We chose this cruise because we booked rather last minute and our options were limited. As a family of 6, finding a cruise without spending a fortune was challenging. The price and "kids sail free" grabbed me. We've taken a ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we booked rather last minute and our options were limited. As a family of 6, finding a cruise without spending a fortune was challenging. The price and "kids sail free" grabbed me. We've taken a Caribbean cruise on Costa before, so I wasn't hesitant to sail with another European cruise line. Much to my disappointment, MSC is nothing like Costa.
1. FOOD ALLERGIES. My son and I have food allergies. He's allergic to dairy, I'm allergic to soy. I called MSC a few times prior to sailing to prepare myself and my expectations for what we would experience. The only answers I could get were, "We've made note of your allergies and your request for almond milk. You may talk to the Maitre D' when you board the ship." No almond milk was on the ship. Nor was there soy milk, rice milk, or any other dairy alternative. I asked. When I visited the Maitre D' the first morning of the cruise, I was blown off. He spoke to me for a total of MAYBE 30 seconds. I asked what accommodations could be made and he said I could talk to the head waiter at dinner. That was the extent of our conversation. The head waiter was no more useful. He would only tell me if certain foods did or did not contain our allergens. He acted as though this were an inconvenience because he had to go ask the chef. When I called room service to order something for my son, I had to ask if something contained dairy. They said they didn't know and told me to call the kitchen. I called the kitchen and they said, "I don't know, I would have to ask the chef." Not I WILL ask the chef, but more like I don't want to go to the effort of asking, but I will if you make me. So I said, "Could you please ask?" Really?? I had to ASK. As if food allergies are no biggie. Nothing people die from every single day. We had numerous similar experiences. The buffet was very challenging since many of the staff didn't speak good English. They kept referring to dairy as 'lactose'. This made me nervous because lactose-free products still contain dairy protein, which is the actual allergen (lactose intolerance and dairy allergy are very different things). One night I was served surimi. I asked if it contained soy and was told it didn't. However, I did have a mild allergic reaction. I'm not allergic to shellfish, so I have to assume the surimi does, in fact, contain soy.
2. CABIN FLOOD. It was formal night # 2. I had just finished curling my hair - something I never do as a work-at-home-mom. My husband was using wrinkle release spray and a hair dryer to get some wrinkles out of my floor length dress. Once finished, he was moving the dress from where he was working on it (hanging from the shelf above the TV) to the bed. The hanger banged into the hi-fog sprinkler head. My vacation essentially ended at that moment. The sprinkler went off. The spray was a pretty light mist at first. I quickly picked up the phone and pressed the emergency button (knowing from past experience that if I called reception, I would be on hold for at LEAST 3-4+ minutes). I frantically gave them the room number and said the sprinkler was spraying. My teen and I started grabbing items and throwing them onto the balcony. Minutes passed and no one came. I called the emergency button again and was told they had called someone (can't remember who - it was hard to hear). The mist became a VERY intense spray, stronger than what would come out of any water hose sprayer. My husband was standing on the bed holding a towel around the sprinkler head in order to minimize the amount of water damage to both the room and our belongings. As the water continued to intensify, I gave up on getting everything onto the balcony. My teen had been waiting out on the balcony (looking glamorous in her formal wear). I instructed her to run into the hallway while my husband continued to contain as much of the spray as he could. It had been at least 10 minutes at this point. I had also called reception from the stairwell and was told they were aware of the problem and had someone on the way. Once my daughter was through, my husband's hands were hurting from the intense water pressure (he's a tough guy - so for him to say it hurt is really something). I finally got him to let go and run into the hallway with us. After 15 minutes, someone finally came and turned the sprinkler off.
I'm still feeling insulted by what followed. As I was standing in the cabin crying, surveying ruined belongings, calming my teen, we were approached by Claudio, the guest services manager (I believe that's his position, at least). I could tell he was trained very well in dealing with situations like this. He handled things fairly well. He told my husband to come to the hallway so that he could be questioned by a safety officer (Antolino, I believe). The safety officer was accusatory and aggressive. He was clearly upset. The language barrier didn't help the situation. I could hear my husband out in the hallway from inside the cabin, so I went out to diffuse things. That's when I realized we were being accused of wrongdoing. Claudio diffused things and helped explain what the security officer was trying to say. Long story short, it was our fault this happened, accident or not.
They bagged our wet clothing and laundered them for free. Our shoes were dried out as well. The laundry staff and our new cabin steward get 5 stars (our original cabin steward gets maybe 3). They were incredibly helpful. My youngest daughter lost a tooth that day and my husband had put it into a little bag and tucked it into the tiny 5th pocket of his jeans -- that had been taken to be laundered. We were escorted down to deck 2 to go through the laundry. Everyone there was so kind and empathetic to us. We got the tooth back! Our cabin steward went the extra mile to get our formal night clothes to us in time for a 9:00 seating, but we had completely forgot about the wet shoes.
We were unable to get a reservation at any of the specialty restaurants en lieu of missing formal night. Not the flood night nor the following night (which was the last night). When I explained how our vacation had been ruined, we were given no mercy and still told there was nothing they could do to work us in.
I was still feeling pretty upset the day after the flood, so I went to guest services to see if perhaps they had any wiggle room to get us a dinner reservation, or to see if they would be willing to offer onboard credit for the value of the damaged items (about $300 in electronics and cosmetics). I was taken back to talk with Claudio again. I gotta give him credit. He has a way with words and he's a very nice guy. But I still disagree with his conclusion. In a nutshell, he kindly explained that we were at fault and that the ship could charge us with several hundred dollars in damages, losses, etc. and even have their attorney get involved. He was nice about it, but he basically said, "You don't want to go there. Be thankful we did your laundry and forget this happened." (again, very nicely). Claudio defended the safety officer, stating that he was a nice guy and such, but he reacted that way because he was upset (rightly so, I suppose). I suggested they NOT do "questioning" right in the thick of so much tension. We could've easily waited to be questioned like common criminals. The moment was already tense enough. I also suggested that they put something on the ceiling above the sprinkler to indicate 'do not touch' or red tape. Anything. His reply was that it would diminish the aesthetic of the room. I'm calling BS because there are warnings plastered all over every corner of the cabin, from the balcony to the entry door. He said that the hi-fog system was explained in the safety video that passengers are instructed to watch in the daily program.
This isn't the first time a cabin flooded due to the hi-fog sprinkler system being touched in some way. You'd think they would do something about it since it causes so much damage and so much inconvenience/expense for the ship.
3. CUSTOMER SERVICE. The wait staff in the Black Crab was a toss-up. Our dinner waiter and assistant waiter were good, but lunch and breakfast were a toss-up. One day I waited 5 minutes to order a soda. I got my card and receipt for the soda, then waited an additional 10 minutes before I actually got it. Several other incidents like this happened.
There were a few moments of exceptional customer service (night shift guy at guest services - his name wasn't Julio, but something similar). The guest services desk in general was full of nice people. Although calling them was always a 5-10 minute hold.
SHIP REVIEW - The ship is stunning. I love bling and glam and this ship appealed to me. Although I did always feel like I was running around all over the place.
BUFFET - Lots of the same foods day after day. Especially at breakfast and lunch. We had buffet dinner a couple of times and I really felt like I was missing out on the good dining room food. The pizza is good though. We sailed during Spring Break. The ship was at capacity. I read others complain about the buffet being crazy. We are a family of 6 and didn't have too much trouble navigating or finding a seat. It was hectic at peak times, but that's to be expected on any ship. The buffet and seating is adequate for the number of passengers.
FOOD - We ate in the dining room a lot. With kids, it's just easier. The food was... meh. I was ready to hit my fave restaurants when we got home. The food wasn't BAD, but it wasn't good. Like typical catered wedding food. Just meh with some fancy pants garnishes to make it look good. The best thing I had was a lunch of steak with this garlic butter on it.
CABIN - We had 11127 and 9077 (balcony). Our kids were in 8150 (large window). None had a tub. I know showers are standard, but I've read that some of the balcony rooms on Divina have a tub. All the rooms felt larger than what I've experienced on other cruises. All had a sofa (love seat in window cabin) and little coffee table. The balcony on 11127 was perfect. The one on 9077 had metal instead of plexiglass. Part of the view was obstructed. The balcony cabin was nice, but I'm most surprised by how big the window cabin was. It was fantastica, so it may be larger than bella window cabins.
FANTASTICA EXPERIENCE AND DRINK VOUCHERS - Our window cabin had 4 people listed. 2 adults and 2 kids (we brought our nanny). Fantastica included 12 vouchers per person. Major bonus. We purchased an additional 2 books of 18 drink vouchers. That was more than enough for us.
ENTERTAINMENT - There isn't much American music played in the Galaxy disco. We went 3 different nights. There was some, but they definitely catered to the European crowd. The lounges were okay. We saw 2-3 shows. I don't even like Michael Jackson, but found this show very entertaining. My kids said the pirate show was great, but I didn't see it. We saw the Queen tribute. It was a little better than okay, but not great.
KIDS/TEEN CLUB - The kids enjoyed their time with the kids club staff. They did some fun activities. I was disappointed that they weren't willing to get my son sorbet for dessert. My kids did the "fun dinner" where the kids club picks them up after the main course and they have dessert with them. They simply said the only dairy-free dessert they have is fresh fruit. They weren't willing to get him sorbet despite it being on the menu. Allergy kids go without a lot. I had hoped he would be accommodated a bit more than he was. They went to several shows with the kids club and enjoyed them all. They sit in the front of the theater, so they get a great view!
My teenager (13) really enjoyed the teen club. They did lots of activities. She made some friends and went to the teen club every night. She's not exactly a social butterfly, so this was a pleasant surprise.
EXCURSIONS - We are pretty seasoned cruisers. We don't do ship excursions. So I can't speak for those. I will mention though that the "taxis" in St. Martin (inside the cruise terminal area) are not taxis. They are tours. We paid round trip to get to Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and were dumped off 10 minutes away, told we could walk there. Paid $100 USD for round trip. Had to walk across the beach where the water washes up because the road doesn't have a sidewalk and the beach itself was slam packed. We finally arrived at Sonesta looking like we'd been through hell. We paid an extra $40 for a real taxi back because it wasn't worth walking back across the beach for 10 minutes with bags and kids in tow.
PORTS - The line to get off the ship was super long one day. I think it was San Juan. No idea why. It was over an hour after people were allowed off the ship. The line to get back on in Nassau was crazy long, despite being about an hour before all aboard.
SPORTS BAR - Reviews/posts I read led me to believe this wasn't included in the cost of the cruise, but it is. Definitely visit the sports bar. The food is really good. This is actually where we ended up eating the night of our cabin flood. Tip: Don't sit near the bowling lanes if you're not bowling. It's loud.
DEBARK - This could definitely be more organized on the ship. Numerous people cut in line by creating a second line from another direction. Crew didn't say anything to them.
EUROPEAN CRUISE - This was our 4th cruise. We've done one Costa and two Carnival. Costa is owned by Carnival, so the vibe is somewhat similar. But MSC is, quite frankly, NOT a "fun ship". I definitely got that "stupid American" vibe. LOTS of snooty tooty types. We ran into numerous Americans though. Several shared our sentiment of not being crazy about MSC or the vibe onboard.
OVERALL: Even if it weren't for the cabin flood and the food allergy issues, I would not cruise with MSC again. Even if their corporate office replies to the kind letter I'm sending with a free cruise, I wouldn't take it. It's just not worth the stress, hassle, inadequate service and impolite passengers. Read Less