We have cruised numerous times and MSC is one of several cruise lines we would never have booked with but as MSC ships are like buses embarking/disembarking in several locations during a 7 night cruise we decided to try it mainly because we had the opportunity to leave from Greenock which is very unusual to say the least.
Our original cruise should have been in June however with the Scottish Government not allowing ships to dock we changed it to August not thinking about Scottish and English school holidays, so 3000 passengers and 1400 children.....
Embarkation was well organised at the Port with staff guiding us to the marquee for check-in. We arrived for our designated boarding time and there was a small queue which was constantly moving, a member of staff was pre checking our insurance documents in advance to ensure they were in order. We were quickly checked in, COVID test, wait for 10 minutes and then escorted onto the ship, from entering the port to embarking was approximately 40minutes. Inside the ship the security was similar to the airport which we've never experienced before getting on a ship and this was quite slow.
I expected a big WOW factor when we we got on but I didn't experience that, the central atrium reminded me of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas where everything came off a central walk way and the domed ceiling with the shows, the Swarvoski stair case, that is quite beautiful covering 3 decks.
The first thing we did when we got on board was make our reservations for Indochine, Butchers Cut and Teaenyakki which you do at the entrance to Indochine inside the L'atellier Bar.
We were disappointed the Champagne Bar didn't open until 4pm as we were looking forward to a glass of champagne, I did think it would have opened for new passengers getting on board however we went to the Mariners Bar and had a Nicolas Feuillette Champagne which is served in all the bars.
The bars and restaurants were on decks 6 & 7 as was the shopping arcade which had some lovely shops.
Our cabin was ready by 1pm a Fantastica balcony 12128. The layout is long and narrow, obviously to accommodate the maximum number of cabins and it's the narrowest we've been in however there was sufficient room to move about easily. It was stylishly decorated in pale grey colours and well appointed, plenty of drawer space, large settee, dressing table with stool and a handy table which slotted underneath however the wardrobe space is the poorest design ever, one side has drawers, shelf and the safe, on the other a hanging space that really did not work, it wasn't long enough or deep enough. I had already read this could be an issue so had brought magnetic hooks and folding hangers and we needed them most our clothes were on hanging on the wall with a few things inside the wardrobe.
The bathroom was compact very good shower and it also had the luxury of a glass shower screen which was great, plenty of storage and a small cupboard where the extra toilet rolls and a bin were.
The balcony had enough space for the 2 chairs, stool and a small table so it was ample.
Our lovely cabin steward introduced herself shortly after we entered the cabin and asked if there was anything specific we needed, we were aware there was now only one a morning cabin service so we only wanted the towels replaced in the evening, she said it wasn't a problem as she would do it when she left the next days programme, she did also dry out the shower we did tip extra and gave her a couple of goody bags, she also reminded us to fill in the mini bar form daily so that she could replace anything we had used.
We had upgraded our drinks package to Premium Plus which was one of the best drinks packages we've ever had, anything on the drinks menu by the glass and no limit on the price so Tattinger Brut and Rose Lanson Black Label, Moet Brut and Rose, Laurent Perrier name a few which were only available in the Champagne Bar, Nicolas Feuillette as I mentioned previously was served in all the bars. Unfortunately the drinks packages change for the winter season so I don't expect this to be available in the future. The Sky Bar is the only one adults bar on the ship and it was always busy, we usually managed to get a seat but again large groups of up to 12 commandeered the seating around you, so the service was very slow when ordering a drink.
In The Buffet on entering, wash hands, temp check and hand sanitizer, it never fails to amaze me how many passengers chose to ignore this. The food was okay, we always found something we liked, very frustrating how some passengers can't, won't, don't follow the arrows on the floor directing everyone the same way, it's in everyone's interest to do this, also the number of rude people who think it's okay to nip in front of you to take something from a hot plate just as I'm about to pick up the tongs/spoon, why exactly am I standing in a queue?
Our MDR was Opera this was less than half full and appeared to be mainly Scottish diners and we met some lovely first time passengers with exceptionally polite and well behaved children. This was a stylish restaurant again very tastefully decorated, we had table 734 a proper table for 2, not stuck in the middle of a row of 6. Paper menus were given each night rather than trying to navigate an app. The selection was varied quite a lot of fish but there was always something we could find that suited us, the food was good not great, we have had better on other lines. Both of our waiters very efficient and friendly they were attentive in making sure wine and water glasses were topped up.
The speciality restaurants, Butchers Cut, Indochine and Tepanyakki were excellent and would highly recommend trying them.
The Theatre group were first class, some of the shows we didn't quite get the story if there was in fact one but the singers and dancers were exceptional we enjoyed all of the 4 shows especially Capriccio, there were 2 other shows which you had to pay to see but we didn't go to them, from conversations we had with other passengers they were excellent. In other venues around the ship there was live music, either a band a duo or a solo singer as I said the entertainment in the evening was great.
There was something different on in the Virtuoso Lounge every night however we were very disappointed as we did not get in there at all during the cruise, this was over run by families with children playing on the dance floor with their toys, sleeping on the seats or people holding seats for other members of their families, not just 1 or 2 but up to 8 seats. Yes, this is a family friendly ship but these people had no consideration for anyone else.
I have to mention the lifts, these were well thought out and extremely efficient, press the button, 6 lifts lettered A-F and you are directed to one of them, only waited a few seconds for the lifts to appear, definitely one thing MSC has right.
We did two ships excursions Belfast City Tour and Liverpool Walking Tour, I would highly recommend these both guides were interesting and informative.
The ship was only 50% capacity and there was sufficient sunbeds to go around however many passengers had towels ,bags, hats etc., on the sunbeds early in the morning, the pool hands hardly had time to get the bed positioned and they were swooped on, again you could see where large groups were positioning themselves, they obviously thought they were in Benidorm in the 80s.
The demographic on the ship ranged from obvious first time cruisers and I would guess on our cruise between 75 to 80% hadn't cruised before to very experienced cruisers like ourselves. We witnessed some very bad behaviour from children who were left to run amok without supervision and parents not bothering, this is annoying and frustrating for other passengers, we also did meet some very nice families. There were also a large number of passengers who thought they were in Magaluf, dressed for dinner, or not, in shorts, T shirt, flip flops and a base ball cap to the MDR, de rigueur, call me a cruise snob but I would never consider wearing clothes like this to a restaurant at home far less on a stylish ship.
Even though there were announcements continually during the day and it was repeated in the Daily Programme constantly, the number people who thought COVID protocols did not mean them, lack of mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing was worrying.
I also believe MSC grossly underestimated the amount of alcohol that British people consume and as everyone had a Premium Drinks package included I'm sure this is where a lot of the issues stemmed from.
The crew work extremely hard and they were all pleased to be working again, everyone we encountered were polite, friendly and efficient, they are there to make our cruise a good experience not be treated with contempt by some British passengers who think they know better.
Embarking in Greenock
Status Match to Diamond for the additional perks
Premium Plus Drinks Package
The cabin was very nice
The crew were friendly, helpful and efficient although overworked
Some of the adult passengers
Lack of wardrobe space
All the embarking and disembarking of passengers at just about every port on the itinerary
The number of passengers who thought COVID protocols did not include them
The ship at full capacity
We enjoyed the week and I believe our experience would have been different if we had managed to cruise in June however it didn't happen. Would we cruise again with MSC, possibly, but making sure it's not during the school holidays and not in the Med during the summer, that leaves Dubai as an option...