Flew BA Gatwick to Venice Marco Polo, landed at 10.40 and in cabin at noon - possibly the quickest we've ever embarked!
First impressions of the ship were really good - very clean and a high quality decor. The same can be said of our balcony stateroom on deck 11. Plenty of room and storage, a nice balcony and a perfectly adequate bathroom.
We had been allocated second sitting dining due to booking relatively late and did try to change to first sitting but after meeting our table mates the first evening we were pleased we didn't change. Gary & Barbara (Canada) Cam & Serge (Canada) and Pat & Elizabeth (Australia) were great company and contributed greatly to our enjoyment of this cruise.
The food was perhaps not the greatest I've ever had but there was a good choice and although portions were not large, up to six courses ensured a full belly every time. The only disappointments are that no drinking water is provided (free) and coffee was not served at the end of the meal.
First night out of Venice - which ranks only second in my opinion to Valetta as a sail-away - the Captain warned us that 60 mph winds were expected and things could get a bit bumpy but never really noticed much personally.
Unfortunately the winds continued next morning and when we arrived in Bari it was still at 45 mph and too dangerous to dock. As there were passengers disembarking and embarking in Bari it was necessary to sit it out until the wind dropped and we docked in Bari at 9.00pm and left at midnight. The knock on effect was that we would miss Katakolon the next day - a shame not being able to visit Mount Olympus in Olympic year. A letter arrived from the Captain offering a 25% discount off a cruise taken within the next year!
However every cloud has a silver lining and we were afforded an unexpected day at sea spent catching a bit of sun on the best day weatherwise of the cruise.
Santorini next morning and had to queue for tender tickets from 6.30 am ( why didn't they do this the day before when we were at sea?) and were on Tender 10 so got off about 10.00 am. There was a long queue for the cable car but I'm told less of a queue for the donkeys!!! Spent a pleasant couple of hours wandering the streets of Fira but there was some drama getting back down to the harbour with a long queue for the cable car and time running out fast but we got on the last tender back.
Next port of call was Mykonos, and arriving at 7.30pm. we decided to stay on board as the shuttle bus to the town centre was 8 euros - a mistake as our tablemates caught the local bus from the port at 1.50 euros which dropped them off at the same place as the shuttle!
Day 5 was Athens and we had prebooked a tour with Achtypistours (www.achtypistours.gr) and were delighted to discover that we had a 12 seater minibus to ourselves and although our driver Spiros informed us that he didn't speak much English he was informative enough and took us to all the sites before dropping us off at the Acropolis for about 2 hours which was just right.
Day 6 Corfu and it started raining! Again it was 8 euros for the shuttle bus but the local buses run from the port into the old town for 1.50 euros. However as the Greek Orthodox Church celebrated Easter a week later than the rest of the Christian world it was in fact Good Friday and there was a procession through the old town of the cross, choirs, bands and scouts which made the day despite the weather.
Day 7 Dubrovnik and raining again! Local bus from just outside the port to Pile but you will need to purchase local currency (kuna) from an exchange bureau in the bus station outside the port - about 7 kuna to 1 euro and bus is 10 kuna. Despite the rain we walked the walls of the old town (70 kuna - tickets from inside the main city gate)in about 1 1/2 hours and decided it was a place to revisit in better weather!
Returned to Venice next morning (still raining)and found it difficult to get information from MSC as to what we could do in Venice as our flight was not leaving until 17.35 that afternoon. Eventually found out ourselves that we could leave luggage for 4 euros at the port, there is a free shuttle bus to the People Mover outside the port which costs 1 euro to get to Piazzale Roma where you can catch the Vaporetto (water bus) to the Piazza San Marco for 6.50 euros. each way.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the value for money that MSC Cruises provide. Food was good - as a tip breakfast in L'Oleandros is far better than the usual hustle & bustle of the buffet and you get English Breakfast tea. Didn't use all the bars or showrooms but found L'Enotaca Wine Bar very acceptable and the shows we did see in the theatre were vey good. Service was not excellent but then again you weren't always being pressured into buying things as on other cruise lines.
All in all great value for money.