Italian flare aboard MSC Orchestra
Ship Review by Michael Coleman, January 2009
A little bit of Italy has come to a big cruise ship in the Caribbean this winter.
|Cruise News Weekly’s MSC Orchestra photoset|
The 2,550-passenger MSC Orchestra offers sun-drenched locales and a shipboard ambience similar to that of a high-end Italian hotel. A sophisticated, elegant decor greets guests on each of Orchestras 13-passenger decks.
The ship is but one of 10 operating today in the privately-owned, Geneva-based MSC fleet.
Day-long food options and high octane late-night revelry, the norm on most lines cruising the Caribbean, are not common themes aboard Orchestra.
The ship, according to MSC, USA President and CEO Richard Sasso, attempts to strike a fine balance between European hospitality, Italian flare and the needs of a North American public.
As such, menus include hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, steak sandwiches and other traditional fare. But, to book a cruise aboard this beautiful, Sophia Loren-christened ship with the intent to eat whats easily accessible at home defeats the very Orchestra sailing experience.
Enjoy complimentary prosciutto and cheese in the ships elegant, La Cantinella Wine Bar. Spend an evening in La Piazzetta relishing a margherita or marinara pizza thats so delicious, youd swear the ship had docked in Naples itself. Breads, rolls and assorted pasta are as good as it gets and so too is the gelato station where, even under the stars, passengers enjoy the ships guiltiest pleasure.
There are five onboard restaurants: LIbiscus and Villa Borghese (the two main dining rooms); La Piazzetta (casual, self-serve buffet); and two, nominal-fee specialty restaurants: 4 Seasons (linen tablecloths/a la carte) and Shanghai, one of the few Chinese-inspired restaurants at sea.
Classical evening entertainment in the Covent Garden Theater, live music in most of the ships 10 bars, and the sounds of a string quartet in the lobby at midnight add to the warmth of shipboard life.
Accommodations are equally pleasant. Orchestra features 1,275 staterooms, 80 percent of which have a private balcony. Theres an onboard disco, casino, cigar lounge, Internet cafe, giant outdoor LED screen which airs movies on the pool deck, and a 16,146 square foot spa complete with the latest fitness equipment.
As is the case on all MSC ships, youth under 17 years of age sail free when accompanied by two adults.
Service levels were surprisingly spotty, however, and while it should not deter potential passengers from booking a trip it hardly reflected the shipboard ambience so meticulously crafted by Orchestras designers. Some crew members would be well-served to observe sommelier Alessandro and La Piazzetta waiter Ildebrando who, day or night, provided exceptional passenger care.
Orchestra is in the midst of seven-night itineraries alternating between the Eastern and Western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale. The ship will host baseball theme cruises during voyages departing February 28, March 28 and April 11.
Look for a seven-night roundtrip Fort Lauderdale to Bermuda sailing April 25 before the ship returns to Europe on an 18-night trans-Atlantic voyage to Copenhagen from Fort Lauderdale, May 2.
The ship will then offer Northern Europe itineraries through August and Western Mediterranean voyages from Barcelona in the fall.
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