November 2014 - MSC Divina to Caribbean - Eastern
This was our family’s first cruise on MSC, and having read both positive and negative reviews, we went into this cruise with fairly low expectations. We are a family of easy going travelers who enjoy both sea and land based vacations, and I do most of the vacation planning. I figured how bad could it be if I didn’t have to cook or clean for a week, and we were going to be entertained ?
Just to preface this review, I booked this cruise in February ( 9 months in advance), with a balcony and an inside for the kids. We upgraded the kids to a balcony on a 4th of July flash sale, and paid in full at that time. This was all done through our TA and all MSC paperwork emailed to me. Then, 3 weeks before the cruise, I called MSC to prebook packages, but they wouldn’t speak to me as I had booked with a TA. I had our TA contact MSC to prebook AND prepay all our drink packages and excursions, as I didn’t want a hefty bill at the end of the cruise. It took them a while to get it all figured out, but it finally got done, credit card charged and receipt from MSC emailed to me outlining what I paid for. Then I went online and did online check-in for all of us, and printed out the Web Check-in document MSC provides.
Day of Embarkation we arrived at the terminal around 1:30 pm, and waited in line about 30 mins. Not terribly long, but it was fairly chilly in there with the AC being very strong at some points in the line. Once we got to the front, DH split off with DS and I took DD. We were both notified that they could not locate our reservation, and they were going to have to contact a supervisor. 25 minutes later, and no updates in between at all, we are told “we have you on the manifest, but no other record of you.” 15 minutes after that, they were able to print us cruise cards, and we boarded the ship. At this point we knew we needed to switch room cards to put the kids in their own room, so we headed down to guest services to take care of this. This was actually handled fairly smoothly. Then off to the casino to pick up my prepaid packages (which I wasn’t feeling very confident about, considering my lost reservation). I was right to be concerned, as they had no record of them, and sent me back to deal with guest services.
This is where my whole cruise was soured, as I had to spend the next 5 days, and 15 encounters with the desk to finally get resolution to my problem. Apparently MSC has a “process” that they MUST follow if a guest has a problem onboard, which involves them emailing the problem to the home office, then waiting for a reply back. I understand that this would be more efficient for an international traveler, but I was booked through the US office, and a quick phone call would have cleared my problem up immediately.
I had printed documentation outlining exactly what I had booked and paid for, including copies of my credit card charge, as I had previously read of others having problems. So I figured it should be a quick matter to clear up, and be on my way. NOPE… The desk informed me that it could be up to 2 days before I received a resolution. They sent off an email, and told me to check back with them that evening. At this point, I needed to also go see the Maitre ‘D as we had no dining assignment either, due to them losing our reservation. This had to be the longest line I waited in all cruise. After waiting 45 minutes we were finally assigned a table for 4 for early dining. But after all this running around on board, we were just too tired to get ready for dinner, so skipped first night.
I went back to our room, called my TA and let her know what was going on. She called me back in 20 mins, said a supervisor at MSC was working on it, and it would be cleared up within the hour. At this point I figured let it go, and check back with the desk later.
Checked back 3 times that night, no resolution. And apparently I wasn’t the only unhappy passenger, as the lines on both sides of guest services was long, and people were yelling!! Yikes!
The next day, I checked in with the desk 4 times, and was finally told they would contact me if they heard anything. That afternoon they called and said they finally heard back, everything is ok and paid for( like I already said and had proof of) and to come down in 3 hours and my packages would be ready. So I show up 3 hours later, but they’re not ready yet. But come back in 15 minutes, and they’ll have it ready!! At this point, it’s time for the GALA dinner, so I say we’ll be back later. We go to dinner, and tell them our assigned table, and get seated. The waiter asks to see my card, as he says we’re not the guests who sat there the evening prior. No problem, I show it to him, and on with our dinner. Then back to the desk to pick up packages. Ask about my prepaid excursions, and told to check in with the excursion desk the next day. Also I need to clear up all beverages already purchased one by one with drink tickets….. one receipt at a time…. which took another 30 minutes.
Show up to the excursion desk the next morning, and SURPRISE! they have no record of my booking. I explain to the gentleman all the issues with my prepaid bookings, and he has to go straighten it out with the desk. 30 minutes later I finally have my excursion tickets in hand. Then back to desk to see if prior drink charges are cleared up yet. Nope… told to give them time to take care of it. Show up for dinner on 3rd night, get seated, then told we’re sitting at someone else’s table. WHAT?!? Mario the asst. Maitre D explains to us that he doesn’t know how we got assigned that table, as it isn’t logged in the system. He tells us that he has a table for us, but we need to move. At this point the other people decide to let it go for the night, but we need to move the next night.
On the 5th day of the cruise they finally cleared up all the previous drink charges, but I realized that the 2 bottles of Asti Spumante I prepaid to have for sailaway on our balcony had never arrived. So another call to the desk to ask if they would please credit these back to our account, as we didn’t want or need them this late in the cruise. NOPE… no credit allowed, but we could get them delivered to the cabin. Fine…. Get back to cabin, and we have 2 bottles of Brut. Now I know that this isn’t a big deal, and I could have called to have it swapped, but after everything else, this was a real you-know-what moment.
I can say with all certainty that we will NEVER sail MSC again.
Was the cruise a total bust? No… we had a good time despite all the hassles…. We enjoyed some of the food, and the ports. The evening shows were for the most part good, although the acts toward the end were just repetitions of the earlier shows. And we ended up with some amazing family portraits I will always cherish.
BUT… the dinner buffet was severely lacking in options which was surprising, as the lunch buffet was amazing in variety. There was no evening entertainment other than music or the main production, and there is nothing for older teens past kids club age to do onboard. The lounges used for entertainment are too small for the amount of people who want to participate, and the pass through area on deck 7 is amazingly congested for a main thoroughfare as the photo gallery is smack in the middle. The only way to get from front to aft in a fairly straight line is on deck 7 or deck 14.