The daytime/evening cruise entertainment crew on Orchestra was the best I've ever experienced! Richard, Fernando, Akeetaka and the rest of the entertainment crew kept us laughing and dancing the whole cruise. Fun games and Caribbean dancing poolside by day and salsa dance lessons, silly, side-splitting contests and games in the evening. Of course, sometimes the other passengers provide some of the best impromptu, situational humor on board!My cabin was on 10th floor forward/portside. It was a perfect location
on this ship for quietness. The people in cabin next to me were very
noisy in early AM- One could easily hear banging of doors and drawers
in the closets. Wish they could find a way to buffer this noise from
drawers and doors. The closet provide adequate storage for hanging
items, luggage and drawers for me alone. It would be cramped for 2
people. I loved the dresser with built-in hair dryer/mirror and stool-
made getting ready easy for females! Cabin is very spacious, clean and
well appointed. I was very comfortable. The bathroom also very clean
and easy to maneuver in. Could have used a picture with some directions
for how to work the shower- a bit confusing. The balcony was spacious
with 2 chairs and a small table. The balcony floor was always wet and
glass railing/sliding glass doors covered with salt water/mist all the
time. I wish there was a way to keep it clear- probably a challenge on
the forward part of the ship!
The nightly entertainment in the theater was spectacular! A real european flare with cirque de soleil feel to some of the shows. The opera and classical performances were top notch. I was pleasantly surprised by the trapeze artist, acrobatics team and ballet in the onboard entertainment.
The food was a bit of a disappointment over all. However, I did NOT go hungry ever and I'm sure I put on a few pounds while onboard. The Italian inspired dishes were quite bland and did not have the zing of flavor I would expect from even an average quality italian restaurant. I was very impressed with the variety of offerings for lunch and dinner in the dining rooms. I especially enjoyed the veal cordon bleu, lamb (twice), indian curry dishes and filet mignon. The cream of fruit, chilled soups were amazingly tasty as well. My favorite desert served in the dining room was the panna cotta. The gelato poolside was yummy too. The complimentary fresh fruit in one's cabin each day was a real plus. I liked being able to order room service with no additional charges.
Foods that could use some improvement are: salads at dinner, need more vegetables on side of main entrees, offer more shrimp dishes for dinner, appetizer offerings in the lounges for "midnight buffets". I liked the concept of having a limited offering for the midnight snacks in the lounges rather than providing a huge buffet. However, the offerings were greasy and rather tasteless.
Poolside. I was concerned about general safety in the pool areas. They need to have someone monitoring safety more and not leaving this responsibility to the parents and passengers. We saw lots of young children unattended- hopping into the hot tubs and pools. I was very concerned about drunk adults diving into the pool with glass bear bottles in their mouths- very unsafe and stupid. The chair "saving" situation is problematic- but really it is the responsibility of passengers to act appropriately. I do not see any practical way for orchestra staff to make this situation better. Passengers need an attitude adjustment and need not feel entitled to own a chair for the day.
Photography. I enjoyed sitting for photo portraits during evenings. Photographers did a nice job of posing me. Not thrilled about posing with the silly clowns or pirates during dinner. I wish one could order different size photo packages with the portraits. Only 8 x 10 offered. Would be nice to get 5 x 7 or wallet size packages.
Overall my experience on MSC Orchestra was fantastic! I would cruise with MSC again and recommend them to my friends- that is the number one sign of success.
My cabin was on 10th floor forward/portside. It was a perfect location on this ship for quietness. The people in cabin next to me were very noisey in early AM- One could easily hear banging of doors and drawers in the closets. Wish they could find a way to buffer this noise from drawers and doors. The closet provide adequate storage for hanging items, luggage and drawers for me alone. It would be cramped for 2 people. I loved the dresser with built-in hair dryer/mirror and stool- made getting ready easy for females! Cabin is very spacious, clean and well appointed. I was very comfortable. The bathroom also very clean and easy to maneuver in. Could have used a picture with some directions for how to work the shower- a bit confusing. The balcony was spacious with 2 chairs and a small table. The balcony floor was always wet and glass railing/sliding glass doors covered with salt water/mist all the time. I wish there was a way to keep it clear- probably a challenge on the forward part of the ship!
Cayo Levantado- Dominican Republic This private island is beautiful. We were blessed with perfectly clear weather and calm seas. The ships tenders were conducted in a speedy and orderly fashion without incident. This beach is excellent for sun bathing and swimming. Not much of a snorkeling opportunity. Plenty of palm trees available for shady spots if needed. I prefer a more secluded beach. This was essentially all of our ship's (2000+)passengers crowded on a smallish beach with beach chairs lined-up very close to one another just like on the deck of the ship. I did not participate in any of the excursions to Samana- so cannot comment on them. There were several food options on C. Levantado. I chose the $12 all you can eat buffet that was somewhat hidden in the back of the island. They offered grilled chicken and fish, rice, salads, fresh fruits and pudding deserts. Apparently, one could order a la carte- lobsters and other items- though this was not written in a menu or published on a board for anyone to know. There were several vendors selling typical touristy stuff like straw hats, vanilla, local jewelry, artwork, t-shirts and tropical apparel. I purchased a few island inspired music CDs that were copied- but all seem to play just fine (whew!) There were several ladies offering massage beach-side. I doubt they are licensed massage therapists- but they did provide a relaxing and very affordable massage. (as a physical therapist, I am a good judge of quality massages) Cayo Levantado provided a fun and relaxing beach day with no sense of urgency to do anything.
I was surprised that a new Cruise ship port has been constructed. It was quite a long walk from the far end of the dock to shore. I prefer the location of the old port- closer to Phillipsburg. On the plus side- the taxi stands are very well organized and rates posted/regulated within the port. I took a quick van/taxi with about 12 others for $4 US into Phillipsburg. Enjoyed shopping on front street and also found an excellent place for bargain souvenir shopping at Rima's on Pond Fill Road (about 2-3 blocks behind Front street). I took another taxi to Dawn Beach from the cruise ship terminal. It cost $15.00 US each way because I was traveling by myself. (hint) Taxi's are much more affordable when traveling in larger groups. This taxi driver "Billy" was very pleasant and easy going. He enjoyed sharing information about his island and drove safely.He arrived back at the beach to pick me up in a timely manner. Dawn beach was lovely and relaxed. They advertised "best snorkeling beach on the island". However, I would not drag my snorkel gear out to this beach again. There was limited reef and very few fish to see. One could rent beach chairs for $6- full day. The owner offered to charge me only $3 since I would be there only 2 hours. A small beachside restaurant/bar is available- I didn't order anything.
I experienced the best beach of my whole cruise on Antigua. The Valley Church Beach gets 5+ stars. However, the island of Antigua and experience with Taxi drivers dropped my overall score to a 3. The Taxi system was deplorable in Antigua at the cruise port. I felt like I was being attacked by piranha's. It was clear from the start that their taxi service was not well regulated and was replete with scammers. I was quoted an initial price that was twice that of prices previously noted in these cruise critic reviews for taxi transport to Valley Church Beach ($65 round trip for 4!!!)Do they think I am stupid? The taxi drivers hovered around and insulted us and shouted- each one trying to guilt you into accepting their obscenely inflated rates. We finally found one taxi driver willing to give us an acceptable rate of $48 round trip for 4). The taxi ride was crazy- speeding through narrow streets, narrowly missed hitting people and other cars- yikes!) The poverty observed on our ride to the beach was sad. One could see why the taxi drivers and town's folk were unhappy and driven to such money grabbing tactics. I bet there are lots of politics behind this poverty situation. Once the cruise ship season is over, there will be limited sources of income for them.
Valley Church Beach was an absolute dream of paradise. We were 4 of the 8 people on the beach that day. Total feeling of seclusion and privacy on this 1-mile stretch of paradise. The water was crystal clear aqua and very little waves. Not a snorkeling beach- however, one could do horseback riding nearby. Beach chairs, bathrooms, food, beverages, artwork for sale at "The Nest". This beach experience was the highlight of my time in Antigua.
Once back in the town of St. Johns, I found the towns people to be barely tolerant of us cruisers because of the income opportunity- but did not feel welcomed by them at all. I felt they were looking forward to our ship sailing off. It did nothing to make me want to come back. Perhaps that was intentional?
I saw very little of Nassau by choice. I was a bit travel weary and just wanted to go to a nice beach. We took a group taxi from the port to Cabbage beach for a cost of $4 per person. The taxi fees seemed to be well regulated. Again, I encourage people to travel in groups for the best taxi fares. Cabbage beach is on paradise island near the Atlantis. The beach was steeply banked due to swift currents and erosion I believe. The surf and currents were strong to the point of being unsafe the day we were there. many cruisers opted to go to this beach making it very crowded. We were charged over $50 for three beach chairs and an umbrella- a bit high priced. Many stands offered coconut drinks 3 for $10. Quality/quantity of drinks varied considerably between vendors. Young boys were selling toys and food and women asking to braid hair constantly during our 2 hour beach stay. I did not enjoy this beach at all. The Orchestra arrived 1.5 hours late to this port so our time was very short. After the beach, we returned to do a bit of shopping in the port terminal. I enjoyed the conch fritters available in the terminal and live island music was fun to dance to. I did not have time to venture into the town for shopping. I was ready to embark the ship and do not want to return to Nassau based on my limited experiences.