Booked a weeks cruise on the MSC Seaview June 1st -8th around the Mediterranean. We had travelled on MSC as a family of two adults and two children (10, 7) ten years ago and adored it. This time, it was myself and my now 20 year old daughter as a girls treat. Embarkation - Arrived at the Barcelona cruise terminal late morning, embarkation was extremely quick, efficient and we were on board within around twenty minutes of arrival. We had to run the gauntlet of staff trying hard to sell speciality dining and drinks packages on the way in, did not like this, but not sure if this is the same on every cruise. Cabins were not available until 2:30, but a (very) welcome buffet was ready at 12 noon. We did have an all inclusive drinks package, and made use of this while waiting for the cabin, and also spent some time exploring the ship.
Ship- Whatever critics may say about MSC, they all agree that the ships are stunning, and the Seaview is no exception. The crystal staircases are a constant photo opportunity, the huge atrium with multiple stages, the light, seating areas, cafes, pools it is all designed beautifully. Not once did we fail to find a seat where we wanted, even beside the pools. Other than a few very rare occasions, we would never have known just how many thousands of people were on the ship because it rarely felt crowded.
Cabin - 13126 mid ship balcony cabin on Ionian Sea deck. My daughter is a bit superstitious but 13 is not considered unlucky in Italy, it is the number 17, so there is no deck 17. The cabin was lovely. Lots of storage, great lighting, USB sockets, and a proper shower cubicle. It felt very spacious for two of us, and had a massive sofa.
Dining - This is the only issue we had, and unfortunately it is a big deal. As we often holiday in Italy and love the time spent enjoying lovely food, it was a major disappointment to be rushed through dinner in around 90 minutes as there are now 3 settings as opposed to the previous 2. Its a 2 hour window but by the time you are seated and served then they start clearing up for the next sitting, that cuts back the two hours considerably. Dinner also used to be Italian style with lots of smaller courses, this is now 3 courses of very mediocre food. I never have dessert as am always full by then, but in the MDR I was having pudding and then heading up to the midnight buffet as was always hungry after dinner. We spent some nights at the buffet restaurants which were good, but not brilliant and very repetitive, but at least we never left hungry and could take as long as we liked. Breakfast was excellent however, with a wide choice of food and the coffee was really good. We used one of the speciality restaurants midweek, the Teppanyaki, and it was outstanding, though at a cost of 70 euros extra. Our MDR table companions used the Butchers Cut steakhouse, and also said it was fabulous if expensive.
Entertainment - lots of live music in bars, all really good, There were a number of party nights (including a White Party) in the atrium which were great fun, with all ages up dancing til the small hours .The entertainment crew were fantastic, encouraging a great atmosphere whatever they were doing. We attended two of the shows and were absolutely blown away. Both nights the audience were on their feet in appreciation.
Spa - I bought a Thermal Area spa pass before cruising, which was £82 as opposed to £140 if I bought in on board. This gave me access to the spa area for the duration of the cruise and I loved it. The spa had various saunas, steam baths, special showers and other facilities, including two hot tubs out on the deck for sole use of spa guests. As we didnt go off the boat every day I was often in when it was really quiet and always had the hot tub to myself! I also booked two massages as another treat which were amazing, though admittedly really expensive, although I had a substantial discount on the second.
Service - outstanding. All the staff we came across were very pleasant and helpful, with some going above and beyond to make it a great experience. One bar waitress never smiled, clearly loathed cruise customers, so we made it our mission to get a laugh out of her by the end of the week, and my daughter managed it our last night. There is currently some debate about MSC and service charges. I was told it was mandatory by the TA and this is also on the MSC website. I paid ours on board at the cost of 140 euros for both of us. Others were saying it is not mandatory and I should ask for it back and just tip whoever I wanted. I left it on this occasion as I wasn't sure but will need to investigate further.
Ports - really good, straightforward and popular. Liked being in port every day as don't like 'at sea' days.
Excursions - I can't really comment as I we didn't take any, other than a shuttle transfer into Palma. This was really well organised and cost 25 euros for both. I hadn't done my research on Palma and we found out later that a taxi would have been 10 euros each way, and the local bus stops right at the port and goes into the town at a cost of 1'50 euros! So as with many excursions it was way overpriced. If you want to play it very safe then maybe the extra cost is worth it. We did our own thing on the other days ashore for a fraction of the MSC price.
Bars - we had an all inclusive drinks package and I kept a running total of what we were using to work out if it would be worth it next time. It worked out as good value as we had a lot of cocktails, but that was 3/4 a day plus water, soft drinks and coffee. Any less and it would not have been worthwhile. By all accounts everyone I spoke to thought the drinks package compared really favourably with other cruise lines.
Other factors - didn't have small children but they looked really well catered for, including the children's splash pool and adventure course. Internet access was ridiculously expensive (£70 weekly for 2.5 MB), my daughter bought this as clearly a 20 year old would wither and die without access to social media 24 hours a day. As data roaming in Europe is included with most phone agreements and there was no issue connecting anywhere we were moored, I thought this would be enough. Apparently not!
Brits were very much a small minority on board, which was not an issue for us, but some of our fellow Brit passengers didn't like this. More than one commented on the number of 'foreigners' on board, which we found bemusing as this was an Italian cruise line with the main embarkation in Barcelona! MSC cruises are not designed for British customers. People don't queue, they come in the lift when you are trying to get out, many of the staff speak a few different languages but have limited English. and the main chatter is Italian and Spanish.
Overall, an amazing experience let down by poor dining. Not sure if I would book again unless the dining experience changes because to me that was a deal breaker.
As above. Excellent