A Cruise on the MSC Cruise Ship Splendida
We Try a New Cruise Line
June 7, 2011
Last fall, November 2010, my wife and I took a seven day Mediterranean cruise aboard the Italian MSC Lines cruise ship Splendida.
Previously we had taken an Alaskan cruise and a Caribbean cruise on ships of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and had a fantastic experience both times. The November cruise was to be both our first with MSC Cruise Line and first Mediterranean cruise.
On our previous Alaskan and Caribbean cruises everyone boarded at the same port and departed when the ship returned to that port. On this cruise the ship took on and discharged passengers at different ports.
Everyone enjoyed the same seven day trip and visited the same ports.
However, there was no mass boarding and exiting as when the ship returned to each port, those who had embarked from that port exited while the rest of us remained on board.
We could have begun our cruise from Rome, Genoa, Marseille or Barcelona.
While the departure and return dates for each were different the prices were the same.
We choose Barcelona, Spain as our starting point because airline fares at that time between the U.S. and Barcelona were considerably less expensive than for the other cities.
Majority of Passengers were From Europe
The Splendida has capacity for 3,900 passengers plus a crew of 1,313.
Like our previous cruises, our fellow passengers were from all parts of the world.
However, while the majority of the passengers on our previous Alaskan cruise (which departed from Vancouver, British Columbia) and Caribbean cruise (which departed from Miami, Florida) were American and Canadian, the majority on this cruise were from Europe.
This particular cruise route is very popular with Europeans, especially families from Germany and southern Europe.
The result is that public address announcements are made in 4 or 5 languages with English being one of them but not necessarily the first.
While we didn’t encounter any other Americans on the trip we did meet and get to know some great people from the United Kingdom and Canada.
The Ship Visited a Different Mediterranean Port Each Day
We departed Barcelona on Monday November first and returned the following Monday November 8th.
In between, the ship made stops at Tunis in Tunisia; Valletta on the island republic of Malta; Mesina in Sicily; Rome and Genoa in Italy and Marseille in France.
Each day we were in a different port and we took advantage of the opportunity to visit each of these different places.
However, we still had time to enjoy the ship which, like other cruise ships is basically a floating luxury resort.
Staterooms are Compact but Comfortable
Our stateroom was like a room in any quality motel, just more compact.
Given limited space aboard ships, rooms tend to be smaller and more compact.
However, like all cruise ships, the Splendida offered a range of rooms sizes from which to choose. This included everything from staterooms like ours, or possibly even smaller, to full suites.
The smaller staterooms are found on the lower decks and the staterooms tend to increase in size as one moves to higher decks. Higher decks also have rooms with outside balconies.
Like any place else, the larger staterooms are more expensive than smaller ones. Those with balconies are more expensive than those without.
Room prices increase by deck so the higher the deck the higher the price. Outside rooms, which have a window and view of the ocean, are more expensive than interior rooms which have no window or view.
While the fare per person varies by stateroom size and location, that fee is basically the total cost of the cruise and includes most of the same on board amenities that are available to everyone else regardless of they type of stateroom they have.
Since my wife and I tend to use the stateroom mainly for sleeping and changing clothes, I usually pick an interior room on the fifth or sixth deck. Since the other amenities are the same, I can't see spending extra money for a room that we spend very little time in.
For this trip I reserved an interior room on the fifth deck. However, because it was the last cruise of the season on this route, the ship was not booked to capacity.
As a result we ended up with an outside room on the sixth deck when the cruise line decided to consolidate everyone on the fifth and sixth decks on the sixth deck to make it more efficient for the housekeeping staff.
Dining Aboard the Splendida
Like other cruise ships, meals were included in the price of our stateroom. Also, like other ships we were assigned a table in one of the ship's formal dining rooms which, in our case was the very elegant Villa Verde dining room. For dinner we were also assigned one of the two dinner time slots.
Breakfast and lunch are generally a little more informal in that seating is open and guests are free to come whenever they please during the two or three hour time slot for the meal.
Since we preferred the more informal Bora Bora cafeteria for breakfast and lunch (and we were frequently visiting ashore during lunch) I cannot comment on the breakfasts and lunches in the Villa Verde dining room. The all you could eat fare in the Bora Bora cafeteria, like the meals in the Villa Verde dining room was included as part of the cruise price as well.
While we usually entered the cafeteria via the entrance with the sign indicating it was the Bora Bora cafeteria, it is actually two cafeterias with one part known as the Pago Pago cafeteria. During breakfast and lunch they are basically one large dining area.
However, in the evening, in which we dined in the Villa Verde dining room and never visited the Bora Bora, I understand that the Pago Pago was closed and the Bora Bora becomes a pizza and kebab restaurant that charges for the food.
There are four other smaller restaurants in which meals can be purchased as well some other areas selling snacks and beverages including some small bars in lounges. The first, L'Olivio is a Mediterranean restaurant beautifully decorated with ceramic tiles. Lunch and dinner can be purchased and eaten in this restaurant.
L'Enoteca is cozy wine bar that also serves light dinners, while the Sports Bar is more casual offering beer and fast food lunches. Finally, there is the Santa Fe with its southwestern décor and Mexican style food currently popular in the North America.
While we never ate in any of these other restaurants we did enjoy occasionally sitting and enjoying the ambiance in the L'Olivio and L'Enoteca in the afternoon or late evening.
Finally there is a second main dining room, La Reggia, which was similar to Villa Verde in that it is these two in which most of the passengers eat dinner unless they care to purchase dinner in one of the other restaurants.
The food in these two dining rooms was excellent which was the main reason why we didn't bother to have dinner in any of the other restaurants.
Teaching an Online Class and Writing For HubPages While at Sea
While heading out to sea on a cruise ship is a great way to relax and get away from it all, passengers can still stay connected via the Internet and cell phones.
While both tend to be expensive, they are available on most cruise ships including the Splendida.
Like most other cruise ships I have sailed on, the Splendida had a nice little library/business center on board.
This is a nice quiet place where one can relax and read (or borrow a book to read elsewhere) or log into one of the computers in the library.
In order to access the computers or connect your own computer to the Internet you purchase access time.
Internet access can be purchased from the ship's customer service desk. It is sold in blocks with the smallest amount being five hours and the longest 60 hours.
When you purchase you are given a log in name and password to use to access the Internet from a computer in the library or your laptop.
The larger the block you buy the lower the price per hour. Of course, once you have purchased a block of time there are no refunds for unused time so, when purchasing you have to estimate how much time you need/want as well as consider the fact that Internet speeds at sea are very slow.
I normally consider a vacation to not only be a vacation from my regular job but other daily work as well and that includes the Internet which I use mainly for outside work which includes outside teaching and writing for HubPages as well as other personal business.
However, special projects at my main job prevented us from vacationing during the summer and we ended up delaying our vacation until November.
In addition to my regular job I also teach an online class on the side and this class was in session during my vacation.
As a result, I had to check in with the class each day. Since work had already been assigned and no tests or assignments due during the time I was away, all I basically had to do was check and respond to emails from the students.
Since I had the Internet access I also tried publishing a Hub while at sea one night. I was able to log into HubPages and type the content without any problem but the speed was so slow that I was unable to load any pictures and ended up having to wait until the end of the cruise when I was able to access the Internet from our hotel before I was able to upload the photos and publish the Hub.
The Splendida's Other Amenities
Being a floating resort, the Splendida, like other modern cruise ships, has many other amenities, many of which can be enjoyed and used without extra charge.
These include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, play areas for children, sports facilities for adults and more.
The ship also has a large theater with live shows every evening.
One can easily spend an entire vacation without leaving the ship, by simply engaging in and enjoying the all of the on board amenities and activities.
Of course there are also the opportunities to visit new places by going ashore in the ports the ship visits on the cruise.
But that is a subject for another Hub.