We arrived at the ship at the designated boarding time of 2pm and were given a sheet of paper that informed us that we could now board the ship at 11:30am. Fantastic but no-one from MSC contacted me on the cell/mobile phone number I provided them with when I booked the cruise. Great start. Everything went reasonably smoothly with dropping of our bags getting in line to sign in and be given our cabin cards etc. They also took our passports of us and we were informed we'd get them back on the night before the end of the cruise. Alas I tried to change AUD$ into Euro's in Barcelona but no bank will change money UNLESS YOU HAVE YOUR PASSPORT WITH you. So I was forced to change money with a shifty money changer who gave me 60 euro cents for an AUD$. The banks were giving 67 euro cents for an AUD$. So when I changed AUD$500 I got the grand sum of 300 Euros when if I had my passport I would have got 335 Euro's. Not happy.
As we exited the embarkation area we were assailed by MSC staff wanting to sell you books of tickets for water (wait for this it's a doozy), beer, wine, coffee, tea and cocktails. We bought a book of beer tickets and a book of coffee/tea tickets. Had I known then what I know now about the 15% service charge that was levied on every drink the I would have bought more tickets. Yes, even if the barman handed you a beer over the counter there was a 15% service charge. Oh and not to forget that MSC also levied an 8.50 Euro service charge, per person per day. When I enquired about this I was told that this money was basically a tip for all MSC staff on board and was put into a pot to be distributed to all staff at a later date. A nice little earner if you can get it. There were well over 3,300 guests on the ship but for the sake of maths let's say 3,000 guests so if you multiply 3000 guests x 11 days x 8.50 Euro's per person per day you come to the grand total of 280,500 Euros. I asked quite a few Fantasia staff if this money was evenly divided amongst the crew. Not one of them would give me a straight answer so I can only assume that the answer is NO. This is a blatant rip off but here's the crunch, THIS SERVICE CHARGE IS A VOLUNTARY CHARGE AND YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PAY IT BUT YOU ARE NOT TOLD THIS UNTIL YOU ASK WHAT IS THIS CHARGE FOR AND WHAT DO I GET FOR IT. So if you're silly enough to sail on MSC then go directly to Guest Relations and tell them to take of the charge. If you are lucky and the Guest Relation person properly understands English then it may take you less than the 15 minutes it took me to get thru to the MSC Guest Relation person (who was Ukranian). I also complained to this person about having to pay for water in our assigned dining room. One litre of bottled water cost 4 Euro's plus the 15% service charge. The Guest relations person then made 2 classic comments. I was told "EVERYBODY PAYS FOR WATER" and "IF YOU DON'T WANT TO PAY FOR WATER THERE IS FREE WATER ON DECK 14'S CAFETERIA". Basically what this person was suggest to me "THE CUSTOMER" was that I should leave the deck 6 restaurant go up 8 decks to the café, get a couple of glasses of "FREE" water and then come back down to my deck 6 restaurant to drink it and then start the whole process again if I wanted more than one glass of water. What a load of crap. 0 out of 10 MSC
Our first port of call was Barcelona and to say disembarkation was really terrible would be a gross misrepresentation of the facts. Security staff have to view card viewed and put the card's details into the on-board computer both going ashore and coming back on-board. To disembark over 3,000 people in Barcelona MSC has 2 security staff doing the checks. It took us over 2 hours in a line to get to the point where you could disembark. MSC organisation was again 0 out of 10. Not one person from MSC came near the line to say they were sorry about this horrid disembarkation. Horrid customer service.
Shore excursions were a huge rip off. We paid 3 euros per person on a local bus for a return ticket to the town centre. If you went on the MSC bus to town the charge was 31.50 Euro's (over 10 times more). Yet another rip off.
The daily news letter was like our local paper. It provided you with "Yesterdays news tomorrow". Basically it had little or no information on the port you were visiting the next day. We were told that tannoy announcements were made telling people that there was a "port information discussion" being held (somewhere and with a start time) but the loud speaker in our cabin must have been broken as we did not hear one announcement in our cabin for the entire trip.
And the list of disappointments goes on. MSC basically catered for Italians so most of the shows were in Italian. We went to the first show but left after 15 minutes (for obvious reasons).
We never had one of the Ships officers come and speak to us to maybe get our thoughts as to how we were enjoying the cruise. I think that they all knew the answer/s and stayed well away from their "CUSTOMERS". Not forgetting here that most people were charged 8.50 euro's per day so that MSC could tip all staff at the end of the cruise. To get a tip where I come from you have to provide "excellent customer service" and to put it bluntly none of the officers we saw about the ship deserved to be tipped but they did deserve to be coached on providing "customer excellence" so that they fully understand what the word "CUSTOMER" means.
I sent my litany of complaints to both my Travel agent and MSC. My travel agent was horrified and immediately contacted the local MSC people in Australia to discuss my issues and I am to have a face to face meeting with this gentleman in the near future. However all the emails I received from MSC were platitudinous clap trap which firstly suggested that my travel agent was the cause of all my problems and secondly they gave me a hard time for not reading ALL the T's&C's in the rather laboriously long T&C documents. MSC then offered me a 10% discount on my next MSC cruise. MSC obviously didn't read or didn't care about my issues because I told them in several emails that I would never set foot on an MSC ship ever again.
I really do understand that any business has to make a profit to survive but once I have paid for our cruise, (not) given over money to tip people I personally wouldn't employ, had to pay for water with an added 15% service charge (as well as a 15% surcharge on already overpriced beer and wine etc.) then I expect fantastic customer service for the many dollars I paid out for the cruise.
To add a little positive note to this I must say that the food was excellent, the wait staff in the restaurant and the cabin staff were all excellent too. I'm also sure that many of the unseen staff were excellent also.
To finish in as few words as possible "NEVER EVER, EVER AGAIN WITH MSC".
Cabin was very nice and spotlessly clean. Our Cabin steward, Ketut was excellent. The one thing that needs to be changed was the TV programming. There was 3 channels for English speakers and they were all News channels. If you spoke Italian you had a multitude of channel choices. After 11 days I was sick of news and only news 24x7 ad infinitum.
Stood in line for 2 hours to get off the ship. Organisation = 0
Loved Tenerife. Friendly people who understood the meaning of customer service, food and wine prices were not inflated and no 15% service charge. Really not enough time ashore to see all we wanted to see
Similar to Tenerife. Great food, wine and service with a smile. Again not enough time to explore
Loved Malaga but again not enough time to explore
Didn't go ashore