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Never been on MSC ... Convince me to take a MSC cruise


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My husband and I are contemplating booking a MSC cruise next year.  We have seen the Black Friday deals - no gratuities, easy drinks package included and WiFi included with no fees.  I've researched a few cruises so far.  Thinking of booking either the Meraviglia or Seaside. We would get a balcony room.  We have sailed RCL and NCL before. We are 45 & 43.  No kids. We like to relax on a cruise and enjoy the shows & casino.  

 

So those of you who have been on MSC - what are the pros & cons.  The ships look beautiful.  Just wondering how the food & entertainment are. Also, I know the shops are larger than we have been on before.  Does it feel too big?  What about crowding?    We love RCL but their prices are higher when comparing to a MSC balcony room.  How are the drinks when using the Easy Drinks package? 

 

Thanks for all you help fellow Cruise Critics. 😁

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Look at the pricing for a yacht club suite. You may find it cheaper than a balcony on royal.  We tried our first msc cruise on the seaside after being loyal to royal and ncl and found msc to be a great value price wise - and the yacht club was a great experience. You get a butler, nicer balcony room, private dining room, bar and lounge, private yacht club pool and more.

 

With the great pricing and promotions going on now is a great time to try Msc no matter what experience/cabin category you choose (there are several different ones).

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Your budget will dictate your experience.  As in all walks of life 'you get what you pay for'.  Most of MSC's newer ships are large with many, many people and that will cause some crowding. If that's your concern the Yacht Club is a ship within a ship, you have the best of both worlds and a totally different experience to the rest of the ship.  

The only problem with the YC is once experienced, some say you won't go back.

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The YC is great, but the pricing has gone up big time, except for interior cabins. I've been on MSC twice, once in the YC, and once outside on the Divina. Loved it both ways. I booked the Meraviglia yesterday under this sale in a Fantastica balcony for March, 2021. The free grats was the perk that got me. No matter how you book, I don't think you can go wrong, and enjoy your cruise.

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No one seems to have mentioned the cons, but if you read the reviews you'll see people seem to love MSC or hate MSC. If you are wanting a fully American experience, you may be disappointed. Certainly pre-sailing customer service is a challenge, and others find the on board service to be less than expected.  It is a European line with European mentality which means servers may not fawn all over you and first name basis isn't required or desired.

I sometimes get the impression that for some, it is only bearable if they are in the bubble - 'ship within a ship' - Yacht Club.  

I wouldn't decide purely on price, because experiences vary and you are comparing apples and oranges.

Oh, and something that people don't appreciate at time of booking - MSC has the right to change your cabin and does exercise it, so if your heart is set on one and one location alone, it won't be cast in stone.

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I have only done MSC in Europe so it might differ in N.America.   Personally, as a Brit, I prefer American or British lines, simply for the culture and language.  Having all the announcements in EN/IT/FR/ES/DE/PT can be a annoying and the role of the cruise director is very subdued and not at all what you would get on RCCL, Carnival etc.   This is reflected in the entertainment. 

As for the service, it was excellent on Grandiosa and suited my taste.  Its not OTT 'fake' as there is no tip culture in Europe. 

 

As for the Easy drinks package.. please look at my earlier post on this board.   Its far from Easy!  However you have more of a choice in package than some lines and the drink prices are a bit lower than RCCL.

 

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13 hours ago, mef_57 said:

. Certainly pre-sailing customer service is a challenge,

 

They have the worst customer service of not only the cruise industry but probably any bank, cable company, phone company, hotel, etc.  Maddening, inefficient, inept, and frustrating is an understatement.  If you can make it to the ship you at least never have to deal with their US offices again.  

 

OP, the onboard experience is what RCI was 10 years ago, that is to say slightly classier than average.  Service is efficient but not fake best friend in your face.  Ships are gorgeous.  Food depends on your taste but I rank it lower than average compared to other lines; but not the worst.  

 

Pay attention to your itinerary though, MSC has some notoriously awful port times; either very short, at odd/inconvenient times, or both.  If port time is important to you, pay attention to this.  If you prefer to use the ship as a resort, this may not be such a big deal.  That is your decision.  

 

I think MSC is a great value; I've gone 3 times and my 4th is in a few weeks.  Have never sailed Yacht Club, perfectly content with standard category cabins.  I judge a companies offering by its base offering; are the things on top of that real value or just fluff?  As you go up the scale MSC seems to keep many people happy with their Luxury-Lite offerings.  

 

Would I suggest MSC to others?  Yes, with some reservations.  

 

Would I pay the same as NCL or RCI to go on MSC?  Probably not 

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9 hours ago, LMaxwell said:

I think MSC is a great value; I've gone 3 times and my 4th is in a few weeks.  Have never sailed Yacht Club, perfectly content with standard category cabins.  I judge a companies offering by its base offering; are the things on top of that real value or just fluff?  As you go up the scale MSC seems to keep many people happy with their Luxury-Lite offerings.  

 

Would I suggest MSC to others?  Yes, with some reservations.  

 

Would I pay the same as NCL or RCI to go on MSC?  Probably not 

Thanks for providing the view from the 'standard' level.  Most posters here seem to be in the Luxury lite class and makes it difficult to really gauge the experience most MSC cruisers have.  The other 2 statements mirror my own.  Now, if they could only up their CS....

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9 hours ago, LMaxwell said:

They have the worst customer service of not only the cruise industry but probably any bank, cable company, phone company, hotel, etc.  Maddening, inefficient, inept, and frustrating is an understatement. 

Only someone who has never dealt with any other Italian company, especially Alitalia, can say this ;)

 

It is for sure a different culture, you need to make it on board, then you get rewarded. 

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2 hours ago, perakcruiser said:

Only someone who has never dealt with any other Italian company, especially Alitalia, can say this 😉

 

It is for sure a different culture, you need to make it on board, then you get rewarded. 

 

MSC call center in US and HQ is downtown Fort Lauderdale with typical uncaring, lazy, inattentive Broward County resident employees.  They have 0 Italian in them and have never seen a ship in real life. 

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12 hours ago, LMaxwell said:

Would I suggest MSC to others?  Yes, with some reservations.  

 

Would I pay the same as NCL or RCI to go on MSC?  Probably not 

 

Exactly this ^

 

To the OP: I assume you are thinking of booking MSC due to pricing? I would recommend MSC because they are an excellent value driven cruise line. I would not recommend a caribbean cruise on MSC if pricing was higher than their competition. As you've already noticed, the two main complaints on MSC are food quality and service levels. IMO, there is  legitimacy to many (not all) of the complaints.

 

I've sailed both inside and outside the YC and can think of no reason you would not enjoy a MSC cruise, but suggest that you keep expectations aligned with price paid. If you can do that, you should do absolutely fine with a MSC vacation. 

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We are low maintenance easy-to-please cruisers who love MSC Divina and will soom be onboard the low-end MSC Armonia. We got hooked on Italian ships after many trips on various Costa itineraries. I'd say they're more musical, more emotive, more over-the-top than the American equivalent lines such as RCCI's Celebrity.  Passengers dress a little better with way fewer over weight pax needing walkers or wheel chairs. 

If you have never travelled around Europe or anywhere outside the USA then MSC may be a bit of a cultural shock. But certainly MSC is excellent cruise value if you can power through the occasional hiccups.

 

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I guess in time of youtube and internet no one need to convince no one . Lots of video blogs available to see and make up your mind. Even cruising on same ship can be different from time to time. We had back to back on Divina and it was like day and night . 🙄One thing I learned many year ago than my opinion can be very different from reviews on this board. After all if you don't like your cruise you don't have to go another time with this company ,like we do with NCL.

 

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Than you for all of your opinions and insights.  We were drawn to MSC by the price and the extras offered in their Black Friday deal. In comparison to RCL, which is what we have been on, the price is better. We don't require all the extras - Yatch Club level or any other level above Bella.  Yes, I understand this is an Italian cruise line and many aspects of the cruise are European.  My husband and I are going to give it a try.  For the price, we can't pass it up - $1693 for a Bella level balcony, in Nov 2020 with free WiFi, gratuities paid, and free drinks package.  It would be double for the cruise alone on NCL or RCL.  We are looking forward to it.  Gorgeous ship, 4 stops including Ocean Cay, and it's 7 days vacation away from work.  Can't complain about that! LOL 

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We are seasoned cruisers.  We decided to try MSC in 2017 when Divina first came to Miami.  The rates were enticing and the itinerary was fantastic.  We have since been on the Divina twice (fantastica experience both times) Seaside once (YC) and recently on the repo Meraviglia (fantastica)October 28th.  Lots of pros and cons...... but we enjoyed each cruise.  Divina being our favorite of the MSC ships......we have another Divina cruise booked for 2021. 

 

Since you like the casino (we do too) be sure to check out the 30% savings (we always get it) on your next cruise by getting a certain amount of points in the casino......well worth it!!

 

Do you have status with another cruise line?  MSC does a good job with status matching although I believe they are a bit more strict than we status matched in 2017.

 

If you do decide to give MSC a try, go with an open mind.  We did and ended up enjoying each MSC cruise we have taken so far.....some more than others, but all enjoyable.....:)

 

PS  Easy drinks being offered now......we decided to upgrade to premium at a very reasonable cost to upgrade since the easy package is already being offered......please let me know if you have questions.

 

Edited by GRANNYOFSIX
Forgot to talk about the drink package
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On 11/29/2019 at 10:41 AM, GOLDENBONNY said:

We all very different . I would not go on NCL even for free and I will prefer MSC to Celebrity ot HAL even because I dont cruise to eat 24/7. 

Not sure what you mean.   We have done a lot of cruising on both Celebrity and HAL (and other lines) and also enjoy MSC's Yacht Club.  But eating 24/7 is not a major thing on any of those lines.  In fact, I think Princess is about the only line to have a 24/7 eating venue (their International Café).

 

As to HAL, they have even more limited eating hours then on MSC.  And on most HAL cruises there are few folks seeking food after 10pm because they are all in bed!

 

As to MSC, we do not "prefer" it to either Celebrity or HAL (or other lines) but simply find it another option that we enjoy.  In our experience (with 16 cruise lines) each line has their pros and cons.....be it a budget line or a very upscale luxury line.  MSC does not really interest us except for its Yacht Club.  Why the YC?  Primarily because of the amazing service and the very laid back uncrowded atmosphere.  We do spend a lot of our evening hours outside the YC, but really enjoy going back to that quiet enclave which seems like a different world from the non-YC areas.

 

Hank

 

 

 

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I rank MSC somewhere between Carnival and Royal Caribbean. But as others have mentioned, your perception will be influenced by the experience that you select. 
 

I can’t comment on the Bella experience since I’ve never done it. The first time we sailed on MSC, we selected the Fantastica experience, and it felt similar to what mass market cruise line in the US offer. For our last cruise we decided to upgrade to an Aurea suite, and it provided enough perks to elevate the entire experience well above anything that we’ve ever experienced on Royal Caribbean. The best part about it? Our Aurea Duplex Suite cost exactly 1/4th what Royal was charging for similar accommodations on a similar itinerary! Yes, we could’ve saved even more if we’d gone with a Bella or Fantastica stateroom, but the money we spent to upgrade to an Aurea suite made our cruise extra memorable, and it didn’t break the bank!
 

About the complaints, I’m truly convinced that a substantial percentage of them are from people who are dissatisfied simply because MSC is not like the American cruise lines. I’m sure that there are some legitimate negative reviews, but many sound plain and simple ignorant. 
 

Enjoy your MSC Cruise! 

Edited by Tapi
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On 11/29/2019 at 8:52 AM, LMaxwell said:

 

MSC call center in US and HQ is downtown Fort Lauderdale with typical uncaring, lazy, inattentive Broward County resident employees.  They have 0 Italian in them and have never seen a ship in real life. 

Yikes!  You must have had a bummer of an experience. 

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Agree with most here. We just got off Seaside yesterday. 10 of us... relatively seasoned cruisers. My wife and I, as well a two kids share Fantastica balcony. Embarkation is super fast. Ship is stunning. We all felt food was above average,  but that is a very subjective item. Most onboard were European with strong majority being Italian.  I loved hearing the language. So vibrant and made me feel like I was traveling somewhere besides the Caribbean. However, the cultures are quite different... a bit pushy at times and no awareness of personal space. No big deal really. Shows were good albeit a bit repetitive as others have mentioned.  MJ show was by far the best I have seen at sea.

 

Where MSC really misses the mark is on service.  They need to train employees better and work on some efficiency practices. Most bartenders seem to hate their job and we had a few actually give us attitude after asking for a drink.  This is even after us using all of the pleases and thank yous, etc. and when bars were not busy.  We all agreed we don't need fakeness employed by other lines, but there is simply no excuse to be rude.  There definitely is a trend among the staff.  Those damn data pads slow things down tremendously when ordering as well.  Dinner service is very slow and inefficient.  Hard to get mad because our server was running around trying to do his best.  They need more help.  Just be prepared to ask for a drink and not get it for a very long while.  We had multiple times where half our party had meals eaten before others were even served.

 

Lastly we noticed that Hygiene is a real issue.  I presume this is a cultural thing but hardly anyone used sanitizer getting on ship or prior to going in buffet.  Rarely used were the hand washing stations at entrance as well.  We always did and most times they were out of soap. Even saw an MSC employee use bathroom and not wash hands.  With potential for illness this was a large concern for us.

 

MSC offers a value, but there are things that need to be improved. It really could be a great alternative to higher priced lines.

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MSC is a refreshing change from the low end American budget cruise lines.

 

Personally, I will no longer cruise NCL and Royal Caribbean. Carnival is a no go (my one cruise on Carnival met my low expectations).

 

I do cruise a variety of lines; my last one was on Viking Ocean which I loved.

 

I do cruise MSC and when I do, I am in a Bella interior cabin.

 

MSC does offer a different experience. Food is excellent, with the Neapolitan regional cuisine reminding me of family dinners with my immigrant family members. Those who expect Olive Garden "Italian" food or pepperoni on their pizza will be disappointed (although there is sometimes pepperoni available).

 

Because there is a wide spread  of passengers from different cultures on board, the buffet also has areas that will offer regional food from their home countries . A great opportunity to try food that one may not have had before. For those who  limit themselves to "American" food, there are excellent hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries in the buffet.

 

The Main Dining Room is geared toward the idea of a leisurely meal spent enjoying one's  tablemates.  The US sailing have somewhat adapted to those wanting a "gobble and go" meal,  but for those who enjoy meals, the MSC staff will provide discreet, efficient service of the various courses.

 

Throughout the ship, staff provides the same level of discreet efficient service.  If one is drinking in a lounge, a server will kept an eye on you and will appear at the right moment to ask if another round is required.  If you are not drinking, you will not be approached again after the initial question unless you signal the staff.

 

The one thing that is important to me when cruising is that once on board ship, the same level of service is provided to one throughout the ship no matter the cabin level or previous cruises on the line (I am not including the bubble life of the Yacht Club).  On MSC, I found that philosophy of service.  No feeling like a second class citizen because of special lines that jump passengers ahead of others at Guest Services or elsewhere in the ship.

 

The cruise director's staff is busy and involved.  There is a good variety of staff lead activities on the ship during sea and port days.

 

Go with an open mind and, please, do not be one of those cruisers who goes to Guest Services and starts with "On Carnival ..." when complaining.

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I just finished a MSC cruise on the new Grandiosa. Beautiful ship, wonderful theatre entertainment, lounges pretty dead except Grandiosa lounge, service was great, and food in buffet and MDR mediocre. Excellent Butcher Cut meal, but other specialty restaurants have few customers.

English speaking passengers are 5-10%. About 1/3 Of the passengers were Asians and many children. The strollers made it very congested onboard.

MSC in the Caribbean didn't have these negatives. It was still a good value.

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