For anyone considering MSC I thought I'd share my thoughts on my recent cruise. DH & I travelled from Dublin to Barcelona on 17th January to celebrate DH's 60th birthday. This was only our 2nd ever cruise, the first one being 3 years ago for our 20th anniversary on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas on an Eastern Med and Greek Island 10-day tour, which we thoroughly enjoyed.
We booked through a local travel agent who are cruise specialists and were fantastic. Private taxi transfer from the airport to the ship (and back again) was part of the package which was great - though it is only about 15 mins away by car. We arrived about 11.30 and the waiting hall at the port was already quite busy when we arrived. About 12pm they started to board and we were on about 15 mins later. We were totally amazed by our first impression of the ship - she is stunning! We went straight to our cabin (deck 12 balcony cabin) and dropped in our cabin bags and headed straight for lunch in the market place buffet. Now our only previous experience on RCI was that the buffet was just 'ok', so we didn't have high expectations. However, this was in a different league altogether. Being an Italian company, they really know their pizza, pasta, salads :tongue: They also make fresh mozzarella which is delicious. They have a Rotisserie with different roast meats, different cold meats and cheeses, fresh fruit, yogurt, breads and pastries among many, many more dishes!! They have water, tea/coffee on tap and on each table is a call button to get waiter bar service. The drinks package came included in our balcony room deal, along with free WiFi. I would have happily ate every meal there - so much variety and everything I tried was delicious.
We had a wander around the ship, taking photos and enjoying the sun with a wee cocktail (well, you have too, don't you ;) We had our mandatory drill at 5pm which takes a bit of time as they have to go through it in about 5 languages!
There are 3 main dining rooms for dinner. You are pre-assigned to one and you can choose if you want early or late sitting. We chose late (7.30pm) so that we wouldn't be rushed out (I'd read reviews that the early sitting gets pushed through) but hadn't realised that our restaurant 'Waves' actually had an even later sitting (9.30pm) not that I'd have wanted to eat at that time, I guess it was mostly the Spanish and Italians as they are used to eating at that time. We were put at a table with 3 other English couples who had all cruised extensively and had great stories to tell. We thoroughly enjoyed our table mates and often were the last table to clear the restaurant! The food in the MDR was mostly good. Again, typically Mediterranean style, small portions but good choices and well presented. If you didn't like your chosen dish, they are only too happy to bring you another. Usually choice of 5 or 6 starters, mains and desserts.
We also pre-booked the speciality dining experience on the website before we went. If you pre-book things like this, the drinks package, the Cirque shows they are cheaper that booking on board as you don't incur the 15% service charge. The speciality restaurants were great, especially Butcher's Cut steakhouse. My filet was the tastiest I've ever had - even better than Longhorns Flo's Filet!! The Italian restaurant was good, but not much choice on the dining experience menu and you can get just as good pasta in the buffet. The third part of the experience was Sushi. Now, I've never had sushi and was a bit apprehensive about it but the restaurant was always busy any time we walked past so I was looking forward to the new experience. We had arranged it for lunch the day we were at sea and I really did enjoy it. The only part I didn't like was the octapus - too chewy :confused2!
The entertainment on the ship was good - not as good as RCI, but we still enjoyed Broadway performances, opera, Cirque du Soleil and much more. There is a heated indoor pool and jacuzzis. It was too cold for the outdoor pool but we did go in the outdoor jacuzzi which was lovely. There is a water park on the top deck, but again too cold to try out. I can imagine in spring and summer it is great!
We had pre-booked MSC excursions for Marseille, Genoa, Sicily and Malta (didn't get off ship in Rome as we had done it on our other cruise). The excursions were good, but for Marseille and Genoa the bus was half English speaking and half German, so it wasn't ideal as the guide had to spend time translating things in English and German and often you'd be past the building our point of interest by the time she explained it in English! In Sicily and Malta it was all English speaking. We loved Malta and would definitely like to go back for a holiday. We felt the excursions were good value and informative. We enjoying going to different places and learning about the history in the area.
Overall, we really enjoyed our MSC cruise - it was so different to our previous one. The first ship was much smaller and older (only 1400 passengers versus 5000 on this one). The MSC ship was absolutely beautiful, exceptionally clean and very good food and service.
People on another cruise forum complained about many things, including service but we only experienced friendly, helpful staff. We had reason to visit guest services as our return flight was booked by the agent for 10.30am (arrival in Barcelona port was originally scheduled for 7am, so should have been ok for time). However, we received notification that we wouldn't be arriving until 8.30am. Our private taxi was booked for 7.45am so guest services rang our taxi company to try to change it for us but as it turned out, because we had booked through a travel agent they had to make any amendments on our behalf (which they did, re-booked for 8.45). Guest services checked us in to our Aer Lingus flight and printed boarding passes for us, so that we could go straight to bag drop once we arrived at the airport. They couldn't have been more helpful! I was shocked to see that most people in the queue were there to get the gratuities removed from their bill. On MSC 10 Euros per person per day is added for gratuities. I wouldn't dream of removing it unless there was a serious complaint, but it seems lots of people are getting it taken off, just because they can. Honestly, I've never seen a cleaner ship or more hardworking staff. I think they deserve every cent they get! We were also advised not to leave our luggage outside our room the night before disembarking but to take our cases with us in the morning. This worked really well, in that once we were allowed to disembark we were straight off the ship and in to the waiting taxi in less than 5 minutes.
I would have no hesitation recommending MSC and would certainly cruise with them again.
Cabin was exceptionally clean and bed extremely comfortable. Air conditioning easy to adjust. Shower pressure and temperature very good. Couldn't fault it!
Enjoyed Marseille. Tour was good but bus was a mixture of English speaking and German, it was a bit disjointed at times.View All 74 Marseille Tour Reviews
Again, a mixture of English speaking and German. Genoa is interesting and enjoyed seeing Christopher Columbus birthplace.View All 36 City Tour Reviews
Tour guide was excellent - funny and informative! We did the Taste of Sicily tour and enjoyed walking through the market place and sampling the food and wine.View All 30 City Tour Reviews
Valetta and Mdina tour - very interesting. Guide was terrific and explained the history of the island very well. Loved Malta and would definitely come here for a holiday. We didn't get the tour bus back but stayed a few hours longer in Valetta to enjoy some more of the sights, have lunch and do some shopping. The ship was only about 10 minutes walk.View All 21 La Valletta Walking Tour Reviews