MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review by DaftTart
- Sail Date: March 2018
- Destination: Mediterranean
- Cabin Type: Fantastica Balcony Stateroom
After an endless embarkation process (being herded like sheep or goats to the slaughter) we finally made it onto the ship, and we were bombarded with endless staff trying to get us to purchase a drinks, food, beverage, photos or whatever package. Strange that we couldn’t move a step without tripping over one of them when we first embarked, but later when we wanted to ask a question at reception, we had to wait in a queue for almost an hour to get any attention. (More of this later.) Even during meals the poor overworked waiters would shove a notice under our noses, trying to get us to pay an extra 20 euros for a steak, or whatever they were selling that night. Atrocious.
On the plus side, we found the food good quality, varied and hot, and the waiters were courteous and attentive. The downside was that despite advertising a dozen restaurants, we were allocated ONE when we got there, at a sitting of 6 people (despite asking for a table for 2) and were expected to sit there every single evening. The only choice we had was to pay extra to upgrade to another one (of 3) restaurants. Other than that, it was the bun-fight in the Market (buffet) area or a burger sitting round the pool. (The Market buffet was extremely varied and quite good quality but the behaviour of the clients – and more particularly their unattended offspring – left a great deal to be desired. More reminiscent of a chimps tea party than a meal, but I digress.)
The other problem we had with the ‘fixed’ sitting meant it clashed with the shows, so we were faced with a choice of either gulping down our food to get to the shows on time, or leaving without finishing our meals. On reflection this wasn’t much of a problem because the shows weren’t of a very high quality – either in content or variety, so we didn’t miss much (according to our fellow inmates). Having said that, the Cirque du Soleil show was extremely good, but of course, we had to pay an extra 15 euros for that (that included a cocktail – choice of 2 types) and a chocolate macaroon. Woopee! And woe betide you if you stopped for a chat after your meal – the manager would trot along and throw us out – he was far more interested in getting the tables re-laid for the next sitting to let us stay past our allotted time of an hour and a half for all 3 courses… They had 3 sittings to fit in!
Our cabin had a large comfy bed and small but adequate shower room. The balcony, however, came with the added benefits of being covered in crumbs, a toe (or finger?) nail clipping, and filthy windows that you could hardly see through. The cabin attendant was polite and friendly but just managed the basics. No towel animals, chocolates on the pillows or any frills. And despite requesting breakfast in the cabin every morning (except one) they managed to miss us out 2 of the mornings (including disembarkation morning) so we had the added stress of attending the bun-fight on deck 15 and fighting through the marauding chimps to get a coffee and a table. Not a great finale.
On 3 occasions we queued at the ‘reception’ area – mostly needing help with our bill, and on each occasion we were queuing for almost an hour. When we finally reached the front of the queue, there was no apology for the wait, contrition from the staff, or even a smile or an acknowledgement that we’d managed to reach the front without expiring from boredom – just a stony stare, a grunt and seemingly incredulity that we should bother them with such trivial matters. Their indifference to our plight (in each case) was spectacular. I wonder if they’re trained to become so obnoxious, or if comes naturally to them? A special breed, perhaps?
They offer an alternative method of paying your final bill if you don’t use a credit card (which we didn’t) – a machine. But the machine tries to take another 100 euros credit every time you go near it, is incapable of telling you your final bill amount, or printing you a hand-out of your itemised bill. So you have no choice but to attend the charming staff on the reception desk. (We were told that ONE of the machines will give you a final bill, if not an itemised list, but they don’t tell you which one it is, or where it is, until you visit them behind the desk. Marvellous system, I’m sure you’ll agree…)
The kids are very well catered for. Entire floors have been created for them, but unfortunately they seeped into all the other areas too, and the noise level (from shrieking babies to obnoxious teenagers tearing around) was often cacophonous. Add to that the scooters they went around on, buggies they were pushed around in and general level of single minded selfishness they exhibited (around food and drink mostly) I can’t say they added to the experience. The lifts were always full to the brim, often stopping at every single stop on their way up and down (often in the opposite direction to that which we wanted to go in) and took ages to arrive.
MSC have invented a clever little app that you can download to your phone to ‘add to your experience’. However, mine didn’t work very well, and didn’t show me my account, or how much I’d spent (although fellow travellers seemed to have got that bit). Waste of time downloading it in the first place.
As already mentioned, MSC only seemed to be interested in extracting every last cent from us (as a captured audience). Nothing was free, including water or coffee with meals, ice-cream or anything at all really. They would charge 18 euros for a shuttle bus to get from the ship to the local town, but if you knew what you were doing, you could just walk a few yards and catch the local bus free. At another port they charged us 9 euros for a shuttle bus, but the local one was provided for 4 euros (return). They relied on ignorance and panic which they received in droves.
There are far too many passengers (being Easter the boat was at full capacity with over 5,700 guests) but only (up to) 1500 crew – the lowest ratio I’ve ever encountered on a cruise. The public areas (bars, pools, eateries) were way too crowded and it was difficult to find a seat/table – probably because the space they could have allocated to make the passenger experience more pleasurable has been taken up with shops to extract money from them for watches, perfume, chocolates and other stuff that funnily enough seemed empty for the vast majority of the time.
Finally, this cruise (that wasn’t cheap) was to celebrate my 60th birthday. A celebration. Sadly it was far from that. And despite MSN being fully aware it was my birthday (the travel agents made it known to them before we departed and one of the bar staff sang a few bars, single-handed, of Happy Birthday to me) they made no effort to make my stay special in any way. No upgrade, no chocolates, no fruit, no bottle of bubbly, nothing! I wrote to them before we left, asking if there was anything they could do to make it more of an occasion. They wrote back and basically said ‘no’. It would be down to the management of the individual ship to do whatever they felt appropriate. Well it appears that apart from leaving a towel rabbit on the bed with a nasty cheap card, nothing else, in their opinion, was appropriate at all. We saw countless other people getting the ‘drum banging procession of half a dozen staff singing and dancing, followed by a birthday cake with a candle’ at different venues (restaurants and theatres) but nothing came my way at all. Not even a muffin and a pair of maracas. So thanks, MSC – you really pulled out all the stops to make my ‘special’ birthday celebration one to remember. But sadly, for all the wrong reasons.
I’m sure this ship is ideal if you’ve got kids, like a lot of noise, huge crowds, queuing, and bun-fights and don’t want any courteous treatment from staff (I say this with the exception of our waiter) but for us, it felt like a money grabbing sausage factory where the staff are over-worked, probably under-paid, and frankly don’t give a ****. In a sentence: All glitz but no glamour. Or… all fur coat, and no knickers. We won’t be using MSC again.
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