We enjoyed this cruise. Not perfect, but very good indeed.
We are a retired UK couple in our mid 50's with adult children. We try and travel somewhere every month - a mixture of long and short haul trips -- we've done 125 reviews to date for Trip Advisor since 2007 and took over 600 flights during one 10 year period, so we think we have a reasonable idea about travel and service. We are only occasional cruisers, but we are doing 2 this summer due to the really great deals on offer. We don't go on any organised excursions and like to do our own thing. We chose this cruise for the excellent itinery and a very keen price.
We took a cab from Marco Polo airport to P. Roma (Euro45) or you can take the ATVO bus (E6). We stayed 2 nights at the Hotel Olympia near P. Roma (see Trip Advisor review from NeilandBarbara).
Day 1 Sunday depart Venice.
At approx 12.00 we took the People Mover from P. Roma (1 Euro each. Multi language machines). Then a 2 min walk to the shuttle bus. Well signed with MSC flags etc. Quite a quick check in -- reasonably busy, but efficient. No welcome aboard cocktail. We went directly to our balcony cabin 12166 deck 12 starboard side.
Cabin was a reasonable size and looked new. Nice burgundy and blue colour scheme. King bed with 3 drawer bedside cabinet each side. Plenty of wardrobe space. Hair dryer in desk. 2 x US 110v and 2 x Europe 220v sockets above desk. Small chair and table. Minibar/fridge. Efficient aircon. Small flat screen TV with CNN and Euronews. Lots of multi language channels. Interactive TV for pay movies and you can check your account through the TV for the ongoing charges. Very clean and well presented room. Housekeeping was efficient every day. Evening turndown service. Room was kept immaculate by the staff -- thank you.
Bathroom -- larger than previous cruises we've done. Good shower, but a curtain rather than a screen. Plenty of storage. Good extraction. Liquid soap dispenser by sink and in shower. Nice and bright with a large mirror.
Balcony -- reasonable size. 2 comfy chairs and small table.
We departed Venice at approx 18.30. Fab views as you depart, but a bit tight time wise, if you are on the 19.00 1st sitting.
Room service served 07.30 to 10.00 -- card on door the night before.
Buffet 07.00 to 10.00 - Gli Archi cafe deck 13
L'Oleandro a la Carte 7.30 to 09.30 deck 5
11.30 to 16.30 Gli Archi cafe
11.30 to 13.30 L'Oleandro
Afternoon tea -- 16.15 to 17.00 Gli Archi cafe
1st sitting 19.00 Maxims level 6
1st sitting 19.00 L'Oleandro level 5
2nd sitting 21.30 Maxims
2nd sitting 21.30 L'Oleandro
Late snacks 12.15 various locations -- but never quite made it!!
Kaito Sushi (fee) 12.00 to 15.00 and 19.00 to 24.00. We did not try it.
Il Giardina Italian (fee) 19.00 to 23.00. Set menu E24 supplement. Fine views from rear of ship. We ate here twice and really enjoyed it.
We bought the wine package -- 6 wines and 7 large water bottles for E115 and the water package of 14 large bottles for E26. Better value than buying separately. You get a book of vouchers that you give in each time you want something. You are not supposed to us the vouchers in the Italian or Sushi restaurants. All additional charges have a 15% service charge.
Day 2 Monday Bari
Arrived 12.00. Offloading passengers by 12.30 and collected new passengers. We got the MSC shuttle from the gangway at approx 14.00. Cost E6 return each to the city centre -- took 10 min max. Nice place to stroll around and have a beer/coffee. Interesting cathedral and castle. Departed 18.00.
Day 3 Tuesday Katakalon for Olympia
Arrived 12.00. Good views of the Greek coastline. The small town is 2 min walk from the pier and is the access point for Olympia. Lots of small bars/restaurants/shops. Nice small marina. The train station to Olympia is a 2 min walk to the right of town. At the end of the pier, Geotravel had luxury aircon coaches to Olympia for the great price of E10 return (www.geo-travel.gr). Entrance fees extra. Coaches leave approx at 13.00 -- back by 16.00. All on board 17.00. Depart 17.30. 1st formal dinner.
Day 4 Wednesday Santorini and Mykonos
A 2 port day.
We've been to Santorini before and it still amazes. The island is the remnant of the tip of a volcanic crater (caldera) that had a massive explosion in approx 1600BC. It left a lagoon 12km x 7km, into which ships can sail. Some think it was Atlantis. A stunning place to sail into.
Arrived at 06.30. The ship first anchors off Athynios, a small port where coaches can get to the sea to meet the tenders to take the excursions. Then the ship then moves to allow tenders to take people to Thira port, where there is no vehicle access. You need to go to La Scala theatre to get a ticket for the tender. All well explained in the daily sheet. All went quite smoothly. We were on shuttle 8 -- left at 09.00. You have to get a cable car or a donkey to the main Thira town on the cliff top (you can also walk of course. Cable car costs E4 each way. There was a small queue at the cable car, but it moved quite fast. Thira town is quaint, with narrow cobbled streets. Plenty of shops and bars with fab clifftop views. We did not use the donkeys -- it looked cruel to us, having to carry people up the steep steps in the heat!! From the port, you can get a boat to Oia (the World Heritage Site village) for E20. This includes a coach return to the cable car. We went a bit later than the masses and returned before them, so no queueing really anywhere. Lots of shuttles at the end for the stragglers!! So no one will be left behind. Departed 14.00 and sailed between the island of Naxos and Paros.
Mykonos -- arrived 17.00. No show tonight and buffet is earlier. Early and open seating in Maxim and L'Oleandro. Took MSC bus from gangway to Mykonos town -- cost E9 return. First bus out 17.30, last bus back 23.45. Nice small town -- narrow streets and whitewashed house and a small fishing harbour. Depart Mykonos 00.30. Phew a busy day!!
Day 5 Thursday Piraeus
Arrived 07.00. We decided to take a day off and did not leave the ship. We've been to Athens a few times before and have seen all of the sights. I was even tear gassed in Athens in 1975, when I accidentally wandered into a student demonstration/riot!! Lots of burning buses etc and a few people killed. See - are not all boring oldies!! Athens is a hot, dusty and noisy city, but the Parthenon and Athens museum are world class sites and a must see if you've not been here before. The city centre is 12km from Piraeus. Departed at 16.00. Great views of numerous islands as we sailed along the Greek coast.
Day 6 Friday Corfu
Arrived at 12.30. Good views of the fort as we sailed in. We took the MSC shuttle to the town centre -- cost E8 return. Corfu is a pleasant town with some nice parks and plenty of shops. We've been here before, so just wandered around the town and enjoyed a cold beer. As we sat in the cool of a bar, we saw the people on the MSC walking tour - they all looked very hot, bored and dejected. Departed 19.00.
2nd formal dinner
Day 7 Saturday Dubrovnik
Arrived at 07.15. A beautiful entrance to the harbour. We took the MSC shuttle to the old town -- cost E10 return. You must take your passport or photo ID, as Croatia is not part of the European Union. Immigration come onto the coach. Some were sent back to the ship looking rather foolish -- so be warned. We walked the walls -- cost approx E10 each. You cannot pay in euro, only local currency, but they do take a credit card. Most shops and bars etc do take euro, so there is no need to buy any local currency. The walls were quiet when we did it, but it looked hot and busy later. It took us about 1 hour, with a cafe stop. Take plenty of water, it can get hot. Only suitable IMHO for those who are fit and healthy. The city is beautiful and one of the highlights of the cruise. We would have liked to have stayed a few nights to see the city at night -- we will be back. Departed 14.00. Again great views of the coastal islands as we sailed north.
Day 8 Sunday Venice
Normal disembark routine - cases outside of cabins the night before with colour coded labels. They give you a pack with all the info the night before. You are allocated a place to wait to be called to disembark. We arrived at the outside Venice lagoon at 07.00, but had to wait for over an hour before we could dock. Presumably due to the authorities. You are supposed to be out of your cabin by 07.00 -- we stayed until 08.00 and then went for breakfast. Our UK flight was not until 14.45, so we were in no rush. We wanted to miss the rush. It was a misty morning as we pulled into Venice, so the views were not so good, but WOW what a place to end a cruise. We did not go to our meeting point, but just wandered off about 10.00 and picked up our luggage in the colour coded areas. All very easy really. Took the free shuttle bus to the People Mover. Some congestion here due a faulty ticket machines, but port staff were handing out tickets. We then got a local bus from P. Roma to airport -- cost E6 each (ticket from driver). Arrived at airport before 11.30 with plenty of time for our 14.45 flight. I would not recommend a flight before 14.00.
We enjoyed all of our meals. Breakfast - we had some in the buffet, some a la carte in L'Oleandro. Lunch - we had most in the a la carte L'Oleandro. Different menu each day. We did find the buffet busy at times, but always plenty of seating and lots of food choice. We found the food choice and quality very good in the a la carte. A bit less so in the buffet.
We had 1st sitting in Maxims. Good food and excellent service. Different menu each day.
We ate twice in the Il Giardina a la carte restaurant. Good value for a E24 supplement and excellent service.
We did not like the pool area. Why saltwater pools in 2012??? They were always very busy with lots of children. We always managed to find a quiet place on deck 14 at the stern, behind the funnel -- much more civilised. Lots of spare sun loungers everywhere.
We found them friendly and helpful at all times. Not all spoke good English, but it is understandable on an international ship. We never had any problems communicating. Their English was always better than my other languages!!!
We went to 3. They were enjoyable, well performed and well attended. The pre-show announcements are multi language, but this only lasts a few minutes.
We did not use the spa or do any activities. We did not use room service or go to the disco.
They seemed to be everywhere. Always had good and swift service. Prices were reasonable and the choice was huge.
We kept a daily eye on this via the interactive TV in the room. They give you a paper bill part way through the cruise and a final bill the on the last night. Our bill was spot on -- well done MSC. Just had to sign it and hand it in to accounts.
We enjoyed this cruise very much and find it hard to understand the moaning and criticism of recent reviews. The itinerary was excellent, the ship was very nice and felt new, and it was very, very good value. The only downside for us was too many children. MSC offer free places to children under 18 sharing a cabin with paying adults -- so lots take advantage of this offer. That's free food and entertainment for the kids -- no wonder the place was full of children. They were mostly well behaved, but made the ship feel over full. We are not anti child at all and have our own, but we would not use any cruise line again that gives free child places -- someone is subsidising them and it's those without children on board. Well it won't be us again. We also much prefer "anytime dining" to set meal times. So much more convenient and you meet more people.
Hope this helps and we're happy to answer questions via -