We had only just come home from a Christmas cruise on Sinfonia and had a great time, by chance I was browsing the MSC site and found this cruise from Dubai flying out from the UK on Emirates at a price for a balcony cabin for what you would expect to pay for the flights.
The flight was very good and we were transferred to the ship by about 8:30 in the morning, we expected to have to wait until after lunch to board but were shown through to check in and were on board by 9am and offered breakfast in the dining room. Our luggage arrived quite soon and we were able to get changed and freshen up before lunch. It was nice to see some familiar faces from other ships among the staff, and they went out of there way to make us welcome.
We have sailed on Splendida previously so knew what to expect, but there were some changes that had been made presumably to suit Arabic tastes, One change in particular was a bar only playing Arabic type music, the bar seemed quite empty most nights; and this bar had always been full and buzzing on previous cruises.
We did find the dinner service to be very slow, we were on first sitting (6:30) and we only just completed our meal by 8:30 when the second sitting were waiting to come in. On one evening we were served our starter and the dirty plates were still on the table half an hour after we had finished. I cleared the table myself and gave the plates to the waiter, as you can imagine that caused quite a fuss and service improved the following night but then slipped again. There was another issue with a sharp foreign body in my wife's soup, we are still waiting for a good explanation why it was there. We used the restaurant for most of our meals though when we did use the buffet it was fine.
The cabin was very good and a good size though fittings are looking a bit shabby and a bit more attention need to be taken regarding cleaning in the corners, but with too many cabins to service it must be hard for the staff.
Mentioning the staff, everyone we met was always willing to serve you with a smile and a chat, we never had to wait long in the bars, if you just sit there and expect them to find you then you may have a wait. If you see the waiter/waitress then just stand up and wave your cruise card and they will acknowledge you, it always worked for me.
Disembarking was a breeze though it was early in the morning (3:30) we were transferred to the airport at Dubai, it's very large and flashy but there was enough going on to keep you amused until the flight.
Good size with a sofa, balcony big enough. Fittings are looking a bit shabby.
Went for a shopping trip to the Dubai Mall, it is well worth the visit even if you don't like shopping. There is a free shuttle bus but we waited twice and it did not turn up. We shared a cab with another couple we knew and also met up for the return trip, it worked out very reasonable, in fact a lot less than we expected.
Good modern city, we took the free shuttle to the souk market and the free shuttle to the Mall; both were good. Expect to haggle in the souk.
You arrive by tender, we had a fantastic time doing not very much. There are enough sunbeds for everyone, lots of activities going on, and a nice buffet with plenty food for everyone. There are several bars served by MSC staff and your drinks packages are honoured.
There is a free shuttle to take you off the port, you will then get hassled by taxi drivers to take you into town but it is only a short walk along the sea front. Don't miss the massive souk market about half way along the main road, try not to get lost as it is a bit of a maze. Have a great time haggling and grab yourself a bargain. They will accept UAED and Euro as well as local currency.
You land by tender, we got the shuttle into the "city" it's a bit of a dump with 3 shops on either side of the road selling the same tacky junk. Total waste of time, the only thing worth seeing is from the ship just before dusk when scores of speedboats full of boxes leave port for Iran; these are smugglers breaking the trade embargo. The police boats were at the harbour gate but didn't seem to bother, either they have given up or just don't care.