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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
I just finished my cruise trip embarked on Barcelona. I bought the Bella package with a balcony. That's my first time to travel in a cruise and I was quite satisfied with the amenities, services and entertainment on board. The ... Read More
I just finished my cruise trip embarked on Barcelona. I bought the Bella package with a balcony. That's my first time to travel in a cruise and I was quite satisfied with the amenities, services and entertainment on board. The cruise was beautiful and clean, and so the cabin. Thanks for the effort of the crew who made our beds every day and clean the balcony twice during the stau. Staff were generally polite, helpful and humorous. And the MC & PERFORMERS of the entertainment were energetic! I watched shows in the Broadway theater almost every day and they were all as excellent as the paid show by Cirque du Soleil. The aqua park and the rope facilities were fun. I spent my cruise day there without a moment of boredom. We were lucky that not much people were there as the weather was still quite chilly. Some setbacks were below: Similar to other comments, the cruise held 5000+ people, thus very often the public area esp. The indoor bamboo pools and jacuzzi were full of people. We managed to have "private" experience just because we went there at 930am. The buffet area ie market place was full of people from all ages at all time. But if u were early, u still manage to get seat at the window, which was definitely a better seating compared to the one assigned for you at the complimentary restaurant. (Unless you upgrade your package) The food at complimentary restaurants were so so. Not much variety n nothing luxurious. So i joined the dining package at 96 euro for 3 restaurants,namely Eataly, japanese restaurant kaito n Butcher cut. Eataly and Butcher cut were delicious yet the sushi from the package was overpriced and not worth it. (As an asian, i could tell the food was not fresh enough to be sashimi and no smoke salmon should be used for sushi roll lol) Quite a lot of things were charged items, e.g the drinks (even water!! at restaurants except marketplace , the virtual games, bowling, sauna, spa (tried the Bail massage, slightly more expensive than other spa experience outside but is their skills were up to standard.) Non alcoholic drink package costed 19euro per day per person which was really too ex to join == No external wine or beer were allowed so got to save the pocket money for that! Bingo was 10 euro per card which was again expensive compared to the casino games. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Just got back from cruise in Rome beautiful ship cabins good size restaurant waiters cabin staff excellent I don’t know how they put up with so many rude customers. Food in Buffett lukewarm was told to ask for freshly made if I wanted it ... Read More
Just got back from cruise in Rome beautiful ship cabins good size restaurant waiters cabin staff excellent I don’t know how they put up with so many rude customers. Food in Buffett lukewarm was told to ask for freshly made if I wanted it hot . Ridiculous this is how health issues start also no regard for health standard where was the hand sanitizer that all other cruise ships insist you use when attending Buffett. I saw many customers not using tongs supplied filing water bottles when clearly states not to no one stopped so I wouldn’t drink free water purchased bottled . This cruise company would be my last pick of all other cruise lines I have used. Shuttles not supplied like many other companies do profit put first used taxi instead same price. Security staff some rude butted in on conversation need more scanners for this amount of customers. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
A little about us: my husband & I are 45-50 yrs old. We have cruised a total of 34 cruises on RCCL, Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian (2) & Carnival (2). This was our 4th European cruise but our 1st MSC cruise. The ship is ... Read More
A little about us: my husband & I are 45-50 yrs old. We have cruised a total of 34 cruises on RCCL, Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian (2) & Carnival (2). This was our 4th European cruise but our 1st MSC cruise. The ship is very pretty. The dome area in the center of the ship is a real feature. I hope MSC utilizes it in many other ways.The Stairs are beautiful. The dining rooms could have more flare. But the area outside the dining room is very nice. Food- this is where things go downhill. Food is mediocre, verging on terrible. The food in the dining room is mostly terrible & the food at the cirque show which we paid for, was not good either. The buffet was very European & we found it difficult to find anything tasty. Even the pizza was a 5 out of 10. Another Con is that MSC charges for things that are included on other cruises. For example, there’s no ‘free’ water in the dining room, no tap water. You must pay 3.50 euro for bottle water. There’s no lobsters at captains night dinner Entertainment was also lacking. That wasn’t a big deal for us because we had been out touring Europe all day, most days. But on sea days, there wasn’t anything fun to do that didn’t cost. Also, Cirque de soleil Sonor show was so very lame, almost odd. There was a singer in the lounge area who did perform a song in a different Cirque show that was really good. She had an amazing voice. Re: staff, mostly they were very nice. But, they didn’t seem to have any power or limited power to resolve issues. For example on a windy night, something on the balcony partition broke. It banged from 8pm until the next night. We called & went to guest relations several times with no resolution for almost 24hrs. I have to admit that embarkation & disembarking was really quick & easy. MSC needs to do better with everything else. Back to my usual cruise lines. Read Less
34 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
I have taken more than 50 cruises on nine different cruise lines, but this was my first cruise with MSC, and the new Meraviglia was a very pleasant surprise. It is an absolutely gorgeous ship with a very polite and helpful crew. I had ... Read More
I have taken more than 50 cruises on nine different cruise lines, but this was my first cruise with MSC, and the new Meraviglia was a very pleasant surprise. It is an absolutely gorgeous ship with a very polite and helpful crew. I had seen all the western Mediterranean ports on our itinerary before, but they are some of my favorites. I will give you ideas on what to expect on your cruise and how to enjoy each port on your own, at minimal expense. Because this review is so long, I will divide it into sections so you can skip to the parts that interest you. THE SHIP: The MSC Meraviglia is enormous, one of the largest cruise ships in the world at 171k tons, with more than 4,500 passengers and 1,500 crew. The interiors are stunning, mostly white and shades of gray in the public areas and muted colors in the cabins, with none of the cheesy decor that one often sees on low priced cruise ships. There is a good online video from MSC that will give you a look at the Meraviglia's elegant (contemporary Italian design) interiors. The deck plans are standard for the industry, with a few exceptions. Long hallways are zig-zagged into shorter segments, and the two elevator silos (forward and midship) are in alcoves, which can be confusing as one exits them. The open deck was too cold and windy to be enjoyed midwinter, so I cannot comment on how well the pools, sundecks, and jogging track might function in a tropical environment. The spa and gym are separated, and the gym is relatively small for such a large ship. As a result, the usual complimentary stretch and exercise programs had to be given among the chairs in the public lounges since there is no aerobics area in the gym. There is a large indoor basketball/soccer court separate from the gym, a court that was rarely used on this cruise but is probably busy during school vacations. I did not use the spa so I cannot comment on its services or prices. As on other ships, most dining, entertainment, bars, and lounges are clustered on decks 6 and 7. The central promenade between these two decks is open and its ceiling is covered with an enormous LCD screen that provides glamour in the daytime and entertaining sound and light shows each evening. The best place to view these LCD shows is from the balcony on deck 7 at either end of the promenade. MSC uses similar large LCD screens instead of the usual stage scenery in its main theater and circus lounge, and also next to its open-deck pool. This is ingenious and entertaining, and is one of the highlights on this ship. Kids of all ages will love the effect. The atrium spans decks 5 though 7 and sparkles with millions of glass crystals embedded in its spiral staircases. Similar sparkle is present in the walls shelving wine bottles outside some of the dining rooms. Reception and cruise services are clustered on deck 5. I found the personnel there were very helpful and efficient. Waiting lines for these services are common on a ship this size, but the lines moved quickly on the Meraviglia. As an aside, we experienced two nights with hurricane force winds (72 knots actual, 83 knots perceived, Beaufort scale 12) and the ship handled them with ease. There was minimal list in spite of the ship's enormous wind profile, and I felt minimal rocking and no pitching in my upper deck cabin, which was far above the ship's center of gravity. There was the usual thud of the hull against waves that one hears in severe weather, but no noise from structural flexing. I felt very safe and would trust this ship to be comfortable even on a transatlantic itinerary. FELLOW PASSENGERS: On this western Mediterranean itinerary the passengers were an enjoyable mix of nationalities -- something I enjoy when I travel in Europe. Based on overheard languages, I estimate that about 20% were native English speakers, 20% Chinese or Japanese, 5% Russian or South Asian, and 55% an equal mix of European languages (Italian, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and French). Announcements are multilingual but reasonably infrequent. Ironically, the Japanese and Chinese announcements were the easiest to understand because they were done by native speakers. The European languages were sometimes less clear because they were often rushed and given by non-native speakers. In this age of smartphone apps and smart TVs (each cabin has a smart TV), MSC would be wise to give all (except its safety and emergency) announcements via smartphone or TV. The ship already has a TV channel in each language where announcements and updates could be posted. Overhead announcements could be limited to one sentence in each language, giving the topic and referring passengers to their smart devices for further info. Also, most announcements are standard in content and could be pre-recorded at reasonable speed by native speakers. In any case, the variety of nationalities and languages is one of the pleasures of traveling abroad. If you want a Disney version of the world, then stay home. CHILDREN: I am not fond of children running loose on cruise ships, which is one of the reasons I chose a midwinter departure. Another bonus is that we were the only cruise ship docked in each port, and each port was relatively free of tourist crowds during the off-season. Our cruise had about one or two hundred children at most, preschool age or Australians on school summer holidays. The children were easily accommodated by the extensive play areas and children's programs on this ship. The school holiday calendar and a ship's quota on younger passengers is something to consider whenever booking cruise. CREW: All crew members I met were very polite and did their jobs very well. Even though this is an Italian cruise line, the crew were of diverse nationalities and usually used English as their common language. A special effort is made to provide some crew members for each language group, although passengers and crew were not always matched in this regard in the dining rooms or cabins. The ship is new, and it is maintained spotlessly clean by an excellent housekeeping staff. The officers are not as visible as on some other cruise lines, although opportunities are made to introduce high ranking officers to passengers. This is a non-issue for me as long as the junior officers maintain the safety standards of the ship so that fires and evacuations can be handled well in an emergency. CABINS: MSC is unusual in that it has relatively uniform cabins over four cabin grades called "experiences" -- Bella, Fantastica, Wellness, and Aurea-- based on what amenities are included at each price level. In addition, there are are the Yacht Club cabins, which I believe are not that much nicer than standard cabins but are isolated in a locked area of the ship with special dining, decks, and lounges (corresponding with the old first class). You can read further about this system on the MSC website. I was fortunate in that I applied to MSC and was ultimately given reciprocity (MSC gold status) to correspond with my elite status on some other cruise lines. In addition, I booked this cruise relatively late before departure when the price was so low that I thought it must be an error, but fortunately was real. It was by far the most "bang for the buck" that I have had on any cruise. I also got the 12 free drink vouchers with my Fantastica level cabin, a bonus that will be discontinued in late March 2019. My upper deck mid-ship Fantastica grade balcony cabin was absolutely beautiful. It was a little larger than the standard for the industry. Most of the extra space was devoted to a long (2m) sofa that could be converted to a queen size bed for two more adults. The cabin came with all the usual amenities, but no robes and no body lotion, so bring your own if needed. The bathroom was compact but had a shower large enough for almost anyone. The balcony was large enough for two standard chairs and one ottoman/table. The glass wall of the cabin and glass railing of the balcony offered beautiful views. Given the choice, I think that a starboard cabin provides nicer views in most ports on this itinerary. I did not realize how enjoyable a balcony view can be, even in winter, in this part of the world. For those with an inside cabin, there are two TV channels showing the view to the port and the starboard sides of the ship, which is an improvement over the usual single forward-facing bridge-cam channel. My cabin was especially well-maintained by my cabin steward. After a severe wind storm that coated my balcony with sea salt, the huge glass windows were immaculate the very next day. I did not go on a cabin crawl on this ship, so I cannot comment on the inside cabins or the suites. My cabin was a wonderful respite in the evenings, when the public areas and the entertainment venues tended to get too loud for my taste, as is too common on cruise ships. I do not understand why louder entertainment is considered better. To me, louder entertainment just sounds more amateur. DINING: The food on the Meraviglia is usually good to excellent, with only a few disappointments. For me the buffet breakfasts were by far the best meal of the day, equal to or better than that of any other cruise ship. The light and flaky croissants are some of the best I have ever had. The meats, fruits, cereals, and eggs at breakfast are all very good. The waffles (tough and soggy) and the orange drink (real orange juice is available at a surcharge) were breakfast disappointments on this cruise. I cannot comment on the coffee and tea, since I tried neither. There is only one sea day on this itinerary, so I tried the buffet lunch once and the dining room lunch once (I skipped Rome because of heavy rain and the usual transportation hassle of going from Civitavecchia port to Rome and back). The dining room lunch menu is limited but good, and the buffet lunch on the Rome day featured the best beef (rare filet mignon) of the cruise. The afternoon buffet snacks are also good, although the pizzas are surprisingly soggy rather than crisp. No free ice cream is available in the buffet (it is a favorite of mine on other ships), but very good ice cream at dinner in the main dining rooms is free. The food and service in the main dining rooms (based on my limited experience) is not up to the level of that on other cruise ships. The menu tends to be limited compared with other cruise lines (one appetizer, one soup, one salad). Upscale choices (lamb, beefsteak, lobster, salmon, etc.) are absent, although some of them can be purchased with a surcharge of about 15-20 euros. The fish is invariably the best main course on the menu, in small portions but perfectly prepared. The beef at dinner was often a disappointment on this cruise. The "chef's special" prime rib, for example, was a thin slice of lean, over-cooked beef that was as tough as leather. My waiter offered to bring me another item from the menu, but I was already running late for a show I had reserved. Similarly disappointing, the veal shank was a large cross-section of bone with a scant rim of meat along one edge. The dining room service is also not on par with other cruise lines for several reasons, and not the waiters' fault. There are fixed dining times -- early or late. Only the most expensive cabins have the freedom of flexible dining times. Diners are supposed to arrive within 15 minutes of their designated time, but they tended to wander in gradually. With flexible dining, a table fills quickly and the service begins promptly. With a fixed dining time, I usually spent the first 20 minutes eating bread until there were enough diners at his station for the waiter to start service. There are no sommeliers in the dining rooms, but if you enjoy wine and know your labels, you will do fine. There are multiple choices of wine by the glass in each major category (red, white, rose, sparkling). Unfortunately, the waiters are delayed in starting service in part because they show newly embarked diners to their assigned tables. Also, table assignments did not make sense on my cruise. Waiters' native language often did not match that of their diners. Worst of all, my waiter and his assistant were at a work station up one level and around the corner from my table even though my table was just a few feet away from another waiter's work station. My waiter had no way to anticipate my needs or see any of my requests. Finally, all waiters are burdened with bulky touch screen tablets the size of a library book. Most restaurant waiters make written notes at table and then enter them into a computer at their work stations. Entering each order in the computer as it is given slows down the entire process. If MSC spent just a little more on ingredients (especially the beef), trained and assigned waiters in a logical way, and allowed dinner service to start promptly and progress efficiently, dining on the Meraviglia could be second to none. The one thing that disappointed me the most in the main dining room was the absence of free drinking water. If one wants to drink water at dinner, one must pay for it -- a new bottle of water with each dinner. If only half of the 4,500 passengers have water with dinner, that generates more than 800,000 bottles of plastic waste every year, not to mention the fossil fuel wasted in shipping bottled water to various ports. Since water is free in the buffet area, making bottled water a requirement in the dining rooms is hypocrisy for a cruise line that claims to be environmentally sensitive. Bottled water should be available for purchase in all venues for those who need it, but it should not be the only source of water in any venue. DRESS: The Meraviglia passengers were well-dressed (no ball caps, rare slashed jeans) but were still casual during the day. There were two formal nights when about a third of men wore a suit and tie, a third wore a sport jacket, and a third wore a good shirt with no jacket. Women dressed correspondingly. SANITATION: Hand washing is much more effective than alcohol gels at killing bacteria and viruses. The good news is that MSC wisely installed multiple hand wash stations at the entry to the buffet and in restrooms near the main dining rooms. The bad news is that almost no one used them. There is no one to remind passengers to wash hands, and unfortunately the automatic sinks in the restrooms rarely functioned properly -- the spigots and sensors are hidden by a shelf, and it takes multiple attempts to get any water. Those sinks would never pass a health inspection. Not once did I see a man successfully use the sink in the restroom. To protect my own health I not only washed my hands before each meal, I washed my hands again after touching any buffet tongs, which hundreds of passengers had already touched. Then again, I am aware of infection risks because my former profession involved infection control in hospitals. ENTERTAINMENT: The Meraviglia has very talented singers and dancers on the main stage, and talented musicians in the lounges and atrium. Because of the multiple languages represented, almost all entertainment is musical -- no lectures or enrichment activities. Most of the music is popular and familiar to Americans, but there is one abbreviated opera performance (La Boheme) by two well-trained opera singers. The opera used ballet dancers onstage to interpret the music, which added interest for those not used to opera performances. As I mentioned, the scenery relies on huge LCD screen backdrops, which worked very well and added interest (and sometimes humor) to each performance. In addition, Cirque du Soleil presents two different shows (Viaggio and Sonor) on various nights during the cruise. These can be reserved online prior to the cruise, but schedules usually change, so check soon after embarkation to verify your reservations or to add new ones. The Cirque desk is adjacent to the reception desk. Of the two, Viaggio is probably better for kids since it involves a little more clowning around. Both programs are surcharged via a drink or a dinner package. Ironically, the less expensive drink package offers the better seating. The problem with all of the entertainment on the Meraviglia is the decibel level. Singers are over-amplified to the point of distortion -- one can feel the sub-woofer bass in one's gut. I tried the stage shows each evening (wearing ear plugs) but gave up after a few days and instead just relaxed in my cabin in the evening. This problem is not unique to MSC -- it occurs on most cruise ships. Only the luxury cruise lines seem to keep the amplification at a reasonable decibel level. Parents taking their kids to the Cirque performances should definitely consider ear protection for the younger ones. EMBARKATION AND DISEMBARKATION: This cruise was unique in my experience because passengers embarked and disembarked at every port. This made embarkation much easier -- just 1,000 new passengers daily instead of 4,500 on a single day. I am not certain, but I believe that demand and pricing varies by embarkation port, so check this if you want the best price for your cruise. This system also makes disembarkation easier at the end of the cruise -- far less baggage to offload and claim each disembarkation day. It does add a bit of a disturbance each afternoon as the newly arrived passengers are summoned to their mandatory safety drill, but this is a minor inconvenience. If you are just spending the day ashore and then returning to the ship, check the daily program since the arrival and departure times for several of the ports were changed from the original cruise schedule. SUMMARY: The Meraviglia is a beautiful ship, the crew is wonderful, and the western Mediterranean ports are enjoyable. At the right price, you will enjoy this cruise very much. WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN PORTS ON YOUR OWN AT MINIMAL EXPENSE: GENOA: I love Genoa because it seems so completely Italian, especially in the historic center, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. Our ship docked in the main harbor in the middle of the city's waterfront -- an easy walk to almost any attraction and just a few minutes from the main (Principe) train station. Genoa is built on a hillside, so there is some climbing, but the waterfront alone has enough attractions to fill a half day for those with mobility issues. Pick up a map in the cruise terminal and exit right (east) along the waterfront until you reach the Galata Museum del Mar (Museum of the Sea). This is a large, modern, very enjoyable museum that is worth at least an hour or two when you are returning to the ship. See their website for hours and current prices. From the museum, cross the street and head uphill through the narrow lanes (gritty but safe) to the main street (Via Balbi). From there continue east to the Palazzo Real. There are five major palaces remaining from the days of Genoa's peak power and wealth. The Palazzo Real is the most interesting, but combination tickets are available, and it is fun to see more than one. From the Palazzo Real walk farther east to Via Garibaldi, where there are beautiful historic buildings and three more palazzi -- together called the Palazzi dei Rolli on the Strade Nuove, designated a UNESCO world heritage site. Combo tickets for the palaces are available at the nearby bookshop. The fifth palace, and the one with the most art is the National Gallery of Palazzo Spinola, on Piazza Pelliceria nearby. From there walk downhill to the cathedral and nearby fountain on Piazza de Ferrari, where you will find the Genova sign/sculpture for a photo op. The view down the historic Via XX Settembre is grand. It is an easy walk back west to the waterfront for either (or both) the maritime museum or the modern aquarium. Even if you do not enter the aquarium, there is a cute floating park at the end of its pier, with good views of the ship and the city. From the aquarium and maritime museum it is an easy walk back to the ship. ROME: I usually skip Rome when it is just a single day visit from Civitavecchia. The shuttle/walk/train/metro each way takes more than an hour (about the same as a rental car). If you decide to go into the city, I recommend getting a BIRG ticket, which covers the regional train and all transport in Rome. Rick Steves guides have excellent info on what to see and do in Rome, with self-guided walking tours. His Mediterranean Ports of Call guide includes detailed info on how to get from the port to the city. Highly recommended guides. PALERMO: Palermo has a gritty beauty and vitality that I always enjoy. Some of its main streets have been blocked off and are now pedestrian friendly. The ship docks at the maritime station near the ferry terminals. As you exit the port, pick up a city map at the TI in the small wood cabin near the gate. From there it is about 15 minutes to the Teatro Massimo, another 10 minutes to the Quattro Canti intersection, and another 15 minutes along Via V. Emanuele to Piazza Independenza where you will find the bus #389 to the fabulous Cattedrale Monreale. The best place to get on the bus is at its rest stop on the far (inland) side of the plaza across from the row of small gas stations. You are more likely to get a seat from there because when the bus starts up, it swings past the wall of the Palatine Chapel and quickly fills with tourists. Check the schedule on the internet -- I believe there is a convenient departure at 10 am and about every 30 minutes thereafter. The trip into the hills takes about 30 minutes and costs 1.80 euros each way, ticket purchased from the driver. The cathedral is near the end of the bus line and there is a gorgeous view of the entire Palermo city and harbor from the walk between the bus stop and the cathedral. Inside the cathedral are the most extensive and beautiful byzantine mosaics in the western Mediterranean. It is absolutely breathtaking. For a restroom there is a friendly cafe across the plaza, and there is a small park ideal for picnics if you pass the front of the cathedral on your left, and walk under two arches past the mini-post office. The return bus leaves from exactly the same spot where it dropped you off. Back in Palermo, the new tourist entrance to the Palatine Chapel is on Piazza del Parlamento, on the opposite side of the palace from Piazza Independenza and the former tourist entrance. If you are there Fri-Mon when parliament is not in session, you can see the royal palace at the same time that you see the chapel. The chapel is a mini-version of the Cattedrale Monreale, and just as breathtaking. The chapel can be a mob scene in high season, so go early or during the lunchtime lull. From there it is a leisurely walk back to the ship. A detour through the Palermo Cattedrale and the Ballaro street market is worthwhile. On your way back, near the Quattro Canti, is the too-sexy-for-prudes Pretoria Fountain. Near the fountain are some old Norman churches, useful because all the Norman sites have free wi-fi access. VALLETTA: Almost the entire walled town of Valletta on the island of Malta is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ship docks on the waterfront below the city walls. The easiest way to enter the city is by the new elevators which are an easy 10 minute walk to the right (northeast) as you exit the port (the TI has free maps of the city as you disembark). The elevator costs just 1 euro to go up and is free to go down. Best of all, the elevator leaves you in the upper Barrakka gardens, which have a fine view over the harbor. From the garden make your way to the Triton fountain, which is at the new gate to the city and is the terminus of bus lines that cover the island (in case you want to take a bus to one of the beach towns or to the historic town of Mdina. Bus fares are cheap and many towns are within 30 minutes by bus. From the Triton fountain walk down the main street (Republikka) to visit the spectacular St. John's (co-) Cathedral, the impressive Grand Master's Palace, and (least interesting) the archeology museum. In high season the cathedral can be a mob scene, so best to go when it first opens before the tour groups arrive. In the afternoon you can take a bus to picturesque Mdina (again, heavily touristed) or to a beach town. The only annoying thing about Valletta is that the return to the ship zig-zags through a gift shop with no apparent exits. BARCELONA: Barcelona is so heavily touristed (and so filled with scams and pickpockets) that I tend to avoid the crowds and spend my time on the periphery. The Gaudi sites, Ramblas, Picasso museum, and Gotic old town area are all worthwhile, but not fun in crowds. From the cruise ship I like to walk over the bridge (30 minutes) to the Drassanes metro station near the Columbus monument at the base of the Ramblas. Most ships offer a pricey shuttle, and later in the day the city offers the T3 shuttle bus for about 4 euros round trip. I buy a T10 packet of metro tickets (about 1 euro each, can be shared) and am on my way. I take the metro to Paral-lel for the funicular up Monjuic or to Placa Espana when the funicular is closed (it is under repair as I write this in early 2019). Bus #150 goes up the mountain from Placa Espana, with spectacular views over the cruise ships from the fort at the top (terminus of the bus). Along the way I always stop at the Catalan National Museum. The view over the city from its entrance is worth the trip, but the museum is also one of my favorite museums in all the world -- I usually spend 2 hours there every time I visit Barcelona (seniors are free -- a bonus for the elderly). The museum has Catalan art from the Romanesque through the 20th century, an amazing collection in a beautifully modernized building. I also check the Caixa Forum near Placa Espana to see what special exhibits they have. In the afternoon I usually visit some of the other tourist sites or simply amble through the old town. There are nice bike tours, walking tours, and many other things to do. The Rick Steves guide to Barcelona has great suggestions. Be aware that the current price to enter Gaudi's Sagrada Familia is now 33 euros! TOULON (and La Seyne-Sur-Mer): If you are on a large ship, you will probably dock across the bay from Toulon at La Seyne-Sur-Mer. From that dock you exit the port and turn right (west) to get to the ferry (#8M) dock about 10 minutes away. It helps if you view the port area from the upper deck of the ship first, so that you can see where the ferry stops -- it is at Espace Marine in a somewhat bleak industrial area. Any local can show you the way. The ferry costs 2 euros each way, but is included in the day pass available at the Toulon tourist information office. If you are on a smaller ship, you may dock southeast of Toulon's center, just a 10 minutes walk away from the tourist information office. Whichever dock, I suggest that you first go to the Toulon tourist information office at Place Louis Blanc. They have all the information and maps that you will need to enjoy your day. They also sell the 4 euro transit pass, which is good for all buses and ferries in the area. Just outside the office is an enjoyable street market that extends for several hundred meters up the hill. There is a pleasant walking tour of Toulon on the tourist map, or you can hop on a bus #3 or #23 to go to the attractive beaches and parks of the Mourillon district southeast of town. Alternately, you can enjoy the beach and park at Sablettes, south of La Seyne-Sur-Mer. From Toulon ferry # 18M (or less enjoyable bus #18) goes there. Bus #18 passes a few blocks west of the La Seyne-Sur-Mer cruise dock on its way north to Toulon or south to Sablettes. For those who want to see Marseille rather than Toulon, bus #23 and bus #3 go from near the waterfront area up the hill to the train station (Gare Toulon) for the ride to Marseille's St. Charles train station. Check the internet for prices and schedules. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
For anyone considering MSC I thought I'd share my thoughts on my recent cruise. DH & I travelled from Dublin to Barcelona on 17th January to celebrate DH's 60th birthday. This was only our 2nd ever cruise, the first one ... Read More
For anyone considering MSC I thought I'd share my thoughts on my recent cruise. DH & I travelled from Dublin to Barcelona on 17th January to celebrate DH's 60th birthday. This was only our 2nd ever cruise, the first one being 3 years ago for our 20th anniversary on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas on an Eastern Med and Greek Island 10-day tour, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We booked through a local travel agent who are cruise specialists and were fantastic. Private taxi transfer from the airport to the ship (and back again) was part of the package which was great - though it is only about 15 mins away by car. We arrived about 11.30 and the waiting hall at the port was already quite busy when we arrived. About 12pm they started to board and we were on about 15 mins later. We were totally amazed by our first impression of the ship - she is stunning! We went straight to our cabin (deck 12 balcony cabin) and dropped in our cabin bags and headed straight for lunch in the market place buffet. Now our only previous experience on RCI was that the buffet was just 'ok', so we didn't have high expectations. However, this was in a different league altogether. Being an Italian company, they really know their pizza, pasta, salads :tongue: They also make fresh mozzarella which is delicious. They have a Rotisserie with different roast meats, different cold meats and cheeses, fresh fruit, yogurt, breads and pastries among many, many more dishes!! They have water, tea/coffee on tap and on each table is a call button to get waiter bar service. The drinks package came included in our balcony room deal, along with free WiFi. I would have happily ate every meal there - so much variety and everything I tried was delicious. We had a wander around the ship, taking photos and enjoying the sun with a wee cocktail (well, you have too, don't you ;) We had our mandatory drill at 5pm which takes a bit of time as they have to go through it in about 5 languages! There are 3 main dining rooms for dinner. You are pre-assigned to one and you can choose if you want early or late sitting. We chose late (7.30pm) so that we wouldn't be rushed out (I'd read reviews that the early sitting gets pushed through) but hadn't realised that our restaurant 'Waves' actually had an even later sitting (9.30pm) not that I'd have wanted to eat at that time, I guess it was mostly the Spanish and Italians as they are used to eating at that time. We were put at a table with 3 other English couples who had all cruised extensively and had great stories to tell. We thoroughly enjoyed our table mates and often were the last table to clear the restaurant! The food in the MDR was mostly good. Again, typically Mediterranean style, small portions but good choices and well presented. If you didn't like your chosen dish, they are only too happy to bring you another. Usually choice of 5 or 6 starters, mains and desserts. We also pre-booked the speciality dining experience on the website before we went. If you pre-book things like this, the drinks package, the Cirque shows they are cheaper that booking on board as you don't incur the 15% service charge. The speciality restaurants were great, especially Butcher's Cut steakhouse. My filet was the tastiest I've ever had - even better than Longhorns Flo's Filet!! The Italian restaurant was good, but not much choice on the dining experience menu and you can get just as good pasta in the buffet. The third part of the experience was Sushi. Now, I've never had sushi and was a bit apprehensive about it but the restaurant was always busy any time we walked past so I was looking forward to the new experience. We had arranged it for lunch the day we were at sea and I really did enjoy it. The only part I didn't like was the octapus - too chewy :confused2! The entertainment on the ship was good - not as good as RCI, but we still enjoyed Broadway performances, opera, Cirque du Soleil and much more. There is a heated indoor pool and jacuzzis. It was too cold for the outdoor pool but we did go in the outdoor jacuzzi which was lovely. There is a water park on the top deck, but again too cold to try out. I can imagine in spring and summer it is great! We had pre-booked MSC excursions for Marseille, Genoa, Sicily and Malta (didn't get off ship in Rome as we had done it on our other cruise). The excursions were good, but for Marseille and Genoa the bus was half English speaking and half German, so it wasn't ideal as the guide had to spend time translating things in English and German and often you'd be past the building our point of interest by the time she explained it in English! In Sicily and Malta it was all English speaking. We loved Malta and would definitely like to go back for a holiday. We felt the excursions were good value and informative. We enjoying going to different places and learning about the history in the area. Overall, we really enjoyed our MSC cruise - it was so different to our previous one. The first ship was much smaller and older (only 1400 passengers versus 5000 on this one). The MSC ship was absolutely beautiful, exceptionally clean and very good food and service. People on another cruise forum complained about many things, including service but we only experienced friendly, helpful staff. We had reason to visit guest services as our return flight was booked by the agent for 10.30am (arrival in Barcelona port was originally scheduled for 7am, so should have been ok for time). However, we received notification that we wouldn't be arriving until 8.30am. Our private taxi was booked for 7.45am so guest services rang our taxi company to try to change it for us but as it turned out, because we had booked through a travel agent they had to make any amendments on our behalf (which they did, re-booked for 8.45). Guest services checked us in to our Aer Lingus flight and printed boarding passes for us, so that we could go straight to bag drop once we arrived at the airport. They couldn't have been more helpful! I was shocked to see that most people in the queue were there to get the gratuities removed from their bill. On MSC 10 Euros per person per day is added for gratuities. I wouldn't dream of removing it unless there was a serious complaint, but it seems lots of people are getting it taken off, just because they can. Honestly, I've never seen a cleaner ship or more hardworking staff. I think they deserve every cent they get! We were also advised not to leave our luggage outside our room the night before disembarking but to take our cases with us in the morning. This worked really well, in that once we were allowed to disembark we were straight off the ship and in to the waiting taxi in less than 5 minutes. I would have no hesitation recommending MSC and would certainly cruise with them again. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
As the title states this was a winter cruise on the continuous west med route starting in Barcelona and ending back there 7 days later. OK up front important news - The staff were brilliant throughout the ship and the modern systems all ... Read More
As the title states this was a winter cruise on the continuous west med route starting in Barcelona and ending back there 7 days later. OK up front important news - The staff were brilliant throughout the ship and the modern systems all worked well. After a dozen cruises I can report the staff were the best I have encountered and I was very surprised as this was a hop on hop off cruise where staff are usually stretched and stressed and sometimes less than cordial. Customer services queues were kept short at all times and staff numbers dealing with issues were the largest I have seen ( NOT LIKE PRINCESS!!) Very , very good and it makes such a difference. We had a balcony room at the rear. It was modern functional, smart and above all QUIET. It was an upgrade so no complaints at all. The ship can take 5714 customers and is huge . In winter with most of the deck and deck bars impossible to visit in the cold , my guess is that we were at about 80% capacity. Inside that is full enough. There are areas of the ship that are not available to ordinary fare payers, either staff or yacht club areas, so the number of public accessible decks in winter is about 6 and almost all activity takes place on 6 and 7 with customer services on 5. At this level of capacity the ship is OK. We managed to get a table for 2 in one of the 3 dining rooms but it was set for 4. The table for 4 people was far too small. Overall MSC have taken packing people into the dining rooms to it's physical limit with some very large oval tables cramming 10-12 people round them. This is not for me. Such a shame when the service and quality of the food was high. The ship design makes any privacy or quiet impossible, It is one long massive tube with no doors relying on design and sound control to give the impression of different areas. The exceptions are the pub and the shops and impossibly expensive special restaurants (empty) which are behind doors. On ship like MSC Lyrica you could listen to a classical trio in the library for a concert and it was magical. Now such performances are rare and are given in the centre of a roundabout with 3 lanes of heavy traffic going round - quite pointless. It is a truism that as ships get bigger and more modern, the number of chairs goes down. At peak time you cannot find a chair near a bar and if you are having a private drink you just have to allow other people to join you because people are desperate for a seat. People give up and go away. The strategy seems to be, sell the drinks packages hard and then reduce the speed of service in the bars, take a away the chairs and ensure people drink less. For me you would have to be crazy to buy a drinks package on this type of ship. The stress of paying , maybe in excess of 100 euros a cabin per day for 7 days and then having to fight for a seat and then wait for very slow service would be unendurable for me. So there it is. In fairness to MSC this cruise cost about the same as it did 10 years ago. By the way if you take this cruise in winter avoid Marseilles. We visited the old town. It was shut, unwelcoming, and very run down. Might be fine in the summer but it was a miserable experience and the worst stop I have ventured into. Take a trip or stay warm inside. Cocktails 8- 10 euros Bottles of wine from 23 euros and beer at 6.5 euros for 330 ml - all plus 15%. There was even a service charge on using your mini bar. Would I cruise on this ship again? Yes but only in winter. At capacity it would not be for me. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
OVERALL This was our first cruise on MSC so we were excited to try a new company after a couple of friends had recommended them. The ship itself is nice enough but found the many staff members to be quite rude. We visited some ... Read More
OVERALL This was our first cruise on MSC so we were excited to try a new company after a couple of friends had recommended them. The ship itself is nice enough but found the many staff members to be quite rude. We visited some excellent ports. Food was decent. Most shows were dreadful. We had a couple of good party nights where we could dance until late. As it was winter the indoor pool and pool area was packed with families (this is the only ship I’ve been on and not been in the pool). We decided that 4 days was enough on this ship and after that kept saying ‘MSC, not for me!’. EMBARKATION On arrival at Barcelona we were given a number and told to wait until our number was called. After a 20 minute wait our number was called and we went to the check in desk. The man on the check in desk was unfriendly. We showed our passports and signed documents even though we had previously filled out the online check in. Then we had to have our photo taken with a picture of the ship behind us (which were left in the cabin a few days later with a sticker on saying we will be automatically charged €29.99 unless we return them to the cabin steward within 2 days). We then queued to get onboard for another 10 minutes. We then showed our passports again to the security staff and then again to another member of staff who took our photo for our cruise card (even though we did this on the app before boarding). Finally on the ship and we were shepherded through some bar staff who asked for our card and swiped it on their tablet computer and said ‘That’s ok’. We asked what he was doing and he said he was checking we had a drinks package. We had paid for a drink package online so we asked what drinks we could have. He swiped our card again and said the drink package we paid for no longer exists and would be somewhere between package A & B and that we would have to ask if we could have certain drinks each time we ordered them. We had requested late sitting for our dining and as the time of 7.30pm was printed on the card we went to have a look at the dining room and see if we could change to a freedom dining or a later sitting. At the dining room we were ignored for a while and when finally spoken to, told as we weren’t in a suite we could not have freedom dining and we had to go upstairs to the other dining room if we wanted to make any changes. We decided not to change our time as the the later sitting was 9.30pm and the staff so far had been so unhelpful it wouldn’t be worth trying. First impressions not so good. CABIN We had an inside cabin 12054 which was the only inside cabin available when we booked. The bed was comfortable and there was plenty of space to put stuff for a 7 night cruise. It was quite dark and could do with better lighting. The room was very noisy, lots of banging & knocking and could hear the family in the room next door. DINING We only ate in the Marketplace buffet and main dining room. There aren’t any other places that we found where the food was included but there were quite a few pay extra restaurants. The Marketplace buffet was very busy at lunchtime. We never had breakfast onboard so can’t comment on that. We would usually lunch here after a gym session so around 12.30pm. You would quite often be barged into by somebody. The food was good. A large variety of foods like pizza, salad, Mexican, pasta, roast meat or fish. Our biggest gripe is that even though there were many hand wash basins at the entrance nobody was being encouraged to wash their hands which meant that you rarely saw people actually doing it. My wife and I washed our hands before each meal but would spend time going from sink to sink to find a soap dispenser with soap in as they either didn’t work or were empty. The main dining room food was good. Our waiters were attentive and friendly. The Italian foods were the best, like risotto and pasta. We had roast turkey one day which was very bland. Apple tarte tatin was excellent. The water was all poured from plastic bottles which in this day and age is a bit of a no no. The tap water would’ve been ok for us but this wasn’t provided anywhere onboard. ONLINE BOOKINGS We had many emails to remind us to book everything before we boarded the ship so prior to boarding we checked in online, paid for a drinks package, booked tickets for both Cirque Du Soleil shows and paid for the week pass to the thermal spa. Most of this was completely pointless and a waste of our time. We had to check in normally at the check in counter in Barcelona and even show our passport 3 times before getting onboard. With the online check in you have to take a photo of yourself for your cruise account but this also had to be done onboard the ship. The lengthiest check in of any cruise we’ve been on. The drinks package had changed from the one we had booked leading to much confusion with the bar staff and us constantly having to ask what we were allowed to have. Cirque Du Soleil tickets do NOT get booked for you when you book online even though you book a date and time of show. We had a note in our cabin a couple hours after getting to the room asking us to go to the Cirque Du Soleil desk. Another 30 minute queue to get to the front. I was told that it is easier for me to book these shows whilst onboard even though I’d already booked them. I asked the lady to tell me the times and dates that I had previously booked as I couldn’t remember and they suited us. The reply was ‘you tell me what time you want and I will see if is available’. I then rebooked the shows. The person being served beside me was being talked into buying a package of restaurants and Cirque with dinner. They were there a long time before me and were still being seen to when I left and the queue had doubled in size. The thermal spa was the only thing we booked online that made it onto the ship. APP The MSC For Me app worked pretty well when onboard. I couldn’t get it to work in the check in hall but worked all round the ship when connected to the ships wifi (no charge). It shows all the activities going on that day and you can book seats for the shows in the theatre. I couldn’t check my account which is advertised, I had to check this on the tv in the room. HIMALAYAN ROPES BRIDGE Great fun to try. We chose a day when the wind wasn’t too high. Legs were quite shaky after completing a couple of rounds. CIRQUE DU SOLEIL The Cirque show lounge is located at the far side of the very smoky casino. We held our breath and rushed through. Who wants to get dressed up for a night out and end up stinking of smoke in this era? Not us! We paid €15 each to see the “Sonar” show which was great. It comes with a cocktail too. There are amazing balancing acts & beat boxing. We had also paid to see the “Viaggio” show however the day we were supposed to see it the show was cancelled and replaced with “Sonar” again. I phoned the Cirque desk to get a refund and was told we could just see the next Viaggio. The next show was on our debarkation day so again I asked for a refund to my credit card as that was how I paid for it. I was quite rudely told this wasn’t possible but I could have onboard credit instead and get that refunded. That proved to be an exhausting process on our final evening. 3 trips to the main desk and the refund machines each and finally we had the cash back. Despite the shows being advertised as being on 6 days each week it was only on 5 days. This meant Viaggio was only on once during the week so we missed it. THEATRE SHOWS The only show we enjoyed was “Paz”, the flamenco & Spanish dance show. “Show of Hands Magic” was a magic show straight from the 70’s. It was supposed to be sleight of hand but you could see everything. He lit a cigarette and blew the smoke into bubbles, with kids watching. The performer left the stage to get a puppet for the ventriloquist’s section so we took the opportunity to leave. “Virtual”, a show about mobile phone overuse (while half the audience were videoing it on their phones) started well but got more and more irritating. “Way” had a good bit from Dirty Dancing. “One Day More” with songs from musical theatre was bad especially the bit from Oklahoma. We waited until the end for the Les Mis songs but they sang the wrong song to the music that was playing. The dancers are very good but it is really difficult to understand the singers. It was quite comical trying to understand what they were singing about. AUREA SPA The thermal spa was our favourite part of the ship. We went in nearly every day. There are 2 steam rooms, 2 saunas, 2 spa pools, an ice room, hot and cold sensory showers and some heated beds. Each day we spent at least an hour in there. We were told we had to wear swimming costumes but 1 day there was a naked lady walking around (much to the amusement of some of the men). On the day at sea the spa was heaving and many of the rooms were quite cool as people kept opening the doors and not shutting them. GYM We used the gym every morning. I cycle and my wife runs. The gym is good. It has treadmills, bikes, weights, weight machines, etc… Our last day was a (rainy) sea day and the gym was packed. There was only 1 towel left on the shelf but we couldn’t get a treadmill or bike so we went for a walk on the running track instead. PORTS OF CALL We really enjoyed Genoa, Palermo and especially Valletta. Each port we did our own walking tour as the towns are easily walkable from the port. In Valletta we paid to be close to the noon gun canon which was a great experience. Getting back on board in each of these ports involved at least a 30 minute queue to get through the scanners which we’ve never experienced before. We once had somebody complaining on a P&O ship because we had to wait 2 minutes in the sun to get onboard, they would’ve had a huge tantrum on this ship. FELLOW PASSENGERS The majority of guests onboard are Italian & then there were a mix of other nationalities. We found many guests to be quite rude especially during the theatre shows. So many people were talking loudly, videoing the whole performance on their phones and using flash photography. I don’t know how the performers can cope with this. We always went to the 10pm show and people were still arriving at 10.25pm trying to find seats and generally getting in the way of the other guests watching and shouting to each other. The shows were only 40 minutes long so why not just sit at the back for 15 minutes. On our first evening I went to the toilet and I could hear somebody swearing outside the door of the toilet (there were no urinals in this particular toilet). When I came out the man said “Thank f*** for that” and burst into the loo , sat down and started pooping with the door wide open and he was still swearing but in relief this time. Another evening we were sat at the bar in the Meraviglia lounge and a group from the MSC Yacht club were ordering champagne and were constantly knocking into my wife and I. When they returned for a second bottle and kept knocking into us again we decide it was time to go. We saw an irate man telling his kids off as they’d been playing and woken their baby brother. He grabbed his childs hands, put them behind the boys neck and rammed him head first into my wife’s stool making it tilt. I told the man he was out of order but I don’t think he understood me. He then carried on telling off his son and hit him round the head. Again I told him stop. This was followed by a huge row with his wife right behind our chairs. I asked them to stop arguing or move elsewhere but they didn’t even acknowledge me. We moved in the end. CONCLUSION We had some good experiences on this ship but we had so many bad ones. Every day there were more disappointments. We will never try MSC again as the staff can be rude, the pushy sales tactics and awful shows. There is a muster drill every port day with announcements being made ship wide as guests can embark at any port. Trying to relax around the ship, your cabin or the spa is impossible whilst this is going on. The ship was very smoky as the smoking in the casino oozes to the bars surrounding it and people smoking on balconies meant the corridors would often stink of it too. MSC, not for me!!! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
I went on this cruise with my husband and my parents who are in their late (age 67 and 69). None of us had ever been on a cruise before and we only had minimal travel to Europe in the past. We chose this cruise for the itinerary and ... Read More
I went on this cruise with my husband and my parents who are in their late (age 67 and 69). None of us had ever been on a cruise before and we only had minimal travel to Europe in the past. We chose this cruise for the itinerary and location. I have to admit after I booked the cruise, I read some reviews about this ship and was a little nervous, but my fears were completely alleviated by my experience. We boarded at Civitavecchia after spending 2 days in Rome first. The clientele is definitely quite international, lots of Italians. I heard plenty of Spanish and French speakers as well. There were several Japanese tourist groups as well as I think one from Hong Kong. I met a few Americans on the trip, so we were definitely not alone from the U.S. This ship is absolutely sparkling clean, which is amazing considering it's size and the number of people on the ship. And that's something coming from a clean freak like myself. Everything seems well-maintained. So, to address different parts of the trip: BOARDING and CHECKIN: I was given check-in time between 3:10pm and 5pm. We got there probably around 2:30pm, but were checked-in immediately with no line. Between leaving our car service (used RomeCabs as they can drive directly into the port), we were on the ship within about 15 minutes. They pause you quickly to take a photo in front of a ship's steering wheel that you can buy later if you want, security photos, and then you walk through a few people who ask if you want drink packages and then, that was it. Nobody was pushy. It was so fast that once we got on, we were all like, "so we're on the boat now right?" We went to check out our cabins and our luggage arrived in front of our door within an hour. CABIN: Clean, modern, simple. Yes, the storage is limited but adequate. My husband and I still managed to unpack and store everything so that we didn't have to live out of suitcases I had a balcony room. It was a little cold for use, but I'm sure in summer time I would've enjoyed it immensely. The room was cleaned twice a day by our cabin attendant, once in the morning and once during turndown service. DINING: Assigned dining was fine. I'm not sure what other reviewers' comparison are for food, but I thought the dinners were acceptable. My parents loved going to the dining room for dinner because they felt it was elegant. Once they figured out they could have as many items as they wanted off the menu, they were ordering multiple entrees and appetizers every night! I thought that for a mass-produced meal that the dishes were nicely plated and acceptable. Sure the Butter Chicken didn't taste like the dish from my favorite Indian restaurant at home, but it was certainly an acceptable resemblance of it. So just keep in mind this is not some Michelin star restaurant, but a ship kitchen trying to make all these different cuisines. The waiters are courteous, remembered our drink orders from the nights before and would ask if we wanted the same thing. We never used the breakfast or lunch dining rooms, mainly because we didn't realize until the end that these existed. They don't make it very obvious. We ended up at the Marketplace Buffet for breakfast and lunch. They have an adequate spread of different foods, something to suit everyone. There's an "Ethnic Corner" that changes everyday (Mexican, Chinese, Indian, etc). The croissants are delicious in the morning when they first come out of the oven. We usually had no trouble finding a table to sit at except after the day at port in Barcelona when I presume a TON of people boarded the ship. By the way, if you have free mineral water as part of Fantastica package, the bottled water is free ONLY in your assigned dining room, not at Marketplace Buffet. The Marketplace Buffet has water, juices (in the morning), tea, coffee for free. There was always people asking if we wanted the T-Bone Steak or Lobster dinners every night, as well as drink packages. I wonder if they have to meet some quota, and that sucks if they do. They were persistent only in that they asked everyday, but when you said no they'd leave you alone afterwards that day. ENTERTAINMENT: Different show every night, definitely had European flare, much to my mother's delight. There was a medley of pop songs, Broadway hits, shortened version of the opera La Boheme, flamenco show, magician/finger shadow puppet performer, medley of Italian love songs. I suspect that American cruise lines don't have this variety of cultural component in their theater shows, but this is my first cruise so can't say for sure. Mostly the same singers and dancers every night. Some were pretty good, others were adequate, but probably not going to Broadway anytime. Still good entertainment. During the day, limited entertainment I think on-board, but most people were out doing shore excursions anyways so it didn't matter too much. They had a themed party everynight, but I was too tired to actually check it out. It did look like some people would dress for the party, but also significant number didn't. You could probably go either way and not feel like you were sticking out based on what you were wearing. We went to the Sonor Cirque show. They had some aerial and tumbling routines, simple compared to land-based Cirque shows but still impressive on a moving ship. I wonder whether they have to cancel shows if the ship is pitching too much. We did cocktails. There was only a single option for non-alcoholic drinkers and none of my group liked the option (some sort of yogurt-based drink). It'd be nice if we could've selected a soda or something else instead. The theater is circular (not completely 360, maybe more like 270). Good view from all angles I think. They had sort of three tiered layout with dinner and show audience members in the 2nd tier. Didn't use the casino. It has a few tables, lots of slots. Only open in evenings. I did use the Spa for a massage and a facial, especially once I found out they could do a prenatal massage, which they didn't advertise. Sure it was a little pricier than something you'd find on land, but I'd have to say it was one of the best massages I've had ever! They have deals everyday so if you're patient wait for a day they have a sale on whatever service you want. You can see the sales on your MSC for Me app or on the ship board information screens. SERVICE: I had no problems with anyone being rude. I'm also a pretty friendly smiley person in general so maybe that helps. But I found that all the workers were helpful and willing to engage if you put in the effort as well. I'm still absolutely amazed by how multilingual their workers are (coming from someone who speaks two languages fluently and two others at an intermediate level), although I guess you find that a lot in Europe. Only in America do people ONLY speak English...going off topic there. SMOKING: Nonsmoking in most parts except casino and designated outdoors. I was afraid smokers would be everywhere given the European clientele, but the ship's crew were pretty good about reinforcing smoking only in designated areas. I saw one crew member ask two guests to put out their cigarettes when they were caught smoking in a no-smoking deck. I don't think smoking is allowed on balconies, but some people did it anyways. But otherwise, most of the ship was pretty cigarette smell-free, thank goodness. SHORE EXCURSION: SHORE EXCURSION: We did shore excursions at Barcelona (Panoramic Tour and Shopping), Marseille (Aix-En-Provence), Palermo (Taste of Sicily), and Valletta (Mdina, Mosta, and Rabat). Barcelona excursion was just "eh" considering how much there is to see in that city. The free time for "shopping" we spent eating our way around a food market, so that was pretty cool. The Marseille stop was not bad, some free time to walk around on our own. I thought it was actually going to be more rural and country-sideish, but it's more of a college town according to our tour guide there. Palermo was not particularly impressive, although it was also raining that day unfortunately. The food was good though, especially the Middle Eastern-inspired rice balls that we got to try. My father and I LOVED the Valletta excursion just maybe because the guide was amazing and the sites were just different from the other cities. I have no illusions that a <1 day shore excursion will give you an idea what a city is about, but I do think that it is an opportunity for them to entice you back for future vacations to spend more time there. I would say that the Marseille, Barcelona, and Valletta excursions did that, but not the Palermo one. Most shore excursions we did got us back to the boat around 2pm or so. My husband and I explored Genoa on our own. It is EXTREMELY walkable! We left the ship and walked into town, saw what we wanted to see and then walked back. Maybe about 1 mile or less to get into the area where the different siteseeing things are. DISEMBARK: We were assigned a disembark time of something like 945am, but I asked them if we could get off earlier. If you want your luggage taken off for you, you have to go with the disembark time (grouped by priority and deck). What they didn't advertise though is that you can also self-disembark. I was finally told about this option after I them I needed to get off before 9am (they had said they could only move me to the 915am disembark group at the earliest). You just have to drag your own suitcase off with you. Which actually ended up being more convenient because if you have them take luggage off for you, you have to leave your suitcase out the night before. It was easier for us to have our luggage with us until we physically left the room so we could do some last minute parking. We were estimated to get into port around 8am, but we were already able to disembark at 8am and were sitting in front of the terminal at 815am waiting for our driver to take us to the airport. Overall, great experience. Would definitely consider traveling with MSC again! My parents loved their first cruise so much that they are talking about doing a family reunion cruise every other year now. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Cruise in NEITHER a 1 nor a 5...realistically closer to a 2. Best NOT to view this as a cruise ... better to invision as a hotel with meals and transportation to locations. Ship has 5700 passengers and a crew of another 1500.....word ... Read More
Cruise in NEITHER a 1 nor a 5...realistically closer to a 2. Best NOT to view this as a cruise ... better to invision as a hotel with meals and transportation to locations. Ship has 5700 passengers and a crew of another 1500.....word to the wise! Ship passangers are 80 percent Italian. Large groups of Chinese. Also Germans, French, Japanese, Russians and other nationalities. Very few British and virtually no American. Everything is translated into all languages. Ship is loaded with screaming, yelling, pushing and rude passengers. Noise level is so intense that it is pervasive in all areas of the ship. Its so bad that all you wish to do is go back to your cabin to avoid the noise. Loads of young children (who should be in school during the middle of January) and tons of kids in strollers all over the ship. Difficult to move and navigate across the ship at ALL times. Hoards of people/groups who take over everything. Good: 1. Embarkation (and Disembarkation) in Barcelona was excellent. 2. Ship is new and clean … inside front of ship cabin was clean and enough room for 2 people. Common ares nice and spacious but limited seating for people. 3. Shore excursions were good and reasonable priced. Many options to chose from. 4. Cirque de Soleil shows (2) were superior. Dont miss them. 5. Cities/Countries visited were perfect; Barcelona (SP), Marseilles (FR), Genoa (IT), Citivechhia (IT), Palermo (Sicily IT) and Valetta (Malta) 6. Our Main DIning Room Waiter was very good. 7. All Entertinment Shows in Broadway Theater were TOPS! Best ever seen on a cruise ship. 8. Bar singers and musicians were very good. THATS WHERE THE GOOD ENDS. Bad: EVERYTHIN ELSE! 1. Cruise staff is Rude and unprofessional. I had a Guest Service Rep even walk away in the middle of our conversation due to the end of her shift. Staff could generally care less about helping or servicing your needs. Total retraining required .. if they ever had any to begin with! 2. Lowball price to get you onboard and then everthing else is pay-pay-pay. All charges in Euors so 15% higher than in USD $.. 3. Drink packages are daily charge per person per day but they dont make that clear. Also packages are VERY EXPENSIVE...buyer beware!!! 4. Buffet food is low quality and more like hospital or prison food. With that being said, the fresh pastries at breakfast and freshly made mozerella are the best menu items. Even the Pizza was marginal. Everything else, including other Italian food on an Italian ship, is largely VILE! Did I say the food was LOW QUALITY!!!!! 5. Feeding frenzy at Buffet ... all time and every time. Groups of people pushing and shoving, People RUNNING everywhere and grabbing food like there is either no food left in their own country OR they believe that the ship will run out of food! Expect to be jostled and shoved and hit into your person at any given moment. 6. Main Dining Room food is slightly better quality than buffet but also lower class. Portions are very small so you must order atleast 2 appetizers OR a few main courses! Noise level in MDR is oppressive do to loud, screaming Italians. Totally ruins the meal experience. Dining rooms located in rear (AFT) os ship so you have to travel across the entire lengthy ship to eat at every time if your cabin is in the front of the ship. 7. Two Cirque de Soleil shows - We booked Dinner/Show packages but they also offer Cocktail/Show Packages. Dinner package tables are in worse location for viewing than Cocktail package locations. At one show which we booked 1 week prior, we were seated at a worse table location than someone who just walked up and bought their dinner show package 10 minutes before the show itself! NOT SMART AND NOT FAIR! 8. The ship is a massive ATM. There is a constant attempt to sell passangers something every waking minute on the ship. Also, everything you purchase is subject to a +15% (Euro) Surcharge! 9. People are smoking all over the ship .. EVEN THOUGH THE SHIP IS NON SMOKING IN 95% OF ALL AREAS. Not one crew member did anything to discourage people from walking around and smoking everywhere in public areas or even elevators. STUPID STUPID STUPID! To summarize, MSC Meraviglia has many positive aspects but it is a European ship for the Eurpean market and NOT for the American market. To that end, you have to be prepared for a miserable experience with passengers. The cruise ship does a 7-day round trip to each city and people are constantly getting on and off the ship at every port. We embarked and disembarked in Barcelona, which was excellent, other points of on & off were problematic. Ticket prices are low to entice you onboard and then the upsell for everything begins and is nonstop for the entire cruise. Ship entertainment was superior. Ship food was LOW CLASS and mostly TERRIBLE. The one giant dessert buffet day was nice but did not make up for the other 6 days of miserable food. (By the way MSC bills their trip as having Gourmet Food- I guess if you are in a prison this IS Gourmet Food!. NEVER SETTING FOOT ON AN MSC SHIP AGAIN EVEN IF THEY PAID ME!! Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
My partner and I, along with our 14 yo daughter (New Zealanders) recently spent a month (Dec 2018) in Europe including two cruises, one on the Costa Luminosa (out of Venice) and the other on the MSC Meraviglia (out of Rome). The following ... Read More
My partner and I, along with our 14 yo daughter (New Zealanders) recently spent a month (Dec 2018) in Europe including two cruises, one on the Costa Luminosa (out of Venice) and the other on the MSC Meraviglia (out of Rome). The following are my thoughts on comparing the two: Foremost I would like to say that we had a fantastic time on both cruises and staging a cruise for 2-5 thousand people is obviously a mammoth undertaking requiring staggering resources and organization. People come to cruises with very high expectations and it is always possible to set your expectations in the realm of fantasy, such that they will never be met. On the Luminosa we booked a suite, which included a comprehensive drinks package, and on the Meraviglia we booked a balcony cabin and bought the comprehensive (but not premium brands) drinks package. The total cost of both cruises (excluding excursions) came to within a few hundred dollars of each other (US$2,830+/-). OVERALL On balance we enjoyed both cruises. I preferred the Costa cruise because I really did not like the crowds on the Meraviglia. There were just too many people making too much noise with too many children for my liking on holiday. To be fair though, I'm an introvert, I have seven children, and a holiday to me means getting away from people and children, at least a bit. On that score the suite package on the Luminosa allowed us to eat in a proper restaurant with peace and space for every meal. The other thing I liked was that the suite cabin was twice (I do mean twice) the size of the balcony cabin on the Meraviglia. Dining on Meraviglia was by contrast the noisy chaos that is buffet dining (better than the buffet on the Luminosa but fundamentally the same experience) or dining in the dedicated dinner and breakfast restaurants, which are also noisy busy affairs with the tables of other diners being mere inches away from yours. While the food in the Meraviglia buffet was better, the restaurant food was just as hit or miss as the Club Luminosa. I had delicious food on both cruises and some terrible dishes. I thought Costa unfairly got a bad rap on this score in hindsight, although it is fair to say the Club Restaurant food is not the same level as a surcharge specialty restaurant on another line, it more than made up for this by being included in the price, a comfortable setting, and available on demand when we needed for any of the three meals a day (i.e. not set dining times). One of my frustrations with Costa is that the wording around booking a suite is ambiguous about including dining in the Club Restaurant for all meals. I thought this was the case and I found it to be the case once on the cruise, but I could not get a Costa agent, or Costa, to confirm that was the deal prior to the cruise. In fact I was erroneously told on a number of occasions by the Asia agent that Club Luminosa dining was NOT included. While I'm on gripes, priority embarkation with Costa was not a pleasant experience and did not feel "priority". I put this down to a majority non-English speaking crowd and therefore insufficient signs in English and the fact that much of the embarkation is managed by port security staff, who have no interest or training in prioritizing passengers who may have been promised the privilege. Other than that the Costa cruise was managed as expected and I have no gripes. The staff on both cruises were friendly and helpful, and fantastic for the most part. Gripes on Meraviglia were more numerous. Embarkation was smoother, which I put down to a bigger and better equipped port. I soon found out through additional charges on my account that MSC had changed the method of charging for drinks packages since I had paid for mine in advance, so I was now on an "old" package, which the bar staff may or may not be trained on and for which all identification of included and excluded drinks had been removed from all the drinks menus. Fun! Also the MSC website stopped recognizing our booking a month before the cruise, which was annoying; and the three specialty restaurant and show bookings all had to be redone (no big deal). MSC has an annoying habit of giving you things to do to avoid charges like delivering photos back to the room steward, who was seldom seen. Our room was not made up on two days and was only turned down for the night on one night. Costa only charged a half the gratuity rate for the third child passenger, whereas MSC charged the full perdeim rate. CABINS As I said the Luminosa suite cabin was literally twice the size of the balcony cabin on the Meragivilia, so there is no competition there. Having the personal butler was also superior, to having a room steward who did not turn up on two days because he was assigned to 1) cleaning the balconies; and 2) crew safety drills. On the plus side we booked cabin 8205 which sits just above the lifecraft and has a balcony 2.5 times the size of the other balcony cabins. We enjoyed the extra space there. DINING I have covered above. The specialty restaurants on the Meravilia were all a bit hit and miss. Butcher's Cut was very good, but sitting in the Galleria walkway is not good if you don't want people standing next to your table and yelling to their friends on the deck below. The Sushi was very high quality but light in quantity and the desert was not available. The Eataly was better than the reviews suggest, with SOME of the dishes being very good, but that was again let down by the deserts being very ordinary. On average the food was better on the Meraviglia, but the dining experience was better on the Luminosa because of the full time use of the Club Luminosa. ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES Activities on the Meraviglia surpassed those on the Luminosa although we enjoyed our included spa day on the Luminosa very much. The Meraviglia is a bigger ship and just has slightly more on offer, more bars, galleria, and water slides. We found the shows to be quite even on balance. The Luminosa shows were very good. The entertainers around the ship were somewhat limited. We enjoyed playing a game where we would work out what lyrics the singers were actually singing when they sang English songs. What they actually sang guessing at the English and pronunciation was actually quite hilarious. Trivial Pursuit had a dimension added to it when presented by someone who clearly did not know how to translate questions into English. "What color does a bride in China wear?" became "What color is the bridge in cheena?" We did not do well. On the Meraviglia three of the four shows we went to appeared to be lip-synced. Now I stand to be corrected, but it appeared to us that in all but the show including the band the singers lip-synced their way through the entire show. The dancers on the Luminosa were less ballet trained but worked as a troupe much better. The Circ-de-sole show was excellent on the Meraviglia so the shows came out even for me. SERVICE Staff and service was excellent on both cruises. Staff were always friendly, pleasant and eager to help when help was asked. We did not run into attitude or passing the buck on either ship. The staff were great. PORTS and SHORE EXCURSIONS We only did one excursion in the two cruises and might well have avoided that with what we know in hindsight. Most excursions can be duplicated with a significant cost savings with a little self planning. Ports really depend on the individual and where you want to go. You should want to go to Venice though. :-) Only one comment on excursions: none of the excursions offered on Meraviglia would take you inside La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. This is a crime. You should not go to Barcelona and not go inside this unique and stunningly beautiful building. The outside is impressive, but the inside is a moving experience. FELLOW PASSENGERS Both cruise were far and away dominated by Italians, which didn't bother me at all. Introvert. I was surprised at the lack of Americans or Brits on the Meraviglia. I would put the population of Americans at about 1% and Brits slightly higher. If you want to meet people and make friends, this could be a negative. Good on the Italians for holidaying with their children. They don't have sitters on the ship, so the kids get an early education on how Mommy and Daddy go out and have fun at night (including in the Casino). LOL [shakes head] CONCLUSION Costa Luminosa won me over as the best value for money. The big Meraviglia was just too crowed and noisy for me. The public spaces were always filled with the din of loud conversation and no matter what time of night it always seemed from the cabin someone was slamming a door somewhere or children were running up and down the halls. My advice is, give Costa another look, but book the suite or better. I didn't book the MSC Yacht Club experience, but I have read that children rule the roost there as well, so that might not be your best solution and is pricey. Good luck everyone and I hope you have a great next cruise. Read Less
MSC Meraviglia Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 5.0 0.0
Public Rooms 5.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 0.0
Family 5.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 2.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 5.0 0.0

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