As I read through several of these reviews, I'm scratching my head, but okay, I'm going to post MY EXPERIENCE as best I can and hope that folks understand that not only am I a person whose character can be selective (not snobby) ... Read More
As I read through several of these reviews, I'm scratching my head, but okay, I'm going to post MY EXPERIENCE as best I can and hope that folks understand that not only am I a person whose character can be selective (not snobby) and want quality for my hard neared dollar. Also, since there is not a lot on this site about this specific line and this specific ship, not trying to deny other people THEIR experience, I have to share because what I have read is far from and light years away from what we experienced.
Let me start by saying that this cruise, taken in 2019, was planned since 2012 because I wanted a high-quality cruise experience for my now deceased mom's landmark 80th birthday. Since I didn't want to cruise Viking (thought it would be too stuffy for my mom's likes), MSC became the choice because their itineraries were exactly what I wanted. I lost my mom in 2015 so my BFF (a gay man..trust me, this will matter in the review) and I decided to celebrate our moms' in spirit since he lost his mom also and make this a couple of days prior to the cruise on land/excursion beginning in Barcelona and after the trip on land as we flew to London at the end of the cruise before coming home to the states.
Flew into Barcelona from San Francisco (via Delta Airlines) and stayed a couple of days in Barcelona at a nearby Best Western (a friend works there and we received excellent service from them as well). The port city of Barcelona was PERFECT since disembarking from there helped make what could have been much more difficult, much easier.
Barcelona is a busy, well-organized port city, that was the case, but it was a great choice on our end. That's where our trip began.
Food: We were initially overwhelmed by all of the options for food and drink, which MSC Sinfonia seemed to dominate like an Italian aunt that wanted you to feel at home in her house. The option we purchased including beverages in our cruise package was smart, since this cost can be quite substantial to your cruise, and while we didn't choose the highest level liquor package, we did pick all you can drink coffee/tea/soft drinks/wine and cocktails (selected with quality liquors but not the Hennessey-level booze...didn't buy it because we don't drink all THAT much and can pay for those beverages as an aside). Great food, including a diversity of tastes and flavors, for all meals and snacks of the day, were fantastic. Not all were with an Italian taste but there was plenty of Italian-based tastings and we were very satisfied; because we are Americans, we also appreciated the pizza/pasta/sandwich bars along with the burger/hot dog and fries bar; they have fresh gelato as well as a Vitamin/Smoothie with fresh fruits bar and when you can get avocado and pineapple in a smoothie in the middle of the Mediterranean, I'm there! There was literally enough good healthy food along with the corrupt stuff you don't want your kids to eat, but being on vacation allowed everyone to be happy. While there is a breakfast buffet with enough options culturally to satisfy pretty much every country on the planet. But my travel companion found that if you get to the areas where you'll typically find pizza and burgers at lunch, you can get your omelette/pancakes. I loved to sleep in so I didn't get much of this but it was nice to know it was an option besides the over abundance of bacon and eggs or oatmeal and yogurt (greek yogurt). And that's another thing...they had delicious oatmeal. I was trying to be good with all the food goodies on board and didn't feel like my doctor would kick my bottom when I see him next visit. The coffee barristers and bartenders made our tasty drinks and pretty much to taste for us. I didn't have to ask for my tequila to be a specific one or have my drinks made in any way. Their bartenders know exactly what to do and how to make drinks.
For the dinner/fine dining dinner option, we had My Choice dining as part of our package, allowing us to eat at a time of our choice and since we dine on the later side, we mostly sat without anyone else at our table (you're thoughtfully placed with others but it's not weird like putting a single couple or couple with a large family). We became to know the servers and the Dining manager was a professional maitre'd and could have worked at any of the 5 star restaurants we're used to going to in the US.
Excisions: The opportunities and options were fantastic. From the choices of the well-thought out excursions, which were fairly priced and surprisingly well-organized to get folks on and off the ship efficiently, allowed us to make choices on how we wanted to live on the ship on our own. We were on a 12-day/11-night Mediterranean cruise, out of Barcelona, with stops in Malta/Corfu/Katalion/Herkalion/Pireaus/Civitavecchia/Genoa/Marseilles and back to Spain. What a GLORIOUS cruise this was. For myself and my friend to cruise for the first time, we were thoroughly overwhelmed. We experienced every opportunity on this ship that adults without children can experience, and we did visually see families enjoying themselves, so even if we can't speak as a family, as two single adults traveling together, we can both cheer for this cruise and this specific excursion.
The Ship: There were lots of things to do, both on and off the ship from shows, to televisions everywhere to watch sports and have a beer or cocktail/coffee/tea or soda...public spaces, a casino (and you do get your winnings); of course traveling in early Spring as we did wasn't a guarantee of great weather but we did fortunately have sunny days and it was amazing. We were all able to sit outside and enjoy the wonderful Mediterranean sunshine.
Fresh foods every day (fresh fruit for Americans that live in California is a huge deal and for me, as a New Yorker that lives in California now, as I said earlier, this was supposed to be a mom celebration...and baby, I LOVED my Momma....as did my friend. I even had a bout of bronchitis and he a bout with gout, so we visited the ship's doctor and even that experience was top-notch (needed antibiotics and received in an IV drip so I could fly and ended up continuing my trip without even having felt like I was ill).
They had a photo studio where you can purchase pictures and capture everything from wedding to family portraits. In fact there was a wedding/reception/honeymoon on board the boat if I can properly recall.
Their Staff/Crew: We were treated with wonderfully, energized joy by the MSC crew. It was like a Welcome Party. The preparation to have you get on-board starts with your obtaining a cruise card, which is basically your on-board, ID card, charge card and access card. Makes keeping your valuables safe painless. My plan was to relax and spa since we took advantage of the Aurea Spa package, which allowed us to obtain massages and add-on other purchased pampering. Again, since this was supposed to be a mother-daughter thing, I was looking forward to a facial and other treatments. These are on the pricier side, but considering their estheticians are the same quality of major spas in international cities, the price point wasn't out of reach or not something worth reviewing. They have a full service hair salon on board as well as treatments from acupuncture to various massage methods.
MSC makes sure folks understand that it's not an unlimited financial card because your ability to have fun, responsibility both fiscally and emotionally are always gonna be front of mind. They have all types of shopping and other fun things to do, so even if you're not born rich, they treat you well and with car. We even met a couple from Perth Australia who told us that they've been cruising for years and they love Sinfonia even though MSC has newer ships. They described it as "old-stool' cruising and I understood what they meant. Being American, you can have some Disney-styled cruises (too child-attentive/better for families) or too Viking-esque (potentially too snobby and stuffy even if luxuriously appointed). We wanted to be treated like Viking, with party options that were not too immature).
MSC hit the bill OUT OF THE PARK for us.
To add to the other points: My friend is a gay man over 50; he was VERY happy and because he also blogs for LGBTQ entertainment, he plans on doing a piece on this experience...which I'm whole-heartedly rooting for because it was more than deserved. Also, I saw lots of disabled people: seniors with canes and wheelchairs in families and couples; a disabled athlete in a wheel chair; a family (it seemed since there were 2 visually impaired people in the group). We saw sign language used and when it came to language barriers, there were none....They have a talented, multi-linguist staff and their tours which were conducted in many cases in multi-languages, were just another impressive action because their folks speak multi-languages. I was impressed.
A special shout-out to: Adrian (Dining Services); Shubert (Bar Services); Melray (Buffet Manager); Anthony (Stateroom Attendant), Irina (Spa Services) and all the servers on Sinfonia. You made us never forget you and we WILL BE BACK! Read Less