We have just arrived back from MSC Armonia Adriatic Cruise (Venice – Ancona – Corfu – Santorini – Piraeus (Athens) – Argostoli (Kefalonia) - Kotor – Venice) and absolutely loved it! We booked this cruise because of the itinerary and after reading some of the reviews on the Armonia we were wondering whether we had made a massive mistake however, we enjoyed every minute. The staff were helpful and friendly, the ship was pristine, the food was fantastic and the entertainment was fabulous (and mostly in English)!
We arrived in Venice Marco Polo Airport and greeted by an MSC rep who showed us to the MSC information desk. We were quickly transferred to a coach and taken straight to the cruise terminal. Check in was extremely organised and easy. Each party was given a boarding number our number was 4 and we were on the ship within half an hour of boarding starting.
When we boarded we were escorted to our room which was an ocean view outside room with a large window (only the suites on the Armonia have balconies). The room was comfortable with a double bed, dressing table, mini bar and T.V. There was plenty of wardrobe space and hangers for all of your clothes. All rooms were cleaned, tidied and towels changed twice a day with a turn down service at night.
The food in the formal restaurants was fabulous. The only little thing was that there was not 24 hour food available – for example lunch finished at 2 p.m. and there was no food until afternoon tea at 4 p.m. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and midnight buffet was served every day. The buffet restaurant was a bit disappointing and could get very crowded during mealtimes but we just went to the formal restaurants for breakfast and lunch instead. The Grill and Pizzeria/Pasta bar were also very good but again could get crowded during peak times1 We were on the second sitting (9.15 p.m) for dinner. After thinking that this might be a bit late we were grateful for the later sitting as it was nice to take your time getting sorted after a spot of sightseeing! Everyone was given a formal restaurant to attend for dinner (if wanted) we were given ‘La Pergola’. Each night a six course meal was served with about 3 choices for each course although you didn’t have to choose all six courses!
Drinks were reasonable at about 2.70 euro for a soda, 6.50 euro for a cocktail, 4 euro for a large beer and 7 euro for a carafe of wine – remember the 15% service charge on each drink! Drinks packages were offered throughout the cruise and we decided to get the cocktail package which gave us 12 cocktail drinks for around 66 euros.
Each evening you were given the ‘suggested dress’ for the next evening on the daily programme. This ranged from casual (men – sports shirt, trousers, jeans women – dress, pant suit), informal (men – jacket and trousers no jeans women – informal dress or pants and blouse, gala (men – tuxedo, dinner jacket or dark suit and tie women – dressy outfit, cocktail dress, formal gown). Generally people dressed up for the two gala nights men mainly wearing suits, shirts and ties and women long dresses, heels.
MSC Armonia is one of the smaller ships within the fleet however, the facilities on board were good. The spa and gym could get very crowded during sailing times as could the swimming pool. We went during the school summer holidays (August) and there were plenty of children about! However, they were not a nuisance and we sunbathed away from the swimming pool area on the deck above to avoid the noise. There were plenty of sunbeds and towels were provided for use outside.
Ports of Call
Ancona – easy walking distance to the main town from the cruise terminal – a main shopping street with a fantastic food and clothes market – cathedral which is worth a visit.
Corfu – about 20 min walk to the Old Town for the port which was very well signposted – MSC offered a 15 euro per person bus service to the town however the walk along the seafront was lovely – visit the old fort but be aware on a Sunday it closes at 3ish.
Santorini – our best destination – gorgeous setting - great photos! After much research on the internet we were a little unsure about how to get around Santorini. We read reviews that the buses were sometimes irregular so we decided to book an MSC excursion to Fira and Oia which also included a visit to a winery. We were really glad for the excursion as it was nice to be taken around and told lots of interesting facts! The ship docks in the ocean therefore you are taken on a tender boat to the port area. As we were on an excursion we were taken to the old port but if you decided not to get an excursion you are taken to the Fira port were you can ride a donkey or get the cable car up to Fira town. We got the cable car down to the port area – no queue at all to get on board and there were 3 ships in dock at the time! We returned to the ship to watch the sunset it was gorgeous!
Piraeus (Athens) – very very very hot!!! We walked to the metro station from the cruise terminal about a 20/30 minute walk. The metro was OK to find but no signs to help - look out for the pedestrian bridge about gate number E6 cross over the pedestrian bridge from the port side. A day pass was 3euro and could be used as much as you wanted over a 24 hour period. Make sure you validate your train ticket on your first trip or else you could land a 90euro fine. We went on the metro to the Acropoli station and the Acropolis was a 5 min walk from there. Make sure you visit the Acropolis as early as possible to avoid the crowds. The Acropolis was 12 euro to enter but this ticket price also allowed you to visit other sites such as the Temple of Zeus. We arrived at about 8.30 am and it was great however by 9.30 the excursions started to arrive… it was chaos! We also visited the new Acropolis museum which was fascinating only 5 euro – lots of artefacts and glass flooring were you could see down into the buildings and areas which they had found.
Argostoli (Kefalonia) – easy walk into the town – lovely sea front walk – beautiful town – enjoyed wandering around the streets and seafront!
Kotor – easy walk into the walled old town – again enjoyed exploring the old town and getting lost within the alleyways!
Venice – disembarkment day – all had to be out of rooms at 7.00 am – given coloured baggage tags to attach to your suitcases – each colour related to a time for disembarkment and transfer to the airport – times were booked based on your flight times - everyone was off ship by 11.30 am ish but transferred to the airport at 3 pm. Long day!! We decided to go on a MSC excursion to Venice as our flight wasn’t until 5.40 p.m. MSC took care of our bags at no extra cost – without the excursion the port will charge 5-7 euro per bag. We were transferred to St Marks Square without any fuss by boat and allowed to explore at our leisure. Venice is a very easy city to walk around we visited Rialto bridge and walked along the Grand canal.
Overall a very enjoyable holiday – we will definitely sail MSC again!