MSC Bellisima inaugural -the good the bad the ugly
We were excited to join Bellisima in Southampton for the maiden voyage. Embarkation was speedy, and we were quickly onboard, trying to locate our cabin . We were delighted to easily find our way, and found 12084, after a few wrong turns. A dull mustard and grey decor made the cabin quite dark, but it was roomy, comfortable and the bathroom compact but well planned. We were glad wed packed toiletries, because the provided generic dispensers do not suit all skin. The narrow balcony was furnished with 2 mesh chairs and table, and we were glad to retreat to it when the sun shone! A basic , prompt, room service breakfast was on offer, but any further room service was at a pay per item charge. As Fantastica, returning gold card guests we were greeted by a bottle of bubbly, some delicious canaps and a welcome back card. As wed arrived at lunchtime, we headed for the enormous buffet area, hoping to enjoy delicious Italian dishes. There were many choices of the kind of dishes youd find anywhere but were disappointed to find just one prepared pasta dish, and a live pasta station...as long as you like ragu sauce it was fine! There was a fascinating display room showing the production of mozzarella cheeses, with a huge greeen machine churning out the round balls of this typical Italian cheese. The included wines were very basic, a choice of Canti red, white or rose. Whatever you chose, even for juice , mineral water or coffee, cruise card was requested, which we thought an irritating , rather ugly aspect of nickel and diming. Like many others we explored this enormous vessel, finding top deck water park rides, and various thrill rides, but were astonished that there was a charge for each experience. There were several pools, surrounded by sun beds and chairs, very popular when the sun came out, but wished theyd lower the insistent loud music. Evening dining in one of 3 main dining rooms, was well organised with plenty of tables for two. The waiters and maitre d we had were all well trained, efficient and charming. We enjoyed the varied cuisine and were offered very decent Italian wines by the restaurant manager Fabio, who impressed us with the wine selection and his knowledge. As a wine professional, I enjoyed his advice on the more unusual wines he suggested. Dining was much better than wed anticipated on such a huge ship, and we felt no need to book meals in any of the speciality restaurants. We particularly liked the range of freshly made breads on offer, but were disappointed by the poor fish dishes. Italian specialities like osso buco were excellent, as were the cheeses. After dinner, we usually headed for the popular Bellisima bar , which had live music, dancing and comfortable seating. The other inviting spot was the pub, but we were not very tempted by other , very busy bars as the seating was mostly on elegant looking but uncomfortable bar stools. Many guest spent time enjoying wandering the mall like central arcade and fascinating overhead displays Evening entertainment was clearly designed for polyglot audiences, with a range of jugglers, puppet shows etc in the main theatre for which you had to book on the cabin interactive system, and , in its own smaller showroom a shortened version of cirque de soleil, which we found rather disappointing, and felt ripped off by the cost of a watered down cocktail which guests are obliged to buy in order to gain admission. We found few quiet spots for chatting, and guests hoping to have a quiet read whilst enjoying a drink were disappointed by the paucity of the library , in reality a book shelf! A real bugbear for many was the ordering system for everything. Staff carried round a pad which supposedly was linked to a fool proof accounting system. It was barely fit for puspose as mistakes were made constantly, resulting in long queues at the reception desk to correct the errors. Guests found daily wrong charges on their accounts . The many tech support people wandering the ship clearly need to better understand and simplify the systems they have put in place. In the end we asked to see the guest services manager and firmly informed her that we were under the impression that the entire system needed a revamp as it was not customer friendly and simply not working . On our final day we were delighted to find all charges had been voided. To use the excuse that it was a new ship over 4000 passengers and new staff was unacceptable, as they had all had a 3 week training period to get to grips with the systems. We have been on other large inaugural ship cruises, which operated smoothly from the first day. It was an interesting experience, but for a company trying to make inroads in the lucrative UK crushed market we feel that they have a way to go to establish a loyal customer base. We have been on a previous smaller MSC ship and really enjoyed the experience, the Italian catering and staff. Maybe MSC should concentrate on what they do best, on their smaller, loved ships, and not convince themselves and their guests that bigger is better.
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