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Everything posted by Giantfan13

  1. Not to disagree, but we sailed on the Sinfonia in December. We booked it late May. As Americans, we did have free bottled water for dinner, but all Europeans (not sure about the Brits) had to pay 3 euros for their bottles of water. We also had no coffee or tea after dinner. That was also an additional charge. If MSC changed the rules, it didn't filter down to our cruise. Those are the facts. Cheers Len
  2. Let me see if I can answer some of your questions. We did a Mediterranean cruise on the Sinfonia in December. We had cruised MSC before, but out of Florida. This was our first 'European' cruise with MSC and we also had many questions about Americans (and Canadians) on our cruise. We had a 10 day cruise and yes, people got on and off at just about every port. We boarded in Barcelona where 300 people got on. We had our muster drill that day, but we never had to do another. They do have those drills just about everyday for the new passengers, but not for you. You just have to get used to baggage in the hallways most every night. As far as dining, our biggest concern was being seated with English speaking people and they accommodate you that way. It would be hard to converse when people don't speak your language. The menu's are in 5 different languages, and because, as Americans, we are used to having water with dinner, we had water at no charge, while most of the Europeans had to pay for their water. We ate at in the Main Dining Room every night. Food was good, service was fast, but portions rather small. Staff were like robots, taking your order, serving, but rarely smiling. We were surprised that there was no coffee or tea after your dinner. That is an extra charge, so we just did without it. If we wanted something like that, we went to the buffet later on that night. We choice early seating which was at 6:30, as late seating is like 9:00 or later, just too late for us. Shows were interesting, mostly visual so everyone can understand. A lot of jugglers and acrobats. All announcements are in 5 different languages. For us, it was a different experience. Really first time we had any real interaction with Europeans, and we came away feeling that many were rude as to common courtesies, at least the way we see things. That's the way they do things, like don't wait until people exit the elevator, they just sort of push on even as people are getting off. I held a door open for ladies and they just walked thru with no thank you. It takes some getting used to, but given the chance, I would cruise with them again. Cheers Len
  3. When we toured St Petersburg, there were stops made to 'sample some vodka', or bathroom breaks. As it happens, these stops just happen to be in souvenir shops. Wonder of wonders. Not that these shops are bad, they are just the normal, bit overpriced souvenir shops you would find anywhere. If you do have any time, or ask the tour company, if you could stop at some of the street vendors, selling almost the same merchandise for a lot less. Most of the time, they don't want you shopping there as there is no commission for them with the vendors. Anyway, you will have some time to shop, but not guaranteed it will be at the places you may want to. Cheers Len
  4. I agree. Just take a few minutes and read many of the threads on this forum about private tours. I would say just about everyone who posts here, for many, many years, we have all used the private tour companies and I have never heard of anyone, even close to missing a ship. Most tour companies who do the 2 day packages, usually take you to the furthest places on day one and keep you close to St Petersburg on day two. Since you are posting here, asking for advice, here it is----NEVER do a ship's tour in the Baltics, especially St Petersburg, when you can get more for your money, and a lot less money at that, by using any of the more respected tour companies in St Petersburg. Cheers Len
  5. We had also been to Rome the year before for a 5 day pre cruise so we wanted to try and stay local and find something different to do with a day in Civitavecchia. We ended up deciding on the Ficoncella Thermal Baths https://civitavecchia.portmobility.it/en/ficoncella-thermal-baths. We had a great time and we enjoyed something different very much. Cheers Len
  6. I guess it depends on where you want to stay in Barcelona. We had a pre cruise stay where we stayed at a very nice hotel on Las Rambles 'Arc De Rambles pre cruise as we wanted to be in this area. Post cruise, we had some points with Hilton so we stayed with them. The Hilton is in more of a residential and shopping area, but it was an amazing hotel. Would definitely stay at either place again. Cheers Len
  7. I can't exactly say how early you can leave your luggage at the port, but when cruised out of Barcelona about a month ago and we booked a hotel on Las Ramblas, which is about 10 minutes away from the port. It took about 10-12 minutes by taxi to get there and they held our luggage until we were ready to go to the port. There are many hotels in this area that would probably do this. Cheers Len
  8. We have cruised on the Grandeur twice and loved each cruise. We simply love the smaller ships and the Grandeur was perfect. Cheers Len
  9. Tim I didn't want it to sound as if our cruise was a failure, it wasn't. If so, I would plainly state I would never cruise MSC again. There were just things that we weren't expecting and if we ever venture there again, we will be more prepared. Thanks for your insight. It does show that there are two sides to every cruise, and two ways of looking at every day things. Chees Len
  10. A I have written a slightly smaller review of our sailing on the Sinfonia, early December, I found your review quite interesting. Since you seem to be a huge fan of MSC your perspective might be very different from some who have never sailed MSC and were looking to, like other Americans. While you found the crew friendly, I did NOT see that at all. In fact it was my biggest complaint for the entre cruise, the stoicness of the crew. We had a waiter for our 10 day cruise who ever smiled ONCE, never took the time to know our names. I did comment on the effectiveness of the service as we usually were in and out for dinner in about 90 minutes. When passing any crew member in a public place or in a walkway, they NEVER said anything unless I initiated the prossess. Almost the exact opposite of what one would find on any American cruise ship. To each his own as far as if that might be a deal breaker. As I also reported, the shows were decent enough, but we just aren't huge opera fans, so they weren't that awe inspiring to us. We did attend and did like the voices of the leads, but after that, it just may not appeal to that many Americans. We also found the cruise director a bit long in the tooth. Since everything he had to say was in 5 different languages, it did take a while. The performances were good, but we were surprised most of the songs and singing were in English. Some might have been better in their native language. We did like the Flamenco show very much, others were hit an miss. Again, a I said previously, the showgirls were stunning, and were very good. Our cruise, also 10 days with only one sea day, so we basically never ate lunch as we were off the ship on all port days so I really cannot comment on that. As I said in another post, they try to show you to a table for breakfast, but if you want to go where you might want to go, they do not object. As for portion size, we found them small. My wife ordered fish and chips one evening and she got 2 fish sticks with some packaged French fries. Not what I would call a gourmet meal. I do agree about ordering that extra appetizer. As Americans, who never sailed MSC in Europe, we were surprised there was no coffee or tea offered with dessert. If you want that, you pay extra. Again, maybe since you cruised MSC many times, you expected that, we didn't. We did thoroughly enjoy the Gelato every day and some of the entertainment staff were very funny when they did visual antics. As many Americans don't adjust to MSC as well as others, I would not rule out sailing MSC again, as I would be more prepared for what to expect. thanks for your review. Cheers Len
  11. We try to avoid the buffet at all costs, so we did eat in the MDR every morning for breakfast. This was so different from American breakfasts. We usually walked in and sort of sat where we wanted. They sort of tried to escort us to a table, but if we liked something better, we just sat there. When they did seat us it was usually with people already eating so we felt that rude and we opted for a table on our own. While we were eating, they did seat others with us, like everyone doing their own thing. We ordered from a menu, but also got up for several items off the breakfast buffet that they also have there. Good pastries and cheeses and some other nice items that you won't get off the menu. Orders were served quickly also, but don't get too exotic as they won't understand what you want. Cheers Len
  12. On the Sinfonia, there is separate pizza station outside the buffet area where the pizza is made fresh all the time They offer different types at different times, even something with a black crust, but it was always fresh and we felt, very good. Same guy was always here. Cheers Len
  13. On the Sinfonia No interactive TV. Just basic stuff and a lot of BBC. We had a 10 day cruise and we had 3 formal nights. On all the formal nights, they scheduled an extra show (late) so we had 3 shows to attend. BUT, you had to make a reservation for which show you wanted to attend. You needed to just scan you card, after the previous day show and pick which show you want to attend. You can do it from any of the many screens all over the ship. After that previous nights show, when it is announced you have to make a reservation for the next night, everyone goes out and tried to get to the scanner right outside the theater. Go down one flight of stairs and no one is at those scanners. We received a daily guide n or stateroom, just like on ever other cruise we do. It was I English, for us and contained all the info we needed about the next day's activities. The casino was on the small side, but we rarely gamble, so we didn't spend much of any time there. smoky--aren't they all? Cheers Len
  14. we attempted this maneuver several times but the door was always roped off due to high winds. cheers Len
  15. John Overall, we usually sail 'older' type ships so we really don't look and really don't care about many minor things. Some deck chairs were in need of tender care, same for some of the railings on the deck, but if that's why you won't cruise on a certain ship, tell them, I'll take their place. Ship was fine, food was decent enough, service was good and shows were also fairly good (short, but good). Sun was shining most days, so what more could you ask for. cheers Len
  16. We were on deck 8 around mid ship and it was great to just walk out onto the rear deck and basically have it all to ourselves. You need the rest room, just a short hop back to your cabin. We never arrive day of the cruise. Just too many variables and why risk it. Plus we have never been to Barcelona and wanted to see some of it. We stayed at a hotel on Las Rambles. We did a red eye arriving in Barcelona at 7AM. Got to our hotel about 9 and they had a room ready for us. We never go to sleep then, so we wandered all around this wonderful area, had lunch, and early dinner and was in bed by 8PM. Next morning the hotel got us a taxi to the port and we were on board by about 11:30. Our taxi driver spoke no English, but the hotel told him where to take us. From where we stayed it was a short 10 minute taxi ride. We thanked him paid by credit card and required no tip. As or the dress we were also concerned about that and asked a few questions on this board before we traveled. I would say the dress is a bit more dressy than most American cruises, in that there were no floral shirts, but most night, men dressed casually but women tended to be a bit more dressy. We had early dining which was at 6;30 and late seating is abut 9 or 9:30. After finishing eating the ship really starts to get active. where most American ships, by 11 or so, the decks are clear and the lounges mostly done, here, the party is just starting. I would say, bring darker color pants and wear them several times. We had 3 formal nights on our 10 day crusie, but we do not do formal anymore and many also felt that way. I would say there were more tuxes than you might see on an American ship but no where want it used to be ages ago. Cheers Len
  17. WE used SPB Tours and our time at Peter and Paul Cathedral to see the tombs of Peter the Great and the Romanovs was tremendous. Shopping in St Pete would be nice but my DW can shop anytime, here in the USA, we went to St Petersburg to see things we can't see anywhere else. LOL Cheers Len
  18. Not disagreeing with those that say a guide is a necessity in some ports. We just found that most Baltic cruises are very port intensive and, at my age, all those facts and date seem to get all jiggled together and I come away remembering very little. Again, not saying it isn't an option, but we just prefer to go at our own pace, see what we want and find things out as we please. Less remembering that way. Cheers Len
  19. That is a good point about the luggage. Since we made arrangements for the taxi to come back to get us, you can't do that if you have luggage. There might be a place to store luggage at the baths, but I would call them and inquire about it first. The only problem I see wit that posters plan, is when you exit the baths, you have wet bathing suits to deal with, unless you decide to go au natural, which, I suppose, the locals wouldn't mind too much. Cheers Len
  20. We were picked up in a small van type bus that had plenty of room for luggage. We went on two separate cruises and were away for about a month and we had PLENTY of luggage. (2 large suitcases and 2 carry ons plus a couple of hand things and it was all taken care of. We had about 12 people on our tour. Cheers Len
  21. Just a shout out to Roger here. We got back from our cruising the other day and we are trying to catch up on everything. As Roger suggested, we did the HoHo bus and got off at the old city and explored it and loved it. We then went to the castle and spent some great time there. This was our goal, to spend the day in this city as it is our first time there and we wanted to get the feel, instead of just seeing it and sunning out somewhere else. We had a marvelous time and again, thank you roger for all your help. Cheers Len
  22. I'm not sure if some one asked, but for some of the ports mentioned In Messina, there were many taxi's looking to do tours In Civi once you get off the shuttle, there are literally scores of taxis and vans looking to take you to Rome for, what we felt was a very reasonable sum. Other areas were available also In Livorno, same thing, many taxis looking to take you to Pisa, Florence, Lucca, where ever you might want to go. I believe there were also taxis in Valetta Malta if anyone is interested. Cheers Len
  23. Tony It would be my pleasure to share our info with you. As I said, we were in Rome last year and we just wanted to do something different, especially on a very port intensive cruise, just spend a day relaxing. So we read somewhere on CC about the thermal baths and felt it would be a great idea. We have done baths like these around the USA and loved it. Here is the web site https://civitavecchia.portmobility.it/en/ficoncella-thermal-baths  Now don't expect a modern area. We had 3 different 'pools' open, each with a different temperature. Anyway, we were told from CC that a taxi would cost about 15-20 euros, not on our trip. We got off the ship and asked a someone to call us a taxi as all the taxi's around the port are looking to take people to Rome and other places. They called us a taxi, we showed him the paper where we wanted to go and he ended up taking us to the Roman Bath ruins. We told him this wasn't it and then he knew where we wanted to go. It was only about 5 minutes away, but the ride was about 30Euros, a lot more than we anticipated. (this was with the meter running).I would say it is about 8 miles or so out of Civi. Good part is the baths only cost 1 1/2 Euros for 2 hours. There are stalls to change if you like and most people just left their clothes along the rails and hooks. We made arrangements for the taxi to come pick us up as you are really out in the sticks and you will never get a taxi unless you call. He charged us the same thing to take us back (with the meter off) so we assume it was 'off the books'. Again, a bit more than we expected but overall, we had a very enjoyable day and the entire cost wasn't that much. there is small shop there where you can buy some things to eat or drink. Don't expect glamorous surroundings, but we thoroughly enjoyed just being away from all the tourists and just being with locals who were more than happy to engage in whatever conversation we could. Cheers Len
  24. You didn't say if you were also on the Sinfonia. If so, there ARE several great spots if you want some 'quiet time'. Ourselves, when we cruise, we love to sit on the Promenade deck away from the crowds, but alas, seems MSC doesn't' do chairs there. But, again, this is our secret; on every deck, in the back of the ship, you can sit out with hardly anyone ever there. There are lounge chairs there and we sat out there almost every day, when we could. At night was the best. As far as smoking. They do have areas for smoking, but we found, and saw, many people smoking anywhere and anytime, as long as they were outside. Rules are made for others, I guess. WE boarded in Barcelona with about 300 others, and YES it is sort of strange to see baggage in the hallways every night and life boat drill announcements made every day. You can tell the newcomers as they don't know where to sit as of yet, in the dining room, but you just get used to it. I believe the main port was Genoa where about 1000 boarded. it was our next to the last port and up until then the ship wasn't crowded at all, but after Genoa, it was packed wherever we went. Where there were seats in lounges, not any more. Lucky we were almost done by then so it really didn't bother us too much. As for pickpockets, I had read some much about Barcelona being a pick pocket paradise, we were extremely careful. It was a concern, but after a while, we felt much more comfortable, but we did try and avoid large crowded areas. Always better to be safe rather than sorry. One area which we were annoyed, MSC seemed to always dock furthest from the port so they always had shuttle buses ready, for, what we felt was a pretty heft cost-some 12 Euros PP some 14 Euros PP. Do your homework and there are several ports that have free shuttles into town, you just have to walk a bit to get to them. Anything else I can help you with, it would be my pleasure. Cheers Len
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