long honest review of MSC Splendida
New Year Cruise - Mediterranean
This cruise was a last minute booking and was suggested by our travel agent, we had no knowledge about the ship or Msc beforehand - in fact I had never heard of them before !
My husband and I had taken a honeymoon cruise way back in 1993 on the Cunard Countess, and a 3 night cruise on Carnival Cruise lines in 1991 - so a large gap between cruises.
This time we had our 6 year old daughter with us
We were offered a balcony room deck 8 with £100 on board spend each and booked our own flights from Gatwick to Genoa.
Once everything had been booked I then started researching the ship. And came across this forum - reading the reviews with mounting horror, wishing I hadn't been so hasty....
I now knew about the service charge (not paying !) No tea, coffee, or even water available, so we went on holiday prepared.
Our experience which I hope will help someone.
When we first saw the ship we were astounded - it is huge and quite an impressive sight
December 27th we were to embark at 1pm in Genoa, as we were at the port early (11am) we decided to see if we could board early, as their were already many people milling around.
Fortunately this was allowed our luggage was taken from us and we checked in, this was pretty easy, as it was still early, we later found out that 3000 people were embarking that day.
We were given our boarding cards, these you need when getting on and off the ship, you can also use them to purchase goods on board, so you don't need to carry cash around with you. We refused to register our credit card saying that we would be paying with cash instead.
We signed up for a water and soft drinks package (14 x 1.5 litre water and 14 x tinned drinks) at a cost of €65
We had the obligatory photo taken before going on board the ship, as we walked up to entrance their was a long line of ushers ready to take us to our room.
Our Room 8/10
We had a balcony room on deck 8 above the theatre, which was nice, 2 single beds and a sofa bed for our daughter. Clean & fresh smelling, just enough space for our clothes, bathroom with a great shower and air conditioning that was adjustable, hair dryer in the bar, a TV that only had 4 English channels - all news (CNN etc.)
The balcony had 2 wicker chairs and a table, just enough room to sit out on.
The service lady was very nice, and visited 3 times a day, and kept our room perfect
The Ship 9/10
Wow its pretty amazing - the staircase is fantastic, the whole ship is very ornate and impressive, the staff clean constantly, hoovering, cleaning off fingerprints, polishing the already gleaming windows !
We started to try and find things that were amiss just to reassure ourselves that it couldn't be so perfect. We did find a few light bulbs out here and there!!
We ate buffet breakfast in the bora bora cafe each morning, the food was not always hot - mostly warm. The front of the cafe was always a mass of people, but at the back it was quieter, and seats could always be found.
The menu was the same each day, there was ....
Cold Meats, Cheese, Yoghurt, Croissants/ Danish, cereal (rice crispies, muesli, cornflakes, frosties), Toast, Rolls, hard boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, porridge, omelette, fried eggs, bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes, hash browns, baked beans, prunes, pineapple, melon and bananas
Tea, coffee, orange / fruit juice, milk.
There was always lots of food, unfortunately only one place to get the fried eggs and omelettes - which was at the very front server - which was always busy
Breakfast could also be taken as room service, or in the restaurants.
again available in the restaurants, or in the bora bora as a buffet.
Menus varied slightly each day - but they always had
hot dogs, chips, burgers, minute steak, pizza, fresh fruit, bread, cheeses, rolls, jelly, cake, pasta (3 or 4 different types) fish and usually a roast - we twice had a carvery, rice dishes.
Again plenty of food, and a good choice - food warm not hot.
The most popular was the hot dogs and chips, these were again only available from one position, at the entrance.
No drinks available apart from Ice, drinks had to be bought.
again in the Bora Bora - small filled rolls, cakes and biscuits.
tea, coffee and hot milk available only,
Our restaurant was ville verde on early sitting (6.30) we were placed with another English couple who were lovely and had a boy aged 5, so our children quickly made friends and sat together.
The menu consisted of 6 courses, appetiser, salad, soup, pasta, main and desert.
Each day we had a different Italian regional dish, the food was fine, not great, but edible.
The children's menu was naff - pizza of the day (cheese & tomato it never changed)
pasta dish with tomato, macaroni or bolognase sauce, a fish dish, cheeseburger or hot dog, fries, soup (which was horrid). My 6 year old had pizza every day, and had very few fresh vegetables. The ice cream was nice though.
No drinks free - everything had to be bought.
Each night there was a 40 minute show, and they were all slightly different.
The shows mainly consisted of dancers, a bit of magic, balancing acts, singers, there was a great hand shadow act, 2 of the nights were taken up with Opera - we didn't bother with that !
The shows though short were enjoyable, and appealed to most.
There were also numerous jazz, piano music in the many bars around the ship. - we didn't see any of these.
What was on was good, but there wasn't enough entertainment.
Kids Entertainment 0/10
Our daughter never went to the kids club, our table companion did and I think there were only 3 English children in the club. He said it was OK
The kids club put on a small show for the parents
apart from that - there was no shows at all - no pantomimes, no kids TV, nothing.
We spent most of the time on board playing cards.
We only went on one excursion, and that was to the caves of nerja in malaga.
It was about €110 for the 3 of us, consisted of a 40 min coach drive, a tour round the caves (paintings were closed off for renovation), 10 mins spare time, into town for an hour, then back to the boat.
It was good, but expensive. Many of the excursions would have cost us nearly €200 - so we didn't bother.
We didn't choose the cruise because of its Itinerary - and we soon realised that most of the ports were miles away from the city centres.
Virtually all the excursions were to look at buildings etc, which didn't really appeal to our 6 year old.
We stopped in
Barcelona, where there was a shuttle bus laid on (not free) - though we walked nearly into town
Casablanca - walked through the port, but never got close to the city - taxi touts kept hustling us.
Malaga - we went to the caves of Nerja
Alicante - never left boat
Cittevecnchi (Rome) was going to catch the train to Rome, but didn't get up early enough !
Reception help desk 1/10
The staff on board were all very good, friendly and helpful, always a cheery hello - or happy new year....
However there was an exception.....
the reception staff :- these were some of the rudest, people I have ever met Why ?
The full explanation is below.
Our whole cruise was tarnished by an incident, that should have been dealt with quickly and easily by the reception or accounting staff.
When we booked the cruise we were given a total price from our travel agent,
We were offered either
1) an all inclusive drinks package or
2) £100 on board spend each (daughter didn't qualify)
As my self and my husband don't drink a great deal, we took the on board credit.
It was only from reading from forums that water / tea / coffee weren't included in the price, but again we accepted that and took a bottle of squash with us.
We also found out from the MSC web page that a service charge was billed to each adult at a rate of €7 per day, however it wasn't compulsory
quoted from their website
For your convenience, MSC Cruises will automatically add a modest service charge to your on board account, which will be based on the number of days in which services are actually rendered and vary by itinerary:
Mediterranean, Northern Europe and Westbound Transatlantic sailings: €Euro 7.00 per adult per day
There is no service charge for children under the age of 14, whereas, guests between the age of 14 and 17 will pay 50% less than the adult fare.
Service charges are subject to change and may vary based on the ship's on board currency.
Should you wish to make adjustments, you may do so by contacting the Guest Relation Manager at any point during your cruise.
We eventually got the MSC booklet 4 days before leaving the UK, which fortunately had the above statement written in it.
We had already decided, that as we had paid for the cruise we weren't going to spend €130 on a service charge that we hadn't been told about, but were happy to tip individually for good service.
The first day on the boat we went down to reception with our msc booklet and spoke to 'Claudia' and asked to see the guest relations manager. She told us that he wasn't available as we were in port, and wanted to know what the problem was, we quickly explained that it was about the service charge and that we wouldn't be paying for it.
From that moment her attitude changed, she rudely told us that is was compulsory, and that was their policy and that had been in effect since January (I guess 2010), I again stated that actually she was wrong and it wasn't compulsory and I had written evidence of it.
she handed us a sheet of paper and told us to write a letter explaining the reasons why we didn't want to pay the charge.
We did this straight away and handed her the paper and asked what would happen next, she replied that she would give it to the ships manager, who would decide if our service charge would be granted or not.
We replied that we wanted an answer, so she told us to come back another time.
The next day I went back down to the accounting desk and spoke to 'Shameen (?)' and again explained the problem, she went over and got a summery of our account, and put it front of me, it showed an on-board credit of €116, 3 x €1 charges to UNICEF and 6 x €7 service charge amounts, she explained that our on board credit was going towards the service charge, so it wouldn't actually cost us anything !!
My on board credit was strangely missing....
I patiently explained again, that our on board credit was not for paying their service charge, that it was a hidden charge as it was not given to us when we booked, and we would not be paying it.
She said well in that case you need to speak to the guest relations manager and make an appointment.
So back I went to reception and saw a different girl (Italian with black short bobbed hair) who was very rude when I wouldn't tell her what it was about, sighed, huffed and puffed and told me to come back at 7pm that night. I said sorry - can't do that - I was on early sitting at 6.30pm, she eventually gave me a time of 8.30pm and stuck our cabin number on a post it note.
8.25pm I went back to reception armed with my letter explaining why we wouldn't be paying the charge and the booklet that MSC had sent us.
Saw a different receptionist and told her that I had an appointment, she wanted to know what it was about, I wouldn't tell her so she hunted for the appointment that was made, and surprise surprise couldn't fine it.
She told me to come back the next day. By this stage I was getting very annoyed and repeated I had an appointment and wouldn't go until I saw the guest relations manager.
She told me to take a seat and that the manager would be down soon.
I waited for another 5 minutes (8.40pm by now) and no sign of action, so I went and stood in front of reception looking very angry, this gave the desired result. She spoke on the phone and took me to the guest relations managers office behind reception.
I explained the service charge problem to him, told him that his reception staff were very rude and asked why I had to leave my dinner early, and miss the beginning of the show because this service charge problem couldn't be sorted out simply by the reception or accounting desk.
Again he tried to tell me that the service charge was compulsory, so I got out the MSC booklet and their terms in writing - which he read, he told me that the service charge would be removed at the end of the week.
I told him, that unfortunately due to the attitude of the staff, I didn't believe that it would be sorted, and didn't want a problem when disembarkation and paying the final bill, and wanted his statement in writing that the service charge would be removed.
He refused to do this, and kept saying it would be his word that it would be removed, I refused to leave until he eventually photocopied the letter I had written and signed the bottom.
Fortunately the service charge was removed. And we tipped our waiters (even though he got our dinner order wrong virtually every night) and cabin staff personally.
The Splendida is a beautiful ship, however - we felt that it was too big with too many people on board of different nationalities to effectively entertain them.
The Reception staffs rudeness and bad manners and the Service charge fiasco left a really sour taste in our mouths and did spoil an enjoyable cruise.
If MSC spent a bit more time training their front of house people in reception to deal with problems instead of having to make appointments with managers then the rating would be higher.
The impression I was given was that if they could make it as difficult as possible for me to actually see someone - then I might just go a way and not make a fuss.
Ron Read Less