BACKGROUND: seven day cruise out of Southampton, to Zeebrugge, Rotterdam, Hamburg and LeHavre. Mother, 88yrs, and daughter 50’s, active and love to participate in activities like trivia. Mom uses a scooter on cruises due to severe arthritis which makes walking long distances challenging.
SHIP: I liked the ship. It isn’t particularly easy to navigate as there are multiple bars and rooms but that’s why there is a readily available map and guide. It was very easy to find a hideaway to escape the crowds. The Swarovski Crystal staircase is beautiful.
DINING: I found the dining room horrible for me, my mom loved it. I don’t eat meat and the options were abhorrent. Everything was cold and tasteless. The buffet in both our opinions was disgusting although my mother didn’t have to navigate the bun fights as I usually chose for her knowing very well her likes and dislikes. It was truly chaotic. The buffet did not have a natural flow and was always an incredibly unpleasant dining experience. The food was very cold. The only way to get a hot cup of tea for my mom was to go to the barista and get boiling water from the bar. The urns of “hot water” were either cold or empty. I have read that people eat food colder in Europe...ummm not in my experience. This food was inedible except for the wonderful fruit available at breakfast. We tried one specialty restaurant (Butcher’s Cut) as it was gratis having been granted a “Black Card” in MSC’s reciprocity offer as I am Elite Plus with Celebrity and Diamond Plus with RCI. (The other specialty restaurant was was Asian fusion that I could have enjoyed but definitely not mom’s thing). Mom’s veal chops were like hockey pucks and my salmon was again cold and over cooked. It would have been an incredibly expensive meal (+++€120) and I would have had a hard time not seriously challenging paying for a meal as it was THAT bad. One good caveat was that I lost weight...a fairly big feat on a cruise.
CABIN: We were in our first accessible cabin. I am a firm believer that accessible cabins should be for wheelchair dependent people, not for someone like us that can manage, albeit sometimes challenging, to be able to fit a scooter inside a cabin. As we only booked two months before the cruise it was actually the only balcony available. I must admit the space was wonderful...the cabin steward...not so much. I actually wrote to no avail IN THE DUST on the table “please clean me.” Mom used the little milk cups for one cup of tea on the first day and despite daily requests, it was never restocked nor was the tissues or tea bags. One morning he told me that “he was too busy to clean our room.” I just chuckled to myself and took fresh towels off his cart.
ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES: The shows were OK, some better than others. What I did find rather amusing was that two of the shows were VERY similar just different music and costumes. The cirque-like performer with a big ring did the same routine. The aerialist..same..different colour silk. Trio of acrobats...exactly the same tumbling etc. It was a really weird dejavu. There are multiple performers in the many bars around the ship that was wonderful. The multicultural influences were also fabulous. As for activities, the staff didn’t show up for one of the trivias...no response when I queried this with guest services. When they did show up it was OK though. The staff were very nice and personable. What was annoying was that as people can embark and disembark at all the ports, Hamburg was considered a big turnaround day and there were no activities at all until 3pm and that was “hair analysis” in the spa. No trivia/nothing. Furthermore, Hamburg was on a Sunday and there is notoriously nothing open except for the Zoo and a “Miniature” Park.
PORTS: As my mom wasn’t feeling well at times, we only got off the ship in LeHavre. We used the ship’s shuttle into town for ~ €8 each. We walked around a bit and went to the Mall. I felt that Brugge would be too difficult for her in her scooter with all the cobblestones. It is one of my favourite ports though.
BOTTOM LINE... would I go on MSC again? I highly doubt it though never say never. I now know what to expect from MSC which was one of the goals of this trip. Despite all the banter about how the service, activities and food on CELEBRITY and RCI have dropped a bit it’s still FAR superior than MSC...IN MY OPINION.
Beautiful accessible cabin though the outside view was above the lifeboats.
We did not visit Brugge due to the cobblestones which are difficult when a scooter is needed. It is one of my favourite places.