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Sail Date: October 2010
Background We are just back from a 21 day cruise on the Norwegian Gem. We began our cruise in Venice on Oct 23 with a 7 Day Greek Island Cruise and then on Oct. 30 began a 14 day Spain, Portugal and Transatlantic cruise. Although I ... Read More
Background We are just back from a 21 day cruise on the Norwegian Gem. We began our cruise in Venice on Oct 23 with a 7 Day Greek Island Cruise and then on Oct. 30 began a 14 day Spain, Portugal and Transatlantic cruise. Although I booked it as one cruise, we were given credit for two cruises and we became Latitude members after the first week. It was a wonderful trip and we enjoyed it immensely. We are a newly retired, east coast couple who have cruised quite a bit. We have been on Princess, Celebrity, Princess, HAL, Renaissance, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, as well as, Grand Circle and Uniworld River Cruise. I had fairly low expectations from what I had read and been told about NCL but chose it for the itinerary. We were pleasantly surprised. No, it was not perfect by any means but neither were any of my other cruises. Each line has some things they do best and their strong points, as well as, negatives. We choose to focus on the positive and try to always make the best of a situation. Weather For most of the trip the weather was pleasant. Except for a rainy day in Corfu, we enjoyed mostly sunny skies and temperatures in 60's to 70's during the day. It was a bit chillier on our day in Venice mid cruise in the morning but did warm up as the day went on. We were able to enjoy our balcony most days at least for a few hours. This all changed when the Nor'easter arrived on Wednesday evening and continued for almost 36 hours! Not only could we not use our balcony, our furniture had to be tied down and all outdoor areas were off limits. Depending on which report you listened to, we had winds up to 70+ mph and waves anywhere from 30-50 feet. It was quite a scary experience and many passengers and crew were injured. However, it wouldn't keep me from another transatlantic ...couldn't be any worse could it? I though the Captain and crew did a wonderful job. Cabin We were in a mini suite, 11150 and the layout is wonderful. The colors are a bit different, orange with purple trim and turquoise carpet, but the walls and wood panel doors made it look less garish. The lay out is great with the bed in front of the sliding doors and a couch in front of desk area with TV. There is a very large closet and so many drawers we had trouble filling them all. The bathroom is the largest we have ever had, with full tub with sliding glass doors and a separate toilet area with sliding glass doors also. We also had a coffee pot ( never had one of those before) as well as small refrigerator, which we had emptied of their products. Bathrobes were hanging in our closet . We like an aft cabin and this one is the last one on the corner so we only have neighbors on one side. The balcony is not deep like on Celebrity but is shielded from the wind and has two chairs and a small table. It might have been a bit rockier than a mid located cabin and yes we could hear them moving the chairs in The Great Outdoors above us each evening for about 5 minutes...but we thought that was a small price to pay for the views. Our cabin stewards - a male and female team were excellent and unobtrusive. We had all our needs met and our cabin was always made up as soon as we left. There is a cute little "gizmo" outside the cabin door that tells the stewards-" Do Not Disturb", "Make Up Cabin" , "Turn Down Cabin" and "Welcome". With Freestyle, they never know when you are leaving. It changes every day, so this system is efficient and much better than hanging something on the door which can be easily lost. For about 36 +hours, our cabin was a terrible location as we encountered a Nor'easter two days before we arrived in NYC. With 30-50 feet waves, there were no perfect locations on the ship but if seasickness is a problem this would not be a good location. Would we book aft again? Probably, as the good outweighs the bad. Food As the usual disclaimer goes, food as we know is very subjective. We eat out often and enjoy trying many restaurants but also consider ourselves fairly easy to please. If we don't have to plan, shop, cook nor clean up, we usually can find something good on any menu. We really enjoyed having so many options of locations to eat each evening. NCL was the first to offer Specialty restaurants and freestyle dining, to us , they seem to do it right. The specialty restaurants on the Gem are Cagney's, Steakhouse; Le Bistro, French; Orchid Garden, Asian Fusion; Sushi Bar; Teppanyaki, Japanese; Tequila, Tex Mex and La Cucina, Italian. The cost for these varies from $25 to $10 per person. During the transatlantic part of the cruise, they offered half price at these restaurants between 7:30 and 8:30 for Latitude Members. There are also three venues that do not cost extra : The Grand Pacific Dining Room, Magenta Dining Room and The Blue Lagoon. We ate at all the venues except the Sushi Bar and Teppanyaki. ( we have an authentic Japanese restaurant near our home). We had some excellent meals and some so-so meals. Only one afternoon in the Grand Pacific was a meal terrible - short ribs- and we just left and went to the Blue Lagoon for a great hamburger. For eating three meals a day, for 21 days to only have had one bad experience, says a great deal. Some of the highlight were : Cagney's, great T bone steak and the fries are fabulous. Le Bistro had the best Coq au vin and rack of lamb but bouillabaisse was disappointing; La Cucina tender Osso Bucco and thin, rare delicious carpaccio. Grand Pacific had many outstanding items for lunch - Nicoise salad with perfectly done rare tuna in a mustard sauce, baked cod, Greek salad and for dinner fried crawfish, ceviche and escargot were wonderful appetizers. We enjoyed the soups, which were nice and hot and the white bean soup and pumpkin crab soup stand out as favorites. The rack of lamb, sirloin of beef and coq au vin were all excellent entrees served in this venue. Rolls and bread were fresh and tasty The desserts were all very good but heavy on the creme brulee, flan and custard types. We tried to avoid the buffet. First, we feel we overeat when we go there, tasting too many items that all blend together. Secondly, we never felt relaxed at the buffet, one of us minding the table, the other getting food. Most importantly though, I feel it is a place where germs are easily spread which was confirmed by the fact that for 3 days of the cruise it was in "lock down" which meant passengers could not touch anything at the buffet. All items had to be served by staff including drinks. There were no salt and pepper shakers, ketchup, mustard, etc. on table. It made a crowded, frustrating, situation even worse. As we try to avoid buffets anyway, it really did not bother us. As you can imagine it was a great source of complaining among many passengers who were not happy with this situation. You could make reservations at ALL the restaurants but there was always a line to get in at The Grand Pacific. If you had reservations you just by passed the line and were seated. Not sure why people choose not to make reservations but then they shouldn't complain about waiting in line. We always decided in the afternoon what time we wanted to eat and made our reservations with a quick phone call. Since we prefer eating late , after 8, it was never a problem for us. For dinner, we always chose a table for 2 with no problem. Many times we had were seated totally aft center, next to window and we could watch the wake. Usually, we had a team wait on us - 2 waiters and 2 bus people which was efficient and pleasant. Portions were not huge but just enough to allow you to have all courses. Again, very pleasantly surprised. For breakfast, we ate in our cabin (except for two occasions when we tried MDR) and the selection from continental menu was just what we wanted. There was a fresh fruit platter, yogurt, cereal and a delicious different muffin each day. We also enjoyed the coffee brought in a small carafe and juice. MDR had usual breakfast selections and we tried the Eggs Benedict and hash and eggs which we both enjoyed. We ate lunch in the MDR except when eating in port or on one other occasion. We enjoyed the soups, salad, pasta and fish entrees mainly during lunch. Service was always good and we found all servers we met to be pleasant and efficient. Washy-Washy In the past few years, I have seen dispensers on all other cruises I have been on but never to the extent as this cruise. Not only were there dispensers but people spraying your hands before you entered any eating venue ,the gym and Spa,as well as , getting on the ship. They were almost always smiling and would say, "washy-washy". I heard there were some altercations - passengers refusing to have their hands sprayed. I really don't understand how rude some people can be to the employees and have witnessed it first hand. We appreciated the extent NCL has gone to, to keep everyone healthy and certainly did not mind to have to washy-washy! Service One of the biggest complaints I had read was that the service was not up to par on NCL. This was not our experience. Almost everyone we met provided excellent service. Our cabin stewards were unobtrusive, we didn't have long conversations with them, but they did their jobs and were pleasant and friendly. What more can you want? All the waiters, waitresses and bus servers in the dining rooms were friendly and efficient. We had no complaints. We found the very visible maitre D's were always trying to please passengers and help dining room staff. One night when service was very slow at Cagney's, it was very crowded and our appetizers arrived lukewarm. The maitre D asked us how everything was and we told him, we were a bit disappointed. He apologized and gave us our dinners for half price. I think he handled the situation quite well. We also thought the bar service was very good from the servers to the experienced bartenders. Yes, maybe your waiter gets to know your specific wants better with traditional seating, but for us the freestyle situation gave us the flexibility we wanted . Once again the good things about it outweighed the bad. Internet I brought my laptop and found the internet service to be a bit slow at times but not unbearable. If I went online early morning, I usually could get on fairly quickly. I paid the same internet fee using my laptop, as if I went to the computer room. I think it was about $.40 a minute if you bought a plan. There were frequent specials in early morning and bonuses of extra minutes for getting the plan. I loved having my own laptop, as I could compose my letters off line and then just go online to send them. I also downloaded all my pictures and was able to keep a journal everyday on my computer. I also had all my information for each port on my desktop so when we were going to a port, we just read over the info I had saved. Port of Call Venice We began our cruise in Venice and arrived two days before the cruise left. We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard and they provided a free shuttle. Make sure if you stay there, you follow the online advise and go to Departures, Lane 2. The shuttle arrived within 20 minutes and we had a few minutes trip to the hotel. It was very convenient to stay so close to the airport and using our Marriott points the hotel was free for two nights. For the first time ever, with a European AM arrival, our hotel room was ready at 11 AM and we were in a wonderful king bed before 11:30AM. We both slept until 4 PM, felt very rested and got ready for trip to Venice. We got a bus directly across the street from our hotel for 2.30 Euros each, round trip and headed for Venice which was about a 20 minute trip. The front desk even sold us our bus tickets which was very convenient. We got off at the main transportation center Piazzale Roma and just wandered and wandered. Having a map would be useless as there are so many streets. It was a beautiful evening, fall like and after a few hours of wandering found a restaurant which looked crowded with many locals off the beaten path....Trattoria La Rosa. Don't think we could find it again if we tried, but it was a good choice. We had liter of Prosecca, wine of Venice area (14 Euros) and prix fixe dinner for 18 euros each, a delicious pasta dish, chicken or fish, side dish and dessert. Mine was delicious bow ties with brown sauce with cheese and seasoning, chicken with mushrooms, spinach and tiramisu. My husband had the same except instead of chicken tried local fish, cuttlefish with squid ink sauce. It looked disgusting and he didn't like it but I give him credit for trying it and had enough with pasta, side dish and dessert, a chocolate soft biscotti. We got the bus back to hotel ( made mistake and got off a stop too early but it wasn't too far only 500 meters. How far is that??) Padua We had been to Venice before and knew we had another day mid cruise, so decided that Friday we wanted to go to Padua. We had the buffet breakfast at hotel, scrambled eggs, bacon, yogurt, croissants, pastries, cheese and fruit (if you bought it the night before it was 12 Euros). It was just OK but it was a good idea to eat before we set off for our day. We then began our "adventure". Now for a girl who never takes public transportation I did "good". First we got the # 5 bus across street from hotel to Venice. We now know you buy your ticket ahead of time at hotel and scan the ticket as you get on. We had a nice 25 minute ride into Venice. We had directions to the train station " over the big bridge and down the Grand Canal" which we found just fine. We then found the right train to Padova in Italian, not Padua, and the right track and got on our train with only minutes to spare. Of course, no one told us we should validate the ticket before you board but a nice conductor explained it to us and we didn't get the fine of 50 Euros!! I would have loved to nap for the 50 minute train ride but had to be vigilant so as not to miss the stop! We arrived and found a tourist office , a must to get directions and headed for The Scrovegni Chapel with world famous frescos by Giotti. You are only allowed inside this temperature controlled chapel for 15 minutes and only 25 people are permitted at a time. Since this was off season, we had no trouble getting tickets right away and enjoyed our visit with only 1 other person. The frescos were impressive especially since they were done in 1300 and the preservation is marvelous. Too bad, The Hermitage and Vatican don't take some lessons from Padua. Next was a long walk to The Basilica of St. Anthony but a beautiful day for a walk. The Basilica was very beautiful, reminds me a bit of Notre Dame and there are many relics of St. Anthony, as well as his tomb. We also attended a 30 minute multimedia presentation of his life with English translation ( headphones) and then went to the gift shop. As we were buying a few items, we heard people saying responses "and also with you" in English and found out an English Mass had just began. There is something comforting about finding a community of English speakers in a foreign county. There were 3 priests, all English speakers, I would guess Americans and about 75-100 people at Mass. Afterwards we walked a block and found a tram to take us back to the train station.( I think the transit police are probably looking for us as we could not find out how to buy a ticket or pay on this tram..so rode for free.) Next the "adventure " in reverse but this time we know to validate our ticket and we find the platform and wait only 5 minutes for a train. Next, we have only a few minute wait for the bus (today we know where to find the return bus and more importantly where to get off) and get back to our to hotel a little before 7. The second day in a new country is always so much easier...glad we had two days here in Venice. We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant...terrible service but OK food, just pizza and wine but we had a long day and just wanted to get to sleep. We got up at 10:15 AM to a slightly overcast day. We packed up and got ready for our 12 shuttle. We went downstairs about 11:45 and it was waiting for us. It was 20 Euros per person and very easy about a 15 min ride. We were happy with our choice of the Marriott and except for terrible service at dinner were quite happy with our accommodations. The shuttle to cruise port was great. We were in the terminal at 12:30 and boarding the ship by 1:30PM. Embarkation was smooth... first we checked in with no line at all. Then we received a number ...we were #19- and waited for the number to be called. It was efficient with no lines nor mob scenes. After we embarked we went directly to the South Pacific Dining Room for a sit down lunch. We were escorted to a table for two and had our first NCL meal. Our expectations were low because we had read NCL was a notch below Celebrity , HAL or Princess but it was wonderful. While eating it was announced that our cabins were ready so after lunch we headed right to Deck 11, Cabin 11105. Next was muster and again a pleasant surprise. We did not have to bring our life jackets; met in a comfortable dining room and took no more than 10 minutes..the least painful of any. ( HAL had us standing outside in cold and rain while leaving NYC for at least 20 minutes!) We then went to make some dinner reservations, to look at some menus and buy some wine specials ( buy 6-8 bottles get 20% off) We enjoyed sail away with Prosecco. Sail away in Venice is just beautiful although there wasn't any music that I could hear. (When we were on Princess they played Andre Boccelli's ,Time to Say GoodBye...a nice touch) Split We slept in, until awakened by a call from room service at 9...it's a great alarm clock! The sun was shining and it was in the low 60's. We had a continental type breakfast in our cabin. We got tender tickets at 10:15 AM and had about a half hour wait. I hate tendering in, it's always so much more of a hassle. The seas were incredibly rough and the tender ride was quite scary...worse than Space Mountain! I think the seas were 8 feet, ( DH says 5 feet...but I think he's lying) quite high in a tender. Fortunately, it was a short ride and we got to Split safely. We wandered around, saw the Diocletian Palace. It was Sunday, so most shops were closed but there were many people selling things- flea market type. We strolled through the markets admiring fruits, vegetables, flowers and even meat. We saw several crowded Churches with Mass going on. We stopped for lunch around 1PM at a lovely outdoor cafe type place, Adriana, right on the water. Prices were in Kronas..who knows how to convert that? I ordered shrimp done in scampi sauce and DH a pasta and seafood dish. My shrimp had the heads on them, much different than we would have in NJ. They were delicious as was the pasta. We sampled Croatian wine...very good. When we got the bill we had to laugh about my expensive shrimp costing $5 each, $40 total just for my dish. It was worth it, but of course DH had to tease me as his dish was only$18! We had to wait on a long line for tender back to ship but were back about 2:30. Fortunately, the seas weren't as rough on way back. Corfu We took a ship sponsored tour here as this was recommended by many others on CC. Our tour Scenic island and Flavors was scheduled to leave at 10:15 so we again used room service as our wake up call with a continental breakfast at 9:00. The tender process with a tour is painful on every cruise ship I have been on...lots of people waiting in a theater for number to be called. This was even more difficult because we first had to get a shuttle to the pier and then get our tour bus. It was an enjoyable tour and we started out with cloudy skies. First we went to Kaum Kouat distillery where they make delicious kumquat liquor. The we visited the monastery of Blessed Virgin Mary with many beautiful icons..lit candle here. tThere were many beautiful views of Paleokastrista during our trip. Arrived at top of hill at Golden Fox for included snack, ouzo, wine and Greek sampler platter of appy, very good with again spectacular views. Next, really treacherous roads in the rain thank goodness we had a wonderful bus driver (he got a good tip) and finally arrived in town. It was now pouring rain so we opted to stay on the bus. Corfu is very mountainous with narrow roads and high hills. It is not at all like other Greek Islands in that it has many olive trees and is very green (it rains a lot there) . Glad we got to the countryside, too bad it turned out to be a less than perfect weather day. Santorini, Greece We are here from 4 PM to 11 PM so again we took a NCL excursion today to Charming Oia Village. The last time we were in Santorini ( also known as Thira) we went to the village of Fira, which requires you to take a tender, then cable car up the hill. I had read that it was easy to take an excursion here as you get to avoid the cable car up the hill, which can take quite awhile giving the # of passengers going ashore. We still have to take it back to get tenders back. The tour was interesting, got to see Oia which involved a half hour bus trip up an enormously steep winding mountain and then a drive to other side of the mountain from Fira to Oia. Our guide was good and we learned a lot about the area . We had some free time in Oia and found a table at a taverna, Sunsets ,which had a wonderful view of possible sunset but with clouds we did not see it :( but we enjoyed a glass of local wine and some delicious feta cheese. Then got bus back to Fira and got cable car down hill and boat back to the ship. Not the easiest port to get to but well worth it. It is so picturesque just what you imagine a Greek island to look like with white washed buildings and blue roofs. Mykonos We again used room services for our wake-up call for 9 AM. By the time we left the ship there were no tender tickets required. The sun was shining , mid 70's and we had a calm tender ride to port. Mykonos is mainly a resort town and very popular for its beaches in the summer. The streets are cobblestones and buildings all whitewashed. We walked around found the windmills of Little Venice and explored the narrow streets. It was a nice atmosphere and fun to explore and find a tiny Church on almost every street. We stopped at a taverna for a gyro and some Greek wine..have had better gyros in the states but it was fun and they had wifi so I could at least check my mail. Crete, Iraklion or Heraklion We are only here from 7 AM to noon. I had originally signed up for excursion to Knossos, ancient ruins, but we decided we really didn't feel like another organized tour especially one that leaves at 7 AM! We got up at 8 and had our usual continental breakfast. We got the shuttle to town around 9 and explored a bit of the city on our own . It is a large city, the largest in Crete and 4th largest in all of Greece. There were lots of markets and shops and looked like a very nice city but there were many gypsies especially kids begging. Today is some sort of Greek Independence Day with lots of music piped unto the street and parades scheduled. It was a nice day so we walked around for a few hours using a walking tour printed online and saw many things. Venice again Today marks the end of the first week cruise. We were again awakened by our room service call...continental breakfast at 8 and off the ship by 9. It is a beautiful day with bright sun although a bit cool this AM. We took the alliguagina ( public water taxi) to San Marco. It was right next to the ship and very convenient for 12 euros round trip. I had purchased tickets online for the Secret Itineraries Tour at Doges Palace and it was a very enjoyable, interesting tour. One viewed all the secret rooms and prison cells at Doges Palace and lasted about 70 minutes. Our guide spoke English very well and kept everyone quiet and paying attention. After the tour, we again walked through Doges Palace. We then wandered around a bit. We had been to St. Marks last visit for a tour and the line was very long, so we didn't do it again. We wanted to have pizza and wine in Venice for lunch so we walked a few blocks and found a cute outdoor cafe and had a really good mushroom pizza and carafe of wine for 25 Euros...expensive but it is Venice and it was good!! We walked and then got a bit lost as one always does in Venice. We caught the water taxi back and were back on the ship around 3:30. Malaga, Spain We got up at 6:00 AM..that was tough. We had a quick breakfast -and got ready to meet group at 7:10 AM. On Cruise Critic Roll Call, I signed up to do a privately arranged tour with a guide to the Alhambra. There were 38 of us on one bus and then broke into two smaller groups when we arrived there. The trip was approximately 2 hours and we arrived there at 9:45 AM. Our guide, Oscar, was terrific and the grounds and gardens just beautiful. We were so fortunate to have an absolutely beautiful day weather wise with bright shining sun. There is so much interesting history associated with the Alhambra and the architecture and tile work just spectacular. Washington Irving, author of Ichabod Crane, stayed in Alhambra for 6 months and wrote tales about it based on history...would be very interesting to read now that we have see it. This privately arranged tour cost $50 each as opposed to $200 tour ship arranged! We had no problems or snags and were back on ship at 3:30 PM. Cruise Critic again was a wonderful source. Cadiz, Spain Up around 8:30 AM and it was another beautiful day. We were off the ship before 10 and just walked around. Cadiz is a very nice city....where Christopher Columbus sailed from on two of his voyages. There is a lot of Moorish architecture here and much of tile work was like we saw at the Alhambra. We walked to center of town and walked through the market area. It was like a Redding Station in Philadelphia with just amazing fruits, meats and vegetables. It was so clean and everything looked so fresh. We enjoyed following different marked paths through the town. It is a lovely place to walk around and again the weather was very cooperative. Lisbon, Portugal Up at 7 AM for NCL tour called, Simply Fatima. We had to meet at 8 AM. We took a tour bus for a panoramic tour of Lisbon, which looks like a very nice city ( lots of graffiti though). It was then about 1 1/2 hour trip to countryside to Fatima. It is off season here so fortunately there weren't big crowds. It is a large complex with beautiful Basilica, chapel where Apparitions took place and Modern chapel that seats 9000! 5 million visitors come to Fatima each year. First we bought and lit a candle. Then went to the shrine and then to the Basilica where there was a Mass in Portuguese. We stayed for some of it but had to leave because of time restraints. We went to the modem chapel which was very different but beautiful also. There is a long, marble path from one side of area to another where many people ( pilgrims) come to shrine on their knees. They built this marble path so they would not hurt themselves while on knees. It was quite inspiring to see the faith of others. We had to meet the group for lunch at 12:15. We had a lovely meal at Lux Fatima a nice hotel. There were about 120 people to serve and it was done efficiently and food was hot. Afterwards, we visited several of the many religious gift stores. None are sanctioned by the shrine as they want to just keep the whole area of Fatima for quiet prayer and reflection. Kind of nice that no one was selling anything right there. It would have been nice to have a little more time to wander around. There are many other interesting things to see but we had to meet bus at 2PM for our trip back which again took almost an hour and half. We had a long wait to go through security at the pier and again to get on the ship ( although they had three entrances which was nice.) Once back on ship we watched sail away again from our balcony. We went under a bridge much like Golden Gate. There is also an enormous statue of Jesus on the mountain, just like the famous one in Brazil, on one side of the bridge. The scenery was beautiful and it was perfect weather again all day. Ponta Delgada, Portugal We went into town to Sao Michael. It was Sunday so much was closed but they recently built a new mall near the pier and it was open with a lot of shops and cafes. It looks like a lovely town with a combo of many old historical buildings as well as high rises. Surrounding the town are mountains that are of volcanic origin. The call themselves Acores. We walked around a bit and found a nice outdoor cafe across from a Church and had a bottle of Portuguese wine and banquette with cheese and ham. Then we found an internet cafe and both went online and cleared our email! We walked around some more and before got on ship sat and again say at a nice cafe. NCL positive and negatives Positives Freestyle is the BEST thing NCL has going for it. We loved not having to bring dressy clothes to Europe. We like to dress up and do so often at home but with strict weight restrictions now and cost for extra luggage, it just makes no sense anymore. Last time we were on Celebrity, my husband had to bring a suit and a blazer as there were still formal and semi-formal nights! Princess and HAL too still had formal nights. Mass There was a priest passenger on board for this sailing and we were appreciative that NCL provided him a venue to say Mass. It was well attended on three occasions with several hundred people. It was a nice extra provided that we hadn't counted on with NCL ( HAL had daily Mass and Princess guarantees Easter and Christmas) Mah Jongg This was one of the highlights for me on sea days! One woman was able to have a MahJongg meeting published in the Freestyle Cruise Daily on our first sea day...thanks Barbara! After that, we met every sea day and played afternoons. NCL was nice enough to open up the Magenta Dining Room while at sea so there was plenty of room for all the card, game and MahJongg players. NCL even had three MahJongg sets on board and several women brought their cards and extra cards to play with. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon ...especially as we did have 9 days at sea. What a nice group of women of varying backgrounds, ages and geographical locations. Cruise Critic We had a fairly active Roll Call and a web site started by one member, Dee called The G Force. We attended the two Meet and Greets one for Week 1 and the other for Transatlantic part of the cruise. The Captain was even in attendance and heads of all services, hotel, housekeeping, bar, restaurant, etc. They made it very clear that if there is a problem let them know NOW. They seem to take CC very seriously! We got lanyards with our names; coffee, tea, water and danishes were available. I met the woman who arranged the Private Tour to Alhambra. There are 39 of us going in two mini buses and we are saving approximately $150 per person. Other tours were arranged for some places also. The second meeting gave information about the cabin crawl, slot pull and Last Supper. It was nice to see familiar faces as we walked around ship and say hello to other CC members. I went to the Slot Pull and found it to be enjoyable. There were 65 people, who met through Cruise Critic. We met at the casino and each put $15 into the pot. The organizer then loaded $975 into the slot machine and we each had 5 pulls and it took over an hour! It was a lot of fun with people cheering for each other. When all was over the group had lost $5 each so we walked away with $10 ...a lot of fun for only $5...I have my suspicions though as the slot machine was picked by the casino not us. Would have been more fun to win but still a good way to spend a morning at sea. We also went to dinner with Cruise Critic group . There were suppose to be 100+ there plus Captain and officers. We had a special area reserved in the Grand Pacific, Main Dining Room and it was fun to talk to others and eat dinner with some new people. Our organizer, Dee, did a great job and came around to talk to everyone. Because of bad weather the Captain was not able to attend which was very understandable. Once again, as on all other cruises, CC was a valuable resource and provided such useful information. Alcohol and Bars Before our trip I had read that drinks were expensive on NCL but perhaps because we are use to NY/NJ prices did not find $7.75 for a nice size martini to be high. House wine was $5.50 a glass and there were several bottles of wine available for a fair rate for a restaurant. By buying several bottles for each cruise, they also gave us a 10% discount which was well worth it. If you did not finish the whole bottle with dinner, you could either take it back to your cabin or put it away in the dining room for the next night. We thought the cost of the martini and wine tastings seemed high $15 per person. We enjoyed the martini tasting and Lindsay the bartender was great and very informative but we felt $30 was an excessive cost. We only went to three tastings and had it been a bit less expensive or reduced prices for "package deal", we might have attended more. Entertainment We thought there were many good choices and that the quality of the entertainment was very good. Some evenings we chose to just listen to music in the bar and eat a late dinner. Other evenings we went to a show. These are the shows that we saw: The Fourever- They are 4 very talented men who were originally formed as a tribute to El Divo. They had wonderful voices and preformed Spanish, Italian and English songs too. The theater is beautiful and show was very enjoyable. We saw them twice for two different shows. The comedian on board was Paul Adams. We laughed quite a bit and enjoyed his shows the first week of the cruise . We were disappointed that for he transatlantic part of the cruise, he did the exact same show! I think there were 700+ cruisers on board from last week which warranted a different show and some new jokes! Richard Gauntlet put on a"vaudeville" type show which was pretty funny and entertaining. World Beat was a musical voyage through the world, Spain, USA, Africa, Ireland, etc.and was an enjoyable production show. The performers were talented and energetic. This show was the same for both cruise segments. Tracey Shield "An Evening with Celine Dion". She was really very good and sounded exactly like Celine..looked like her too. We would have liked to hear her sing a few songs in her own persona not just Celine After there was a strings show called Spring Fever, which was very entertaining and played electrical string instruments. They were very talented and played classical and pop music...much better than I thought. Another performer who we really liked was Claire Maidin. She was a pianist who sang and preformed Dolly Parton, Dusty Springfield, Alicia Keys and Liberace... to name a few. she was pretty, young and talented and we enjoyed the show. Radim Zenkl, a mandolin and flute player, also put on a wonderful show with music from around the world. He had two different shows for the two different cruise segments. We really enjoyed him. Other entertainment available: There were Movies in the Stardust lounge not the Crystal Atrium. NCL did move its location and this was a much better venue to watch a movie. Most were a few years old - Angels and Demons, Blindside, etc. as well as The Twilight Saga-Eclipse and Bedtime Stories (We never went so I do not know if they were well attended or not.) Dance Parties were held almost every evening in the Spinnaker Lounge. The music ranged from 70's to 50's and 60's Sock Hop to Country and Western Hoe Down. There was a White Hot Party where you "could dance the night away in a wonderful world of white" and a Halloween Party . There was also karaoke, Folkloric shows, Ballroom Dancing, Newlywed and Not-so-Newlywed Game, Liar's Club Game Show and International Crew Talent show. Negatives There was a lot of "hawking" going on (but I have noticed that on many cruise lines.) This was done in a different way. As you entered the ship everyone had to walk through the Magenta Dining Room. Here was the "opportunity" to buy your soda card, reduced wine package, spa info, dinner info for Specialty restaurants, Murder Mystery Dinner, etc. No one asked us to buy anything but we did have to walk by these "vendors". It didn't bother us, in fact I liked it better than being bothered at lunch several times to buy wine for dinner and a soda card ( which happened to us on last Princess cruise) I did hear several people complain though and they did not like this at all. Our "hawking" complaints were: • being asked to pay money to eat with the Captain... $150 per person! • being asked to pay extra to eat with Officers • $40 for bingo..I don't even like Bingo but many others complained that this was excessive • selling raffle tickets during shows..never have heard of this on any cruise • asked to pay for Back Scenes tour of the ship... this was free on other ships • TV channels in room were very limited especially for a transatlantic cruise • cost of $10 for PPV to watch movie in cabin...never heard of this on any other ship either • worse Latitudes "party" for repeat cruisers- no officers present, no food & just another opportunity to sell things One of our biggest complaints is that you could not bring local wines on board except if you paid a $15 corkage fee. We know several people were able to circumvent this rule, but we didn't even try. We enjoy buying and tasting local wines when we travel and would have enjoyed bringing a bottle aboard for sail aways. This is just a ploy by NCL to keep your bar bill up! On every other cruise that we have taken, we were allowed to openly bring wine aboard. I think especially when in Europe this should be allowed. ( We were told at a Cruise Critic meeting that changes are often made because of complaints. I hope you are listening NCL ) . Smoking is big a problem on most ships we have been on, except years ago on Renaissance ( total none smoking ship). We could smell it in our hall, deck 11 starboard aft, whenever we walked to the elevator. The only time I went to the casino, for the cruise critic slot pull, the smoke was overpowering. I could occasionally smell it on our balcony too depending on how the wind was blowing. Wish more cruise lines would prohibit smoking in cabins and balconies and wherever others are subjected to secondhand smoke...maybe some day? We heard lots of people complaining. They were of all ages and from different parts of the world, but there was complaining everywhere. I am not sure why one would choose a Freestyle cruise and then complain about having to wait for dinner or not make reservations if you don't want to wait. I heard one couple complaining that they never got the same waiter. didn't they know what Freestyle cruising meant? Even on these boards you will find people complaining about the food and service while a Nor'easter was going on! I just don't understand it. I think it is impossible to please some people and nothing makes them happy. I also think that some people just enjoy complaining...it just becomes a bad habit. As I said before, I have never been on the perfect cruise, there are always some things that could have been better. We would definitely cruise NCL again with the right itinerary and price. Nor'easter and all, it was an adventure that was truly wonderful, enjoyable and memorable and I am glad we had the opportunity to experience it. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
Though the following review is 6 months late, the fact that the ship is back in the Mediterranean for its second season makes it hopefully pertinent. Our first time cruising at sea was the 32 day b2b TA Venice to Florida on the Nieuw ... Read More
Though the following review is 6 months late, the fact that the ship is back in the Mediterranean for its second season makes it hopefully pertinent. Our first time cruising at sea was the 32 day b2b TA Venice to Florida on the Nieuw Amsterdam in October 2010- an excellent choice on all fronts, i.e. cruise line,ship, location, and weather. We learned the hard way to be careful about the expressions "first cruise / first time cruising".Proud of this new adventure, we heartily raised our hands when the diners at the Mariners Luncheon (remember b2b) were asked who was on their first cruise. Those who did raise their hands were called "party crashers"by the CD.Ouch! Preparation for this grand adventure included many hours on CC sourcing tips, reviews,etc.which for the most part proved helpful.. Embarkation in Venice was relatively smooth and as our inside J cabin near the aft elevators wasn't quite ready, we retired to the Lido restaurant for some lunch and a glass of wine. Our room was sufficiently spacious though our over-packed 4 suitcases caused some restrictions. Live and learn on the luggage front. Crew and Staff - fantastic positive approach to pax. Stewards and assistants really deserved an end-of-cruise tip over and above the daily general charge. The ship As this was our first time cruising, we had nothing to compare the NA with but found it spacious and rather impressive particularly with the New York theme which we are familiar with from previous land travels.It takes a while to get used to the layout but it helps if one examines the ship decks online in advance. Lower Atrium- Front desk where the friendly get-to-know-you staff is knowledgeable on all things pertaining to your stay. Excursion desk where I found the staff, when on-duty, less friendly (glad I did the non prearranged tours using 3rd(?) level keyboard). Dining We are not fussy diners but we do appreciate good food and service. There was an abundance of both on the NA. The Lido- was the mainstay which was the goto when other dining rooms were unavailable. Generally went there for breakfast and lunch. If a late tour set meal schedules back or if you needed a late snack, a substantial fare is available in the Lido at 11pm. Had no problem at all with the variety of offerings or quality. The Manhattan Dining Room- was our designated "open dining" room with superb service and menus. It took several days before we got up-to-speed in using the services of this place, but we took advantage of shared accomodation at all dinners and some breakfasts as well as afternoon tea at 3 . On all occasions, we were introduced to many interesting diners. Service was always no problem in the MDR except on "at sea" days when there were no excursions and the volume of patrons at tea increased significantly.The layout and decor was impressive, the dining room conversations at bit noisy, and the air conditioning a bit cool in the inner step-up portion of the 2nd level MDR. We always looked forward to coming back to this place. We did not avail ourselves of the Pinnacle Grill, Silk Den, Explorations Cafe,or Canaletto. Yes, but we did experience the Pan Asian Tamarind and it was just great...no, super! We hadn't experienced such an interesting series of courses, teas, and service, as here. Just a note re the code orange and the fact that the dining staff in the Lido had to do all serving and distribution of items. As the Tamarind was not open during the breakfast time-frame, its staff was seconded to the Lido to assist with coffee serving and we were surprised when one of the Tamarind servers greeted us by name a few days after our visit there. Bars We drink socially and rather minimally so did not frequent any of the several bars each of which had their own character. Entertainment The Showroom at the bow of the ship is beautiful and was used for various activities including bingo, church services , movies, lectures,and of course evening shows. We did not take in very many of the shows but were impressed with most of what we saw particularly the enthusiasm of the ships singers and especially the dancers.We enjoyed a couple of the stage productions, e.g NYC, also an English comedian, and particularly a singer/impressionist named Robinson (sorry forgot 1st name).Apparently a juggler/comedian named Barnaby was a hit on this ship as well as Cantare. Hit Bingo almost every-time offered but won zilch. We took in a couple of cooking demonstrations ; didn't participate in the dance instruction classes. We did however dance to the Jimmy Maddox trio and Jen and the Hal Cats. Speaking of not winning at bingo, we were up and down in the wins and losses at the Casino as we cut our way through the cigarette smoke. One of the few areas on the ship where it was permitted internally, the smokers seemed in general to have a "because I can" attitude. Also, patrons of the Showroom had to run the smoke gauntlet to get to and from their destination. Gymnasium Used gym equipment on one occasion (though more warranted). Sat in on a free interesting presentation on toxicity in the human diet and environment. However, we went further afterward and had a not free health assessment using a machine with electrodes providing a printout on various readings.Found some of the findings questionable and particularly that a product was being recommended on an ongoing subscription basis. Paid bill and never went back. Please note that I understand the gym, casino, and Signatures shop are run by outside interests not HAL though I may stand to be corrected. Photo Gallery Ship-sponsored photos were taken upon embarkation, during Formal Dining Nights, and during some port dis-embarkations,etc. A cruise video dvd with highlights from various excursions was an ongoing project.Having heeded one CC'ers warning of annoying photographers, I refused when my wife mentioned someone wanted us to turn around for a picture. Turns out it was the cruise videographer and so we missed our chance to be included in the Venice departure scenes; did make it briefly in the Santorini trip. We purchased a set of MDR photos of ourselves as well as cruise and Mediterranean highlites dvd's. All reasonable. Library/computer Didn't avail ourselves of the library though many did. The pay for time used computer usage hurt, not only for the $30 for the half hour e-mail composition, but that we found out 2 weeks later that our intended recipients didn't receive anything. Once located, onshore telephone and e-mail each cost less than 2 euros for about 20 minutes usage. Ports This is the biggest and most interesting aspect of cruising. It does, however, require alot of thought particularly for "newbies". First of all, determine a philosophy regarding excursions. This sounds rather simplistic but is necessary. Participants should determine what is important to them,i.e. what locales are important to me and why. Do I approach cities and sites from a historical viewpoint or by popularity? How much do I think an excursion is worth versus what I am willing to pay? Do we like to "self direct" our excursions? Are we "intimidated" by the warning that if your "on your own" excursion is delayed for whatever reason, you're "on your own" as the ship won't wait. Though we visited several Italian ports, we didn't do Italy quite the justice it deserved so it awaits a further visit.Note to self...arrive in departure city at least 1 day early to cover jet lag and do some touring. Favourite locales for us included Monaco, Barcelona,Cartagena,and Granada.The Greek island of Thira (Santorini) is a "must-see" as well as Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Epilogue These 32 days resulted in us putting a deposit on a future yet to be selected HAL cruise. With all the friendly staff attention, interesting fellow travellers,great locations, fantastic food,and R&R prompted my wife to say, upon departing the ship, "we went to heaven" and I agree. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We arrived Venice 20 Oct, stayed at the Marriott near the airport. Took the ALILUGUNA to St Marks or bus to Piazza Roma. No negatives at all re the hotel, except that next time will stay in city. Took VIATOUR guided tours 21 ( (Walking ... Read More
We arrived Venice 20 Oct, stayed at the Marriott near the airport. Took the ALILUGUNA to St Marks or bus to Piazza Roma. No negatives at all re the hotel, except that next time will stay in city. Took VIATOUR guided tours 21 ( (Walking tour of Venice, plus guided canal ride), 22 (tour of Murano, Burano, Torcello) Oct, always very satisfied. Boarded ship 23 Oct, embarkation was fine, and relatively quick. Ship is very clean, and well maintained. We stayed on thru NY, so got to know many staff members. Marrianne and her partner, our room stewards were very efficient. We tipped them every friday. We always use the soda plan, so glad they still have that. First leg with excursions was Split (Historic walking tour), Corfu (Scenic Island and Flavors-Bella Vista and Distillery), Santorini ( Charming Oia Village-sunset and shopping), Mykonos (Scenic views-Taverna restaurant and church), Crete (Pottery and Vineyards-pottery and distillery), and back to Venice. All tours were enjoyable, tho we felt the time in Santorini was less than adequate. The view is the thing here, but arrived @ 4, left at 10PM. We ate at Orchid Garden, and Tequila as well as Grand Pacific and Magenta. All good meals, staff friendly, efficient. Back to Venice, took monorail to P Roma. Found out later there was a free NCL shuttle. Massive amount of shopping 30 Oct around Rialto. Reboard was done smoothly, tho we cut it close, arriving back at 3:30. They announced a 2 for 1 deal at the specialties for all lattitudes members, and We made use of it, eating at Orchid 3x, Tequila 2x, Cagney's 3x. I like Orchid the best, Grace Salva M'D, runs it like a top. Had multiple entrees every night. My wife likes Cggney's, extra $ well worth the attention and better food. Then went to Malaga (Marbella and Banus), Cadiz (Stroll), Lisbon (Scenic), and Azores (passed on excursions, walked around town). Re Malaga, more time should have been given to shop in Marbella, and less in $$$$ Banus. The Cadiz stroll was fine for us, but lots of folks could not do the walking. I like this tour the best. Had time to shop, saw the fish market, awesome!!! Tho Azores needs to work at more interesting tours. Realize the crossing has lots of smoking Europeans, but we think Carnival does better in allocating space for them. On deck 12, we were restricted to only the starboard side, with lots of folks, but space on the port side was available if you wanted to smell smokers. We did not. They also have to do better with babies in the Jacuzzis, as saw a naked kid come out of one, and a 1 yr old come out of another. Potty trained, not!!! Anybody think those waterproof diapers keep everything in? They also restricted folks being able to take their own food in the Garden Cafe, am guessing to cut down on spreadable sickness. Still saw men coming out of the bathrooms who never washed their hands. Carnival has the little napkins near the doors. I took to using the paper towels, and opened the exit doors that way. They ended up propping all bathroom doors open, a little tacky. The actual crossing was fine. Capt kept us informed about efforts to avoid the bad weather. Only had about 1 1/2 day of really bad weather. Was intimidating to see a huge wave crash against the windows at lunch, in the stern of the Grand Pacific !!! We were fine. Heard there were some injuries, but they continually told people to hold onto the railings (some still did not), and you could have meals delivered to your room, if you felt unsteady. The entertainment was very good. Especially liked the folkloric program. Liked Fourever, and Claire Maiden, as well as the in-house troupe (Jeremy, Jasmine, Chris). They added afternoon jam sessions for the crossing, a great idea. In conclusion, the ship was fine. We had not cruised with NCL in 1 1/2 years, and hoped it had same high standards. Staff were all very friendly. Saw numerous time of staff personally helping cruisers. Will definitely do NCL again! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
This was a 21 day cruise consisting of 2 cruises back to back: a 7 day cruise departing and returning to Venice visiting Croatia and the Greek Isles and then a 14 day transatlantic cruise from Venice to New York City visiting several ports ... Read More
This was a 21 day cruise consisting of 2 cruises back to back: a 7 day cruise departing and returning to Venice visiting Croatia and the Greek Isles and then a 14 day transatlantic cruise from Venice to New York City visiting several ports in Spain and Portugal. This was our 4th cruise on NCL and our 2nd Transatlantic cruise on NCL. We have been on 20+ cruises. Before anyone starts to ready this—I want to apologize for all the complaining. I'm sure that there were many folks on board who loved the cruise—unfortunately I'm finding after cruise # 4 on NCL that I'm just not a fan of Freestyle cruising because the service just isn't the same with Freestyle as it is on a traditional cruise ship. I want to have the same waiter every day who knows what I prefer even before I sit down. Some people could care less about the service—I have friends who are just as happy going to the buffet every day and hate sitting down for meals. Luckily, we have the freedom to choose what we prefer. Overall I was disappointed in this cruise. The itinerary and ports visited were fantastic—but the food, service, and activities on the ship were average to subpar. NCL's cost cutting was evident at all times and trying to avoid hidden costs was a major activity and frankly—exhausting. Food—compared to Holland America, Royal Caribbean, NCL 2 years ago and even Carnival—the food in the buffets and main dining rooms was generally boring and not always well prepared. The breakfast buffet (and yes it is a buffet except for the made to order Omelets) featured the exact same food for 21 days. The only thing that ever changed was the type of fruit in the Danish. Lunch and dinner buffets also featured the exact same food every day except for a different meat and fish entrEe and the desserts varied. (The fish was cooked "to order" and the Ceasar salad was also made freshly as you approached the salad station, so that's why NCL doesn't call it a buffet anymore.) In the main dining rooms, I was surprised to see the same menu on the 21 day cruise 3 different times—most ships feature at least 14 days worth of different menus. It used to be that the menus used to feature: appetizer, soup, salad, main course and dessert. NCL's menu has the main course and then a list of several things to choose from before the main course. The waiters seemed pained when a soup, salad and appetizer was chosen from the before dinner list instead of just choosing one item. Dessert of course follows. We frequently felt rushed thru dinner in the main dining rooms—on more than one occasion—the appetizer, soup, and salad was delivered so closely to the main course that all four plates were on the table at one time. With Freestyle cruising there was ALWAYS a wait to get into the main dining rooms when we decided we wanted to eat. (Generally 15 - 30 minutes). We considered this a positive and not a negative issue, because if you got handed a beeper, it meant that you could order 2 for 1 drinks at the bar while waiting for your table. (Only certain cheaper drinks were eligible, of course). The specialty restaurants were better, but not great. (Holland America's steak restaurant served the best steak I have ever had.) We resorted (because of boring menus and poor service) to mainly eating in the specialty restaurants or in the buffet for dinner. (Have never in over 20 cruises eaten at the buffet for dinner before.) The specialty Italian restaurant that is an extra charge was especially disappointing since we had fallen in love with the food prepared at the free Italian restaurant on our NCL cruise 2 years earlier. The steak restaurant was OK—but our table partners ordered steaks medium well and had to be returned because they were well done. (2 days earlier our steaks that were ordered medium were practically uneatable because they were so raw). One nice feature was that the specialty restaurants were 2 to 1 for Latitudes members on the 14 day transatlantic cruise portion of the trip only from 6:30 to 7:30PM. I was surprised by the lack of outdoor barbeques for lunch or dinner. They had paella outside on the Lido deck for lunch once or twice for about an hour, but by the time we decided to get some—the service had already shut down. Also I know that the day of the midnight buffet is gone—but what happened to NCL's famous chocolate buffet? They featured this for the 7 night Greek Isles cruise, but it never happened during the 14 day Transatlantic cruise. Room service food choices were extremely limited--I don't ever remember seeing such a limited menu on a cruise ship before. And I suppose this also fits into the food category: —what happened to the nightly chocolate mints? They completely disappeared. I guess that's due to more cost cutting. And beware of the freshly squeezed orange juice in the garden buffet—that's an extra charge. (Free on Holland America). Drinks—prices were posted for drinks, but when the drink came with that special plastic glass that everyone throws away—the drink was twice as much—I made them bring me back the drink without the glass at the posted price. Service was fair. I don't think that this was due to the crew not caring—there just wasn't enough of them to accomplish things like: trying to get water refilled during dinner—impossible. (Same for the iced tea.) My husband finally devised a game to see how long it would take him to get hot tea with dinner. Every time we sat down for lunch or dinner he calmly explained that he wanted hot tea with dinner, not after dinner. The fastest time to get his hot tea was 30 minutes from when he asked for it. Forgetting it altogether was not unusual. The only exception to the lack of service with meals was in the buffet Garden Cafe. There were an incredible number of crew standing around ready to swoop up one's dish and silverware as soon as it looked like one was done eating. This resulted in numerous instances of plates disappearing when one was still planning on continuing to eat what was on the plate. One's food was sure to disappear if there was a pause in your eating to look out the window. We got a chuckle out of watching fellow passengers protecting their plates by hunching over them and shouting "No" when a waiter would appear before they wanted to give up the plate. Our cabin—Service was good. The room was kept clean, we had ice regularly. I do long for the old days when the room steward would introduce himself within the first 15 minutes after arrival at our room. We didn't meet our room steward until several days into the cruise. The room steward looked like she had twice as many rooms to clean as what they used to have to take care of. Only time for a few towel animals—but of course we received numerous offers to buy the towel animal folding DVD. And we never did figure out how to find the room steward when we were unable to get into our room. (Not our fault—the electronic key mechanism's battery was low). In the old days—the room stewards generally hung out at all hours in their crew areas near our room and were easy to find. The room itself was smallish compared to the same category room that we had stayed in 2 years earlier, but there was lots of storage space. Activities: Shows: As is usual—some good and some bad. The Russian acrobats were the best we have seen on a cruise ship. The poor hypnotist was the worst show we have ever seen—his show was moved up a day unexpectedly because of a singer's illness. Activites: this ship was big on trivia—every day once or twice a day. Lots of time set aside for getting together to play bridge and cards also. There was the usual Bingo. We were disappointed in the lack of dance lessons—they were sparse and taught by the dancers in the show. Our previous NCL transatlantic had featured a competitive ballroom dance couple whose love for dance inspired us to learn complicated dance moves -the previous ship had dance lessons once or twice a day and the couple also were available during ballroom dance sets in the evenings. Generally the activities really gear up during the transatlantic portion of the trip—nothing extra was added activity wise that I could see. The murder mystery dinner that we paid for was disappointing—especially when we remembered that it was free 2 years ago and at dinner found out that it was the exact same script from 2 years ago. Note to anybody from NCL who is reading this—I have friends who will write you a new murder mystery script for $200.00. Buy a new script every year! Overall , I thought that the activities were not as plentiful as what I expected. On the subject of cost cutting -on 4 separate occasions—I walked into a bathroom during the early evening or afternoon hours and found no toilet paper in my stall. Not good on a cruise ship -first time I encountered that phenomenon ever on a cruise ship. On the positive side—the itinerary was incredible. I loved most of the shore excursions I took (and we did a lot), couldn't have asked for better ports to see either. Also—loved the dinner with the officers (yes it cost extra)—was a very relaxing evening and felt like we got to know the officers on a personal basis. Also—wanted to specially mention our captain. His seamanship was excellent. We rode thru a storm with 30 foot waves fairly smoothly. He kept us informed regularly about the weather and calmly explained his strategy . He also strongly encouraged folks with difficulty ambulating to stick to areas with hand rails during the storm. Of course not everyone listened and they finally had to close the lido deck and the Garden Cafe Buffet because of the number of injuries from passengers falling in those areas. Another area of the ship that deserves positive recognition is the casino—no I didn't win, but the crew there was particularly pleasant. Also—NCL still has Pai Gow Poker in their casino—the table was generally full when they opened it during the evening. Guess that it's not a big money maker for them, but it was definitely entertaining for those of us who love the game. Frankly—if I ever go on an NCL cruise again—it will be because they have Pai Gow Poker in the casino. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2009
We are a couple in our mid forties from Australia who undertook this cruise at the end of a two month trip through Britain and Europe. We were originally looking for an alternative way home from Europe that didn't involve another long ... Read More
We are a couple in our mid forties from Australia who undertook this cruise at the end of a two month trip through Britain and Europe. We were originally looking for an alternative way home from Europe that didn't involve another long tedious flight. Unable to find a cruise from Europe to Australia that fitted in with our time frame we settled upon one that would get us as far as South America which would leave us with 'only' a fourteen hour flight home. Whilst researching this ship and company we did come across a lot of negative comments but as our first priority was the actual voyage we went ahead with the booking anyway. So here, dear readers are the results. The cruise commenced in Venice on the 15th of November at what is essentially the end of the Mediterranean cruise season. Therefore this ship was being repositioned to South America providing us with an interesting itinerary. The ports of call where Dudrovnik, Tunis, Malaga, Casablanca, Las Palmas, Recife, Buzious, Salvador de Bahia, Rio De Janeiro and finally, Buenos Aries. In all a total of twenty one nights with ten sea days. Boarding went ahead with no real dramas so far as we could tell but as this is only our third cruise we don't have much to compare it with but the process was no better or worse than the other two cruise lines that we've travelled with. The ship itself was launched in 2001 making it one of the oldest in MSC's fleet. However we heard that it had just spent a month in dock prior to this trip so had obviously undergone a great deal of work. Apart from the a complete repaint our cabin appeared to be brand new with not one bit of wear and tear on any fittings or fixtures....no scuff marks, scratches or anything! I do not know whether this applies to all cabins, it is hard after all to imagine a complete revamp in only four weeks, or whether this is part of a gradual overhaul. Anyway we were very pleased when we first set foot in our cabin which was located on the 10th deck on the port side near the stern and had a window. We did originally try to get a balcony cabin but as this is an older ship it doesn't have as many as the newer ones so subsequently they were booked out early on. The overall condition of everything else was very good and everything was spotlessly clean. As I inferred before we had heard quite a few negative comments about MSC with one recurring thing being the rudeness and helpfulness of the staff. I also read recently that MSC had made a major effort to rectify this. That being the case well let me say that they did a good job as all our experiences with staff at all levels was nothing but good with happy smiles everywhere we ventured and all queries and requests dealt with without us feeling in the least bit as though we were just bothersome creatures interfering the the efficient running of the ship. Where this ship did differ from our previous experiences, which were with Princess and Carnival, is that in being a European line, MSC obviously cater for a predominantly European clientèle. So if you expect everything to be run along the same lines as American ships then you might be disappointed. As we had just spent some time in Europe then we were already 'tuned in' to some of these differences. Firstly the meal times were rather late by our standards. The first sitting was at 7.00pm and the second not until 9.15pm! So if you don't like eating late then get in early. This is however the way they eat in Italy and it is after all their ship. Another thing was coffee and tea not being available at all hours unless you bought one (quiet inexpensive) at one of the cafes or bars on board. Coffee was available at breakfast and during afternoon tea but not even offered at the end of dinner. We did ask for it at the end of dinner on the first night and was brought one without so much as a funny look so can't really complain there. We did read in an earlier review that this situation depends on what part of the world the ship is sailing in and this situation does change according to the market being catered for. Water is the only thing free all day to drink. Again at dinner only expensive bottled water is on offer. We did, however, ask for tap water instead and were initially told by our waiter that he'd have to ask his boss. He did come back and say that this was no problem but would have to take the glasses away to fill them and couldn't leave a jug of water on the table....possibly so as not to let other passengers see what we were drinking. To their credit however they did put a glass of tap water on the table just for us each night without us having to ask for it again. This is obviously a multilingual ship and as English speakers we were definitely in the minority. We were able to speak with most staff though and all the daily programs etc provided in our cabin were written in English only. All the announcements made on the ship were in five languages but mercifully most days none were made at all and rarely more than one or two. This was in contrast to carnival who seem to delight in providing constant and unwelcome announcements on everything possible making prolonged conversation impossible! Although the ship is Italian, the majority of the passengers where Argentinean with the second biggest group being German. When I said that being English speaking put us in the minority I wasn't joking with our group only numbering about 50-60 out of 1700 odd. Maybe a dozen fellow Australians, very few Americans and the rest from Britain that I know of. They did sit people at dinner according to language so don't let this worry you. The only problem this caused on our cruise was that many of the shore excursions were cancel due to lack of numbers but they did attempt to put you on an alternative tour with English commentary or as we did, join a tour with the Germans and have fun anyway. Just be sure to read about what you will be seeing beforehand. Remember also that you don't go to Europe expecting to be catered for at all times in your native tongue, yet we still go and have a great time and cruising like this is no different. Now the thing on most peoples minds, the food. Well put simply we had no complaints here. We stuck with the buffet for breakfast and lunch. Of course there were the options of one of the restaurants for the same meals but we forwent the formalities. There were also other options for lunch such as pizza bars etc. One important point to make is that there was no alternative to the evening meals aside from your allotted restaurant sitting. No buffet or anything else. This was fine with us as we enjoyed the evening meals but if you don't have any formal wear for the gala evenings then there's no escaping unless you don't want to eat. The food itself was good and plentiful. Tremendous variety, many healthy options and the food was always hot enough. There was one night where three people at our table ordered roast beef which was too tough to cut, let alone eat but these meals were immediately taken away and replaced with no fuss what so ever. Laundry on board was a bit of a problem however as there was no self service facilities available. The only options were the rather expensive ships laundry or to do your own in your cabin with obvious limitations. It's a bit hard to blame MSC for this as this ship was taken over by them from another now defunct cruise line and I guess it's a bit hard to add one later on. I've no idea whether the newer ships commissioned by MSC have these facilities or not. What could be provided but is not are ironing facilities. These are not provided except for by again an expensive service provided by the ship so unless you have deep pockets it's best to bring travel clothes that don't require ironing or even bring a small travel iron to use in your cabin. The alcohol served on the ship was quite expensive and you are not allowed to bring any on board. A few passengers did smuggle some on though but if you are caught it's put in storage until you leave the ship. There were a number of drink packages available which brings the price down a bit but these don't suit everyone. The duty free alcohol available to buy on board is reasonably priced though so if you are happy to drink in your cabin then this is a much better option. A 900ml bottle of Baileys for instance was the same price as three 4cl glasses bought at a bar. Most other services on board are also expensive such as the ridiculously overpriced spa facilities but this is always par for the course and we never bother anyway. We did get haircuts which was easily double what you would pay for a (mans) haircut ashore. Strangely, a plain womans cut was cheaper than a mans. Again easily avoided if you get one before the cruise. The gym facilities are fine with good equipment. If you are into running you'll find the lack of a proper jogging track an issue and treadmills are only for guinea pigs anyway. The lifeboats decks are fine for walking along and good for avoiding the crowds. Another good way to get exercise is to always use the stairs as we do. This is great as everyone is so lazy that they only use the lifts so you mostly have the stairs to yourself. Like most ships there's always a quiet bar or lounge area hidden away somewhere when you want some peace and quiet during the day and the Starlight Disco on deck 12 is good for this. If you want lot's of entertainment put on for you then there was usually something happening somewhere. Plenty of live music around the ship and shows most evenings. We didn't go to many of these as In typical European style they were on quite late, well past our bedtime anyway. The disco for instance didn't kick off until 11.30pm as did a lot of other events such as Mr Armonia and that type of thing. The pool area was very crowded and noisy during the day but the various sun decks scattered around weren't too busy and nice and quiet. There is no movie theatre on board but movies (in English) were shown on your television continuously throughout the day. Maybe not current releases but not too old either. There's one thing that I would advise against and that's the onboard wifi service. We signed up for one hours worth of access as we had our own notebook, This was not only very, very expensive at 20 Euros but was as good as useless. We used up almost our entire hour attempting to download 19 emails and only succeeded in downloading 8! If you want to try opening a webpage then you really need to have loads of patience and very deep pockets. MSC must be making buckets out of this service as you can order a daily newspaper from your home country which they obviously download each day and it only costs you a couple of euros and is nicely bound to boot. So the download cost for them must be minimal. This is a good service by the way. What we did do though was to sit on deck and try hooking up to an unsecure wifi signal in various ports and succeeded in Rio de Janeiro, managing in a fraction of the time to do more emailing for free than we managed in our paid hour on the ship! The ever present threat of those self destructive people, yes the smokers, is not as bad as one might image it to be on a European ship. Smoking is confined to certain areas both within and around the ship and are easily avoided. It's odd though that smoking is discouraged in the cabins but not banned. To sum up then, although we had quite a few reservations prior to this trip most of them were unfounded or of no real consequence. Would we travel with MSC again? Quite happily. Was it the best cruise that we've been on? No, we loved the Sapphire Princess most of all but then our experiences are limited and this wasn't too far behind. But we will always choose a cruise based on itinerary rather than cruise line or ship so if the MSC Armonia is going somewhere that you want to go and you can accept that there are other ways of doing things other than the American way then jump on board. You'll have fun! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2009
We are just back from a 17 day Transatlantic on Poesia. Whatever MSC's policies may be when cruising in European waters, American usages prevailed on this crossing. Dinner was early, the sittings were at 6:15 and 8:30. As much ice ... Read More
We are just back from a 17 day Transatlantic on Poesia. Whatever MSC's policies may be when cruising in European waters, American usages prevailed on this crossing. Dinner was early, the sittings were at 6:15 and 8:30. As much ice water as one asked for was available at meals; free coffee was available from 6:30 to 10:00, again from noon to 2:30, from 4:00 to 5:00 and again at dinner, which seems sufficient to us for anyone, except perhaps those with a severe caffeine addiction. The food was more than ample, and if one stayed away from steaks and roasts, which tended to be tough, was, for the most part, good. The service in the dining room, if one overlooks an indifferent and disinterested restaurant manager, was excellent. The stewards were pleasant, helpful and did their utmost to satisfy requests, even if these were not always entirely reasonable. While it is true that wine, beer, bottled water and drinks were more expensive than on comparable lines by roughly half, if one was willing to settle for simple Italian country wines, it was possible to purchase a package that provided unlimited quantities of wine, beer and bottled water for $16 per person per day, which seems a reasonable expense. As for drinks, MSC made no objection to each passenger bringing aboard a bottle or two at every port, so that one wasn't at the mercy of the bars. The breakfast and lunch buffets were plentiful, if not Lucullan. The lunch offerings did vary from day to day, and if breakfast stayed the same, at least there was sufficient variety so that one wasn't forced to eat the same thing every day. Or one could eat a splendid breakfast as well as a constantly changing lunch in the dining room. The cabin personnel, a team of two for each cabin, was unfailingly pleasant and helpful, the cabins were cleaned within minutes of our leaving them. Requests for ice, glasses, snacks and the like were promptly and cheerfully fulfilled. The cabins themselves were of a standard size, as were the balconies. Closet space was just adequate as was drawer space. The bathrooms, while not large, had ample under the counter storage space. The shower was adequate for anyone weighing in at under four hundred pounds. The ship's officers were just that, ship's officers who ran the ship with considerable efficiency. Anyone who requires ship's officers to fawn over him had probably better buy his own yacht. The ship was exceptionally clean and well kept, a large number of crew were continually at work, washing, wiping, vacuuming, painting. The entertainment, at least that part of which that we attended, was exceptional. A quartet of opera singers who would find a place as soloists in any opera house in the world, gave several recitals, accompanied by a first rate pianist. While we did not see the dancers, by general agreement they were excellent. For those so inclined, the Italian national chess champion, an International Master, gave lessons every day and took on all comers. We encountered very few queues aboard ship, and when there was one, no one attempted to cut into it. There were four banks of elevators and there was no time at which one encountered excessive waiting periods. Embarkation was exemplary. One could check in one's luggage at the Venice railway station, walk a short distance to the Piazzale Roma where buses were waiting to take you to the ship and, if one had taken the trouble to pre-register on line, be aboard within minutes. Disembarkation was something of a muddle - some passengers waited over two hours in the lounges—but this was not MSC's fault, the U.S. customs and immigration services hadn't assigned sufficient personnel to cope with so many passengers. This is not to say that we have no criticisms. Most annoying were the announcements, which were read off in five languages three times a day for a total of 45 minutes, were stridently loud, and mostly consisted of hypes for various money earning on board activities. Deck chairs and tables, in spite of posted prohibitions, were, almost without exception, reserved with towels throughout the day. Given the nature of the case, it was impossible for us to determine if, as has been alleged, the absentee culprits were mostly German and Italians, or if all nationalities sinned equally, but the point is that no attempt was made by the crew to remedy the situation. Smoking was permitted only on one side of the swimming pool deck, but as some genius had decreed that this was to be the windward side, everyone got the full benefit of the tobacco fumes. Dinners were consistently themed, a different nationality was featured every evening. The results varied, running from the good to the mediocre. MSC would have done better to stick with Italian cuisine, which they did very well indeed. Dinner, moreover, was painfully long. It never took less than two hours, sometimes it was closer to three. This was not the fault of the stewards who did their best; they simply had too many diners at their stations and there seemed to be a serious bottleneck in the kitchen. The shore excursions were ludicrously overpriced, one was always better off making one's own arrangements. Get your information before you get on board as the "travel desk" did not provide any information on ports. We arranged for an historical and cultural tour of Carthage, and were quite pleased, but tablemates took a similar tour and got the usual "carpet sales" stop which robbed them of precious time in port, at top dollar! So, do your homework and ask questions about the tour in advance. In short, this is not a luxury cruise line, but then it isn't priced like one either. In our opinion it is comparable to Celebrity and Holland America: Some things are better, some not as good, but that is the level one is talking about. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
Ship Info Having already sailed before on Emerald and Star looked forward to the latest trip on the Ruby. The ship is a large one, but with plenty of places to find your own special space. Travelled with my wife and another couple ... Read More
Ship Info Having already sailed before on Emerald and Star looked forward to the latest trip on the Ruby. The ship is a large one, but with plenty of places to find your own special space. Travelled with my wife and another couple in Balcony cabins on the opposite side of the ship so we could enjoy shared views of sunrise/sunsets and ports. Liked to people watch on deck five around the Piazza with Vines (winebar) our favorite. We tried to get a seat by the window to watch the waves when we were not taking in the parade of ship entertainment including pianist, violins, gymnasts, and singer dancers. Ship Activities Enjoyed the naturalist lectures and other ship lecturers. Took in a few ship shows when we weren't too tired from the extensive sightseeing days and even found the time to lose a little in the Casino. With lots of sea days across the Atlantic we had a chance to unwind and do lots of reading. Nothing better than a good book and watching the ocean...or even a mediocre book and doing the same. Service Always friendly whether from the room steward, the folks at the bars or in the dining room. It felt like coming back home after the long days of seeing cities we had only dreamed of getting to see. Stateroom Room enough for us to relax and store the tons of luggage that we brought with us. Having a balcony again helped us with another place to sit and watch port and sea. Dining We had late seating traditional dining. We found the food to be varied, well prepared and nicely presented. We ate twice in the Crown Grille and felt that the meal there was very good with matching service. We ate at the buffet for breakfast and lunch. And found the pizza selection and quality much improved over our last trip with Princess. On this trip we also tried there pub style food in the Wheelhouse Bar to be a nice change of pace. Getting On/Getting Off The Ship Getting on was very smooth and easy. Getting off another matter as we reported as directed to the Explorer Lounge at the time called for and then waited at least 1/2 hr. before beginning to get off the ship. Luggage while color coded as usual was really a jumble of numbers. It took a long time to find our luggage. Used ship transfers in Ft. Lauderdale and that seemed to take a long time too. We left early enough so that any delays were frustrating, but did not impact our getting to our flights. Entertainment Production numbers were great with excellent cast and production. The Princess theater had all of the hi-tech bells and whistles to make the show sizzle. Also liked the mix of movies on TV/Open Deck and Princess Theater, though it was somewhat hard to understand the dialogue outdoors. Visually that screen was very sharp and clear. Shore Excursions All except one were informative and met our requirements. The one had a guide who was not easy to understand and did not provide much information except to keep saying that Pisa was the best. And his coming from Pisa would explain his repeated promotion of his home town. Took a private tour with Rome-In-Limo for Rome. Vincenzo (Vinnie) was great!! He got us close to all of the sights, was a good though fast driver, and helped us understand the city before us. With only 1 day in Rome he saved us time and in fact we probably got to see twice as much as a ship tour. He found a nice restaurant that fit our need for casual, but authentic. The day was long, but after throwing in the coin at the Travi Fountain we hope to come back to Rome!!! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
This was our second Med - Trans Atlantic cruise, third cruise in a row on Princess, and tenth cruise. DW and I are in our 50's. We did this cruise to celebrate her retirement. I unfortunately still have to work. We had originally ... Read More
This was our second Med - Trans Atlantic cruise, third cruise in a row on Princess, and tenth cruise. DW and I are in our 50's. We did this cruise to celebrate her retirement. I unfortunately still have to work. We had originally booked a northern route T/A but switched to this itinerary due to scheduling conflicts at work. An added bonus at work on switching was we sailed with several couples from last year's Med - Trans Atlantic on the Emerald. For our pre-embarkation stay we flew to Paris for two days. In Paris we saw the sights. We also had dinner in the Eiffel Tower, took a Seine river cruise, and saw a Moulin Rouge show. Paris is truly a magical city and we really wish we had an extra day or two to spend there. Our flight to Venice from Paris was short and uneventful. We were met by a Princess rep at the airport and quickly ushered to a shuttle bus for our short ride to the dock. The Princess rep was very helpful. One thing I found at the airport in Venice was the exchange rate for Euros was much better than what I paid at the airport in Los Angeles. Embarkation was a breeze. Since we arrived around 1530 hours (local time) there were no lines. We basically walked right on the ship. One thing I noticed about boarding was there seemed to be, in my opinion, more crew members to assist passengers in finding their way to their accommodations. The Ruby Princess was a truly magnificent ship. The ship was clean in every respect. The crew was outstanding and always had smiles on their faces. They always seemed willing to go the extra mile to assist passengers. The captain (Tony Yeomans) was always visible and very approachable. Twice DW and I rode an elevator with him and enjoyed pleasant conversations on both occasions. The Cruise director James ) was very professional as well and seemed to do a good job keeping us entertained. DW and I were cruising with a large contingent of fellow cruise critic members. Our group was known as the "ruby Stars." Our meet and greet was well attended. The captain and several other ships' company showed up. We also had several other events that were also well attended. As far as dining goes, we had second seating traditional in the Botticelli dining room. The Botticelli was a very nice venue. Our waiter Gabriel and his assistant did an acceptable job in making sure we enjoyed our dining experience. The food was very good to excellent. I did however send two main courses back because they seemed a bit cold to suite my taste. We enjoyed Sabatini's and the Crown Grill. Both were very good but not great. We also enjoyed Ultimate Balcony Dining and found it to be outstanding. The lobster tail was the biggest I've ever seen. I enjoyed the suite perk of breakfast at Sabatini's. It was a very nice experience and the food was quite good. The mimosas were a great way to start the day. Food in the horizon court and Cafe Caribe was your typical buffet food. Nothing great but there was a good variety to choose from. I did note that Cafe Caribe was always crowded during dinner time. The choices offered seemed to be very tempting. The International Cafe was good and Vines served good sushi & Tapas. The Trident grill served great hamburgers and hot dogs. Pizza on the pool deck was also a great way to add on the extra weight. We had a PH suite (R408) and enjoyed all the perks that came with being a suite passenger. Our cabin steward Angelito was very good and did his best to ensure we enjoyed our stateroom. My only negative outlook regarding the suite was the size of the balcony. It is very narrow and with the upgraded wood furniture it seemed rather cramped. As far as onboard entertainment goes, we saw two production shows that were quite good. Several of the princess singers were great. We also enjoyed a couple of shows in the Explorer's lounge that were also quite good. During the cruise there was a variety of entertainment in the Piazza. All were quite good. The fitness center had a wide variety of equipment and was always well utilized by passengers. I only had to wait once for a treadmill. I also visited the thermal suite and noted the temps of the steam rooms varied and sometimes seemed not hot enough. I also noted this in the steam and sauna rooms in the men's locker room. DW made very good use of the salon and massages services and enjoyed all the treatments she received. She told me all staff members were friendly and very professional. Yes she did purchase some products after the usual sales pitch but we all know it's coming before we go there. The boutiques were staffed by friendly and professional crew members who were very helpful. I thought the selections in the various shops were good with the exception of the souvenir shop that had set out Caribbean items shortly after we left Venice. DW and I did several private excursions with other CC members that were all very nice. The highlight of the excursions for me was standing inside the Coliseum in Rome; truly a memorable experience. We also did two ship sponsored excursions that were very well run. During the six day crossing there were many things to do. It was also nice to just relax and recover from the port intensive portion of the cruise. Overall, the cruise was a great experience. I would not hesitate to sail with Princess again nor would I hesitate to recommend the line to a friend. I may not however choose this itinerary again as it has been cut to 16 days with the removal of Florence and Lisbon as ports of call. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
We were the last to arrive on the ship as our flight which was inclusive did not get into Verona until late. Checking in was chaotic. The cabin we were given was very clean and a nice size. We found the food lacking in imagination and ... Read More
We were the last to arrive on the ship as our flight which was inclusive did not get into Verona until late. Checking in was chaotic. The cabin we were given was very clean and a nice size. We found the food lacking in imagination and were given very small portions. If we wanted water we had to pay for it. Tea and coffee was not offered. Only time we could get these was during the day at the restaurant by the pool. The shore excursions were planned for the majority of the passengers who were Germans. After much complaints we finally got an English speaker on the excursions. The shows were OK. The shops on board were expensive and service was hard to get. Internet was not working during the voyage and calling out was extremely expensive. If you bought alcohol from the shop it was put away until you were ready to leave. The crew was upset when we wanted to give the tips ourselves as they wanted to deduct it from the bill. Again it was messy business. Checking out was chaotic in the extreme and we were dropped off at the airport eight hours before our flight was due to leave. With hardly any seats and two cafes it became an exercise in patience and endurance. Will never use them again. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
This is my quick review of the Ruby Princess Transatlantic that started in Venice 10/07 and landed in Ft Lauderdale 10/25. We have sailed on Princess 21 times and 8 times on other ships. There were 8 in our group-2 from CA, 2 from RI and ... Read More
This is my quick review of the Ruby Princess Transatlantic that started in Venice 10/07 and landed in Ft Lauderdale 10/25. We have sailed on Princess 21 times and 8 times on other ships. There were 8 in our group-2 from CA, 2 from RI and 4 from FL. The FL people opted to leave Sun 10/4 on USAir from Tampa to Philly changing planes after a 4 hour layover to Venice. I wanted to minimize the chance of our luggage being lost. We each checked one large bag and each had a carry on. Needless to say, they lost one piece from each couple that found it's way to our hotel on Tuesday. The flight was in coach and not too bad except for the man and his wife who reclined the seats before we took off and we had no room. The cabin attendant had to ask them to sit upright while we were eating and then they slammed them right back down. We stayed at the Hotel Molino Stucky and booked early enough to receive a promo of 149 Euros/night. Later were were offered and "Executive" upgrade for 59 Euros/night and we took it as it included a wonderful champagne breakfast plus hearty appetizers for lunch and dinner along with unlimited cold drinks, beer, wine and some liquors. The hotel staff was wonderful and very helpful in locating the traveling luggage. The rooms were rather large with very spacious bathrooms and the bed were comfy. The Molino provides limited transportation to St Mark's and P. Roma and we did use that a few times. They also have a taxi from Murano that will take you to a glass factory where they almost badger you into buying overpriced glass items. Had we known, we would have taken the vaporetto and gone on our own. It took them 45 minutes to call a water taxi back to the hotel. We bought a 72 hour Vaporetto pass online before we left and you get a discount and a voucher to turn into a ticket in Venice. The 1st night we went right to St. Mark's square and took in all the beauty there. No pickpockets were seen and no one approached us. We did find a few rude Venitians who don't consider themselves Italians. In a market, we checked out and was waiting for a bag and when I asked for on the lady screamed at me they were 10 cents....how did I know? We took a vaporetto ride from one end of the Grand Canal to the other just to soak in the sights. It was awesome. We took in the Secrets of the Doges Palace tour that we pre-purchased on line and it was fabulous. We also did a ship's tour "The nighttime tour of St Mark's Basilica" and it was worth every penny we paid. We boarded the ship at about noon on Wednesday and used it as home base. The ship is beautiful and her crew is wonderful. We had Captain McCharming-Capt Tony Yeomans. Having been on the sister ships, we didn't do too much exploring of the ship. We did enjoy the new Elite/Platinum lounge in Skywalkers each night. We also spent a lot of time in the Piazza people watching and using the International Cafe for coffees and goodies. The Chicken salad is awesome and don't' pass up the shrimp! Our cabin steward was one of the best we've had and he made our stay memorable. Always smiling, any requests answered promptly. The other passengers were mostly an older group of travelers. I never saw such a collection of scooters and rolling walkers in my life!!!! Some of them were quite rude-pushing on elevators before passengers got off etc. I often wondered how they got around Venice which is a walking city and getting on and off vaporettos requires a lion heart!!! Naples was beautiful and we had a private driver take us to Sorento, Positano, Amalfi and Revalo. Beautiful little towns. The weather was perfect while Venice was hot and humid. We had a guide to take us to the Herculanium-awesome. Rome was a marathon tour with Stefano of Romecabs. He is wonderful and I highly sing his praises. We saw things that I only dreamed of. The fountains, the Colloseum, the churches etc .... truly sensory overload! Florence was a rainy day and we had ponchos to get around and our private driver also had umbrellas. We did the Leaning Tower and it is a beautiful building even in the rain. We drove to the town center and visited the leather market. You could gently bargain but the stuff is still not cheap. We could not get in to Marseille due to high winds (60mph) and rough seas - 21 ft. Sounds scary but it really wasn't. We enjoyed another sea day to rest. Barcelona again had us in a bus with a private driver and guide and we concentrated on Segata Familia. The church is an emotional experience and I'm not that religious but was moved to tears. WE sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar and I was a bit disappointed! I remember reading the Iliad in school and remembered the "Pillars of Hercules" and was expecting two giant rocks guarding the entrance. Only one big rock. I'm told there is another rock on the African side but we didn't see it. But is was amazing to see Africa on one side and the windmill farms on the Spanish side. Lisbon brought another private tour and we saw all the statues of Prince Henry the Navigator and explorers. Of course we stopped in Belem for the tasty pastries! Ponta Delgada took our hearts away. We went with Amazing tours and it truly was amazing. Beautiful country-peaceful, clean and friendly. We will go back that again. We went to the top of the mountain and saw the crater lakes. Awesome times three. After Ponta delgata, we have 6 nights at sea and we needed them to recover from the hectic pace we set for ourselves. The sip provided entertainment and of course the casino was always open. The food on the Ruby was better than good bordering on great. They were trying out several new menu items-most were good with one clunker as in anything new. We ate in the DR for all meals except for a rare deviation for waffles for breakfast or Pizza for lunch. We had fixed early seating and our server Alex caught on to like and dislike quickly and made appropriate suggestions. After the first night, we didn't have to ask for tea-it was waiting for us. Great service. All in all it was a trip of a lifetime and we are planning to do it again next year. I will pack differently-taking more capris and fewer long pants. My touring shoes were comfy but I developed blisters on my swollen feet from the shoes worn on the ship for dinner. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
We sailed on the Ruby Princess Trans-Atlantic Venice to Ft. Lauderdale 10/07/09. This was our third year doing the Princess Trans-Atlantic on this route, the first two years on the Emerald Princess. We spent three nights pre-cruise in ... Read More
We sailed on the Ruby Princess Trans-Atlantic Venice to Ft. Lauderdale 10/07/09. This was our third year doing the Princess Trans-Atlantic on this route, the first two years on the Emerald Princess. We spent three nights pre-cruise in a junior suite at the Al Ponte Antico Hotel in Venice. While it is very expensive, I can say that when we return to Venice we will stay in the same place and room. The hotel is just down from the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal and the terrace where one can eat breakfast or have drinks in the evening has a million dollar view. Matteo and his staff greet you like members of the family and cater to your every whim. Breakfasts are exquisite. As an aside, one of our bags didn't arrive when we did and Matteo made sure that his staff kept checking on it. The suitcase was delivered to our room the second night. We had a number of excellent meals I thought were worth mentioning. We had dinner one night at the Osteria Santa Marina and another at the Alla Borsa. We had eaten at both before and enjoyed them just as much as on previous visits. We also ate at the Osteria Barababao which was very enjoyable. The first two were more expensive than the latter. We are a little different from some cruisers in that we don't go to the casino or to any shows . We were in A753 (a category OS) aft starboard-side. We had cruised in the same cabin two years ago on the Emerald and loved it and this year was no different. The cabin is large with a dining area, large sitting room area and bedroom with the usual bathroom for suites on Princess. The balcony is very large with room for a table with four chairs and two lounge chairs with a table in between. We had a sailaway party with approx. 16 people and had plenty of room for everyone. Our cabin steward Angelo was outstanding. We had breakfast every morning we could in Sabatinis. The service, menu, and ambiance are wonderful. Marius and his staff were more than excellent. We began every morning with a Mimosa and proceeded to the delectable items on the menu. The Eggs Benedict were better than anything I had eaten in a dining room before. The waffles were outstanding served with whipped cream and essentially we found we could get whatever our fancy was for breakfast. We ate a few lunches in the Cafe Caribe and Horizon Court. We found the food there to be good for a buffet where many people are being fed. Not Princess' fault but we always found that we ate too much because there were too many choices. We only ate dinner in the dining room four nights; the remainder of the 18 nights we ate in either Sabatinis or the Crown Grill. I don't remember the names of the two anytime dining rooms, but we ate one night in the one on deck 5 and I was unhappy enough that I wrote a letter to the Maitre D'. The waiter and his assistant told us repeatedly to keep the cork for our bottle of wine so we could keep it for another night. We did not go to the dining room at closing time and there were people coming in after us so I thought we were being unduly rushed - not a fine dining experience. The other nights we ate in the deck 6 dining room with Godwin as the Maitre D'. He is a wonderful asset to Princess. He remembered our name from two years ago and made sure that we had a very nice table with great service. The food in the dining room was good, in fact, better than I thought it was on previous cruises. We did find that we like the ambiance in the two alternative restaurants better. We do not get the "Sabatinis Experience" when we eat there, but rather order what we want to eat. After the first time the staff understood that was how we liked it and we had no problems. We also found that the menu can be flexible. We found the service to be absolutely wonderful in both venues. Thanks to the efforts of one of our fellow passengers Gail we were able to do the Chefs Table one night. We had done it two years ago and it was once again a wonderful evening. I am so impressed with the galley operation and cleanliness! The appetizers in the galley and the food served at our table were outstanding.. For those who have not tried this, I recommend it. The visit behind the scenes is in itself worth the cost. Our favorite lounge is Adagio and that's where we went every evening before dinner. The pianist was outstanding and the little plates with olives and cheese breadsticks were wonderful. The place was never crowded and was a perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely cocktail before dinner. The only shipboard activities we participated in were Trivia games. There are plenty of opportunities for that. One of the sea days I think there were 5 separate trivia events. We did only one per day. The internet service was good. We were all the way aft and had good wi-fi reception in our cabin and even sometimes on the veranda. We spent a couple of afternoons at the Sanctuary. I think it's the best spot to spend an afternoon on a sea day. The lounge chairs are wonderful and the lunch menu is delicious. I had my hair done a couple of times and the service was good. Nobody tried to sell me anything. My husband had a pedicure and likewise no attempts were made to sell him anything. We took two Princess tours. We did the Elite tour of the Amalfi Coast which we had done before. We actually had the same guide as last year. He was wonderful and the tour was great. We love the Amalfi Coast and we love Le Sirenuse Hotel where we had lunch. We had 14 people traveling with us and essentially could do what we liked. We took the Princess tour to Cinque Terre and also enjoyed that. We had a little rain and the winds were such that we couldn't travel by boat between some of the villages, but we still had a good time. For the other ports we had private tours. In Civitavecchia due to a miscommunication we wound up tourless. We were extremely fortunate to find Stefano, a driver/guide at the entrance to the port. For a very reasonable price we had an absolutely fantastic tour for just the two of us to Rome. Stefano is a Roman who whisked us in and out of traffic, managed to find parking places close to everything we wanted to see and took us to an absolutely wonderful restaurant for lunch. While it was a tourist restaurant up front we sat in a back room and had a marvelous lunch without ever seeing a menu. In Barcelona we went on a private tour arranged by one of our shipmates with Pepito Tours. We visited Girona and S'Agaro. Jose was our guide and the tour was excellent. Girona is a splendid medieval city which I think most people don't get to see while on a cruise and S'Agaro was a beautiful seaside resort on the Costa Brava where we saw beautiful vistas and had a wonderful lunch. In Lisbon we had a private tour through Alliance4Drive with Karla as our driver/guide. She did an outstanding job guiding us through the Tile Museum, the Alfama District and Castle of St. George, the main square and the Belem District. Lisbon is such a beautiful city! We stopped at the cafe that serves the signature Pasteis de Belem. Next year Princess has eliminated this city as a stop and I think that's a shame because it is such a wonderful place. This year we only had a half day as opposed to the full day the two prior years. In Punta Delgada we had one of our most interesting experiences. We had arranged for a cab to drive us around the island. John was waiting for us when we disembarked and we proceeded on our tour. We had been to Sao Miguel before but hadn't seen much. Our tour took us all around the island to see it's geological splendors, its tea plantation and its magnificent trees and flowers. We had perhaps the most interesting lunch we've ever eaten. Near the town of Furnas there are hot springs where people cook in holes around the hot springs. Our lunch at a local restaurant was cooked in one of the holes in a large pot. It was a delicious stew of various meats and vegetables. The temperatures throughout our voyage were in the low 70s. The seas were quite calm including the 6 days of the trans-atlantic crossing. Only one night did we do some rocking and rolling but it was in the middle of the bight. We missed the port of Mrseille due to high winds caused by the Mistrals off the Alps. Despite the fact that the winds approached 70 mph and the seas were around 40 ft., we were running with the seas and experienced no rolling and the skies were a brilliant blue. We had a splendid time on this cruise. We liked the 18 day itinerary and despite the fact that it is very port intensive in the beginning , the days crossing the Atlantic do give you an opportunity to rest and relax. I do have to say that by day five in the crossing we were beginning to feel ready to be home. I think Princess does a wonderful job especially considering that they are catering to over 3000 people. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
My wife and I boarded MSC Poesia in Venice on October 24th for a trans-Atlantic cruise of 18 days. We had booked a suite, cabin 15022, and at check-in we were ushered quickly to a special private check-in area with champagne and canapEs. ... Read More
My wife and I boarded MSC Poesia in Venice on October 24th for a trans-Atlantic cruise of 18 days. We had booked a suite, cabin 15022, and at check-in we were ushered quickly to a special private check-in area with champagne and canapEs. We were told that if we needed anything, anything at all during the cruise to simply dial 99 and it will be taken care of. We were then escorted to the head of the security line and boarded the beautiful Poesia. Our luggage was tagged for us dockside and promptly dilevered to our cabin. At dinner the first evening we meet and fell in love with our waiter Murat and assistant waiter Onur, both from Turkey and very polite and eager to please. Learning their names and learning how to say thank you in their language made all of the difference in how they treated us. You get what you give. We were assigned a table for two at a window, table 536, in the Fontane dining room. We had the early seating at 6:15 pm. We had pre-purchased a drink package that included unlimited wine-beer-mineral water & soda at lunch and dinner. We told Murat that I enjoyed red and DW enjoyed white and from our first meal there were always 2 bottles of wine and a bottle of mineral water at our table when we arrived for dinner. Empty bottles were quickly replaced without having to ask. Any wine that was left at the end of our meal was tagged and presented again the next night. We saw some people take their wine bottles back to their room after dinner and I do not know if this is connected but they always complained about how hard it was for them to get wine service with their meal. At dinner you were always given a choice: 2 appetizers, 2 salads, 2 soups, 2 pastas, 4 entrees (including vegetarian), 3 sides, a cheese plate and 4 deserts (including sugar free). If one was not happy with the daily choices one was always offered standard chicken, beef, pasta and vegetarian entrees. 85% of the dishes were simply outstanding and of those 10% were inspirational. The other 15% were "take it or leave it". One night we did dine in the specialty restaurant L'Oblisco. My filet was the best I had ever had and absolutely huge, at least 12 ounces of beef done to a turn and masterly seasoned. DW was disappointed with her entrEe, I forget what it was and the entire meal was a solid 7.5 out of 10. We could not get back to Murat and the Fontane dining room fast enough. A pizza station was open every evening in the cafeteria but it was not sampled by us. Midnight buffets were daily events. If your are sailing on Poesia this winter I would ask to be re-seated in Murat's area if possible and tell him Curt and Amy Jo sent you. If you can't swing it for dinner, lunch is open seating and you can get him them. Breakfast. You had 4 options. A very simple continental breakfast in your cabin; coffee, juice, yogurt, & rolls. You could eat in the main dining room, you could eat in the cafeteria, or you could visit the cafeteria and take your meal back to your cabin. The food and service were outstanding. A huge hit is the smoked salmon and it is served in very generous portions. As much coffee, tea, juice, water as you wanted. You were never left unattended and a very little patience was rewarded. Please, there are 2,500 asking for coffee at the same time. Yours will get there and it will be hot. Lunch. The cafeteria or the main dining room are your options. Heartier fare in the dining room including brunch type offerings (eggs benedict). The buffet was very large and varied. A huge salad bar, a hamburger/hot dog station, at least 3 hot mains and that many rice/vegetable selections. Seafood was varied and plentiful and the cold dishes/salads were simply fabulous. The desert section was modest but I had the best gelatin in the world on Poesia. To call it Jello would simply not do it justice. There are a limited number of tables outside and they go very quickly. With the drink package you present your card to a server and they will bring you your drinks. The draft beer is excellent. If you wanted to you could drink for the entire 2 ½ hours that the cafeteria is open. Water, tea, coffee all free and unlimited. Soft serve ice cream was free and unlimited all afternoon. Writing this all just now makes me wonder what in the world all of the complaints are about. Calling it "dog food" is simply ignorant. Saying one will lose weight or starve on Poesia is also extremely ignorant. I would like to now address the "language" problem. This is a European cruise line catering to Europeans. Yes, the announcements are all in 5 languages and they have to be, but really there are very few of them with the main one being at 9:30 am. As for the wait staff; just imagine what a difficult task they are asked to perform 3 times every day. Whether a guest is from Germany, Britain, Italy, Spain, France or America the waiters must go to great lengths to translate even simple requests. Please be patient with your waiter as he only wants to please you. The grace shown under fire by the wait staff on Poesia is simply stunning. And it's not just different languages but different dialects of the same language that they must interpret. Consider the Brit, who with a raised voice, as if that will make the poor waiter understand any better, demands a bowl of "Special Kai" at breakfast even though Special K is not listed as a cereal on offer. Or how about the man from Alabama who is furious because he can't get a "hard bowled egg", what is the waiter to do but struggle in a battle that he'll never win. Point to the menu item and you'll get it. Special requests are hard to do but the staff will do their best to make you happy. When you hear that the staff and crew do not speak English, very well please bear in mind that the English might have been English "English", Australian "English", American "English" or Indian "English" with all four of them then being broken down into many different sub-dialects. Just imagine America alone producing Southern, Midwest, Canadian, Cajun and New England dialects plus New Jersey, New Orleans or Brooklyn. Patience works. Yelling does not. Our cabins were spotless and you are provided with liquid soap in both the bath and on the bathroom sink. You are also provided shower gel. Wash clothes and towels are changed after each use, even if you shower multiple times a day. The service is quick and professional. An order of ice cubes was never more than 5 minutes away. When hosting sail away parties en suite, the staff was happy to bring extra glasses and ice. Room service was fast and correct but so very limited a selection that I will not mention it here. If you want a meal you must go to the dining room or cafeteria. Robes and slippers were provided in our cabin. You will have an Ethernet connection in your cabin so you may want to bring a cable. Suite guest also get a pillow menu and I would urge you to take advantage of this service. The spa was very nice but a bit too loud for our liking. The gym seems to be world class but they do require gym shoes to enter it. Internet. I found the internet service to be surprisingly fast but you do have to pay attention to the time of day. If you walk past a lounge with a WiFi hotspot and 15 people are on line you can pretty much expect slower service. My Apple iphone worked great on board. Wireless is a bit cheaper with a 6 hour package for 85 Euros. In the internet cafe you paid 4 Euros for 10 minutes. Ouch! To check your on- board account day or night you simply insert your cruise card into any computer in the cafe and your account and all of your charges comes right up. All in all this was a spectacular cruise and an outstanding value. We would book again with MSC in a heartbeat. We loved every aspect of the MSC "experience". They do what they do very well and I commend them for their attention to every detail. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
We chose this cruise primarily for itinerary. Having done the Med a few times before, we were very interested in the transatlantic portion, and being able to relax after our hectic pace in Europe. As we love Rome, we chose to fly in a few ... Read More
We chose this cruise primarily for itinerary. Having done the Med a few times before, we were very interested in the transatlantic portion, and being able to relax after our hectic pace in Europe. As we love Rome, we chose to fly in a few days early and spend 3 nights there. Stayed at the Artemide which was local walking distance to everything and was fantastic. We then took the train to Venice, to spend one night there prior to boarding the Ruby. Unfotunately our train ride was more eventful than we liked. We traveled with another couple, and sometime during the 4 1/2 hr ride from Rome to Venice, our friends camera bag disappeared right from under his seat! The camera wasn't the big worry, he had three weeks worth of medication in that bag!! To make a long story short, a very wonderful pharmacist in Venice was able to replace the meds in 24hrs. Whew! After staying at the Locanda Vivaldi one night prior (fab hotel) , we boarded the lovely RubyPrincess late afternoon on the Wednesday. At that point, we stayed on board to wander and explore. We used the Princess Water Shuttle tickets provided to go back into Venice the next morning. We had a minisuite on Dolphin deck. Enjoyed having the extra room but can't seem to get used to the totally exposed balconys on this class of ship. Common/Public Rooms Lots of places to meet and mingle, nowhere seemed crowded except the ever popular International Cafe. Adiagos, Crooners, Wheelhouse, all great spots to linger with a drink. We enjoyed the outside area of Adiagos where you could sit and stare out to sea. Beautiful. The Princess Theater is a little small, and I guess that's why they repeat the Production Shows over 2 nights. The casino was nice, we didn't spend alot of time there. Dining We had second seating and had fabulous staff. Meals in the dining room were usually good to sometimes great. Unfortunately it was the only time we could say that. The Horizon Court was a huge disappointment. Very little selection in my opinion for lunch. Soggy sandwiches wrapped in saran wrap (I've never seen this before!)At least you could get a decent salad. We tried the dining room for lunch one day and again experienced the soggy wet bread. Specialty Dining Had a nice meal in the Crown Grill. And the Ultimate Balcony Dining was the best experience, would recommend to anyone. Sabatinis was a disappointment though. Entertainment Production shows were well done. I thought for 18 nights they could have squeezed an extra show in there - we had three. There was a pretty good comedian. MUTS had lots of good movies to choose from, but we only went once. They had the White Hot Deck party and Ruby Ball also. Ports The magic of Italy, what can I say. We loved Venice, and having spent time in Rome prior, we chose to go to Tivoli the day we docked in Civitavecchia. We enjoyed Tivoli very much. In Naples, we did a private tour to the Amalfi Coast and it was outstanding. Certainly a highlight of the trip. In Florence we walked around on our own in the pouring rain, the only bad weather day in the trip. We missed Marseilles due to high seas and winds, so had an extra sea day. Barcelona is beautiful and we enjoyed Gaudi's as well as strolling Las Ramblas. Lisbon - oh how disappointing to be there only a few hours, how I wished we had more time there. And Azores was a quaint beautiful stop before we headed out to sea. The transatlantic portion was 6 days, and that meant about 2 too many for us. We got a little restless by day 4. There were activities on board during the sea days and venues seemed to be busy most of the time. As the weather was beautiful for the crossing, with calm seas and sunny warm days, we were able to enjoy the outdoor areas, by the pool, mini golf, etc. We overall enjoyed out trip, but I don't think another transatlantic crossing is in our future!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2009
Having thoroughly enjoyed several previous cruises, including trans-Atlantic "repositioning" cruises, we booked a 17 day repositioning cruise on the Poesia without a second thought. In researching the port itinerary for the trip ... Read More
Having thoroughly enjoyed several previous cruises, including trans-Atlantic "repositioning" cruises, we booked a 17 day repositioning cruise on the Poesia without a second thought. In researching the port itinerary for the trip we came across numerous reviews on Msc generally and the Poesia in particular - practically everyone of which was strongly negative. We sailed in October 2009 and, with negative reviews spanning the period from May of 2008 (launch date) through September of 2009, went sought refuge in denial - "It can't possibly be as bad as they say", "They must have improved that by now" and so on. Denial of course, turned out to be wishful thinking. I cannot think of a single negative comment contained in other reviews that we would not emphatically endorse although that is not to say that everything was bad. The ship itself was and is excellent and our balcony stateroom was on a par with other carriers we have experienced. Cabin housekeeping and service likewise were both excellent and, if these items were all a cruise offered, we would rate this a four or a five. Unfortunately, every other aspect of the package was somewhere between mediocre and downright awful. We like to walk, especially on sea days. If your pleasure is to treadmill at $30.00 per hour then the Poesia might be just what you are looking for. The Promenade Deck (deck 7) was available on just one day of the trip. Every other day parts of it were closed off for bunkering the lifeboats, washing the deck, painting and other obscure maintenance tasks. In any event the, the deck does not go completely round the ship and requires either a repeated U shaped walk or cutting through the rear stairwell to complete each circuit. The Jogging Track on deck 14 was a travesty. By 7:00 am it was so littered with sun-chairs and bodies, staking their claim for another day of cancer cultivation, that it was impossible to walk around without having to step over such obstacles or waiting while a deckhand, with a fresh stack of sun-chairs, threaded his way between the broiled bodies. Unless you are a tour fan, don't rely on Msc providing any assistance whatever on the port stops. No information in the daily sales promotion sheet delivered to the cabins, no maps, no list of features, no restaurants, no highlights, nothing at all except a flat "No." to any question asked about off ship activities. Moral: Expect to be treated like a second class citizen if you intend to do your own thing in port. Worst of all however, is the entire food service management or, more accurately, mismanagement. Wrong orders, room temperature milk for cereals, strange 15 to 20 minutes total lapses in service, slow water refills if you were one of the lucky ones that received water in the first place, undrinkable coffee, uncooked potatoes, meats that seem to actively fight back, salads awash with half a cup of water and on and on. Soups were generally passable to good and we did have one good dessert. Msc is a proponent of Fixed Dining - that is to say, you are expected to dine with the same folks every evening for the duration of the trip. All we typically wanted was a main course choice and possibly a dessert. with eight people on the table debating their wine choices and then discussing each of the five or six courses that seemed necessary to their existence, dinner typically took two hours and was simply an appalling experience. The only alternative to this zoo is "Slices of Pizza" from the buffet that is otherwise shutdown for the day. After three seemingly interminable nightmare dining experiences in the restaurant, we opted to live on pizza for the rest of the trip. Ironically, there was an upside to the astoundingly poor restaurant operations - we both lost two pounds on the trip! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
Overall we enjoyed the cruise, the ports and transatlantic crossing. There's plenty to eat and activities galore. Unfortunately, due to inclement weather, we were not able to dock in Marseille. We'd recommend the cruise to ... Read More
Overall we enjoyed the cruise, the ports and transatlantic crossing. There's plenty to eat and activities galore. Unfortunately, due to inclement weather, we were not able to dock in Marseille. We'd recommend the cruise to anyone. We are however not as glowing of some specifics of the cruise as some posters. A summary of specifics follow: Cruise Highlights The following on-board sights were especially memorable: Departure from Venice, transiting through the Straits of Gibraltar and entry into Lisbon. Overall, the employees were friendly and helpful, especially the waiters and waitresses in the Wheelhouse Lounge and Crooner's Lounge. Venice Embarkation While Princess had some sixteen check-in counters, there were only three security scanners. Consequently, we stood around for three hours waiting for our boarding number to be called. Ft Lauderdale Disembarkation All passengers were requested to leave their staterooms by 8:00AM to allow for cleanup. We then waited in a public area for three hours waiting for our turn to officially disembark. Our scheduled departure time was 1.5 hours later than scheduled. Stateroom We had an interior stateroom midship on the Baja deck. It was quiet and well-sized. I would have hated to have had a room further down the hall adjacent to the dish washing area. In walking past that section, you could frequently hear the loud clattering of dishes in the hallway. We also talked to a passenger who boarded at Barcelona and was assigned to a stateroom beneath one of the lounges. After considerable complaining about the noise, he was moved to a different stateroom room in Venice. Public Areas The SkyWalkers lounge was excellent for a quiet reading location and great view. In general, the public entertainment areas for shipboard events and showrooms are generally too small to accommodate 3100 passengers. Consequently, the Princess Theater and the Explorer's Lounge have the same shows multiple times per day over a couple days. Also, the Piazza is woefully inadequate for events such as the Captain's reception. Entertainment The major entertainment was fairly good, especially the comedians and solo singers who were very good. In general, the lounge entertainment was merely "acceptable". An exception however was the rock group "Junction 21" which was very good. Unfortunately, the timing of entertainment in the various venues was awkward. Most of the performances are scheduled at the same time and the entertainers took breaks at the same time, making it difficult for passengers to enjoy the wide variety of groups and a full evening sampling of the different entertainers. Food and Dining You could eat at anytime. We especially enjoyed mid-day snacks consisting of ice cream, cookies, pizza and hot dogs (what a combo!). In the evening, we usually ate in the Michelangelo dining room. The food ranged in quality from excellent to average. It seemed that dining room service was better earlier in the evening. Perhaps as the evening progressed, the staff was getting tired. We tried the Cafe Caribe on the German and Curry buffet nights. Both meals were disappointing. "Movie Under the Stars" We attended one of the movies at night for an authentic theater experience. You need to arrive early to claim a "good seat". The theater event includes a lap robe, popcorn, cookies and milk. Information Desk In general, the ship's information desk was dismal. They gave incorrect information as to when we were passing Gibraltar. Additionally, they were unable to provide any useful information on the upcoming ports. Money My advice is to bring your own shore spending money. The ship's on-board ATM charges a minimum of $6 (or $8) for ATM withdrawals. Transportation in Ports If you are traveling as independent passengers (i.e., not scheduled on a Princess cruise excursion), each passenger is charged approximately $8.00 per person per port for bus transportation from the dock to the town center in several of the ports. Considering the overall cost of the cruise, this seems excessive. In several of the ports, the bus transport was necessary since the ports are large industrial areas lacking other transportation options. The bus drop-off points were located conveniently near rapid transit options and information centers with return schedules maintained throughout the day. Cruise Director James Ibrahim, the cruise director, seemed both patronizing and immature. The ship's "The Early Show" is intended to be an important source of information for passengers. Unfortunately, the television program was frequently frivolous and superficial, lacking quality information concerning ports and events on the ship. You had to intently listen through the whole program to filter significant information from the blather. Communication It used to be that passengers would get a daily news summary of current world events. Princess does not provide that. The assumption is apparently that we will access the internet or watch the news on the television. This however is not always possible. During the Atlantic crossing, most network channels including CNN were not available on the cabin televisions. As for the computer center, it is quite small for the size of the ship, and it was not always easy to access a computer. Also, the cost of accessing the internet promotes cautious, careful use. Laundry The ship has numerous high quality, self-service laundry rooms spread throughout the ship. Most of the laundries are small (2 washers/2 dryers). Our experience was that they were frequently very busy. The machines were efficient. We were able to dry a full load of jeans, t-shirts and socks in one drying cycle. You need to plan a couple of hours minimum depending on how long you have to wait for the machines. The change machine did not work one day, so I'd recommend you come prepared with plenty of quarters. Each machine costs $1.50 (quarters only). You can also purchase soap and fabric softener. The laundry room also had two ironing boards and Rowenta irons with automatic shut-off timers. In this day of luggage weight restrictions, there is no need to pack a personal steamer. In closing The above commentary is intended as an open assessment of the cruise. Overall, the cruise was enjoyable, relaxing and worthwhile. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
First the good... The ship is almost new and in good condition, clean and sort of attractively decorated. The service is excellent, the crew does speak english for the most part and they appear very polished in starched white uniforms. ... Read More
First the good... The ship is almost new and in good condition, clean and sort of attractively decorated. The service is excellent, the crew does speak english for the most part and they appear very polished in starched white uniforms. Service staff always greets passengers and they are warm and accommodating. Cabins are OK, not great. Now the so so... Entertainment and activities are below average to poor. Deck space is crowded and lounge chairs are in short supply with most chairs sitting for half the day "reserved" with a towel on them and no passenger in sight. Bottle necks are everywhere, especially in the "cafeteria". The mens and ladies steam room and sauna area are very European in their layout with clear glass doors offering full views of nude passengers of the opposite sex. Alcoholic beverages are insanely expensive, with a mixed drink at $10 and a beer at $9. The big problem... THE FOOD!!! Do not fall for the oh it's Italian food line. I'm Italian and please let me assure you that this food is no more Italian than McDonald's. Sadly enough the food served by MSC is just plain cheap, nasty food with very little choice period. You know you're in trouble when every day the lunch buffet begins with sawdust dry burgers and hideous pink hot dogs and then it goes down hill from there. For dinner the dining room is your only choice for dinner. There is NO "Lido Deck" buffet option. Please get this straight. Everyone at their assigned table for dinner every night with night after night of inedible food. Perhaps this is where I should tell you I am not some picky gourmet type. Yes I like great food, but hey if I'm hungry average will do the trick. MSC's food is just plain BAD and if you think you can make it through a cruise that appears to be a "deal" by compromising food, think again. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
This was my first and not my fifty seventh cruise, so it is possible that my perspective is than some of the other reviewers but it had been a lifelong dream of mine to cross the Atlantic Ocean by sea and MSC made this possible, so I ... Read More
This was my first and not my fifty seventh cruise, so it is possible that my perspective is than some of the other reviewers but it had been a lifelong dream of mine to cross the Atlantic Ocean by sea and MSC made this possible, so I don't get a lot of the complaining. I realize that other cruise lines offer transatlantic cruises but we chose MSC because I fell in love with the itinerary. How else would one be able to see Italy, Spain, North Africa, a Portuguese island in the Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean islands of St. Thomas and Puerto Rico in one trip and for such a reasonable price of under $100 a night? On the sea day between Tunis and Malaga we spent about 75% of the day cruising about 9 miles off the coast of Algeria; there was the Barbary Coast right outside my window! This was an experience I never thought I would have in my life yet there it was, and at the same time I hear people onboard (whose viewpoing I'm sure is similar to the negative reviewers) whining about how the dancers in the shows didn't vary their steps enough. My advice to these people is to get out of the theater if you don't like it and go gaze at the natural wonder of the sea or of the place where the sea and land come together; and if this is your nineteenth transatlantic cruise and you've seen it all, then try another form of vacation as this one seems to have lost its luster for you and some of us don't want to hear your complaining anymore! I thought the food was excellent though we were not fans of the assigned seating in the dining room so we subsisted mostly on pizza in the evenings but it was hardly necessary because we were filled up by the excellent breakfasts and lunches in the cafeteria. In short great experience, great price, and a lifelong dream come true. Thank you MSC! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
We are a Brazilian couple ,mid 50', restaurant owners in Rio who loved to work and sail. This sail with MSC Musica ,Transatlantic (Venice-Rio de Janeiro november 08) was ours 26th cruise , the first and the last with that company . ... Read More
We are a Brazilian couple ,mid 50', restaurant owners in Rio who loved to work and sail. This sail with MSC Musica ,Transatlantic (Venice-Rio de Janeiro november 08) was ours 26th cruise , the first and the last with that company . Since Rio is a bit far from Europe we normally traveled some days before to have a car looking for scenic drive to the ports we will sail , so this time we came from Munich and drove to Sirmione ,Italy and then San Casciano in Tuscany for 6 days trip trough these beautiful parts of Italy. On the last day we drove from San Casciano to Venice ,2,5 hours drive , We arrived on the day before in Mestre (beside Venice) at Novotel(EU$95) Mestre is less than 7 miles from Venice, returned the car easily near the port at Piazza Roma . Embarkation- i never forgot a maxim I've heard " you never had a second chance to cause a first impression " and embarkation was CHAOS . We arrived 11,30hs and there was thousands of people waiting on huge unorganized lines , checking was suppose to start at 13,00hs,then we decided to leave ours hand luggage on a locker at the pier and return to Venice to enjoy of this marvelous city ,Venice. We return at 16,00hs and waited another half hour on line, and we heard the history of people fainting , carnal foughts, the worst checking we ve ever seen ,every guest we`ve met was horrified with that poor service. Ship and cabin- No one took us to our cabin , our cabin was on the very best of the stern ,small and dirt balcony ,average bathroom size , small and few wardrobes, outworn carpets, and chairs , shampoo and soap , no conditioner , no moisture cream. robes were available good ones, 20`LCD Tv, and a mini bar, decor was not bad . The ship does not have a nice atrium , only 3 floors high ,with a piano on the middle , stores were little and unfriendly (no refunds , no exchanges). 2 pools (salt water) was ok ,with 4 dirty jacuzzis , small area for mini golf ,sports, excellent chairs with shades for faces, but again you had to wake up early in order to reserve your chair ,specially when you travelled with German people . Ridiculous Gym academy , 6 trades mills for a 3600 passenger ship !2 bicycles , but a big saloon for paying activities , small audience for that, no sauna unless you pay a us$ 30 a day for use the spa facility , sauna , Turkish bath , and 2 small private jacuzzis . Theater was ok , not the shows ! restaurants was nice , 2 different decors , there were 2 specials restaurants us$ 30 cover charge pp, one Chinese always empty , and another "Italian" on the same place of the buffet is served on lunch !always empty too. some "nothing specials lounges" and thats it , not too many places to go or stay , minimum library, minimum cigar room ,12 computers for internet , small casino and a very classic decoration , which you will forget on the next day you will disembark, the common areas were well maintained . Service- As i said no one took us to cabin on embarkation, than on the very first day in the dining room the waiter and his helper did not salute us , not even a good evening ! then we decided to change table , a better waiter helped us during the cruise , we ve heard that more than 50 waiters embarked with us in Venice , and the cruise director and others managers embarked in the next day ,since the old ones quit ! The day we ate at the special restaurant we ve waited 3 hours to be served , there was only 2 tables to be served ! ours room steward need 4 days to understand that we wanted ice in the room ,more hangers , and more blankets , after that she only forgot small details as soaps, towels etc. we had to call twice reception for help with her . Reception desk was ok depending who attends you , lotto for a nice person to help you. I wrote a letter for Mr Franco a food and beverage manager and got no answer, although the Maitre D´assure he received the letter , so this was service. Food and Beverage- Would you believe they prohibited waiters to serve water on the tables!!!! in order to sell mineral water , I've never saw a small attitude like that in any ship we've sailed , people were offended with this. Breakfast was the same , bread , eggs, omelettes ,cold cuts, fresh fruit (good), but no salmon , milk and coffee needed to be served by waiters, I've heard people complaining about the milk quality . lunch in the main restaurant was less worst than in buffet , 3 salads plus tomatoes , lettuce and carrots thats it, sometime some cucumber. hanburgers and hot dog fries,and some hot stews, everything second class quality . dinner was better although rarely beef or a steak , everyday they said you can have salmon , chicken or beef , made me laugh when we ordered beef , it was like a"carpaccio" so thin it was , no comments. bread and butter was the best part , desserts and ice creams were surprisingly good . There was also a midnight buffet , we only attended the chocolate one , it was good , also they served tea , with 2 kinds of sandwiches ,and some sweets, no tea available during the day . also room service was charged and with small selection too. Ports- Were ok , Bari, Tenerife, Malta, Funchal, Malaga, Recife, Salvador we did not took any excursions since we ve been before to those places , excursion were an average of us$ 130 ! Shows and entertainment- No live orchestra , only play back ! , same show always ,6 females dancers and 4 mens , 45´minutes shows, second sitting shows at 23,30hs . No live band on pool although weather was fine, plenty of live music on board in internal areas , good brazilians musicians playing. Entertainment were led by a transvestite looking boy would you belive it ? Kids games on pool ! some stretching classes and dancing lessons too. There was a huge Screen showing only MSC ads ! instead of films and shows . Also you have too pay to watch movies on your cabin , during the 5 days transatlantic crossing we had nothing to watch on tv except companies ads, not even music ! Disembarkation- It was surprisingly good , no cues ,we easy found ours luggage, on time too . Conclusion- If you have ever sailed with Celebrity,Royal Caribbean, holland or Princess and also Carnival you will be extremely disappointed with MSC , although theirs prices are almost the same , don't go , but if you are a first timer and had no point of comparison ,than you will not probably notice those points I've mentioned and could enjoy more than we did. For us never more MSC. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
The ship is absolutely beautiful. The public rooms are simply and tastefully furnished, sleek and very stylish. There are a number of delightful bars and lounges throughout the ship, some bars have music; others offer peace and quiet. ... Read More
The ship is absolutely beautiful. The public rooms are simply and tastefully furnished, sleek and very stylish. There are a number of delightful bars and lounges throughout the ship, some bars have music; others offer peace and quiet. There are a few shops, but the choice of the merchandise is poor and expensive. There are two main restaurants and two á-la-carte restaurants. There is a large theatre on two levels. The seats are spacious and comfortable and wherever you choose to sit the view is good. The Musica is a dream to travel in - there is hardly any motion as she glides effortlessly through the ocean. Health/Safety/Hygiene - this area concerned me greatly - the safety drill was a nonsense and did not appear to me to be taken seriously. The event was planned half an hour before the first sitting dinner on the second day. Several guests left before the drill was finished, no doubt to get ready for dinner. Others appeared to be falling asleep whilst the drill was conducted in 6 languages and others just chattered amongst themselves. I dread to think of what chaos and mayhem there would have been in the eventuality of a real emergency. There was a big outbreak of a chesty type flu on board, passengers were going down with it from quite early in the cruise. This was a particularly nasty bug, both myself and my husband were affected by it in the last few days if the cruise and two weeks on we still both have it. The speed this virus went around really opened my eyes to the importance of hygiene standards. To help reduce the spread of viruses and infection I think that there could have been better use of hand sanitizers. The ship was equipped with hand sanitizers, but not enough of them. For instance they were not located at every entrance to the restaurants. We have been on other ships where it has been obligatory to use the hand sanitizers on entering the ship from port and entering any eating area. It is my feeling that MSC were only paying lip service to any ruling that states that they must provide hand sanitizing units. Dining - this was without doubt my biggest disappointment. The food was the worst I had encountered on any cruise ship. I was not looking for haute cuisine or fine dining just good Italian tucker, similar to what we had previously experienced on the Opera and Lirica. The food style on the Musica is not Italian; it was a multi cultural mish-mash - one night Oriental, another Spanish, another Mexican and so on all intermixed in a European fusion, for instance one night a choice was sweet and sour pork served with mashed potato. Meat was generally tough, on one occasion the waiter asked why I had not eaten the pork,I told him it was too tough and he said that I should have killed the pig first! Another time the waiter agreed with us that the steak was only fit for shoe leather. Generally speaking the food was not cooked well, it was always served tepid and with a total lack of presentation. The only thing that made going to dinner worth while was our delightful table companions who always seemed to make us laugh, usually about the food. I still have the picture in my mind of an escargot starter, it was unimaginatively called escargot in pastry and when it arrived at looked like a Cornish Pasty, only instead of the meat filling it had two lonely snails tucked in the pastry. The service in the restaurant was also poor, although there were a few waiters who were worth their weight in gold. We found one Romanian waiter who was great and we aimed to get a table in his area for lunch and breakfast when ever we could. A vast number of the waiting staff were new with little or no silver service experience. We were also told that some of the chefs were new - this may explain the poor food but does not excuse it. The food in the buffet was just ok in as much that you could help yourself to exactly what you wanted, but it was always cold by the time you got it back to your table. The buffet was always busy and generally a complete bun-fight. We did not try any of the á-la-carte dining options, feeling that if the food was in general poor was it going to be any better if we paid $30 a head extra for it? Activities & Entertainment - The entertainment team worked very hard organizing stretching exercises, aerobics and various games and demonstrations throughout the day. In the evenings there was plenty going on to cater for all musical tastes ranging from classical to rock. There were also a number of fun events, Miss Musica, a Grease evening, tropical parties on deck, etc. The shows in the theatre were not to my personal taste but a lot of people that I spoke to really enjoyed them. Excursions - There is an excursions office on board where you can book tours. The staff have very little knowledge about the tours or the destinations that you are about to visit. On the whole the excursions were very expensive, especially in the Europe. We were familiar with most of the European ports and were happy to do our own thing. Some destinations had a hop-on hop-off bus: we always find that these tourist buses are a good way of familiarizing yourself with a new area. They often go to the same places as the excursion bus and are a fraction of the price. The South American ports were new territory to us and we felt that we would be safer to go on the organized tour. We booked half days trips for Recife, Salvador and full day trips for Rio and Sao Paulo. The only tour worth doing was the full day in Rio which took in all the main sights (albeit in the pouring rain) - The half day tours in Recife and Salvador were poor value for money. Disembarkation at Santos was embarkation in reverse - complete mayhem. We had to vacate our cabins at 7am. At 11am we were still waiting in one of the ships lounges to be allowed off the ship. By 11.30am we were pushing and shoving with everyone else to find our luggage, there were people trying to get from one end of the baggage hall to the other, all going in different directions struggling with cases (no trolleys). As our flight to London was not until 18.15 we had decided that it would be a good idea to book a full day Sao Paulo City tour with lunch which would terminate at Sao Paulo airport in time for us to check in for our flight home. The excursion bus did not leave the cruise terminal until almost midday, the guide told us that there would not be enough time for the tour, she would take us to a restaurant for lunch and then straight to the airport. Having paid $75 each for this excursion we will be expecting a refund from MSC. In summary this was a 19 day repositioning cruise starting in Venice and calling in to Bari, Malta, Malaga, Funchal and Tenerife, Recife, Salvador, Rio and finishing in Santos. We were attracted by the interesting itinerary and the 6 day Atlantic crossing. Being a repositioning cruise at a good price we expected there would be some new staff joining the ship but we had no idea that it would be so many (rumor has it that it was 400+) and we did expect them to have had some basic training. It seems that the 19 day cruise was their training. The ship although too big for my own personal taste, is elegant and beautiful and extremely comfortable. The big let down for me was the food and service, which was just not good enough and therefore although the actual cruise was good value for money the food and service spoiled the holiday. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Background We are British - husband & wife in our early 60s and quite widely travelled. This was our seventh cruise (previously Nile; Eastern Med; Western Med*; Caribbean/TransAtlantic/Western Med*; Norwegian Fjords*; Australia/New ... Read More
Background We are British - husband & wife in our early 60s and quite widely travelled. This was our seventh cruise (previously Nile; Eastern Med; Western Med*; Caribbean/TransAtlantic/Western Med*; Norwegian Fjords*; Australia/New Zealand). This was our fourth cruise with MSC - the previous ones marked with *. We are members of the MSC Club and the HAL Mariners Club. We have been keen advocates of MSC, particularly liking the beautiful gleaming ships, excellent cabin accommodation and good, honest Italian cuisine with friendly waiters boasting bags of personality. MSC also offer very interesting itineraries and provided you avoid high season - excellent value for money. This was the first time we had tried one of the new mega-sized ships - the Opera & Lirica are both 56K tonnes, carrying up to 1500 guests, whilst the Musica at 89K tonnes carries over 3000 passengers. Prior to our cruise we were a little concerned to read some rather negative reports of this flagship of the MSC fleet, but we had found similar earlier reports of the Opera & Lirica unfounded in our opinion, so we looked forward to the Musica with much optimism. We had booked this November departure in the previous February, so the looking-forward gave much excitement over quite a lengthy period. This was a repositioning cruise, with Musica leaving her familiar Eastern Med surroundings to cross the Atlantic to fulfill a season of Mini-Cruises out of Brazil. Travel to Port & Embarkation The Musica sailed from Venice and MSC arranged flights for many passengers from around the world as part of a package. We flew by British Airways from London Gatwick - a little inconvenient as the return flight would take us back to London Heathrow, so we couldn't leave our car at the airport. However, the flight was on time, reasonably comfortable and there was a prompt and efficient coach transfer to Venice Port, arriving there at noon. This is where the shenanigans started. First Impressions Count: Everyone fully expected their baggage to be transferred directly from the bus to our cabins. Sadly not so - we all had to join a long line to carry our cases to a baggage reception area. Some of us were quite accustomed to queuing in an orderly manner, but not so many of the passengers arriving from countries where 'queue' does not seem to be in the vocabulary. This pushing and shoving and provocation were demeaning and not designed to get our cruise off to a harmonious start. But this 30 minute experience was nothing compared to what was to follow. Embarkation commenced at noon, and when we got to the embarkation hall it was utter chaos. There was no attempt at crowd control or line-ups to the check-in desks - it seemed that 3000 people had all turned up at the same time to enter into a massive rugby scrum! We had done a prior on-line express check-in, as seemingly had 2000 other people, who all massed in an undignified surge to three desks marked Express Check-In/MSC Club/MSC Yacht Club. Disabled Passengers were also directed here. We plan to take my elderly disabled sister on a cruise next year and watching people in wheelchairs get shoved and left in this free-for-all determined me not to risk her with MSC. Apparently, this is not an unusual experience for people joining MSC in Venice. If so, why on earth do MSC not do anything about it? Surely, it would be in their interests to get everybody installed in a happy frame of mind. We have previously embarked with MSC in Genoa, Fort Lauderdale and Copenhagen. Genoa was not great, but Florida and Denmark were fine. One could make derisory remarks about Italian organizational skills - however, MSC clearly has a management problem in its home ports. Eventually, by 4.00 pm we were on-board - battered, bruised and exhausted and the last of our 4 cases arrived by 8 pm; but now we wished to put these bad first impressions behind us, as we were all set for a wonderful 19 days of relaxed cruising, sailing through the Western Med and across the Atlantic to Brazil. Accommodation & Public Areas State Room: We had an outside cabin with balcony on Deck 12, a little aft of mid-ships. It was roomy, reasonably clean (although after a few days we could spot the room boy's short cuts!) and brightly and stylishly decorated. The bathroom was somewhat bijoux, but clean and perfectly adequate for our needs. We were a little surprised to find a threadbare and torn bath towel on arrival and this happened once more on the trip. We were provided with amply-sized bath robes, which were very useful, but never changed. Storage in the cabin was just about adequate for a three-week trip. Similar to previous MSC cruises, we were pleased to have a bowl of fresh fruit in our cabin. This was topped up each day. We felt very little ship-movement throughout the cruise. Sun Deck Public Areas: The Musica is less than two years old and is clearly designed with the same modern, bright image as her smaller forerunners - you can tell at once that they are peas out of the same stylish Italian pod. The pool deck area (Deck 13) is expansive with two pools, 4 Jacuzzis, a stage and two bars. Forward there is a large and attractive spa, whilst aft there is a large self service restaurant / buffet - better described as a cafeteria, and the premium restaurant, which also doubles as an overflow to the cafeteria. There is supposed to be a pizza bar up here as well, but for the three weeks of our trip they must have hidden it! Deck 14 has a walking/running track, children's play area and deck games; whilst Deck 15 comprises a solarium forward, and mini-golf and tennis courts aft. The Entertainment Team take over the stage and part of the sun deck for activities each day. There is a huge video screen forward of the pools, but it never seemed to feature anything but MSC adverts day & night. After 15 minutes you would be able to memorize it all by heart! There are ample sun beds, but with over 3000 passengers on board, the decks were very crowded and noisy. The daily ship-board routine seemed to be that every available bed and table was 'reserved' with towels and various miscellanies by persons unknown before 7.00 a.m. We find such behavior rather tedious and we were pleased to have our own balcony, where we were able to enjoy peace and quiet and privacy in our own space and good time! Interior Public Areas: Decks 5, 6 & 7 house the Reception, Accounting Office, various poorly stocked, unwelcoming and overpriced shops, two formal restaurants, a very large and impressive theatre, a large and moderately used pokey room (casino) and a number of bars and lounges of various sizes and degrees of intimacy. There is a large photo shop and team of photographers. However, we did not always find their hours of business convenient and the quality of work was rather poor, whilst prices were excessive. There is also a large sushi bar, in which we never saw a single customer throughout the cruise. Apart from the theatre and the 3-level reception well, we found the acoustics rather uncomfortable as the various bands, duos, etc did battle with the low ceilings and noisy crowds in an effort to be heard - never mind the quality, hear the cacophony! Attractive design features on Opera & Lirica are the mirrors and bright brass banisters, handrails etc in stairwells, lifts and so-on - always gleaming. Musica boasts these too, but they require constant polishing and it took the best part of a week before there was a consistent shine. Overall though, I found the design features a little on the plastic side and given the large number of passengers, it sometimes felt a little claustrophobic. Communication & On-Board Information Language Skills: MSC's market is very international and from prior experience we know they are quite capable of making themselves understood in a polyglot of languages - Italian, English, German, French and Spanish. On this cruise over half the passengers seemed to be Brazilian, so Portuguese was added to the list of languages. A novelty for us was that we did not come across one American or Canadian throughout the cruise. We established, as the cruise progressed, that some 40% of the 900 crew were, at the insistence of the Brazilian authorities, also Brazilian. Sadly, they all seemed to board Musica for the first time, on the same day that we did. Worse, they were mainly without experience, and very few had any foreign language skills. For instance, the only words of English that the Entertainment director seemed capable of were 'Its show time!' and 'Applowse, Applowse!' Our Cabin Boy was Madagascan and had adequate English skills. Our waiter for dinner was Romanian and made out he understood more than he did. His bus-boy was Indonesian and spoke no English at all. We found another Romanian waiter for breakfast & lunch and he was the one redeeming light in the restaurant. However, his bus-boy was Brazilian and had no language skills and absolutely no prior experience in a restaurant - bless him! As already indicated, the Entertainment director's lack of English made it very difficult to know what to expect in the theatre, or anywhere else where he officiated. Television: Each cabin had a TV, and an information card in our cabin informed us that of about 20 channels, four would be in English. In reality, we had only CNN whilst in Europe and only Fox News in South America. Whilst crossing the Atlantic there was no transmission receivable. We were not tempted to pay US$10.90 to watch a movie, probably with sub-titles! Now, whilst we have the utmost respect for our American cousins, to be served up an exclusive offering of American news was culturally exhausting. To begin with we were pleased to learn that Barack Obama had won the US Presidential Election, but the news covered nothing else - we began to scream! You see, our world view is different to an American world view, and what's more, after the 38th repeat we believe we have got the message! And for three weeks we just had to wonder how the English football teams were doing (note, like the rest of the world, we do not call it soccer!). The TV also had a channel featuring the ship's position and wind speed - but nothing else. Previous MSC equipment on Opera & Lirica also gave sea conditions and weather forecast - very useful, but on Musica we did not know what to expect from one day or one hour to the next. There was a map, but it was very indistinct. Excursion information on TV was limited to a slide presentation with two or three shots of each excursion on offer. There was nothing for people who wished to explore ports of call independently. The Excursions Office (describing itself rather unrealistically as the Travel Agency) put on a slide show in one of the lounges too, but they were unable to impart any valuable Travellers' Information. They also issued a printed summary of excursions and prices. Daily Programme: Each evening a 'Daily Program' was distributed to every cabin outlining the on-board activities for the next day, restaurant times, etc. There were editions in all the main languages. This has exactly the same format as when we first sailed with MSC in 2004. The ship was scheduled to dock at Malaga at 09.00 hrs, so we had made prior arrangements for an important business appointment there for 11.00 hrs. When we returned to our cabin at around midnight before arriving in Malaga, we discovered from the waiting Daily Program that we would be docking at 11.00 hrs! Next morning, once the port authorities had cleared the ship we were first down the gang-plank and raced to the terminal building, eventually finding a cab that would do a local fare and eventually we reached our appointment at midday. This was very embarrassing and somewhat stressful for us. So thank you MSC for giving us no prior warning, thank you for providing no explanation, and thank you for not offering any apology to your passengers. But then we are only the ones who keep you in business, so who are we to think we are entitled to a little respect? Port Information: Also in identical format to previous years is the 'Port Information' hand-out - the content is probably unchanged too. However, whilst previously this was delivered to the cabin, on Musica one has to go to the 'Travel Agency' to pick up a copy. The information varies in quality and quantity, but at least it is better than nothing. We struck a new level of expectation in this respect last year, when cruising with HAL - their Cruise Director gave prior slideshow presentations on each port of call, totally unrelated to excursions; and you could also watch these on TV. So there was no excuse for landing in a port in ignorance. Sadly one cannot say the same on Musica - whilst appreciating of course that it might be difficult to provide this level of service in 6 languages, they could at least provide port maps - we found they did this on Opera & Lirica, but not so on Musica - no doubt they are cost-cutting and forgetting that their guests have joined this cruise to discover these ports and would appreciate any guidance available! What the hell - they've got us on their wretched ship, so why help us enjoy our experience! Promotional Flyers: But they did not cost-cut in promoting the on-board shops and spa facilities - there was a daily wodge of photo-copied sheets promoting 'bargain prices' - these went straight in the bin, because everything was overpriced and we found the 'no returns / no refunds' policy somewhat insulting. We have to say that once upon a time we found MSC shop prices reasonable, but now they promote silly prices - so we were not interested to even have a look - except on one occasion. They advertised duty-free prices 20% below land prices. We are not sure which land this is, but think it must be Lalaland! The prices of goods in Musica's perfumery proved to be 20% more expensive than for identical items in downtown Malaga, and 50% costlier than in tax-free Tenerife! Team Spirit: In the past we have found the problems of multilingual communication admirably managed by MSC, but on this occasion we were very disappointed. We suspect the large number of rookie Brazilians meant that the storehouse of language skills was less, but what we discovered from the very moment of stepping aboard the Musica is that it seems to be a rather unhappy ship. With such a lot of new crew members you can understand that it will take a time for team-spirit to develop, but quite why MSC should take on such a large contingent of new people, without prior training, and just throw them in the deep end is mystifying. It seems that management places little value on their people, nor their customers. Certainly it was evidenced that wherever staff were trying to deal with a problem, senior and middle managers were conspicuous by their absence. Dining & Service Now for most cruisers this is one of the most vital aspects in ensuring a happy time. With Opera & Lirica it had been one of the most enjoyable aspects for us - good fellowship, good food & wine, and good service. On Musica it proved to be difficult to find any good at all. One can perhaps forgive other areas of failure, but when one cannot escape from a crap restaurant for three weeks it does impact on one's overall enjoyment. There are two formal restaurants - Le Maxim on Deck 6 and L'Oleandro on Deck 5. Le Maxim was only open for dinner, so as we were in the L'Oleandro for dinner, we were not able to experience the other one. However, quite a few passengers to whom we spoke said they had transferred from Le Maxim as it was so bad! Prior Request: On our booking form, completed 9 months prior to departure, we specifically requested an English speaking window table for 6 or 8. This was reinforced by our travel agent. In the past, MSC have fulfilled such requests - not so this time! We were on a table for 4 and nowhere near any window. However, the English couple sharing our table were very good company, so we let this go without issue. Consistently the Poorest Cuisine we have ever Encountered: We keep a daily diary when we cruise and reading back, we smile as it repeatedly says - 'Dinner - the worst yet!' For some ridiculous reason, this Italian line, with a tradition of good, honest Italian food, decided it would be a novel idea to have theme nights for the menu. There was French, Moroccan, Spanish, Middle Eastern, Greek, Oriental (offering curry!), Asian (offering oriental!), Mexican, Brazilian and so on. And not one of these selections was in any way authentic and in every case, we agreed that you could get a better meal from the cheapest and nastiest ethnic take-away on land. Sadly, we were not given this choice. But what MSC has always done well in the past is ITALIAN! So what the hell was going on, other than cost-cutting! This was evidenced by the poor quality of food. MSC has never been renowned for its meat, but its fish has always been superb. This time both meat and fish were of very poor quality. Food was, more often than not, served tepid. Ice cream or sorbet, was usually put in front of us in the format of soup! There were never enough vegetables and generally these were over-cooked. Presentation was invariably devoid of any sense of flair or pride. On one memorable occasion, the only time on which steak was on the menu, we all ordered the entrecote. When it came, we each tried a portion from each end of the steak and pushed it away. Our waiter came over and pointed to the sole of his shoe - precisely! We knew we were in trouble when the only thing our waiter could recommend for us for dessert was ice cream. Service: Our waiter did not help matters - to begin with he would simply drop each course in front of us - in the order that it came from the kitchen. The outcome was that one person was eating antipasto, whilst the next was on soup, another was on salad, and another was on pasta - clueless! The only things that came in coordinated order were the main course and the dessert. We would frequently order one serving of cheese between two. Apart from the meagre portions and the sad lack of variety, we would get two small crackers between us. After repeatedly asking for more biscuits we would get a whole pack! Clearly there was little engagement with the brain! Several times we sent food back due to its very poor quality. Our waiter did not seem to care. On a couple of occasions we really told him off, but it was only if we complained to the Maitre D or his Assistant that we saw positive action (until the next day, or latterly, when it got close to tipping time!). On one occasion at breakfast, I ordered 3 courses - cold then hot. The whole lot was served in one go covering half the table. The Brazilian rookie seemed un-phased by my objections. Gladly this did not happen again. At the end of the day, we and our table partners survived the culinary travesty of this cruise by laughing about it - there was nothing else we could do. But like all other passengers, we had not paid to be demeaned in this way. The Silly Saga of Coffee & Water: It was anathema to many of the British & Australian passengers to pay for mineral water at meals, rather than being able to order a jug of water. Having cruised with MSC before, we were aware of this particular penny-pinching and short-sighted approach. Not an issue on this occasion, but on previous MSC cruises with significant contingents of Americans, the failure to provide ice cream free-of-charge was an issue. It seems from observation that MSC are inclined to concede to free offerings in the Caribbean, but in Europe they charge for everything. European rules seem to apply on this Transatlantic crossing. As pensioners we are used to operating to a budget and if MSC want to charge us for water, we simply buy large bottles from a supermarket on land, and decant it to small bottles, which we take to the table. Our countrymen were also up in arms that MSC would charge for coffee to be brought to the table after dinner. We cannot recall this on previous MSC Cruises, but we are uncertain as to what the fuss is all about. It never ceases to amaze us that any MSC ship, with its Italian heritage, fails to produce anything but the finest coffee. But they fail abysmally - they produce a grim concoction in an urn. We call it River Pau Sludge. For the uninitiated, the River Pau rises in the Alps and descends through Turin and collects all the effluent from the industrial cities of Northern Italy, disgorging itself into the sea near Venice. Consequently, the whole of the Northern half of the Adriatic Sea is poisoned and devoid of any marine life. So we would not drink River Pau Sludge if it were offered free, let alone at an additional cost. Rather, we take a travel kettle and small cafetiere with us, along with a packet of freshly ground coffee. We take milk from the cafeteria and buy cream at ports of call and enjoy good coffee (and tea) on our balcony as often as we like! Buffet: We seldom used the buffet/cafeteria on Deck 13, unless we were in a hurry. First, the food soon gets tepid in the serveries, and the options did not appear to change much throughout the cruise. We were not impressed at melamine crockery and wooden straws for stirring coffee/tea. But our main objection was the bun-fight! There was no obvious starting point for joining a queue, no clear directional flow and no attempt at crowd management. Therefore it was a bit like Venice embarkation revisited! We prefer to eat without such chaos. We also like to approach a meal one course at a time - not have to put the whole lot on one plate. But we were amazed at what pigs some people are. It was hard to conceive as to how much food some folk managed to pile onto a single plate, in itself designed for a giant! Service Charges: MSC has a policy of adding a fixed amount per passenger per day, which is added to the bill at the end of the cruise. They then share this among all crew members, both the seen and unseen. The amount in question varies according to the area of operation. The charge is higher in Europe and the Caribbean than elsewhere. This cruise had a South American scale of charge. However, many passengers had an objection based on the fact that as they were not given free coffee and water they would not pay the service charge (or they would deduct the cost of coffee and water from the service charge). We have a somewhat different take on this. We believe that we have already paid the wages of all crew members in the cruise price we have been charged. Therefore a tip or a service charge is for those who have provided exemplary service, above the basics expected for people simply doing their jobs. On this cruise, many staff, due to inexperience or incompetence, failed to get even the basics right. Accordingly, we instructed the Accounting Office not to apply the service charge to our account, as we would tip those, whom we felt merited it, on a personal and individual basis. This was accepted without question. Activities, Hospitality & Entertainment Activities: Weather permitting, various games and activities were organized by the Entertainment Team on Deck. We had both lost a considerable amount of weight through dietary control in the 10 months preceding this cruise. This meant we were much lighter and fitter than we had been for at least a decade. So for the first time ever, we joined the stretching and aerobic sessions each morning and we thoroughly enjoyed them. The youngsters leading this were good and enthusiastic and geared it well for mixed fitness groups ranging from 20 to 70. There was only one criticism - the sessions were so popular that there was inadequate space. We also did a good deal of deck-walking each day. Two complete circuits of Decks 14/15 equates to 1 km. But we had to do this at dawn or dusk, because at any other time there were too many sun beds acting as obstacles. During the day we tended to do our pounding around Deck 7 - the boat deck. Deck Parties: The Entertainment Team also led various games and quizzes - we tended to avoid these as they were generally rather puerile to our preferences. As we left Tenerife the Entertainment Team put on a Ciao, Ciao Europa party on deck - it was reasonably presented and supported, but lacked the color, excitement and vibrancy of other similar events we have enjoyed on MSC. They seemed to lack the props. On our penultimate evening at sea, we crossed the Equator and the Entertainment Team pulled out the stops to hold a King Neptune's Party - the Brazilian passengers in particular supported this well, but so too did a good many others, and we had a wonderful boogie! The next morning King Neptune held his 'Baptism' ceremony - there must have been 500 of us who allowed ourselves to be sequentially dunked in Champagne (very cheap plonk), milk, tomato puree, eggs, whipped cream and flour. We were then exalted to jump in the pool - the biggest bowl of soup you ever saw. Good fun, but it took me three showers to get rid of the entire gunk, and health-wise I never recovered! Spa: We had a couple of experiences in the beautiful Spa. On the first occasion we were offered a Metabolic Analysis - two for the price of one. Given our aforementioned renaissance in health & fitness, we were interested to learn how we could build on the weight loss and fitness gain we have achieved in recent months. In selling us the session the young Czech man said he could give us such guidance. As it turned out he told us that what we needed was detoxification and he tried to sell us all sorts of herbal pills and potions that would help us excrete through the eye of needle. And this would only cost US$581.00 after discount! Well, the dear boy had clearly failed to realize that we had not just got off of the last banana boat! Our other experience in the Spa was in response to the offer of a free Step Aerobic Lesson. Up we trotted and joined a group of about 15 deadly serious women aged from 25 to 45 - and us, husband and wife in our 60s! My wife had not done this for 20 years and I had never attempted step aerobics - we were looking for something fairly gentle. The session was lead by a young ebony Adonis, who would not have looked out of place in the Brazil national football team! Well my wife lasted 10 minutes, whilst I persevered for 35 - not bad I thought in the circumstances. I understand that it was high-impact step aerobics! Theatre Shows: There was a show in the theatre most evenings - two performances, one for each dinner sitting. As the cruise progressed, so the attendance seemed to diminish. Sadly the quality of performance was rather poor - much the feeblest of any cruise we have been on. In fact the best show was the Talent Show - with fellow passengers providing the entertainment. Other Entertainment: In one of the big lounges there were the normal MSC favorites of Mr Musica and Miss Musica - okay if you like that sort of thing, but events that we try and avoid like the plague. There were plenty of bars and lounges with music, but as already stated the acoustics did not enhance enjoyment. By far and away the best show on board was a classical quartet of young ladies under the name of Delicia - and they were! Cocktail Parties: It was rather incongruous that the Captain's Welcome Cocktail Party did not take place until the fifth evening of the cruise. But given the huge new staff intake, it probably took all of that time for Capt. Raffaele Pontecorvo to discover who his officers were! Even more bizarre was that he hosted 3000 people in just two events. We were ushered into one of two lounges and were randomly sat among people we didn't know and whose language we did not speak - so social intercourse was somewhat limited. If anyone wanted a photo with the good captain they could queue for their turn to be snapped with him on an attractive staircase. After about an hour of our sipping cocktails, the captain came to the front and uttered a few indecipherable words in various languages, during which about a half-dozen men tripped onto the dance floor, wishing they were somewhere else. These, we took, to be a representative selection of his officers. And by the time he raised a toast, my glass had long since been cleared away by a waiter! And that was it, but then half of the guests in the adjoining lounge would not have seen or heard anything at all. The captain had a good opportunity to reduce the negative feelings caused by the embarkation and the poor service levels, but he failed to say sorry or explain anything. Could it be that he couldn't care a damned? But what depressed us most was that while the captain spoke, few were listening and most seemed to be chatting in the background. This, we felt, was extremely rude and unfair on the captain and his staff. No matter how inept the organizational arrangements and event management, we all have it within our gift to show some politeness and respect. There was a second Captain's Cocktail Party towards the end of the cruise, but we missed this due to sickness. However, from chatting to others it did not seem to be any better than the first event. Did we really spend out all that money for formal attire, only to be treated as cannon fodder? Failure to Value Repeat Customers: Prior to this, chatting to some other passengers, we were told that they had been invited to a Repeaters' Cocktail Party, which they thought strange, as they had never sailed with MSC before. As MSC Club Members, and having been to such events on Lirica, we were fully expecting to be invited to such an event, so we were less than pleased to hear what these passengers had told us. We enquired at Reception and were informed that they did not have a Repeaters' Party at all. Whether or not true, we are very offended that, as such loyal customers of MSC, there was no recognition whatsoever of our patronage - not in the cabin, nor the restaurant or in any other way. Yet on HAL, for instance, we had gifts and flowers and a Repeaters event - they know how important it is to show appreciation - sadly MSC has a very long way to go in understanding good customer relations. Health & Safety Lifeboat Drill: It seemed a little strange that this important procedure was not carried out until late afternoon on the day following departure. Presumably ships don't sink on the first day at sea! It was also surprising that, with over 3,000 passengers and 900 crew members, there were only 5 or 6 muster stations. In the past we have found that mustering is adjacent to your allotted lifeboat and that the formalities are held with a strict concern for attendance and adherence. This was different. Our muster point, along with about 500 other people, was in one of the lounges. Passengers were allowed to saunter in, take a seat of their choosing, and use their own initiative in putting on lifejackets. They then engaged in their own conversations with little regard for what was meant to be happening. The crew members responsible for the drill seemed to be in their own little world - focussed on themselves and looking to each other to see what should be done next. Whilst there were undoubted individuals experienced in these drills, as a team it was clear they had not worked together before and their appeared to be a total lack of leadership. There was an attempt to demonstrate the correct way of putting on a lifejacket, but there was no individual inspection of passengers. Neither was there any role call, so to this day the ship would not know for certain who attended and who did not. There was no guidance given as to how or where to proceed to lifeboats in the event of a real evacuation of the ship. Passengers started to leave the muster station long before any formal instruction was given to do so. Heaven forbid that there was a real emergency - we're most doubtful that it would have been 'women and children first!' Maintaining a Healthy Environment: We were taken aback by the way a nasty wave of a flu-like bug swept through the ship. We contracted this illness ourselves before the cruise had ended. It therefore illustrated to us how exposed people are to sickness in a confined environment such as a cruise ship, and therefore how vital it is take every precaution to prevent infection. Thankfully we were only dealing with the flu, and not something serious and life-threatening such as novo-virus. Whilst a certain number of hand-sanitizers were to be found, these were not situated at every door to every restaurant as one would expect. Nor were they present on boarding the ship at all. Where hand-sanitizers were present the use of them was not mandatory, so people who did not realize the significance could well have been helping to spread the contagion. We do not feel there is any room for a relaxed approach on a ship carrying as many passengers as the Musica. Ship's Doctor: Having eventually caught this bug myself, I was persuaded to go to the ship's doctor, who was doing a roaring trade! In my three-minute consultation with him the only personal question asked of me was my age. He did not ask if I had any allergies, blood pressure or other conditions that might have affected any prescription. I was eventually issued with a cough-linctose and some sachets of a fruit-flavoured analgesic/antipyretic. It was not until I returned to my cabin that I realized that the main constituent was paracetamol, to which I am allergic! It was not until I got home and saw my general practitioner that I was prescribed with an appropriate antibiotic, which has now dealt with the infection. Clearly, I am unhappy with the level of professionalism experienced in using the ship's doctor. Shore Excursions & Disembarkation In Europe we did our own thing, and it is perfectly safe to do so, provided you do not take stupid risks. However, never having been to Brazil before, and having heard too many scare-stories, we erred on the safe side and took ship's excursions there. Recife was filthy, apart from Olinda (the original Portuguese capital up on a hill, with lovely views). We don't know why our tour guide didn't just take us there, rather than trawl through the stinking city from one side to the other to reveal a beach heaving with 70,000 people, and churches and government buildings of no particular remark! In Salvador we also had a tedious tour of slow moving dirty suburbs, when all we needed to do was walk 800 meters to a funicular to take us up the cliff to the charming old city - nothing else worth seeing there. Admittedly, we also passed some nice beaches, but we were not given the opportunity to alight and take a stroll. Rio should have been the highlight of the trip, but it rained all day (our only day of rain in three weeks). At the summits of Sugar Loaf and Corcovado we were in cloud and could see nothing. We drove along Copacabana and Ipanema - world famous beaches with not a soul on them. And two blocks back from the beaches, you would not want to risk walking alone. Weather not with-standing - the tour seemed comprehensive and value-for-money. Our disembarkation was at Santos and as we had all day prior to our flight home we booked the ship's excursion transfer to see something of Sao Paulo en-route. However, whilst we had to clear our cabins by 7.00 a.m. and mustered for the transfer excursion as instructed at 08.45, the port authorities would not allow disembarkation for 3 hours. Then we found we were in a scrum with 3000 other angry, panicking and frustrated passengers to claim our baggage and get through customs, etc. Our coach did not get under way until 12.30 and we only had time for lunch en-route before going to the airport. This is the subject of a claim for refund We flew home on BA - like most airlines they are better on short-haul services than on long. This flight was over 11 hours non-stop and we were in cattle class at the back - awful, awful, awful in every way - this once excellent airline has descended to the depths of 'could not care a damned!' There policy seems to be: treat the punters like dirt, if it's the only way to survive! Summary Embarkation/Disembarkation: Do not join or leave a ship at Venice or Santos - particularly if it is an MSC ship!  Nice Cabin: A balcony is essential on a ship of this size.  Big is not Beautiful: The Musica looks lovely, but you can easily feel lost in the crowd.  Problems of Scale: A ship with over 3000 passengers and 900 crew members needs to be well managed - the captain of the Musica and his senior officers clearly have a lot to do.  Communication: If you are running a business targeted at an international clientele then you need to make sure your media and language skills are up to the job - MSC have proven they can do it on smaller ships - with the Musica they need to up-skill to do so on a big ship.  Dining and Food & Beverage: Is the decline to do with a policy by MSC to go down-market, or is it another example of Musica's management problems? Whatever, a main constituent of a good cruise is to have a great dining experience. We can no longer recommend MSC for this reason alone.  Service: Similarly, this has to be right. With nearly half the crew possibly rookies, Musica has asked for trouble on this cruise.  Activities Team: They did an enthusiastic and entertaining job, although we felt they could do with more support (moral and resources).  Formal Entertainment: A lot of improvement required.  Health & Safety: Musica needs to up its game.  Shops, Photography, Excursions: Generally poor range or quality and over-priced. The 'buy-me' factor was definitely missing.  Valuing Customers: On our fourth MSC cruise we certainly did not feel at all special - we were just two more punters - there is no inducement to want to sail with MSC again. In fact the overall experience was so disappointing that it makes us circumspect about cruising with anyone for such a long period again. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
The alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clear when we first encountered the standard of organization at the embarkation, If you have ever seen the feature film Titanic the try to imagine the panic in reverse!! This was after we ... Read More
The alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clear when we first encountered the standard of organization at the embarkation, If you have ever seen the feature film Titanic the try to imagine the panic in reverse!! This was after we struggled to remove our own cases from the bus and drag them to a holding area. Now I am reasonably fit and this was not a problem for me but there were many elderly passengers on this cruise so goodness knows how they managed with no assistance. After a 4 hour waiting in a sort of line we were shown to our cabin on deck 11. We were pleasantly surprised with our balcony state room, it was spacious and well appointed with a bowl of fruit as it transpired was topped up daily if required. We have cruised on many occasion and attended many passenger safety drills but this one was very strange. They had the drill the day after sailing at an evening time about half an hour before first sitting, { very sensible } maybe ships do not sink on the first day of sailing!!! The drill was very loose and not organized with passengers at our muster station shuffling about listening to public announcements not knowing what was being said These drills are old hat to us but I am sure there were many first time cruisers, there were because I spoke to a few. Pity help them if there was ever a real crisis on board this ship!! We had a couple of fabulous and experienced waiters at our table at second sitting dining in the evening but I have to say the the service at breakfast and lunch was quite dreadful, I lost count of the times the order was wrong and slow to served. I recall waiting one morning 30 minutes for my first coffee!!! The food also could vary from superb to very average, it was as if they had alternative head chefs!!. it was rumored that 40% new inexperienced staff boarded at Venice. if this is true then that would make sense of the inconsistent service. The lounges and wine bars were well appointed with reasonable tariffs and grab this, no 15% gratuity charge on drinks!! which was appreciated. But can I just say what was not appreciated and did not make any sense was the staggering decision to withdraw jugged water from from the dining tables then asking the passengers to buy bottled water at $4.80 for a 750cl!!!This coupled with charging for after dinner coffee`s only fueled the discontent among the passengers. I can only say who ever decided on this policy should be dragged away into the real world before this person can do any more damage to the image of the MSC Cruise Line. I would suspect a lot of future cruising has been lost because of these niggardly decisions. Voracious strive for profits and credit crunch come to mind!!! The theatre had brilliant viewing and was very comfortable but the productions were all a bit of a sameness with repeated opera singers or Brazilian dancers. I was also surprised that there was no orchestra backing the acts with a ship this size but only background tapes although there was a very different and excellent illusionist act one night. We had four formal nights two of which were the Captains treat with free drinks at his parties. This again did not make sense to me as the cost to splash free drinks to 3000 passengers on two occasions for an hour must have out weighed any saving with selling bottled water and charging for coffee`s!!!! The ships on board activities crew worked their socks off on cruising days but some of the games the only qualification required was a pulse! or be under 10 years of age!! I would say that the quizzes very good and varied as well as being well supported We only had one excursion to Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer when in Rio De Janeiro, we found the trip well organized and value for the money. The whole cruise itinerary had excellent ports of call with places we had not been before which was our reason for taking this particular cruise. We did have another small criticism about our cabin and that was the television channels. We had no channel to view for five days when crossing the Atlantic but only pay per view movies at $12.95 which I thought it was a bit of a liberty as they had a locked audience with no option. I would have thought some of the old standards could have been shown free of charge or even a nominal would have been sensible. But I am afraid the sense was completely divorced from the administration on this ship Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Personal Background We are a couple in our sixties, who have cruised 13 times, using Celebrity, Costa, Festival, Royal Caribbean, Airtours, NCL and MSC covering The Med, Caribbean, canaries and the Baltic. After a great Caribbean cruise ... Read More
Personal Background We are a couple in our sixties, who have cruised 13 times, using Celebrity, Costa, Festival, Royal Caribbean, Airtours, NCL and MSC covering The Med, Caribbean, canaries and the Baltic. After a great Caribbean cruise on MSC Lirica, we were really looking forward to our first transatlantic crossing, and first visit to South America. Travel to Port Flew to Venice, Marco Polo with BA. Good flight. Embarkation Embarkation was an absolute nightmare. Not all passengers from the flight to Marco Polo airport at Venice were able to get onto the first coach. We were successful, leaving the airport at around 11.30am, reaching the port terminal some 30 minutes later, we joined hundreds of passengers waiting to hand over their luggage to porters. This took around another 30 minutes. This was the easy part, as when we reached the main terminal building to check onto the ship, there were even more people! No organized form of queuing, just every man for himself. We eventually got onto the ship at around 2.30 pm. Stateroom As we got onto the ship we were escorted to our cabin. The cabin was fantastic in every respect. Bright, well lit, comfortable, very clean and with a nice balcony. Our cabin steward introduced himself and I raised a couple of issues, regarding no facecloths and frayed handtowels. (NB Bath sheets were first class). Flatscreen TV, but only 4 channels, although you could pay for English language films. NB During the transatlantic crossing there was no reception of any TV broadcasts.! Ship Info The ship was beautiful in all respects, lounges, theatre and pool decks. Modern, colorful and spotlessly clean. Dining We used the cafeteria Gli Archi for a late lunch and were surprised to find the only drink available was iced water. Coffees or tea had to be purchased from the bars.NB There were drinks machines, but they had been covered up and taken out of use! Modern colorful and spotlessly clean! Lifeboat drill was carried out on the second day of the cruise in Bari at 6.00pm, although we were not due to sail until 7.00pm and passengers could still have been ashore. We were happy that we had been allocated to main seating for dinner in the L'Oleandro restaurant. Main seating was 6.30 pm, with second seating at 9.00pm which was too late for most of the passengers that we spoke to, as the show in the main theatre was always after dinner, at around 11.30 pm. The food was generally pretty average, and main courses generally disappointing! The menus read well but often the food fell short. We like hot dishes to be served hot, and our regular dinner waiter and assistant always obliged, but during open sitting in the restaurant for breakfast and lunch we had to demand that our food be hot! On the Lirica, we took advantage of the wine package, which was any 10 bottles from a list of 14 different wines. On Musica you could buy a package of 7 wines, one each of the 7 listed, so we went for the wine list. There seemed to be a high percentage of new Brazilian staff on the ship, who appeared to be still under training, this meant standards at breakfast and lunch were very variable. For example, when offered fruit juice at breakfast I asked for tomato juice, only to be met with blank stare. I was eventually brought two glasses of passata (Tomato cooking sauce). The assistant maitre D' remedied the situation. At dinner on the first evening we asked for a jug of iced water. This was duly supplied and we served ourselves. On the second night we requested the same and were told by our waiter that he was not allowed to bring us iced water. I asked for the asst maitre D' and he told me that he was following the instructions of the new Maitre D', that there should be no "jugs" in the dining room. I requested a meeting with the Maitre D' at the reception desk. I was told that he would contact me. Failing to be contacted by him, I approached him in the dining room, and asked whether, "no iced water" was his policy, or the policy of MSC. He told me that it was MSC policy. I also asked the policy on tea and coffee after lunch/dinner, as we had been requesting and receiving tea or coffee after meals but many fellow passengers were being refused. He said that tea and coffee should be available. (NB espresso and cappuccino had to be paid for) Several days into the cruise the issue of iced water, and some passengers not being offered or in fact refused coffee and tea after meals was still a major bone of contention amongst the English speaking passengers, so I asked if reception could email these issues to MSC head office in Naples. The receptionist was concerned by my request and suggested a meeting with Giuseppe Pane the Hotel Manager. I met signore Pane on the 7th day of the cruise, along with his assistant and the Maitre D'. He confirmed that it was MSC policy that no jugs of iced water were to be served on Musica and that no tea or coffee should be served after meals. The MD' confirmed that in fact tea and coffee were being served, and they continued to be served throughout the cruise. S Pane also confirmed that the MSC Lirica was in the Caribbean, and would be offering jugs of water, and free iced tea, fruit juice, tea and coffee. So the MSC offer appears to be inconsistent! Many English speaking passengers said that they would never cruise MSC again, and daily visited the accounts desk to cancel their tips. They were eventually able to do this when the ship reached Brazil. The only alternative dining venues in the evening were Il Giardino and the Sushi restaurant and they were invariably empty. Our table companions booked Il Giardino for 7.00pm. When they got there the restaurant was locked and a team meeting was taking place. They got in, and were the only couple dining that night. They enjoyed their meal, but at a supplement of $30.00 each, and with the same wines as the main dining room, but at a higher price. Entertainment The La Scala theatre was beautiful, we enjoyed 3 classical concerts, 3 bigger shows, and an illusionist. There were many lounges with live music. The Delicia Quartet were excellent. The entertainment team were busy during the day with simple deck games and quizzes, and at night with fairly juvenile competitions in one of the main lounges. There were four formal nights, with two of them preceded with a captain's cocktail party. Crossing the Line Ceremony was carried out the morning after the actual crossing. And involved around 100 passengers being christened with Champagne, tomato juice, milk, cream, flours and raw eggs. So be warned! Shore excursions We generally did our own thing, and enjoyed visiting, Bari, Malta, Malaga, Madeira and Tenerife. We were only in Recife for a morning, and that was long enough! The old town was very very poor, ruined buildings and people living on the streets. Salvador was smarter, the old town was quite attractive, but a couple of people had chains and watches snatched. We took a ship organized tour of Rio as we were disembarking that day, visiting the statue of Christ the Redeemer and the beaches. Unfortunately the weather was very wet. Disembarkation We took the tour of Rio in the morning, as we had to transfer to Rio International Airport in the afternoon. We were told that our luggage would be kept separate and secure in the Port Terminal building, but that we could check our luggage before joining the tour bus. In fact we were taken directly from the ship to the tour bus. Fortunately when the tour was finished, we found our cases safely in the terminal building. We then had to carry our luggage a couple of hundred yards to the transfer coach through a wet and puddled car park. A couple of ships porters with trolleys would have been appreciated. Summary Would I cruise with MSC again? I doubt it! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
this was our first trip with MSC and sadly it will be our last one. We have cruised before half a dozen times, with royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Princess. and have really enjoyed these and have spent more than one holiday on each. we ... Read More
this was our first trip with MSC and sadly it will be our last one. We have cruised before half a dozen times, with royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Princess. and have really enjoyed these and have spent more than one holiday on each. we thought that we would give MSC a try. The itinerary was great and the time at sea and of course the crossing to brazil. to start with before we had left home, no tickets had arrived, or baggage tags for embarkation. the night before we left home, i had to get my agent to email to me the tags, and i printed them off , and we took tape with us to stick them on when we arrived in Venice. Embarkation was a nightmare. i had book in on line, and had a boarding pass for my husband and i. This was a complete waste of time. We stood in line for hours, without drink or food, there just was no organization at all. before that we arrived at the port and had to get our luggage from the coach, and move our suitcases to the warehouse to be put onto the ship, no one helped and there were no trolleys. Onboard the ship, our cabin was good, and spotless, the service in the cabin was great. although there are no provisions for 24 hour nourishment. the ship is beautiful, the pools spotless, and plenty of deck loungers. but not well organized. on the upper deck it is difficult to walk round the deck as it is too narrow. There is smoking all over the place, one side of the deck and one of the bars and wherever you walked you smell cigarettes. There was buffet breakfast, which was not bad, and also restaurant breakfast as well. Lunch was very good, but no juice, or coffee, only water. the waiters had very little English, but tried. dinner was not good, we had great table companions,which made the trip, bearable. There were no jugs of water at table, after the first night we were told that the captain had said that only bottled water which had to be paid for was to be served. this was also the case with coffee, no after dinner coffee. The menu looked ok but the food was cold, and often not very good. There is no buffet alternative on this ship for evening meals. they do have a place where you have to pay $30 each cover. There are no drink stations onboard, only at breakfast and for one hour at tea. There is no free ice cream, on an italian ship, we thought we would be on pizzas and ice cream both of which had to be bought, one scoop for $2.50 we did not find out where the pizza place was. entertainment was good the team really worked hard, and it showed. the shows were probably the best we have seen. The excursions had to be booked onboard, and they were all good, with the exception of the last day when the coach went without us. disembarkation was a nightmare. even worse than embarkation. we had to be out of the cabins for 7 am even the ship did not dock until 9am as planned. because we were going on an excursion we were to be off the ship early. however it was after ten thirty, before we could start coming off and then everyone was off the ship in one go. it was bedlam. We lost a case which had been put in the wrong color section, so spent an hour looking for it. all in all it was not an expensive cruise, but they need to have trained staff, and for english people the language is a major problem, as they announce each language and it takes forever. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
We were a party of 6, 3 experienced cruisers and 3 first timers. This posting is from an experienced cruiser's viewpoint. We sailed on the MSC Musica's repositioning voyage from Venice to Santos on 2-20 November 2008. I did want ... Read More
We were a party of 6, 3 experienced cruisers and 3 first timers. This posting is from an experienced cruiser's viewpoint. We sailed on the MSC Musica's repositioning voyage from Venice to Santos on 2-20 November 2008. I did want to write a positive report - and we did enjoy our 19 day transatlantic cruise to Brazil, especially the ports of call - BUT although the ship's decor and the cabins were very good, the service, food and organization onboard badly let it down. Embarkation: We were lucky inasmuch as we arrived at the port of Venice late (4pm) on our MSC transfer from Verona airport and could check in straight away and walk straight on board. We sailed at 5.30pm, unfortunately, in heavy mist. Fellow passengers who arrived at check-in at midday had a totally different experience and had to wait nearly 3 hours before boarding commenced! Service: On embarkation we soon discovered that most of the staff onboard were untrained, this being their first cruise. Our first evening meal was chaotic with limited cutlery, cold food and difficulty ordering drinks -no one seemed to know what they were doing in the dining room. Our first impression of disorganization was confirmed in the bars with very slow bar service. There was no sign of our cabin steward on embarkation and everything had to be sorted out via reception. In fact our cabin steward never once introduced himself! We had to phone for toilet rolls on one occasion and requested an extra blanket 3 times and still didn't get it!! I should point out, though, that other passengers were very happy with their cabin steward. As the cruise progressed, service did improve. We were lucky with our dining room waiter, Florian, who was very good and got our orders correct, both food and drink. Again, a different story from fellow passengers whose chaotic first evening meal continued throughout the cruise. Food/Drink: We were on the early evening meal sitting at 6.30pm. What can I say about the food ... unimaginative, cold ... hit and miss. Although, having said that, some days the soup was hot! Some of the pasta dishes were very good. You were not limited as to how many courses you could order, therefore, we generally found something palatable. There was no evening buffet available as an alternative to the dining room - only the midnight buffet. There was also the pizzeria or sushi restaurants for which you had to pay. The issue of no water or tea and coffee with meals unless you paid for it caused a lot of disconcertion amongst the experienced cruise passengers. The self-service buffet at lunchtime was adequate. The breakfast buffet in Gli Archi Cafeteria was good - the only time you could get a cup of tea or coffee free of charge (apart from afternoon tea). There was also water available free of charge in machines in the self-service restaurant. The opening times of the restaurants at lunchtime tended to change so you had to consult your daily programme. Continental breakfast room service was available free of charge from 7.30-10am and was very good. I found the voucher system a good way of ordering drinks. You could buy a book of 12 cocktail vouchers for $69 which worked out to 2 free drinks, a book of 12 large beers for $62 (again 2 free drinks), water package (14 vouchers I think) for $22.50 and an ice cream package (12 vouchers I think) for £22.50. All you had to do then was order a drink/ice cream and hand over the voucher. Entertainment: Poor. Repetitive. Very little organized during the day. The 5 days at sea crossing the Atlantic were spent sunbathing and reading (thankfully, we had lovely weather) and learning Portuguese. (Portuguese lessons organized by the English speaking rep onboard). We did join in the Crossing the Equator party when we donned grass skirts and were "christened" by Neptune! We made a quick exit when the entertainment team started throwing buckets of tomato sauce etc over the participants!! The Shows: Very nice theatre. There was a troupe of dancers onboard who only performed 3 times to my knowledge! We had 3 classical concerts and 3 opera singer performances plus several circus acts - all lasting no more than 40 minutes. The most professional show was the illusionist. Ports of Call: Bari Full day. Free shuttle bus to port gates. We organized our own tour with minibus but driver only spoke Italian (luckily, so did one of our party). Enjoyable half day visit with enough to see but everything was closed until 4pm (including the churches). Malta Half day. Walk off ship. Bus 198 at harbor to bus terminal at city gate Valletta (EUR1 return). Walked around Valletta and shopped (including M&S). Enjoyable but needed more time there. Malaga Full day. Long walk to port gates or a taxi costs EUR10. We did the horse drawn carriage around lovely old town (40 mins EUR30 up to 4 people). Shopping very good. Enjoyed good tapas lunch and traditional wine bars (bodegas). Madeira Full day. Walked out of port. Post Office at port. Bought ticket for hop on/hop off bus tour (EUR18) and took it to cable car. Took cable car to Moderna (EUR10) and then took Madeira's famous toboggan ride down (EUR25 for 2 people in wicker basket). Enjoyable BUT toboggan only takes you half way down to town centre. Taxis waiting to rip you off by charging EUR20-25. We walked, but it is a very steep, arduous, hot walk with only one refreshment stop on way down - it took us over an hour (not to be recommended for people with knee problems!). Walked around town centre and then finished our hop on/hop off bus tour. Enjoyable day in Madeira. Santa Cruz de Tenerife Full day. Walked out of port. Tram ride to Trinidad (La Laguna) EUR2.45 return (old capital) to be recommended. Good shopping in Santa Cruz. Walked around (walking routes mapped out) and had good set lunch of typical Canarian food in very friendly restaurant. Recife Full day. Shuttle bus with charge out of port to town organized by MSC. We discovered H. Stern Company as we disembarked. They organize a free shuttle minibus to their jewelry store in the Recife Palace Hotel on the beachfront in the Boa Viagem area. There was no pressure to buy. They were very friendly and helpful. H. Stern's driver then took us to a taxi rank and organized 2 taxis ($50 per taxi for 2 hours) to take us around the lovely old town of Olinda and then back to the port. We felt safe and well looked after. A really nice introduction to Brazil (and our Portuguese lessons came in handy!). Salvador Bahia Full day. Walked out of port. Post Office at port. Again, met our H. Stern man, Pierre, and took the free shuttle minibus to their shop up in the old town (had quick look at jewelry and then went sightseeing). Salvador split into old town and new town connected by art deco lift or a funicular train. Very nice feel to place. Spent day going between old town and new town shopping using the lift and furnicular. Walked back to ship. Rio de Janeiro Full day. Walked out of port. Met again by Pierre of H. Stern. We wanted an organized tour to take in Sugar Loaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana and Ipernima beaches ($50 each at the port). Pierre introduced us to Tami who would be our English speaking guide for the day and we could have a minibus to ourselves for the day with the proviso that we visited H. Stern's workshop in Rio. Tami took us wherever we wanted to go. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't on our side that day with low cloud and rain. We bought our tickets for the train up to Christ the Redeemer and had to cash then back in again because of the rain. We then took the cable car up Sugar Loaf Mountain but it was a white-out with low cloud! We sat in a restaurant looking out at Copacabana beach in the pouring rain (just like being at the seaside in England!). We did the tour of H. Stern's workshop which was quite interesting (learnt a lot about the precious stones that Brazil is famous for) and - you guessed it - I did buy a piece of jewelry! Our tour of Rio only cost the 6 of us the price of a meal and drink for Tami and the driver (plus a tip of course). I now have a good excuse to return to Rio to "see" it again!! Disembarkation: Arrival in Santos 9am. We were the last to be called off the ship (ca. 12.30) as our flight out of Sao Paola wasn't until that evening. We considered ourselves fortunate as it was chaos awaiting us portside. MSC's usual organization skills were to blame because they had forgotten to order the transfer buses! We waited nearly 2 hours until we could board a bus to the airport. I don't know how many people missed their flights in that confusion! In summary, it was an enjoyable cruise and the itinerary was very good. We paid a reasonable price and some might say you get what you pay for. Disembarkation/embarkation at most of the ports of call went smoothly. From talking to other passengers who have cruised with MSC before, I believe this voyage was one of the worst MSC cruises in terms of organization, service and food. I will always have a lasting good impression of sailing into a port early in the morning whilst sitting on my balcony enjoying fresh rolls and coffee for breakfast. Would I cruise with MSC again? The answer to that remains to be seen - if the itinerary was right and the price, of course, I might take a chance. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
It has been just a week since we disembarked the Zuiderdam in Ft. Lauderdale. We are still working our way back to reality - even though, some days, we would rather not. After having spent four glorious days in Venice we arrived at the ... Read More
It has been just a week since we disembarked the Zuiderdam in Ft. Lauderdale. We are still working our way back to reality - even though, some days, we would rather not. After having spent four glorious days in Venice we arrived at the cruise terminal to unbelievably long lines for check-in. This was not a good way to begin our voyage but, as it turns out, it was definitely the worst part of the whole trip. We have done a fair amount of cruising and love life on board and were not disappointed. As we have come to expect on HAL ships, the crew was phenomenal. They work so very hard and really got put to the test this time because of the arrival of the "norovirus". The ship was on "code red" for most of the trip and this certainly led to a few inconveniences for all of us but it meant extra work for all of the crew - which they did and still continued to smile! This is the first time we had "As you Like" dining. We were not sure how it would work out but it was fine. We found a window table that we really liked and made a reservation each night for that particular table. After being there a couple of nights the dining room stewards knew, ahead of time, what we liked and would bring things without being asked. We also like to dance and enjoyed the trio that was playing in the Ocean Bar each night, as well as the ship's band that played on several different occasions. The entertainment was good. We particularly enjoyed the individual artists that entertained during the cruise. The ship's singers and dancers were quite good and the costuming has improved greatly over some we have seen, on earlier cruises. Since we were onboard for Election Day, there was mock election onboard - a nice touch for us political junkies. All in all it was a wonderful cruise ! Ahhhh - sweet memories! Read Less

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