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WonderMan3

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  1. There are plenty of other things to see and do in Barcelona beyond Montjuic and La Rambla; Sagrada Familia basilica, the Gaudi houses (La Pedrera and Casa Batllo), strolling through the historic Gothic Quarter, Parc Guell are what I can think off the top of my head. Or you could take an excursion outside of the city to the monastery in the mountains of Montserrat...
  2. They've added in Sapphire Plus which seems to mirror most of the benefits that Sapphire used to have prior to the last big changes to the program in mid-2018. Only significant new thing I see is a free digital photo package for Amethyst and above. https://www.celebritycruises.com/content/dam/celebrity/pdf/11-22-sp-casino-bcc-chart-update.pdf
  3. Ah, so you saw my LIVE FROM thread then? Yeah, I've never been interested in a food tour in the past but was pleasantly surprised by this one.
  4. Policy states you can't bring wine or soda onboard but on another MSC cruise forum I saw several people testifying that they have brought soda bottles/cans onboard in their carry on bags with no issue. Same with bottled water. Maybe it depends on the port, but this was in a forum focused on Seaside.
  5. You can also just stay in Genoa. The city has a lot of history. It's not as interesting as Rome or Florence but there is enough to hold interest for a city tour for a day. I did a wonderful food tasting tour with a company called Lunaetours. It was about 3 hours and while there was a good amount of walking it was pretty low impact and included 4 different food stops (pastry shop, candy store, foccaceria and that pesto shop I mentioned above). It also included lunch at the end of the tour (we were so full!). If you reserve it ask if you can get Paola as your guide. She was wonderful! https://www.lunaetours.com/package/flavors-of-genoa-guided-walking-tour/
  6. The reason people go from La Spezia is because it is much closer. The train only takes 8 minutes to reach the first town of Riomaggiore and around 29 minutes to reach the furthest, Monterosso al Mare (mainly because of multiple stops on the way). To drive from La Spezia would be between 24 minutes (to Riomaggiore) and 46 minutes (to Monterosso). As a contrast it would an hour minimum by train from Genoa to Monterosso, then add another 21 minutes to reach the furthest town of Riomaggiore. To drive from Genoa would be around 1 hour and 20 minutes to Monterosso up to an hour and 46 minutes to reach Riomaggiore. And just to give honest advice here, the Cinque Terre is nice but as you mention there will be crowds, and it’s very difficult to enjoy the towns with all the people around. I wouldn’t waste two port days going there twice. I would visit there from La Spezia. Use the train to maximize your time (if you feel comfortable; it’s safe but watch for pickpockets) possibly combined with a ferry boat to get a sea view of the villages. Go as early in the morning as you can to beat the crowds. I’d say do no more than 3 of the villages in one day. Do research to figure out which ones you want to see most. Then on your Genoa day try doing some of the Italian Riviera towns I mentioned. Portofino and Santa Margherita will have more tourists (but it won’t feel near as crowded as the Cinque Terre villages). Camogli and Sestri Levante will have less tourists and I actually found them more charming. Pisa is a waste of time IMO to visit from La Spezia. You’ll spend 2 hours of driving time total at least, and while the tower was an iconic thing to see, there wasn’t much else to see there. Unless you are combining it with a visit to Lucca (which is far more interesting than Pisa) then don’t bother. And yes, I am aware that you can make pesto at home. You can make pretty much anything at home if you hunt down the right ingredients. I just enjoy trying regional foods and the pesto from Genoa had been recommended as the best. And they were right. I tried multiple pestos in the Genoa area though and one stood above the rest. Pestobene in central Genoa was the best I have ever tasted. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187823-d15188249-Reviews-Pestobene-Genoa_Italian_Riviera_Liguria.html
  7. I have sailed with Royal, NCL, Celebrity, Princess, and Holland and with all of them the ship adjusted its clock based on time zones. (Sometimes it could be delayed a bit, meaning you officially enter the new time zone while at sea but the ship doesn't adjust the clock until the night before you arrive at the next port that will feature that new time zone). I've never heard of a cruise line that does not do that. MSC is following the norm.
  8. Am considering taking an Emerald Waterways river cruise and had a few questions that I hope some who have used them before can answer. 1. Was looking at an included air package with them. How does that work? Do you get to work with a customer service representative over the phone to select your flights? Can you request specific airlines or routing? Or do they just assign you whatever they can get and you're stuck with that? Also, do they let you pay to upgrade to Premium Economy or Business Class? 2. Was looking potentially at trip extensions in Paris or Prague. Has anyone done either of those cities with Emerald and is able to advise which hotels they use? 3. For anyone who has done Christmas Markets trips with them, how late in the evening do they stay in ports? If anyone has taken their 14 night Christmas Markets trips and has any itinerary info which gives arrival and departure times at each port that they could share that would be appreciated. They don't give that level of detail on their website. Thanks!
  9. They are indeed a travel insurance company. See their website here http://www.tripmate.com/main/ I am quite familiar with them as I used to work for a tour operator that owned a fleet of river cruise ships and Trip Mate was the insurance that we sold to customers. I will agree with you on the fact that they make it extremely difficult to process claims and look for any possible loophole to deny paying out. I had a number of instances of senior travelers on the phone with me in tears because Trip Mate refused to pay out claims on legitimate cancellation reasons. Caveat emptor!
  10. It's not necessary to go all the way to the Cinque Terre to find something to do from Genoa. First of all Genoa itself is good for a walk around through the historic area if you've never been before (having a guide or at least a guide book would be recommended). We did a food tasting tour there that was wonderful. You definitely want to check out the focaccia and the pesto. The waterfront area has been revitalized in recent years with an aquarium, ferris wheel, restaurants, etc. Going outside of Genoa you have Portofino, Santa Margherita, Camogli and Sestri Levante which are all wonderful seaside towns with great shops, cafes and beautiful views all an hour or less away by car (faster by train I assume). And to call Barcelona "boring" is a bit of a head scratcher. But each to their own I guess...
  11. The two main issues I encountered on my two MSC cruises last year that could tie to the line being “more European” was: 1) Some communication difficulties with the crew at times. Not every crew member was adept at English. It sometimes required repeating a request a few times or asking them to repeat a few times because what they said wasn’t clear. I attribute this to them having to learn English along with Italian and German (US cruise lines only require staff to learn English) and then not speaking English as often as an American cruise line crew member would due to the higher concentration of Italian and German passengers. I understand and accept the reasons why and didn’t fault the staff but it still made some service interactions a bit more difficult. 2) Cocktail service was beyond frustrating. Since Europeans don’t consume cocktails the way Americans do (I have been told that they are more of an after dinner or specialty thing) or at the same frequency, the staff wasn’t as familiar with most of the cocktails we ordered, bartenders would sometimes make the drinks incorrectly and you couldn’t even get certain cocktails because they didn’t have the liquors needed to make the drink. I don’t drink beer or wine and try to avoid soda so this was a big obstacle for me. Others have cited differences like the many languages spoken by guests (a fact but not an issue), lining up and crowding issues (we didn’t see that) or portions being smaller (they were similar to portions we are used to on Celebrity). A number of people also say that Americans don’t like MSC because they expect more service. My response to that in another thread was that Americans don’t expect more service than others per se, it’s just that the American cruise lines generally offer a more personalized level of service than MSC does (I can say this having cruised with Celebrity, Royal, NCL, Holland and Princess as well as MSC) so Americans are used to that and have those expectations when going onboard.
  12. Was on Seaview in September in YC and gelato was included. Nothing else at Venchi was covered though.
  13. You can combine them to get a higher category cabin but you are still restricted to a max of 10 days. You could book two cruises though, one cruise for each certificate, and go back-to-back to make it a longer overall cruise, i.e. two 7 night cruises or two 10 night cruises.
  14. I was interested in the bioluminescent tour too but after reading reviews it sounds like a long drive to get there and lots of complaints about mosquitoes. Seeing as this is Zika Virus territory I decided that excursion was not for me.
  15. Just a heads up. While I had hoped to do some sort of final review of my cruises, and had actually made some good headway on the Bellissima portion, I just don’t have the time to continue with it due to more important priorities in my life including being deep in researching and planning my next vacation. And also based on the negativity here from certain unpleasant members I honestly can’t be bothered at this point. I think the chronicles of my voyages were extremely detailed enough for those that followed along to draw their own conclusions about whether MSC is the right cruise line for them. Thanks to those who appreciated my honest opinions about my experiences. Happy cruising!
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