We just completed a 7 night cruise on the MSC Musica to the Med. I was a bit underwhelmed with the reviews but went ahead and booked it anyway as the dates, price and itinerary were perfect so thought I’d take a chance. The cruise was ... Read More
We just completed a 7 night cruise on the MSC Musica to the Med. I was a bit underwhelmed with the reviews but went ahead and booked it anyway as the dates, price and itinerary were perfect so thought I’d take a chance. The cruise was amazing and my husband and I had the greatest experience.
As an American who has cruised on many American cruise lines such as Celebrity, Princess, Carnival, etc. I can understand how an American might not appreciate the MSC line as it is very European. But I have been living in Europe for 30 years, so do have more appreciation for the European sensibility and style than most Americans might.
Food: Many previous reviews stated that the food portions were too small. Yes, they are small. And if you’re an American expecting huge portions this is not for you. But my husband (who is Irish) and I appreciated the smaller portions as many times we wanted to try more than one appetizer, or entrée or dessert and they were small enough that we could try two and not waste food. The Italian family at the table next to us ordered three different dinners per person each night!
We had no problem with the crowds at the buffet. We used the buffet not for main meals but for snacks, fresh fruit, drinks during the day and evening and we never had a problem with service or table availability. And there was always plenty to eat! Every so often my husband wanted a burger so the buffet grille had that, with French fries, in the afternoon through dinner time.
We did learn one thing. Don’t ask for a large table for the scheduled dinner time unless you are with a group of friends to sit altogether! We had asked for a larger table as we thought it would be fun to meet people that way as we are a couple on our own. That was a mistake as the larger tables are where they put the large families so we wound up with the two leftover seats in the middle of all these tables with children! We asked the maitre d’ if we could switch and we were immediately given a table for two away from the children’s area! As it happened, the table we were given was right next to the most wonderful Italian mother and father with their one very well behaved young son and we made great friends with them!
With our cabin level (Fantastica) we received a free room service breakfast each morning. This was the only part of the cruise that was a bit dicey. The room service staff never got the order correct in all the time we were there. They didn’t bring it at the time requested, or brought coffee when it was not ordered, or gave us a selection of sugars when we had not ordered any drinks. We made a joke out of it to see what exactly what we would be served every morning – but the fresh pastries and yogurt more than made up for it! One night we ordered sandwiches, but they never arrived!! We just needed a bit of food early in the morning so it worked for us and it was funny! And it was nice eating on our balcony – no matter what they brought us!
Afterwards when we were finally ready for the day, we would stroll up to the buffet and have some eggs or toast or juice. Then we would go to our favourite place, The Laguna Bar and order smoothies and lattes and juice – and sit outside and watch the sea or admire the view.
We had dinner one night at the Japanese specialty restaurant and we were the only ones there. The food and service were excellent. We had wanted to try the speciality Italian restaurant but even though it is listed on the MSC website as being open, it no longer exists. What they did was open up the seating and include the area in the buffet, making the buffet much larger. Perhaps that is why we never had problems with crowds.
We loved the afternoon tea goodies served at the buffet at around 4 PM and enjoyed taking the plates outside to enjoy the food and fresh air. We never had any trouble finding seating.
If you can request a dinner seating, try to get the Belle Epoque restaurant on the 6th level rather than the Leandro on the 5th. It is only open for dinner but the seats are all padded and much more comfortable and there are far fewer children. This restaurant is where we were reassigned for dinner.
Another thing to be aware of. If you go to the sit down restaurant – the Leandro - for breakfast and lunch, which we did when on the ship, you will be given a set menu. However, if you walk to the back of that restaurant, they have an elegant buffet set up as well. It’s kind of a special secret! There are more options to choose from and you can take as much as you want to add to your menu choice or instead of the menu choice.
To sum up our food experience, we thought it was wonderful and there were so many choices throughout the ship.
Lounges and Bars: Included in our Fantastica experience was the all inclusive drinks package. We are not drinkers so we did not opt for the premium level and my husband had the occasional beer but we still felt this was great value. All we had to do was show the card and the drinks were included. There was always a special section on all the bar menus for “All Included” so that is what we ordered from and did not have to pay extra for a tip as that was also included. We had decided we would try to visit all of them and decide on our favourite. We couldn’t decide as they all had their own personality and specialties. After meals we went to the coffee bar outside of the dining room and I had a latte and was able to get a decaf latte every night in a relaxing atmosphere. We also LOVED the Laguna Bar on 13 as they served the most wonderful smoothies, gelato, cold drinks, juices in the fun pool atmosphere. What is so convenient about having this drinks package is that nothing was charged to our cruise account so we did not have go through it at the end of the cruise to make sure things were not charged correctly. And I do think we got our money’s worth in smoothies, bottles of water, gelato and sodas (minerals).
All of the different lounges had a separate personality and we enjoyed each one. There was music in many of them with different styles to suit different tastes so you could dance and see shows throughout the ship.
Service: On reading past reviews this seems to have been one of things cruisers were not happy with. Short of kissing our feet, I cannot think what else the MSC employees could do to make our cruise experience better. Everyone was so polite and welcoming. The wait staff, from bars, lounges to restaurants were helpful and (with the exception of the room service staff!) got everything right. When you think that these people are waiting on 2500 people all day, every day for months and months, I think that is amazing. The lady who took care of our stateroom was very accommodating and helpful if I needed extra pillows or anything else. One thing I appreciated was, the day before the end of the cruise, all the mini-bars are locked at 1 PM so inventory could be taken. I used the mini-bar as a fridge to keep my medications cold so I could not have it locked. No problem! It was kept open until we left the ship. One of the waiters at the Laguna bar even remembered me so quickly that whenever he saw me, he would come over and ask – what smoothie would I like for the day! I mean, they are dealing with 2500 new people a week – I thought that was amazing. There was no problem getting information from the main reception desk – there were two of them and usually no line or queue at either.
Excursions: We did not take any excursions through the ship although now that we have experience I would recommend booking some and some trips you can do on your own and save money. For Brindisi there is a free shuttle bus from the ship to the town. From there you can take an inexpensive bus tour which is cheaper than the ship’s excursion. The independent tour buses are waiting at the MSC stop so they are easy to find. For Pireaus/Athens I would recommend taking a ship excursion. The reason being it is so crowded with tourists and tourist buses the traffic is horrendous. We had a bit of a panic on our own trying to get back to the ship on time as the traffic was so bad and so slow. We just made it but I did not need the stress. With the ship excursion they will hold the ship until the group gets back so you can enjoy the day without the stress. Just know that you need to be a real walker to get up to the Acropolis – it is quite a hike. You can take the hop on/hop off buses (yellow and blue only go from Pireaus port). However, as I said, the traffic is so bad and there is no guarantee that you could get back to the ship on time, and they will not wait! Kotor looked wonderful and scenic from the ship. It docks right by the town so you can just walk off and go right into the town. The problem for us is that when on a cruise we are very late sleepers! The ship docks at 7 AM and leaves port at around noon so you have to be up early. Since we did not get off the ship (we slept too late!) I cannot comment on whether you should take an excursion or do this on your own. But since the ship leaves so early and you don’t have much time in port, I think I would go with a ship excursion so you know the ship will wait for your group to return! Corfu was a wonderful little town. The ship offers a low cost shuttle into the city centre. From there you can stroll around and have a wonderful Greek meal so we did not need the ship excursion. I think if you want to go further afield it would pay to take the planned excursion but we were happy just pottering around. Santorini was a bit of a disappointment – we tried to do it on our own but really should have taken the ship excursion or taken a boat ride around the island and bypassed Oia. We took the tender to the small port of Fira. From there we took another boat (only 10 euro I think) that took us to the small village of Oia. We walked for a bit but there was not much to see on the small road – great views however from the tourist boat! From there we got a shuttle to Fira which was gorgeous! For the next time, if we don’t take an excursion, we would just take the funicular from Fira port up to Fira and walk around for the day. The early morning is crazy because of the crowds getting on the tenders – those with the ship excursion get on first. We waited until 11 AM and we were able to just walk onto the tender – no crowds – no waiting. As I said, knowing what I know now, we should have taken a small boat ride around the island and then just gone up the mountain to Fira. Next time!!! I have no information on the port of Katakolon. We had decided to stay on the ship for one whole day to experience the activities so passed on that port. We didn’t regret it!
Entertainment/Activities: This was one of the items that many Americans who reviewed this cruise were not impressed with. We found it to be the strongest plus for us. The fact that for most of the activities, things had to be introduced in several languages – to me that was the most fun. I felt so international and tried to figure out what they were saying! My husband and I were always amazed that the entertainment staff could involve people from so many countries with so many languages. By the time we got off the ship we could say please, thank you, excuse me, good morning, this is my floor, etc. in French, Italian, Spanish, German and Portuguese. I even learned a few Greek words as well! (I find it really helps to at least know “please, thank you, excuse me” in the language of the port you are in – people really appreciate your effort even though they all speak English as well as all the other languages – I was so jealous!). Also, because this wasn’t an English speaking ship (although the entire crew spoke perfect English) the entertainment had to be more accessible to an international crowd. The big evening shows were more music and danced based so everyone from any country could recognise and relate to the show. We truly enjoyed that difference and got a kick out of hearing the songs from the Broadway show Grease sung in very heavy Italian accented English! The show talent was amazing! The singers and dancers and speciality acts they had were incredibly talented and had so much energy. We saw the second show of each evening as we had the earlier dinner seating. When I pointed out to my husband that what we were seeing each night was their second performance he was – where do they get their energy! I could see that to an American used to American style cruises, this entertainment style might not be to their taste but we thought all the shows were fun and enjoyable. We are not a fan of magic so one of the evenings was not a favourite but that is our taste - not to be blamed on the entertainment staff. What really made the cruise for us was the “Animation” staff. This was group of people who went throughout the ship entertaining during the day and evening. They ran music quizzes (by the end I was able to understand the Italian explanation!) and other parties in different lounges almost 24/7. There were 3 – 4 dance and also exercise lessons per day and I loved hearing the instructions in all the languages – I learned how to say “right, left, forward, back” – almost multilingual! You have to keep in mind these young people are at it all day, in up to 6 different languages (some even knew Chinese and Japanese as well!) and were happy, chirpy and friendly throughout. My absolute favourite entertainer was the young man who reminded me so much of the actor Roberto Begnini. He was the true clown of the bunch and did the most clever miming, dancing, etc. Whenever I saw him gather a crowd I was there as I knew it would be so funny and entertaining. He put on a little show for the audience which was waiting for the big evening show to begin and he had the huge crowd, in the large theatre, in the palm of his hand with his hilarious antics. Every night he did something different and you could see he appealed to people from every country. Truly a talent. If I knew he was still entertaining on the ship, I’d go back in a second. In the evening every lounge had a different entertainer with a different style of music. If you were German, you’d enjoy the German style music in one lounge, and for Spanish, French, Italian, etc. there was all kinds of music and dancing as well as quiet lounges to have a drink or coffee. We meant to try all of them but there wasn’t enough time! I cannot comment on the children’s activities but they must have been good as I never noticed children running around and in my way and there were loads on the ship.
Cabin: Again, this is something many of the American reviewers complained about. Yes, ours was a bit smaller and if we had been the larger American sized type of people, might have found it a bit uncomfortable. We had balcony cabin 10174. The balcony held two comfy chairs and a footstool. There was a small table in the room which we placed on the balcony to have our breakfasts and smoothies during the days and evenings. We purposely asked for the starboard side so in most ports we overlooked the water rather than the busy ports so that was perfect. Also, our travel agent in Ireland told us not to take a cabin on level 11 as that had all the connecting rooms which the families take so it might have been noisier with all the kids running around. Our cabin steward Claudia was wonderful and very helpful as explained before. We had ordered a fresh fruit basket for our first night and it lasted us throughout the cruise so it was nice to have that even though we were able to take fruit regularly from the buffet as well. But it took us a day or so to get our bearings so it was nice to have that little amenity immediately. And nothing beats eating an apple on your balcony as you cruise out of Venice on a sunny day! The bed was a king size but a bit hard for me. Next time we book I will ask for a padded topper which I am sure they can provide.
Embarkation and Disembarkation: Embarkation was a breeze as all we had were two carry on suitcases so we did not have to queue to check our bags. We simply went upstairs and went through security and got on the ship! We went directly to the buffet where we had yummy snacks and exactly at 2:30 PM our cabin was door was opened. We then walked around the ship trying to familiarise ourselves with where we wanted to go. Our cruise card was in the cabin so we were able to use that immediately for the “drinks included” option that we had and went straight back up to 13 and the Laguna Bar, our favourite hang out from day 1! I miss that place! Disembarkation was bit disorganised however. We purchased shuttle bus tickets from the ship to Marco Polo airport for the 1 PM shuttle as our flight did not leave until 5 PM. This was very convenient for us. In the daily briefing for the last day, it said that our group should meet at the Tucano Lounge at 11 AM and wait for the bus to come. We figured we had books so could kill the two hours easily and run up to the buffet if needs be. We had a breakfast at the Leandro restaurant – totally not crowded and we were able to sit outside on deck 13 for a bit as well to kill time (room service breakfast delivery was not available on the last day). We then headed to the Tucano Lounge for 11 AM but were told we had to leave the ship at that time. We were a bit concerned as I knew there were no seats outside in the terminal for long waits until the shuttle arrived at 1 PM. So even though we explained that to one of the stewards they still shooed us off the ship. We then saw that there was an earlier shuttle to the airport so we took that and had a longer wait at the airport. So perhaps this portion of the journey could have been better organised.
Spa: We did not take advantage of the spa or any spa offers so cannot review the services.
Shopping on board: The ship had the usual services for sale as well as shops but there was nothing that we needed, except an MSC Musica magnet as souvenir! But if you are into handbags, watches, jewelry, etc. they did have a gorgeous selection.
In summary: We so enjoyed our time on the MSC Musica and it totally exceed our expectations. I only wish it had been longer. Also, I know for next time to select some ship excursions depending on the time we are in port. And I am very glad I brought stretchy pants with me! Read Less