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Sail Date: September 2011
We ebarked from Malta. First impression of the ship is Wow very very nice. the staff is really helpful. One of the attendants came to help us with the hand luggage and showed us the cabin, then we took lunch at the Zanzibar cafeteria, Food ... Read More
We ebarked from Malta. First impression of the ship is Wow very very nice. the staff is really helpful. One of the attendants came to help us with the hand luggage and showed us the cabin, then we took lunch at the Zanzibar cafeteria, Food is excellent, not cold as others described.

Service in restaurants is better than the buffets. Restaurants food is presented very well and again food is excellent, the only thing lacking is the buffet in the evening that needs a little more improvement since there is not a lot of choice.

My husband said that pasta is not cooked well but is not the case it is that he does not like al dente pasta but i really like it. Also the ship offers different type of fish plates. Ncl did not offer as such.

Perhaps the only thing that is a little bit better on Ncl is that in lunch buffet they serve more different items than the fantasia. But of course on the fantasia there is many choices as well.

the one thing that bothered us is that italians misbehave alot.. they push in the lifts and at the buffets (sorry italians)

Ports of call are nice.

In rough seas the ship has minimal movement as the other ship Ncl gem had. the only thing that bothered me is the constant vibrations. but u want feel seasick.

also the ice cream is not free all day like ncl, but it did not bother me because i was well informed of that. The coffee 24 hr we did not manage to take it every day because some times the zanzibar was closed. but not a problem since the buffet is almost open all day.

we took a package of drinks that we used during meals and worked well.

the gala night is specatular and also the buffet el magnifico.

Shows we went only one because of the toodler and it was very good.

Tv is very good as well since it shows italian programmes apart of ship info.

We had a very magnificent week on the Fantasia and of course we will choose Msc Again. I am sorry of the review is this short but I am not good at doing the reviews!!

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Sail Date: August 2011
Let me start by saying that this was our first time on a cruise and will definitely not be the last. MSC Fantasia is fantastic in all aspects.

The food is great - served basically 24hrs a day and always delicious.

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Let me start by saying that this was our first time on a cruise and will definitely not be the last. MSC Fantasia is fantastic in all aspects.

The food is great - served basically 24hrs a day and always delicious.

The service is incomparable - All members of staff are amazing, especially the dining staff. We dined in Cerchio d'Oro, and were given a table by the window, which gives it extra points. But either way, the experience would have been great. A special thank you goes to the waiters who served us for a whole week - Suardana, Gede, Rene and Cristian :D

The animation is also very enjoyable. It kept us active for a whole week, by the pool and with their shows in the evening. The evening shows in the theater are also astonishing and very professional and entertaining. Well done to all!

Also, the rooms are very well equipped with all the essentials and much much more. Cabin Stewards are more than efficient, and all fresh towels and anything we needed were supplied to us within seconds.

The only small things that give MSC Fantasia some negative points are that the pools are not big enough for the amount of passengers. Even though there are 3 pools, there is no space to swim comfortably. Also, the photos are very professional but VERY expensive, and they prefer to throw the printed shots away rather than selling them at a reduced price.

However, many thanks to all of the staff for making this the most enjoyable holiday of our lives!! We will surely be back!

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Sail Date: August 2010
This was my first cruise. I was really looking forward for this as other members of my family, including my wife had gone on cruises previously and were really happy with them from all aspects. However, I must say that I ended up as ... Read More
This was my first cruise. I was really looking forward for this as other members of my family, including my wife had gone on cruises previously and were really happy with them from all aspects. However, I must say that I ended up as disappointed with this cruise as much as I was looking forward for it before!

First of all, before going any further in my review, I have to tell you that the main reason I was looking so forward to the cruise was food. I love food and had been advised previously that on cruises you get the highest quality food and in abundance!

As soon as we got onto the ship we went for the lunch (mid-day) buffet and I was already disappointed. There were 4 or more different kinds of pizza - but which tasted all the same and all had the same ingredients. There was also carvery which usually tastes quite good, but this tasted like the frozen meat you boil to make broth.

No drinks were free, except for two small, out of the way, ice dispensers which incidentally dispensed water too. However, you need to hike from your table to reach the dispenser, and usually the nearer one was switched off so you had to walk to the second dispenser.

Anyhow, I said to myself that probably this was a bit bland because it was just a mid-day snack and reassured myself that dinner would be fantastic and I could order two juice medium-rare steaks to make up for that. Alas, dinner time came and was so shocked when I looked at the menu. NO STEAK! Blimey! The menu was in a number of languages, so I looked in the English section, Italian Section and French section to figure out if there was anything that looked like steak. The nearest to steak I found was in the English section, in the "Always Available" menu. This was a "paillard of beef" or so it was written if I recall correctly. So I asked the waiter if it was a beef steak. Getting a blank look I asked if it was a "bistecca di manzo" (same thing in Italian) - to which the waiter eagerly nodded. Well... so that's what I ordered.

Guess what I got? I got a tasteless piece of dried up cube roll cooked without any gravy over which I spent around fifteen minutes munching. It seemed to grow bigger in my mouth the more I chewed on it!

Besides being tasteless, it was so small that I remained as hungry as I had been before I started eating. So I went through the menu again and saw that they had chicken breast. I ordered that too. It looked nice, but again, although it was not as dry as the previous cube roll it was as tasteless! The food cans I get for my dog will probably taste better. So that was day 1.

By the way, between the mid-day buffet and dinner there was a tea-break - but I'm not even going to bother about that. Basically all you have is a few colourful trifles and some jellies if I recall correctly. There wasn't even any ice cream!

Second day the food wasn't that bad and on the same day or the third one we had a Gala night. The food was much better this time, but funnily enough it was a one off. We had steak on that day and it was good - but only lasted as far as it went as the rest of the days we had bland food again (although not as disastrous as that on the first day). Portions were pretty small and presentation was greatly lacking.

Drinks had to be bought, including water. Nothing free.

One particular day we also had a midnight food display and buffet. There was octopus (one of my favourites) so I got some for me amongst other stuff. As soon as I tried to pick up the first bit, the rest came up with it stuck with fatty sludge - same thing that happens when you cook octopus/meat in stew or gravy and leave it overnight in the fridge! So I had to leave it there against all I wished for!

Another thing to mention is that you can barely communicate with the waiters as they hardly speak any English and only little Italian. However, what really got on my nerves was that the waiters just literally threw the cutlery on the table instead of placing it nicely. I know, you're still going to do the same job with a fork whether it's put nicely or not, but when you pay so much money you would expect at least a certain level of cordiality. What got on my nerves even further was the fact that the waiters differed between tables, and treated certain tables better than others.

Please note that this is an Italian ship, and Italians are known for their exquisite cuisine! I must say that this ship did anything but give a good image of the Italian cuisine!

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So anyway, besides the biggest food disappointment I could have ever expected, there was other stuff on the ship. The rooms were OK, quite clean, and they used to be done around 3 times daily I think. The bathroom was clean although the toilet was a bit uncomfortable to sit on, small diameter and a bit too high above the floor - and might make your feet go numb if you are one of those persons who sit on it for a lengthy period!

Air conditioning was great - kept temperatures quite cool (although you can set it to a higher temperature if you feel cold).

The pools were OK. There were 2 pools in the main area and another one in a secluded area that didn't allow children. The jacuzzis were nice too except for the fact that people were at time a tad too rude and took up all the space or pushed you over.

Entertainment was OK but in my opinion a bit childish.

Another thing was that we had a cocktail night, where we had 1 hour free cocktails in the lounges. Although there was only one type of cocktails (or so it seemed) they were quite sly in reducing the amount of free alcohol distributed. The machines could dispense alcohol as per their timer. However the timer was set around 10 or 15 minutes fast, so whilst the period should have been 18:30 to 19:30 (if I recall the times correctly), in actual fact it was 18:15 to 19:15. So by the time people start gathering at the lounges, which would be around 18:45, the free cocktail period would already be half way through, and in fact when I asked for a cocktail at 19:20 my request was rejected. Notwithstanding that, the trays were arrayed with 25% cocktails and the other 75% juices or whatever they were. That wasn't a very honest gesture was it? It would have been better if they had not done the "happy hour" at all rather than take us for a ride the way they did!

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We only took 2 excursions, the one going to Rome and the one going to Portofino. The visit to Rome was accompanied by a guide whose English was hopeless. I was on the verge of asking her to speak in Italian. Otherwise, the visit was nice. The one to Portofino was sort of OK. The drive was pretty boring and the guide (although her English was comprehensible) didn't have anything better to say other than "look at the nice valley" or "this is the pencil shaped building" or "this street has old houses on one side and new houses on the opposite side". I felt as if I was was in a pre-grade class with children trying to make up coherent sentences. Anyway, humour apart, the destination itself was nice (but very expensive) and besides the picturesque views not much to do except have an expensive ice cream (which tasted really good by the way) and wait for the time to return back.

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The price... one of the most important determining factors! My wife and I travelled alone, although we were part of a group of 15 people. However we booked one room alone. However, families with children under 18 do not pay for the latter. So what does this mean? It means that my wife and I, or a family of 4 with the children under 18 would pay the same price. This means that some lack of service would be acceptable for a family of 4 paying the price of 2. However, people like my wife and myself would not find that worth it as they're paying the full price and getting a lousy package. You don't get the towels in animal shapes on your bed spread, or the chocolates when the rooms are done like you get on other cruise liners. I know you can still live without these things, but especially if you're paying full price and if you've already been on other cruise liners where you experience these things you'll feel neglected. Mind you, as I said in the beginning this was my first cruise, but I was well prepared by my wife and family and had high expectations which where totally let down on day one of this cruise.

Overall I would never go on a cruise with MSC again and would not recommend it to anyone, except maybe if you have kids under 18 and would get 4 for the price of 2! However, as long as I'm going to pay full price, I will go on an American cruise liner such as Carnival, Holland America and the sort.

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Sail Date: August 2010
We cruised on MSC Splendida the week 4th to 11th August. I am going to be as objective as possible so as to help those of you who are undecided whether to book with MSC or not. In a nutshell, although it was a good holiday overall and we ... Read More
We cruised on MSC Splendida the week 4th to 11th August. I am going to be as objective as possible so as to help those of you who are undecided whether to book with MSC or not. In a nutshell, although it was a good holiday overall and we had a pleasant time and the ship is beautiful, we would not again sail with MSC. There are various reasons for this. Please bear in mind that what is not good for some may be acceptable to others and vice versa. This is just my opinion.

We have sailed Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Holland America before and the service and style offered on these ships is way above that on MSC. Now some people say that it is European style cruising and should be regarded as such - well then, I don't like European style cruising because it means missing out on many special things that make you feel pampered and special for at least a short time while you're on holiday. (I should point out that I am not American; I live in a European country and love Europe!) But I prefer American style cruising.

So what are the main points to keep in mind?

(1) Smoking...this ship reeks of cigarette smoke! Too many areas where people may smoke. Absurdly, in the same lounge for example, there was a no smoking sign and then just a few paces away a sign permitting smoking! What a joke, except that it's not funny at all having to live with it. The Casino is disastrous - you have to walk through it to get to some shops or to one of the dining rooms and it is absolutely disgusting; it smells terrible even when it is not in use. On Celebrity no smoking is allowed, not in the Casino either. Walking along the ship you are all the time passing through smoke filled areas; even in the lifts you get it although smoking is not permitted there.

(2) Dining. The food...now I had read a lot about this and I thought people were exaggerating, especially because we were always very satisfied on other cruises even after having read negative comments prior to the cruise. However this time I must say that the food is just not adequate, judging by cruise standards that is. It's edible and there are some items better than others and you can eat as much as you want of course but there is a very limited choice and presentation is hopeless - even at home I try to present simple food imaginatively but here it's just thrown onto the plate...I mean it. Forget the gourmet style presentation on Celebrity, forget the succulent steaks and meat cuts on RCC, Carnival, HA and Celebrity, forget waffles and pancakes, forget customised egg stations, forget Asian food, forget sandwich bars, forget ice-cream available most of the time, forget pizza round the clock, forget water/ tea/ coffee/ lemonade/ ice tea with your midday buffet. And for those who keep saying that this is a different style I reply that ok, I can accept that, but what's on offer should be on par! Salads are just lettuce dripping oil. Pastas and risottos are ok but nothing spectacular considering that this should be their forte as Italians - we come from a country quite similar in dietary habits and we cook tastier and more varied pasta dishes at home. Main courses are nothing to speak of. The chicken or fish or chop is just there with some boiled veg sitting around it. If the menu says 'with mushroom sauce' or 'mashed potatoes with sundried tomatoes' you need a magnifying lens to find the mushrooms in the sauce or the tomatoes in the mash. I mean it! The worst main course I had was pork ribs with sesame sauce - there were two ribs and believe me they were ribs, I managed to get a teaspoonful of meat off one of them and the other was just bone, honestly! And forget lobster on Gala night! There were three prawns on a little rice instead, though nicely cooked. There is the list of items always available on the menu and we tried the beef they had on offer. What a disappointment! It was a thin piece of meat and cooked tough, not the steak we were expecting. Over the week we concluded that they don't have an idea how to cook meat at all. Now, this being an Italian cruise line, and knowing that Italian cuisine can be superb, we have come to the conclusion that the low standard and variety of food available must be due to cost effectiveness since this line makes certain price offers (more in Service section).

Drinks...you just have to buy it all. It is not very expensive, 1 litre water 2 euros including the charge. We bought a package for 109 euros that consisted of 14 cans of soda, 14 litres of water and 4 bottles of wine - we couldn't choose the wine it had to be a soave or trebbiano of their choice. You can have red if you prefer it to white but again of their choice if with this package. There are other packages available. Their packages make sure you do not 'overuse' your soda card because you get a fixed number of items! In fact we ended up having to buy more soda because we are a family of 4. How different from the soda card on the cruise lines mentioned before where you could get any amount at any time at any bar! There is a small, very, very out of the way water dispenser during the midday buffet and we were quick to discover it. However it is really out of the way and too many people on board and glasses available are really small. But you can drink it, we did on occasions. Gala Nights...such a low standard here! They let everyone in, even in jeans and in t-shirts. It spoils the fun for those of us who enjoy dressing up. Now, for those who do not like dressing up I would suggest booking a free-style cruise where such attire is ok. In this situation however I blame the dining room staff for permitting persons who do not conform to the dress code to enter the dining room. Unfortunately there is no alternative dining in the buffet on MSC, another point against them.

Positive food points: food is brought hot to the table, bread is very good, soups and desserts are very good. You can order as many dishes of each course as you want and the waiters do not bat an eyelid - I expect they got used to it. (I'll speak about waiters in the service section) The midnight Gala Buffet had a fantastic display of arrangements to see, truly artistic and the best we've seen so far. The food on offer was the usual. And it was not a chocolate extravaganza; the usual deserts were available. We preferred the dining room for breakfast and lunch as there were many waiters available so the service is very good and you don't have to queue; you sit comfortably in a quiet and elegant setting. Again the choice is limited (but then so it is in the buffet) but there is as much to eat as you like.

(3) Service.

(a) Getting on and off the ship at all times was very easy, the best so far. You are not made to wait until excursion people get off the ship if you don't have an excursion.

(b) We got off to a good start because we were escorted to our cabin and our hand-luggage was carried for us.

(c) We never got to know who our stateroom attendants were. However the room was kept clean and towels changed regularly. Not knowing attendants may be interpreted as no pressure for extra tips (as tips are charged compulsorily) but it doesn't make you feel very welcome or pampered.

(d) The bed linen was changed only once, midway in the one week stay. The quilt lining was ripped. Bed sheets had stains (very small but I don't like this and I'm on the lookout for it). The towels were white, clean and soft. By the way no towel animals or chocolates or cookies to greet you each night.

(e) Nearly none of the staff you meet along corridors greet you or smile at you.

(f) The dining room staff members don't get to know your names; ours could barely understand English, not even Italian, which we can speak fluently (although we are not Italians). They don't chat with you. Sometimes they get orders wrong as they don't understand clearly. At the end of the cruise we didn't feel the usual urge to thank them profusely and feel that we are going to miss them. Neither did they say goodbye to us mind you.

(g) We have always travelled on 'large' ships, full capacity as we can travel only during peak season but this seemed to be the most crowded ship of all. In fact last year on Celebrity Solstice we used to wonder where all the people seem to go; they spread out sort of. On Splendida, in the evenings, you can hardly walk through the lounges to get to the restaurant. However it didn't bother us because there was a jolly atmosphere but some may find it too much.

(h) Poolside - we always managed to find loungers in the shade. The pools are among the nicest we have had so far as they are quite large and the landscaping is very attractive. The towels look tired; different shades of orange, some newer than others (or some older than others), most with dark stains - from laundry detergents?? The poolside screen is not very large but ok. There are many children running about, splashing, shouting and screaming. We don't mind this at the pool at all, but if you do beware!

(i) Kids go free offer - speaking of children, this is what I referred to before when I mentioned the offers on MSC. Kids go free means there are many, many but many kids! As I said before, I don't mind this poolside but I did mind the running about and slamming of stateroom doors that made our stateroom rattle and shake all day long! Well, at least while we were in the stateroom as most of the time we go out. But when you go in it is usually to rest. Actually what got to us was the afternoon slot, when we wanted to rest - we just couldn't as our neighbouring stateroom had their grandchildren coming over all the time, knocking on the door, asking to be let in and then, once let inside, running about and jumping and making us feel we were next to a battlefield. Thing is, even sitting in our balcony for relaxing, we had to hear them talking loudly all the time in theirs. Perhaps we were unlucky in our neighbours. I do appreciate however that for families with children this is an ideal offer. BUT, IF YOU DON'T HAVE CHILDREN TRAVELLING WITH YOU, THIS IS WHAT I MEANT ABOUT MSC HAVING TO BE COST EFFECTIVE BY CUTTING OUT ALL THE LOVELY FRILLS, AT EVERYONE'S EXPENSE, NOT JUST THOSE WHO HAVE CHILDREN.

(j) Shows and entertainment. There was a show every day except once. We enjoyed all the shows. We've seen more spectacular ones on the other ships but they had some good performers, the guest performers were the best. There was an excellent mime act and a pair of men who did body balancing acts who were really exceptional. However the resident dancers and singers are not so good. But all in all we enjoyed the shows and would recommend you see them. Most nights, after the show, there was another 'funny' activity in one lounge or another. The animation team is really good. They do mange to perk things up and one of them did a 'Michael Jackson' that was awesome - we could have watched him do it all night instead of the actual show. The animation team also got a great party going in the Disco every night, top deck, floor to ceiling windows watching the waves rush by, good music. In fact this is the first ship where the Disco was in full swing, probably as there are many young people on this ship. We are in the 40-45 bracket mind you but we danced a bit and there were many our age too. This was after the show and the other activity so really you have plenty to do into the small hours.

To summarise, we had a good time but we will not sail MSC again because: (1) too much smoking (2) food inadequate in taste, variety and presentation (3) no pampering and too many missing things that would make a cruise a luxurious experience. Plus, if you can't stand crowding and shouting and running about this cruise is not for you.

It is such a cold feeling. You just get on the ship, have a reasonably good time and just leave without anyone knowing so to speak - not what we're used to at all. American cruise lines we sailed with value their clients and make you feel that you are doing them a favour by choosing their line, to ensure you do so again. This is definitely not the case with MSC.

For those interested a brief note about the ports:

Malta - the most beautiful, most picturesque port by far. Easy to walk up the hill to capital city Valletta and easy to explore this city built by the Knights; plenty of excursions to lovely spots such as the various Prehistoric temples, Blue Grotto at Wied iz-Zurrieq and the jewel Mdina (a must see) - time stood still here at Mdina and it is so clean and there are such breath-taking views from the bastions!

Messina - we had gone to Etna before so we decided to stay in Messina. Quite pretty, a lovely clock that is nice to watch at midday 12.00pm, moving figures and roaring lion... Some good shops for a spot of shopping.

Civitavecchia - If you've never been to Rome you must go! One of the most beautiful cities if you love art and history and all that goes with it. An excursion is a must as otherwise you will not manage to do as much on your own in the time available. Plus you don't want to risk missing the ship as Rome is about 1 ½ hrs drive away, 3 hrs driving both ways together and depending on traffic. We had been for week long spells to Rome twice before so we walked down Civitavecchia. Quaint market, some bargains. Went back to the ship and relaxed by the pool.

Genoa - took excursion to Portofino, stopping at Rapallo on the way. Picturesque port but that's it - nowhere to explore. Once we got there by ferry boat we saw it all. Lovely but nothing to do for two hours till they took us back, and we've seen more picturesque places along the Italian coast such as the Costa Amalfitana. I'm not sure the excursion was worth it.

Marseille - we took a taxi from the port straight to Notre Dame de la Grade. Cost 35 euro for 6 persons so worth it as we didn't have to walk in the heat at all. The Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Garde is beautiful and the views are marvellous. You can also see the Chateau d'If on its island. We managed to hear Mass as there is one every hour on Sundays. We know people who didn't want to take a taxi but they had to walk all the way out of the port in the sun - 45 mins approximately, and then did it by bus, three buses but which did end up at the very top by the Cathedral. It worked out costing same as getting a taxi but also having the walk in the heat and the hassle of changing buses and wasting time. And having to do it twice - to get back! However from the cathedral we did have to take a bus because (a) there is no taxi stand and (b) we wanted to go down to the Vieux Port, the old port of Marseille. We walked around there for a bit, quite pretty, bought soap (savon de Marseille!) then got a taxi back to the ship just in time for lunch in the dining room, that is just before 2pm because then it won't accept more persons.

Barcellona - lovely city! Wide roads lined with trees, good for shopping in pedestrian area off Placa Catalunya. Taxis are really worthwhile here. We got one straight off the ship (shuttle not worth it) to Sagrada Famiglia, just 12 euro for 4 persons. The shuttle leaves you at the bottom of the Rambla and then you still have far to Sagrada Famiglia. So worked out better by taxi. We then spent just another 5 euro for taxi to Placa Catalunya, shopped a bit, taxi back to ship. Saved a lot on excursion price. You can walk back down the rambla from Placa Catalunya then get taxi short distance left to ship. Still saves. But we had done the Rambla before and preferred more shopping time as this was the only port we really could find some decent shops in. THIS PORT STOP IS TOO SHORT. MSC would do well to make this an overnight stop and cut out Tunis and sail straight to Malta.

Tunis - never again! Sooo dirty, the Medina is a shambles as are the souks, and they took us to the best places!!!

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Sail Date: November 2009

The reason I have decided to write this review is that I had read so many contrasting opinions on MSC that we had become very wary indeed . In fact we approached our cruise with apprehension. Our experience in cruising is four ... Read More

The reason I have decided to write this review is that I had read so many contrasting opinions on MSC that we had become very wary indeed . In fact we approached our cruise with apprehension. Our experience in cruising is four cruises on the Norwegian Gem.

We sailed on the Splendida in the Med in November. Our first impression of the ship was that the statement " the most beautiful ship in the world" was true. We had previously sailed exclusively on NCL, and while their ships are lovely, we felt the Splendida outshone them in luxurious fittings and design. The Svaroski studded staircase in the atrium we had heard so much about was truly magnificent.

I had done a lot of research and was fascinated when we actually boarded and started seeing in reality all the things I had seen in the virtual world.

As MSC takes passengers on board at almost each Port of Call, there aren't thousands of passengers all embarking at the same time so we were on board about 15 minutes after entering the terminal. We were met by a line of white gloved stewards/stewardesses and were escorted to our cabin.

It was great having our cabin available as soon as we boarded. Our cabin was roomy, sufficient storage and well designed with a modern look and spotless. The bathroom wasn't huge but large enough. I had heard so much about the shower curtain. They must have changed the design as it can't cling to you. However, so much was spent in fitting out the ship that I can't really understand why they didn't put in a door instead of the curtain.

We went up to the Buffet for lunch. The Cafeteria (Bora Bora and Pago Pago) is large and stretches the entire width of the ship so you have windows at both sides. At the very back are large windows and tables were always easily available in that area . In fact, we always found empty tables whenever we went to the Cafeteria.

We then explored the ship. I had printed the deck configurations so that made it some what easier. The lounges and wine/coffee bars were lovely all with comfortable armchairs. In the evenings there was live music in most. Those that didn't have live music overlooked the atrium where the main Splendida Bar is with its glass piano. One of the most attractive is La Piazetta which is made to look like a square in Tuscany , complete with starry sky and original decorated tiles. Another popular lounge is the Aft Lounge where animators put on shows and group dancing with the passengers. There is also Karaoke .

The only place we smelt smoke was in the Casino. There are various signs showing where smoking is allowed but we rarely saw people smoking. Even the La Prua lounge that has a staircase leading to the Casino does not have a smell of smoke - the ship must have some very efficient filters. One of our group suffers badly from asthma and even she didn't complain. It seems that people are learning to obey the rules.

Overlooking the main pool are the disco's. Again with comfortable armchairs and so ideal for relaxing with a view during the day.

The main pool is the Aqua Park with fountains and hot tubs and a lovely original design. Not just a rectangular pool like many ships. As our cruise was in November , not many people made use of it !!! There are tables all round under cover so we often got a coffee or drink from the bar or lunch/tea from the buffet and spent some time there as we had lovely weather there throughout. There is also a bar selling moderately priced ice cream.

Leading off from the main pool is another pool - again with tables round it and a gallery with more tables. This pool can be covered so people made full use of it during our winter cruise. There is another smaller pool in the Zen area (adults only) at the very front and one for the children.

The shows are a matter of opinion. Some found them very good , others so so. However, they are a good way of spending some 45 minutes after dinner. The dining rooms are at the very back while the theatre is at the very front - so you'll also be getting some exercise walking the length of the ship.

We never had any trouble disembarking at the Ports of Call.

A highlight of the cruise was when the ship stopped near the volcano of Stromboli at sunset with awesome background music.

A lot of the criticism was regarding the food ,service and water so here are my honest opinions.

FOOD

Breakfast is served either in the Cafeteria or in the dining rooms till 10.00. Room service for continental breakfast is free from early also till 10.00. The Italians aren't big on breakfast - most have just a coffee and croissant. On the ship there are cereals, yogart, fruit, juice, bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms, baked beans, cheese and cold cuts. But the choice is not as vast as on NCL. However, there is ample and you won't end up hungry. The Buffet is self service and they don't have 'action stations' Coffee/tea is served by waiters as is the juice and there is no coffee available free 24 x 7.

Lunch is from 12 to about 3/3.30. Again there is more choice on the NCL . For example there aren't action stations for pasta, sushi or asian food. There are the obligatory hamburgers and hot dogs though. The food served was at the correct temperature and we found it satisfactory. The bread is freshly baked. The dining rooms are also open for a more leisured lunch.

Tea/coffee is served at about 3.45 to 4.30 with sandwiches and cakes in the cafeteria.

The Buffet is not open in the evenings on the ships sailing in the Med. Dinner is in the usual two sittings in two very elegant dining rooms. The menu has the 'always available' as well as the daily menu and is in various languages. Each evening is dedicated to a different Italian region. Obviously, the food is Italian i.e. the food the Italians eat in Italy. It may not be the Italian food you find in an Italian restaurant in your home town. The Italians are very critical and knowledgeable when it comes to food and they all seemed to be satisfied with the standard offered. Our table companions all enjoyed the food. There are 6/7 courses. The portions aren't huge but you can order as much as you want. There isn't free coffee at the end of the meal.

SERVICE

Some of the waiters may appear aloof. Waiters in Europe feel they are there to take the orders and to serve the food efficiently. They don't act as if they are your buddy and are thrilled to see you. Many don't ask how your day was and don't always serve you with a big smile. They move around and are always ready to attend to your needs. Our waiter happened to be rather glum. However, one of our group had diet restrictions and the waiter was very helpful and kind even if he rarely smiled ! I don't need a waiter to be my friend, what I need is a knowledgeable one and that they are.

We rarely saw officers strolling the ship as we used to see on the Gem, but the few we saw were polite when approached by any passenger but, like the waiters. did not act as if were all one big happy family.

WATER (In the Med.)

Free iced water served in jugs is not available. You can buy packages of vouchers for eur 20 for 14 bottles of 1 litre. In the buffet at lunch time there is an ice machine with water available in very small glasses. The machine is not in an obvious place though. There are various packages for wine and wine/water as well.

The Ship is so beautiful and elegant, the cabins roomy and you don't have servers trying to sell you drinks at every possible occasion eg theatre and by the pool. Neither do you have crew trying to sell you Bingo or other games while in the theatre. There aren't the frequent announcements either . You aren't approached and encouraged to visit the Speciality restaurants .

Announcements and menus are in 5 languages. The info left in your cabin is according to the language of your choice. Quite efficient really as on the Gem every thing is in English.

The animators did their job well even though we are not the type to join in.

So - would I sail on MSC again ? My only real criticism is that the ship (in the Med) is not Freestyle. We missed not having tea/coffee, water, snacks, a diner like Blue Lagoon available 24/7 and we also missed not being able to choose each day when to dine. Room service is not free after breakfast and the choices in the Buffet are not as wide as on the Gem.

However, we didn't miss them enough not to choose MSC if the price and itinerary were right !!!!!!

We all enjoyed our cruise because we knew in advance that the ship was not Freestyle. We knew that coffee/tea/snacks/light meals were not available 24 x 7. We knew that iced water is not freely served. We also knew that the style of service seems to cater mainly to Italian tastes - not surprising as the ship IS Italian.

Many of the complaints I've read show that people book a cruise blindly and then complain if things are not to their liking. A case in point is the eur 1 donation towards UNICEF eg the kids in Brazil that appears on your invoice. It is mentioned on the MSC site, on the TV, in the leaflet on your desk under the TV, on the paper left on the bed explaining that you can tell Reception to remove this eur 1 and yet you still get people complaining that they were not advised and were upset. The principle of the thing they say as they would have been willing to pay even more.

The Ship is Italian and things are done the Italian way - laid back with crew keeping their distance until needed. Many Americans enjoy this and feel that while in Europe they prefer to have the Italian experience even while on the ship. They also enjoy being surrounded by mainly Europeans as it makes the cruise more obviously part of their European vacation . Just as we were in the minority on the Gem, they will be in the minority on the Splendida. But if an American is looking for a home while away from home than he may be disappointed.

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