THE MSC DIFFERENCE
General Comments. For those of you who may not be familiar with MSC Cruise Lines(video). It is an Italian privately family owned cruise line. A subsidiary of the Mediterranean Shipping Company (hence the MSC) which is the largest container shipping company that operates in the Mediterranean region, and much of the world. I will attempt to highlight some of the differences throughout this review for you.
The Embarkation Process seemed to be somewhat fast, and then somewhat slow. The initial check-in phase of the process went rather quickly, while the actual getting aboard felt rather lengthy, but then I did arrive around 10am for an estimated 11am boarding time, so all in all I guess to be fair and honest, the process was rather typical to most other cruise lines.
Ships appointments were exquisite. Never had I seen so much marble and gold plating before to not be on a luxury cruise line vessel. But then where is the best place to get marble but Italy. Additionally, you would always see someone with a polishing rag, just wiping down hand prints. This line is without doubt, one of the cleanest fleet of ships I’ve sailed on in that respect.
The Stateroom Accommodations, while somewhat typical from the standpoint of size, seemed to me to be nicer, and in much better condition than I was expecting for a vessel of her price range. I thought the Braille room number signage outside each of the staterooms was a neat touch, and tells me something about the company’s approach to trying to accommodate everyone’s needs. There are some things that I would rank her down overall for. First, was for failing to provide a good smoke free environment, especially in the formal dining room area. So if you are offended by smoke, this might not be a ship for you. While “Peosia” was first launched in 2008, she is one of MSC’s older (Musica) class of ships, but she features 809 balcony staterooms, which is a definate benefit, while admittedly somewhat lacking (at a mere 63%) with many of todays newer ships boasting 80 to 85 percent or more of balcony staterooms. While many would have said the Multi Lingual announcements made for a distraction, I was always amazed to see the cruise director step to the stage before a show performance and make the announcements in five different languages as if each was her native tongue. It was kind of entertainment in itself! I must admit it gave me the opportunity to actually see just how bad my German was. Actually we should remember that the announcements before entertainment events are actually safety briefing for the safety of the performers, so it is important that everyone in the event understand the rules.
MSC Cruise Lines – while I admit, sometimes maybe has a different approach to customer service, than what our North American Cruise Line conterparts, I need to bear in mind, that they are different. If you want to judge them against “their competition”, you can’t stack them up next to Royal Caribbean, Princess, or Even Carnival for that matter, because first and foremost, THEY ARE NOT A NORTH AMERICAN CRUISE LINE.
MSC’s closest competitor would be Costa, or P & O. While most “cruise folks” have never even set foot on one of these vessels, let alone sailed them. So you really need to understand that MSC, is actually forging new ground by being the first foreign cruise ship company, that has really placed itself not only to cruising in the North American Marketplace, but actually having committed one of its vessels in a mostly full-time year round basis “Poesia” here in the United States (Port Everglades) otherwise known as Fort Lauderdale. And, beginning December of 2013 MSC’s newest fantasia class of ship called the “Divina” will call Miami Florida its home port. So with two ships soon to call American soil their homeport we should certainly give them credit for that!
The Poesia offers sailings to the Caribbean, as well as in the fall repositions itself in New York to do Canada and New England Fall Foliage sailings. The next big difference is price point! MSC’s closest rival in the “North American Market” pricing arena would have to be Carnival. And this would be bad how? Well their low prices as well as their “KIDS UNDER 12 SAIL FREE” on every sailing, and children under 18 do on Many of MSC’s ship sailings, which makes them a huge magnet for folks especially with families. They buy the voyage on MSC not knowing anything at all about the Cruise Line. There are some very distinctive differences that people just plain don’t realize. Not BAD Differences! Just Differences, which oftentimes causes MSC some very huge challenges, which usually their passengers get very wacked out about! Be sure to chek out my review of MSC’s newest ship the “Divina” by clicking here.
The first discontent I hear people on board mention, is that they are unresponsive to complaints. Fact is, they are not that different at all, from North American Cruise Lines. They operate very much in the same way that a land based hotel property would in say Italy. Once you have made your complaint, fine, they heard you and it will be directed to the appropriate person(s) for further possible action. North American cruise lines do the very same thing. However, as the North American trained crews will all too often, try make the complaining passenger feel they have taken a special interest in their problem (a false sense of caring, but we Americans have come to expect it). But, does it get your problem rectified any sooner? No! is the simple answer. Whereas if you make continued or repeated complaints about the same issue they will give you their ear once again, on MSC they are going to inform you that they have heard your complaint and have forwarded your issues onto someone who can do something about it! Sorry folks, it really makes no difference whether you are sailing MSC, or NCL or any other cruise ship, your problem takes time to resolve. You have relayed your plight to someone, now you should get on with your cruise and enjoy yourself! So many times when cruising, I see people failing to relinquish their woes and they now focus in on the problem so bad, that it jades the entire rest of their voyage (and anyone in close proximity to them as well). When one really needs to get over it, and get on with your cruise!
The next common complaint I hear coming from disgruntled passengers, is there isn’t the same amount of things to keep their children occupied on board. It actually turned out that these folks didn’t even have children on the cruise, but were simply discontent about seeing children out late at night without supervision. The MSC Kids Club is about the same as you might find on Royal Caribbean, Princess, or even Carnival. Here once again MSC is very much “on par” with their true competition Costa, and P&O. And even surpass many cruise lines with some of the individual childrens venues they have on board such as 4D Cinema, Aquapark, Mini Golf, Bowling, Video Arcade, and others I haven’t mentioned here. Also, I must say that there is one comment I have heard from time to time that is an unfair characterization. Being that MSC doesn’t offer adequate evening time supervision for their teen (oldest) aged program facilities. Well folks neither do North American Market Cruise lines after the final dinner seating either!
Food and Service of the wait staff. I very much enjoyed the genuine Italian Cuisine found in the formal Dining Room and especially the changing each night of the featured dishes from various Italian regions. A comment I heard from others on the ship was their feelings that crew was a bit standoffish, which is often misconstrued as their being either inattentive or even unaccomodating. You must bear in mind that the crews on every MSC cruise ship is European trained. That means especially at dinner, when they bring you something and ask if there is anything else, don’t plan on seeing them until everyone at the table is finished and they come back to clear the entire table at the same time. That is the European manner (efficiency model) of large event table service. They are not going to hover over you, asking you several times just during the soup or appetizer if everything is ok. Also, for those of you have not ever been to Italy. Desert whether cake or otherwise is served with a large desert spoon. NOT A FORK. If this really presents a major problem for you, just flag one of wait staff and politely ask for a fork, and they will get one for you! Just do it quickly before they get away! When it comes to dinner time in the formal dining room, each night’s menu will feature a different region of Italy that the recipes will come from. Also please don’t embarrass yourself by complaining out loud that your food was not up to the usual Italian standards, if your measure of standards comes from your weekly or monthly visit to OLIVE GARDEN, which isn’t true Italian Food.
So often is the situation that people here in the United States are accustomed to “going things alone” and purchasing their entire cruise vacation on-line, without the benefit of having anyone KNOWLEDGABLE to assist them with product information. They have simply made a purchase based on (typically) PRICE. Then, you arrive at embarkation, and something small goes wrong (like it always does for me too) like not being able to bring something on board (when it was fine on the other cruise, or I saw someone else take that aboard), or I was made to wait for two motor coaches to get here, or I didn’t get my luggage till 9pm that night. There’s always something that goes not totally right. It’s OK, it happens to us all. Just don’t HOLD ON to that bad feeling and let it overrun your cruise adventure as so often people allow!
Lastly, (this is directed at basically all of the cruise lines) I really get rather bored of hearing people complain about the on-board entertainment, particularly in the form of the show performances. Once again, people have a tendency to rate the cruise ship performances to “Broadway” performances. Yet again, let me spell out the subtle but important differences between what you will see on any cruise ship vs. A New York Broadway Show. First let’s talk price. How much did you spend for your last Broadway Performance (just for the show itself), compared to your FREE show on board the ship! That’s what I thought, a big difference huh? Next how large was the stage area for your last performance, and oh yeah, by chance was it moving (or actually constantly in motion)at all? Assuming one has not over indulged themselves prior to the show! You have to give an appreciation to the fact that the on board cruise performance is merely just another form of entertainment offered on the cruise, and was not the only thing you went to experience on your cruise. Ok, so now hopefully you too will remember everything we have said here, before you race to the trip adviser or cruise critic message board, and slam some cruise line for their off “off Broadway” review.
My overall ranking for “Peosia” is Good. From the standpoint of value for your cruise dollar I have to give MSC very high marks. I certainly would recommend MSC to any potential cruisers, and especially to families, or anyone who is on a strict budget. Kids UNDER 12 SAIL FREE (just pay govt. taxes), when they sail in a room occupied by at least two adults over the age of 21, while children 12-17 are generally only $99-$299 depending on the precise sailing. This pricing policy applies on ALL of their sailings, NOT just select dates or times of the year, which makes this a cruise line both for a family, as well as the value conscious, a very good choice!
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