Before we left, I read a few reviews that mostly seemed to be negative so I stopped reading determined to go in with an open mind and looking forward to trying something new. I have been on several Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruises but this was a first time for MSC.
I'll start with the PROS:
- The ship is beautiful. The sports bar area was very cool and ended up being where we spent most of our evenings. There are lots of different themed rooms you can go to. A jazz bar, dark and cozy, a billiards room with a pool table and tables you can play cards on, a fun funky neon colored garage lounge...
-The staterooms were very nice. We have always stayed in a balcony room of some sort but this time we tried an interior and it was fine. There was plenty of room and storage. I came prepared with charging blocks with extra USB ports but never needed them. There is a USB port by the bed as well as two at the desk. The showers are glassed in which I liked. One thing I found interesting, the toilets are taller than usual which could be a great thing for some people with hip/knee problems. But if you are short, your feet are going to be hanging when you sit. 😉
-Embarkation and disembarkation were a breeze. Easier than any other cruise I have been on.
-The nightly shows were great. We had small children in our group and even they looked forward to the shows.
-As long as you don't have to be right at the pool, there were always open loungers (mostly around the sides of deck 8), even on sea days. I am not a "lay in the sun" type of person so I didn't pay attention to chair hogging but it seemed like the loungers mostly had bodies in them.
- There was always plenty of seating in the buffet area, especially if you don't mind sitting out side some of the time.
-The pizza in the buffet was very good.
On to the CONS:
-The biggest con for me was the lack of hospitality/customer service. And it smacks you in the face right when you get on the ship. Maybe if I had not been on another cruise line, I wouldn't have noticed. But there is a marked difference between the interaction of staff and guests on the other cruise lines I have been on and MSC. They don't make eye contact with you, they don't try and joke back with you, honestly its like they try and avoid you. I always thank people and there was rarely any acknowledgment. No "your welcome" no head nod, no smile. It was weird. Many times they were just plain rude. My husband asked our MDR waiter a question about breakfast hours, and while he was answering my husband asked another question and the waiter stopped and said in a confrontational tone, "Let me finish!" Awkward... I think if I read a comment like this, I would probably jump to thinking that the person writing it was snooty and rude themselves. But one of the things we love most about cruises is the interaction with staff, with your favorite couple of bar staff, the MDR staff, the room steward. My husband brought along $200 in ones for tipping that he did not plan to leave the boat with. It was really hard to find someone to give those to. We did find one wonderful lady in one of the bars who was friendly and fun and talkative. She took excellent care of us and made sure we always had drinks and snacks.
I'm kind of on a soap box but the difference in staff got me thinking, why is there such a difference? I mean, the staff is largely from the same countries as staff on other boats and in general, they are warm friendly people. So is it the way they are treated behind the scenes? They work very hard and maybe they don't get to cut loose behind the scenes like they do on other lines? Or maybe its that the nationalities of the guests are so diverse. People from different countries expect different things from staff and maybe its hard to navigate how to act around each nationality so you just keep your head down and do your job? I don't know, but it makes me sad because they don't seem very happy. Maybe its lack of training and they don't understand slang or different types of humor? Again people from different countries have different kinds of humor and it would be very confusing trying to figure it out whether someone is trying to be funny or just being rude. The ship, according to our friend at the bar, is only a little over a year old. Maybe they are still just trying to get the kinks worked out.
- There is a lack of consistency and/or knowledge. You can ask 4 different people the same question and get 4 different answers and because of this you end up standing in the wrong lines trying to get help. A couple of examples:
We were supposed to get drink vouchers with our fantasica experience. One person went down to customer relations to get them, got them no problem. (we booked under one booking so it should have all been the same). We went down to get ours, were told, no you are not entitled to them. We came back later to a different person and we got them. But that person was very put out by us. If they didn't make their deals so confusing it wouldn't be an issue. There are just too many types of drink packages and promotions that they don't do a good job keeping up.
They have a bucket of beer deal. You buy 4 and the 5th is free. My husband got the bucket a couple of times but one time they charged him for the 5th beer. He told them the 5th should be free and the guy very rudely said "and why should it be free?" Uh, because that's the deal you offer! Another bar staff stepped in and let him know, yes, in fact that is the deal we offer.
I was told I needed to get names switched on excursion vouchers when we received them. So I followed those instructions when I received them. Stood in line at the excursion desk and then was told it was not possible or necessary to get the names switched.
We spent half of the first day standing in lines trying to get things sorted out. Not how you want to start your vacation.
- They need more elevators. The ship is really tall and large walking up 10 flights of stairs is just not an option for many people. There were always lines at the elevator and the majority of the time when an elevator did stop for you, it was already full. The plus side is you do end up getting quite a bit of exercise.
-Food. I'm not going to tell you the food is horrible like some of the reviews I have read. Its not bad, its just got great. I ate very little from the buffet so I can't comment too much on that. I did get some very good chicken curry of some sort. When we did eat at the buffet, it was mostly pizza which was very good.
I had a couple of really good dishes at the main dining room. The lamb and taziki sauce were great, mushroom ragout, prime rib, lava cake, to name a few. But honestly by the end of the trip I was not ordering based on what I liked the best, I was ordering based on what I thought they couldn't screw up. They had an Italian night and being its an Italian ship, you would think it would have been great. Nope. Also don't order the crepes. Or the molotov desert. IT was just a marshmallow with caramel sauce on it. So if you cruise to eat, you will be disappointed. Otherwise you'll be fine. You just won't be saying "OMG that was delicious!!"
Breakfast, on the other hand, was consistently good in the MDR. They have the hash browns down pat. The chocolate croissant... mmmm. I discovered birchermuelsi and ate it everyday.
-They only have one soft serve ice cream machine and its in the buffet that isn't open all of the time. And its not self serve, and a lot of time its not working or it is out of ice cream. My kids and husband were disappointed in that.
-One of the things we like to do most on a cruise is go the piano bar. But on the Seaside the times were weird. I think mostly it was at 4:30 which was while we were getting ready for dinner. So we didn't end up going but we were sad we couldn't party in to the night at a hopping piano bar.
-We also usually love the comedy club. They only had shows 3 nights and it wasn't up to par with other ships we have been on. However one thing I did like was that it was in the main theater so getting a seat was not an issue. However back to inconsistency, on the app it said something about how it is improv and no two shows will be the same so they encourage you to go to multiple shows. But then right below that it says that seats are limited so please limit yourself to one show. What?
- I never saw bar staff walking around the pool deck taking drink orders. So if you want a drink, you are going to have to get up and get it.
- There is no sea day brunch. The MDR is open from 8- 9:30 and then again from 12- 1:30.
So would I go on MSC again? Should you book an MSC cruise?
I most likely will not cruise MSC again. Its not a hard no, but I will most likely stick to other cruise lines. If I did book MSC again, I would try out the yacht club and hope service was better. I look forward to the food on a cruise, especially in the MDR, so the mediocre food would also be something I would take into consideration. The lack of warm, welcoming staff is what would ultimately turn me away.
If you want a cheaper cruise, nice rooms, and care mostly for the beaches and excursions, then I think MSC would be a great option.