The Strand Theatre is an impressive split-level venue located at the front of the ship on Deck 6 and 7. The theatre can seat 1,200 passengers in the lower auditorium and 400 upstairs, with all seats providing an unobstructed view of the stage (the first in the MSC fleet to feature LED screens). Due to the broad mix of international passengers, the shows are mostly variations of song and dance routines, with singers often embracing several languages during each song, along with acrobats and magicians. The shows might not be that varied, but they are all slick and colourful, in particular a Spanish-themed performance featuring guest flamenco artistes and the vibrant Nature show with some exciting acrobatics.
Shows generally last 45 minutes and are performed twice a day, usually at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., to accommodate passengers on both dinner sittings.
There is no bar service in the theatre, but passengers are welcome to take drinks through and the closest bar is La Prua piano bar located next to the entrance to the theatre on Deck 7. This upper level of the theatre also has a raised area at the back of the auditorium with eight tables, each with four seats, that can be swivelled to face the stage. This is a good spot for people who want to enjoy a drink while they watch the show.
The theatre is also used for bingo, children's shows and as the meeting point for excursions.
On week-long roundtrip Mediterranean sailings from Rome (Civitavecchia) there are no sea days, and MSC Splendida calls at a different port each day, often arriving in the morning which provides plenty of time to explore. A variety of trips are on offer, ranging from traditional city sightseeing tours to bike excursions and special family-themed excursions. Parents going on trips can also leave children aged three to 11 in the Mini Club.
For those staying onboard there is plenty to keep them occupied, with a host of free daily activities listed in the Daily Planner left in cabins every night. Starting with an al fresco morning stretching class in the Aqua Park at 9:30 a.m., typical daily events include dance lessons (usually several per day), trivia quizzes, napkin folding and cookery demonstrations, arts and crafts such as making paper flowers, meetings for card players, pool parties and various sporting challenges including ping pong, table soccer, mini-golf and squash tournaments.
There are games arcades on Deck 6 and 18, and the Virtual World area on the topmost deck also houses the most thrilling attractions onboard -- an F1 simulator and 4D cinema which are both open from 10 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and are available at an extra charge. The bright red full-size racing car facing a video screen mimics the excitement of driving on a track and a choice of six 4D films, including some especially for younger children, are available in the adjoining cinema. There are two small bowling alleys in the Sports Bar on Deck 7.
The non-stop fun continues after sunset with activities including more dance lessons, bingo, karaoke, talent contests, big-screen sports coverage and themed parties, such as a white night and glow party. On one of the gala nights there is also the chance for ladies to indulge "An Officer and a Gentleman" fantasies by dancing with some of Splendida's senior officers. There is excellent live music throughout the ship, with venues including the atrium and various bars. Talented performers include a pianist, guitarist, acoustic duos, singers and a band. The large Royal Palm Casino, minimum age 18, is located forward on Deck 6 with slots available from 5:30 p.m. and tables from 6:30 p.m. One side of the casino is a smoking area. The Club 33 Disco is situated on Deck 16.
There is a total of 19 bars and lounges onboard, with 13 inside (including the Top Sail lounge that is only available for passengers staying in the Yacht Club) and the remainder outside (including one for the Yacht Club). An extensive drinks menu of cocktails (around 6.75 euros), non-alcoholic mocktails and kids' cocktails (4.50 euros), wines (from 5 euros a glass), mixed drinks such as gin and tonic (6.50 euros), beer (from 2.95 euros) and soft drinks (from 2.50 euros) and coffee (from 1.45 euros) is available in each bar and prices are the same throughout the ship, with the exception of the special mixologist cocktails in La Prua and premium wines in L'Enoteca.
Splendida Bar (Deck 5): Serving early morning coffee through to post-dinner drinks, this bar is situated at the side of the atrium and well located to watch evening musicians, including the pianist tickling the ivories on the crystal-studded piano. Open from 6 a.m. until 1 a.m.
L'Aperitivo (Deck 6): Overlooking the atrium, this bar is in a busy location and is another great place to listen to live music and indulge in a spot of people watching. Open from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
La Piazetta (Deck 6): It's hard to believe you're on a ship in this delightful midship setting that resembles an Italian square, with its ornate tiles and chairs and tables surrounding a central fountain. Serving coffee and drinks, it is open from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m.
The Cigar Lounge (Deck 6): This smoking lounge serves drinks from 5 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. and is open throughout the day for passengers who want to smoke indoors. Cigarettes and cigars are sold on the ship.
Royal Palm Casino (Deck 6): The ship's second indoor location where smoking is allowed, the bar is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 8 p.m. until late.
L'Enoteca (Deck 7): This atmospheric area with its barrel-shaped chairs and wine racks embedded in the walls serves premium wines. It is also used for tutored wine tastings where six samples, served with snacks, cost 12.90 euros. The bar is open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
L'Espresso Coffee Bar (Deck 7): If you need a caffeine hit then this is the place to go. The cafe serves all manner of coffees from espresso and cappuccino to frozen coffee, chocolate flavoured coffee and coffees with a nip of alcohol. Open from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
The Aft Lounge (Deck 7): This lively lounge bar is situated right at the back of the ship and has a stage and dance floor. It is also used for events such as theme parties, cocktail receptions for repeat passengers and talent nights. Open from 5:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
The Purple Jazz Bar (Deck 7): This is another of the ship's most popular bars, particularly for couples who want to dance to live music in the evening. It is also used for dance classes, trivia sessions and karaoke. Open from 5:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
La Prua Piano Bar (Deck 7): This sophisticated and intimate bar next to the upper auditorium of the Strand Theatre features live music and in addition to the main drinks menu the bar staff also mix up special molecular cocktails priced from 7.50. Open from 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Sports Bar (Deck 7): Used to screen sports and football games -- with the ambience very vocal during the latter -- the bar is open from 4 p.m. to midnight.
L'Equatore (Deck 14): Serving the covered pool area, the bar is open for coffee from 8 a.m. and serves drinks until 9 p.m.
Tartaruga Bar (Deck 14): This bar serves the Aqua Park and gets particularly busy during pool parties. Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (weather permitting).
Aurea Spa Bar (Deck 14): This peaceful lounge is part of the spa complex and serves protein shakes, smoothies and healthy drinks linked to the colour coded Wellness Package, such as yellow for healthy skin, purple for deep cleansing and green for relaxation. Open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Movida Bar (Deck 15): This quiet bar serves the Playa del Sol pool at the back of ship and is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (weather permitting).
Top Sail Lounge (Deck 15): This bar is situated in the exclusive lounge for Yacht Club passengers and starts serving coffee at breakfast time and remains open until late in the evening. Note: Standard passengers who want to experience the high life in the Yacht Club can pay 80 euros per day for access to the amenities of the Top Sail Lounge and pool deck (excludes L'Olivio restaurant).
Club 33 Disco (Deck 16): The bar in the nightclub is open from 11 p.m.
The One Bar (Deck 18): Situated on the Yacht Club's private outside deck, the bar is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (weather permitting).
Top 18 Bar (Deck 18): For passengers who pay to get into the Top 18 sun deck, the bar is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (weather permitting).
The main pools are on Deck 14, where the covered L'Equatore pool leads to the Aqua Park -- the main outdoor hub. The covered pool, which has three hot tubs, is the quieter of the two. It is surrounded by tables and chairs, with loungers on the mezzanine deck overlooking the pool. On sunny days the Aqua Park is the main gathering spot and is a very lively area with piped music playing throughout the day and night, along with live music events such as themed pool parties, including a fun Snow Party complete with a snow cannon. The main pool, which is 5ft 10in deep, is surrounded by decking, smaller splash pools, spraying fountains, water jets and two whirlpools. (Two more whirlpools are situated immediately above on Deck 15). The area nearest to the pool is surrounded by plenty of loungers, and tables and chairs are situated under a covered area at both sides of the ship. There is a smoking area in the Aqua Park.
A children's pool, for youngsters who are out of nappies, is located on Deck 15. Adults in search of peace and quiet can head to Playa del Sol, a lovely area overlooking the stern of the ship on Deck 15 that few passengers seem to discover. The mosaic-tiled pool area, which has a hot tub is surrounded by loungers, tables and chairs.
Yacht Club passengers have their own private pool and hot tub situated in a prime spot at the front of the ship on the uppermost Deck 18.
The L'Equatore pool is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and the Aqua Park, and other outdoor pools, are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Whirlpools are open from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The Tobago waterslide, with a minimum age of eight for users, is located on Deck 15 and is generally open twice a day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. There is a shuffleboard area on Deck 16 plus a squash court and area for outdoor games.
Far away from the lounging areas around the pools is the quiet for fee sanctuary Top 18, which, as the name implies, is situated at the top of the ship on Deck 18. This private sun spot, with a bar, showers and complimentary fruit skewers, has loungers (including novel ones shaped liked leaves) that cost 10 euros per day, 5 euros for the afternoon or 40 euros for the cruise. There are also gorgeous cocoon-like rattan day beds, which offer shade and accommodate two people, which are priced at 30 euros for a day, 15 euros for the afternoon or 100 euros for the cruise.
Two large 24-hour reception and guest services' desks are located midship on Deck 5. Nearby is a business centre, which can also be used for private meetings and small receptions. Next to the business centre is the Cyberlibrary, open 24 hours, and with four terminals available for passengers. It also contains a library with books, mostly novels, in various languages and a quiet reading area.
There is Wi-Fi throughout the ship, with good connectivity throughout our cruise. Unlike the majority of cruise lines which charge by the minute MSC offers three different packages based on individual requirements, which is much better than seeing precious minutes tick away when service is slow or patchy. The Streamer Package costs 22.90 euros per day 69.90 euros per seven-day cruise, and provides full internet access for up to four devices, including audio and video streaming, with maximum bandwidth priority and a limit of 340 MB per day or 1.5 GB per cruise. The Surfer Package, suitable for browsing web, e-mails and social networks, costs 11.90 euros per day or 34.90 euros per seven-day cruise for up to two devices with a limit of 170 MB per day or 800 MB per cruise. The Social Package, for keeping in touch via social networks and chat apps, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, costs 4.90 euros per day or 19.90 euros per seven-day cruise for one device. The amount of data used is shown at every log in and Wi-Fi extensions are available onboard at a reduced price. Passengers who book prior to cruising receive 20 per cent more data allowance.
The shore excursion office is located midship on Deck 6, along with a selection of shops including a mini mall selling everyday essentials and boutiques.
The large walk-through photo library is located above on Deck 7, along with an art gallery and another shopping arcade including a perfumery and shop selling MSC logowear and branded souvenirs.
There is no guest launderette, but a very efficient next day or express (same day) dry cleaning and laundry service is available, along with an ironing only service. Dry cleaning ranges from 2.30 euros per item of underwear to 13.80 euros for a man's suit, and laundry ranges from 1.73 euros per item of underwear to 9.09 euros for a dress. A special laundry service is also available for baby clothing (see MSC Splendida for Families).
The large, tranquil Aurea Spa complex, open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., is located forward on Deck 14 and has a total of 15 treatment rooms that include two for couples and three for Thalassotherapy treatments. Unlike spas on many of the large ships, which are managed by external spa chains, the Aurea is run by MSC and specialises in Balinese spa treatments which offer something a little bit different from the norm. For example, a Balinese Holistic Massage combines stretching followed by Shiatsu techniques using pressure points and then a full body massage with oils. Some treatments are also linked to the colour coded Wellness Package, such as an anti-cellulite treatment for deep cleansing, herbal massage for the skin and lymphatic drainage therapy for purity.
In common with most cruise ship spas, treatments are pricey. A 45 or 85-minute holistic massage is priced at 110 euros or 169 euros respectively and Balinese massages for 30, 45 or 55 minutes are priced at 70, 99 and 126 euros respectively. As always, there are typically deals and discounts available early in the cruise and on shore days. The spa uses its own Aurea products and others such as the Italian brand Collistar. Thankfully there is none of the intensive sales pitch that often comes at the end of an onboard treatment, and the therapist simply pointed out that products were available. Again, look out for discounts on selected items.
The spa, which has changing rooms and showers for men and women, also has a small thermal area, comprising a unisex sauna, steam room and a relaxation room overlooking the sea with rattan loungers and cushioned chairs. It is available for an extra fee, with day passes costing 29 euros per person, 39 euros for two, or 99 euros per person for the duration of the cruise. The thermal suite operates during the same opening times at the spa, and for passengers who prefer to go 'au naturel', access without a swimming costume is allowed from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. daily (although the use of a towel is recommended).
The "spa doctor" offers a range of treatments such as acupuncture, Botox and other cosmetic therapies, such as an anti-cellulite toning session for 90 euros and acupuncture for 78 euros.
Next to the spa reception is the Aurea Spa Bar, open to anyone, which can be used as a relaxation area before and after treatments.
The Jean Louis David salon, part of a well-known hairdressing chain in mainland Europe, is located at the entrance to the spa complex. It offers cutting and styling services for men and women, again using a variety of different products rather than one particular brand. Services include a cut and style for 27 euros, 40 euros for a colour and 25 euros for a men's cut and finish. Beauty services include manicures for 49 euros and a full make up for 30 euros.
The spacious fitness centre, adjoining the spa on Deck 14, stretches across the width of the ship and overlooks the bow. The panoramic views are impaired by sloping shaded screens on the outside deck, nevertheless it's still a great spot to work out. Open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., the gym is very well laid out with Technogym equipment that includes 10 treadmills along with bikes, cross-trainers and other aerobic apparatus. Dedicated gym enthusiasts might find the 25-minute time limiter on the aerobic machines slightly frustrating. It is designed to stop people having to wait to use equipment at peak times, however they gym never seemed overly busy and there were always spare machines. To carry on using the equipment at quiet times users simply have to restart the machine after it stops automatically when the time is up. There is also a wide selection of weight resistance equipment, free weights, a stretching area that is also used for classes and an area in the main gym for spinning classes on 10 stationary bikes. Some fitness classes, such as yoga sessions and spinning, carry a fee which is typically 10 euros, and specialist equipment such as the Power Plate costs from 15 euros for a 20-minute session. One-to-one sessions are also available, such as personal training, which cost 35 euros for one hour. In 2017 Splendida debuted a new Wellness Programme, bookable in advance as part of the cruise fare, which includes a full "body MOT" and personalised daily fitness programme downloaded on a memory stick which participating passengers then plug into aerobic machines to record progress. In front of the gym is a small enclosed deck area which is a nice place to cool off or do some stretching.
Outside, there's a squash and general sports court on Deck 16, and a jogging track on Deck 15 that circles above the pool area on Deck 14.
MSC is a family-owned Italian company and Italians love children, therefore it's no surprise that Splendida is incredibly family-friendly. Children two and under travel free and there are low fares for youngsters up to the age of 18 who share a cabin with their parents. In addition, there are discounted deals for single parent families. Splendida has packed complimentary kids' club programmes and separate dedicated facilities for youngsters of all ages, plus children's menus in every restaurant. Although babysitting isn't provided, the Kids Around the Clocks service offers supervised late-night play and napping while parents take the night off. It is usually available between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. and costs 10 euros for three hours. That said, in Mediterranean countries children are not tucked up in bed as the same time as youngsters in the U.K., so seeing children up and about with their parents very late at night -- after resting during a traditional afternoon siesta -- is the norm rather than the exception. This is definitely a ship where parents won't get any stern looks or glares when their children are having fun.
Children younger than three can join Baby Time, with an accompanying adult, for play sessions every morning, afternoon and evening. Times are generally 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 7p.m. to 11 p.m. This area on Deck 15 is housed in the Il Polo Nord -- The North Pole -- which has a wide variety of toys and games. It can also be used by other youngsters up to the age of 12. MSC offers a baby laundry service which washes the clothes of babies and children, up to the age of six, in a separate machine using a sanitising programme and gentle detergents to clean at temperatures as low as 30 degrees C. For parents with younger children, items such as bottle warmers, pushchairs and bouncers are available to hire, and day-to-day baby necessities are sold in the shop.
The Mini Club, based on Deck 15, is for children aged three to six, and offers sessions from 9 a.m. to noon and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. This is a mix of indoor and outdoor activities such as playing with Lego, puzzles, dance, circus games, karaoke and themed evenings such as a pirate night and carnival night. Happy Dinners offers a speedy children's dinner for Mini Club members, where the youngsters are served their meals while the grown-ups enjoy their starters. The children are then escorted to the Mini Club by the entertainment staff while the adults sit back and have a leisurely dining experience. This is a free service.
The Junior's Club, on Deck 15, is for seven to 11-year-olds and has the same opening hours as the Mini Club. Similarly, it offers age appropriate sessions covering everything from arts and crafts, sports, theme nights and the popular web series starring Kelly & Kloe (also shown in the Mini Club) where youngsters have the chance to become Kelly & Kloe stars themselves by taking part in a casting session and making a video of their performance to take home as a souvenir, for 19.90 euros.
The waterslide, the Tobaga, on Deck 15 is for children aged eight and over and it is normally open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Next to it is a children's swimming pool for youngsters of all ages who are out of nappies.
All children up to the age of 11 are issued with an electronic bracelet for the duration of the cruise, which shows their name and cabin number and enables kids' club staff to contact parents quickly if necessary.
In common with the rest of the ship, members of the kids' club are multilingual, but language is never much of a barrier as far as children are concerned and parents are often amazed at how quickly youngsters from different countries start playing and communicating with each other.
Teens are divided into two age groups, 12 to 14 and 15 to 17, called Young Club and Teens Club respectively. They have their own I Graffiti area on Deck 15 and a teens' area next to the games arcade on Deck 16. Opening hours are generally 9:30 a.m. to noon and 8 p.m. to midnight, and there is plenty of space for chatting, playing computer games or simply chilling. Various activities are arranged throughout the day for each group, including sports, challenge games, karaoke, themed parties, and a nightly disco. They can also go to the Generation Dinner in the buffet restaurant with members of the entertainment team, which is a free service.
Teens can also use the Tobago waterslide on Deck 15, which is generally open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
A prepaid Teen Card is also available, which doubles as a cabin key and offers under-18's the opportunity to buy items onboard. Available to buy in 30 euro and 50 euro amounts, it cannot be used to buy alcohol or tobacco.