Before we went, we read the reviews here: Poor service, cold dinner, bad attitudes... So we were prepared. But things has changed, even from recent reviews.
The pluses: Great itinerary: A stop each day in some of the most beautiful places in the planet.
Here is what we read, and what we found:
Bad employees. They apparently have been released. More than half were indonesians, rest were from central america, africa, some eastern europes. All were pleasant and helpful.
Cold dinner was a common complaint. What we found: All the plates were received were hot. Dishes were generally good. Serving smaller than American cruises, but again... we did not go hungry. Feel free to order two meat, as the servings were smaller. Desert? On the two nights with the show, the tiramisu and baked alaskan desserts were TOO much... so share one for two... so you don't get indigestion. One bad plate? A pasta first serving was too salty, but it was just a first course. The risotto was bland, as it was served by itself. I would ask them to leave it so you can enjoy it with the meat or saltier dish.
No water served. What we found: They did not give us water bottle tickets... it was already registered in the dining area. They did give free large bottle per person, per dining only in the dining room. If you asked for water in the buffet, you will be billed, $2.99 to be exact. You are alllowed two bottles a day - one per guest, or would be two if you traveled as a couple. So if you want one for the cabin, ask for two, and take one back. Of course, this is only for folks booked from the US or Canada. 3 buck is not expensive for water. All the drinks in the cabin ref were reasonably priced which I think is much less than what Carnival charged.
The bads ?? Very disorganized and slow disembarcation, they were over 1 hour behind schedule. They did not give instruction to the guest where the luggages were (4 groups) so we fought and elbows to find out that we were in the wrong group. Very POOR information on the ports. I believe it was done on purpose, so that we will book tours with them. No maps were given, no instructions given until late at night on the disembarcation process. If you knew the port and how to get off, you'd less likely purchase their tour.
Poor pre trip information on how to get from Piazza Roma to the cruise ship. We walked wayyy to much as we did not know they had a free shuttle. Embarcation was also slow and tedious.. and in the heat of the building... difficult to bear. Our safe did not work, we had to call them 3 times, and finally coming to the desk before they sent some one to fix it. If you want 2 separate beds or one king bed, arrange it before hand, as they do not like to separate or join the bed after you board. They did not give us a map of the ship.... bad. At least print it on the daily letters! They said it is posted at the elevator. Even 5 days into the cruise, we had folks still lost and can not find the dining area. The lay out of the ship is confusing.... we did not have it well oriented even after 6 days.
More bads? Poor port information. I truly believe it was done on purpose. Carnival provide a brief guide to the port, a map, and what to see and do. They do not provide these informations at all, or even on the disembarcation porcess. Not until late in the evening so you can not do your planning. And have to buy their tour. I do not enjoy their tours at all, except the guide at Montenegro. They should provide us with better port information, how to get to the sites, and how to get back. Very poorly done.
Here is what you should know...
Bari - take the cruise bus to near town. From there, buy a cheap tour on the little train that is there. Cost $10 per person. You will see church of St Nicolaus, then walk to another church, which is by the castle and take the little train back to the shore, and take the bus back to the ship. If you chose to stay at the castle, might ask if you can hop the next train, or take a taxi or walk back.
Ancient Olympia... I could not stand the greek tour guide. Talked too much, and did not let us read the map or instruction. There were many free map of the area, and she did not give us one. She just like to talk, and was hard to hear her. Better off, take a tour bus to olympia, walk and read the plaques there yourself... enjoy the site, then visit the museum. With this lady, you will not have time to visit the museum. The town was not worth much visiting... but it is within walking distance.
Athens.... same. I did not see huge value in the bus tour, except to see the sites like the first olympic stadium built in 1800's, governmental buildings, etc. If you enjoy shopping and museum.. just take a shuttle to the acropolis early before it gets hot, tour the ruins. From there, you can walk to the museum, spend an hour or more then in the cool museum, then walk less than 500 meter to temple of Zeus, take some pictures, and shop in the town there. I really enjoyed the museum, and think it would be better to see it first before the ruins... but it might get hotter if you did that.
Santorini.... beautiful..... Skip the tour. As soon as you get off, don't stand in line to take the cable car up. Buy a ticket from a booth, and hop on a boat to Oiai. Spend an hour or more there, and perhaps eat lunch. We found a Gyro shop by the bus stop area that served delicious hot chicken and port gyro for $2.50 a piece... a meal in itself! For 10 euros per person, the ticket will get you a boat ride to Oiai, and back to the main town by the port, I think it was Fira... There spend about 1 hour shopping in the main square (read the map for how to get there from the bus stop) and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship (line on the cable care 30 min to 50 min) depending on how soon you get back. Or you can walk down the steps which likely will take at least 20 min in the heat. I think there is mule ride up perhaps down the steps... as you can smell the stink of mule feces as the wind blew up the steps into the town. Last boat supposed to have left at 4:15... but many got back much later due to the long line at the cable car. Get to the cable car at least 3 pm if you do not want to wait long. At 3:30... you will be in line for 45 to 55 min! Later?? You might miss the ship!.... just find the steps and get down that way!
Corfu - take the bus for like 8 euro round trip to town. You are next to the base of the old fort. We simply walked along the shore to the Museum of Eastern Art.... Just on the other side of the old building is a local small "beach"... Swam there for about 1 hour, and went shopping in town. We made a mistake by walking through the town, and when the locals point to the "cruise bus".. we headed to the WRONG bus stop, on the OTHER side of town near the newer fort. It was used by Celebrity cruise or something. Wished that MSC had provided a map, like Carnival. But it is done on purpose... to get you to book their tours. Taking a taxi cross town to the nicer beaches cost like 50 euro one way. And we enjoyed the extra time for shopping and enjoying the site by walking to the little "beach" and swimming under the great wall and sight of the castles.
Montenegro... we loved our tour guide. Worth purchasing even if the tour guide was not good. Bus will take you along the shore, visit a church in the catholic city there, then take a boat to visit a little church in a man made island. Then bus back to Kotor, a beautiful old city in side a fortified castle wall that runs all the way up the mountain side. Worth to take this tour.
Venice... We spent 5 days there. If you have 6 hours? It might still be worth it to buy the $20 unlimitted use of the bus and Valporeto water bus. Just make sure you are heading down the right way in the grand canal. Line 2 is rapid and get from the plaza Roma to St Marco square in about 20 min. Line 1 is slow, and get there in 45 min. Plan to spend 2 hrs minimal in St Marco. The church is free to enter. Long line at the bell tower might not be worth it.. as it is hot. Trick with the church is carry a BIG bag.. check it in on the left side of the church. They will give you a ticket to enter the church, as they ASSUMED that you have spent an hour in the line, and was turned away at the door due to your bag.. hahaha... it is cheating. We did not do that! We folded our big bag and packed it up small.. and waited in line for 25 min early in the morning. Rialto bride and the market is a fascinating sight, at least for me. Seeing the local fruits, vegetalbe, and seafood was very interesting.
I just wish that MSC would be more customer friendly. But perhaps because of the need to translate the information into so many languages, it was difficult for them to develop a better guides for their stops. At least do it in a few major languages. But I really think it is a ploy to sell more tours.
Drink packages?? Save 15% to 20% for drinks?? Not worth it! Don't buy it!
The drinks are affordable. As the packages are given in coupon books, you will lose it... or what we find... is that they will rip out too many, or do it TWICE... so any saving you save is lost! And when you tell them, they don't care.
Buy the drinks one at at time with your card.. it is likely cheaper than the booklets they sell.
Ahhh... bad services??
Poor staffing.. poor cleaning. Many times I have encountered bathrooms with no toilet paper, and NO HAND towels. Bad. Infection control must be meticulous... and this is unacceptable. Later, I found toilets with just stacks of tp outside... as they did not have staff to clean and stock it. Better than having none!
Buffet are poorly supported... ice is empty half of the time. Cups are gone 1/3 of the time. More than often, I am using coffee cups for water. Eating utensils not out in time, or ran out... So you run all over the place to look for forks and knives or you have to find napkins in the bar area. Food not served in the time that they claim service started. Long lines, as when they run out of a favorite food, people stand there holding up the line. This happened with the fried squid... lines lines lines... Poor planning and poor staffing. Man at the carving table did not understand English.. but refused to give me dark meat despite trying to tell him legs or thighs.... Gave me breast instead. Perhaps from lack of English, or perhaps he did not know there was a difference in taste.
Ahhh... one more negative.... hot cabin! They try to conserve power so they turn down the air conditioning at night. At maximal air conditioning, it got too hot at night. And cooler in the day! This should be the opposite, as the outside temp is really hot in the day, and cooler at night. Being cheap on power made the guests suffer. We did not report it... but for overweight folks.. it might be very unhealthy. Other.. . not enough exercise equipments... They used up most of what carnival would use for exercise room for their spa. People stand in line to use equipments. Only ONE functioning elliptical machine. Carnival had like 6. Aging folks can not handle treadmill.
Take care, and enjoy. We would do MSC again. as they have made efforts to improve at least in friendliness and quality of food.
But if the toilets continue to run out of tp and towels This cruise line will sink like a rock!!!! As folks will get sick and their reputation will be ruined.
On the left side, or port side... perfect for this itinerary... Best side for view and great photos! Loud engine noise as we were in the back over one of the propellar, but we got use to it quickly.
Wow. Once we figured out the valporeto and directions and the stops.. it was easy as pie navigating the city! There should be a guide JUST on how to use the valporetos!
We paid for the cruise bus to the city. Then a yellow train was there offering a $10 tour. Well worth it... saw two churches and the guide walked us through the town.. and down to the castle.. then back to the bus stop.View All 3 Basilica di San Nicola Reviews
Darn tour guide wasted our time by talking tooooo much. Let us read and explore, keep it short lady! So we have more time and perhaps to see the museum. Problem with tourguides is that they think they have to be a walking encyclopedia! Bad english and too much info is not good, esp in 90 degree heat!View All 216 Olympia Archeological Tour Reviews
Hop a boat directly from port to northern city of Oiai. Boat and bus ticket was $10 euro. Spent 2 hours in Oia, and take bus back to port... spent 2 hours there, and took cable car down.... Wait at cable care was horrible. From 3:30 we didn't get to the boat till 4:20. Officially, last shuttle boat to the cruiseship leaves at 4:15.. but they keep runnning till well after 4:30. Next time, we would walk down the steps if we knew they existed.
Guide talked too much... I left her talking and walked the site myself. Much better!View All 390 Acropolis Reviews
One in one. Left the lady.. and walked to the museum.View All 164 City Tour Reviews
Too little time. We wanted to go to the beach... and fortunately.... a man pointed us to a little local "beach" behind the museum of eastern art. Swam for over 1 hour, then walked around the town. This beach is very close to the MSC drop off point for their bus. Other cruises drop folks off the other side of town, nearer to the new fort. MSC left us near to the old fort.
If we had went to the good beach on the other side of the island.. likely would not have enough time to tour the city.
Had an excellent tour guide... Spoke english perfectly and did not overwhelm with too much info. Enough time for us to see things and enjoy things.View All 102 Montenegro Highlights Reviews