12 Marseille First-Time Cruisers Cruise Reviews

I've just returned yesterday from my first ever cruise vacation, which was on the Norwegian Epic around the Western Mediterranean. And what a great experience it has been! Amazing ship, very friendly staff, nice atmosphere, lots of ... Read More
I've just returned yesterday from my first ever cruise vacation, which was on the Norwegian Epic around the Western Mediterranean. And what a great experience it has been! Amazing ship, very friendly staff, nice atmosphere, lots of dining options.... it was truly a fantastic holiday. Let me tell you why: After getting to the port in Marseille, the check-in process on board was surprisingly fast. Then, it was of to see my cabin, and explore the ship. The Epic, with a capacity up to of 4100 passengers, is one of the bigger cruise ships out there (as I've been told by more experienced cruise travellers) so there is quite a lot to explore. But the ship's setup is quite straight forward, so finding your way around is easily done after a little while. And if you do get lost, there are maps and touchscreens available on every floor to help you out. Since I was travelling by myself (background info: 27 year old Dutch guy), I've booked a Studio, which is specially designed for solo travellers. These inside cabins are very modern, with a queen-size bed, a glass shower and mood lighting. The Epic is the perfect ship to travel on for solo travellers, because of these Studios, and especially because of the Studio Lounge, which is only accessible for guests who booked a Studio. A.k.a. a great place to get to know new people and have a drink. With a solo travellers meeting every night at 18.00, with presence of one of the Cruise Staff members (William in our case, he is a great host!) and the option to go for dinner with other solo travellers too, you're bound to make some new friends. After the solo traveller meeting, it was off to dinner. And what a range of options does this ship provide you with. Multiple restaurants (buffet restaurant Garden Cafe and a-la-carte restaurants Taste, Manhattan Room and O'Sheehans) are complimentary, but you can also pay some more and use on of the speciality restaurants. Having dinner in the Spiegel Tent is very recommendable, because of the Cirque Dreams show. In all honesty, the food in the Spiegel Tent is not as good as at Taste or Manhattan, but the show is amazing! From acrobatic arts to classic magic to comedy, this show combines it all inside a very compact and cozy environment. At Taste and Manhattan they serve great food, with a different menu every day (only the classic dishes will remain the same) and hi-quality presentation and great taste. The wine list is good as well, and I tasted quite a few (luckily I had the Ultimate Beverage Package) At O'Sheehans, the Irish styled restaurant and pub, they serve a good and tasty 'pub grub', including chicken wings, a very nice BBQ burger and fish and chips. Over here, you will also find some games, including pool, darts and bowling. After dinner, it was time to enjoy the night. Howl at the Moon at the Headliners comedy club is great fun. These guys (and girl) do songs on request, and make a happy show while doing it. The musical 'Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert' played in the Epic Theatre simply takes your breath away. The acting, singing and decors are all so beautifully done (and, since you're all staying on the same ship, you can run into the stars of the show later on when partying in the Bliss Lounge) Also the Beatles tribute band (playing in the Cavern Club) is amazing, they really get you of your feet. There are other shows too (an opera show and a 60's tribute band f.i.) but I don't see those. Luckily you receive an overview every day of all activities going on the next day, so you can keep track (because I didn't even mention the bingo yet, or the ping pong tournament, movies on big screen, art auctions, trivia quizzes and so much more), besides the 'regular' cruise activities like bubbling in a jacuzzi, swimming and enjoying the sunshine. For a more quiet night out, you can enjoy a nice mix or cocktail (tip: try the Mudslide, amazing iced cocktail) in one of the many bars, such as Shakers (martini bar), Maltings, O'Sheehans (Irish pub) or Waves (bar outside, near the pool) By the end of the night, going on into early morning, Bliss Lounge is the place to go, which is a nightclub-like bar. Although the DJ isn't always playing my kind of music, the atmosphere is nice, and you can dance the night away if you like. I didn't book any excursions through NCL (they are pretty expensive, so just wondered off by myself), but in the Freestyle Daily they inform you about the options ashore (how you can get about on your own, and what there is to see in and near the port of call), so that's great. So was there nothing that could be improved? Yes, there is. Almost every morning (quite early, around 07.00) there are quite loud announcements over the speaker system, mostly for disembarking guests or guests who have booked a shore excursion. Being woken up with announcements (which are mostly not even meant for you) isn't really nice, specially after a nice night of partying. Perhaps NCL can do these announcements differently/more targeted? (perhaps via the TV?) Also, although the Ultimate Beverage Package includes cocktails, wines and mixed drinks (which can go up to about 15 USD per drink) coffee in the Atrium bar or special coffee after dinner is not included. Having an Irish coffee included, but having to pay extra for a capucchino, that seems a bit odd. But, despite these two points of improvement, I still had a very very nice holiday! Wow, that was a long review. So all and all, I've happy to say that my experience on this ship has been great! It was my first cruise, but definately not my last one... and love to go with Norwegian again! Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
My sisters and I decided to take our aging mother to France and this was the perfect choice for us all! From start to finish, the service and the personnel were the best! Having traveled a lot having been an international flight ... Read More
My sisters and I decided to take our aging mother to France and this was the perfect choice for us all! From start to finish, the service and the personnel were the best! Having traveled a lot having been an international flight attendant, I totally enjoyed every aspect of this trip. Our ship, Hermod was immaculate, the food was delicious and plentiful,the staff was so friendly and attentive, the tours were so well organized and the tour guides were top-notch! The beauty of cruising this way is you can do as much as you'd like (me) and as little as you can handle (my elderly mom). There is so much to see and enjoy along the way. We took advantage of almost all the tours and excursions. We were definitely very lucky to have perfect weather. This was my first river cruise but it won't be my last. We went on the recommendation of one of my sisters that traveled on Viking last year. What a great recommendation it was! You are truly taken cared of from the moment you come out of customs to the moment you check back in to return home. Thank you Viking for a most memorable trip for my sweet mother, my sisters and me! C'etait MAGNIFIQUE! Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
I had my doubts about river cruising. The Viking cruise was first class all the way. The ship was modern, clean and spacious. Although our standard room was small, we spent very little time in it so it didn't make a difference. Opt ... Read More
I had my doubts about river cruising. The Viking cruise was first class all the way. The ship was modern, clean and spacious. Although our standard room was small, we spent very little time in it so it didn't make a difference. Opt for a less expensive room. The food was great. The chef was always available and each night gave his recommendations. There was always a choice of appetizers, entrees and dessert. Wine, beer and soft drinks are no extra cost at meals. The excursions were well planned and very organized. It was like clock-work. We would definitely do another Viking cruise. One thing- most of the passengers were retirement age like us. We enjoyed that. The people were mature and respectful and quite interesting. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
A wonderful cruise aboard S S Catherine. From embarkation to disembarkation everything went like clockwork. The excursions were varied and always interesting - our guides were excellent and the groups were kept small in numbers. ... Read More
A wonderful cruise aboard S S Catherine. From embarkation to disembarkation everything went like clockwork. The excursions were varied and always interesting - our guides were excellent and the groups were kept small in numbers. Our cabin was spacious - Category 2 Cabin 316 - a large bathroom - a large window to the outside world with enough space for the two of us to sit and read. It had easy access to the reception area and the dining room - no steps or lift needed and it was kept immaculate every day by our maid. The food was a highlight - fresh every day - dinner always had a local touch and the drinks choices were varied. We would definitely use Uniworld again- they certainly ticked all the boxes for us and did everything right for us Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
I do have to give myself kudos for my logistical planning as far as arriving at the port and getting back home but our experience on board the Armonia was AWFUL. I read as much info/fine print as I could about the cruise and this ship but ... Read More
I do have to give myself kudos for my logistical planning as far as arriving at the port and getting back home but our experience on board the Armonia was AWFUL. I read as much info/fine print as I could about the cruise and this ship but was sure that the bad reviews weren't accurate; I was wrong and wish I had saved our money to do a Disney cruise instead. Children are free to stay and it certainly shows in the limited choices of children's activities on board. Our tickets were fairly cheap since I booked through a 3rd-person site which gives big/awesome discounts for military families. In all, mine and my husbands tickets were just under $700 which we thought was amazing for a cruise! I did read in the fine print that there were surcharges for services on board but I was NOT expecting to pay around 8euro every time we bought coffee, ice cream or had anyone hand us something that we couldn't get ourselves...on top of the price of whatever we bought. I would highly suggest, if you do decide to use this particular cruise line, to do some research on your destinations and book your own excursions instead of booking through the ship. I researched our destinations (Marseille, Palma de Mallorca, Corsica) and wrote down the addresses and places we were interested in seeing. If you can help it, take a taxi versus using the transportation services provided by the ship. They charged almost 20euro for adults and 12euro for children to use the bus for transportation to and from the dock at every destination but we ended up paying way less by just paying for a taxi ride. Once inside the cities, utilize the hop-on/hop-off buses or the little tourist trains which are minimal in cost and you get to see all of the highlights of the place you're in. If you have business to attend online, the wifi charges are absurd. We bought one hour of time for almost 17euro to check our email periodically since that was the only line of communication with family/work. You can't honestly tell me it costs that much money to have wifi aboard a boat, especially at the prices they charge for everything. Boarding: When we arrived at the port, we registered fairly quickly since we had already checked in online and printed a confirmation. They wouldn't allow us to keep our passports, which made us very uneasy since we are a military family and have always been told to NEVER allow our passports to be out of our possession. They in turn gave us a key-card for our trip which would get us on/off the boat and was linked to my husbands credit card to pay for anything we got on board since NO CASH is taken (which is stupid because we pulled out almost 1,000 euro in cash specifically for this purpose). They wouldn't allow us to take our luggage with us when boarding (which were only small carry-on suitcases since we traveled with Ryanair and didn't want the hassle of checking-in suitcases). We sat in our room waiting for our luggage to be delivered to freshen up after a 6 hour commute (which was just sat outside the cabin doors and several people lost their luggage due to thievery this way). Since we were starving by this time, we just left to get something to eat. Dining/buffets/bars: Our first night of dining was horrendous. After traveling all day, waiting on our luggage to be delivered and searching for the dining room, we were turned away at the door to the Marco Polo dining facility because we were "first seating" and arrived literally 15 mins late even though the itinerary says from 7-9pm. We were starving and our 5y/o child (who almost never eats) was crying he was hungry. No one pointed us in the direction of the buffets upstairs even after we told them that we had traveled all day and hadn't eaten since 11am that morning. We didn't get to eat until almost 10pm that night; that in itself was upsetting. The food was the biggest portion of our trip that I was looking forward to because it was a Mediterranean cruise, I'm expecting fabulous seafood and new dishes that I hadn't tried before! What we got was mostly fish, some extremely chewy sliced leg of lamb and veal. Since the menu is set up to be a 6-course meal, the portion sizes are very small and we figured this out the first night when I left still hungry! The only dessert choices are all COLD and consisted of ice cream (my son had no qualms with this choice), cold chocolate cake which was more of a brownie consistency and a very runny "coconut/pistachio cake" which didn't even hold it's form on the plate. The breakfast choices weren't much better and consisted of cold waffles with NO syrup, "raisin/cinnamon" french toast which had NO raisins or cinnamon and came out burnt with some sort of runny excuse for syrup and literally consisted of one piece of bread with the crust cut off. The juice is so watered down, it tastes like juice-infused water, my son wouldn't even drink it. It's almost as if they water it down just to make it go farther. The coffee is HORRIBLE!!! If you're a coffee connoisseur like I am, you will not appreciate this mud-water. It tastes like coffee flavored water with a slightly burnt aftertaste. I feel like they do this just so you will pay to buy coffee from the coffee bar on board. Oh, don't forget that 15% surcharge for a 4euro cup (literally 1/2 cup) of cappuccino with 2 inches of foam on top, so about 5 drinks of actual coffee...still makes me mad. We didn't find the upstairs buffets (on the 11th floor) until 3 days into our trip. The best food was the freshly made pizza buffet which was open at all hours. The Brassiere was okay, most of the choices were cold meats/cheeses/breads with a few "hot" items like rosemary potatoes, green beans or some sort of sausage/onion mix..we spent most of our meals at the pizza buffet. They have mugs and mud-water (coffee) and hot water with a selection of tea bags. The only FREE water you will get on board is the tap water in the machines at the buffets upstairs. You have to pay for every.single.thing. you drink except in these areas. Activities on board: For adults, if you like to gamble and drink, that's all there is to do. But this, of course, entails spending more money which they highly encourage. The shops (pharmacy, gift shop, clothing store, toy store) is extremely overpriced and has a very small selection of what you need. Almost every bar area allows smoking so the fact that a "cigar room" was in one of these areas was confusing if smoking was allowed in almost all areas of the boat. My husband and I couldn't enjoy our drink while watching the live band one evening because smoke was being blown on us from the casino which opened into the area we were in. Smoking areas are designated but aren't followed or enforced. We signed my son up for the daily activities for his age group but the only things for him to do in this small room was play with Legos, color printed out pictures and watch movies in a language that he doesn't understand. Needless to say, he went twice for about 2 hrs each time, and said he didn't want to go back. It broke my heart because I wanted him to enjoy our vacation but he ended up staying in the room with us, watching cartoons on the laptop and playing on the iPad. The nightly shows were all the same, just different costumes and music. It also would have been nice if the theater played movies during the day since they had the capability to do so. We didn't use the spa services because frankly, we couldn't afford it after discovering all the hidden charges that were forced upon us. The public areas were kept clean but all looked alike. The ship is full of glitz/glam but lacks real substance, in all honesty. Photographers were set up all throughout the 5th and 6th floors in the evenings and harass you as you walk by to take your picture. After the 3rd time, we just flat out refused and walked away, leaving them talking and begging us to take more pictures. Pools: The very small children's water area was extremely slippery, my son fell on one occasion and hit the back of his head. Some of the water toys didn't work and there was no actual kiddie pool for the kids to play in, just water streams to run through. The adult pool was no bigger than a king size bed, and that's no exaggeration! I never saw anyone in it other than a couple of teenagers jump in and climb back out. The two hot tubs were the only points of interest for everyone and with so many ppl getting in and out, I passed. I don't like sitting in other people's urine. The staff we encountered were very nice and all spoke English. Our waiters were always wonderful to us so we have no complaints with those who worked on board. Our biggest complaints would be the poor food served, the many surcharges that we were left with after it was over and being kicked out of our room at 8am and sitting around for almost 3 hours to disembark. Our bill that was left on the door was over 300euro and more than half of those charges were just surcharges, which is absolutely pathetic to me. After being kicked out of our room, we were told to sit in one of the lounge/bar areas until our designated time to meet (according to floor number) to leave the ship. Luckily, we held onto our luggage instead of letting them transport it for us back to shore so as soon as we walked off the ramp (couldn't happen fast enough for me) we grabbed a taxi and went straight to our train station. Overall, our experience was horrendous. The only reason I give this rating a 2/5 is because of the cleanliness of the boat and the friendliness of the staff. Other than that, it was a sorry excuse for a first-time experience in taking a cruise as a family vacation. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
I am very impressed with this cruise company. MSC did very well to make our cruise a great and pleasurable experience. The good point: Excellent Food, Excellent Accommodation, Amazing service from all the crew staff. Very friendly and ... Read More
I am very impressed with this cruise company. MSC did very well to make our cruise a great and pleasurable experience. The good point: Excellent Food, Excellent Accommodation, Amazing service from all the crew staff. Very friendly and always making sure we got the best product and service. The punctuality of the actual ship, always sailed at the prescribed time, arriving on time. Allowed us to plan the balance of our trip very well. The excursions we bought were value for money. We saw just enough of each City we choose. I also enjoyed the fact that we were also free to do our own tour and go exploring on our own. The bad points: The reception staff could behave a lot better, they are the first people we meet and they treated us like customers who cant pay. It felt terrible, and this particular lady just started doing her own thing with my Credit Card. I was not impressed and I had to block my card for the balance of the trip. The photos are of good quality but excessively expensive. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
This is an engineering marvel. The ship, brand new or four months old, is really a fabulous construction. The food was more than adequate for a cruise of which this was our 6th. Cleanliness, timeliness, organization and staff training are ... Read More
This is an engineering marvel. The ship, brand new or four months old, is really a fabulous construction. The food was more than adequate for a cruise of which this was our 6th. Cleanliness, timeliness, organization and staff training are all superb. Mind you, not being able to use the balconies three out of seven days was absurd as they were 'washing' them. Really. Taking the all inclusive drinks package is the only way as the 15% add-on is hardly fair with drinks at 7 euros 95. Do be careful should you be on the second deck (out of 14) because you bought ''Flash'' price. The night noise as in 3AM with the kitchens and dish washing above you is really beyond belief for a new vessel. When re-approaching the sales people, forget a response. The lack of fresh water is not acceptable. Wine is marginal, too. Unfortunately the tourists constantly getting on/off at each port allows for suitcases blocking the corridors each night. Plus loud passengers in the hallways all night..., but that is not the company's responsibility. While the chef did his best, he did it seven times, without changing. Even the fixed nightly meal never changed, all six courses. The breakfast and lunch were NEVER changed. Too bad that so many things are great but are ruined by a few administrative decisions by the powers that be who obviously have never cruised with real people, and I have to expose this to you. I could not live with myself if I did not... although housekeeping is absolutely the best in the world. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
I took my 12 yr old daughter on the River Royale and did the 3 night Paris post cruise extension as well. This was our first river cruise and I was very impressed by Uniworld. The ship was not the over the top boutique decor I had ... Read More
I took my 12 yr old daughter on the River Royale and did the 3 night Paris post cruise extension as well. This was our first river cruise and I was very impressed by Uniworld. The ship was not the over the top boutique decor I had anticipated, so that was a nice surprise. Very clean and beautiful. We had a cabin on the Burgundy deck with a full window (does not open). Air conditioner worked great. There was one chair by window and a nice size ledge to put drinks on while you watch the scenery go by (other person sits on bed). Bathroom had big containers that they refill with shower lotion (soap), shampoo, liquid soap at sink and moisturizer at sink. There was a small bottle of hair conditioner and small necessities provided (nail file,shower cap,cotton balls, q-tips). Also, a robe per person and complimentary slippers per person. Towels were big and soft. Light up makeup/magnifying mirror. Big roomy drawer under sink to hold all your bathroom necessities. Closet had loads of hangers, safe, and plenty of shelves for clothes. Had to use laundry service towards end of cruise. There is a canvas bag you put your dirty clothes in, fill out the included form, leave on bed and 24 hours later, you have pressed and folded clothes. Very nice, worth the price. No iron or ironing board in cabin, although, there could of been room to set up board in front of window. But I brought my steamer. One 110V outlet next to window on vanity. Complimentary reusable water bottles to take with you on shore. Glass water bottle constantly refilled with purified water in your room, 2 glasses, ice bucket, pen and paper. You can also fill your water bottles right outside the restaurant. There is a station with water, ice and ice tea and glasses. Bed was very comfortable. Down top, fluffy pillows. I-home alarm clock you can use to play/recharge your Iphone or Ipod. Nice heavy curtains to block our light in morning. Never heard a peep from other cabins. Food was amazing! Chef Manuel did an awesome job. Waiters were very professional, friendly, nice smiles! Wines flowed freely. There were good enough. Better wines were available for purchase. Breakfast had mimosas, lunch wine and beer, dinner wine and beer. Breakfast buffet and lunch buffets were excellent. Dinner was a choice on a set menu, or you could always order a steak, salmon, or chicken. People were a little more dressy at dinner than I expected, but still business casual would be fine. On this "family friendly" cruise, there were 5 other children besides my daughter. 12 year old triplets, a 14 year old and his 16 year old brother. There was a staff member that was dedicated to the children. He would take them on special outings and even played card games with them in the lounge. Very sweet, Pierre. There was a cabin that was converted into a game room with a Wi player. The kids all had a good time. I think 12 and up is a good age for this kind of cruise. Every morning there was a tour into the town or village after breakfast. No sleeping in, unless you were willing to skip the tour. Most afternoons were free to take an optional tour or just relax on the boat or explore on your own. The tour guides were all very good and the Vox system to hear them was great. I had to buy insect repellent during the first tour in Arles and Pierre was in our tour group and he came in to the pharmacy with me and helped me with the purchase. There always seemed to be a staff member along on each tour group which was nice. The lounge was a nice place to hang out in. Piano, well, keyboard player in evenings. Nice place to read in afternoons. Kids played monopoly and cards there, too. At 4 o'clock, they would set up tea and little sandwiches and such in the lounge. Just outside the lounge was posted the day's menus and a little table with apples and candies all day. Front desk staff was always very helpful and could mail postcards, make change, etc. Postcards available for sale and the gift shop downstairs was wonderful, although only open limited hours. The top deck (sun deck) had nice loungers, tables and chairs, shade canopies, a jacuzzi and a waiter would come around at times for drink orders. All in all, a very impressive, wonderful, excellent cruise! Can't wait to go on the next one! Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Hmmm. I'm the first to review a Croisieres de France cruise, probably because it's French based and French speaking but read on....you might find something useful. The in-laws are French so we went with them on this cruise ... Read More
Hmmm. I'm the first to review a Croisieres de France cruise, probably because it's French based and French speaking but read on....you might find something useful. The in-laws are French so we went with them on this cruise starting and finishing in Marseilles. Booked in France through local travel agent but the Croisieres de France (CDF) website is www.cdfcroisieresdefrance.fr Officially, French is spoken onboard but special announcements (including lifeboat drill) are given in French and English. The ship's crew is made up of 37 different nationalities and they don't all speak French. In fact, the entire dining room staff (who were fantastic) were all from Mauritius and could speak English. Bear in mind though, that 99% of your fellow passengers will be French speakers so it may be awkward for you if you like to chat, make friends, share a dining room table etc. The cruise was the 'Tutti Frutti' and - after a group discount because it was booked for 50 people - the price was 970 euros. This was all inclusive - all food and drink and tips. There were additional items you could pay for on board e.g. the spa sessions, laundry, some specific cocktails or special food e.g caviar but, to be honest, it was a French ship and the French expect good food as standard so there was absolutely no need to pay for any other food (apart from waffles/crepes at 1.75 euros from the poolside creperie, which my wife insisted on having every day!). The ship was the Horizon (bought by CDF recently, refurbished in early 2012 and now painted up in the dark blue livery of CDF). Despite 12 decks, it's actually quite a small ship when you see it beside other cruise ships. 1500 passengers and 650 crew. We docked beside the Costa Magica in Valletta and it was massive compared to our ship but we actually liked the intimacy of ours. It had a variety of bars, dancefloors, casino, theatre (nightly entertainment, cabaret style), shop, children's club and gym. The outdoor pool had a children's pool beside it and two jacuzzis. Evening meals were in two sittings, which you had to reserve at the time of booking - either 1900 or 2115. Initially, we thought 2115 was too late to eat each night but it actually worked out really well as we returned to the ship each day 1700/1800, went for a dip in the pool, lazed about, got showered/dressed for dinner, went to the 2000 cabaret show or aperitifs in the casino then up to the restaurant so the pace was actually quite nice. It would have been a rush if we'd had the 1900 sitting. You sat at the same table every night, the food was fantastic and the Mauritian waiters were just brilliant. The restaurant dress code was smart-casual - no shorts or t-shirts. You had the option of a less formal meal in the grill room each night too if you preferred. We did this once. It was buffet style and eat as much as you want. Our cabin was on deck 6 and a fairly decent size. Our cleaner cleaned twice a day. We actually said to him not to bother with the second clean. He worked very hard and the cabin was spotless. The only gripe about the ship was the lifts. There were 3 or 4 sets of two lifts but they were always busy and you had to wait ages - a problem for those with medical conditions. Overall, though, we were impressed by the ship, despite its small size and the waiting/cleaning staff were amazing. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
As first-time cruisers, we did not know what to expect, so we read teh reviews on this site. From our perspective, I can only say that soem people just want to find some fault-so sad.We have travelled the world and stayed in mnay classes ... Read More
As first-time cruisers, we did not know what to expect, so we read teh reviews on this site. From our perspective, I can only say that soem people just want to find some fault-so sad.We have travelled the world and stayed in mnay classes of hotels and met many people.Our experience with the Fantasia was 100% positive. I like to travel to meet people. The staff on the Fantasia were wonderful, many from Bali, and so friendly and helpful.Our balcony suite was perfect and kept spotlessly clean.The food was very European, but that's what one goes to Europe for. There were lot of choices. The majority of passengers were European, so get used to European customs. When in Rome... They do not line up...just bundle into elevators/stairways etc.Yes, there is smoking permitted, but it was never a problem and there was no odour.Yes, there were children. If you are annoyed by children, go on an adults only cruise. The majority of the children were well-behaved. If you didn't want to encounter one, there are ways around it like having breakfast in your room or going to the adults-only pool. The entertainment was fabulous-as good as any in any resort at which we've stayed. If you want Vegas, go to Vegas.Yes, you might have to buy water. We didn't mind. Other drinks were reasonably priced. We didn't feel gouged in any way. The service in the formal dining rooms was impeccable. Captain Mazzi runs a very tight ship. We would go again. Embarkation/disembarkation was quick. Passports returned quickly. Enjoyed our excursions. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
Most of Louis Cruises ships sail out of Marseille. For us this was a bonus because to fly into Marseille was a simple and straightforward option. We were flying from Faro in the Algarve and their options on destinations is fairly limited. ... Read More
Most of Louis Cruises ships sail out of Marseille. For us this was a bonus because to fly into Marseille was a simple and straightforward option. We were flying from Faro in the Algarve and their options on destinations is fairly limited. The downside is although Marseille is quite a pleasant place to explore, it is full of undesirable people and therefore not very safe. We arrived at the port by taxi and was dropped at the terminal, something resembling a very large warehouse. Inside a Que formed leading up to two scanning machines which is where we dropped the luggage. From here we were taken upstairs where we started the booking in procedure with staff from the ship. This was quick and straight forward. We were issued with security cards and boarded the ship. We were taken to our cabin an outside junior suite. It was quite a large room with double bed, sofa, armchair, table, wardrobe and bathroom with bath and shower. Within 30 minutes our luggage arrived and the two guys looking after us in the cabin introduced themselves. They did an excellent job throughout the cruise and were always eager to please. We had a good look around the ship and it certainly had all the basics. A la carte restaurant, further restaurant al fresco out on deck, lounge with bar where you could also get snacks, entertainment lounge, library, casino ( afew slot machines and a couple of tables, hardly Las Vegas) two swimming pools (plunge pools) and a duty free shop. There is a capacity of less than 900 passengers and about 350 crew. A typical day started with breakfast we were shown to a table in the a la carte where we were given tea or coffee and orange juice. The food was the norm, cooked being sausage, bacon eggs mushrooms etc or continental pastries, fruit toast. I believe the other restaurant did more or less the same with the option of omelettes. Lunch was in either restaurant again. We opted for the deck which had 4or 5 hot dishes, an excellent selection of salads and cold cuts or burgers. Tea and coffee was also available. About 4 O'clock was afternoon tea, obviously tea, coffee biscuits and cakes. Evening meal was served at 6.45 and 9 p.m.We elected to take the later sitting and was shown to a round table seating 8 people, this we were to keep for the duration of the cruise. We were joined by other English speaking people with whom we formed good friends. Dinner started with appetizers, starters, main, sweet and tea or coffee. Some had wine or drinks. You could buy a drinks package but it seemed to have quite a few exclusions, so we opted out and just bought as and when. Tea and coffee was included in every meal. The staff again were always eager to please and did an excellent job in serving us. From here you could have a drink in the lounge or go and see entertainment in the "Stars lounge" which appeared to be of low quality and a lot of audience participation. Except for the fist day when we were at sea there were stops every day at various ports. The excursions office seemed very busy but we thought they were on the expensive side. e also like to do our own thing and not herded around. We did take the Rome trip because of the distance involved and the short time in which to see an awful lot. Two days before the trips end we were asked to complete a tip form. They suggested 8 euros a day per person but you could put anything you wanted. We put 0 and opted to tip the cabin staff and waiters at our table personally. We were told that tips left through the official route are retained by the cruise line and not passed on to the staff. For us a first timers we were extremely happy with the comfort of our room the food and the attitude of just about all the staff on board. We were told by several "professional cruisers" that in their opinion the ship was of low standard and the only way is up. I have done a blog which includes the ports we visited and a basic summary, this can be seen at www.louiscruises.blogspot.com Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Our cruise was 28 march from Marseille, then Barcelona. Tunis,. Malta, Sicily, Rome, Genua and back to Marseille. I am Carina, 32 years old travel agent from the Netherlands, with my husband Erik, 34 years old IT specialist. Together with ... Read More
Our cruise was 28 march from Marseille, then Barcelona. Tunis,. Malta, Sicily, Rome, Genua and back to Marseille. I am Carina, 32 years old travel agent from the Netherlands, with my husband Erik, 34 years old IT specialist. Together with my Dad (65) and mom (64). We had 2 inside cabins category 3 on deck 10, numbers were 10047 and 10035 DISCLAIMER: This will be a very personal review. It is coloured by the fact that we travelled under special circumstances, as well as the fact that I am: A) European, from the Netherlands, and therefore not used to certain things like tipping, free water etc etc B) a first time cruiser, so I have NO comparison whatsoever. I will have comparison to AIDA in a few weeks, but that's hardly a common cruiseline as well. My opinions are thus based only on this MSC experience C) a flexible, happy-go-lucky person who is easily pleased, and who is easily impressed (eg we are not used to SUPER luxury travel etc) D) we travelled with my father who is terminally ill. This made some thing more difficult, more fun and more special than they would have been otherwise. E) I am a very overweight person which sometimes also may affect my level of activity and my perception of things, although I hope not too much It surely affects my appetite and liking of the food on board! That being said, let's start this review. TRAVEL On the very early morning of 28 march we were picked up by a taxi to drive us to Lille in Northern France. We had spent the night (well, the few hours that were our night) at my parents house and the kids were at home with my inlaws, who watched them the whole week. The taxivan drove us in 1,5 hours to Lille, and we arrived WAY to early, the train station was still closed! Luckily the driver stayed with us till it opened at 5:20- am so we could sit in the warm van. I am sure dad would have frozen to death otherwise, he is so skinny and so easily cold since his illness. At the station it was a short wait untill our TGV arrived (Train Grande Vitesse). We were VERY comfortable in our first class seats! The train wooshed us thorugh France in a heartbeat: in only 4,5 hours we arrived in Marseille. A very comfortable and fast way to travel. Of course the plane would have been faster, but dad can not travel by plane anymore, so train was our best bet. At 85 euros per person for a return in first class, I thought it was a bargain! When we neared Marseille, we came out of a tunnel and there she was! We could see our MSC SPLENDIDA ship in the sunshine in the distance! I jumped and yelped from excitement, to the frowning dismay of our fellow passengers LOL. At the station, Erik (my husband) and I lugged all the luggage, we wanted to make this trip and doable and easy for mum and dad as possible. We looked for the taxis and were told it would be 30 euros. Let's do it. In the end, it was 25 when we got to the ship, so that was a good cab driver. We were simply stunned by the beauty and the largeness of the ship; it promised to be a very special week! EMBARKATION Marseille is not a main port for MSC embarkation. First we stood in line for our luggage. No porters here (at least not at 11:30 am). We delivered our bags in the terminal, where they would be scanned and handeled later. In this port, you are not present if (or when?) they are scanned. In my suitcase I had some cans of pepsi and some cans with mix-drinks like bacardi cola. No problem, The suitcase turned up intact around 5:30 pm by my cabin, with all the goodies inside. After leaving our suitcases, we went up to the check in area. We registered our creditcard and recieved our board-card. We went to an information stand on drink packages. We bought the cocktail package, the small beer package and the soda package. We could not buy a wine package, this would be handled later with dinner. No worries: you can buy these packages later on also, so no need to buy A LOT at once! I was sure we would need multiple packages, but turned out we had enough. The cocktail worked out to be 12 for the price of 10 compared to buying them apart. The softdrinks (cans! big ones too) worked out to be 2,20 euros per can in stead of 2,70 euros apart (excl 15% service charge) The savings on beer was comparable, thus good deals I think. Anyway, more on drinks later. We had to wait 15 minutes and at about noon we could enter the ship. We were not met by a crewmember for a photo shoot nor to show us to our room. Maybe because we were so early, because later on we always saw people having there embarkation picture taken with a not-so-handsome sailor and a lifesaver (how do you call those rings things in english?). And we saw a lot of people throughout the week being escorted to their cabin by a white-gloved crew member. Not so for us: we just found our own way to our cabins on deck 10 to leave our handluggage. TIP: please put your lighter clothes or even bathing suit in your handluggage! I was so hot with my winter clothes untill I finally had my suitcase at 5:30 pm! Really stupid, as I have read this tip so many times before... So, check-in was a breeze but not as 'complete' as we saw later on with other passengers. (although I did not need a picture and we found the rooms pretty quickly ourselves) THE CABIN We had 2 inside cabins. I tried to get an upgrade/upsell on several levels (since I work in the industry) but failed. The ship was full or almost full so none to be had. When I saw the inside, I was not dissapointed! I found the cabin quite large (for 2 people!) with a nice big and VERY comfy bed with a mirror on the wall behind it. A little bench and table and a dressoir. Enough closet space and IMHO also enough clothes hangers. But hey, I 'only' brought 8 or 9 different outfits, and some for my husband. The bathroom was also adequate, I had expected much smaller! Water pressure and temperature was always nice. I sometimes clinged a bit to the curtain, but that is to be expected with my size LOL. The minibar was stocked and had enough room for the cans I brought from home (and the butter that was requested by our sicilian guide, more on that later) We never used anything from the minibar. The roomservice menu was not very expensive and also very small. Not many choices. Only in-room breakfast was for free (albeit not so elaborate) but we nevfer tried this. All in all, very happy with the cabins! Every night we received the newspaper for the next day. The first one in French but I asked the steward for english ones and he did so after that. I just had to 'train' him to put them under the door! He had the habit of knocking to deliver them at or after 10:30 pm, when we were usually just getting to bed or already asleep. After instructions he understood and just slid the thing under the door. (his knocking was persistant!) I also instructed him to make up our beds with seperate blankets (we just hog them otherwise and we fight about them) It took him a full day to understand what I wanted. First he thought I was cold and needed more blankets so he turned up the heat! He did his job, not more, not less. We did not have a special bond with him. My mum had only one little gripe: when she wanted to go to her cabin for a bathroom and shower visit, they were cleaning and they let her wait outside for a long time. She thought they should have let her in and resume the cleaning later, but that's debatable. We left our hand luggage in the nice cabins and went on to explore the ship. Man, it is big! And so beautiful! We were just walking around with huge smiles and sometimes with open jaws of amazement. Of course it was my first time on a cruise-ship, so I was bound to be amazed anyway I guess. The pools, the sundecks, the bars,: it all looked SO nice in the sunshine! We looked for the buffet restaurant on deck 14, BoraBora (and PagoPago, they are one and the same). In this restaurant buffet breakfast and bufet lunch is served every day (breakfast from 6:30 till 10 and lunch from 12 till 14:30) and also a teatime (from 15:45 till 16:30) conmsisting of cakes, cookies, some tarts, some sanwiches, coffee and tea. The BUFFET LUNCH was really quite OK, I thought. No way can you cook a buffet for 4000 people and have everythin piping hot! If you want hot, freshly made food, you are better off lunching in the dining room. Always a salad bar. Always some meat and cheese, some cold dishes like pasta salad or rice salad. Always some hot pasta options, pizza slices (not many varieties but nice), potatoe/meat/veggie options, a carvery station (recommended, was nice EVERY day!) and one buffet line with fries, hotdogs, hamburgers and the like. This line was only 1, and all the others were repeated. This line was therefore the busiest and sometimes took a long time to get something, especially with lots of rude people (sorry, mostly Italian) jumping in line, pretending there was no one there with them. There was also dessert stations with jello and tarts and cakes, very nice. No ice cream. I liked the food, there was always something good for me to find. !!!!! At lunch no drinks are included. You just order and get served a drink. HOWEVER: there ARE water stations that are sometimes being used by people hidden between the buffets. It is not really meant to be used at lunch, but I saw people using them anyway (and sometimes even using brutal force to try and use the locked juice machine as well! ) I have no opinion on this, as I am never used to free drinks with my lunch anywhere. I just buy them. But this is how it was anyway. Now we are on this subject anyway, let me tell you about the WATER SITUATION Yes, it is true, no free water except for breakfast. No ice water, no free water bottles. I heard recently that US passenghers now get water coupons, check with your TA! I dod not get any free water. My dad just asked for a small glass of tap water for his medication sometimes and he got it every time at no charge. So maybe if you ask friendly enough... The bottled water in your room is at charge (maybe except with those coupons) and also at dinner. Not expensive, but if you are used to free water it is a let down I guess. However consider this: MSC is usually cheaper than the american lines. If free water, iceatea or coffee is very important to you, consider that you are probably paying for it with other lines. I am not used to free anything, so had no problems with it whatsoever. The water in the stateroom is drinkable. I did and survived THE SHIP we finished our lunch and went on to explore the ship. We went up to deck 15 and saw the Playa del Sol, the so-called ZEN area, adult only pool and sundeck at the aft of the ship. Wow, it was beautiful! I could not wait to go and sit in one of those jacuzzis, unfortunately had left my bathers in my suitcase, so this day it was not going to happen. The ZEn area was very nice and if the wind on the aft had not been so cold, we would have sat there many times! This time of year, if the wind comes from behind, this area was a bit too cold, especially for my dad who is easily cold since he is ill (and lost a lot of weight). Luckily the ship is fitted with screens so that on deck 15, there are enough spots where one can relax and sit in the sun. We all had a small hour orso on the sunloungers and we were already burnt! Man, 18 degrees in Marseille sure enough is hot when you are in a windless spot. B) What we noticed all the way when we were checking out the ship, is the degree of detail everywhere. I love mosaic tiles, which are used a LOT at the pool areas and everywhere, so I was very happy. But not only those; everything was just perfectly finished. My dad worked as a tiler some years ago, and we was always looking down in amazement at the beautiful Italian tiles in all colours and shapes ans sizes, laid perfectly, cut sharply according to him. Even in the lifts! It is a ship with very elegant decor, at least to my taste. Every bar or lounge is different in shape and decor, so everyone can find his or her favourite spot! The purple bar with all purple and stripes, the piano bar for a more nautical elegant atmosphere, the sports bar with sports memorabilia, TV screens, bowling etc, the Aft lounge with wavy chairs and a nice dancefloor and so on, and so on! if you can not find a favourite spot on this ship, I do not know what WOULD be nice for you. Our favourite was the cigar lounge, later more on that. Around 5:30 pm our suitcases had arrived and it was time to unpack, have a nice hot shower and put on some evening slothes for our next adventure: DINNER We had requested early seating and a table for four at booking, and we got what we requested. There are 3 dining rooms: Villa Verde on deck 6, and 2 different floors of La Reggia, lowed (deck 5) and upper (deck 6). We were assigned La Reggia lower and it is an elegant restaurant, although all the velvet and dark yellow took some getting used to from my side. First seating is 6:30 pm and second at 9 pm, which was just way too late for us with two parents who are on medication and who are used to eat at 5, like all older dutchmen. Only on 1 night, Tunis, the seatings are 1 hour later both, because sail away from Tunis is only at 7 or 7:30. Our waiter was Mahmudi from Indonesia, a little nice man who was quite serious. He was very polite and friendly, but he never grew as close to one of his tables (as far as we could tell) as some of his colleagues. He did a very good job however and we were happy to be served by him. We got a menu which was themed on a region in italy, and we could choose from six courses (appetizers, salad, soup, pasta/rice dish, main course, dessert). It was perfect. My dad can not eat very much anymore since his radiation treatments, so he was fine just ordering a soup and a pasta dish in stead of a main course. The rest of us ate mostly 4 courses. One day I tried 6, but I felt stuffed for hours! The best appetizer I had all week was a pate with tangy orange marmelade, loved that! The best pasta dish was pumpkin risotto. The best main course IMO was a turkey dish and the best dessert was the baked alaska on Gala Night 2! (more on that later) Now this on the food in the Main dining room. It was hot enough for me, never got cold food. It was also not bland for me, as I sometimes read. Everything tasted nice and pure, not overly salted (which I do not like but may be your preference). I was SURPRISED that they managed to get difficult dishes like turkey or risotto on the tables for so many people, still tasting pretty good! It is difficult to make a not-too-dry Turkey or a not-over-stirred risotto anyday, let alone for 1000 people or so! I was impressed. Make up of the plates was not always overly pretty, but hey: it went down fast enough so who wants pretty curly basil leaves and drizzles of balsamic vinegar on the plate? For me, the food in the MDR got a 8 out of 10, some nights even a 9. As stated as an answer on one of the questions above, the MDR is the only FREE option at night. The rest are pay restaurants (more on those later). This did not bother us, we had fun and good food. We bought the WINE PACKAGE which consisted of 7 bottles of wine and 7 bottles of water, so one of each every night. This was 129 euros plus 15% and it was a good choice for us. No hassle with 'What shall I drink tonight?' We just opened a wine and a water and this was enough for the four of us every evening. About the other DRINK PACKAGES we had: if you drink by the pools, you get plastic glasses. That is OK with me, would not eant it any other way with kids running around. What we noticed, was that the SMALL beer package we pruchased was officialy for 12 small beers of 0,2 litre. This happened only in the pool areas, there indeed the glasses were tiny and 200 cl approx (and too cold according to my father). But in all other bars we went, the coupon for a small beer gave us a big bottle of 330 cc and a glass! so a TIP for BEER DRINKERS: purchase the small beer booklet, no need to buy the big beer one. You get big beer anyways in all bars except by the pools. We also had a lot of fun with the cocktail package 12 for 69 euros plus 15%. I LOVED their frozen cockatils like Strawbery Margartia and MSC Colpa di Fulmine. Thouroughly enjoyed these. BARS AND LOUNGES We used our first night to scoop out all the bars and lounges, but I am guessing it took us three days to get a total overview in our head of what was really available. There is so much to chose from for every occasion or taste! One of our favourite hang outs sinc day one was the cigar lounge. It was a quite corner of the ship, not many people there and very serene. A Great place for us to unwind after dinner and have a drink before bedtime. We are (unfortunately!) early sleepers so never made it past 10 o'clock. I think my roll call members are still angry with me for never showing up at their meetings 10:30 and 11:30 pm... I hope they understand my explanation on the roll call, I really was beat every evening, especially from guiding and helping my parents a lot. Another favourite was the Piazetta, the little Italian square in the middle of deck 6 where people meet and mingle all the time. Beautifully tiled, with painted skies and some fun shop surrounding it. I always enjoyed sitting here watching people and waiting for the cigar lounge to become empty at 9 pm, when all the pre-dinner-smokers rushed to their second seating. Too bad there was a marketplace going on every night on the Piazetta. I understand, stalls sell more than shops, especially iof they create the impression that things are cheaper that way. But it took up a lot of space I thought. There are some shops here for jewelry and clothing but also sweets and cakes and icecream. The italian iceacream on this ship tastes very good! Try it as dessert at dinner or here for a small fee in the Piazetta. If you love your icecream, like I do, you will not be dissapointed!~So creamy., hmmm! (By the way, I did not gain nor lose a pound this cruise, so I am happy with that result LOL) I also liked the aft lounge and so many more. You will for sure find a favourite spot yourself. SHOW The first night we skipped the show since it was Marcel Mimo and I sincerely HATE mime players. Can't help it, I dislike them (and clowns). I just glanced at it, got the shivvers (spelling?) and went back. The second night we did see most part of the show (USA show) but after 30 minutes we decided we preferred to do other things like have a cocktail and play some cards, or go to the casino. The show was good, well preformed, don't get me wrong. But it is all very visual due to multiple nationalities. As was the mime player, now also this USA show was singing and dancing. Very good, but not to my taste for every evening. BREAKFAST The first breakfast we had was fine. We never tried the dining room for breakfast so can't comment on that. Our sailing was full, but if you walk to tha aft of teh restaurant, there are usually spaces enough. A waiter will bring coffe/thee/ hot chocolate, another one brings juices. The buffet is one long main line (like lunch) where the frieds eggs and omelets are. The rest of the buffet area has multiple of the same lines. With scrambled eggs, bakes beans, sausages, bacon, tomatoes, boled eggs (hit and miss those boiled eggs!), fresh fruits and canned fruits, yoghurts, cereals, cold cuts and cheese, bread, jams etc, little focacia pizaa thingies, muffins and cake. I think that sums it up. OF COURSE, breakfast is the same everyday, like many complain. But what more do you need? Okay the only things missing are bagels, pancakes or waffles and maybe salmon for the fishlover. Maybe those ARE present on american lines, I don't know. I found the selection good enough to enjoy myself every morning and to eat differently every day. BARCELONA The port area is too far to walk from the city. You can either take a shuttle bus at 6 euros per person that takes you to the bottom of La Rambla, or you can take one of the long line of cabs that are waiting. Be sure to queue for this, we witnessed some Italians cutting line line and some Brits getting really upset about it. If you are 4 people, the taxi will work out cheaper (about 7 euros per taxi one way to the same location as the shuttle) We wandered la Rambla with guidebook in hand and also wandered through the narrow streets of Barrio Gotic. We have seen barcelona many times so we were able to just take stroll and take it easy. My dad got really tired very soon, so after a coffee we headed back to the ship around 1 pm. If you never been to Barcelona, I would suggest you take a taxi from the ship to Parc Guell or the Sagrada Familia (I love parc guell but both are very must-see) Maybe if time allows, you can take in both. Than let them drop you at placa de Catalunya. Taxis are abundant and cheap and metered. They might not have much small change though! At Placa de Catalunya, go inside El Corte Ingles store all the way to the top, have a coffee there with the best view in town. Then walk down la Rambla taking in the side streets and a bit of Barrio Gotic, and you will end with the Columbus statue again, where you can take a cab to the ship. The afternoon was OK, we sailed towards better weather so we were able to explore a bit more and catch some rays. The Barcelona day is half day and therefor also: GALA NIGHT These are in Barcelona and Messina. About half of the people were dressed in Gala clothing (long dress, suit with tie or tux), a quarter was a bit toned down (semi formal) and another querter did not care at all. So either way you will not feel really out of place. This is also the day of the captain meeting and cocktail, there is FREE champagne in lounges to be had Gala night had a special menu but I thought not so different from other days. It was most of all nice to just enjoy being all dressed up together! Lots os pictures are being taken but no one is obligated to buy any. We took our own on the sprakling Swarovski staircase. Would love to share it here but do not know how to add pictures DAY 2 TUNIS Well, you do not arrive in Tunis till 2 pm, so the morning was spent sunbathing and relaxing and sleeping in a bit. I even finally had a chance to sit in the aft jacuzzi! On arrival in Tunis, we were greeted by a Tunesian band an some camels that walked alongside the ship when we docked. They were there for a good atmosphere and of course if you wanted you could have your picture taken on a camel for a small fee. Now maybe a dissapointment for you: we did not go ashore here so can't comment on Tunis. We decided to enjoy the relative quiet on the ship and lay by the pools. It was 20 degrees so qarm enough for that, allthough had to stay out of the wind. It was a lovely afternoon, they even opened up the retractable roof of the indoor pool. Around 5 pm I decided to go ashore for some souvenirs. I did not need to clear customs as there is a shop with souvernis at the port. Good enough to get a fridge magnet and some herbs and perfume On Tunis day, all seatings are one hour later because of the late sail away. So we had first seating at 7:30 pm and second was at 10 pm. I was really knackered after first seating and a cocktail, so I did not make it to the meeting our roll call had around midnight, yet again. sorry guys! By this time in the cruise I was getting really worked up about some of the behaviour of some of the : ITALIANS 80% of the ship's clientele is Italian and while there certainly are lots of nice Italians people on board, we just seemed to encounter all the rude ones! I admit: when I read reviews beforehand I thought: what are these people complaining about? Lift behaviour, rude Italians, how bad can it be? Get a life! Well, after 2 days I was getting high blood pressure myself and shaking my fist in anger at the umpteenth time we were shoved aside by an Italian family who took the lift before our eyes. I just had to tell myself to relax and deal with the lift situation. We had the bow lifst, so those were not as crowded as the center ones. But it just seemed that most of the Italian guests did not see other people at all. They get in and out any lift, no matter if it is going up or down. They get in before people have a chance to get out (my mom was 'stuck' like this several times! No amount of 'scusi, need to get out here!' made them notice her. And she can be LOUD if need be! ) they cut in lines, shove you aside (also at the buffet by the way) and lost of their kids were just running around amok, playing with lifts, making lots of loud noises. I never thought I would get so bent out of shape over such a thing, but I did. It was highly annoying and one of the reasons I would consider taking another line than MSC even! Not the line's fault, but less Italians. Of course, I do not mean to generalize, I am sure not all people are like this, but we just had so many rudeness upon us... The lowpoint was when mom and dad waited for a lift. One stopped and a big rowdy Italian family with stroller came out. Mom and dad went in the lift. As the doors cloesd, the Italians realized they were on the wrong floor, so he put his foot between the lift door, SCREAMED at my mom and dad to get the hell out (in Italian obviously) and after mom and dad were so shocked they actually listened to him, they got in and left my parents standing there with their jaws on the floor. I think that was the moment my mom decided a cruise is very nice but if she ever goes again, it will be on another line, PURELY due to the high % of rudeness she encountered by, I am sorry, mostly the Italians on board. I am just saying this so you can prepare for it en try to be relaxed about it, as we did. It did NOT ruin our cruise, but it is the ONLY thing we would consider leaving MSC for. However, on our sailing the majority was Italian due to a Italian holiday period. THUS the rude people I was to encounter had to be Italians, due to the law of average. I am sure there are rude people drom any nationality, we just had back luck! If you encounter rude people of whatever nationality, just be polite and smile and think your holiday is more relaxed than theirs MALTA On the 3rd day we arrived in Malta and I was up at 6 to see us sailing into the Grand Harbour of Valletta. It was just breathtaking: on the one side we were closing in on the very surreal island of Malta, on the other side a sunrise over a practically empty ship. Those hours were beautiful, just me and the sunrise and the nearing new exciting harbour! By the time we really sailed into the harbour, a lot more people had gathered on deck 15 and 16 and were watching it with me. It REALLY is like you are sailing back into time, into some kind of Tolkien world. Very bizarre and beautifull. At breakfast we were enjoying our docking in Malta from the window and we must say: it is the most pittoresque docking place of this cruise, with the nice coloured doors and terraces We got out and walked along the dock, where we were greeted by people from the HoHo bus and taxi-service. The Hoho cost 10 euros per person, but we were not sure how comfortable it would be for dad, and how frequent, since it was a holiday (maltese liberation day I think) So we decided to go with the white taxi service. at 80 euros for 4 hours for 4 persons, it was also not expensive! The person told us that we could visit such and such and make the drive al custom made as we wanted. Full good vibes we got into a taxi with a big guy called Mario. It started out good. He took us to the presidential gardens in Valletta (I think) where we walked around for a bit. We even saw the president drive by with escorts. They were beautiful. Then he drove us to the church of Mosta, which was a nice place to visit, but very crowded with many MSC busses there. After that we wanted to go and have coffee somewhere in Mdina, but Mario wanted to take us to the arts and crafts village first. That is where mom decided she was not liking this cab driver In this so called village, tourists get dropped and pay hefty prices for handicrafts, of course the driver gets a commission I am sure. We saw a tile that cost 52 euros, which we once bought in Spain last year for 12 (and in Mdina, still a pricey tourist place, we saw the same tile later for 22). So Mario kind of wanted us to go to the glass factory as well in that village, and I said: no thank you, we want to go to Mdina now. He kind of instisted it was not to be missed etc etc, and I really had to put my foot down to skip the glass factory. In Mdina, he dropped us and announced that we would need at least an hour and he was not expecting us any earlier. ? We had coffee in Mdina and dad got tired of the steep streets very soon, so he had to go and sit down somewhere with Erik. They drank a Cisk beer, (proudly stating on the can that it was chosen australia's dfavoruite foreign beer in 1995 LOL) while mom and I explored the rest of Mdina. It was very nice. After that we were supposed to be taken to the blue grotto and see some of the coast line but all of a sudden Mario did not think we would not have enough time for this. Then I said to just do blue grotto and skip the visit ti Valletta, and all of a sudden he said blue grotto was closed today because of wind. He obviously did not want to go there. So, for our bit of coastline, he took us to see st Julians. I must say: not really what I thought we would see. I thought with coastline more in terms of cliffs and dramatic views. After a rush through st Julians he rushed us back to the ship and dropped us there a half hour early! (after 3,5 hours of sightseeing) I did not even bother to discuss this with him, as he had had enough of his way of working, but he even dared to give me an 'open' handshake. (pretending handshake, actually opening hand for tip) I cordially threw my hand into his open hand and shook it saying goodbye. He left grumpily. Hey, I do not mind tippting if service was exceptional (as you will read later on in Sicily) but this time the guy had done nothing special To the defense of white taxi service: we did see a lot of people with different drivers that had better luck than we did. I saw drivers going into the church with their people, explaining stuff and being a guide. But our driver was just that: a driver who wanted to make his own route and be done with it. Well, we did not regret it because we saw the highlights of Malta I guess in a comfortable manner, and the rest of the afternoon was free for us to laze around teh pool once again! We really got a bit of a tan there and I enjoyed the BEST Italian icecream, hazelnut flavour, it was SO creamy... JUMMM That night we had decided to go to THE TEX MEX RESTAURANT Just for a change. I had heard high praise of it. I must say: the waiter was very friendly and nice, the setting was lovely and so peaceful compared to the MDR, but the food... Nah. Not as good as the dining room IMHO. We ended up with a bill of 71 euros for 4 people for 2 courses and a drink, which was not bad, but not really worth it also. We just got the food differently then we usually have Mexican. Quesedillas were not the flat tortillas with cheese melted in them but they were rather some fried pastry thing with cheese in them. And so on. We decided to just use the MDR from that point onwards. After dinner we sat around in the AFT LOUNGE A very nice spot with great view. We got some snacks with our drinks, which was a surprise to me. Nice and comfortable chairs and live music going on. probably dancing later in the evening. After that we played at the CASINO Very nice, adequate for our liking and very shiny We all played on the machines and all of a sudden my dad's machine started the bells and whistles. He had won 180 euros! The picture I have of him next to that machine, with a HUGE smile on his face, I will cherish forever! The 180 euros went towards the bar bill We finished of our night as usual in the cigar lounge and went to bed at 10 pm (I know, we sound like elderly!) Day 5, we woke up in MESSINA For this day, I had arranged a private tour beforehand with Mario Astone on recommendation of somebody on this board. Mario quoted us 45 euros pp first for a trip to Taormina and some sightseeing, but if we could get more poeple price would be 35. He ended up mailing me that some american family also was on our ship and asking for his services, so we got in touch with each other and decided to share the ride. (35 per person, the 3 kids of the family for free) We got out the ship at 8 am, and Mario was waiting for us. I had brought him butter from Holland on his request , and got a big hug for it immediately. After a short while, the american familiy joined us: 4 adults and 3 kids. It was gonna be tight in his van! We all managed to get in the van and he drove us to the other side of the island, commenting on what we saw. What a difference with the other Mario! He took us first to Castelmola, a place the ship's excursion does not because the busses do not reach there. It was BEAUTIFUL! I must say, the whole Sicily day was for us (and the americans, I heard later) the highlight of our cruise, due to the weather, good trip and guidance of Mario From Castelmola we had stunning views on Taormina, the coastline and on mount Etna. The village was so picturesque, you would not believe it. And we were the only tourists there. After this, Mario dropped us in Taormina where we had 2 hours of free time, as per my request. I just wanted time to do our own pace and own thing in Taormina. My dad had been there 30 years ago and wanted to go back, that is why I organised the whole tour. More meant as a transfer originally, although the day turned out like an excursion. In Taormina, the american family went their way and we went ours. What a beautoful village once again, so unique and pretty. We wandered through the streets and ended up on what must be the BEST terrace with view in southern europe. We sat next to a view on Etna on one side and the coastline on the other side. All this in a lovely 20 degree sunny weather! We enjoyed an (expensive) cappuccino there and just sat there enjoying the whole atmosphere. We really could feel, smell, hear and see Sicily at it's best at that place. It is one of my fondest memories of this cruise, sitting there enjoying everything, and especially seeing my dad enjoy! After our time in Taormina, Mario took us to a lookout point where the ship's bus does not go and we enjoyed yet another splendid view. After that it was back to Messina, where we saw a church and also a viewpoint from which to see the ship, and take pictures of it. He took us to the Big Duomo (e special church with astronomical clock) where I had like 5 minutes to get some souvernirs VERY fast; we needed to get back to the ship! We said our goodbyes like old friends, paid Mario (with a good tip for this unforgettable day) and then scurried on to the ship. We entered it 2 minutes too late, and our american friends left something behind, so they were REALLy too late; I think the doors of the ship hit their butts on the way in! (funny fact: this almost-missing-the-ship experience made Erik as well as Shane (the american father) so nervous that the next day in Rome they were both, independently, nervous wrecks about getting back on time!) Well, just a GREAT day! The ship sailed at 2 pm and we sailed along the coastline of Italy. Beautiful weather, but strong wind so we had to look for a wind free spot on board. It was crowded with people sunning. Dad and I had something special planned this afternoon. I had written a polite letter to captain Mattia Manzi, explaining the special nature of our trip, and asking if we could see the bridge. We got a reply that we were expected on the bidge that afternoon! It was very fun to see the briidge and how it all works (can you believe it, such a BIG ship is mastered by a little joystick of 5 cm long???) although too bad the captain was not there. I guess the guy needs to rest sometimes LOL Our luck was that we were on the bridge at the moment that we were sailing right onto Stromboli (or so it seemed). Unique sight! That evening was the SECOND GALA NIGHT Everyone got dressed up again and we had a lovely dinner, this time with a very special dessert. The lights were dimmed and with music the waiters came in a row with flaming desserts (baked alaska) Then when this music finished, the music of VOLARE started, and the whole dining room was waving their napkins; very nice! And, I must say, the baked Alaska tasted JUMMMMM I still regret that I did not have seconds... We strolled around the ship after dinner and visited our 'usual' hangouts: the piazetta (untill 9, when all the 2nd seating fols would go to dinner) and then to the tranquil cigar lounge. Went to be again at 10 for our big day in Rome! Day 6 of our cruise, we woke up in CIVITAVECCHIA, port of ROME We had breakfast and watched the first 1000 people orso get off board to ctach their excursion busses. We got off the ship at around 8:30 and took the FREE shuttle bus to the end of the port area. (a good 1,5 km i think) From there, we walked along the water towards the station of Civitavecchia, about 1 km. There was a long line at the station, but I remembered reading on CC that you can also get the BIRG tickets inj the newspaper kiosk at the station. I quickly got 4 birg tickets there at 9 euros each. a BARGAIN compared to the rome on your own excursion from MSC at 45 euros, which is basically a transfer only. We took the 9:41 train and were in rome at 10:50. We got out in Roma Termini and bought 4 tickets for the hop on hop off bus. The only thing that would allow us to see the most of Rome above ground, within the limited time that we had. The bus (was another 1 km walking) took us past all the major sights. We could not get out everywhere, but we went out at St Peter's square and later at the Trevi fountain. There, we had lunch in a local taverna. Spagetti bolognese, what else when in rome? At the fountain, I guess 5000 people were there wanting to see it or throw a coin in it. We had to throw from a distance (hope nobody got it in the eye! ) And who did we see there? Our american friends from the day before! Unbelievable. After Trevi we finished the rest of the HoHo loop and went back to the train station. We got the 15:39 train back which was overcrowded. Dad was VERY tired after all that walking (i was so proud of him!) but luckily he could sit, and my mom a bit later also. Erik and I had to stand the entire way, pressed together with 20 other people in a tiny hot compratment, and the train was getting delayed and standing still... We arrived at Civitavecchia around 17:00, with a delay of 30 minutes. Then the long walk back to the port entrance, the shuttle bus back to the ship... PHEW what a long day! But again: sunshine and 18 degrees and VERY nice, not to be missed. We had a nice dinner once again in the dining room and we were hopefull for a last fun day in Genua well GENUA was a disspointment, mainly because it was raining cats and dogs when we got there! We did not even go out, so much rain was pouring down. A bit of a let down after all that sunshine Mom and I ventured out in the rain, but we were soaking wet and did not find iot attractive at all. Maybe we saw the wrong part of town. It seemed rather seedy. The rest of the time we filled up by playing cards, visiting the lounges and bars, having icecream and doing a nap. We enjoyed our last supper on board and were kind of sad. But I was also happy to get back the next day to my kids! We bought some sweets for them at the Caramella sweets shop on board, and some souvenirs from the Logo shop and had alast cocktail in the cigar lounge. Then it was time to pack our suitcases and put them outside. Of, I forgot! That Genua day we had a life drill at 5:15 pm! A bit late for us, who disembarked the next day. But hey, we participated anyway/ DISEMBARKATION We had breakfast and were outside the ship at 9 am. We took a cab to the TGV train station in Marseille (30 euros) but it was easter sunday so everything in Marseille was closed. Therefor we had to wait at tha train station till 1:30 pm for our train. We found a cafe to wait it out and unfortunately the train was delyed by 1 hour. When we finally WERE on board, there was no coffee and tea and the bar closed in the middle of the trip, so no food for us. And to make things worse, the train did not stop at Lille Europa, weher our taxi driver was waiting, but made an unscheduled stop at Lille Flandres. Long live mobile phones! The taxi driver picked us up there and in 1:45 hours he took us home. I think it was 10 pm when we finally got home. It was a GREAT cruise, with GREAT memories! I do not know what I enjoyed more, the cruise, of seeing my dad enjoy it so much! Read Less
Sail Date March 2010

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