by David Landry
January 24, 2009
As a travel agent with 57 cruises, I feel qualified to post this review. While it is impossible to please all, I will give you my feelings on MSC. We sailed the Lirica in 2005 and loved it. Cabins are small, even for 2, but every other aspect was excellent. I have sold many cabins on MSC, and raved over the line. I just sailed the Orchestra, and would not recommend this line to anyone. As an agent, I have a duty to tell the truth, not just to agree that every ship and every cruise is fantastic. We had a Category 11, Luxury Balcony. The room was small for 2, let alone 4 or 5.
Children love movies, especially on a cruise. Movies cost $10.70 each. So if you really want to pay that to see The 40 Year Old Virgin, Wall-E, and other old movies, you will love MSC. Also, no ESPN or sports channels. CNN Europe is the only news channel, and most of the channels are blank. No movie channel, unless you like the 2 channels of TNT, one in English and one in Italian.
The bath comes with no washcloths, and the room stewerd is invisible until the second day, no matter how many times you call for him. Room service is a joke. If you misplace a single sheet of info on the first day with all the papers given, you have no idea you can get food and sandwiches. A club sandwich is a turkey club only, and when you order one you get a half one. But you can BUY many items on room service.
When you get onboard, there is no free glass of bubbly for repeat cruisers as mentioned in the info. The balcony glass and the entire balcony is coated in salt. It will be cleaned half-way through the cruise, though. And toward the end of the cruise you are given an info sheet telling you that if you bought any wicker items, they won't be allowed back into the States. Give that info on the 1st day, please!
Dinner was a big joke. Lousy service, lukewarm food. We ate at the 4 Seasons specialty restaurant for 5 days. It was the best thing on the ship, but at $25 a person, it can add up. But it was worth it. Avoid the Chinese restaurant. I would not eat there again even if it was free. You pay per item, and will pay $30-40 per person easily. The 1st night we had a very large table of Italians that shouted, laughed at the top of their lungs, even had the wait staff giving them ugly looks. And, to top it off, they started smoking at the table, and nothing was said to them.
The only free ice cream is at dinner, and when the kids want ice cream at other times it is $1.50 a cone. Great ice cream, but start adding. And pizza is offered only at night for free, so during the day you can purchase it! For such a large ship, there are too few shops onboard. But the best thing, or worst, depending on your view, you can buy liquor off ship and bring it back to the room and drink it there, or to the dinner table like the table next to us did. You love Coca Cola but not Pepsi? Only Pepsi is sold, at $2.50 a small glass. No soft drink cards.
I was really looking forward to their private island, as the other lines have great ones. We finally got off the ship at noon, had to be back onboard by 3:00. And NOTHING is free on the private island. Food and drinks all cost a very high price. And if having 1000 chairs for 3000 people is your idea of fun, you will enjoy it. If you get up to take a dip in the water, your chair will be gone when you return. People will dump your belongings and take your chair, nobody will stop them. We found all ports had a very short stay. Better planning by the cruise line is needed here. I could go on and on -- but you get the picture.
Oh, I almost forgot. Of the 3 main elevators midship, 1 was out of service the whole cruise. No excuse for this, especially when this is a new ship, on its fourth US sailing. And for free fun, you can push a button, watch the other 2 elevators pass your floor 6 times before stopping. Enjoy!
I forgot to add about smoking. It is allowed in the cabins, but not on the balcony. Yet everyone who smokes does it on the balcony. Get used to the smell in all the hallways! Just remembered! We sailed with 3 other travel agents, and we all got a special invitation to a private cocktail party for a group sailing onboard. We all show up, and are told halfway through the party that we were given the invite by mistake, and their own members were not given invites. Along with the invite in the cabin were 2 tickets to an excursion in Key West. We all thought it was a freebee from MSC. I was hesitant to go, and upon arriving in Key West, looked at my room bill. We were being charged for the excursion. It took 5 days to get a credit after returning the tickets. They said we were charged in error. I believe this is their way of selling, as both of the other travel agent couples went on the excursion, thinking it was free, and did not get a credit. And everyone we asked how they liked the cruise so far, we got ugly looks, nasty comments, etc. And if you go on a baseball cruise, as we did, and you need a baseball, no problem, they sell them onboard for $14. And I have been known to send a birthday cake to unsuspecting others (Tom), and they used to be free. RCCL charges about $8 for a small cake, but you can get the same small cake on MSC for $45. But they sing for free.
Just remembered about service. On many occasions I and the wife, or Doug (travel agent) and his wife, went to the lounge for a cocktail. We would be the only ones in there, and the 3 hostesses and bartender talked together, ignoring us. Doug went to the bar, and could not get their attention for quite some time. And Doug is very mild mannered, quiet, not like me. And it wasn't just us being ignored. Other couples would come by, sit, wait, get up, and leave.
And I just remembered, I need to add this to my report. Everyone at the table ordered escargo for an appetizer. We loved RCCL and other ship's escargot, 5 in a pool of garlic butter. What we received here were 2-3 pieces of escargot swimming in a heavy brown sauce filled with mushrooms. And at the Shangai Chinese specialty restaurant, my tablemates ordered the peking duck. Expecting a leg or a quarter of duck, they received 4 tiny pieces of duck in a bed of rice. I ordered a 'tang combo,' for $25, and was told it was 16 different items, and would be hard to eat all by ourselves -- the wife and I. It was 16 small appetizers, 8 each, on a single plate. The 'corn crab soup' had 2 pieces of corn and just the flavor of crab, no crab meat, for $8.50. I may seem to be picky, but until I win the Powerball and can throw away money, I will expect value received for money spent, and I don't feel MSC delivers such a product. I almost forgot, well, I did forget, but I remembered when I looked at my receipts -- All I drank at the lounges were shots of Jack Daniels. They cost $6.90. A Jack and water, or on the rocks, with the same amount of Jack, was $4.95. Go figure.
Maybe it's best I don't remember this cruise. It was very difficult to write this review. Rick Sasso is trying hard to make this a positive experience, but as much as I enjoyed the Lirica, this was a true 180 degree turn in service, food, activities, etc. The food would have been acceptable had it been hot. It would arrive lukewarm, and if you asked for a hot serving, it took over 30 minutes to arrive, lukewarm again. A tip, should you go. The coffee is so strong, spoons kept disappearing in the coffee. Order room service, 2 coffees, you get a pot. But also order 2 hot chocolates, and you get a pot of steaming hot milk and 2 packages of instant chocolate. Mix the coffee and hot milk half and half, and you have drinkable coffee, not weak at all.
As my wife will quickly admit, looks can be deceiving, don't judge a book by the cover. Seriously, the ship is not open enough inside. The dining room on 2 levels is 2 different restaurants on 2 levels. The lobby is open for 2 levels, very small. The 5 shops are in so small a space you can shop in 5 minutes. The library has 4 chairs. The internet cafe has 5 desks. The ship is very clean, but stuffy. And the 3 main elevators, with only 2 working, hold 8 people each. When full, they skip other floors, so you wait forever for an elevator.
On a positive note, this ship sails at 7 pm. I flew on a later flight non-stop from New Orleans, arriving at 2:40. Woke up at a normal hour, not rushed to airport, non-eventful flight. Got a taxi to port, arrived at 3:15. Only a handful of guests checking in, was on ship at 3:35. Luggage arrived by 4 pm, very fast. A bowl of fresh fruit was waiting in the room. And though the bathroom is small, there is ample room around the toilet. The shower stall is huge, as long as you don't close the shower curtain. I was able to sit on the toilet while bathing, or use the toilet seat to reach my toes. Whenever we left the room, it was cleaned very quickly.
On a final (hopefully) note, the one souvenir I enjoy is my stack of past key cards. MSC now picks up the cards as you leave the ship. As I said, maybe it's best I don't remember this cruise.