Expect nothing and you'll get just that. I’m a platinum cruiser so I know impressive, satisfying, fair and inferior. So far, in life (experiencing almost all the cruise lines), I have been lucky to be on some awesome cruise ships that offered: great food, entertainment, excursions and an optimal service.
But the MSC Meraviglia ship did not hit any of my bells or whistles.
The ship, stands large and is a work of art. Beauty by all standards, interior and exterior. It is so pretty that when it sets out on the rising sun, passengers are bewitched. But that’s where the positives end. So, let’s take it all apart: Experience by experience.
Arrival Experience. Immediately, I was struck with confusion at check-in. So many travelers ahead of me were in possession of their ship cards. What I found out that meant was that passengers could get on at every port and off at every port. Meaning that there is no set embarkation or disembarkation. You will never experience the welcome party. Friends that you make along the way may be getting off at the next port never to be seen again. This is not only a safety issue but it lacks the welcome experience of getting on taking pictures, meeting the crew and the welcome party the first night. As we went around the corner there was no embarkation photo. We were told that we may have to get that on the next port. This ship travels for 4 months without stopping picking up people at every port and dropping others off. We finally make it on board, we head to our room to freshen up and head to the buffet for a bite to eat. But first, we wanted to see our welcome gift. It was supposed to include drink coupons and fruit basket for each member of my family in the cruise program. We transferred our points from another cruise line. What we got was one fruit basket to share consisting of two bruised apples, one over ripped plum and a brown banana. The drink package was not in the room. We went to the reception and was told that there was no drink package. I requested the manager and was told that I did not have the package. I repaid to purchase two drink packages at $35 Euro’s. After returning to the room that evening, I was delivered a card that stated to come to reception about the drink packages. I arrived back at the desk and received my drink package that I had previously ordered during my reservation. I requested a refund of the package that I had paid for earlier that day and was told that since I got two drinks during lunch that they could not refund the package. That made no since to me because I knew that I had booked the package. But I went ahead and accepted that I would receive no refund for their mistake.
Excursion. Usually, you will receive your tickets upon check in or early the first day. But when I hadn’t received my tickets, I thought I surely better go to the desk and find out. I was greeted and told by the clerk that I did not pay for the travel excursion. I explained that I did. She argued. I went back to my room to retrieve my computer copy that I brought with me on board. It clearly showed that I had paid for the excursion in Marseille, France. She then called the manager who (after 15 minutes) said “Oh, we cancelled the excursion and refunded your money.” So, my thought and reply to that was when were you going to tell me that. They answered was like a deer in headlights. So, I had to quickly booked another excursion to have something to do. If this was the only mistake at the excursion desk, I would say cool. But it wasn’t. I had a series of cancellations based on being a US citizen who speaks English. There is only a handful of Americans on board and they have very few translators in English. If they do translate, you have to wait for them to do the other language first (Italian, Germain, Dutch, Turkish). It’s very confusing and very long. Because translating in two or three other languages takes forever and leaves very little time for shopping in the ports. As you arrive on the ship after your tours, you see people in front and behind you with luggage and checking in. Which takes up time to reinter the ship. The excursion desk lacks in courtesy from the passengers as well. Everyone cutting in line as though respect isn’t a universal language.
Food. One word: terrible. No flavor and no creative dishes. Other than an Italian menu. Don’t expect anything else. Pasta for days. Breakfast. Bacon and sausage uncooked. Literally, raw. Pork and beans are a common stable for mornings. Eggs runny, fruit over ripped, and the juice machine rarely working. But the croissants are extremely tasty. Lunch. Meat does not exist on the pizza or in the pasta. Ranch dressing. Wait for it – not there ever. In the dining room, you sit wherever. But you are subject to a different waiter each time. Who will take your order only to either not come back with the right stuff or forget about you all together. At one point, I had to leave the restaurant to go to the nearest bar to order a bottle of water to serve my family. Dinner. Restaurant has no variety and substitutions come back wrong. Charges for drinks will have to be removed at reception after you leave the restaurant. And Late night munchies are only pizza and left over burgers/hotdogs from lunch. Things you won’t see: Fried chicken, Mexican food, barbeque, pizza with meat, chicken fried steak, macaroni and cheese, fried shrimp and cookies.
Nickle and Diming You. Be ready. Price for elegant night does not include steak or lobster. Be ready to shell out some big money. Price for on-board ice-cream (you know how to use those self-serve machines on board other ships. Price for room service. I bet you thought it was a given to get a free sandwich. Price for washing clothes. Yea usually a price on other cruise ships. But you get to do yourself and you pay for a full load. Here you pay for each piece (panties included). Price for riding the water slide or open ropes course. Just be prepared.
Public Restrooms - Cultural. I get it. But grown boys (teens) and men in the women's bathroom makes me very uncomfortable. Especially for my teen girl on board.
Shopping on board. If you have grown accustomed to those special shopping days. You know, the 2 for $20, $9.99 or drawings for that diamond that you’ll have to mount later. That won’t happen. I was used to grabbing for watches, bracelets, t shirts, scarfs. But it never happened.
Kindness. I rode in the elevator alone for 12 floors with the cruise director. Who never acknowledge or looked up and greeted me. Front desk argues with guest especially the young lady with the pony tail who wears glasses she is rude with all passengers and many people with choosing to get skipped rather than end up with her. The philosophy that the customer is always wrong until proven right is something that is practiced.
Safety. Passengers getting on and off at each port. A group of people trying to sneak on. Who would recognize them? On the day of cleaning the windows – the window crew walked through my room and right out the front door only to find out later that they took my balcony door off and even though there was constant calling the reception and going down. My door was not returned for 2 days. People were all over the balcony with our family. No signs for hot tubs. Which allow children to get in without parents and horseplay wrestling and jumping. One pool crew member tried to get out a group of boys who continued to use the F word over and over.
Photography. Only about two photographers present each night. You may get an opportunity to have a background. But don’t expect those pictures at each port.
Entertainment. The show is not in English. Which is okay. But be prepared to make a reservation to go. No comedy on board. I think they may have one day of trivia. No on-board movies on deck.
My initial booking. I can only assume that what I desired in a cruise line was lost in translation on the day that I made my booking. Perhaps my experience will be different from yours. But I thought you should know. So now you ask can I find anything great.
Yes the cities we visited are rich in history, beauty and culture. That beauty that exist can never be lost in translation.
Cleaning Crew. Extremely small but that's my fault. Booking a cabin with balcony but not upgrading to something larger. Don’t expect that they will learn your name. But they are happy to take your service charge on your bill. No animal towels folded, bed turned down or even a piece of chocolate. In fact, you may have to continue to ask for towels daily. And just by chance if you get a room with a bunk bed raise your mattress up. You will find all sorts of things, popcorn, paper and trash. Soap in the bath room may or may not be filled up.
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