MSC Magnifica Cruise Review by Fireman95
- Sail Date: July 2018
- Destination: British Isles & Western Europe
- Cabin Type: Balcony Stateroom – Fantastica
We breezed through check-in at Southampton in a couple of minutes - having previously checked-in online and uploaded our photos - although our bags took a couple of hours to arrive at the cabin.
Everywhere on the ship is immaculate and cleaned incessantly. Cabin also spotless and adequate size, but the addition of tea & coffee making facilities takes up 60% of the tiny dressing table! Also (P&O Azura and Ventura please note!!!) the balcony railing glass and balcony patio doors were actually cleaned during one port call!
Dining had, allegedly, been adapted to British tastes, but apart from occasional fish & chips, British bacon, British sausages, and a few tough and gristly beef dishes, despite a British Head Chef, the food, in both the Quattro Venti Dining Room and Sahara Self Service buffet, was very International, and (very unusually on a cruise) faddy old me often struggled to find something to my liking.
Service in the Quattro Venti was adequate, though not exceptional, but the tables in the Sahara Self Service were cleared and wiped down very promptly - particularly important as the vast majority of tables there were circular and for 6 or 8 people, and as most don't like sharing, it was often very difficult to find an unoccupied table. Would be far better with square tables for 2 or 4.
Much confusion in the Dining Room at Dinner, as although all 8 of us on the table were on the "Fantastica" package, all four couples had different entitlements!!! We could have anything on the Wine/Drinks list, by the glass, that didn't have an asterisk against it, but another couple was only entitled to water at Dinner, another couple had to buy vouchers for seven bottles of wine and seven bottles of water, and the fourth couple had to buy wine by the bottle as and when desired!!!!
Coffee at Dinner was even crazier! We could have any normal coffee, like cappuchino; another couple could only have filter coffee; a third couple could only have instant coffee, and the fourth couple weren't entitled to coffee at all! Apparently a little code number on your Cruise Card tells the waiter what you can have.
Drinks generally; our package included draught beer, non-premium spirits, wine-by-the-glass, mineral water, and coffee anywhere on the ship, so we ended up with a nice "zero" for our bar bill at the end of the cruise, but drinks service everywhere on the ship was so incredibly slow that there was probably little chance of anyone being able to get drunk. Also, the drinks prices shown on the on-board price lists were extremely high - something like Central London pub prices - possibly to make us think that we were getting a bargain by going all-inclusive!
There were at least English, German, French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Chinese and Japanese speaking passengers on board, so what did they do for entertainment? Well - music, music,music, music, oh, and a bit of flamenco! There were only two late shows in the Theatre - flamenco and an Adele tribute; other than that, 2nd sitting diners were expected to go to a 7:15 performance then in to dinner!
Sea days daytime entertainment had such excitement as morning and afternoon origami, towel folding, vegetable carving, bingo, and nautical knitting! Difficult to restrain one's eagerness to participate!
Disembarkation and return embarkation at ports was a queueless breeze - one lane for new embarkers and one for shore visit returners.
Apart from La Coruna and Amsterdam, which were walkable, all other ports involved either an expensive-for-what-it-was chargeable shuttle, or the usual horrendously expensive Shore Excursions. One particular pleasant surprise was at Le Verdon sur Mer which, from consulting Google Maps, I was aware that there was little there for tourists and really too far to walk to from the ship for most people, but a shuttle was laid on to Soulac sur Mer for a fairly reasonable 7.60 euros. On a very hot and sunny day it was a delightful little seaside town, with plenty of shops and cafes to explore, a long paved promenade, plus a spectacular clean wide sandy beach.
The ports made this cruise for us, but we were disappointed by the entertainment; the food was ok, but much of it not to our liking, and the extremely slow bar service was an irritation. We were also annoyed by the lack of information about dress code. Our travel agent was useless in this respect, so we emailed MSC UK directly, to be told that there would be two Formal nights, and others which we would be told about on board in the daily program. So what to pack? I took dinner suit, formal shirts and bow tie, plus a couple of flowery casual shirts, and bought a white outfit specially for the White Night.
As it turns out MSC's equivalent of a Formal night is an "Elegant" night, which our table, and several others, intepreted as dinner suits and bow ties, with the ladies in posh frocks. But other passengers interpreted this as shorts & tee-shirts, and no one was turned away as being inappropriately dressed. As it turned out, there were THREE "Elegant" nights, including our very last night on board, for which I, and many of the newly joined passengers from Hamburg, turned up in dinner suit and bow tie, whilst our table companions and most other diners had dressed down for the evening. Plus they sprung a previously unadvertised "Mediterranean Evening" in us!
Would we travel with MSC again? Probably not. They don't seem to know which market they are aiming at. We were told, by our travel agent, to expect British style food, British style entertainment, including British comedians, and we were told that the ship was based in Southampton for the summer and would have virtually all English-speaking passengers. That was, now obviously, a load of balderdash, as the ship picks up in at least Le Havre, Amsterdam, and Hamburg. I speak French, German, and Spanish, so the opportunity to practice those languages on board was a plus, but I would guess that no nationality on board would be happy with the food and entertainment.
Also, is it casual dress on board - in which case no need to take a suit - or is it posh attire some nights, in which case why not insist on it, like P & O and Cunard for example?
It's not very nice to take the trouble to dress at one's best for the "Elegant" night to find the next table look like they have just walked in from around the pool!
Overall we did enjoy the trip - due, in no small part, to our delightful table companions - but the weather was very hot and sunny throughout, so this middle-of-the-road review might have changed for the worse if we had been plagued with wet and windy weather.
Would we recommend MSC to our friends? Based on this trip, I'm afraid it would have to be no!
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However, there was a largish digital safe in the wardrobe at no extra cost!
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
AmsterdamHave been before, so bought a 7.50 euro 24-hour unlimited travel pass for the buses, trams, Metro, local trains, and harbour ferries, and just jumped from one method of transport to another to explore the outskirts.View All 780 Amsterdam Cruise Port Reviews
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BilbaoSkipped the 15.60euro shuttle and got the local Metro into town (20 mins walk from ship) for just 1.70 euros, then bought a 10euro Bizcaia ticket for 24 hours unlimited travel on buses, trams, Metro, suburban trains, and funicular railway. Nice parks in the centre apart from the river and Guggenheim museum, and superb views from the top of the funicular, and from the riverside art of the tram route.View All 111 Bilbao Cruise Port Reviews
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HamburgExpected Hamburg to be a bit rough and slightly menacing, but it was totally different from that. Bought a 7.20euro 9-hour unlimited travel pass on the ferry which left from just behind the ship - covers ferries, buses, trams, Metro, and suburban trains. Left the ferry at Landesbrucken, and got the open top bus tour just outside. Very impressed with the city - lots of magnificent buildings, large lakes, and parks, but you do need noise cancelling headsets on the bus if you are not fluent in German, as all other languages come through headphones, but the German commentary is live through loudspeakers and tends to drown out normal headphones.View All 127 Hamburg Cruise Port Reviews
Best thing for us in Hamburg was Miniatur Wunderland in the Warehouse District just behind the Elbphilharmonie. It's advertised as the "world's biggest model railway", but that doesn't do it anything like justice. We pensioners spent almost 3 hours in there for our 15euro each tickets and still felt that we'd rushed around it! It's absolutely massive, with huge numbers of model trains running through brilliantly precise models of actual towns and stations, but in different country settings - Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, USA. There's a working model harbour with moving ships, a fantastic model airport with moving baggage trucks, aircraft tugs and the like; aircraft taxi out to the runway and actually "take-off" and "land". There's a working model volcano; models of the Grand Canyon, the Everglades, Las Vegas, Rome, Venice, the Italian Riviera, and much, much more. Plus every 10 minutes, or so, the main lights dim and the models light up as if nighttime. No matter what your age, if you still have a "bit of a kid" inside you, you will love this place. It's open 7.30 a.m. till 1 a.m. next morning the the summer, but it's so popular you have to book a time slot on your mobile phone!
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La CorunaTook the Hercules Tours coach tour from just outside the terminal for 18euros each, Very informative commentary, several photo stops of up to 30 mins. Very picturesque surroundings, also very pleasant waterfront walks.View All 236 La Coruna Cruise Port Reviews
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Le HavreTook shuttle bus into town. Was raining and many of the shops appeared closed, so not much excitement other than a tram ride to the beach, in the rain.View All 319 Le Havre Cruise Port Reviews
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