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Almost every cruise I have ever been on, even when walking as much as possible and avoiding the elevator unless a number of floors i.e. using the stairs up and down, I have picked up a few pounds that I had to work off when I got home – really not so much on MSC.
Before I get started relating just how bad the food and service was on our MSC Divina cruise I want to share a few (very few) bright points that MSC does. Having the menu accessible via their app so paper menus do not need to be handled is brilliant. All cruise lines should do this. Also not every bite onboard was inedible but that is not saying much. Let me give you an example.
As I mentioned in the embarkation day post my wife and I were very much looking forward to, as we always do on NCL, to a sit-down main dining lunch – but MSC does not open the main dining room on embarkation day until dinner so off to the dreaded buffet.
After our cabin not being ready until nearly dinner time day one we headed off in basically the same clothes we came onboard with. Not a big deal but not what I have come to expect from any other cruise line. We were booked in the larger 6:30pm main dining room and were escorted to a table for two (nice?). The issue was it was literally adjacent to a service station and the entire dinner felt like we were attending STOMP (a great show – but not at dinner). Then there was the “prime rib”. It was OK-ish but do you consider the side a “loaded” baked potato?
This point is a theme for MSC, that is, describe something amazing and deliver something far different and often times very bad.
One more positive before we move on. I had the French Onion soup and it was one of the best I have ever had on a cruise ship, that is, the bread was not so massive or the cheese so think you could not taste the rest of the soup. Even as good as this soup was, my bowl contained an entire bay leaf that I had to fish out since bay leaves are useful for flavor but inedible when left whole.
After the STOMP table we asked for options and were told we could have a “nice” fixed two person table at the smaller main dining restaurant (the one used for breakfast) The Black Crab, but we would have to dine at 6PM. We were fine with that as anything would be better than where we were the night before. However the next evening when we returned there were two women at our table and we had to be moved because we were assigned a table someone else already had for the cruise. Let’s move on.
The above photo is the shrimp cocktail we enjoyed, day one at lunch, on our free Holland America cruise in December. The photo below is the one we were offered on MSC. I ask you, do you enjoy eating shrimp poo because I do not. I expect my shrimp to be clean and have the intestinal tract removed. Regarding this one of my points friends said something to the effect of “I am sure you ate more poo than this as a kid” and this is likely true but I did not pay thousands of dollars to “enjoy” unclean food.
I asked the maitre’d about this and he agreed it was not good but that is how it was provided from the supplier and not to order this again during the cruise as it would not be fixed. So the rest of the guests got to enjoy the poo shrimp?
There were other nights when our server, who was very good, warned us “you really don’t want to order that – try this instead“. One night he said this when I suggested I’d like to order the Chef’s Special for that night.
Another day I ordered a strip steak. It was not food but shoe leather. Gristle, fat and sinew – there was no meat on this paper thin steak horrid “beef”. I ordered a baked potato rather than the clump of mashed and got both. Either way I did not eat it and we got up and walked out!
We popped up to the buffet to get something to get us through the night as we wanted to watch the comedian in the main theater that night and after waiting an HOUR for the gross “steak” we did not want to wait another hour for something else. Let me give you a few more examples.
My wife and I both ordered the shrimp and mushroom risotto (we were told the shrimp for this dish were different and would be clean and safe to eat). While the flavor in this dish was good, and the shrimp was clean, guess how many shrimp we had between the two of us, that is, how many shrimp in both dishes?
Yup this is the kind of quality food control MSC offers. When they come up with a dish that is actually good to eat what you get is a total crap shoot. Let me share another similar issue.
After so many disappointing meals for dinner one night my wife and I both chose the cobb salad. You may think this looks great and it is hard to mess this one up and I would agree it was a nice size and flavorful and everything was cooked – but not so much for my wife. The salad, the same order, she was presented was 50% of what I had. I mean it literally looked like a kids menu choice. How, when they have two plates of the same item right next to each other, can they have such poor quality control in the kitchen.
While talking about the kitchen let me share what was the constant theme every time either breakfast, lunch or dinner in the main dining room – SLOW – service. Dinners always, every single time, took the better part of an hour. Breakfast was slow and often wrong. They often, when we were seated at a larger table, brought out others meals well before ours when we all ordered at the same time. Also the descriptions of the offers were, like with dinner, nothing like what was presented. Take for example the “ham steak” above that was two thin slices of deli ham. Or one time I ordered waffles with a side of bacon – they were so chewy that I only ate one but they did bring me a PILE of maybe a dozen strips of bacon? OK then. Let me share one more big frustration that should not be hard to fix.
My wife and I drink Twinings Earl Grey Tea for breakfast every morning. We even bring our own tea bags (we use loose leaf at home) so that we know what we’re are going to get even when traveling. MSC, being an “international” type cruise line, should know that hot water that comes out of a service pot that once held coffee will make the water taste like coffee. We were told day two to ask for tea pots but you can guess what happened next – yup – they filled them from the same coffee flavored warmers.
I was told by the maitre’d that what we simply had to do, every single day, was to ask for two pots of water and TELL THEM to go and fill it directly from the hot water spout in the machine in back….
Breakfast service was frustrating enough with orders often wrong and lots of servers standing around but none of them coming over to help you and food taking forever that the idea that MSC staff could reliably day after day pull this simple request off was a joke. So we found a solution.
Every day I went up and braved the scrum at the buffet to fill my Delta Air Lines promo insulated water bottle. By the time we came for breakfast the tea bags had steeped and were ready to go and we did not have to wait forever to enjoy a hot cup in the morning. Oh and even though cranberry juice is on the menu – forget about asking for it as you can only get it up on the buffet (guess I need to go get that on my own too before breakfast – so why am I paying a daily tip charge when I have to do all the work?)!
Most days we did not have the patience or the heart to brave the lunch buffet (also the only choice) so we just shot down for a quick piece of pizza (near the entrance) then escaped back to our lounge chairs.
Overall I have never been so disappointed with everything surrounding the main dining experience on a cruise line. Most cruises we look forward to dinner every night (like the amazing food on Holland America just the month before) but with MSC we were just waiting to see what went wrong time after time.
I think what a fellow blogger told me about MSC sums up the entire meal experience on MSC when he told me that when he books MSC he looks for a place to go eat in port each day – what a ringing endorsement of the MSC dining experience! – René
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