Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Cruise Ship Review: MSC Splendida, Western Mediterranean - July 2014 I am writing this review in relation to a cruise taken on the MSC Splendida from the 7th to the 14th of July, 2014. The cruise itinerary was Naples - Messina - La Goulette - Barcelona - Marseilles - Genoa - Naples, with a day at sea between La Goulette and Barcelona. I was part of a party of four, we had two deck 11 cabins with balconies 11184 and 11186. Positives: The cruise ship is fantastic, really high spec and modern. The cabins were large and comfortable with a great bed, and the balcony was a MUST, there was lots of storage space and the towels were replenished more than once per day. The food in the La Reggia restaurant was incredible, I thoroughly enjoyed every single dish, it is the best food I have ever had on a cruise ship - which is in stark contrast to the food on the MSC Divina two years ago, which was poor. The ports of call were all really good and interesting, La Goulette was nothing special in itself, but was in close proximity to Carthage. We had sufficient time in port each day to see what we wanted to see, and disembarking / embarking was easy at each port. The number of multi-lingual announcements played into the cabins has reduced from my last MSC experience, there are more in the communal areas of the ship and corridors but not as many in cabins. There were plenty of sun beds, even on busy days it was possible to find one. The sun beds also have a pull-over shade to keep the sun off your face should you wish. Many people who were reading seemed to use this. You don’t need to take a pool towel, they are provided at the pool when you show your card. The pool at the back of deck 14 was often empty when the ship was in port, particularly in the morning - a nice retreat for a bit of peace. There are lots of different bars to try. There was draught Newcastle Brown Ale in one of the bars - this is something of a rarity anywhere - even Newcastle! The Allegrissimo drinks package at around £20.00 per day is DEFINITELY worth it. It includes most cocktails, most standard brand spirits, all draught drinks, many liquors (including my favourite Drambuie), wine, coffee, soft drinks, ice cream…I could go on. The cocktails on board MSC cruise ships are absolutely superb - definitely a MUST, even the non-alcoholic kids cocktails such as the ‘Dirty Banana’ are lovely and refreshing in the daytime, particularly after returning to the ship from the baking Summer heat in the ports of call. The highlight of the week’s entertainment (most of which I wasn’t enamoured with) was the ‘Parisien’ show - I do like a good Can Can, and they certainly could could - here’s a clip of it: Negatives: Being press-ganged into having photographs taken that we were NEVER going to purchase, this first happens at pre-boarding against a cheese backdrop and during every evening meal, it was just plain annoying, this is also such an environmentally unfriendly practice (waste power, paper and ink cartridges). My fellow passengers were largely not a pleasure to cruise with. There was too much pushing and shoving, barging in queues, and far too many kids. The behaviour of many left a lot to be desired. Every Brit / Irish / American / South African and Australian I spoke to on the cruise had pretty much the same opinion. Some passengers simply ignored the rule about not smoking in non-smoking cabins and on balconies, my Dad even saw somebody light up in a corridor! Disgusting anti-social behaviour that MSC need to police more closely. There were not enough lifts on the ship, and again lift etiquette from passengers was non-existent, it was literally a free-for-all, and at times a scrum, not even the disabled in wheelchairs were given any sympathy. The deck 14 buffet restaurant was very busy after 7:30am, during mid to late afternoon it was like playing rugby to get to the food, again horrible ill-mannered passengers. Lunch times and evening meals were times of great frustration. The entertainment is not aimed at a British or American market, it is aimed at the Italian and Spanish markets. Personally speaking I found it a bit dull, out-dated and at times VERY cheesie - even one of the main singers was called Frankie Carbonara! Sometimes the bar service was slow, and we would wait 10 minutes plus to be served. This wasn’t always because it was too busy (although sometimes it was). Despite all of my criticisms, I DEFINITELY DID ENJOY THE CRUISE, and I would definitely still cruise with MSC in future. But I felt that I should present an honest and balanced review of my experience taking into account both positives and negatives. Would I take another Mediterranean cruise with MSC during the Summer months? Probably not, I would rather go before or after the high season when hopefully the ship may be a little quieter but I’ll never say never!

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