MSC Opera - Cruisemates Reader's Cruise Reviews
CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews
MSC Cruises

MSC Sinfonia
by Evelyn Brennan
Other (Specified in Review)
March 20, 2006

This was a cruise in the central Mediterranean, Naples, Salerno, Sicily, Malta, Alexandria, and Libya, for 12 days.

Get used to everything being late - and don't expect to be warned so you can do something with your wait time.

Of 30 plus cruises, this was near the bottom.

Biggest Disappointments

1. Service was uniformly poor - in the cabin, in the dining areas, on the excursions, in the show rooms.

2. Food was minimally adequate to awful.

3. Excursions were cancelled in Libya - the reason we booked the cruise.

4. Americans are not really welcome here.

5. The bed was hard as a rock - reactivated an old shoulder injury.

Service

In the cabin, we never figured out the names of the people handling our room. One never spoke, and the other was unintelligible. Immediately we noticed no ice in the cabin, and virtually always had to either ask or get it ourselves. Early in the cruise, we found our evening turn down service had occurred prior to 5 pm, though we had late seating. We informed the crew we did not want turndown before we left for dinner. To their credit, this never happened again. Crew would enter either without knocking or after a very brief interval. (Our neighbor was highly offended that a male crew member walked in on his teen age daughters without knocking). Do not disturb signs disappeared or were ignored.

In the dining room, our waiter meant well, but could not get orders right and had no help from the assistant. We got a new assistant after complaining, but this did not improve order taking, pace of the dinner or quality. Our table mates seemed happy with the service, but we attributed this somewhat to the waiter's penchant for bringing extra deserts.

We rarely found anyone informed or helpful at the excursion desk or the reception desk.

When meeting any crew member, be sure to step aside and make way as they surely do not ever give way to a passenger.

3. As to food, we looked forward to having 12 days of Italian experience, but were sorely disappointed. The pastas were good, as were the bread sticks. Also, salads were always fresh and tasty. Even here, however, the waiter was never sure whether she had the dressing described on the menu, and usually just offered 1000 islands. Deserts were tasty, but not a great selection. The safest bet was the good ice creams, though some nights chocolate sauce was inexplicably unavailable.

At dinner, choices were limited, fish was usually full of bones, and ordering beef was a crap shoot whether you would get it cooked right - and the dice were loaded against you.

Soups were unusual, often served (unintentionally) cold. Of the two intentionally cold ones, gazpacho was excellent, but the vichysoisse was really just some cold potato soup that had never seen a drop of cream.

Lunch was okay, both in the dining room and the buffet.

NOTE: No evening buffet for those who like casual dining. This was strickly for the kids.

Breakfast was okay at best. The selections were limited. However, you could get an omelette cooked to order - but only after the chef had prepared as many sunny side up eggs as he thought necessary to fill the buffet tray - though in 12 days I saw one person eating them prepared this way.

In the dining room there were no pancakes, French toast, eggs Benedicts, or other goodies on the menu. There was a chef special, never volunteered by the waiter. When I asked, two days the special was chicken meatballs, another it was scrambled eggs and toast! What is special about that?

Condiments were often served from jars - with signs of great age from less popular ones.

Excursions in general on any cruise are a disappointment attendant to large groups. However, when there is a place you don't want to miss, the excursion booked on ship can be the safest alternative.

Not on this ship. Our Libya excursion to Leptis Magna was cancelled - the buses did not show up. Some were put in mini-vans (for a 1 1/2 hour ride over, and similar one back) and never got their box lunches or a guide. After the cancellation, an announcement was made that there would be more buses, a full 3 hours after the planned departure, leaving inadequate time for the entire itinerary. My basis for booking this cruise was because of the Libya stop. We salvaged the day by going into Tripoli on our own. The ship did offer a free shuttle into town. There, we found the Libyans to be friendly, willing to help, and so the day turned out okay.

We still do not have a refund for the prepaid excursions!

Americans were told we complain too much. There is apparently something wrong with expecting to get what you paid for.

Many announcements were in Italian, but not in English. Every afternoon there was something done only in Italian. Still not sure what that was. One evening after the show, the cruise director came on stage and spoke in Italian for nearly 15 minutes - we never did learn what he said.

On the day of the Libya excursion fiasco, the cruise director came out and yelled at the passengers who refused to accept that the cruise ship had a responsibility for the problem (though excursion staff indicated they knew there would be as there always is in that port). He ended up telling the Americans it was because they had a problem with Libya - he of course did not, as he is Portuguese!

Other issues were a lack of activities. Bridge was offered only once; there was no wine tasting; no special dinners (French night or Greek night). There was no pre-dinner dancing. Dance class was often during our dinner hour. Shops' merchandise was limited and expensive.

There were no port talks, no port maps offered.

Disembarkation was awful. EVERYONE was told at 8 am to line up in the lounge. An hour later, still in line, we learned that the passports had not even been returned from port authorities.

At the same time the passports were released to the crew, they began announcing the colors to disembark. The people with the first colors were not the people first to get passports.

I suggested to a crew member that it would have been a better plan if they had told everyone to stay put until passports had been released by the authorities. Then when they were released, they could have told the first color group to proceed to get their passports and disembark the ship. Then the next color group could be called.

It was like a light bulb went off in her head! Unfortunately, her response was for me to find someone important to make such a rational suggestion. When I suggested that she could make the suggestion to someone important, her answer was that "No one listens to me."

Why was I not surprised?

This is the only cruise we have ever been on where all dishes were clean, all of the time. This and a very pretty ship are not enough to redeem the experience.