This was our first cruise and we had no idea what to expect or what kinds of things were abnormal or normal for a cruise. Our travel agent, a good friend of mine, had never booked through MSC and could only give us expectations based on ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we had no idea what to expect or what kinds of things were abnormal or normal for a cruise. Our travel agent, a good friend of mine, had never booked through MSC and could only give us expectations based on other cruises he had been on. He left me with the assurance that we would be well taken care of and guided through the whole process so we could relax and not stress for 10 days. This did not prove to be true.
Embarkation was a nightmare. We flew from Chicago to London, then from London to Marseille on the day of the cruise arriving at around 10, with boarding presumably going from 1400 to 1800. We called an Uber from the airport to take us to the port, thinking we would hang out there for a few hours until boarding started. When we arrived there were no ships in port and our Uber driver, who only spoke French, looked over the paperwork to make sure we had the right date and location. God bless that driver who went and talked to the French security for us and nailed down the details, then translated for us with his google translate app because nobody there, not the MSC staff or security or even any other passengers, spoke English. Turns out our ship was in Nice, 200km(120mi) away. It was too windy in Marseille for them to dock there. They put us on a bus to Nice for two hours to get to the ship. It would have been nice to get some kind of heads up that this was the case. They must have known even a few hours or a day ahead of time that they wouldn’t be docking in Marseille. We are thankful we decided to show up early because otherwise we wouldn’t have made it.
Once we got to Nice, there were a bunch of cruises there with different luggage vans and security spots to get through. All of the MSC staff we could find were smoking or on their phones not paying attention or giving good direction so even if we did understand French who knows if we would have been less confused. We prayed we put our luggage in the right spot because none of the vans were marked with our boat name. We followed some people we thought looked familiar from our bus to check in. Nobody at MSC spoke English, so, again, we stayed confused. We followed the line to a small boat which took us to our cruise boat which was sitting in the middle of the ocean.
Once we got through yet another security line, we had no idea where to go. Where was our room? Was there another security point? There is some kind of cruise card we need, right? How do we get food, we’re starving and jet lagged! For some reason they took all of our paperwork at check in so we had nothing to reference anymore. We were immediately bombarded with people trying to sell us things...in French. Scrambling, we again couldn’t find a single person who spoke English or Spanish(which we also speak fluently).
After kind of wandering for a few minutes, we found someone who would help us at the guest services area. They asked for our room number which we had no idea because they took everything we had printed. With a sour face, the woman gave us the number but could not answer our questions further.
We found our room with some semi-helpful documents on the bed and no luggage. We had a carry-on with us with extra underwear so luckily we were able to shower then locate our restaurant. On our way to dinner, we found my luggage chilling on a totally different floor in the walkway which was a huge relief because at least we knew it got on the right van. It wasn’t until after dinner that we went exploring other cabins and found my husband’s luggage also chilling in the middle of nowhere.
At dinner, we found that our waiter did not speak English. We communicated by pointing to what we wanted on the menu and he wrote it down. The wait times for food were terrible, we waited at least 30-40 minutes every night for our first course. The portion sizes were very small. Theoretically we could have ordered more, however we were so tired of waiting for our first helping of food that we just left hungry most nights.
The first night we arrived to water in our glasses and a 4 Euro charge we had to sign for at the end of the night. It sounds small, but after the long day we had, I just broke down that I couldn’t go without a charge for my dehydration. We planned to go through the cruise without any charges.
We did end of resolving our water charges a full week later when we finally received our drink vouchers included in our booking. We took the number of vouchers needed to the restaurant to refund our money, which we found out they did not do at the end of our cruise right before we were about to disembark. They fought us for a few days saying we did not have drink vouchers and had to contact the American booking representative on land who took a while to respond.
It didn’t get much better after the first night. We booked 5 excursions which were all cancelled. We rebooked different ones in their place which weren’t as good and were disappointing. The staff at the excursions desk were not helpful and again, didn’t speak English well at all. For one excursion, she booked the wrong one for us which we only found out when we showed up for the excursion. We ended up just rolling with it because they were similar. We were booked for another excursion that didn’t even exist. The girl put an excursion number in our tickets that was only offered on another cruise line so when we showed up the morning for our excursion we weren’t able to go.
We tried to turn in the tickets for these excursions as soon as we could, which was around 4 or 5 most days because that is when the desk opened. By that time, it was hard to convince them to give us a refund because the excursion was over and somehow they thought we had gone on the excursion with invalid tickets.
Speaking of operating times, almost everything opened after 5, sometimes not even until later. Almost all of the bars and the gelato and vitamin bar areas were never open at all. We weren’t able to get good food when we wanted because the main buffet always seemed to be closed and our seating time for dinner was at 9pm which is honestly when we usually go to bed. The pizza area was open longer, but they only served two kinds of bread with sauce and maybe cheese and usually there was a long kind of people waiting for more because what they took out of the oven was grabbed really quickly.
In general, the food was below average. There wasn’t much variety in the buffets and the main buffet food was never fresh. The restaurant food was better, but the portions were too small and the food was tasteless. I personally have an allergy to cheese and almost every dish had cheese in it. I asked if it could be removed from any of the dishes and was told no. I’m not talking about from lasagna or something that was probably cut from a large dish in the back. I’m talking meals where cheese was obviously sprinkled on the top or included individually on the plate. That was too much to ask for someone to deviate a little from their preparation of the plate. This left for little choice for me.
There were a few times that we ordered room service which took forever. They always quoted us twenty minutes, but it took over an hour every time. Twice they got the order wrong. I ordered a soup (#1 on the menu) at around 4pm when other food places were closed, and I got a veggie wrap instead(#12 on the menu.) I
went down to guest services to get a refund(room service is not free which is ok, but in the American booking site it says it is so whatever) and was told they don’t start serving soup until 6:30pm. The second time they got it wrong, I ordered a BBQ chicken wrap which I had ordered before that didn’t have BBQ chicken. When I went down, they told me it was actually correct because they said their recipe changes every day.
Finally, there wasn’t much to do outside of the shows in the evening. After talking to others, it has been confirmed that this is unusual. On days when we returned early from an excursion or on sea days, all we were left to do was sit in our room (which was a wonderful, clean safe haven!) and watch the same three movies that cycled through.
We were stuck with more free time than we had hoped between our cancelled and ever changing excursions and the extra time given by the ever changing itinerary. We spent most days sitting on our bed bored. We purchased a day of WiFi to combat boredom which was not worth it because it wouldn’t go on any of the American websites that I wanted to visit like my work intranet or the county library to check out more ebooks to read. It was slow on the few that we could connect to. I’m sitting in a hotel in France writing this and their WiFi connects fine to the US websites so I know it isn’t a Europe IP address thing or something.
We were supposed to dock in Barcelona first, but there was a storm which pushed our arrival into Barcelona a day late. They canceled our trip into Valencia, then rerouted at that last second so we did arrive in Valencia, then shortened our day in Palma, then cancelled our day in Malta which we were really looking forward to. Our arrivals into Italy went as planned.
We looked forward to the shows as they were the only entertainment on board. It was hit or miss. The opera shows and the Flamenco dancer show were great, but the shows or bits of shows revolving around other singers or the MSC Sinfonia dancers were terrible. These were supposed to be family shows and the costumes on these girls showed almost everything. Maybe it is a European thing, I don’t know. The stereotype is that Europeans are big on nudity. There were a lot of tacky strip teases. The singers mostly sang in English and it was terrible. They should have sang in their native tongues. They did a few shows trying to showcase British and American culture that were cringey and almost disrespectful.
The only good thing I have to say is that our room was wonderful, the view was amazing and the guy that cleaned our room was very kind and attentive.
The excursions and places we visited we also great. We were disappointed that all that was offered were city tours and all of the fun activities(the ones we booked before) involving biking, swimming with dolphins, trying food, visiting caves and a volcano were cancelled. However, our tour guides we very well versed in the places we visited and made the tours come to life. It was worth the crappy onboard experience to see these wonderful places. Read Less