A little about us: We are an independent couple (lower middle aged-argh- I turned 40 on the cruise!), and this was our 9th cruise, and our 8th cruise line. We have no brand loyalty yet, but are primarily itinerary, then food and value driven - champagne taste on a beer budget. We like to go off on our own and explore rather than take organized excursions. We chose this cruise over similarly priced American cruise lines so we could experience European culture while in Europe. I was concerned about the low MSC reviews, but given the great last minute price and great itinerary we vowed to go into this as if it was merely a passenger ferry. An attitude that served us well.
Embarkation/getting to port: We booked this cruise on impulse and had no idea how far the Civitavecchia port was from the city or the airport. Budget hounds take note-getting to port can really add to the price of your cruise. We came to Rome the night before the cruise, and took the Leonardo Express from the airport to Termini Station. This cost about 11 Euros a person. It was a hot and stuffy ride, but rather scenic, and much cheaper than a cab. Obviously it would have been ideal to spend more time in Rome, which is the most amazing city I have ever experienced thus far. We walked with our baggage from Termini to a nearby hotel. We explored until about noon the next day.
Before leaving the US, I had printed a train schedule for Civitavecchia. It had trains leaving 2x an hour. It was very erroneous-trains actually were leaving every 2 hours! This was a Sunday, not sure if that was a factor. And in fact the schedule posted that day was wrong as it said every hour. Needless to say we had to wait exhausted for 2 hours for the train. Please be careful here. A German couple had turned their backs at a tour counter leaving their bags next to me. My spouse had left me to go to the restroom, and I was immediately surrounded by Gypsies who tried to take the bags of the Germans. I was able to stop them, but the couple had no idea what happened as they did not understand me when I tried to tell them to be more careful when they returned to the bags. This whole termini experience was a real pain, b/c they did not post what track the train was on until a few minutes before it left, and the ticket person refused to provide any info. A security personally was able to tell us where it generally departs, so we were able to get into the area. This ride cost about 9 euros per person and the ride was pretty pleasant although not really scenic until the train started running along the water. If Rome is a port of call on your cruise, and you do not want to take an excursion, I would utilize this option to get to Central Rome rather than a cab-as long as you have a good schedule.
Because we had received no materials from MSC before our departure, we did not know there was a free shuttle from the train station to the port every 10 minutes or so-so we paid 15 euro for a very short cab ride.
There was some very mild disorganization at the port-had to go to 2 different buildings to complete check in-but it only took 10 minutes! The fastest we ever experienced. This was somewhere around 4 pm. Cabin was ready and we went to the buffet to grab a bite to eat.
Fellow Passengers: Along the ports of call of course, this was a great part of the cruise. Italians were in the majority, then I guess Germans. I also heard French, Russian (I believe), Spanish and a Scandinavian language-again not sure, sounded Swedish. English was the least heard language of the week. In our minds this made for an authentic experience. After all if I wanted to be around fellow Americans and their customs all week, I would not have come to Europe. I have seen reviews where people find all the chatter annoying. We found it a relief not be subjected to overhearing inane conversations for an entire week! We also saw little of the reputed butting in line and pushing (in fact it was staff that did this...yes it is true, more on that later). Passing people in the elevator or hall usually involved a smile and greeting in Italian. Trying to press or have the right button pressed in the elevator was always fun as not everyone spoke the same language.
This cruise had fewer retires than we were accustomed too in the Caribbean. We were really surprised to see large groups of seemingly unaccompanied teenage boys, as well as large groups of young 20's Italian men. I always though the boys were pretty respectful, but our dinner table mates said they kept them up with loudness in the hall most nights. There were many families-although the several children on board seemed well occupied, adored and behaved. They sat through 6 courses like ladies and gentlemen. Other than an Oceania cruise, this is the only other cruise where there was no children continuously disrupting the peace and happiness on a daily basis. There was even a 2 and a half month baby that was seated at the next table at dinner. We never heard a peep out of him or her (didn't know if boy or girl, slept through dinner every night). There were also many couples of all nationalities in their 30's-50's. We had a lot of fun watching other people have fun!
Cabin: we had booked a special that was inside price with and upgrade to outside-so we ended up in a nice outside with an unobstructed view. It was really typical in size for a cabin in this category. I was happy to have a mini fridge which we used throughout the cruise for interesting snacks and wines found in port of calls. The sheets seemed of good quality, but rather than the now standard quilt you get on cruise ships, there was a scratchy cheap hotel like blanket. The towels were skinny, scratchy and scant -2 bath and 2 hand-no washcloths.
Service: with the exception of the evening dining , which was very good and will skew my rating in a positive manner, service was overall POOR. I am not sure where to begin, or how much was a cultural perception or just plain bad service. If you could even call it "service". First of all, we bought a phrase book, so we could do the very basics such as say hello, please, thank you, etc in Italian when we approached staff. Where to begin? The first problem was with our cabin stewardess. We immediately felt unwelcome by her scowl. When we arrived we needed to freshen up and lay down, do put a universally used on the ship "do not disturb" sign in red on the door. The first 12 hours, she barged in with the do not disturb sign on the door as follows: when we were trying to take a moments nap, when I was sitting on the toilet, when my husband had just come out of the shower before dinner. I think it should be obvious that shortly before dinner is not a time to come in without knocking. When we said "please, no" she seemed angry and annoyed. I guess we paid for it, b/c we did not get turn down service that night even through we had spent 3+ hours out of the room. She later opened the door after we had gone to bed with a do not disturb sign, turned on the light, and threw the next days program in the room. It should be noted we never got the embarkation day program. When I asked the front reception how we should dress for dinner that evening, they barked it "was in the program" . When we explained we never received it, we were curtly directed to a display holding them.
Now, the most egregious service event: We were terribly jet lagged the first night and retreated to the room about 930 PM and fell instantly and deeply asleep. I am guessing about 10 or 1030 the phone rang and I groggily answered it. I was completely disoriented, and my husband was so soundly asleep he never heard a thing. It was reception, and they angrily told me we were to come to reception and surrender our passports immediately to them. I felt as if I was being scolded or we had been deceptive in some way by possessing them. No it could not wait until morning, or could any of the 5 people milling behind the reception desk come retrieve them. I pleaded we were exhausted, dead asleep, and undressed and this was their mistake. As it happens they should have taken the passports at embarkation. Since we never received any pre cruise materials I could not even prompt them to do so...which is not our job anyway. No, they would not help, "bring them immediately" she coldly replied. In retrospect, I should have unplugged the phone and pulled the passports from the safe and put them by the door and make them come get them, but I was not even thinking strait. In what I will never let my husband forget, I decided to take care of this w/o waking him. So since I had been asleep so deeply, this was like a middle of the night emergency....I had to find clothes in the dark, never found my glasses, pulled the passports and then tried and find my way around the ship we had not even explored yet...blaring lights, loud partying, people made up and dressed up. Here I was with uncombed hair, rumpled clothes, sleepy, black circled eyes- an insane with anger and migraine by the time I finally found reception. I spoke my mind -with 5 of them standing around they should have come to get them, how rude it was to make me pay for their mistake, at which the same women who spoke English earlier smiled cruelly and said, "I do not understand you" and walked away. No apologies. Since I use vacation to catch up on sleep and was unable to really fall back to sleep...I made sure I would share this in my review as this theme of poor service at reception was interwoven through the whole cruise, and our dinner table mates also had many bad experiences with reception desk customer service.
Among them was their pleas to security to try and control the teens who were harassing them at 330 AM with prank or by mistake phone calls, screaming in the hall and knocking on the door through out the night and running down the halls loudly. They were told "sorry, nothing we can do". They endured this for several nights. If reception were to give any info it was to tell you to essentially "look it up in your materials". Instead of people enjoying vacation we felt like scolded children for not reading our assignment. Again our tablemates-not American (Dutch and from the Philippines) had the same perception we did. After the first day our stewardess removed the ship info book from the cabin. When we explained this to the front reception after being told again to look something up, they must have said something to the stewardess as the book reappeared and her bitter mood darkened further and never the lifted the entire cruise until the final night when she milled around for a tip beyond the standard gratuity added on the tab.
I did explain to our very well traveled table mates who were taking their first cruise this was not typical service at reception. Truthfully their demeanor made us feel like unwelcome house guests when and if we had to interact with them. The following morning, when we were getting ready to go into port, we again placed the do not disturb sign on the door so we would have no surprises. Again, stewardess barged in. We asked her to come back and she retreated slamming the door. When we left for the day we put on a please make room sign to signal we were gone for the day. We returned about 6 hours later to find the sign removed but to a still dirty room, went out on deck for a few hours, returned to a still unmade room-we are going on 24 hours here. Finally after dinner, we came back to a clean room. Still no daily program-that was thrown in the room again after we had gone to bed. It should be noted, none of our dinner table mates had the same problems in this area, so I can only hope this was an anomaly.
Finally, I was surprised that the butting in line of forum lore on MSC cruises was perpetrated by staff! They would just go right in front of you in buffets and coffee station without a word. In some cases a couple staff would be leaning against the coffee area deep in conversation while passengers just waited patiently for them to move along. The fellow passengers were great.
Now there was some good service-the EVENING DINING ROOM staff. Our waiter and his assistant were terrific. Imagine trying to cater to so many nationalities! On you table besides us, were a Dutch/Filipino couple and a Chinese couple living in England-plus all the other languages and cultures on other tables . One day we ate lunch in the open seating dining room and our waiter came all the way across the dining room to the tell the staff our preferences and make sure we were OK. We passed on an additional cash tip on top of the standard to him as he was very good and rescued MSC's service rating that was dragged down in so many other areas. The bar staff was pretty good as well. Unlike other ships for better or worse, they do not hound you to order drinks. I personally prefer this, but I am sure others who like to have a constant flow of drinks may be less impressed. The fitness staff also was reasonably pleasant- even, I dare say, helpful!
Finally the staff responsible for getting people on and off the ship through out the cruise were efficient. We were on and off quickly, including disembarkation (actually the best we ever had-probably due in part to fact that at almost every port passengers are embarking/disembarking). I was also pleased that in nearly every port, I could bring back a bottle of local wine to enjoy. I did not press our luck with liquor, although the bottle of lemoncello I bought in Rome to take home as a gift was not taken either. I was able to hold MSC in a higher regard for the fact that we were able to bring wine some on from port and not have it taken. One huge disappoint though was despite other reviews I had seen about being able to bring it to dinner and pay corkage, this was not the case,-the maitre de refused to allow this.
Dining: We had requested a 7pm first seating, table for two. We got the first seating, but were told we would need to wait at least one night before making the table for 2 request. There are very few 2 tops. We were seated with 2 very nice couples and would have felt rude to change after meeting them. We still prefer 2 tops b/c we do not even dine with family or friends 7 nights in a row let alone strangers, so for introverts like us it was draining. Still we could not have had more pleasant people to sit with. They all spoke English as a second language, but were seated this us b/c their first language was not one of the other 4 widely spoken on board.
It should be noted there is NO alternative dining on this ship-either restaurant or buffet, and room service is limited to sandwich and salads for a fee. It is the fixed dining seating or nothing.
Also please note, there may be several hours a day where there is no food. Not that one has to be pigging out around the clock, but some people are on different times zones, or due to seasickness or other reasons may have missed a meal and want a snack. I remember one day where breakfast ended at the typical 930, and the next meal opportunity was not until 130. More typically lunch was served around 1230. The complimentary water and coffee station is locked up promptly after meal times.
Dinner: quality varied widely. I do not think of much cruise food as the greatest as it is banquet food after all. MSC dinner was anywhere from below average (generally the meat entrees fell into the category), to very average-most of the rest of the food, to only a few standouts-a squid ink and cuttlefish risotto, and zucchini parmesan comes to mind. Here are some better items: most non tomato based pastas (the tomato ones were a little bland for me). Particularly great- the aforementioned squid ink risotto, pumpkin risotto, and cream based pastas. Other seafood pastas were fishy and rubbery. All pasta was cooked very properly- not mushy or over cooked. The portions were way too big, I could never finish and felt horrible about wasting. Finally I was advised that you could get a ½ order- a big relief. Make sure to ask if you think it is too much. Also excellent in the dining room and buffets was anything with eggplant, zucchini, or baked cheeses. Vegetarian dishes were better than meat. I am a huge carnivore, but if I had to do it all over, I may have ordered vegetarian entrees most nights. The seafood was never good (dry fish, poorly cooked calamari and octopus) except a tuna appetizer one night which was outstanding. Poultry should also be avoided-dry. I liked the lamb despite its fattiness and gaminess. I am pretty sure this would not be liked by a lot of people. The beef and veal were almost always tough.
The bread was great, and soup and salads generally fine although not standout. Despite other reviews, I thought the food was always served hot enough. The dessert quality varied considerably. It as if they had a completely different chef at the beginning of the cruise to the end. Initially the desserts tasted cheap, watery and too sweet. Later they were rich and dense (tortes, custards, tarts were great) I could not find a servable amount of chocolate the first 3 days! Even the cheese plate varied from cold cheap cheese in the beginning to rich imported ones each served at proper temperature as the days progressed. Either way things got better later in the cruise. I was just puzzling how the quality seemed to improve greatly the last few days. I do not know if it had to do with the changing regional themes or not.
Breakfast: We always ate at the buffet. I have to say this was the most un tasty cruise breakfast I can recall. Usually every ship has something special and/or delicious that stands out- perhaps a pastry, fresh berries, to- die- for Muselix, smoked fish, Belgian waffle, or what have you. But I found nothing standout. With out going into details of the "misses" I ended up eating a good focacchia bread, a slice of cheese, and a broiled tomato every day. It was fine, but it struck me that there was nothing outstandingly tasty available.
Lunch: our cruise had a theme called "bio sapore". I never found out what this meant, but I think it was supposed to have something to do with gourmet and or health food. A few days they had a special buffet in one of the dining rooms with these special items. The presentation was excellent and it was nice to have some vegetation and lighter items, although nothing was marked as to what it was. Sadly items like high quality jumbo prawns were woefully over cooked.
We had one lunch in dining room. The service was tortuously slow-almost 2 hours for lunch, but the menu was very good that day, with the exception of the sandwich I ordered as an entrEe.
The buffets upstairs: lots of tough meats, a paella was pretty good one day, and the baked pastas were pretty good. Eggplant anything was good. Burgers overcooked. French fries were popular and perfect. They had a pasta station everyday, although we never tried it. I was really hoping to load up on much loved squid and octopus, but it was cooked to rubber in most cases.
Afternoon Tea: self service and average (below average if you compare to other cruse lines). no stand out items.
Other food /drink info: This is where I will show my "Americanness": Yes, I like iced tea. There is none but at least I knew before I went. And what is up with the stinginess with water?? You can only get a glass of ice water with dinner-on request of course, or in a tiny glass at the buffets. Outside of mealtimes, the water machine is locked up. When it is open, there are signs forbidding filling water bottles. Also I found out the hard way there was only hot tea available in the AM-none at lunch-just coffee and water. The poor Brits were having conniptions. Hot tea is available again only between 4-5 at tea time. You can stockpile tea bags, but then you can only really use them with the hot water station is unlocked. People that like free punch or juice seen on most ships in N. America will be disappointed-there is none. Although there may have been some juice out at breakfast. Contrary to what I had read on some of the boards, the water coming from the tap was not very good ( chlorine taste). It was fine from the machine though. The bottles were very expensive on board. We saw several people bring large quantities of bottled water on board from each port of call.
The tea bag selection was good and I liked the hot milk that could be added to it or the coffee. The free coffee was very strong and held up well to the hot milk, but like all cruise ship coffee I have had, it was pretty below average. The espresso and cappuccino bar coffee (for a reasonable fee) was delicious. As many prior reviews mentioned, coffee was not offered after dinner or lunch in the restaurants. This was not an issue for me, but know it could be for some.
Entertainment: We as a rule are not interested in any of it-typical variety Las Vegas, Broadway Hollywood salutes, what have you. Like every ship, Sinfonia seemed to have these type of shows in its rooter and what little we saw was on par with other ships. It is not our thing so it is not fair to comment too much.
We watched a magic show, which was excellent. We watched one variety show which good b/c it included some tricks/ illusions and some pretty amazing acrobatics. The singing and dancing does nothing for me. The warm up acts were kooky but made us chuckle. For example five guys in regular clothes fooling around with clown noses elicited roars from the audience, and did an act that could best be described as the Italian version of the Village People in skimpier outfits. The Italians were on the floor laughing, the Germans stoic, and we were somewhere in the middle amused at the silliness as well as fascinated about how perceptions of humor are really cultural.
We watched some replays of the some late night entertainment shows on the tv in the room. I have to say it was so ridiculous it was funny-in a campy , kitschy sort of way. "Ms Sinfonia" was a tall transvestite who fired the crowd up with racy antics. I am sure something was lost in translation and will be further lost in this narrative, but the hijinks consisted of seating a younger man on a chair and placing a balloon in his lap. Then an old, tiny, cute Italian grandma would be plucked from the audience. She was then thrust up and down on the mans lap...in many pretty risquE positions until the balloon popped. Then various other innuendo laden balloon popping activities between unlikely strangers transpired. The audience reaction was hilarious to watch. I guess some people could be offended by this type of thing...and I admit it would not rank as top notch humor in my book...but I think I prefer blatantly ridiculous humor like this over some of the lamer attempts I have seen at humor on other cruises. If you have ever watched the Latin American show "Sabato Giagante" and thought it was funny, you will like this entertainment.
This really did not matter to us, but there was no American programming on the TV, and very little English speaking TV at all. In total, there was a European business channel, and oddly, an English language Russian channel like Fox News in US (complete with non stop Russian flag waving and unwavering support and adoration for Russian politicians). Also unlike other cruise lines we have traveled on, there was no little news summary paper available at the reception. Luckily the only big story going on was the presidential primary, which results were briefly covered on the international station. There were movies, but never saw them offered in English.
I also attempted to go to a "Bio Sapore" cooking demonstration. Like every activity they took a roll call of languages so they could translate for those in attendance, but they never offered English, so I slipped out. I am sure they would have accommodated, but I decided it was not worth sitting through 5 translations. Plus the effort looked half hearted- a little burner sitting on a table with some scant ingredients.
Ports of Call: Embarkation in Rome discussed earlier.
We are not shoppers...just big consumers of culture...some local food, wine or drink, walking, people watching, admiring architecture, describe perfect day in port for us. This itinerary was perfect.
Genoa- This was a very pretty, easy to navigate city. We were quickly off the ship and went to the tourist office in the terminal for a map and info. They provided the friendly info and service the ship would not. We walked across the street to the metro, bought a day pass for a few Euros and took the metro train into the center city. This took about 8-10 minutes. You can also make the 30-40 minute walk. We also used the pass for the city elevators that took us up the hillside for a beautiful city and harbor view. Back down on the streets we strolled for some time enjoying the piazzas, ancient alleys, buildings and street life, stopping for a cappuccino and foot rest. We found a neat market by the aquarium and drooled over the meats, wines, cheeses and olive oils. We decided to have the item Genoa is famous for-Pesto. We found a little basement cafe and had the best Pesto and pasta we had ever had along with a delicious local house white wine. A local wine shop helped us pick out a nice local wine for sipping back on board as we said good bye to Genoa later in the day. We were pretty tired so did not stay the entire time in port. We headed up on deck and enjoyed the sun deck a little before the ship moved on.
Monte Carlo- this was a tiny, walk ablecity. We checked out many of the quaint alleyways, climbed the steps to the palace, took in the views, the parks, and enjoyed more cappuccino. It was spotlessly clean almost to the point of being Disney like. There was a higher percentage of tourists to residents in this town than in Genoa. The Oceania Regatta was tendering in passengers. We were thankfully docked. I liked it a lot, but Monte Carlo had more touristy feel than some of the other ports. Yet other than a few tee shirt shops, there was no hint of tackiness.
Valencia- What can I say, we loved it! We enjoyed the diversity of all the stops, but this was hands down the most "fun" port and where you could easily fantasize living. There was another friendly informative tourist information stand in the port where they provided a map and public transport info. Besides the integration of ultra modern and renaissance and colonial architecture, the city was clean, vibrant, and full of energy. People were kind and understanding as I undusted long ago learned high school and college Spanish. There was a free shuttle to outside the port where a city bus could be picked up for about a euro to the center of the city (#19 I think). I think it was siesta time when we arrived but things quickly picked up. There was one touristy plaza which we strolled around but did not go to any of the overpriced cafes. We happened upon 2 other tourist info places not selling a thing but the city, which was not a hard sell at all. Both times they gave us great info such as certain streets to find locals tapas places, and an internet cafe that was very inexpensive and allowed us to catch up on a few things at home since we were not using the ship internet services and our phones did not work. I had picked out a place to try the local specialty-Paella but found it did not open for dinner until 10pm! We did not think to try it for lunch....so if you have your heart set on Paella you may want to have it for a late lunch when you come to port. My "research" told me to avoid places that show a picture of a paella, indicate it is available all day, and only serve it for one, as it may not be fresh.
We enjoyed local wine at one place, then Jugo de Valencia (local orange juice, sparkling wine and cane sugar over ice) and Sangria and tapas (calamari, fried beef check, and a very good, freshly prepared rabbit and chicken paella). We picked up more local wine for later and some amazing cured Spanish ham. We ran into the cruise ship tour dragging people in and out of tourist shops (nightmare!). A good time was had by all-in fact we spent the entire time allotted in port. We found the #19 bus back to port and jumped on the waiting shuttle to come back to the ship in time of shove off. We long missed dinner and ordered a club sandwich later at night through room service (about 3.5 euros) It was quite small, and kind of average tasting.
Sea Day: Cold, windy (near gale force according to ship info), huge waves. I have to say the ship really handled the seas well. Normally such conditions would have made us pretty queasy, but the seasickness was mild and fleeting and quelled by several naps! Some passengers did have more symptoms though.
Malta: We left port, got on one of the local awesome vintage busses (#198) for about a Euro a piece. The driver did not go directly to the city gate of Valletta for some reason, rather took us on a slightly hair raising ride around the old city. The architecture is like nothing I have ever seen. Heavy limestone and rather medieval. Very enjoyable. We actually walked back to port in the end. I believe it was Port st Elmo that had the great bluff overlooking everything, nice garden and a kiosk where locals were drinking Maltese beer-the name is escaping me, but it is in a tall yellow can and was perfect. We also tried some local wines in the town square area. The prices were very reasonable. I wish we had been hungry enough to try the local specialty which was rabbit.
Tunis: As excited as we were to visit Northern Africa-perhaps as much as Rome, this ended up being a let down. Mostly because we were besieged by pushy and obnoxious cab drivers trying to take us into town. They were inside the port and quite rude when we tried to shake them. The prices they quoted were ridiculous-50 euro each to go to town and back (that is more than cruise ship which says a lot). There was no tourist info available and I wanted to try and find the cheap and efficient metro I had read about so we could go hassle free into town. We tried to walk around a little to find the train, but the drivers basically mocked us in French then English. There were Yellow cabs outside the port also quoting ridiculous prices. We realized we were never going to get to see Tunis if we did not give in -we agreed to 35 euros round trip (down from a 100). I will spare the details but he backed out of the deal several times after we were in the car and tried to make excuses and angry and implausible arguments why we should pay more. As a women I felt uncomfortable in this culture arguing with the guy...who knows how that is perceived. Make sure if you make one of these deals you have exact change and don't pay until you are back. It is my understanding from tour books tip is included when a rate is negotiated.
The shop keepers we made purchases from tried to rip is off at the Medina Markets (ie not wanting to give our correct change back and when we stopped for a coffee at a diner and they charged something crazy like 4 euro a piece when we were presented the tab). I guess if we had more time to adjust to and consequently understand and appreciate the culture, we could have loosened up and enjoyed Tunis more. Just getting of the ship for a few hours and putting up with all that was culture shock. It was something with much travel, and to many bartering communities, was to a degree I found off putting. We were glad we checked it out...but it is not on a return to list.
Final Notes: Disembarking was a breeze. Good job on this MSC! We did not think we would have time to use the train and Leonardo express to get to the airport (as it turns out we would have given how quickly we got of the ship), So we had booked a shuttle I found on the internet for 125 euro. It was called "Zelig Limousine" and he was on time and fast.
note to non smokers-most bars on the ship allow smoking, and there is plenty of rule flouting elsewhere. This kept us out of some areas...but I never found it a terrible discomfort even though I hate smoke (something you need to get used to anyway when you visit much of Europe) .
Would I sail MSN again? Only for the same reason we booked this time: the right price, itinerary, international/diverse fellow passengers. If they would do something about the terrible reception service (as I mentioned I think/hope our stewardess was an anomaly with regard to cabin service), I would be much more likely to sail again. The food was a little iffy, but now that I think I know what they do, well I could choose menu items better. It is just our preference, but we like open seating and our own table most nights. I am not sure that will change anytime soon though.
And for gosh sakes MSC, keep the water, coffee, tea station open a little longer! Maybe throw out some little snacks or something between meals.