Saturday, March 14, 2009

MSC Orchestra: Embarkation Day

Every passenger approaches their cruise ship on embarkation day with different expectations. My husband Mel and I had one main question on March 7th, “How long will it take to board?” That may seem odd, but embarkation was problematic when MSC Orchestra kicked off her Caribbean season this winter with a 2-night cruise. As Richard Sasso, President and CEO of MSC Cruises explained it, the day got off to a bad start when the ship arrived late in Fort Lauderdale, got worse when passengers began arriving at 10am for a 4pm check-in, and the situation progressed to “perfect storm” status when a computer glitch caused additional delays.

Since that inauspicious beginning, MSC Cruises is on track with their usual schedule of handling 900 passengers an hour in Port Everglades. To see what would happen by arriving at a peak time, we entered the terminal at 11:30am and the entire check-in process took 20 minutes. We had crossed the MSC Orchestra gangway and made our way to the buffet for lunch before noon.

Our first impression is that MSC Orchestra is an Italian beauty with an abundance of gleaming marble and brass. In a way, you could say the d├ęcor is a bit retro, but Mel’s description—“upscale warmth”—sums it up.

This is spring break time in the United States and we were soon joined by many children, including college students. With MSC Cruises’ Kids Sail Free program (children 17 and under as the 3rd & 4th occupants in a stateroom), a cruise is a great value for families and MSC Orchestra carried 2,900 passengers during our week-long Western Caribbean sailing, with 98% of them from North America.

Tomorrow’s blog will focus on accommodations and the suite life on MSC Orchestra.

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