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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2019
MSC Armonia vs MSC Meraviglia, old vs new, small vs large, Caribbean vs Mediterranean So far this year I have taken two MSC cruises -- on the beautiful new Meraviglia in the western Mediterranean and on the nicely refurbished Armonia in ... Read More
MSC Armonia vs MSC Meraviglia, old vs new, small vs large, Caribbean vs Mediterranean So far this year I have taken two MSC cruises -- on the beautiful new Meraviglia in the western Mediterranean and on the nicely refurbished Armonia in the Caribbean (including Cuba). Both cruises were very enjoyable, and each ship has its strengths and weaknesses. This review is a brief comparison of both. The bottom line is that I prefer the newer larger Meraviglia for transatlantic and other itineraries with many sea days because of its stability and numerous onboard venues; and I prefer the older smaller Armonia for port intensive itineraries because of the excellent personal service in the dining room and public areas. The Armonia is the oldest and smallest ship in the MSC fleet. It was enlarged some years ago and was nicely refurbished more recently. Like most older ships, the cabins are a bit smaller and there are fewer balconies than on the newer ships. The fewer number of passengers on the Armonia is a definite advantage in the public areas and theater. More important, the service is more efficient and more personal, especially in the main dining room. Although the menus are comparable, the quality of the ingredients is better in the Caribbean than in the Mediterranean, probably because good meat and produce are so much cheaper in the USA (Miami) than in Europe (Genoa). The exception is fish, which was always the best item on the menu in Europe but was cooked until dry (American style) in the Caribbean. Both ships suffer from an old-fashioned buffet layout, with straight cafeteria-style lanes that make for slow going. The Armonia buffet area is too small for a ship of its (later enlarged) size, but extra dining areas have been set up on the open decks. The dining room service on the Meraviglia was disappointing not because of the wait staff but because of the enormous size of the dining rooms. My table was so far from the galley that delivery was quite slow -- I tended to order fewer courses than on other ships just to save time. Also, passengers in Europe did not respect the dining start times, but wandered in gradually during the first half hour. As a result, the Meraviglia waiters did not even take orders during the first 20 minutes, and this was further slowed by the waiters' bulky touch screen order pads. In addition, the wait staff work station for my table on the Meraviglia was located up some stairs and around a corner, so I was invisible to the wait staff during most of the meal. Last but not least, passengers on the Meraviglia are not allowed drinking water with dinner -- if you want anything at all to drink with your meal, even water, you must buy it. That would cause a mutiny in US waters. Both ships have MSC's philosophy of unbundling services and charges, to the point of having different levels of service and different fares for otherwise identical cabins. Airlines now do the same, so this is not surprising. For economy-minded cruisers like myself, this is fine. One related frustration that I experienced on both ships was that delivery of a pre-purchased drinks package (coupons) was delayed for two days on each cruise and was proffered only after a few calls and visits to the reception desks. Make sure you take your pre-cruise documents to prove what packages or services you paid for prior to your cruise. Perhaps my favorite thing about both cruises is that MSC offers reduced prices to solo travelers and very reduced prices for late bookings on some itineraries. You may get a little less gourmet dining than on some cruise lines, but the pleasure of a MSC cruise is equal to almost any of the ten other cruise lines I have sailed. In summary, MSC offers great values on very enjoyable cruise ships. Give it a try if you find the right itinerary at the right price. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
This was my 7th or 8th cruise, and I have previously sailed on the Sky before. We choose this cruise for the extended stay in Cuba, which was the main focus of our trip. We traveled with extended family most of whom had never cruised ... Read More
This was my 7th or 8th cruise, and I have previously sailed on the Sky before. We choose this cruise for the extended stay in Cuba, which was the main focus of our trip. We traveled with extended family most of whom had never cruised before. Overall, I would rate our experience as very good. Our cabin was clean and more than adequate for our needs. Our steward, Christopher, was excellent and very attentive. He and his team were constantly visible and very hard working. The food was quite good overall, the buffet better than some I have experienced in the past. It should be noted that reservations need to be made in the main dining rooms if you don't want to wait for a table. This was something we didn't realize until after the first night when we had to wait an hour for a table. Once we understood the system, making reservations was very easy, especially if you download the NCL app. Couple of clicks on your phone and you are all set. With the reservation we were able to get right in at our requested time with ease. Main dining room food was very good and the service excellent. I would agree with some other reviews that mention a more varied selection might be a good thing though. The open bar can't be beat, and the quality of the cocktails were very good. The main pool bar occasionally had short lines, but most other bars were easily accessible with little wait. The ship is smaller, but easy to get around and has a lot of pleasant areas to gather. There were no bad smells that we experienced anywhere, in fact the only smell that I remarked on was the smell of new carpeting and the recent updating was apparent and all very nice. We did not attend many of the shows or activities, but what we did go to was entertaining and well done. In regards to the ports: Great Stirrup Cay was lovely, and a pleasant way to start vacation. The island is accessed by tender. The process was easy both going to and returning from the island. We rented rafts and enjoyed the beach and floating in the sea with view of the ship in the distance. When returning the crew offered cool towels and fruit Popsicles, which were a welcome treat after a hot day on the beach. Key West was an absolute fiasco start to finish. When we booked our cruise the Key West stop was advertised as 3 am - 10 pm, which was another reason we were drawn to this particular cruise. That is a very long time in port and we were looking forward to exploring Key West at a leisurely pace throughout the day. I am not sure when the itinerary changed, but we were not aware, until our second day on board, that we were not going to arrive at Key West until 3:30 pm with departure still at 10 pm, effectively cutting 12 hours from our stay in port. We were disappointed, but what can you do....gotta roll with the punches sometimes. The ship actually arrived in Key West closer to 4 pm, and it was at that point that chaos ensued. All passengers were required to see the customs agents before disembarking and with time off ship so limited, everyone was trying to get off all at once. The result was a line of epic proportions that wound its way from the front of the ship to the mid-deck atrium. The worst thing about it was the utter lack of information or direction from the ships crew to the passengers waiting in line. No announcements, no visible crew members etc. We stood in line from about 3:30 until close to 5 pm when we finally got off the ship. Only one NCL crew member was effectively directing and interacting sympathetically with the passengers who were by this time pretty frustrated. Her name was Gabrielle and if you are reading this Norwegian, you should promote her toot sweet! Once off, those who had not booked tours with Norwegian were out of luck as most attractions including the hop on and off trolley tours closed at 5 pm. Key West itself is a beautiful and vibrant destination, which we came away from wanting to revisit with a few days to explore all that it has to offer. Cuba was amazing! Disembarking in Cuba was a much simpler process than we expected, especially after the difficulty in Key West. We were able to get through customs, security and exchange our money within 15 minutes, and found ourselves in Havana with 45 minutes to spare before we were scheduled to meet our guide. We booked a tour with Cubaoutings and I can not say enough positive things about our experience. We had dedicated driver (Javier) and guide (Olevis) throughout the day who customized our tour based on what we were interested in seeing and doing. It is a little unfortunate that Norwegian focuses only on 'group people to people' travel to Cuba, making those who fail to do their own research feel as if the Norwegian excursions are their only option. We had an amazing Cuba experience for less than half of what we would have paid going through the cruise line. After touring via classic car and on foot, a delicious lunch at a 'paladares' (home based restaurant), visiting a cigar factory, Hemingway's favorite haunts and so many other fascinating stops we were brought back to the ship to rest, change, eat and drink a bit before meeting our guide and driver once again to see some of the city at night and attend a show at the Tropicana, after which we were once again delivered back to our ship. On our second day we had nothing booked and simply got off the ship and walked to a street in Havana that our guide had directed us to the previous day to shop a bit and enjoy lunch before returning to the ship by 4:30 pm. Disembarkation back in Miami was a breeze. Overall, the little hiccups aside, this was an amazing trip which I would highly recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to go. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Our cabin was very clean and comfortable. "Jake " was our stateroom attendant, and he was very accommodating. He made us a monkey to hang in our room. We love the "freestyle" cruise idea. The drink package was ... Read More
Our cabin was very clean and comfortable. "Jake " was our stateroom attendant, and he was very accommodating. He made us a monkey to hang in our room. We love the "freestyle" cruise idea. The drink package was great, except water was not included. That should be included no matter what package you choose. We received flyers promoting massages. However, when we checked out the prices at the spa, we were told our information was not correct. The spa charges were higher! That was disappointing! Our dining experiences in the "Crossings" and "Palace" rooms were very nice. However, we were not served any lobster. And, our beef strips were fatty with a lot of gristle. Our waiter, Bryan Wilson, was a delight! He was upbeat and very attentive. Our Key West excursions had to be cancelled due to arriving later in the afternoon. We left the cruise ship after 5:00 and had to be back onboard by 9:30 pm. Our number one complaint was the LBGT people reserving the best bar and lookout area at "Spinnakers" for their private parties! We were there twice and our party of eight was asked to leave! THAT IS NOT RIGHT! With over 2,000 passengers onboard, how did this group manage to block the straight guests and why? More entertainment was needed in the "Stardust Theater." Our favorite bartenders were Anita and Giselle. And, our best waiter around the pool deck was Anthony Mendoza. He was exceptional and always smiling! We booked our Cuban excursion through "Trip Advisor." We did the "I Love Cuba Tour" where our guide, Damien, used one of our SD chips and he took photos for our group while visiting the sights. We were in an air-conditioned van for 3-4 hours, then we were in a 1956 Buick convertible for another 1-2 hours. We topped off the tour with a stop at "Casa Fuster" and then a cigar and rum store. This cost half of what NCL was charging! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
We selected this cruise specifically because we wanted an overnight in Havana Cuba. This ship sailed out of Miami with stops in Honduras, Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, and Havana. Havana did not disappoint. We took a classic car ... Read More
We selected this cruise specifically because we wanted an overnight in Havana Cuba. This ship sailed out of Miami with stops in Honduras, Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, and Havana. Havana did not disappoint. We took a classic car tour around the city. It was great to see. We had been to the other stops in the past so not quite as special, but we really had fun on the Fury Snorkeling Catamaran excursion we booked in Cozumel. Overall, we enjoyed the cruise, the crew, the food/entertainment, and the excursions. We had a balcony room which allowed us to be in a more intimate dining room. The Dining Room manager and servers MADE the cruise for us! Very attentive and provided fantastic recommendations and personalized service. We found all the staff to be great. We never waited long for service and they were always pleasant. For the constructive feedback, the ship is well maintained, but it's age/size is reflected in fewer options for dinner, small casino, and small gym with no dedicated space for fitness classes. The only significant disappointment was the Honduras BFK Beach Break excursion. The time was cut in half due to tender/transport issues resulting in many crabby customers. We will look for an opportunity to cruise MSC again in the future! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We chose this cruise for the 2 day stop in Havana Cuba and because the price was so low. We loved the ship size, the excellent entertainment and great food. The staff was friendly and attentive and the inside cabin was the right size. For ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the 2 day stop in Havana Cuba and because the price was so low. We loved the ship size, the excellent entertainment and great food. The staff was friendly and attentive and the inside cabin was the right size. For an older ship it was in great shape and well cared for by the crew. Look forward to our next cruise on MSC. You can’t beat this cruise line for the price. Lots of activities on the pool deck. One evening they brought aboard entertainment from Havana that was excellent. The ship also had free gelato on the pool deck. Many menues with music and games thruout the ship. We attended and enjoyed all the entertainment in the theatre. The ships staff put on a variety show that was very funny and entertaining. We met many guests from around the world and enjoy talking with them and learning a little of their country. 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
I went in the cruise to celebrate a friend's birthday. Upon boarding, the onboard credit we were promised over the phone did not appear on our acct. So we we're out of luck basically. Activites were fun and entertaining. No ... Read More
I went in the cruise to celebrate a friend's birthday. Upon boarding, the onboard credit we were promised over the phone did not appear on our acct. So we we're out of luck basically. Activites were fun and entertaining. No mention of all white party in any documentation prior to sailing. Luckily, I had a white dress. Drinks were good. Miami Vice was my fav. Dining in main room was ok. Selection of entries was limited. Buffet food was better. Fresh fruit was a plus. My friend doesn't eat beef or pork so she was somewhat limited. Classic car ride in Cuba was overpriced. We found a local company and paid less than half the price thru NCL. Jet skis were fun. Private island ok. Upon packing, I noticed one of my swimsuits was missing. It was taken from my room. I put it on in my room and took it off there as well, so there was no way it was taken from anywhere else. Not in "lost and found". Was told to call after the cruise for an update. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
This was a great short cruise with a day and a half in Cuba and a full day at NCL's private Island, Great Stirrup Cay. Open Bar is included in the price of the cruise.The ship is older but had been recently refurbished. While it is ... Read More
This was a great short cruise with a day and a half in Cuba and a full day at NCL's private Island, Great Stirrup Cay. Open Bar is included in the price of the cruise.The ship is older but had been recently refurbished. While it is not as modern as some of the newer ships, it maintains an elegant decor that some of the newer streamlined ships do not have. The food was good and the buffet was well organized. The out side eating area in Garden Cafe was a plus. Excursions were good and provided a wide exposure to Cuba. As the ship was in port overnight ,there were night club and cabaret excursions. Great Stirrup Cay was recently renovated and was beautiful . We reserved a small cabana which was close to the beach. Service was excellent. Beach was beautiful. NCL is in the process of building a zip line going across the island. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
We chose this ship because of the itinerary (specifically the two days in Havana) and the benefits for traveling with two young children. I am so glad we ignored the negative reviews of this ship. We had a wonderful time. We loved spending ... Read More
We chose this ship because of the itinerary (specifically the two days in Havana) and the benefits for traveling with two young children. I am so glad we ignored the negative reviews of this ship. We had a wonderful time. We loved spending a couple of days in Miami before embarkation. We stayed in an ocean view cabin and loved our large window that our boys sat in to see the scenery. The fold down bed worked well for our older son and the ship provided a crib for our toddler. The staff onboard were especially helpful and very friendly.The baby club and kids club were a much appreciated break for us and the boys loved playing with the legos and spending time with other kiddos. I won a massage the first night onboard and it was an excellent massage. The gym and spa areas were both clean and adequate. There are two pools as well as a splash pad for the kids. My son's favorite activities included mini-golf and foosball. There were also ping pong tables. We did not get a chance to see any of the nightly shows because of our schedules, but we did enjoy the performers that played in the bars and pool area. The Cuban show on the last night was awesome! Because we traveled with children we ate mostly from the buffet and found the food to be good. The dining room food was fine the couple of times we ate there. The pizza and gelato available in addition to the buffet were nice perks as well. Regarding the itinerary, we were on a seven night cruise while others on the ship were continuing on as part of a longer itinerary. Unfortunately we did not get to see Grand Cayman because of rough water that morning, but we did enjoy our other ports. We took an excursion to a beautiful garden and beach in Ocho Rios and to a great beach/park in Cozumel. The guided tour was informative in Havana and we also enjoyed walking around the old town on our own. We would definitely consider sailing with MSC again! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
I wanted this cruise because of the three stops in Cuba. I was very disappointed when one stop was eliminated. The ship is old, but well maintained. The staff was great as was the food and cleanliness. I'm really into the ... Read More
I wanted this cruise because of the three stops in Cuba. I was very disappointed when one stop was eliminated. The ship is old, but well maintained. The staff was great as was the food and cleanliness. I'm really into the entertainment and the stuff in the main room was excellent. I wish there was more music thru-out the ship. The worst part was the internet and the TV. They kept blaming the satellite, but that didn't seem like the issue. I'm used to being able to pick several movies to watch on the TV and that wasn't an option. Also March Madness was on and most of the time you could not get those channels. The cabins were small with little storage. The shower would probably be a challenge for a large person to maneuver. We were traveling with two people who have mobility issues and the smaller ship was a plus. The staff was very helpful. We even used wheelchairs to get on and off the ship. Read Less

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