MSC Splendida - 11 days, 16th to 27th December, Christmas Cruise to the eastern Mediterranean. Splendida is a splendid ship, very elegant, clean, comfortable and excellent food; however there are a few 'buts'. The main gripe is that the British customers, and remember this is an Italian cruise line catering to Italians, Germans, French, Spanish and Americans, and probably some other nationalities also, are not very well catered for in some areas. For instance, one cannot get a cup of English tea served in any of the bars/cafes, any flavour tea but English. If the beverage stations are closed in the self-service cafeterias (and they are, after normal meal times, contrary to what one is told of 24 hour service) then tough luck. I suggest you take a small kettle with you so that you can make tea in your cabin after having helped yourself to teabags and milk when you visit the cafeterias.
For breakfast and lunch you have the choice to eat in the self-service cafeterias or to visit either of the dining rooms. At evening dinner you will have to eat in the dining room and at the table allocated to you. Eating in the dining room for dinner is very nice, no self-service here, all waiter service. A 7 course menu is presented to you and you may choose as many or as few courses as you wish, so there is always something for everybody to eat, but you will not be served coffee after dinner. However, do not expect to have a jug of water on your table, a glass of tap water is nigh on impossible to get and if you manage it, you will be sworn to secrecy. You will be urged to purchase a 1 litre bottle of still or sparkling water at €3.70 + 15% service charge. This service charge is added to ALL drinks purchased in dining rooms, bars and room service. To my mind this is an absolute audacity when you have already been charged a daily gratuity which is stated on your account as "service charge" of, in our case €12.00 per day.
When we were boarding the ship and doing all the necessary documentation the Lifeboat Drill was taking place and we hadn't even been shown to our cabin at this time to be able to access our lifejackets. I understand this drill is a worldwide legal requirement and that ALL passengers must take part, in this case many didn't. The use of the hand sanitisers at all points was very haphazard with no member of crew ensuring that everybody used them. We noticed that towards the end of the cruise some were empty and were not being refilled.
At the end of our cruise, it was absolute chaos. We could not get any information regarding our coach transfer departure time. It appeared that whichever airport you were departing from, everybody, whatever time their flight was were disembarked at the same time. Our departure point was Milan and we were herded on to our coach at 10.00am, and left the port at 10.30 on a 2 hour drive for a flight departing at 18.55, an enforced wait of 6 hours at the airport.
Having said all that, we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, we visited some very nice places and a couple not so nice. Some places we had not been to previously, so this gave one the opportunity to decide if you wanted to visit them for a longer period on a land- based holiday.
Would we go with MSC again? No we would not, mainly for the outrageous charges levied, but also we prefer a smaller ship (Splendida can carry 3,274 passengers) and fewer nationalities. This was not a happy ship, the training for crew members who we came into contact with left a lot to be desired.