We boarded the Fantasia in Genoa, having flown to Milan from the UK. The transfer provided by MSC from Milan to Genoa was superb. Just 6 of us in a very comfortable minivan. Boarding was very smooth and organised and we were able to go straight to our cabin before having some late lunch in the Zanzibar Buffet.
The cruise itself was very enjoyable with very few niggles. The main gripe was the lifts (elevators). Our daughter is in a wheelchair and we therefore relied on the lifts to get from deck to deck, as the stairs were not an option. The number of lifts for this size of ship (4,000+ passengers) is inadequate. We regularly found ourselves waiting for 10 to 15 minutes in order to be able to get in a lift and sometimes negotiate pushing people, which could be quite stressful at times. That said, we found the crew very polite and helpful and our overall cruise experience was very good.
The ship itself is very impressive, with diamond-encrusted staircases in the large atrium and a variety of public areas to suite all tastes. We found everywhere to be spotlessly clean although the casino, in which smoking is allowed, was smelly.
Unfortunately we encountered some rough weather on a couple of occasions during the cruise, particularly in the Atlantic Ocean, which I suppose is to be expected in February. My wife and daughter did suffer from some motion sickness, but we were given tablets to minimise this.
Service both from our waiter George from Romania and our cabin steward from Indonesia was superb.
Disembarkation was smooth and not as chaotic as we have experienced on some other cruises.
Ports visited on the cruise included Barcelona, Tenerife, Madeira, Malaga and Civitavecchia. We also called at the port of Casablanca, which is not listed in the port review category, so I have mentioned it here. We went on a panoramic tour excursion here, which we really enjoyed. Our local tour guide was very knowledgeable and the Mosque we visited as part of the excursion was spectacular.
All in all, we found the cruise a wonderful and rewarding experice, and met some great people.
Barceloan cruise port has a modern state-of-the-art cruise terminal and good shuttle and public bus links to the centre of the city. Due to rough weather, the ship was almost 2 hours late arriving into port, limiting the time we had there. Having visited Barcelona on a couple of previous cruises, we decided not to disembark.
The bus took us through Funchal to a couple of viewpoints, where we were able to get out and take photographs. We also stopped at the highest sheer cliff in Europe and for some local wine tasting. Finally we stopped in a picturesque fishing port North of Funchal, where we had about an hour and a half to roam around. The local tour guide was knowledgeable and very informative. The only real gripe I have with cruise excursions booked through the cruise line is the price - they tend to be expensive.
Having been on excursions to Rome on a couple of previous cruises, we decided to explore the port of Civitavecchia instead. A free port shuttle bus service takes you from the ship to the port entrance. From there you can walk around the town and the reailway station is right opposite the port entrance, with regular trains to Rome, Civitavecchia is an interesting old town and worth a look around.
The port we actually called at was Malaga, which is not listed in the cruise ports. This port is quite close to the centre of the city, with a shuttle service provided by the cruise line (not free). It is an easy walk from the shuttle bus drop-off point to all the sights and shopping in the city.
Again we were slightly late arriving in port due to the weather (about 1 hour). The scenery around the port of Santa Cruz is very spectacular. The port itself is located quite close to the town centre and there was a free port shuttle bus from the ship to the port entrance, from where we could walk around the centre of the town and the shops there.