Being a seasoned cruiser, I would like to share our first time experience with the MSC cruise line, aboard the Divina. We have cruised with all of the other major cruise lines out of several ports in the US, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Australia. We have our favorite cruise lines but wouldn't hesitate to cruise again with any of them,… up and to this point.
The term "First Impressions" really came to life with this cruise. The departure port was Miami. The very first thing that we noticed was at check-in. MSC only had half of their check-ins open. This is NOT common with other cruise lines. It took us an hour to get through the check-in area. We then sat in the pre-board area for about another 20 minutes. The wait-time wouldn't have even been a concern if all the check-in areas had been open, and they were making a full effort.
Once on board we were able to get into our cabin, which is quite uncommon due to turnover still in process from the previous cruise. Cudos for that! While we were unpacking, I noticed there were no tissues (kleenex) in the built-in tissue holder. I figured it had just been overlooked so asked for them when our room steward came to introduce himself. He told us that they were no longer provided except for the Aurea rooms ($$$). Hmmmmm….. Here in the US kleenex have been provided in every hotel I've ever been in, right down to, and including the small mom & pop hotels. The couple of hotels I have been in in Guatemala did not provide them. Guatemala IS a third world country… So, MSC now has hotel standards and expectations of a third world country…
Yes, the lack of kleenex is a small thing, but after the extremely slow check-in process, and low hotel standards, we found ourselves nitpicking everything, every day which is something we just haven't done on other cruise lines. Lack of adequate staffing, lack of variety for food, lack of hot food, lack of activities, lack of variety at the theater shows… lack of kleenex …
Overall, the taste of the food was quite adequate but was usually not hot enough, and there was a lack of variety from day to day. Our room was cleaned very nice everyday and ice was provided at our request. The quality of the theater shows was very good but just lacked variety. There was singing and dancing (same singers and dancers) every night with a couple of other acts occasionally thrown into the mix. A couple of times it was confusing trying to watch the acrobatic acts and the dancers all doing their thing at the same time as the singers were doing their thing.
The main dining room had their daily menu posted early in the day just like all of the other cruise lines do. We checked it everyday to determine whether to eat there, or at the buffet. The few choices were so off the wall that we had no desire to eat there until a day the menu listed a steak of some sort that I knew my spouse would like, so we went. Low and behold, when we got to the dining room and were given a menu, we discovered a whole section on the menu of entrees served every day that were not listed on the menu out side of the restaurant. Needless to say, we hadn't dined at the formal dining until about the fourth or fifth night because of this. (We had previously spoken with another couple that had not eaten in the main dining hall either because of the very same reason.) The food was hit and miss. I ordered the salmon that was on the daily menu several nights. It was fabulous every time!! (Also, the chicken and fish at the buffet was usually very good!)
The wait staff in the main dining room never introduced themselves to us. The main dining room is not set up for proper serving. There are too many tables which don't allow the waiters to serve food properly. My food, water and place settings were always served acrossed my spouse. That is just wrong!
On our last night in the main dining room, one person sitting at our table had ordered a steak. It was not prepared to her liking. The waiter never came back to ask how our food was. She had left the steak mostly uneaten. The waiter took her plate away with out even asking if she was done eating or if there was a problem with it. The whole table was quite shocked about that one. One good point to mention is that the food did come quickly.
There are definitely mixed emotions regarding overall satisfaction with the ship staff in general. Many of them greeted or acknowledged us properly and pleasantly, but there were many, many times that we felt like we were about to be bowled over by staff cutting us off in the line of our path while walking, without even an "excuse me". Yes, they have much to do, but there is still courtesy that should be given to the guests.
Getting back on the ship after a day at port was also hit and miss. There was just not enough staff to get people back on in a timely fashion. Standing in line for an extended amount of time to get back onboard is completely understandable if a FULL effort is being made to get people on. Under-staffing was a problem a few times getting back on the ship.
The highlight of the cruise for myself was Ocean Cay. MSC has done a marvelous job with the island and it was a very enjoyable day. A night or two stay at Ocean Cay would be a great offering.
We could really see all the corners that MSC has cut in order to save a dollar. We have seen this on other cruise lines also throughout the years, but not to this extent. We do not foresee ourselves going on another cruise with MSC but if we would, I'd be questioning ahead of time whether or not they are still providing toilet paper!! ;)