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Nicole Ramsdell

Age: 40

Occupation:self employed

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: MSC Cruises

Ship: MSC Sinfonia

Sailing Date: 2010-07-3

Itinerary: Mediterranean

We booked the MSC Sinfonia from Livorno Italy in July 2010. Although I have been on smaller cruises, this seemed like a good option for my retired mother and me to see some new sites and have a new experience. Unfortunately, these gigantic cruises are a failed concept and coupled with other issues, made it an entirely disappointing experience. This is by no means a Luxury cruise nor is it billed to be, but I guess I kind of expected more. I thought once we booked & paid for the cruise, that would be the majority of the outlay. That was in incorrect assumption. I call this cruise a failed concept because the entire IDEA of a cruise is to be able to sail to different ports & get a flavor of each place.
Primarily, these boats are so large that they are forced to dock at freighter terminals that are typically MILES away from the locations you are scheduled to visit. Thus, to actually visit the ports that are promised, one needs to pay daily for shuttles or pricey tours, to each city. Then the big kicker is that you are only in each port for 5-6 hours. Of course there are shops on board which is convenient when you have forgotten something, although pricey. However, it seems like at every turn they are selling stuff on deck, so it often feels like a floating flea market. The most disappointing issue is the Management; see more below.

The food is reasonably good at the dinner seatings, but the breakfast and lunch buffets are like a feeding frenzy & is nothing exceptional. The atmosphere of the ship seemed to bring out the worst manners in people. It was disheartening. I have found things in my food that I didn’t want to, at nearly each meal at the buffet, and there seems to be an issue with clean dishes, glasses & flatware.

Fine; actually more storage than I thought.

They were non-existent unless you paid for them.

Onshore Tours/Excursions: We had ENDLESS issues with the off shore excursions. Firstly, the MSC website allows you to download paperwork to book these tours in advance & at a slightly lower cost. This sounds convenient, but as it happened our paperwork was lost, even though I had received a confirmation that my fax went through, so we ended up paying full price on board. Then, once we did book, one of our tours was cancelled and we were not informed early enough to take another cruise. Luckily we found an independent tour guide(at a lesser cost than the tour offered thru MSC cruises) to give us a personal tour. It is worth noting that the MSC tours are quiet expensive; at least 40-50 euros per port(minimum 7 x 40=280 additional Euros per adult for sightseeing if you care to see every port). I actually would not mind paying these prices if I felt the tours were a value, however once you get off the ship, you are loaded onto buses & most of the tours are conducted in this fashion. It would be nice if these tours were more personable.
On another note: if you take the tour in Tunis that includes the Medina market..don't bother to buy anything there-it's like a feeding frenzy for tourists & everything is marked up 200%!!! There is a REALLY lovely, clean shopping area directly in front of where the ship docks. Prices are marked on the merchandise & the shopkeepers seem much more respectful of their clientele. I only wish I had waited to buy everything there.

Summing it all up..if you want a vacation on a large, impersonal, floating bus, go on an MSC cruise. If you want a more meaningful experience, look for a smaller cruise line.
The most disappointing issue is the Management. I have had a few problems and asked for the Managers name so I can write a letter and was denied this information!!!! It seems the buck stops nowhere and each desk employee is happy to explain how every problem is not their fault. I feel like in being denied the name of a manager, a great disservice is being done, as the managers does not hear the complaints or issues. How can these be fixed if they are not being heard??????? One can only assume that the Management prefers it this way. The Desk personnel are often quiet snippy; however dealing with issues and unhappy customers, is part of customer service in the hospitality industry. Then sitting next to them in the lounge, having to listen to them complain about their jobs, seems a bit unprofessional. Especially, when I felt like no one wanted to listen to me when I had a complaint or an issue that needed resolving.

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