We cruised on MSC Preziosa from Sept 10 – 17, 2017. We’ve cruised 5 times with Royal Caribbean International (“RCI”) and absolutely loved every one. While we were hesitant to try another cruise line, we decided to try MSC as they had a two for one sale and appeared to be more economical.
Let me start with the positives. The ship was elegant, the state rooms were great (we had a balcony), our room steward was attentive and friendly (not that we asked for much) but he was there if we needed him. The entertainment staff in the Safari Lounge and Green Sax Lounge were awesome as they would pull people up on the dance floor and ensure you were having a good time. We met some amazing people (other guests) and one I can tell will be a lasting friendship I’m sure. This is where any positives end.
The excursions were run by privately owned companies and were top notch and our experiences there could not have been better – except, many were cut short because MSC could not maintain their schedules and this of course reduced our expected excursion times; there was no rebate or apology from MSC as we missed some of what was promised.
We were a party of 5 and had the 8:30 pm sitting in one of the dining rooms. Our waiter and assistant waiter were not friendly at all; they didn’t even seem to like each other and were noticeably impatient if we took time deciding what we wanted. Menu selections were ordinary, uninspired and the food portions were meager The first night we all ended up going to the buffet afterwards as we were still hungry. We all started ordering two entrees the rest of the cruise and our waiter did not hide the fact that he was displeased with this. As noted, the food was OK, but nothing to rave about. They do not serve water, tea or coffee in the dining room. If you want water you must buy a 1 litre bottle of room-temperature mineral water. If we wanted coffee or tea, we had to go to the buffet or the coffee bar after supper. Three of us went in on a wine package, one ordered wine by the glass and the 5th person drank beer. Wine was served no problem. Beer was a different story. We were told it was ‘too far’ [to get it] by the waiter. So, one of our guests had to go to a lounge every night and bring back a beer so he could have it with his meal. A maître d never once visited our table. MSC automatically adds a tipping charge to your bill. The problem with this is that staff do not have to work for the tips and just don’t bother giving good service. Two days before the end of our cruise we had the tipping charges removed from our bill. Obviously, they are accustomed to passengers not getting good service as they did not ask why. We did give a very generous tip directly to our room steward as he deserved it. It did seem as if our waiter had gotten wind of the tip cancellation as the last night in the dining room he was attentive, friendly and delivered beer!
The 24-hour Reception Desk was not opened 24 hours and was often closed. There were very few activities on board, so our first two days at sea were quiet. Everything was so disorganized. The ship was late coming into all but one port and this affected the length of our excursions. The first port was supposed to be Le Havre, France. But we never got there. We were advised the day before that due to a strike we would not be able to go to the port. It was rescheduled for the 3rd day in port. That didn’t happen either. While terribly disappointed, as this was one of the reasons we chose this itinerary, we understood these things were out of the ship’s control. Since our trip; however, we have heard comments by other cruisers that sailed different dates with MSC that they never got to La Havre either. Seems strange that this would happen on different cruises. Perhaps a lure for a visit to Paris which never materializes. Beware!
It ws difficult to find your way around the ship; plenty of elevators (many that go nowhere you need them to – e.g., the dining room floor you had to access from the deck below – not friendly at all for mobility impaired). The decorators really overdid the black marble theme with black, grey and chrome predominant, so the overall effect is not colorful or vacation-friendly inspirational. The ship’s engines were loud and the entire ship vibrated every time coming into and out of port. On MSC Preziosa, a non-smoking lounge is open to the casino deck below which renders non-smoking status completely pointless.
Custom officials from Zeebrugge came onboard to meet with all non-Europeans. We had to see them before leaving the ship. MSC staff had no idea what they were doing. Those in our excursion group were to follow a guide who would take us to custom officials. He brought us to 3 different locations, going up and downstairs, as each spot he was told we had to go somewhere else. After we finally got to see customs officers we were brought out and told to stand off to the side in the hallway. The hallway was jammed with hundreds of passengers. Two women asked our guide where they could go for customs as they were just going off ship on their own. After he told them where he thought they should go one woman totally lost it. She said she was told 4 different places to go and he just told her one of the places that she had already been turned away from. She started yelling that this was a terrible cruise line, terrible ship, terrible staff, terrible everything.
At this point the many of the hundreds standing in the hallways erupted into yelling as they were also fed up with the disorganization, and whole experience as well. Crew members really did not seem to know the ropes; it was like this was either their first time doing this, or, MSC just did not care. It would do MSC well to send themselves and their crews on a competing cruise line’s vacation to see how it really should be done.
Announcements were often not broadcast in the cabins, so you had to open the door to hear them and sometimes they could be missed. There was a time change for one port that was noted in our daily newsletter but no announcements were made regarding this. We read the newsletters but not everyone does. I did hear that some excursions were missed due to people not aware of the time change.
This was our first AND LAST cruise with MSC. We now say MSC stands for 'Many Scheduling Changes' or 'My Sucky Cruise'. We’ve had 5 phenomenal cruises with RCI who recommend, but does not automatically charge you for tips. You decide what you pay each person either using RCI’s tipping guidelines or paying what you feel the person deserves. You can pre-pay these or pay at the end. We usually pre-pay based on their tipping guidelines and then give additional tips to those who deserve it. Everyone deserves their tips on RCI; a well-trained, entertaining, and engaging crew. Quite the opposite on MSC.
RCI dining room staff have always been nothing short of amazing. You have a lead waiter, waiter, maître d and bar staff that you see every day. The maître d ensures that your service has been good. The bar staff will deliver any beverage you want. All dining room staff are friendly, get to know you, advise you of special notices you should be aware of for the next day (e.g. time changes, weather, different currency, etc.). Water, tea, and coffee are standard fare in the dining rooms, as we North Americans would expect. We always pay RCI dining room staff above the minimum tipping suggested as they truly deserve it. The food in the dining room is phenomenal and the portions are great and you are not hungry afterwards. It is not merely re-plated items that can be found on the buffet, as were the MSC desserts.
We all accept that weather conditions dictate cruise itineraries once you set out. Not once in our 5 cruises with RCI were we ever late arriving into port. The ships have sometimes been delayed in leaving the port due to weather, etc, but always made up the time while the guests slept. The engines are quiet, the ship does not vibrate and you could be at dinner and suddenly realize we had left port.
Important announcements are always broadcast in the cabins so you are aware of any events, time changes activities, etc. There are so many activities on RCI that it is hard to decide which one you want to do as they all sound great. RCI will certainly continue to have my loyalty.
We never got to Le Havre, but did go to the port in Rotterdam and took an excursion to Brugge. Beautiful city and the excursion was incredible. Loved everyone moment.
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