We embarked at Barcelona and were really impressed with the check in, We had checked in online and I would definitely recommend this as these are taken first. So we were on the ship in no time. Really happy at this point and was over the moon as we didn't pay a huge amount for what was looking to be a terrific experience for what was an extra break away. Would never normally go in February.
First 'hiccup' occurred when we went to book a couple of the drinks packages. We had contemplated the Allegrissimo but in the end decided against it, and as I had booked this on the website which said it could be cancelled up to 4 days before embarkation, we cancelled several weeks before. When trying to book the drinks packages, cocktails, soft drinks etc. I was til that we already had Allegrissimo so didn't need these. I explained that I had cancelled this and was told to see the Reception. So hot footed it to there to explain this was cancelled. Unfortunately, this is where things went a bit downhill. The reception assistant was extremely rude and arrogant, was told that there was no way this could be cancelled so tough. 370 euro already charged on my card. I questioned this because I understood if it was prebooked I did not need to pay the 15%. Told I was wrong, only if I prepaid. Wont go on at length but Accounting were just as rude and arrogant so we decided just to live with it although this put a dent in our budget straight away.
The first day at sea was good, Bora Bora had a good selection for most tastes, but the food was not as warm as we would have liked. We did not discover desserts until the second last day, thru at the far end Pago, Pago I think.
The table for 7 we were allocated in La Reggia was at the bottom of the stairs, had one other guest sitting and a constant stream of waiters to and fro the kitchen. We asked the Head Waiter for another table who looked at us with disdain and said he'd speak to the Maitre D'. The following evening we were allocated the same seat, and after speaking to him agian he pointed us to the Maitre D' who was very nice and gave us a table in Villa Verde. This is very nice and imho has a much better atmosphere. Food was good and our waiter really nice.
The ports were very disappointing. We had always intended to do diy but with all of the ports it was nigh impossible to walk out and be in the town within 5 or 10 minutes.
La Goulette:- scary is all we can say, constantly haggled by taxi drivers. No way you could walk there and the port are very run down.
Palermo:- Very disappointing big industrial port, very run down and unkempt. People sleeping in doorways.
Civitavecchia:_ Was really prepared for this to go on the train etc etc, plenty of advice on the internet and this site. However the weather was dull, grey and very cold so preferred to remeber Rome when we saw it in the sun 18 months ago.
Genoa:- I think we must have missed something as others have said that this was beautiful. Again a very large port, long walk to the town, nice little cobbled streets but full of tat imho.
Marseille:- Very disappointing. MSC had a shuttle to town for 15 euro return. The alternative is a long walk from the port to catch the 35 bus at 1.80 each each way. We did the latter. What a disaster. You could actually have walked up the middle of the very broad main road where the bus drops you, as there was hardly a soul in sight, it being a Sunday. We walked for 15 minutes then caught the bus back. On our way back wa had a laugh saying that if we met anyone at the ship going on the MSC bus we would say 'For 2 euro, Ican save you 14 times as much!' It is a bad show for MSC to take this into town when all the shops are closed.
I am not sure whether it is the size of the ships that determine the ports but they were all BIG industrial ports. Or whether it's because MSC don't want to use the tenders or they want you to buy excursions.But whatever the reason, this was not for us.
Unless you're very confident about jumping on and off buses, trains etc or paying expensive excursions, then these are not your typical mediterranean resorts.
I didn't expect to have any difficulty with the mix of nationalities as we stay in Europe with all different peoples. However, it did make a difference to our holiday. We found that most non English people, even sharing a table at Bora Bora for breakfast or lunch, didn't smile or make any effort to say 'Good morning'. I was looking forward to trying out my very little knowledge of Italian, French and Spanish, but it just didn't happen.
Had it not been for the fact we met a lovely Polish couple who we will keep in touch with, and one Irish father and son, we would have had no interaction with other guests.
All in all, it was a break, food was good, ship luxurious, cabin adequate, most staff very nice and pleasant.
As a footnote, turns out that I didn't pay 15% on the package. Sometimes it does seem that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.