For myself I have been on quite a few cruises with my husband always aimed at the British market out in the Carribean. After reading many reviews on the MSC Splendida I was worrying slightly as I was going for a 1 week trip with my daughter and grandson who had never cruised before as my hubby had opted for a fishing hol. Everything sounded so negative so I went with an open mind hoping to be pleasantly suprised.
We chose the MSC Splendida due to the location and not having to travel for more than 2 hours flying time with my 21 month old grandson. We had booked online with Southampton Cruise Village and they organised all the the private taxi transfers from the airport to the Port of Barcelona... Only one minor Hiccup the driver took us to a hotel called the Port of Barcelona however after a brief explanation he whisked us to the Port to the MSC ship. I made sure of course that he knew to collect us from the port and wrote all the details on his sheet of paper with the dates and the time we would return. Thankfully he was there on our last day to greet us.
I had already done the online check in before leaving home so that speeded up the procedure for embarkation at the Port. As we had my 21 month old Grandson travelling with us we had to fill out a Nurses form incase of any illness on board. They swiped the credit card and took our photos and then we were handed our ID cards.These ID cards were then used throughout the ship for any purchases as it is a cash free system during your stay. They are also your access key to your cabin and allows the light system to operate within your room and you cannot leave or enter the ship without them. Once removed your cabin steward knows he can tidy your room when you have left for breakfast etc.
Once on board you are greeted with such welcoming smiles and taken to your cabin to meet your Steward. Not far behind is your luggage which is swiftly delivered to your cabin door. We had opted for an outside balcony cabin and were not dissapointed as it was very spacious. Jean Baptiste on deck 8 attended to our every whim and was a fantastic steward and made a huge fuss of my grandson making him dogs out of towels etc. Even though we were situated at the back of the ship it actually was better for the lift system as we didnt have to wait for lifts like most do at the front of the ship as its far busier and again away from all the noise.
It was soon lunchtime and with a hungry grandson we went off to explore the ship and find the Bora Bora restaurant or Pago Pago buffet restaurants that merge into one.
Knowing it was a busy time I prepared for what I can only describe as a rugby scrum everyone pushing and shoving to pile up their plates as if it was the last supper... It was Euro madness. We found a table first and then my daughter tried to dodge and dive through the mayhem to get my grandson his lunch. It was very off putting thinking each day might be the same so we did opt for our lunch in the Villa Verde restaurant which was more civilised and suited our needs. On the odd occasion we visited the Buffet restaurants for an afternoon cup of coffee as they are only free at breakfast and lunch and dinner any other time you have to purchase your water and coca cola and coffee.
I can honestly say we made the most of being pampered and spoilt on this cruise. A newsletter was always available each evening in our cabin with tips of the day and suggested dress atire for each evening. Our First night was a gala night although we were tired from travelling we dressed for the occasion and had a wonderful meal with new friends from Ireland seated at our table. We were positioned at the back of the ship with a large panoramic window with superb views when we sailed whilst eating. We had opted for the 1st sitting as far more suitable for families with children and still in time for the shows that start at 9.45pm.
I had pre ordered a wine package for 60 euros this gave 4 bottles of wine but these could only be had in the main restaurant 7 bottles of still water which we used for my grandsons juices. We had also ordered a peter pan package for 34 euros of a mix of ice creams, milkshakes etc for him each day. Just a little booklet with tear off strips to hand in at any of the bars. This worked perfectly for us and helped with budgeting. A half carafe of house wine was 7 euros and actually nicer than some of the wines in the package. Our Main waiter was Reharta from Bali and worked diligently every evening ensuring all our food was piping hot. He would always make sure that my grandson was catered for by bringing him mash and gravy for his chicken or turkey dinners. A brilliant waiter and very attentive to us all on the table.
We made the most of all of the onboard activities from spa packages which on different days have a 60% off spa day making it more appealing for a Balinese Massage. Hair dressers for 28 euros although they had great offers too especially the lush Italian lipsticks. If you purchased products you got your hair free. Plus 50% off vouchers for the Spa Vitamin bar.
Shore excursions are pricey so we limited ourselves to a few from the aquarium visit in Genoa at 34 euros which included a small boat ride to the dock. Then in Palermo a horse and carraige ride at 80 euro's for a 1 hour sight seeing tour to clip clop past umpteen opera houses. A different way of seeing things however not really worth the cost as they want to leave you in the middle of the town and you have to then find your own way back to the ship. In Naples you can just get off and walk about and go on the tram ride upto the top to view the wonderful bay of Naples. In Majorca we left the ship got a private taxi for 14 euros that took us to a private beach Illetsa beach with a superb restaurant and they ordered our return taxi to the ship a fab day out.
On the odd day we attempted to get a sunbed around the pool area but found that to be the busiest part of the ship and only on excursion days were you lucky enough to lie in the sun. All the activities on board around the pool are all in Italian so we didnt participate just watched with bemused amazement at the very loud Italian families jostling and pushing at each other to get into the jacuzzies which seemed to be their favourite pastime. However there are on the upper decks always a sunbed in a more peaceful area.
All day and night there are photographers around the ship taking your photo and they are amazing quality starting from 9 euros to 29 euros or a 10 photo package for 128 euros all excellent and much cheaper than what you would pay at home in the UK. I personally enjoyed Etoneca wine bar especailly when it was the Gala dinner nights with the Free champers it was a lovely place with the piano man.
The night before you leave your final bill arrives for settlement but you can check throughout the cruise by going to the accounting desk to make sure all the charges are correct. They pre authorise your card each day to make sure your credit card pays for your bill however in our case they over pre authorised the card by a further 250 euros and now we have to wait 16 days before its re credited back to the card. No apology from them at all in fact the man on the accounting desk acted dumb so once back in the UK we phoned the card company and they explained that it is how cruise companies use the system. so in future we will go back to travellers cheques and cash and not hand over the credit card to be used in this way.
I can honestly say it was a lovely cruise and if relaxation and chilling in the sun is all you want you will find it on the ship. Myself and my daughter wanted to be pampered and spoilt and can honestly say we were. With taking my 21 month old grandson on his 1st cruise my daughter was not dissapointed and looking forward to many more cruises in the future.
With that being said I will stick with Royal Carribean and Princess cruise lines and P & O as they by far are much better to the British cruiser. MSC were good but have quite a way to go to be as good as Royal Carribean as they win hands down and thats where my hard earned cash will go in the future. Thankfully we have a further cruise to go on in October with P & O on the Azura with hubby and family this time. For me and my family this is how we wish to holiday and in Ocober we can sail from Southampton so again something new to experience.