My husband and I are both first time cruisers. We chose to book our cruise on MSC Splendida mainly because of the itinerary. We want some Mediterranean sunshine and Neither of us had previously visited Tunis, Malta or Sicily. These destinations sounded more inserting to us than some of those offered by the Royal Caribbean ships in the Mediterranean.
Before we embarked we were quite nervous because of some of the poor reviews regarding the ship. However we both had a fanatic cruise with MSC and did not experience the problems we read about.
Embarkation was incredibly simple. We checked in online before we left and so the process of receiving our cruise cards and getting on board was very quick (a matter of about 5-10 minutes). As soon as we embarked we were pointed in the right direction to our cabin by friendly staff.
Despite most of the staff having English as a second language we had absolutely no problem communicating. All staff we encountered spoke by good if not perfect English (much better than any Italian we could manage!) and they were without exception extremely polite and helpful. Staff were friendly and said hello as we passed in the corridor and our waiter at dinner provided excellent service. This could not be faulted.
Our cabin was a good size and was comfortable and spotlessly clean. We noticed the staff cleaning and polishing the ship constantly so that it always looks stunning. The cabin stewards were very good at waiting until we had left the cabin before they went in to make up the bed and clean so we never felt rushed or the pressure to clear out for them.
We thought that the food was excellent. We we're allocated to La Reggia restaurant and ate here every night. The menu was classic Italian with lots of small courses including appetisers, pasta courses and a meat or vegetarian main course. They did not serve tap water with the meal which meant we had to buy bottled water (we actually bought a package width 14 bottles for the week). This is a little but penny pinching but after many holidays in Italy we are used to ordering bottled water with meals so this was no different for us. The Bora bora buffet was fun! We thought there was a large amount of choice and although it does get very busy at peak times we always found a table. Our advice would be to head towards the back where it was quieter, had a lot of tables and lovely views through the rear windows. The food again is largely Italian in style with lots of pizza, pasta and salads although they also served burgers and other types of food. If you don't want to buy drinks (these are expensive with the 15% service charge) you are left with tap water with ice and lemon or squash. There are also a variety of teas and coffee to choose from. Some people complained that the buffet is the same every day which we thought was fine as there were different type of pizza and pasta each day and anyway there was no way we could have sampled everything in one day!
Dressing for dinner was quite relaxed. Most people around us seemed to be following the dress code although not everyone and it didn't seem to be enforced much. My husband debated whether to bring his tux and decided against it which was the right decision as he was fine in a suit and tie on gala night. We thought MSC ought to enforce the dress code a little more.
The deck got quite busy especially on the day at sea and you did need to be out earlyish to get a sun bed in a prime spot. However there was enough space. We especially liked the solarium at the very top of the ship where the no under 18's policy was strictly enforced.
The ports we visited were interesting and beautiful:
Barcelona: we didn't bother with an excursion here as the port is very close to las Ramblas and it is walk able from the ship in about half an hour. There is a more expensive shuttle bus run by MSC and a cheaper port bus as well.
Tunis: we did the cultural and historical tour excursion and had a great day with a very knowledgeable guide. Haggling for ceramics and souvenirs in the souk was fun.
Malta: again it is possible to walk from the port into La Valetta so we spent the day enjoying the sights
Sicily: there's not much to do in Messina so we took an excursion to Taormina which was fabulous and we would thoroughly recommend it.
Rome: we had been to Rome before so we saved money by catching the train from Civitavecchia. Costs around 5 euro each way. Alternatively you can take a bus excursion through MSC.
The entertainment was ok. Probably the best MSC can do when catering for such a multilingual audience. The shows had a few good acts and a lot of dancing which got a little boring. We preferred instead to sit in one of the bars, listen to music and enjoy an evening cocktail.
Disembarkation was once again orderly and organised. We had to leave our cases outside the door before 1am and then be out of the cabin by 7am the following morning. We received colour coded labels for our suitcases so it was easy to collect them in the port terminal.
We hope this review is helpful. It is our findings as first time cruisers so unfortunately we cannot compare the MSC Splendida to other ships and other cruise lines. Some of the people we met did not seem to like this ship and cruise line as much as others although they also declared all of the destinations rubbish so I don't think much would satisfy! Our experience was very positive and we would cruise with MSC again.