2 nights on the MSC Virtuosa from and return to Southampton.
We actually hadn’t planned on sailing with MSC again, from our last cruise with MSC we wasn’t impressed and it wasn’t for us. We were booked on P&O Aurora for 3 nights beginning of July 2022 but this was cancelled due to her still being in dry dock which we were gutted about! P&O refunded the full amount including all extras we had paid within 4 days, so we looked and MSC Virtuosa was the only short cruise that fitted in our dates and still had an accessible cabin so we decided we would give them one more chance!
Usually we stay in Southampton the night before but as this was a last minute booking the prices for hotels were extortionate! £200 for a Holiday Inn express where we usually pay between £45-£70 a night! So we compromised and found The Days Inn Sutton off the A34 which is about a 40 minute drive to Southampton Cruise Port. This gives us time to leave there at 11am grab some breakfast and get to terminal for our 13:00pm check in.
The Days Inn Sutton, we have never stayed in before, we had booked an accessible double room and to be honest wasn’t expecting too much. We paid £65 for a night here, this was the cheapest we could find at such short notice. The Days Inn is quite basic but once we got into the accessible room we quickly found it not accessible! The bed was far to high to transfer out of wheelchair and the toilet was far too low with not many grab rails and then it was a bath not a Wetroom! As you can see from the pictures below it wasn’t safe for me and to top it off it was a hot day/night and they have no air conditioning or even a fan!
As we couldn’t stay here I managed to get an accessible room at the Hilton Ageas bowl but at a cost, we are currently trying to see if we can get our money back from the Days Inn as wasn’t in the room for more than 20 mins, we shall see…
We had to leave the Hilton at 11am and our check in time was for 1pm so we made a slow drive there, the weather has been so hot and dry but it seems each time we go to get on a cruise it is pouring down with rain on embarkation day! Parking with ABP disabled was really easy and getting onto the ship went pretty quick, MSC want to know if your cabin is even or odd as that depends what door you enter in the terminal. Then they ask to see just your ticket and then you go straight through security which is not what we are used to. It was ok just a little frustrating as I had everything prepared and had to file it all away again. After security we headed to check in which again was quick, they wanted passports, tickets, covid vaccines but didn’t ask for proof of covid test which was odd as MSC still ask for a LFT test with a fit to sail certificate! We then got our cruise cards and boarded the ship. It was manic once on board as there were 5500 passengers on board which is the biggest and busiest cruise we have ever been on.
Cabins we were told would be ready for 2pm so as it was just so loud and busy we waited outside our cabin to get some peace and quiet, we were in cabin just before 2pm. Here are pictures of our “accessible cabin” in the words of MSC
We were quite frustrated with their muster drill as there was no information about it except it will be on your tv, we eventually found it and watched it, wanting to get it out the way but we didn’t know if we had to go to the actual muster station so we called guest services, we were told no that’s all you have to do so go and enjoy your cruise. I wasn’t feeling too good so by 5pm I was in bed which isn’t unusual for me at times only to hear over the tannoy that you have to watch the safety video on tv then call a number after, we did this, then another tannoy message being called in groups 3 decks at a time to go to muster station to scan cruise cards! I was in bed! Hubby went with my card and luckily they scanned it but it stressed me out and after all this so far I can safely say this is our last ever cruise with MSC, the cabin is so small and dangerous and a health and safety risk! You will see pictures further down showing you this.
For passengers with disabilities, MSC Virtuosa has a total of 58 accessible cabins (25x Inside, 32x Balcony, 1x Yacht Club Deluxe Suite). These are the listed types and categories.
- I1-Bella Inside
- I2-Fantastica Inside
- B1-Bella Balcony
- B2-Fantastica Balcony
- B3-Aurea Balcony
- YC1-Yacht Club Suite
Each of the accessible staterooms features: larger size (compared to the non-accessible counterpart), wider doors (width 35 inches / 0,9 m, sitting-level keycard slot), wider turning spaces (5 ft / 1,5 m), ramped thresholds, beds with open bed frames, lowered vanity in the sitting area, amplified phones, captioned TVs, wider bathrooms (door width 35 inches / 0,9 m, roll-in shower, fold-down shower bench, grab rails, lower sinks and closet rods, raised toilets, hand-held shower head, seat height from the floor 0,4 m).
- All accessible cabins also feature a convenient location near the ship’s elevators.
- The ship’s gangways are all wide enough for most types of wheelchairs and disability scooters.
- All decks provide elevator access.
- All passenger lifts have visual, audio and Braille deck indicators.
During an emergency, dedicated crew personnel helps all disabled guests (also those with reduced mobility) to board the ship’s lifeboats.
We booked an accessible balcony Fantastica class cabin, number 13106. We were looking forward to experiencing a new MSC Cruise ship and as I’ve said before we love their ships, they are beautiful but we just don’t like the vibe on them. With this being a new ship we were looking forward to a good accessible cabin especially as it’s classed as a deluxe balcony.
When we got to our cabin the first thing we noticed was that it didn’t have a sofa like the MSC Preziosa did on the same class and it’s an older ship which was a little disappointing and we felt the cabin just didn’t work fully for an accessible cabin, as you can see in the pictures below I couldn’t access the side of the bed I have to sleep on due to muscle weakness and the cabin as you saw above is extremely small for an accessible compared to other MSC Ships and other Cruise Liners.
There also is a bed that can be pulled down from the wall so the cabin can sleep 3, which is great however you have to be careful going past it so you don’t hit your head and in the night as you can see from this picture it stops access to balcony and for the person sleeping on the right side of the bed to safely get to the bathroom! A sofa bed would have been a much better idea! Like they have in able bodied cabins.
If the bed was on the other wall you could access both sides of the bed without difficulty. It just seems a poor design in my opinion. Another issue is the dresser doesn’t have a mirror like the able bodied cabins which means you can not dry or do your hair there and the hair dryer doesn’t reach the mirror on the Wetroom door! I don’t know why they felt that us disabled don’t need a mirror at the dresser like everyone else,
Then in the Wetroom the mirror of dread which is great for the men to shave is at wheelchair height which is great if your male in a wheelchair but my husband isn’t and he would do his back in trying to shave using that, lucky it was just two nights but it’s just so disheartening on a new ship that these flaws are here and there are many. It’s like they tick a box that they have accessible rooms but make them inaccessible, just doesn’t make sense! The true fact of this “accessible cabin” is that it should be recategorised as an “Accessible single side approach” This is a description from Carnival Cruise Lines for this type of cabin as an example “ Single Side Approach are a type of FAC that provides an accessible route and clear floor space on only one side of the bed, in staterooms configured to provide only one bed.”
Above is exactly the type of accessible cabin we got with MSC but we were not told of this, MSC say practically nothing about their accessibility on their ships which is awful.
I was going to do a YouTube video showing how difficult it was for me to get into bed as my side was not accessible and this isn’t advised anywhere, however it was very difficult and needed hubby’s help a lot and it wasn’t dignified at all so I didn’t. As everyones disability is different this may well work for you, however not in my case. Luckily we only had 2 nights. Here are pictures
Here is what MSC say on their website about their accessible cabins:- “Accessible cabins, fitted out especially for guests with disabilities and/or reduced mobility, are available on every ship in the fleet. Guests requiring an accessible cabin can request it at the time of booking. The accessible cabins are larger and offer more space for movement than regular cabins, and come with extra facilities and equipment to meet special needs.” Here is what’s on the app…
Toilet height is 49cm which was high for me at 5ft 2, the width is 33cm and length is 40cm and it did feel quite small compared to other cruise lines, the shower seat height is 50cm, the width is 33cm and length is 34cm. It’s the smallest shower seat I’ve ever had and not comfortable at all. The bed height is 59cm with a big gap under the bed. Pictures below.
These are the restaurants which are included in your cruise fare:-
Marketplace Buffet:- The extensive buffet area includes various multifunction corners serving international dishes, ethnic cuisine, healthy options and a multitude of other tastes. It’s the ideal place for enjoying a great informal dining experience with a spectacular sea view. 1,336-seat buffet. As this was such a busy roudy cruise we only ate from the buffet but took the food back to our cabin to enjoy in more quite atmosphere, the food I have to say in my opinion as food is very personal is by far the worst I’ve ever had from a buffet on a cruise. No taste or flavor very bland and not a lot of choice.
The Free Main Dining Rooms Are
- Blue Danube
- The Opera
- The Symphony
These are their specialists restaurants which come at an added cost,
Indochine Restaurant:- (£££) A new-to-the-line venue which is a Vietnamese-French fusion concept, in a beautiful setting nestled at the back of the Bistrot. It’s not cheap, but it is definitely the most refined of the five for-fee options, with exceptional service, décor and cuisine. Also note, although it’s billed French-Vietnamese fusion, the emphasis is much more on the Asian flavors so expect spring rolls, tom yam soup and pork belly.
HOLA! TACOS & CANTINA:- (£££) Another new-to-the-line venue, this Mexican-themed restaurant is fun and reasonably priced and great for a quick bite. It also does mezcal tasting. Not ideal for a romantic night out, but fun if you are in a group.
Kaito Teppanyaki Restaurant:- (£££) If you are after a show as well as a meal, then this is for you. Anyone familiar with the Teppanyaki concept — sitting around a hot plate as your chef creates your meal for you — will feel right at home. There’s egg throwing, food flipping, utensil juggling and a constant stream of cheesy gags and songs to keep you permanently smiling. Choose from three different set menus, including a veggie only.
Kaito Sushi:- (£££) This is in contrast to the craziness of the teppanyaki, a quiet, authentic sushi bar situated just outside the restaurant, this serves fresh made sushi at very reasonable prices. Excellent for a light lunchtime option.
Butcher’s Cut:- (£££) This American-style steakhouse, (Really hungry? Go for the Tomahawk cut), great sides including mac n’ cheese and outstanding desserts including lava cake and New York Cheesecake. The red booths and black and white prints on the walls add to the authenticity. There’s a great wine list, with some full-bodied reds as a perfect accompaniment.
Tip: Opt for the set dining package rather than a la carte which is a lot more expensive.
21 bars: 5 outdoor bars with breathtaking view and 16 indoor bars, each offering a unique experience, Featuring Rob, the first humanoid robotic bartender at sea, the MSC Starship Club takes guests to a different world.
Not only can Rob mix a range of signature cosmic drinks, he also speaks 8 languages, and enjoys entertaining guests with jokes, riddles and space facts. If he’s in the mood, he may even show you his dance moves!
We didn’t eat at the main dining room as again MSC didn’t listen or try to meet my needs even though they will swear blind that they will, at booking i was told it’s on my notes and i will get that time for dinner of 17:30 as I have to take medication then and I can’t eat late or much as my stomach is partially paralysed. Our time given for dinner was 19:30 and as they were full we couldn’t change the time so unfortunately I cannot report of the food from the main dining room and we didn’t do any of the specialty as it was quite expensive and didn’t tempt us in.
Pools & Aquapark
Above is a list of the pools and Aquapark available to use on the ship and there are also 2 indoor hot tubs but they were closed off next to the indoor Tropical pool. There are hot tubs also located at the side of the ship but all have a lot of stairs.
I love to be in the water, I’m a great swimmer and it’s my way of escaping my wheelchair, I can bum shuffle into a pool like all these but for those who need a hoist I’m sad to say MSC DO NOT HAVE any hoists to get you into any pool or hot tub which is incredibly disappointing especially as again MSC do not tell you this information. I however still did not swim as when hubby went to check the temperature of the water he quickly retreated to get his phone, below is the picture he took of the main outside pool. We have never seen such dirt and the water wasn’t clear like other cruise liners. That was enough to put me off. Many I understand will not be bothered by this but with myself having a compromised immune system I’m not going to risk myself.
Le Grand Théâtre
This is what MSC say about Le Grand Théâtre; The home of dazzling original productions at sea, Le Grand Théâtre houses at least five different shows every week.
Its innovative, world-class productions are created by accomplished artistic directors, choreographers, costume and set designers, as well as a team of lighting, video and sound engineers. The featured artists that bring their vision to life are gifted singers, performers, dancers and musicians. Before each show, enjoy an original experience with the living art gallery. All in a spacious 750-seat arena with the latest in lighting, sound and effects technology.
With multiple performances every night, you can choose the time that suits your best – and enjoy an original pre-show experience before the curtain rises. The only wheelchair space is right at the back row behind everyone and without a companion seat, it’s not wheelchair friendly at all unfortunately. We didn’t go to see any show.
Getting around the ship was tricky, it is a hectic ship as in there is no flow, parts are blocked off for the theatre, main dining rooms and Yacht Club making it feel very disjointed. We knew it probably was going to be a bit of a booze cruise being a 2 nighter so we kept away as that’s not our thing and with my disability and being in a wheelchair would have just been miserable, so we were up early to have a nose around while most slept their booze off. The main feature inside the ship is on deck 6 which is the LED ceiling where they do light shows at night, I couldn’t do this due to having seizures but this is what it’s like during the day.
We anchored off from Guernsey on our second day which is a tender port, I’ve been here so many times now but still have never got off! We were told when booking wheelchairs can get into the tenders, now I have a few things in my mind, one being is MSC Virtuosa like the Edge class of Celebrity Cruises where you can access the tender via the magic carpet restaurant which if so fantastic, finally we are getting somewhere with making ships fully accessible or this person doesn’t actually know the truth and I’m being told the wrong information. It was looking really promising as I received these pictures below.
When I received this I thought oh wow they really can accommodate us full time electric wheelchair users and it must be true because I had to fill out their special needs form explaining all about my disability how I can’t do things and all about my electric 80kg wheelchair but…….. NO ~ MSC I feel think that everyone has the same disability and that even if your in a wheelchair everyone can get up and walk because the only way to get onto a tender with them is like all the other ships down some stairs and a big step! ITS NOT ACCESSIBLE FOR FULL TIME ELECTRIC WHEELCHAIR USERS OR ANYONE WHO CAN NOT DO STAIRS OR STEPS. It felt like a huge slap in the face!
One positive is their lifts, for one they are nice and big so you can wheel in and turn around and the way they are called is something I’ve never seen before. Instead of just pressing the lift button and waiting for one to arrive and then racing over before it closes or others get to it before you this was different. Below is a picture of how to call a lift, you’ll see it’s a touch screen with numbers on and you press the number you want to go to and it will tell you what lift to go to which is a letter, so for example you would press the number 6 and it will say go to lift C.
With over 5500 passengers on board I have to say I never had any issues with waiting or getting a lift like other cruise lines so maybe this is something other liners could eventually adopt as it seemed to work very well.
Overall I feel that MSC do not understand, care or want to be accessible for us disabled guests, we are constantly misinformed and the accommodation and ships are not fully accessible despite stating the contrary on their website and app. They certainly do not go above and beyond to help you or your needs. When booking the staff are not aware that the accessible rooms are not fully accessible and you are told everything will be fine and it’s all accessible which in fact is a lie. To say that we need to tell them our needs so they can meet them is a waste of time when the ships don’t have hoists for pools or hot tubs, no bar is accessible, the theater again not really classed accessible as we are just shoved to the back like an afterthought. MSC made me feel being disabled was wrong and an inconvenience and that they meet the bare minimum to just tick boxes so they can say we are diverse and inclusive when in fact they are not. Not only was it difficult to navigate their accessible cabin but it was also a breach of health and safety in many areas and just unbelievable that a new ship could design their accessible cabins and ships in this way. It is safe to say that we will not sail again with MSC, not just because their lack of accessibility but also the food and vibe on their ships is not for us.
I don’t like to be negative and as you can see from my blogs and vlogs I’m generally not and I feel this isn’t overly negative just honest to my views with accessibility with my disability. I must add that since we have been home we have seen pictures of standard cabins and except the Wetroom the actual cabin is just like the standard cabins except they have a sofa bed next to the bed and the tv on the wall where the 3rd bed is in an accessible. I feel the reason for no sofa bed is it will take away the room for turning circle so that’s why the bed is on the wall and that’s why no vanity mirror as the tv went there. MSC certainly do not meet UK or USA standards of equality however I understand that they go by different laws as they are a European Cruise Liner, however with this being said if this is the causes of lack of accessibility in 2022 they really need to update their laws and make us disabled more inclusive and be much more accommodating, at the end of the day if other cruise ships can be a lot more accessible so can MSC.