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98 MSC Cruises Genoa Cruise Reviews

EMBARKATION It is not worth booking boarding passes on line. We would have boarded more quickly through the normal channel and the waiting time was only about 10 mins. CABINS Perfectly adequate space and well attended by the cabin ... Read More
EMBARKATION It is not worth booking boarding passes on line. We would have boarded more quickly through the normal channel and the waiting time was only about 10 mins. CABINS Perfectly adequate space and well attended by the cabin steward. The special offer laundry service at 20 euros for 30 items is worth taking. EATING It is worth ordering breakfast in the cabin and then topping up at the buffet or Red Velvet Restaurant. We did not try them, but reports from other people suggested that the speciality restaurants were not worth paying for. We never had a bad meal in the Red Velvet. DRINKS We paid 180 euros for a drinks package for 1 PERSON. That gave us drinks and water by the glass for both of us in the buffet and bottles of wine, water etc. in the Red Velvet, any leftovers we took back to the cabin. That turned out to be good value. SHORE EXCURSIONS We arranged our own for a fraction of the organised tours. It's easy to do and much more fun. If you go to Rome, visit the Castle D'Angelo, just down the road from the Vatican, for the best coffee and overall view of the city. TRAVEL We got ripped off with the BA flights as a package. Far cheaper to book the cruise and fligts seperately. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
The MSC Splendida surpassed our expectations. The embarkation process was a bit disorganized and took a while and most people sat in the hot waiting room for a few hours, but we walked around the city so for us, it was not too bad. ... Read More
The MSC Splendida surpassed our expectations. The embarkation process was a bit disorganized and took a while and most people sat in the hot waiting room for a few hours, but we walked around the city so for us, it was not too bad. We were happily surprised to have been upgraded from an inside cabin to a balcony room and the room was very nice! Everything was clean and the balcony and view were stunning. The one negative is the closet was a bit small. The ship itself is beautiful and clean. The style is very Italian and dramatic and everything is constantly being cleaned and polished. The food was decent, sometimes good but always well presented. Room service breakfast was small but tasty, and the restaurant and buffet always had a pretty good selection. Some people on board felt a bit nickled and dimed, as one has to pay for any type of beverage including water in the restaurants (with the exception of complimentary coffee, tea, and "juice" during breakfast). The buffet has free water, coffee and tea at all times it is open. Other things like gelato have a charge as well. As Europeans though, we are used to paying for drinks, so it was not a problem. The excursions were not very good for the price, but the places where the ship docked were exciting and beautiful. The shows were colorful and interesting. For the more conservative, the costumes of the dancers were little more than a thong and tiny jacket, so perhaps not for children. It was impressive how with so many languages aboard, they were able to entertain everyone quite well. Disembarkation went very smoothly and quickly. Overall we were very pleased at the value and experience aboard the MSC Splendida and cannot wait for our next trip! Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
This was our first cruise and we therefore had nothing to compare the experience with. All in all, we found the ship to be very luxurious and stylish, the staff very helpful and standards of cleanliness and hygiene were exemplary. We ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we therefore had nothing to compare the experience with. All in all, we found the ship to be very luxurious and stylish, the staff very helpful and standards of cleanliness and hygiene were exemplary. We initially booked the cruise because it was calling at Gibraltar and it was a destination we were very interested in visiting. In comparison with other cruise operators the price was also attrative. We flew from Gatwick to Genoa and the transfer to the boat at Genoa port was included, however for those who had travelled independently, taxis were available for 25Euros. We had checked in on line but still ended up waiting in the cruise terminal to board the ship for around 3 hours, luckily we had taken plenty to read. Our balcony cabin was lovely. Bigger than we expected, including a bath with shower over in the en suite. Beds were large and comfy. As other reviews have commented there are some negatives. We also found the smell of cigarette smoke wafted around the ship and occasionally the smell of drains also. We tried the Bora Bora buffet just once. We were unable to find a table and the noise and crowds of people just weren't for us. Instead we took all of our meals in the Reggia restaurant, relaxing whilst the waiters took care of us. We have been on holiday to Italy a number of times and so knew what to expect from the restaurant menu. Lots of courses with very small portions. Some of the food was excellent, some was not so good. If you didn't like your choice the staff were more than happy to get you something else to try. One thing that surprised us was the ban on bringing any alcohol on board. On returning from any excursion your bags were scanned and any alcohol confiscated to be returned to you at the end of the cruise. There was a mini-bar in the cabin but the items were quite expensive. We enjoyed dressing up for the Gala evenings and found that the majority of guests had also made an effort including quite a few ball gowns, though not many tuxedos. Entertainment in the bars was excellent, especially the jazz bar and for those who like to dance, there was live music each night in the Aft Bar. Leaving and rejoining the boat in port was well organised and there were plenty of taxis available or a shuttlebus service if you did not want to go on an excursion. As has previously been mentioned only a small number of the guests speak English and at lunch time we often ended up on a table with Dutch or German guests. In the evening we were placed on a table with other couples from The UK and we had a great laugh, often being last to leave the restaurant. We were prepared for the cost of drinks, water, coffee and the service charge of 7 Euros per day, per person but it was still a bit of a shock at the end of the week when we got the bill. The excursions and shuttlebus tickets added several hundred Euros alone. I'm glad we went and the Ship is amazing but the public areas often feel very crowded and the day seems very structured with restaurant times and excursion times. I think I need a holiday to get over the holiday. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Hi all reviews are subjective and it's about managing expectations. After reading the mixed reviews we decided to place our expectations towards the low end of the spectrum particularly after our fantastic time aboard the Carnival ... Read More
Hi all reviews are subjective and it's about managing expectations. After reading the mixed reviews we decided to place our expectations towards the low end of the spectrum particularly after our fantastic time aboard the Carnival Magic in Aug. Perhaps this is why we had a superb family vacation! We are a family of 4 Brits and arrived at Malpensa airport on 17th dec. After being greeted we were told to wait by an exit. After 30 mins we were shown to our coach ,that was the last communication. As this is our second cruise we knew that the transfer would take 2 hours, we also knew that our luggage would be transferred to the ship directly, a lot didn't so confusion reigned as we strolled to the ship. We had checked in online with MSC so straight to fast pass check in and on board within 30 mins! The Splendida is really beautiful , from the jaw dropping Swarovski staircase to the many beautiful themed bars. The ship seemed about 80 % full with majority of passengers Italian,French ,German and Spanish with a smattering of Brits and Americans . All drinks have a 15% service charge added to the list price which was the same on carnival. A 7 euro daily service charge per adult and child over 14 was also added again the same as carnival. Our cabin number was 11029 located 6 cabins from the front and under the pool areas which was handy. The balcony cabin was a nice size and the kids( 13&11) were ok in the sofa bed. A safe,hair-drier, minibar,dressing gowns and flat screen tv were included. European 2 pin plugs are required. We were allocated a table for4 in le Reggia restaurant table 706 upstairs. Our waiter Anibal was fine. We were the 6pm sitting and always overrun by 30 mins not surprising with 7 courses! There were casual,informal,formal and 2 gala dinners. Gala saw a few dinner suits but mainly jacket and tie, the same for formal. The other 2 wear what you want. The dress codes were observed by about 60 % on our sitting. The daily booklet delivered to your room indicated evening dress code. The food was Italian - appetiser,starter,soup,salad,pasta,main course,dessert. As a family we will try most foods but if Italian food is not to your liking then it's the buffet for you! Now the buffet Bora Bora is altogether a different proposition, at peak times it is a scrum! Tip take the lift nearest to room 257 ( prefix floor no.) and this will take you to rear of buffet where it is quieter. Great for people watching, this is when our European friends start to arm wave and get excitable. Tip find a table first and guard it, even a coat on a chair is no guarantee your table will be free when you return! To be honest we gave up breakfast after day 2 but our itinerary allowed us to as most ports we arrived at 1pm. So straight to lunch which was quieter and started at 11.00 -it was lie ins for us! We pre booked the Cheers package which was drinks inclusive with lunch and dinner - 357 euros for the four of us. This was not available on board. You still had to sign a bill each meal but the amount was reduced to zero! You could take breakfast and lunch in the dining rooms. The kids loved the pools but are not kids clubs fans so cannot comment also we never bothered with the main entertainment, the music in the bars was fine for us. The Christmas decorations began to appear after day 2 and were a great seasonal touch. The staff in general were great and courteous at all times but then we had no problems. Our cabin steward was a star the wife loved the no making of beds etc. The biggest bonus for us was the weather, average 19 C and in Valencia peaked at 24! Clear blue skies all week. The ports we visited were Barcelona, Casablanca ( tip take a taxi to Hassan 11 mosque with worlds tallest minaret tower, it is not walkable. Taxis become cheaper as you walk out of immediate area. If you walk to town allow 35 mins, taking a right at the crossroads. There is a market behind a walled area which is good fun if you are assertive. The wife was not happy and had us back on the ship within 2 hours!). Gibraltar, Valencia and Marseille were the others. Summing up a great family holiday we would definitely go with MSC again as long as the price was as good as this was. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Hi there, got back on Sunday and had a really good time until our last day. Disembarkation was a nightmare. It appeared to us that once you had settled your bill and been given your embarkation instructions you were of no consequence. ... Read More
Hi there, got back on Sunday and had a really good time until our last day. Disembarkation was a nightmare. It appeared to us that once you had settled your bill and been given your embarkation instructions you were of no consequence. The procedure is that you are given a colour and time to be at a certain place. We were warned that there would be no tanoy announcements so were prepared. We decided to wait on the pool deck for our time of 11am in the Shaker bar and made a move at just before 10.30am. We got to the bar and it was totally empty. There was a cleaner there and she told us that everyone had gone. Oh dear, panic. There were two other couples with us who had transfers to Milan the same as us. We were making our way quickly to the exit when an announcement was made that any remaining passengers should quickly disembark as the ship was about to leave. More panic!! By that time we were worried about the bus we were supposed to be catching. When we got off the ship our luggage was not where it was supposed to be and had been moved. Eventually we found our cases and were directed to where the buses were. We were put on a very small bus as obviously the main transport had already left without us through no fault of ours. We still don't know how this happened. Gripe No. 2 -â€" I seemed to spend our first couple of hours on the ship phoning and running backwards and forwards to reception. I had ordered a bottle of wine and canapes to be in our cabin on arrival and had to ask Reception where they were. They were eventually delivered at about 7.00pm when we were already supposed to be at dinner. Anyway, we enjoyed them as we had altered our sitting to 2nd which is the time we had originally ordered. I also had to go to Reception three times to ask for our drinks vouchers which I had ordered only to be told each time to come back later. Gripe No. 3 - My Sister's suitcase was delivered shortly after we embarked but mine did not arrive until about 7.00pm. Gripe No. 4 - We really could have done without the two and a half hour journey from Milan to Genoa, especially on the homeward trip. When we originally booked the cruise we were supposed to be flying to Genoa which would have been much better but some time after booking were told that it had been changed to Milan. Our departure airport was altered too from Gatwick to Heathrow?? On the whole we enjoyed our time on the ship. We found the staff very helpful and polite, especially our two cabin boys. We got used to the scrum for food at lunchtimes. In fact, we enjoyed this food much more than in the evening. We felt that if folk couldn't find anything to eat then there must be something wrong with them. The excursions were good; expensive but our guides were excellent. Not sure whether we will do another MSC cruise -We got on well with the germans, spanish, portuguese but found the Italian passengers to be very rude and unfriendly. We did try to be friendly with them but to no avail. Ah well, we tried! Another point I'd like to make is that some of the staff were asked if they received any of the service charge we were all paying each day and they told us that they did not???? Hmm! I wonder. Anyway, on the whole we enjoyed it and I would definitely like to take another cruise some time. I think I am hooked. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Have cruised twice previously in recent years with NCL (Gem) and Costa (Fortuna). Went with open mind and were happy with cruise and would book again if a good deal came up. Costa and NCL could not match the price we paid for 2 ... Read More
Have cruised twice previously in recent years with NCL (Gem) and Costa (Fortuna). Went with open mind and were happy with cruise and would book again if a good deal came up. Costa and NCL could not match the price we paid for 2 balconies cabins. However you must take into account all additional charges to really work out which company offers you the best deal. Firstly ship really is "splendid", and the cleanest ship I have been on. If I was made to choose between the above 3 companies I would say my preference was Costa, MSC then NCL. There are pros and cons with each company/ship. Here are a few points: - Embarkation / Disembarkation -â€" very good -â€" as people get on at many ports it was not busy in Genoa. Had to vacate room by 7.30am which I thought was a little too early as kids still asleep, transfers all went fine. - Smoking -â€" never a problem, only smoking on open decks and barely noticed it. - Mixed nationalities -â€" I like cruising with Europeans, probably more so than british, never experienced any rudeness -â€" lifts a nightmare though, you need to be quick or use the stairs!. - Ship beautifully clean. But very big and not good idea if you have mobility issues. - Drinks -â€" took the Cheers (forfait) package. Worked very well, especially for children who could get drinks at meal times and around the pool deck whilst buffet was open (12-4pm most days) as a result we only had to purchase the odd drink in a bar. Also Peter Pan tokens very good value as can be exchanged for ice creams or lovely milk shakes. I would recommend purchasing a package or tokens in advance as you avoid the 15% charge. - Water, ice, tea and coffee available 24 hrs in Buffet. - Pools -â€" Nice indoor & outdoor pools, - and lots of spas which were all adequately warm, and flume (although more suited to youngsters rather than teens). - Decks -â€" lots of room on decks -â€" lovely comfy pods on deck 17. - Staff -â€" No real issues -â€" on such a huge ship you can't expect to get the same level of personal service. My perception was that staff were less friendly and keen compared to Costa & NCL. - Bathrobes in cabins is nice touch. - Food -â€" neither good nor bad, adequate (my parents ate all their meals in the dinning room with a wider choice of dishes and better quality). - Buffet -â€" food fine, never a problem finding a table (tip -â€" go right down to the stern -â€" lovely and quiet -â€" although quite a walk up to the hot food for breakfast!). - Entertainment -â€" young entertainment staff very good, spoke several languages fluently and arranged fun games for all nationalities. - Sports -â€" squash court (with tennis rackets) is great, sports pitch was set up as a soccer pitch, table tennis & table football & shuffleboard. Equipment has to be booked out from F1 Simulator which is tucked away at the top of the ship. (Tip, take your own TT bats/balls and equipment for your favourite sport it saves the hassle of having to book out equipment. - 4D Cinema -â€" 7E for about 10 mins -â€" but children enjoyed it. - Bowling -â€" 5E for 6 goes -â€" bit of a waste of money really. - Gym -â€" very busy when I went so I gave up and ran on the deck, although their jogging track is ridiculous and non existent, I ran on deck 7. - Spa -â€" only paid to go once when it was half price ($8 for hour). Sauna & Steam rooms only. - Kids Club -â€" Our children didn't use them. - Shows -â€" all were visual shows which overcame the language barriers some were very good, some not so good. - Cabins -â€" spacious, balcony lovely, kept nice and clean. (opened up divider between our balconies which was great. Steward a bit elusive, but was quite nice not having him hanging around. When I phoned Reception asking for things a few times, it was never sorted, but couldn't be bothered to worry about little things. - Ports -â€" Didn't do any of the excursions as too expensive for our family of 5. Also there are usually options to using their shuttle buses -â€" do some research. - Itinerary -â€" Not very long in some ports, you need to really plan it if you go it alone. Naples: Got ferry to Capri, but was raining hard by the time we got there, so went up on funicular had quick look around then came back. Ferry journey not much fun with 3 children as couldn't go out on deck. Palermo -â€" lovely weather so stayed on board Tunis -â€" camels on portside great, shopping village fun, but nightmare being hassled as we left port. Town very run down, looked for nearby beach but couldn't find it, not much time there so went back to ship. Palma -â€" took local bus No. 1 into main square, then train to Soller (just opposite bus stop). We all loved the train journey, definitely worth the money. Took tram down to Port Soller. Lots of building work going on at the moment, but nice beach and lots of shops. Got the 211 Express bus back to Palma and then No. 1 back to the port. All very easy. - Barcelona -â€" Took blue port bus ($2) into town (about 1-2 mile walk). Hoped to do cable car, but ran out of time. Middle station closed for renovation and couldn't work out how to get to the other entry points, by the time we did it had closed! - Marseille -â€" Long way to town -â€" ship shuttle too expensive for our family -â€" lovely weather so stayed on ship. To summarise, was impressed with ship & cabin and would cruise with them again, don't go if you like to cruise with English speaking guests and if you except high quality food and attentive service. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
I booked this cruise for two reasons: because it was going to Alexandria (with the opportunity to visit the Pyramids)and because there was no single supplement.The BA flight from Heathrow got us to Milan in under two hours, but the coach ... Read More
I booked this cruise for two reasons: because it was going to Alexandria (with the opportunity to visit the Pyramids)and because there was no single supplement.The BA flight from Heathrow got us to Milan in under two hours, but the coach journey from Malpensa airport to Genoa took about two and three-quarter hours. We even had to queue at the port to get off. I had checked in online, so followed the signs to the so-called Express check-in, which took longer than the ladies I had met on the plane who took the normal route. I commented on this to a member of staff who were not at all interested. I was impressed when I arrived on board to be greeted by a member of staff who escorted me to my cabin (Cunard's White Star service has something to learn from this). The cabin was well furnished and comfortable, particularly for one. My steward soon came to introduce himself and bring my suitcase.The clientelle is truly international. It must have been school holiday time in Italy, as there were lots of Italian children aboard. Other nationalities were French, German, Canadian, Norwegian, Swedish, Brazilian, etc. I did not find this a problem, and preferred it to the 'middle class middle England' crowd on our Fred Olsen Christmas/New Year cruise. However, it did mean that every announcement was in at least three languages. Consequently the quizzes were rather long winded, and the Bingo must have been a nightmare!I ate in La Reggia restaurant every night. The option was to pay extra for Mexican food or pizza in Pago Pago. The food was certainly not Cordon Bleu, more three star Italian hotel fare. Plenty to choose from as long as you like pasta and rissotto. I don't drink wine, but there were wine packages available which others on my table took advantage of and enjoyed.The choice in the self-service restaurants Pago Pagoand Bora Bora was OK - plenty of choice but somewhat lukewarm from what I hard from others. I tended to stick with salad at lunch time. The waiters are so obsessed with clearing and cleaning that it was impossible as a solo eater to get up and get seconds or dessert, as you could come back in 30 seconds and find the place cleared! I heard this from most of the single travellers I chatted to aboard. Also difficult in these restaurants to get a drink. One day I counted over 12 waiters within sight, but not one came over and asked if I would like something to drink.Oh yes drink! The talk of the ship that you have to pay for every drop of water and can only get a tea or coffee without paying for it at breakfast or afternoon tea. But let's face it this is a cheap shipand they've got to balance the books somehow. I paid £70 a day and that included a scheduled BA flight, so I was not too upset by paying a couple of pounds for a large bottle of water. The entertainment was very visual, as one would expect with an international audience. The Brits got a bit snobby what the opera performances turned in 'al together clap along' sessions. But of course the Italians treat opera very differently and it's much more a popular form of music for them. The soprano and tenor were excellent as were the dancers, but I got rather bored with the speciality acts.Some of the evening entertainment was of the Butlins style, but there were options, and the Splendida bar, the piano bar, and particularly the jazz bar offered good music throughout the evening.As on most cruise ships the photographers were a pain, but I did actually see one of them almost dragging one poor lady to pose for a picture. When they were printed (in their thousands, what a waste!) they were poorly displayed so it was almost impossible find your photo. We used to count the photographers as they packed up for the night while we sat in the jazz bar and there were more than a dozen of them.I did not take an organised excursion at every port of call, but really enjoyed the four I did at Ephesus, Athens, Mount Etna and Rome. The 'last night' was actually two nights before we got back to Genoa, as some people were disembarking at Rome. But I felt on the last day that it was all over and didn't like the feeling I was being 'thrown out' before I was ready to go. No show at all on the last evening. All in all a good value extra holiday on a beautiful ship which may have some design faults, but then so does the QM2! Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
After reading the bad reviews I ventured on my cruise with low expectations. I can honestly say that I had a wonderful trip and wonder where all the negative views come from. The ship was beautiful, we had a balcony cabin which was lovely. ... Read More
After reading the bad reviews I ventured on my cruise with low expectations. I can honestly say that I had a wonderful trip and wonder where all the negative views come from. The ship was beautiful, we had a balcony cabin which was lovely. The food was good with plenty of variety, we had to pay for bottled water but that is not a problem for us. The waiters on our table were so friendly and helpful, a lot of them from Bali in Indonesia and they worked so hard and always with a smile. We only took two of the ship's excursions, one to Rome which was very good and the other to Ephesus from Izmir. Ephesus was wonderful but I found the guide was rushing us through and wouldn't let us have time on our own and then dropped us at a carpet factory on way back where we wasted almost one hour. The other ports we did our own thing. I liked the mix of French, German and Italians on the ship and didn't find any pushing or shoving as mentioned in some reviews. The lifts were a bit slow and often full so we just walked up or down the stairs most of the time. The shows lasted about 45 minutes to one hour and were pretty good, I loved the opera singers. Didn't try the Spa as I thought it was expensive but there was a 50% off offer after day 6. We were a group of 7 and we all enjoyed the cruise and I would sail with MSC again. It is definitely good value for money. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
We decided to go with an open mind after reading reviews about the ship and MSC which i can only say "read between the lines" as many of the gripes are what people have been use to on more expensive cruises or out of the control ... Read More
We decided to go with an open mind after reading reviews about the ship and MSC which i can only say "read between the lines" as many of the gripes are what people have been use to on more expensive cruises or out of the control of the company. The ship is fantastic it is a lovely ship to sail on and has real wow factor when arriving on board. The cabins on deck 10 are spacious , with mainly balconies which is great for waking up to, all in all a good standard of cabin. We enjoyed all the ports of call except for Egypt which we felt was dirty and wont get any of our hard earned money again. I will cover off some concerns mentioned by other forum entries. No tea facility in the room, correct but book a breakfast delivered to your room at no cost ( Always arrived before the time stated!) and you get a pot of tea for three cups and then go upstairs for breakfast after, solved the wife's requirement for a cuppa on waking up. Tea / Coffee can be purchased all day from any of the bars / lounges. Tipping was done by adding 6 euros per day per person to your bill but could be reduced or taken off if you required. Gala evenings, two every 7 days required at least a lounge suit + tie but not compulsory and ladies dressed in evening wear. Excursions like normal were around 50-60 euros for a standard trip we decided after reading other comments to get the nearest Hop on Hop off bus available at many of the ports that we stopped at. Great value around 18 euros. MSC supplied a shuttle bus to many of the harbour gates. Reception staff we found to be always efficient and friendly but bear in mind that this is an Italian liner and therefore is mainly made up of Italians, Germans and French which was no issue for us as although we only had about 40 other Brits on our cruise nearly all the staff spoke(English), an English information leaflet , representative for just the English speaking customers were all provided every day. So if you don't want to mix with our European partners DONT come on this ship. The meals we felt to be very good for the money we paid with the evening meal being of a very good standard , the cafeteria was as it says a help your self service which had a good selection and was an adequate standard. We enjoyed the entertainment in the evening which consisted of a variety show lasting just under an hour. The acrobats were of a very high standard. It was our first time on MSC and we will be booking again as we think value for money and overall ships package is very good. My frustration if any was that i heard and have read about people you want to compare these cruises with ones that they have paid two or three times as much for. You get a great ship and a very good cruise for your money, go with an open mind and i am sure you will be pleasantly surprised!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
We have done a number of transatlantic crossings and enjoy the sea days, this was our 2nd time in the Yacht Club. The Yacht Club experience is worth every penny, it is a quit oasis on an otherwise very pretty but very crowded ship. The ... Read More
We have done a number of transatlantic crossings and enjoy the sea days, this was our 2nd time in the Yacht Club. The Yacht Club experience is worth every penny, it is a quit oasis on an otherwise very pretty but very crowded ship. The service in the lounge and the pool is exceptional, the head butler is always visible, always ensuring that all your needs are met, all the staff without exception were always smiling,pleasant and happy to assist. Whatever you may want to drink is available and different food items are available in the lounge throughout the day, it is also a quiet pleasant area to relax indoors and look out the windows or read. The room butler and the assistant were always somewhere in the area, as soon as you left your room in the morning, your room would be refreshed before you returned. Our assistant attendent sewed a button for us, shined shoes and was always there to greet or open the door. I was very pleased with the yacht club, but did not give it a five rating for a couple of reasons, none of which would prevent me from going again. The cabins and the balcony are the size of a typical balcony room, you have very limited counter space, the few larger rooms and suites all seem to book very early. The pool area is great but has limited shade, it could use some umbrellas for shade in the areas, people were searching out shady spots. The food in The Muse restaurant was inconsistent for dinner, the choices on the left side of the menu were restricted, they always had a beef or chicken on the alternate menu and that was the choice many nights. Sometimes you ordered one thing and received another, sometimes it was just not good. When a special pasta was prepared by the head of the department it was outstanding, making me wander why all the food could not have been as good. Breakfast and lunch was always good and the staff were all pleasant. We are black card members so received 2 speciality restaurant dinners. We ate in Eataly , a fixed menu, it was nice, very few patrons at the time. We ate in Galaxy, again a set menu, with very different food items that may not appeal to all, it was an experience, one other couple in the restaurant at the time.You are escorted on and off the ship, which makes the process easier but it would be nice if it was a seperate route from everyone else. The concierge is always available and answers all questions. We went to a couple of shows ,visited the casino a bit but basically stayed in the Yacht Club areas.The gym was fine, a little crowded in the morning as usual, gym staff very helpful, had a facial, very pleasant and very reasonably priced. The passesgers were a very international mix , and the staff were able to communicate with all. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We just came back from our W. Med cruise July 10-17, embarkation from Genoa. For the entire cruise, sunny everyday and hot! We also sailed MSC Musica on July 18-25 the following week. Please see other review. Background: We are a family ... Read More
We just came back from our W. Med cruise July 10-17, embarkation from Genoa. For the entire cruise, sunny everyday and hot! We also sailed MSC Musica on July 18-25 the following week. Please see other review. Background: We are a family of 4, DH & myself are in mid 40s, DS 14 and DD 12 and have cruised RCCL, NCL & Princess before. This is our 8th cruise and this is the 2rd MSC cruise. We cruised with MSC Lirica in the Caribbean a year ago and the Musica next week. We are very active people and everything we did DIY; we did not join any ship excursions. The reason we chose this cruise was the itinerary (everyday is port day) and of course my 2 kids sail free! Departure: We flew from YYZ to MUC then GOA and arrived around 2pm the day before. Took a taxi (cost 30E) from airport to the Novotel hotel. On July 9, everything was on strike in Italy so there was no public transit until after 6pm. We walked all the way to the cathedral and went to McDonalds for dinner, as we were very tired with jet-lagged. After that, we took the metro back to our hotel. Just right next of Novotel, there was a gas stn and we picked up a 6x1.5Lt water for 1.99E. What a deal and we brought it to our cruise. Embarkation: Was very smooth in Genoa with no line up. We were in our cabin guided by a white-glove attendant to our cabin before noon. The whole process took less than half an hour. Ship: Splendida is a beautiful ship, very modern, state of the art and clean. Cabin size was larger than any other cabin size that we have cruised before, lots of storage spaces & drawers. There was a 19" Samsung flat screen TV but we felt it lacked of English channels especially kid's channels. There were no Disney channel or Cartoon Network. There were over 30 pay movies available but cost 6E each and some movies were old, so there was not much for the kids to watch. A giant TV screen on the deck played nothing but commercial all day long. There were no face towels but if you want one, you have to ask. We did not see any mini golf, library, or Internet cafe, not many activities for the kids; there was a ping-pong table and a tennis court. There were 3 pools, 2 general and one adult only. Pools always crowed and were very hard to find a lounge chair; everywhere was covered with someone's towels all day long. Our cabin attendant was very nice, we asked him to clear everything for us in the fridge in the first day so we can store our own water and he did it. BTW, A small booklet of 7 water vouchers of 1lt each was already in our cabin, we used these vouchers for the MDR. Food: we found sometimes they were good and sometimes were not good, I found most of them were too salty and just because I have high-blood pressure, I really have to watch my salt intake. MDR food quantity portion was not consistent, you may get a larger portion or smaller portion if compare to someone in the same table. Food presentation was not that great either sometimes. Of course you can order as many courses as you want. There was NO tea/coffee, ice-tea & lemonade FOC in lunch buffet or in MDR. If you want a coffee, you have to go to the bar! Ice cream was charged over 4E each, coffee was 4.70E. There were one or two ice and water dispensers hidden in the buffet area and you really have to look for it. MDR dress code: saw some men dress shorts and golf shirts, T-shirts and jeans, formal nights; some people did not bother to dress up. Entertainment: shows last about 35 minutes and most shows we found it was ok, nothing special, entertainment team was ok. Kids program: my daughter did not go to any, but my son went to the teen's club every night to hang out, he said it was ok, just because most of them English was not their first language, sometimes it was hard to communicate. Also, people come and go everyday and it was hard to make friends because disembark and embark in every port. Marseille - once we docked at 8, we took a taxi cost 25E to Notre-Dame de la Garde up on top of the hill, it has a beautiful view, can overlook an entire Marseille, then we take a taxi 10E down to Cathedral de la Major, unfortunately for some reason it was close. We stayed outside and took some pictures, then we walked to Tromphe, the one looks like the one in Paris, then we walked down to the shopping street and back to Vieux Port, again it was beautiful, and then take a taxi 23E back to the ship at around 2pm and have lunch in the buffet. Barcelona - ship docked at around 7, we walked to the Metro and it took about 25 minutes, we didn't see any Blue bus so we decided to walk. From Metro stn Drassanes L3 green line, bought the T10 tickets to stn Diagonal, then transferred to L5 blue line to Sagrada Famillia, once exit, SF was just right there, we did not go inside the SF as the line was so long and we were running in a tight schedule, we stayed outside to take some pictures, SF was beautiful but lots of construction was on going, we stopped at the McDonald's (at the back of SF) for an ice cream and WC, then we walked back down the Metro and took the L5 blue line to Diagonal, then transferred to L3 green line to Catalunya. Once we exit the metro, La Rambla was right there. La Rambla was busy, full of street artists (be careful for pickpocket), then we walked over to the cathedral, cathedral was beautiful outside but was dark inside, then walked back to the Columbus Monument to catch the Blue bus (2E) back to the ship. We wished we had more time in Barcelona, may be next time. Overall, beautiful city. La Goulette, Tunis - 39 degree Cecius, hot!! Once we docked, there are several camels waiting outside the ship, 5E each to ride around and DS & DD rode on it and they said it was different, experienced and fun. We took lots of pictures. We have to take our passports to go out. We took a taxi tour to Carthage and sidi Bou Said for 40E, Carthage had not much to see, it was 7E to go inside the gate to overlook and there were some ruins, we did not go inside we could see from the outside we felt it wasn't worth the 28E for 4 of us. Then the driver drove us to Sidi Bou Said, this was only a straw market with street vendors. The tour took us a couple hours. Nothing special. So if you did not get off the ship, you didn't miss much. Once we came back to our cabin, there was an emergency note and saying we have to bring our passports to the business centre and they we will keep it until the day we disembark in Genoa?? Make sure you get the right receipts with correct name on the receipts. They were very confusing and they only took some none-European's passports to keep. La Valletta, Malta - Once we docked, we walked out and tried to look for bus #198 in which it goes around and also go to the city gate. However, the line up was so long and we decided to walk up and it took around 15 minutes, we walked along the Republic Street and there are shops and restaurants, then we walked to St. Johns Co-cathedral and went inside, we paid 6E, student 3.5E, kids 12 and under were free. Beautiful cathedral and do not miss! After we exit the cathedral we walked toward Fort St. Elmo, then to the Lower Barrakka Gardens, then to Upper Barrakka Gardens, and then back to the city gate to take bus #198 for 1E, we figured this bus will take us around the city, after that, we arrived in the pier. What a deal for 1E! Malta was a beautiful city with full of history, we enjoyed it. Messina, Sicily - people always saying there are not much to do and must go to Taormina. Well, we did not go to Taormina and we have never been to Messina, why not spend the half day in Messina? Taxi outside the gate wants 100E return Taormina. Once we docked, we took a map from the TI and we walked to the cathedral / clock tower, then walked up to the sanctuary, then walked back to the shopping district and did some shopping, then walked back to the ship for lunch. Civitavecchia, Rome - this day was very intense and we have to make it according to the schedule. Ship docked at 8 and I believe we were the first one to come out to make it to the 8:41am train into Rome, we walked all the way from the ship to the train stn and it took around 20 min. on our way, we meet an other family who also had 2 teenage girls from Holland, nice family. We were helping each other to reach to the train and we made the 8:41 train, train cost 9E for the BIRG ticket zone 5 and this including round trip, all metro, buses and trams in Rome. Train arrived at 9:37 at the Ostiense stn, took the metro from Pyramide to Colosseo stn. Once we exit, Coloseum was just above ground and across the street, there was the Forum, we did not go inside the Coliseums nor the Forum as we were running in a tight schedule, took a few pictures and at around 10:15, we headed back down to the metro blue line to Termini stn and transfer to the red line to Spagna (Spanish Steps). Spent a few minutes there and at 11:00 we walked toward to the Trevi Fountain, one good thing is I printed the Google map before I go, so this was a lot easier for walking. The walk took us about 7 min., Trevi Fountain was full of tourists and of course we each throw a coin into the fountain as people say, we will grant to return to Rome one day! At around 11:30, we walked over to the Pantheon and we stayed there for a quick lunch, then we walked to Piazza Navona at round 12:30, we found Piazza Navona was the only place, which the WC (toilet) available and we paid a lady a couple Euros to use. After that, we walked out to Via Vittorio Emmanuelle and took bus #64 to St. Peter's square. We stopped at around Castel Sant Angelo for a few pictures and we did not go inside (believe that was a charge to get in), then we walked along Via Della Conciliazione to Piazza San Pietro, we got to the piazza at around 1ish. Spent almost 2 hours inside San Pietro as it was so beautiful and so much to see. We did not go to the Vatican Museum as we did not have time. May be next time. At 3 o'clock, we planned to catch the 3:29 train at the San Pietro stn and was looking for bus #64 but could not find it, anyhow, we walked all the way to the stn and we caught the 3:29 train and back to Civitavecchia. Train arrived at 4:17 and by the time we catch the free shuttle and back to the ship it was 4:50, just in time before they close the teatime in the cafeteria before 5. What a day and my daughter has an electronic step counter, we walked 23000 steps in one day in Rome! Genoa, Italy - We left our luggage outside our cabin before we went to bed, note there was no express check out. We arrived in the morning and everyone must clear their cabin by 8am. Before that, we have to paid all bills and of course to collect our passports! We got to get off the ship by 8:45 and walked over to the train stn P. Principe to catch our 11:19 train to Milan and stay one night, then to the next cruise MSC Musica from Venice. Overall, it was a nice cruise; first we were uncomfortable with some issues, however, it didn't bother us. We are on vacations. Will we cruise MSC again? Yes only if the itinerary and price is right! Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
I flew with BA to Milan(mxp),then over 2 hour coach trip to Port.check in was OK apart from MSC "conviscating" 2 cans lager I'd bought to drink on coach(but didn't!) Had nice Balcony Cabin on Deck12 PortForward...good ... Read More
I flew with BA to Milan(mxp),then over 2 hour coach trip to Port.check in was OK apart from MSC "conviscating" 2 cans lager I'd bought to drink on coach(but didn't!) Had nice Balcony Cabin on Deck12 PortForward...good for early morn swim but long hike to Dining Room(Deck6 Aft).Beautiful ship and very clean as was Cabin. Food very good as I had FISH every night for main course..Desserts not MSC strong point! Buffet lunch(Deck13) had fresh Pasta+Pizza(bit cold often) but very "iffy" salads...buffet could be a McDonald's at times, so always had breaklfast in Dining Room(Deck 5)to avoid the scrum!! If U ask for WATER ,they think U're from another planet...so had to go up to buffet to obtain very mini plastic glasses of H2O..I had 8 or 9 to hydrate myself!! Tea and Coffee not available for lunch or dinner but Ok with Afternoon tea!! Buffet does NOT OPEN for dinner. Evening Shows good but only 30 mins Entertainment tried hard but in all honesty failed with silly pathetic deck games.Few Quizzes, although a good Team Quiz for the 5 Sea days crossing Atlantic. Swimming pool is NOT heated, so freezing water in Med but sea water warmed up after we reached Tenerife!!!! Crew 40% Brazil,owing to law,and they speak PORTUGUESE..but some good English. 2200 on board incl 900 Brazilian 400 German 300 Brit 200 French Only did one tour which was to Sao Paulo to avoid 6 hour wait for BA return flight.Pricey @ 57E but included good buffet lunch but we only saw ONE attraction(paid for 5!) To be fair it was FRIDAY RUSH-HOUR!!! My main gripe is the drink prices which are just plain CRAZY..Cheapest wine bottle was E20..beer E5..so went teetotal and felt good for it!! Pity others didn't vote with MOUTH,then prices WOULD go down! With MSC U get what U pay for and for SINGLE's it's the best deal going. The old adage applies,aa Brits EXPECT(but don't get)Roast Beef/Yorkshire +stodgy puds!! ONE MAN'S MEAT IS ANOTHER MAN'S POISON Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Background- We are a couple in our early 30's from the U.S. This was our second cruise together, and our first med cruise. It was also our first anniversary. Pre-cruise: We had spent the week before our cruise in Germany, so we had ... Read More
Background- We are a couple in our early 30's from the U.S. This was our second cruise together, and our first med cruise. It was also our first anniversary. Pre-cruise: We had spent the week before our cruise in Germany, so we had a short (around an hour) flight from Munich into Turin. As a U.S. traveler, I was very impressed by the Munich airport. We didn't have to take off our shoes to go through security! In fact, the entire time from when we got dropped off at the airport to when we were standing at our gate was about 20 minutes (this included checking bags.) The Turin airport was similarly easy. We collected our baggage, and went to the tourist information desk to buy bus tickets into the city. The bus took us to the main train station and our hotel (the Majestic Hotel) was across the street. Our hotel was fine. I did not sleep much b/c there are no clocks in the room, and there was a fair amount of light coming into our room due to very thin curtains, and the bright sign outside our room. We enjoyed walking around Turin that evening and had a very good dinner that was quite reasonably priced. We would have liked to have more time there. The next morning we took the train to Genoa. We took the regional train because we wanted to get to Genoa earlier than we could on the IC train. It was easy to use, and the journey took about 2 hours. It was drizzling for most of our ride, so we couldn't see much. We arrived in Genoa about 10:30. Upon arriving at the Genoa train station, we walked around the train station to see if we could see the port. We could see the Fantasia! We thought about trying to walk, but we couldn't really see how to get there, and it was raining harder, so we went back up to the train station and got a cab. Embarkation: We weren't sure if we would be able to get on or not, since it was about 10:45 at this point, and we had found the documentation about when embarkation starts to be sort of vague (but mostly seemed to say it would start at 2pm) but in light of the rain we thought we would try. There were plenty of people there, and upon arriving at the port we were greeted by an MSC representative and a bellhop who put on our luggage tags and whisked our luggage away. The entire check in procedure took about 45 minutes- not much at all, and we were on board! We proceeded to explore the ship, and then we went to the buffet for lunch. OUR ROOM: We had booked the lowest category of balcony room. Our room was really nice. It was bigger than the balcony room we had the year before on the Crown Princess. Our balcony was bigger as well. We really liked the balcony furniture- very comfortable wicker instead of plastic furniture. The bathroom had a full tub rather than just a shower. We were on deck 8. Our location on deck 8 had pluses and minuses. The pluses, we took the stairs almost all the time and didn't need to wait for the elevators, which could be quite crowded. The minuses- The promenade deck was directly below us, so if anyone was on the promenade, they could see our balcony. The lifeboats are on deck 7-so looking down from the balcony, that is what we saw. (Looking out we saw the ocean and whatever we were passing.) For some odd reason, every morning around 9am they crew would clean the lifeboats by spraying them with water, and would also turn and spray the deck 8 balconies. This meant that our deck furniture was soaked. We only really noticed this on the days that we didn't have early port calls. We weren't sure if we needed a balcony for a winter med cruise, but we loved having it. During the day we were comfortable on the balcony in jeans and long sleeve t-shirts, at night I would add a sweatshirt and be fine. We loved being able to see different islands and the Italian coast line from our balcony. We passed through the straights of Messina from 11:15-1am or so on New Year's Eve, and we were able to watch fireworks going off all over Sicily- this was an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately, we were less impressed by our room steward. She was fine, and we are not that picky, but I expected better. We ran out of toilet paper, and had to track it down, she took away 1 washcloth after 1 day and didn't replace it until day 6. At one point we couldn't find DH's sweatshirt- we found it late that night when we went to bed- it had been made into the bed. Also (and I guessing this may be the company, not her fault) she took away our robes and the MSC book the day before disembarkation. This was annoying, partly because we did not realize the robes were gone until we were about to put them on. FOOD & DRINKS: drink package- We had pre-purchased drink package 704, which for $16 a day gave us unlimited bottled water/ soda's/ beers/ and wine in the restaurants. This worked out really well for us. I am a HUGE water drinker, and this meant that the common MSC complaint about no tap water was irrelevant for us. Every night in the restaurant our waiter automatically brought us a bottle of quite good red wine, and a bottle of water. He would bring us another bottle of water at the end of dinner to take with us, and offered us more wine. (1 bottle a night is enough for us, so we declined additional wine.) At lunch we got bottles of water, and soda in cans, and then would get additional cans of soda and bottles of water to take with us at the end of the meal. I used the water on our excursions as well. Dinner in Dining Room- We were in the C' di Oro dining room second seating at a table for 6. Our waiter was truly outstanding. He was fast, efficient, polite, and accurate. The food was in general pretty good. The pasta dishes were the best things on the menu. Every night there was a 'regional' menu featuring a different region of Italy, ordering the straight regional menu generally resulted in the best food. We were seated with two other lovely couples, one from Switzerland, and one from Belgium. Our seating arrangement was somewhat awkward b/c one of the couples clearly preferred to be speaking french, and were quite disappointed to discover that we spoke no french. A few nights when we wanted to finish dinner a little sooner we just ordered through the pasta course, which also worked fine. I did miss the anytime dining options on Princess, while we loved having the same waiter, dinner did get somewhat tiring, the combination of struggling to communicate with our table mates, and not eating until 8:45. Lunch in Dining Room- we had lunch in the dining room several times. It was quite good. Lunch was in the Red Velvet restaurant, and we did like it better than our dining room. Lunch in Buffet- we ate lunch in the buffet 3 times. The first time we thought it was okay. The second time was as we were leaving Naples, all aboard was at 2:30, and the buffet closed at 3. We were not the only ones who had the idea to go there right before closing, and it was insane. After lapping the tables twice and being completely unable to find any seats we carried our food down to our room and ate on our balcony, our food was completely cold. We weren't that hungry on the second sea day and decided to go there for lunch- we were able to find a seat without a problem, but the food just wasn't very good. It always took a LONG time to get drinks in the buffet. Another odd thing about the buffet is that they put plates on both sides of every station- which means there is no correct way the line should flow, and people are sort of colliding with each other reaching around and getting food. Room Service Breakfast- a fairly basic menu, but perfectly fine. We especially liked the yogurt. Buffet Breakfast- we only did this once, and thought it terrible. There was a quite limited selection, and all of the egg varieties were completely cold. Dining Room Breakfast- We did this twice. Both times it was quite good. Le Etoile, French Restaurant- We made reservations here for our anniversary. We were somewhat disappointed in it. We loved the atmosphere, it was quiet, there was a nice piano player, we had a wonderful view, and a table for 2. The food was just okay. The service was just okay, our service in the main dining room was better. The wine we ordered (for some 39 euros) was significantly worse than the wine we got as part of our drink package in the main dining room. Tex Mex Restaurant- we went here twice for snacks. The prices were pretty good, and the food was fine. A warning to any American guests- at least what we got was not what I think of as Tex/ Mex- it is more Central American. The quesadilla was good, but quite spicy, and much thicker then a traditional tex/mex quesadilla. The toppings on the tostada were cold, as in just out of the refrigerator cold. La Cantina Toscana- we LOVED this wine bar and went here several times before dinner. Both of the Ukrainian waitresses were excellent and quite knowledgeable about wines. They would make great recommendations to us, and would bring us tastes of wine before we ordered. Our glasses of wine came with perfectly paired appetizers, that were included in the price of the glass of wine. ENTERTAINMENT: We went to two of the shows and thought they were quite good. They were both cirque de soleil style acts. I was impressed by the quality of the performances. We also went to several of the bars after dinner and sat and listened to the music, all of the musicians were very good. There was a band and dancing every night in La Insolita lounge. The dance floor was always pretty full with lots of people dancing, most of whom were much better than us! DISEMBARKATION: I seriously doubt there is a good way to disembark that many people from the ship. That being said- I found disembarkation to be fairly odd. We were given luggage tags with colors, and we got the sheet the night before which identified which groups should get which colors. But the sheet did not give any times, or priority to which color would be disembarked first. The morning of disembarkation it appeared rather random which color would be called over the loudspeaker. Fortunately, we were not in a hurry, so we just sort of ignored it. The papers that we got had said our passports would be ready for pickup at 9:15, but about 8:15 an announcement came across the loudspeaker saying that the passports were available for pickup. MISC NOTES AND IMPRESSIONS: I loved the more laid back atmosphere of the Italian cruise line, I did not feel like MSC was trying to make sure that I was fully entertained at every minute of the day. There appeared to be 1 activity at every time slot, rather then multiple things at all times. I did not feel at all pressured to buy drinks, it was perfectly acceptable to sit in the bars and listen to music, we were generally only asked once if we wanted something to drink- I enjoyed this. Having everything done in 5 languages, and struggling some to communicate, tired me more than I thought it would. I also discovered how much American slang I use in every day speech. (ie- in response to a question such as would you like more bread, if I say "I'm okay" more bread is likely to appear, when what I really meant was no.) The elevators were quite crowded, and fellow passengers did not help this. It appeared that most people simply got in the first elevator that came, whether or not it was going the way they wanted to go- and rode it until it got to where they wanted to be. This did not help with crowding, we generally avoided this by taking the stairs. I was quite surprised at how many children were at the second seating. At the tables near us there were several children under the age of 5, who were not coping with the late long dinner well. They spent a significant amount of time rolling on the floor, which was a constant threat to our poor waiter trying to step over them. At one point a child knocked over an ice bucket into my husband's lap (this did result in him getting taken out of the dining room.) I was even more surprised by MSC's decision to pass out noisemakers to the children at dinner on New Year's eve- they blew them all through dinner this was REALLY annoying. On our formal nights, people were VERY dressed up- this might have been because one was NYE. There were several men in tuxes, and almost all other men were in nice dark suits. Women were more mixed, but very well dressed over all. The weather was better than I expected it would be- we were generally comfortable in long sleeve t-shirts, and it only rained the day we embarked. The seas were very choppy- I felt the motion of the boat much more than I had in the Caribbean last January. (This directly contradicted what our travel agent had told us- that the Caribbean was choppier than the Med, he was wrong- but then again he was wrong about most of the things he had told us, so this doesn't really surprise me.) Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We decided to use the opportunity of the low cost of cruising in 2009 by booking 4 different cruises on 4 different cruise lines in the Mediterranea in November and December. It took a lot of research,but finally we booked consecutive ... Read More
We decided to use the opportunity of the low cost of cruising in 2009 by booking 4 different cruises on 4 different cruise lines in the Mediterranea in November and December. It took a lot of research,but finally we booked consecutive cruises on the Costa Victoria,the MSC Splendida,the Azamara Quest and the NCL Gem. Even though at first sight these ships seem to fall into different categories,the daily price for a balcony cabin was very similar,so direct comparisons between the ships were realistic.The cruise on the Splendida was the second one and we boarded the ship in Genoa coming from Venice by train . The embarkation process was very smooth.There were still 6 attendants waiting for passengers to check-in at 16h00 and the paper work was completed in less than 10 minutes. We went to our cabin and our luggage was delivered within 15 minutes . First impressions of the ship:it is HUGE and BEAUTIFUL !The public rooms are decorated with taste, with variations in style and color but the variation is harmonious and everything blends well in the total scheme. It is a new ship and it feels like it. Our cabin was spacious,nicely decorated and quite comfortable . We visited different types of cabins,inside and balconies and we found them to be bigger in size than what we saw on the other 3 ships. One negative point ,our cabin was at the back,on the 11Th floor and it was noisy when at sea ! We could feel vibrations while cruising and this seemed to generate small rattles. Our friends had a cabin in the middle of the ship on the 10Th floor and we did not feel the same discomfort ! There was a big Plasma screen and the choice of channels was good. The fitness and recreation areas were very well equipped, with professional supporting staff and a beautiful and inviting spa area. Entertainment was very good.The Strand Theatre where the major shows take place is very big and with a nice lay out;the sound is particularly good.I was quite impressed by the comics whose role was to warm up the audience before the presentations . There was music at 5 other locations that I counted and different sounds to satisfy everyone.We did not attend the disco but we got some good feedback from friends ! There are 2 buffet areas,2 main restaurants and 5 specialized restaurants to select from.The Bora Bora, where most people had breakfast, is very big,very well laid out and even with more than 3200 passengers on board,we never saw any long line ups nor did we had problems finding seating ! The choice of food in the morning and lunch was good, it was warm and except for desserts the quality was comparable to what we had experienced on HAL and Princess ! We had lunch at La Reggia and dinner at Villa Verde and were quite pleased with the quality of the food . There is a nice variation at dinner: each evening there is a regional menu from one specific area of Italy,it is like a mini gastronomical journey and it is quite educative ! The use of herbs though is very sparse and this is very surprising for Italian cuisine ! One major irritant:tap water is not served at the tables,if one wants water the choice is either to buy a bottle or bring his own ! Expresso or Capuccino is served only at breakfast ! The choice of wine is good and there is a wine and water package available ! Cheese is served cold even if it is asked for at the beginning of the meal and the choice of desserts is limited !Room service for breakfast proved to be late and the coffee was not hot ! The service is a bit different from what we have seen on all other cruise lines : the staff is not always smiling,it does not feel as friendly but it feels very serious and very professional ; this is not a fun line like Costa but a more efficient line .This is probably why we saw more Germans and British than on Costa and less Italian and French passengers ! North Americans were a minority but we saw more than on Costa. The selection of ports of call was very interesting with Marseille, Barcelona, Tunis, Malta,Messina and Rome but we felt that we did not spend enough time in Tunis and Messina ! We visited all these ports on our own and by doing so we felt that MSC did not supply us with any information on the ports ! When we asked for info. or maps about the place to visit, the excursion staff did not have any knowledge nor documentation ! The disembarkation and embarkation process at ports of call was variable ; it ranged from poor in Barcelona and Tunis to excellent in Valletta and Marseille. There were no daily news provided to the passengers other than on T.V. or in newspapers sold for $5. There were no enrichment program ,limited dancing lessons and less pool activities than what we could find on Costa. There were a lot of the "new type of activities" in the area called the Virtual World, such as a F1 simulator,a virtual Theater,WII,Digital Games,Pin Balls but every time we went in this area,it was crowded with teens and young adults . Overall, we had a great cruise,on a beautiful ship,with very interesting fellow passengers but with a cruise line that still has work to do remove some of the irritants that it is itself creating. For the price it is a good value ! I will use again MSC if the destinations are interesting and if the price is good ! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Background I'm a single European woman in her forties who has travelled extensively in the last 30 years. This was my tenth cruise with MSC although my first on this ship. I normally travel alone and enjoy a laid back, relaxing cruise ... Read More
Background I'm a single European woman in her forties who has travelled extensively in the last 30 years. This was my tenth cruise with MSC although my first on this ship. I normally travel alone and enjoy a laid back, relaxing cruise experience rather than an energetic 24/7 party atmosphere. My reason for choosing this particular cruise was the opportunity to have 3 weeks of relaxation, sunshine, lots of days at sea and the opportunity to visit South Africa. The great price, with the 100% single supplement waived was also a deciding factor. Getting There I'd originally booked the fly/cruise package from MSC but changed to cruise only when I discovered that the flight was to Nice and coach transfer to Genoa and they were not flying us to Pisa to join at Livorno. I received a refund of £620 which more or less covered the costs of BA flights the day before from Edinburgh to Pisa (changing at Gatwick) and the return flight from Durban. On the recommendation of other people on cruise critic, I stayed in the Max Hotel in Livorno which was a nice modern hotel with a good restaurant and pleasant modern rooms which was only about ten minutes away from the port by taxi. It is on a business park outside the town centre so not very good for exploring the town on foot but ideal for a pre cruise stay. Embarkation The ship docked at 9am from the previous cruise and they were expecting to embark passengers at Livorno and set sail by 11am before embarking more passengers later that day in Genoa, This was really too ambitious and although I arrived at the port to check in at 9am, passengers were still disembarking from the previous cruise so we had to wait just over an hour before they were able to start the boarding process. They attempted to save time by getting us all onboard and checking us in in theatre which was quite a good idea as it meant we had a comfortable seat and refreshments whilst we waited for our turn. Unfortunately we were still late in sailing which meant that the many more passengers embarking at Genoa had a very long wait. Many were very disgruntled when they finally got onboard and it had been made worse by the fact that port officials had been unable to provide any info. After checking in, in the theatre, I was escorted to my cabin by a cabin steward wearing white gloves, which I think a nice touch. In the following days there were further embarkations in Monte Carlo and Valencia. This is quite a common feature on MSC cruises Ports of Call I don't do shore excursions. This is not a reflection on those provided by MSC but rather my aversion to getting up early whilst on holiday and being shepherded about in a group. I'm far too independent and I prefer being on my own or with a few friends to being in huge groups. I've also travelled fairly extensively in Europe over the past 30 years so my preference now is just to wander about for a few hours and feel the atmosphere of a place, rather than rush around trying to see every monument or tourist site listed in a guidebook. So anyone expecting lots of detailed information on any of these ports had best read someone else's review! Monte Carlo - stayed onboard as I'd visited before and it was an early morning arrival - much preferred to sleep in after 2 days of travelling. Valencia - visited here several times before but accompanied another passenger in to town as I knew how to get there by bus and speak Spanish. Take the free port shuttle to the port entrance. Cross the road and catch the no19 bus in to the city centre. Takes about half an hour. They have a very nice cathedral and lots of lovely squares and old architecture. Casablanca; Agadir & Dakar - stayed onboard as I did not consider these the safest of places to wander about on my own, particularly in Dakar where there were real security issues (tours had armed guards) and there was a yellow fever outbreak (we'd all had to be immunised to go on the cruise). Some of my dinner companions did the City Tour & Hassan II Mosque Tour (54 euros) in Casablanca and the Taroudant tour in Agadir (42 euros). They though the first one good and the second excellent - they were all raving about tree climbing goats! They also had good shopping opportunities on both tours and came back with a selection of beautifully embroidered kaftans (one lady wore a gold one to a formal night later in the cruise and it was gorgeous) and beautiful hand made slippers. Walvis Bay - by this time I'd made good friends with 2 other solo passengers and we'd agreed that we'd do this one on our own. We weren't sure what to expect but we all absolutely loved this port and the people and places we saw. A few taxis (very few) are allowed inside the port gates. The drivers are pretty aggressive and their prices quite high (no doubt because they have to pay for being allowed in to the port). We decided that we did not want to go with them so walked to the port entrance. It is a very large commercial port and takes over 20 minutes to walk it, so not for those with mobility issues. We managed to find a lovely driver (Jacob) who had a nice car and agreed to drive us around for 3 hours for Namibian $300 (equiv 300 rand or about £25). He took us to the delightful city of Swakopmund whack took about half an hour to reach. Enroute we had the coast on one side with some very attractive new developments, gorgeous ocean views and the endless deep ochre coloured sand dunes on the other side. Jacob drove us around the city showing us the main sights. He also stopped and accompanied us to a few shops that we wanted to visit. We were very impressed by how spotlessly clean the town was and how polite, courteous and friendly the locals were. There was no one begging or trying to take advantage of tourists. We got some lovely children's clothes at bargain process and some really nice locally made handcrafts at a great shop called Kirikara (definitely recommend a visit) After that he took us to the beach and we walked along the esplanade for a bit and admired the view before heading back to Walvis Bay. On the way back we were teasing Jacob about his girlfriend and quizzing him about his marriage plans, he offered to let us meet her and before we knew it we were heading in to a Township near Walvis Bay. We were slightly apprehensive but need not have worried at all. When we arrived at her home, it was tiny but spotlessly clean. There were 4 adults and 5 children living in what appeared to only have 2 rooms. The coffee table appeared to be a crate but had a beautiful hand made lace tablecloth on it and fresh flowers in an old jar. The children were all dressed in their best clothes as it was Sunday and so polite. They spoke very little English (amazing they understood any at all) and all politely shook our hands and smiled at us all the time. I had been expecting degradation, danger and rubbish everywhere like I'd experience in a deprived area in my own country but instead we found a proud people with manners and dignity and self respect who made the best of what they had and took pride in keeping what little they had clean and tidy. They weren't looking for hand outs, didn't think they were entitled to be taken care of by the state or anyone else. I found this a wonderful and thought provoking day. It certainly made me realise that whilst we have so much more wealth and possessions in the West, the people of Namibia have so much more than we do. I shall never forget meeting the lovely Joseph and his beautiful family.( We ended up paying Joseph double what he asked for (about £50 between the 3 of us) - a 2.5 hour ship's excursion to Swakopmund was 49 euros each) Cape Town- V&A waterfront and another in the city centre. We did not buy tickets for this as we felt that it would only be a very short walk to the V&A hop on hop off bus stop. We were right it took just over 5 minutes so definitely not worth buying a ticket if you were getting off at the first stop. We bought tickets for both the blue and red routes. (R200 appx £15) We took the route that took us through the city centre and then up to Table Mountain first. Unfortunately we could not get the cable car because it was too windy. We then continued on to camp's bay where we had a lovely lunch in a seafood bistro on the waterfront. Also had a glass of bubbly and the meal was only about £12 each. We then went on to finish that route and swapped over to the next route where we went to Kirstenbosch gardens, Hoit Bay before ending up at Seapoint in the early evening. We went to the bar which is on the 26th floor of the Ritz hotels and provided fantastic views of the sun setting over the city. We had a few glasses of bubbly each (for about£1 a glass!) before grabbing a taxi back to the ship (about £5), All in we spent 11 hours ashore and had a great time despite rather cool and windy weather. MSC's 4 hour City Tour & Table Mountain tour was 55 euros and 2 hour Sundowners Tour to Signal hill (including one glass of wine & canapEs) 49 Euros. Total 104 x 3 = 312 euros versus our equivalent which lasted 5 hours more and included lunch and lots of bubbly was R1200 about a third of the price Durban - we disembarked here. Most of the passengers who had MSC provide their flights had afternoon flights back to the UK connecting in Johannesburg. I'd arranged my own flights and had decided to stay a couple of days in the Beverley Hills Hotel at Umlanga Rocks. This was a fantastic hotel right on the Indian Ocean which I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone. They had a restaurant, continental cafe and a good room service menu. Service and friendliness of the staff was second to none. Had lots of nice little touches too like hand written weather forecast for the next day with a nice hand made chocolate at turndown service, welcome pack of fruit, Lindt chocolates and a nice bottle of Pinotage. Cabin I booked a suite as these are the only cabins to have a balcony. It was located starboard at the front of the ship on deck 12. The balcony has 2 chairs and a table and is fine for 2 people but would be a bit of a squeeze if there were more than that. Unlike some suites it doesn't have a separate bedroom from the living area, just one long room (about the same width as a standard cabin but double the length) There is a sofa (which I think converts to a sofa bed), coffee table, mini bar with cupboards either side and the TV. The bed is queen size (although can convert to 2 twins). It has a bedside cabinet either side. The wardrobe is much larger than the standard cabins and is the walk in type. There is also a dressing table that is fitted with 2 European and 2 US power sockets. The mirror opens out to reveal yet another cupboard and the mini safe. Along side the wardrobe are 2 further full height shelved cupboards with a large mirror and glass shelf unit in between. The bathroom is the same width as a standard cabin but longer, so has an additional cupboard in the vanity unit below the sink and has a bath rather than just a shower. The bath is not huge but at 5'7" was absolutely fine for me. I certainly appreciated it the days we had extremely rough seas, as I don't think I'd have managed to stay standing up having a shower! In addition to lots more space, other extras in the suite are a real hairdryer with diffuser attachment (rather than the horrible wall mounted variety with the bendy hose) and robes. I found the bed extremely comfortable and whilst I would have preferred a duvet rather than sheets and blanket, the bedlinen was of a good quality. The cabin was well maintained and my cabin steward kept it spotless. I liked having a fresh fruit bowl too which was regularly replenished. Bathrobes are provided but they are not that big. Ladies if you are bigger than a size 18 you'll need to bring your own. Bars and Lounges There are a number to choose from both day and night. . They serve a range of soft drinks, beers, virgin cocktails, cocktails and spirits and coffees. Le Baroque (Coffee shop) - deck 6 aft above the reception area. Wide range of teas and coffees (including hot, cold and liquor). Also serves full bar menus of soft drinks, spirits and cocktails. It's a nice meeting point and a great place to people watch I strongly recommend the Amaretto cappuccino. Sometimes has live music in the evening. It's open 6.30am-12.00 midnight and is completely non smoking Shelagh's House (Irish Pub) - deck 5, stern below the theatre. It closely resembles an Irish pub but I would not recommend it, unless you are a smoker as it is the smoking bar. Opens 10.00am - 2.00am The Manhattan bar - very pleasant lounge that has a programme of live music and other entertainment (musical quizzes, art auctions etc) (many of the shops run alongside it). It has a small dance floor and opens from 07.00am until 1.30am. Non smoking Buddha - martini Bar (piano bar) - midship deck 6 handy for the smaller Il Covo dining room and directly above the entrance to the main dining room Il Galeone, It specialises in Martinis and has live music all evening (but just to listen to as there is no dance floor). Open 5.00pm-1.00am. This was my favourite as I loved the atmosphere and the live music particularly the classical duo of flautist and pianist although Alberto the pianist who sang easy listening and mainly well known Italian and English songs was quite good too. Non smoking. Sinfonia bar & Lounge - the main show lounge directly above the theatre. Has live music and dancing every evening as well as a variety of other entertainment hosted by the young and energetic Entertainment team (cabarets, competitions, games, talent shows etc). The captain's cocktail parties are also held here. The live band Corazon Latino was very good. The Entertainment team were invariably present and frequently got passengers up to dance especially those travelling solo or with a partner not inclined to dance. Opens 8.00pm-1.00am. Non smoking Casino Bar - opens 4.00pm until the last gambler leaves! Smoking bar Pasha Disco - aft deck 12. Opens from 11pm until late (after 1am depending on when passengers leave). This is quite a nice relaxing place to chill out and read during the day as it has great views. On our particular cruise it was a Bridge themed one and some of the competitions were held here during the day. There are 3 bars on deck 11 (pool deck). Capri Bar top end of the pool 08.00am -11.00pm. Bolero Bar, bottom end of the pool and beside the open air Grill and pizza bar - 10am -8.00pm, Caffe Del Mar (Buffet Bar) aft in the buffet itself - 6.30am-08.00pm Drink packages Soft Drinks - 28 euros - 14 drinks Small beers - 35 euros - 14 beers Large beers - 59 euros for 14 Cocktails - 69 euros- 12 drinks Water - 20 euros - 14 still or sparkling 75cl bottles There are also wine packages available but I did not note the prices. Restaurants and Food Breakfast - You can choose from continental served in your cabin 7.30-10am but needs to be ordered before 3am), buffet in La Terrazza on deck 11 (7.00-10am)or a la carte breakfast in the main dining room (7.30-9.30am). If you can't wait for your caffeine intake there is early birds coffee served from 6.30 -7.00am' These times were for At sea days and were occasionally earlier when we were early in to Port. I didn't use the buffet at all on this cruise as I prefer waiter service of the dining room. The choice there was reasonably extensive with a variety of fruit juices (carton variety rather than fresh squeezed), fruits, cereals, variety of bread, rolls and pastries (I particularly recommend the pain au chocolat - avoid toast as they don't make it like you'd expect - stick to the fresh bread, rolls etc). You can have eggs pretty much anyway (the omelettes are very nice as is the scrambled eggs), bacon (bit on the crispy side for British tastes0, ham, sausages, potatoes of the day 9usually sautEed), grilled tomato. They also have smoked salmon which you can have on its own or with cream cheese and a bagel. You can have pancakes too and they also have yogurts. Lunch - if you want to dine in the open air on the pool deck, then your choice is the pizzeria which makes a variety of excellent pizzas or the grill serving hamburgers, hot dogs, and salads both open from 12.00-2.30pm. There is also the buffet on deck 11 from 12.00-2.30pm or the main dining room 12-2.00pm. (again these are the At Sea times and sometimes changed when in port) Lunch in the dining room has a selection of 6 courses available - appetizers; salad; soup; pasta and rice: main; dessert. Meals at lunch time tend to be more international than in the evening. I particularly liked the variety of soups especially the chilled consommEs and fruit soups (very varied and absolutely delicious). Appetizers were invariably good and very varied. Pasta was always good too, although the rice dish which was usually some kind of rice salad, which could be a bit bland or dry on occasion. Main courses would always include eggs (e.g. omelette. Eggs Benedict; a fish dish; meat and a sandwich (which could be on ciabatta, foccacio or just bread) they always have hamburgers, cheese burgers etc available too. Desserts always include the ice cream of the day as well as sugar free alternatives and fruit is also available. On the whole I enjoyed most meals. Sometimes the food was warm instead of hot. I was less keen on the chicken dishes, simply because they do not use boned pieces and I can't be bothered trying to get the meat off the bones, especially when it is smothered in a sauce. Afternoon tea - is served 4-5pm. They have a selection of teas (Prince of Wales; Assam; English; camomile; peppermint and a few other herbal & fruit infusions) Coffee is also available. The cakes, and biscuits are Italian and may not be what Americans or the British are used too, but very nice. They also served dainty little sandwiches and filled rolls. Dinner is served in the dining rooms at allocated tables. There are 2 sittings; I chose the second at 8.45pm as the first at 6.30pm was too early for me. Dinner also has 6 courses available which are less international, usually with the food from a different region of Italy each night (although on a longer repositioning cruise of 18 nights earlier this year, they did do themed dinners from other countries e.g. Middle East, orient, Greek etc) they also have grilled salmon, chicken or steak available every evening and spaghetti Bolognese, if you don't fancy the main courses available. We had 4 gala dinners in the 20 nights we were onboard. I was seated with 7 other British people, 1 couple and the rest solos like me. We mostly got on well together and had good conversation each night. We had a really good assistant waiter but our main waiter whilst competent was clearly disinterested in his job and just wanted to be back home with his family. This was my tenth cruise with MSC and I found that overall the quality of the food was the best on this particular sailing. I heard almost no complaints from other English speaking passengers about it either. Like lunch my favourite courses were the appetizers, soups and pasta although I also enjoyed the risotto too. Most main courses were either good or excellent. I rarely had a dessert but when I did, usually the ice cream or something lighter like mousse or crème brulee, I enjoyed them. Unlike on European sailings, free iced tap water was available in the dining room. Midnight buffet /snacks- there was only one Midnight buffet - the Buffet Magnifique on the evening of the last Gala night. Every other night snacks were served just outside the Buddha Bar on deck 6 served from 11.30pm and had a different theme. Can't comment on this as having just finished 4 or 5 courses an hour earlier, could not contemplate eating again. Crew For me the real stars (as always on MSC) were the dining room, bar and cabin crew. Gilbert my cabin steward was an absolute delight and kept my cabin immaculate. He always had a smile and a few words of welcome every time I saw him. When I didn't go down to dinner one night because I was feeling a bit ill with a sore throat, he came to check that I was ok. Many of the dining room staff were Balinese and absolutely charming. They always had a welcoming smile and soon got to know and recognise passengers. The bar staff were friendly too and happy to chat to passengers. From previous cruises with MSC I knew that the Italian Officers and Reception staff were usually aloof and often unhelpful. However on this sailing that had improved too. I found all the reception staff to be very pleasant and efficient I also had to see one of the officers about my account and he was absolutely charming. If you passed any of the officers, the majority would greet you with a smile and a few words of greeting. "Buon Giorno or Buona Sera" goes down a treat with them and guarantees you a smile! Entertainment There were 2 showings of the main show in the Broadway theatre each evening to coincide with the end of each dinner sitting. The theatre itself is beautiful and has good sight lines regardless of where you sit. Unlike other MSC ships, there were tables in here and waiter service before the show, but personally I prefer the other more usual style of theatre they have with no drinks or food. The shows had to cater for 5 languages so tended to be either visual acts (such as cirque oleil style acts; magicians; dancers; or musical. There were 3 opera singers onboard (2 tenors and a soprano) and 5 classical musicians. 8 of the 18 shows were classical concerts. These were extremely popular as they were incredibly talented musicians. One of the tenors in particular could easily have graced the stage at La Scala or Covent Garden, he was that good. Many of us were of the opinion that we would have gladly bought tickets to see them and were disappointed that they did not have any CDs we could buy. They got standing ovations every night and frequently either moved me to tears or had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. They also did a Michael Jackson Tribute one night which was amazing and I don't think there was a dry eye in the theatre. There was usually some kind of entertainment hosted by the very energetic group of young Italians forming the Entertainment team going on day and night. Day time tended to be dance lessons, quizzes and bingo (in 5 or 6 languages); competitions and games on days at sea there were also Italian lessons, arts and crafts and other demos and talks). As this was a Bridge themed cruise there were daily lessons as well as competitions. Gym, Spa and other facilities The gym had recently been kitted out with new equipment and there was never a problem getting a treadmill or a bike (the ship was at less than 50% max occupancy though). They had a good range of free weights and weight machines. The gym is situated right at the front of deck 11 beside the spa and you got great views from up there. It did however mean it also felt the motion of the ship the worst when the sea was rough... The thermal area was situated here too and it was absolutely beautiful. I really loved the dEcor in the large Turkish bath and the showers were great with, overhead, side and rain effects. They also had huge ceramic loungers that were heated. I could happily have spent hours in this area, relaxing and staring out to sea. The normal price was expensive at 16 euros for an hour but they also introduced a number of specials (2 for 16 euros or unlimited use throughout the cruise for 99euros) I used the spa a lot as I'd bought 2 spa packages pre cruise. This included (total cost £308 for 9 treatments that included a number of different Balinese massages, a pedicure, manicure and a few others. It was supposed to be a saving of £172 on the onboard price but with the pound having fallen dramatically against the euro, I saved much more than this). Not many passengers were using the spa either, so there were always offers to be had where you could get free treatments if you bought products or discounts if you bought more than one treatment. I'd certainly recommend the Balinese massages with hot lava stones - it was bliss. They have a hairdresser too, The outdoor pool is salt water and not heated, so is fine when in hot weather but can get a bit chilly. The pool area itself and deck above have lots of sun loungers available (which are all fitted with an adjustable face shield). Even on sea days, there was never a problem finding a lounger (but then the ship was not full). At certain times of the day there are activities by the pool - quizzes, games, dance lessons etc which can be a bit noisy sometimes so if you fancy some peace and quiet then head for the small deck areas aft from deck 8 upwards to 12. There is also a small library which I did not use but from previous experience of MSC ships would expect it to have only a small selection of books in English. There is a well equipped medical centre (with extremely proficient and friendly staff), A casino; slot machine area; cyber cafe; photo shop and a variety of other shops (clothing;; duty free; perfumery; electronics and a limited range of toiletries) There is also a children's club on deck 11 but as I don't have children, can't tell you anything about it. There is no self service laundry onboard, but they do have a laundry service which is quick and good. MSC Club members get 10 items of laundry done free of charge. Disembarkation We were supposed to vacate our cabins by 8am and be ready for our "colours" to be called by 9am. (They call passengers off in groups depending on the colour of the luggage labels you've been given. Those with early flights get allocated colours for the first group, likewise any doing a disembarkation tour). I was in about the 3rd or 4th group to be called at about 9.15am, however as I'd arranged with my hotel that they'd send a driver to pick me up at 10am, I waited until just before 10 and left with another group. . Overall Opinion The Good The food, my cabin, the shows especially the operatic singers and the great relaxed laid back atmosphere and the lovely people I met onboard. With this being a relatively small ship by today's standard and being just under half full, it was easy to get to know the other passengers and there were a significant number English speaking (Lots of Brits and South Africans and a few Americans, Canadians and Aussies) The Bad The weather was fine and sunny until the day before we reached the equator but then it turned chilled and windy for about 6 or 7 days and we had some rough seas. We'd been informed that the onboard currency would be the US$ but we were all rather annoyed to discover that it was still in Euros and did not change to dollars until the cruise after ours. This made the onboard prices more expensive especially as the pound had fallen more against the euro than it had against the dollar. The 3 flight, 20 hour marathon return home. With hindsight, I think it would have been better to have done the Northbound sailing in April that way I would not have had some of the benefits of 3 weeks of relaxation undone by the overnight cramped flight home, before going straight back to work. The Ugly A hardcore of passengers (about 20) who were so incensed about the "currency issue" that they made it the entire focus of their cruise. They were organising petitions, organising meetings with officers, harassing other passengers to take part in a sit in at disembarkation, protest by not spending any money onboard etc. I may not have been over the moon about the prices being in euros but overall I'd had a great price for a suite and had had the usual 100% supplement waived, so ending up spending an extra £100 or more onboard was no big deal and certainly not one important enough to ruin my cruise or let the "protest group" ruin it. Fortunately you could usually hear them before they saw you, so you could take evasive action and take another route to where you were heading! So in Summary this was a great cruise despite the sometimes uncooperative weather. Had exactly what I wanted a very relaxing time, being waited on hand and foot by fantastic friendly staff who could not do enough for me. Met some great people and visited some unique places. Postscript After returning home, I wrote to the MSC UK office to complain about having been misinformed about the currency and also the issues at embarkation. I was extremely pleased with their response which included a full apology, percentage refund of my onboard spend, an onboard credit for my next cruise and a discount on the cruise price of any cruise booked up until the end of 2011. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Having only been on a much smaller cruise ship previously we were swept away by the Fantasia. Although the ship is huge, we found our way around easily and after 2 days we didn't even need our deck plan map. We were extremely happy ... Read More
Having only been on a much smaller cruise ship previously we were swept away by the Fantasia. Although the ship is huge, we found our way around easily and after 2 days we didn't even need our deck plan map. We were extremely happy with our cabin (having been upgraded by 3 decks), the room was spacious and clean and the balcony was perfect for sitting out in the early evening watching the sun setting. The pool area, although busy, was never too crowded and we discovered a much quieter adults only pool at the back of the ship. As we are not early risers we took advantage of the breakfast room service which was ideal although the times that we ticked were not always the times that it was delivered! We ate in the main restaurant a few times but we also tried out the speciality restaurants, El Sombrero Tex Mex was a particular favourite. We found the waiters & bar staff were always very friendly and chatty. We wasn't too keen on the entertainment as one show featured Irish dancing, acrobatics and ballroom dancing all within 10 minutes with no relevance to the storyline that started and ended the show. The embarkation and disembarkation procedures were a bit confusing but this may have been due to the staff speaking mainly Italian (there were not many British tourists on the ship) and a lot of the announcements were made in 5 different languages, with English being the last. This may have been easier if we had been experienced cruisers and knew what to expect. The ports of call were interesting and the excursions were adequate although we only went ashore at three ports of call, one being an escorted tour. The ship itself is very well laid out with light, airy bars and plenty of seating areas. The gift shop and duty free shop were well stocked and the sweet shop was a delight! The crystal staircase and elevators in the main atrium are spectacular. We would definitely cruise again on MSC Fantasia and would consider trying another MSC ship although we prefer the larger ships. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Checking in for our cruise at Genoa port could have been any booking hall or terminal building, which in this case was a good thing as this cruise was a birthday surprise for my mother, who had no idea she was going on a cruise, untill she ... Read More
Checking in for our cruise at Genoa port could have been any booking hall or terminal building, which in this case was a good thing as this cruise was a birthday surprise for my mother, who had no idea she was going on a cruise, untill she was shown to her cabin. Which was a very nice, modern spacious cabin.My cabin was also nice and modern but not as big as mums. The embarkation process was very slow, they would call so many people at a time, even though we had done all the paper work in the previous hall, i dont know what the hold up was as it was now mid afternoon, surly time enough to prepare all the cabins for news guests. The ship was beautiful, full of Italian elegance.You could not fault the cleanliness on the ship everything was sparkling. The main restaurant was very elegant, we were sat at the same table every night which was fine, the table linen was of the finest quality (i do appreciate a nice bit of table linen)the service and the food was good, although they did forget to bring mums birthday cake( that i had pre ordered and paid for )and the waiters do not make such a big thing of any celebration as they have on other ships i have been on. Maybe the tables were a little close to each other. The self service buffet restaurant was nice,and food displayed in a good manner, although the food was not always hot only warm, the tables were not cleared and cleaned quickly enough for other diners,even though there was plenty of staff standing around. some of the evening entertainment was good, but most of the shows we left early. On the last night there were games for you to participate in all around the ship, maybe fun for children but not for the grown ups. The casino and gaming facilities were good. The spa and beauty rooms were not as well promoted as on other ships, when i went to check it out it was very expensive. On the morning of disembarkation we were going to stay on the ship until 11am, then go to the airport for our flight home,however at 9.50am our names were called ( we were the last 4 passengers on board) and were told we could not stay on the ship and had to get off straight away!On other ships i have always been able stay until such time as i had to get off !! which left a little sour note to the end of a lovely cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
First, the positives. The ship was spotless and remained so throughout a long cruise. We arrived at every port exactly on time and in an excellent and convenient location. Embarkations were easy and well handled. The crew and staff ... Read More
First, the positives. The ship was spotless and remained so throughout a long cruise. We arrived at every port exactly on time and in an excellent and convenient location. Embarkations were easy and well handled. The crew and staff were, for the most part, polite and accommodating. All of this was enhanced by terrific weather, including the five days spent crossing the Atlantic. Now the negatives. The food was not good. At its very best, it was adequate; at its worst it was inedible. When whole tables of passengers send their nearly-full plates back to the dining room, it should be a signal that something is wrong. It was bland, the meat was tough and almost everything tasted canned or left over. The upper level dining area closed up tight in the late afternoon and remained so until 6:00 AM. If a passenger chose not to go to the dining room for dinner, he was out of luck. Room service was available but there was not a big selection. We quickly learned to purchase snacks at our stops and keep them in our cabin. Some odd practices on board: The towels by the pool had to be checked in and out daily. Passengers stood in line to sign them out and back in (including sea days) Why? So the staff did not have to pick them up? Books had to be checked out and back in of the meager library (which was obviously stocked by leftovers from previous travelers) by painstaking notes in an accounting journal. Ridiculous. The pillows in our stateroom were like cement bags. After three days of asking for softer pillows (which did exist, we later found from other passengers) we bought pillows at one of our stops and left them on board for the next luckless passenger. Entertainment was adequate but because everything was announced in five languages, translation time exceeded performance time. The cruise director did a good job, though, and he and his staff transitioned easily from one language to the next. Gratuities: After several visits to the purser we learned the cabin stewards and waiters get a miniscule percentage of charged gratuities. We decided to leave the tips ourselves, but later found out the staff is directed to turn those over. Hope this is not so. The ship was very clean, but rather without character. Other ships we've cruised on have nice art work, fresh flowers, etc.; the Lirica was decorated with one sculpture and several large vases of plastic flowers. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
We had a very interesting cruise of the Western Mediterranean (March 09) on board of MSC's Fantasia. This sturdy new ship is large (130 K tons) but nevertheless manageable, that is if you have a good sense of orientation. I will give ... Read More
We had a very interesting cruise of the Western Mediterranean (March 09) on board of MSC's Fantasia. This sturdy new ship is large (130 K tons) but nevertheless manageable, that is if you have a good sense of orientation. I will give you a summary of the ship in case you are considering it for future cruises. In general terms, the ship is nice with many but many lounges , bars and other public rooms, mostly decorated in sober good taste, a few are somewhat tacky or eclectic, ie. Disco. The Library is miniscule for the size of the ship (although it was not much used in this port-intensive cruise). The internet corner in the library is very small, but you could get a computer immediately if you went late at night, early morning, or when everybody was busy on land. Cabin: We had one with balcony, mid-ship on the 12th deck, approximately 190 square ft, it was very comfortable and practical. It featured a sitting area and sufficient storage space, flat-screen TV, phone, hairdryer, and a safe. The bathroom is small but adequate, the shower stall is ok, but has an unpleasant curtain that seemed to be in the way all the time. Very occasionally, a mild tobacco smoke could be felt coming either from the next door cabin or from the ventilation system. Cabin service was excellent, unobtrusive and thorough. The balcony was also very comfortable with two chairs and a table. In summary the cabin was nice, new and quiet. Dining: It is not outstanding, just marginally ok. I found the food to be healthy, and abundant but not exciting. One would expect a better cuisine from an Italian line. The ingredients are mostly fine, but the preparation was inconsistent sometimes good, sometimes tasteless. Service in the Dining rooms was impeccable, especially when provided by East-Asians and Indonesians, Italians were a little less attentive. There were vegetarian options on every lunch and dinner menu. Breakfast and lunch buffets are also served in the buffet (cafeteria style, you serve yourself) and were passable or mediocre. We went twice, and after the experience, equivalent to a poor or average cafeteria in Europe or North-America plus several hundreds/thousands hungry passengers out of control, we took all our meals at the main Restaurants. In these venues, even the lunch and breakfast experience was slightly better, probably due to the excellent service provided by the waiters. Interestingly, the sanitizing Purell stations were not of compulsory use, a rather unusual and risky policy of MSC. In summary, if food is your number 1 priority, this line is not for you. Public Rooms and Others: There are many and you never got a crowded feeling (although the ship was full). One nice feature is that there are few announcements (although in many languages) and the music is not blaring all the time as in some other cruise ships. Everything looks very clean and tidy. MSC Fantasia has a nice gym, with many treadmills and exercise bikes, , etc. There is a spa installation aboard. There are several swimming pools, the indoor pool is large and was used a lot in this Winter-cruise, I did not like it because of the over-chlorination and the smokers. The out door-pools looked much better but it was too cold to use them. Entertainment: We are not that interested in this type of activity, although we missed real classical chamber music that is provided even by run of the mill lines such as RC on European cruises. We watched for 5 minutes a silly bunch of comedians and for another 5 min a Las Vegas-style opera-aria show and decided not to return. I guess it is the same quality as in other average cruise lines. Embarkation and disembarkation: All were very well organized and there were no complaints. Excursions: We did the excursions on our own. Many complained that the MSC- organized excursions were not recommendable. Most cities such as Barcelona, Naples, Palermo, Palma, etc can be explored on your own if you do so homework prior to sailing. The ship docks too far out in some cities (Palma, Barcelona, Marseilles) and you need to walk for 20—30 min to reach the city center. A shuttle provided by MSC is a good, albeit a little expensive solution. Dress Codes: Two formal nights out of seven. Most men wore regular suits, or sport coat and tie, many were casually dressed even on formal nights and women choose cocktail dresses or simple outfits. The remaining nights were very casual. Passengers: MSC typically appeals to all ages including families with children. On our cruise the median age was under 50, with many teenagers and younger couples. Most passengers were Europeans mainly Germans and Italians, and some Spaniards. English speakers were a small minority. Smokers are a problem, there are many and sometimes you could feel smoke in areas that were supposedly for non-smokers. Nevertheless, MSC is making an effort to discipline smokers and I felt less tobacco smoke than described in other reviews. Conclusion: Quite good, but with many areas requiring improvement, especially cuisine, more enforcement of non-smoking areas, more attention to sanitation, (and why are passports of non-EU citizens retained at the reception, I never experienced this in other lines). Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
We arrived at the dock around 4pm and boarded immediately. Having already familiarized ourselves with the layout of the ship, had no trouble locating our cabin. Met our cabin steward who asked if we needed anything. We wanted extra ... Read More
We arrived at the dock around 4pm and boarded immediately. Having already familiarized ourselves with the layout of the ship, had no trouble locating our cabin. Met our cabin steward who asked if we needed anything. We wanted extra pillows and those were brought immediately. Discovered our dinner seating was early, though we had booked for later, we went to the dining room to change to late seating. No problems and were given a table for the 8:30 dinner. L'Hibiscus was too yellow and bright for our tastes and our table was near the kitchen entrance which hubby hates. He went to the Maitre'd and requested a move to Villa Borghese. He was told we would have a very nice table. A note was left in our cabin informing us of our new table (462) in Villa Borghese. Great table, fabulous waiter and assistant. We found the food to be very good, cooked well and liked the foods served according to the country we had visited that day. My family even ate items I never thought I would see them eat AND they liked it! We always order a continental breakfast for early delivery as we like our coffee when getting ready. This was delivered every morning very promptly. Once I had forgotten to order croissants and these were brought to us within minutes of our request. We ate breakfast at the buffet the first morning. Finding it very crowded, food mediocre and somewhat disorganized, we decided to eat in Villa Borghese every day which served good food. We ate 3 or 4 times in the buffet for lunch, but again, preferred the restaurant as the food and service was better. Refreshment serving carts would have been welcome at the buffet as it was crowded around the coffee service. Larger glasses would have also been appreciated for water. The fresh made pastas in the dining room were flavorful. No comparison to that at the buffet. We definitely enjoyed the quietness of the ship without the on going outdoor movies (I don't ever want to hear Shrek again!) and constant announcements for games, entertainment, art auction, etc. In fact, they don't push the sale of anything including alcohol. I found this very refreshing instead of telling a waiter every few seconds, no, thank you. The evening entertainment in the theaters was top notch and not the corny shows one finds on other ships. The only bottleneck was through the Savanah Bar where everyone has to feed into the starboard side hall to pass to to the rear of the ship. The four of us ate in Shanghai Restaurant and loved the Chinese food and good service. The only drawback that was corrected, was ordering a bottle of wine from the menu on the table. We ordered the MSC house wine and was told by the waiter the wine list was not valid, but that we had to order from the wine bar menu. I immediately said, "if that were the case, why is the menu on all the tables?". With no comment he brought the bottle of wine we initially ordered. We found our cabin very comfortable and our steward saw that we did not want for anything. We always had fresh ice and he arranged our sleeping clothes as flowers on the bed everynight. I used the spa extensively and found it refreshing to not have products pushed for sale. The staff was very nice, the services good and the jacuzzi's were a well kept secret as there were never more than 3 or 4 people using them. We did not miss the 24 hour food service as we adjusted our schedule accordingly. Saved on the waistline too. The ice cream at the pool was fantastic and affordably priced. Too tempting. The internet service was awful, but then what ship has good service? We chose the cruise for the ports and length of time in each one. This gave ample time to see sights, though some places we could have stayed for weeks! It was nice to not have to rush to get back for a 4pm sailing or only be in port 4 hours. The sea days were relaxing, the seas calm and each day dawned with a beautiful sunrise. The disembarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was frustrating due to the delay and missed flight, however this has occurred before with us on other cruises. We just went with the flow and made other arrangements once we got to the airport. We arrived home 8 hours later than planned, but that is not a big issue with us. Overall, we enjoyed our cruise, accommodations and food. Service could be improved, but a smile, please and thank you really went a long way with the staff. The ship is beautiful, well planned, easy to maneuver and the elevators were never a problem. Lots of quiet areas to relax and enjoy the sea. We will definitely sail with MSC again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
I have to admit this cruise was chosen based on itinerary, itinerary and itinerary. In fact there are very few cruise lines that would have turned me off based on a ship when looking at such a port intensive schedule of Katakolon-Olympia, ... Read More
I have to admit this cruise was chosen based on itinerary, itinerary and itinerary. In fact there are very few cruise lines that would have turned me off based on a ship when looking at such a port intensive schedule of Katakolon-Olympia, Pireaus-Athens, Rhodes, Cyprus, Alexandria, Crete, Marmaris and Naples. In any event, I was prepared for things to be different after reading so many negative reviews posted mostly by Americans, and was surprised it was not as different or problematic as I feared it might be. Then again, I have never had a truly "bad" cruise, so maybe my standards are flexible. We traveled with my two older stepkids, both of whom have contributed to this review. One draw of this cruise in addition to the itinerary was that kids sail free, but the catch is that they have to be in a room with two paying passengers so you are in essence waiving the 3/4 fee. Embarkation- We embarked in Genoa which has a beautiful cruise port building, but unfortunately was not the one we used. Just like many other companies, MSC offers online check-in.... and just like most of the lines that do this, it means nothing as far as being able to wait in some type of priority or express line. Actually, the checking in part only took about 15 minutes of waiting in line, but then you are assigned a number to be called while you sit in a large waiting area. The convenient part about this is that while you wait you can book your excursions, beverage packages, spa treatments and kids club memberships. None of these things can be booked in advance online as with other cruise lines, so it was helpful although a bit hectic and loud. We booked excursions for Turkey, Egypt and Naples only... I am fluent in Greek so I prefer we navigate ourselves in the Greek-speaking ports. We did not buy any soda or wine packages because they all had limited amounts of beverages rather than the unlimited type soda cards you see on most lines. Also, because we were US citizens we were given a free bottled water package. I had heard about before because as was later confirmed, there is no ice water served at meals. One thing I noticed which bugged me was that they print your room number on your key card. Apparently MSC is run by the same people who label their house keys with their home address in case they get lost. Nationality- I will start with languages.... more than half of the passengers spoke German, with about 20% Italian, 20% English and the rest spoke French. I must say that the crew, particularly for such a young staff, were excellent in their ability to communicate with most passengers. With the exception of one Ukrainian bartender who spoke no English, I did not have any trouble communicating on the ship. Because of my appearance most people started off assuming I was Italian, and my "Io no capisco l'Italiano" might have confused them further because I pronounced it too properly for someone who doesn't speak the language. Neither DH or the kids had problems either, but I think the kids really did learn how helpful it is to speak several languages. As far as the actual nationalities of the passengers, I would say that nearly two thirds of the passengers were German, the rest being an even mix of Italians, British, French, American and Chinese. The crew was mostly Italian in the entertainment and managerial staff, and Southeast Asian in the dining room and housekeeping crew. The Poesia is a brand new ship, sailing only since this past April, so many of the crew had never worked on a ship before but it did not seem to show. The Ship- Not what you would expect.... from what I had heard about MSC I was afraid it would be over the top with Vegas-style glitz, however with the exception of the Zebra Lounge and the stairwell carpets, I found most of the decor in the public rooms to be understated.... neutral tones in the dining room, muted pastels in many of the lounges... one exception was the Carlos Felice Theater, where purple seats looked a bit like a Barney explosion, but for the most part it did not have the tacky feel I had feared..... which brings me to The Cabin- We were in a balcony cabin on Deck 12, and an escort was assigned to help us find our room. The cabin was just big enough for the 4 of us but would not have held 4 adults comfortably. I would say bigger than NCL but smaller than Carnival.... probably most comparable to RCL. The love seat opened into a bed and there was a wall bunk that folded down at night for the 4th person. Matthew "called" the bunk which was just fine with Lizzie. The decor with its black and red bedspread was a little sharp, very Italian designer looking but not too over the top. The beds were comfortable and I did not wake up with any back pain as I often do when sleeping in cheaper beds. In order to save energy, MSC has a system rigged into the rooms where if you don't have a card inside the power slot, the lights will shut off after 5 or 10 minutes. Each room also has 2 US (110) and 2 EUR (220) power outlets at the desk . I brought a plug adapter so we were able to use all of the outlets. The bathroom was also on the small side, again comparable to RCL for those who are familiar with it. Very good water pressure and temperature in the shower. One minor annoyance was the shower curtain that stuck to you while showering and the fact that MSC doesn't provide washcloths for some reason. Also, the bathroom is not ventilated and has no fan which means it gets more wet than usual during a shower. An odd regulation, smoking is not permitted on balconies but is allowed in cabins. We were only one deck below the smoking section on Lido and I am a "drinking-only" smoker so it wasn't much of an issue, but still a strange rule. The room had a minibar fridge with some room for your own items where I kept some Baily's and small bottles of water. There is confusion about what you are and are not allowed to bring on the ship with respect to beverages... there may be a written rule about all beverages, alcoholic or not, but I did not see any enforcement of this, in fact any water bottles we bought in ports we were allowed to bring right in. There seems to be a major control issue on board with beverages, bringing me to the next category- Dining Choices- 1. Buffet- We had our first meal in what they call the Cafeteria, which was very convenient to our room being right up the stairs. Lunch time had a pizza section, grill, and hot buffet section with different types of pasta, meats, potatoes and vegetables. There are NO self-serve beverages, and the only drinks which are included at lunch time are coffee, tea and water which are brought to you by the waitstaff. The water comes in tiny glasses of about 3-4 ounces... kind of like we had in elementary school. During breakfast you can have one of 5 or 6 different kinds of juice but again, they are served to you by the waitstaff in the little glasses. I can understand why there is some control on this because I have noticed on other lines that the greatest waste appears to be with beverages, but I think the small glasses OR no self-serve would have accomplished this goal well enough. Anyway, we didn't eat many meals in the buffet except breakfasts and that was only because of the convenience. Lunches we mostly ate either in port or occasionally in the dining rooms where they had open-seating except at dinner time. One should note that there is NO buffet service at dinner time.... you eat in the dining room or you pay for alternate dining or room service. The room service menu is all cold options and the restaurants are a la carte rather than one price. We didn't use any of these choices except once in a while the evening pizza which is 6 Euros for an 18 inch pie. On formal evenings there would be a late-night buffet which we didn't attend, and other nights there would be what the program listed as a "buffet" in the lounges but it was a lie... just a few waiters walking around serving hot hors d'oeuvres with drinks. There is also free afternoon tea every day in the Buffet... you wait on line for your tea or coffee, and there are a few different types of sandwiches and desserts available self-serve style. 2. Dining Room- As I mentioned earlier, there is no ice water served in the dining room, so all beverages except coffee must be purchased. We had our voucher for free bottled water which was really only enough for two people per meal, so we would end up buying a second bottle for the kids. They didn't like the Pellegrino that Peter and I ordered so we got them the non-carbonated equivalent. There were many course choices for meals, both at lunch and dinner.... these included appetizers, soups, salads, pasta & rice and main courses. One of the major complaints I have seen in reviews are with the food quality, and while I must admit the meals were nothing to write home about, they certainly weren't inedible. Since even the QE2 Princess Grill occasionally disappointed me on the final transatlantic with frozen french fries and American cheese-food, I don't think I can criticize the Poesia in their European style of cuisine. I think the food preparation is just done in a way we are not used to.... for example, the lobster was served cut in half with marinara sauce over it. This is probably common in parts of continental Europe, so I think when booking MSC or any European based line you have to remember who their passenger base is. As I said earlier I knew going in that this cruise experience, especially the cuisine, would be different and of course I was not disappointed in that expectation. Entertainment- We didn't take part in most of the entertainment except the trivia quizzes and we even won a couple, but from what people told me the live entertainment was very good. I had some issues with trivia, as those of you who have sailed with us before know, with the official answers being wrong (i.e. the Smithsonian, not the Louvre, is the world's largest museum) however I was again impressed with the crew and their ability to conduct these quizzes in several languages. As far as activities are concerned, there is not a lot of information in the programs and some things are not listed at all. Some events have ambiguous names and you don't have any idea what they are talking about such as "Mime Mix" and "Coffee Game" with no descriptions. The kids advise that the arcade is very expensive at one Euro or more per game, with each game lasting less than a minute. Also the pools and jacuzzi close at 7pm The in-room television seems to incorporate some cultural stereotypes. The only thing in English are news stations.... movies are all in German and sitcoms are in Italian. It is a very nice flat-screen TV and has ports for a portable DVD, but not useful if you are the type who likes some down time in your room while waiting for dinner or for your kids to get ready. Additionally, there are local stations such as a webcam on the bow, another on the Lido deck so you can see how crowded it is, but for the most part we used the TV for the navigational channel to see where we were on the map. They also have a pay-per-view movie service but those are rather costly at 14 Euros each. Internet service is available in your room with an Ethernet cable, or wireless in various public areas on the ship. I paid 80 Euros for 250 minutes which was plenty for 11 days, particularly with such a port-intensive itinerary. Some of the ports were only half-days though, so it was helpful to have the service. I did not visit the Library, however Peter did and found it lacking.... no periodicals and all books were novels with no history books or reference books such as atlases or dictionaries. Service- Dining room service was excellent... polite, punctual and never any problems with orders or special requests. The room steward on the other hand, not so much. Ice was never brought to the room unless I chased him down, and our glasses kept disappearing. Each time I would use a glass it would get taken without being replaced with a clean one. This may have to do with their obsessive beverage control issues. Also, if on occasion one of the kids was still in the room when he came by, even for just five minutes, he would never come back to see if he could clean the room. To his credit, he did fold all of the kids' clothes when they left them around, and I feel bad he had to deal with their disorganized habits. Attire- We were never given a list of expected attire prior to the cruise, other than that there are generally two formal nights on an 11-night cruise. In actuality there were 4 formal nights, 2 informal and the rest were casual. We only participated in two formal nights because we didn't bring enough to wear and didn't really feel up to dressing up after long intensive port days... on those nights we stayed in the room and ordered pizza. Ports and Excursions- This is where MSC shines.... hardly any lines getting on or off the ship and good quality excursions for the most part. We were early birds for the ports that we did free-style and sometimes the first ones out. The only complaint I had was the chaotic assembly for the Egypt excursions, but I think this was just because there were so many people who booked them. Katakolon- we rented a car and drove to Olympia, spent about two hours at the ruins, then came back and spent the rest of the time in town shopping and having lunch on shore with a view of the ship. It was one of my favorite port visits this cruise and the kids enjoyed it as well. They loved taking pictures of the stray dogs and cats which are prevalent in little towns like this. Athens- we took the Metro to the Acropolis where we spent about an hour or so, then walked to the 1896 Olympic Stadium, then took the Metro to Likavitos mountain where we climbed to the top. Yes, that is right, we climbed all the way because I couldn't remember where the blasted elevator was... oh well, it was good exercise and we really earned the overpriced meal we had in the restaurant. You want to leave the city about an hour before all aboard call, because of the time it takes to get back to Piraeus as well as the walk to the ship from the Metro station. Rhodes- my favorite island, in fact my third time here and unfortunately it rained all day. Tried to rent a car but no one was open since we pulled into port at 7am, so Lindos was out. Instead we walked around the Old Town and had lunch at a gyro place, which is the Greek equivalent of fast food only much better. This is a very good shopping venue and the Old Town also houses a medieval castle which is worth seeing. If you ever do make it to Lindos, there is another Acropolis, smaller than the one in Athens but you can ride donkeys to the top. We didn't go there this trip but I have done it before. Alexandria- we did an all day excursion which took us to the pyramids, sphinx, papyrus institute, mosque and ended with a Nile dinner cruise. Very good excursion except for the harsh wind and extremely pushy vendors at the pyramid site. I recommend bringing some spare change because the vendors will be very persistent. Also keeping your head down while you walk helps with both the sand and the soliciting. I see why the women wear veils, my hair was a horrible mess from the wind and sand by the time we got back to the ship. The Nile dinner cruise had excellent food and entertainment, a good way to end the tour. Limassol- canceled due to weather, had a day at sea instead. As a result MSC added the port of Messina to what was supposed to be one of only two sea days later in the cruise. Marmaris- we did a ship excursion where we took a boat trip and saw tombs carved into mountains, then went to the ancient city of Kaunos. Spent an hour or so there and our tour guide was very knowledgeable. Many of the guides in Turkey know several languages so there is never a communication problem. After seeing the ancient city we then came back and had a large lunch, ended with shopping downtown. I bought a couple of small handmade rugs and the kids bought some knick-knacks. Crete- again tried to rent a car but no one was open so we hired a private taxi for 100 Euros. We went to the Palace at Knossos, Zorba's tomb, an olive oil factory and fields, Greek Orthodox Church, then he brought us to Lion Square where we ate what would be our last Greek meal. I lost it a little bit on the gypsies who kept coming to our table to beg for money, but I felt responsible as the designated Greek to tell them off. I swear I really am a good Christian otherwise, but we had just given all of our change to some little girl who played the accordion, and I thought that three panhandlers in less than a minute was ridiculous while trying to eat. Messina- we chose the Mt. Etna tour which ended up being a bust, it rained the whole day so we spent about twenty minutes looking at some volcanic rock and a half hour in town shopping. About an hour drive each way for less than an hour of touring. Naples- in spite of the rain, a very good tour of Pompeii... I had no idea how big this city was or how well preserved so much of it would be. Definitely worth seeing no matter what the weather is. We also had a pizza lunch in town... a little pricey at 55 Euros for four individual pizzas, two beers and two sodas, but the pizza as delicious so it was well worth it Miscellaneous pros and cons- In the spirit of being positive, the pros first.... for example in spite of the limit on free beverages, the drink costs are relatively cheap and don't charge an automatic 15% gratuity. In eleven days we spent an average of 7 Euros each day per person on drinks. Also, the auto-tipping was less than most lines at 66 Euros for adults and 33 Euros for children. There were some nice touches, like fresh fruit in your cabin every night, bathrobes, and a large assortment of board games and puzzles for the kids. Many of the stores were inexpensive, in fact Lizzie found a swimsuit for under 15 Euro. Some of the negative things, many services were extremely disorganized, sparse or non-existent. No one was ever in the internet cafe to help, the photo gallery was closed 90% of the time so we never saw our pictures (probably a good thing if they are overpriced like most lines, but again we never could find out) and changing our dining time to late seating was a complete disaster. In this case I was assigned a number like they do at the deli, and after waiting a half hour my number was finally called. I got up there and was told that they were closing because the maitre-d had to be elsewhere.... meanwhile about 50 other passengers were pushing ahead of me and being really rude. Finally I spoke up and said "everyone is cutting ahead and I am getting upset." I was then taken inside and given my later seating, but after feeling like a heel for throwing a little bit of a fit. Disembarkation- There is no self-assist, but because US citizens had to wait for the return of our passports after we had handed them in a few days earlier, it was probably a moot issue. I didn't like handing in our passports but in the long run it gave us an advantage.... because we didn't have to wait in the dreaded Barney-splashed Carlos Felice Theater with hundreds of others. Those picking up passports got to wait in the much smaller, quieter and less crowded Moulin Rouge. Passing them out was a bit of a debacle, we sat back and watched while everyone waited in line for the staff to find their passports in one of several boxes. When almost everyone was gone I sent Peter up to get ours among what little was left. I would say we were off the ship by 10:30am. Finding a taxi was a little tricky and it was pretty cold for Italy. They had transfer buses to Genoa airport but they were not advertised at all so we didn't know about them until disembarkation day. Also, it would have been 15 Euros per person rather than the 28 we paid for the cab. Final thoughts- All in all I would take this cruise again... but would be better prepared next time. I would definitely pay the extra for a balcony when cruising along so many of the islands. In fact one of the most memorable moments for me was when we pulled out of Crete and the sun was shining on the balcony as the ship sailed along the north coast of the island... I sat out there feeling somewhat sad, knowing this was the last time I would see Greece for at least another year, maybe longer. Sure, I probably made it worse for myself listening to Greek music as we sailed but it is one thing I will never forget, bittersweet as it was. I think every cruise should have at least one of these moments that stands out from the rest, thereby making it a success. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Cruise Mid of November, East Mediterranean Sea Ship in general The ship is very beautiful. There were many passengers (thereof 2400 German), but one does not notice that there are so many persons. The MSC Orchestra has place enough for ... Read More
Cruise Mid of November, East Mediterranean Sea Ship in general The ship is very beautiful. There were many passengers (thereof 2400 German), but one does not notice that there are so many persons. The MSC Orchestra has place enough for all and many rooms to stay there. However, they had sometimes accumulations: for example at breakfast or at dinner when trips where planned. The cabin The room of the cabin was sufficient and appropriately equipped. We had a cabin outside with balcony on the 10th floor (Lira-Deck), on the port side, very calm. We had nearly every day new towels. Eating. They had a great choice with breakfast and lunch. Those who could find anything should blame themselves. The dinner was also okay. We got always what we ordered. Service Service of cabin and of the reception: They were kind, conscientious. Athletics, entertainment Performances in the theatre "Covent Garden" were absolutely professional. They don't need the comparison with others in the world. The spectators like the performances of the dancing ensemble, the magician, artistic group (the theatre consists of 1000 persons) very much and were enthusiastic. The "Angels Quartet (4 young ladies) played excellent classic music (5 points) "Los Paraguayos" in top form when there were many spectators (4,5 points) In the "Savannah Bar" they played every evening the same boring songs. (2 points) The same the "Shaker-Lounge", which was full of smoke (2 points). Unfortunately nowhere attractive music, we missed international disco music, for example during the pauses in life music they could have played them. The entertainers were foolish, without ideas Of all entertainers we did not like Felice Visone, disc jockey "R32 Dicso, Deck 14": This discotheque was opened about 23 o'clock. When one comes about this time or later to the rooms which were most of times without any people, he played techno music very loudly. When we wished other music, for example discofox, he answered: this is not my music. Even if one evening they announced "Evergreens", they played only stupid techno music. When we said, that they had "evergreen evening", Mr. Visone went to his cabin and played very old twist and rockn'roll. In spite of this many guest arrived and danced. Mr. Visone played the music louder and louder, but the guests remained there. Ten minutes later he played again his techno music and the guests left. It is really a pity that in this beautiful discotheque which is technically well-equipped only techno music is played, though they have all the repertoire of music between twist and techno in the computers. We asked Mr. Visone to play music from our MP3-Player, and we got it back with many viruses, also the Trojaner.  This is a very dangerous thing on a modern ship, which has many computers. Trips on land Very expensive. Many times the visits were included with advertising, sometimes already in the bus. The advertising comprised a half- or one hour. But we had only paid for visits and did not want to loose time and money for this advertising trip. Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
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 ... Read More
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 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. Read Less
Sail Date March 2006
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