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2 MSC Cruises MSC Fantasia Cruise Reviews for Holiday Cruises to Middle East

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
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
Sail Date December 2016
MSC Fantasia Ratings
Category Editor Member
Rates 3.0 3.5

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