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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
To start, I would be consider myself a cruise junkie. I booked this cruise for the Cuban experience. Cuba was what I expected. Something of a visit back in time. Just a caveat, everyone seam to have a different opinion than me. Most ... Read More
To start, I would be consider myself a cruise junkie. I booked this cruise for the Cuban experience. Cuba was what I expected. Something of a visit back in time. Just a caveat, everyone seam to have a different opinion than me. Most travelers I spoke with seem to like Cuba. I didn't like nor dislike Cuba. Cuba was indeed different. I would consider myself someone who appreciate differences in cultures so the fact that it was different in many ways was enough for me to conjure up enough enjoyment to give it a passing grade. Cuba doesn't take the dollar nor do they accept credit cards. It has two types of currencies with two different values. As for the Armonia. I booked room 1106, This is a suite on the 10th deck. The first thing I noticed was if had an an obstructed view which was not advertised when I selected the room. The balcony does not have a functional handle to re open the sliding door once out on the the balcony. My wife had to leave the door partially open so she could get back into the room. I took two excursions. The dune buggy (Roatan, Honduras) tour which advertised "two" to a buggy. At the excursion we were told the excursion was oversold and 4 had to share 1 buggy. I conceded. The next day was a classic car tour "Cuba". The excursion advertise 3 to a car maximum. We were told at the start of the tour 4 had to share a car. The one absolute negative was the experience I had in the bar made so famous by Ernst Hemmingway. It was overcrowded and no regard to fire codes. I spent approximately 5 minutes in the bar and MSC tours kept bringing tourist in. It wasn't safe. I suppose MSC sanction these excursions and wonder if the're aware what their subjecting their passengers to. I didn't confront MSC staff about the issues. I simply relented. Again most the passengers seem to enjoy the overall experience. My enjoy came from the wonderful staff working so hard for my enjoyment. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
This is the 2nd time we sailed MSC. We have sailed many other cruise lines and this was definitely not our favourite. The ship is dated and really needs to be updated. There is a lot of sitting areas which is a plus. The buffet area is ... Read More
This is the 2nd time we sailed MSC. We have sailed many other cruise lines and this was definitely not our favourite. The ship is dated and really needs to be updated. There is a lot of sitting areas which is a plus. The buffet area is very small and not much variety in the selection if meals. The food was not very good there and it was very hard to find seating. The dining room food was much different and the food was very good and always hot. The interior stateroom was very small and the shower was unbelievably small. We had a great chambermaid and did an awesome job. I find the ship is geared toward European travelers and I believe that this will have to change if they want to become popular with the Americans and Canadians. It was very annoying to have things said in so many languages. I have been on board other cruise lines that don’t do this. We did not do any excursions so I cannot comment on these. The pool area is very large. This is a plus as many of the newer ships are getting smaller pool areas. All in all it was a very relaxing cruise but there are many things that can be improved. I hope that with the newer MSC ships, there are improvements. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
My family and I specifically chose the Empress of the Seas for its itinerary-Cozumel, Havana (overnight), and Nassau. After reading some of the reviews on Cruise Critic, I was a bit worried about sailing on this specific ship. No ... Read More
My family and I specifically chose the Empress of the Seas for its itinerary-Cozumel, Havana (overnight), and Nassau. After reading some of the reviews on Cruise Critic, I was a bit worried about sailing on this specific ship. No worries! My family and I were presently surprised at the service and how well maintained the ship was. The ship is the smallest in the NCI fleet, which was fine by us! Mega ships are overrated; being on a smaller ship makes it much easier & quicker to learn the layout of the ship and you can walk from one end to the other in 5 minutes! Excellent dining experience in both the dining room and the Windjammer cafe! Huge selection of foods available...and quality of the food was very good to excellent. Desserts at the buffet were much better than I remember from my past experiences on NCL and Carnival. There were options for beverages at the Windjammer for those who chose not to purchase the pricey drink packages-lemonade, iced tea, fruit punch, water, and coffee. The coffee was much too strong for my taste, but it was decent. Staff on the ship couldn’t have been more helpful-from Deny (our room attendant), to our waiters in the dining room-Valento and Viny, and who can forget the hilarious activities staff who made playing trivia every day a hoot! Our accommodation was an oceanview stateroom. Yes, the rooms are small, but how much time do you actually spend in your room!?! I don’t know about anyone else, but I go on cruises to spend time in the ports of call, on the sun decks, and at activities, not wasting away in my room!!! Past posts indicate the ship is in poor repair and musty/dirty. I can tell you that I found none of this on the Empress of the Seas. I am a neat freak so I would have definitely noticed these things! No areas of the ship were closed off due to maintenance when we sailed (as I had read in previous posts). The pool and hot tubs were well maintained and were never shut down. Embarkation and debarkation when stopped at ports of call was quick and painless. I was a tad worried about getting sick on a cruise, given what is publicized in the media so often. The staff went above and beyond to encourage passengers to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before meals to help with the spread of germs. I can tell you as a nurse I sincerely appreciated this! Shout out to Neilbert for greeting us at the Windjammer Café multiple times a day and encouraging us to “washy washy”!!! I would definitely consider traveling on the Empress of the Seas in the future! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
Calling on Havana Cuba was a plus. Ship personnel did a very good job explaining what to expect from Cuba's government authorities when ship arrived in Havana. MSC must concentrate on improving quality of buffet offerings plus ... Read More
Calling on Havana Cuba was a plus. Ship personnel did a very good job explaining what to expect from Cuba's government authorities when ship arrived in Havana. MSC must concentrate on improving quality of buffet offerings plus dinner menu items. Quantity without quality will not cut it. MSC can turn an average cruise into awesome by focusing on improving the meals. I give the ship high marks for having a wide choice of activities throughout the day. Entertainment was fair because there was no special entertainment such as a comedian, magician or a person or group with exceptional musical talent. Cabin was clean with comfortable bedding. Generous storage space. I have nothing but praise for the wait staff, guest relations and bar service in public lounges. Many public places to hang out. Writers of reviews must have eaten some extremely sour grapes. I have taken forty five cruises using at least eight cruise ship companies and while MSC does not a five or six star rating I will consider a MSC cruise in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
Many people have criticised this ship, I say trust website’s summary ... more accurate than the negativity, of which there is so much we almost didn’t go. Given it’s one of the few with a Havana stopover we decided to go, and I’m ... Read More
Many people have criticised this ship, I say trust website’s summary ... more accurate than the negativity, of which there is so much we almost didn’t go. Given it’s one of the few with a Havana stopover we decided to go, and I’m glad we did. Not the most modern ship but the facilities are good, the staff helpful and kind, the cabins very comfortable and clean, the dining areas painstakingly cleaned several times times a day, and although the food was hit and miss some of it was actually very good particularly lunches with lots of healthy options like fresh and crunchy salad. This is a budget cruise and you get what you pay for. So I’d say almost 10 out of 10 for value for money and a great cruise itinerary. Favourite place we’re the stern decks, very peaceful as main pool deck could be a little noisy. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
A group of 28 of us were on the Empress the last week of March 2019. Embarkation and debarkation was easy and fast. We all took this cruise to go to Cuba this week we were spending 2 days in Havana. Although its is an older ship and ... Read More
A group of 28 of us were on the Empress the last week of March 2019. Embarkation and debarkation was easy and fast. We all took this cruise to go to Cuba this week we were spending 2 days in Havana. Although its is an older ship and not a mega ship the ship has been kept in very good condition. Before going we read a number of negative reviews of the ship, food and service on board. We found none of the negative reviews to be true except that the cabins are a little smaller than the mega ships. The food was excellent both in the main dining room and buffet in the Windjammer. Our steward Martin Smith kept our cabin spotless. All the ships personnel were courteous and helpful and always with a smile. We have been on many of the mega ships and it was a welcome change not to have to walk 15 minutes to get from the front to the back of the ship and no long lines at the buffet or to get into a shows. We all agree "absolutely" we would go on this ship again especially with the overnight in Havana. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
This was our family's first cruise. We chose MSC due to the itinerary. The sailing dates matched nearly perfect with our high school kids spring break, and we were going to be able to visit one of our bucket list destinations, ... Read More
This was our family's first cruise. We chose MSC due to the itinerary. The sailing dates matched nearly perfect with our high school kids spring break, and we were going to be able to visit one of our bucket list destinations, Havana, Cuba. Arriving in Miami around 1:00 pm, embarkation began for us immediately. The bag drop service was very simple and quick. Entering the terminal, things were very organized, signs and employees directing you, answering questions, and providing general help. We entered the long line, but it moved very quickly, about 20 minutes until we were at a window checking in for our week. Prior to stepping on the ship, we pass through security, and our kids cards were mixed up. The security officer told us that we needed to go to guest services on the ship and have new cards printed (he kept their cards). Once onboard, we were a bit confused as where to go, but after a quick question to one of the eager crew members, we were directed to guest services and the problem was solved. Once we found our cabins and unpacked, we decided to explore the ship. We had read that this ship is MSC's oldest in their fleet. We have nothing to compare it to, but the only thing that looked as though needed some updating was the carpeting. The ship is not a "mega-ship" which we were excited about, as we didn't want to be onboard with 5000+ people. this ship was only approximately 2000 guests and 600 crew we were told. The ship to us seemed to be a “no-frills” ship. There were several bars, a small casino, two small pools, a splash pad for little kids, a basketball court, and a mini golf course. If you’re looking for water slides, rock climbing walls, etc, this is not the ship for you. The ship was always kept clean. I was amazed at the fact there was never any garbage lying around. However, it seemed as though there were no garbage cans for public use anywhere except the restrooms. When you had something to throw away, you needed to either carry it with you to the restroom, or drop it off at either a bus station in the restaurants or bar. The poolside bars were convenient to grab a drink, but they were extremely slow. I did not see any bar staff taking drink orders and bringing drinks to you on the sundecks. Many times we waited longer than 7 minutes for a drink. Unless you were ordering an unmixed drink (vodka on the rocks for example), the drinks had a very light pour. We did not purchase a drink package, but we did book the “Fantastica” and were given a book of drink tickets (12). After the tickets were gone, we used our cruise card to purchase the drinks. We saved about $160 for our cabin and another $400 for our children’s cabin. The casino bar had much faster service. The Bar del Duomo was fun as well, as a lot of different parties and activities were centered here. Again, bar service was slow, even if the bar was nearly empty. I fully understand that the typical “frozen drink” takes time to make, but a 6-7 minute wait time for a vodka/soda is a bit absurd. We did not drink in the Bacardi Rum bar. We did not drink in the Coffee Bar with the exception of one cup of regular coffee. The shows in the Teatro La Fenice were good. The shows were a variety of different shows, singing and dancing, acrobatic, comedy, audience participation. Each night had multiple showings at least 2, sometimes a third different show later to accomodate all who wanted to see a show. Food: We had read many reviews prior to cruising that the food was mediocre at best. I disagree. For us, living in Chicago, it is difficult to travel and get the same quality of food that is available for us in the restaurants here, so we do not expect much when we travel. Additionally, my wife has dietary restrictions (gluten free) that need to be maintained. Pizza Bar: My kids and I all thought this was good. They serve pizza from immediately after the breakfast hours until approximately 1:00 am. They serve a variety of thin crust (NY Style) pizza that are good. The one exception that I experienced was the pizza with cut up hot dogs on it that they attempted to pass as a “sausage pizza”. For breakfast hours pizza bar served forms of a breakfast pizza (did not try), pancakes, waffles, donuts. Burger Bar: Again, my kids and I thought this was great. Same hours as the pizza bar. Burgers, Cheese Burgers, Chicken Sandwiches, fries, and all the toppings all day long. For breakfast hours, burger bar served made to order omelets. Buffet: The buffet seemed to always be open. Two sides to it, during breakfast and lunch both sides open. During dinner, only one side was open to serve. Many options for all meals. Lots of fresh breads, salads, sliced meats, hot choices, a carving station. We all found food to enjoy at the buffet. Desserts were also very good here. Marco Polo Dining Room: We ate here all nights except one. Two seatings, we chose the 2nd seating (8:30 pm, local time whatever time zone you’re in for the day). Food here was mostly good. The wait staff were slow to start the cruise, but it did improve. Our table seemed to be slow, and we found out later it was because one person was new, and didn’t know the routine yet, and they were also short staffed by a body for that area as well. The wait staff were able to allow my wife to choose her meals for the next night the day before so the chef could ensure they were gluten free. The menu had choices which were on it each night, in addition to items specific for the theme of the night. Portion sizes were very appropriate. Be prepared when ordering to order your appetizer, entree, and dessert all at the same time. The crew members of Armonia are all or at least appear to be extremely happy, ALL the time. The energy level of the entertainment crew is unmatched by anything I’ve ever seen. The long hours they work, and the energy they bring to the parties, shows, and general attitude of the ship is truly amazing. Excursions. Since this was our first cruise, we decided to book all excursions through MSC. After cruising once, I would rethink that. Each excursion in each port had a meeting time and place where the crew members would organize the groups and get you to your ground transportation. Relatively simple process, but did seem to run slow. In Roatan, the ship provided a tender boat service, so that took a bit longer since people were being taken off the ship only about 120/boat. In Roatan, Honduras, we opted for the BFK Beach and Lunch. This was to include a 30 minute bus ride to a boat, where we’d be on the boat 5 minutes. The bus ride turned into over an hour long ride due to road construction. At one point, i observed our tour guide give the bus driver some money, and all of a sudden the driver was making a much better effort to move us forward. Once we got to Big French Kay, lunch was served which was very good, and we enjoyed the beach experience. The long bus ride gave us limited time at the beach (only about 2 hours instead of 3 as advertised) before it was time to get back on the boat. The bus ride back to the ship was much quicker, only about 30 min as the road construction had stopped for the day. Costa Maya, Mexico we opted for the Mayan Ruins at Chacchoben. This tour was a full motor coach bus with wifi and air conditioning. The hour long bus ride, followed by a 2 hour tour of the ruins, and then a hour long bus back to the ship was just too long for our family. We felt that we could have rented a cab for the drive, walked the grounds for 30 min, and then driven back in the cab again, and saved ourselves 90 minutes. The pyramids are interesting, and big, but the time to value ratio just wasn’t worth it in our opinion. Back near the ship, Costa Maya is full of tourist type shops and restaurants. We overpaid for a lunch (about $100 for for of us with NO drinks at all). We were told by other cruisers that they took a cab to town, at lunch and ordered a bucket of 10 beers for $65. Rookie cruiser mistake here. We would have gladly forgone this stop for extra time later in Havana. Cozumel, Mexico we decided on the “National Geographic Snorkel”. We had heard the waters near Cozumel were great for snorkeling, so that’s what we decided on. At first glance, the boat was certainly nothing fancy. I was expecting a larger catarman, but ended up with an older “pirate style” boat. On board, the crew were very nice. Equipment was provided and instruction given on how to use the equipment. The excursion included three stops to dive in, as well as drinks after we were done. While the water was extremely clear and warm, the snorkeling was average at best. Havana, Cuba was our family’s favorite stop (and I am guessing the rest of the ship as well). Day one in Havana, we opted for the Hemingway tour. This was disappointing as the Cuban government and American governments were not allowing Americans at the Hemingway house. We were able to see the rest of the tour though, included to bar stops with drinks included, and a bit of a walking tour. Our tour guide was great and gave a lot of information about Cuba and it’s history. Day two we opted for the Classic American Car tour. This tour was a bit misleading. We thought we would be in a car, with a driver touring around Havana for 3.5 hours. In reality, we were in a car (all 4 of us, plus a driver), and part of a smaller group of cars. In one of the other cars was an English speaking tour guide. We made 4 stops along the tour, where we would get out of the cars and walk a bit. The guide had great information, but we would have preferred driving a bit more to different sites. If we did it again, we would have not booked through the ship, found a vintage car we liked, negotiated a price (usually between $20-30 per person per hour), and gone on our own. We would have wanted an English speaking driver though. Havana seemed to be a very beautiful, safe and friendly city. There is however, a lot of garbage around the city. We would definitely go back. As our tour guide said on day one, “In Cuba, you will see poverty, but you will not see misery.” Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
We chose this Cruise due to it being 8 days and having 2 days in Cuba. I had cruised on MSC before but my friend Ann had not. We chose a Balcony room with the Fantastica package which was great. The room was spacious though the bathroom ... Read More
We chose this Cruise due to it being 8 days and having 2 days in Cuba. I had cruised on MSC before but my friend Ann had not. We chose a Balcony room with the Fantastica package which was great. The room was spacious though the bathroom was small and the Fantastica package was perfect. It gave us the flexibility to have a great coffee from the specialty coffee area in the AM and an adult beverage at night. Embarkation was a real breeze (as long as you have your paperwork completed). We arrived at the port around 11:30 and were on the ship by 11:45. This is the fastest I have ever gotten on a ship. Upon arriving we walked around the ship a little and found an empty Kiosk to set up our account. You have 48 Hours to process your account and the Kiosks are in numerous areas so you do not need to stand in line at the 1st one you see. After getting some lunch and exploring a bit our room was ready at 2:00pm. We spent a good bit of time in the Spa as we had purchased the Thermal Package. Also we sprang for acupuncture which was amazing. Dr. Randy is the best. My friend has constant back pain due to a medical issue. After 1 treatment the pain went away and did not return the entire trip. I was in a state of complete relaxation after having it done. We wanted to bring Dr. Randy home with us. The food was good and plentiful. A couple of days we had lunch in the main dining room which was a great treat. It was quiet and the food was excellent. The rest of the trip we ate at the Bistro upstairs as we wanted to just relax and not be on a set eating schedule. As it was we ate around every 3 hours. Our only complaint is there were not enough Cream Puffs. We wanted them every day. The Bread Pudding at the Afternoon Tea was one of our favorites. The ports were all interesting. In Roaten, Cozumel and Costa Maya we walked around town and shopped as we had planned 2 excursions in Cuba. The shopping in Costa Maya was the best. I can’t say enough about how much we enjoyed Cuba. It was very clean, safe, colorful, and chocked full of interesting architecture. The excursions we took were “The Hemmingway Tour” and the “Havana Cultural Sightseeing and Handicraft Market”. They were both well run with excellent busses and guides. Of the 2 we enjoyed the Cultural tour the best” as it took you to an Art School for special needs children that was fascinating. We did not attend any of the shows but we did enjoy the Music in the Bar areas, especially Sun and Salt. They were great. Overall it was one of the best cruises I have ever taken and I have taken over 20. As the ship is older it is smaller but lovely with staff that were friendly and extremely helpful. You never feel that you are being pushed to purchase something or herded like cattle. The Armonia has a much more sophisticated feeling than all the other Mega Ships. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
We are a couple from Puerto Rico 63/58 y/o, 38 cruises and counting. After reading negative reviews we were worried, but the itinerary with two days in Cuba was perfect. It was one of the best cruise experiences we’ve ever had. If ... Read More
We are a couple from Puerto Rico 63/58 y/o, 38 cruises and counting. After reading negative reviews we were worried, but the itinerary with two days in Cuba was perfect. It was one of the best cruise experiences we’ve ever had. If the ship and gourmet dining is your thing, find something else. If overall value and cruise experience is for you, MSC Armonia won’t disappoint you. The ship: clean and beautiful. The cabin: standard - the shower area is one of the smallest we’ve ever seen. Food is good to excellent. Dining service and ambience is good but noticeably second-rate. Entertainment and Activities: close to the best we’ve ever experienced. Excellent bands, musicians and shows. The entertainment team was full of life. Pool parties: the best and loudest, with a heavy Latin Caribbean touch. Beer $7, drink $9 Roatan: taxi 20 min to West Bay beach $4, ask for a hotel/bar with clean bathroom. Costa Maya: taxi 20 min to the beach $4, Tipsy Turtle Restaurant, clean bathroom, $10 includes chair, umbrella, snorkel/mask, beer $3, drink $5 Cozumel: shopping and Senior Frogs crazy party La Havana: a fascinating world in itself. Did not book any excursions on the ship (as warned), just walked out. Took new taxi for a long ride around the city $40 2hrs+, Old 1958 taxi to the Spanish fort areas $30 1/hr, Show El Guajirito with live 10-piece Latin band, $60 with food and 3 drinks, wonderful. Small bars with music at 2am, back to the ship on a taxi bike and it felt very safe. Embarkation/Debarkation: a breeze, got lucky because we left on Monday and returned on Tuesday, low cruise traffic days. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
We chose this cruise for two reasons...we have cruised a lot but we had not been to Havana (or any place in Cuba). We saw an add in the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, which offered an inside cabin on this sailing for a really inexpensive ... Read More
We chose this cruise for two reasons...we have cruised a lot but we had not been to Havana (or any place in Cuba). We saw an add in the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, which offered an inside cabin on this sailing for a really inexpensive price. We decided to give it a shot! We had a really small inside cabin (with a TINY shower), but it had tons of storage and the cabin steward was great! We found the service in the dining room, and the food in general, to be just okay, (how can a Mediterranean cruise line NOT know how to make great pasta!!!) with some notable exceptions...the gelato and desserts were wonderful. The Grill (burgers, etc.) was good. The Surf and Turf Restaurant was outstanding! The final gala evening also was, finally, a very good meal. Also the Caffe Lounge was wonderful. The cruise director was charming and enjoyable. The entertainment staff was also fun and engaging. The entertainment was good and was different each evening. The front office staff was pleasant and helpful. And we found their shore excursions to be well run, interesting, and moderate in price. All of the trips that we chose were smaller groups...15 to 20 people, at the most, which made for a more enjoyable excursion. The guides were interesting and informative. The ship had matched our 4 Star Mariner status with their vacation club, giving us a top tier "Black" membership level. They gave us champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, invitations to 2 cocktail events, 2 chocolate ship replicas, and other gifts. In addition, we got priority tendering and disembarkation. All of this was an unexpected pleasure and made the trip nicer. Finally, the "Meet and Mingle" that the ship organized for our Cruise Critic group was delightful....the nicest we have ever attended! It was held in the Red Lounge/Rum Bar on the morning of our first sea day. We were greeted by the head of the hotel department and several other officers. The lounge was set up with clusters of padded chairs surrounding cocktail tables. Each table was set with a martini glass filled with chocolate covered strawberries and surrounded by fancy little canapes. Servers circled the room with champagne, mimosas, bloody Marys, and non-alcoholic drinks. A fancy cake was served, photographs were taken, music was playing...all in all, a very nice event! To sum up, we had a great time in spite of the ways in which we found some areas of the ship wanting. Read Less

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