We chose this cruise after browsing the MSC Cruises website for a itinerary that was a little out of the ordinary. We found this itinerary very interesting because of the stops in Iceland and Greenland. We are former non-adventurous travelers/backpackers (enjoying street food and restaurants, friends' places or motels and hostels, and public transportation or rental cars and, of course, planes for longer distances) converting to the convenience of cruise travel.
CHECK IN: We had the Aurea experience and we were assigned a time when to arrive for the check in around 4pm which gave us time to buy things in town, later i'll explain why. The embarkation was very easy, we arrived to the terminal by taxi, dropped the luggage at a designated place and walked to the main entrance where the security and check in was. We were offered a cup of fruit juice. The process was very quick. We did not know the luggage had to be dropped at a separate entrance from the main one, but our taxi driver knew, so that helped. We were given a time when to check in. After the check in they took our souvenirs pictures that were later available at the photography point. As soon as we boarded they took our pictures for the passengers database and they told us that the cruise cards would be in our cabin which they were. Our friendly cabin steward Leonel came to introduce himself to us after 30 minutes. Our hand luggage arrived one at the time in the next couple of hours. We boarded without our big suitcases because they were lost at the airport and we took this three weeks cruise without them. We waited for all our hand luggage to arrive to count what exactly we had with us. We had a baby with us so all the baby stuff was in our hand luggage, leaving not much space for our clothes. We shopped briefly at a couple of stores for basic clothes and toiletries before boarding. We had travel insurance and after we came back we placed a refund request to get reimbursed. This seems a common issue occurring at the Hamburg airport.
THE EMBARKATION TERMINAL: The terminal in Altona itself is quite a big space, but everything was marked and easy to follow. The luggage drop point was not intuitively placed, but, as I mentioned, our taxi driver knew where to go. Employees spoke multiple languages. All seemed done quite efficiently to us.