An overall great cruise! Loved the itinerary and ship, would definitely sail again!
4 out of 5
My family and I got to the terminal around 10:30am when they said the check-in process was going to start around 11. We waited for quite a while and the lines didnt start moving until well after 11. Once the lines started moving, the process went as expected: still had to wait quite a while but but nothing out if the ordinary compared to my other cruise experiences.
Food and Dining
4 out of 5
I want to give this section 3.5 but since I can’t do halves, I gave them the benefit of the doubt of 4 stars. Here is a breakdown of my review.
As a picky eater, I was very impressed by the huge selection at the buffet. Every single meal, I was able to find multiple things I liked, as did my fellow picky-eaters I was traveling with. One of my favorite things about this ship’s buffet was the inclusion of a kids and family section that always had family friendly options like fries, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and hotdogs, something that I havent seen before on previous cruises. The dessert selection was very lacking in my opinion. Towards the end of the cruise, the options became very repetitive and we started to become a little bored of the same, but plentiful options. As for the main dining room, I personally had a difficult time finding things on the menu I liked. They did have a “classics” section with certain foods every single night (french onion soup, caesar salad, salmon, chicken, steak, and pasta) which I was grateful for. The five main dishes for the night were not mine or my families taste for most of the nights.
Food Quality and Taste:
As with any cruise, there were things I loved, things I hated, and everything in between. The worst for me was that I really disliked the butter they used throughout the ship. It had a very different taste that I didn't care much for, and was unfortunately used in many foods in the dining room and buffet such as mashed potatoes, corn, and eggs during breakfast. We also found many of the foods at the buffet to be rather cold. Other than that, the food seemed to range from ok to great. I highly recommend the chicken parm on Italian night in the dining room.
This buffet was enjoyable to sit in, as it was so large, we never had any trouble finding a place to sit. One issue I noticed every time is that there were too few drink stations to get water, juice, and coffee. Every meal saw long lines at these few stations and there were many times the ice and coffee machines ran out completely which caused a stir. My mother and I were very pleased with how clean the plates and silverware were (we have been on past cruises on other lines that were less than ideal in this category). The dining room we ate in was called Waves which looked nice. The biggest issue we had with dining all week was that my party of 5 adults got squished into a 4 person table. When we complained the first night, we were told there was nothing they could do and we were stuck with it. Another thing I didnt love was being forced to order dessert along with the appetizer and main course, before you can decide if you will be hungry for it. My mother asked our waiter if she could wait and order her dessert after she eats her main course one day, to which our waiter responded “I’ll be too busy to do that” which was a bummer.
Other: Review of our main dining waiter will be in service section. One last issue I had with the food was the ice cream on the pool deck. I have been on other cruises were you can serve your own ice cream, but on this cruise, the machines are behind a counter where crew have to get it for you. It was a disappointment when the ice cream hours were supposed to be open and nobody was there to serve it. It felt like the ice cream was only open whenever someone felt like opening it.
3 out of 5
We are not really pool people, so I cannot comment on that. Unfortunately, many of the on board activities had an uncharge, such as the waterslide, the bowling alley, and watching movies. There were not a large amount of activities during sea days, but enough to keep us out of our cabins. In addition to this, the daily planner for the following day was not available until well after the rooms were made up in the evening. I was disappointed the trivia games did not give out prizes to winners at all. Our cruise director, Gene Young, was great and very funny! One of the best cruise directors I’ve experienced.
4 out of 5
The entertainment was very similar each night, so if you like this type of entertainment then great! If not, you’re out of luck. Each night was a song and dance performance based on a theme (technology addiction, rock songs, latin music, love songs, Italian songs, and Broadway) with the exception of one performance which featured a magician (that also incorporated dancing). There were no comedians (maybe due to a language/culture barrier?) or other types of typical entertainment. I personally enjoy this type of show, but others in my family did not and were disappointed.
The singers left a lot to be desired, especially the male singers. The one male opera singer was the only one who could hold his own. The female singers were better, however they could not harmonize at all. Almost every show featured multiple opera pieces which were very difficult to tolerate if you are not an opera fan. This was especially true for the meraviglia amor show which featured almost exclusively Italian operas.
The dancers on the other hand were very good and I enjoyed the choreography very much! I have seen other shows on other cruises that made me feel like I was watching a dance recital, and this did not feel that way. I was also very impressed with the costumes and digital backgrounds during the performances. Overall, some of the best entertainment on a cruise ship for me.
Each show has a 6:45 start, an 8:15 start, and a 9:45 start and last around 45 minutes. You can register for each show on the interactive screens in the lobbies or on the msc and me app. I highly reccomend reserving in advance, especially for the 8:15 show as that one in particular got full fast. These shows start pretty much exactly on time which is fantastic! One thing that was inconvenient was that you could not reserve the shows for the whole cruise at the beginning, and you had to check the app every day to see if the next show was available before it got filled up. Another MAJOR inconvenience was that the last night of the cruise, when we were docked at Ocean Cay, there was no 6:45 show, however the app still allowed you to reserve a seat for this show. We had no idea this show was not being performed and went into the theater along with several other parties to enjoy the show. The auditorium was nearly full and it wasnt until around 6:50 we all realized there was no performance at this time, and there was no announcement or crew around to inform people. Very big disappointment and waste of our time that could have been solved by having a crew member or sign at the door informing people there would not be a show at that time, or by removing this event from their app.
They did have a full opera show during the day on a sea day, however I did not see this and cannot comment on it.
They also feature 2 cirque du soleil shows onboard for an upcharge. They came for free for the first 2 people per stateroom with the fantastica package which we got, so we paid for just one member of my party to join us. We saw the Sonar show and thought it was enjoyable, but similar to entertainment you can find on other ships for free. It came with a complimentary drink as well which was nice. For an additional charge, you can also eat dinner at the show, however the menu is small and my family decided to see both shows with no meal instead of one show with a meal. We were scheduled to see the other show on the last sea day, however it ended up being cancelled due to technical problems and we got a full refund for the one seat we paid for, making the first show complimentary for all of us.
Service and Staff
3 out of 5
The majority of the staff were nice but not overly friendly. They most often kept to themselves around the ship and performed their job without much talking, which wasn’t bad per se, but after having been spoiled on other ships with friendly staff that went out of their way to make you feel like family, this staff was only mediocre overall. Of course there were a few that did a fantastic job! This was my first MSC cruise, and I know that this ship recently came from Europe, so I’m wondering if this was a result of difficulty transitioning from a primarily European clientele to a primarily American one.
Our cabin stewardess was nice, however it was clear she really struggled with English, and asking her questions or communicating with her about the room proved difficult with the language barrier. She also threw out a plate of cookies we had kept in the room for after dinner and did not give my cabin a daily planner for the following day until we asked her for one. We rarely saw her throughout the week. The cabin steward down the hall was particularly friendly and would say hello to us and start a conversation every time we walked past to get to the elevator.
The waiter we had in the main dining room was also very cold. He never introduced himself on the first day and didnt say a word to us outside from his asking us what we were ordering. As I mentioned above under the food category, my mother asked if she could wait to order dessert, and his response was “I’ll be too busy to do that” which came across as a little rude given that was the only thing he said to us all night. He did get a little better on the last few nights, but we always felt like he was in such a rush and did not have time for us. He also never came by to ask how the food was during the meal, which I know is much more American culture than European culture, however this ship was marketed as appealing to the American market and as such should have trained the staff on these mannerisms (at least for the American parties) as they do on other ships.
Our assistant waiter who brought the drinks and cleaned the plates every evening, however, was excellent and was very personable which really helped us enjoy our dining experience for dinner.
Many of the activities coordinators were very friendly, including the cruise director and other activity leaders. When a member of my party brought up an issue to a staff member, they were very dismissive of his concern and did not seem to be interested in addressing the issue. Overall, I would say the crew onboard was very hit or miss.
4 out of 5
One thing I found particularly enjoyable about this ship was how roomy it was. This ship is very large and holds a lot of passengers, yet it rarely felt like it was too congested onboard, with the exception of special events (which I will talk about in a second) The ship always seemed to be clean and I have never seen an area that was subpar in cleanliness.
The promenade was quite large, and featured the “dome” which was a giant screen on the ceiling that displayed different pictures and patterns. A couple times a day, they would have a dome show where there would be an animation on the screen that was very popular with passengers. It was very cool, however when these shows were on, it was nearly impossible to walk through the promenade as it was jam packed and no designated area for walkers. I would have liked if there were designated areas roped off for those trying to walk through so those who wanted to watch the show would have their own spot out of the way.
Additionally, during dinner times on most nights, there were photographer stations set up around the promenade deck. On this ship, the photographers always seemed to be set up and placed in the most inconvenient locations that often forced my family and I to take a new path. They were set up right outside of elevators and right above staircases that were truly difficult to maneuver around and not get in someone’s picture.
One thing my family and I loved were the plentiful machines around the promenade that allowed you to connect your credit card to your onboard access card and pay off your bill in cash on your own. It was far more convenient than waiting in the long customer service line and nobody else had to handle your credit card.
Everything on the ship was easy to find as well. One thing I really loved on this ship was the inclusion of a lone elevator in the middle of the ship on both sides. This made it very convenient from our cabin location, especially since I was traveling with older family members who have difficulty walking. It helped alleviate some of the crowdedness of the main elevator sections and offered a beautiful window view as you went up or down. The famous swarovski staircases were gorgeous, and no picture truly does them justice. One thing I would have liked to have seen is Christmas or holiday decorations around the ship since this was a December cruise, however we were informed decorations only go up the week of Christmas. Oh well.
Cabin / Stateroom
4 out of 5
We were in a balcony room on the 10th floor. The room was a little smaller than I was expecting and had very little storage space for clothing items, which was difficult since myself and 2 other adults were sharing this cabin. The room and balcony were very clean.
Staterooms on this ship do not come with tissues, so I recommend bringing some with you if you would like to use them. I also would recommend bringing a multi-plug wall unit as the cabin only had one outlet to accommodate 2 plugs. Considering this ship is fairly new (from 2017) I was surprised how few outlets there were. The outlets in the staterooms all used American plugs, so if you are European, you may need to bring a converter.
There were a few small things around the cabin that could have used maintenance, such as a broken chair on our balcony, a stuck closet door, and a hairdryer that did not work. The weather stripping on our balcony door was also falling off which made it difficult to close the door properly. We decided not to request maintenance as they were not major issues and we were not in the cabin much.
Be prepared for an experience with European flair and for it not to be identical to other American-based cruise lines.
I have been to a couple of private islands so far, and the new Ocean Cay reserve is my new favorite! The island is very beautiful and clean. I am not a huge beach person, as I typically get bored on them quite quickly, but I really enjoyed my time on the island. It’s fairly small so it’s easy to see everything. The buffet lunch had a nice selection to choose from, but it got really crowded fast, so I recommend grabbing your lunch early.
I enjoyed being able to stay on the island until late, and I do recommend the Junkanoo parade in the evening! There is also a lighthouse show that I didnt get the chance to see which I’d like to do next time I’m in this port. The island is still brand new, so more activity may be added in the near future.
Roatan was my favorite port we visited! We took a tour called Taste of Roatan where we made many different stops in the city including a Polynesian style area to take gorgeous pictures, an iguana farm where you can hold and feed iguanas, and a private beach where you can watch a local musical performance and board a boat to sail the mangrove areas. This was a very entertaining and fun tour that I highly recommend! the island was so beautiful and the port was colorful with lots of different types of shopping, including a local crafts market.
Belize was a very nice port with the typical souvenir shops along the way. Very easy to navigate.
We did the tale of two cities tour where we took a bus tour through Belize city and then drove to Altun Ha to see the famous Mayan ruins there. Both were very nice and didnt require too much walking.
Loved Costa Maya! We did the Chiccoban Mayan Ruins tour which was ok. The ride to the ruins was quite long (over an hour with just jungle scenery) so if traveling with kids or fidgety people, make sure to bring activities for them during the bus ride. The ruins were very nice and you could climb up some of them! The excursion required a lot of walking on rocky dirt paths, so I would not recommend for people with difficulty walking. I was on this excursion with my elderly grandfather who had a lot of difficulty on this tour.
The port itself was very beautiful and had very nice Mexican style shopping which I enjoyed! Next time I am here, I would like to try the chocolate museum on port.
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