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10 Venice to Transatlantic MSC Cruises MSC Musica Cruise Reviews

Cruised from Venice to Rio over a 3 week period. Had been to most of European ports before, but chose this cruise for the stops in Brazil. Unfortunately had to miss Fortaleza due to strong winds, and it rained most of day in Buzios. ... Read More
Cruised from Venice to Rio over a 3 week period. Had been to most of European ports before, but chose this cruise for the stops in Brazil. Unfortunately had to miss Fortaleza due to strong winds, and it rained most of day in Buzios. Overall we liked the ship having a comfortable balcony cabin, although the wardrobe space was a bit small. The ship was in good condition, but there were some signs of wear and tear. The main let down was the food in the main restaurant which often got to the table Luke warm, and once was actually cold. The service in both the main and buffet restaurants was hit and miss. The entertainment team worked very hard and provided good varied things to do and take part in. There were also lots of dance classes. The evening shows were mostly very good and varied. There were bands duos and singers in all the bars who in the main could actually sing and play. The gym was much too small for the size of ship, with queues to get on the equipment on sea days. We would go on this ship again for the right itinerary and price. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
Embarkation ========== We transferred from our Lido hotel to the Musica by Aliliguna vaporetto, arriving around a little after 11:00. It was a fair walk from the water bus 'cruise terminal' stop to the cruise terminal building ... Read More
Embarkation ========== We transferred from our Lido hotel to the Musica by Aliliguna vaporetto, arriving around a little after 11:00. It was a fair walk from the water bus 'cruise terminal' stop to the cruise terminal building but once there, MSC did well to get us through the various stages of checkin: luggage drop off, cruise card issue and credit card authorisation, security and finally boarding. All the time there was the usual ambience of chaos around us. While many nationalities are capable of reading instructions in advance and following the prescribed system with the briefest of questions and exchange of pleasantries, other nationalities can exist in a swarm of endless confusion, non-stop questions and every possible attempt to circumvent the system. The party immediately in front of us were all waving their arms and shouting at passport control. Apparently they believed that being Europeans, they had no need of passports - even to go to Morocco and Brazil. Eventually, security escorted out of the building and this is one cruise that they would miss. The information sheets we were given indicated that our cabins would be ready at 1pm so we made our way straight to the Gli Archi buffet on deck 13 for an hour. The Maitre D made himself available from 1pm in the Sala Viola for table assignments. As we were in three separate cabins on two bookings and our table(s) had not been allocated, we were keen to ensure our dining arrangements were as we wished - second sitting on a table for eight and preferably in Le Maxims MDR on deck 6 (due to comments shared on CC). We had been first in the queue and now we were being dealt with, the minions were struggling to hold back some crazy latino women hell-bent on being served next. One particularly determined woman had to be dragged back twice. It felt more like crazy fans desperate for the autograph of a retired Italian pop star they were smitten with in their youth. Next the three of us all went to find each of our cabins in turn. Angela had a disability cabin on deck 12. It was a very generous size and she was broadly pleased with it. She was surprised to see two shower stools. It was because the UK MSC office said there were no shower stools on board that they suggested she had a disability cabin. My mother and I had both been allocated category 5 "obscured view" outside cabins on deck on our guarantee category 1 bookings. Unfortunately in my mother's case the view really is obscured, even standing on her bed she could only see the orange of the lifeboat outside. Still, she knew when it is light or dark outside and there is a little more space than an inside cabin. I was luckier being forward on deck 8 where they have two smaller lifeboats and I have an almost unobscured view. It is interesting to note that the MSC deck plans regarding the positioning of the lifeboats in relation to cabin numbers appears perfectly accurate in this regard. Most people found the muster drill irritating and many let their feelings show. We were shown and told how to fasten our life vests in excruciating detail in six different languages (in order): English, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese and German. I would have thought that something so obviously visual would suffice in one or two languages. Despite having checked in at 11:30, our luggage did not arrive until almost 18:30. If we had been on the first sitting at dinner we would have spent the first day without our luggage. I can only understand that they must load the luggage on to the ship in a gigantic pile and because we were early on, our luggage was at the bottom of the pile. It was also very cold in both our cabins despite setting the heating to maximum and we really could have done with some extra layers to keep warm. The heating/cooling goes off completely a few minutes after removing the key card from the slot. Ports ===== We docked in Valetta around 08:00 and were off shortly after 09:00. We were directed by MSC staff on an unnecessarily long route out of the port despite Angela's walking difficulties. We then climbed to the 'summit' of Valetta - the plateau around St. John's Cathedral - via a couple of hundred steps. We should have taken the first taxi offer of â,¬10 but by the time we thought about it the rates increased to â,¬15 and they continued to increase as the drivers passed signals to each other down the line as we approached. Taxi drivers Worldwide have a certain reputation. We sampled more of Valetta during the climb and appreciated more views than we would have done otherwise. There is no doubt about it, Valetta is a stunningly beautiful, medieval 'city on a hill'. However we had been spoilt somewhat by our time in Venice immediately prior. We sensibly took a taxi back and were happy to pay the â,¬15 to be taken all the way to the ship instead of the port gate. We docked at the new ferry terminal in Barcelona, built since my mother last visited there by ship. On that occasion it was on the QE2 and Cunard provided courtesy shuttle busses to the start of La Rambla - pedestrianised heart of Barcelona. MSC is not Cunard and the shuttle bus tickets had been heavily promoted in advance at â,¬8 return available only onboard. I was naturally suspicious of this and when I saw dozens of crew being released for some time ashore making a bee-line for the "T3 Port Bus" alongside cruise guests my suspicions were confirmed. A mere scratch of the net reveals that it is possible to buy tickets on the T3 bus for ¬3.50 return. The ladies were dispatched to look at handbags or whatever they do, while I elected to remain on board and appreciate a beautiful and then quiet ship. It was so much enjoyable without the constant prattling and pushing of twelve-hundred Argentinian grandmothers. My apologies to Argentinian grandmothers everywhere. Let me just say that the peace just was sublime. My priority of the day was to have a civilised lunch at L'Oleandro's. This commenced as they open at 12:00 because the masses would surely start to return in dribs and drabs at first then like a torrent, flooding the restaurant. I then intended slipping out into Barcelona for a wander but the ladies returned in the rain with tales of most things being closed so I gave Barcelona a miss this time. The port of Casablanca is industrial and far from picturesque. Then it was for the port that the French colonial power originally developed Casablanca. It is therefore reassuring that Casablanca is still very much a working port and not just a stop for cruise ships. The taxis nearest the ship wanted to take us on tours and were not interested in a short trip into town. We could however see regular taxis and their drivers beyond the first gates, already engaged in a brawl at the sight of us approaching and watched over by two policemen. One of the drivers crossed the line of the gate as we got near which immediately caused an uproar among the others. I asked "How much to the old medina?". "Ten Euros" he shouted over the din. One of the policemen now near us immediately said "Five!". There was considerable commotion as the first driver withdrew and others offered us various suggestions on where to go, "First time in Casablanca?", "2 hours - 30 Euros", "I will take you to the mosque" etc.. Finally a quiet man stepped forward from the rear and offered us the 5 Euro fare to the medina. The main road of the medina was in the process of being resurfaced. It was reduced to rough hardcore with raised manholes etc. which just added to the scruffy, disorganised appearance. We managed to buy a a pair of leather sandals (â,¬10) and a wooden desk organiser (¬8) though we tried and failed to negotiate several other items. The problem with arriving anywhere by cruise ship is that prices rise the moment the ship docks and do not resume until after it has left. We had been followed into port by P&O's Oriana this morning, I gather also repositioning, and so for the sellers of Casablanca medina, their boat really had come in that day - twice. We were back onboard and at the entrance of L'Oleandro's for lunch at 12:35 - five minutes after opening. In Tenerife, we walked the mile into town, bought some Spanish brandy which security didn't bother about when boarding, and I availed myself of free wi-fi to upload some photos of the cruise so far. I had been quite recently before and so I didn't do anything particularly touristy. Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, was our final port of call before leaving in Rio. According to the Daily Programme, it was 2,842 nautical miles since Tenerife, our previous port of call. After crossing the equator, we were now in Summer and, around 13 degrees South in early December, about as close to the Sun as it is possible to be without leaving the Earth. And it was hot, hot, hot! We docked around 9:30 and the first in the queues were allowed off around 10:15. My plan was to stay on the ship, appreciate it when quiet, have a civilised lunch then venture out this afternoon as the masses started returning. I was overruled and regretted not doing my own thing. If you like being part of a large crowd, loads of sales hassle, noise, queuing for everything and being ripped off for everything then you too should try to get off the ship as early as possible in every port of call. If you are a little more like me, hold on and wait at least until the balance of people traffic to and from the ship is against you then venture out slowly. Salvador is colourful, historic, beautiful in the centre and interesting. I am sure had I being staying here before the MSC Musica arrived, I would have been horrified at the transformation for the day and headed for the beach instead. I grabbed a few photos, we did the essential items on our plan - cash machine (not easy!), the 'arts and crafts' market, lift to the old town and a walking tour at the top. The heat was oppressive and we retreated to the shade in the main square where there was a samba band playing and other acts laid on for us. I felt a tourist and uncomfortable with it. I may return on my own terms. Food ==== The first dinner was a mad scrum to get in when they opened the doors around 20:50. There had been many attempted incursions before then, skilfully seen off by attendant staff. We waited until the way was clear and were seated shortly after 9pm. At 9:30pm, we were still waiting for the first drop of wine. No food was sighted until after 10pm and this was just a sliced tomato with a spoonful of mozzarella. When there were only two starters to choose from, not having these ready and wine ready to go when we arrived was poor. We were asked by one of the head waiters if everything had been alright. We expressed our reservations about the long waits and he admitted that this was due to a lot of staff being new to the ship and to each other. Breakfast in L'Oleandro could not have been a bigger contrast. It was peaceful, relaxed and well-staffed. The coffee was free-flowing and staff always available if and when required. On sea days early on when the weather outside was windy and moderately rough, the interior public spaces all felt busy and congested. I am sure these are good days for the numerous onboard shops. People seemed to be buying all sorts of useless tat just for something to do. Also lunchtimes at the Oleandro MDR tended to start quiet at tghe opening but get ever busier through lunchtime. It was a challenge to find any sort of table and the crowds kept on coming in right through to the 14:00 closing time. Once installed they were not going to leave. This was clearly their intended resting place until they were forcibly moved on. They drank, ordered more drinks, another desert, more drinks, more deserts etc.. The waiters were literally rushed off their feet and their tempers visibly fraying at the edges. It was clear to see that the occasionally tardy service was not the fault of the waiting staff, there were simply not enough staff to cope with the numbers of guests and the way they behaved. We took early lunches at sea whenever possible from then on. Lunch in Oleandro's while the crowds were ashore was always sublime. When they are not rushed, it is possible to exchange a few humorous and enlightening words with each of waiters. From then on, we never never missed lunch on a port day. On the Captains's welcome gala night, Angela, my mother and I met in our finest in the Tucano bar, immediately aft of the main level of the theatre around 18:30. The staff were clearing away the residue of the 'welcome cocktails' event which, had we not been on the Allegrissimo package, we would have attended if only for some sickly sweet free alcohol. As it was, normal bar service was suspended for that hour and we had to recover from lunch and mentally prepare ourselves for whatever the first gala dinner would entail. As is usual on formal nights, the staff were smarter-dressed than the majority of the guests. I thought the proportion of men wearing dinner (tuxedo) suits was to lowest I had experienced on my three cruises to date. I know most men don't like dressing up but it does improve the atmosphere and the experience when everyone has made the effort. I keep suggesting to my family that we have one or two formal nights at home but they have never taken me seriously, so far. I can happily report that the dining experience was as good as any gala/formal night on a cruise ship I have experienced except for the slightly longer waits and slightly less personal service. If it is only 'slightly' worse in some narrow regards and better in others - e.g. the appearance and design of the ship - that makes this cruise and perhaps, by implication, MSC a good bargain. Things continued to to improve at dinner. Our regular waiter managed to keep our glasses from going dry, timings were slicker and generally the service machine operated much more smoothly. There is the regular British irritation of hot food being served lukewarm on lukewarm plates, but that is just us. Our table became so jolly that we could no longer hear the 'nosy latinos' around us - the same ones that we found deafening on the first night. In fact, trying to avoid being the last out of the dining room again, I looked around to find that we had already frightened them away before we had finished our cheese (blue, by request and superb). Somewhere, probably on a Spanish or Italian cruise blog site somewhere, there will complaints about the noisy English on the Musica. We are actually English, Swiss and Dutch but we speak English at the table, when we are not laughing that is. The Swiss couple admitted that they requested not to be seated with fellow Swiss but with British for because they preferred "the British sense of humour". As I recall their tearful faces and their attempts to hold on to themselves in some vein attempt to stop their bodies from laughing, I believe they may have got what they bargained for. One morning, we took the lift to deck 13 to investigate the buffet breakfast in Gli Archi. In particular, the ladies wanted to know what, if any, extra choices are available and I wanted to see how busy it was. I think this was 'the grass is always greener' syndrome on their part - yes there were baked beans, fried mushrooms, baked apples and pancakes at the buffet but not found on the L'Oleandro menu but there were no herrings or smoked salmon, no service of course and it was very busy. Even at 8 a.m., there were only two free tables - though we neglected to survey the aft 'Il Giardino' section which joins the buffet during the day. They convinced me to try a buffet breakfast one morning but it was at 7 when they first opened. At breakfast, I value peace more than baked apples and pancakes. The Gli Archi, in common with the main dining rooms, spans the width of the ship and one side is the mirror image of the other. At peak times there are identical buffets in operation on both sides. It is a pleasant enough space with full-height outside windows running the full length and the buffet running in parallel on the inside. As this is deck 13, the views are impressive when in or near port. The seating area is at most two tables wide. As with the main dining rooms, most tables are for six, with the few tables for four and even fewer tables for two being highly-prized as, inevitably, any spare capacity at a table will be taken up later by uninvited others as Gli Archi crowds up. At dinner, the buffet menu is identical to the main dining rooms except for the addition of fast food including pizzas, chips and burgers plus the 24-hours self-service coffee, tea and water station at the forward entrance. Drinks are waiter-served from the bar and we found this aspect faultless. Compared to the main dining rooms, you get what you expect: self-service food, waiter-service drinks, scruffy crowds and plastic plates. It is not my idea of a quality dining experience but if you are hungry it should more than suffice. My advice would be to find a table to match your party size, ideally at a window in the day for the view, and not near to an operating part of the buffet due to the swarming crowds. At dinner, you can still dress up as you will mostly be looking at each other and this would improve your personal ambience. My personal but considered view of the food is a little at odds with most of the people aboard I discussed food with on the ship and who have considerably more cruising experience than I. Their general consensus is that MSC food is below par. I believe it is not so straightforward and that there are two main factors coming into play. 1) There is excessive choice. MSC food is not an American, nor is it European. It is multi-cultural and MSC tries too hard to please everyone by offering a greater variety of dishes per meal than anyone would ever encounter in any shore-based restaurant in their own country and certainly more than on any American line. There are, day-in day-out, many items that any given person aboard would never order out of choice - if they knew what they were ordering..... 2) The printed menus are appalling. The names and descriptions of the dishes are sparse at very best but mostly totally misleading and some completely incorrect. As a result people think they have ordered one thing but something completely different arrives. The food consistently does not meet their expectations and they conclude that MSC food is poor. This is a translation issue not a food issue. Airlines take the opposite approach. Upfront in business class there may be some choice but not too much. MSC should concentrate on fewer, quality dishes of which I have had many as good if not better than on Royal Caribbean and Cunard. However, unless one experiences and memorises the names of a large number of dishes aboard, we are choosing blind each time we order. If they took the crud away and improved the information and translations, we would be more impressed with MSC food. Activities ========== After Valetta, the weather much improved. The sun was often out in a clear blue sky, the sea calm and there was much activity on deck: the walkers on the jogging track, fat ladies in the jacuzzis, fat men playing ping-pong, smokers on the tables by the bar and an increasing number of people laid out on the sun beds. All this was set to a soundtrack of nostalgic, international piped pop. On a sea day activities were a little thin, e.g. a "Culinary demonstration: pacchero funghi porcino gorgonzola" followed by "Dance lesson: Bolero". I assumed the latter was the Torville and Dean routine where one tosses oneself on the floor at the end. There was also an "Afrodisiac cocktail demonstration". Coupled with the Bolero and new culinary skills, I could have acquired all the tools I need to 'pull'. I gave them a miss. The Spa is a quiet and cool haven all the way forward on deck 13. It has a small and underused bar with just two tables and seating for just 10 plus half a dozen bar stools. Opposite the bar is the Aurea Spa reception and the whole bar area was used to display beauty products which, thankfully, I had no need of. Forward of this area is the gym area with a collection of treadmills and cycling machines mostly occupied by people who appeared to have eaten too much. There was also a small collection of unoccupied weight machines and some free weights. Half the floor area was used for paid-for exercise classes. (The free exercise sessions were organised by the entertainment team either on deck or in the Tucano lounge). The most outstanding feature of this space however was the wall of glass facing forward over the ocean. You became immediately aware of the pitching of the ship and perhaps it is not the best place to be if you are prone to seasickness, unless you particularly want to be sick that is. Aft of here outdoors was the madness of the Blue Marlin bar. All the tables were generally in permanent occupation. People sat playing cards, reading, drinking, people-watching but mostly they are talking, very loudly. They competed with the piped music system of the bar and whatever entertainment is taking place on the stage further aft which involved music of its own and often very enthusiastic animators. Not my scene. There was always a generous multitude of live music in the evenings but during the day none at all. Royal Caribbean always has at least one live venue through the sea days even on their smallest ships. Cunard, of course, have their sorely-missed 'enrichment' lectures. I feel MSC could spread their musician talent around a little more effectively - but I enjoyed it all the same. One day, I heard applause emanating from the Teatro La Scala. Quickly checking the Daily Programme, there was no event listed there so I popped to the entrance to have a look. The Maitre D was on stage with an audience of several dozen white-jacketed waiters. There was a slide on view entitled "Staff Training and Development - Body Language". That would have been infinitely more interesting that the daily talks there intended for guests. Sadly it was the final slide and the waiters were starting to leave. However, I found the constant clashes of culture by far the best entertainment onboard. It is often hysterical. If you ever saw Peter Sellers in laughing fits in the outtakes of the lift scene from the Pink Panther film when somebody in the lift releases bodily wind, then you may have some sympathy with my condition. When I pressed the lift call button, I never knew what comedy the doors were going to open to, or take place once the doors were shut. Often it was just a gaggle of short, fat, latino women chatting away apparently totally unaware that they were in a lift until the doors open. Then the doors would open and I was there. They had to rapidly finish off what they were saying and talk about me quietly, "Who's he?", "Where's he going", "Did he press a button?"' "Do you think he speaks Spanish?", "I think he is going to my floor!" or similar then naughty laughs. I kept a straight face and looked at my own reflection to encourage them to say more. As often, I would encounter one of the above in the lift alone and lost but not for words. The occupier would already be talking as the lift doors opened. She would immediately direct her words at me asking a series of rapid-fire questions in a language I needed at least a few seconds to compose any sort of response, "Where is the ", "What floor are we on", " Are we going up/down", then what sounds like personal statements as if I were a family member and knew all the names she was talking about. More often than not, people vacated the lifts looking lost, not knowing which floor they were on, where they were going or how they came to be in the lift in the first place. I started off trying to use the stairs as often as possible for the free exercise but the incentive for my own personal sense of humour to use the lifts instead was often over-powering. The facial muscles that stop me smiling at inopportune moments grey very strong on this cruise. I could write an entire book about my lift experiences aboard but I should move on. I will even have to pass on other cultural mis-matches for now. They were a total hoot often analysed and discussed at dinner with the resulting involuntary tears of laughter. All sorts of muscles achied but at least the tear ducts were kept clear. Cabin ===== This, as you may recall was an outside 'partially obstructed view', category 5 cabin on deck 8. I had the beds in my cabin seperated. To me this makes so much sense with an ocean view cabin and especially so with MSC as they tend to have one or two pull-down bunks on the wall either side of double bed arrangement interfering with the space above. Separated, one can walk all the way up to the window to look through it and the daylight shines over the floor instead of being on the the bedspread. My cabin immediately felt more spacious and light. Storage was mostly provided by the wardrobe at the entrance. This had four equal-sized doors the first two of which were the hanging space with life jackets stowed on the shelf above. The next door concealed shelves and the last a shelf, the safe with drawers beneath. The safe had the simplest operation I have ever come across. When it is unlocked you key in any number followed by enter and it locks. You have to key in the same (and enter) to open it. If I wished, I could have had a different code each time I used it! The downside to this simple operation, as I discovered, is the possibility of mis-keying when closing the safe. The safe is then locked with an unknown code. It was a simple matter to call reception and request someone to open it - but it was embarrassing all the same. The shower rooms were a little larger, as indeed were the cabins, than the equivalent grades on Royal Caribbean ships. Mixer taps and shower valves throughout the ship are made by Grohe. There was liquid soap on a push-dispenser at the wash basin and shampoo and shower gel in wall dispensers in the shower. There were no other toiletries other than tissues and toilet paper. There were two glass shelves and a small cupboard housing a bin but no other bathroom storage. I actually love modern cruise ship shower rooms as examples of optimum use of space and usability. Consequently they do tend to be near-identical. There was a hairdryer concealed in one of the two dressing table drawers. The flat screen TV is fixed above the minibar and received CNN and Euronews in English we lost reception mid-Atlantic. There was a wide range of other 'intelligent' functions' including the ability to order room service (at extra cost). These extra functions resided in another menu system which was poorly designed and responded very slowly so I didn't bother with it. Bedding was poly cotton sheets with woollen blankets and bedspreads removed and folded after the first night. The fold-down bunks featured their own ceiling-mounted individually switchable reading lights. My cabin service was perfect. I barely saw my cabin attendant. She introduced herself on the first evening back in Venice as "Joseph". I told her than is a man's name. She laughed and said "I know, it is my father's name". I am not quite sure from which country or delightful culture she originates or indeed whether I should have called her Miss Joseph or Mrs Joseph, rather than just Joseph. Either way, it was a memorable name and Joseph always serviced my cabin when I was at breakfast, which I attended as it opened at 7:30, and at dinner for which I usually left around 8. I found myself always returning to an immaculate cabin. The times since the introduction that I met her had been elsewhere by chance. I could not have asked for better cabin service other than perhaps Cunard's nightly chocolate left on the pillow. Allegrissimo ============ The Allegrissimo package was even better value than imagined. It is not just the price of the drinks to take into account but the number and diversity of the venues. Hotels designed, built and managed to be all-inclusive have far fewer for the number of guests than the Musica. Had the Musica being designed to be all inclusive, guests would almost certainly have had fewer bars, less bar service, had more restrictive opening times and had to walk further. I have long noted that the best all-inclusive hotels are those who have guests on other board bases. The Allegrissimo package also works a little strangely. It is possible to order more than one person's drinks on one card but there is reasonable diligence to ensure that the people you are with at the time are also on the same package. Typically this involves allowing no more than two or three drinks on one card and asking at least to see another person's card before accepting a larger order. At dinner early on, all cards were requested at the table, I suspect as a check on our settled table group. Each order must be signed for and a receipt is given. If an item is not included in Allegrissimo, there will be a non-zero total on the bottom line of the receipt. It is worth checking each time just in case of an error on either side. I was disappointed by the quality of the two red wines included in Allegrissimo. The merlot is almost without taste and the montepulciano just acceptable. Wine is intensely personal but I favour bigger new world wines. These two are as far from those as imaginable. The rule here is that as soon as you pay a fixed priced to drink as much as you want, the quality drops. As primarily a wine-drinker, I would veer towards pay-as-you-go on my next MSC cruise over Allegrissimo. However, if you are a heavy cocktail or spirits drinker then Allegrissimo at current rates would be the way to go. Also I hear that the Trebiano d'Abruzzo white wine is like a good Chardonnay. White wine is wasted on me so I cannot comment. Fresh orange juice was only available at La Laguna bar, centre of the pool deck. We obtained it once at breakfast in Oleandro's early on - i.e. before the staff had been trained to tell us, literally, where to go. We asked at other bars and the buffet but since consistently received the same reply. The stuff at breakfast is not even concentrate, it is sugary cordial. The Bloody Marys were fabulous. I have always loved a good Bloody Mary and the ones aboard were consistently superb down to the fresh celery stick. Where do they get fresh celery in the middle of the Atlantic? I usually ate some of the celery that came with the Bloody Maries and I don't believe it had been frozen. They bake bread every night, it is entirely possible that they also grow celery. (I also note that, if you are paying, their Bloody Marys contain two shots of vodka for considerably less than the cost of two shots of vodka!) Also the Allegrissimo drinks package was made available with a 15% 'Grand Voyage' discount, bringing the price per night including service charge down to â,¬23, a little less than the 20 we paid by pre-booking and pre-paying. We mostly met up for pre and post dinner drinks in the wine bar - the most pleasant evening space on the ship. Although primarily a venue to drink bottles of expensive wine from around the World along with nibbles, snacks and entire meals to suit, they also serve the Allegrissimo choice of wines by the glass. The furnishings are leather and wood, the lighting is in atmospheric, ambient pools, the music last night was trad jazz classics at a easy talking volume until a classical pianist took over, the service perfect and they knew what temperature to serve even included wines. Each to their own but this is mine. The Cheers package was advertised on board at ,¬14.30 + 15% service = ,¬16.44 per night. This comprises wine by the glass, draft beer and water at lunch and dinner only. However, this is a few cents more than the cost of two half-litre carafes of wine ,¬7 each + 15%). If you won't drink a litre of wine per day per person and/or want to drink wine outside the dining rooms then pay-as-you go would be more cost-effective. I can confirm the tap water in the cabins was safe to drink and tastes fine. The first gala night offers free cocktails and if you are a repeat MSC guest there will be at least one repeat guest event with free drinks. I think next time I would opt for pay-as-you-go and have the occasional alcohol-free day for health purposes. Other ===== Before lunch one day, we overheard some Australians complaining that it was impossible to find out what films are showing on the TV on what days or even what today's or tomorrow's films are other than by watching. I must agree that the poor quality of information, certainly in English but also perhaps other languages, to me is the single biggest failing of MSC. Things could be an awful lot worse but never really knowing what is going on or what we were ordering to eat is a constant source of irritation. The Daily Programme contained so many glaring errors and dubious uses of English that its usefulness and credibility are extremely limited. There were so few English speakers aboard that there is no way to spread the knowledge required to compensate for the poor quality and lack of information through the official channels. We shouldn't need the informal network. MSC please take note! I cannot understate the usefulness of my iPad while I was aboard. Apart from the obvious uses of keeping in touch by email and catching up on the news and other interests, it can bring up a map of the port and pinpoint our exact location within it, it showed our location while making passage without internet (using GPS and caching the maps), I could find out about local transport arrangements, obtain inside knowledge from the cruise forums and others, check credit card spending online, take advice on and book third party trips and tickets. I had a good stock of films to watch, things to read, my photo and video apps to edit as I went rather than be over-faced with the task when I returned and Skype to video-call home when there was free wi-fi ashore. Then, of course, I was able to write a live blog which this review is based on and is consequently full of little details that may be of use to future cruisers but which I would otherwise have forgotten by the end. I succumbed to the onboard wifi offering. Prices were: ,¬10 for 60 mins, ,¬15 for 100 mins, ¬50 for 8 hours or ¬120 for 24 hours. The ship wi-fi behaved oddly. Once signed up to a package (requires name, d.o.b. and cabin number), you are given cryptic a username and password. Signing in requires selecting the "hotspot" from the list of wi-fi networks, entering username and password, then immediately re-selecting the hotspot again before there is any internet connection. Most of my first hour was lost because I did not do the last and time was ticking away before I tried to sign-in again. To sign out, direct your browser to "logout.com". I did this twice to make sure. Another random observation, public loos on MSC are discreetly tucked away and initially take some locating. The symbol for the gents is also quite ambiguous and has confused both the ladies and gentlemen of our dining table. Never mentioned before elsewhere as far as I know is that there are no urinals aboard the MSC Musica. All the public gentlemen's loos are cubicle only. I applaud this as it avoids countless awkward situations. Also, there are no hand-dryers - just paper towels. Again this a sensible move after the trend over years of going for the convenience of the establishment over basic hygiene. Signs invite guests to open and close the doors with a paper towel too. Disembarkation =============== We were informed by an insert in the penultimate day's Daily Programme delivered that we had a meeting in the Crystal Lounge to impart important information "for passengers disembarking the ship in Rio on Tuesday, 4th December". Somewhat Monty Pythonesque, the meeting began with the words "This is for passengers disembarking the ship in Rio, Tuesday, 4th December". It was then reinforced by telling us that it was not for anyone else. Half of them left! Information onboard in English was poor but what there was is also poorly understood. In the meeting I took note of the pertinent points: luggage out by 2 a.m., out of our cabins by 7:30 a.m. (howls of disbelief), pay or sign for accounts by 9, be in the Crystal Lounge by 9:30 a.m. when "you will be escorted to the exit". Given that the itinerary when booked was for a 10 a.m arrival in Rio, the premature ejection was not well received. All my cruises have had this feel. The staff are so pleased to welcome us aboard then, on the last day, when we start to have warm feelings, we are released from the institution of the ship into the harsh reality of outside. Except we had other plans. We stayed for lunch in the buffet with the new boarders at Rio. We never even thought when we boarded at Venice and sat in the buffet waiting for our cabins that there may have been one or two hangers on from the previous cruise in there with us. Contrary to many reports on Cruise Critics taking 45 to 90 minutes depending on traffic, our taxi ride from the cruise terminal to the international airport took a mere 13 minutes. The 70 Riale agreed fare in retrospect was a little on the high side for Rio. We had planned on spending 4 hours or so in a paid airport lounge on the airside but it is an old-fashioned airport with check-in desks assigned for each flight and these don't open until 3 hours before departure. Instead, we established camp in the 'Palheta Air Cafe' on the first floor before enduring the 11 hour flight back to the UK. That's it. I hoped you found this review useful. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
We travelled from Venice to Rio de Janeiro (18 nights) in December 2011. Check in was fast (we had done web check in which speeded things up), and were shown to our cabin much earlier than most cruise lines would allow. There had ... Read More
We travelled from Venice to Rio de Janeiro (18 nights) in December 2011. Check in was fast (we had done web check in which speeded things up), and were shown to our cabin much earlier than most cruise lines would allow. There had been an error with our dining request, but this was rapidly sorted out on board. Our category 11 cabin was clean and comfortable with good quality balcony furniture, and the cabin had ample storage space for 18 nights. All the public rooms on the ship were very stylish and spotlessly clean, and service everywhere was of an extremely high standard, although you may need to be patient when it comes to language as this is not primarily an English speaking ship. We were impressed by how many languages most staff spoke - we are not used to waiters who have a reasonable knowledge of four or five languages on top of their own. We particularly like the way the ship was organised regarding noisy and quiet areas. If you wanted to get involved with activities then that was easy, and if you wanted a quiet area (both inside and outside) then this was possible. The food in the Buffet was the best quality and with a lot of variety at lunch of any of the 14 or so ships we have been on. The main dining room (Maxims in our case) was not so successful, with food ranging from excellent to poor, Music around the ship was well controlled and of a good standard in areas like the atrium. We liked not being permanently bombarded by loud piped music. There was a fair variety of entertainment in the Theatre with 17 different shows over the 18 nights, including classical recitals. Multi-lingual announcements can get a bit boring, BUT all credit to MSC for keeping these to a minimum. We will most certainly be looking to use this cruise line again. We only went on one shore excursion, but this was well organised with a knowledgeable guide, and was most enjoyable. One Warning. If you want a fully American experience then don't come. If you are American and want to meet and mix with people from a range of countries/cultures and enjoy European style dining and entertainment then give it a try. This was our first time with MSC and it was much better than we had expected. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We are a Brazilian couple ,mid 50', restaurant owners in Rio who loved to work and sail. This sail with MSC Musica ,Transatlantic (Venice-Rio de Janeiro november 08) was ours 26th cruise , the first and the last with that company . ... Read More
We are a Brazilian couple ,mid 50', restaurant owners in Rio who loved to work and sail. This sail with MSC Musica ,Transatlantic (Venice-Rio de Janeiro november 08) was ours 26th cruise , the first and the last with that company . Since Rio is a bit far from Europe we normally traveled some days before to have a car looking for scenic drive to the ports we will sail , so this time we came from Munich and drove to Sirmione ,Italy and then San Casciano in Tuscany for 6 days trip trough these beautiful parts of Italy. On the last day we drove from San Casciano to Venice ,2,5 hours drive , We arrived on the day before in Mestre (beside Venice) at Novotel(EU$95) Mestre is less than 7 miles from Venice, returned the car easily near the port at Piazza Roma . Embarkation- i never forgot a maxim I've heard " you never had a second chance to cause a first impression " and embarkation was CHAOS . We arrived 11,30hs and there was thousands of people waiting on huge unorganized lines , checking was suppose to start at 13,00hs,then we decided to leave ours hand luggage on a locker at the pier and return to Venice to enjoy of this marvelous city ,Venice. We return at 16,00hs and waited another half hour on line, and we heard the history of people fainting , carnal foughts, the worst checking we ve ever seen ,every guest we`ve met was horrified with that poor service. Ship and cabin- No one took us to our cabin , our cabin was on the very best of the stern ,small and dirt balcony ,average bathroom size , small and few wardrobes, outworn carpets, and chairs , shampoo and soap , no conditioner , no moisture cream. robes were available good ones, 20`LCD Tv, and a mini bar, decor was not bad . The ship does not have a nice atrium , only 3 floors high ,with a piano on the middle , stores were little and unfriendly (no refunds , no exchanges). 2 pools (salt water) was ok ,with 4 dirty jacuzzis , small area for mini golf ,sports, excellent chairs with shades for faces, but again you had to wake up early in order to reserve your chair ,specially when you travelled with German people . Ridiculous Gym academy , 6 trades mills for a 3600 passenger ship !2 bicycles , but a big saloon for paying activities , small audience for that, no sauna unless you pay a us$ 30 a day for use the spa facility , sauna , Turkish bath , and 2 small private jacuzzis . Theater was ok , not the shows ! restaurants was nice , 2 different decors , there were 2 specials restaurants us$ 30 cover charge pp, one Chinese always empty , and another "Italian" on the same place of the buffet is served on lunch !always empty too. some "nothing specials lounges" and thats it , not too many places to go or stay , minimum library, minimum cigar room ,12 computers for internet , small casino and a very classic decoration , which you will forget on the next day you will disembark, the common areas were well maintained . Service- As i said no one took us to cabin on embarkation, than on the very first day in the dining room the waiter and his helper did not salute us , not even a good evening ! then we decided to change table , a better waiter helped us during the cruise , we ve heard that more than 50 waiters embarked with us in Venice , and the cruise director and others managers embarked in the next day ,since the old ones quit ! The day we ate at the special restaurant we ve waited 3 hours to be served , there was only 2 tables to be served ! ours room steward need 4 days to understand that we wanted ice in the room ,more hangers , and more blankets , after that she only forgot small details as soaps, towels etc. we had to call twice reception for help with her . Reception desk was ok depending who attends you , lotto for a nice person to help you. I wrote a letter for Mr Franco a food and beverage manager and got no answer, although the Maitre D´assure he received the letter , so this was service. Food and Beverage- Would you believe they prohibited waiters to serve water on the tables!!!! in order to sell mineral water , I've never saw a small attitude like that in any ship we've sailed , people were offended with this. Breakfast was the same , bread , eggs, omelettes ,cold cuts, fresh fruit (good), but no salmon , milk and coffee needed to be served by waiters, I've heard people complaining about the milk quality . lunch in the main restaurant was less worst than in buffet , 3 salads plus tomatoes , lettuce and carrots thats it, sometime some cucumber. hanburgers and hot dog fries,and some hot stews, everything second class quality . dinner was better although rarely beef or a steak , everyday they said you can have salmon , chicken or beef , made me laugh when we ordered beef , it was like a"carpaccio" so thin it was , no comments. bread and butter was the best part , desserts and ice creams were surprisingly good . There was also a midnight buffet , we only attended the chocolate one , it was good , also they served tea , with 2 kinds of sandwiches ,and some sweets, no tea available during the day . also room service was charged and with small selection too. Ports- Were ok , Bari, Tenerife, Malta, Funchal, Malaga, Recife, Salvador we did not took any excursions since we ve been before to those places , excursion were an average of us$ 130 ! Shows and entertainment- No live orchestra , only play back ! , same show always ,6 females dancers and 4 mens , 45´minutes shows, second sitting shows at 23,30hs . No live band on pool although weather was fine, plenty of live music on board in internal areas , good brazilians musicians playing. Entertainment were led by a transvestite looking boy would you belive it ? Kids games on pool ! some stretching classes and dancing lessons too. There was a huge Screen showing only MSC ads ! instead of films and shows . Also you have too pay to watch movies on your cabin , during the 5 days transatlantic crossing we had nothing to watch on tv except companies ads, not even music ! Disembarkation- It was surprisingly good , no cues ,we easy found ours luggage, on time too . Conclusion- If you have ever sailed with Celebrity,Royal Caribbean, holland or Princess and also Carnival you will be extremely disappointed with MSC , although theirs prices are almost the same , don't go , but if you are a first timer and had no point of comparison ,than you will not probably notice those points I've mentioned and could enjoy more than we did. For us never more MSC. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
The ship is absolutely beautiful. The public rooms are simply and tastefully furnished, sleek and very stylish. There are a number of delightful bars and lounges throughout the ship, some bars have music; others offer peace and quiet. ... Read More
The ship is absolutely beautiful. The public rooms are simply and tastefully furnished, sleek and very stylish. There are a number of delightful bars and lounges throughout the ship, some bars have music; others offer peace and quiet. There are a few shops, but the choice of the merchandise is poor and expensive. There are two main restaurants and two á-la-carte restaurants. There is a large theatre on two levels. The seats are spacious and comfortable and wherever you choose to sit the view is good. The Musica is a dream to travel in - there is hardly any motion as she glides effortlessly through the ocean. Health/Safety/Hygiene - this area concerned me greatly - the safety drill was a nonsense and did not appear to me to be taken seriously. The event was planned half an hour before the first sitting dinner on the second day. Several guests left before the drill was finished, no doubt to get ready for dinner. Others appeared to be falling asleep whilst the drill was conducted in 6 languages and others just chattered amongst themselves. I dread to think of what chaos and mayhem there would have been in the eventuality of a real emergency. There was a big outbreak of a chesty type flu on board, passengers were going down with it from quite early in the cruise. This was a particularly nasty bug, both myself and my husband were affected by it in the last few days if the cruise and two weeks on we still both have it. The speed this virus went around really opened my eyes to the importance of hygiene standards. To help reduce the spread of viruses and infection I think that there could have been better use of hand sanitizers. The ship was equipped with hand sanitizers, but not enough of them. For instance they were not located at every entrance to the restaurants. We have been on other ships where it has been obligatory to use the hand sanitizers on entering the ship from port and entering any eating area. It is my feeling that MSC were only paying lip service to any ruling that states that they must provide hand sanitizing units. Dining - this was without doubt my biggest disappointment. The food was the worst I had encountered on any cruise ship. I was not looking for haute cuisine or fine dining just good Italian tucker, similar to what we had previously experienced on the Opera and Lirica. The food style on the Musica is not Italian; it was a multi cultural mish-mash - one night Oriental, another Spanish, another Mexican and so on all intermixed in a European fusion, for instance one night a choice was sweet and sour pork served with mashed potato. Meat was generally tough, on one occasion the waiter asked why I had not eaten the pork,I told him it was too tough and he said that I should have killed the pig first! Another time the waiter agreed with us that the steak was only fit for shoe leather. Generally speaking the food was not cooked well, it was always served tepid and with a total lack of presentation. The only thing that made going to dinner worth while was our delightful table companions who always seemed to make us laugh, usually about the food. I still have the picture in my mind of an escargot starter, it was unimaginatively called escargot in pastry and when it arrived at looked like a Cornish Pasty, only instead of the meat filling it had two lonely snails tucked in the pastry. The service in the restaurant was also poor, although there were a few waiters who were worth their weight in gold. We found one Romanian waiter who was great and we aimed to get a table in his area for lunch and breakfast when ever we could. A vast number of the waiting staff were new with little or no silver service experience. We were also told that some of the chefs were new - this may explain the poor food but does not excuse it. The food in the buffet was just ok in as much that you could help yourself to exactly what you wanted, but it was always cold by the time you got it back to your table. The buffet was always busy and generally a complete bun-fight. We did not try any of the á-la-carte dining options, feeling that if the food was in general poor was it going to be any better if we paid $30 a head extra for it? Activities & Entertainment - The entertainment team worked very hard organizing stretching exercises, aerobics and various games and demonstrations throughout the day. In the evenings there was plenty going on to cater for all musical tastes ranging from classical to rock. There were also a number of fun events, Miss Musica, a Grease evening, tropical parties on deck, etc. The shows in the theatre were not to my personal taste but a lot of people that I spoke to really enjoyed them. Excursions - There is an excursions office on board where you can book tours. The staff have very little knowledge about the tours or the destinations that you are about to visit. On the whole the excursions were very expensive, especially in the Europe. We were familiar with most of the European ports and were happy to do our own thing. Some destinations had a hop-on hop-off bus: we always find that these tourist buses are a good way of familiarizing yourself with a new area. They often go to the same places as the excursion bus and are a fraction of the price. The South American ports were new territory to us and we felt that we would be safer to go on the organized tour. We booked half days trips for Recife, Salvador and full day trips for Rio and Sao Paulo. The only tour worth doing was the full day in Rio which took in all the main sights (albeit in the pouring rain) - The half day tours in Recife and Salvador were poor value for money. Disembarkation at Santos was embarkation in reverse - complete mayhem. We had to vacate our cabins at 7am. At 11am we were still waiting in one of the ships lounges to be allowed off the ship. By 11.30am we were pushing and shoving with everyone else to find our luggage, there were people trying to get from one end of the baggage hall to the other, all going in different directions struggling with cases (no trolleys). As our flight to London was not until 18.15 we had decided that it would be a good idea to book a full day Sao Paulo City tour with lunch which would terminate at Sao Paulo airport in time for us to check in for our flight home. The excursion bus did not leave the cruise terminal until almost midday, the guide told us that there would not be enough time for the tour, she would take us to a restaurant for lunch and then straight to the airport. Having paid $75 each for this excursion we will be expecting a refund from MSC. In summary this was a 19 day repositioning cruise starting in Venice and calling in to Bari, Malta, Malaga, Funchal and Tenerife, Recife, Salvador, Rio and finishing in Santos. We were attracted by the interesting itinerary and the 6 day Atlantic crossing. Being a repositioning cruise at a good price we expected there would be some new staff joining the ship but we had no idea that it would be so many (rumor has it that it was 400+) and we did expect them to have had some basic training. It seems that the 19 day cruise was their training. The ship although too big for my own personal taste, is elegant and beautiful and extremely comfortable. The big let down for me was the food and service, which was just not good enough and therefore although the actual cruise was good value for money the food and service spoiled the holiday. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Background We are British - husband & wife in our early 60s and quite widely travelled. This was our seventh cruise (previously Nile; Eastern Med; Western Med*; Caribbean/TransAtlantic/Western Med*; Norwegian Fjords*; Australia/New ... Read More
Background We are British - husband & wife in our early 60s and quite widely travelled. This was our seventh cruise (previously Nile; Eastern Med; Western Med*; Caribbean/TransAtlantic/Western Med*; Norwegian Fjords*; Australia/New Zealand). This was our fourth cruise with MSC - the previous ones marked with *. We are members of the MSC Club and the HAL Mariners Club. We have been keen advocates of MSC, particularly liking the beautiful gleaming ships, excellent cabin accommodation and good, honest Italian cuisine with friendly waiters boasting bags of personality. MSC also offer very interesting itineraries and provided you avoid high season - excellent value for money. This was the first time we had tried one of the new mega-sized ships - the Opera & Lirica are both 56K tonnes, carrying up to 1500 guests, whilst the Musica at 89K tonnes carries over 3000 passengers. Prior to our cruise we were a little concerned to read some rather negative reports of this flagship of the MSC fleet, but we had found similar earlier reports of the Opera & Lirica unfounded in our opinion, so we looked forward to the Musica with much optimism. We had booked this November departure in the previous February, so the looking-forward gave much excitement over quite a lengthy period. This was a repositioning cruise, with Musica leaving her familiar Eastern Med surroundings to cross the Atlantic to fulfill a season of Mini-Cruises out of Brazil. Travel to Port & Embarkation The Musica sailed from Venice and MSC arranged flights for many passengers from around the world as part of a package. We flew by British Airways from London Gatwick - a little inconvenient as the return flight would take us back to London Heathrow, so we couldn't leave our car at the airport. However, the flight was on time, reasonably comfortable and there was a prompt and efficient coach transfer to Venice Port, arriving there at noon. This is where the shenanigans started. First Impressions Count: Everyone fully expected their baggage to be transferred directly from the bus to our cabins. Sadly not so - we all had to join a long line to carry our cases to a baggage reception area. Some of us were quite accustomed to queuing in an orderly manner, but not so many of the passengers arriving from countries where 'queue' does not seem to be in the vocabulary. This pushing and shoving and provocation were demeaning and not designed to get our cruise off to a harmonious start. But this 30 minute experience was nothing compared to what was to follow. Embarkation commenced at noon, and when we got to the embarkation hall it was utter chaos. There was no attempt at crowd control or line-ups to the check-in desks - it seemed that 3000 people had all turned up at the same time to enter into a massive rugby scrum! We had done a prior on-line express check-in, as seemingly had 2000 other people, who all massed in an undignified surge to three desks marked Express Check-In/MSC Club/MSC Yacht Club. Disabled Passengers were also directed here. We plan to take my elderly disabled sister on a cruise next year and watching people in wheelchairs get shoved and left in this free-for-all determined me not to risk her with MSC. Apparently, this is not an unusual experience for people joining MSC in Venice. If so, why on earth do MSC not do anything about it? Surely, it would be in their interests to get everybody installed in a happy frame of mind. We have previously embarked with MSC in Genoa, Fort Lauderdale and Copenhagen. Genoa was not great, but Florida and Denmark were fine. One could make derisory remarks about Italian organizational skills - however, MSC clearly has a management problem in its home ports. Eventually, by 4.00 pm we were on-board - battered, bruised and exhausted and the last of our 4 cases arrived by 8 pm; but now we wished to put these bad first impressions behind us, as we were all set for a wonderful 19 days of relaxed cruising, sailing through the Western Med and across the Atlantic to Brazil. Accommodation & Public Areas State Room: We had an outside cabin with balcony on Deck 12, a little aft of mid-ships. It was roomy, reasonably clean (although after a few days we could spot the room boy's short cuts!) and brightly and stylishly decorated. The bathroom was somewhat bijoux, but clean and perfectly adequate for our needs. We were a little surprised to find a threadbare and torn bath towel on arrival and this happened once more on the trip. We were provided with amply-sized bath robes, which were very useful, but never changed. Storage in the cabin was just about adequate for a three-week trip. Similar to previous MSC cruises, we were pleased to have a bowl of fresh fruit in our cabin. This was topped up each day. We felt very little ship-movement throughout the cruise. Sun Deck Public Areas: The Musica is less than two years old and is clearly designed with the same modern, bright image as her smaller forerunners - you can tell at once that they are peas out of the same stylish Italian pod. The pool deck area (Deck 13) is expansive with two pools, 4 Jacuzzis, a stage and two bars. Forward there is a large and attractive spa, whilst aft there is a large self service restaurant / buffet - better described as a cafeteria, and the premium restaurant, which also doubles as an overflow to the cafeteria. There is supposed to be a pizza bar up here as well, but for the three weeks of our trip they must have hidden it! Deck 14 has a walking/running track, children's play area and deck games; whilst Deck 15 comprises a solarium forward, and mini-golf and tennis courts aft. The Entertainment Team take over the stage and part of the sun deck for activities each day. There is a huge video screen forward of the pools, but it never seemed to feature anything but MSC adverts day & night. After 15 minutes you would be able to memorize it all by heart! There are ample sun beds, but with over 3000 passengers on board, the decks were very crowded and noisy. The daily ship-board routine seemed to be that every available bed and table was 'reserved' with towels and various miscellanies by persons unknown before 7.00 a.m. We find such behavior rather tedious and we were pleased to have our own balcony, where we were able to enjoy peace and quiet and privacy in our own space and good time! Interior Public Areas: Decks 5, 6 & 7 house the Reception, Accounting Office, various poorly stocked, unwelcoming and overpriced shops, two formal restaurants, a very large and impressive theatre, a large and moderately used pokey room (casino) and a number of bars and lounges of various sizes and degrees of intimacy. There is a large photo shop and team of photographers. However, we did not always find their hours of business convenient and the quality of work was rather poor, whilst prices were excessive. There is also a large sushi bar, in which we never saw a single customer throughout the cruise. Apart from the theatre and the 3-level reception well, we found the acoustics rather uncomfortable as the various bands, duos, etc did battle with the low ceilings and noisy crowds in an effort to be heard - never mind the quality, hear the cacophony! Attractive design features on Opera & Lirica are the mirrors and bright brass banisters, handrails etc in stairwells, lifts and so-on - always gleaming. Musica boasts these too, but they require constant polishing and it took the best part of a week before there was a consistent shine. Overall though, I found the design features a little on the plastic side and given the large number of passengers, it sometimes felt a little claustrophobic. Communication & On-Board Information Language Skills: MSC's market is very international and from prior experience we know they are quite capable of making themselves understood in a polyglot of languages - Italian, English, German, French and Spanish. On this cruise over half the passengers seemed to be Brazilian, so Portuguese was added to the list of languages. A novelty for us was that we did not come across one American or Canadian throughout the cruise. We established, as the cruise progressed, that some 40% of the 900 crew were, at the insistence of the Brazilian authorities, also Brazilian. Sadly, they all seemed to board Musica for the first time, on the same day that we did. Worse, they were mainly without experience, and very few had any foreign language skills. For instance, the only words of English that the Entertainment director seemed capable of were 'Its show time!' and 'Applowse, Applowse!' Our Cabin Boy was Madagascan and had adequate English skills. Our waiter for dinner was Romanian and made out he understood more than he did. His bus-boy was Indonesian and spoke no English at all. We found another Romanian waiter for breakfast & lunch and he was the one redeeming light in the restaurant. However, his bus-boy was Brazilian and had no language skills and absolutely no prior experience in a restaurant - bless him! As already indicated, the Entertainment director's lack of English made it very difficult to know what to expect in the theatre, or anywhere else where he officiated. Television: Each cabin had a TV, and an information card in our cabin informed us that of about 20 channels, four would be in English. In reality, we had only CNN whilst in Europe and only Fox News in South America. Whilst crossing the Atlantic there was no transmission receivable. We were not tempted to pay US$10.90 to watch a movie, probably with sub-titles! Now, whilst we have the utmost respect for our American cousins, to be served up an exclusive offering of American news was culturally exhausting. To begin with we were pleased to learn that Barack Obama had won the US Presidential Election, but the news covered nothing else - we began to scream! You see, our world view is different to an American world view, and what's more, after the 38th repeat we believe we have got the message! And for three weeks we just had to wonder how the English football teams were doing (note, like the rest of the world, we do not call it soccer!). The TV also had a channel featuring the ship's position and wind speed - but nothing else. Previous MSC equipment on Opera & Lirica also gave sea conditions and weather forecast - very useful, but on Musica we did not know what to expect from one day or one hour to the next. There was a map, but it was very indistinct. Excursion information on TV was limited to a slide presentation with two or three shots of each excursion on offer. There was nothing for people who wished to explore ports of call independently. The Excursions Office (describing itself rather unrealistically as the Travel Agency) put on a slide show in one of the lounges too, but they were unable to impart any valuable Travellers' Information. They also issued a printed summary of excursions and prices. Daily Programme: Each evening a 'Daily Program' was distributed to every cabin outlining the on-board activities for the next day, restaurant times, etc. There were editions in all the main languages. This has exactly the same format as when we first sailed with MSC in 2004. The ship was scheduled to dock at Malaga at 09.00 hrs, so we had made prior arrangements for an important business appointment there for 11.00 hrs. When we returned to our cabin at around midnight before arriving in Malaga, we discovered from the waiting Daily Program that we would be docking at 11.00 hrs! Next morning, once the port authorities had cleared the ship we were first down the gang-plank and raced to the terminal building, eventually finding a cab that would do a local fare and eventually we reached our appointment at midday. This was very embarrassing and somewhat stressful for us. So thank you MSC for giving us no prior warning, thank you for providing no explanation, and thank you for not offering any apology to your passengers. But then we are only the ones who keep you in business, so who are we to think we are entitled to a little respect? Port Information: Also in identical format to previous years is the 'Port Information' hand-out - the content is probably unchanged too. However, whilst previously this was delivered to the cabin, on Musica one has to go to the 'Travel Agency' to pick up a copy. The information varies in quality and quantity, but at least it is better than nothing. We struck a new level of expectation in this respect last year, when cruising with HAL - their Cruise Director gave prior slideshow presentations on each port of call, totally unrelated to excursions; and you could also watch these on TV. So there was no excuse for landing in a port in ignorance. Sadly one cannot say the same on Musica - whilst appreciating of course that it might be difficult to provide this level of service in 6 languages, they could at least provide port maps - we found they did this on Opera & Lirica, but not so on Musica - no doubt they are cost-cutting and forgetting that their guests have joined this cruise to discover these ports and would appreciate any guidance available! What the hell - they've got us on their wretched ship, so why help us enjoy our experience! Promotional Flyers: But they did not cost-cut in promoting the on-board shops and spa facilities - there was a daily wodge of photo-copied sheets promoting 'bargain prices' - these went straight in the bin, because everything was overpriced and we found the 'no returns / no refunds' policy somewhat insulting. We have to say that once upon a time we found MSC shop prices reasonable, but now they promote silly prices - so we were not interested to even have a look - except on one occasion. They advertised duty-free prices 20% below land prices. We are not sure which land this is, but think it must be Lalaland! The prices of goods in Musica's perfumery proved to be 20% more expensive than for identical items in downtown Malaga, and 50% costlier than in tax-free Tenerife! Team Spirit: In the past we have found the problems of multilingual communication admirably managed by MSC, but on this occasion we were very disappointed. We suspect the large number of rookie Brazilians meant that the storehouse of language skills was less, but what we discovered from the very moment of stepping aboard the Musica is that it seems to be a rather unhappy ship. With such a lot of new crew members you can understand that it will take a time for team-spirit to develop, but quite why MSC should take on such a large contingent of new people, without prior training, and just throw them in the deep end is mystifying. It seems that management places little value on their people, nor their customers. Certainly it was evidenced that wherever staff were trying to deal with a problem, senior and middle managers were conspicuous by their absence. Dining & Service Now for most cruisers this is one of the most vital aspects in ensuring a happy time. With Opera & Lirica it had been one of the most enjoyable aspects for us - good fellowship, good food & wine, and good service. On Musica it proved to be difficult to find any good at all. One can perhaps forgive other areas of failure, but when one cannot escape from a crap restaurant for three weeks it does impact on one's overall enjoyment. There are two formal restaurants - Le Maxim on Deck 6 and L'Oleandro on Deck 5. Le Maxim was only open for dinner, so as we were in the L'Oleandro for dinner, we were not able to experience the other one. However, quite a few passengers to whom we spoke said they had transferred from Le Maxim as it was so bad! Prior Request: On our booking form, completed 9 months prior to departure, we specifically requested an English speaking window table for 6 or 8. This was reinforced by our travel agent. In the past, MSC have fulfilled such requests - not so this time! We were on a table for 4 and nowhere near any window. However, the English couple sharing our table were very good company, so we let this go without issue. Consistently the Poorest Cuisine we have ever Encountered: We keep a daily diary when we cruise and reading back, we smile as it repeatedly says - 'Dinner - the worst yet!' For some ridiculous reason, this Italian line, with a tradition of good, honest Italian food, decided it would be a novel idea to have theme nights for the menu. There was French, Moroccan, Spanish, Middle Eastern, Greek, Oriental (offering curry!), Asian (offering oriental!), Mexican, Brazilian and so on. And not one of these selections was in any way authentic and in every case, we agreed that you could get a better meal from the cheapest and nastiest ethnic take-away on land. Sadly, we were not given this choice. But what MSC has always done well in the past is ITALIAN! So what the hell was going on, other than cost-cutting! This was evidenced by the poor quality of food. MSC has never been renowned for its meat, but its fish has always been superb. This time both meat and fish were of very poor quality. Food was, more often than not, served tepid. Ice cream or sorbet, was usually put in front of us in the format of soup! There were never enough vegetables and generally these were over-cooked. Presentation was invariably devoid of any sense of flair or pride. On one memorable occasion, the only time on which steak was on the menu, we all ordered the entrecote. When it came, we each tried a portion from each end of the steak and pushed it away. Our waiter came over and pointed to the sole of his shoe - precisely! We knew we were in trouble when the only thing our waiter could recommend for us for dessert was ice cream. Service: Our waiter did not help matters - to begin with he would simply drop each course in front of us - in the order that it came from the kitchen. The outcome was that one person was eating antipasto, whilst the next was on soup, another was on salad, and another was on pasta - clueless! The only things that came in coordinated order were the main course and the dessert. We would frequently order one serving of cheese between two. Apart from the meagre portions and the sad lack of variety, we would get two small crackers between us. After repeatedly asking for more biscuits we would get a whole pack! Clearly there was little engagement with the brain! Several times we sent food back due to its very poor quality. Our waiter did not seem to care. On a couple of occasions we really told him off, but it was only if we complained to the Maitre D or his Assistant that we saw positive action (until the next day, or latterly, when it got close to tipping time!). On one occasion at breakfast, I ordered 3 courses - cold then hot. The whole lot was served in one go covering half the table. The Brazilian rookie seemed un-phased by my objections. Gladly this did not happen again. At the end of the day, we and our table partners survived the culinary travesty of this cruise by laughing about it - there was nothing else we could do. But like all other passengers, we had not paid to be demeaned in this way. The Silly Saga of Coffee & Water: It was anathema to many of the British & Australian passengers to pay for mineral water at meals, rather than being able to order a jug of water. Having cruised with MSC before, we were aware of this particular penny-pinching and short-sighted approach. Not an issue on this occasion, but on previous MSC cruises with significant contingents of Americans, the failure to provide ice cream free-of-charge was an issue. It seems from observation that MSC are inclined to concede to free offerings in the Caribbean, but in Europe they charge for everything. European rules seem to apply on this Transatlantic crossing. As pensioners we are used to operating to a budget and if MSC want to charge us for water, we simply buy large bottles from a supermarket on land, and decant it to small bottles, which we take to the table. Our countrymen were also up in arms that MSC would charge for coffee to be brought to the table after dinner. We cannot recall this on previous MSC Cruises, but we are uncertain as to what the fuss is all about. It never ceases to amaze us that any MSC ship, with its Italian heritage, fails to produce anything but the finest coffee. But they fail abysmally - they produce a grim concoction in an urn. We call it River Pau Sludge. For the uninitiated, the River Pau rises in the Alps and descends through Turin and collects all the effluent from the industrial cities of Northern Italy, disgorging itself into the sea near Venice. Consequently, the whole of the Northern half of the Adriatic Sea is poisoned and devoid of any marine life. So we would not drink River Pau Sludge if it were offered free, let alone at an additional cost. Rather, we take a travel kettle and small cafetiere with us, along with a packet of freshly ground coffee. We take milk from the cafeteria and buy cream at ports of call and enjoy good coffee (and tea) on our balcony as often as we like! Buffet: We seldom used the buffet/cafeteria on Deck 13, unless we were in a hurry. First, the food soon gets tepid in the serveries, and the options did not appear to change much throughout the cruise. We were not impressed at melamine crockery and wooden straws for stirring coffee/tea. But our main objection was the bun-fight! There was no obvious starting point for joining a queue, no clear directional flow and no attempt at crowd management. Therefore it was a bit like Venice embarkation revisited! We prefer to eat without such chaos. We also like to approach a meal one course at a time - not have to put the whole lot on one plate. But we were amazed at what pigs some people are. It was hard to conceive as to how much food some folk managed to pile onto a single plate, in itself designed for a giant! Service Charges: MSC has a policy of adding a fixed amount per passenger per day, which is added to the bill at the end of the cruise. They then share this among all crew members, both the seen and unseen. The amount in question varies according to the area of operation. The charge is higher in Europe and the Caribbean than elsewhere. This cruise had a South American scale of charge. However, many passengers had an objection based on the fact that as they were not given free coffee and water they would not pay the service charge (or they would deduct the cost of coffee and water from the service charge). We have a somewhat different take on this. We believe that we have already paid the wages of all crew members in the cruise price we have been charged. Therefore a tip or a service charge is for those who have provided exemplary service, above the basics expected for people simply doing their jobs. On this cruise, many staff, due to inexperience or incompetence, failed to get even the basics right. Accordingly, we instructed the Accounting Office not to apply the service charge to our account, as we would tip those, whom we felt merited it, on a personal and individual basis. This was accepted without question. Activities, Hospitality & Entertainment Activities: Weather permitting, various games and activities were organized by the Entertainment Team on Deck. We had both lost a considerable amount of weight through dietary control in the 10 months preceding this cruise. This meant we were much lighter and fitter than we had been for at least a decade. So for the first time ever, we joined the stretching and aerobic sessions each morning and we thoroughly enjoyed them. The youngsters leading this were good and enthusiastic and geared it well for mixed fitness groups ranging from 20 to 70. There was only one criticism - the sessions were so popular that there was inadequate space. We also did a good deal of deck-walking each day. Two complete circuits of Decks 14/15 equates to 1 km. But we had to do this at dawn or dusk, because at any other time there were too many sun beds acting as obstacles. During the day we tended to do our pounding around Deck 7 - the boat deck. Deck Parties: The Entertainment Team also led various games and quizzes - we tended to avoid these as they were generally rather puerile to our preferences. As we left Tenerife the Entertainment Team put on a Ciao, Ciao Europa party on deck - it was reasonably presented and supported, but lacked the color, excitement and vibrancy of other similar events we have enjoyed on MSC. They seemed to lack the props. On our penultimate evening at sea, we crossed the Equator and the Entertainment Team pulled out the stops to hold a King Neptune's Party - the Brazilian passengers in particular supported this well, but so too did a good many others, and we had a wonderful boogie! The next morning King Neptune held his 'Baptism' ceremony - there must have been 500 of us who allowed ourselves to be sequentially dunked in Champagne (very cheap plonk), milk, tomato puree, eggs, whipped cream and flour. We were then exalted to jump in the pool - the biggest bowl of soup you ever saw. Good fun, but it took me three showers to get rid of the entire gunk, and health-wise I never recovered! Spa: We had a couple of experiences in the beautiful Spa. On the first occasion we were offered a Metabolic Analysis - two for the price of one. Given our aforementioned renaissance in health & fitness, we were interested to learn how we could build on the weight loss and fitness gain we have achieved in recent months. In selling us the session the young Czech man said he could give us such guidance. As it turned out he told us that what we needed was detoxification and he tried to sell us all sorts of herbal pills and potions that would help us excrete through the eye of needle. And this would only cost US$581.00 after discount! Well, the dear boy had clearly failed to realize that we had not just got off of the last banana boat! Our other experience in the Spa was in response to the offer of a free Step Aerobic Lesson. Up we trotted and joined a group of about 15 deadly serious women aged from 25 to 45 - and us, husband and wife in our 60s! My wife had not done this for 20 years and I had never attempted step aerobics - we were looking for something fairly gentle. The session was lead by a young ebony Adonis, who would not have looked out of place in the Brazil national football team! Well my wife lasted 10 minutes, whilst I persevered for 35 - not bad I thought in the circumstances. I understand that it was high-impact step aerobics! Theatre Shows: There was a show in the theatre most evenings - two performances, one for each dinner sitting. As the cruise progressed, so the attendance seemed to diminish. Sadly the quality of performance was rather poor - much the feeblest of any cruise we have been on. In fact the best show was the Talent Show - with fellow passengers providing the entertainment. Other Entertainment: In one of the big lounges there were the normal MSC favorites of Mr Musica and Miss Musica - okay if you like that sort of thing, but events that we try and avoid like the plague. There were plenty of bars and lounges with music, but as already stated the acoustics did not enhance enjoyment. By far and away the best show on board was a classical quartet of young ladies under the name of Delicia - and they were! Cocktail Parties: It was rather incongruous that the Captain's Welcome Cocktail Party did not take place until the fifth evening of the cruise. But given the huge new staff intake, it probably took all of that time for Capt. Raffaele Pontecorvo to discover who his officers were! Even more bizarre was that he hosted 3000 people in just two events. We were ushered into one of two lounges and were randomly sat among people we didn't know and whose language we did not speak - so social intercourse was somewhat limited. If anyone wanted a photo with the good captain they could queue for their turn to be snapped with him on an attractive staircase. After about an hour of our sipping cocktails, the captain came to the front and uttered a few indecipherable words in various languages, during which about a half-dozen men tripped onto the dance floor, wishing they were somewhere else. These, we took, to be a representative selection of his officers. And by the time he raised a toast, my glass had long since been cleared away by a waiter! And that was it, but then half of the guests in the adjoining lounge would not have seen or heard anything at all. The captain had a good opportunity to reduce the negative feelings caused by the embarkation and the poor service levels, but he failed to say sorry or explain anything. Could it be that he couldn't care a damned? But what depressed us most was that while the captain spoke, few were listening and most seemed to be chatting in the background. This, we felt, was extremely rude and unfair on the captain and his staff. No matter how inept the organizational arrangements and event management, we all have it within our gift to show some politeness and respect. There was a second Captain's Cocktail Party towards the end of the cruise, but we missed this due to sickness. However, from chatting to others it did not seem to be any better than the first event. Did we really spend out all that money for formal attire, only to be treated as cannon fodder? Failure to Value Repeat Customers: Prior to this, chatting to some other passengers, we were told that they had been invited to a Repeaters' Cocktail Party, which they thought strange, as they had never sailed with MSC before. As MSC Club Members, and having been to such events on Lirica, we were fully expecting to be invited to such an event, so we were less than pleased to hear what these passengers had told us. We enquired at Reception and were informed that they did not have a Repeaters' Party at all. Whether or not true, we are very offended that, as such loyal customers of MSC, there was no recognition whatsoever of our patronage - not in the cabin, nor the restaurant or in any other way. Yet on HAL, for instance, we had gifts and flowers and a Repeaters event - they know how important it is to show appreciation - sadly MSC has a very long way to go in understanding good customer relations. Health & Safety Lifeboat Drill: It seemed a little strange that this important procedure was not carried out until late afternoon on the day following departure. Presumably ships don't sink on the first day at sea! It was also surprising that, with over 3,000 passengers and 900 crew members, there were only 5 or 6 muster stations. In the past we have found that mustering is adjacent to your allotted lifeboat and that the formalities are held with a strict concern for attendance and adherence. This was different. Our muster point, along with about 500 other people, was in one of the lounges. Passengers were allowed to saunter in, take a seat of their choosing, and use their own initiative in putting on lifejackets. They then engaged in their own conversations with little regard for what was meant to be happening. The crew members responsible for the drill seemed to be in their own little world - focussed on themselves and looking to each other to see what should be done next. Whilst there were undoubted individuals experienced in these drills, as a team it was clear they had not worked together before and their appeared to be a total lack of leadership. There was an attempt to demonstrate the correct way of putting on a lifejacket, but there was no individual inspection of passengers. Neither was there any role call, so to this day the ship would not know for certain who attended and who did not. There was no guidance given as to how or where to proceed to lifeboats in the event of a real evacuation of the ship. Passengers started to leave the muster station long before any formal instruction was given to do so. Heaven forbid that there was a real emergency - we're most doubtful that it would have been 'women and children first!' Maintaining a Healthy Environment: We were taken aback by the way a nasty wave of a flu-like bug swept through the ship. We contracted this illness ourselves before the cruise had ended. It therefore illustrated to us how exposed people are to sickness in a confined environment such as a cruise ship, and therefore how vital it is take every precaution to prevent infection. Thankfully we were only dealing with the flu, and not something serious and life-threatening such as novo-virus. Whilst a certain number of hand-sanitizers were to be found, these were not situated at every door to every restaurant as one would expect. Nor were they present on boarding the ship at all. Where hand-sanitizers were present the use of them was not mandatory, so people who did not realize the significance could well have been helping to spread the contagion. We do not feel there is any room for a relaxed approach on a ship carrying as many passengers as the Musica. Ship's Doctor: Having eventually caught this bug myself, I was persuaded to go to the ship's doctor, who was doing a roaring trade! In my three-minute consultation with him the only personal question asked of me was my age. He did not ask if I had any allergies, blood pressure or other conditions that might have affected any prescription. I was eventually issued with a cough-linctose and some sachets of a fruit-flavoured analgesic/antipyretic. It was not until I returned to my cabin that I realized that the main constituent was paracetamol, to which I am allergic! It was not until I got home and saw my general practitioner that I was prescribed with an appropriate antibiotic, which has now dealt with the infection. Clearly, I am unhappy with the level of professionalism experienced in using the ship's doctor. Shore Excursions & Disembarkation In Europe we did our own thing, and it is perfectly safe to do so, provided you do not take stupid risks. However, never having been to Brazil before, and having heard too many scare-stories, we erred on the safe side and took ship's excursions there. Recife was filthy, apart from Olinda (the original Portuguese capital up on a hill, with lovely views). We don't know why our tour guide didn't just take us there, rather than trawl through the stinking city from one side to the other to reveal a beach heaving with 70,000 people, and churches and government buildings of no particular remark! In Salvador we also had a tedious tour of slow moving dirty suburbs, when all we needed to do was walk 800 meters to a funicular to take us up the cliff to the charming old city - nothing else worth seeing there. Admittedly, we also passed some nice beaches, but we were not given the opportunity to alight and take a stroll. Rio should have been the highlight of the trip, but it rained all day (our only day of rain in three weeks). At the summits of Sugar Loaf and Corcovado we were in cloud and could see nothing. We drove along Copacabana and Ipanema - world famous beaches with not a soul on them. And two blocks back from the beaches, you would not want to risk walking alone. Weather not with-standing - the tour seemed comprehensive and value-for-money. Our disembarkation was at Santos and as we had all day prior to our flight home we booked the ship's excursion transfer to see something of Sao Paulo en-route. However, whilst we had to clear our cabins by 7.00 a.m. and mustered for the transfer excursion as instructed at 08.45, the port authorities would not allow disembarkation for 3 hours. Then we found we were in a scrum with 3000 other angry, panicking and frustrated passengers to claim our baggage and get through customs, etc. Our coach did not get under way until 12.30 and we only had time for lunch en-route before going to the airport. This is the subject of a claim for refund We flew home on BA - like most airlines they are better on short-haul services than on long. This flight was over 11 hours non-stop and we were in cattle class at the back - awful, awful, awful in every way - this once excellent airline has descended to the depths of 'could not care a damned!' There policy seems to be: treat the punters like dirt, if it's the only way to survive! Summary Embarkation/Disembarkation: Do not join or leave a ship at Venice or Santos - particularly if it is an MSC ship!  Nice Cabin: A balcony is essential on a ship of this size.  Big is not Beautiful: The Musica looks lovely, but you can easily feel lost in the crowd.  Problems of Scale: A ship with over 3000 passengers and 900 crew members needs to be well managed - the captain of the Musica and his senior officers clearly have a lot to do.  Communication: If you are running a business targeted at an international clientele then you need to make sure your media and language skills are up to the job - MSC have proven they can do it on smaller ships - with the Musica they need to up-skill to do so on a big ship.  Dining and Food & Beverage: Is the decline to do with a policy by MSC to go down-market, or is it another example of Musica's management problems? Whatever, a main constituent of a good cruise is to have a great dining experience. We can no longer recommend MSC for this reason alone.  Service: Similarly, this has to be right. With nearly half the crew possibly rookies, Musica has asked for trouble on this cruise.  Activities Team: They did an enthusiastic and entertaining job, although we felt they could do with more support (moral and resources).  Formal Entertainment: A lot of improvement required.  Health & Safety: Musica needs to up its game.  Shops, Photography, Excursions: Generally poor range or quality and over-priced. The 'buy-me' factor was definitely missing.  Valuing Customers: On our fourth MSC cruise we certainly did not feel at all special - we were just two more punters - there is no inducement to want to sail with MSC again. In fact the overall experience was so disappointing that it makes us circumspect about cruising with anyone for such a long period again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
The alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clear when we first encountered the standard of organization at the embarkation, If you have ever seen the feature film Titanic the try to imagine the panic in reverse!! This was after we ... Read More
The alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clear when we first encountered the standard of organization at the embarkation, If you have ever seen the feature film Titanic the try to imagine the panic in reverse!! This was after we struggled to remove our own cases from the bus and drag them to a holding area. Now I am reasonably fit and this was not a problem for me but there were many elderly passengers on this cruise so goodness knows how they managed with no assistance. After a 4 hour waiting in a sort of line we were shown to our cabin on deck 11. We were pleasantly surprised with our balcony state room, it was spacious and well appointed with a bowl of fruit as it transpired was topped up daily if required. We have cruised on many occasion and attended many passenger safety drills but this one was very strange. They had the drill the day after sailing at an evening time about half an hour before first sitting, { very sensible } maybe ships do not sink on the first day of sailing!!! The drill was very loose and not organized with passengers at our muster station shuffling about listening to public announcements not knowing what was being said These drills are old hat to us but I am sure there were many first time cruisers, there were because I spoke to a few. Pity help them if there was ever a real crisis on board this ship!! We had a couple of fabulous and experienced waiters at our table at second sitting dining in the evening but I have to say the the service at breakfast and lunch was quite dreadful, I lost count of the times the order was wrong and slow to served. I recall waiting one morning 30 minutes for my first coffee!!! The food also could vary from superb to very average, it was as if they had alternative head chefs!!. it was rumored that 40% new inexperienced staff boarded at Venice. if this is true then that would make sense of the inconsistent service. The lounges and wine bars were well appointed with reasonable tariffs and grab this, no 15% gratuity charge on drinks!! which was appreciated. But can I just say what was not appreciated and did not make any sense was the staggering decision to withdraw jugged water from from the dining tables then asking the passengers to buy bottled water at $4.80 for a 750cl!!!This coupled with charging for after dinner coffee`s only fueled the discontent among the passengers. I can only say who ever decided on this policy should be dragged away into the real world before this person can do any more damage to the image of the MSC Cruise Line. I would suspect a lot of future cruising has been lost because of these niggardly decisions. Voracious strive for profits and credit crunch come to mind!!! The theatre had brilliant viewing and was very comfortable but the productions were all a bit of a sameness with repeated opera singers or Brazilian dancers. I was also surprised that there was no orchestra backing the acts with a ship this size but only background tapes although there was a very different and excellent illusionist act one night. We had four formal nights two of which were the Captains treat with free drinks at his parties. This again did not make sense to me as the cost to splash free drinks to 3000 passengers on two occasions for an hour must have out weighed any saving with selling bottled water and charging for coffee`s!!!! The ships on board activities crew worked their socks off on cruising days but some of the games the only qualification required was a pulse! or be under 10 years of age!! I would say that the quizzes very good and varied as well as being well supported We only had one excursion to Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer when in Rio De Janeiro, we found the trip well organized and value for the money. The whole cruise itinerary had excellent ports of call with places we had not been before which was our reason for taking this particular cruise. We did have another small criticism about our cabin and that was the television channels. We had no channel to view for five days when crossing the Atlantic but only pay per view movies at $12.95 which I thought it was a bit of a liberty as they had a locked audience with no option. I would have thought some of the old standards could have been shown free of charge or even a nominal would have been sensible. But I am afraid the sense was completely divorced from the administration on this ship Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Personal Background We are a couple in our sixties, who have cruised 13 times, using Celebrity, Costa, Festival, Royal Caribbean, Airtours, NCL and MSC covering The Med, Caribbean, canaries and the Baltic. After a great Caribbean cruise ... Read More
Personal Background We are a couple in our sixties, who have cruised 13 times, using Celebrity, Costa, Festival, Royal Caribbean, Airtours, NCL and MSC covering The Med, Caribbean, canaries and the Baltic. After a great Caribbean cruise on MSC Lirica, we were really looking forward to our first transatlantic crossing, and first visit to South America. Travel to Port Flew to Venice, Marco Polo with BA. Good flight. Embarkation Embarkation was an absolute nightmare. Not all passengers from the flight to Marco Polo airport at Venice were able to get onto the first coach. We were successful, leaving the airport at around 11.30am, reaching the port terminal some 30 minutes later, we joined hundreds of passengers waiting to hand over their luggage to porters. This took around another 30 minutes. This was the easy part, as when we reached the main terminal building to check onto the ship, there were even more people! No organized form of queuing, just every man for himself. We eventually got onto the ship at around 2.30 pm. Stateroom As we got onto the ship we were escorted to our cabin. The cabin was fantastic in every respect. Bright, well lit, comfortable, very clean and with a nice balcony. Our cabin steward introduced himself and I raised a couple of issues, regarding no facecloths and frayed handtowels. (NB Bath sheets were first class). Flatscreen TV, but only 4 channels, although you could pay for English language films. NB During the transatlantic crossing there was no reception of any TV broadcasts.! Ship Info The ship was beautiful in all respects, lounges, theatre and pool decks. Modern, colorful and spotlessly clean. Dining We used the cafeteria Gli Archi for a late lunch and were surprised to find the only drink available was iced water. Coffees or tea had to be purchased from the bars.NB There were drinks machines, but they had been covered up and taken out of use! Modern colorful and spotlessly clean! Lifeboat drill was carried out on the second day of the cruise in Bari at 6.00pm, although we were not due to sail until 7.00pm and passengers could still have been ashore. We were happy that we had been allocated to main seating for dinner in the L'Oleandro restaurant. Main seating was 6.30 pm, with second seating at 9.00pm which was too late for most of the passengers that we spoke to, as the show in the main theatre was always after dinner, at around 11.30 pm. The food was generally pretty average, and main courses generally disappointing! The menus read well but often the food fell short. We like hot dishes to be served hot, and our regular dinner waiter and assistant always obliged, but during open sitting in the restaurant for breakfast and lunch we had to demand that our food be hot! On the Lirica, we took advantage of the wine package, which was any 10 bottles from a list of 14 different wines. On Musica you could buy a package of 7 wines, one each of the 7 listed, so we went for the wine list. There seemed to be a high percentage of new Brazilian staff on the ship, who appeared to be still under training, this meant standards at breakfast and lunch were very variable. For example, when offered fruit juice at breakfast I asked for tomato juice, only to be met with blank stare. I was eventually brought two glasses of passata (Tomato cooking sauce). The assistant maitre D' remedied the situation. At dinner on the first evening we asked for a jug of iced water. This was duly supplied and we served ourselves. On the second night we requested the same and were told by our waiter that he was not allowed to bring us iced water. I asked for the asst maitre D' and he told me that he was following the instructions of the new Maitre D', that there should be no "jugs" in the dining room. I requested a meeting with the Maitre D' at the reception desk. I was told that he would contact me. Failing to be contacted by him, I approached him in the dining room, and asked whether, "no iced water" was his policy, or the policy of MSC. He told me that it was MSC policy. I also asked the policy on tea and coffee after lunch/dinner, as we had been requesting and receiving tea or coffee after meals but many fellow passengers were being refused. He said that tea and coffee should be available. (NB espresso and cappuccino had to be paid for) Several days into the cruise the issue of iced water, and some passengers not being offered or in fact refused coffee and tea after meals was still a major bone of contention amongst the English speaking passengers, so I asked if reception could email these issues to MSC head office in Naples. The receptionist was concerned by my request and suggested a meeting with Giuseppe Pane the Hotel Manager. I met signore Pane on the 7th day of the cruise, along with his assistant and the Maitre D'. He confirmed that it was MSC policy that no jugs of iced water were to be served on Musica and that no tea or coffee should be served after meals. The MD' confirmed that in fact tea and coffee were being served, and they continued to be served throughout the cruise. S Pane also confirmed that the MSC Lirica was in the Caribbean, and would be offering jugs of water, and free iced tea, fruit juice, tea and coffee. So the MSC offer appears to be inconsistent! Many English speaking passengers said that they would never cruise MSC again, and daily visited the accounts desk to cancel their tips. They were eventually able to do this when the ship reached Brazil. The only alternative dining venues in the evening were Il Giardino and the Sushi restaurant and they were invariably empty. Our table companions booked Il Giardino for 7.00pm. When they got there the restaurant was locked and a team meeting was taking place. They got in, and were the only couple dining that night. They enjoyed their meal, but at a supplement of $30.00 each, and with the same wines as the main dining room, but at a higher price. Entertainment The La Scala theatre was beautiful, we enjoyed 3 classical concerts, 3 bigger shows, and an illusionist. There were many lounges with live music. The Delicia Quartet were excellent. The entertainment team were busy during the day with simple deck games and quizzes, and at night with fairly juvenile competitions in one of the main lounges. There were four formal nights, with two of them preceded with a captain's cocktail party. Crossing the Line Ceremony was carried out the morning after the actual crossing. And involved around 100 passengers being christened with Champagne, tomato juice, milk, cream, flours and raw eggs. So be warned! Shore excursions We generally did our own thing, and enjoyed visiting, Bari, Malta, Malaga, Madeira and Tenerife. We were only in Recife for a morning, and that was long enough! The old town was very very poor, ruined buildings and people living on the streets. Salvador was smarter, the old town was quite attractive, but a couple of people had chains and watches snatched. We took a ship organized tour of Rio as we were disembarking that day, visiting the statue of Christ the Redeemer and the beaches. Unfortunately the weather was very wet. Disembarkation We took the tour of Rio in the morning, as we had to transfer to Rio International Airport in the afternoon. We were told that our luggage would be kept separate and secure in the Port Terminal building, but that we could check our luggage before joining the tour bus. In fact we were taken directly from the ship to the tour bus. Fortunately when the tour was finished, we found our cases safely in the terminal building. We then had to carry our luggage a couple of hundred yards to the transfer coach through a wet and puddled car park. A couple of ships porters with trolleys would have been appreciated. Summary Would I cruise with MSC again? I doubt it! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
this was our first trip with MSC and sadly it will be our last one. We have cruised before half a dozen times, with royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Princess. and have really enjoyed these and have spent more than one holiday on each. we ... Read More
this was our first trip with MSC and sadly it will be our last one. We have cruised before half a dozen times, with royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Princess. and have really enjoyed these and have spent more than one holiday on each. we thought that we would give MSC a try. The itinerary was great and the time at sea and of course the crossing to brazil. to start with before we had left home, no tickets had arrived, or baggage tags for embarkation. the night before we left home, i had to get my agent to email to me the tags, and i printed them off , and we took tape with us to stick them on when we arrived in Venice. Embarkation was a nightmare. i had book in on line, and had a boarding pass for my husband and i. This was a complete waste of time. We stood in line for hours, without drink or food, there just was no organization at all. before that we arrived at the port and had to get our luggage from the coach, and move our suitcases to the warehouse to be put onto the ship, no one helped and there were no trolleys. Onboard the ship, our cabin was good, and spotless, the service in the cabin was great. although there are no provisions for 24 hour nourishment. the ship is beautiful, the pools spotless, and plenty of deck loungers. but not well organized. on the upper deck it is difficult to walk round the deck as it is too narrow. There is smoking all over the place, one side of the deck and one of the bars and wherever you walked you smell cigarettes. There was buffet breakfast, which was not bad, and also restaurant breakfast as well. Lunch was very good, but no juice, or coffee, only water. the waiters had very little English, but tried. dinner was not good, we had great table companions,which made the trip, bearable. There were no jugs of water at table, after the first night we were told that the captain had said that only bottled water which had to be paid for was to be served. this was also the case with coffee, no after dinner coffee. The menu looked ok but the food was cold, and often not very good. There is no buffet alternative on this ship for evening meals. they do have a place where you have to pay $30 each cover. There are no drink stations onboard, only at breakfast and for one hour at tea. There is no free ice cream, on an italian ship, we thought we would be on pizzas and ice cream both of which had to be bought, one scoop for $2.50 we did not find out where the pizza place was. entertainment was good the team really worked hard, and it showed. the shows were probably the best we have seen. The excursions had to be booked onboard, and they were all good, with the exception of the last day when the coach went without us. disembarkation was a nightmare. even worse than embarkation. we had to be out of the cabins for 7 am even the ship did not dock until 9am as planned. because we were going on an excursion we were to be off the ship early. however it was after ten thirty, before we could start coming off and then everyone was off the ship in one go. it was bedlam. We lost a case which had been put in the wrong color section, so spent an hour looking for it. all in all it was not an expensive cruise, but they need to have trained staff, and for english people the language is a major problem, as they announce each language and it takes forever. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We were a party of 6, 3 experienced cruisers and 3 first timers. This posting is from an experienced cruiser's viewpoint. We sailed on the MSC Musica's repositioning voyage from Venice to Santos on 2-20 November 2008. I did want ... Read More
We were a party of 6, 3 experienced cruisers and 3 first timers. This posting is from an experienced cruiser's viewpoint. We sailed on the MSC Musica's repositioning voyage from Venice to Santos on 2-20 November 2008. I did want to write a positive report - and we did enjoy our 19 day transatlantic cruise to Brazil, especially the ports of call - BUT although the ship's decor and the cabins were very good, the service, food and organization onboard badly let it down. Embarkation: We were lucky inasmuch as we arrived at the port of Venice late (4pm) on our MSC transfer from Verona airport and could check in straight away and walk straight on board. We sailed at 5.30pm, unfortunately, in heavy mist. Fellow passengers who arrived at check-in at midday had a totally different experience and had to wait nearly 3 hours before boarding commenced! Service: On embarkation we soon discovered that most of the staff onboard were untrained, this being their first cruise. Our first evening meal was chaotic with limited cutlery, cold food and difficulty ordering drinks -no one seemed to know what they were doing in the dining room. Our first impression of disorganization was confirmed in the bars with very slow bar service. There was no sign of our cabin steward on embarkation and everything had to be sorted out via reception. In fact our cabin steward never once introduced himself! We had to phone for toilet rolls on one occasion and requested an extra blanket 3 times and still didn't get it!! I should point out, though, that other passengers were very happy with their cabin steward. As the cruise progressed, service did improve. We were lucky with our dining room waiter, Florian, who was very good and got our orders correct, both food and drink. Again, a different story from fellow passengers whose chaotic first evening meal continued throughout the cruise. Food/Drink: We were on the early evening meal sitting at 6.30pm. What can I say about the food ... unimaginative, cold ... hit and miss. Although, having said that, some days the soup was hot! Some of the pasta dishes were very good. You were not limited as to how many courses you could order, therefore, we generally found something palatable. There was no evening buffet available as an alternative to the dining room - only the midnight buffet. There was also the pizzeria or sushi restaurants for which you had to pay. The issue of no water or tea and coffee with meals unless you paid for it caused a lot of disconcertion amongst the experienced cruise passengers. The self-service buffet at lunchtime was adequate. The breakfast buffet in Gli Archi Cafeteria was good - the only time you could get a cup of tea or coffee free of charge (apart from afternoon tea). There was also water available free of charge in machines in the self-service restaurant. The opening times of the restaurants at lunchtime tended to change so you had to consult your daily programme. Continental breakfast room service was available free of charge from 7.30-10am and was very good. I found the voucher system a good way of ordering drinks. You could buy a book of 12 cocktail vouchers for $69 which worked out to 2 free drinks, a book of 12 large beers for $62 (again 2 free drinks), water package (14 vouchers I think) for $22.50 and an ice cream package (12 vouchers I think) for £22.50. All you had to do then was order a drink/ice cream and hand over the voucher. Entertainment: Poor. Repetitive. Very little organized during the day. The 5 days at sea crossing the Atlantic were spent sunbathing and reading (thankfully, we had lovely weather) and learning Portuguese. (Portuguese lessons organized by the English speaking rep onboard). We did join in the Crossing the Equator party when we donned grass skirts and were "christened" by Neptune! We made a quick exit when the entertainment team started throwing buckets of tomato sauce etc over the participants!! The Shows: Very nice theatre. There was a troupe of dancers onboard who only performed 3 times to my knowledge! We had 3 classical concerts and 3 opera singer performances plus several circus acts - all lasting no more than 40 minutes. The most professional show was the illusionist. Ports of Call: Bari Full day. Free shuttle bus to port gates. We organized our own tour with minibus but driver only spoke Italian (luckily, so did one of our party). Enjoyable half day visit with enough to see but everything was closed until 4pm (including the churches). Malta Half day. Walk off ship. Bus 198 at harbor to bus terminal at city gate Valletta (EUR1 return). Walked around Valletta and shopped (including M&S). Enjoyable but needed more time there. Malaga Full day. Long walk to port gates or a taxi costs EUR10. We did the horse drawn carriage around lovely old town (40 mins EUR30 up to 4 people). Shopping very good. Enjoyed good tapas lunch and traditional wine bars (bodegas). Madeira Full day. Walked out of port. Post Office at port. Bought ticket for hop on/hop off bus tour (EUR18) and took it to cable car. Took cable car to Moderna (EUR10) and then took Madeira's famous toboggan ride down (EUR25 for 2 people in wicker basket). Enjoyable BUT toboggan only takes you half way down to town centre. Taxis waiting to rip you off by charging EUR20-25. We walked, but it is a very steep, arduous, hot walk with only one refreshment stop on way down - it took us over an hour (not to be recommended for people with knee problems!). Walked around town centre and then finished our hop on/hop off bus tour. Enjoyable day in Madeira. Santa Cruz de Tenerife Full day. Walked out of port. Tram ride to Trinidad (La Laguna) EUR2.45 return (old capital) to be recommended. Good shopping in Santa Cruz. Walked around (walking routes mapped out) and had good set lunch of typical Canarian food in very friendly restaurant. Recife Full day. Shuttle bus with charge out of port to town organized by MSC. We discovered H. Stern Company as we disembarked. They organize a free shuttle minibus to their jewelry store in the Recife Palace Hotel on the beachfront in the Boa Viagem area. There was no pressure to buy. They were very friendly and helpful. H. Stern's driver then took us to a taxi rank and organized 2 taxis ($50 per taxi for 2 hours) to take us around the lovely old town of Olinda and then back to the port. We felt safe and well looked after. A really nice introduction to Brazil (and our Portuguese lessons came in handy!). Salvador Bahia Full day. Walked out of port. Post Office at port. Again, met our H. Stern man, Pierre, and took the free shuttle minibus to their shop up in the old town (had quick look at jewelry and then went sightseeing). Salvador split into old town and new town connected by art deco lift or a funicular train. Very nice feel to place. Spent day going between old town and new town shopping using the lift and furnicular. Walked back to ship. Rio de Janeiro Full day. Walked out of port. Met again by Pierre of H. Stern. We wanted an organized tour to take in Sugar Loaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana and Ipernima beaches ($50 each at the port). Pierre introduced us to Tami who would be our English speaking guide for the day and we could have a minibus to ourselves for the day with the proviso that we visited H. Stern's workshop in Rio. Tami took us wherever we wanted to go. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't on our side that day with low cloud and rain. We bought our tickets for the train up to Christ the Redeemer and had to cash then back in again because of the rain. We then took the cable car up Sugar Loaf Mountain but it was a white-out with low cloud! We sat in a restaurant looking out at Copacabana beach in the pouring rain (just like being at the seaside in England!). We did the tour of H. Stern's workshop which was quite interesting (learnt a lot about the precious stones that Brazil is famous for) and - you guessed it - I did buy a piece of jewelry! Our tour of Rio only cost the 6 of us the price of a meal and drink for Tami and the driver (plus a tip of course). I now have a good excuse to return to Rio to "see" it again!! Disembarkation: Arrival in Santos 9am. We were the last to be called off the ship (ca. 12.30) as our flight out of Sao Paola wasn't until that evening. We considered ourselves fortunate as it was chaos awaiting us portside. MSC's usual organization skills were to blame because they had forgotten to order the transfer buses! We waited nearly 2 hours until we could board a bus to the airport. I don't know how many people missed their flights in that confusion! In summary, it was an enjoyable cruise and the itinerary was very good. We paid a reasonable price and some might say you get what you pay for. Disembarkation/embarkation at most of the ports of call went smoothly. From talking to other passengers who have cruised with MSC before, I believe this voyage was one of the worst MSC cruises in terms of organization, service and food. I will always have a lasting good impression of sailing into a port early in the morning whilst sitting on my balcony enjoying fresh rolls and coffee for breakfast. Would I cruise with MSC again? The answer to that remains to be seen - if the itinerary was right and the price, of course, I might take a chance. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
MSC Musica Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 3.0 3.5
Entertainment 4.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.1
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.6
Family 4.0 3.6
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.6
Enrichment 1.0 3.6
Service 3.0 3.7
Value For Money 3.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 3.3

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