MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review by CruisinMaterial
- Sail Date: October 2019
- Destination: Southern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Fantastica Balcony Stateroom
Day 1 – Embarkation Day – New York City
After the first cruise to sail from NYC had a bad embarkation, I was happy I wasn’t arriving to Manhattan until Noon on the bus I took down from Boston. Upon arrival to the pier, the porters quickly took our luggage and with a decent tip ($2 per bag), our bags were gone and down the conveyer belt in no time! We entered the terminal and encountered a fairly long security line at 12:30PM. When I had my documents out, the lady pulled me aside and told me to go into another line which was not snaked. I did so and we were at security in no time. The check in counters didn’t have any lines at all. I was taken straight away and we were on the ship by 12:45PM. It was pretty seamless!
We embarked the Meraviglia from the front of the ship and walked down the indoor Promenade with the giant LED screen, the largest at sea! It was impressive, although some of the shows watching them looking straight up later in the cruise would make me get dizzy. To best view them, go to deck 7 by the spa and look the long way down the promenade.
Helpful Tip: We registered our credit cards at the onboard kiosk on Deck 6 by the elevators mid-ship. There are two types of machines to register your room card with. One takes cash and credit cards, the other one takes credit cards only and is smaller. The cash machine had so many people fiddling with them, I just wanted the card machine and this was located on Deck 6 starboard side.
We went to lunch at the Market Place Buffet up on Deck 15. The buffet is quite lengthy. Each side has the same type of sections. In the front on the port side is the pizza station which serves pizza pretty much ALL the time (breakfast pizzas, and a changing variety throughout the rest of the day). There’s a pasta, salad, rotisserie, sweets and wellness sections. On port and starboard side there was ethnic sections which largely consisted of Mexican / Spanish foods throughout our voyage. In the back of the buffet (most didn’t walk that far), there was a stir fry section which was really good. During the voyage, on port days, the back section of the buffet was closed. We grabbed a plate of food and sat on the outside deck overlooking the Hudson River. It was overcast but not too chilly to enjoy a lunch out there.
While eating lunch, I connected to the ship’s WiFi and loaded the MSC for Me app. This app is quite handy in booking reservations for all the shows and seeing what’s on. It also has a chat functionality which you can use to stay connected to new found friends on the ship. It was the first cruise where I used the chat functionality and it worked quite well. The app also gives you guidance on where things are in the ship and how to get to them. I strongly urge you to download this prior to the voyage so you can take full advantage of what’s on offer and waste minimal time at the touch screens scattered throughout the ship.
After lunch, it was announced the staterooms were ready. We proceeded to our stateroom and the luggage was already there! This was quite impressive given how short of a time it was. The rooms were ready at 2PM.
Stateroom 9218: This is a Fantastica balcony stateroom. If you don’t know what Fantastica is, it’s a tier level of room you book on MSC ships where you get certain amenities – main among them is room service. This stateroom was located starboard side on the mid-ship bump out and it was the second to last room heading aft in the mid-ship bump out. MSC seems to have a standard stateroom format as the room looked exactly the same as Seaside. The closet was small and didn’t have enough hangars (we remembered and brought our own). There is two cubbies and two drawers on the right side of the closet with the safe in the middle. There’s also another cubby on the floor of the closet on the right side. The bathroom consisted of a shower with glass door, very deep sink (love the sink design on MSC) and a counter which extends down the wall for storage. There are three shelves in the bathroom. The stateroom was in physically good condition upon initial inspection. It quickly became apparent due to the ship’s configuration with the bump out, we must’ve been on the end of the vacuum line with our neighbors being the last. The toilet was very picky so you had to flush it constantly. We had to get it fixed twice during the voyage. The refrigerator was good at cooling items such as the water containers we brought. There’s a desk drawer under the counter top, it’s quite big and another helpful place to store stuff. The light to the left of the beds was constantly flickering during the voyage. I never used it but when the evening turn down was done, it would flicker. I don’t know if it was an electrical issue or what not. I did not report it. Now this part is important, when the ship was at sea and we had some rough sea conditions due to passing cold fronts, the room was constantly creaking! For a ship as new as this, I couldn’t believe the amount of noise the room made. It wasn’t anything the ship could do to fix it as it was the room itself. I still slept but when you were in the room, you could hear it with the ship’s movement. If you’re a light sleeper, book another room and probably not on the bump out. Of more important note, the room did NOT have any Kleenex / tissues. We asked for a box and were told the ship does not provide them, only to Yacht Club guests. Some guests on the previous voyage (where an illness had started to break out) were given them who were not YC guests. This would later come back to bite MSC big time. If you’re going to be an Eco Ship, why not get rid of bottled water but instead tissues? I’m still scratching my head over this one.
After unpacking, we headed down to the dining room to change our dining time. We requested the early seating but when we said early – we didn’t mean 5:15PM. I don’t know why MSC doesn’t allow a person to pick slots in first, second and third order so that if you booked an experience, they could work best to accommodate you. Having fixed dining times is inherently lazy of cruise lines anyway! It’s the one thing on MSC that I do not like. The restaurant manager switched us from Waves at 5:15PM to 6PM in Panorama. Panorama is a really beautiful restaurant aft on the ship. However, what I didn’t realize is when he switched us, we went to a table share with two other couples. Thankfully they turned out to be quite lovely people when tables around us had some really odd pairings with people swapping out. This process took us over 1 hour to do so if you don’t like your dining time, change it first thing when you get on because the people pile up and you don’t want to spend your first day of holiday waiting.
At 5PM as we wasted so much time getting the table and time changed, it was the compulsory emergency drill. Our muster station was in the casino (oddly it was on Seaside as well). We arrived early to get a seat for mom and waited and waited. People were not attending the drill like they were required to. Finally, it started and it was over in the blink of an eye. They only demonstrated how to put the life jacket on. The rest was found on the stateroom TVs which was clear during the voyage people did not watch (throwing cigarettes and other items overboard, smoking on the balconies, etc.).
Fellow Passengers: There was truly an international mix of passengers on the ship. I became friends with people from Germany, Holland, Canada, Austria and Greece! What unsettled me was the group of people MSC used to fill the ship closer to sailing. I booked fairly last minute (8 weeks out) and thought wow, the ship is still fairly open. However, when they discounted the prices even lower around 3 weeks out, the passenger make up got really interesting both posting online beforehand and on the ship. The Cruise Director joked about it not being a Carnival ship one night in the theater, well I guess he never visited the nightclub. Those folks causing issues were the scum the low pricing MSC did brought onboard, amazingly and not shockingly… all Americans. Before you say how rude, I’m American but I do have a sense of propriety and class. I understand everyone is on holiday but save your offensive shirts, surly (perhaps drunk) comments, feeling up your fellow (perhaps drunk) cruisers for your stateroom or better yet… don’t cruise if you can’t act correctly in public. Most of the latter stuff was in the nightclub. Cruisers also didn’t seem to practice good hygiene either leading to a massive spread of a sinus and upper respiratory bug throughout the ship. Cough etiquette goes a long way. Coughing into your elbow is great way to stop the spread of germs, but most just chose to cough on everyone else. The lack of tissues made the spread of germs on all surfaces even better. Way to go MSC on that one! I will give credit to MSC for trying to make the situation right during the voyage. I truly appreciated the guest services hospitality when my concerns were addressed.
It was dinner time in Panorama and the first night menu resembled a similar one to NCL with the vegetable spring rolls. I had the lamb t-bone. The spring rolls were great. The lamb t-bone was incredibly small so I asked for a second portion. Lino, our head waiter, delivered it without issue. Lino and Frederick in Panorama offered great service throughout the cruise. Frederick was very attentive and constantly filling my water glass. The food was way too salty and it just made me thirsty incessantly. Frederick would have to refill my water glass up to five times during the dinner service!
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Serge Massot
We booked the 8PM showtime for the ventriloquist. I realize there’s an international audience on the ship so he would say somethings in English and I believe the other parts were Spanish. However, the little character was not really amusing and he was hitting on female passengers and calling other male passengers ugly. It was entertainment but not the kind I experienced on Seaside. I know Meraviglia had to add entertainment to the ship as they only had 7 production shows but this guy was not very entertaining overall.
After the long day of traveling and getting up early, after the show I showered and relaxed. It was at this time that we discovered the room service menu’s inadequacies. I remember having room service on the Seaside and not having any issues finding something to eat. This cruise I was up in the buffet for breakfast more than I had anything from room service. Mom found items but it was challenging as she doesn’t like chocolate (and most of the menu was chocolate items) and can’t have dairy.
Other entertainment going on the first night was a welcome party from the cruise staff around 10:45PM in the Promenade and the disco with the DJ after 11PM.
DAY 2: At Sea
The weather was still chilly outside and the seas were kicked up. Cold fronts coming off the USA East Coast would cause issues during various days of the cruise. Today was the Cruise Critic gathering and the ship did it nicely with cocktails being served at 10AM and little bites to eat. This time they let the passengers mingle a bit before they introduced the officers and presented us with a cake. It was a very nice touch and I got to make some great cruise friends along the way!
It was today I discovered the Gym on Deck 16 mid-ship and wanted to do a workout since the weather wasn’t warm enough for it. The gym was packed solid and hideously small for a ship this size. Some of the cardio equipment was broken further compounding the crowded feel of the place. I went for a walk around the walking track with mom that goes around mid-ship to aft on Deck 16 to get some steps for the day. While doing the walking track, it’s single file so where possible I walked outside to the right of it to talk with mom. Runners were coming along on the other lane or just running everywhere and not staying in their lane. When you got to the aft section of the Horizon Pool where the track loops around on the Starboard side, you go right through a smoking area! How dumb!! If you’re trying to workout, why on Earth would you want to inhale smoke?!
After an early lunch, I decided to go to the gym and finally found a spot to work out on the mat. I did have to work in for one of the two benches near the free weights. Very few guests were sanitizing equipment after use so I did before each usage. The side room which could be a good stretching area, was locked as it had the spin cycles in them. An aerobics room was missing on this ship since they used the basketball/soccer court for those classes. You couldn’t take a mat down there to stretch though!
After a brief nap, I went to the single / solo cruisers gathering. It was there that I met two wonderful ladies at the bar who introduced me to some of the bar staff they knew from a previous voyage. All the bartenders and wait staff in the Sky Lounge were really friendly, helpful and out-going. It would become a good place for a pre-club drink or to pass time between activities.
It was the first formal night of the cruise and I had the beef tournedos. The meat was cooked to order and very well presented but the sauce was way too salty. I didn’t have time for dessert as the ship had scheduled the LGBT gathering at 6:30PM in the Sky Lounge and I wanted to attend. Both the LGBT and the singles were unhosted events and unlike the Seaside – occurred every night of the cruise from night 2 onward at the Sky Lounge.
Since we booked the 9:30PM show because I was unsure whether or not the LGBT gathering would run late or not, mom and I went to the Sportsplex which included the arcade, bowling, F1 simulators and the flight simulators. I purchased the Fun Pass pre-cruise for $100 for what I thought was unlimited usage of the entire complex, it turned out, it wasn’t unlimited but that’s not too much of a worry after the weather finally moderated. Of note, the bowling only had one functional lane meaning you had to arrange an appointment to use it. The 4D Cinema was intense. I played all three of the interactive movies with the skeletons in the mine one being the gentlest of them all. It’s quite an intense experience. The arcade has minimal games for a ship this size: 1 competing motorcycle game, Star Wars Game, shooting game (which didn’t seem to be working during the voyage much) and a demolition style sit down race car game. Turned out I was really good at destroying opponents in this game! The arcade would be a good place to pass time in between moments in the evening hours where entertainment gaps existed. I would highly recommend the Fun Pass at $100. The 4D Cinema is $10 per person, bowling is $25 for a half hour play, F1 was also expensive. One bad weather day and you could easily hit the $100!
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: One Day More
It was the first production show of the cruise, featuring Broadway hits like Singing in the Rain, Cats, Les Miserables. The productions make extensive use of LED walls for graphics saving tons of space for props and endless costume changes back stage. The production cast tonight was great, the opera singers were more overpowering of their cohort singers in group numbers but I knew they’d both be shining stars during opera night later in the cruise! I would definitely recommend catching this show on the ship!
Tonight, was the first night I went to the Attic Club disco on the ship. It was here that I discovered one of the two DJs from the Seaside was onboard (and he wasn’t the better one from Seaside – DJ Tony). At the bar in the nightclub was a younger guy with his head down sleeping, apparently passed out. Security went over to check on him and let him stay there but he put his head back down. Eventually he ordered two Red Bull and was much more awake but only caffeinated. It was a good night out but most hung outside at the Horizon Bar to smoke on the starboard side. With the crosswinds, it would waft across the deck into the non-smoking area making it impossible to get air. The Attic Club was insanely hot as the ship still had the heat on from the colder cruises. I retired shortly around 1AM.
DAY 3: At Sea
It’s October 30th and the ship began coming alive with Halloween decorations. The culinary team in the buffet carved pumpkins yesterday all day in the kitchen they make the fresh mozzarella in and today they setup a display of them with fake candles. The display was just as you entered the Marketplace Buffet. Also, in the Meraviglia Lounge, they had pumpkins carved on the tables there and the whole bar was even more decorated than the previous day. Actually, the whole Promenade on Deck 6 was alive with Halloween items, including some scary looking man who was later used for photos by the ship’s photography team.
The weather was not cooperating so well so the Fun Pass was used to play some bowling, arcade games and 4D Cinema before heading back to rest for the afternoon. The temperature outside was finally starting to moderate a bit but the weather was still overcast with occasional rain showers. We also found a nice place to go for a walk downstairs away from the smokers. It was on Deck 7 forward and was a horseshoe from port side to starboard side through the front tunnel in the ship from one bump out section to the other. It’s by the life rafts and was a good place to go to not be in the direct sunlight as well. There are NO deck chairs on this deck, it was strictly used for walking purposes only and it’s not very well advertised. Crew do a lot of work out on this deck so parts may be shut off as well.
Today, the ship delivered strawberries and prosecco to the room as part of the Diamond status Voyager’s Club welcome back gift. Prior to sailing, make sure to status match with your other cruise line’s loyalty club status. On NCL I’m Platinum Plus which makes me Diamond on MSC.
Just before dinner it was announced Cirque du Soleil’s scheduled performance of Viaggio was cancelled due to the rough sea conditions. I was scheduled to attend the 9:30PM showing. It would become practically a routine to visit the scheduling guy at the Carousel Lounge to get the shows rescheduled this cruise. Why would you ever build a show lounge at the aft of a ship for a Cirque performance? The least amount of movement is mid-ship!
Tonight, after switching the dining time around, the birthday cake showed up to the Panorama restaurant for mom. The first night it was delivered to the Waves Restaurant because we were scheduled to be there but the second night I left early before it could be served. It became a running joke this cruise because the travel agent also bought a cake for my mom’s birthday so there were TWO cakes floating around the ship! The section host, William, did a splendid job of tracking them all down and getting them arranged though!
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Born to Rock
The second production show of the cruise with the production cast was mom’s favorite. She loves rock music and loved all the tunes. They had Tina Turner and many other rock legends. The production was pretty solid with full usage of LED panels and several wardrobe changes by all. Less group singing in this production so it made it a lot smoother. A definite must catch show!
THEME NIGHT: Country and Western Night
MSC has several theme nights on their American sailings or so it would seem (some appeared on the Seaside as well). The first theme night was Country and Western. I don’t particularly like country music but I was interested to see what they would do. The cruise staff dressed in Western attire and danced to the same line dance songs you’d hear most other places with a few country dance tunes thrown in for good measure. The overhead LED panels in the promenade had different graphics displaying throughout the event.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Beer Prov Adult Comedy Show
This was an adult’s only improv comedy show. It started slow and just died. It wasn’t too funny and when it took too long to setup the next act, most people, including myself walked out. I felt bad for them but with a more engaging party (Country Night) going on just feet away, I felt my time could be better used to watch people have fun than those four TRYING to be funny.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Black Light Party
Cirque du Soleil might’ve been cancelled but the Carousel Lounge was still open for usage. I loved the Carousel Lounge as a nightclub. Yes, the bar had a significant shortage of various types of alcohol requiring you to walk to the casino bar to get your drink but the lighting system and sound systems in there were FAR superior to the Attic Club. It also was much better climate controlled. It was sad the Neon party only lasted one hour before they closed it down at 12:30AM and sent us up to the Attic Club.
DAY 4: At Sea – Happy Halloween MSC Meraviglia
Finally, a good morning to go sunning on the pool deck after breakfast! I went up for a little while before returning to the room to join my mom at the Welcome Back Cocktail reception on the Promenade Deck 6 for all Voyager’s Club member. The event was attended by all senior staff on the ship with little snacks and drinks being served, including non-alcoholic ones. The best part was the production cast came through and did a song and dance number for us after the captain came by to say some remarks and toast. There was also a history presentation on the LED ceiling. It was very well done and probably the best welcome back party I’ve attended on any cruise line to date!
After a buffet lunch, it was time to hit the gym. While most folks were out on the pool deck or worked out earlier, I could find a corner to do my ab workout and didn’t have to battle nearly as many people for the equipment. Dinner tonight was ribs and an Asian Salad. The salad was good. I asked for a double order of the ribs and still felt hungry. I didn’t order more because of the showtime and needing to get to the theater.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Serge Massot
Yes, this ventriloquist came back with a new show dubbed to be full of surprises and laughs. Some of it mirrored the first show and there were new elements. The female he selected from the audience clearly didn’t want to do it and looked like she could’ve punched him at any time. I was sitting in the back and her unwillingness was palpable from there! It was a show to see but again, if he’s on, take a pass on it.
THEME NIGHT: Halloween
Several cruise guests, largely Americans, dressed up for Halloween. The top 3 were picked by the cruise staff for final voting up on the bridge in the Promenade. I dressed up as Cesar, quite a few vampires around but the winner of the contest was a group of drag Pan Am flight attendants and a pilot. I’ve never had my picture taken by so many cruisers before! A ship’s photographer named Veronica (I think) also snagged me for a photo shoot and she did some amazing poses. She was having a ton of fun with it! I don’t customarily buy ship photos but I did from her shoot. She’s got a good eye! Music tonight was by DJ Fabiano and the LED ceiling was on fire with creative and spooky graphics. I’ve done 3 Halloween parties at sea and this was by far the best one yet! Bravo Meraviglia entertainment team! The after party was up in the Attic Club and Horizon Pool Bar at midnight but since I was getting up to go ashore tomorrow, I went up for a bit and went to bed.
Cirque du Soleil was cancelled again tonight, although it was the SONOR show I was scheduled to see. It was again due to the ship swaying in the sea conditions (high winds).
DAY 5: Land Ho! ST MAARTEN
After a quick breakfast, it was off the ship and in a taxi with other guests to head to Maho Beach. I was heading to Cupecoy Beach, a LGBT friendly beach on the island. It cost me $30 for the trip for myself one way. When we arrived at Maho Beach, the beach was underwater and the sand had gone up over the wall and a bus got stuck causing a traffic jam. This should’ve been my clue to get out but I didn’t. I went to Cupecoy anyway and the beach conditions were similar. The beach was underwater due to the tides and high seas. I stayed and sunned myself on the rocks until some other cruisers from the ship arrived. We walked the different inlets from above and admired the views. I split the van on the way back with the other guys from the ship. It took us one hour to get back to the ship because the traffic was so bad.
Mom spent the day walking around Philipsburg, St Maarten and finding tissues. She wasn’t sick at this point but the only option available at the time was to use toilet paper to clean out your nose when you awakened in the morning. This was very silly to her (and eventually to me too when I saw what a lack of it was doing to the ship) so she sought out tissues and made that her day ashore. She was successful. You knew it was starting to get bad on the ship because a hand sanitizer lady appeared in the entry way to the Marketplace Buffet. She wasn’t there until this day.
When I arrived back onboard and synced by phone back to the Meraviglia Wi-Fi, the restaurant reservation was gone showing what time we were supposed to have Teppanyaki. My mom reserved the Teppanyaki for me to celebrate a career advancement.
SPECIALTY DINING: Kaito Teppanyaki
This specialty restaurant is where a cook prepares a meal in front of you using a grill and puts on a show. The price varies depending on what meal you select. I had the Samurai meal which was 7 courses and included sushi, salad, soup, tempura, steak, rice and dessert. Mom had the vegetarian version of it with tofu, cucumber rolls (versus tuna rolls), tempura, salad, soup and dessert. Dominique from the Philippines prepared our meal on the grill and did an excellent job of the show. I asked him if he’d been on NCL doing it as the show was quite similar and he said he actually did work on NCL. If you’ve done Teppanyaki on NCL, this is similar but with more food (courses). Also, during the reservation process, the lady asked my mom if I was celebrating anything and she put it in the computer. To my surprise, during dessert time, the Kaito crew came out with a congratulations cake and sang a modified happy birthday congratulations song to me! I wasn’t expecting it and it caught me off guard… my mom’s payback for the birthday cake for her earlier on I presumed! It was a great meal with excellent service. I would bump into the waitstaff in the mornings up in the buffet and they’d always greet me by name. Impressive!
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Antonio Versini: A world of Hands
I figured this would be the standard magicians show with sleight of hand magic tricks and such. It actually was that and a whole lot more. He put up this projection light on the starboard side and this circle screen in the back and started doing impressions with his hands of animals, singers while songs were playing and morphed them all together. It was quite impressive and unique as I’d not seen anything like this before at sea.
THEME PARTY: White Party
A signature event on MSC seems to be their White Party. It’s simple, you wear white and dance the night away. It was the first night a party was held at the Atmosphere Pool outside. It was high energy once the line dance songs ended that accompanied most theme nights on the voyage. We had some good EDM tunes before the party shut down at midnight and moved to the Horizon Pool and Bar on Deck 16 / 18 aft. I stayed up until 1AM enjoying the fun before heading to bed. DJ Fabiano was spinning the after party. At the bar, one of the late bookers was drunk and loudly complaining about how crappy the music was. He was a complete buzzkill for anyone near him at the Horizon Bar.
DAY 6: FORT-DE-FRANCE, MARTINIQUE
We called on Fort-de-France, Martinique and when the morning started it was sunny and I had a leisurely buffet breakfast. I was joined by another solo from New York who hopped on last minute. She was very pleasant and we chatted for a bit. By the time I got off the ship, the sky had changed and storms were coming. The local dancers were out and performing tunes for photo ops. We decided to head to the museum we couldn’t see the last time we were there because it was Sunday. This time it was Saturday and the museum still closed because it was a holiday weekend for them (All Saints Day). The problem with going to the other side of town was the sky opened up and it down poured. Everyone ran for cover; my very large umbrella was no match for the deluge of rain that came. I ducked into an open shop. It was at this time we began to realize most of the city was closed!
After getting soaked, it was time to head back to the ship and change. We decided on a leisurely lunch in the Panorama Dining Room. It was leisurely alright; it took 1.5 hours to get our lunch service and it largely seemed because the waitstaff didn’t want any other people to sit in their section again. We never dined in Panorama for lunch again after this one experience.
In the PM, I returned to the gym and did a workout waiting for the sun to come out and then watched as the new guests embarked. The cruise was split into two segments to try and get more of it sold. We had a lot of new faces but sadly the sick ones were still around coughing everywhere. I continued to use my avoidance precautions as best as I could but the buffet was a hot bed of germs.
Tonight, seemed to be a Greek themed menu so I stuck with the selection of Greek plates including Zucchini meatballs (Kefeta [sic]), slovaki and a custard pie for dessert. A table mate recommended all the dishes and he was supported by Lino, our head waiter for our table. It was a pretty tasty meal.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Virtual
The third production show of the cruise featuring the singers and dancers. The show is with more modern music and features a cast member interacting with a phone which has different apps. Dancers come out as dancing emojis and such. While the costuming was engaging, the show, in my opinion, was the weakest one of all the productions. It just didn’t flow right and seemed wonky as they moved from app to app on an iPhone displayed on the LED screen.
THEME NIGHT: Space Party
I didn’t know or have anything for this party to wear so I just went as I was. It seemed like a lot of cruisers just showed up because it was on right after the show. It was at 10:15PM in the Promenade. The LED ceiling had different solar system displays and stars showing. It was a nice party with the cruise staff decked out in light up silver wardrobe. The funny part was the party was over at 11PM and they told everyone to check out the after party up at the Horizon Bar. When I went up there along with several other cruise guests, there was no music! Someone messed up this night and left a one-hour gap between the two parties! When the DJ came up, it was music under the stars at the Horizon Bar and not inside at the Attic Club. The lack of music and movement for one hour made me exhausted so I headed to bed shortly after midnight.
DAY 7: BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS
Our arrival was a nail biter for those of us on the starboard side of the ship. We watched as the ship backed into the channel and then come alongside a shipping container vessel (carrying some MSC containers by the way), and then slowly inching back. It was probably the tightest park job I’ve ever seen by a ship. We had to use this section of the pier because it was Sunday and the trolley trains wouldn’t be working. It was truly a sight to behold and nice work by the shore pilot and the bridge crew for an awesome docking without hitting anything (cargo ship or pier)!
It was Sunday so everything was largely closed here. It wasn’t due to the same holiday in Martinique but just a very traditional church-going island. This actually worked in our favor as we decided to head to the Garrison and see if the George Washington House might be open. The ship was doing a tour to it so we figured we would try and the walk was a nice jaunt from the ship. We arrived and found a worker who was doing some clean up and said we could enter for $10USD per person. We did and walked the whole site and when we were leaving, the curator actually had just come back from church to close it up. He opened it before church for the ship’s tour. We lucked out!
It was noon so we tried a place close by, one of two that were open for lunch called Brown Sugar Restaurant. It was a buffet lunch for $40 USD per person, since the other food option open was spicy Jamaican, we had to dine here. The service was non-existent. We needed water as the sun had emerged finally and it was a scorcher but the lady seemed to make it a chore to refill the glass even once. The buffet was extensive but not worth the money they were charging. After lunch, we decided to take a taxi back over to the port because it was so hot! The one-way taxi fare cost us $20 USD.
Back on the ship, we showered and relaxed. Tonight’s dinner menu was not appetizing. I had the strip steak off the always available menu and it was tough despite requesting it be medium. This was one of two nights where I found the main dining room’s menu seriously disappointing and I’m not a picky person by any means.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Come Il Mare
This night featured the Italian opera singers of the Meraviglia. We had heard them in earlier productions but tonight showcased their range. It was a spectacular show. Before the show and the previous night, the cruise director made it a point to say the show wouldn’t be for everyone. It wasn’t for everyone. The interpretations were on the side panels of the words being sung. The problem was the port side panel with the English was partially blocked by the curtain to the stage. I still enjoyed it!
An aside: What I found really rude was despite the warning, the folks who had the 8:30 dining time still attended the show and got up and left en masse to their dining room! It was beyond rude given the caliber of the production being put on. MSC needs to put a block on reserving the show times if it overlaps with the person’s scheduled dining times. Folks with late seating need to see the first show only. Folks with the early seating see the second or third shows depending on when they finish. It’s much more respectful to the performers and the audience that way.
THEME PARTY: Pirates Party
Channel your inner Jack Sparrow mate and come along on the promenade for a fun-filled night at sea! I had a pirate shirt with me after learning of this theme on the Seaside the year prior. It was well-received by the staff who were surprised anyone had anything to go along! It was a typical night of line dances. However, when the party ended at 11PM this time around, I knew there would be a one-hour gap between music so I went straight to bed.
DAY 8: GRENADA
MSC SHORE EXCURSION: Spices and Rainforest
Despite having been on so many cruises, sometimes I do go to someplace new. Today was the day to explore Grenada using a ship’s excursion because I didn’t know the island. I always take an organized tour the first time to a place and then go on my own the second time after I have my bearings. With that said, do NOT take this tour if you’re prone to motion sickness. The roads in Grenada are tight with lots of twists and turns and ups and downs. I got was getting car sick in the back and trying to get some fresh air. The AC in the tour van wasn’t working effectively and the hot air plus the lady who was coughing her head off up front was making me feel more nauseous. Finally, at the lake when I almost puked, the driver let me open the back window. I was fine thereafter but we had already stopped at the spice factory and driven well over an hour like this. The spice factory was short but informative with a 20-minute presentation and then time for shopping in the gift shop out front. The next stops were in the mountain at a lake and national park and then the Annendale Falls. The falls were spectacular and I wish I could’ve gone swimming but timing didn’t allow for it. They had cliff divers doing crazy jumps into the water for money. When the tour returned to the ship, I was still queasy. Overall, there were cheaper taxi options available doing a similar tour minus the nutmeg factory. However, no tour will be without the windy, bumpy roads so keep this in mind.
We sailed for Curacao at 2PM. I went back and sunned for a bit before catching the Snow Party up on deck. At the pier welcome back show they had today, they had the snow machine out there and it appeared again on the pool deck for fake snow during this party. I live in New England, the last thing I wanted to see was snow – fake or real! Ha but it was a good afternoon party to have poolside and helped pass the time.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Butcher’s Cut (Elegant Night)
As a Diamond member, you are given a choice of complimentary specialty dining. We chose this restaurant. The sommelier was quite helpful in finding mom a non-alcoholic drink she could order since the first one she had ordered; the ship didn’t have one of the ingredients. I ordered a glass of Robert Mondavi and the sommelier delivered it promptly. He was very attentive and so was the specialty restaurant manager who stopped by to say hello. I had the shrimp cocktail, the New York Steak (better quality than main dining room) and cheesecake for dessert. It was a nicely paced meal with great service offered by all. It was a nice evening to have dinner away from Panorama and well done!
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Way
Yet another production show brought to you by the production cast of the MSC Meraviglia. It was a high energy dance show with some opera thrown in. I sat much closer to the stage than I usually do for this show because it had filled up quite early tonight. The dancers had a soda fountain themed attire and several wardrobe changes. I liked the energy from it and would recommend it.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Cirque du Soleil’s VIAGGIO
The production was off to a very slow start. It didn’t seem too engaging. When the jugglers and all the other entertainers got going together, the show ended. It took forever for it to ramp up to something exciting and when it did, it was over in the blink of an eye! Yes, there were people walking on the LED wall sideways and a bike which was being pedaled across the ceiling but this show was not like any other type of Cirque show I’ve seen before. It was my first Cirque du Soleil and frankly, I wasn’t impressed by it. My mother fell asleep because it was boring. Other guests were just as confused as we were when the show ended because it had just started to get good when it did so. Being so short, it meant it had to be high energy the whole way through and instead it seemed like the last 10 minutes were. I would skip this show. I did the drink option for $18 pre-booked online.
THEME NIGHT: Gatsby Party
The Gatsby Party was taking a step back to the roaring 20s with cruise staff in period costumes. Since I was in Viaggio during most of it, I didn’t hear the actual type of music played but the LED ceiling was still putting on a good show while it was happening.
DAY 9: CURACAO
We arrived at 1PM. I went up on the sun deck and grabbed some sun before our arrival. I started to feel a bit under the weather today. Mom had started to feel that way at the end of the previous day. By the time we docked at 1PM, I was definitely coming down with something.
During the afternoon, mom and I walked over to the Maritime museum and had a look around at the exhibits. The museum was not too far from the Queen Emma pontoon bridge. We had a walking tour of historical buildings in Willemstad we did afterward on our own. The ship was offering something similar but we found this walking tour online and it actually explained buildings quite well. We walked around quite extensively before heading back to the ship.
Tonight’s main dining room theme was Tropical Night. The menu featured Jamaican jerk chicken and several other Caribbean favorites. It was a good menu, but not perhaps if you’re not a fan of spicy foods. It seemed like the spices weren’t too heavily applied though to the dishes I had but I have a high tolerance for spice.
I went back off the ship after dinner since we were in port until 11PM to grab a drink in town with friends. It was a nice night off the ship. Most of the crew were off the ship that worked during the day, the production casts had the night off and were out and about in town. I returned to the ship and skipped the Tropical Latin Party to go to bed. I was exhausted and wanted to try and beat whatever this sinus thing was happening. Thankfully I had bought more tissues!
DAY 10: ARUBA
Today, mom and I walked around town which was scorching hot as the sun was out! It looked like it was threatening rain but it never materialized. We first went to the National Aruba Archaeological Museum. It was highlighted in a tour book of the island we had bought years earlier. When we arrived, the gentleman said we were in luck as the museum had just reopened during a ceremony the night prior with a new exhibit as well. The cost of admission was FREE. The museum was quite interactive and extensive on the island’s history and archaeological finds. I enjoyed it and would recommend it!
The Aruba Historical Museum was also in Oranjestad and it was a five-dollar admission fee. What the gentleman at the ticket booth failed to state was this museum was also under renovations with the exhibits squished in the middle of the floor and largely unlabeled. They were in the process of moving things around. You could climb the fort tower and get a view in both directions. Overall, I would pass on this museum until they’re done their reorganization of exhibits.
The island has a few other museums on offer as well and can be found by going to Visit Aruba’s website. We didn’t go to the model train museum as it was too far out of town. However, there was an antiquities museum in town as well. There was a free trolley running very infrequently from the port taking you on a loop around town. It was free as well. This was new since the last time I was in town. The entire port area had been done over nicely. When we returned to the ship, this was the first port where workers were outside squirting you with hand sanitizer besides the girl in the buffet.
The gym was largely deserted so after a late lunch, I went there to do a workout and see if I could sweat out whatever this bug was coming on. I took a brief nap before getting ready for dinner. I didn’t write down what was on the menu tonight but it couldn’t have been too memorable as I didn’t take photos of it either.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Life is Magic
Now here was a proper magic show with sleight of hand tricks, the sawing in half of the beautiful lady, putting her in a box and escaping and then switching it out for the magician. The show was definitely engaging and used some of the dancers as well to move things along between his wardrobe changes or setting up for the next act. I would recommend this show if it’s still around on the ship for the 7-day itineraries.
For the second time, the production of SONOR from Cirque du Soleil was cancelled due to a technical issue. This time it wasn’t due to rough seas. When I went to go and change out the tickets, they were in the midst of a dress rehearsal or something and there were a bunch of technicians standing around. Since this was the second time I had to re-schedule this show, I wasn’t happy. If they had done this rehearsal earlier in the day instead of going ashore (which they did do because I saw them out), the cast would’ve discovered the technical problem and got it fixed in time. I was starting to regret booking any of the Cirque du Soleil shows on the ship.
THEME NIGHT: 60s, 70s and 80s Party
The cruise staff once again dressed up in their best 70s outfits, mostly bell-bottoms and glistening tops. The party was true to the time frames in questions featuring songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s which were heard at most of the other parties. I didn’t finish the party and went to bed.
DAY 11: At Sea
The morning consisted of a Welcome Back party for Diamond Card members only on the deck 6 promenade with more drinks and light snacks available. The LED screen did a performance of outer space landing on Earth and then the Captain and the senior officers appeared on the bridge. They seemed to be keeping their distance from the cruise guests as a good portion of the ship was now sick with whatever upper respiratory / sinus bug was going around.
In the afternoon after a buffet lunch, I went out to the sun deck and relaxed. They had a King of the Sea show on at 4PM but it seemed like they picked up random people to do it. It wasn’t overly entertaining so I went back to the room to shower and take a nap. Tonight’s dinner was a formal night and the beef tournedos were on the menu again. I ordered a double of them as the meal was good the first time around. The first one was very tender but the second one on the plate was overcooked. I’m not sure how that occurred but the salt from the covering made me thirsty the rest of the night.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Paz
This is a production showcasing the Flamenco dance with the art of Picasso on the LED screens behind the dancers and rotating through the audience projections. The lead dancers did an amazing job. The footwork of both of them was so fast and graceful, it was a good show. The artwork itself was enjoyable to see and how they worked it into the show. Definitely a must catch, especially if you like the flamenco dance.
MOVIES UNDER THE STARS: Cars 3
The ship had run a few shows and music video type productions on the big screen at the pool but tonight was Cars 3. I hadn’t seen it in its entirety with my nephew and was waiting on the silent disco to open so I watched it for a bit until I got to a part I saw and then got a drink and came back. It’s nice they have a movie on the big screen because during the day, the screen is largely used for what’s on at the pool deck with no movies playing. There’s just tables and chairs setup but no food on offer like Princess Cruises does with popcorn and such. The bar is open there if you want to do a walk-up drink order.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Silent Disco
The Carousel Lounge once again opened up with a silent disco. Housing three channels, one EDM, one Latin and one old school, there was plenty on offer. It seemed most people were on the first channel which the DJ was actually spinning in real time. The other two were pre-recorded it seemed. You had to check in for the headset and check out for it. The problem was, the bar in the Carousel Lounge didn’t have Grey Goose so I had to exit to get a drink at the bar straight ahead in the casino. You also had to hand over the headset when you had to use the bathroom which was just outside the Carousel Lounge. It seemed a little bit silly if they scanned your cruise card for taking one of the headsets. However, the Carousel Lounge was an amazing venue and it was a fun night. The music continued after the Silent Disco ended up at the Horizon Pool and Bar. I stayed up a bit later to dance to the music before finally crashing to bed around 1:30AM.
DAY 12: JAMAICA
Now if you’re wondering why we hit Jamaica, it was because on November 4, 2019 after sailing from Grenada it was announced due to operational issues on Ocean Cay, the island was not ready to accept ship visits. As a result, the compensation offered was a $100 onboard credit and a 20% of cruise fare paid to be applied to a future cruise. The compensation offered was astounding for missing a private island. I wasn’t sure they were going to make it there when I saw the photos on Cruise Critic prior to sailing but if we did it would’ve been nice to be one of the first. Turns out three sailings stops were cancelled and now it seems on hold for the next sailings as well. Since we would’ve had 3 sea days instead of 2, MSC decided to have the ship call in Ocho Rios, Jamaica since there was berth space available.
When we arrived in Jamaica, we pulled in and looked like we were going to dock at the James Bond pier which was not close to anything but swung a hard left and came around to the other closer pier. We didn’t book anything on this island as we’ve seen what we wanted to see. Mom just wanted to go to the shopping center outside the port area with Margaritaville and to find another box of tissues. The tissue hunt brought us way outside the port with all the harassing taxi drivers trying to sell you tours every 2 feet and then other seedy characters trying to sell you marijuana. Both were out of luck, in MA marijuana is legal. I don’t smoke it but told them it was legal back home so didn’t need it. They didn’t like that response. Ha ha! Soon, those annoying folks are not going to find someone to buy it. One interesting thing to note, while the taxi drivers were all local, a predominant part of the stores we visited in search of tissues were not owned by original islanders. We had noticed this in the last few ports but this was really in your face here. No wonder the locals are not making any money if they can’t even sell their tourist wares. It seemed more desperate than my last visit. I truly was annoyed with the locals pushing stuff at me every couple of feet. I wanted to get back to the ship asap. I really wished MSC had gone somewhere, ANYWHERE but Jamaica like Cayman or Cozumel!
Tonight, was Italian Night on the ship. In the main dining room, the menu was Italian themed with meatballs as an app, chicken parmigiana and Osso Bucco on order for mains and a lemoncello-type of dessert. The waiter also brought the second cake for my mom that was ordered by the travel agent. It was a nice touch and they did a whole big thing. The cake said Best Wishes and it was handled by William, the section lead.
FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Meraviglioso Amor
The last of the production shows was the second best for mom (Born to Rock her first) and one of my favorites as well. The production featured hits like Gloria, foreign love songs with familiar lyrics so the person knew what it was no matter what language it was. The dancers and singers came together at the end along with the cruise staff and selected staff from different areas to say goodbye to Italian opera singers singing Time to Say Goodbye. It was a fitting close to a great show and a capstone to the production shows presented throughout the voyage.
After the show ended, we hurried down the promenade to the logo shop for the Logo Shop Happy Hour where if you buy 3 things you would get 20% off. I bought a Lego version of the ship for my nephew for Christmas and two magnets to give him of the Doremi character for the refrigerator and trip souvenirs. I was also entered to win a ship figurine signed by the Captain. Since it was 9PM, I stuck around for the drawing. I didn’t win it but it was a good thing I hadn’t because my luggage was already overweight!
THEME PARTY: MSC Little Italy
The cruise staff were dressed in the colors of Italy but sadly I was exhausted so I went to bed after quickly stopping by. To be in theme, just wear red, white or green or all three!
DAY 13: Sea Day
The last day on the ship meant doing things I’d said I was going to do the whole cruise and never got around to. After walking a bit in the morning after eating breakfast, mom and I stopped by the Bamboo Pool for a smoothie. The Bamboo Pool had a bunch of delicious smoothies and the MSC for Me app tipped me off to them when they offered a special earlier in the cruise. I did stop by and look at the beverage menu and said I would return. I never did until today. I had the Strawberry concoction with yogurt and it was very nice. Mom sampled a different one without the yogurt in it and hers was a purple color so I’m not sure what was in it. The drinks cost $6.50 each but were pretty decent for the price paid.
I spent the rest of the morning catching some sun and returned for lunch to the Marketplace to meet up with mom. After lunch we decided to head to the Photo Shop to pick up the complimentary Mediterranean night photo and find the others. I found the Halloween photos and decided to buy one of them. The embarkation photo didn’t look good so we chucked that. Vanessa who did the photo shoot with the Halloween photos rang us up. I asked her why they had printed all these photos when you can tap the cruise card in the kiosks and print them around the corner. It is so wasteful and you have to jack up the price of the photos to cover all the paper and chemical waste. MSC should have a selection pre-cruise where you choose if you want any photos printed or if you want them done digitally and you can request the print be made if you like it. This would be more environmentally friendly and perhaps the cost savings could mean they’d purchase tissues for the staterooms again! Win win, right?!
After finishing up with the photos, I met up with some cruise friends at the Polar Aquapark in the aft part of Deck 19. I had not been up there the whole cruise but wanted to try the water slides. The water slides were a ton of fun. Two of them require an inflatable tube to ride, the other one which shoots you into a bowl doesn’t require a tube. The bowl slide was not as fun as you don’t shoot around it as much and then stop and have to climb out and go down the stairs. There are other water features largely geared towards kids but tons of adults were in the water park having fun too!
After the water park, I needed some sun to dry off as I had to finish packing stuff including the bathing suit. The girls who I met were in the Aurea area up front on Deck 19. I wondered what this area was like as it faces the pool deck. It wasn’t relaxing because the music from the pool deck is blasting right at you. It was also a bit windy up there since it was so high up. I went back down to Deck 18 forward behind the screen and a nap.
At the last dinner we had an amazing time chatting with our table mates and wishing each other well in our future travels. We also missed the Beer Prov Adult Comedy Show. I wasn’t too saddened by missing it and instead enjoyed the company of our fellow table mates a bit longer.
We returned to the room to do the last of the packing and get the bags out of the room. They had to be out by 1AM but ours was out by 9:30PM. We went to bed early because we had to meet in the Carousel Lounge at 7:30AM. All Diamond US citizens had to meet at that time and were assigned Lilac 1 luggage tags.
DAY 14 – MIAMI, FL, USA
I was up at 5:15AM to get ready and the Marketplace Buffet was open at 6AM. When we got upstairs, the Norwegian Breakaway was still in the Miami turning basin. Goodness, what an early start this was! We were in the channel in the early hours of the morning and tied up. The siren they have on the inside of the ship by the bulkhead doors that opens out is so darn loud and ricochets off the buildings it was impossible to sleep with our starboard side facing the pier. This made a long day even longer.
We reported to the Carousel Lounge as directed by the information left in our stateroom. You had to vacate your stateroom by 8AM anyway. We noticed none of the luggage tags had been called. This continued for over an hour as we noticed more and more cruisers disappearing from the Carousel Lounge with Lilac tags. We had a noon flight and needed to get off the ship. When 8:30AM came and they said disembarkation had been stopped, I made my move and asked where the actual gang ways were because we needed to get out. The lady told me where they were but disembark had stopped. When it resumed, we were in position and got off. Most of the lilac people had done so as well. There was huge gaps in luggage in the terminal for a luggage color that wasn’t called yet! No wonder the whole disembarkation process was messed up. The line for the non-US citizens inside the terminal was lengthy. All of them needed to be fingerprinted. For US citizens, all they did was snap a photo of the passport with a handheld device and send us on our way. The US citizen line moved faster and those were supposed to be the ones getting off the ship first anyway if people read the instructions! We made it to the airport by 10AM and checked in for our flight home.
THOUGHTS ON SHIP DESIGN: The Meraviglia is a ship dubbed for all seasons. Her overall design supports her being a ship for cold weather cruising only. Her top deck is woefully inadequate for the passenger load she has and this will become a problem when the ship commences its Caribbean season. One side of the ship is always shaded from the smokestack back and deck chairs are crammed in every nook and cranny along the walking/jogging track. If you’re looking for a proper sun deck, stick with the MSC Seaside sailing year-round Miami.
The ship’s interiors have some really beautiful spaces including the crystal staircases in the atrium. There’s a lot of wasted space on Deck 6 and 7 midship where the entry to the dining rooms and casino / Carousel Lounge are respectively. The gym is a postage stamp and is in dire need of better equipment and expansion. The promenade is great but with all sorts of sales going on and photography setups, it makes passing this area a pinch point every night on the way to the shows.
The bathrooms on this ship were always distant from where you were, especially for the nightclub. If you wanted a bathroom that was large enough from the Attic Club, you had to walk down past the kid’s club to the ones by the elevators. The Horizon Pool had a one stall bathroom on Deck 16 but this wasn’t enough to support a mildly packed nightclub. You’d always have to walk a distance to use the bathroom. This didn’t make sense if the goal was alcohol sales! Likewise, for the sun deck, if you are on Deck 18 forward by the solarium roof, you have to come down one deck and go inside across the Bamboo Pool below where you were sunning and into the bathroom there. There didn’t seem like any convenient bathrooms to the Atmosphere pool deck either. You had to go into the Marketplace buffet to go bathroom. I never found it more cumbersome to need a bathroom on any cruise ship than this one! I found this truly odd.
The Carousel Lounge is a far superior venue and fully equipped with a lot of audio-visual equipment. I’m surprised only a very small portion of what the equipment was in the lounge was used for Cirque du Soleil. It was evident either the shows were changed in some way to shorten them or to make it easier for the cast. There were projections and a large circular screen which were never deployed during either Viaggio or SONOR. I tend to notice production aspects more and love a good visual show. Sonor used some visuals on the LED wall but not nearly as much as the room was capable of handling.
Lastly, the ship’s walking and running tracks are so crammed during warm weather days with sun bathers and people trying to run and walk and just figure out what they’re doing, it would make sense to have walkers use the Deck 7 semi-loop and leave the runners topside. My mom got clipped a few times by runners while staying in her lane. The runners didn’t seem to care or apologize for it either. This ship is not the best for fitness if you’re looking for that.
STAFF SHOUT OUT: I always like to recognize staff who went above and beyond to make my holiday memorable. Ahmadi, my stateroom steward for accommodating most special requests (sans tissues) and always greeting me in the hallway no matter the time of day or night when he was working. He got used to our schedule and cleaned our room when we had our dinner. Our dining team of Lino, the main waiter and Frederick, the assistant waiter, were amazing and kept us hydrated and offered us more food if we wanted it. If we wanted more, there was rarely a wait. William who oversaw this team of amazing professionals was also quite attentive and handled a special request to find decaf tea for mom. When coming to the USA, the Meraviglia had to get rid of this nice tea display case which didn’t comply with USCG Vessel Sanitation program inspection criteria. As a result, it was a hunt for various versions of tea. He saw to it mom had her supply! He also oversaw the birthday cake situation and figured out a workable solution! Ryan De Leon in the Sky Lounge and in the nightclub was also amazing. He knew my name and my drink order by heart! Lastly, the Kaito Teppanyaki restaurant cook Dominique for a good show and the team who would greet me whenever they saw me in the Marketplace Buffet when they were up there selling the restaurant. Even the guest services staff on this ship were so kind and helpful (unlike Seaside’s guest service staff). I had a repeated issue with the ink on my stateroom keycard rubbing off in the intense heat topside and they replaced it without issue and with a smile. They have the toughest job on the ship constantly getting yelled at!
SUMMARY: The Meraviglia is a nicely decorated ship. The LED panel is a great way to entertain. The night time cruise staff went out of their way to make the ship enjoyable and make sure everyone was dancing. The crew on the ship were the happiest and most efficient if I had to compare it to the Seaside last October. The crew made the trip. The chef could lay off the salt and I’m not a foodie but if I’m saying it was salty, the food was not as good as the Seaside’s preparation was. I didn’t encounter a rude staff member anywhere on the ship and only had slow service once, in the main dining room during lunch. I know the crew had a chance to get off the ship finally in each of the ports we visited. I think that plus a crew party helped to lift spirits among them.
Would I recommend the Meraviglia? For top notch service, yes, I would! Would I sail on the Meraviglia again? I’m not so sure I would. If it were the Caribbean and the Seaside were on offer, I would probably sail Seaside instead. If it is a cold weather cruise, then I would consider Meraviglia again.
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