Now don't get me wrong, we really enjoyed this cruise and for the money we paid it was a bargain. However not having cruised with MSC before there were a few unexpected omissions compared to other lines we've used.
Embarkation was swift as we were one of the last to board due to a prior trip to the Iguazu Falls, then it was straight into the lifeboat drill, where you not only had to take your life jackets, but wear them. When we got chance to settle in the cabin, it was quite spacious with lots of drawers and wardrobe space. The shower had a plastic curtain but it wasn't as clingy as most and I had to unblock the showerhead before it would work on our first night.
The cabin steward was friendly and not too intrusive.
There was only fixed dining times available unless you were in a certain class and we were assigned a table for the cruise. The waiter was very efficient and friendly, though his English wasn't the best. His assistant got the drinks and the appetisers but then left him to it most nights. The food was generally very good but the portion sizes are getting smaller (not just on MSC) but there was no problem with ordering more than one item on each course. There was no free water on the table, you had to buy bottles or use your drinks package. Neither was there coffee served at the table afterwards. You couldn't even buy it as they needed people to move on ready for the second sitting.
The buffet was laid out with the kitchens and food down the centre of the deck, with tables along the windows on either side. Most items were duplicated on each side, but there was the odd thing e.g. pizza that was only available in one spot. This lead at times to it being awkward to carry plates and drinks whilst weaving in and out of folk looking for what they wanted. There was also a tendency for two people to occupy a table for 6 by placing bags and coats everywhere. There were only a few seats outside at the stern but you could take the food onto the main deck though it wasn't easy to achieve. It wasn't until halfway through the cruise that empty plates got quickly removed and tables cleaned for some reason. At lunchtimes there were specials based on a country of the day (not necessarily a country from our cruise).
The lounges were large but two of them were adjacent to each other, and music from one could often be heard in the other. Over half of the passengers were from Argentina with the majority of the others from Italy and Germany, consequently the music in the lounges were suited to them most of the time. There was no 'live' music anywhere on the ship until the evening and between 12.30 and 4pm all the animation ceased. Maybe this was siesta time for most. Siesta probably accounted for the fact that all the big events in the evening didn't start until after 11pm.
When the animation team got going, they were very good and always had lots of participants. They even entertained the audience prior to the evening shows in the theatre. The theatre shows again had to cater for different languages, so there were plenty of musical acts. The ships dancers and singers were in the main excellent, however they are from a separate company rather than MSC itself. There was an act in the form of 'Mr Bean' and he had the audience in stiches. There were a few classical shows which we gave a miss, though from the applause we could hear in the lounge, they went down well.
Service in the lounges was very good and the servers would have a chat when it wasn't busy. The drinks were not cheap, and all the good stuff was just that bit more expensive than the drinks packages allowed. I ended up buying drinks vouchers because my wife does not drink that much and a drinks package for her would have been uneconomic.
The ship was very clean but there was no emphasis on hand washing or other hygiene matters. The bannisters were constantly being polished which left a metallic smell on your hands. In fact the wife's hands turned black as the polish reacted with her hand cream.
This was the first ship I've been on where access to certain parts of the deck were restricted to certain classes, you couldn't even walk through them! The sunbeds were odd as they would go completely flat or be reclined, but could not be put in a position were you could sit up and read. Maybe these are peculiar to MSC, though they did have a section that could shade your head from the sun.
The excursions we took were ok but due to the small numbers of English speakers they were almost all mixed with a second language. Some of the guides struggled with one language or the other and as a consequence would spend more time speaking their best one. A couple of the tours we had pre-booked were cancelled due to the lack of English speaking numbers, but that did us a favour as we spent more time exploring the ports ourselves.
Finally disembarkation in Rome was a complete shambles. Once we were off the gangplank there were no MSC crew to be seen when collecting the luggage and then when trying to get on the correct buses to the port gates. The resultant chaos meant several people missed their trains to Rome itself, and being Easter Monday there was a long wait for the next train.
As I said at the start overall we enjoyed the cruise, and for the duration, the ports of call and the price we paid, it was good value for money. There are certain differences on MSC than we have had before, including holding on to your passport for the whole cruise. However I've booked another Grand Voyage with them in 2018 so I'll be more prepared next time.
Plenty of drawer and wardrobe space. TV, seperate settee. Shower has plastic curtain. Decent balcony. Has a chargeable minibar.
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