We had read all of the reviews and by the time we had discounted the very best and the very worst, we were left with a reasonable view of the MSC Splendida and certainly one which we felt was worth what we were being asked to pay. Our intention was to have a few days break after Xmas and to explore a bit more of the Med which we hadn't seen before. We took note of comments about not booking trips through MSC - although we felt safer opting for a guided tour of Tunis, particularly as the leader of the opposition was assassinated on the day of our arrival. Overall though, we managed perfectly well and saved ourselves a considerable amount of money by booking excursions at the ports. I am quite sure that this option exists at every cruise port of call throughout the world if you are adventurous enough to go it alone.
We arrived at the the Barcelona Cruise terminal about an hour before boarding and were surprisingly issued with a priority boarding pass which was very useful! We checked in and the only hiccup was that the Allegrissimo drinks package ordered online didn't show on their system. This was soon resolved and what a deal it turned out to be - 23 euros per day each (plus 15% Compulsary service charge!) and for our total of 322 euros paid, we enjoyed over 700 euros worth of drinks (not all alcoholic - some bottled water and some coffess!!). We would certainly recommend the package as the drinks bill can mount up pretty rapidly when you are a captive audience! The package entitled us to the choice of red, white, rose and sparkling wines at the bars and restaurants - white included Italian Soave which was fine for us; I often had Merlot from the red selection and I can't remember what variety of Rose we were offered. Our choice of sparkling was a sufficiently dry Prosecco. Spirits and cocktails were plentiful in choice although I was surprised that a Bloody Mary wasn't allowed as Tomato Juice wasn't on the list!
From the outside, Splendida isn't quite as attractive as I had imagined but internally you can't help but marvel at the size and quality of all of the public areas and glass lifts in the atrium. We were equally impressed when we later viewed all of the public rooms although the often mentioned smoking problem was an issue in some of them.
Cabin number 9038 was sold as a Balcony cabin but unlike others it was rather blocked in by metal panels which restricted the view somewhat. Also, others had a glass panel and since ours was metal, the cabin was not as light and airy as we had expected. We were not advised that this is a slightly restricted view balcony room.