MSC Sinfonia - Eastern Mediterranean: MSC Sinfonia Cruise Review by Phil Hawkins

MSC Sinfonia 4
Phil Hawkins

Overall Member Rating

MSC Sinfonia - Eastern Mediterranean

Sail Date: March 2006
Destination: Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Embarkation: Genoa
Background Information -- Having read another detailed review about this cruise, and this ship, I felt there was a need to put forward some differing opinions. My wife and I also booked an eclipse tour. It was our first ever cruise, and we were on the whole delighted with it.

The Ship -- The Sinfonia is a fairly new vessel, and it appeared to us as enormous, clean, modern and beautiful, fit for its purpose in every way. What more can I say?

Our Cabin -- We went for the top grade cabin with our own balcony, on deck 10. It had a compact bathroom with a short bath and excellent shower unit. There was plenty of wardrobe and drawer space for clothes and luggage, a comfortable king sized bed, floor to ceiling mirrors, lock-up safe big enough to take a laptop computer, lounge area with sofa, mini armchair and coffee table, sideboard unit with drinks in fridge, TV, fresh fruit in a bowl, and of course the balcony with sliding door and two more chairs. All More spotlessly clean and tidy.

Travelling to/from Genoa -- We booked our own 2-night stopover in Venice prior to the cruise, and travelled from Venice to Genoa by train on embarkation day. We live in the UK so travel was fairly inexpensive, with a flight out to Venice and back from Milan. Trains were more or less on time and although we always managed to catch earlier trains from those where our seats were actually booked, this did not pose any problems and we always got a seat. We dont speak Italian, but on the longest stretch between Venice and Milan, the drivers announcements were in English as well as Italian, which helped to reassure us that everything was going according to plan. Our travel agent (Thomas Cook) had booked the air tickets, the train tickets and the hotel in Venice in advance, as a complete package. After the cruise, our journey home involved another train trip from Genoa to Milan, then a shuttle bus from Milan railway station to the airport. The driver of the shuttle bus got lost, and provided us with a very cheap lightning tour of Milan, but if we had been short of time before our flight departure I guess it would not have been quite so amusing.

Activities and Entertainment -- It was our choice not to participate in any of the quizzes or dance groups taking place daily on the upper decks. Thats just not our thing. When they got a bit noisy, it was always possible to find a spot to relax further away. But there did seem to be plenty of passengers who were being adequately entertained. On this cruise the number of children was very small, but there were a few activities aimed at them, and I think there was also a disco-type meeting place and some arcade games. We also didnt take advantage of any evening shows in the theatre, but I heard good reports of them from our dinner companions. The theatre itself was impressive, and made an excellent venue for the many astronomy-related lectures that were arranged, most of which were themselves entertaining as well as informative.

The Dining Room -- We were allocated table number 118 in the larger of the ships two dining rooms Il Galleone which was located next to a porthole window. We had five dinner companions, four being American and one English-speaking Mexican. Lighting in the dining room was adequate, which is important for my poor eyesight (I hate eating in semi-darkness). Service was usually prompt, and by the third or fourth day the waiters were bringing wine carafes and coffee at the appropriate times without being asked. As Im not very keen on either pasta or tomatoes, I had not been particularly looking forward to spending 12 days on an Italian ship, but in fact the food seemed varied and perfectly OK. I noted the wonderful chicken and almond soup one evening in my own diary. The dinner menu on eclipse day was cleverly apt - I tried the Astronomers Salad, the Eclipse Glazed Duck, and the Pompeii Cake. Also, one evening we were presented with a banana-flavoured Happy Honeymoon cake, no doubt organised by our dinner companions in collusion with the staff. The only feature of the dining room I didnt like were the interruptions by staff dressed up as pirates and clowns trying to make money for the ship by taking photographs.

Service -- Waiters and waitresses on the upper deck always appeared when we sat down, although some of them had scant grasp of English. My wife was particularly impressed with the fruit and cold meat selection at the breakfast bar. As far as cabin service is concerned, we never saw our chambermaid Agnes but the room was tidied and cleaned every day to a high standard. My wifes night-dress was laid out on the bed each evening in a delicate flower shape, which greatly amused her. The waiters at the dinner table had adequate English although they all had a far-eastern look about them. Speed of service at the dinner tables seemed fine, we were never kept waiting for long. General announcements could not usually be heard in the cabins, we had to open the door and listen in the corridor. The cabins did have loudspeaker systems in them, however. One morning a lengthy message came through, but we had no idea what it was all about because it appeared to be in Japanese.

Excursions -- We had pre-booked the excursions to Pompeii, to the Pyramids and to the Libyan Desert on eclipse day. At other ports such as Tripoli and Syracuse, we did our own thing. Our guide for the Pompeii trip had a loud and striking voice, which was important as the site was fairly busy on the day we were there. In the time available we saw a good cross-section of the buildings and artifacts, and the guide was careful to distinguish between what was original and what had been copied for conservation purposes. The trip to the Pyramids and Saqqara was somewhat less successful, and our time at both sites was very limited. Our guide, a bubbly young woman, kept up a continuous commentary on Egyptian social and political history, ranging from 4000BC right up to the present day. She was an obvious supporter of the current Egyptian government, who she believes are making big efforts to ensure that western and moslem communities can live in harmony. We didnt fail to notice the necessity for armed guards on the tour buses, though. The eclipse day trip, 100 miles into the Libyan desert from Tobruk, was adequately organised bearing in mind the spartan conditions. Chairs, tented shade, bottled water and a packed lunch were provided at the eclipse site. Very basic toilet facilities had been set up as well, outside which there was a long queue. The weather for the eclipse itself was perfect, and the eclipse experience was unforgettable, but it was disappointing to see so many of our companions disregarding the instructions that we had been given about standards of dress in this strictly moslem state. It is hard for us to understand how dress codes that seem normal to us appear rude and distressing to the native population. There were too many women in our party with no hats and bare shoulders. I felt they could have made more of an effort to be polite.

Summary -- This cruise may well turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us, but that is due to our personal circumstances. I have nothing but happy memories of it, and if I ever do contemplate another cruise, I would probably look first at the packages currently being offered on the Sinfonia. If the ship had a webcam, like some of the other ships do, Id follow it just for the sake of knowing where it was. Less

Published 06/26/06

Cabin review: 101018

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Phil Hawkins
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