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MSC Splendida Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
350 Reviews

Mediocre Cruise Made Bad Due to Poor Service

MSC Splendida Cruise Review by ms261001

13 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2017
  • Destination: the Mediterranean
  • Cabin Type: Oceanview Stateroom

This was our 4th cruise, and our 3rd in the Mediterranean; we are two mid-30's Americans who live in Switzerland. It was also our first (and last) on MSC Cruise Lines. If everything was executed perfectly, the cruise only had the potential to be mediocre – but time-after-time the staff either made mistakes or were simply rude in a way that really ruined the experience.

The issues started even before we boarded. I tried to purchase an add-on to my cruise by contacting my travel agent, who suggested I contact MSC directly. MSC's US based call center said that they could not take a payment from me, and when I asked to talk to a manager, I was told, "my manager won't want to talk to you about this, it's the rule." Then she suggested that I was trying to get her fired. Not a good start.

Embarkation:

When we arrived at the port in Genoa to start the cruise, embarkation was not bad, but not well explained. As someone who had been on cruises before, I expected to get my cruise card when I checked in. No one explained that it would be on the bed in the room. Just an unusual process.

Cabin:

The cabin was actually a pleasant surprise; it was very spacious with a lot of storage (we were in an outside cabin on deck 5.) The bed was comfortable, and the bathroom was clean enough for an older ship. The cabin steward stayed out of our way, and always did will cleaning the room. Our big problem in cabin 5073 was that every morning at 6:00-6:15 and again at 8:00-8:15 a lot of banging occurred directly under our room. We noticed upon returning to the ship one day that there were large carts under our room, and that this was probably the problem. We were awoken every morning!

Meals:

Both the food and the service in the main dining room were mediocre-to-disappointing. If you're used to American cruise lines like Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Carnival, you'll notice a significant drop-off in the quality of the meals. As someone who is used to eating like a European, I was still turned off. There was not one meal that was memorable, and almost every course was left with a "meh" feeling. None of our party ever left dinner saying "that was good!" Additionally, in 6 dinners we had 4 meals served wrong. The one night we tried to order coffee with dessert, it came after dessert and as soon as we got it, they turned up the lights as an indication that it was time to leave. This is just bad service/training.

The buffet (Bora Bora in the Front, Pago Pago in the back) was even more disappointing. Meals were repetitive and often cold. One morning when we ordered coffees, they brought my wife the wrong coffee and said "That's what you ordered." The problem is, the person who brought it didn't take our order! There were always seats in Pago Pago, so that's where we usually ate. We became quickly convinced that "Pago Pago" must be Polynesian for "Employee Lounge" because there were always a bunch of employees standing with towels in their hands talking to each other. The worst part of the buffet was they were trying to be a sit down restaurant. They had long lines of people at the door that they wouldn't let in until they had someone to sit them, even though there were plenty of open tables. After waiting, they tried to but us at bar-height table, and when we said no, that we preferred a regular table by a window, the guy just walked away from us and said "Find it on your own." Luckily, we later found a way into the restaurant through the Aft elevators that avoided the line and rude staff.

Guest Services:

This was the one that really threw off our trip, and why I wouldn't ever take MSC again, or recommend it to Americans. We were traveling with my mother who doesn’t understand temperature in Celsius, each morning she would call the guest relations to ask if they could provide her with the temperature in Fahrenheit. Each day (except one, when an exceptional employee used her private cell phone to look it up) their answer was "no", in various creative forms. She was told things like "You're in Europe, you don't use Fahrenheit here!" or "Check in your daily program" (which was only in Celsius).

Finally, my wife and I complained about this to the corporate office (via twitter) and the Concierge reached out to us. She apologized for this (and several other issues noted here) and gave us a bottle of Champagne and strawberries. She also told me that she would address this with guest services. My mom, who was celebrating her 70th birthday, had booked through MSC Cruises USA, so we expected that they would know there would be Americans on board who use Fahrenheit. I told my mom that the Concierge had taken care of it, and she should be able to call down and ask for the temperature the next morning.

As you might have expected, she was told that "No, MSC cruises cannot provide the temperature in Fahrenheit" the very next morning. At this point, I went to the guest relations desk to find the name of the concierge so that I could follow-up. At guest relations, I was greeted with a scowl and told immediately to go back to my room and look at the TV if I needed to find the concierge's name, they wouldn't give it to me. I then explained my problem with Fahrenheit and my mother's birthday to the man, and he slammed a piece of paper on the desk with the temperature in Celsius onto the counter and said "See: 25 degrees. That's all I can tell you." When I asked to write his name down, he scribbled it illegibly on a piece of paper (luckily my wife wrote it down separately). We left and took a table in the atrium to cool-off and he continued to stare at us. We finally had to leave.

The next morning, I was able to get the concierge's name (not from my TV, but from another person at guest relations). Relaying this story, she apologized again and said she'd remove some charges from mine and my mother's bill. This did not happen. The only positive was that on the last day, when my mother called down to ask for the temperature in Fahrenheit (she's a persistent woman), she said people tried to get it, but still could not figure it out. At least they tried! But in all, a truly disheartening experience for an American abroad.

Bars:

Bar service was good. We were generally served promptly and the drinks were relatively reasonable in their prices. Everything is very standard, so don't expect anything too fancy, but when you can get bottles of wine for under 20 Euros on a cruise ship, you can't complain! Because the prices were low, we opted to skip the drink package, and that ended up being the right choice based on our total spend, and we never felt like we didn't drink enough. In fact, may wines by the glass were not available in the drink package. It's not by price, it's by marked item in the menu. We would likely have been disappointed if we pre-booked the package.

Bar bands were relatively disappointing. There was no one we really enjoyed sitting around and listening to, so we opted for the quieter wine bar.

Entertainment/Shows:

The stage productions were mostly disappointing. Because MSC does everything (and I mean everything) in 5 languages (English, German, Italian, French and Spanish), they rarely have any productions with words in them, and the intro to the show takes about 5 minutes. Standard cruise fare though. The magician was the best show we saw. The others were 30 minutes with about 5 minutes of truly interesting entertainment.

Each evening there was also entertainment in the aft bar starting at 11:30 PM. These shows were decent and got people engaged. We usually went up for these shows, and they were very crowded.

We didn't view much of the poolside entertainment because the weather was not great for it, but the "Beer Party" an Octoberfest-like event was entertaining.

Other Notes:

Our best experiences were with the Photography team. While the pictures were cheesy, they took lots for us. If you book an MSC Cruise, get the "Internet Package" of photos before you go (not available on board). It offers 100 printed pictures for $100. It was a great deal, and kept us entertained every night. It especially felt good when we heard people spending $60 on 3 pictures.

We didn't use any shore excursions, but they were relatively reasonably priced. We did use the boat-sponsored transfer in Marseille with no problems.

Boarding the boat at each stop was a pain, because if you come back close to departure, they shut down all of the entrances except for one, and employees use it as well. They have no problem with jumping the line of paying customers, and only once did I see security stop them from doing so.

Summary:

My expectation is that most Americans who have cruised before will not find this cruise suitable. We heard the same from other English speaking cruisers. An Irish woman on her first cruise that we were talking to said people keep telling her, "Don't give up on cruising, most of them aren't like this."

While MSC offers interesting ports at a lower cost point (although per night not much lower than other carriers in the Mediterranean), their service level is significantly lower than anything we have been on. For sailings in the Mediterranean on mid-range cruise lines, I'd recommend American stick with Royal Caribbean or Celebrity.


ms261001's Full Rating Summary
Cabin
Onboard Experience
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Service
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Cabin Review

Oceanview Stateroom
Cabin O2 5073

The cabin was actually a pleasant surprise; it was very spacious with a lot of storage (we were in an outside cabin on deck 5.) The bed was comfortable, and the bathroom was clean enough for an older ship. The cabin steward stayed out of our way, and always did will cleaning the room. Our big problem in cabin 5073 was that every morning at 6:00-6:15 and again at 8:00-8:15 a lot of banging occurred directly under our room. We noticed upon returning to the ship one day that there were large carts under our room, and that this was probably the problem. We were awoken every morning!


Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Valencia

Loved it. Had an incredible tour with a company called Sea Saffron - absolutely worth the cost!

Sardinia

Decent port. Did a free walking tour that was a bit slow due to so many people

Palermo (Sicily)

Great experience on a private tour of the city!

Marseille

Surprisingly nice. Great Segway Tour with 21 Jump Tours. Cost was 40 Euros for 2 hours, and we went nearly 3! Lots of fun, and a great way to see the sights.


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ms261001
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