MSC Fantasia Cruise Review by paul.strange
- Sail Date: January 2017
- Destination: Middle East
- Cabin Type: Balcony Stateroom – Fantastica
We landed early at Dubai airport. Fairly big queue at passport control, but emerged into the sunshine around 10:30am. We ignored the taxi people inside the terminal and just went straight to the taxi rank. Cost was 55D (around £12) to the Port Rashid where our ship was. Tip: Make sure the driver turns on the meter as we heard stories of people getting ripped off.
On arrival at the ship, a fairly quick process to get signed in and on board. Although our cabin wasn't supposed to be ready till 1pm, we went to it anyway and it was available which was a bonus. However as yet we had no cruise cards and that involved a separate trip to a bar to pick them up. If you turn up after 1pm, they will be in your cabin. Not sure why MSC don't follow pretty much every other cruise line and issue them at check in !!
The cabin was a balcony and was well appointed and was comparable to balcony cabins on other ships
We were on the Aurea package, so had the Any Time Dining included automatically.
This meant we could arrive at the Red Velvet restaurant at any time from 6:30pm to 9:30pm and be sat down. No booking required. Each night was a different six course dinner offered with different themes. The issue was that the quality and taste of the food was average at best. Having cruised before on RSSC, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Fred Olsen, Norwegian and Azamara, we feel we can give a neutral honest opinion.
It was disappointing and probably the biggest failing of the cruise. There was a Tek Mex restaurant available for a bit extra, but we never tried it.
Lunch was catered for either as a served three course in the Red Velvet or as a buffet in the Zanzibar. To be honest I preferred the buffet as a three course for lunch and six course for dinner was too much for me.
Bottom line is that if food is very important to your holiday enjoyment, then MSC are probably not for you, unless you can stretch to Yacht Club where they have a different (and apparently very good) restaurant.
I have to say I was very impressed by the sheer number and size of the bars. Depending on your preference (quiet, background music, ballroom or dance), there was a bar to cater for you. All were pretty empty as well, so no problem getting a seat.
Allegrissimo Drinks Package
Again because of the Aurea package, we got the Allegrissimo drinks package for free. It worked well and we were happy. You get a choice of two reds/two whites/one rose and one sparkling. The reds were a Merlot and one I'd never heard of, but were perfectly acceptable.
The whites were a Chardonnay and another unknown Italian. The choice stayed the same for the whole cruise, so did get a bit samey towards the end. A couple we got to know went for the premium package, but couldn't always get their first choice of wine as the bars and restaurants seem to have their own stock. Still at least they did get the whole bottle on the table, whereas we had to order by the glass. Having said that, service was good and we were never left long with an empty glass.
The second biggest disappointment after the food was the entertainment. I'm used to fairly big shows with maybe guest acts flown in.
However the shows (apart from the Micheal Jackson one) were instantly forgettable. The cruise director (can't remember his name) was even more forgettable and didn't seem to have any role on the ship other than to practice his six languages before each show.
Another disappointment (oh dear I don't want to come across as a whinging pom) was the daily activities. Almost every other cruise I've been on has had an extensive daily list of activities (quiz, table tennis, lectures, etc.). On MSC, although they do have some daily activities, they are almost exclusively based around the main pool (including the quiz !!).
I've seen the reviews that say that the crew are a surly bunch, but to be honest they seemed very happy and we received good service, so no complaints here.
I don't normally sign up for WiFi on board as it is usually horrendously expensive, but MSC has some very reasonable packages. We went for a two person package for the whole week and it was around £40. Not bad at all and it even worked !!
Again give MSC it's due, the excursions were very reasonable. We booked a couple online before we left and they delivered all what was promised, so thumbs up to MSC for this.
Ports of call
Dubai - We had a MSC tour to see the main sites. Slight downside is that you spend most of your time in the coach travelling between the locations with perhaps 20mins at each stop. The city is very large and spread out, but it was very interesting.
Abu Dhabi - The official MSC city tour was fully booked, so we took a taxi to the Grand Mosque (45D - £10 each way). This was the stand out monument for me on the entire cruise and simply cannot be missed. It is breathtaking.
Muscat - It was actually raining when we arrived and the streets were flooded. We walked for a bit but gave up in the end. Nothing memorable about this stop.
Khasab - We took our second MSC official tour which involved an hours drive to a small castle (which looked like it was built yesterday) and then an hours drive back. In hindsight, not a good idea.
Sir Bani Yas Island - This was a bit of an unknown as it was only very recently opened. Tenders took you to a golden beach with sunbeds and umbrellas stretching for a long way in each direction. There are separate areas for Yacht club and Aurea and also
lots of bouncy things in the sea for the kids. The beach areas also had bars and BBQ's set up, so you could use your drinks package on shore and not feel you are missing out. However the facilities are limited and unless you are dedicated beach people, a few hours was enough.
So overall a good cruise. MSC cater to a certain demographic. They offer some amazing bargains and are truly value for money. But the low cost obviously has to mean some cutbacks and the food I'm afraid is the obvious one.
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