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JamieLogical

My Serious First World Problem

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I am currently faced with a difficult decision: which cruise to go on in September. It really is a tough choice! Though I am grateful to have this be one of the biggest problems in my life at the moment.

 

So here's a little background. We were booked on the 11-Day Inaugural Transatlantic of the Encore for this coming November. Back in January, we received notice that it was being shortened to a 9-day sailing and would be going straight from Southampton to NYC with no stops. The original itinerary was Southampton to Miami with a stop in the Azores.

 

We were really disappointed with these changes. We weren't interested in a strictly north Atlantic cruise in November. Living in Western New York, we get enough cold. We had also budgeted two weeks off of work for the trip and the new dates would have made that work out weirdly for us (extra days at the NYC end when we might have preferred extra days at the London end). Ultimately, although NCL did offer a lot of deep discount incentives to keep us on board, we decided to cancel our booking and do two 7-day cruises instead.

 

Enter MSC. Being disappointed in NCL, having heard some good things about MSC, and finding an incredibly cheap sailing in September, we decided to book our first non-NCL cruise. The plan was to sail the MSC Seaside on Sept. 8 and then do a 7-day on the Encore out of Miami Dec. 1. That way we would still get to experience the Encore while she was pretty much brand new.

 

So, while we were on board the Bliss in February, we canceled our Encore transatlantic and booked the Dec. 1 sailing. We also took about a million photos of the Seaside while we sailed past her in Miami and parked next to her in Nassau. We were excited about both sailings!

 

In March, things took a turn for the worse in our dealings with MSC. First, I stupidly put through a Status Match request. I was Gold with NCL at this point, so I thought that might actually work out in our favor with our upcoming Seaside sailing. Big Mistake. Apparently Gold on NCL matches to literally ONE point on MSC. To give you some perspective it takes 2200 points to go from "Classic" (lowest level) to "Silver" on MSC. I was given ONE point. Well on my way to my next level of rewards..... I fought hard with their customer service reps. I wasn't even trying to get my status upgraded, I was just trying to undo my status match altogether, because it's a one-time-use kind of thing and I didn't want to waste it for one lousy point. I just wanted to be set back to zero so I could save my status match for when I reached a Platinum with NCL. They would not budge.

 

Then,  MSC launched their newest ship, the Bellissima. Along with the launch, they ran a promo where you could take an online virtual tour of the ship and receive a one-time-use promo code for 10% off on a future sailing. I did the tour and got my promo code with the intent to cancel and rebook our sailing with the discount, which is exactly what I did. I called up, canceled our original booking, then rebooked online using the promo code. All appeared to go smoothly. I received my booking confirmation. The attached PDF had all the right totals reflecting the 10% off, plus my 5% off for my now Classic-level Voyager's Club Status. But then later that night, for seemingly no reason whatsoever, I was issued a NEW booking confirmation that was missing the 10% off. No explanation as to why. And, of course, when I called the next day, they couldn't just reapply my 10% discount code, because they are one-time-use and now mine was showing as "used". That was on March 20th. Here were are, over a month out, many calls and emails exchanged, and the issue still unresolved. Though I did receive two emails today claiming that my discount will be reapplied within 7-10 days.

 

This leads me to my current dilemma. Over the past couple of weeks while we've been tearing our hair out over MSC's truly horrendous customer service, we researched alternative sailings for September. We looked at Celebrity, RCCL, and even Carnival. But it is looking like our best alternative is the Breakaway out of Miami on Sept. 1. The total trip cost works out to be almost identical to our Seaside sailing. The cruise fare itself is cheaper on the Seaside, but the Breakaway includes airfare for $99 per person, whereas it's looking like it would cost us about $300-400 per person to fly to Miami out of pocket around that time (still early to book airfare, but prices have been going up with the 737 Max being grounded). So prices being equal, here are the main pros and cons of each option:

 

MSC Seaside

  • Newer/fancier ship
  • New (to us) cruise line
  • Our Balcony includes what they call the "Aurea" experience which includes access to the Thermal Spa (think spa passes on NCL), one massage each in the spa, access to an exclusive sun deck and bar area (think Vibe?), the "Easy Drink Package" (a VERY basic drink package, much more basic than NCL's UBP), and "My Time Dining" (this would allow us to eat in the MDRs any time instead of a set time, like Freestyle dining on NCL)
  • We could book our own flights and have more control over our situation.

But....

  • We would have to get past the truly HORRENDOUS customer service we have received
  • The room itself is slightly smaller than the balcony rooms on the Breakaway
  • I am still not super clear on MSC's dress code. It seems to me that I won't be allowed to wear jeans in the MDRs and jeans and t-shirts are literally ALL I wear when cruising unless I dress up for specialty dining venues.
  • We would have to pay $27 per person per day to upgrade from the Easy Drink Package to something similar to what we are used to with the UBP on NCL. That will also mean another phone call to MSC's customer service to do the upgrade....

 

NCL Breakaway

  • Since this sailing is the week of Labor Day, we don't have to use as many vacation days from work.
  • Airfare is only $99 per person.
  • This is a Latitudes Rewards sailing, which means we get $100 of OBC and we get an extra point per night. This combined with our next two planned sailings on NCL would get me to Platinum.
  • We are already comfortable and familiar with NCL, though we have not sailed on the Breakaway before. So, it does have some new stuff to offer us.
  • The balcony rooms on the Breakaway are larger than the Seaside.

But...

  • The Breakaway is an older ship and we have already sailed on the Escape and Bliss so a lot won't feel new to us.
  • It wouldn't be quite the "adventure" it would be sailing on a new ship and a new cruise line.
  • We don't get to choose our own flights.

 

What do you guys think? Final payment for our Seaside sailing isn't until June, so we have some time to cancel still. As for the Breakaway, final payment is May 4th and there still seems to be a LOT of inventory, so we could potentially hold out a bit and see if prices drop after final payment. That might make the decision a bit easier if the Breakaway sailing becomes considerably cheaper than the Seaside.

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, Newleno said:

are you limiting your search to only these 2 cruiselines?

 

No, I also looked at Celebrity, RCCL, and Carnival sailings in the first two weeks of September. I put them all in a spreadsheet and calculated the "total cost" for each trip, including airfare, parking, ground transport, hotels, drink packages, and dining packages.

Edited by JamieLogical

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6 minutes ago, ColeThornton said:

Is there a shorter version of this post available?   🙂

 

Ha! I am sorry it got so long. Here's a TLDR version:

 

  • NCL disappointed us
  • We booked the MSC Seaside
  • MSC REALLY dropped the ball with their truly HORRENDOUS customer service
  • We are now considering booking the Breakaway and canceling our MSC Seaside sailing

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Take an Oasis class RCI cruise, it will be all new and not boring.

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7 minutes ago, JamieLogical said:

 

No, I also looked at Celebrity, RCCL, and Carnival sailings in the first two weeks of September. I put them all in a spreadsheet and calculated the "total cost" for each trip, including airfare, parking, ground transport, hotels, drink packages, and dining packages.

Well we are all diffferent, all things being equal we go with price, for us we like being on the water, so that is the most important criteria, we do like the perks of platinum (since we are frugal it is a great added value for us)  Lately ncl has provided the most value, (we just got back from nyc round trip) However the perks dont add up to all the monetary savings over the years by cruising on other lines.  I find the cruiselines to be pretty similar.  I hate the ncl cruise search website but it would not stop me from booking with them,  I find most websites poor except for amazon, so that would not stop me from booking an msc cruise

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, mugtech said:

Take an Oasis class RCI cruise, it will be all new and not boring.

 

Unfortunately, for the time frame we are looking at, the Oasis class sailings are out of our price range. At least for a comparable experience (balcony stateroom and drinks package). Priced out with just the base cruise fare, it comes out to about $200 more than the Breakaway and Seaside. By the time we add on drinks and any specialty dining, it would be cost prohibitive.

Edited by JamieLogical

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Having sailed the MSC Seaside twice (8/18 & 4/19) I would say it would be a nice change of pace to try a different line.  My philosophy is "variety is the spice of life" and that changing up cruise lines makes each cruise more unique and enjoyable.  I do agree 100% that MSC non-ship customer service is pretty bad and their website is also awful...but this does not translate to their on-ship employees.  I believe they are a good value with all you receive with the Aurea package and was pleasantly surprised at their easy package offerings on the ship.  They did have menus specifying easy package drinks.  I really enjoyed the entertainment on the Seaside as well, their shows are just the right length and very different from what you see on other lines.  The flair on the Seaside is more European which I enjoy as I love to travel to Europe.  I would not hesitate to travel on MSC, Royal, Carnival or NCL as they all have their pros and cons and they all do things differently which I appreciate!

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Selfish me says do the MSC cruise so you can give me insight for my October cruise.  Practical me says the Breakaway.  Seems like move bang for the buck and NCL is more of a known item to you.  Adventurous me says the MSC cruise because it is something different and new

 

I wouldn't cancel the MSC cruise because of the status match.  I've looked at the perks of status categories on MSC and I think theirs is among the weakest.   

 

Sounds like a win-win situation. Either way, you are going on a cruise! :)

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4 minutes ago, JamieLogical said:

 

Unfortunately, for the time frame we are looking at, the Oasis class sailings are out of our price range. At least for a comparable experience (balcony stateroom and drinks package). Priced out with just the base cruise fare, it comes out to about $200 more than the Breakaway and Seaside. By the time we add on drinks and any specialty dining, it would be cost prohibitive.

If you are looking for something different then go with Seaside. If you want the same, go with the Breakaway. I've done the Breakway five times and the Escape twice. The Escape is my favorite ship. It is basically the Breakaway but better!  But, I am considering trying MSC Seaside to see how the Yacht Club experience is. We are currently booked on the Bliss for February. I'm looking forward to that.

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8 minutes ago, firstimecruiseronncl said:

If you are looking for something different then go with Seaside. If you want the same, go with the Breakaway. I've done the Breakway five times and the Escape twice. The Escape is my favorite ship. It is basically the Breakaway but better!  But, I am considering trying MSC Seaside to see how the Yacht Club experience is. We are currently booked on the Bliss for February. I'm looking forward to that.

 

I was on the Bliss in February and will be sailing her again in December (left it out of my original post, but we switched our Dec. 1 Encore sailing to the Dec. 1 12-Day Southern Caribbean sailing on the Bliss). It is a BEAUTIFUL ship, but the Escape still feels more like "home" to me. I loved the Observation Lounge and Los Lobos. I missed Howl at the Moon and Pincho. And the "flow" of the Garden Cafe on the Bliss is a nightmare. I don't know what they were thinking. Plus the late night snack was a joke compared to the Escape. They only had nachos ONE night of the seven we were on board!

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The match you got is correct.  Ok fine, maybe they could have given you more points, but whatever.  

 

Platinum/PPlus = Black on MSC.  You are a tier below platinum so you are match to Gold on MSC.  Whether you have 1 point or 1 point under Black, you're getting the same perks for this cruise.  

 

In the other thread, you posted that they finally replied and will be giving you back your 10%.  So yes, took a few phone calls and emails, but you will be back to the price you expected.  

 

As far as the dress code goes, I have posted a few messages and gotten alot of replies from MSC cruisers, all who said it's not as strict as it seems.  The only time it seems like it is really enforced is the formal nights in the MDR.  Jeans won't be allowed in then.  So plan on dinner elsewhere that night.  

 

It seems like you're just used to the NCL product, so talking yourself back into it.  I can understand that.  It's the style you have been on for every other cruise.  So it's really asking yourself...do you want to try something different, which you might love or hate (who can answer that for you until you've been on the cruise)...or do you want to go with something you know already.  

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I'd probably stick to the NCL cruise, but I'm only in a position to go on one cruise a year.  

 

If I were able to go more often, I think I'd be inclined to try MSC just for the sake of trying something different.  Who knows, they might blow you away and you'll have a new go-to cruise line.  Worst case, it's still a cruise, how bad could it be?  

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Jamie...I can't recall, but if you turn Platinum Latitudes during the cruise, check and see if you get the benefits for the entire cruise.

 

That gets you free bag of laundry, a specialty dinner, priority em/disembarkation, a nice party with the cruise management, some sparkling wine, strawberries, probably some other discounts I'm forgetting.

 

I think your misgivings with booking MSC will color the rest of your cruise with them.

 

While you're right, there is a similar feel going from something like the Bliss and Escape to Breakaway, I find I'm more comfortable in doing what I want to do and getting around.  Plus, I'm able to explore/experience things I always seem to miss on other NCL cruises (and don't bother wasting time with those I didn't care for with the other cruises).

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2 minutes ago, graphicguy said:

Jamie...I can't recall, but if you turn Platinum Latitudes during the cruise, check and see if you get the benefits for the entire cruise.

 

That gets you free bag of laundry, a specialty dinner, priority em/disembarkation, a nice party with the cruise management, some sparkling wine, strawberries, probably some other discounts I'm forgetting.

 

I think your misgivings with booking MSC will color the rest of your cruise with them.

 

While you're right, there is a similar feel going from something like the Bliss and Escape to Breakaway, I find I'm more comfortable in doing what I want to do and getting around.  Plus, I'm able to explore/experience things I always seem to miss on other NCL cruises (and don't bother wasting time with those I didn't care for with the other cruises).

 

Don't get the perks on this cruise...will be the next one.  We were one pt from Platinum on one of cruises, day 2 asked and shot down 

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26 minutes ago, MrMike45 said:

The match you got is correct.  Ok fine, maybe they could have given you more points, but whatever.  

 

Platinum/PPlus = Black on MSC.  You are a tier below platinum so you are match to Gold on MSC.  Whether you have 1 point or 1 point under Black, you're getting the same perks for this cruise.  


Huh? The membership levels for NCL are:

 

Bronze - > Silver -> Gold -> Platinum -> Platinum Plus

 

The membership levels for Voyager's Club are:

 

Classic -> Silver -> Gold -> Black

 

I am Gold on NCL. I was matched to Classic on MSC. If, as you say, that is "correct" it should be more transparently documented so I would have known not to bother submitting my match until I reached Platinum with NCL.

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15 minutes ago, MrMike45 said:

 

Don't get the perks on this cruise...will be the next one.  We were one pt from Platinum on one of cruises, day 2 asked and shot down 

I remember something like that when I turned Platinum.  But, I was booked in the Haven and "pinged" the pre-concierge (the phone number on the Haven welcome letter) about being Platinum for the entire cruise since I was one point away.  They said they would check and get back to me.  I never thought any more about it, and quite frankly forgot about it.

 

Wouldn't you know it, when I boarded I had the Platinum perks listed in my welcome package in the room.  Was pleasantly surprised.

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24 minutes ago, graphicguy said:

I think your misgivings with booking MSC will color the rest of your cruise with them.

 

This is something I'm genuinely worried about. I feel like my poor experiences with customer service have put me in a "negative mindset" about the sailing and I am more likely to enjoy myself less and find more faults on the sailing itself because of that.

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7 minutes ago, JamieLogical said:


Huh? The membership levels for NCL are:

 

Bronze - > Silver -> Gold -> Platinum -> Platinum Plus

 

The membership levels for Voyager's Club are:

 

Classic -> Silver -> Gold -> Black

 

I am Gold on NCL. I was matched to Classic on MSC. If, as you say, that is "correct" it should be more transparently documented so I would have known not to bother submitting my match until I reached Platinum with NCL.

I was Gold on NCL and matched to Silver on MSC - this was over a year ago when they were more generous with the status matching.  My guess is the Platinum on NCL will only match to Silver on MSC now.... The match disappears after 3 years if you do not continue to sail with MSC.  Also as a side note I do not dress any differently on MSC as I do on NCL - my motto is comfy...

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2 minutes ago, deweytrader said:

Also as a side note I do not dress any differently on MSC as I do on NCL - my motto is comfy...

 

What do you generally wear?

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1 minute ago, JamieLogical said:

 

What do you generally wear?

Let's just say my black pants are as formal as I get on a cruise and only on formal nights!  

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Posted (edited)

Given that you asked this in the NCL forum and not in MSC forum, tells me where you want to be.  People on the NCL forum are probably not going to steer you to MSC, and vice versa.  I, personally, will not be sailing NCL again.  The horrendous customer service I've encountered with cruise lines is pretty much restricted to NCL.  MSC has been disorganized, and I've had to chase things down, but they've always done exactly what they promised or advertised.  The only onboard experience I can relay to you is how the MSC Yacht Club product stands up to NCL's suite and Haven experience.  I have no idea if that's what you booked, but the MSC Yacht Club experience blew the NCL's product out of the water for me.  The only area NCL has on MSC in that category is the various cabin sizes.  But everything else, including value for dollar for me, far outshone NCL.  In addition, I noticed the alcohol prices (should I want to pay for some drink not included) was considerably less expensive than NCL.  As far as the experience outside of the Yacht Club, I don't know.  I didn't do much outside of it except go the chocolate bar and the shops and the shows. 

 

I think you know what you want to do, and you should do that.  If the customer service problems you've experienced bother you this much, I think you're going to go into it with a negative mindset and if anything goes wrong during the cruise it will be magnified.  

 

Edited to add - I saw people in jeans in T shirts every night in the dining room of the Yacht Club, even formal night. No one was turned away, no one was belittled, and no one looked askance at anyone else.  

Edited by Rou-Dyliq
forgot detail

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