I think I really, truly realized that MSC was not for me when I was lying, practically naked, under a towel at the spa trying to enjoy my Aurea experience massage while my masseuse pressure-sold me into booking another massage. Of course, there had been many whomp-whomps up to that point - but nothing says 'we don't give two craps about you' like encouraging your staff to throw you a sales pitch while you can just walk away .... because you're basically naked.
Let me tell you my tale ..
My family and I love to travel. And we are actually quite easygoing. (Not faux easy-going ... we are really chill. I've never written a review of anything in my life. This is what MSC has brought me to!) Our experience on the MSC Divina tested us at ever turn. The good news is, I can share my experience with you, in the hopes of diverting another mess of a vacation.
I have never experienced such customer service incompetence at ever turn (our saga begins about a month before the cruse left). We purchased two Balcony Staterooms with the Aurea Package. We were bringing my parents with us on the trip, so six people in total, between two 'upgraded' rooms.
Unfortunately, my dad had some complications related to a heart attack he'd had a while back, and that left him unable to travel a little more than a month before sailing. This is an important point ... we knew we were outside our refund period, and specifically did not ask for a refund of the second room at any point.
The 'push us off to another person' portion of the story starts when I tried to call to have my mom and dad taken off the second room, and have our names put on it. They were on the same floor, but kind of far apart. My first hope was that they'd be able to move them to adjoining rooms, so that we could easily use them both. Our plan B was to divide and conquer - so my husband and I would both be in a room, with a kid joining us. That way, the kids would have their own beds, and we'd have extra space.
Neither of these options happened. In fact, we ended up paying for both rooms - complete with the Aurea experience, we were put in the crappier of the two, and reprimanded throughout the cruse for 'not bringing the issue up earlier'.
In fact, we did contact MSC immediately. I spoke with them several times leading up to the cruse. Each call resulted in being told different things. The first girl told me to call back and keep checking on room availability. The second and third calls resulted in our purchasing an upgraded drink package (more on that sham in a moment), and the premium internet package for me and my husband. (We really did try to make the best of this trip!)
The final word on my call to MSC about a week before was that everything could be fixed at check in. They'd help us at the ship, never fear. It was simply a system issue that prevented them from helping us at the call centre.
We couldn't check in online. My parents were linked to my account. They never took them off (although they had plenty of notice), and it made it so we couldn't have our online tickets and bag tags issued. We called the tech help line two days before the cruise. They are in the US, and would not help us, because we're Canadian. So we called the Canadian line, they could not help us, because it was a tech issue. We were passed back and forth between the Canadian and US call centres for - literally - over an hour. Finally, one rude, exasperated employee just issued our tags. Why couldn't anyone else do it? I don't know.
We arrive at the port. It is chaos. Such chaos. I do not need to dwell on this - it is a mess. If you have paid for the Aurea experience, you can go to the front of the line .... if you KNOW that you can go to the front of the line. It's some bizarre 'survival of the fittest' test. There are no signs for you anywhere. Good luck.
Overflowing with Canadian cheeriness, we bring our issue to the lady at the ticket counter. She YELLS at us - (like, we're talking 0-60 in 3 seconds flat) - about how that is not her problem, and we should have called and had it dealt with before we got to her. We explain, calmly (because our kids are watching), that we called multiple times. She rolls her eyes, does not apologize, and issues our cards in silence. I ask again how we get the room dealt with, and she assures us that guest services on the ship will help us.
I arrive at guest services. It does not go well. I should have known, because of every single person in the long line ahead of me, not one left happy. (At this juncture, I will say that I realize that some people expect too much ... they're pushy, they're impossible, they're just plain wrong .... but it can't POSSIBLY be every single person that has a problem. When that's your track record, or your employees pride themselves on 'not giving an inch' when they're you're front-line customer service agents ... perhaps it's time for some soul-searching.
I explain my story to the guest services agent. He visibly rolls his eyes at me, does not listen to the story, and tries to send me away with the email address for US Customer Service. (You'll recall, we've already spoken to them. They turned us away because we booked through the Canadian site). I explain this to him, he explains that he has no way of believing me, it's just my word. I blink. He blinks. Nothing computes.
My husband has arrived at the desk at this point. I fill him in on where we're at. We ask to speak to a manager. He says no. We all blink. Finally, we insist. He goes away for what feels like an hour - likely, to explain to his supervisor what unreasonable people we are. She arrives, ready to smite the dastardly Canadians. Her line ... her ONLY line is: 'I'm sorry, but that is not my problem'. And then passes us the US CUSTOMER SERVICE EMAIL ADDRESS. I die a little inside, that any company this big could have such an atrocious training system for their customer service staff.
We finally give up, because our children are both teary, and go to our *one* room. It is sub-par. The rooms are small, our hallway smelled of sewage, and the WORST PART of this 'upgraded balcony suite' is that it was an obstructed view, with approximately half the square footage of a normal balcony. (We had no indication of this). There is not enough room for the balcony furniture, although it's all shoved out there anyway. We need to pile it up so we can stand on the balcony. We were one of only a handful of balconies on the entire ship that did not enjoy the glass panoramic view. A rusty metal balcony is what we got. Our son was not tall enough to see over. It made the room feel closed and cramped. Boo to the balcony. (At this point, I feel the need to explain that the second room we'd paid for had a beautiful, full balcony. We were not allowed to use that room, or even switch to it, and leave our stateroom vacant).
We go to use the internet packages we had. We purchased two premium unlimited (one for me, one for my husband), and kept the standard package that came with Aurea for our kids. We did this over the phone, and it was coded incorrectly. Two packages were attached to my husband's name, and as a result the standard package was unusable. It took them two days to sort it out, and get the package up and running correctly for my kids. We were never issued a refund ... actually, nobody even said sorry.
In theory, the premium drink package is a good call, if you like to enjoy what you're drinking. Unfortunately, the wine list is anaemic, and if you order a top shelf mixed drink, you need to watch your bartender to make sure you are actually getting the alcohol you ordered. This wasn't an isolated occasion - this was a regular issue. You cannot go to a bar and order drinks for your cabin. I went to order alcoholic drinks for me and my husband, and virgin daiquiris for our kids. Not permitted. You can only order two drinks at a time - otherwise two people need to be present. I understand the spirit of this rule - but when half the drinks are virgin, that just means we needed to juggle 'who stays with the kids' while we go and get the drinks.
The buffet is a nightmare. Only half of it is opened at any one time, everyone is confused, frustrated and hungry. Not a good scene. Oh ... your Cadillac of drink packages does not cover a ladle-full of buffet Sangria. That is extra. I don't know why. When you finally sit, you are bombarded by roving employees trying to upsell your drink package, and then book you into an upgraded restaurant. If you're a foodie, skip this cruise.
We took the bait, and booked at Galaxy Sushi. Here's the deal with that: I live in rural, small-town, landlocked Ontario. And the sushi we have in our town could run rings around Galaxy after two days in a college kids refrigerator. Seriously. Don't bother. We skipped the steak house - figured it couldn't be much better.
The entertainment was not my cup of tea. I realize that's subjective - some people seemed to really enjoy it. But if you have even a cursory interest in actual classical music, please do yourself a favour and skip the quasi-classical, bad popera productions. Or enjoy them ... totally up to you!
The spa is beautiful. The constant desire to 'sell you something' deeply disturbs the zen vibe. I think I've never - in my life - had a masseuse stand over me while I'm still on the table, trying to get me to 'sign a slip' for my next massage. It was surreal.
We met some lovely employees along the way. They were all hoping to never come back after their current contract. That's got to tell you something.
Finally, we decided we wanted to try once more with guest services, and make an appointment with the director. It took three tries, with three different employees for us to finally get an appointment. (We would show up, they'd say someone would call us with a time, nobody would call us, and there was no record of our asking to speak with him).
We did finally meet with him. He was gracious, apologetic ... he said all the right things. (He happily booked two more massages for us, that we'd already paid for with the Aurea package on the second room. Overwhelming, I know.)
After speaking with him, I am confident that nothing will change. MSC has a fundamental issue with staff training, knowledge and ownership of their roles. We spoke with over a dozen people to try and solve a problem that was constantly pushed off onto the next person. Nobody is interested in going above and beyond, the complaining customer deserves an eye roll, and their packages and technology are cumbersome and clearly not well-understood by MSC staff. I've seen others who had issues brush it off as a 'European' rather than 'American' style. This is nonsense. I've lived and travelled extensively in Europe - they may not be as effusive as their US counterparts, but in the hospitality industry in Europe they're skilled, meticulous and - if they're good at what they do - they take great pride in their work. Don't call bad customer service 'European'. Please.
PS. In case you're wondering about the private island, here's the deal: it's going to be lovely. It is currently not well-shaded because the trees haven't grown in, and then they charge you for the umbrellas that are absolutely a necessity without tree coverage. Food service on the island is like what I imagine a prison riot in the cafeteria looks like. There are major, major kinks there.
So, all in all? Boo.
The stateroom was one of the smallest we've ever stayed in - and had an obstructed balcony view even though we'd upgraded the cabin to the Aurea experience. (And our first cruise ever was a cheap-o Carnival Cruise when we were young and poor. LOL). The Carnival stateroom seemed like a palace in comparison.
One day, we came back from lunch and the entire hallway smelled like sewage - but they did fix that. How bad is it that 'the room only smelled like sewage for a little while' is a positive point?
The TV didn't work well. The bathroom was tiny. The room was somehow on the corner of the ship - which promised panoramic balcony views .... except the balconies there were metal, not glass, like the rest of the ship (so my youngest couldn't see unless he was held up by someone else). The balcony was - unfortunately - miniature in size to accommodate the curve of the ship. So the balcony furniture wasn't even usable. No, this was never mentioned in our cabin selection. If we'd known, we would NEVER have picked it.