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MSC Orchestra Cruise Review
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
381 Reviews

First MSC Cruise For Us Great Value For Money Great Mediterranean Itinerary

MSC Orchestra Cruise Review by Captain Camera

4 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Nov 2017
  • Destination: the Mediterranean
  • Cabin Type: Balcony Stateroom

MSC Orchestra

November 27 to December 9 2017,

Mediterranean Cruise Included Morocco and Funchal

Stateroom 12102 Aurea Balcony

This was our first cruise with MSC Cruise Lines, we have previously sailed with Holland America Line seven times. We didn’t have a good last cruise with HAL so decided to take a break from cruising until we saw this deal from MSC. Firstly they offered a loyalty points matching program so we were able to have our HAL three star mariner level gives us Gold level on MSC, so we are comparing our HAL experience with MSC.

We took the Aurea level of cruise experience in a balcony stateroom, mainly because it included a drinks package and some massage treatments all for substantially less than Holland America.

Bottom line if you don’t want to read a long review we really enjoyed this cruise, the ports of call were great and we didn’t feel that we were on an inferior ship. The value we received was far beyond our HAL experience.

We boarded in Barcelona and the ship was late, we arrived at the cruise terminal in time for an early boarding but there was no sign of the Orchestra. There were no MSC staff to tell us what was happening and no emails from MSC. The ship did arrive and we did get priority boarding because of the Aurea level of tickets we bought. Boarding was quicker and easier than HAL way more casual and enjoyable.

Our gold room key cards were on our bed in the stateroom which was unlocked the door on the latch. Everything was laid out on the bed all information we needed.

The room decor is modern and stylish better than what we were used to, our bathroom was shower only no tub. The balcony was cleaner and freshly painted, no visible rust, handrails were clean, something HAL is not always doing.

Our first visit to the buffet was good and what we expected, nice to flash your key card for free drinks. The buffet food for lunch is good but for dinner is terrible in fact nothing like HAL, you could not have a pleasurable dinner by using the dinner buffet all through your cruise.

Lunchtime was good and had ethnic choices as well as everything else you would expect. North Americans get free bottled water at lunch and dinner even without a drinks package.

Aurea package also includes My Style Dining, this gives a reserved area in the main dining room just for Aurea passengers. This means you can show up at anytime during dinner service. Our experience was that the person assigning tables for Aurea turned our My Style into assigned seating, which after a few nights led to us being rushed out of the restaurant because another couple wanted our table. They brought our first and main course together, dining on a cruise ship in the evening is our entertainment and the restaurant manager ruined this for us. Instead of telling the other couple that My Style is a different concept he caved to their pressure and we suffered because of that. I will admit to having a meltdown and getting angry and making my point. This did sour our main dining room experience.

Food choices are not as good as HAL, the main dining room sells the lobsters or T-Bone steaks for 22 euros each, gala nights do not get surf and turf. The food choices they do have is good cooked well and enjoyable.

We are vegetarians and MSC went out of their way to please us and cook items that were not on the menu. This was far better than HAL who did not seem to have the special cooks who were skillful and able to cook the vegetarian menu, this led us to stop sailing with HAL.

The MSC Orchestra has only one speciality restaurant an Asian restaurant, offering sushi and some Thai options. If you buy a dining package before boarding you get a discount and are tied to a set menu. They did make all our options vegetarian instead of chicken and fish. The Pad Thai is not Pad Thai, they do what Holland America does use vermicelli noodles and no peanut sauce. Do yourself a favour and save your money by not using this restaurant.

Our fellow passengers were Italians, Spanish, French and Germans. The Italian neighbours to our balcony were smokers and ignored the do not smoke on balconies signs. We did complain as the cigarette smoke was overwhelming, the first complaint I believe MSC did nothing because of customer relations, so I complained a second time which was three days into our cruise and this time it worked, having said that there were balcony smokers in three or four other cabins around us that didn’t impact us as much. Rules didn’t seem respected as on HAL.

For the money we paid and the services we received MSC delivered well beyond what we were used to from Holland America and I could see us sailing with MSC more in the future. If you are a native English speaker you will be in the minority on MSC European cruises, if you can cope with this then we would recommend MSC as an option to consider, especially if you have loyalty points from another cruise line.

Stateroom 12102 is under the outdoor bar in the mid ships area, it’s balcony and a very spacious room having an inter connecting door we worried about noise from the adjoining cabin but heard nothing, the room is very quite apart from 3.00 to 3.30 am the staff line up the table and chairs dragging them on the deck which is very noisy, but there must be a different shift at 6.00 am as they start rearranging the furniture again. Seems a shame they do this as these are premium cabins.

We didn’t get our spa in room scented diffuser as they were out of them, these are part of the Aurea experience, after asking where it was we were given an MSC branded backpack and two insulated coffee travel mugs.

We had the choice of two rooms as we booked late, both were mid ships ours had the adjoining door but the other had a drop down extra bed mounted above the sofa and the while being a head bashing hazard when getting up from sitting on the sofa, it also makes the room seem smaller.

On this itinerary leaving Barcelona and doing a circuit of the Mediterranean this 12102 on the right hand side of the ship was great as you get the sunrise and sun most of the day which makes the room warmer and brighter. Most ports we entered we had great views, so recommend this side of the ship.

We read negative reviews of this ship and cruise line and to be honest they are not warranted, yes the difference between nationalities and culture can seem unfriendly but why do you travel abroad if not to encounter different peoples.

Lastly buying the Aurea package gives you the standard drinks package but because you bought it before boarding as part of your ticket there are no service fees added to you bar bills, so you save 15% service fee on every order.

I would do another MSC cruise I think they are giving greater value for your dollar than Holland America Line and seem keen to serve North American passengers.

Four out of five stars from us.

Captain Camera's Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Balcony Stateroom
Cabin B3 12102

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews


Spent two days pre cruise doing our own thing, stayed at the Hotel Gaudí which you can walk from to the Christopher Columbus statue and get the cruise port bus for two fifty euro and will take you directly to your ship.

Madeira (Funchal)

Bought the Yellow Bus hop on hop off on the dockside, went to the little fishing village of Camara des Lobos and this bus ticket also includes a smaller bus at this village to take you up to the top of 5he mountain for spectacular views. Tip get off the ship early, the first yellow bus leaves at 9.10 and at Camara des Lobos get right on the shuttle bus, you will beat all the crowds and then come back to Camara to look around and have lunch.


Seems all the local guides and taxis want to rip you off, we walked from the ship to the Mosque about half an hour. We also bought a tour to Rabat which was well worth it.

City Tour

Bought the MSC grand tour which includes lunch, highly recommended this tour

View All 349 City Tour Reviews

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