Avoid MSC; Worst vacation ever!

Feb 8th, 2017, 05:33 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 2
Avoid MSC; Worst vacation ever!

My wife and I scheduled a cruise in December of 2016. Our previous experience with cruises were quite different, in that they, unlike MSC, apparently did concern themselves with customer satisfaction.

It began with an absolute disaster of an embarkation process. Rather than assigning arrivals to group boarding, thus enabling them to remain seated and comfortable in the interim, MSC opted for the cutthroat approach; everyone gets in line and stays there. We arrived at 11:30 and did not actually make it onto the ship until after 5 PM. Additionally, we were told that the reason the boarding process was so long, was an extreme vetting routine performed by the Customs for all egressing passengers. That was a lie. We spoke to departing passengers who mentioned nothing of this at all but instead regaled us with tales of disoriented and uncoordinated egress routines from the line – which, as we discovered, is absolutely the truth.

When we finally did board, we eventually found our room despite the incorrect information on the provided maps. My guess is, the Divina was retrofitted, and they never bothered to update the paper maps. That fact speaks volumes for this cruise line.

We reached the room to find out luggage had not yet made it. Odd, considering in less time on other lines, our bags were waiting for us and the room steward paraded the halls introducing himself and memorizing customer names. On the Divina, the bags were missing, no steward to be found. We finally did meet ours, though only saw her once. I didn’t bother to mention since it was days later, that upon our arrival the bathroom was dingy, and there were hairs in the sink.

We had not eaten since breakfast, so we sought something sate ourselves. The buffet (an accurate term if one is merely describing a function that presents copious quantities of food-like substances) was open, so we placed a few items onto plates and looked for a beverage station. The coffee bar was open (or so we thought), and my wife merely asked where one might get a beverage. The attendant rolled his eyes and appeared impatient that his reverie was disturbed. We were astounded and disgusted by this person’s lack of even the most basic of manners and discarded our food trays, having now lost our appetite. Rest assured, she nor I, are prima donnas, expecting the employees to act as servants to our every whim, but likewise, we don’t expect rude behavior as a response to a simple query when a simple direction would have sufficed. It is interesting to note that on a different occasion, my wife wanted a real coffee (the free stuff at the buffet is watery nonsense) and was willing to pay. She requested a cappuccino and with another disgusted look by the barista and a dismissive wave of the hand, he informed here the ‘free coffee is over there.'
My wife is a smoker (vapor, to be fair) and after the stresses of the day thus far, needed a release. Following the false map once again led us to an area that at one time allowed smoking, but no longer did. Her inquiries to bartenders and wait staff alike again resulted in rude, curt, and abrupt responses, also with no direction, but merely resolution that ‘this was not the area, go somewhere else.'

About that time, a garbled announcement started all passengers were required to obtain the life vest from their cabins and attend the safety meeting. We had experienced this previously on other lines, as a coordinated effort, broken out into small manageable groups, each that would be assigned a lifeboat. The address in these previous trips had been clear, short, and to the point. Not so with MSC. A large group formed in one of the wrap-around dining areas. Where we sat, we could neither see nor hear the briefing. We sat immobilized, unsure of what to do when some folks started to try on their life jackets. Most just sat there and waited. No one heard or understood what was being said, if anything, but we did waste 45 minutes doing it. At some point, people just started to filter out. The comforting thing was, we realized after the fact we could have merely checked in with our key card and walked away.

We decided to consider the cigar room, as I am an avid cigar enthusiast. I noticed several things about this so called “well appointed” cigar lounge; it was not a lounge, at least not until a certain time, it was remarkably warm (as was the entire ship – which makes for ‘fun’ formal nights), and there lacked any smoke removal process within that small area. During my week-long detainment in this gulag of a ship, I noticed that by the time the bar opened (around 5:30) the smoke was so thick, most people could not breathe in there, and your clothes reeked of stale cigar smoke and sweat. Side note, Alex the bartender and his sole waitress were the singular high points of the entire trip

Our first dinner in the dining room. I was anticipating this, as previous cruises meant wonderful vistas (ocean through the windows), clean and appropriately defined tables, excellent food, and superior customer service. I still recall the head waiter’s name and his three kids from our first cruise; he left such a good impression. “Jeff” on this cruise left an impression as well, but not a positive one. The food was disgusting. Ossobuco that was 95% bone, 4% fat, and 1% edible. I had one and a half bites. Alfredo that was overcooked pasta and a teaspoon of some sauce that was not Alfredo. I have pictures. The table ‘decoration’ was a single, decrepit, and fake orchid that was stained with the food particulate from previous guests. It epitomized our trip.

For an additional fee, they will feed you edible food; how comforting. We never saw the maître d; I guess he or she doesn’t visit second seating. Other in first seating saw him and told him of the same woes. They were given coupons for the Eataly restaurant and found it to be devoid of value and were glad they didn’t pay. Not only was most of the food inedible, the portion sizes were ridiculously small. Even the ladies at our table were asking for second appetizers, only to be met with consternation and disapproval from the waiter. Oh, no views either, and it was hot as hades in there.

As for “Jeff” the waiter. Our first night, we had no idea you only get water or bad coffee with dinner, so my wife asked for iced tea. The waiter rolled his eyes (a common theme) put his hand in my wife’s face, and said “you’ll just have to wait a minute” and walked away without taking our order. I leaped from my chair asking if there was a problem, as I didn’t appreciate his putting his hand in my wife’s face. He said there was no problem, and walked off. No matter what we or the other diners at our table asked for if it was out of the ordinary in Jeff’s mind, it was a clear problem.
At the coffee/gelato bar near the cigar room, I attempted to garner my cup of cappuccino, as noted previously, no one ever serviced the cigar lounge and the bar was closed all day. I was at first ignored by the barista, then pointed toward the waitress also just standing there at the counter, who reluctantly helped me by repeating what I had just ordered (as though the barista did not comprehend it – yes she also spoke English).

Our first night, the door which separates the balconies from the rooms (which I assume opens in the base of multi-room suites for families) was not secured and banged all night. I attempted to call the service desk, several times, with no response. The next morning, after getting no sleep because of it, I went to the desk, explained the problem, and they informed me someone would fix it. No apologies, no empathy, just a conditional response.

We met many others, in fact, everyone we spoke to across the internment agreed to the horrible conditions of this ship and the poor customer service. We honestly considered leaving the ship and flying home at the first port. Departure day came, much to our excitement, only to find we were forced to evacuate our rooms by 7 AM, but not allowed to leave the ship until after 10:30 AM. The only offer of advice during the entire trip from the staff was to “not evaluate the whole ship based upon single episodes (plural) of disappointment”. That indicates they are aware of the malaise on the part of the crew and the impact to customers, and yet, still do not care.

I sent a typed letter to several key individuals at MSC, including the CEO and to the parent company’s CEO Diego Aponte in Geneva. The lackadaisical response is one I should have anticipated, given the state of their employees. I clearly stated each of my concerns, and in every circumstance, I was offered false condolences followed by pathetic excuses. In fact, the Mr. Richard Sasso, chairman of MSC Cruises immediately negated my entire argument right from the start by stating that he receives many complimentary letters; an indication that I must be somehow responsible, or overly sensitive. Most of my comments were ignored and presented with some canned response that does not even remotely address my concerns, and the entire letter is dismissive – so much like their staff.

In the end, he offered me a $200 per person cruise credit, should I opt to try them again. As I explained, I would not take another cruise if they gave me one. I am less concerned with the wasted money (but I would have accepted a partial refund in principle) as I am with the wasted time. That was the most significant loss and not something that is replaceable.

I would avoid MSC altogether unless you thrive on constant disappointment.
daemonguy is offline  
Feb 8th, 2017, 08:07 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,426
The embarkation sounds disorganized and I too don't believe vetting of egressing passengers.

How was the over all performance of the steward? Did she keep your room tidy and well supplied? I assume you got your bags. How long did that take?

You mean you were so turned off by the person you asked for a beverage you left w/o eating?

So you went to a coffee bar, asked the barista for cappuccino and he refused and told you to go elsewhere? How strange. He just tossed away some tip money.

Sounds like the life boat drill was negligent to me.

I don't know about the cigar bar as I don't smoke so I am nit sure if they normally have ventilation systems. I would hope so.

Seems there was a problem with the AC. was it ever resolved?

I have heard that CS on MSC is below par and if half of what you say is true that would suffice for me.

In all fairness I looked at other passenger reviews on cruise critic for this ship for the 12/2016 cruising and though there were some bad ones there were a lot of good ones too, more than I am used to seeing for MSC.

Sorry you had such a bad time. I am not ready for MSC yet, maybe never unless their reviews improve a great deal.
jacketwatch is offline  
Feb 9th, 2017, 02:26 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,914
I have taken one MSC cruise and never again. For an Italian line the food was ersatz Italian and horrible...this was
in Europe so staff did not speak English & overly doted on the cruisers' children who ran rampant.
Rhea58 is offline  
Feb 15th, 2017, 06:14 AM
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Embarkation and debarkation were a complete disaster. There must be better methods to move a large number of people around -- Disney does it every day, not to mention other cruise lines find a means that is not so haphazard.

I would say her (room steward) was passable after the initial errors. The bathroom remained dingy, and the room was tidy enough. I and more perturbed by a lack of personal service like I found on other cruise lines.

Yes, my wife, who was already irritated by the general malaise of the employees, did drop her tray and walked off. You must understand, he was exceptionally rude, and we had just experienced a 5-hour boarding menagerie.

It wasn't just that the barista pointed out the 'free' swill, I mean coffee in the buffet, it was his attitude about it.

A/C issues were never resolved. I complained, to no avail as did others.

Honestly, there are only two good reasons to cruise; good food and great customer service. MSC lacks in both categories in the extreme. If yu complain about one employee to the customer service desk, they treat you similarly, so there is no point to it. I wrote the company, expressing all of these points (I even have pictures and corroborating documentation from other passengers) and the response from them was condescending and dismissive -- exactly how their employees act. Not surprising.

I saw some of those reviews that were gleaming of MSC and the Divina in particular. Perhaps those people are not expecting customer service, or decent food (lowered expectations?) Or maybe they are shills for the company creating reviews that show how the ship shines.

Here's the truth of it. MSC could offer me an entire month of cruising, all expenses paid including a free bar tab for any beverage of my choosing and I would decline immediately. I didn't choose MSC because of the price, but the timing. I have an insane schedule and my free time is extremely invaluable to me, and I feel as though I wasted a week and that bothers me more than anything. If they had just been courteous, and if the food had been passable, I would never have complained.

If I received even a heartfelt apology from the company I might not have bothered to post on any cruise site, it simply isn't worth the time. However, none of that came to pass, and I would be remiss if I allowed even one more person to experience the prigione of an MSC cruise.
daemonguy is offline  
Feb 15th, 2017, 08:17 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,426
Thank you for the reply. I am sorry about your experience. I would be mad as hell too especially if my precious free time was wasted.

I did look again at the reviews on cruise critic and while some are suspicious there are many positive reviews from long time members with multiple posts. Of course this does not diminish your experience in any way. It was a mess and I believe it.

MSC has it roots in shipping goods and to me the ethic of customer service has not taken root or at least to the extent as it exists on other cruise lines. It seems they have a very long way to go and if they don't take ownership of the problems they have that road is a very long one.

Best of luck in the future.

jacketwatch is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2017, 08:31 PM
Join Date: Feb 2017
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I'm sorry your experience on this cruise did not meet with your approval, but as with every cruise, some people love it, while others on the same cruise will hate it. Some people can overlook some of the little things that go wrong, while others will let every little thing affect their entire cruise. So, it's not surprising that we hear the occasional post about someone being displeased.

We've been on the Divina and have had many clients sail on her. We had a great cruise with no complaints. Yes, there were some minor issues, but nothing like you witnessed. We've also had many clients sail on the Divina and have never once had any major complaints.

So, while you did not have a good experience does not mean others will or that they should not give them a chance because of your experience.

Now, in all fairness, MSC is a European company and they do do things differently than the major cruise lines most Americans have become accustomed to. Does not mean it's bad, just means it's different. When they first brought the Divina over here, there were alot of complaints about the service. It was not so much about it being bad, but just different than what American cruisers were use to, especially those who have never been to other parts of the world. MSC listened and began to understand the problems, so changes were made and things have gotten better. They continue to learn and are still making changes. In fact, they are now building 2 brand new ships specifically for the American market and are making major changes on them in order to accommodate the fickle demands of the average American cruiser.

With that said, it's quite possible many of your complaints had to deal more with some of the differences in MSC when compared to what you're use to as opposed to actually being problems. If your agent was any good at their job, they would have explained all this to you, so you would have been ready for the differences and not been so offended by them.

But having been on the Divina and having many clients who have sailed on them, I have absolutely no problem with suggesting them to others. However, I also advised them ahead of time as to what to expect, so they were not disappointed and enjoyed their cruise.

storybookcruises is offline  
Feb 24th, 2017, 06:41 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9,314
Pete, I was with you until you said MSC was making changes (on their new ships) to accommodate the "fickle" demands of the "average American cruiser." How condescending that sounds! Do you actually know the meaning of the word fickle? Exactly in what way, based on the meaning of fickle, are the demands of the "average American cruiser" "fickle?"

Did you mean finicky? To classify as a group, approximately 12 million people (the number of cruisers from North America) as finicky would have still been condescending, insulting and rude, but would have at least made sense in the context in which you used fickle.

Last Spring, my family and I did a week long cruise on the MSC Divina and enjoyed it, but not being "finicky" or easily put off by an inattentive waiter, and always intent on having a good vacation together, we overlooked several things that should have been better. These things had nothing to do with our being American cruisers. We have spent a lot of time in Italy and are very aware of cultural differences, size of food portions, style of service, etc. so those differences were expected and were not a problem. The entertainment was absolutely superb! The food was for the most part, very good. The wait staff and kitchen staff was wonderful. The cabin steward was good. MSC does so many things right! However, our whole family agreed that the things they did poorly, were enough that we would not overlook them for a second cruise.

If they think larger portions and more visible room stewards are the issue, they will never get it right for the "fickle" "average American cruiser" and especially not for the finicky ones. So as not to be ambiguous about the problems, here is one of several. Signs were posted about children in diapers not allowed in some pools or hot tubs and no children in the adult pool and parents required to be with young children in pools. This rule was never, at any time, enforced by anyone. Babies in diapers were in pools and hotubs, with even a diaper or two floating around. Parents were often nowhere to be seen by the deeper pools. These were not isolated incidences. It was all the time! Staff simply shrugged if it was called to their attention. Call me a "fickle" or "finicky" average American cruiser, but I can't sit in a hot tub with a diaper in it.
Sassafrass is offline  
Feb 25th, 2017, 01:41 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,426
Well said Sass.

I once worked with a heart surgeon who was from France. He said that after being in the US for a while he too began to become more demanding of proper service so maybe we are more "fickle" but there is nothing wrong with expecting services performed to be performed well and not accepting just mediocre.
jacketwatch is offline  
Feb 25th, 2017, 01:42 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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Also Pete lost me with that comment. Not too cool for a travel agent!
jacketwatch is offline  
Mar 9th, 2017, 04:02 PM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 1,968
Pete lost me at "When they first brought the Divina over here, there were alot of complaints about the service. It was not so much about it being bad, but just different than what American cruisers were use to, especially those who have never been to other parts of the world."

Oh, you silly, unsophisticated, hayseed Americans!

Don't know what Pete is like as a travel agent, but he's got some high-grade shade throwing skills there. But it's all good, folks - that's a difference, not a problem. (Insert eyeroll emoticon here.)
dsquared is online now  
Mar 11th, 2017, 01:19 PM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,616
I just did an MSC cruise and really liked it. Maybe we were lucky, don't know
live42day is offline  
May 30th, 2017, 04:25 PM
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 239
Another poster registered to complain and then scrams!! Makes companies look bad to the causal traveler that comes to fodors.
DARK_MAGIC is offline  
May 30th, 2017, 05:17 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9,314
True DARK_ MAGIC, but others, like Pete from storybookcruises, come on to defend a company and never return.

It did seem the OP was a bit over the top, but my review was not, IMHO, and traveler's do need as much info as possible. We all know that things like food is somewhat subjective, but the more opinions the better.

I do like specifics though. Live42day, how about a trip report?
Sassafrass is offline  
May 30th, 2017, 05:33 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 63,525
DARK_MAGIC: >> Makes companies look bad to the causal traveler that comes to fodors.<<

If you hadn't topped the two old threads no one would see them - they were both well and buried. You brought them back to the top . . .
janisj is online now  

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