November 04, 2016

Cozumel, Day at Sea, Nassau

We arrive in Cozumel under cloudy skies and light winds. The high for the day is expected to be in the high 70's. For the first time in years the ship I am on does not dock at the new international terminal, but at the old pier near downtown. There are several ships at the international terminal, but they are too distant for me to see.

MSC does many things differently than the other lines. Another is that all tours depart from the ship, not a meeting point on shore. This precludes doing any shopping on your own before a tour that may not leave until several hours after docking. On the plus side, it is less likely that a passenger will miss the meeting place or meeting time. Not good or bad, just different.

Several good items on the dinner menu tonight. I choose to have a steak. It is served hot! What a pleasant surprise. My table mates never arrive, so I am out of the dining room in time to catch the early show. All in all Sophie does a good job, but is severely handicapped by an inefficient system and lack of support. For example all the waiters have to go to one bar to get all drinks for the dining room, then she has to go back to the same bar to pay the check. Every other ship has figured out a better way.

The show tonight is just the singers and dancers. The show is enjoyable even though I don't understand the words of most of the songs. Barely made it through English in school not to mention ever attempting Italian, Spanish, etc.

The Eataly Steakhouse is supposed to be the best specialty restaurant on board. I walk past it many times a day, and tonight actually caught a couple dining there. The first time I have seen any passengers in the restaurant.

Tonight and tomorrow we sail towards Nassau, Bahamas. Presently the seas have slight chop and the ship has a little motion, but not much. We turn our clocks ahead 1 hour tonight in preparation for entering the next time zone to our East.

Our day at sea is perfect weather wise. Mostly sunny with temperatures in the high 70's. I have managed to catch a cold, and will avoid the dining room tonight. Actually I discover the one place that serves food that should be hot, actually hot. The sports bar. I have a bacon cheeseburger for dinner. Not the most healthy, but at least it tastes good. I find an isolated seat in the theater for the early show. What started early in the week as good entertainment is beginning to become rather boring. The gymnasts and acrobats do the same routines they have done every other night, with the only difference being their costumes. There are few public clocks on the ship, I did find one as I was walking around. I have no idea what time it is set to, it is 1 ½ hours different than ship's time.

We arrive in Nassau and passengers are allowed off the ship starting at 11:30. We are one of 5 ships in port today, the most Nassau can handle at one time. The temperature is near 80 with sunny skies and a light wind. Still pampering my cold, I elect to stay on the ship. Besides, I will be back here in 10 days.

As I near the end of my voyage I will share some of my opinions, I am sure a few of which you can anticipate from what I already have written. The MSC product is quite a bit different than what the other lines cruising out of Florida offer.

Even though they sell drink packages, alcohol sales are a much lower portion of their revenue stream. No dedicated beverage service in the dining room. Your wait staff can get you a beverage but be prepared for a long wait. "Long lines at the bar" is the nightly excuse. Beverages are not available at all in the theater. Limited service in other entertainment areas such as the piano bar, and reception area bar. It is not uncommon to have to wait 20 minutes or more for a server. There is a bar in the buffet, but no table service for beverages, just self service.

All the music in the theater is prerecorded, no orchestra. The piano bar never had a piano player, but they often did in the lobby bar. The specialty restaurants weren't special enough that many passengers used them.

Food presentation was good, but in the dining room and the buffet, food was supposed to be hot was usually cold. I just don't think they have the delivery system figured out yet. Obviously the food is hot when it is cooked, they just can't keep it hot until they get it to the guest. The most extensive buffet presentation was on boarding day. Dinner choices were very very limited at the buffet.

Cabins are comfortable with plenty of storage space. Don't expect a towel animal every night. They made me one about the third night and it still sits on top of nightstand lamp. Rooms are serviced twice a day, but vacuuming the carpet is not part of the daily service.

The ship itself is decorated in a very modern style. Lots of chrome and mirrors and black glass/plastic/marble. Many areas are dark and gloomy. Ceilings, even in the dining room, are low by modern ship standards. Getting around the ship is not intuitive or convenient, many passageways are narrow. Some elevators are hidden in corners and hard to locate. Hallways zig and zag back and forth. Floor levels go up and down, sometimes with steps, other times with a sloping ramp. My table in the dining room sits on a slightly sloped floor. In general the ship is not friendly towards anyone with any mobility issues. Only stairways between decks have railings. Where there are only a few steps, there are no railings. Only a handful of seats in the theater are accessible with a wheel chair. One must navigate up and down about 40 steps to sit in any of the first 15 rows, and there are no handrails.

Parts of the ship are restricted to certain suite customers, a practice becoming more prevalent in the industry. But even for them to reach their private dining room they must take two elevators and transverse the entire length of the ship.

The guest relations staff is quite extensive, and has a number of personnel dedicated to helping customers in their native language, not only at the desk, but throughout the ship. The entire staff is very friendly and staff is highly visible and intermingles with the guests quite often.

Common with many ships, the Internet is sporadic. Occasionally I am able to get and send an email, but often not.

I try the buffet for dinner this last night. The Pasta is cold and inedible. I leave my plate and head to the sports bar. Delicious BBQ chicken wings, delightful staff, and the food is served hot. I share a table with some first time cruisers from Virginia, they too are very disappointed in the food and have been coming to the sports bar for four days now. They learned faster than I did.

The ship has run out of strawberries, limes, strawberry daiquiri mix and sprite zero, and those are only the items I know of first hand.

Am I likely to book MSC again? Since I never say never, I will just says it is very unlikely. Time to pack. I'm am scheduled to be off the ship by 7:00, time will tell. My car is parked a couple of blocks away, and then off to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale to pick up my daughter and her husband arriving on the Harmony of the Seas. I'll bet their cruise was much more enjoyable. We will share stories on the four hour drive home.