ALMOST wonderful.

MSC Armonia Cruise Review to Caribbean - Western

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Reviews: 3
Helpful Votes: 69

Overall rating:

4.5 out of 5
MSC Armonia

7 Night Western Caribbean (Miami Roundtrip)

Sail date: September 30, 2019

Ship: MSC Armonia

Cabin type: Oceanview

Traveled as: Singles/Friends

Reviewed: 2 years ago

Review summary

I'm really NOT a cruise snob! I don't go around telling people how many I've been on in the first five seconds of meeting aboard a ship. I don't even display my card(s) around my neck and I'm a Chaîne des Rôtisseurs reject. I choose my ships and cruises based on the price, itinerary, ship and if I'm solo or not. This one was offered by MSC as a 7-night leg on a 14-night back-to-back originally to Havana, Montego Bay, Georgetown and Cozumel. Political winds changed their direction and blew away Havana and Montego Bay, in blew Ocho Rios and Key West. (Note, I'm from Miami, born and raised. Sailed the Caribbean since a kid.) So if you add it all up, I embarked and disembarked like...ten times on this ship and each one was a breeze. I never had one problem getting aboard or off of the Armonia, unlike every darned ship I've ever been aboard! I mean it. No delays. No unwanted searches. The worst thing was this "Face-To-Face" intrusion imposed by the US Immigration Service. What a joke! I'm not going into the politics. Bottom line: despite lines to tenders and the gangway, they move pretty briskly. Maybe the ship was quite less than full on that cruise. Cabin was sized about right for two--another inch shorter in any direction would be cramped. Plenty of storage space, cleverly concealed. Nice touches absent such as towel animals, facial tissue or chocolates on the pillow. Equipped to the standard: flat screen TV (with very few channels), desk with electrical outlets, mini-bar, window clean enough to shoot video/photos through, direct-dial phone system, programmable safe and plenty of mirrors. Air conditioning worked great, the bed(s) was comfortable and a nice selection of pillows. Bathroom was the smallest one in which I've ever taken a shower. Love the ship. I truly respect her, as I would an aging duchess. She's gleaming, clean as a whistle yet nicked, cracked,worn and dented in places you'd expect after being trod on by millions of feet or sat upon by hundreds of thousands of buttocks. She has a lovely profile, looks like a ship instead of a hotel parked atop a slab of hull. She's gorgeous inside and outside, not screaming, projecting a luxurious and vibrant vibration. Colorful with taste, a bit dated in that Art Deco-inspired Starlight Disco. Comfortable public rooms, well-appointed Library, Bars, and my favorite space--the Cigar Room. Entertainment was enchanting. I was so impressed with how much they do with nothing onstage, it's mind-boggling. Ingenious use of minimal sets and props coupled with pre-recorded audio allowed for the performers' physical gifts and voices take over. The dancers were fluid and acted as well, the singers were excellent in several languages and the gymnasts and balancing act were superb. The DJs had an international flavor to the mix, sounded wonderfully exotic to our ears trained on disco, hip hop and rap. The lounge acts were professional, multi-cultural and talented. Service was modeled on Carnival, the leader in providing personal service in mainstream cruising. On MSC Armonia they ALWAYS remembered your name after hearing or seeing it the first time, they never abused the knowledge by shouting it out in false camaraderie at every opportunity. Everyone who has any contact with guests was polite, friendly without being overly solicitous or fake. They were quietly friendly. They took wonderful care of their guests. Particularly worth mentioning are my wonderful cabin steward, Shella and the best darned member of the waitstaff, Made. Ports-of-call were...well, I'm probably not the one to ask after this cruise. I've been there. It was fortunate I have a friend in Ocho Rios who was wonderful about meeting me just outside the pier and conducted me on a terrific unauthorized shore excursion. As far as the other places, well...except for my quest for Cuban cigars, I could have stayed aboard. I did find the best lunch and Cuban cigars in Cozumel, and the best cigar experience in Georgetown, Grand Cayman. Whatever you've done there, I got the t-shirt. Key West? I got off of the ship, walked far enough away to activate my cell phone, bought a bottle of water and a hunk of fudge from this lovely lady inside this old historical warehouse, smoked a cigar next to a Rastafarian playing a steel drum for an hour, angering the anti-smoking Gestapo tourists (not the Rastaman) and walked back to the ship. (Via tram) Dining was a minor disappointment, after reading so many of the previous reviewers' opinions of the food. Food is what I'm about. Some people eat to live...you know the rest. Nothing aboard MSC Armonia will kill you. Except for the corned beef hash at breakfast. That stuff is poisonous. On the other hand, the polenta was divine. The pizza, especially the whole-wheat crust, was AWESOME! The gelato, especially the straciatella was INCREDIBLE! I should have just stuck with Italian breads and ice cream the whole darned cruise. The lack of fresh fruit in the buffet area was embarrassing. No bananas! They were all at the Vitamin Bar, or they were grabbed by the bunch by my fellow banana lovers. One bowl of pineapple disappeared immediately. One bowl of watermelon walked away by itself. Too much emphasis on melons, not enough on berries of any kind. They had a couple of Italian cold cuts, but no prosciutto that I noticed (some Oscar Meyer ham) to go with their endless parade of melons. The best cuisine on the ship was the Indian, followed by the Italian. Not enough of Asian cooking. The biggest problem: serving hot food HOT and cold food COLD. The carvery was a hit-or-miss affair. I was TOLD the prime rib was great. Everything else that I saw was mediocre (pork roast, turkey breast) to horrible (meat loaf). Why were all of the hamburgers overcooked and dry? Why were the cheeseburgers covered with ONLY American cheese? No choice, not even PROVOLONE?? Thank you, chef, for staying away from attempting barbecue. With the buffet, it's purely a coin toss. In the Marco Polo Main Dining Room, I made the mistake of failing to communicate my preference to eat alone. I also failed to notice that dinner was at 6:00, a crucial half-hour before I'm used to settling down to eat--even on other cruise lines. These two mistakes forced me to record video with unusable audio thanks to excessive noise created by my dining partners Night One; and to miss out my MDR meals (that I usually enjoy) three out of seven nights. Of course, I completely missed out on "Elegant Night." Both nights. My fault. Lobster is something I like, but it's not worth sacrificing an $11.00 cigar I'm smoking in the Cigar Room in order to eat frozen fish. The only Asian-influenced dish I tried was the Thai shrimp. Horrible. Tasteless. I had to scrape that breading off to reveal the skinny shrimp. If you think that by waving the hot chile flakes over them works, you're wrong. The Asian-influenced salad was good. The pasta was al dente. That was good. There was only ONE pasta dish or sauce offered. That was bad. The lamb was served two-sided: rare on one, medium-well on the other, AND it was lukewarm and fatty. I didn't order ONE steak the entire trip. I just didn't trust the beef, I suppose after eating one bite of their hamburger and gagged. Dry as a hockey puck. The Duck L'Orange was so fatty and so lacking in orange flavor, it was a total waste of a bird destined for duck soup. The sauce coating the mussels tasted as if it came right from a Lipton Soup package. The asparagus were delicious.The Indian dishes were superb! The desserts were pedestrian. Most of them were just too darned sweet, missing the rich flavor of chocolate or fruit! The banana and coconut tart was wonderful, marred by that raspberry coulis. I'm not going any further with this. What's the point? I got what I paid for. Canned peaches and cheap chocolate. I went to that Surf & Turf Restaurant sampling meet and greet. Everything was grabbed by the early-arrivals and cleaned off every darned tray. I got one half-flute of faux-champagne, one crab cake and one piece of that disgusting pseudo-cheesecake. A complete waste of time coupled with a hustle. Overall, I'd say the food available in the restaurants was average, mediocre--a "C" grade. If you like congenial conversation with civilized people, the Cigar Room is the place to meet. Of COURSE the place smells! Of COURSE sometimes people get a little bit boisterous--there's a bar 7 meters away. OF COURSE you can watch your favorite sport sitting in a comfortable leather lounge chair smoking your favorite stogie. They have a limited but well-chosen selection of cigars available to buy at typically inflated prices. Bottom line: it was an exceedingly pleasurable cruise, subtracting the expected food fails. I had plenty of good food and drink, lovely ladies to keep me company and a diverse crowd to enliven the conversation. Watch for my videos appearing on my YouTube channel, TeachinTV.

Embarkation

5 out of 5

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

3 out of 5
MDR food was average, with awesome dishes mixed with inedible. Loved the coffee bar and their lovely sweet treats. I went to the specialty restaurant sampling with meet and greet. I abandoned the whole scene. Buffet was below-average, missing a selection of pastas, sauces, fresh fruit and quality cold cuts. Carvery was a hit-or-miss affair, more often served lukewarm.

Onboard Activities

3 out of 5
The only activities in which I participated was the "Cigars Under the Sky" one night on the pool deck and the Chef's Game. Both were enjoyable. Although I packed my bathing suit, I never unpacked it. I did actually SEE the fitness center by accident.

Entertainment

5 out of 5
Great stuff! Loved those Chinese gymnasts and that "Addams Family" show.

Children's Programs

Came without kids. I thought about renting some.

Service and Staff

5 out of 5
Maybe I spread my twenty dollar bills around a bit more than they expected, but WOW, did they EVER take the BEST care of me! Made and Shella--the kindest, most wonderful members of the crew. The Captain doubles as a comedian.

Ship Quality

5 out of 5
Design was great! Easy getting around that ship, going to places was mostly straightforward. Loved the interior design, especially the Rum Bar, the White Lion Pub, the Cigar Room.

Cabin / Stateroom

4 out of 5
9268. Small-ish for two, perfect for a solo. Absurdly tiny shower. Comfortable, everything worked

Ship tip

Note, that a LOT of oceanview cabins are obstructed. Be sure to locate your cabin preferences on a deck plan BEFORE you book. You will be travelling with a lot more Europeans and Asians than on any other cruise line. Respect them and don't act like an ugly American.

Ports of call

Miami, Florida

5 out of 5
It's MY Miami!

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

5 out of 5
I went around with a friend who took me to some secret, completely hidden delights including visiting a school (I'm a retired schoolteacher), a small pot farm and a wonderful home-cooked meal, my favorite--jerk pork.

George Town, Grand Cayman

5 out of 5
Had a nice visit with my money at UBS, followed up with a visit to one of the best cigar shops in the Caribbean, Old Havana Cigars. Almost bought a Cohiba humidor with 20 cigars for $10,000. (NOT!) Hardly a hotbed of trendy cuisine, I didn't bother to pay inflated prices for average food.

Cozumel, Mexico

5 out of 5
Had a wonderful lunch at my favorite cheap, WONDERFUL restaurant, Las Flamitas. Their mole poblano was heavenly! Followed up with a visit to my REAL destination: the Casa de Habanos, the Cuban government-owned cigar shop. After buying as many as I could fit in my travel humidor, I inquired about renting the apartment upstairs. Taken, darn it!

Key West, Florida

5 out of 5
I love this place! My cell phone worked GREAT for the first time in nearly a week. Checked out the historical warehouse, ate fudge, drank water, smoked a cigar and listened to the Rastaman play steel drums. Lovely way to spend an hour and a half.

Disembarkation

5 out of 5
I was off the ship and in the car on the way home in like, 10 minutes. UNBELIEVABLE.
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