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The advertised price for this cruise was too good to ignore - but having experienced it, I would change that statement to "too good to be true". The saying "You get what you pay for" certainly applied in this case... Having experienced five cruises with five different companies, I feel I can give an objective account. It was not all bad - but it certainly was not good. The Good: Embarkation at Southampton was swift and efficient, and we were soon on board - with our luggage waiting outside our room. We opted for an inside room (9067 on Deck 9). The room was clean and spacious and well attended to by the cabin steward. As a female, I could have done with a bit more space for doing hair and make up, as the vanity unit was dominated by tea and coffee making facilities and bottles of water (for sale). However the addition of a kettle was welcomed and the tray was always stocked with tea and coffee. (Minor criticism in that only cream was provided - and explaining that milk was more appropriate to tea proved to be a bit of a revelation to the staff...) The ship itself is smart and elegant. The public areas are glitzy and glamorous. The addition of an indoor/covered pool was most welcome considering the time of year (April) and the areas we travelled (Northern Europe). There always seemed to be space to sit in all parts of the ship, and we did not get a sense of being over crowded. We paid in advance for an all inclusive drinks package - which proved to be excellent value for money - as apart from alcohol, it covered things like coffees, soft drinks, bottled water and the gelato station at the pool deck. The bar staff in all areas were excellent and efficient and were able to show good knowledge of the products available. The Bad: As "experienced" cruisers, we appreciate entertainment programmes vary according to port days and sea days. But unfortunately the Magnifica programme remained poor throughout our voyage. Day time activity was limited to "stretching", dance lessons or bingo. There was only one port talk - and this was very basic. Having combed the ship - I failed to find the advertised Art Gallery. We did not travel with children, but noticed the little ones were kept busy by the entertainment crew. There appeared to be lots going on for them. The nightclub doubled up as a teens club - and on many occasions, this did not open at night. Things tended to wind down by around 12:30 with only one bar open beyond that. There was a bowling alley and 4D cinema on Deck 16 - but these were offered at an additional cost. There were no films shown in the main theatre, and the movies included in the stateroom TV were charged at around 4-5 euros per film. I appreciate it is difficult to cater for several different nationalities and langugages - but the "big" productions at the main theatre were poor. They tended to be mainly dance focused (I guess to "translate" to all passengers). The showing times were also limited and quite early . The lounger singers were pretty poor too. All a bit lack lustre.... There was a British comedian who did two shows - and this provided a bit of a distraction. We were also treated to an abridged version of the opera Carmen - which I particularly enjoyed. As mentioned, the bars themselves were great - nicely decked out and well managed. Some were more lively than others - with the Le Gocce Bar having a nice quiet area - usually with a pianist or ensemble palying in the main atrium. The Sports Bar was usually quite lively - with most of the Premiership games being shown (albeit in Italian or German) - but you could follow the games ok. The evenings were generally quite casual and although dress codes were recommended - they were not enforced - meaning there was a spectrum of dressing from dinner jackets to jogging bottoms. Whilst we like "dressing up", we accept this does not appeal to everyone. The Ugly: One of the things we look forward to most on a cruise is the food! Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately...?) we returned home a few pounds lighter. First of all the service in the main dining room was dreadful. Our original table of six encountered chaos and disorientation. The waiter staff did not appear to know what they were doing and were not working as a team - meaning courses were going out at different times etc. The set up of the tables was not practical for them to work in - i.e. circular booths - meaning they had to serve over guests etc. However it was the food itself that was the biggest disappointment.... We expect the buffet restaurant to be busy and somewhat basic - but the food on offer was bland. In an attempt to seduce the UK market, things like a "Full English" were offered - but sadly not at a good quality. The main dining room offered an alternative lunch time venue - but this was also mainly buffet service - offering more or less the same food at the buffet restaurant. The evening meals were dire. Chickpeas appeared to be the "in vogue" item and almost a certainty on every menu. The food was of a poor standard, with very limited choices. My husband is a picky eater and I expect to encounter difficulties with him - but I am pretty easy going, but I admit, I struggled.... On some evenings, we would go to bed with rumbling tummies... We booked a meal at the Oriental Plaza restaurant (at an extra, but reasonable charge) just to be able to get a decent meal. It was decent too. A sushi-heavy menu - but also offering some very nice Thai and Chinese dishes. It was worth the extra cost. To the credit of MSC, guests were invited to a Coffee Morning with the Officers on the last sea day to give feedback. The gentleman we spoke to was open to our comments, and appeared genuinely interested in taking these on board. One of our main observations, was that passengers were embarking/disembarking at every port. I have never seen this before... From the staff's perspective, I imagine it gave them little continuity, as they didn't know who would be in the dining room from one day to the next - therefore being unable to build the relationships with their passengers (if you know what I mean... getting to know what people like/dislike...). We also explained how the British are more "uptight" in terms of customer service compared to our European counterparts who are more laid back. Ports: Le Havre was a pleasant but generally pointless port. Whilst the town itself was pretty - there was not a great deal to visit in terms of cultural sites. A local shuttle ran at 4 euros per person (return fare). We did enjoy the modern church at the far end of town - something a bit different. I believe the port was chosen as a gateway to Paris - so those opting for this excursion may have benefited more. Bruges: We had visited Bruges before - but enjoyed another day out. We booked the "Bruges on your Own" excursion for this reason. It is worth noting that the city is a fair distance from the port - so it is wise to make some sort of travel arrangements in advance. Amsterdam: An extremely busy port - which was a reasonable walk into town (about 25 mins). I would recommend anyone with mobility issues - organises a taxi and takes in a tour with the ship. The city itself is lively - like any other major city - with lots to see and do. We docked overnight, meaning we could sample some of the more "colourful" sights in the evening. We used the Hop On-Hop Off bus to good effect - and this also included a 1.5 hour canal tour. All in all, good value for money. We also pre-booked the Van Gogh Museum - which was also well worth the visit. Hamburg: Like Le Havre - not much to see in terms of cultural sites - other than the impressive City Hall. The ship ran a shuttle bus into the centre (16 euros per person) which was a good 15-20 minutes from the port. Hamburg is great for shopaholics - with every possible shop known to man on offer. There appears to have been a significant investment made in building modern shopping malls with all the usual facilities you would expect. There are also high end shops like Cartier, Versace etc... All in all, we enjoyed the ports, and were able to get a flavour of each of the cities. Unfortunately, we would not travel again with MSC unless there was a significant improvement in service, food quality and entertainment. I think we would probably scrimp to pay a bit more and be reassured the cruise met our needs.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...

MSC Magnifica Cruise Review by kaf1sh

4 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: April 2018
  • Destination: Baltic Sea
  • Cabin Type: Interior Stateroom – Bella
The advertised price for this cruise was too good to ignore - but having experienced it, I would change that statement to "too good to be true". The saying "You get what you pay for" certainly applied in this case...

Having experienced five cruises with five different companies, I feel I can give an objective account. It was not all bad - but it certainly was not good.

The Good:

Embarkation at Southampton was swift and efficient, and we were soon on board - with our luggage waiting outside our room. We opted for an inside room (9067 on Deck 9). The room was clean and spacious and well attended to by the cabin steward. As a female, I could have done with a bit more space for doing hair and make up, as the vanity unit was dominated by tea and coffee making facilities and bottles of water (for sale).

However the addition of a kettle was welcomed and the tray was always stocked with tea and coffee. (Minor criticism in that only cream was provided - and explaining that milk was more appropriate to tea proved to be a bit of a revelation to the staff...)

The ship itself is smart and elegant. The public areas are glitzy and glamorous. The addition of an indoor/covered pool was most welcome considering the time of year (April) and the areas we travelled (Northern Europe). There always seemed to be space to sit in all parts of the ship, and we did not get a sense of being over crowded.

We paid in advance for an all inclusive drinks package - which proved to be excellent value for money - as apart from alcohol, it covered things like coffees, soft drinks, bottled water and the gelato station at the pool deck. The bar staff in all areas were excellent and efficient and were able to show good knowledge of the products available.

The Bad:

As "experienced" cruisers, we appreciate entertainment programmes vary according to port days and sea days. But unfortunately the Magnifica programme remained poor throughout our voyage. Day time activity was limited to "stretching", dance lessons or bingo. There was only one port talk - and this was very basic. Having combed the ship - I failed to find the advertised Art Gallery.

We did not travel with children, but noticed the little ones were kept busy by the entertainment crew. There appeared to be lots going on for them.

The nightclub doubled up as a teens club - and on many occasions, this did not open at night. Things tended to wind down by around 12:30 with only one bar open beyond that.

There was a bowling alley and 4D cinema on Deck 16 - but these were offered at an additional cost. There were no films shown in the main theatre, and the movies included in the stateroom TV were charged at around 4-5 euros per film.

I appreciate it is difficult to cater for several different nationalities and langugages - but the "big" productions at the main theatre were poor. They tended to be mainly dance focused (I guess to "translate" to all passengers). The showing times were also limited and quite early . The lounger singers were pretty poor too. All a bit lack lustre....

There was a British comedian who did two shows - and this provided a bit of a distraction. We were also treated to an abridged version of the opera Carmen - which I particularly enjoyed.

As mentioned, the bars themselves were great - nicely decked out and well managed. Some were more lively than others - with the Le Gocce Bar having a nice quiet area - usually with a pianist or ensemble palying in the main atrium. The Sports Bar was usually quite lively - with most of the Premiership games being shown (albeit in Italian or German) - but you could follow the games ok.

The evenings were generally quite casual and although dress codes were recommended - they were not enforced - meaning there was a spectrum of dressing from dinner jackets to jogging bottoms. Whilst we like "dressing up", we accept this does not appeal to everyone.

The Ugly:

One of the things we look forward to most on a cruise is the food! Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately...?) we returned home a few pounds lighter. First of all the service in the main dining room was dreadful. Our original table of six encountered chaos and disorientation. The waiter staff did not appear to know what they were doing and were not working as a team - meaning courses were going out at different times etc. The set up of the tables was not practical for them to work in - i.e. circular booths - meaning they had to serve over guests etc.

However it was the food itself that was the biggest disappointment....

We expect the buffet restaurant to be busy and somewhat basic - but the food on offer was bland. In an attempt to seduce the UK market, things like a "Full English" were offered - but sadly not at a good quality. The main dining room offered an alternative lunch time venue - but this was also mainly buffet service - offering more or less the same food at the buffet restaurant. The evening meals were dire. Chickpeas appeared to be the "in vogue" item and almost a certainty on every menu. The food was of a poor standard, with very limited choices. My husband is a picky eater and I expect to encounter difficulties with him - but I am pretty easy going, but I admit, I struggled.... On some evenings, we would go to bed with rumbling tummies...

We booked a meal at the Oriental Plaza restaurant (at an extra, but reasonable charge) just to be able to get a decent meal. It was decent too. A sushi-heavy menu - but also offering some very nice Thai and Chinese dishes. It was worth the extra cost.

To the credit of MSC, guests were invited to a Coffee Morning with the Officers on the last sea day to give feedback. The gentleman we spoke to was open to our comments, and appeared genuinely interested in taking these on board.

One of our main observations, was that passengers were embarking/disembarking at every port. I have never seen this before... From the staff's perspective, I imagine it gave them little continuity, as they didn't know who would be in the dining room from one day to the next - therefore being unable to build the relationships with their passengers (if you know what I mean... getting to know what people like/dislike...). We also explained how the British are more "uptight" in terms of customer service compared to our European counterparts who are more laid back.

Ports:

Le Havre was a pleasant but generally pointless port. Whilst the town itself was pretty - there was not a great deal to visit in terms of cultural sites. A local shuttle ran at 4 euros per person (return fare). We did enjoy the modern church at the far end of town - something a bit different. I believe the port was chosen as a gateway to Paris - so those opting for this excursion may have benefited more.

Bruges:

We had visited Bruges before - but enjoyed another day out. We booked the "Bruges on your Own" excursion for this reason. It is worth noting that the city is a fair distance from the port - so it is wise to make some sort of travel arrangements in advance.

Amsterdam:

An extremely busy port - which was a reasonable walk into town (about 25 mins). I would recommend anyone with mobility issues - organises a taxi and takes in a tour with the ship. The city itself is lively - like any other major city - with lots to see and do. We docked overnight, meaning we could sample some of the more "colourful" sights in the evening. We used the Hop On-Hop Off bus to good effect - and this also included a 1.5 hour canal tour. All in all, good value for money. We also pre-booked the Van Gogh Museum - which was also well worth the visit.

Hamburg:

Like Le Havre - not much to see in terms of cultural sites - other than the impressive City Hall. The ship ran a shuttle bus into the centre (16 euros per person) which was a good 15-20 minutes from the port. Hamburg is great for shopaholics - with every possible shop known to man on offer. There appears to have been a significant investment made in building modern shopping malls with all the usual facilities you would expect. There are also high end shops like Cartier, Versace etc...

All in all, we enjoyed the ports, and were able to get a flavour of each of the cities. Unfortunately, we would not travel again with MSC unless there was a significant improvement in service, food quality and entertainment. I think we would probably scrimp to pay a bit more and be reassured the cruise met our needs.
kaf1sh’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
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Shore Excursions
Service
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Cabin Review

Interior Stateroom – Bella
Cabin I1 9067
Inside stateroom on Deck 9 (Panarea). Unusually spacious for an inside room. Clean and well decorated. Could have done with a bit more space for doing hair and make up - as the vanity area was dominated by the tea and coffee tray - as well as bottles of water on sale. The tea and coffee facilities were most welcomed though.
There is also a mini bar at an extra charge.
Ample wardrobe/draw space.
Decent bathroom - with basic shower gel/shampoo/hand wash included.
It was kept clean and well stocked throughout our stay - although we have no idea who our cabin steward was - as we were never introduced. Shame...
Other than that - the room was quiet, and was easy to access the facilities etc.
Riccione Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Amsterdam
    One of those "must do" visits - You will either love it or hate it. A very bust area - flooded with tourists of all age groups and backgrounds. Not what I expected. I imagined it to be saturated with young boys (like the Magaluf crowd). I was quite amused to see pensioners giggling in the doorway of a peep show. Yes - we know what the focus is of this area - but the area itself appeared safe, well policed and looked after. Like I said - not everyone's cup of tea - but I'm glad we went.
    View All 13,189 Amsterdam Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Amsterdam Cruise Port Review
  • Canal Tour
    The canal tour was offered in addition to the city bus tour. This offered a welcome break on our feet - after much walking! Two routes were offered - but we just took in the green route as it stopped back near the cruise port (so kind of used it like a taxi). A pleasant and leisurely 1.5 hour tour - and we felt we saw more of the city from this vantage point than the bus.
    View All 269 Canal Tour Reviews
  • City Tour
    Not as good as the canal tour. Tended to stick the the ring road around the city and the stops were often a long way from the billed attraction. A cheap way of getting around though - and the map and attraction vouchers were useful.
    View All 129 City Tour Reviews
  • Van Gogh Museum
    Booked in advance online as research recommended visitors would not be able to just "turn up" on the day. We arrived for our allocated time of 1pm and went straight in. An impressive modern building housing a magnificent collection of Van Gogh's works, as well as those of some of the other Impressionists who inspired him. A comprehensive history and biography accompanied the exhibits - which was very interested. An optional audio guide was available. Very busy - but worth persevering with. The advance information sent by the museum was excellent - and included a personalised "welcome video".
    Would recommend a visit...
    View All 58 Van Gogh Museum Reviews
  • Hamburg
    Had I been going on a shopping trip, Hamburg would be brilliant. There must be every shop known to man! Nothing much to see of a touristy nature - other than the impressive city hall. There appears to have been a lot of investment into the city making way for modern facilities. Quite difficult to navigate (although the traffic in the centre was quiet) - not particularly tourist friendly.
    View All 130 Hamburg Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Hamburg Cruise Port Review
  • Le Havre
    A pleasant town - but nothing much of significance to visit (i.e. cultural sites).
    We did enjoy the modern church - something a bit different.
    Not a lot to enjoy in terms of shopping - mainly shops for residents (i.e. bakery, butchers, florists etc)
    Local shuttle into town offered at the reasonable cost of 4 euros.
    View All 328 Le Havre Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Le Havre Cruise Port Review
  • Southampton
    Swift and efficient embarkation. No problems.
    Luggage waiting outside stateroom and we were unpacked and enjoying the ship in no time.
    View All 984 Southampton Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Southampton Cruise Port Review