I have over 10 years of cruising history with over 20 cruises on various line. I have seen better and lesser conditions on cruises over that time BUT The cruise that I have just taken on MSC on the Splendida on Feb 14 has been an example of the worst that I have ever experienced.
PRE Cruise: Information on what visas were required inconsistent to no information.
My calls to MSC were met with "we can't advise you" or "we don't know" so I turned to other CC members to see if they got better results or answers. From this I found that the MSC company consistently across the world was unhelpful at best and downright wrong more times than a company dealing in international travel should be.
When the original trip was going to start in Shanghai, I debated long and hard about the visa to China. One piece of information said yes the next no. It was ONLY because of fellow cruisers that the course of action I took was decided on. Luckily I did not spend the nearly two hundred to get it.
There were several countries on our journey that needed visas (India, Sri lanka, Thailand) with it truly not clear if there were going to be others needed. I personally knew that India would be needed directly from them , but not that if I did not want to go ashore I could "not get it".
As I had been on another cruise in this part of the world (not MSC) I knew that the ship would often get the needed visas for all the passengers of that cruise for the day's stop. BUT it would have been nice to know what visa's that MSC Splendida would be getting and the cost would have been nice. One person I talked to had already gotten theirs not knowing. Getting it directly our self would have also saved us extra expense as the ship charged us more than getting it our self.
I certainly watched with the rest of the world as the corona virus started to effect China, and everything that touched that country like our trip. This is where I have major heartburn with MSC as they provided Little to no communication about what was going on, what we should be doing, what MSC was doing. At this point since I had used a travel agent to book the cruise, MSC would be the only people at this point to know what they were doing. My calls resulting in "I don't know" and "we're working on it and will let your travel agent know when we know what is happening"
SORRY at this point I had Air line ticket purchased when prices were the best because of early purchase, Hotels in Shanghai booked, tours in the city pre cruise, tours along the cruise route, etc. Travel insurance that did not include "cancel for any reason".
When MSC finally decided to move the embarkation port to Singapore, I found it out first because our cruise critic network told ME, not MSC it would be days later before the news filtered down to my travel agents then to me. By this time I would imagine that most people had already filled out their cruise documentation and MSC had our emails. Where the F*** was an email directly from MSC letting me know about this change and any options I might have if we now did not want to go? I already knew that the ship was no longer in China.
By this time I had into the trip Airfare: $1142 Hotel (non refundable) 2 nights $375 and pre cruise tours $350, Trip insurance (no any reason clause) $125 and India visa $40
plus all the little things that one gets for a month long cruise.
Who knows if the better decision at this point should have been to cancel the cruise head the ship to dry dock earlier as that was where it was going, but I assumed that MSC knew the ship even before Corona was not going to be filled and some would drop out, and that some money was better than no money.
I only had a small window to travel in and a credit toward another trip was not really a viable option for me. I took the hit for the hotel nights that were not refundable ($375), was able to cancel the pre cruise tours, took it in the shorts for the extra $200 in change fees for the airlines. Now knowing India was no longer an option had no refund of the $40 spent for visa. Needed a new hotel for Singapore. $ 120.
Two weeks later and now in Singapore I'm thinking now I can relax as I'm on a cruise, the trip/ line will be like the others I have been on, I will have a great time. Wrong! I should have realized what a Shit show of a line MSC was when I got to the terminal.
No obvious curbside taking of bags, personal directing people where to go. I enter the terminal about 630pm on the 12th. I find a room full of milling around people, no MSC personal around to tell me what to do to check in, what was going on. I now had my luggage with me as I didn't think it smart to just assume that it would be taken care of at the curb. I shuffle up to what seemed like a line to nowhere in particular, Foreign languages all around so couldn't even ask them if they knew anything. after about 20 minutes I notice someone randomly handing out some kind of card that said coffee. I didn't know what these were from afar.
From the 20 past cruises I have gone on and the many terminals in that time I do know a few things and what should be happening and how to interpret things around me.
I noticed lots of people sitting and available seats all over the room.
At one point a bunch of people were moved from the lower level to the 2nd floor. No real reason that I could see and I wondered if that was where we were going to check in. Some of the people in the "line" I was in started to leave the line and take seats when they could see one open. I had my luggage to deal with so stayed in the somewhat of a line we had in the aisle. I would shuffle forward as someone left to go elsewhere. I could see what did look like a standard check in area in the corner of the room with a queue system by it but no MSC people at counters or controlling the queue. I have now been in line about 20 minutes and someone is going down the line handing out card that now said blue on them. I took it but was still not told what it all meant. Some more people left the line to find seats and I find myself now near the queue section . Then someone who I assume is someone in the know opens one section of the queue near me and people start to flow into it. Many people now totally pissed at the lack of knowing/ waiting / whatever begin to go under the queue rope to fill the queue. I think why not go with the flow as appose to be pushed by those behind me and entered the queue. Both queues now fill with the flow of people who near them rush to get in. AGAIN no guidance from MSC personal! I think that it is only that at least people were in a recognizable queue system that they settled down to await whatever came next.
MSC people finally began to setup stations at the counter. (maybe about 6 stations) There were 2 queue setups. The person at the front of my queue seemed to at least have an idea how run a queue /check in procedure, with placing only one person in front of each check in agent. The person at the other queue had no idea and began to double up people at stations and even began to try and put people at the stations near my queue. The check in people all seemed to be new also in what they were doing and fumbled about trying to get everything done efficiently. Because of the way the other queue master ran their queue, once the person was finally done at the counter they had to fight their way through the lines at all the counters between them and the immigration station because they too often had their luggage with them. Glad I allowed myself to be pushed into the queue when it happened as the people who choose to take seats ended up not getting on board until hours after I did.
I messaged my cabin mate who was arriving in Singapore about 2am. She wanted me to check wither she could come down to check in. I called the front desk and was told the terminal would be closed from 1230am to 6am. I relayed info to cabin mate to chill at airport all night because of closure. After getting to the terminal at 630am, she finally was able to board at 10am. When talking to others they were allowed to board from those 2 am flights those that waited could not check in until 9am. This became the first of many "so sorry's" that I, my cabin mate as well as those in the community that formed up from the cruise critic group were to experience.
On day two once my cabin mate had settled in we went to the spa to check it out as we purchased the thermal spa package on the MSC website. We had booked the package based on the pictures of the area. Upon finding out that there was no thermal pool, the reason we booked it we told them we wished to cancel the service. We were told that we could by a manager in the spa area and the credit would be put on our account. When we followed through with why we had not received the credit after a week, suddenly we were told that we could not cancel and we would have to go through the agency we booked the package through,(MSC website). We went to the front desk to try and remedy this BS, and told they could do nothing. ("so sorry") Back to the spa to try again and told no, we asked about receiving a letter stating that we did not utilize the service. The spa manager told us that it was "illegal " to do so. He could not clarify why and further questions about this did not resolve the issue.("so sorry")
I found out that I could be credited for the India Visa I got when the port was cancelled (from other cc members on board,- not the ship people). I brought my visa to the front desk to do so. The front desk said that it needed to show the amount I paid on it. I replied that I'm sure India wasn't giving out free visas and even though I had gotten the longer visa because it was easier to do and get it off the things to do list before the trip I didn't expect MSC to credit me the higher amount only what they were crediting others. After a trip to the back room the desk guy came back with yet again "so sorry". It was quickly becoming a running joke when I told my table mates at dinner.
If it was only these few examples I would say that it was just me experiencing seeing more then my share of things but I was also seeing things I didn't like in general:
Kids having to spend all day on the pool deck with their parents because there was no kids club working. This meant more having to share the pool with kids, more kids play on the deck area , doing deck activities with grownup (no parent with them in line) while they have a right to use these things had there been a kids club in force they might have had other options to go play with other kids and parents could have had some time to themselves also.
Pool open hours varying between 7am and 12 with no rhyme or reason why the time constantly changed.
NO regard for handicap access to pool, the ladder system into and out of the pool meant that it was hard to impossible to get into or out of the pool safely if you had mobility or upper body issues. Pool temperature because the water was changed frequently(good) was all over the place from nicely warm to downright cold. On one of the days that I used the pool the ladder hand grips had a slippery substance on them that made them even harder to use. When I noticed an older man struggling to get out of the pool I told the life guard about the slippery stuff on the ladder grips, he seems to laugh it off and tried to help the man get out of the pool. While the man was finally able to get out it was not without embarrassment over the effort.
The daily listing of activities seemed to have a unreasonable amount of shopping events compared to actual events that I might have wanted to go to, I was told by other cruisers that since the ship was less then half full that many of the activities were cancelled.
Movie showings were never consistent as to if they would happen. There were no movies on the TV only a couple of English language news shows, I found this pretty surprising since there where so many people of other languages on board. I also experience many days of no TV at all..
Because the spa numbers I'm sure were down the spa personal started coming out further over time into the deck area taking up shaded deck space while they tried to drum up business.
Port talks were pretty much useless as to really telling us what to expect at the ports and things that could be done that didn't involve the ship tours. Even the most basic of information on if the port was going to be a tender or dock stop and if a tender how it worked on this ship. (surprisingly there were a number of people who I met that this was their first cruise and didn't know what tendering even meant.)
Only show in the evening was at 930. I thought that this was too late(for me) but the only choice. I understand with the change in dinning to open seating (which I like) and the reduced numbers on the ship that 1 show might have made sense to accounting but I didn't like it. Nor the fact that I had no idea what the show was even going to be about each evening there was no description in the daily sheets or marquee .
The buffet area was an adventure in of itself. because it was designed for a full ship of people the ship couldn't quite decide what the layout should be for the reduced numbers on board. Some days it was stretched out to the far end of the space other days more concentrated but because we never knew which layout they were using had to walk the entire area to try and see all the items offered.
Other notes on buffet: I do a lot of buffets at home, making me somewhat of an expert and I would say that I have never seen such a poor selection of food items. It seemed that the items selected were chosen to feed the most people for the least amount of cost. Over abundance of pasta items, yet you missed the most basic of choice items like spaghetti or mac n cheese. Which leads me to the so called Children's food bar. Did whoever choose what was placed there ever have a child? Other then the French fries that seem to be the saving food choice item for both buffet and dining room meals most of the items on the kids bar went untouched by any child I saw. The morning omelet bar was only started when enough complaints about it not being open were voiced. I wonder what else would have been offered if we only knew what there should have been had the ship been full. No ice cream of any kind in the buffet nor even a simple cookie could be had.
As for the Dining room food. As usual a guessing game to try and interpret what the meal would actually be like. I have never seen meat sliced so thin and because it was so thin, it generally came out inedible because of the delay from pan to table.
If it was only me that was seeing all these things I'd say it was just me but I did mix with others on the cruise both from the cruise critic group as well as others that I met on board. We spent a great deal of time self entertaining as the ship activities were so poor. Many voiced these same observations and their own "so sorry" experiences with different problems.
I was told that unless I could name names of those that had direct control or were directly interacted with MSC would just blow these complaints off , so be it I did try.
I am in a customer service business and I can look at other business and their responses to things and see ways to make even the worst into a positive situation. When I look at the cruise I just took with MSC I see so much lost potential to make those of us on board into lifelong loyal fans instead of a "first and last" group. Case in point: one of my dinner mates complained about usually load noises heard from their inside cabin ( turned out to be carts that would hit the wall, during ship movements, and staff going up and down the stairs that could be heard inside their room. After several days of complaints they were finally moved not to one of the 20 empty cabins across the hall, but balcony cabins, but to another floor altogether( but an inside) and made to sign a form saying they wouldn't complain any more.
Only because the German contingent on board wanted to start a mutiny did the ship decide to give us some kind of compensation for missed ports. (Thank you German Cruisers)Why did it take this to get anything at all. Oh yes the cheapest free drink night also was seen as an attempt to bribe us but not really address our feelings.
The Captain was pretty much a non seen person, I understand that he is only the driver but is the face for the line at sea, to be seen and heard from would have been nice.
Every time something went wrong maybe something like 1/2 price drinks would have showed that the line recognized that life has lemons but let's make lemonade.
Communication from the bridge about possible problems coming up and what they were doing to address them.
In general I think that MSC should have canceled the trip, but choice to continue it. But that said MSC then had the obligation to give us everything we paid for or to compensate us for what we didn't get.
I feel that I was short changed in my cruise experience and will not sail MSC again unless a fair compensation was given to me as incentive to give them another chance.
Their response was "so Sorry" how about 15% FCC not pp but for the cabin. I looked to see what I might be able to do with my big $255. A shorter but similar cabin for a Caribbean cruse next Feb on one of two ships which both had questionable reviews would mean I would have to shell over at least another 3K to experience another questionable cruise. I responded back that I didn't think this was acceptable but was basically told "so sorry" but shove off.. I think I will go with anyone but MSC for future cruises.
room was OK, nice extra large balcony