant was typical except for a large eyesore of a rock climbing wall that was sealed off. The gymnasium was adequate. There was a charge to use the saunas - a first in my experience. The cabins were smallish at 144 sq. ft., but had adequate storage space, some of which would have been better devoted to making the uncomfortably tiny shower larger. There was a small refrigerator - good for keeping your own drinks cold, although the price of drinks aboard was reasonable. TV in the rooms advertised pay movies, but none ( pay or non-pay) were available at any time throughout the cruise. There was not much programming at any time, though we did get CNN for a while one day. The cabin attendant provided the best (in fact, the only) decent service. An oasis in a sea of incompetence. The shops were only open limited hours, but that was no problem since they didn't have much to offer. I thought the layout of the shops was disorganized. The underutilized casino had a couple of roulette and blackjack tables and a modest number of slot machines. I don't remember a craps table although there was ample space to install one. The pool was always crowded because on this South American run there were loads of kids...to whom I have no objection. It's just that it was noisy and crowded. CONCLUSION Unless this cruise was an aberration I advise against spending your money with MSC: Caveat emptor. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2005
I'll start by saying MSC in general is a 4 yr old Italian based cruise line that knows very little about servicing American passengers. With 17 cruises aboard 5 various cruiselines under my belt, I'd say MSC on a whole could ... Read More
I'll start by saying MSC in general is a 4 yr old Italian based cruise line that knows very little about servicing American passengers. With 17 cruises aboard 5 various cruiselines under my belt, I'd say MSC on a whole could best be described as Italy's version of Carnival in its early days without the glitz: cheap, adequate, and catering not to the young party crowd but instead older Italian families and children. This was the strangest cruise I've ever taken !! The Armonia was clean and simple in its decor with the feel of an average business hotel, however, we had BY FAR our worst onboard experience ever (which I'll detail later), and BY FAR our best itinerary and ports of call ever. This review should help prepare you in many ways. I'll start with the ports. Embarkation is in Venice and I strongly recommend arriving 2-3 days early or stay 2-3 days in Venice upon returning. There aren't enough adjectives to describe Venice; Romantic, charming, historic, unique, etc. You will do yourself a tremendous injustice if you don't afford yourself the opportunity to walk the many alleyways and canals this magical city has to offer. From Marco Polo Intl Airport the Blue Express Shuttle Bus takes you directly to the Piazza La Roma for 3 euros. This Bus/taxi depot is the main entrance point into the Grand Canal and the entire city of Venice. It's awesome because you'll see no cars anywhere in the entire city, only water taxi's, Vaporetti's, and Gondolas. With a 1-3 day water taxi pass you can ride all the canals of Venice including the numerous surrounding Islands. The cruise port is less than 1/2 mile from Piazza La Roma (walking distance)yet it's a 15 euro taxi fare! The ports of call are as follows: Bari Italy, Corfu Greece, Sanorini Greece, Athens Greece, Katakolon Greece, and Dubrovnik Croatia. DO NOT run yourself ragged trying to hit every port because 6 ports in 7 days is not the norm and you'll need a vacation from the vacation if you're not careful !! The 2 Ports I recommend skipping are Bari and Dubrovnik. Enjoy the emptiness of the ship at these Ports and get yourself some R&R. The ship only has 2 small Jacuzzi's and they stay packed except while in port. Another tip: Get some rest the night of Corfu because the 2 best ports, Santorini and Athens, come back to back with a formal night in Santorini. Corfu was a total shock to me! It's a large Island with a great city port and beautiful beaches and coves. One day isn't enough to properly see it. In Santorini we took the Eio village tour and I highly recommend it as Eio is a ways from the ship. One of the most lovely towns in the world. Athens and the Parthenon were simply amazing!! Katakolon was mountainous, green and fertile. Reminded us of Kauii. Dubrovnik, I recommend you relax on the ship. As for the ship itself, here are some invaluable tips: #1- If you're a couple, see the Maitre'd as soon as you board (1PM) and reserve a 2 seater table (only 6)otherwise you may get stuck at a 6-10 seater with folks that don't speak English. Rm svc there's a charge for everything. #2 Bring a Portable DVD player with 10 videos!! No englis- h tv channels.#3- bring a small iron. #4- request face cloth/robes . #5-buy liquor in Venice, bring onboard, and save a ton! #6- Don't expect good entertainment (all Italian). #7- ask steward to pad your matress with blankets under the sheets. The mattresses are like concrete! OK, after all these warnings, I would still HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS CRUISE if you can get it for $800 or less p/p. $1,200 - $2,000 go with Celebrity, Princess, or RCCL. We found a great price for $650 p/p and the ports alone made this cruise worthwhile and very enjoyable because we were prepared for the numerous onboard shortfalls and now, so are you !! Have fun and savour the beauty and history!!! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
SC Armonia Review The cruise began in Venice a truly spectacular city. We had spent a week in Tuscany at a villa we rented with friends. It was heaven. We then drove to Venice and spent a night at the Hotel Danieli a beautiful, old-world ... Read More
SC Armonia Review The cruise began in Venice a truly spectacular city. We had spent a week in Tuscany at a villa we rented with friends. It was heaven. We then drove to Venice and spent a night at the Hotel Danieli a beautiful, old-world hotel overlooking the lagoon at the beginning of the Grand Canal. Great dinning and shopping  all was perfect. We were relaxed and ready for a long anticipated cruise to the Greek Islands and Dubrovnik. It was all down hill from there. Let me say at the outset that MSC is the most poorly organized cruise company we have ever dealt with  and we have cruised 8 times. The chaos began when a water taxi dropped us at an assembly point for a bus ride to the port where we would clear boarding registration. Several cruise lines were assembling at this location  all had staff available to direct you and answer questions  except MSC. We had to fend for ourselves and find the right bus without benefit of assistance  that includes having to drag our bags across two parking lots and loading them aboard the bus ourselves. After waiting in high-humid heat on a non-air-conditioned bus for one-half hour, we were transported in about ten minutes to what we assumed was the embarkation facility. We were dropped in front of the embarkation facility, but no MSC staff met the bus, so no one was available to direct us where to go or what to do. We dragged our luggage to the main entrance only to be told that we needed to check our luggage in first at a separate building on the other side of the parking lot. So we dragged our bags again  in 100 degree heat. After checking our bags, we returned to the embarkation facility to check in. We were asked for our tickets. I explained that our online travel agency told me that I did not need a ticket that my registration was all set and, because this seemed odd to me, that I had also contacted MSC's New York office, which confirmed that I did not need any additional documentation. The staff in Venice insisted that was wrong but eventually found our reservation and issued our on-board ID cards. Then we waited, and waited, and waited  in a non-air-conditioned lobby. Finally, after about 2 hours, our group number was called and we prepared to go aboard our ship - Armonia. As we soon found out, however, we weren't boarding the ship at all - just lining up for another bus ride. This time it was a 20 minute ride to an industrial port area where MSC has a cargo shipping operation and dockage for our ship. We were unceremoniously welcomed aboard  no welcoming cocktail for example  only to find that our ID cards were not valid. We had to stand in line again, explain again that we did not have tickets, hear again that we were suppose to have them, finally, after about one-half hour, new ID cards were issued and we were led to our cabin. It took 3.5 hours to board  but we were finally there. Thankfully, the cabin was nice  as was the ship itself. She is well appointed and clean. But, while the Armonia is a fine vessel, anything beyond that is not so fine. One of the first things we noticed was that there seemed to be an unusually large number of children aboard. We later learned that MSC offers free passage to all children during the summer months. Don't you think that someone should have told us that? We don't hate kids  but we certainly didn't plan on cruising with a boat load of them to the Greek Islands. It really changes the complexion of a cruise. Going to the pool, for example, just isn't an option when it is filled with dozens of children. We also like to work out and enjoy spa treatments. The Armonia gym had three recumbent bikes  one broken and two programmed for 10 minute sessions. Who bikes for 10 minutes? The tread mills were also programmed for short duration so that getting a good workout in required constant re-setting of the controls. Not good. More distressing was the fact that children under 18 were not suppose to use the gym but regularly did so because the facility was not supervised by MSC staff. So, we regularly found ourselves waiting to get on a machine while 15 and 16 years old played. The last aspect of the ship I will address is food. It was okay not great  not horrible  just okay. We expected more from an Italian company. As for the ports of call  some good and some not so good. Our first stop was Bari, an industrial port just above the boot heel of Italy. Very hot, not much to see  definitely no worth the stop. Then a relaxing day at sea and a magical stop at Santorini. This is what a Greek island is suppose to be  buildings of white washed stucco walls with bright blue trim, perched high on cliffs overlooking a picture perfect Ionian Sea. As perfect as Santorini was, MSC did its best to make the experience uncomfortable. Unlike every other cruise line in port (and there were several), MSC had very few staffers ashore and no signage to direct you to the tenders for the return trip to the ship. Next port  Mykonos. There was nothing remarkable about the island. It had many, many bars a great place for college kids I suspect. The sunset was spectacular. Again, no MSC support staff at the dock and bus loading area had to miraculously find the unmarked MSC bus amongst dozens of others. Ultimately, we figured it out  it was the bus without staff available to answer questions and direct you. Athens was as expected  very cosmopolitan, quite modern. The Acropolis was as magnificent as we imagined. You won't be surprised to learn that boarding and disembarking the ship were hassle filled  no one available to tell you how to exit the port. Corfu was our last Greek Island. We didn't see much because we arrived in port when everything was closed (most restaurants and stores are closed during the mid-afternoon and reopen at 4 PM). I should have mentioned this earlier, but this was often the case  Armonia would arrive in port just in time for the shops to close. The last stop on our cruise was Dubrovnik, Croatia and it was beautiful. Croatia has gone through some extremely difficult times in recent years  but Dubrovnik shines. It is an ancient walled facility, meticulously maintained and populated by beautiful people and wonderful stores and galleries. Truly a worthwhile destination. Throughout the cruise, MSC was, if nothing else, consistent. Upon our return to Venice, we were again let off the boat without benefit of staff or signage to direct us to where we could collect our luggage. Finally, we asked a security guard who directed us to a distant building  the wrong one. All in all this was a very bad cruise experience. The vessel was fine but the management of it was atrocious and many of the ports-of-call were second rate. Vacations are too important to be wasted on the likes of MSC. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2007
Background Information I should start with a statement that I am not new to cruising and have been on many, many other cruises with various cruise lines. I normally cruise RCCL or one of the other major lines and I took a chance and ... Read More
Background Information I should start with a statement that I am not new to cruising and have been on many, many other cruises with various cruise lines. I normally cruise RCCL or one of the other major lines and I took a chance and tried the MSC Armonia (in March 2007) to attempt to expand my horizons. Unfortunately, I was not at all impressed. In fact, this was the first and last cruise that I will ever take on MSC's cruise lines. Details are provided in the requested categories below: Ship Info The ship layout is extremely poorly organized. Normally things like the infirmary or "crew only" areas are located in the bowels of the ship and the restaurants are located either in the front or back of the ship to avoid disruptions... This was not the case on the Armonia. I had a supposedly "upgraded" room on the 7th deck, which also housed the infirmary and other "Crew only" areas, which were blocked to passengers. This meant that in order to cross from one side of the deck to the other (where a lounge was), I had to go up or down a floor, across the middle of the ship, and up the stairs to the lounge. This is very inconvenient - especially for those folks who are unable to use stairs easily. Our restaurant was also located in the middle of the ship on the 5th deck, so the same issue above applied, where one was required to go and up down to go straight across. This is very annoying. Furthermore, the room numbers are not consistently used amongst decks. When we boarded the boat, it took us several up and down tries before we got to the right room because room 7107 was in a different position on the ship than was 5107, 6107, or 8107. I also found that while the ship was mostly kept in a cleanly fashion, the public ladies rooms were a major exception. During the multiple trips made, I found that they were often dirty or messy, often with undesirable "surprises" on the floor and toilet equipment. Service As an English speaker, I was extremely surprised that English was not widely spoken amongst the ship's staff. Although the cruise line is supposedly an Italian one, not everyone speaks Italian. Those that don't often speak at minimum English; therefore, the staff (especially in key areas - cabin service, restaurants/bars, reception, excursions, and accounting) should have a good grasp of the English language. I did not find this the case and found myself often relying on another language to communicate. I was also surprised at the lack of customer service skills by the staff at the reception, accounting, excursions, and bar staff... On most cruises, the staff bend over backwards to provide superb service because they know that their tips will increase when better service is provided. Because the ship has a one-tip-for-everyone policy, the service levels significantly suffer (tips are automatically shared to the credit bill and the ship divvies the monies amongst all of the staff). Even the usually very attentive wait staff and cabin attendants were forgetful and not so prompt because they had no extra incentive to do so. Another particular sore point is that the "reception" staff collected all of the passports for non-EU citizens for immigration authorizations and did not return them until the boat returned to the dock in Venice. This is extremely uncomfortable and unusual. Other cruise lines arrange for immigration authorities to be present as you enter/exit a particular location and inspections/authorizations are done on an individual level and passports returned immediately. I think the confiscation of the passports was in fact dangerous because if a person were to require identification at any of the port locations, he/she would not be able to provide sufficient documentation to the local authorities (and could potential get into a great deal of trouble or be subject to stiff fines and penalties). This is also evidence of very insecure operations - if authorities are only stamping passports and viewing the person at the same time, there is a high risk of fraudulent behavior occurring. Travel to Port of Embarkation, Embarkation, and Disembarkation Two words - absolutely AWFUL! At the airport, the shuttle service was rather disorganized and not timely. After collecting all appropriate passengers at the terminal exit, we were directed to a side area and asked to wait a few moments for the bus. A few moments turned into more than an hour because the bus had not yet arrived (or even left from the port). Assuming that a noon arrival would leave us at least 3 hours to explore the beautiful city of Venice, we were very sorely disappointed and upset because the check process took more than 3 1/2 hours (other guests that arrived later complained of even longer wait times)! We arrived at the terminal, were assigned bag tags, and our luggage was hauled away for a security check and loading/delivery. We were then cattle-herded to the check-in area only to discover a mass of people crowded in what was supposed to be a line. As we progressed through the line, we were told that we first needed a number (which would be used for the security procedure) before we could proceed to the check-in counter. After waiting and finally passing through the checkout, we found out that the number that was supposed to help smooth out the security process was abandoned (because people were still in the check-in line when their number was called for the security one). Needless to say, by the time we actually boarded the ship, it was 3:30 PM, and we were starving. After having a quick lunch in the buffet restaurant, we no longer had enough time for visiting the Venice city center. The disembarkation process was equally slow. Since we missed out on a pre-cruise visit, we wanted to go after the cruise. The cruise line would absolutely not let us leave the boat with the early departures, so we were forced to wait in a public lounge for 4 hours (until noontime) before being permitted to disembark. By the time I got my luggage situated, I only had 1 1/2 hours to explore the city before leaving for the airport. Stateroom The rooms were typical of that on a cruise. Always small with a miniscule bathroom unless in a suite. The same applies here. As mentioned above, the service was a little slow, but I think that this is a reflection of the tipping policy. The cruise personnel have no incentive to provide extraordinary service. Dining The service was just OK. Nothing extraordinary (see notes on tipping policy). On other cruise lines, the wait staff usually figures out your personal quirks and caters toward them. This did not occur on this boat. The food quality was "edible." Nothing spectacular. The same for the menu selection. I wasn't too impressed. This cruise line differed from others in that not all food and non-alcoholic drinks (tea, juice, water, etc.) were free. At breakfast, tea, coffee, and watery juice were provided free of charge, but not at other times during the day. If you wanted a tea/coffee after 10AM, you had to order one from a bar and pay for it. At dinner, if you wanted water to drink, you had to buy a bottle of mineral water. Tap water was not available/offered or provided. In addition, most cruise ships have food available 24/7 (either via public areas or room service). This was not the case for the Armonia. If you didn't visit a public restaurant/buffet during the published hours or order breakfast in your room the evening before, food was only available at the bars for a fee. There was also an ice cream station, which was a charge-able item (these are usually service-service and free on other cruise lines). Room service was not available at the spur of the moment and was not available for meals other than breakfast (ordered before 10PM the previous evening). I was also a little shocked to see the previous day's leftovers blatantly served in the buffet for lunch and dinner. Sometimes, the dining room staff would create melees, which were often disgusting. One particular experience was regarding green beans cooked in mint herbs (which tasted like toothpaste coated beans-yuck!), which were combined with mixed vegetables flavored with garlic and a cream/mayo sauce - really disgusting! Children's Clubs I was surprised to see a great deal of children (all ages) on the boat; however, we don't have children and cannot comment on the facilities. Activities & Entertainment This was another very disappointing area. There were very few activities planned and never more than one at the same time. The activity listing and time schedule was never more than 5-7 lines long for the entire day. Oftentimes, an activity would be listed as "Games - 2:00-5:00 - Deck xyz." The evening entertainment was even more disappointing - the shows lasted only 30 mins and were all nearly the same. On the first evening, we ordered a beer at the show and the beer lasted longer than the show! Furthermore, the entertainers were really lacking. Specifically, one of the female singers was like listening to an out-of-tune/off-pitch karaoke singer. Shops Very strange - ships generally make a great deal of money from the shops. The shops on board the Armonia were completely empty (nothing on the shelves) until the third day of the cruise. Even afterwards, the shop staff was stocking the shelves, so there was little to browse/buy. When they were open (during sea voyages), they weren't open very long, which is also odd. Excursions For starters, there was not a very big selection of tours offered at the ports - 2-3 per port max. Moreover, because the selection was so small, people opted to go at the cities alone and then the tours were cancelled. On another topic, with the exception of the Venice tours (which were cancelled due to not enough participants), a tour isn't really needed. In both Bari and Kotor, the boat docked within short walking distance to the "old city" or touristy areas, so a tour was not necessary. In Dubrovnik, the cruise offered an over-priced shuttle bus to the city-center, and casual browsing was then simple. Unless you are one of those people who need an explanation for every statue and wall sconce, tours in these cities would be a waste of money. A ship-provided map or good tour book and a comfortable pair of walking shoes are all that were needed to enjoy each of these cities. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
This was our first cruise, so we cannot make comparison with other lines. We went with extended family and occupied 5 cabins in total on the ship. The embarkation in Venice was very well organized. The maritime station in Venice is ... Read More
This was our first cruise, so we cannot make comparison with other lines. We went with extended family and occupied 5 cabins in total on the ship. The embarkation in Venice was very well organized. The maritime station in Venice is accessible by water taxi (if coming from another part of Venice) or by land (if arriving from the airport). If staying at a hotel that is not on the water in Venice, you would need to get to a water taxi pick-up point. Expect to pay about 50Euro on average for a water taxi when taking luggage. The terminal was well sign-posted, with a representative on hand, and the check-in was very quick, by allocated number, with little waiting time, before being called for security and boarding (less than one hour in total). We boarded by 1pm, having arrived at around 12 noon. Luggage was delivered to our cabins about an hour after that. The disembarkation was also extremely efficient. Bags had to be outside the cabins by 2am the night before, with colour-coded labels which were provided. Disembarkation was by colour, and bags were on conveyor belts for pick-up immediately. The ship arrived in Venice at 9am and we were off by 10.00am. Taxis/buses/minivans were available right at the terminal for wherever you needed to go. There was absolutely no waiting around. Outside cabins were small (deck 9 - there are 12 decks in all), but clean and with good storage. The outside suites with balconies are more spacious (deck 10). The outside cabin bathroom (deck 9)was tiny, with a very small shower, but manageable. There were twin beds in the regular cabin, which could be made up as a double. We had one cabin with a third bed (bunk bed style, pulled down from the wall). The cabin service staff were very helpful, and supplied everything we needed upon request - extra pillows, fresh towels, bottles of water, etc. The staff are mainly Indonesian, except in the main dining room where there are some Italian staff and other European staff. The staff speak and understand English, although the first language on the ship is Italian. All drinks, ice-cream, spa services, excursions are extra. These can be charged on the cruise card (and then paid at the end by cash or credit card). MSC do sell some discount package coupons for soft drinks/ice-cream/mineral water/wine at the time of embarkation (and a few days into the cruise). We bought some but ended up not using them all in the end. There are a few shops on the ship, mainly open in the evenings when at sea (8-midnight). There is a perfume store, an MSC logo store, a ladies/gents clothing store. Sunscreen/lotions etc. can be purchased at the spa. Shampoo, shower gel, soap is all provided in the cabins. Dining and food services: We requested first seating upon booking. This was already arranged for our group upon check-in and the table assigned and dining time was printed on the cruise card for each member of our group. Otherwise, see the maitre d' upon check-in for your requested dining time. There are two sittings, 7:15pm and 9:15pm. We ate in the Marco Polo dining room on deck 5. There is one other dining room which is smaller, the Pergola (no comment because never ate there). The menu in Marco Polo offered a regional choice each evening, a regular menu (with about three selections for appetizer, pasta course, main entree and dessert). There were also a number of items always available (e.g. roast chicken, beef). Service was good, but not rushed. Food was generally good - no complaints. You do have to arrive promptly for dinner (within 15 minutes of the assigned dining time). We also chose to eat in Marco Polo for breakfast (no set table or time - breakfast was from 7-9:30am). Good choice, from cooked breakfasts to fruit and yogurt, cereals, etc. Lunch was served on deck 11 (the main pool deck area)between 12-2pm. The brasserie is a self-serve, with air-conditioned indoor seating area. A good choice, with salad items, some cooked food, cold meats, whole fruit available etc. Alongside, but in the open area, there is a pizza area, also serving sliced melon) and a fast food (fried) section (serving hot dogs, burgers, fries, salad). Basically, you can line up in any or all of these areas, pick up what you want and find yourself a seat. It did get busy at times (especially when everyone was on the ship), but it was best to go at around noon when the queues were lower - or locate your seat, hold it, and take turns to pick up your food. There were always tables outside, but in July it is pretty hot and we preferred to eat indoors in air conditioning. Note (clothing over swimsuits while indoors). Formality: - There were two nights requiring dressing up. I did not see anyone in a tuxedo. Men did wear suits/ties those nights and ladies were dressier, but not in true "gala" clothing. The other nights were casual - no ties required for the men -mainly long pants for the men, but nothing really dressy. Shows: The shows were good, held in La Fenice, on deck 5/6 - two shows per night to accommodate the dinner seatings. The first night was mainly music (some popular Italian songs), the other nights had a lot of dancing, some singing, good costumes, a couple of acrobat acts which were excellent, an illusionist (a good show) and a mixed extravaganza night. Most of the lounges had live music all evening, with some cabaret acts (not so good in my estimation). There is a disco that starts at midnight on deck 12 (over 16 after midnight). The show host introduces in about 5 languages - Italian being the first language. Shows can be enjoyed by all. The casino is of an adequate size, with table games as well as about 20 slots (accessible to over 18 only). The theatre was pretty good overall - attractive, comfortable tiered seating, cocktail tables. The captain's party is also held there, with champagne and hors d'oeuvres served before dinner. There is one movie provided free daily on the cabin TV network. We never watched, so no comment there. Otherwise, TV was fairly limited. There is an ongoing intro/safety channel, BBC world news, a couple of Italian channels, an ongoing channel showing ship info, position, weather, another channel showing ongoing photos/videos of the cruise. Services on the ship: There is a good air-conditioned exercise room with weights, machines, treadmills which is rarely used by guests. It is located by the spa on top deck 12. Spa treatments have to be booked, but no problem there. There is a children's organizer for younger children (probably up to around 10) with activities going on during the day (also deck 12). There is an animation team that run some ongoing games on deck 11 (pool area), including a half-hour exercise session, some dress up events, etc.) Ongoing popular music is played on deck 11 throughout the day. There is a gelateria (ice-cream bar) serving soft-serve and other ice-cream bars. Lower down on the ship there is a card-table room (little used) and a small library (don't expect a good selection of English books!). Top deck also has a basketball court (with high net all around), deck 11 has a small mini golf (ok, but not fantastic), also a shuffleboard. Equipment for all of these areas gets picked up and borrowed against the cruise card at an office beside the Lido bar on the main pool deck (deck 11). Towels get signed out on the cruise card (daily, or as you wish) on deck 11 as well. You are expected to return all used pool towels daily. Pool deck. I found this especially crowded (except when guests were out on excursions). There are two small rectangular pools (each with a wading section) which are filled with sea water daily (and drained each night). My kids did swim, but I considered these more like plunge pools than a place to swim. By the end of each afternoon, they would look a little murky, so swim early if you plan to swim. There is a wall that divides the two swim pools. Along the wall, there is a water fountain, good for cooling off. Between the two pools are two hot tubs (each accommodating about 6 people). People are not supposed to reserve seats on the pool decks, but they do. After 10am, it would require searching deck 11 and the upper half deck (deck 12) to find chairs together. Sometimes, it was impossible to find loungers. People are pretty crowded in, but I think most ships experience this. When the ship was docked, it was much less busy around the pool deck and the upper deck. Some quirky things to be aware of: There are about 4 elevator shafts and sets of stairs on the ship - one at either end and two in the middle. Some parts of the ship are occupied by staff, so it is not always possible to cross from one end of the ship to the other. You have to walk one flight, or take the elevator back up a floor to walk and go back down on another deck. Deck 7 is like this. There are very good maps of the ship posted on every floor, so you get to find your way around. This is an Italian ship, crewed by Italians. The majority of guests are Italian. People embark in Venice and also in Bari (the first stop). There are a lot of families, but English speaking children may not find other children to play with(unless they speak Italian!). There is also a mix of other Europeans, from Germany, France, Switzerland, etc. There are not many English speaking guests. I am of European descent, so this was not in any way a problem for me, but it is something to be aware of. Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of smoking on board - but mainly on the pool deck. There are a couple of smoking bars, but no smoking in the dining or theatre areas is allowed. Excursions. These have to be booked after you get on the ship. You pay with your cruise card. Each stop has about three excursions to choose from. The first stop, Bari, the ship docks. Bari is a big city port and we did not get off. The excursions were mainly out of the city. The second stop is Santorini, which is by tender. There were about three other ships also in the bay when MCS was there - so it was busy. We took the tender only, but found that we had to either take donkeys (very stinky) or a cable car, to get anywhere. We were lucky to be ahead of the crowd and opted for the cable car (6 per car) and only 8 cars on the circuit at any time). The ride was about 3 minutes and got us to the town of Fira, where we had a couple of hours. MSC went to Mykonos that evening - a busy day (which was also by tender). Mykonos was very busy, with again, about four other ships in the bay that night. We mainly shopped as there was no excursion offered. This was my second time in Mykonos. A bit more time would have been good there. Athens (Piraeus), we took our kids up to the Parthenon on the tour. It would be hard to "do" Athens on your own. That was well-organized, but very hot and crowded - over 40 degrees in Athens that day. The ship docks at Piraeus. We also docked at Corfu, but picked the wrong excursion. We took a 3 hour transfer to a beach - which turned out to be very disappointing. We complained to MSC and they said they would "pull" that excursion and refund us. Even the bus was not air-conditioned! There was another tour of the island, with short beach stay - and I believe that was much better. Dubrovnik was excellent. We took MSC's bus shuttle ticket only and met up with friends for three hours. The rest of our group did the walking tour of Dubrovnik and were very satisfied. If anything, the stops are just too short and there is the feeling of being a little rushed all the time. There was only one day at sea. The rest of the time was at a stop for mostly least a half-day (full day - Bari and Piraeus). We came away from this cruise saying that we would do this again. This is not a glitzy ship - it is only mid-sized (58,000 tons, with 1500 passengers, 700 crew), and a bit older, so does not have all the bells and whistles of the newer ships. However, it is clean, attractive, and has reasonable amenities. There are lots of families on this ship, but also a range of ages. The Med. was very calm, so there was barely a feeling of being at sea. I hope this is useful to some others. For a first-time cruise experience, it would get a good rating from our group. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2008
Having perviously cruised with MSC we knew what to expect, announcements in 5 languages, Italian food, and British in the minority, the ship itself is beautiful, sparking clean, we had a suite which was first class, large with a good size ... Read More
Having perviously cruised with MSC we knew what to expect, announcements in 5 languages, Italian food, and British in the minority, the ship itself is beautiful, sparking clean, we had a suite which was first class, large with a good size balcony with rattan furniture, an excellent bathroom with a bath and shower, our cabin steward Harry ( from Indonesia) was marvellous, nothing was too much trouble.We ate in the LaPergola restaurant (where you dine each evening and your table number are allocated when you board) the food was good, plenty of choice, not large portions but quite acceptable, however no water is served with meals except bottled water at 2.60 euros a bottle. There is a buffet restaurant for breakfast and lunch also the Marco Polo restaurant is available for both meals, tea and coffee are served at meals and at afternoon tea ( between 4 and 5 each day) but at no other times, a tip though, you can order tea and coffee with room service twenty four hours at no charge, they only charge for food, this I believe is a loophole that MSC have yet to appreciate once they do no doubt they will charge, I think that I was one of the few that ordered tea ----maybe it is British thing! There are no children's meals provided, MSC do not charge for children, I feel personally that reduced charge for children and therefore being able to provide a children's menu would be of benefit, as it was once the buffet was closed children were served the same menu as adults at the evening meals which proved difficult for those with young children. The staff on the whole were the most morose crowd that I have ever encountered on any cruise, apart from a few exceptions they were most unhelpful and at times downright rude, they seem to be alright chatting to each other but passengers appeared to be an inconvenience, I got the impression that the Armonia was not a happy ship to work on, the reception was about the worst, no help forthcoming on anything, one of my cases were delivered to the wrong cabin, I was told that I probably lost on the journey to the ship, this after being told that I saw it loaded onto the quayside! I just got a shrug and it will turn up sometime! eventually it did, the person that it had been delivered to brought it to my cabin complete with the labels attached. The entertainment in the theatre was poor, there was entertainment during the day, bingo, craft classes, aerobics, etc all in five languages of course but that was fine and to be excepted and people seem to enjoy themselves. The internet is very expensive, 4 euros just to log on, and extremely slow, far better to use an internet cafe ashore. No smoking on the balcony and strongly discouraged in the cabin. Ports of call were interesting, Malaga, Lisbon, Vigo, La Coruna( a beautiful call well worth a visit) Casablanca ( worth seeing but do not try to tackle it on your own, taxi drivers very aggressive and want to take you to their "friends" shops) and Le Harve, the Cruise excursions are very expensive but that seems to be the case on all cruises. We had free parking at Dover, were bused ( all 10 of us!) to Gatwick, flew to Genoa, the flight was good and the embarkation onto the ship smooth, we sailed back into Dover where the staff at the port of Dover were first class in helping with luggage and a minibus back to our car, which was a real bonus. The cruise was excellent value for money and we enjoyed it, the weather was good, the Armonia is a beautiful ship, clean, towels changed twice a day, beds comfortable and linen charged every other day, bathrobes provided, pity about that the staff (apart from the few )let it down, I doubt if we will cruise with MSC again Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2008
This cruise line may offer a cheap way to get ON a cruise but it turns out very expensive when on board, especially on the Armonia (but I imagine the same thing on their other ships). NO water is available unless it is BOUGHT (at Euros ... Read More
This cruise line may offer a cheap way to get ON a cruise but it turns out very expensive when on board, especially on the Armonia (but I imagine the same thing on their other ships). NO water is available unless it is BOUGHT (at Euros 2.60 for a 75cl bottle!). They say that ship water is chlorinated so not for drinking BUT ice cubes are supplied in stateroom and I don't believe they are made with bottled water!! Tea and coffee is not offered at lunch or dinner - but IS available free of charge for those in the know who ask for it ..... No iced tea, no ice machines, very "take it or leave it". The food itself is not all that good - sometimes good but often pretty second rate and is NEVER hot!! They actually offer fish fingers and Coley as main dishes!! That being said, the "sugar free" puddings are very good but you can't live on puds alone !! The management are surly and unhelpful - the nicest people on board at present being the entertainment team and ALL the people from stateroom stewards downwards (mainly Indonesian and always smiling - thank goodness)! The staterooms, whilst very clean (as is the ship itself) have extremely poor lighting in the bed area so reading is out of the question. The ship is very badly laid out. For instance the Medical Centre is right across Deck 7 which is also the deck for a large entertainment lounge and the Library/Card Room, so to get to these facilities one has to be very careful which elevator to use - out of those available only one set takes you to the Deck 7 public facilities. Another set of lifts (aft) indicates all the available facilities on Deck 5 but, in fact, takes you only to the lower (aft) dining room allowing no access to the rest of Deck 5 - very irritating. The cruise is multi-lingual which is to be expected but patience wears thin when put along with other irritations. We will not be cruising with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2008
This was our first cruise with MSC and were very disappointed with many things. This was also our fifth cruise in 18 months having been on cruises with Costa, Royal Caribbean and Princess and so naturally we had many comparisons to make. ... Read More
This was our first cruise with MSC and were very disappointed with many things. This was also our fifth cruise in 18 months having been on cruises with Costa, Royal Caribbean and Princess and so naturally we had many comparisons to make. Our major disappointment was with the food and general eating/dining experience:- With no alternative dining, we ate each evening in La Pergola Restaurant, second sitting. Firstly all the "hot" courses were barely luke warm; the vegetables were always over-cooked and soft and limp; the meats were cooked to beyond "well done" and more like shoe leather and the fish was also over-cooked and dry. Whilst there were several courses and choices within each course, one had the feeling of eating in a fast food establishment in that the waiters wanted to get you out of there as quickly as possible. Coffee was not on offer ever! Breakfast was mostly a nightmare in the self-service on deck 11. Getting a table was at times like winning the lottery. With the weather not particularly pleasant or warm, eating outside was not really an option for most of the trip. Whilst one could go down to the Marco Polo restaurant and be served breakfast, the food was again not that hot. Limited choice of juices (2); no muffins, waffles, pancakes, maple syrup. Bacon over-cooked and greasy. The toast was a disgrace and so hard that it was sometimes impossible to cut through the crust! Lunch times was also a similar scramble if you wanted to snack in the self service but if you wanted french fries you had to go out in the cold open deck to get them from the burger bar and they were always less than luke warm and hard. Tea and coffee was only available at breakfast (until 10.30); lunchtime (but no choice of teas - just what came out of the machine); tea-time from 4 -4.45. Outside these hours you had to pay for them.Water was not available unless you bought it! Not all night food available, although they did have mid-night snacks brought round the public spaces some nights and of course the usual midnight buffet, which was not that brilliant. At first the layout of the ship was quite irritating, in that you would wait for a lift, get in and find that it did not go to all the deck levels as indicated on the outside of the lift! Often you would get out on deck 5 for example and find that you had to go through the Marco Polo restaurant when open if you wanted the other end of the ship. When it was closed you had to go back up to deck 6. In our opinion the best lounge of all was on deck 12...the Oasis lounge with its 280 degree view through floor to ceiling windows. This was ideally situated at the aft of the ship, but the annoying thing was, it used primarily for the disco which started at 11.30 at night. With the lovely bar, and fabulous panoramic views, you could not get a drink of anything at all until 11pm at night. So during the day, it was almost empty bar a few who braved it by going down one deck to deck 11, outside in the cold to a bar there and bring back a drink or tea/coffee. Sometimes if you were lucky you could persuade one of the waiters to bring it up for you. There was no waiter service at all during the day. Such a pity. The standard of cleanliness was exceptionally high to the point that one was constantly confronted with stepping over vacuum cleaner cables or circumventing the poor staff who constantly and continually were cleaning the same area for most of the day. This was particularly evident on the aft stairs at decks 11 and 12. It was humiliating for the crew to be seen to be going over the same stair rail that they had down a couple of hours earlier. The shows were pretty amateur as regards the dancers. The general choreography was basic; however there were a couple of shining stars (contortionist/balancing acts/high wire). It was the sameness each night, called a different theme but mainly was the same. the Entertainment staff (Animators) were just great. Fun, polite, helpful and had a genuine desire to get people mixing and enjoying the events. The sauna/steamroom suite was beautifully appointed, but for me, I prefer separate male/female. These were mixed. But annoyingly again you had to pay for the use of them. 16 euros a time! After a while the piano/music lounges became monotonous. The general crew members such as cleaners, cabin staff, waiters were all lovely. Smiling, helpful and efficient but not so those on the Accounting Desk or some on the Reception. In fact quite abrupt. Embarkation and Disembarkation was a delight. Quick, efficient and easy. We only went on two organized tours which were up to expectations, but the port of call in Bremen in our opinion, was a waste of time. Nothing much to see and being a Sunday, even the shops were closed as were most of the eating establishments. Our cabin was large, light and lovely. Couldn't fault it. Overall value for money was very good, if only they could get to grips with the preparation, cooking and presentation of the food, from all aspects. This has put us off MSC and I doubt we would ever use them again and certainly would not recommend them to any of our friends. That is a pity, because all of these points are quite simple to put right. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2008
My partner and I sailed on the Armonia to visit the Baltic Capitals. The ship itself is beautiful, very well appointed and spotlessly clean. It was my first time cruising and don't think I would sail with MSC again. The food on board ... Read More
My partner and I sailed on the Armonia to visit the Baltic Capitals. The ship itself is beautiful, very well appointed and spotlessly clean. It was my first time cruising and don't think I would sail with MSC again. The food on board was very boring and tasteless. I heard American passengers state how they had Lobster and Fillet steak regularly on other cruises - but certainly nothing like that on the Armonia. Just the same chicken, fish and lamb done with various bland dressings/sauces. The pasta was good but just done with the same tomato sauce. The pizza offered at the grill on deck 11 was disgraceful - you would expect top class pizza from an Italian ship - what we were offered was too hard to cut with knife and therefore mostly inedible!!! The drinks on board were expensive but I suppose that is normal on a cruise. However having to pay for bottled water at the evening meal was a bit much, although it was available free in a machine on deck 11 at lunchtimes. The excursions are really expensive. It is much better to do your own thing if you can - there is normally transport organized by MSC from the quayside to the city center at most ports. The only time it was best to take an excursion was at St Petersburg where doing your own thing would have been a bit risky. The cabin stewards were lovely - ours named Edwin was Indonesian and could not do enough for us. Most of the bar staff were lovely too - always smiling and helpful. Our main criticism was the staff at the accounting desk - they were very downright rude, unhelpful and would much rather talk amongst themselves than serve passengers - who were afterall "just a nuisance". Sometimes you felt quite intimidated standing there. We asked reception for early morning calls several times as the excursions did leave early. None were ever received!!! Luckily we could set a mobile phone to do this as well, otherwise we could have missed some trips as the ship's time was always being changed from country to country. Overall we really enjoyed our trip and will book another cruise sometime in the future, but not with MSC!!! We understood from fellow passengers that there are much better cruise lines out there and spending all that money on your holiday you do expect to be treated with a bit more care and consideration. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
This was our 10th cruise and the first one with the MSC line. We booked just two weeks before embarkation and picked up our tickets at port. Using MSC express service via the internet, checking in was quite quick approx 40 mins. We were ... Read More
This was our 10th cruise and the first one with the MSC line. We booked just two weeks before embarkation and picked up our tickets at port. Using MSC express service via the internet, checking in was quite quick approx 40 mins. We were escorted to our mini suite with balcony and were impressed with the size, cleanliness, and layout of the cabin and the bath tub with shower was an added bonus. The balcony also was larger than most of the ones on other ships. We never saw our cabin attendants during the 8 day cruise. The cabin was always cleaned and we had no complaints there, but we did not receive the large blue book giving all the relevant information needed about the ship until late into the 2nd day's sailing and the only time we received ice was when we requested it from room service. Our request to change our evening dining to 2nd sitting and to have a table for 2 was done immediately. In fact every time we made a request or asked for information we were dealt with quickly courteously and efficiently. The reason we selected this cruise was the itinery and and the ports of call were delghtful. The excursion at Bari was good but having to listen to the tour guide giving information in 5 languages was tedious. The Acropolis was well worth the journey but the second part of the tour, a stop in the side streets of Athens where there was nothing but a mini mart and an antique/souvenier shop was a waste of time. The evening entertainment was excellent and the atmosphere in the bars, casino and spa was very good. Also a big plus was there was no hard sell to buy photos or health and beauty packages unlike many other cruise lines. We were very disappointed with the food which was the worst we have ever had on any cruise liner. In addition unlike any other cruise lines there was no alternative where you could go for somewhere to eat. All the other food outlets closed at 5pm. The last 3 days of the cruise we ordered soup/salad and spaghetti bolognese for our eveining meal. The only time coffee or tea or water was available was at breakfast, which was unusual. We will not be recommending this cruise line to others, although there were many excellent/very good aspects to the cruise the poor standard of food and the non availability to offer any alternatives was very disappointing, Read Less
MSC Armonia Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 0.0
Dining 2.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 5.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 3.0 0.0
Enrichment 3.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0

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