Let me start by saying i try to find the positive in everything. We chose this cruise (despite some negative reviews) because it had the itinerary we wanted on the dates we needed.
That said, here is why I won’t be going on msc again:
First Clue should have been the reservations process. Had to do over the phone because for some reason the new EU privacy laws meant I couldn’t do it online (made no sense to me either). We wanted the package that included drinks but that only came with certain cabins and we needed two adjacent cabins which were no longer available in this category (don’t ask me why they link packages to cabins). Went with two cabins that I was told were connected. They made me reserve with one adult and one teenager in each room but assured me once I got on board this could be fixed.
The itinerary was very confusing - it did not include embarkation and disembarkation times. After 3 calls (some of which I had to wait on hold 20 minutes for and don’t even bother clicking that “call me” button on the website) I think I figured out I had to be off the ship by 1 am on the last day (Saturday early am)
Time for embarkation - at check in I ask about switching cabins adults in one teenagers in another. Was told just switch room keys. When I asked if I could buy wine using my 14 year olds ID card was told to see the reception on board. 20 minutes in line there - no can’t be done, it is a safety issue (oh and by the way we had visited the cabins which were definitely not connecting). Asked to see a manger, after more wait was told the person on the phone was wrong and it would be investigated (and call recordings listened to) and the hotel manager would get back to me (one guess on if that ever happened). The feeling I got was clearly he could care less about my situation and only cared about if he needed to get a call center operator fired.
Water package - don’t actually care about bottled water, am fine with tap but it was what was included in our “package” but only at the main restaurant at dinner not when you pay extra to go to specialty restaurants? Again, I am fine with tap so had them bring me that at our first specialty restaurant (“Hot Pot”) but when we went to Butchers Cut we were told that tap was not available? Seriously?
Back to the Hot Pot - it was actually a kind of creepy experience. We were the only ones in the restaurant (9pm - prime eating time on the European ship) and the waiters stood over our shoulder even after we told them we needed some time to look over the menu. Then they brought some of the appetizers and the food that was supposed to be cooked for the main (at the same time) and left with no instructions. Eventually they came back - we asked about the main (and were told to wait) and again about the missing appetizer. Finally it came out that the waiter cooked our food and eventually the missing appetizer was brought. Found it strange no dessert was offered.
Teen club - another fail. Except for one day when it had a few extra hours it only opened from 8-12pm and with no programming of any kind. The only thing in the teen club was video games you had to pay extra for and one foosball table you could play with when the counselor was there. No wonder even though many teens were on board it was not a gathering spot. The lack of programming was especially problematic since maybe only 5% of the people on board were native English speakers with numerous other languages on board. Without a dance party or charades game to come to why come hang out with people you can’t easily converse with?
Drink packages... we had coupons for alcoholic drinks. I completely get that these are usually restricted to “house “ wines. What I don’t get is why on a European cruise ship there is no training about wine. I would specifically ask for a Chardonnay and can’t count the number of times they pulled out a white blend. Some bars had the “Woodbridge” Chardonnay that was included, most did not. Even more fun were the bars that had it but insisted it was a “premium” wine and so not included. The logic is not based on price either. 8 Euro margarita? Included. 6 Euro glass of wine - not included.
Food - not terrible but not good. The only variety on the breakfast buffet was what types of bread and fruit were put out. The lunch buffet area was huge but illogically laid out. If you really wanted to see all the options you had to look at all the stations even though some stations were 90% the same as others.
The ship - the spaces were overall nice. The fitness center strangely only had one elliptical machine that always had a wait. There were ~8 treadmills but usually two were out of service so that was challenging durinig busy times.
Back to that disembarkation question? The day before what we thought was the last full day of the cruise we get luggage tags that indicate we are supposed to disembark at 9am on Saturday (not 1 am). Of course by this point, hotel arrangements have already been made. When we indicate we intend to disembark at 11:30pm we are told that is not possible and we have to wait until after midnight. Why does the cruise line not know their own cruises?!
The pluses? We had a truly wonderful waiter in the main dining room. The parties in the aft lounge were generally entertaining. The itinerary was what we wanted.
Very interesing city. Taxis are reasonably priced and we had no problem using English to get around. Took a great tour of the Burj Khalifa (went for the higher priced tour that included the upper floor observation deck - this allowed us to also skip the line, wait in a private lounge and be escorted up in the elevator). Also skiied indoors. Found best prices by booking this online ahead of time.
Again skipped cruise ship excursions and was easy to get around on our own through walking and taxi cabs. The mosque was a great visit. Take the free tour offered a few times a day, allows you access into the main prayer hall when no other tours seemed to be allowed in there.