Just back from an Eastern Med cruise on the MSC Magnifica. Stayed in Venice at the Domina Home Ca Zusto hotel in Santa Croce near the Piazzale Roma. Its a small boutique hotel and I would highly recommend it. Its easily reached from the airport on the number 5 bus (or airport express bus) to the Piazzale Roma and then take a Waterbus 2 stops to the Riva Di Biaiso stop. The hotel is about 100m away from the stop and you can roll your suitcase easily along the path. There are no bridges to cross. On the day of the cruise we took the waterbus from the hotel to the Piazzale Roma and a taxi out to the port. The taxi cost €15 euro - a minimum charge applies.
Embarkation was initially a bit chaotic, which I had expected from the comments I had read on cruise critic. It wasn't clear where you should begin queuing and many people skipped the queue ahead of us which was annoying. However when we actually checked our luggage in (the first of 4 different queues you have to go through) it became a bit more orderly. We arrived at the port around 11.00 am and were allowed on the ship around 12.45pm.
The ship itself is beautiful, spotlessly clean and very new! We had a balcony cabin on deck 10. We didn't have any problems getting a lift from this floor, although I met some passengers on deck 15 who said it was difficult to get a lift in the morning. I thought the food was fine however if you are a bit of a 'gourmet' then you might be disappointed. We were assigned to the L'Edera restaurant on deck 5 on a table for 8. We ate at this restaurant for breakfast also. Passengers with children tended to go to the Sahara cafeteria on the 13th deck as it was a buffet style restaurant and service was faster. My sister needed a gluten free diet and she had her own waiter assigned to her, her own menu and was very well looked after. I would give MSC top marks for the way she was treated.
The cabin staff, dining staff and bar staff on the ship were ver good. I felt some of the staff on reception, in the accounts area and on the excursion booking desk weren't very friendly or helpful. I indicated this on the comment form we were all asked to fill out before leaving the ship. These staff didn't make me feel like a valued customer.
The destinations -
Bari was a bit of a disaster as it was pouring rain. A taxi in to the town from the ship was €15 euro and the return was €12. If the weather is good you could walk into the town from where the ship docks.
Rhodes. Lovely town to wander around easily reached from the ship.
Izmir for Ephesus. Worth doing a proper excursion here as Ephesus is about 1 hour away from the ship.
Athens. A taxi to the Acropolis costs €25 euro. The taxi will take you half way up the hill which I would suggest for anyone with mobility problems. We wandered around the Placa (shopping, coffee area) at the foot of the Acropolis then bought a day ticket for the metro at €4 and went to the Archeological museum. As it was a Saturday alot of the exhibits in the museum were closed due to a lack of staff, which was a big disappointment. We took the metro out to the port and walked back to the ship which took 15 mins. There is some work being done on the metro line at the moment so you need to do a bit of extra work to plan your journey.
Katakolon for Olympia. We shared a taxi with an Italian family to Olympia. It cost €80 return trip divided by 5 which was good value. Entry to Olympia and the museum was free as it was a Sunday. The taxi waited for us for 1 hour 30mins and then drove us back. We had enough time to wander around the local shops in Katakolon before having to board the ship.
Dubrovnik. A shuttle bus was organised for us which cost €10 return. Dubrovnik is truely beautiful. Again a lovely town for wandering around in.
I had read alot about the Magnifica on cruise critic before I went so I knew what to expect and I think that helped my experience. I would definitely cruise with MSC again. A word of warning though, the pillows were awful. Also smoking is permitted in some parts of the ship mainly on the 13th floor and in designated areas in some of the bars. We used to get a smell of old smoke in our bathroom from time to time which we reported to staff but never got a proper explanation for, except being told on one occasion not to worry that nothing in our cabin was on fire!