Cost of Cruise - very reasonable - ours included a drinks package (anything on the bar lists barring ones marked with asterisk. The only Lager on this package was Heineken draught or bottled. Loads of different cocktails though or basic spirits, soft drinks, ice cream. Problem was getting served. Waiters preferred you to sit down and they come to you which could be quite a wait, then you have to wait for the waiters themselves to be served by the bar staff and bring the drinks to you. Whole process anything from 10 minutes to half an hour or more. Patience is a virtue. Staff are very busy and work very hard.
Embarkation – Easy – photo is taken as you get on board – our time was 2.30pm but we got on no problem at 12.30pm – Until you can get into your cabin to get your cabin card to start using your drinks package (if you have one) the bar staff need the MSC piece of paper which states your purchased services – Beverage Packages and cabin number which is on the bottom of that paper.
Disembarkation – Everyone has to leave cabins at 8.00am – Breakfast from 6.00am onwards as not every passenger gets off the ship. Our disembarkation time was 8.50am so went to breakfast at 8.00am. We abided by our time and when called we queued for a good 20 minutes to get off the ship. We now believe we could have left a lot earlier if we had wanted.
Dining - Sahara buffet restaurant Deck 13 which is where we preferred to dine. Layout is weird. Food on the left side is different to food on the right. The dining room is divided in the middle by the lift area. The bottom end after the lifts is not always open. After 7 days we never figured out what the opening times were for this area. Rather than walk all the way back to go round to the other side guests were seen carrying their plates of food through the lift area to get to the other side. Like I said weird! Breakfast was alright - cooked English plus continental type . Lunch - not too bad - various cooked meats at the carvery – chips Assorted rice and fish dishes and on occasion mashed potato. We thought the choices were lots better than evening meal choices. Evening - quite lacking in choice including vegetables. Not once did we see a jacket potato. If you go at the right time you may get the carvery but there is no indication of when they close down each station and the food at that station is not available anywhere else. Late night snacks 10pm to 12am - Pizza and sandwiches. Don't be fooled if you go down there at this time and there is a wonderful full buffet on. Chips, burgers, sausages, hot dogs, pizza plus carvery. It happened to us when we first arrived and we thought how wonderful. We decided to eat late the next night after being in Amsterdam all day - and it was just Pizza & sandwiches. No rhyme nor reason I'm afraid. You do get sick of the sight of Pizza. Lots of people queuing up for the fresh one to be baked.
Main Restaurant we asked for 2nd sitting but were told we had to have 1st sitting. We were Fantastica which is supposed to offer priority hey ho! Aurea guests can have My time dining which would have suited us better hence we ate in the buffet. I, personally didn’t like the food choices in the main restaurant.
Gratuities – These can be cancelled at reception – no questions asked and no grief at all.
Shows - I enjoyed the various shows we saw but my companions said they could have been better. So I guess its personal choice.
Bars- there are lots of them but not typical bars more different lounges as you walk through the ship. As a guideline the carpet pattern and colour let you know which bar you are in.
Nightly entertainment - Tiger bar was the busiest bar with an assortment of dance classes, disco, competitions going on every evening. This is the bar where it can take awhile to get a drink. My husband went to the bar himself but the bar staff were busy getting the orders for the waiting staff so he gave up after 15 minutes.
Evening disco - we managed to stay up late enough one night (11.30pm) music was geared up for teenagers although the crowd was a good mix of age groups. We lasted one drink & called it a night.
Muster station – You only attend the one for you on your day of arrival. The announcement will come through your cabin just this one time. Don’t forget to take your cabin card as they check on your attendance. Guests arrive and depart at each port of call.
Lifts were ample, quick and efficient. Stairs were there if you fancied a walk.
Shops – there were a few handbag & clothing shops. There was usually stalls mainly by the bar areas selling perfumes etc. There was no Duty Free shop so you couldn’t buy any tobacco or spirits on board. I believe they ‘confiscate’ any drinks bought ashore until the end of your holiday.
Pool areas – we tended to frequent the indoor pool area which was very nice but drinks services upstairs was lacking to say the least. We were playing cards for nearly 2 hours but not once did a waiter come up the stairs. However whilst we were getting our own drinks from the bar – a bit like buses – 2 waiters came within seconds of each other asking if we wanted a drink!
Cleanliness – the whole ship was extremely clean as were our cabins.
All staff were extremely polite and friendly.
Excursions - we didn't book any of MSC's. Zeebrugge transfer to Bruges - ship wanted to charge 49.99 euros return each just for the transfer no tour guide. As we went through Zeebrugge port security we got the same deal for just 20 euros each. Hamburg - we were going to do our own thing - water taxi & tram but was told by employee at the port security the water taxi just went across river and wouldn't be of any good to us. So we took MSC coach transfer 15.90 euros each return. However someone from our ship did do the water taxi but not without problems so we were glad on this occasion of MSC bus transfer. Amsterdam - we just walked into the town about 15 minute walk - we are quick walkers! Le Havre - we didn't dock due to French general strike so we had 2 days in Zeebrugge.
Would we use MSC again – at this point in time the answer would be probably not. We honestly can’t put our finger on why we wouldn’t go with MSC again. We love Royal Caribbean cruises and even P & O with all its pomp and ceremony. I suppose if the price was right again in a few years time we may say yes to MSC – maybe.
The whole cabin areas including balcony and bathroom were always kept clean. The size of the cabin a bit smaller than Royal Caribbean (as an example) but not too bad. TV small but we didn't watch much so no bother to us. Everything you needed was in there. Good views from our balcony. We enjoyed a continental breakfast in our cabin several days. Card system on door by 2.00am - not available to order online.