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Jennifer Williams

Age: 34

Occupation:Pharmacist

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: MSC Cruises

Ship: MSC Musica

Sailing Date: 04-5-2009

Itinerary: Western Mediterranean

We had an amazing time...IN SPITE OF MSC CRUISES. From beginning to end, this cruiseline's customer service and SOPs lacked immensely. Our itinerary said that we would be boarding the ship at 10:30 am and departing at 6:30 pm, and recommended to be at the port 2 hours before boarding time. We arrived at 8:30 am and there was only one other couple there...and no staff. The staff started showing up and informed us that we could check in after a little longer. A line started to form sometime around 11am, so we got in it only to be told that we all should sit down again sice they would not be checking anyone in until noon. A little before noon, the line started forming again and by now a mob has formed around the area as well. When they started motioning that people could finally check in (1:30 pm) everyone rushed the counters, paying no attention to the barriers. We were finally onboard at 5pm. However, the cruise tickets stated something to the effect of "we are not responsible for service you receive while not onboard the ship," so we figured that was why they put in that disclaimer.We had chosen late dining thinking it would be around 8 pm. It was actually 9 pm every night, which would have been okay, except every night it didn't start intil 9:30 pm and in the case of that first night on the ship 10:15 pm. We had wanted to attend a show that was supposedly timed for the late dining crowd at begin at 11:30 pm, but made it right on time for the final closing of the curtain. This was true of every show, since dinner always started late, it also ran late. We had assumed they would at least provide tap water with dinner, but no drinks at all were included. You could purchase a bottle of water for 4 euros (over $5) or a can of soda for 3 euros ($4) or had the option of buying a book of coupons which discounted these by 1 euro each. The food on the ship was okay, it was not bad but not up to the standards I had heard about other cruise lines' food. The excursions were extra, which we knew, but somewhat expensive. So we had decided to just catch a cab or the shuttle buses that were offered for many of them at a 9 euro charge. Taking the shuttle bus out was fine, but returning on one proved to be a feat. Again, it reminded me of the chaos at check-in...people in a huge mob trying to push their way onto the buses. We may have been able to maintain some sort of line, except that the buses kept stopping at different places along the street instead of pulling up to the sign. Sometimes they would go past the sign. We made it back after waiting to get on a bus for almost 2 hours.We met some friends on the boat that had booked a private excursion to Santorini and invited us along. We had been informed on the daily newsletter that we would be receiving numbers indicating what order we could disembark at Santorini, beginning after the people who had booked the MSC excursion. According to the itinerary, we were docking at 7:30 am and everyone could leave the ship sometime around 8:30 am. Our friends had arranged to meet the driver by 9am. When we all received our numbers, they had number 10 and we had number 16 (no idea how these were allotted). When they asked the front desk roughly what time they would be disembarking with this number, they were told sometime around 11 or 11:30. Essentially, after they not-so-calmly argued this, they were given number 1 for all 4 of us. We were able to meet the driver at 10 am and had a great but somewhat rushed tour. When we returned to the boat we found out that people who had numbers 15 and up ended up getting off the boat with only 2 hours left before they had to return.The stop at Mykonos was scheduled during the evening, so we had decided not to leave the ship since it would cut into our dinner time. Apparently they had decided to make the early seating open and have no late seating. It was printed in the newsletter but not very clearly...it did not specifically state that late seating was cancelled completely. Our friends had not even received a newsletter that day...and every other one they had gotten was in German, which they had requested in English each day. Bottom line, there was no food except the restaurants where you could purchase food. After arguing with the customer service desk again, our friends were able to get us dinner at the sushi restaurant on the house. Had they not spoken up, we wouldn't have gotten a meal at all unless we paid for it.All of the spa massages, facials, etc. couldn't be booked because there was one person there at any given time running reception/appointment desk AND giving the massages/facials. They had no openings for the entire week when we checked the 2nd day. We were also unable to use the jacuzzis because the rules were not enforced about 20 min time limit and max of 5 people...there were at least 10 or more kids in all 4 jacuzzis every time we checked.We were given a letter about 2 days before the end of the cruise stating that they would be automatically charging our account 6 Euro per person per day for gratuities, totalling 84 Euro (over $100) for my husband and myself. We had been giving tips to the wait staff that deserved it and we had planned on leaving something for the woman who serviced our room, but had not been told this at any point...even by those we had tipped. We were informed that the only way to change this amount was to fill out a request at the Accounting desk, which was only open 2 hours a day. We not only made it a point to visit the desk, but we also changed the amount to zero...citing on the request exactly why and that we would leave what we thought was fair for the housekeeping staff. The staff at the desk responded a rude, "Thanks a lot..." to my husband when they saw that.

The food was okay, most nights it was pretty good. However, I definitely had higher expectations for the quality of food for the price of the cruise.

Our ocean-view balcony stateroom was nice, it was probably the only aspect of the cruise that lived up to my expectations. The staff that serviced our room were very friendly and thorough...they even folded some of my clothes that I had left on a chair. We had friends, however, who had paid for an ocean-view room without a balcony, and the only way they could have viewed the ocean was with x-ray vision to see through the lifeboat.

The activities we were able to attend were entertaining, but as I mentioned earlier we missed many of them due to our dinner running late every night. The Mr. and Ms. Musica contests were enjoyable...my husband and I entered them both for fun and were happy to lose to an older Italian gentleman and a beautiful young Asian woman who had a wonderful sense of humor. We also entered the dance contest and took 2nd place...but that was the only night they had decided not to video tape for the cruise DVD.

What we figured out about the excursions was to make our own arrangements. At each port we caught a taxi and asked to be brought to the city center or to specific tourist attractions we knew about. Santorini, Greece was definitely my favorite of all the stops...our friends had booked a private excursion. We heard from other friends that took the MSC excursion (and paid over 60 euro, about 80 dollars, per person) that they didn't get to see much and that it was as badly organized as the cruise was overall. Dubrovnik, Croatia was also a beautiful location...again we planned our own day and did not involve MSC.

I just about summed up everything in my first paragraph. I know some of this may seem trivial but in my opinion, this was a lot of money to spend to experience this level of stress and inconvenience. After my experience with MSC for my first cruise, I am not sure if I will ever take another cruise...period. If I do it will definitely not be with MSC. I filled out their comment form and mentioned all of this in it but I do not know if they will take it seriously. But talking to several other people on the ship, including the new friends we had met before check-in, no one was at all satisfied with the quality of this cruiseline.

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