by Michael Walter Smith
One of the major cruise lines with ships seen regularly within The Mediterranean is MSC (Mediterranean Cruise Company) and the vessel pictured here is "MSC Armonia" photographed in Cartagena in March of last year.
The Company, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, was founded in Italy and their claim is 'offering Med. style in food and design'. Currently they operate 12 cruise ships worldwide of varying passenger capacities with a further 2 under construction, due for becoming operational this year. It is the World's largest PRIVATELY owned cruise company.
"MSC Armonia" is a mid sized ship,with capacity of 1952 passengers and crew of 700.
A bone of contention on cruise vessels in general is the 'tipping' policy. Rather than leaving this to discretion, Line's add automatically a levy to the 'on board account'. This allegedly is ultimately shared between staff who should qualify - room steward, table waiter, head waiter, wine waiter etc.
MSC 's policy is to add 7€ per person per night (3.50€ for children under 14) for cruises of 8 nights or less and for 9 nights or more 6€ per person per night (3€ for children). However, if felt that the service is not to standard expected this can be adjusted, or even removed, by contacting the guest relations manager. I personally on one cruise, not MSC, felt that service overall was not to standard expected and elected that these charges should not be automatically added to my account, informing I would 'tip' the staff individually who actually met, or exceeded my expectations. This I did, thus ensuring that employees who deserved it, actually received my contribution.
When costing or booking a cruise, enquire as to whether a drinks package is included or available. Some Lines offer an inclusive deal with the cost of the cruise. Other Lines offer 'drink packages' at additional cost. This normally varies from bottled water to soft drinks, to wines, to spirits, or all inclusive packages.