Number of Cruises: 35
Cruise Line: MSC Cruises
Ship: MSC Lirica
Sailing Date: n/a
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
I love cruising, and as my wife has limited mobility, it is the one holiday we collectively enjoy. We were more or less convinced into taking our MSC cruise by a travel agent who promised a '7th heaven' because the new boss is Rick Sasso, the wonder kid of Celebrity. Well Rick, take it from us, you haven't killed your chicken yet. MSC has beautiful looking ships, designed by an architect who seems to think that Americans like cruising on ferries. Whoever coordinated and designed the colors is a splendid artist, but whoever dreamed up the ridiculous spaces for corridors and cabins has never cruises. MSC apparently has little ferries somewhere in Europe, and they must think that people who cruise take an overnight bag and a T shirt. Furniture in our cabin on Deck No 8 was good quality, but nothing fits. We had to put our chair in the corridor just to get space in front of the mirror. The TV works sometimes, but not always, and there is just nowhere for luggage. Our gracious little cabin junior put it somewhere for us outside the cabin, but honestly, MSC, if you are going to win in the USA market, get a new architect or do something about storage space.
On the plus side, and after having cruised on most of the big companies (but not the high-end market), I have to say I have never seen a cleaner ship, at least not in the public areas. Those poor polishers work day and night but the ship is gleaming. On the down side is the service, mainly in the food area. The food is average, a bit like the older Carnival ships, and we didn't have a single meal that you could say was upper end. The Buffet is repetitive and the coffee they give is just bad (except the cappuccino you have to buy at a good value price). There isn't much Italian about the menu, and its certainly not a classy Italian act that Mr. Sasso promises. The sad part about it is the Italian service. MSC has a lot of cargo ships, and the waiters probably all come from them. We didn't crack a smile from our waiter, in fact we have to say the Italians just didn't seem to care a damn about Americans. The busboys and the housekeeping people were wonderful, but the rule of the Italians seemed to be 'don't smile, don't be cheerful, don't care'.
The Cruise Director was outstanding, but his aides had no communication with our age group. The drink waiters who served us were polite enough, but they didn't have a clue about what they were serving. We didn't see the officers sitting with passengers, and there was no effort to demonstrate the, what did RIck Sasso call it, Premier Class or something. No Rick, you got it wrong. MSC builds ships that look beautiful, but until they get the cabins right, until they get the food right (in fact the food was like a cafeteria chain), and until they teach the Italians to be Italian, No thanks. The touches I did like were the nice beach towels when we went ashore, nicely organized at the gangway, and the very obliging boys at the lido buffet who took great care of my wife when we had to park her chair there for breakfasts and lunch. These boys (I think from Thailand or Indonesia or somewhere like that) could teach their Italian bosses a thing or two about hospitality and courtesy. We are booked on the MSC Opera in March, because our travel agent tells us its a much better ship and they have got their act together. I wonder, but we will give it another chance. MSC was not the worst cruise we have ever been on, but it was the most disappointing, after all the hype about superior Italian style. MSC Lirica is a big, beautiful ferry, extraordinarily clean, with unsmiling Italians and no space for baggage - and very very average food. Before closing, I have to say that they tried their best to organize the smoking and non smoking areas, but by the time the cruise was over, nobody cared, and nobody supervised the rules.
Entertainment was ho-hum, but Linda, my agent, assures me that the entertainment on the MSC Opera is really first class. Overall, it was good value, because MSC is clawing at the market to get a toe-hold with prices too low to resist. Did we tip? Yes, but we still don't know if we had to or not. The MSC book says no, the Cruise Director says yes, and the Front Desk doesn't know. MSC doesn't give any information about anything, including arrival times, why the ship sails late, when dinner is served (even if just for the first night) or what island we're passing. When the ship sails away, it leaves in silence, and they don't tell you whether you've arrived or what the weather is until its too late. And of course, you have to guess about tipping. America will love these ships if they get their act together, fix the cabins, fix the food, start smiling, tell us what's happening and how to tip.