Hopefully this review will help cruisers in making a choice of booking a cruise on the MSC Splendida.
Myself and my wife are both first time cruisers and given the many varied reviews of the Splendida we were worried that our experience would be a bad one leaving a bitter taste in the mouth and a much bigger hole in the pocket after our annual holiday. Well from the outset our experience was very positive, we both had a wonderful cruise although there were things that MSC could improve on which would have made our cruise even more enjoyable - these will be listed in the review. Hopefully the following will be of use to others.
Embarkation: Could not have been more simpler - after passing through security and as we had used the on line check in facility we were ushered into a seperate check in line and when the next available desk became available we were checked in, cruise cards issued all within the space of no more than 5 minutes. As we made our way round to the main entrance to the liner we were asked about booking a drinks package and we explained that we had pre-booked the allegrissimo package. The attendant checked both our cards and discovered that mine had no details of the package printed on it. He advised us to go to reception on Deck 5 to get this rectified. This we did and after an apology from the desk staff a new card was issued within 20 minutes. Before entering the liner we had the obligatory photo taken, bought a few things in duty free and then proceeded on board.
Photographs: You will find many photographers looking to take your photo. We had ours taken on the first gala night and off course as we went on board. At no time did we feel under pressure to get a photo taken and under less pressure to buy when the photographs were displayed in the gallery. This was very pleasing to experience as on other holidays pressure to pose and buy usually ends up with a very firm rebuttal from me.
Cabin: We had booked an outside balcony cabin on Deck 10. Very spacious with loads of space for storage and also plenty of room under the bed to store away suitcases. Whilst the shower was a little on the small size it was more than adequate to wash in. Room was absolutetly spotless and was kept this way by Helena our cabin attendant. Full credit to her for the trojan work she does many times a day each day of the cruise. Balcony had two chairs and a small table again more that adequate for our needs.
Food: Whilst we were leaving after the end of the cruise we heard a very loud English male passenger slagging off the food and that it would be great for him to get back to his twice weekly Michelin star eating. Don't know what part of the liner he was on but certainly not where we were. OK if you use the main restuarants (we were allocated Villa Verde) the portions at eveing dinner were small but given that you could pick one item each from seven possible courses then the sum total was a very substantial meal. We only ate in the Villa Verde three times, breakfast (which was very good) and the two gala evenings. For the rest of the week we used the buffet located on Deck 14 (Bora Bora). Not once did we come away saying that there was nothing we liked to eat or that what we had was not of good quality. Plenty of choice from healthy salads etc to the excellent pizzas. We also had a meal in the Tex Mex restaurant which is added on to the final bill. Given the quality and the quantity of the food we got for two courses both of us had no room for dessert and the final bill represented excellent value for money (try the fillet steak medium rare - what a steak). If you go hungry on this cruise definetly in our opinion your own fault.
Drinks Package: We had pre-booked the Allegrissimo package at 116 euros per person. This give unlimited drinks clearly listed in all the bars and restuarants as well as delicious ice cream by the tub or cone. Given the very hot weather we got more that our money's worth - great value package.
Entertainment: Probably the most negative part of the whole cruise. Apart from the entertainer throwing hand shadows (brilliant) and a quality dance band in the Aft Lounge the rest was at best average with some being quite awful. MSC do need to do something about this given the huge expense it goes to in providing excellent settings for entertainment both in the theatre and the many bars dotted up and down the liner. However the lack of entertainment didn't dampen in any way our enjoyment of the cruise.
Gym: Used the gym on five days of the cruise. Plenty of running machines which in the morning were usually free. In Genoa because of the poor weather there was a queue to get on them but great credit to all the users for respecting the 25 minute rule. Free weights ranged from 4-14 kilo dumbells (disappointing that there were none over this weight). Plenty of other machines all targeting back, shoulders, core, legs, chest and arms.
Deck space and sun-loungers: Given the huge number of people on board it is obvious that getting a sun-lounger (and keeping it)was going to be difficult especially on the full day at sea to Tunisia. There was a fairly strict enforcement of the 30 minute away from the sun-lounger rule. However demand on days when the liner was docked was always greater in the afternoon so early morning raids for a sun-lounger were not really necessary. However given the number of passengers having some space to yourself was not really possible and is completely different from a beach holday where you can move sun-loungers around. There was also an absence of an adult only space for sun bathing and this could have been easily rectified if MSC dedicated the very top deck as adult only. Might not seem like a major issue but oh holidays soem people including ourselves like a little more privacy away from children running up and down past the sun-loungers. On the loungers themselves full marks to MSC for the quality - certainly the most comfortable we both have ever been on.
Dress: Men forget about packing a suit - absolutely not necessary. Reading all the reviews I even went and bought a new suit for the cruise only to find that at both gala nights a shirt and long trousers were more than sufficient. Seen jeans, T shirts and puma king runners on display at these formal nights. Also reviews indicate that shorts and open toe sandals are a no/no after 6.00pm but plenty were on display. If I were going again no suit would be packed.
Excursions: We pre-booked Gran Tour of Rome which was really good but very rushed. MSC could offer on their information how long you would get in each area visited as we were looking forward to at least 2 hours to do the Vatican area but got only 55 minutes. However the guide was excellent and the lunch was very tasty indeed. Got a real flavour for Rome and certainly plan to go back. Didn't do any other excursions although walked a little in Valetta until acosted by the horse and trap providers. Didn't think much of their care of the horses given the searing heat so quickly went back to the cruiser.
Dis-embarkation: Suit cases had to be left outside the room by mid-night. As our cruise ended in Barcelona and as we were not due to formally disembark to 12.30 we had time for a couple of ours on the sun-loungers, used the showers around the pool to wash and a quick change in the always clean toilets at about 11.45 meant that we had a really relaxing last day. We went to our allocated point for disembarkation (Strand Theatre) and about 12.45 were led to the exit. Our cases were in the main hall of the port facility, easily identified by our brown tags and we were on our way to the airport. However we should have used the port facility to forward our bags to the airport and spent a few hours in Barcelona (10 euros per suitcase for this service which is not provided by MSC)
Cleanliness: Spotless throughout with cleaning going on all the time - welcome to come to our house to do this as thoroughly as we experienced.
Staff: Apart from one person who I quickly challenged for muttering under his breath the staff were pleasant, mannerly and attentive. We make a point of saying hello, good morning, thank you to all hotel staff wherever we go and this seems to pay dividends. Certainly staff could not be faulted for the service we experienced
Hope this review is of use to some-one and will be pleased to answer any questions you might have