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It may seem odd that I do a review nine months after it ended. However I found that among all the other reviews that I read there are some aspects concerning this ship, that have not been pointed out before. It is even harder to read a cruise review for this particular itinerary. As a consequence I will mainly focus on aspects not mentioned by other reviewers. Embarkation was at Steinwerder Cruise terminal in Hamburg, Germany, for a fourteen day cruise that took us to the Norwegian coast, north cape and the remote island of Spitsbergen. I have to say that exactly one year earlier we had already taken a cruise to Iceland starting on this same embarkation port and once again aboard a vessel from MSC, the Preziosa and were not at all thrilled with the overall organization of that ship. Anyway MSC was the only cruise company doing this route on the time frame me and my family (my girlfriend and our nine years old daughter) had. It is difficult not to draw comparisons with the Preziosa, but fortunately I got to see that aboard the Meraviglia the experience was better, although in early evening the ship was as crowded as a shopping mall on weekends. It seems the crew is better prepared to tackle with the huge number of passengers on board. First of all embarkation and disembarkation were well organized, shore excursion desk is much better, no cues to come aboard on the different ports of call we were in, as it frequently happened on my prior cruise with MSC. If there is a place that needs to be completely reorganized, this is the buffet they call Market Place. Almost everything is wrong because it is too big and messy. It was the same aboard the Preziosa. MSC does not understand that in order to cope with a big number o passengers using this venue at the same time, the answer is not a bigger restaurant but rather a disciplined organization, even if this disciplined attitude is made at the cost of freedom of the passengers to choose a particular table to sit. At breakfast and lunch time on sea days it is impossible not to bump with other passengers who wonder around with trays of food on their hands while trying to find a place to sit. The answer would be for the management to assign the families or groups to the table, the moment they enter the buffet. With such a big place it was also easy to arrange this venue in a way that starboard partition is closed for cleaning and repositioning of stands for a 30 minute period, while port side is open also for a 30 minute period. What most chocked me was the small device they put on the tables to call the servers who take the orders for the beverages. In fact, if you want a special drink, you press that device and a server quickly comes to take your order. While the system always worked efficiently with me, I think that danger of norovirus widespread lurks around, as these devices were almost always noticeably dirty because of the huge number of fingers that touch them. My advice would be not to touch them with your bare finger tips and use instead a paper napkin to do it. And the same should be done whenever you press a button on a lift, even if around here dirt was not perceivable. Concerning the cabin we had chosen a Fantastica class balcony stateroom in the aft of the ship (9271). Prior to booking, I had studied the deck plan layout and noticed that there was a bank of lifts close by. However, once on board we realized that these particular lifts are for crew only. The consequence was that every time we wanted to go anywhere from our room, we had to endure long and fatiguing walks on a long and uninteresting corridor and again on the way back. Be aware of this fact if you book one of these staterooms. Another warning concerning staterooms on the aft of the ship but only on deck 9, is that you are directly above the Carousel Lounge. This is a sort of disco lounge with an height that spans on two decks and it is at moments very noisy, mainly at night when you want to rest. There is another advice that I cannot refrain from doing: You should avoid, at all cost to book a cabin on deck 14. Our tablemates at dinner had their cabin immediately under the Bamboo Pool and had to complain frequently at reception at two or three o’clock in the morning because of the unbearable noises coming from deck 15 while maintenance to the pool is being done. They said they had the feeling of being close to a big washing machine while on spin cycle. After having complained for three or four nights in a row they managed to be reassigned to a cabin on deck 5 and were thankful for the change. Other cabins on deck 14 are also noisy because they stand immediately below the Atmosphere Pool or the Market Place Buffet. My advice to future travelers would be for you to save some money and go to a lower deck while choosing your cabin. As said before the itinerary was for us the main reason for this cruise. We were very keen to visit Norway and above all to set foot on the northern most parts of the country, as our route included the north cape and a stop at the Svalbard archipelago. However, I have to say that these two spots were the only that turned out to be somewhat deceiving. Honningsvag is the port of call to visit the North Cape. It is just a fishing village and totally uninteresting. We had booked a shore excursion that included the transfer to the North Cape - a windy spot by the way- and a King Crab tasting. We were unlucky with the trip to the north cape because of the fog but on our way back the sky had cleared up and enjoyed very much the landscape that was definitively beautiful. Longyearbyen was our port of call at the Svalbard archipelago and just to get there it is necessary a full day at sea and another one to return to Norway mainland. It was a complete dud. The most interesting shore excursions were all sold out the moment we boarded the ship in Hamburg. I had even tried to make a booking some weeks before the cruise through MSC webpage, as this is also possible and in fact very convenient if you want to avoid the crowds around the shore excursion desk, but the most interesting excursions were already sold out at that moment too. As a consequence we just booked an uninteresting drive to a place where they breed Huskies. There is a museum in town that is moderately interesting and shops (expensive) for tourists. It is a very short walk from the ship to downtown Longyearbyen, but a dusty one on a road full of heavy trucks and with no sidewalks. By the way, this is a place with lots of coal mines which explains this pattern of dusty traffic around the existing few roads. Coal exploration is in decline as a source of energy, so the economy of the archipelago relies mainly on tourism. You cannot venture on your own outside the village because of the risk of attack from polar bears, whose population has been steadily increasing anyway. While walking around the main pedestrian road of the village I spotted inside a shop some photos of the place taken in late winter or early spring while the island was still covered with snow. Judging from what saw on those photos, it seems that’s the ideal time of the year to enjoy a wonderful scenery and with luck seeing the northern lights in the sky. If you want to visit this place, do never take a cruise in summer just to go there. Finally I would caution future travelers disembarking in Hamburg as MSC does not organize a transfer to the airport. This is a pity as many of the passengers that I saw around the airport on the afternoon of disembarkation day had also been aboard the Meraviglia. And the same happened to me one year earlier upon disembarking the Preziosa, again in Hamburg. We had our flight back home early afternoon on disembarkation day and had to take a taxi. The ride to the airport was time consuming because of the heavy traffic around the port. It took us almost one hour to get to the airport terminal and that was after we had to wait in line for 30 minutes in front of the cruise terminal on a hot sunny morning with no shades at all, just to get a taxi. Still it would have also been even worse should it be raining. Taxis were just slowly coming to the cruise terminal. Take that into account on your post-cruise arrangements. Other travelers may think differently, but personally I prefer much smaller and better organized ships.

Crowded trip to northen most Europe

MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review by josemmsa

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
It may seem odd that I do a review nine months after it ended. However I found that among all the other reviews that I read there are some aspects concerning this ship, that have not been pointed out before. It is even harder to read a cruise review for this particular itinerary. As a consequence I will mainly focus on aspects not mentioned by other reviewers.

Embarkation was at Steinwerder Cruise terminal in Hamburg, Germany, for a fourteen day cruise that took us to the Norwegian coast, north cape and the remote island of Spitsbergen. I have to say that exactly one year earlier we had already taken a cruise to Iceland starting on this same embarkation port and once again aboard a vessel from MSC, the Preziosa and were not at all thrilled with the overall organization of that ship. Anyway MSC was the only cruise company doing this route on the time frame me and my family (my girlfriend and our nine years old daughter) had.

It is difficult not to draw comparisons with the Preziosa, but fortunately I got to see that aboard the Meraviglia the experience was better, although in early evening the ship was as crowded as a shopping mall on weekends. It seems the crew is better prepared to tackle with the huge number of passengers on board. First of all embarkation and disembarkation were well organized, shore excursion desk is much better, no cues to come aboard on the different ports of call we were in, as it frequently happened on my prior cruise with MSC.

If there is a place that needs to be completely reorganized, this is the buffet they call Market Place. Almost everything is wrong because it is too big and messy. It was the same aboard the Preziosa. MSC does not understand that in order to cope with a big number o passengers using this venue at the same time, the answer is not a bigger restaurant but rather a disciplined organization, even if this disciplined attitude is made at the cost of freedom of the passengers to choose a particular table to sit. At breakfast and lunch time on sea days it is impossible not to bump with other passengers who wonder around with trays of food on their hands while trying to find a place to sit. The answer would be for the management to assign the families or groups to the table, the moment they enter the buffet. With such a big place it was also easy to arrange this venue in a way that starboard partition is closed for cleaning and repositioning of stands for a 30 minute period, while port side is open also for a 30 minute period.

What most chocked me was the small device they put on the tables to call the servers who take the orders for the beverages. In fact, if you want a special drink, you press that device and a server quickly comes to take your order. While the system always worked efficiently with me, I think that danger of norovirus widespread lurks around, as these devices were almost always noticeably dirty because of the huge number of fingers that touch them. My advice would be not to touch them with your bare finger tips and use instead a paper napkin to do it. And the same should be done whenever you press a button on a lift, even if around here dirt was not perceivable.

Concerning the cabin we had chosen a Fantastica class balcony stateroom in the aft of the ship (9271). Prior to booking, I had studied the deck plan layout and noticed that there was a bank of lifts close by. However, once on board we realized that these particular lifts are for crew only. The consequence was that every time we wanted to go anywhere from our room, we had to endure long and fatiguing walks on a long and uninteresting corridor and again on the way back. Be aware of this fact if you book one of these staterooms. Another warning concerning staterooms on the aft of the ship but only on deck 9, is that you are directly above the Carousel Lounge. This is a sort of disco lounge with an height that spans on two decks and it is at moments very noisy, mainly at night when you want to rest. There is another advice that I cannot refrain from doing: You should avoid, at all cost to book a cabin on deck 14. Our tablemates at dinner had their cabin immediately under the Bamboo Pool and had to complain frequently at reception at two or three o’clock in the morning because of the unbearable noises coming from deck 15 while maintenance to the pool is being done. They said they had the feeling of being close to a big washing machine while on spin cycle. After having complained for three or four nights in a row they managed to be reassigned to a cabin on deck 5 and were thankful for the change. Other cabins on deck 14 are also noisy because they stand immediately below the Atmosphere Pool or the Market Place Buffet. My advice to future travelers would be for you to save some money and go to a lower deck while choosing your cabin.

As said before the itinerary was for us the main reason for this cruise. We were very keen to visit Norway and above all to set foot on the northern most parts of the country, as our route included the north cape and a stop at the Svalbard archipelago. However, I have to say that these two spots were the only that turned out to be somewhat deceiving. Honningsvag is the port of call to visit the North Cape. It is just a fishing village and totally uninteresting. We had booked a shore excursion that included the transfer to the North Cape - a windy spot by the way- and a King Crab tasting. We were unlucky with the trip to the north cape because of the fog but on our way back the sky had cleared up and enjoyed very much the landscape that was definitively beautiful.

Longyearbyen was our port of call at the Svalbard archipelago and just to get there it is necessary a full day at sea and another one to return to Norway mainland. It was a complete dud. The most interesting shore excursions were all sold out the moment we boarded the ship in Hamburg. I had even tried to make a booking some weeks before the cruise through MSC webpage, as this is also possible and in fact very convenient if you want to avoid the crowds around the shore excursion desk, but the most interesting excursions were already sold out at that moment too. As a consequence we just booked an uninteresting drive to a place where they breed Huskies. There is a museum in town that is moderately interesting and shops (expensive) for tourists. It is a very short walk from the ship to downtown Longyearbyen, but a dusty one on a road full of heavy trucks and with no sidewalks. By the way, this is a place with lots of coal mines which explains this pattern of dusty traffic around the existing few roads. Coal exploration is in decline as a source of energy, so the economy of the archipelago relies mainly on tourism. You cannot venture on your own outside the village because of the risk of attack from polar bears, whose population has been steadily increasing anyway. While walking around the main pedestrian road of the village I spotted inside a shop some photos of the place taken in late winter or early spring while the island was still covered with snow. Judging from what saw on those photos, it seems that’s the ideal time of the year to enjoy a wonderful scenery and with luck seeing the northern lights in the sky. If you want to visit this place, do never take a cruise in summer just to go there.

Finally I would caution future travelers disembarking in Hamburg as MSC does not organize a transfer to the airport. This is a pity as many of the passengers that I saw around the airport on the afternoon of disembarkation day had also been aboard the Meraviglia. And the same happened to me one year earlier upon disembarking the Preziosa, again in Hamburg. We had our flight back home early afternoon on disembarkation day and had to take a taxi. The ride to the airport was time consuming because of the heavy traffic around the port. It took us almost one hour to get to the airport terminal and that was after we had to wait in line for 30 minutes in front of the cruise terminal on a hot sunny morning with no shades at all, just to get a taxi. Still it would have also been even worse should it be raining. Taxis were just slowly coming to the cruise terminal. Take that into account on your post-cruise arrangements.

Other travelers may think differently, but personally I prefer much smaller and better organized ships.
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