Absolutely worth the $5. We got addicted to it very quickly. It got to the point that we locked two of our key cards in the safe, and just went everywhere with the wrist bands!
Aurea Thermal Area:
I ended up loving the Thermal Area. I was alone in that hot tub every time I went there (7 of 8 times - one late evening it was already closed for sanitation). The outside area can be VERY windy on sea days, so it is not an ideal area to relax while the ship is moving. However, it is not utilized a lot, so it is a good option to get away from the crowds.
I am not sure that I would pay for the Thermal Area again, as we receive 1 hour per week for free for the Voyagers Club benefit. However, the $109 for the two weeks was an excellent deal! I am just a bit too frugal to splurge on the luxury for another cruise.
The Three Stooges, Zimbabwe Style
I absolutely loved the 3 acrobats from Zimbabwe. They were so entertaining! They were featured in most of the shows.
Shows in General:
I definitely found these shows to be my personal favorites of the 34 cruises we have now completed. However, I don’t think anyone can say these are “the best”, as you can simply not compare a full Broadway production or an ice show or an intimate dinner show with these shows. I would not be comparing apples to apples if I tried to make that judgement.
I can say that on this cast, I have found the best singers. They blend beautifully a majority of the time, the solos are practically flawless, and the intonation close to perfect. All I can think about is, “How can I get my mom and dad on this ship?” I am working on it!
My personal favorite shows were “Fly” and “My Life in Music”
Best buffet of all cruise lines we have cruised (Royal, Carnival, Norwegian, Costa, Celebrity, MSC)
However, I am starting to see why people think the buffet food is “always the same”. I would rather say that it is “always similar”. However, we never ran out of new dishes to try during our two weeks onboard. For example, they had regular salted fries, salt and garlic fries, maple flavored fries (my favorite!), sweet potato fries, etc. There was a different pasta dish every day, often with seafood (lobster, crab, shrimp, respectively). They had chicken legs and wings every day, but they were prepared differently throughout the week. It was the most tender, best tasting chicken! They had a very wide variety of food, and there is no way anyone can say they only found pizza, burgers and hot dogs (only true between 3 and 5:15 p.m. but you always have free room service options).
Some of my favorites included the couscous salads, Mediterranean Jellies, Fresh bread, Chilled soups in buffet, breakfast pizza with fried eggs on top, all chicken dishes (they were all great!), most pasta dishes, daily stir fried veggies, mashed sweet potato and mashed butternut squash.
Main Dining Room:
They had a good variety of options in the Main Dining Room. The food was similar to other cruise lines, when it comes to the MDR. However, except for the cream of tomato soup, nothing stood out as a dish I just HAVE to order again when we cruise on MSC again. Of course, I have not tried all the dishes, so next year is another opportunity to find That One Dish you remember a cruise line by.
That Bloated Feeling?
I don’t know what it is about MSC! Our friends from CC mentioned it first, and I realized it is so true! Where is “that bloated feeling” we often get on a cruise? She thinks they use better quality ingredients - maybe more natural/pure products. I must agree that this has been a cruise where I felt healthy and never bloated. They do use very good quality milk (seen on the cartons), so maybe they use better products for the European market? Just a theory, but it certainly feels true. BTW, I only gained 2 pounds in 2 weeks. I usually gain 2-3 pounds per week of cruising.
Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle:
Best of all the ships we have been on.
Dining and Bar Service:
Our dining team in the main dining room was excellent (Edison and Mark from the Philippines) - two of the best waiters we ever had. In the buffet, the service was also very good. The waiters cleared tables in a timely manner, except during peak times (like right before docking in port when everyone tries to stampede for breakfast). However, they constantly moved about and worked as fast as they could to clear tables. Bar service was never a problem, but we did not have the drinks package and just bought one or two drinks per day.
Small, but good value for the money we paid. Very narrow space by the closet. However, I loved the deeper balcony.
Service: I think the room stewards are assigned too many cabins, or not utilized with the best planning. Although our room steward did a VERY good job and never just stood around talking, it takes a long time to get through all the cabins. We calculated if he only spent 20 minutes per cabin assigned to him, it would add up to over 7 hours of work. He is supposed to work from 8-12 for morning service, but he was often there past 2 p.m. It may be better to assign 2 room stewards who share more cabins - one who specializes in bathroom cleaning and thus becomes more efficient in one area, and one who specializes in cleaning the room itself.
Two Main Gripes of the Cruise:
I really did not care for the location of the balcony, and consequently the layout of the ship. I will have to research for a better location on this ship, but with the 14 days we had very limited options for cabins. Although deck 8 is a nice outdoor area of a majority of passengers, it really interferes with the relaxing atmosphere I would like to enjoy on the balcony. We frequently heard chatter, yelling, and music from deck 8.
To make it worse (and I know this can happen on any cruise), one of our neighbors smoked on their balcony the first week. The second week, somebody on deck 11 listened to their personal music loudly over a bluetooth speaker, with what sounded like a crowd of friends. The next day, our direct neighbor blasted their choice of music on a speaker. We ended up calling it in, because we could not even take a nap, it was so loud.
What was most disappointing is that the manager said our neighbors are their guests, just like we are guests, and they need to respect them too. They can only kindly ask them to stop playing the music. Thankfully, the neighbors respected the request.
The thing that really bothered me about our encounter with the manager is that he said they can not even implement the no-smoking-on-balcony-rule. They can only ask the passenger not to smoke, but there are no consequences if they continue. This is very disappointing, and I hope it was not an accurate statement by the manager.
MSC still needs some balance with customer service. If they say “the customer is always right”, which customer? The one who plays loud music, or the one who does not want to hear the music? They need a little common sense in their rule implementation, and consequences if they are serious about rules.
This was 1 of only 2 gripes we had during the two weeks, and it will not keep us from sailing MSC again.
Charged for 2 drinks, not one:
The other gripe was related to the double charge for a drink, which was corrected and actually completely removed, so we ended up with a free drink. However, the same thing happened to our friends. So, we think some bartenders do this for extra gratuity... Just a theory, but this has never happened on any other cruise to either of us.
This cruise was the best value for money of all our previous cruises. DH has decided MSC is his new favorite line. I still lean a little more toward Royal Caribbean, but can see myself be swayed in the direction of MSC too. I just need a little time between cruises and maybe 4 more weeks on Seaside next year to make a definite decision. 😃