First MSC - thoughts from an experienced cruiser
42 of 43 people found this review informative
|Reviewed By: Stines, London on 22nd Oct 2011|
|Cruise Line: MSC Cruises||Times cruised before: 10+|
|Cruise Ship: MSC Opera||Sailed: August, 2011|
|Destination: Western Europe||Age: 46-55|
Hope that some will find my observations of interest. MSC Opera, Amsterdam to Southampton. Booked into a Cat 12 mini-suite, the highest category available on this particular ship. Picked this cruise purely around the dates, embarkation/disembarkation points and mostly to spend some quality time with dear friends who were also on board (and also experienced cruisers on other lines). I have sailed on many lines, from Carnival to Silversea and Seabourn, and just about every line in between. And after 23 cruises, I would rate my overall experience on the Opera at the bottom of the pack - #23 out of 23. These are honest thoughts, accurate details of this particular cruise, and are not meant to bash MSC. In fact, I hope MSC is reading this board and will make some much needed improvements.
I will begin with the positives. Excellent to sometimes outstanding theater entertainment. Cabin service was great (although the balcony floor and glass were never cleaned much, if at all). SOME bar servers were very good. The all-in (coded “411”) drink package was an excellent value and included every single beer, cocktail, glass of wine, soft drink, cappuccino, ice cream, mini-bar snack etc. consumed for the entire cruise. I paid nothing extra, so a great deal if you’re going to use it. Ship overall was nice, generally clean and well-kept, but as we were sailing at full capacity, it felt VERY crowded in certain public spaces. A dense passenger/space ratio for sure. I liked the mostly no-smoking policy throughout the ship, including cabin balconies (but of course some passengers felt they didn’t need to comply with the rules). And the 30 items for 20 Euro laundry special was a good value and much appreciated. Finally, I thought it was interesting and thought-provoking to travel with a group of passengers comprising so many different nationalities. A lot different than most of my other cruise experiences and what a great way - especially for the younger generations on board - to get a sense of different cultures and people from all around the world. I loved the European "feel."
Now the areas that need improvement. Most staff looked very tired all of the time and seemed not happy to be on board. I would say only about 20% of the crew had smiles on their faces... very different than prior cruises. It left me with a gut feeling that this cruise line does not treat their staff all that well in general. I could be wrong, admittedly, but it was still a big downer for me. Buffet food was way below average. I’m talking high school cafeteria quality at best – really pathetic for a cruise ship carrying 2,000+ passengers. Restaurant food was only minimally better, and service was similarly way below standard – for example, you must pour and refill your own water and wine at the restaurant dinner table, ask for an extra slice of bread, ask for black pepper etc. Food quality overall was crap – unimaginative, boring, cheapest cuts of meats, horribly cooked seafood, tasteless canned vegetables, watered-down salad dressing, morning juices made from powdery mixes, and the list of sub-standard items goes on and on and on. I am not a foodie by any stretch, but there was not a single meal that we came away from satisfied. A real shame actually. Some of the food service staff should not be customer-facing at all. For example, imagine being greeted at the breakfast omelet station by a gentleman that looks at each passenger and grunts “Huh?” – asking for their order. The maitre d’s – dressed in their nice white jackets while walking around and doing next to nothing – were an embarrassment to the line in my opinion. I suspect they are part of the owner’s extended chain of family and friends who just need something to do in their retirement years and want to boss around other hard-working foreign and underpaid staff. They never even came over to the dinner table to introduce themselves and ask how everything was going – not once. I've never seen maitre d's do so little. Room service menu was also pathetic. Bread, (cheap) yogurt, and (weak) coffee/tea for breakfast... period. And anything else you wanted from room service – from a menu of about 10 fast-food quality items max – was at charge.
Cabin interior was tired with fraying upholstery, nicked up furniture and in need of a makeover (remember, this was the top-end cabin grade on this vessel). Gym equipment – both in terms of variety, quality and quantity of machines, was terrible. Three exercise bikes for 2,000+ people and not even a single cross/elliptical trainer. Unacceptable. Only 2 Jacuzzis on deck – always stuffed full of teens and children that looked as young as 2 or 3. No enforcement by staff of the over-16 rule (and yes, I said something to management that yielded zero response). Quality of the bed linens and mattresses were cheap. Felt like I was sleeping in a Holiday Inn Express or Travelodge. Other than the aforementioned theater entertainment, everything else in the entertainment category was very average. Not even an outside band at the pool occasionally. Instead, the poolside entertainment space was used for children’s table games. Port visits were way too short in duration when they didn’t need to be (in other words, keep people on-board as long as possible to generate revenue).
So the bottom line is the whole trip seemed like a cheap experience and not something I would repeat, even at a bargain rate. It’s worth paying a bit more for a MUCH MUCH MUCH better experience on practically any other line out there today.
With all that said, it sounds funny to say that I still had a good time! Every cruise and travel experience is unique and one should always make the best them. We’re fortunate to be able to have such experiences indeed!
But I will not sail on MSC again nor recommend it to anyone.
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