MSC Fantasia Xmas Cruise 2016
We joined the cruise on Christmas Day, arriving at about 0800 from Abu Dhabi airport. When we got to check in at the port we handed over our tickets and credit card so that in a few minutes we got a bit of ... Read More
MSC Fantasia Xmas Cruise 2016
We joined the cruise on Christmas Day, arriving at about 0800 from Abu Dhabi airport. When we got to check in at the port we handed over our tickets and credit card so that in a few minutes we got a bit of paper to say we gone through this process. I thought that this would be it but noted we did not have our cruise cards. Normally this is a one stop shop and you proceed to the ship. Not so with MSC.
Our next stop was the obligatory photo before we could get to the gangway. Clearly the revenue opportunity could not be missed and so there was no route around this point and a “No” was not the password to proceed. There were a number of check in desks but only the one photographer so this caused a bit of a bottle neck. NOT WELL ORGANISED
After this we proceeded to another desk to have our cruise cards issued. This meant we could now go on board to have our photographs taken again by the security team. However, we could not use these cruise cards for anything until they had been activated. Luckily, MSC have placed two activation devices on board, to which all new passengers would have to go. Once at the activation device it appeared that some passengers were having trouble understanding how to use them and this also caused a bit of a queue.
Finally, we were ready to enjoy our cruise, however, our cabin would not be ready until 11:30 (from crew member number 1) but then it would be 12:30 (from crew member number 2) and finally 13:30 (from an announcement). So only 5 hours to wait before we could see our cabin. Still we could sit outside in the hot sunshine with our English winter clothes until then. The buffet was open and so we could get some food and drink (provided you had activated your card).
Upon investigation, I found our cabin was ready at 12:00 and we were free to use it, thanks to the cabin steward. However, no baggage had arrived. We waited until 15:30 (7 hours after boarding) and still we had luggage missing. So, I went to see the person responsible, a nice chap from housekeeping who had been dealing with a line of other passengers with the same questions.
I was informed that the problem was shore side with the port authority bag screening section and it was out of the control of the ship. I asked the nice man (nicely) to take me to the quayside so that he could show me where the problem was. Obviously, I was expecting to see piles of baggage awaiting to go on board. On the way ashore I was informed that the ship always experiences this problem as the shore staff have to pray 5 times per day and as a result they stop work on a regular basis. However, to my great delight, we bumped into the supervisor who confirmed all baggage was actually on board and had been for some time. It would appear therefore the vessel did have some control over the distribution of the baggage. Our bags arrived about an hour later.
Looking at the gangway being used for baggage it would seem that first on meant last to go our as more and more bags were piled up. NOT WELL ORGANISED
Having undertaken a great number of cruises and work in the ship safety team for a number of years I was delighted to see that there would be a drill for those passengers joining that day. This drill would be at approximately 20:30 but no fixed time was given. Being so conscientious, we duly followed the instructions on the back of our cabin door and as mentioned on the TV, taking our life jackets (not wearing them) to our assembly point.
We arrived at 20:25 ish to an empty assembly point with no crew around, we had not seen anyone on the stairs either. So we awaited and at about 20:32 along came one crew member with a jacket saying “Assembly Point Crew” (or something similar). He had a hand held scanning device to scan our cruise cards and proceeded to do so for the dozen or so people that were there. I did note, that two passengers left the assembly point when their cards were scanned and the crew member had his back to them.
More crew members turned up after an announcement from the Bridge stating “For exercise” the rest of the message was drowned out by the cacophony coming from the passengers, crew and announcements in 4 or 5 languages. One English passenger took a handful of cards to have them scanned but was refused as the crew member could not see the other passengers and that they had their life jackets, Hooray. So, one of the group went off and acquired the life jackets.
These jackets must have been quite a fashion item in the opinion of some passengers as the ships photographer was summoned to take photo during the drill. Not something I have seen before and not sure it added to the seriousness of the process. But then with so many passengers all talking at the same time it was difficult to hear any instructions.
Announcements were made from the Bridge but it was impossible to understand what these were. No one was in control of this assembly point, the passengers were taking no notice and most had their life jackets on (not all correctly) before they sat down. The announcements were in at least four languages and it became difficult to determine what was being said. It left me with no confidence that in the event of a real emergency there would be any organisational processes to control the passengers and ensure their safety. NOT WELL ORGANISED
Luckily as soon as the drill was finished it was time for dinner. We had the same table for the whole cruise and so got to know our waiter. This allowed us to make light of him getting my order wrong on three separate evenings and another in our group twice (5 out of seven evenings wrong). We were seated near to the waiter’s station but luckily when the trays were dropped and cutlery went flying it did not cause and lasting damage to my person.
MSC have a recommended dress code and this is demonstrated in the daily paper. So, I was somewhat surprised to see one passenger come into the dining room and sit down with an entire table evening dress whilst he was in shorts and tee short complete with baseball cap. He kept the cap on for the entire meal. It is fair to say his whole ensemble was matching Red Bull. Pity it did not give him wings. NOT WELL ORGANISED
It was nice on occasion to sit out on deck getting some sunshine. There were mornings when certain areas had been close off for maintenance, this is nothing unusual. However, on one particular day we chose to sit in an area that offered the best sun, taking our positions at about 09:30. At 12:00 the deck crew arrived to inform all the passengers in this area that they must move. So about 40 passengers had to pack up their things and then try to find other sunbeds elsewhere. Needless to say, there were few sunbeds to be had by this time and a lot of sense of humour failure, from my wife in particular.
It appears that some maintenance needed to be undertaken and so the deck needed to be clear. However, had the area been closed first thing, then it would have been accepted. I visited the reception desk to ask why this had happened. The nice man told me he had no idea but agreed it was not offering the best service. He took my cabin number as said he would send a message to the Staff Captain. I was to hear back from one of them later that day, surprisingly I did not get any message. Work commenced at about 13:30 and it was good to see some of the crew were wearing safety harnesses, albeit they were never attached to anything. I did take some photos of the in action for the record. NOT WELL ORGANISED
Whilst enjoying some sunshine on deck, we decided it would be nice to have a drink, as you do. However, as we were on deck 15 forward of the Aqua Park, it appeared this area was devoid of serving personnel. So, I walked down a deck and aft of the Aqua Park to see if I could have some drinks delivered. When I arrived at the Bar Delle Fontane I was informed that I should be going to the I’Tropici Bar. Failing to do this would mean that the glasses migrated from one bar to the other. After a little discussion, the waitress agreed to come to our location and take the order. I did assure her that were the glasses came from and indeed what happened to them when we were finished was not something I was going to lose sleep over. NOT WELL ORGANISED
All in all, the service was not as good as seen and expected on other cruise lines. The entertainment staff on the other hand were simply brilliant. But this was let down by the poor organisational skills and my concerns over the drill. I did watch a second drill in Dubai and noted similar issues with passengers out of control. It seems that in small number the crew are happy to move some from their sunbeds but when it comes to safety there could be another Costa Concordia waiting to happen.
I have attached a few photos to show some of the other concerns I had on my Xmas cruise that could be dangerous to the health of the passengers.
Having cruised with P&O, Cunard, RCI, Ocean Village, NCL, Princess and Seabourn. I have always expected there to be some sanitizing police at the entry to any food area. The hand sanitizers are vital to prevent the spread of Nora virus. Normally there is at least one crew member to prevent you getting access to the food area without using the gel.
This is not the case with MSC. As you can see in the photo of the entrance to the buffet the machine is put to one side and there is no one ensuring it is used. Whilst sitting near the entrance I would suggest up to 90% of the passengers (and Crew) did not use the machine before getting into contact with food.
On two occasions I did report the fact that the machine was not working but no action was taken.
In addition, MSC seem to have the policy of preparing food such as hamburgers, hot dogs and fries well in advance. This is in another photo. However, I noted that this food is left for long periods and at no time did I see anyone measuring the temperature to ensure it was safe to eat. In fact I did try a burger and fries to find they were both warm and not hot but also very dry.
Finally, I was surprised to see the way in which MSC advertise their drinks packages. Promoting irresponsible drinking to get the best value for your money. All good stuff. Read Less