This was our second MSC cruise, the first being on the MSC Opera. We call this our miracle cruise because it was a miracle we ever made it on to the ship. we were to fly from the Minneapolis-St.Paul airport to Ft.Lauderdale on Sunday,the day after the largest blizzard in nearly twenty years. We awoke at 5:00 am to find that both our driveway and street had not been plowed. We called the airline and they said that the airport was open and the flight was on-time. Of course we had to get to the airport first. We didn't give up (although it seemed the most logical thing to do!) and called our good friends who were to give us a ride from their home to the airport and also take care of our little white dog while we were away. Our first angels of the day. We carried our bags, dog and all of his belongings through the snowed-in street two blocks to the main road, which had been plowed,where our friend had parked his car. He then took us to their house where we dropped of the dog with his wife and continued to the airport. The highways had been plowed and we made quite good time. After arriving and having a nice breakfast we went to the gate. Shortly thereafter we were notified that the plane was in Green Bay, Wisconsin, but would be leaving shortly. Upon arrival at MSP there would be a further delay due to a maintenence issue. When that was repaired we would depart late but still with time for us to make our departure time. Well of course the delays dragged on and I began calling the travel agency and our travel insurance company. We were told that if we arrived at the dock by 6:00 we would be able to board. This would be close, but possible. The travel insurance agent essentially told us that the trip delay and cancellation coverage would not apply (!). This is why I rarely buy travel insurance-too many exceptions. The airline was the most helpful, saying that we could get a full refund for the cost of the flight. We made the decision to board the flight as it looked like we would just have enough time. After the door had been shut we waited and waited. Eventually the pilot informed us that due to an error the flight had not been taken off the maintenence list and therefore there was no vehicle to push us back from the gate. This resulted in a further one hour delay. We knew at this point that we would not make the port in time for departure, but since the door had been shut there was nothing to be done but fly to Ft. Lauderdale.
Eventually we took off for a smooth and uneventful flight, wondering what to do with our week in Florida. At least it would be warmer and not snowing. As we flew over the cruise port on approach for landing we were startled to see our ship! Could it have been held due to other delayed passengers? We knew it wsn't being held just for us!
We dashed of the plane (thank goodness we only had carry on luggage!) and hurried to the taxi stand. Even the driver remarked that this was pretty late to be going to the port. We arrived at the terminal only to find the secuity and port staff preparing to leave. We were politely told that there was no way for us to board, for a number of reasons. When we saw one of the lines being dropped we knew all was lost, in spite of our efforts. Just then an ambulance and rescue squad pulled up to the dock. Then a car pulled up and a man in a business suit got out, speaking on a cell phone. As he began to enter the terminal my wife approached him and asked if he was an official of the cruise line and if he was getting on the ship, could he also get us onboard? He asked us for our boarding pass and passport. We were thankful that we had pre-registered on line so we knew we had been checked out for security purposes. He spoke further on his cell phone and told us that he would return and that when the gangway was lowered for the ambulance he would walk us onto the ship! He was our second angel of the day.
The security staff seemed a bit shocked by all of this and proceeded to turn back on the x-ray and metal detector to run us through the securty screening. Then, true to his word, our angel walked us on to the ship and up the gangway. After we thanked him over and over again (and my wife kissed him-I could have kissed him myself!) we were turned over to the a ships officer and a porter who escorted us to a quick check-in, then to our cabin and then to the late seating at the dining room. I can truly say it was the best dinner on a cruise ship that I have ever had, even after more than 40 cruises.
Now I know many of you will shake your head and think "oh but you should have left a day before your cruise", and that is a reasonable procedure to try to avoid disappointment. However in this case it would have been useless because the airport was completely closed the day before, so we would have been trying to leave on the day of the cruise anyway.
So forgive me for the long preamble but it is necessary to explain why this was our miracle cruise. When you realize that you are on a trip that you never really thought you would be on it really puts into focus what is really important and how fortunate you are. But his would have been a wonderful cruise anyway-it just made it all that much better.
We had been upgraded to a balcony cabin which was tastefully furnished and impeccably maintained by our friendly cabin steward. The food was very good with several pasta choices in the dining room at lunch, as well as a full menu. We had pizza for an afternoon snack, as well as sandwhiches, and they were all very good also. Breakfast was in the dining room with all the typical choices and dinner in the dining room had both an Italian menu as well as other choices. We put on a bit more pounds than usual on this cruise, probably beacuse of all of the pasta we ate! We found the entertainment to be particlarly good, very international with the two opera singers, string trio and other visual types of acts that can be enjoyed by guests no matter what language they speak. The cruise director was quite stunning and she spoke at least five languages. We had several opportunities to chat with the American activities cruise director, Michael,and we found him to be very helpful and personable. I won't go into the ports of call as they are all standard caribbean destinations. But we did enjoy our time especially in St. Martin.
So, we would end by saying that we look forward to our next cruise on MSC, possibly even to Canada and/or Europe, in the coming year and we would recommend this ship to anyone.
As has been mentioned by others, this ship is particulary suitable to travelers who enjoy the international flavor of a European based cruise line, with an Americal twist when it is in the Caribbean. We think of it as a trip to Italy without thelong flight, expense and jet lag.