PART ONE - Horrendous
Our holiday got off to a terrible start. I had booked to go away with my mother and a few of her [elderly] friends. We booked early and chose our cabins so that we were all together and conveniently located to the facilities we planned to enjoy. However, a few weeks before we were due to travel, one of our cabins was pulled and we were told we were going to be placed 3 floors higher and at the opposite end of the ship. This was a big problem for us as we had all planned to convene on each others balconies to enjoy afternoon teas and coffee; also, to enjoy pre-dinner drinks. I complained to customer services who did their best to get our original cabin back but to no avail. Their 'allocation team' would not budge and neither would they locate our friends near to our new cabin. We were all gutted, as separating the group prevented us from popping in and out of each others cabins and enjoying the usual camaraderie. As a compromise, they managed to find us another cabin on the same floor but still this was a trek and left us isolated. To make up for it, we were given 50 euros onboard credit and Prosecco on arrival and although this did little to make things better, it was a gesture we appreciated. That was, until we boarded the ship and discovered our newly-allocated cabin 9084. For anyone allocated this cabin, please note that even though it is classed as a Bella Balcony cabin, IT HAS NO VIEW WHATSOEVER UNLESS YOU ARE STANDING UP!!! When sat on the chairs provided all you can see is solid white metal. All the saving up to pay extra for a balcony on which we could relax and enjoy the views out to sea, was therefore wasted.
The disappointment and upset was beyond words. It was bad enough being parted from our friends but to be denied the benefits of our balcony too was just the final straw. We demanded a proper balcony cabin or to be refunded the cost. Unfortunately, this was not something the cruise staff could sort out as - any claim would have to be handled by UK admin staff - and there was no other cabins available to move us to! All we could do was wait to see if anyone with a balcony cabin failed to show up at the next port and we could then have theirs.
As suggested, we waited. We had embarked on a Sunday afternoon and waited until Monday evening to see if there was any change. Still nothing but we were told to check again another 24 hours later, after the next lot of passengers embarked. We did so but by this time, and having lived out of our suitcase for 2 days, we had given up hope. At this point, we all felt our holiday had been ruined. It had put a complete dampener on it, especially as my mum was so upset she had burst into tears and said she just wanted to go home. She was totally unsettled and could not bear having to rummage in her case every time she wanted something. We therefore decided to unpack and resigned ourselves to the isolation and having no balcony/view.
Ironically, we then received a telephone call in our cabin from reception. They had found us a cabin - not near to our friends, but it had a glass fronted balcony so at least we had a view! Of course, we then had to repack everything in order to move and it was a real pain, but considered worth it as we still had a number of days left. It took us a while but eventually we got settled and our holiday finally began!!!
PART TWO - fantastic
With only one or two exceptions, the staff on this ship simply could not do enough. They worked extremely hard to ensure passengers had a good time and the atmosphere onboard was a party one.
Our waiter was exceptional and nothing was too much trouble. We did not see much of the cabin steward but our room was always neat and tidy when we returned.
As for the food, it was much better than the last MSC cruise we went on. The menu choices were varied and appetising and portion sizes were also reasonable. The buffet restaurants (Inca and Maya) were always far too busy to be an enjoyable experience so we chose to eat breakfast and lunch in the restaurant or ice-cream parlour instead. However, the choices there were very limited and in the ice-cream parlour/coffee shop we had to pay for our drinks but still it was the best option for us. To prevent the main buffets from being so busy it would have been better jf the coffee shop and Il Cappuccino lounge offered a greater selection of sandwiches or snacks - together with free tea/coffee/water (as in the main dining areas.) This would have evened things out so that certain areas were less crowded at any one time.
In relation to the excursions offered by MSC, these were not so good. I realise that they rely on outside companies to provide the service and they merely act as agent. Nevertheless, they need to take on board the feedback and get some of these companies to change how they do things. There were a LOT of complaints and the exclusion staff had to take the flak. We did the Casablanca/Rabat tour and had looked forward to it more than all the others we took but it was a terrible tour and a complete waste of a day's holiday. Our tour guide was rude, disinterested, ill-informed and was incentivised only by taking us to venues where it was clear he earned a commission. On a 10 hour tour, he refused to let us stop for a coffee break (apart from the 1 hour lunch stop) and when a number of us asked about visiting a bazaar/souk, he said there was no time and took us instead to what can only be described as a 'junk souvenir shop' in a back street. The next such stop was at an argan oil factory in Rabat where we all had to sit through a boring presentation lasting about half an hour. We were all then handed a basket to purchase their products and take them to the till. Needless to say, there were very few takers and most people on the tour were furious - especially as we had been denied any free time to explore either Casablanca or Rabat again due to 'lack of time.
When we reported back to reception the next day we were met by many others queuing there for the same reason and some were on other buses also part of the same trip. It was a disaster and I felt sorry for MSC as it was really down to the tour operator.
Where MSC did excel was the entertainment. All our party are avid cruisers and we agreed unanimously that this ship offered the best entertainment we have ever had. The theatre shows were second to none and were astoundingly good - standing ovations nearly every night. The shows varied from musical performances, serious style opera, comedy, circus style acrobatics (within theatrical setting), to drama and plain fun evenings. The variety and standard of performance was absolutely incredible and I'm worried we are seriously spoilt for the future! Whoever the theatre production company is they deserve recognition and commendation for first-class entertainment.
So, all in all, a bad experience at the outset only turned round by the attitude and professionalism of Paula from customer services and the staff on board. They saved our holiday from complete disaster, meaning we lost only part and not the whole of it. I had already booked another cruise with MSC (2021) and had planned to cancel but they turned this fiasco around so I've given them a reprieve.
Avoid cabin 9084 at all costs. it has no view. it is a complete waste of a balcony. All you can see is a white metal wall - unless you stand up and dont bother sitting on the chairs!!!
Other bella balcony cabins (which our friends had) are ok - a bit small by comparison with other cruise ships but otherwise ok.
nice tourView All 36 Portofino Walking Tour Reviews
nice tour but too short . needed more free timeView All 17 Village of Mijas Reviews
Terrible tour. No free time to explore. No coffee stops in 10 hour day (apart from lunch break). Guide rude, disinterested, ill-informed and interested only in taking us to venues where he got commission. Complete waste of money and a day's holiday. DO NOT TAKE THIS TOUR.
Small group walking tour inc tapas and pastry. Excellent.View All undefined undefined Reviews