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footzz

MSC Seaside. A non-review type of review.

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This post is not a review per-se. It is simply our observations and experiences on a recent cruise aboard the MSC Seaside. We’re a fairly well traveled middle aged couple and we have a fair amount of cruises under our belt, across many different lines. We’re not demanding, we’re open-minded and pretty much go with the flow. We’ve only cruised on MSC once before. That was on the maiden voyage of the Divina in 2013. Draw your own conclusions, but it took six years for the memories to fade before we decided to give MSC another try. FYI: both cruises were the Bella experience and those six years made a difference. MSC has come a long way in six years with regard to the guest’s experience, but they still have a ways to go, especially in the Customer Service department. On this singular cruise, I visited the front desk more times than all of our other cruises combined. However, our interactions with the rest of the crew and staff were delightful.

While the cruise was mostly enjoyable, there were some striking differences from the contemporary cruise lines that cater to mostly North Americans. We enjoyed meeting people from other cultures and having announcements in several languages was no big deal.  Actually, nothing, in and of itself, was a big deal, but added together, they diminished our overall experience.

The cruise didn’t start off under ideal conditions. We were assigned a stateroom that had a horrendous creaking noise in the ceiling. Every time the ship moved, the ceiling sounded like a bowl of Rice Krispies on steroids; Snap, Crackle and Pop. I tried calling the front desk, but some reason, no one answered our call. So, I went to down to Guest Services at 3:30AM to voice my concerns. The gentleman at the desk assured me that the sounds were “normal” because of the ships movement. I emphatically begged to differ. After a protracted back and forth session, he eventually said someone would come up to investigate. So, back to the room I go. After about 30 minutes, a more sympathetic gentleman entered our room to observe the commotion. He called the front desk and told them it was very loud and it would be difficult to sleep. He told me he would check out some other cabins to find a more suitable environment. After about another 30 minutes, he returned and took me to another cabin for approval. I happily accepted, as it was now 4:30AM. I was relieved and appreciative, until I was told we could “sleep” there for the remainder of the night. We were then told there were no assurances that this would be the stateroom we would be moved to. That decision was to be made by a Supervisor at 9:00AM. Trips to Guest Services would become a recurring theme. At least we finally got some sleep. 

Fast forward to 9:00AM. I once again tried calling the front desk, again to no avail. So, yet again, I go down to Guest Services to wait in a very long line to find out our fate. FYI, the line is much shorter at 3:30AM than at 9:00AM. OK, so we’re getting somewhere. I speak with a “representative” of the Supervisor who informs us we can indeed move into the new “quiet” room. All we have to do is pack our own bags and move our own stuff by ourselves, AND return the card keys in person. Oh Boy! Another trip to the front desk after we move our own belongings to another cabin at the opposite end of the ship! With that episode behind us, at least we have the remainder of the cruise to look forward to. Sort of.

Unlike the other cruise lines we been on, it was clear from this episode, and a couple of other incidents that the personnel at the front desk can’t resolve any issues, until it’s approved by a supervisor. Unfortunately, this resulted in repetitive and redundant interactions with Guest Services to resolve even the simplest of issues.

On to the next observation. As I stated above, we had the Bella Experience, so I can’t unequivocally address whether or not this relates to the other experiences that MSC offers.  So, back to the cabin we go. In no particular order here are three conspicuous things that are different on MSC. First: I always thought that “short sheeting” was just a prank. On MSC it seems to be standard operating procedure. There was no top sheet on our bed. The bed was topped with only a comforter. I don’t know if they are replaced after each guest vacates the cabin, but, by all appearances, it looked like it has been in direct contact with a plethora of other people’s skin. To put it bluntly, it was gross. This was not an isolated incident either. We traveled with two other couples and they reported the same thing. What’s up with that? Second: They do not automatically provide wash cloths. Third: They also do not provide facial tissues. We asked our cabin steward to put a top sheet on the bed and to provide some tissues and washcloths. Unlike Guest Services, our request was handled immediately and in a friendly and professional manner. Thank you Antonio!

This observation concerns “something got lost in the translation”, or, a distinctly different way of thinking. Once again and at the expense of being repetitive, these aren’t gripes, but our reflections of the way MSC does, or does not do things. Frank Sinatra and MSC have something in common; they both do things their way. Here’s a case in point. As on other cruise lines, MSC offers a Continental Breakfast for no charge. Sort of. They have the typical door hangar card with selections for complimentary breakfast items on one side of the card. On the other side of the card, they also offer hot breakfast items for a $7.95 fee. So, the first morning of the cruise we ordered a continental breakfast. It was delivered right on time and the order was correct. So far, so good. But, when we reviewed our on board charges there was a $4.05 fee for the continental breakfast. Well, since I’m now on an almost first name basis with the front desk, (still no answer on the phone) I went to inquire about the charge. I was informed that the charge is listed in the “full” room service menu. Well, they got me on that one. I was told it was my fault for not reading the full room service menu. Because, you know, it’s in there! OK, now I get it. It’s caveat emptor for breakfast. From now on I’ll be sure to read the fine print in the full room service menu buried behind a stack of sales brochures, instead of the prominently displayed door hanger menu. In their defense, they said the charge could possibly be removed, if I came back and spoke to a supervisor. Now I’m in a quandary. Do I wait in line AGAIN to resolve a dispute over $4.05? Nope, I instead went to the commissary and bought antacid tablets to soothe the case of heartburn that suddenly came on.

Okay, so let’s move on to the Photo Desk. We were assigned Gold Level on the MSC status match. Along with other benefits, there is a 20% discount on individual pictures. Sort of. We inquired at the Photo Desk and they confirmed that “Yes” we get the discount. So, we go over to the kiosk and select a picture, complete the transaction and return to the desk to request the discount. The person then proceeded to tell us that if we order from the kiosk we don’t get any discount. I thought he was kidding, because this all transpired in fewer than 5 minutes. Nope! He told us there was nothing he could do, because we had to order the picture directly from him, although he didn’t mention that pesky little detail until after the fact. So, yep, you guessed it; I could go to the Customer Service desk and try to get it rectified. This, my friends, is customer service by attrition. Now, where did I put those antacid tablets?

Here’s the last observation and some unsolicited advice. DO NOT use a Debit card to secure your onboard account. In case you missed the last sentence, DO NOT use a debit card to secure your onboard account.

MSC does make it easy for a customer to use a debit card and select a debit amount of their choosing in increments of $100.  However, if you have any funds remaining on your account after it’s been settled, you have to go to the Customer Service desk to have the funds returned to you in cash. They will not credit your account. They also will not return the funds on the spot. We found this out the hard way. You will have to wait until after 6:00pm to complete the transaction, along with 200-300 other people waiting in line. They actually distribute boxes of currency to the customer service reps to process refunds. Not exactly the epitome of efficiency nor very customer-centric. But, while you’re waiting in a line that snakes all the way back into the elevator vestibule, you’re being entertained by people gleefully singing karaoke with the PA at full volume in the adjacent atrium. Some of the singers were okay, but I didn’t particularly like the woman that sounded like a cat was being scalded in boiling water.

In closing, we made the best of our cruise experience. The ship was flashy, shiny and new. We always enjoy engaging with the crew and staff, and almost all of them were friendly, warm and approachable. The food was decent. The bar and restaurant service was good. Aside from the repetitive Customer Service SNAFU's, it wasn’t much different than the other contemporary cruise lines we’ve been on. Will we go on another MSC cruise? Ask us in six years.

 

 

 

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Sadly the Italian culture and the Modern way of doing things do not go hand in hand!  plus their micro management no longer fits with the Modern age (ask a question = ask a senior manager before a response is given) This area appears to be one where MSC will need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age. 

While they may have shiny new modern latest gadget ships they have Victorian management skills.

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Posted (edited)

This non-review is on-point as to why MSC is often dinged in the area of customer service.  Very well done.

 

PS: And before someone tells you that you should have known there was a charge with continental breakfast with bella, can't we all agree that it should be printed on the form where you actually order said room service

 

Edited by BermudaBound2014

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Thank you everyone for your replies.

1 hour ago, sidari said:

Sadly the Italian culture and the Modern way of doing things do not go hand in hand!  plus their micro management no longer fits with the Modern age (ask a question = ask a senior manager before a response is given) This area appears to be one where MSC will need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age. 

While they may have shiny new modern latest gadget ships they have Victorian management skills.

Per our interactions with customer service, it was fairly obvious from our experience that this wasn't an aberration, but rather standard operational procedure. It was quite frustrating, as we have never experienced this management protocol on any other cruise lines, nor with any other land based vacation experiences we've had. I suspect that being a privately held company may have something to do with it. They don't have any share holders they have to answer to. 

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The ships are beautiful, the staff is great, given what they can do, the cruises themselves are wonderful, but when it comes to make a decision about service for a passenger, whether on land, or on the ship, Italy always gets in the way. Grow up, MSC, or you will fall further back. Let your people that you hired do their job.

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I can’t blame the OP one bit for not wanting to give MSC another shot, I doubt I would, either. However, since others have alluded to it, Italy is not known for running things in absolutely the most consistent and well-oiled manner. But Italian culture is, to me, by far the best on earth. I’ve been there 25 times & plan to retire there. Their food is incredible, their people are warm and kind, the climate amazing, and their culture (art, music, architecture, etc) is without equal. Sorry for the off-topic comments, I know we’re only supposed to be talking about cruising. I support the OP regarding his comments (we’ve only sailed once with MSC and fell in love with them, but each person’s experience can differ).


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Thank you, footzz, it's a fantastic review! Loved it. Sorry for your troubles, though.

 At least I am saving $1,000-1,500 compared to other cruise lines on our MSC maiden voyage next year.... That ought to make me feel happier, right? Right?

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7 minutes ago, DCGuy64 said:

But Italian culture is, to me, by far the best on earth. I’ve been there 25 times & plan to retire there. Their food is incredible, their people are warm and kind, the climate amazing, and their culture (art, music, architecture, etc) is without equal. 

and how's their medical care while you are in your golden years? Or are you planning to fly back every time you have some medical issue come up? :)

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and how's their medical care while you are in your golden years? Or are you planning to fly back every time you have some medical issue come up? :)

I plan to drink wine every day. LOL


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3 minutes ago, DCGuy64 said:


I plan to drink wine emoji485.png every day. LOL emoji23.png
 

Good plan, but not a panacea emoji23.png

I hail from a wine country, whose inhabitants drink wine like Americans drink soda and water.... Yeap, doesn't help. Might wanna have a backup plan, just in case. :) 

 

 

 

Like vodka.

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3 minutes ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

Good plan, but not a panacea emoji23.png

I hail from a wine country, whose inhabitants drink wine like Americans drink soda and water.... Yeap, doesn't help. Might wanna have a backup plan, just in case. :) 

 

 

 

Like vodka.

Well, I was joking, actually, sooo.. :classic_wink: I do have a plan, don't you worry.

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Posted (edited)
2 minutes ago, DCGuy64 said:

Well, I was joking, actually, sooo.. :classic_wink: I do have a plan, don't you worry.

did you see my comment at the bottom? :)

Edited by Itchy&Scratchy

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Posted (edited)
1 minute ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

did you see my comment at the bottom?

Yup. Although I was thinking more along the lines of limoncello. :classic_biggrin: Apologies to @footzz for straying off the topic,  @Itchy&Scratchy and I are just having some fun.

Edited by DCGuy64
Added another sentence or two

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On one of our Seaside sailings we were headed back to the ship and got talking to one of the staff who had attended the meet and mingle party, during the conversation in answer to one of my questions, the reply was that "I am a manager in name only" 

That alone was enough to tell you that MSC employ People to manage but refuses to allow them to do so unless they are Italian!

On the Divina TA in 2013 one of the two cruise directors was telling us that permission had to be sought from Italy in order to print out a number of posters in Colour! The same person was on one of our Seaside sailings and during our conversation I recalled the poster situation to which I asked had anything changed, the response was No.

Move ahead Six years and it seems that little or nothing has changed

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1 hour ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

 

 At least I am saving $1,000-1,500 compared to other cruise lines on our MSC maiden voyage next year.... That ought to make me feel happier, right? Right?

 

BINGO :)... the savings makes the pill a bit easier to swallow.

 

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2 hours ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

Thank you, footzz, it's a fantastic review! Loved it. Sorry for your troubles, though.

 At least I am saving $1,000-1,500 compared to other cruise lines on our MSC maiden voyage next year.... That ought to make me feel happier, right? Right?

 

There's no arguing that MSC has some very attractive lead in pricing. That's part of the reason we gave them another try. The purpose of the review, was to give a point of reference regarding the other contemporary cruise lines we've been on. It wasn't a disaster, far from it. Even if we had been aware of what to expect, regarding MSC's Customer Service protocols, it wouldn't have changed anything, But, at least, we would have been prepared as to what to expect. If the review helped just one person, I'm a happy camper.

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45 minutes ago, sidari said:

On one of our Seaside sailings we were headed back to the ship and got talking to one of the staff who had attended the meet and mingle party, during the conversation in answer to one of my questions, the reply was that "I am a manager in name only" 

That alone was enough to tell you that MSC employ People to manage but refuses to allow them to do so unless they are Italian!

On the Divina TA in 2013 one of the two cruise directors was telling us that permission had to be sought from Italy in order to print out a number of posters in Colour! The same person was on one of our Seaside sailings and during our conversation I recalled the poster situation to which I asked had anything changed, the response was No.

Move ahead Six years and it seems that little or nothing has changed

 

I find it interesting that the idiom "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" didn't make it across the Atlantic. When in Miami...

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2 hours ago, DCGuy64 said:

Yup. Although I was thinking more along the lines of limoncello. :classic_biggrin: Apologies to @footzz for straying off the topic,  @Itchy&Scratchy and I are just having some fun.

 

No apologies necessary. I enjoy seeing people having a good time. Life is not a dress rehearsal.

 

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22 hours ago, footzz said:

both cruises were the Bella experience

Dear zz, Great review !  You left out the most pertinent information, what was the original cabin number??? Information like this is vitally important to the rest of the CC family. For me it is not important. I would only book Yacht Club. But for all the rest of humanity it is vital. They obviously can not fix this cabin. You have a host of great tips in your post. Thank you.

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Curious when your Bella cabin was assigned. I am sailing this Saturday and won an upgrade from a Bella Balcony to a S2 Suite. My cabin was assigned a few days ago. Friends of ours are traveling with us and booked two Bella balconies for three people (same reservation number) and their cabins still have not been assigned. MSC says it usually comes at the four-or five-day mark or it may be when they get to the ship.

 

I, too, would love to know what cabin you had.

 

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39 minutes ago, jdvmd said:

Curious when your Bella cabin was assigned. I am sailing this Saturday and won an upgrade from a Bella Balcony to a S2 Suite. My cabin was assigned a few days ago. Friends of ours are traveling with us and booked two Bella balconies for three people (same reservation number) and their cabins still have not been assigned. MSC says it usually comes at the four-or five-day mark or it may be when they get to the ship.

 

I, too, would love to know what cabin you had.

 

jvdmd

Just to add to your question above, I also am also sailing this Saturday with a guarantee cabin not assigned yet. I called customer service today and was told they are running behind due to the Meraviglia and could be 3 days out when assigned.

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2 minutes ago, Cruise4Jesus said:

jvdmd

Just to add to your question above, I also am also sailing this Saturday with a guarantee cabin not assigned yet. I called customer service today and was told they are running behind due to the Meraviglia and could be 3 days out when assigned.

Thanks for sharing your experience. See you on Saturday!

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3 hours ago, rattanchair said:

Dear zz, Great review !  You left out the most pertinent information, what was the original cabin number??? Information like this is vitally important to the rest of the CC family. For me it is not important. I would only book Yacht Club. But for all the rest of humanity it is vital. They obviously can not fix this cabin. You have a host of great tips in your post. Thank you.

 

Our original cabin was 9163. I actually mentioned to the gentleman at the front desk that this probably wasn't the first time someone brought the noises up. He didn't verbalize his agreement, but based on his facial expression, it wasn't the first time he had to deal with the issue.

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