The trip from Vancouver thru Toronto to Veradaro was exhausting. Then we had a 2 hour bus ride from Veradaro to Havana to get to the cruise ship. After 26 hours of traveling, our bus driver stopped in traffic and unloaded all of our luggage onto the street and started to drive away. I stopped him and asked where we should go? He didn't speak English, but through a series of hand signals, the whole bus load of people headed in the direction he pointed. We had to weave between parked cars and street vendors plying for our business over rough streets and sidewalks full of holes, pulling our luggage in tow. We could see the prow of the cruise ship in the distance and headed that way. When we got close enough, we could see that we had walked too far and had to back track to a narrow, crowded hallway that was apparently the cruise ship terminal. We saw a sign that said MSC Opera and a young lady told us to leave all of our luggage and go walk the streets and enjoy the city as we couldn't board the cruise ship for another 4 hours. We all said no that we needed to rest and the poor girl reached in her purse and pulled out her personal keys and said we could go to her house. The group revolted and pressed on past her and found ourselves in an underground parkade where we were again told to abandon our luggage for 4 hours. One member of the group even had her hand physically removed from her suitcase by someone wearing an MSC uniform. We reluctantly left our luggage and found a set of stairs and headed up. There was a couple of dozen chairs and a long counter indicating it was the check in for MSC. AND several hundred people waiting to board. Many, many people tried explaining to the staff that we had been travelling for over a day and needed food, water and a place to rest. I even asked for a wheelchair for a member of the group and was told no. We had to wait until they were good and ready to let us board. Finally we had our photo taken and were given an ID card that was similar to a credit card.
When we boarded, we were immediately told that our card was no good and we were to proceed to reception desk on the deck below. There we had our photos retaken and given the card and told that our cabin would not be ready for another 3 hours! UNACCEPTABLE. After some serious discussion, we were told we could proceed to our cabin immediately. Nice... where? Nobody directed us, welcomed us or gave us any kind of orientation to the ship. After finding our own way, we had a brief rest and headed directly for the buffet fearing that we would miss getting any food until the next day. We did eat, but our fears were not unfounded. The formal dining areas have specific times they are open and that is it. The buffet had longer hours, but no where near the 20/24 hours they claim to be open. The buffet closes after breakfast, lunch and dinner. Only pizza and hamburgers are available nearby when the buffet is closed. It doesn't matter how full the buffet is or how many people are still streaming in to eat. They physically remove all of the food and people are left stranded. (no worry about waste, the food is re-served) We found the buffet eating areas very unclean. The floors were dirty to the point that you could skate in your sneakers on the "sliminess" of them. The tables were sticky and staff were slow to clear them. (a trick for the wise... use your napkin that your utensils come in as a mini table cloth so your arms don't stick to the table) Food selection was mundane with a huge emphasis on veal and fish. Vegetables are scarce. You have to pay if you want a steak. Every liquid that you have included in your drinks package has to be signed for after presenting your ID card. We saved most of the tickets that we signed and I totaled them when we got home. At $4.00 for a bottle of water and $4.50 for a soft drink the totals add up pretty quickly. We had a couple of glasses of wine and about 5 cocktails while on board. Our drinks added up to over $400. There is also a mandatory 8.50 euros per person, per day charge for gratuities. I don't mind tipping fairly for service, but on this cruise it was more like they should have paid us a gratuity. The service was non existent. We saw a fellow ask for a spoon for his coffee and the staff pointed where he should go to get it. I had to leave the buffet and go to the bar to get a bottle of water. The hot water dispenser for tea was challenging and we actually sat nearby and for entertainment, hubby made it a hobby to show people how to work it as there were no staff to assist. Before an excursion, we had a question and went to the excursions desk. After waiting in line, I asked my question and the clerk behind the counter told me to go back to our cabin and read the daily paper. I was so shocked I must have had a dumb look on my face, as another clerk promptly stepped in and answered my question. I then turned to the first clerk and said..."see, wasn't that easy?" and left. All of the staff with exception of our cabin boy and server in the dining room, need a lesson on customer service and being polite. They were rude, arrogant and definitely not helpful. We had the consistent feeling that we were a nuisance and that we were there to keep the corporate machine oiled and that they were not there to make our vacation memorable. The entertainment was mediocre, and unless you wanted dance lessons, the activities were limited. The onboard shops were closed most of the time. I think the thing that we found most disappointing besides the food (I actually lost weight) and service was that it was a smoking ship. It reeked. We met and buddied up with a travel group of 14 and they expressed similar concerns to ours. If the MSC cruise line is going to market so heavily to the North American market, they had better learn quickly that our standards of expected service are not the same as what they are offering. I would definitely not recommend this cruise line to anyone.
Clean and well maintained by a friendly helpful cabin boy. Toilet stopped working and was fixed. Closet door kept falling off. Mini bar stopped working. Previous occupants had jammed toilet paper in air vents to prevent the wind in your face while sleeping. Shower is very small.