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Last week I popped up a quick overview of why I don’t think anyone in the USA should ever consider booking an MSC cruise and it seems it set Facebook on fire as many users wanted to share their 2 cents about the post. I will, over the next month or so, share why almost every facet of this cruise was so disappointing. There were a few bright spots – but few and far between. Let’s dive in.
I checked in as soon as I could and found the MSC tech, vs. the recent dreamy HAL tech I enjoyed just a month before, not very user friendly. As a Diamond guest I was assuming I would have a high slot for boarding but was assigned 2:30PM. After reading a bit online on several sites we chose to ignore that and arrive shortly after 10AM with the understanding that boarding would likely not happen till after 11AM (or much later).
MSC in Miami uses the now very very old decommissioned NCL terminal. It is dark and factory like and not very welcoming to start a tropical adventure (btw did you notice the massive tarp on the roof as an example of how beat-up this place is).
It was a stark reminder that sitting next to us was the new, bright, and gorgeous NCL terminal that I had the pleasure to visit last year about this time for a lovely cruise on the JOY.
We had both our QR code loaded into our phones for entrance as well as paperwork out and despite that the gate guard took her time flipping and flipping and looking before finally allowing us to proceed – just why? Once through security the first area greeting you see is for Yacht club folks. They can “enjoy” a very tiny box room before being escorted up to a holding area (more on that later).
Arriving as early as we did there were few lines and only a few folks in front of us in the marked off Diamond line. Check-in was reasonably quick but unlike our last HAL we still had to provide just about everything to get our boarding cards. Oh and as Diamond we were assigned, not some kind of priority boarding, but GROUP 7. Just lovely!
We proceed upstairs to gloomy holding pens where MSC had blocked off an area for Yacht club but not for Diamond. As a comparison NCL, when they ran this, had areas for elites as well as Haven and then called for each group one by one vs. the “boarding card number” tickets that resulted in the same thing we see on every flight that everyone crowds the boarding area wanting to board first.
I did manage to talk to someone who was manning the area and was told yes that Diamond would be allowed to board first after Yacht club and handicapped folks and I should stand “over there” and found that other Diamonds who had sailed with MSC to earn their status already knew this is how the process works. I guess some information is too much to ask?
On every NCL cruise I have ever taken we always eat lite at the hotel because we know as soon as we are onboard, either in Haven or not, we can go and sit at a nice table with table cloths and outstanding food and service to launch our time onboard – yes main dining is open and waiting as soon as you can get onboard. Not with MSC and I think the sign above exemplifies what you can expect day one onboard.
Welcome to the constant view of the buffet experience. Dull food (bland) and hordes of people from all over the world pushing eating while in line and cutting you off or simply stepping in front of you as you are ready to reach for anything – it was insane and constant day after day after day!
We were early enough onboard to find a relatively quiet area in the back of the buffet area and enjoyed, well maybe not the right word, some lunch. Stuck together American cheese slices for my salad – yum? Nasty wine in a plastic cup – joy? Tough meat with destroyed beans and dry mashed potatoes – Bon Appétit?
Another odd thing about MSC is how they manage guest rooms. With NCL they block off access to the guest room hallways until the staff are finished preparing the rooms. Not so with MSC and you have guests wandering the hallways impeding and slowing down what is already a slow process to begin with as our room was not ready to be occupied until nearly 4:30PM (they did announce rooms were ready at 2PM but that was a joke as clearly most were not finished).
We found a bar and sat to try to enjoy a quiet drink while waiting for our cabin to be finished (drinking another of the very low quality red wine because the only bar with good wine onboard – other than Yacht Club – was closed till 5PM). After a little while a group from who knows were in the world sat down next to us and were so loud (and on speaker phone facetime calls) that we had to get up and move as we would have to yell to hear each other speak!
The only bright spot of the first day was “Marvin” from the specialty steak restaurant who was walking by when we flagged him down to ask about where to go to book our Diamond “free” night at his restaurant. He was kind and stopped and took the time and said he would be happy to help us book our night and even gave us a confirmation slip. Thank you for this, Marvin so much!
We were so late being able to get to our rooms that we decided to just go to dinner (that did not go well) the first night and enjoy the rain soaked sail away in the clothes we started the day in. I really had high hopes for this cruise but embarkation day was truly a snapshot of just how bad the cruise would be. This first day really was everything folks tell me when they say THIS is the reason I hate cruising and I would agree. – René
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