This was a first cruise and a trial cruise for us and if three days on board MSC Sinfonia is any indication what cruising is really about, we'll never do it again!
We can heartily recommend the suite cabins with balconies which are quite spacious and comfortable.If you're a light sleeper, be careful of your cabin choice. We were in cabin 1040 which was underneath the entertainment deck and at 2.30am on Sunday morning, the 'entertainment' was still in full swing.
The cabin had plenty of two-pin plug sockets so bring your adapters if you're from overseas. The TV selection was good - all the movie channels and news. Premium sports are broadcast in the bar only. Full bath with shower in the bathroom but no amenities apart from a shower cap and two ugly wall dispensers with body wash and shampoo.
The staff we dealt with in the cabin and the restaurant were terrific.
That's the good news.
The embarkation was a three hour-plus ordeal with hundreds of us corralled and shuffling through a sweaty barn on the docks in 30C degrees. We are two healthy adults but it was a terrible experience for elderly people and for parents with young children. Boarding was supposed to start at 10am and we got there at 10.15am. People who got there earlier said they boarded with relative ease. We got on deck at 1.25pm and then were called for the emergency drill on deck and ended up standing around for another 30 minutes.
It's not a good way to start any holiday. MSC point the blame at immigration officials for the delay in embarkation but they really need to sort something out because it's a ridiculous situation.
The food on board was dreadful. We're used to buffet restaurants in large hotels but I've never seen anything so badly run as the main terrace restaurant on MSC Sinfonia.
First of all it's far too small to cater for the thousands on board. As a result mealtimes are a virtual scrum. The variety of food and the standard of food were absolutely dismal. It didn't matter what time of day you tried to eat there - the hot food was always cold and the cold selection was minimal. The salad bar was a dismal joke - limp lettuce, tomato and sweetcorn with salami and 'ham' slivers which appeared to have a white face printed on it. The fruit selection consisted of three different types of melon and a fruit salad consisting of the same three different types of melon with a little pineapple mixed in.
The pizza bar and fast food station - burgers and frankfurters - located just outside the buffet served food that was hot at least.
The Galleone Restaurant offered a more civilised environment for breakfast and lunch but the food wasn't much better.
Dinner seating is allocated and almost all the tables are for four, six or eight passengers so couples will almost always be sharing. Dining times are also strictly allocated - 6pm or 8.30pm. The menu selection is good but the food in our allocated restaurant - think it's called Il Covo - was always served lukewarm to cold.
Room service food continues with the same standards - there's a limited menu of mostly stale sandwiches available and pizza is available after 8pm.
Everything on board is priced in American dollars which makes it expensive for South Africans. We felt that wine prices were reasonable - ranging from around $12 to $18 per bottle but 15% service charge is added to everything. We bought an internet package before boarding but we were charged for another package on board and it couldn't be refunded before we disembarked because who ever was in charge 'wasn't answering his phone'.
Portuguese Island was the only excursion offered on our mini-cruise. It's an uninhabited island. My husband opted for a snorkling trip but there was no visibility in the water so it was pretty uneventful. It's a day at the beach with a barbecue where once again they managed to serve unedibly cold food.
Overall we'd give it a big thumbs down. Even the brilliant sunshine and the Indian Ocean and the cabin weren't enough to overcome all the negatives. There's far more enjoyable ways to spend your money!