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Everything posted by Giantfan13

  1. Maybe I can help a bit also. In December, we did a 10 day Med cruise on the Sinfonia, from Barcelona. After that, we boarded an RCCL ship for a trans Atlantic to Tampa, from Barcelona. So we had the situation you are talking about, back to back. This was our second cruise on MSC but first European cruise. The first time was a disaster on the Divina, her first time in Miami and they knew nothing about American cruises. But we decided to try it again, maybe for the same reasons as you, price. To answer a few of your questions, there are stark differences between MSC and any other American cruise lines. Most passengers (about 90%) will be Europeans and there will be enough that do not speak English. If you are English speaking, you will be seated with English speaking passengers at dinner, menu will be in 5 different languages and all announcements are in 5 different languages. Just our take on major differences--Service was good, but crew doesn't know how to smile unless smiled at. They do their job, very well, but as to friendliness, it isn't even in same ballpark as an American cruise. We had a waiter for 10 nights, never smiled, never knew our names etc. When we got on RCCL, EVERYONE was happy, smiling, cheerful. To us, it just made for a better atmosphere. Food was good, but very small portions. As I said, service was good as we were usually done with dinner in less than 90 minutes. There is NO coffee or tea after dinner. If you want that, you pay for it. Shows were short and sweet--everything is visual so all can understand and view. A couple of Operas also are included and that is up to you if you want to view. We did, but we are not Opera people and were sort of bored. Maybe one of our biggest 'complaints' if that is the right word, and it has nothing to do with MSC, just the European people per se and I truly do not mean to insult anyone, but to Americans, they are just plain out rude and do not partake in many of the social graces we do. Like I held a door for a lady as we were going thru and she never even acknowledged me. When elevators open, they just rush in, never even allowing people to get off. People are always pushing to get ahead, enough so, that I had to sort of yell at this little old lady to get out of my back pocket and stop trying to pass me by, while just standing on line. I understand it is a cultural thing, but we found it very offensive. Then there are the continual people disembarking and embarking at just about every port. You sort of get used to luggage in the hallways every night. So, all in all, we still had a good cruise. We adjusted to many of the things we weren't accustomed to and had a good time. Would we cruise MSC again, YES, but if lines like RCCL had the same prices as MSC I would always do RCCL. It was just more cheerful, friendly and made everyone around you happier. Isn't that why we cruise? Cheers Len
  2. Giantfan13

    Advice needed

    We need some advice from the experts, so I go right to the source. Here is our situation--we have a cruise booked on NCL, Sept 2-9 southbound from Seward to Vancouver. We stay a day in Vancouver and then do another cruise to Hawaii on RCCL. We have been to Alaska twice already, once on a round trip from Seattle and another on a northbound from Vancouver to Seward. We got to Anchorage, but due to circumstances at home, we never got further North and had to fly home from Anchorage. This time we would like to try and do a more Northern trip as we do have some time. Here are the questions, we figured to fly into Anchorage, rent a car, travel North and then back to Anchorage to get the southbound cruise from Seward. Is this a better plan than to fly in to say Fairbanks, rent the car and travel south, to Anchorage? Would that be possible, renting in Fairbanks and returning to Anchorage? Second, about how much time should we leave to explore a bit and then return to Anchorage. I know some will say weeks, but we don't have that time. If we drive from Anchorage to say Denali and then back, what amount of time should we allocate for that trip, stopping along the way so as not to rush thru things? I don't know if we can do an extra week traveling. Would say 4 -5 days be any good. The drive isn't that far and stopping along the way where we wanted. Any good advice as to where to stop and what to see. We are more lookers than doers, if you know what I mean. We are seniors, and helicopters and things like that are out. Also, do they still have books, like Toursaver that would help with hotels and any things we might want to participate in? We haven't booked our plane fare yet, and are looking to do that this week, so that's why the questions on time are very relevant to us now. Cheers Len
  3. I agree about Mdina. We are old, but kids at heart, and we loved wandering about the old streets, the fortress, and all this city ahs to offer. You can take the HoHo to Mdina and stay as long as you like. Kids will love it. Cheers Len
  4. Your topic says DIY Genoa, yet you are talking about places outside of Genoa. We were in Genoa in December for a day stop. We had never been here and, at first, read all the stuff about things out of the city, well, we opted to stay in town and you know what, Genoa turned out to be our favorite port of the entire cruise. Why, I really can't say, but we wandered all about on our own, had a small map, but we just loved wandering the really small narrow streets, stopping in shops along the way. We also wanted to do the funicular to the top of the city, which we found and used. We found a wonderful little restaurant for lunch, had a luscious gelato in the afternoon. Genoa is a city that should be explored. We did and loved it. Cheers Len
  5. We were in Rome, year before last and stayed 5 days pre cruise and did the entire city on our own, very easy. Plus, I ma 72 and still was fine to walk around and enjoy all the sites. Look for a centrally located hotel that will enable you to get to many of the main sites very easily. We stayed not to far from Termini and it was perfect. In one day we walked to the Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Trevi and back to the Steps with many stops in between. We did use public transportation to get to the Vatican one, day and we also used transportation to get to the Colosseum and the Forum. Like has been said, avoid the HoHo and use the trains or the bused to get around. We also did a day trip to Florence, if you have the time. Very easy to get to from Termini and spent a marvelous day just wandering about Florence. Cheers Len
  6. Giantfan13


    Just a heads up, when we went to Livorno, we already had a pre booked ticket on the Tuscany Bus, but there were many taxi's at the port ready willing and able to take you to Florence, Pisa, Lucca, basically where ever you wanted to go. We didn't stop to hear their prices, as I said, we already had a bus ticket, but there are there, in force. Cheers Len
  7. We also had been to Rome for a week the year before and now, here we were, with a port day in Civi, so what to do. We also wanted to do something just a bit different, something most others won't be doing, so we opted for a day at a thermal spa. https://civitavecchia.portmobility.it/en/ficoncella-thermal-baths We thoroughly enjoyed our day there. Now it is hard to get to, as you need a taxi and it wasn't a cheap ride, but the baths only cost about 2-3 Euros depending on how long you want to stay. It isn't a glamorous spot, but the three pools that were open were great and we were the only tourists there, and had a wonderful time meeting the locals. My DW also said the pains she was having in her legs were gone when we returned to the ship. We made arrangements for the taxi to pick us up at a certain time and he was right on time. You want something different, this was it for us. Cheers Len
  8. We used them for a bus from Livorno to Pisa. We cruised mid December and they weren't doing a continuation to Lucca. I cannot comment on their bus to Florence. Unlike the OP, we contacted them several times in advance to see if we could get a bus from Pisa to Lucca. They always responded right away, basically telling us that they had none for the day we were in Livorno. We pre bought tickets for the one leg, to Pisa, but you also can buy a ticket tin the Tourist Info shop, a few hundred yards from the bus stop. They run 3 separate buses to Pisa, each bout 3 hours apart. We wanted to do the early bus, maybe take the train to Lucca and then come back on a alter bus, but they won't allow that. You are buying a round trip ticket, so if you go on the 10AM bus, you have to return on the 1PM bus. All in all, we were completely satisfied. Just be aware that the bus leaves you in a main parking area and it is still a nice walk to the Leaning Tower. Cheers Len
  9. We have been to Valencia twice and loved this city very much. It is definitely NOT walkable to get to anything worth seeing. You might want to check out the HoHo bus. This will take you thru most of the city, getting off in the 'old town. We loved this section of the city as it is wonderful to just wander around and find many great buildings. We also opted to go to the Grand market, which we found wonderful. The HoHo will also take you to the Aquarium or oceanography center. It is huge and you could spend all day there. We didn't visit it as we just preferred to ride the bus and see the city. Our second time, we opted for the #4 bus, (I think that is it) which takes you r ight to the old city and, once again, we just wandered about, checking out many things to do. Cheers Len
  10. Most MSC shows are what one might refer to as 'visual' so it can be understood in many languages. Cheers Len
  11. We did a 10 day cruise and has 3 formal nights. On those nights, they had 3 shows in the theater, with that last one, a very late show to accommodate those who wanted to see the show, as we felt the theater is quite small. Just on those nights, you had to pre book a spot for the show you wanted to see. Obviously, the first two shows were usually filled up and the late one, was the last resort. You can start to pre book at the close of the show the night before. There is usually a mad rush for the screens to pre book right outside the theater, but if you go down one deck, there are several screens with no one there/ All you need to do is scan your ship card and touch which show you want to see. At the night of the show, they scan your card and you can sit anywhere you like. Cheers Len
  12. We found the elevators small, but very speedy. In that we pressed the button and it seemed as if they were there in no time. Cheers Len
  13. We just did a TA in December and I am a football junkie. We were on the Rhapsody were they didn't have many TV's in the bars and the big screen was just showing movies, but in our cabin they showed whatever game was on ESPN or whatever was the 'game of the week' like Sunday Night Football. You will definitely be able to watch the Championship games on the TV in your room, and more than likely it will be shown in other venues also. Cheers Len
  14. Since I got out of the service, some 50 years ago, I have never wanted anyone to tell me exactly when I have to eat. So, we cruise with lines (almost all of the now) that have My Time Dining, or whatever every other line calls it. We love it. With MTD, you can book a specific time you might want to eat each night. Look at your itinerary and see which days you are at sea and might want to eat a bit earlier and on port days maybe a bit later. It's up to you. That said, you are not bound by that reservation. If you made a reservation for say 7:00 and you want to eat at 6:30, just go down and see if there is anything available. Most likely you will be seated in a few minutes, depending on if you want to share a table. We always share and we meet so many interesting people. If you find people you hit if off with, you can dine with them again any night or just go it alone and see who you will be seated with. If you find a particular waiter you like, you can ask to be seated in their area also. For that, you might have to wait a bit, depending on when you go to eat, but that is up to you. Cheers Len
  15. WE recently sailed our first Mediterranean cruise with MSC in December. We are experienced cruisers and basically never book a cruise excursion, usually preferring to either do things on our own, or book with a private tour company that people recommend here or on trip Advisor. We did look at what MSC had to offer, but felt their prices were ridiculously high so we opted for doing our own thing. As some one already posted, your best bet is to go to the European forums and then to the country you are visiting, There is such a wealth of info there and we used much of it to help make our port days a success. So, depending on what your interests are, we also docked in Valletta. We wanted to get to Mdina, so we opted for the HoHo bus. There are 2 routes, a Northern and a Southern. If you go to their web site, you can see where each route goes. We chose the Northern route which had a stop in Mdina. We were very happy with our day there and the ride was about 2 hours on the bus and we stayed in Mdina about 3 hours. Next time we go back, we will do the Southern route. Ship docks right in the city. Genoa was our favorite port on our cruise. We opted to just sty in this city and were happy we did. For us, we simply loved the old part of the city, with it's narrow, winding streets, upper part, lower part. We wandered about for hours, stopping for food, shopping and just people watching. We rode the funicular to the top of the city for some amazing views. I know many people head out of town, but it was our first time here and we wanted to see this city. We were very happy we chose to stay local. Ship docks right in the city. Since we boarded in Barcelona, we had a pre cruise stay and a post cruise sty, so we didn't do any excursions, but tour companies like Spain Day Tours are excellent and do a great job showing you this city. We especially liked Las Rambles area, just teeming with activity. Tour companies like Spain Day Tours will pick you up at the terminal. or else you need some transportation to get you around. I agree with the other poster about Marseilles. There is a free shuttle that takes you to the city, but it drops you off here, and to get to the 'main part' it is an addition mile walk. Might be better off using the ships shuttle and pay the price. Cheers Len
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. We have cruised on the Grandeur twice and loved each cruise. We simply love the smaller ships and the Grandeur was perfect. Cheers Len
  24. 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
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