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Trip Report -MSC Fantasia - South America 6th December 2019

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This is a short mini review of my experience on MSC Fantasia out of Rio De Janeiro 9 day cruise returning to Rio De Janeiro via Ilhabela (Brazil), Punta del Este (Uruguay) and Buenos Aires (Argentina).

I will try to cover only the ship as MSC is new to me and I won’t cover port days.

 

It is very important to say this review is subjective and based on my personal tastes (which won’t match everyone) and as most here know, plenty of research.

 

Let's set out what I like and don’t like from a cruise and my experience:

1, I am more interested in the ports of call than the cruise itself and regard the ship as a floating hotel.

2, Due to (1 above) this I tend to book inside cabins.

3, My only previous experience is NCL so all comparisons are based on these cruises.

4, I never spend any time by the pool.

5, I enjoys activities and find myself rushing from one activity to the next all day long on NCL.

6, I love the shows, I never miss one and they are a highlight of my day.

7, I don’t do buffets (ever) and always dine in the main dining room.

8, We had status matched to Diamond (black) for this first MSC cruise.

 

EMBARKATION at Rio De Janeiro, ( @JohnJayJotaJames especially asked me comment on this).

The port is easy to get to and consists of several very large old warehouses, one after another running the length of the dock.

We had an embarkation time of 12.30 but as we had status matched we decided to arrive early at about 11AM by Uber who dropped us of directly at the dock, We could see the Fantasia behind the first warehouse and started walking towards the ship as there were no signs of instructions. On our long walk to the first warehouse a kindly street vender directed us in the other direction, it appeared we needed to be in warehouse 3, on arrival we were directed to warehouse 5 for the bag drop and return to warehouse 3 for embarkation. When we arrived back at warehouse 3 to embark it appeared we should have been given a boarding number at the bag drop, as we did not have this they scribbled some numbers on out paperwork.

 

As I have eluded to, finding the bag drop and boarding locations were confusing, but as the warehouses were huge and next to each other it was actually easy to work out but involved a lot of walking.

 

The terminal itself was very busy with hundreds of people waiting to board, as we had (Diamond) priority embarkation we set about trying to find the priority entrance which was a bit of a struggle to find and be understood, luckily I had print offs of the black card PDFs and showed these to a few staff and eventually got pointed to the yacht club gate which was blocked 10 deep with a crowd of people waiting for the main embarkation to open, after struggling to the front through the crowds we were ushered through and joined a short queue of about 6 people who were waiting to embark.

 

Once we had made it to the correct embarkation queue things went very smoothly, our papers were checked and we were sent to a mini bus to drive us the length of the pier back to the ship. Onboard ship, our cards were scanned, our pictures were taken and we were free to explore the ship.

 

Overall: The boarding procedure was a bit confusing and not well signposted but actually not too difficult due to the vas size of everything.

 

STATEROOM

We had been given a free upgrade from an inside Bella to a balcony on deck 12, rooms were available from 2PM and we were keen to see out room. After lunch (only the buffet was available on embarkation day) and  couple of drinks we went to our room.

The room was lovely, a good size, very clean, a comfy bed and overall a nice room.

Things of note:

There were no power points near the bed, the 240v European and 110v American plugs were all over the desk.

There is a shower curtain around the shower in the bathroom (I detest shower curtains) instead of a glass door.

We hung out towels up for reuse (per instructions) but they were always replaced with new (twice a day) after use.

 

MINI BAR

As I’m talking about the room, I will cover the mini bar here, on day one it was almost empty with only three soft drinks in it, as we had the mini bar covered on our deluxe drinks package (more later) I left a note asking our steward to refill it.

After the first day the mini bar was topped up each afternoon with a good range of drinks and snacks, never what was on the checklist but perfectly good.

One thing of note, the room steward incorrectly marked our use off every day, marking we had used far more than we even had in the bar, as it was included this did not concern me but if I was paying for the usage it would have been very annoying, there was also no checklist in the room for me to complete, the steward would leave one form a day for me to sign with what he decided (always wrong) I had used.

 

THE SHIP

The ship was lovely, very clean, lots of bling and really stunning and easily has the edge over NCL for the sheer beauty. Smoking was not an issue, even the casino (where you could smell smoke) was not especially smoky.

Things of note, the casino is very small, I don’t use it but for those who do, it was tiny with only a few tables compared to NCL. The other small this was there were no automatic doors, again no issue to me but not easy for those with disabilities.

 

BARS & DRINKS

There was a good selection of bars and I loved a couple, the beer and wine bar was great with a much more extensive range of wines and a big choice of beers (even Newcastle Brown on tap). I will post menus in a later post as I have never seen menus from this bar.

I also loved the Piazza bar where you could order gelato, great coffee and small pastries.

What I did not like however was the limited menu in most bars, as an example there were only about 6 white wines and about 6 red wines, the three most expensive white wines were almost never available at most of the bars which was very frustrating. The cocktails were also very limited, my only point of reference is NCL, there each bar has a huge range of cocktails and they are different at each bar, I found myself taking pics of the cocktails on NCL so I knew the huge range.

The bar service was also a real pain, there were never many staff working and even at an empty bar you could be ignored for ages, after a while I decided it was better to order from the bar service staff and not from the bar tenders, even then sometimes it was hard to place an order.

One thing I have never experienced on a ship before is bar staff arguing with each other on swearing, one particular bar tender I heard swear (F word) on several occasions when something did not go well.

 

What is very good on the ship is being able to get a decent coffee (from several bars), this is always an extra charge on NCL. I also loved being able to pick up a cold bottle of water whenever I liked, this is great before an excursion, again on NCL your only hope it to take a refillable bottle and top it up at the buffet.

 

DRINKS PACKAGE

We ordered the Deluxe package which has now been discontinued for over a year, it’s important to so this is my experience of a package that is no longer available and therefore will NOT be most people's experience, it was however so frustrating, I have to cover my experience. Apparently there were only 10 of us onboard with the Deluxe package, so much of what I’m about to say is understandable to an extent.

 

Whenever we ordered drinks, hardly anyone knew the package and it involved checking a crib sheet, calling a manager or just simply presenting us with a bill and telling us we were not covered. Receiving a bill was the biggest pain as they always had to void it, the manual process meant writing void on the receipt which (should) get rectified the following day aster all the receipts have been processed. When I said should, this often did not happen and meant us waiting at customer service to get it removed which again was not instant and took until the next morning.

 

One day at lunch in the restaurant a waiter told us our package did not cover the wine, when I questioned this he told me I was wrong as he asked his manager, I asked him to check again, he eventually refused to check again and said he would get his manger to explain, then his manager (white jacked in restaurant) came over he said “Why have you been charged?”, all I could do was shrug and say “No idea.”.

 

The drinks package was great and covered most things (although the $13 USA limit was reduced to $10 for us) but it was just such a pain getting staff to accept we were covered.

 

Most of this experience will not happen to others, as I said it was an old package, however where MSC fail IMHO is they systems, on NCL they swipe the card and the items ordered are either covered or if not it spits out a receipt for the guest to sign, on MSC, the staff have to make a manual decision, they look at the code and have to decide if a payment is required and enter it into the till as chargeable or non-chargeable this is open to human error and NCLs automated system is much superior.

 

RESTAURANTS

We were assigned a first sitting (7.30PM) at Il Cerchio D’oro main restaurant and only red velvet was open for breakfast and lunch.

While breakfast and lunch are served in red velvet, there is also a buffet set up in the middle of the room, and while you are offered a menu, they make it clear they really want you to use the buffet, even if you try to order from the menu, they will often say “Oh, that’s available at the buffet!”.

 

Breakfast, for me this was very poor, I am used to a huge choice on NCL, usually eggs benedict or eggs royale for breakfast with choice of kippers and every kind of pancake, waffle and breakfast item you can think of. At breakfast I found the service very slow and the food service slower, every day I ordered 2 poached eggs on toast with a side of bacon, this had been hanging around so long the eggs were hard and the toast was like soggy cardboard, I’m really not fussy but breakfast was very poor.

 

Lunch was better than breakfast but we were still made very clear they would rather we used the buffet than the menu, the service was also slow at lunch and the choice very limited, the quality of the lunch was much better and every dish we ordered was very good.

 

I just don’t understand why they need to turn the dining room into a buffet, the real buffett is huge and has a big range of food, it I sit in the restaurant or breakfast and lunch I expect to be served and not sent to a buffet.

 

Typical Lunch Menu:

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Dinner in Il Cerchio D’oro was very good, the choice was still very limited but the taste and quality were very good.

We were assigned a two seat table without asking which we loved and we liked keeping the same table and sae waters. Our waiter was great, like most of the bars my favourite wine was not available on day 1, but our waiter ensured we have a bottle (by the glass, on drinks package) available every night of the cruise.

 

Dinner was lovely every day, despite the lack of choice the food was excellent and our waiters provided attentive great service.

 

Typical Dinner Menu:

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Butchers Cut was fantastic, we had one specialist meal there and it really was an amazing steak and great dining experience……. Although once again marred by the drinks package, we were told only premium plus was allowed included in Butchers Cut, after a phone call and an apology we were told Deluxe was fine too!

 

Sports Bar, we did not eat here as they only open 7pm to 1am for burgers and hotdogs – I really missed NCL buffalo wings after a late nights!

 

SHOW & ENTERTAINMENT

The evening shows were OK but we found them really repetitive, they were three singers, a female lead and two males, all the shows were singing with very operatic in style, with an example, the Freddie Mercury tribute night was good, but they belted out every some like Freddie’s Barcelona album, for those who know, he sung this album with operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé.

 

The bar entertainment was good, there were pianos in two bars, singers in others and sometimes a funny late night show (midnight) which was hysterical.

 

The activities on the ship was almost not existent, on NCL I’m used to shuffleboard competitions, giant Jenga, Trivia, adult scavenger hunts, simply a nonstop itinerary of things to do throughout the day, there were a lot of drunken and wet activities around the pool but nowhere else on the ship and as I don’t do the pool these were not suitable (do remember I said this is very subjective).

 

SPA

I had a 1 hour spa experience as part of the diamond card and was not overly impressed, there were a number of steam rooms and saunas, two rooms with double spa baths and one room with (regular) sunbeds and a sea view, I did expect maybe heated loungers, perhaps water therapy jets and nice big herbal Jacuzzis.

The two person bath we used was faulty and the bubbles kept stopping on my side of the bath, I have more thermal facilities at my local gym, while it was OK, I would not have gone back for a second visit even if there was no charge.

I just felt a saunas, a steam room and a two person whirlpool bath was not enough to make it worth paying for.

 

SERVICE CHARGE

One day when we had really bad service at breakfast and the food was too bad to eat, l got incorrectly charged again at a bar I was so angry I decided I was going to reduce (not remove but just reduce) the service charge for the first time in my life, later in the day I calmed down and changed my mind. I say this to put my next comment into context.

The day before disembarkation I went to customer service first thing to get another drinks charge removed, at lunch I got another incorrect charge applied and knowing it takes hours to have them removed I went to customer service immediately to get it removed so it would be off in time for the final account. At customer services they printed the bill and agreed to get the charges removed, I asked “where is the service charge?” and was told I had asked one of the other staff to be remove it in the morning, I kept saying I had not wanted it removed but just kept being told I was wrong and that I had requested it’s removal. In the end I just said fine!

 

I can still say I have never removed a DSC as I have not but I did not pay it and was fed up with trying to get them to accept they made an error. Instead I paid cash tips to all the staff that had made my cruise enjoyable (like my waiter), I would rather have paid the DSC, but it was taken out of my hands.

 

DIAMOND (BLACK) CARD

The diamond card was great and for those who have never had one (like me) here are some tips:

You do not get all the benefits on day one, they come day by day, as an example out bubbly and dipped fruit turned up after 5 days and the chocolate ships after 7 days.

Go and see the rep as they will give you a black pin, she just asked me if it was my first cruise as diamond.

Check regularly, our dance class invite came on day of use and we did not return to the cabin to find the invite until the class was over.

Book Butchers cut early on, you don’t need an invite, we did not even get an invite.

Go to the spa when you feel like it, we did not get a invite.

Priority tender is available but more of an honesty thing, wait in the theatre and they call priority, even though you have priority tickets you don’t have to show them, you only have to follow the person that calls you. A lot of people without priority will also join this group which is why I say its honesty based.

Last check out was great instead of having to leave the room at 7am we had until 9am - but the noise in the early hours (both around 1am & around 6am), the do not disturb sign being turned around and having our door practically kicked in on departure morning, I really needed all the time I could get!

 

MY CONCLUSION

I will use MSC again but it will not replace NCL as my line of choice.

I did love the ship and the overall experience, MSC does some things much better than NCL but there are many things that are important to me that MSC do not do as well and the two most important are the shows and breakfast/lunch served as a buffet in the dining room.

 

I know there is a lot of negatives in this review but I hope I have been balanced, and in all honesty I don’t have any axe to grind, this is just my subjective experience.

 

@JohnJayJotaJames - Just to add, we did indeed have a fantastic time in both fabulous time in Rio and Foz de Iguassu, I will go as far as to say those were far better than any of the cruise ports and the falls are just incredible.

 

 

 

Edited by Host Carolyn
OP request

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These are the menus from the Wine & Beer bar

This is a lovely quiet spot with some lovely drinks.

 

Sorry the quality is not great on all the pics.

I think all the bold can be read which is all that really matters.

 

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Edited by ziggyuk

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@ziggyuk So happy to hear that you enjoyed Rio & Foz de Iguassu and that you had a good cruise. We're embarking tomorrow in Santos and hope we've mastered enough conflicting info to get correct road, gate, car park and YC tent to have a pleasant checkin and boarding. Thanks for the Rio info - friends are boarding on Friday in Rio - I hope it's not too complicated for them! 

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5 minutes ago, JohnJayJotaJames said:

@ziggyuk So happy to hear that you enjoyed Rio & Foz de Iguassu and that you had a good cruise. We're embarking tomorrow in Santos and hope we've mastered enough conflicting info to get correct road, gate, car park and YC tent to have a pleasant checkin and boarding. Thanks for the Rio info - friends are boarding on Friday in Rio - I hope it's not too complicated for them! 

 

To be honest it is not at all clear where to go (on arrival), my natural instinct was to head for the ship which turned out to be the wrong way.

Although not clear, you can't go too far wrong as there is just a row of about 6 huge warehouses and they only appear the use 3,4&5 for cases and checking, once you have spoken to someone you can't go wrong.

There it a lot of walking so if they can find a trolly, grab one, we did not see any on the way out but on the way back there were loads.

Have a good cruise, are you also on the Fantasia?

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@ziggyuk Friends are on Fantasia on Friday. We're on the MSC Seaview from Santos on Thursday. We're heading North to Buzios, Salvador de Bahia, Ilheus and Ilha Grande (all within Brazil). We did this cruise 3 years ago on the Preziosa - they replaced Ilha Grande with RIo - I was looking forward to visiting Ilha Grande so fingers crossed this time round!
How were the crowds on your cruise? Were the Brazilians in party mode very noisy? 

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20 minutes ago, JohnJayJotaJames said:

@ziggyuk Friends are on Fantasia on Friday. We're on the MSC Seaview from Santos on Thursday. We're heading North to Buzios, Salvador de Bahia, Ilheus and Ilha Grande (all within Brazil). We did this cruise 3 years ago on the Preziosa - they replaced Ilha Grande with RIo - I was looking forward to visiting Ilha Grande so fingers crossed this time round!
How were the crowds on your cruise? Were the Brazilians in party mode very noisy? 

 

I tried to avoid that part for fear of causing offence to anyone.

 

I already mentioned the priority entrance was 10 deep with people waiting to get on early through the regular entry which was not open, the port authority's fault really IMHO as there was no crowd control or roped off areas at all and everyone was left to push forward.

 

As soon as we boarded we received comments from bar staff such as "You speak english, thank god, where are you from?", and I was told things by staff like "Good luck, they are very pushy and rude. I have to be honest, that was not my experience at all, most were certainly in party mode and (my god) very loud but spent most of the time around the pool playing drunken games, this is not my hang out area so I did not come into contact with most of the partying except late at night.

 

In fact, even the bars were quite quiet as most people just wanted to party by the pool for as long as they could and this suited up, unfortunatly the quiet bars did not improve the bar service and even when I was the only person at the bar the tenders appeared to always find a way to keep themselves busy.

 

The front of house (bar staff / waiters) were a big mix from all over the world, with a lot from Indonisia, I asked some if there were many Brazilian workers and was told hundreds had joined the cruise, I did not ask but can only assume they were working behind the scenes because we did not meet many. I think I mentioned in the other thread that it was my understanding it is a regulation in Brazil that they use a high proportion of local workers. 

 

My only negative experience of rowdiness was on the last night, there was a lot of shouting in the corridors late at night which kept us awake and then we were woken again with the same 5-6AM, and at some point someone was hammering on our door and ran off, probably as we had a do not disturb hanger on the door (which they also turned, but I guessed what they did before the steward came). 

The Diamond card gave us late checkout (9AM instead of 7AM), I had hoped to get some sleep in before a very long flight but it was not to be the case.

 

I hope you have a great cruise, I loved the ship, I was just not impressed with a buffet experience in the dining room, the slow service and the entertainment aspects.

 

Do all MSC ships run a buffet service in the main restaurant for breakfast and lunch, I had not anticipated this and certainly not read about this before?

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We are sailing on Fantasia on March 10 from Santos to Barcelona so very interested in your review. I cannot see the menus on my phone but will look on the laptop later.

Re the Brazilian passengers, we did Valencia to Santos on Poesia last November and it was exactly as Ziggy says. Quite a few play a card game called Truco around the pool which involves a lot of shouting. Other than that they are no different to any other mix on an MSC cruise I have been on.

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22 hours ago, rool said:

We are sailing on Fantasia on March 10 from Santos to Barcelona so very interested in your review. I cannot see the menus on my phone but will look on the laptop later.

Re the Brazilian passengers, we did Valencia to Santos on Poesia last November and it was exactly as Ziggy says. Quite a few play a card game called Truco around the pool which involves a lot of shouting. Other than that they are no different to any other mix on an MSC cruise I have been on.

 

@rool I can post the daily planners if its useful.

I brought them home.

Edited by ziggyuk

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Here are the daily programs,

opening times at the very end (once) as it common to all programs.

 

Day One - Friday 6/12/2019

 

1.1.thumb.jpg.5599a96fa5f333c3d71ee64950daf800.jpg1.2.thumb.jpg.1d6211aeac18cd0a3185c0c930e44f3b.jpg1.3.thumb.jpg.3a65b7682c4d4ae99a25b10af628ce7d.jpg1.4.thumb.jpg.195b99f63f0e5b45492ddfe68bb72ab9.jpg

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Thanks for sharing your trip report/review! It must have been a nice to receive a free upgrade from an inside to a balcony. I was hoping to see your pictures, but apart from your recently uploaded daily planners, I can't see any pictures at all, only this "access denied"-sign:

 

2212312312.thumb.JPG.d71c6e013a1ba816ce3f6ab33a8900a2.JPG

Not sure if I'm the only one having this problem?

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15 minutes ago, AeroXWD said:

Thanks for sharing your trip report/review! It must have been a nice to receive a free upgrade from an inside to a balcony. I was hoping to see your pictures, but apart from your recently uploaded daily planners, I can't see any pictures at all, only this "access denied"-sign:

Not sure if I'm the only one having this problem?

 

Sorry about that, I had no idea.

I think is was because I dragged them in from my Google Photos, I can see them but nobody else can.

I will repost.

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Typical Lunch menus missing in post #1

 

L1.thumb.jpg.8fc5b754f20ddccbcdc73b8c1f02c071.jpgL2.thumb.jpg.b4d8923e4a815c20b1679e6ea888bbed.jpg

 

 

Typical Dinner menus missing in post #1

 

D1.thumb.jpg.77a7d03d3ed90d8a1a0da3456002f03e.jpgD2.thumb.jpg.8331f302f793cd719217a1c145bfb3df.jpg

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These are the menus missing from post #2 from the Wine & Beer bar

This is a lovely quiet spot with some lovely drinks.

 

Sorry the quality is not great on all the pics.

I think all the bold can be read which is all that really matters.

 

1.thumb.jpg.b5facc74242fec82540d2a565a048769.jpg2.thumb.jpg.5766c4c8a11210757c92cb6c1946abe4.jpg3.thumb.jpg.18fb1d68595c650f6f842ab9fae993f3.jpg4.thumb.jpg.17b30966c5667e32adfeb72d847936b4.jpg5.thumb.jpg.20d8fae0fd7a5bacc92ca5f7bf6da77e.jpg6.thumb.jpg.8b909a23e5c28f139b5c0779bb51bb44.jpg7.thumb.jpg.1fc7fa6b9f0d8f155a7b8d9476ab44a1.jpg8.thumb.jpg.fc65fd7e2e185dbbc8fa557fc9bfc95a.jpg9.thumb.jpg.57d9bfd06ef118b57470a2f450e56001.jpg10.thumb.jpg.ba48a0eaba5bdeab132f670e89fc6d48.jpg11.thumb.jpg.88106846b749d4d76e49893e1bf26ee9.jpg12.thumb.jpg.81b34c554d8501d69fc6f7928cf9c01f.jpg13.thumb.jpg.2425f586d53aaf3be6c0a3e88c6dda5b.jpg14.thumb.jpg.e94d01b0f78144f4e7b0686f401688c1.jpg15.thumb.jpg.75ea179747b39a388f95f0e0eeeb66d4.jpg16.thumb.jpg.a1def4a5d925dbc64d245fced0aa74f7.jpg17.thumb.jpg.01f10c4277268fc5b14ed5efb067988d.jpg18.thumb.jpg.715be84122cc83d519c7a4e3fd6e4551.jpg19.thumb.jpg.486279a2ab37bb2d18d3e23e8bddf872.jpg20.thumb.jpg.c5b2ca25d2be26c10d6adf00f6b16ced.jpg21.thumb.jpg.efd5ae70b9943f2c14392f3b33d45f4e.jpg22.thumb.jpg.664cefb92bdb60ad8579004d0bb1a735.jpg

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