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10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
We have cruised many times mainly with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean but this was our first time with MSC. We were lured by the concept of the Yacht Club so most of my review is based on this. Pre Cruise: We arrived at 1am so ... Read More
We have cruised many times mainly with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean but this was our first time with MSC. We were lured by the concept of the Yacht Club so most of my review is based on this. Pre Cruise: We arrived at 1am so spent the night at The Grand Excelsior hotel close to the airport which suited our needs for a comfortable stopover hotel at a reasonable price. Embarkation We travelled independently by taxi to the port in Dubai to embark the ship and quickly found the Yacht Club priority embarkation area where a butler was on duty to escort us to another area where our check in formalities were taken care of while we relaxed with refreshments, so far so good until were escorted by one of the butlers to embark the ship whereupon one of the ship's security staff got into a disagreement with the butler for bringing us to his gangway . It was all very uncomfortable and embarrassing and was not a good first impression. My husband did bring the debacle to the attention of the senior butler once we finally got on board and of course they were most apologetic and concerned to hear what happened so we put it behind us and looked forward to the cruise. Cabin: We finally made it to the enclave of the Yacht Club and our well appointed cabin, loved the walk in wardrobe and the marble bathroom, balcony a tad on the small side. Bed was very comfortable with memory foam mattress toppers and lovely pillows. Nice bathroom products, fluffy towels and bathrobes, all the luxuries you would expect. We had a lady butler and a “junior butler” which is a fancy name for cabin attendant! To be honest the junior butler was better, very attentive and pleasant to talk to. He previously worked for Royal Caribbean and it showed. Food and Drink: We were very impressed with the service in the Top Sail Lounge, all the staff in there were attentive and welcoming. The Afternoon Tea service was wonderful with traditional white gloved service and tablecloths , such a treat. The cocktail menu was extensive and we loved the Aperol spritz and the Italian wine selections You certainly do not go hungry as they have breakfast, lunch, snacks, evening canapés and sweet treats according to the time of day in the Top sail Lounge plus 24 hr room service, mini bar with snacks and drinks all included as well as the dedicated Yacht Club restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner . The One Pool bar served excellent cappuccinos as you would expect on an Italian ship but also the best cup of tea I have had at sea, proper tea pots and fresh milk in a jug which was a pleasant surprise and a welcome change to the usual plastic cartons and tea bags in cups that is often served outdoors! The One pool also had a lovely breakfast buffet and light lunch selections including freshly cooked pasta every day. This being a Christmas cruise the restaurant was very busy most evenings and sometimes the service was a little slow but on the whole it was very good. I enjoyed the Italian style menus with many courses and smaller portions, the cheese course was fantastic. Often we would skip dessert and have a night-cap and chocolates in the Top Sail lounge. Even though the ship was full there was never a problem getting a sun lounger on deck. Being a Christmas cruise there were lots of large family groups and the rest of the ship had a very lively atmosphere so we really didn’t spend much time away from the sanctuary on the Yacht Club areas however we did enjoy the White Party on deck on Christmas night and the main atrium with the Swarovski staircase looked lovely all decorated for Christmas. In fact the whole ship was spotlessly clean and well maintained. Spa I pre booked a spa package online which is something I have never done on previous cruises as the prices are frankly outrageous but the prices on MSC seemed fairly reasonable in comparison. The Aurea spa is well appointed and the staff are mainly Balinese. I very much enjoyed the massages I had there and they don’t give you the hard sell for products like other ships I have been on. Ports: We arrived in Abu Dhabi on Christmas day, after a leisurely morning on the ship we took a taxi to the Emirates Palace Hotel which is about a 20 min drive from the port where we indulged in their famous cappuccino with gold leaf sprinkles, very decadent, a wonderful treat for Christmas Day. The hotel was opulent and beautifully decorated for Christmas. We then took another taxi to the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque. This was absolutely spectacular and words and photos are not enough to describe the sheer beauty of this place. Everyone is welcome to visit and it’s free to enter but please take note of the dress code particularly for women as you need to be completely covered from head to toe in loose clothing. The mosque has guidelines on its website but they will provide an abaya if you don’t have the appropriate dress. We timed our visit to we could see it at sunset as well as in the daylight. It is truly stunning inside and out. The next port was scheduled to be the private island of Sir Bani Yas but we woke to thick fog and it was not safe to navigate, so we spent the day at sea. Fortunately the Captain managed to rearrange the itinerary so we could visit there later in the week. We were so glad not to miss this unique place. Again as Yacht Club guests we felt very pampered as we got priority tender service to the beach where a golf cart was waiting to whisk us to the Yacht Club section of the beach where one of our favourite butlers was waiting to bring us drinks and a buffet was set up. It was absolute paradise! We were also able to bypass the very long line for the tenders when we returned to the ship. I did feel a little self conscious as we were escorted to the front of the queue I must admit! After the re arranged sea day we docked in Manama, Bahrain where my husband took a ships excursion to the Bahrain Race circuit for a 4x4 driving experience which he enjoyed by all accounts. The port is not within walking distance to anything as it’s an industrial port but a shuttle bus was provided (for a fee). I did not go ashore but spent a blissful morning having a massage and then enjoyed the sun on the very tranquil One Pool deck having my every need catered for! Next port was Doha Qatar, again not walking distance to the town but I believe the shuttle was free in this port. We took a ships excursion on a Dhow cruise which was very relaxing but we spent a lot of time at anchored in the sea where you could swim, sunbathe and admire the view, also a decent buffet lunch was served. I would imagine if the weather was cloudy this could be pretty boring but fortunately it was a lovely day and not too hot. There was an upper deck for sunbathing and the lower deck was shaded. We were also taken on a short tour into the city where a photo stop was made so we could admire the ultra modern skyscrapers. All in all, a very enjoyable day. After the rescheduled visit to Sir Bani Yas Island we arrived back in Dubai on the Friday as per the original itinerary. We had a ships tour to the Miracle Garden which was scheduled for the afternoon. I must say the way MSC handles excursions is unlike any other cruise line we have been on. Although I had pre booked all our tours online no times were given so I expected that we would find out the tour times when we boarded but there were excursion tickets in our cabin. When we enquired with the shore excursions desk she informed us that we only get our tickets with the meeting times the night before the tour. This can be quite awkward if you have a half day tour as how can you plan the rest of your day? She explained it’s because the tours have to be grouped by different languages and they don’t have all the information and times until the day before from the tour operators. It’s very bizarre but we just went with the flow. So our Miracle garden tour left the port at 2.30pm it included had a city tour past the Burj al Arab and the Jumeirah Palm etc. The traffic was very slow so we were late arriving at the Miracle garden which being a Friday and a holiday weekend was very busy. It was a beautiful place and the floral displays are stunning. The crowds did thin out a little after sunset but a lot of passengers were very tired and hungry and those on early seating missed their dinner as we did not arrive back to the port until after 7pm. I am sure if the excursion times were listed when you booked people could have planned accordingly. Fortunately for us advantage of the open seating Yacht Club restaurant meant we did not have to rush to get ready for dinner and we ordered some snacks from room service as soon as we got back to the cabin. Some passengers were disembarking very early for their flights home so we did not get much sleep on our last night as folks were coming and going from about 2am! Luckily as we were staying in a hotel Dubai for New years’ eve we had a leisurely disembarkation at 8.30am, escorted off the ship and to our luggage in the arrivals hall by our butler. Pampered to the end! So in conclusion, we would certainly sail with MSC again but only in the Yacht Club. We really enjoyed the service, food and all the perks that come with it. Having said that Celebrity still remains our home from home and we will happily sail in regular cabins without all the suite perks as we love the food, service and ambiance of their ships in general. One thing that really did concern us was the lifeboat drill on the Fantasia. I have never attended such a disorganised drill in all our 43 cruises. Listening to the drill in 6 different languages is tedious but necessary but instead of checking passengers off a list as you enter your muster station staff were randomly scanning guests cruise cards all over the place. Then they kept calling for missing guests to attend the drill. Herding cats is the phrase that comes to mind! As some folks embark in different ports not everyone participates so then they have to have another the next night for those who boarded in Abu Dhabi which was transmitted over the ships PA while we were dining so it was impossible to have a conversation! Most of these quirks are due to the fact that there are many nationalities on board so everything has to be multi- lingual. For that reason there was no Captains daily announcement. We also missed not seeing the cruise director on TV in the mornings. These are things we have become very familiar with on the American cruise lines and MSC certainly has their own way of doing things and we felt a little out of our comfort zone at times however the Yacht Club concept more than made up for any of these idiosyncrasies . A change is as good as a rest as they say! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
This was our second MSC cruise, having been on The Posea a couple of years earlier. The whole experience was brilliant, fabulous food, loads of choice, lovely waiters and cleaners. Other staff on the boat - hairdresser and cruise ... Read More
This was our second MSC cruise, having been on The Posea a couple of years earlier. The whole experience was brilliant, fabulous food, loads of choice, lovely waiters and cleaners. Other staff on the boat - hairdresser and cruise booking director need more training, not helpful at all. But the awesome shopping guide was worth loosing an hours sun bathing time, to find out where all the great deal were. The ports of call were ok, not as good as The Bahamas. Falmouth Jamaica was VERY artificial as was the last island on the itinerary. This was a Christmas cruise and apart from the decorations and the Christmas carol sing-a-long on Christmas Eve, there was nothing else. Christmas Day felt very flat, no excitement on the boat. We booked a Sunday flight and a night in Miami after the cruise, this allowed us to disembark 1st and take our luggage off. I highly recommend this strategy as having to wait around the boat for your exit time is a pain as we discovered on our first cruise. The extra night in Miami allowed us to get our land legs back! To summerise - great value for money. But if you want 24 hour entertainment and fancy food. (Lobster, crab etc) choose another line. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2014

We had a family vacation time during the Christmas week, departing from Santos - Brazil heading to Montevideo / Punta del Este (Uruguay) and Buenos Aires (Argentina)... Our expectation (we had a group of 5 balcony cabins to our family) ... Read More

We had a family vacation time during the Christmas week, departing from Santos - Brazil heading to Montevideo / Punta del Este (Uruguay) and Buenos Aires (Argentina)... Our expectation (we had a group of 5 balcony cabins to our family) was to have time to relax and enjoy the trip.

To make short a long history, we waited for approximately 5 hours to get on board in a very crowd area (even considering that was Christmas time, the waiting time was not reasonable).

By the time we finally entered the ship, we had only a few minutes to get to our cabin, pick up the life jackets and proceed to the meeting point. It is not necessary to say that after the emergency exercise all passengers went to the restaurant at the same time to grab some food (considering that the majority of the passengers do not live in the departing city and spent several hours to arrive there before the check-in). Again another patience exercise because the restaurants had no space to everyone and it was a very bad "welcome aboard" message.

After this first "lost" day, the trip was reasonable until the stop in Punta del Este, where we noted several (dozens of) mosquitos in our balcony and in the surrounding areas (we had a cabin on the back of the ship, near the external stair). We asked for plague control and a very polite man came to our cabin with an electronic raquet used to kill mosquitos and killed the insects inside our cabin and also the ones located in the balcony - but not the ones in the other balconies near or the mosquitos hidden in the stairs area, even after we alerted him about it. The result was that we were not able to use the balcony after this point of the trip.

To conclude our "not so happy trip" the arrival in Santos, Brazil had the same situation we faced during the check-in... You were requested to leave the cabin at 8 AM because they need to clean the cabins to the next group of guests (perfect!) but we stayed inside the ship until 2 PM without access to food or drinks, except if you want to open a new account and proceed to a new check-out before leaving the ship. This is not reasonable and MSC must think a way to allow the passengers to pay the last drinks/ice creams, etc in cash or to sell special vouchers for use during this period.

I know the company will say the year end time is complicated and the delay was related to the immigration offices but I would say it does not sound reasonable, because in a previous trip using another ship of MSC in the same itinerary we did not face the same situation...

Additionaly, another ship that was doing exactly the same route apparently had no problems with delays... Our group were the last one to leave the terminal.

I would suggest MSC to check the procedures again and try to improve the boarding and departing in this port.

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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014

It was my first time cruising with family, son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter 16 and grandson 10. Having cruises previously with different cruise lines, it was my first time with MSC and they did not disappoint. From the moment the ... Read More

It was my first time cruising with family, son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter 16 and grandson 10. Having cruises previously with different cruise lines, it was my first time with MSC and they did not disappoint. From the moment the music started in Bar Duomo each night, I was danced off my feet by the wonderful entertainment team. Can't wait to get back on board!!! The ship was beautifully decorated for Christmas with Festive music playing in the background. The staff without exception, were wonderful and friendly. I didn't see a sad or lonely face at any time. Embarkation was very smooth and we were on board within 10 minutes. Bags were delivered within the hour. My cabin was a balcony cabin which was really adequate for only 1 person, and the balcony was on the small size. There was plenty of storage space and my bag slipped under the bed quite easily. The bathroom was small but everything worked and I had plenty of hot water at all hours, with good pressure in the shower. I was glad to see that I had a shower enclosure instead of the dreaded curtain! The bed was just as comfortable as my own, with pristine white linen and the whole place was clinically clean. There were plenty of sun beds on the upper decks and in the adult areas. The only fault that I found was in the Marco Polo dining room. The food let the ship down! It was beautifully presented by wonderful waiters, but left a lot to be desired. However, in the buffet there was plenty variety and I was never hungry. I purchased the drinks package and gave that a good rattling!!! However, I did come off the ship 3lbs lighter. My teenage granddaughter joined the teens club and made some nice friends, with whom she had a blast, and the grandson was like a little gentleman, strolling around, using his card!!! At night the entertainment was varied and good, with a few different little bands playing in different bars and venues. We didn't take any of the shore excursions as we had holidayed on each of the islands, but did get off in Funchal which was magical, and went to Church on Christmas day in La Palma. Disembarkation was in turmoil, I got separated from the others, with the result that they were waiting on the pier for over an hour, while I hunted throughout the ship for them. Eventually a phone call or two by one of those lovely young Italian gentlemen and all was sorted!! All in all, it was a fabulous cruise and I can't wait to get on board again! A Beautiful ship with a wonderful crews. Thank you all.

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Sail Date: December 2014

We chose to spend our Christmas on msc Armonia, and we had a wonderful week.

First let me point out the not so good aspects: the transfer and flight we had from Rome was very bad: time, transfer and flight itself with Meridiana ... Read More

We chose to spend our Christmas on msc Armonia, and we had a wonderful week.

First let me point out the not so good aspects: the transfer and flight we had from Rome was very bad: time, transfer and flight itself with Meridiana from Rome were extremely unconfortable and ill planned. Also, the entertainment was below the average we have come to love on our cruises: of the evening shows, only the spanish dancers were superb.

Apart from that, the cruise was perfect: great service at dinner (thanks Mohammed), our cabin was kept perfectly clean at all times, the ship facilities were always a pleasure to use: I particularly enjoyed the gym and the spa, both with a wonderful sea view.

The itinerary is great, and we loved the night stop in Madeira, with plenty of time to visit the beautiful island both during the day and at night.

I really cannot understand people complaining about the food and service: we beleive both are far better than NCL and Carnival, which we tried before. Every single crew member was friendly and helpful (by the way many many thanks to Giusy at the reception, if you read this, you were great!)

The ship never felt crowded, and even if it's true that sometimes we felt some movement while at sea, we never found it terribly disturbing.

 

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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2014

MSC is new to the US market. The staff are rude and their systems and processes are dysfunctional. Ex: Key cards for the room stopped working 6 times for 1 person in our group and 4 times for another. Food: horrible quality. The waiters ... Read More

MSC is new to the US market. The staff are rude and their systems and processes are dysfunctional. Ex: Key cards for the room stopped working 6 times for 1 person in our group and 4 times for another. Food: horrible quality. The waiters are very nice and attentive. We were treated like 2nd class people. At dinner our friends were told they were were sitting at the wrong table. 4 staff members came to the table and raised their voices that they were at the wrong table. This was their 5th night sitting at this table. The table number corresponded to the table number listed on their card. They showed them and told the staff that the conversation was over. We were in a SUITE. All this meant was we had a bigger room. No robes, slippers. Nothing extra. The hangers were from the dry cleaners - all metal (a few were wide plastic). We were given one bar of soap for the basin to wash hands and no soap dish - just sat on the counter. Had to ask for wash clothes and it was like pulling teeth to obtain them. Only 1 pool towel per person. Used for the whole cruise! Lose your towel - $25 charge. Here is the BEST! We wanted an all inclusive beverage package - $300 for the whole cruise for two people. So we signed up. Had to go the next morning to get our sticker put on our card that kept not working. Went to obtain sticker - told because we have 2 cabins we must all have the package. The others occupants were underage. We were not going to pay so we said cancel and we purchased their "coupon" program for $90 for 15 coupons. When we received our final bill - the all inclusive charge was on our statement, plus the coupon charge! Back to the reception desk. Spent more time at the reception desk then dancing in the club. ID cards kept not functioning as we left the ship to go to shore or get on the tender with 100's of people waiting behind us! AWFUL DON'T GO ON THIS CRUISE SHIP!!!!!

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Sail Date: December 2014

My husband and I have taken many cruises on Holland America, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean and we were a little hesitant to take a Christmas Cruise on an MSC ship because of mixed reviews we have read. Most of our concerns were put ... Read More

My husband and I have taken many cruises on Holland America, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean and we were a little hesitant to take a Christmas Cruise on an MSC ship because of mixed reviews we have read. Most of our concerns were put aside immediately upon arrival at the MSC cruise terminal in Miami. The Embarkation area was well laid out and the process went smoothly and quickly. The ship is very elegant and was decorated tastefully. Our balcony cabin was on the Aurora deck (12), and was comfortable and very clean. Below is a list of the pros and cons from my perspective.

PROS:

~Beautiful, modern ship with well planned layout. Elegant lounges and bars. Very clean throughout ship.

~Excellent shows in theater. Some of the shows were almost Broadway quality.

~Daily entertainment such as games (trivia, pictonary, dance lessons, etc) were fun and organized.

~Formal dining room, The Black Crab, well laid out and tastefully decorated (see Con below about table location).

~Excellent room service. (See Con below about selection).

~All inclusive alcohol package completely worth the money. Mixed drinks used high end alcohol and wine selection was good. Specialty coffees included and were delicious.

~Wide selection of food at daily buffets and quality was better than average.

~Cruise director was funny and engaging.

~Spa and hair salon's were very well run with a large selection of services with reasonable pricing.

Cons

~Lifeboat drill was a bit scary. Took an extremely long time to get to our muster station. Crew seemed a bit unmotivated and did not control the evacuation well.

~Room service menu for breakfast was limited. Offered only breads and cold cereal as food options.

~Our table in formal dining room (Black Crab) #585 was terrible. It was located next to the main wait staff service area and entrance to the kitchen. It was terribly noisy and the bright fluorescent light shined in my eyes so I could not see the table mate across the table. This could have been remedied if the staff closed the doors to the kitchen, but refused to do this after several requests.

~Servers in all Bar areas were few and service was slow

~Main dining room was very hot with inadequate air conditioning which made for uncomfortable dining.

~Rules regarding children using hot tubs and adult pool area was not enforced so it was difficult to find a spa not overrun with children.

Overall we were pleased with the ship and staff and would definitely take MSC again.

 

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Sail Date: December 2014

Let me preface my critique by saying, we are seasoned cruisers that take a cruise every Christmas or New Year. We booked our Christmas cruise in June. We were so looking forward to cruising on MSC.

What a disappointment!

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Let me preface my critique by saying, we are seasoned cruisers that take a cruise every Christmas or New Year. We booked our Christmas cruise in June. We were so looking forward to cruising on MSC.

What a disappointment!

We paid for a Balcony Stateroom with a couch and coffee table. What we got was the same as an inside room with a balcony. It was a very tight space! Not to mention that the picture of this cabin on their website showed a couch and coffee table! That was just welcome to MSC! You know what they say about first impressions!

Next, we didn't leave the Port of Miami until after 9:00PM. Not that it was their fault but, it would have been nice to know why we were still sitting in Miami at that time.

The first night at dinner was a disaster! The cruise was booked to max capacity and they could not handle the dinner crowd. The table we were seated at was partly located in the aisle and part was stuck in an alcove rendering half of the table unusable. Not to mention, every time a person passed, they had to bump into the table in order to pass!

A pet peeve of ours is the sham of a dress code! Why say you have one if you aren't going to enforce it! If we wanted to eat at the pool, we would have, swim trunks, jeans and shorts just aren't acceptable!

The shows were good but music in the bars and public spaces was mediocre. No comedians, no piano bars but a lot of big empty rooms!

Every other Christmas cruise we have been on, had Christmas events - this cruise had nothing, no holiday spirit! NO parties, music, Christmas breakfast - Nothing!

The pool decks were roomy, but the best areas for getting sun were in areas that you had to pay extra to get to, and they were strict about entering these areas. You had to be a member.

So I really am not sure who I would recommend this cruise line to. Not a lot to do for kids. Not a lot of activities for families. No great bar scene for couples. The afternoon lunch is a zoo, very disorganized. Buyer beware, there are a lot of great cruise deals out there, MSC is not one of them.

 

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Sail Date: December 2014

PERSONAL Review

Special Note:

This review is presented in two parts: first, my own ‘Personal’ review (what happened to me) which is followed by a somewhat more objective view of the MSC Divina based on an ... Read More

PERSONAL Review

Special Note:

This review is presented in two parts: first, my own ‘Personal’ review (what happened to me) which is followed by a somewhat more objective view of the MSC Divina based on an Western Caribbean cruise as a friend and I experienced in early December, 2014.

Arrival

The Ft. Lauderdale airport is not known for their efficiency and user services. Our Southwest flight on one of their newest 737-800’s was pleasant and just over 2 hours, non-stop from Providence RI. Baggage claim was the first sign that our troubles were starting. Signs and announcements claimed that Providence baggage was arriving on carousel 6. That changed to carousel 8 and then back again to 6. In the end, my traveling companion and I stood at each carousel. Our luggage arrived on carousel 7. I smiled and popped a valium. There was a cruise line rep gathering up passengers for the transfer to the Miami Cruiseport- 99% for the NCL ‘Getaway’ and us. The only reason I knew this is because as she passed by me, I noticed that she was also holding an MSC sign on the back of the NCL sign. She was less than pleased when I approached her and asked where we should go.

We had purchased the transfer from our travel advisor. It was booked with MSC and added to our master bill ($40 each I think- the return was $20 each on a private van service). A 48 passenger motorcoach with 46 NCL passengers on their Getaway and 2 to the MSC Divina loaded slowly. MSC passengers were ‘tag alongs’. We waited for all the Getaway folks to board the coach first and then we took our place in the last row. The transfer was a merciful 40 minutes long.

Now, the baggage drop, US Customs and escalators have become familiar and almost ‘old hat’ to us by now. We waited in separate lines to check in at what felt like a “mile long” check-in desk with dozens of MSC reps. I just about fell to the floor when my check-in clerk said, “Excuse me sir, are you sure you have the right ship? I don’t have you on any of our lists.” WHAT? I produced photocopies of my confirmation sent to us directly online from MSC with the oversight of our travel professional and that was the only thing that seemed to work. “We are sorry sir, but this information was not transmitted to us” he said more than once. I was not quite sure if he was accepting blame or throwing it back to my agent. Please know that I have been dealing with one, extremely professional and picky person who makes sure that all bases are covered when she makes my reservations. I trust her and her company and feel that whoever ‘dropped the ball’ was NOT her.

My ‘clerk’ went to see his “boss” and returned after about 15 minutes and said, “Excuse me sir, but we still have that cabin available and we would be happy to accept you as a last-minute shore side reservation. Did that mean that my travel pro was then cut out of her commission?

I simply said, “Put us in that cabin . . . now”. He accepted my charge card and issued an MSC room-charge card. It was about 1:30pm and I had thought that we could gain access to our cabin quickly. No. Cabins would not be ready until 3 pm. The buffet or sitting in any common area was the option. We went to the crowded buffet with our carry-on bags and waited for the call to access our Deck 10 room.

Our room steward had cleaned the room but not separated the beds, so to ease his work- we stripped the linens, separated the beds and had it ready for him to make up more easily. They are all greatly over-worked and what we did was easy and he thanked us. He produced his room manifest for me to look at and sure enough- our cabin and names were NOT listed. I guess “the information had not been transmitted” to housekeeping either.

Now came the most interesting challenge- dining. Our room ID – charge card did NOT indicate dining time or place:

So, we boldly went to the 6 PM early seating in the Main Dining Room (The Black Crab) and requested to be seated at a table for 2 or 6. The maitr’d said “I am sorry sir, you are not on my list. We do not have any space at all. Our dining room is full and there are no empty seats.” I guess “. . . the information had not been transmitted” to Food & Beverage either. I was starting to feel like I didn’t exist. He suggested that we go to the buffet on the top deck. Like whipped puppies, we found an elevator and pressed 14. The buffet was hardly the way to open our glamorous cruise on the Divina. I don’t remember what the food was, and that should tell you how impressed I was.

There was a savior. At the Reception (Front) Desk, where I was headed to blow up or commit a crime, I met a big burly man who knew how to snap out orders and get things done. I approached him with our story of woe. Pavel Gazzo, the Guest Relations Manager knew what to do! He checked my photocopy of what MSC had sent and started snapping out orders to various staff members. Things started to happen. As promised when booking, a packet of drink tickets magically appeared.

The complimentary ‘no gratuities’ actually worked, and the sparkling wine and deluxe fruit basket of seasonal foods appeared on the second day of the cruise as I was changing to go to dinner. Voila:

One banana and Granny Smith apples must have been “in season” in the Caribbean last December. That’s a kiwi fruit under the plastic. Have you ever peeled and eaten a kiwi fruit? The wine went to a Trivia game winner and we split the banana. The cruise was getting better.

There is no more to write about. This review should give the average reader an idea of my first and last cruise with MSC.

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Caribbean cruises aboard the MSC Divina (3,500 passengers) are enjoyable one-week getaways that come with a collection of offerings very different from those of other major lines serving Southern ports. To be clear, Mediterrean Shipping Company’s twelve passenger vessels serve Mediterrean and other European ports.

Only one of their ships is assigned to the North American market, sailing out of Miami, mostly on 7-day itineraries. The company is obviously trying to establish a presence in a place they feel is underserved for their style of service.

The point here is that MSC is attempting to make inroads to the American/Canadian markets and this cruise passenger maintains they are failing. From the outside, the ship looks beautiful. In fact, most of the cabins and public spaces are magnificent. It is a ship to be envied . . . but there are interior details to be considered.

Negotiating in any direction is a challenge because there is little if any signage. Odd numbered cabins are on the port (left) side, and even on the starboard (right). It ends there. There are no front-back, forward-aft signs whatsoever. Deck numbers are hidden, even in the elevator lobbies.

The Divina does maintain current industry standards; the theater is forward on lower decks, the main dining rooms are in the stern with one dining room (Villa Rossa) that can barely be found. It’s on Deck 6, but you have to go to Deck 7 and walk down one flight of stairs to get there. It takes practice and patience and makes me wonder what asylum did they put the designer of this misplaced room in such a difficult location . . .

The “casino” is just outside the theater, of course. On a 2 year old ship, it looks tired and worn. Game tables are covered in a depressing dark forest green- not bright and lively green felt. Most of the 135 slot machines have aging front screens and games that 72-year old ladies who live in land casinos can’t understand. If they (the machines) look prematurely yellow and foggy . . . they are.

After having cruised 23 times, I can remember that almost every passageway had “art”, some good, mostly bad . . . but I could remember the way to my stateroom by knowing that the ‘skyscraper’ came after the ‘wolf’ or the ‘Art Moderne nymph’ was just before the ‘manhole cover’. The Divina has almost no art on the walls- probably because the passageways (all of them) are too narrow. In fact, almost all walking areas are too narrow- especially those on the top deck buffet where hundreds of passengers walk at every meal.

The 20 step Swarovski crystal double staircases in the atrium is a feature of the ship. They are eye-popping and worthy of a photo or two. I strongly recommend that you think twice before attempting them. Whatever you do, don’t look down and hold the handrail. Sooner or later, someone will tell you that each step cost $60,000 which means that one step is worth more than the median U.S. income, and collectively, could buy you a new Lear jet. Impressed?

Food

Today, food is one of the most important reasons people take cruises. The Divina offers a multitude of restaurants, both included in the price and some carrying extra charges. The difficulty is there seems to be nothing in print or online that lists which restaurants charge what. Maybe, it’s a secret. I avoided all of them and made myself happy in the main dining room, interestingly called “The Black Crab” . . . hardly a name one would expect on a ship from Italy. The Divina was built in France- it’s French ships that are built in Italy- go figure.

The food is generally good (not great) with some exceptions. Menus offer a nice selection of appetizers, soups, entrees, and desserts. Seafood is special with excellent prawns (big shrimp) as a main course. Roast beef offered on two nights was a toss-up- the first was passable, the second- impossible to cut through the grizzle. Maine lobster tail was already cracked with meat bursting from the shell. Expect the traditional Baked Alaska Parade and an Italian theme night.

There was one appetizer that actually brought chuckles and giggles throughout the dining room from those who ordered it. It was described in print as:

Seafood Seared Scallops on a creamy risotto with Prosecco wine and smoked Provola cheese

When served, there was ONE (yes- one) half-inch overcooked scallop in the middle of a sea of mushy white rice. I guess there was wine and cheese in it, but my palate has not been to any culinary institute, so I couldn’t tell. I ate the scallop and passed on the mush. Please notice the “s” on the first line- ScallopS.

The top-deck buffet has two names and I still don’t know why. There are NO ship buffets arranged in any way that makes sense. The Divina is the most confusing of all. First, it’s not arranged in a straight line. It has food stations out and indented with some semi-circular. Offerings change daily, and don’t assume that all breakfast items are the same or in the same locations. There are no cooked-to-order foods. My personal favorite, smoked salmon, was not available other than by special request. There was a selection of juices, but no tomato, another favorite that was missing. I’m told that the variety of pizzas was impressive (I am not a fan) and the burgers were good. Who goes on a cruise for burgers and pizza?

Worthy of note are the fresh cut cold cuts for make-your-own sandwiches and fresh breads. On the minus side- there are no spoons to stir coffee- just wooden swizzles and never enough cream, or half & half to lighten any of the Divina’s strong coffee. There are not salt and pepper shakers anywhere on the deck- just annoying tiny packets, as are all condiments. Serving plates were large, oval and scratched Melamine (or Melamac), a throwback to the 1960’s. They were tacky.

Bars

There are more bars and lounges (18) on the Divina than on most ships her size- pool bars, sports bars, elegant bars, disco bars, etc. Alcoholic drinks were uniformly priced at $7.25 (Dec 2014) and included all the standards, as well as some inventive libations with names that never hinted at their contents. Rum, vodka and tequila all merged their way into “Deep Blue Lagoons” or “Deck X Smashers”. Be sure to check the drink packages for significant savings and remember to bring you room key-charge card wherever you go.

Service

Employees of any cruise line fall into two categories. Basically, those who work for a salary (entertainers, upper cruise staff, technical staff, the Captain and engineers, etc.), and those who depend largely on tips and gratuities (room stewards, dining room staff, casino dealers, etc.). Aboard the Divina, room attendants go out of their way to stay out of your way and clean the room carefully, at least once a day, usually more. Ice (tiny buckets) and fresh towels in the morning and at night. Our steward, Garfield Williams (Jamaica) had 15 rooms on Deck 10 to ‘make nice’ every day. In a 14 plus hour day, he had a total of one hour break time, and sometimes, not even that. Would you like that job?

Those employees who never receive tips showed me why. Front desk (Reception) ‘clerks’ (best word to describe them) are efficient and professional. So much so, they often come across as Field Commanders for some general staff. They do their jobs, but, on the Divina, without a sense of humor, a smile or an attitude that “the customer is always right”. The same is true for the bartenders and photo staff when they are not hunting you down to pause on the jewel staircase or the fake ship’s wheel on the dock.

Most people on the service side of the industry, frequently attend ‘smile schools’. They rarely work unless it’s a Disney related enterprise. The bottom line is that MSC scores low in service, not counting their dining room and housekeeping departments.

Entertainment

I had heard from a number of people, and had read online, that the shows were magnificent and I shouldn’t miss a single one. Wrong. The Pantheon Theater is impressive and the shows are generally good, with some better than others. The problem is ‘sameness’. The show names and costumes change, but the productions are only slightly different. It’s the same two singers and violin player. The same dancers doing the same moves and in a one-week cruise, there was one piece of “magic”. One.

I heard the song “Volare” at least twice- maybe three times during the cruise. The dancers are A+ and perform the same choreography the same way in different elaborate costumes almost every night. The stage set is the same- a number of steps with LED lighting that change colors (wow!) and sometimes move a bit to accommodate an elevator lift in the center. In one show, a trio of Oriental ladies do some impressive acrobatics and the two hand-balance muscle men cannot help but impress. The Michael Jackson Revue is OK. It is not great- and that’s from a person who has published reviews of stage performances’.

There are important pieces of entertainment that I missed. There are no comedians, no novelty acts, no mix of live musicians no patriotic shows, no magicians, no feature dancers, no Broadway or Hollywood themes . . . well, by now, you get the idea. I never even went to the last show. There is no live orchestra, and the sound equipment barely makes it on a level that my profession can detect. This was confirmed to me by a sound technician who admitted that MSC had cut corners on the microphones and other important sound equipment. Lighting programming (everything is digital of course) violates one of the primary rules of stagecraft. Powerful moving Gobo beam lighting circles the audience, shining in the faces of almost everyone. While interesting, these lights have proven to be a health hazard, triggering seizures to those who cannot handle the repetitive bright flashing. This is something that should be addressed immediately.

If you were hoping for a cocktail or other drink to go along with the show, forget it. There is no bar service in the theater. “Guests may not reserve seats for others before show time” is another ridiculous policy in print that simply does not work on the Divina or any cruise ship. There simply is no ships staff on duty in the theater that I saw during any of the evening shows. Saving seats on this ship is as common as any ship in the Caribbean. Again, the take-away here is that show time on the MSC Divina is grossly overrated. It is barely adequate to other like-sized ships. In the winter of 2014, the ship’s Cruise Director is a nice lady who is linguistically challenged. She mispronounces many words and speaks so fast that many guests have difficulty understanding her. Maybe I’m being too critical and her talents are right for the Divinia or a stadium.

Other entertainment in smaller lounges and venues are good, but always compete with silly art auctions-at-sea. Who goes on a Caribbean cruise to buy a really ugly painting? Bingo and a number of inside lounge ‘games’ are scheduled and I will admit to enjoying Kevin’s Trivia Quiz sessions.

Ports of call

My cruise visited the ports of Falmouth, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cozumel and NCL’s (yes NCL) “private island”- Great Stirrup Cay. Any review of these ports would make this a book, so I will reserve port comments to another posting.

“A Ship Within a Ship” (the Yacht Club aboard the MSC Divina)

When one flies First Class, there are benefits and perks that those in Economy never see. Usually, there is a list of amenities that include special treatment from start to finish. MSC Cruises offers their version of First Class with “A Ship Wit hin a Ship”. It’s a special section of deluxe cabins, with a private elevator, concierge, pool, restaurant, etc. The balance of the passengers on any sailing receives a much different and lesser offering.

It is fair to say that passengers in the Yacht Club are in a First Class setting that in almost all cases separates them in fact as well as cruise experience.

 

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