I have to admit a 3 star rating is harsh. If I were only rating the ship and the wonderful staff it would be a 4 star. However, we joined this Mediterranean cruise in Ancona Italy. The problems started in the large aircraft style hanger of a shed at the port. From our arrival the lack of information, signage or any visible MSC staff to ask questions of was a problem. We had booked MSC’s Auria experience with promises of priority boarding in the brochure blurb. In fact we were left to swealter on plastic cafeteria style chairs for almost two hours until an announcement in Italian caused all and sundry to leave the shed by the original entrance. We then queued for a further 30 minutes outside to enter the adjacent side of the same shed.
Only after getting through this crammed entrance did we see a priority luggage checkin. Had we known it was there the queue would not have been circumnavigable in any event. So I guess we saved about 3 minutes.
Once on board the ship initially appeared “tired”. The Sinfonia seems a very Long ship, its interior design creating a corridor effect as all public areas lead to the next with only decor denoting a change of room. Live music being enjoyed by seated guests being disturbed by the constant flow of chattering passengers moving from dinning to theatre or vice versa.
I know from experience that outbreaks of gastroentoriosis are a cruise ships worst nightmare. But on MSC Sinfonia more often than not the dispensing machines were empty outside most restaurants and the theatre. Bars closed ridiculously early. Even full bars where entertainment was in full swing would close at 11:30. One of the bar staff explained the idea was to keep the guests moving through the ship as the evening progressed until only the disco was left. An ear bleeding volume coming from there prevented many of us getting over its threshold.This was a cruise of very mixed ages. Some people like a quiet drink on deck after dark.
Also MSC attracts a truly international customer base. All announcements naturally are relayed in all major guest languages. This can make the simplest pieces of information by tanoy take a great deal of time. By way of example the loud announcement that the ships testing of the tanoy system had ended took longer than the test when in truth any of us kinda guessed it’s end when the sound stopped. Finally on the negative side. Arriving anywhere seemed to involve the most horrendous queues. We have been fortunate to cruise all over the world and with different companies MSC just haven’t got disembarkation right.
Ok now the good stuff. We had a large room with a walk in wardrobe and a full bath not only a shower. It was discreetly attended by an army of pleasant and couldn’t do enough for you staff. The waiters were great in fact top marks for all the staff we met. Even though we had prepaid the gratuities we chose to tip those staff who had made our voyage more pleasurable. (Not apparently a common thing as the staffs reactions indicated). The Aurea ticket gave us access to a wonderful sundeck with its own bar and loungers or shady tables. This was an oasis away from the forced involvement in poolside adventures the overly energetic and loudly amplified entertainment staff seemed sure you need on an MSC cruise.