We are a Brazilian couple, mid 50's, restaurant ownwers in Rio who love to work and sail.
This sail was with MSC Musica, a Transatlantic (Venice-Rio de Janeiro) that began on November 8. It was our 26th cruise, and the first and the last with that company.
Since Rio is a bit far from Europe we normally travel for some days before to have a car looking for scenic drives to the ports we will sail. So this time we came from Munich and drove to Sirmione, Italy and then to San Casciano in Tuscany, for a 6 day trip through these beautifull parts of Italy. On the last day we drove from San Casciano to Venice, a 2.5 hour drive. We arrived on the day before the cruise in Mestre (beside Venice) at Novotel (EU$95). Mestre is less than 7 miles from Venice. We returned the car easily near the port at Piazza Roma.
Embarkation I never forgot a maxim I've heard -- "You never have a second chance to make a good first impression" and embarkation was CHAOS. We arrived 11:30hs and there were thousands of people waiting on huge unorganized lines. Check-in was supposed to start at 13,00hs. Then we decided to leave our hand luggage in a locker at the pier and return to Venice to enjoy more of this marvelous city. We returned at 16:00hs and waited for another half hour in line, and we heard the stories of people fainting, fights, etc. This was the worst check-in we have ever seen. Every guest we've met was horrified with the poor service.
Ship and Cabin No one took us to our cabin. Our cabin was on the very last of the stern. It had a small and dirt balcony, average bathroom size, small and few wardrobes, outworn carpets and chairs, shampoo and soap -- but no conditioner or moisture cream. The robes available were good ones, a 20'LCD TV, and a mini bar. The decor was not bad.
The ship does not have a nice atrium. It is only 3 floors high, with a piano in the middle. The stores were little and unfriendly (no refunds, no exchanges). There were 2 pools (salt water) which were ok, and 4 dirty jacuzzis. There was a small area for mini-golf, a sports area, and excellent chairs with shades for your face, but again you had to wake up early in order to reserve your chair, especially when you travel with German people. There was a ridiculous gym academy, 6 treadmills for a 3600 passenger ship! There were 2 bicycles, but a big salon for paid activities, with a small audience for that. There was no sauna available unless you paid US$30 a day for use of the spa facility, sauna, turquish bath, and 2 small private jacuzzis.
The theater was ok, but not the shows! The restaurants were nice, with 2 differents decors. There were 2 specialty restuarants at US$30 cover charge pp. The one Chinese restaurant was always empty, and the other "Italian" restaurant is in the same area where the buffet is served at lunch! It too was always empty. Then there were some "nothing special lounges," and that's it. Not too many places to go or stay -- just a minimal library, minimal cigar room, 12 computers for internet, a small casino, and a very classic decoration, which you will forget on the day you disembark. The common areas were well maintained, though.
Service As I said, no one took us to our cabin on embarkation day. Then on the very first day, in the dining room, the waiter and his helper did not greet us, nor even a good evening! Then we decided to change tables, and a better waiter served us for the rest of the cruise. We've heard that more than 50 new waiters embarked with us in Venice, and the cruise director and other managers embarked the next day since the old ones had quit! The day we ate at the specialty restaurant we waited 3 hours to be served, and there were only 2 tables to be waited on! Our room steward needed 4 days to understand that we wanted ice in the room, more hangers, and more blankets. After that, though, she only forgot small details such as soaps, towels, etc. We had to call reception twice for help with her. The reception desk was ok depending upon who attended to you, ditto for a nice person to help you. I wrote a letter to Mr. Franco, a food and beverage manager, but got no answer, although the Maitre'd assured me he received the letter. So, this was the nature of the service.
Food and Beverage Would you believe they prohibited waiters to serve water at the tables in order to sell mineral water? I've never seen a petty attitude like that on any ship we've sailed. People were offended with this.
Breakfast was the same everyday -- bread, eggs, omelettes, cold cuts, fresh fruit (good), but no salmon. Milk and coffee needed to be served by waiters, and I heard people complaining about the milk quality.
Lunch in the main restaurant was better than in the buffet, with 3 salads plus tomatoes, lettuce and carrots. That's it, with sometimes some cucumber. Hamburgers and hot dogs, fries, and some hot stews. Everything was second class quality.
Dinner was better, although rarely beef or a steak. Everyday they said you can have salmon, chicken or beef. It made me laugh when we ordered beef, it was like a "carpaccio," it was so thin. No comment. The bread and butter was the best part of the meal. And, the desserts and ice creams were surprisingly good.
There was also a midnight buffet. We only attended the chocolate one. It was good. They also served tea with 2 kinds of sandwiches, and some sweets. There was no tea available during the day. Also, there was a charge for room service, and with only a small selection available too.
Ports These were okay. Bari, Tenerife, Malta, Funchal, Malaga, Recife, and Salvador. We did not take any excursions since we've been to these places before. The excursions were an average of US$130!
Shows and Entertainment There was no live orchestra, only recorded music! The same show was always playing, with 6 female dancers and 4 men for 45 minutes shows. The second sitting shows were at 23:30hs. There was no live band on the pool deck, although the weather was fine. There was plenty of live music onboard in the inside areas of the ship, including some good Brazilian musicians playing.
The entertainment was led by a transvestite looking boy, would you belive it?
Kids games were held in the pool! Some stretching classes and dancing lessons took place there too. There was also a huge screen showing only MSC ads, instead of films and shows. Also, you have to pay to watch movies on your cabin TV. During the 5 day transatlantic crossing we had nothing to watch on TV except MSC ads -- not even a music channel!
Disembarkation It was surprisingly good with no queues. We easily found our luggage. Disembarkation was on time too.
Conclusion If you have ever sailed with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Holland America or Princess, or even Carnival, you will be extremely disappointed with MSC, although their prices are almost the same. Don't sail MSC. But, if you are a first timer and have no point of comparison, then you will probably not notice the points I've mentioned and could enjoy more of the MSC cruise experience than we did. For us, we'll never sail MSC again.