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Cruise Ship Review: MSC Splendida, Western Mediterranean – July 2014

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Technician in electronic’s full time
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  1. Moss Travel TV Reply

    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,
    myself, my wife and my parents, we had two deck 11 cabins with balconies
    11184 and 11186.

    I have produced a detailed video of the ship, and shorter videos from each
    of the ports of call. The video of MSC Splendida is here:
    //youtu.be/HAaxSAAE8pg

    I will firstly go through the itinerary and then discuss specific aspects
    of the ship and cruise experience. We took an early flight from Liverpool
    airport to Naples, and a taxi to the port. This went very smoothly, and we
    were the first people to arrive and check in, so there were no queues. The
    downside to being so early was that we arrived 2 hours before the ship
    arrived in port and 4 hours before we could board (it was supposed to be 3
    1/2). We were given a token with number 1 on it, which was our boarding
    order, “great” I said, “theoretically we should be first on board”.

    We were sat in a large holding area, it wasn’t uncomfortable, but some
    softer chairs wouldn’t have gone amiss for such a long wait. There was a
    small shop open and we bought very inexpensive drinks and snacks to while
    away the time. Over the next few hours the holding area filled up, mostly
    with Italians, and eventually the ship arrived. MSC staff began to mingle
    and try and sell the Allegrissimo drinks package (we already had it), and
    massages which we weren’t interested in.

    The MSC staff seemed to take a frustratingly long time setting up for
    boarding, I believe there was an issue with the computers. The Italian
    passengers seemed unable to cope with the delay and whined and jostled for
    position to see what was going on. Finally it was time to go forward, even
    though we had the number 1 token, we were still about 20th in line as many
    others had a number 1 also, and they didn’t seem to understand the concept
    of queuing, this was unfortunately going to become a theme throughout the
    week. We had previously been on two other Italian cruises (one MSC and one
    Costa) and the lack of manners displayed by many passengers was annoying in
    the past, but on this cruise it turned out to be infuriating.

    Once we had got our cruise cards, we walked to the ship where we were
    forced to pose for a photo behind a ships wheel with a picture of a generic
    MSC ship on the backdrop behind. This was also something that annoyed me,
    the waste of photo paper and ink cartridges on thousands of unpurchased
    photographs. This is a topic that I will go further into later on in this
    review.

    We finally boarded the ship via the security screening control and made our
    way to our cabins, where my suitcase awaited, with a large ‘Security
    Checked’ sticker on it. The other cases took around 15 minutes to arrive. I
    am presuming that the sticker on my case meant that it had been opened, as
    I had a collapsible walking stick in there with a large handle, which on an
    x-Ray machine may have looked like an ice pick.

    The cabins were good, and the bed large and comfortable, although we would
    have preferred a light quilt to blankets. There was plenty of storage
    space, and with the addition of a strip plug that I had brought, there were
    sufficient plug sockets. The balcony was a good size and the rattan style
    balcony furniture comfortable. The bathroom whilst compact, was bright,
    clean and completely adequate.

    After unpacking we made our way to deck 15 where we sat in the sun with a
    drink until the departure from Naples, which was on time.

    The departure was very scenic, I made a film of it here: Leaving the Port
    of Napoli / Naples on the MSC Splendida, Italy – 7th July, 2014

    On the first evening we ate in the deck 14 buffet restaurant, which was
    very busy but just about doable. The food was good, especially the pizza
    and pasta – what else would you expect from an Italian cruise ship?

    We then had to attend the emergency safety briefing at 16:45, we got there
    dead on time to find that it had started 5 minutes early so we did not see
    the life belt demonstration. We followed out a group who like ourselves
    were allocated ‘G’ as their muster station. The party were lead by one of
    the dancers who seemed pretty clueless and offered very little in the way
    of information. We never had our cards scanned, and were not shown the
    lifeboats, at the point of us finding our muster station another group
    heading to muster station ‘I’ merged with our group, and at this point, the
    whole exercise broke down into pointless futility. We just sat down and
    ordered four glasses of wine while everyone else either looked confused or
    posed for pictures in their life vests. The next day we received a letter
    telling us off for not attending the drill! I rang reception and told them
    exactly what happened to be told “OK no problem, don’t worry about it”.
    This was our second experience of an MSC safety briefing being a pointless
    box-ticking exercise, which seemed like it was for insurance purposes only.

    We docked at Messina on time the next day, some passengers disembarked and
    some new ones came aboard, this happened at most ports. We toured Messina
    on foot, just walking around for a couple of hours. We saw some of the main
    sites including Chiesa del Carmine where we were lucky enough to find the
    bell tower open to the public (it isn’t usually) and the Cathedral (Duomo).
    MSC do not provide very good information for passengers about the ports of
    call, instead they push their own excursions, which were expensive, and in
    all honesty, it was nice to get away from the other cruise passengers! My
    first ever cruise was on the Thomson Celebration, and despite it’s
    comparative decrepidness, Thomson always provided very detailed handouts
    about public transport in the ports of call as well as street maps. I wish
    that the Italian cruise companies would do the same (Costa are also poor at
    doing this).

    Here is a video of Messina – Views Around Messina, Sicily, Italy – 8th
    July, 2014

    Here is a video of the departure from Messina – Leaving the Port of Messina
    from the MSC Splendida, Sicily, Italy – 8th July, 2014

    The next day we called at La Goullette in Tunisia, which is a small
    pointless destination unless you intend to travel outside of the port area
    using some form of transport. My parents opted to stay on board the ship,
    so my wife and I took a taxi to Carthage (7km each way for 20 Euro return).
    We haggled the taxi driver down from 40 Euro before setting off.

    The Carthage museum was a bit boring, I was disappointed with the lack of
    excavation areas to walk around, it cost 5 euro each in, the cathedral next
    door was 3 Euro each in, and that was very impressive. We headed back to
    the ship afterwards, having spent 90 minutes there, which was ample. I
    think that we probably missed the most that Carthage had to offer, and we
    should have explored in greater depth. I’m sure I’ll return to La Goulette
    on a future cruise, so if I do I’ll explore further – I’ll also use the
    little train which goes right passed the port instead of getting a taxi,
    but will need to take some Tunisian currency for it.

    Here is a video of the port at La Goulette: La Goulette, Tunisia – 9th
    July, 2014

    Here is a video of the taxi ride from La Goulette to Carthage: Taxi Ride
    from La Goulette to Carthage, Tunisia – 9th July, 2014

    Here is a video of Carthage Museum & Cathedral: Carthage: The National
    Museum & St. Louis Cathedral, Tunisia – 9th July, 2014

    Here is a video of the departure from La Goulette: Leaving La Goulette on
    the MSC Splendida, Tunisia – 9th July, 2014

    Here is a time-lapse video of the departure from La Goulette: Leaving the
    Port of La Goulette, Tunisia by Cruise Ship (4x speed fast time lapse) –
    9th July, 2014

    The next day was at sea, unfortunately an area of low pressure meant cloudy
    skies and stormy seas, the ship didn’t exactly lurch around, but it moved
    enough to make quite a few passengers seasick. The restaurant was unusually
    quiet that night.

    Barcelona the next day saw the ship completely deserted, it was lovely to
    take advantage of the empty sunbathing areas and pool. We had been to Barca
    twice before, so stayed on the ship until midday enjoying the completely
    empty sunbathing area and swimming pools, then took a 15 Euro taxi (between
    4 of us) to the castle for the impressive views from Montjuïc. At the port,
    the bus from the shop to the bottom of the Ramblas cost 8.90 Euro each
    return, which was a bit of a rip off. Our taxis were much better value and
    to anyone else doing this cruise I would certainly suggest considering the
    taxi option over the buses, particularly if there are four of you. It’s a
    pity that MSC and Costa dock so far away at the port. I noticed a Thomson
    ship much closer to the city, literally beneath the cable car.

    Here is a time lapse video of the approach into port at Barcelona: Approach
    into the Port of Barcelona from MSC Splendida, (4x time lapse), Spain –
    11th July, 2014

    Here is a video of the Port of Barcelona: Views of the Port of Barcelona
    from the MSC Splendida, Spain – 11th July, 2014

    Here is a video of Montjuic Castle and views over Barcelona: Montjuïc
    Castle & Views Over Barcelona, Spain – 11th July, 2014

    Here is a video of the ride down Montjuic in a cable car: A Ride Down
    Montjuïc on the Telèrific de Mont Juïc / Cable Car, Barcelona, Spain – 11th
    July, 2014

    Here is a time lapse video of the ferry Grandi Navi Veloci leaving port at
    Barcelona: Grandi Navi Veloci ‘Excellent’ Leaving the Port of Barcelona
    (time lapse), Spain – 11th July, 2014

    Here is a video of the departure from Barcelona Port: Leaving the Port
    Barcelona on the MSC Splendida, Spain – 11th July, 2014

    Here is a time lapse video of the departure from Barcelona Port: Leaving
    the Port of Barcelona on the MSC Splendida (5x time lapse), Spain – 11th
    July, 2014

    Marseille was another expensive transfer bus from the port to the city
    centre (16.90 Euro each). The crew who disembarked walked along the port
    and then took service buses and trains, and if I came here again I would
    investigate these options prior to arrival. I even heard a rumour of a free
    bus (after I’d got back on ship). Marseille is a city of stark contrasts,
    from the very touristic old port to run down back streets just off the main
    tourist drag. I loved it, but my parents felt a bit intimidated in some of
    the areas (a few groups of youths hanging around smoking pot). We didn’t
    visit what must be the main sight (Notre Dame de la Garde), not
    intentionally but we walked around so much in the city that we were all
    tired out, particularly in the oppressive heat. We did visit Paroisse St
    Vincent which was definitely worth seeing. We returned to the bus back to
    the port after a long weary walk to just miss one – sod’s law. We had to
    stand in the sun for 20 minutes until the next one came – keep in mind to
    bring a hat. As usual some people just pushed in the queue instead of
    joining it at the back.

    Here is a video of the Port of Marseille: Views of the Port of Marseille,
    Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France – 12th July, 2014

    Here is a video of Marseille: Views Around Marseille City Centre,
    Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France – 12th July, 2014

    Here is a video of the departure from the Port of Marseille: Leaving
    Marseille Port on the MSC Splendida, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France –
    12th July, 2014

    Here is a time lapse video of the departure from the Port of Marseille: Leaving
    the Port of Marseille, France on MSC Splendida (time lapse), 12th July, 2014

    Our penultimate day was at Genova (Genoa), the birthplace of Christopher
    Columbus, a major base for MSC and Costa, and a large impressive port
    surrounded by buildings on terraced hillsides. We got off the ship and made
    our way through the extensive terminal to the bus stop for the City
    Sightseeing tour. I believe we paid 15 Euro each for a hop-off hop-on tour
    of the city (the ticket lasted 24 hours). There was a nearby Metro station,
    and I wanted to use it, but in the end we went for the easier option in
    terms of city exploration to the main sites (it was a VERY hot day). We saw
    Piazza de Ferrari which is worth a ten minute photo stop, Scalinata delle
    Tre Caravelle – again worth some photos and the Victoria Arch. We walked to
    the main railway station (Brignole), which is an impressive building, but
    unfortunately my Dad took poorly with the heat, so we had to get the bus
    back to the port (there was a City Sightseeing stop at Brignole).

    Here is a video of the Port of Genoa: The Port of Genova (Genoa), Italy –
    13th July, 2014

    Here is a video of the City Sightseeing tour of Genoa: Genoa: Views from a
    City Sightseeing Bus, Italy – 13th July, 2014

    Here is a video of Genoa city centre: Genova (Genoa), Italy – 13th July,
    2014

    Here is a video of the departure from Genoa: Leaving the Port of Genova
    (Genoa) on the MSC Splendida, Italy – 13th July, 2014

    Here is a time lapse video of the departure from Genoa: Leaving the Port of
    Genova / Genoa on MSC Splendida (time lapse), Italy – 13th July, 2014

    Napoli was our disembarkation port, we arrived around midday, after having
    to leave our cabins for 9am. Rather than leaving the ship under procession
    with the other foot passengers, we stayed on board, had lunch and got our
    final day money’s worth out of the drinks package. We left the ship around
    3pm. The streets of Napoli are an eye opener, anarchy seems to rule, there
    is little regard for traffic signals on pedestrian crossings, and horns
    sound constantly. It’s a bit like watching a flock of starlings flying in
    the sky, it looks chaotic, but you rarely see a collision. We stayed on the
    lovely and quiet Via Partenope (traffic free) in the Royal Continental
    hotel for a night as our flight back to Liverpool wasn’t until the next
    day. I would certainly recommend that hotel if you are cruising from Napoli
    and need to do a stay over to accommodate your flights. It is close to the
    port, although the one-way system means that it is a 15-20 Euro taxi ride
    away.

    Here is a video of the Port of Napoli: Views Around the Port of Napoli /
    Naples, from the MSC Splendida – Italy – 15th July, 2014

    Here is a video of Via Partenope at Napoli: Napoli / Naples: Views along
    Via Partenope, Italy – 15th July, 2014

    Here is a video of the Royal Continental Hotel at Napoli: Review: The Royal
    Continental Hotel, Napoli / Naples, Italy – July 2014

    With regards to the cruise experience, I would like to make the following
    positive points:

    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 mostly 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. I wouldn’t consider cruising
    with MSC and not having this excellent package.

    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: The Can Can performed aboard
    the MSC Splendida, Western Mediterranean Cruise – July 2014

    With regards to the cruise experience, I would like to make the following
    criticisms:

    Being press-ganged into having photographs taken that we were NEVER going
    to purchase, this first happens at pre-boarding against a cheesie 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). I have hated this practice on every cruise I have ever been
    on. I’ve decided to write to my MEP over this practice, as I believe that
    in the 21st century that there must be a more environmentally friendly
    technological solution to this extremely wasteful practice. If the cruise
    companies won’t do it voluntarily, then maybe it’s time for changes in
    legislation. MSC wrote in plenty of places about their environmental
    policy, but this doesn’t seem to extend to photographs.

    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. This is a real downside to cruising in the Med with MSC. I do
    wonder if Northern European cruises have better mannered passengers. This
    ship holds 4,000 passengers and was just about full. On top of this, MSC
    offer kids (0-17) for free. There were simply too many kids on board, too
    many families and not enough peace. The moral of the story, don’t cruise in
    the Med with MSC from June to August if you want peace and quiet. The noise
    wasn’t always the kids – it was often the loud mouthed parents shrieking at
    them.

    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 impatient passengers. Lunch times and evening meals were times
    of great frustration. Many of the Spanish and Italian passengers made their
    own mini buffets in the middle of their tables, the food from which was
    rarely finished and would then be wasted. Some people used the huge
    oversized plates to the extreme, again loading up with far more than can be
    physically eaten, I watched one lady put EIGHT peaches on her plate and
    then sit down with her husband, they ate four and left four, which were
    then cleared away to go to waste. The amount of food waste was both
    eye-watering and depressing. What was worse was that many people were
    encouraging small children to load up large plates with far more food than
    they could eat – this was just extremely sad. I would like MSC to stop
    using the huge oversized plates in Europe (I can’t comment outside of
    Europe as I’ve never cruised beyond the Med). Unfortunately too many people
    are not educated enough to use them responsibly. In future I’m going to try
    and avoid the buffet restaurants, as they were quite a negative aspect of
    the cruise. I am also writing to my MEP about the food waste, as I believe
    cruise operators need to take a greater responsibility for this.

    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! The musicians in most bars played over
    backing tracks that sounded like they were from 1970s TV shows. Whilst the
    entertainment was fine for most of the passengers, it was repetitive and
    pretty boring to me a 40 something Brit. There was no stand-up comedy, and
    no variety. Even the main stage shows were just singing and dancing with
    the odd acrobat thrown in. The main stage shows also only lasted 30
    minutes, and never began on time, usually 10-15 minutes late.

    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). Some of the bars were understaffed, and on more than one occasion
    staff members were stood talking, seemingly oblivious to the fact that
    customers were waiting. I’m only mentioning this, as it is the first time
    that I have experienced this on a cruise ship.

    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. The Allegrissimo drinks package makes an MSC
    Cruise a great deal more affordable than many other cruise lines. The ships
    are modern with plenty of different bars, and the large open deck on top is
    great. The cabin was really comfortable, and some of my happiest times were
    just sat quietly on the balcony looking over the sea, which I found quite
    hypnotic and very relaxing. 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!

    If you liked this review, and the videos linked from it, there are many
    more like it on my YouTube channel, which you can find at //www.mosstravel.tv
    – please Subscribe to the channel by pressing the red ‘Subscribe’ button,
    I’m also on Twitter @mosstraveltv and on Facebook here:
    //www.facebook.com/mosstravel .

    I have previously been on cruises with and reviewed:
    Costa Mediterranea – Cruise Ship Review: Costa Mediterranea, Greek Islands
    – July 2013
    MSC Divina – MSC Divina: Cruise Ship Review, Eastern Mediterranean Cruise –
    July / August 2012 (HD)
    Thomson Destiny – The Thomson Destiny, Cruise Ship Review – August 2011
    Thomson Celebration – Thomson Celebration Cruise Ship

    We booked the cruise through Tony at Sky Blue Cruising (part of the co-op
    travel group) and I would certainly book through him again as he was
    extremely helpful, his number is 01183753802. Tony organised us a night at
    the Liverpool Airport Holiday Inn Express, return flights with EasyJet, the
    7 night cruise, and a night in Naples at the Royal Continental Hotel. 

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