As is becoming customary in this series on MSC Magnifica, I am going to open with some positivity…
MSC’s spritz game is first class. Their Aperol Spritz is properly excellent and the Ramazzotti Rosato Spritz was great, even if it never, not once, arrived with the advertised garnish of basil. I would have thought that, given the brief nature of the cocktail list, all the required ingredients would be on hand.
Now, back to the theme of the cruise - poorly trained staff with haunted eyes that scream “PLEASE SAVE ME”. Bar service is, in general, terrible. So terrible and so slow that I assume it’s a deliberate strategy to limit the consumption of guests on the unlimited beverage packages that were being pushed so hard.
In many cases, bars were so understaffed that barmen would bark “no cocktails” before you placed your order. However, in amongst this environment of normalised rudeness, there were two standout incidents.
On embarkation day, I headed to the carnival of sensory overload that is the Tiger Bar and order a Grey Goose martini; regular readers may have noticed that this is something of a benchmark drink - I order one on every cruise.
Unusually, I’m served pretty swiftly and the drink arrives in short order - all frosted glass and syrupy iciness. I’m delighted, until I take a sip. Something very odd has happened. The taste is bad, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. At first, I think it’s soap, or maybe rinse aid in the glass. Then I see, the barmaid has clearly picked up Grey Goose “Poire” by mistake.
First, rather than admit the error, shy tries to convince me that she gave me pear “as a surprise”. When I protest that I dislike it, she does agree to make up another. In doing so, she takes a frozen glass from the freezer and places in on the bar in front of me. This new glass is visibly filthy - something odd is stuck to it. Before she pours the new drink, I point out the, well, slart on the glass. “It’s just ice”, I’m told, so I pick off a piece of the mystery liquid and demonstrate that it is clearly not ice. We then move onto “it’s a spilled ingredient from a molecular cocktail” (heavens preserve us) - that may be so, but I still don’t want it in my drink. After a little more to and for, a fresh class is taken from the freezer and a perfectly drinkable martini decanted into it.
Oh, and after all this, I added a big tip to the bill - by this point I assumed that MSC were probably taking the extra vodka directly from her wages.
I have, however, saved the best for last…
During our unscheduled day in port, there didn’t seem to be many bars open. Indeed, it seemed that just the atrium and two pool bars were staffed, with a total of four barmen and women spread across the three locations. I’m sure this would have been quite sufficient on a normal port day with most of the passengers on land, but this wasn’t a normal port day, and the ship was crowded. There were waiters taking drink orders, but they were just backing up with the deep crowds at the bars.
So, I’m waiting at the Atrium bar, trying to place an order with a barmaid who looks to be on the verge of tears, when, at a nearby table, three gents who’d clearly been waiting a while for their drinks enquire with the waiter of any progress. “I’ve only got two hands”, he snaps back at them, before shouting to the barmaid “Please just pour three glasses of Chardonnay so that these people stop making funny faces at me.”