I choose to book our cruise with MSC for the following reasons... Cuba, Itinerary, price, duration. We took a 2 week cruise on the Armonia visiting Havana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Roatan Island and Grand Cayman. Our package included inside state room all inclusive. We flew from Gatwick to Havana with Air Europa with a change at Madrid. Transfer from Madrid was super quick and without hassle. This was my first time cruising and my partners third cruise, first time with MSC. We landed at Havana 19.15. Some confusion and delay as we where unsure if we had to collect our cases or they where collected for us! We was given MSC baggage tags for our cases. Some passengers sailed through while a group of us hung around at the luggage caracole! I did think this could of been made clearer to us in the pre cruise information. Anyway only a minor hiccup. MSC Reps where waiting for us and guided us all to beautiful air conditioned coaches, our luggage already loaded on board.
Embarkation was easy, swift and peaceful. We where greeted and welcomed on board by crew, offered chilled fruit juices and shown directly to our cabin. Ours was an inside stateroom. storage and facilities where adequate. I'm aware some reviews have complained about the lack of room in the shower and sticking to shower curtains etc but I didn't find this a problem I just left the shower curtain open. It doesn't flood the bathroom and a bath mat is provided. Our cabin was kept immaculately clean and tidy by our housekeeper 'Yoga'. Yoga was a lovely guy, always smiling, friendly and helpful at all times and dealt with queries quickly and efficiently. Our cabin was cleaned twice a day and towels changed. Housekeeping was available from early in the morning until 22.00. We found the rest of the ship lovely and clean, cleaning operatives worked round the clock, cleaning public areas. As neither of us particularly enjoy formal dress every night we choose to eat mainly in the Buffet Restaurant. The buffet restaurant can be very busy and noisy it's not everyone's cup of tea but it was never a problem getting a table and once you have selected your food you can eat in other areas or take your food to eat outside on deck if you like dining al fresco. We never had a problem getting a table, each table has a waiter call button, the drinks service was quick. There are plenty of waiters on hand to deal with high volumes of people so no one has to wait very long for drinks to arrive. The food options where very good a wide selection of different cuisines where offered from Asian to classic stew and mashed potato. Salad was always available as was cheese selection, cold meats and bread selection also frequently offered rice dishes, pasta, grilled meats and curries. I can't fault the food selection but being honest my only complaint is that the hot food served was often only Luke warm. Breakfast consisted of typical continental croissants, choc au pan, and a selection of wholemeal breads and toast, fruits and yogurts, 4 choices of cereal, porridge, cold meat and also full English breakfast, sausage, bacon egg. The chef would make you a fresh omelette with your desired fillings. We never experienced the dinning room over run at breakfast time maybe that is because of the times we went in for breakfast which was around 9-9.30am I love love loved the Pizza bar. I have to say Pizza is not something i normally eat. I've tried pizza from various places in the UK but never enjoyed them. The pizza on board the ship though was some next level pizza and once I tasted them i was hooked. cooked fresh, thin crispy base, rich tomato sauce and tasty cheese an assortment of dressings are available as are assorted toppings all delicious all addictive so be warned. The burger bar is available until late. The chicken burger was a bit poor. The one i was served was shrivelled and dry and slapped between two pieces of dry burger bun. I left it. However, the cheese burgers are yummy, and always lovely and hot as are the French fries which are delicious. Hot dog sausage is also offered either pork or chicken and turkey. I tried the Chicken and Turkey as i don't eat Pork, The sausage is nice but the bread finger was a little hard and dry for our liking. You can also help yourself to a selection of salad at the burger bar. Marco Polo restaurant we only visited once for our evening meal. I wasn't impressed, lack of menu options and tiny portions. Our friends informed us that lunch and Breakfast was very good even though they agreed with us with regards to the evening meal. We didn't try Marco Polo for breakfast or lunch as we preferred to have more flexibility and was often off the ship at lunch and on sea days we where too busy having fun in the sun on deck with friends and those all important cocktails!
We spent our time on board alternating our time spent between pool deck 11, white lion bar, deck 5 and deck 12 a quiet stunning lounge area during the day and disco bar from 22.00. We frequented these areas mainly because we are smokers and those are the designated smoking areas. I feel the ship has largely given preference to non smokers not a problem but I'm commenting on it as i noticed one reviewer had an issue with cigarette smoke fumes on board which honestly confused me, as there are so many bars and venues with entertainment going on and deck 11 is a huge pool deck it is more than possible not to be subject to cigarette smoke. We didn't visit the Theatre so i can not review it. There wasn't any particular reason why we didn't go other than we never got around to it. Gala night was busy as expected. There were two themed party nights 'white night' and 70s/80s night. The music selection on the pool deck is very Italian other than on the 70s night when it was all British tracks, British music is mainly played in the Disco and as background music in the Buffet dinning. Entertainment on deck 11 is mainly in non English language. a few words of English is thrown in here and there I think as a token gesture. Some Brits we met on board felt hurt, disappointed and neglected because the entertainment wasn't more ''British'' all i have to say is if that is very important to you then why book a cruise with an Italian Cruise line!! This aspect didn't spoil our cruise and it has only inspired me to learn a second language. The entertainment team work very hard to create a party atmosphere and put on fantastic dance performances so even with the language barrier its still very entertaining in my opinion. All the crew we encountered spoke fluent English. The Hospitality crew Are the best I've ever encountered any where in the world. and this is one factor i would like to impress on. Customer service from waiting on staff was magnificent and while at times the service was a little slow the care and attention shown more than made up for it.
We have booked our Christmas New year cruise with MSC and one of the main reasons was how very wonderful the staff are. My partner who has been on two other cruises with major cruise lines said MSC was the best by far on hospitality. On our cruise there was a large Italian community, also Germans, French, Spanish. It's like the United Nations, so if you'd rather cruise with majority English speakers or Brits then MSC are probably not the cruise line for you. However we chose MSC because of the brilliant Itinerary and we was not disappointed. We didn't book any onshore excursions via the ship, however we took note of the advice given when embarking in Jamaica and took the tickets offered to us to go by shuttle bus to dr cove. Dr Cove is beautiful the Caribbean sea is picture book and swimming in it was a dream, however the venue is expensive. We took 50 dollars for a day at the beach and after 1 hour we where spent up and heading back to the ship. Drinks are extortionate, sunbeds, sunshades, have to be paid for as does entrance to the beach. You constantly get hassled to re order drinks. I didn't find this excursion pleasurable but as Montego Bay is currently experiencing a crime wave opted to stick to official advice and an arranged activity. After Jamaica we made our own excursion arrangements for reasonable prices and with no problem. Havana Cayman, Roatan Cozumel all exceeded our expectations, Costa Maya port i believe is owned by cruise company it kind of reminded me of a theme holiday park. We didn't go on any excursions there as we preferred to chill and just hang out. It's a pleasant place to hang out, you can swim with Dolphins or go on a aerial tropical bird expedition as we did and much more. To sum up, We loved cruising with MSC. It was excellent value for money and that was one of the important factors to us. Armonia is a lovely ship albeit she's an old girl but nether the less splendid. I feel that MSC are trying their upmost to cater to a wide range of tastes, age groups and nationalities. We are in our 50s. On our cruise there where large groups of young people and some of our friends likened it to a club 18-20. It didn't bother us much but i know some of the people we met in our age group didn't like it. If i was to say anything to MSC i would ask them to review this. All in all i am a big believer in life is what you make it. Everything of utter importance was in place as far as i was concerned. If you want a Five star cruise pay for a five star cruise MSC are excellent value for money, professional, conscientious and strive hard to ensure their passengers have a memorable and happy cruise experience. That will do for me! We have already booked an 18 day Bahamas fly cruise with MSC for Christmas and new year 2018. All inclusive, balcony cabin. Upon booking we where promised if we can find the same cruise anywhere cheaper MSC will refund the difference. So far nothing has even come close. I have been as honest and fair as possible writing this review.
Havana. A city of amazing contrast and contradiction. we arranged our own activity. 2 hour city tour in a 1950 chevie original engine. 1 hour guided tour by horse and carriage. The market place is huge and gifts and souvenirs can be bought cheaply. The Cuban people are friendly and very lovable. We felt super safe everywhere we went. would go back again and again and again.