Why Would Anyone in the USA Ever Book an MSC Cruise? Is This The WORST Cruise Line Ever?

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Today I am back home in gray and cold Indiana after having escaped the worst of bone-numbing, sub-zero wind chills and snow plus sleet and other yuck. However, I endured my own pain, and it included my first-ever voyage with MSC. And, let me tell you, it will be and was my last one ever.

While still covering my first ever (amazing) Holland America cruise I will also begin a long series of posts regarding my MSC Divina sailing that was, unlike HAL, not a “free” cruise but one I paid for with Chase Ultimate Rewards® and I was excited about the sailing to see how being an MSC Diamond would be treated (after my free status match to their top elite level).

M – Most
S – Shoddy
C – Cruise (line)

Without spoiling all the “fun” of the coming series of posts, I will share a quick overview of my experience and that almost every single part of this cruise had failures (some huge,  some smaller). But a constant reminder of why I don’t think anyone in the US market should ever book with MSC!

a bridge with a glass walkway
Person going to hospital after MSC Divina cruise

Overall, as you can briefly see, the voyage was a complete disaster and I have to tell you if I had never ever been on a cruise I would never go on one ever again thinking this is how they all are. There were a few tiny bright spots I will share where MSC does good but it is like saying the upside of being rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery was the wifi was fast during your stay and the Jell-O was a real treat!

a screenshot of a survey
Is there a number lower than zero?

Before any MSC defenders jump in and say something like “well you idiot – why did you book one of the oldest ships MSC sails – what did you expect?” I would say I have sailed on almost every ship NCL has, many very old, and they were all simply amazing experiences. Also, as a former very frequent Delta Air Lines flyer, I know a company can take very old airplanes and update the insides so they look like and feel like a brand new jet from the customer’s perspective. It is a choice by the company to be this horrible!

When I booked this I thought that, gosh, it will be so simple to keep my MSC Diamond status by simply booking an MSC cruise once every three years. But now I will hold that status for three years and not care at all that it will be gone in 2027, as even if MSC paid me to go on another voyage I will never set foot on one of their ships ever again!

Clearly, this is going to be an “interesting” review and series of posts.  – Rene

 

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René de Lambert
René de Lamberthttp://www.FrequentFloaters.com
René de Lambert has been a travel blogger for over 10 years covering the travel industry - including cruising.

34 COMMENTS

  1. MSC is one of our favorite cruise lines, we have sailed with MSC 12 times in Europe. Perhaps, though, our experience is colored by the fact we book in the Yacht Club. Free WiFi, free drinks and private dining and preferential status boarding at ports. The food is delicious and gourmet snacks are available until late at night.
    I will admit that the entertainment is lacking, we don’t care to be entertained every night by the ship’s troupe.
    We find that the employees go above and beyond, much more so than Carnival or Royal. I will agree with you on the rude Passengers. Everyone should take a course in elevator manners before boarding.!

    • @Caroline – I chatted with, and had a drink in the Yacht club, with some guests and clear that experience is night and day vs. a standard passenger. The Haven on NCL is truly amazing but the standard experience is wonderful as well.

  2. When I read on this blog that MSC was matching NCL’s status level, I took advantage of that offer. The wife and I are planning an extended cruise and have been looking at NCL and MSC. This review will certainly change our choice of cruise line. Please be specific in your criticism in your future posts. Thank you.

  3. This is SO timely! I was just browsing November cruise fares yesterday, and MSC is lower than anybody – even cheaper than Carnival! – out of every Florida departure port I checked, for every variety of cabin (inside/outside / balcony / suite). It seemed so bizarre. Then I read on one of the forums, it’s basically a Carnival ship with 1.5x the amount of passenger people. Supposedly the MSC Yacht Club experience is better?

    Now I know it really is too good to be true! Thanks for taking one for the team, Rene. You’ve helped me dodge a bad experience

    • You get what you pay for. I am a TA with 54 cruises under my belt. To really treat yourself book a cruise on the celebrity beyond or ascent . Sailings finest hour ever. I really mean it.

  4. Sailed with MSC out of Port Canaveral last year. My mom had cruised with MSC several times, all in the Yacht Club and invited us to go. It was a fine experience and we had a good time most likely because we were in the Yacht Club. I would probably not recommend cruising on MSC without that designation, but if going Yacht Club I would recommend MSC. I don’t know other cruise lines, but I feel like I couldn’t cruise any brand without being in their ship within a ship. We had done our homework and knew it would be European focused and different, but we ultimately liked the vibe on our cruise. We docked next to a Carnival ship in the the Bahamas and I could already tell that line wasn’t for us. Cest la vie.

      • @rene,

        A cruise on CCL from Miami will be a very different experience than one out of Seattle. At least the experience that you will have with other passengers. The Alaska bound cruises were much more mellow and better behaved Activities were the same as Miami based cruises.

  5. I have sailed MSC in Europe and have tried to sail their ships in the US, but MSC doesn’t want solo cruisers. Let me be very clear on this- they have a few solo cabins that have an American twin bed in them. That’s it. If you are a solo cruiser who wants to buy an interior room for the price of 2 and only put one person in that room? You cannot purchase the room. They will not sell it to you. Period. And I’ve tried. I saw those $298 7 day cruises out of NYC and figured 600 bucks for a 7 day cruise? Let’s go! Nope. They literally will not book the room with only one person in it. Maybe I want a nicer room than a solo cabin with a twin. Too bad. No other cruise line has ever refused to sell me a room. Such a shame.

  6. Worst cruise by far of the 33 my wife and I have been on was on the NCL Epic out of San Juan for New Years Eve 2022-2023. Food was bad, the ship was falling apart, engines were blowing chunks of soot, the crew seemed like they were being whipped in the back room, bartenders couldn’t make anything more complex than a rum and coke, the food was bad (raw pork chop in specialty dining), the ship was filthy, and I had to yell at a bartender on the pool desk that “I’m not invisible” as he only catered to people who spoke Spanish.. Our cabin steamed up one day when we opened the balcony door and we could see on the mini suite cabinets where they had not been cleaned (half the cabin) and all the hand prints. It was so vile we cancelled 2 more cruises with them. Second worst was on the Epic out of San Juan in December 2019 where they let people swelter for hours in the heat with no water during boarding until people literally has to be taken to the hospital. That one departed so late we had to overnight in San Juan and then NCL decided to just cut Bonaire off the itinerary with no port fee refunds. You’re welcome for the gift, NCL. Third worst cruise we ever had was on the Breakaway in 2018, but it was our first with NCL and we figured people must fanboy them for some good reason, so maybe it was just a bad cruise. Unlike you though, we had multiple data points before we decided a cruise line was the “worst” and bailed forever.

    • We have cruised on NCL four times. Three of those cruises were very good. The only bad one was in early 2019 on the Epic. That was the cruise that had a fire, engine failure and collision with the pier in San Juan that made international news. Needless to say, we will never sail on the Epic again.

    • Just done NCL Breakaway in NovemberDecember 2033. Back to back cruises and that’s a month of my life I won’t get back. Disembarkation is very slow…we were transit passengers I NYC and it took 2 hours to get off the ship for a 6hr window in NYC. Missed the Azores completely..no explanation…so 5 days transatlantic…no entertainment to speak of unless you are interested in buying something from them or the casino. Big ship not enough seating in public areas and the freestyle dining is disastrous. So sick of fighting for a seat everyday. No chsnge in menus in main dining for 2 cruises.
      Upside: the staff were wonderful

  7. I like your site but to destroy MSC is just plain wrong. You are spoiled to the point where you expect everything to be above the normal traveler. I have taken almost 100 cruises and there are some companies that are better in some ways than others but they all have their positive points. In other words you pay for what you get. MSC does a good job for the average person who can’t afford your spoiled taste.

  8. My experience is different from yours. I’ve sailed with them 4-5 times & only one I wouldn’t do again is MSC Opera. Not because it was old but because it sailed in Europe & there was zero control of where smokers smoked. The other experiences & food were great & we were lucky enough to get upgraded to from Aurea to Yacht Club on our last one. We didn’t realize we’d been upgraded (not requested) until we checked in online. That was a fantastic experience. My travel budget is much lower than yours, judging by your posts, so my experiences are viewed through a different lens. I’m just happy to have all these travel experiences & always try to look at the glass as full or at least half full

  9. We need to compare apples with apples. Knowing how much you pay , which room, and how many days would help me decide whether you get what you paid for. I’ve cruised MSC. I dont have any problems.

    • @Jo – I will cover all that but none of that really matters if the experience is horrid (unless you are saying if someone got a MSC promotional deal they are not worthy of good service and treatment?)! Be sure to follow along in the posts.

  10. I agree with Jo Charque’s comment. NCL, HAL and others dont have any kids/family booking conditions. MSC is truly family friendly by offering kids stay almost for free. This cuts the cost in half – allowing cruising with the family twice for the same price then with NCL etc
    Trust me, I work in this industry since 1990 and have been on over 100 ships. It depends how much you want to spend. Try Crystal, Seabourn etc – small, elite(?) – boring since all guests between 70 and death are in bed by 9 PM…

    • @Norbert – NCL, almost always, has the “Free at Sea” promo where “Free 3rd & 4th Guests. Save up to $1,000 with free third and fourth guests on select dates.” You just have to look for those. Plus they have dedicated kids area etc. etc.

  11. We just got off MSC World Europa. Gorgeous ship, good food, incredible wait staff. We liked the shorter shows so we could do other things the rest of the evening. Don’t bash an entire cruise line based on one ship.

  12. Sailed on MSC Meraviglia just before Covid. Truly, the most beautiful ship we have been on…….but! The main dining room food quality and service ruined the trip. The design of the dining facility was so poorly thought out that the waiters needed to travel a great distance up and down ramps to bring poorly prepared food to the table.
    With Cirque de Soliel onboard, frustration rose watching Yacht Club level passengers in line, being guided past us regular folks by butlers in ‘tails’. Rub it in why not!
    The ship had a number of unruly guests, many who, belonging to travel clubs, paid less than $100 for a 13 day cruise, seemingly just to fill the ship.

    • @Robert – I agree on the food and will cover that in coming posts. As to Yacht Club folks that is part of the reason to pay the upcharge for such a cabin and experience. As an example NCL Epic had (maybe still does) have a Cirque dining and show experience. The food was just so-so thus we ate in the Haven restaurant then had our butler take us in after the meal to just enjoy the show.

  13. René, I see a lot of generalisations but not too many specifics. I started off selling cruises in my first career and now I travel on them for fun. I’ve sailed with MSC both within Europe and in the Caribbean and I think a great experience is down to your research. Then you were the ship, the shinier everything is and that’s obviously something that attracts you. I wouldn’t willingly sail on one of the oldest ships, unless it had an itinerary I couldn’t miss.

    Breakdown your cost per night, including drinks packages against other companies like royal Caribbean and NCL. I doubt it equates…

    Firstly, if you have an issue talk to the crew on board and get a resolution rather than coming home and whining. It’s amazing how many things can be sorted by a face-to-face conversation. We’ve had issues on board with certain things like a faulty bathroom. Polite persistence is the key to getting things done. I never came home whingeing and moaning like a four-year-old to my audience about how my vacation was destroyed by a cruise company, because it wasn’t.

    Not liking the food is a subjective thing. You may expect a different level of seasoning. Add seasoning to your food and the problem is solved. To say food is terrible is a huge generalisation, just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it wrong

  14. Traveled MSC once. The ship was brand new and beautiful. Super clean. We had booked a suite with balcony and were disappointed to find the cabin very, very small with only enough storage for one person. The food was passable but not great. We skipped the dining room most nights. We had read before leaving that customer service on European ships is different than others. They tend to wait until asked for something and are then very helpful. On other lines crew members are more proactive approaching you. We found that to be true. Yes their prices are low. I won’t say MSC is on my “never go again” list, but at least I will know what to expect.

  15. I have been on two MSC cruises so far. My GF is platinum on CCL and they matched her to gold and I was titanium at Marriott which they matched to silver.

    I had a comped cruise on the Davina over Labor Day weekend 2.5 years ago and we figured we would try it. Boat was old but nice. Service was a little spotty as they were still on the rebound from Covid. Food was pretty good and the casino at that time was non smoking. A big plus for me.

    We also sailed an 8 day on the Seascape out of Miami last year. Again it was enjoyable, but our balcony was near the “smoking” section so yes depending on where we were or how fast we were going we did smell the smoke. Our neighbor was enjoying Herb on his balcony.

    Definitely a more European feel than HAL, CCL, NCL and RCL. Bacon was available every day in the buffet as opposed to the last CCL ship I was on where it was every other day. I was happy in the casino, but while they have activtities , my GF was bored compared to what she does on a CCL ship. Davina shows were Eh. seascape were very entertaining.

    Our cruise came with WiFi and the basic drink package (up to I think 11 or $12 a drink). We checked the drink menu before hand and felt we could live in that. You did have the option to pay an upgrade fee to the premium plan online before boarding and it was a reasonable price. Also unlike carnival, no 15 drink limit. I couldn’t speak for the wine selection, as I am not a wine drinker. But I was happy with tequila, whiskey and coffees.

    At the time we did the 2nd cruise it was 1200 a couple cheaper for the same week on a CCL ship and it included drinks and WiFi.

    Would it be my first choice, no. But I would definitely cruise them again for the right deal.

    My late wife and I were on the NCL pearl in 2015 and she hated it and swore she would never sail them again. Being shorter she noticed dirty things that I did not. I think that there will always be people who just happen to have that bad experience….

    I’m not going to tell you how to spend your money and your time, but maybe try another ship if a good opportunity comes up.

    And yes they do try to nickel and dime you by upselling you stuff and yes they sell “experiences” and yes they say all announcements in four languages with English being last.

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