Subject: Our experience on board the MSC Fantasia cruise ship.
Embarkation in Genoa (Italy) on November 2, 2019, disembarkation November 20
2019 in Santos (Brazil).
On November 2, 2019 we flew with the KLM to Milan. That went well.
Then we drove a shuttle bus to Genoa, a journey of more than 2 hours.
We had a cup of coffee on the plane around 10 a.m. and then nothing more.
We did not know that the bus ride took so long. There was not a drop of water on the bus to buy or to buy.
We arrived at the MSC terminal at 2 p.m. A huge hall where several thousand people were already standing. The whole mass of people stood close together and moved at a speed that can be compared to sliding a mass of glacier ice.
But in this hall there was a different temperature through those thousands of people and we started to get thirsty. Furthermore, the noise, the cackling of thousands of people, was of a level where my wife and I could barely understand each other.
Because we did not know what to do, there were no indications or announcements, we managed to get through the hustle and bustle at a counter where an MSC employee was standing. We asked him, naturally in English, what we should do.
He gave us a map with a number on it and pointed in the direction of the crowd where we were standing before. That was it.
The hustle and bustle continued and after about an hour we saw an x number of seats in the back of that hall. They were all occupied, so sitting was not among them. The mass of people steadily moved towards an escalator and about 3 hours later we were also able to take the escalator to the 1st floor. A new surprise awaited us there. Again waiting and waiting.
In the meantime it was 5 pm and we could not find or buy water anywhere in that terminal. That enormous hall had absolutely no facilities for the inner person.
After the security check we finally arrived at the walkway at 6 p.m. So we had been on our feet for four (4) hours in the middle of a huge crowd without being able to drink anything.
The first deception was a fact.
When we entered the ship we had to hand over our passport to a female employee of MSC.
Issue passport? We never do that.
That woman informed us that it was mandatory.
Subsequently, a discussion arose in which we made it clear to her several times that we needed our passport as soon as we were to disembark in another country.
For us it is the only official document that allows us to identify ourselves abroad.
That woman kept hammering at the fact that our on-board pass (the plastic ticket that you can use to buy on the ship and which you use to get into the cabin) was sufficient to identify yourself on land!
The mood rose high, we were tired and dehydrated, and behind us stood a long line of people who became cramped because they were being stopped by us.
That woman then promised us that we would get our passport back the day before we visited the first port in Brazil. That turned out to be a lie.
We handed over our passport because we were more than fed up with that entire circus.
On the day before we arrived in Salvador we went to the reception to request our passports. We were told that we could pick up the passports on the day we would arrive in Salvador at 1 pm because the port authorities (customs) first had to check the passports.
The other day at 1 p.m. we were back at the reception and asked for our passport.
Then an employee said that the port authorities were still working on the passports.
Again a lie because we had already seen in the room next to the reception that those formalities had already been completed.
Then it was announced at the reception that the police still had to look at it!
He never does passport control on board and, moreover, we had not yet seen a police officer.
The next announcement from the reception staff was that we only had to come back in an hour.
Because we wanted to disembark to visit Salvador, the blood gradually started to boil with us.
Another employee at the reception, a man named *****, informed us that we did not get our passport back. That would only happen if we left the ship to go home.
We asked him to call the captain because we wanted to talk to the captain, or another officer, to solve this problem.
He told us he would not do that.
The reception staff looked surly and there was no question of friendliness.
They came across us as power-hunters earlier because we were standing there at that counter and after that discussion we were completely ignored by them. As if we didn't exist.
A little later we saw two officers in white suits walk by.
We asked one of them why we did not get our passport back and briefly explained the whole story to them. That officer informed us that it is MSC's policy to take passports and keep them until you get off the ship to go home. A reason why he did not give.
The time passed and we decided to contact Zeetours.
We were assisted by a Zeetours employee named ******. We told her the whole story about the passport affair and she too thought it was a strange course of events. She found it very annoying for us but she informed us that there are indeed cruise companies that take the passports. While we were on the line, she contacted MSC Netherlands. From that side she was informed that it was MSC's policy to take passports. MSC Netherlands would send an E-mail to the Fantasia cruise ship to pass on that complaint. We asked ****** if she could also provide us with the telephone number of the embassy in the Netherlands. She did that and we also contacted the embassy by telephone. The employee also told the whole story and there it was confirmed that MSC was not entitled to take the passports. But she could mean nothing to us in the form of any help.
We have left it at that.
On November 17, 1919, during our last day at sea, all passengers got their passports back.
Those were our experiences regarding our passports.
We will also discuss a number of experiences that have left a special impression on us. That was certainly not a pleasant impression.
When we were on board on November 2, we went straight to our cabin.
We immediately drank some glasses of water because we were dehydrated.
We packed our life jackets to participate in the evacuation exercise. The ship then left with a delay of more than an hour.
The other morning a letter was pushed under our door saying that we had to report to the reception. There, an employee informed us that one of us was not present at the evacuation exercise. Strange, our passes were scanned and I also took a picture of it. That employee informed us that it often happens that things go wrong with scanning.
Because there was only 1 chair in our cabin, we asked at the reception if we could get a second chair or a two-seater. One of us had to sit on the bed because sitting on the floor was not an option. We were told by that employee that it would be considered whether it was possible to bring a second seat. We never received that 2nd seat.
In the shower of our cabin there was a corner where normally a box of tissues would stand. That corner was empty. The man who would clean our cabin informed us in very poor English that those tissues were scrapped due to spending cuts.
The carpeting in our cabin was full of stains that apparently could not be removed.
On the second evening aboard the ship, a number of important crew members were introduced to the passengers. That took place in the theater. We also went to have a look. The spokesperson, an Italian, spoke a few sentences in English and then switched to Italian. A number of crew members were then introduced one by one and the captain finally came on stage.
His name was Raffaele Laccarino, an Italian.
He addressed the audience and he spoke one (1) sentence in English. Then he switched to Italian and it stayed that way. We did not understand a word of it. The official language at sea is English, but this captain clearly preferred to speak to his countrymen in Italian. The other nationalities apparently didn't matter.
We wanted to go for a drink that evening in the so-called Crow’s Nest.
This is a wonderful and peaceful place with a beautiful view of around 180 degrees.
But it was only accessible to yacht club members.
We have never heard or read that a distinction is made between yacht club members and non-members. We find that embarrassing and misleading.
In Barcelona we wanted to use the MSC shuttle bus to get into the city from the ship. That cost 9 euros per person. Fine. But that bus drove only a very short distance to a square at the end of the harbor head and we had to get out again.
We could as well have walked that. Upon inquiry, it turned out that it was still an hour and a half walk to the center of the stand. Then we just took a taxi.
The TV in our cabin is also a separate story.
We like to follow the daily news in the world.
We have made a cruise six times with the Holland America Line (HAL) to many corners of the world and during those cruises we could continue to watch the world new on TV day and night. CNN, BBC, German channels etc. It was all there.
We noticed that after passing the Strait of Gibraltar out of the 36 channels, 24 had fallen away. It could be read that the satellite connection was lost. The only thing that was still broadcast were 6 channels with advertising for MSC, the same video film on 4 channels and the other channels were provided with information about an evacuation and other info. We were therefore devoid of news broadcasts.
Upon inquiring at the reception we were informed that there were problems with the satellite connection.
We found that highly curious.
We were unable to follow any news during the rest of the cruise.
When we came to Brazil, there was a (1) Brazilian news channel, but we obviously didn't understand that.
We have the impression that MSC had no problems with the satellite connection but that it is a cutback in terms of the costs for a signal connection.
People who wanted to follow the news (or something else) via the internet had to buy an expensive internet package for an x number of MBs.
The buffet restaurant was a restaurant situated at the rear on deck 14, both on the starboard and port side.
All food items were displayed in showcases and at first glance there seemed to be sufficient choice.
It was strange that plates, cutlery, the fillings, the sandwiches, the butter etc. were far apart. You already had a nice walk before you gathered a meal.
The first time we were there we immediately noticed that at the opening of the afternoon buffet at 1 pm (with hot meals) many hundreds of people came in. We estimate that around 80% of the passengers were Italians. Those people threw themselves like hungry hyenas on the food they offered, scooped up their plates as if they hadn't eaten for a week, sat down at the table, and broke out a cacophony in which the decibels increased so much that my wife and I could barely understand each other. We cannot speak sign language.
We witnessed that for three days, but we thought it was so embarrassing that we didn't show ourselves in the buffet restaurant between 1 and 5 p.m.
We didn't eat hot once in that restaurant. Yes we took part in the evening meal for a few days but everything that was offered was lukewarm.
The quality of the food was moderate to poor. It all tasted bland and to name just a few examples: the vegetables were scarce and almost cold, the pizzas were thin, very weak and very thin and not tasty. We call that stomach filling. The hamburgers were already laid out well in advance of opening, and they too were lukewarm and tasteless. The meat products were usually scarce and of a moderate quality. The lettuce didn't always look fresh. I took a picture of it and then you can clearly see that the expiry date of that salad had already expired. Three types of pasta were offered. All three pasta were equally chewy and the taste was the same because all pasta had the same tomato sauce. The sliced fruit such as melon, pineapple etc. looked nice but it was not. It was often hard and not yet ripe.
What we noticed during the cruise was that the same thing was offered in that restaurant every day. There was virtually no variation. And that for 18 days.
Bar service employees walked around during the opening of the buffet restaurant. Their job was to bring paid drinks on request.
There was no question of a friendly look. Rather tingy.
We saw that those ladies were dressed in shorts and they were wearing hats. A few of them were very corpulent. When one of these ladies sauntered past our table and she turned a quarter of a turn, I immediately had no appetite anymore.
We give all women in the world a job, but this was certainly not representative of MSC.
Many dirty dishes remained on the tables for too long. Those ladies walked right past it because apparently it wasn't their job to clean it up.
One morning we had breakfast there. We had found a table and when I went to a coffee machine I saw that all the mugs were gone. I walked to another coffee machine, about 40 meters away, but all the mugs were finished too. I walked back again and saw two employees from that restaurant at that machine. One of them filled a thermos with coffee. I spoke to him and told him that the mugs were finished here (and he saw that himself) and at the other vending machine. He pointed
he direction of the other side of the ship (port side) and told me that there might still be mugs there. Steam slowly came out of my ears but I could control myself and walked back to our table.
The coffee machines there were not adjusted in the same way. One machine poured lukewarm coffee, the other bitter, another poured half a mug and another poured way too much coffee, the coffee flowing well over the edge of the mug. And that for 18 days. So there was no supervision of this. Furthermore, many coffee mugs were not clean and there was still a dirty brown border inside. The cutlery that was wrapped in a napkin was sometimes still left with food scraps.
Men in white suits were apparently the "chefs" in that restaurant. We regularly noticed that the bosses visited each other for a friendly chat. Fine, but in our opinion it was far too often lacking supervision of the ups and downs in the buffet restaurant.
We also regularly eat in the so-called Dining Room.
When booking this cruise, we had indicated that we would like a double table for the session of 7 p.m. because it turned out to be possible.
But in that restaurant there were no double tables at all.
We sat at a six-person table and that table was reserved for us during the cruise.
The food in this restaurant was very variable in quality.
What surprised us every day was the fact that you got little or no vegetables at the main menu.
To name just a few examples: I ordered souvlaki and it consisted of 2 satay sticks with 3 pieces of meat on each stick. There was no more on the plate. That meat was so chewy that it was impossible to cut and certainly not to eat. Five of the six table companions gave it back to the waiter. Another time I ordered a steak.
On my plate lay a steak of 4 mm thin with 5 pieces of fries fries underneath.
That was it. That steak was tasteless and as tough as a leather cloth and that is no exaggeration. That too went back to the kitchen.
To make it clear, we would like to mention that the portions were very sparse and not very tasty.
Water was not served there, you could buy a bottle of water there (of course other drinks).
So it certainly wasn't a party to eat in the Dining Room.
That was different at HAL.
We are happy to use the swimming pools and whirlpools on board a cruise ship. During the first 7 days on board we noticed that the water from the three pools was and remained cold. There was no human in the water. The water from the whirlpools was lukewarm. We noticed that every day, the entire day, a so-called security officer sat by the pool. So an employee at every swimming pool. Those people had to supervise if people were swimming, but there was no one in the water. Strange. After that first week we reported to the reception that the temperature of the pool water was suitable for penguins but not for people and that the water in the whirlpools was very lukewarm.
That employee passed the complaint on to the relevant department. Two days later the pools were suddenly busy with people. The temperature of the water was pleasant, including the whirlpools. In our opinion, the temperature of the swimming pool water can still be read in the central control room near the engine room. Where is the initiative to check that out?
There were hundreds of sun loungers on the uncovered outside decks. The number of normal seats was limited to around 25. These were with tables near an outdoor bar and that was the smoking corner.
We like to sit on a chair in the sun to enjoy the sun, the view and with a good book. That was only possible if two smokers released their seats. We do not smoke and we did not need a smoke smell instead of sea air.
You cannot sit on a sun lounger and reading while lying down is not an option.
There are two libraries on the ship. We have found one (1) and it was small with only 6 seats. A library with a small selection of books and old newspapers for 3000 passengers. Music came from the speakers in the ceiling. Upon inquiry, the other library appeared to be located in the part of yacht club members, so we could not reach that.
During the cruise 4 times the time was changed because we were in a different time zone.
On the cruise ship we went looking for a clock with the right ship time. Nowhere could we find a clock and near the reception there was also no clock or a TV screen with ship info and the ship time. There were TV screens here and there but only advertisements from MSC were shown. We inquired at a receptionist where we could find a clock with the correct ship time. She did not know and asked a colleague. He answered that there was a clock on deck 7 near the tenders, so outside.!
Doesn't anyone at MSC come up with the idea of hanging a clock at the reception, where many people pass by every day?
Every day, at set times, there was the necessary entertainment at the central swimming pool, where a stage was situated with huge speaker boxes.
When that party started, the pool water almost became a wave pool due to the huge number of decibels that came out of those speaker boxes.
Around that time we went looking for one of the, by the way, very scarce, quiet spots.
Halfway through the cruise we again checked our expenses (the bill) on board. We could see that on the TV in our cabin. Well arranged.
We then saw that 2x an amount of 180 euros had been credited, being the service charge. In addition, 2x1 euro was credited that would be donated to Unicef. Our surprise was great.
Halfway through the cruise, the full amount of the service charge has already been credited.
When you enjoy a three-course dinner ashore in any restaurant
halfway through your dinner you will not immediately get the bill.
We were familiar with the concept of service charge and we normally do not object to that. But now we went to the reception to inquire when we could change the service charge. The employee handed us a blank A4 sheet. We then had to state why we wanted to change the service charge and what we did want to pay.
Yes you fall on that ship from one surprise to the other.
We informed her that we would send an E-mail to MSC as soon as we were home again. She then changed the service charge on her computer screen to 0 euros.
Then we informed her that we think Unicef is an excellent organization but that MSC is not authorized to withhold 2 euros from us without our permission.
We donate to many charities, including Unicef, but we do that whenever we want and determine the amount of this donation ourselves.
Now MSC donates roughly 3000 x 1 euro (from this cruise) to Unicef, but in fact that money comes from the passengers.
We asked that employee to cancel the amount, which she also did.
In Iilha Grande (Brazil) we would go ashore with a tender.
We had to gather in a very large room and received a card with a number on it.
After a while our number and two other numbers were called and we were able to head for the tender. Well that was a complete chaos again.
We were immediately stuck in traffic in the corridors and still had a long way to go towards the tender. It took almost half an hour before we could enter the tender. No, on that ship, almost nothing was structured and apparently it also appears to be difficult.
We boarded an excursion in Rio de Janeiro.
We had to walk a very long way along the quay. The guide preceded us but never looked around to see if anyone could keep up. We arrived in a very large hall where we could finally board the bus. The distance traveled on my GPS was just over 1 km. People who were a little incapacitated were rightly complaining because those buses could easily have picked us up near the ship.
After that excursion we had to walk the same way back but then in the rain.
When we wanted to disembark in Santos on November 20 to return home, I was stopped at security. Not my wife.
I was summoned by the security guard to report me at the reception, but to the question why he could not answer.
My wife was already on the quay then but came back on board.
We struggled through the corridors and against the flow of people towards the reception.
There, an employee informed us that we still had to pay the board bill.
Pay for a board account?
We informed her that a long time ago we had provided MSC via the internet with all the information that MSC requested, including the details of our credit card. MSC was therefore able to collect the bill without any problems.
But that employee informed us that MSC worked with two separate systems. The credit card details that MSC had asked us for were not meant to collect the bill. We had to do that at a column near the reception. At the pillar stood a staff member who helped many other passengers to make the payment. We thought this was a strange procedure and paid with our debit card because it didn't work with the credit card.
When we finally got back on the shore, we were happy and pleased that we were off the ship and returned home.
We want to summarize our impression of the MSC Fantasia and its crew as follows.
The ship is one big sailing bar, hung with mirrors and lots of bling bling.
Everything is based on selling drinks as much as possible and that drink is very expensive.
The crew is not friendly, not helpful and sometimes arrogant.
You are not a guest for them but a burden.
We will NEVER join MSC anymore, not even for free.