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MSC Splendida Mediterranean Cruise(July8-15/2012)
Europe - Western Mediterranean
Out of all the cruises I have been on, I would rate this as one of the top ones.
Being Canadians we all enjoyed the cruise. Languages spoken frequently on board(Italian, Spanish, German, English, French, Russian amongst others).
Staff where very courteous & helpful. Dining staff & cabin staff were excellent.
We booked our excursions & drink & water packages online a month prior to cruise. I don't recommend anyone do this, we where shocked to find out they had no record when boarded. It took two days to get straightened out. Staff did credit us for all we used until everything was straightened up. Other guests also had the same problem as us, indicating it wasn't an isolated problem.
Coffee is not included in the dining room(added charge, along with water, unless you bought a water package). Tap water, tea, and coffee are available 24 hrs in the Bora Bora Cafeteria although it is not mentioned on the website. A variety of juices are available at no More
extra charge at breakfast only.
My wife & I bought water packages, cocktail, pop, and espresso packages. Cocktail & espresso packages cannot be used in the dining room. Which needs to be addressed by MSC. Also with the espresso package you are limited to only about 6 items on the menu(which was pointed out by 3 separate servers over the course of the cruise). My wife used some for hot chocolate 3 times & was denied twice by two separate servers on other occasions.
Use caution with the water packages. They are costly(26 euros for 14 1.0L bottles). You can buy a 6 pack of 1.5L bottles in the terminal(Barcelona) before boarding for 8 Euro. Unless you drink lots of water, be careful how much you buy as they are not refundable. Canadian & American guests get 7 free bottles of water for the week and the beer package includes 7 water bottles too. We used two bottles at every dinner(took back to our cabin what ever was left & kept cool in the mini bar fridge). I recommend taking a bottle/person or more in a backpack for every excursion(especially if walking in high heat for extended periods of time).
Ship services are well organized for the most part. Embarking & Disembarking the ship are well done, organized & efficient, compared to other cruise lines I have been on. The excursions are well organized, efficient & very reasonably priced, when compared to what other cruise line companies charge.
Dining is top notch. Italian flair, which is understandable. Being European myself it was enjoyable with enough variety. Young teens may find the menu a little exotic for their tastes, but it a good opportunity for them to expand their palates.
The buffet is OK, but I would rate it as 2.5 out of 5. Have enjoyed better buffets on other ships with more variety & changing the items offered daily. MSC buffet is basically the same every day and in 7 days, gets boring really fast.
The kids clubs offered on the ship are great for kids under 12. My boys are 14 & there was confusion about the club offered for them, spoke to two different individuals & could not get anyone to give me a straight answer. Kids ended up giving up & just hung out at Club 33 with all the other older kids, their age & older & had more fun. Seems like that's what all the older teenage kids were doing anyway.
The theater shows were outstanding, my wife & I enjoyed every one of them. Better than shows I experienced on other ships, quite surprised. They were like a combination of ballet, gymnastics, and cirque de soliel with a Vegas flair. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
I will give Barcelona a 5 for excursions offered by MSC. Though I did not take any, I have visited almost all the areas on interest in past trips. You will not be disappointed if you choose any of the ones they offer.
For those who embark at Barcelona, I would suggest checking in ASAP(if arriving early enough). Then disembark, taking a cab to some of the nearby sites(costs by cab may vary from 15-40 euros. provided you have at least 4 to 5 hours before ship sails. The church of the Holy Family and Monserrat are a must-see!
Tour was OK, but nothing spectacular. The day we went it was raining & hard to take good pictures through the plastic covered windows of the tour bus.
The Aquarium is a nice feature(though I would say it is a nice addition if you have small children). It is rated as Europe's largest, small in comparison to the ones I have visited in Chicago & New England's East coast aquariums. Then again it is Europe, so things are smaller.
I have done the Portofino walking tour in the past & would recommend it to adults w/o kids. Though the aquarium is worth it if traveling with younger children & those wanting a relaxing self-paced day.
For younger adults I would recomend also touring the city by foot, many things to see, shops & historical buildings within walking distance of the Aquarium. Buses leave regularly from the parking lot outside of the Aquarium back to the ship-no charge.
The tour was less expensive than others on the trip and was a nice way to end our cruise. The trademark colorful buildings along the water's edge tiering up the hills make for beautiful and picturesque views.
Mdina was a beautiful walled city with narrow, cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and beautiful old architecture that is well kept. We went through the Mdina Cathedral, which was beautiful. There was a panoramic view of Malta and we were given time for pictures. There was about a half hour given for shopping in the quaint boutiques with reasonably priced silver jewelry and souveneirs.
Valetta was almost as beautiful as Mdina with a visit to St. John's Cathedral and another half an hour for shopping. We visited a lovely terrace & gardens which offered a lovely view of the Mediterrean Sea. At noon, a soldier ceremoniously fires a cannon off. We were told this by a resident and not the tour guide. I would have rated this excursion higher but the tour guide seemed in a hurry and did not wait for the entire group to assemble before moving on. Some of our group missed St. John's completely because they were left in the dust by the tour guide and he took them back there during our free time.
Excellent tour, guide did a great job describing all the sites we drove by(included stopping, so pictures could be taken). This tour included a drive by all the major attractions within Rome. Due to the high heat when we where in Rome, it was a godsend to be in an air conditioned bus.
The tour of the Vatican Museum was a pleasure to see. The Sistine Chapel is a marvel to see(though many ignorant people do not obey the rules of NO VIDEO OR PICTURES, guards constantly yelling at people to stop taking pictures. Luckily they do not carry guns or tasers or it could get messy in there).
Tour of the Basilica is amazing, pictures do no justice then actually being inside this marvelous Basilica. Tour ended in St. Peter's Square, with free time after the guided tour finished.
We where only given 1-1/2 hours of free time to shop & take in a light lunch. This was due to problems which occurred with the speaker system on the bus being corrected prior to the start of the Rome Tour(lost about 40 minutes fixing, before tour started).
What a unique experience to be able to see an active volcano. The drive from the dock is between 1-1/2 to 2 hours long. This drive allows for a thorough history of the area and Mt. Etna to be narrated by the tour guide. The MSC tour does not include the cable car ride to higher heights, which other cruise companies do offer.
Free time allowed was approximately 1 hour & 15 minutes. This gave you enough time to explore the two craters near the restaurant, along with having a snack & time to buy souvenirs. Though it does not allow you the time to explore any further then the area you are dropped off at, due to distances & time constraints.
Sidi Bou Said: Some nice views, many shops & spots to stop & have a drink or something to eat. Those who have issues walking steep inclines, may want to avoid the walk up the hill. Avoid paying asking price from vendors, you should be able to talk them down to 1/2 the asking price in most cases.
Bardo Museum: Worth checking out, very informative guided tour of the mosaics found within the museum. We learned a lot and found out that mosaics tell guests all about the home's owner.
Carthage History/Walking Tour: Very unique and awe-inspiring and worth the visit. Guide explained the history & walked us through the ruins. Great photo opportunity.
The Souks & Medina are worth going through. Some of the walking street vendors are very persistent trying to sell you there knock off jewelry, sunglasses, etc. Some in our group where followed for almost the entire walking tour, pressured to buy. Just say "NO".
Visiting the rug shop is a must for those who are interested in a one of a kind handmade rug. You can bargain somewhat on the prices, they will package them for you to take onto the ship or deliver to the ship or your home via FedEx. The rugs are made with double knots, by hand, the design from memory. Each one is unique and beautiful. The rooftop offers a panoramic view of Tunis as well as some colorful mosaic staircases and arches.
Overall I enjoyed it. The reason I am giving it a three out of five, is the garbage strewn along the highways,and graffiti(could be because of the recent revolution) & the VERY persistent street vendors trying to sell you items wherever we went. I am used to it from visiting places like Mexico & Jamaica, but it was still a turn off.