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   Cruise Travel - Reader Reviews

Welcome to Your Favorites, where you have the opportunity to share your travel experiences with fellow Internet Travelers around the world.

Mediterranean Shipping Cruises

MV Armonia

Your Rating:One Star
Reviewed by: David Darman
# previous cruises: 31 to 40
Date of Trip: December 27, 2004
Itinerary: South America

The MSC Armonia is sailing along the Brasilian coast this season. We boarded in Rio on 12/27 and cruised 7 days up to Salvador and back. Of all my 35 prior cruises on various cruise lines this was the worst experience I have ever had in terms of food and service. Until things change this ship is to be avoided at any cost - although we paid a rather pricey $300 per day for an inside cabin. That was probably higher than the norm since it was over the new year.

Public Areas
The Armonia is a compact 58,000 gt, but accomodates about 2100 passengers owing to the tiny cabins, compact dining and public rooms, a small casino, no library/card room to speak of and a bizarrely spaced shops area. All cabins and public rooms and furnishings appeared clean and well maintained though a bit spartan. The pool area with buffet restaurant was typical except for a large eyesore of a rock climbing wall that was sealed off. The gymnasium was adequate. There was a charge to use the saunas.

Food and Service
In a word food was horrible. Poor quality, variety and preparation. Our table mates concurred. Meat that was tough as shoe leather. Overcooked fish served with not all scales removed. No bread basket - roll and bread stick which were never offered to be replaced. Same mundane tomato sauce served with pasta day in and day out. Soups all tasted similarly bland. Service was mediocre at best. Never met the maitre d hotel and it seemed neither did his staff. And that was the dining room. The buffet on the pool deck was worse. Food handlers not consistently wearing gloves ( I got the runs my last day). No trays for the buffet line so patrons had to juggle dishes or put everything on one huge platter. Breakfast in the cabin was limited to the cold continental variety, eg, bread and coffee. You had to pay extra for all other room service. Buffet breakfast served only scrambled or hard boiled eggs together with greasy bacon and other unappetizing cold cuts and cheeses. On at least one morning I saw shrivelled up hot dogs being passed off as sausage. Canned fruit except for melons. Forget about pancakes, waffles, or omelets or even bagels or english muffins for that matter. "Juice" reminded me of kool-aid. Servers were there to clean tables - didn't notice much else that they did. The buffet food at lunch seemed to be recycled. The desserts were an embarrassment to the gods of Italian cuisine. But the pizza was even a greater catastrophe - it was worse than any improperly cooked frozen pizza I have ever had. And I was a bachelor for many years! Again no trays or consistent hygiene.

The grill offered hamburgers and low quality hotdogs. But forget about a cheeseburger, much less something as extravagant as veggie burgers. Condiments did not include relish or pickles. Are you getting the idea ?

There was a "gelato" and fresh juice bar, but it was closed . A staffer told me they closed it because it wasn't turning a profit.

My wife and I played cards at a pool side table for 4 hours one afternoon and not once did a pool server approach and ask if we wanted so much as a glass of water or even to buy a bottle. Talk about laid back "european" service. No. It was just plain bad service in any language.

I could understand how staff acquired it slothful habits as management itself was incompetent. Through no reason of our own we were not assigned a dining room table. I asked reception to get us one, but they insisted we wait in line in the dining room to get a table assignment. I had to wait in line one full hour right after boarding - not to change a table mind you, but to get one.

Embarkation was special. Somehow we didn't make it on to the passenger list and were refused boarding. A person who I later learned was an MSC land agent tried to help us prove our entitlement to board. Things were frantic and when, out of curiosity (and concern for our bags which he had put aside out of our eyesight) I asked him who he was he told me to "f" myself. This was overheard by MSC staff at the boarding desk, but to my disbelief, no one seemed to care much less apologize. Subsequently I learned that it was the chief housekeeper, a senior officer, who had heard this exchange. He later bought me a bottle of wine for my troubles. I submitted a detailed memo to the hotel mgr demanding an apology from the MSC agent , but none has been received to date.

One oasis in this sea of incompetence was my cabin steward, who, as is often the case, was great. He kept the room tidy and was responsive to all our requests for ice, extra towels, glasses etc.

The inside aft cabin on deck 9 was smallish but efficient with adequate closet and drawer space. No sitting area except for a makeup desk and chair in front of a mirror. There was a mini bar beneath the tv with a reasonably priced variety of cans and bottles. The bathroom was small and the shower was tiny. I am about average size ( well , okay , my belly is expanding) and the cloth shower curtain often clung to me as I turned while showering. The shower head was removable so this ameliorated things a bit.

There was a tv that purported to offer pay movies, but this service was not operable during the entire cruise. In deed, there was not much programming at all and no movies at all.

I attended several shows including a couple by the dance cast. I have studied dance and in my opinion the dance troupe were good dancers, however the choreography, costumes, lighting, props etc were amateurish. The production values of the shows were poor. There was a good Italian tenor and one or two interesting if not entertaining acts.

AS mentioned above there was no library or card room to speak of. The library was opened an hour or two daily and I saw about 2 feet of english language paperbacks, probably left behind by passengers. There was one spanish language scrabble set and some checker sets.

I will say that the cruise staff tried hard to please at pool side especially and there was a big emphasis on activities for children. My Portuguese is bad , but my wife is Brasilian and language was not an impediment - the lack of adult entertainment was.

I have grown accustomed to skipping almost all ship excursions as I find that they are overpriced and/or geared to a less active person. Generally , one can arrange a better tour with a local cabbie at dockside. Which we did at Salvador, Ilheus and Buzios. We did not go shore in Santos ( Sao Paolo's port) as there isn't much to do or see there. We like to dance before dinner , but there didn't seem to be much dancing music available at that time. Nor any time. The ship was chock full of kids ( there must have been some promotion for free kids in cabins ).

There were no port lectures or presentations of any kind in any language. We ventured into the disco a couple of nights and I was shocked to hear the rap music lyrics that came out over the speakers. It was in bad taste.

Who Goes
This was a predominately Brasilian crowd, much younger than on other cruises I have been on. I believe many shared my low opinion of the food and service though many and especially the younger kids wouldn't know to expect any better. This is partly due to the fact that not many cruise lines operate in Brasilian waters because the govt imposes difficult and costly conditions on the cruise company. As fate would have it, my table mate owned a small interest in a cruise line that tried to operate in Brasilian waters. The govt wanted to impose ridiculous conditions compared to other countries. For example, a bar mgr informed me that 30% of the bar revenue has to be paid over to the Brasilian govt as a condition of porting in their waters. These table mates were the best thing about this cruise as far as I am concerned. It was the nicest part in what was otherwise a bad shipboard experience.

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