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steve ch

A taste of MSC for those X cruisers wondering how bad can it be? (Long!)

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After several years of Celebrity sailing, we decided to give MSC a try. The price difference compared to X can be huge, so what do you, or don't you get for your money?

This comparison was compiled by my DW after our sailings on Silhouette in May and MSC Poesia in June/July.

MSC is typically Italian. Some things are very smartly designed, whilst others are impractical or could be better organised. Everything on the MSC Poesia felt slightly smaller and less substantial than on Celebrity.

There was no MSC ‘yacht club’ on this ship, but we were on the ‘Aurea experience’ which was nearest to Aqua class on Celebrity. It included a drinks package, separate anytime dining, a ‘room diffuser’ and bowl of fruit in the cabin, a massage, plus use of the spa area and a dedicated section of the top deck.

Main points in favour of MSC (yes, there were some!)

a) Price. Not only cabin price, but ship’s tours, WiFi etc were substantially cheaper.

b) MSC has a policy of discouraging additional tipping beyond the automatic deductions and it was refreshing not to be pursued by waiters hoping for a tip, or pleading for an ‘excellent report’.

c) The main dining room was open for breakfast and lunch every day, so there was no need to fight for a table in the buffet. On the first day, when the buffet was busy, staff greeted passengers at the door and seated them. The dining room waiters had particularly smart uniforms, I thought.

d) The Aurea spa was beautiful. A welcome patch of peace and quiet with three whirlpools, 2 steam rooms, 2 saunas and a relaxation area. Although smaller, it somehow felt more luxurious and welcoming than the Persian Garden on X. It was also a lot quieter and we had it to ourselves much of the time.

e) The only specialist restaurant served sushi and was never busy, but you could pay extra (28/32 euros) for a T bone steak/lobster entree with wine and starter & desert from the MDR menu, served in the dining room. We did this for our companions’ anniversary meal and the steak was very nice, though perhaps not quite up to X’s filet mignon.

f) Some aspects of cabin design were neater e.g. the mechanism on balcony door, and the bathrobes were slightly more roomy (a big plus for us!).

The main disadvantages we noticed with MSC:

a) The lower cost seemed to be achieved by reducing the amount of public space (and adding more cabins). For example, there was only one specialty restaurant, the three floor atrium had little clear floor space and it seemed as though the ceiling heights were slightly lower. The ship felt a bit noisy and crowded and the dark ceilings and columns made the public spaces slightly claustrophobic. The theatre was smaller, too. Another passenger said it was more like her experience on the Carnival cruise line.

b) There were two outside pools, with whirlpool baths, but no covered or adult only pool.

c) Our balcony stateroom was the smallest we have come across, with room for one armless chair and a stool. The beautifully designed fitments had very small drawers. Wardrobe hangers were made of flimsy plastic. A picture hanging immediately behind the bed made sitting up less comfortable.

d) A drinks package is really essential, as even water with dinner is charged for.

e) Although the decor was ‘blingy’, there weren’t really any vistas providing ‘wow’ moments. Public spaces were broken up with columns and there wasn’t always a clear ‘flow’. The lifts were completely enclosed and felt small. The toilets in the public areas were more like shopping mall toilets than Celebrity or Princess restrooms and certainly did not have a luxury feel. In every Ladies’ restroom cleaning equipment was left lying on the floor and in some the fittings were repaired with gaffer tape. On one occasion none of the washbasin dispensers contained soap. In the buffet, there were call buttons for the drinks servers on every table, but none of them worked.

f) Embarkation procedure was lengthy and inefficient by comparison with the US cruise companies. Cruise cards are not available until you reach your cabin, so passports and documentation are repeatedly requested at check in, security and on boarding. There was no sense of having arrived on board (e.g. moving into a quieter, calmer space or being handed a welcome drink), instead we shuffled into the back of yet another queue, this time to have our security photos taken, and of course we had to produce our documentation yet again. Our cards and bags were waiting for us in our cabin, but it transpired that the wrong code had been entered on our key cards, so we had to visit Guest Relations for new ones before we could easily get drinks.

g) Transfers to and from the ship at ports were shambolic at times. Some passengers weren’t used to queueing and usually there was only one member of MSC staff, who stood little chance of controlling the mob and could not always answer queries. Transfer in Mykonos was by the harbour Sea Bus company and this was poorly organised, with other boats jossling for the same space on the jetty. After I commented to Guest Relations about this, a bottle of wine and canapés were delivered to our room.

 

Good or bad, depending on your viewpoint:

a) There was far less concern with health and hygiene. We were not asked to complete health questionnaires, or to use the hand sanitizers around the ship. There were no nagging ‘wash your hands’ messages on the TV and whilst it was good to be treated like adults, I’d like to see the statistics for Norovirus etc.

b) At 65, we were among the oldest passengers; the vast majority were young families. Some past cruisers with MSC said the number of young children was higher than they had seen before, even though the Poesia isn’t designated one of the MSC ‘family ships. The kids were mostly well behaved, with only the odd game of football in the elevator lobby (well, the world cup WAS on!)

c) The overwhelming impression on entering the buffet was that they only serve pizza and pasta, but there was a wider selection of food (including an ‘ethnic counter’) and some outside seating in another room at the back. I think that many people never found this place. It's where the crew eats. There were also special buffet counters, with height restrictions, for children.

d) The main dining room sittings were slightly later than on US ships, starting at 7.00pm. Only Aurea guests had anytime dining. There was no problem making a booking and we had the same (window) table and waiting staff every night.

e) Passengers were of many different nationalities. We were prepared for this and knew there would be a plethora of announcements, but they were surprisingly intrusive, and because (accented) English came first, we had often only just tuned into the voice by the time the announcer moved on to Italian, Spanish, German, French and Japanese. Some of the crew had a poor grasp of English, so it was hard for them to explain to us the nature of the problem with drinks packages on our cards on embarkation day, for example.

So, would we go with MSC again? Possibly, but on this occasion the points above, combined with very hot weather and an intensive port experience (7 ports in 7 days) made us very glad that we will be on Celebrity Solstice for our next cruise!

I'm sure there are many points I've missed in areas which didn't impact on us. I can't comment, for example on the casino, except to say that smoking is allowed.

 

If anyone wants more info, I'll be happy to try and recall.

Edited by steve ch

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Nice review! We sailed the MSC Seaside in April and loved everything about it. In our opinion it is the best deal around right now and would sail her again in a heartbeat. It was our first MSC but won't be our last. I love seeing great ships going out of Miami that are great deals. The other lines better take notice and I hope it helps bring prices down due to competition from MSC.

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Thanks for your review. Just this weekend I was considering an MSC cruise on a ship without the Yacht Club - which I was a bit reluctant to book based on previous posts here. Ultimately we decided not to book - but I have to say your review was less negative than I was expecting.....

 

Mike

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They don't charge for ice water from a pitcher. At least they didn't when I sailed MSC.

That may be, but we never saw, nor were we offered a pitcher. Even still water was from a bottle (chargeable).

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Thanks for your review. Just this weekend I was considering an MSC cruise on a ship without the Yacht Club - which I was a bit reluctant to book based on previous posts here. Ultimately we decided not to book - but I have to say your review was less negative than I was expecting.....

 

Mike

 

We have booked celebrity for spring next year and msc seaside yacht for November 2019, almost same perks as new Edge private suite pool and area , but price on seaside was half what edge was , not willing to spend 4K for a sky suite

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OP it would be interesting how you would rate a MSC new ship. Poesia is pretty old. I think a lot of the issues wouldn't be there with a new build.

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They offered me "still or sparkling" and I asked for "plain water with ice" and had no issue getting it. So while I agree they didn't offer me "tap water" as I recall, it was there and it was free.

Actually I've been to nicer restaurants stateside and was offered "still or sparkling" and have had the same thing happen when I asked for plain ice water.

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...

So, would we go with MSC again? Possibly, but on this occasion the points above, combined with very hot weather and an intensive port experience (7 ports in 7 days) made us very glad that we will be on Celebrity Solstice for our next cruise!

....

 

Thanks for review. It didn't sound like a review that would scare people away screaming.

 

What was the approx cost difference between your cruise and what you were seeing on Celebrity?

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Msc has a status match , so if you are elite you become black card with there perks including 5 percent off fare, better yet if you are a veteran they give you 10 percent off, but you cannot combine these two.

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Thanks for review. It didn't sound like a review that would scare people away screaming.

 

What was the approx cost difference between your cruise and what you were seeing on Celebrity?

This was 7 nights Aurea Experience, Venice to Venice. Same week on Constellation, Aqua class, Barcelona to Venice was £1000 pp more.

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We are booked on MSC Seaside, this September, in the Yacht Club Deluxe Suite. The cost per day is about $15 p.p. per day less than doing the Aqua Class on the Equinox in the same general time period. The price, for both, include the Classic drink package on the Equinox and the Deluxe package on the Seaside. The Seaside package includes all drinks throughout the ship plus the minibar. There are many other extras tied to the Suite than the Aqua. Worth the shot, looking forward to it.

We also have a Grand Suite booked on the Allure for the following month. Didn't even consider Celebrity because of the huge price differential compared to the Allure and many extras compared to Aqua.

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Try the Yacht Club on a new ship next time. I just cancelled a sky suite on Celebrity S class and booked a yacht club suite on Seaside. $8,000 vs. $2,000. No brainer. And you don't have to deal with the crowds in the Yacht Club. Celebrity does not yet have the ship within a ship concept. MSC matched my status on Celebrity, giving me their highest status.

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Let me get this straight, if I am Elite on Celebrity MSC will give me what they call that status on MSC??????????? I need to look into this, we love Celebrity but I think it is time to look at MSC.

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You will be Black on MSC. I just sailed the Seaside in April and loved it. We are also elite on Celebrity, but will definitely sail MSC Seaside again.

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Adding my 2¢ - I cruised out of FL - MSC one week, immediately followed by Celebrity. The entertainment on MSC was outstanding. Much better than the entertainment I had the following week.

 

My biggest negative wouldn't be an issue with most - I was cruising solo. It was not much fun sitting at a table (breakfast & lunch) with people with whom you couldn't have a conversation. It very uncomfortable. I like to chat with fellow cruisers - I was feeling really solo my week on MSC.

 

I was happy to end my adventure on Celebrity. Both experiences were slightly different - nothing extreme. I did see some cruisers be irritated with the waiters, etc. if there was a problem understanding. I would only return to MSC if I was cruising with someone.

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Before we sailed MSC ( We sailed Divina in the YC) we were told that on European sailings you pay for water, as is customary in restaurants in Europe. On U.S. based sailings they provide tap water for no cost, as is customary in the U.S. In the Yacht Club restaurant both still and sparkling bottled water was available for no cost.

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I also sailed MSC Seaside Fantastica balcony room followed by Oasis Central Park balcony room back in Jan. After my experience on MSC my DW and I couldn't wait to get on Oasis. Seaside is a beautiful ship but that is where it ends. Prices were comparable but experiences were not. Spent most of my time at guest services trying to change from my sewer smell room, getting what I was supposed to get on Status Match,and trying to straighten out erroneous charges on my account. Granted this was a fairly new ship but there is no excuse for bad service, unhealthy room conditions, constantly being served cold and wrong food,and not getting any satisfaction and them basically calling me a liar from guest services when this was brought to their attention. Never again!

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This is a great thread. Thank you to the OP.

 

Celebrity is my go-to for cruising, and I am very happy with the product. However, I had been considering trying MSC due to the price difference.

 

Smoking in the casino on MSC is a disappointment for me. Does anybody know if the rest of the ship is smoke-free entirely on MSC ?

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We would never go on MSC except in the Yacht Club, as we don't care for the design of their ships. We love YC but even there, we were disappointed with the food, which we found quite ordinary, surprising for an Italian ship

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We would never go on MSC except in the Yacht Club, as we don't care for the design of their ships. We love YC but even there, we were disappointed with the food, which we found quite ordinary, surprising for an Italian ship

I agree that the food is "ordinary". No doubt that is one area where they make economies. Having said that, meals in the MDR were well prepared and we never went hungry. Poesia suffers from only having one specialty restaurant, sushi, which was very underused, much like X's Sushi on 5. I was surprised that it hadn't been converted into something which would create more revenue. Still, T bone steak and lobster were available in the MDR for a surcharge. I liked that idea.

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This is a great thread. Thank you to the OP.

 

Celebrity is my go-to for cruising, and I am very happy with the product. However, I had been considering trying MSC due to the price difference.

 

Smoking in the casino on MSC is a disappointment for me. Does anybody know if the rest of the ship is smoke-free entirely on MSC ?

I'm not sure about balconies, but smoking was certainly permitted on deck.

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