Had originally planned to do a Baltic cruise on NCL for a family of 4 in 2 cabins, but prices were high and no deals to be had. Not sure if the fact that the dates coincided with the World Cup in Russia were to blame, but the overall price ... Read More
Had originally planned to do a Baltic cruise on NCL for a family of 4 in 2 cabins, but prices were high and no deals to be had. Not sure if the fact that the dates coincided with the World Cup in Russia were to blame, but the overall price was out of our budget. I find that NCL are very expensive now they only do the Premium all inclusive package, particularly if you are very moderate drinkers.
Having a browse around one evening, ended up on the USA Expedia website, although we are UK based. This site has an excellent search facility, and found the MSC Seaview, which at the time was several months away from being finished. This was a western med cruise and is unique in the fact that you can get on at most of the ports of call, getting off a week later at the same port. Prices vary dramatically between embarkation ports, getting on a day earlier or later can save hundreds or even thousands of pounds for a family of 4. Genoa and Barcelona are expensive, we chose Marseille and saved a fortune, although we had to fly from Stanstead rather than Manchester to get decent flight prices. Marseille port is quite a distance from the airport.Taxi was close to 50 Euro. MSC seem to be trying hard to get American cruisers on their European ships at the moment, USA prices are considerably less than the prices on the MSC UK website. Extra benefits were $500 on-board credit if you paid by Mastercard, 14 drinks vouchers per person for the Fantastica package, and free bottled water for all cabin types.We were unsure if Expedia USA would take bookings from the UK, but when we phoned them they said it was not a problem, although that turned out to be not entirely true. We booked 2 cabins, a Fantastica cabin for myself and my wife and a Bella cabin for the 2 girls (15 & 21) paying the 2 deposits in dollars, by a fee free Halifax Mastercard. Within an hour we had had an email saying one of the deposit payments had not gone through and could we contact our cruise consultant again, (Expedia agents do not have international dialing rights as I think many of them are home based). We eventually managed to contact her and she dealt with MSC directly while we waited on the line, although it took her 30 minutes to get through to them. Next day my wife noticed that there were 3 deposit amounts on the credit card statement. we spoke to Expedia and were advised to contact MSC directly as it transpired that Expedia hadn't actually taken the payments at all, but had passed the card details to MSC to take payment directly, this was mirrored on the statement that showed MSC as the merchant. Contacting MSC call centre was a nightmare. Waits on hold of up to an hour before speaking to an agent and finding someone who could resolve it was frustrating. I spent around 3 hours on the phone over a period of a week or so before speaking to someone who resolved it. To be fair to MSC it was a few days after a major hurricane and they were busy trying to recover from the disruption. I had reason to speak the them just prior to the cruise and the call was answered in under 5 minutes. As we had booked via USA, we were associated with the USA MSC website. You cannot put your booking number in the UK website and see your booking. Unlike the Expedia website, the MSC site is a dog. We had constant problems from start to finish. It doesn't always behave as you might expect and things reset to default or just disappear. Online Check In was a nightmare, The UK address not helping, but it mainly just doesn't work. ( Tip: If you can't get your UK address in, complete the field for the second person in the cabin first, then tick the box that says "same address for all passengers"). We uploaded images for our identification picture multiple times, but they disappear if you make any changes to any other fields. When we boarded, they took new pictures any way, which over wrote the ones we had already uploaded. I wouldn't bother with the pictures before boarding again.
We'd been watching the GBP USD exchange rates, and decided to pay the final balance a few weeks before we actually needed to, but we hit problems again, Our plan was to pay for one cabin in USD, pay the card off in GBP, then pay the second cabin the week after. Unfortunately the payment was processed twice again by MSC, pushing the card to its limit. It took a further 3 weeks of phone calls and emails to Expedia and MSC to get this resolved. When we eventually came to pay for the 2nd cabin, neither Expedia and MSC were able to process the payment. More phone calls and emails, we were given various reasons including a policy change and technical difficulties. I tried again a week later ready for a bun fight, but it went through in 2 minutes with no issues. we subsequently booked excursions and other add-ons via the website with no issues
I probably would book through the USA again, but I'd be more prepared for the problems. I've booked through NCL via their USA call centre in the past and had no issues at all.
To the cruise, eventually!
Boarding at Marseille was extremely quick. Less than 30 minutes after arriving at the port we were on the ship. We were given our drinks vouchers as we checked in. Both rooms were ready. The fact that people get on and off every day means the numbers at any particular port are much smaller. There is no last night depression either when every one is getting off the next day. I think less than 500 got on that day. Most seem to board at Genoa and Barcelona.
The ship is absolutely stunning. Lots of chrome and mirrors, although at times it's a bit difficult to tell where you are. Some parts of some decks can only be reached by certain lifts. Didn't have much trouble getting a lift, although we used the 2 panoramic elevators at the back most of the time as we were towards that end. There is loads of outside space, for eating, drinking and sunbathing. You cannot get to the front of any deck as its reserved for Yacht Club guests. They tend to walk around behind a butler holding a big Yacht Club paddle. Quite funny really, although a bit annoying at times.
We were 8PM dining in the Silver Dolphin Restaurant had a table of 4 just for us which is how we like it. I was a bit disappointed in the dining experience overall. Limited choices some nights, Way too many veggie and vegan options unless you're into that sort of thing. We always felt a bit rushed and were out by 9:15 most nights. Portion sizes were very small with hardly any vegetables etc. The food wasn't warm enough for me, although I do like my food very hot. If you had anything other than wine it was impossible to get a 2nd drink as the staff were too busy.
We did the Butchers Cut steakhouse one night, That was excellent. The steak was hot and one of the best I've ever had.
There are 2 buffets, the largest on deck 8 and a smaller one on deck 16. we never had issues getting a seat at either. We actually ate outside most of the time. Always managed to find plenty to eat. Food temperature was the usual buffet lottery.
Lots of sunbeds to be had, but bear in mind they are spread all over the ship on various decks. If you want a prime spot by one of the pools you will need to be up early. Lots of hot tubs around, never had a problem getting into one.
There are bars all over the ship, both inside and outside, something for all tastes. Some are smoking bars, so avoid these if you are not a smoker. Seating was never really an issue, if one was full, just head off to another. Service was good, and drinks prices pretty reasonable for a cruise ship. We had paper drinks coupons, some that came as part of the Fantastica package, others we bought online before boarding (Beer, Wine & Water Easy, Soda, coffee) Not really a fan of the paper vouchers, would much rather see them electronically on your account. Had 3 issues using these, where the staff didn't correctly zero them off the hand held terminals they use to take orders. Had to go to Guest Services to get resolved, although they were dealt with quickly and efficiently. Had some great coffees and chocolates in the Venchi Chocolate and coffee bar on deck 5
Was not impressed by the entertainment on the ship at all. The main shows were very short and pretty much the same every night. A random selection of songs and dance routines, with no speech that made no sense whatsoever. Every night there were 2 bendy girls, a rope artist and a roller skating duo who appeared at random points during the show, while the dancers changed into the next costume. Compared against what NCL are doing, it was dire. We gave up after 3 nights and went to the bars instead. Other singers around the ship were very average. The DJ who deafened every one on the Deck 16 outdoor stage had a repertoire consisting of "Oh Yeah" and "One, Two, Three, Four"
Did one tour to a village on Sicily by coach, reasonably priced. Otherwise did our own thing.
Great value cruise on an awesome ship. It's a bit different to the American companies with a more European feel. Needs some work on the main dining to appeal to the American market. Entertainment needs a total rethink. Read Less