We have previously sailed exclusively with NCL and 1 time with Royal Caribbean. This was our first experience with MSC Cruises and we were pleasantly surprised with our experience onboard. We chose this itinerary because it was the ship's inaugural cruise and the stops were all new locations for us - Hamburg, Southampton, Lisbon, Barcelona, Marseille.
After reading many reviews here on Cruise Critic we were very concerned about choosing MSC. Everything from the service, the different languages during announcements, food portions, taste, etc.
But from our experience, it was absolutely fantastic. Mind you we did have a very unique experience on a few fronts. Because it was the inaugural cruise, the ship was not full and we were well looked after from the staff onboard.
Embarkation was very smooth. Easily the fastest we have ever embarked on any other cruise (that's even sailing in the Haven with it's own private check in desk). Also, unlike in US embarkation ports, the handlers in Europe do not have their hand out asking for tips for taking your luggage onto a trolley. The staff who takes your luggage are MSC staff and take it away for you.
The one small little thing was that we downloaded the MSC for Me app so that we can do all the pre-check in ahead of time. Taking our own photos, setting up our credit card information and doing the check in. But when we got to the port they still had to do the photos and check in. Anyone who has sailed with MSC knows that your credit card payment is done at the small kiosks throughout the ship. I was unsure of this idea but it actually works very well.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We had some help with guest services because we have two small children a ton of luggage. They were able to assist us getting off the ship. Excellent.
The ship because we were the first paying customers was in perfect condition. No complaints whatsoever. And the staff did an amazing job taking care of it while in its infancy.
The gym though was quite small. Considering that our ship, from what we were told was only at half capacity was full most days and using the equipment was difficult. I cannot imagine that a full cruise you would be even able to use any equipment. Oh well, use of stairs and walking everywhere became our work out.
Because of large swells, our 1 day in Southampton ended up becoming a multi-day stay. You can't control the weather right? So even though we were disappointed to miss our Lisbon stop and lose our full day in Marseille it didn't stop our family from enjoying more time on the ship.
Our family doesn't do the shows in the theater on any cruise. We have dinner a bit later so we miss them. So I cannot comment on the quality of the shows. But we were invited to watch 1 show of our choosing since it was the inaugural sailing, EXENTRICKS with dinner and it was amazing! Our children loved it and so did we.
But near the end of our cruise, we were invited to watch Cosmos as well. We loved it just as must as the previous show. This time we didn't have dinner, just drinks. I have read that the drinks given aren't very good. But there were 3 choices, a tropical drink, gin and tonic and a non-alcoholic. We had the gin and tonic and we enjoyed them.
Our cabin was 10281. Aft facing balcony considered a "suite". We didn't have any extra perks but our room was huge! We have a regular balcony but it was wider by about half. So we had our queen bed, a sofa bed, and a bunk bed built in its wall. We have read that storage is a problem in most rooms, which we have seen with the demo rooms onboard. But our room had 2 large size closets, and the bunk bed area had 2 extra drawers, 2 smaller closets, and a head area in the bunk that could store more items. We had plenty of storage and we needed it since we were on the cruise for 12 days. Our balcony was huge since it was aft facing. Wish it was warmer out so we could use it more frequently, but still amazing. Our cabin attendant kept our in fantastic shape the whole cruise. When passengers mention that they never see their cabin attendant, I never believe it. We would see him multiple times during the day as we were in and out of our room.
Zoe in the room unfortunately is not very good. We are very optimistic people, but we tried using it to get some answers and it couldn't answer any of them. Not even basic questions. We just used it as blu tooth speaker which was fine for us. But it needs lots of work still.
Dining, what can we say. Probably the best food we have ever had in all honesty. Food portions were totally normal, not small like some people have posted about. And if it was small, just order more! The variety was great and the desserts were fantastic. We dined in Il Campo which is reserved for Suite guests so we had anytime dining. We just showed up and we were seated immediately. We never waited once. Not for 1 second. it was fantastic. Service was impeccable every single night.
We did not dine in the specialty restaurants since we felt that the food and service was perfect for us.
The buffet was incredible as well. Easily the best pizza we have ever had. Mozzarella made fresh everyday. Choices were plentiful and good variety. Breakfast was pretty much the same, which it is on every ship. Again, because our ship was at half capacity, finding service or a seat was never a problem for us. The children & family buffet seating area was always available for us. We liked it there.
Our only comment is that like others have wrote about, MSC does not enforce hand washing or sanitation. We would like for them to be more strict on it to help prevent contamination.
Because of the cool weather, we were not able to use the outdoor facilities. Except for 1 day when the weather was warm. Our son and I used the slides, amazing fun! We just wish it was warmer. It will be a great area if the ship is in better temperatures.
Our children had never used any kids clubs on any other ship before but absolutely loved and enjoyed the kids club onboard the Grandiosa. The staff there did a wonderful job with the children and they had such a great time. Highly recommended.
Service was great! We didn't have the feeling that staff were trying to sell us on everything. They were polite and very nice everywhere we went. High marks to all. Guests services manager and hotel director were fantastic as well. The captain (master) was also incredibly nice. We were able to meet him on 3 occasions and it was an amazing experience.
The photography team took excellent photos. We love taking photos on cruises so we don't shy away from taking pictures. But from what we could see, passengers who didn't want them taken were not pestered or bothered further. I know passengers complain about aggressive photographers, but they were not like that at all. Our children can be a handful taking photos and every person worked with them patiently and the photos turned out awesome.
For the ports, we didn't use MSC. We roamed around on our own and I had set up tours prior to us boarding.
We wish there was comment cards so that we could recognize great service to the staff who deserve it.
Again, we don't know what it would be like if the ship was at full capacity. I'm sure there might have been some line ups, waiting for tables in the buffet area, etc. But we cannot comment on that since our ship was half capacity. Our cruise was wonderful and based on our experience we would 100% sail with MSC again.
Some people go on cruises just to complain about everything. Others enjoy it to the fullest.
Aft facing with a huge balcony. Room can easily sleep 6 people. 1 queen bed, sofa bed and bunk beds. The storage space was plenty. The bathroom had a tub instead of just the shower.
There was not any North American channels like ESPN if you watch sports. But we aren't in our room to watch TV. The tv did have a detail of your onboard account which we used everyday to track everything.
Ample space and storage in this particular room.
We embarked out of Hamburg. And it is a lovely city. Very easy to walk around and taking the subway was half decent. We wish we had more time here
We were going to London after our cruise so we didn't make the journey to get into the city. Instead we stayed in Southampton which has tons of charm. I had a tour set up to see St. Mary's stadium home of the Premier League team Southampton FC. We walked to the mall afterwards and just wandered the city. We liked it very much
This port was cancelled due to bad weather
You must be diligent anywhere you go, but we had no issues with safety or pick pocketing. The city felt safe and we had an incredible time there. We ate local food and traveled to Camp Nou home of Barcelona FC. The subway system was very easy to navigate