After an uneventful flight, we arrived in Venice and sought our MSC sign in the Arrivals Hall. There was every other cruise line and other companies but no sign of MSC. Eventually, we found our contact and she was behind the others but the ... Read More
After an uneventful flight, we arrived in Venice and sought our MSC sign in the Arrivals Hall. There was every other cruise line and other companies but no sign of MSC. Eventually, we found our contact and she was behind the others but the sign was down as she was checking names off her list. We were directed down the hall, past the coffee stand and out to the MSC office outside. After checking in there, we waited 20 minutes or so before we were led to the bus in the car park, not an easy trek with a trolley. The coach had no room for hand luggage overhead larger than a handbag. The trip to the port was quick and we were dropped at the end of a queue for bag drop. This was a long queue but in 20 minutes or so we dropped our bags at the door and proceeded upstairs to check in area. This was crowded and the first thing was to get our silly cruise photo taken. This was humorous and kept us smiling while waiting to check in. Check in was smooth enough and then we had to wait for number 15 to be called. This entailed a long wait and there was juice and water available. We had arrived at about 12.30 and we boarded at 2.15pm. We were told our staterooms would not be ready until 2.30 but we sneaked up and it was ready so we dropped off our bags.
Ship is beautiful and shiny. A lot of reflective surfaces, mirrored elevators and, of course, the famous Swarovski stairs. This was a favourite area for photographs all week. Our stateroom was a balcony, B2, port side, quite forward. There is an overhang from the top deck but it only causes shadow from about noon to 2.00pm on the sea day. The view down was towards deck 7 and lifeboats. View forward was restricted by the hump. Stateroom was very comfortable and spacious enough. Plenty of room under the bed for cases. Hairdryer in drawer was surprising good, I am told. Ice bucket provided but never filled, nor did we seek it to be filled. Met steward a couple of times, by accident. The room was kept very well. One towel animal and a note wishing us an enjoyable cruise. The balcony door slid open and stayed open as it is heavy. The aircon seemed to stay on even when the balcony door was open. The lock for the door is a button which was quite stiff so we did not bother locking it.
This is the most contentious issue regarding MSC as far as I can see from other reports. Overall, we found it almost as good as NCL or RCCI. The buffet was chaotic at times. It seemed that food stations, although supposed to be replicated around the buffet, actually had different offerings. Many people recommend the ‘Ethnic corner’ at the rear of the buffet but we never found anything appealing there and we love Indian food. Buffet was good enough for breakfast and lunch but lacked choices and replenishment of meat in the evenings. I did not find bacon until day 3. It was crisp and streaky, very tasty. Perhaps I was late to breakfast as they cleared up quite early and from 10.00 it becomes continental. Pork sausages were plentiful and nice. Omlettes were folded without fillings and there was plenty of fried/boiled or scrambled eggs too. We ate breakfast in the MDR one morning and the omlettes there are really good. We had Egg Benedict in the MDR and it was not good, served on toast with a thick slice of fried ham. There was a vinegary taste which I believe is used to help poach the eggs.
We ate most evenings in the MDR, early sitting at 6.30pm at a 6 person table. Our tablemates were very pleasant company. Our servers were very efficient and we were always out by 8.10pm, much of any delay caused by us chatting and so on. Wine was replenished reasonably often though we had to ask most nights. Wine was served by the glass. If someone was late to dinner, they were served in their own time and we often had different courses on the table at the same time, without problem. The menu was a 6 course affair, staring with a meat or fish course, e.g. smoked salmon and shrimp, followed by a salad, depending on the port of call perhaps Greek, with Feta cheese or Italian, Mozzarrella etc. Next was soup. Choice of consommé or ‘cream’ which was not very creamy. Soups were nice though. Next was pasta course, very filling, too much food really. The main course was meat, twice filet of beef. However, the beef was very small and sliced like roast beef. It was very tasty though. Dessert was good, Tiramisu, Baked Alaska etc. No coffee or tea at dinner.
Allegrissimo package was well worth the money, €23 per person per day. The price of drink on MSC was high, as the price number was similar to NCL/RCCI except it was in Euro. So it was easy to reach or exceed the package price, which included bottled water and coffee. The included wines were good enough. The bottle read ‘La Zolla’ and this was the only label offered despite the drinks menu claiming that there was a choice of 2 whites, 2 reds and a rose. Most cocktails were included. The wait staff were generally very good. The staff overall were very polite and helpful. There was one staff member that I found rude, a pool towel attendant. My tablemates found one of the security staff at the gangway to be rude. Overall, though, very polite staff.
It has been said that MSC photographers are not as ‘in your face’ as other lines’ snappers, but we found we could not walk through the public areas without being offered photo opportunities, on the sparkly stairs or wherever. Even the life jacket drill was a major photo op, more so than a safety drill, I suspect!
The shows were spectacular and very well choreographed, with acrobats and trapeze artists but, after a few days, they became repetitive. Only on the first night was there an act which had been brought on board, a tenor and pianist, very good. Every night had a theme i.e. Pandora, Wonderland, Queen, Italian songs, and Witches of Paris, and the final night, which we did not attend, was a ‘Best of’ night. The Cruise Director made his announcements in 6 or 7 languages before each show, which kicked off promptly at 9.30pm, for 1st seating diners. Each show only lasted 35 minutes and there is no bar service in the theatre although you can bring in your drink. There was entertainment at most bars throughout the evening. we found the El Dorado Piano bar most comfortable and the music was of mainly Turkish influence and very pleasant. Most nights, some patrons would do a belly dance or arabic dance of sorts. The Green Sax bar had easy listening with some dancing. Safari bar had most action with the entertainment crew arrivingf there at 11pm to organise games etc. This was also a smoking venue along one side. The Galaxy Bar on 15 had disco music late at night.
There are 3 stations in English, apart from the safety channel; Sky News, Euronews and CNBC. Interactive TV service is clunky but I could see our onboard account on the last night. €2 was added to our account as a UNICEF donation which we had not consented to. We left it, as it is a good cause.
There are 3 public (non Yacht Club) pool areas, the Solarium which was a covered area with no loungers, just chairs, a Aqua Park with a large pool, surrounded by loungers and a few hot tubs. At the rear of the ship is the Garden Pool, also referred to as the Infinity Pool. This pool was filled to the edge on some days but not on others. Nice area with plenty of loungers, if you get there early. This is not an ‘Adults Only’ area. Bar service at all pools. Above the Garden Pool is another sun deck with a children’s water park area and the steps to the water slide which I didn’t try.
Ports of Call
The ship called at Bari, Katakolon, Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik with one day at sea. Excursions are heavily promoted on the TV and around the ship. We did not use any ship excursions, preferring to DIY at Istanbul and Dubrovnik. Port stops are short except for Istanbul.
We left bags out before 1.00am last night. Our assembly colour was light blue. This is indicated on the tags left in your room last evening. Gathered at the appointed time and were led off promptly to waiting luggage and queued for coach to airport. Only a 15 minute drive to Marco Polo and there in plenty of time for check in.
We were pleasantly surprised with MSC and the Allegrissimo package made it a worry free trip. With our only reservations being some aspects of the food, I would have no hesitation in sailing MSC again, based on price and itinerary. All things being equal, I would choose NCL, RCCI and MSC in that order, but I enjoyed them all.