We flew by EasyJet from Gatwick to Barcelona. We used Ziptransfers for a pre-booked taxi and the guy was there waiting. 78 Euros return trip for 3 of us and luggage. We went to an overnight hotel at Eurostars Grand Marina on the port and a five minute stroll to Las Ramblas. The hotel was fabulous. The room was massive and the bathroom was to die for. I would return to this hotel fro a weekend stay without hesitation.
In the morning we had a fabulous breakfast at the hotel. We caught a cab to the dock (about 5 minutes and visible from the hotel rooftop terrce). It cost 10 Euros with luggage.
We boarded the MSC Splendida about 1.30pm. Check-in was the best I have experienced. We have cruised 7 times. Our previous cruises were with Princess, HAL and RCI. The Splendida is magnificent. The public spaces were just gorgeous. The staff are always cleaning. The ship is spotless although we did see some crumbs and food on the floor one day in the Bora Bora buffet and a waiter wiping the seats and table tops with the same cloth. YUK!
The cabin was larger than others we have had. It was in crimson and beautiful with dark wood and a plush bolster on the bed. The balcony was steel fronted which was a disappointment but actually didn't detract after we got used to it. This is arguably the nicest cabin I have had on any cruise. The bathroom was nice. Our stewards kept it spotless.
Dining in the Bora Bora is very good. Breakfasts were hot and there was a lot of choice. I did not see an action station for omlettes which disappointed but they had everything else. Fresh fruit was amazing.
At lunch, they had burgers, hot dogs and fries all prepared in little logo boxes like a Burger king. They were all hot and very tasty. There were countless choices from carved joints to pasta to chinese food.
Not once did I ever go there and not find something tasty and hot to eat. The coffee was a bit sharp though.
The dining in La Reggia was good but not excellent. It was adequate for the price paid. There are starters, salad,soup, risotto/pasta, main, cheese board, dessert. Everything I ate tasted good and was hot and plentiful. Every night I felt that I had a nice meal although the presentation was a bit cafeteria most of the time. The waiters were good fun but occasionally skipped a course and were a bit slow with some drinks orders. To be fair, they were a bit overworked in our section. I had an Allegrissimo drinks package and it was a must. My waiter opened a fresh bottle of Soave or Merlot for me every night. I was surprised that you could not have coffee in the restaurant or bring in bar drinks like a cocktail for my wife who does not drink wine. You can order a beer at the table. The package is a must and you will get more than your moneys worth.
The package includes the superb Italian ice cream from either the Piazetta or the pool deck. We are talking of quality better than Haagen-Daaz. They are delicious.
One night we had fillet of beef in tournedo style and one of the other dishes was king prawns in garlic. I asked the waiter if we could have a surf and turf arrangement and he brought us two mains each which was good. Order what you like, they will accommodate you.
Then indoor pool could have been a bit warmer but was nice. The attention to safety is excellent and there are always four or five attendants actively sweeping excess water from the deck. The outdoor pools were open but the weather was poor and we opted to use the hot tubs instead. They were piping hot.
We had a lovely departure from Villefranche sitting outside in a hot tub in 4 degrees in the rain!!!
The entertainement is tailored to a multi-lingual audience and is mostly magicians, dancers, singers,visual stuff. The music is recorded but the quality of the shows is on a par with any that I have seen on other lines.
There is absolutely no language barrier on board. The staff all speak good English from the crew to the Reception staff. I have heard others say that staff were rude. we saw none of this. All were outstanding and very helpful. We were in a tiny minority as English speakers with a handful of Brits, Canadians, the odd American and a lot of Dubliners. MSC had put Murphy's on tap for them which was a nice touch.
It appeared to me that MSC are really going out of their way to try to capture UK travelers. I never once felt inadequate or isolated. Quite the opposite.
We visited the folllowing ports;
Barcelona - beautiful and stylish.
La Goulette, Tunisia - commercial port and appeared to be a dump. Stayed on the boat.
Palermo, Sicily - quite dirty but old and wonderful and so atmospheric. Did a horse and carriage ride. The driver was a great guy and let us get out and disappear into the Cathedral. 50 Euros for one hours and we saw everything in comfort. Loved it.
Civitavecchia - commercial port and a complete dump. All it was missing was 'kiss me quick' hats.
Genoa - Absolutely stunning. We did a tour bus with plug in multi-language headsets.10 Euros each outside the port building. The city is fantastic and so historic. A must. Would love to stay a week there.
Marseilles was cancelled due to predicted bad weather. Instead we stopped at Villefranche. In itself, it was a gorgeous little town set on the side of a cliff running down to a cove. Very picturesque. This was our only tender stop and on the return trip the wiper blades fell off of the tender and the driver hit the side of the ship. Luckily I have a strong neck!!!!!!
We got an SNCF train to Monte Carlo (26 minutes) for 6 Euros return each.
In conclusion, We had a great value cruise on a genuinely fabulous ship with a company that welcomed us. The standard of dining is not as good as other lines and the service sometimes lacks polish but never enthusiasm. If dining is your main reason for cruising, choose another line. If you love ships and nice places but your budget is lower than others, you will get a bargain. Remember, kids go free. The all inclusive is a steal. The ship itself is eye-poppingly stunning.
As someone else on here has said, any day spent on a cruise is better than a day spent at work!
An incredible place to visit. The station or Gare is right in the centre of the tiny principality and you can walk everywhere in a hour. A must see.