Arrived at Barcelona embarkation point at about 11am. We offloaded our bags at the desk outside and were given a number but on stating we were Black card members the number was taken back and we were given another card with a symbol on it. We went inside and it was chaos. There were people crowding around this poor woman who was shouting “step back, step back”. She ushered us through and we went straight to the check in desk. After checking in we were told to keep our card in our hands till we boarded the ship. We had been pre-warned about the scam whereby they take your photo on embarkation and then the photos appear in your cabin and 19.99 added to your bill the day before disembarkation. A woman swiped our card but we said we didn’t want our photo taken. She tried to say it was security but we knew it was not. We boarded, our real security photos were taken and we were good to go. Even though they did not take our photos the 19.99 appeared on our bill on the penultimate day so don’t let them swipe your card as you’ll still be charged even though you’ve had no photos taken. Very shoddy. That means you have to drag yourself down to the photo desk to get the charge taken off – which is usually 5 deep with people doing the very same thing. Shocking MSC.
We had pre-purchased the £20 a day drinks package which was outstanding value this included cocktails, prosecco, 2 red, 2 white, 1 rose wine, fancy coffees, water, ice cream. The ice cream on the promenade you have to pay for but there is free ice cream at the Atmosphere bar however it is the whippy type ice cream which I don’t like. We found the Polar bar which had 5/6 flavours of the Italian ice cream including coconut (my favourite) included in the package. There were no children using the flumes during this trip but this elderly man was having a great time to himself with a rubber tube. It was chilly but not too cold.
Our cabin was an inside on deck 12 and as stated previously there is not a lot of storage space. We ended up leaving stuff in our cases under the bed. The bathroom was fine although I had to step out to get dried. The bed and pillows were comfy. The TV had only news in English on Sky but there were a few recent movies to rent.
We did have a problem with fumes coming into the cabin and when we complained were told it was the design of the ship. They said if the wind was blowing in a certain direction the fumes were sucked back into the air conditioning system. All I know is I had a thumping headache and felt nauseous when in the cabin so tried to spend as little time as possible in there.
We had early dining at 6.30pm on a table for 8. The food was fine. There was always something we could find to eat and considering my husband doesn’t eat cheese, pasta or pizza he was quite happy with the menu choices. One night I was a bit peckish so had the mini fish & chips in the English Pub. It was okay but the batter was soggy and not crispy like it should be. We did go to Butchers Cut twice as my husband enjoys a steak. Some people tried to order a drink in Butchers Cut using their prepaid drinks vouchers but were told they were not accepted. The ladies just got up and went to another bar and brought back 2 bottles of wine. We used our drinks package okay so what’s the difference MSC?
In the main restaurant the service was crisp and our glasses refilled no problem. The waiters do seem rushed but were trying their best to cope. The tables are very close together and I don’t know how some of the waiters squeezed through but they did.
We only went to one show and was shown how to book it on the interactive screen then our card was scanned on entering. It didn’t seem to be working that well though as most people entered in the last 5 mins without prebooking. Maybe teething troubles.
We didn’t encounter any queues getting off the ship but getting back on in Palermo was a nightmare. There were 2 queues with only one scanning machine for each. On this cruise most of the scanning was done shoreside in Genoa, Palermo & Valletta. We don’t know about Marseille as we didn’t get off. In Valletta, Malta there is a very good duty free shop with cheap tobacco etc.
We had pre-paid our gratuities and on checking with Reception found they had no record of receiving any monies (even after checking ashore). This resulted in us having to tip crew who served us directly. We have taken this up with Cruise Nation as we want to know where the money has gone – cyber space apparently.
There seemed to be a distinct lack of seating on the ship and what seating there was was not comfy. The chairs in the Champagne bar were too high at the sides. Half of the Champagne bar seemed to be solely for the use of people knitting or doing crafts. I asked for a glass of prosecco but was told I had to have one of their cocktails containing prosecco not just a straight prosecco. Also in the Sky Lounge (again with the most uncomfortable seats) I asked for a Baileys Alexander but was told to go to the Horizon Bar and get one there. The Horizon Bar was a sheltered bar outside which seemed to be favoured by smokers and my elegant cocktail was served in a plastic glass.
It’s not 22nd January and Cruise Nation have sent us two emails, both standard responses without actually addressing our concerns. I wouldn’t book with them again.