MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review by mistertoaster
- Sail Date: October 2017
- Destination: Mediterranean
As background, we are experienced cruisers who typically sail in suites, predominantly on NCL and MSC. This is our third cruise on MSC and our third cruise in the Yacht Club. We booked this cruise about a year ago, before the ship launched. We previously booked a YC2 on the Divina and a YC1 on the Splendida. Both cruises were excellent. With a brand new ship and an expanded Yacht Club, the trip looked promising when booked.
The pre-booking optimism faded quickly once on board. We were escorted to the concierge desk and given our key cards upon arrival. However, the concierge failed to ask for a credit card to activate the entry and exit cards. We realized the cards had not been activated when we were locked out of the Yacht Club. The reception desk was packed. We had to search around the ship and finally found a spot to activate the card.
Unfortunately, this was a foreshadowing of concierge blunders. On the first day, I was told that I could not book the Cirque show I purchased before the cruise on the ship’s on- line booking system, but could only book through the concierge. On day 2, I go to the concierge and ask for a reservation on Tuesday the 31st. She insists that October has only 30 days and therefore I could not book the 31st. I mention I know there is a 31st because it is Halloween. She does not seem to know much about Halloween and at this point it feels like a metaphysical discussion of time and space. Finally, she looks at her calendar and voila the mystery is solved. The 31st does exist and I can have my reservation.
There was more lapses at the concierge desk. As black card members we got two free dinners at specialty restaurants. I read pre-cruise that Butchers Cut is very popular, hence my reason to book early. On the first day, I do not see any vouchers in the cabin. I ask the concierge. No worries they will deliver them. Day 2 still no vouchers. I ask the butler. Same response. I ask a different concierge. Same response.
Day 3 still no vouchers. I ask the head concierge. He indicates you do not need vouchers. He just has to call the restaurant. He calls. No times available for dinner, only lunch. I tell him I will discuss with my wife and get back to him. I call the restaurant myself after seeing many times available on line. No problem. They book us for dinner at 7 pm on Monday and Thursday. Why the concierge would mislead me on this issue and then intentional misrepresent dinner status is a mystery. I was cordial in all my requests.
Fortunately, I pre-planned and already purchased our excursions. We presumed this was our last contact with the concierge. We were sadly wrong. We arrive back at the room, and find a note that our excursion to Arles, France is cancelled due to weather. It was supposed to be 70, calm and sunny the next day. We do not think it was weather, but lack of interest that cancelled the trip. At this point, going to the concierge for more information is futile after the Halloween and Black Card incidents.
Our excursion receipts say we should get all our excursion tickets on the first day. However, we are only giving one ticket at a time the night before.Therefore, we do not know when the excursion will leave until 12 hours before some of the excursions. Hard to plan a good time to get back to the room when you do not know when you will need to get up in the morning.
We have never experienced such lack of service on a cruise. After the second day, we concluded that we would ignore the butler and concierge and do everything on our own. This works well for the rest of the cruise, but should be unnecessary in the Yacht Club, or anywhere else on the ship for that matter.
We have seen a few lax safety issues on various ships, but nothing compared to what we encountered in the main theater of this ship. All shows require a reservation. The theater holds approximately 700 folks. In theory, the reservation process should prevent any possibility of over-crowding. However, in practice MSC kept letting folks into the theater even after it was full, We attended all five shows and in all shows folks were sitting on the stairs next to me blocking the stairs and exits. The last night was the worse with about 20 rows of blocked stairs. An elderly gentlemen with a cane tried to leave early. He had to navigate a maze of mostly children seated on the stairs. It is amazing he did not fall and injure himself and one or more kids. In addition to the fall hazard, if the theater ever needed evacuation it would be chaos. At no time did we see MSC staff attempt to clear the stairs or make a pre-show announcement not to block aisle.
Besides the safety issue, the evening shows were mediocre at best. The singers and dancers were talented, but the shows tried to be all things to all people. Show attempts to incorporate something for every nationality into every show ended up in a choreographic hodgepodge. For example, one show’s theme was Italian Amore. However, half way through the show the cast was singing an American soul song in Italian that had nothing to do with love while dancers in pirate customs jumped around on stage. After exiting the show I said to my wife:“What the hell was that?” This was a recurring question after most shows.
We also attended the Cirque show. The show was good. However, it was equivalent to some of the free acrobatic entertainment we encountered on past cruises. However, it offered a midweek reprieve from the tortured choreography in the main theater. That was welcomed.
We also notice a recurring theme for events on this ship. Some shows were scheduled at 8:30 and some at 8:45, but they all start at 8:50 pm. There are two dress up nights, but neither was listed in the dailies. There are no announcements on the ship. Basically, you guess what will happen and when it will happen. At various points in the cruise it felt like we had a part in a Twilight Zone episode.
Dinners, even in the Yacht Club, were fair. This is the first time in either the Yacht Club or Haven that we encountered what best can be described as bland offerings. The wait staff tried hard, but the system worked against the wait staff. Often our meal orders were shared between two waiters. This resulted in missed or wrong items being served. By day four, we began to play guess what the wait staff will miss today.
The best dinners were in Butcher’s Cut. It also had the best service. The servers actually appeared happy to be there. We had a discussion with one of the servers who also worked the Yacht Club. He confirmed that Butcher’s Cut had a much better Vibe for the staff than the Yacht Club.
We pre-purchased four excursions through MSC, and did the hoho with an independent vendor in Genoa. After Arles was cancelled, we were down to 3 MSC excursions. The excursion process was chaos. The staff would typically show up well after many guests arrived. Then they would try to make up time by rushing through the confirmation process.
Our first excursion to Pompei, illustrated what happens when you take this approach. We retrieved our excursion number, and were told to wait in the upper balcony until called. About a dozen of us sat together until we noticed many people exiting the theater. One of our group went down to check status and was told our number was called for boarding. Absolutely no one heard this call. We rushed to the bus and made it just in time.
The excursion guides were very good. Fortunately, they were independent contractors not affiliated with MSC. We believe that made the difference.
This was our first time in an interior stateroom on any ship. We found on our last European cruise we were rarely in the room. Therefore, an interior seemed fine. When we booked, the diagram showed two chairs in the room. This was well before the ship launched. Somewhere along the way, the chairs were eliminated. Our room steward, who was excellent, brought us a wicker chair. We also noticed that lighting in this room was rather sparse for a cabin with no external light.
The room is small as expected. It works for two people if you are efficient in your space requirements. Not much closet space and the bathroom is very small. If you plan on spending significant time in your room, I would not recommend this room. However, if you plan on being out and about the ship, the room works. We spent considerable time at the Top Sail lounge and pool deck as the weather was nice most days.
This is a beautiful ship. The LCD ceiling is amazing and the promenade on 6 and 7 is fashionable and well designed. That is what makes our experience on this ship so disappointing. With all the promise of the ships infrastructure, the poor service on this ship trumps the considerable money spent on the ship. The ship lacks attention to detail. The safety issue mentioned in my comments on the ships theater is inexcusable. It is an accident waiting to happen. It exemplifies the ship major weakness, lack of supervision.
On most ships you see ship officers actively walking the ship and checking staff under their command. On this ship, I only saw the officers at the Black Card reception and on stage at the send off show the night before Genoa. Perhaps they manage things behind the scenes, but management by walking around is still an effective tool, especially on a new ship. It would be easy to attribute these short comings to the newness of the ship. However, the ship has been sailing four months. The service honeymoon period is over. MSC plans on bringing this ship to the U.S. in the future. They should probably hire someone from RCL or NCL that knows how to manage large ships before bringing this ship stateside.
We plan on taking a hiatus from MSC after this experience. We had a great experience on the Divina and Splendida, but this ship was so off the mark, it appears MSC is trending in the wrong direction. We hope to sail MSC somewhere down the road, but for now it is back to their main rival NCL.
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We spent considerable time at the Top Sail lounge and pool deck as the weather was nice most days. is was our first time in an interior stateroom on any ship. We found on our last European cruise we were rarely in the room. Therefore, an interior seemed fine. When we booked, the diagram showed two chairs in the room. This was well before the ship launched. Somewhere along the way, the chairs were eliminated. Our room steward, who was excellent, brought us a wicker chair. We also noticed that lighting in this room was rather sparse for a cabin with no external light.
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