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AeroXWD

Trip report of MSC Meraviglia YC Dec 1-8. 2019 sailing incl. Ocean Cay

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Trip report/review of MSC Meraviglia Yacht Club Deluxe Suite 01.12.2019-08.12.2019 sailing to Ocho Rios, George Town, Cozumel and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve

 

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This is my trip report/review of the 01.12-08.2019 sailing on the MSC Meraviglia on her inaugural visit to Ocean Cay. I'll write this chronographically and include pre-cruise stuff, so if you want to skip through to the actual cruise, I'll post it within a day or two. I took around 2000 photos during the week, but I'll try not to bore you with every mundane detail I documented.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

 

Intro

I'm 32 from Oslo, Norway,  traveling with my girlfriend, and this was our first "proper" cruise. I have always wanted to go on a cruise, and have suggested we try it out for the last couple of years with no luck. After having seen a myriad of ships during our summer vacation on the Cote D'Azur, she seemed to warm up to the idea. When she mentioned she wanted to spend her upcoming birthday in Miami beach, I got her onboard the idea of combining Miami with a cruise.

 

Planning

Having lurked on cruisecritic for the last five years or so, I had probably read hundreds of reviews and trip reports on different cruise lines and ships, so I had an idea of what would be a good fit for us.

 

We booked our flights with SAS Scandinavian Airlines in August for 28.11.2019 to Miami with return on the 8.12, so our ship would either have to sail on November 30 or December 1. I initially narrowed it down to the following four alternatives that were pretty similar price-wise:

 

Alternative 1: 01.12 - Norwegian Encore (non-Haven)

Alternative 2: 30.11 - Celebrity Edge - Sky Suite #9168 (with prepaid tips, premium beverage package, unlimited high-speed internet and $150 OBC)

Alternative 3: 30.11 - YC Seaside

Alternative 4: 01.12 - YC Meraviglia

 

After reading more about the Encore and the seeming lack of sun deck space without the possibility to reserve Vibe-passes in advance, we decided not to book the Encore. Especially since we would not be booking Haven as it was much more expensive for our dates than the other alternatives. Go-karts and laser tag is probably fun, but it's something I can do any time at home. What I can't do at home at the moment is to lay on a lounger reading a book while watching the ocean without freezing. 

 

The more we read about the yacht club experience, the more we wanted to try it, even though we preferred the aesthetics on the Edge. Also, the thought of seeing Ocean Cay was really tempting, even though Celebrity had the best deal. Because my girlfriend wanted to celebrate her birthday in Miami on the 30th, and that it was $100 cheaper, we chose the Meraviglia over the Seaside which would leave Miami on that date.

 

For our pre-cruise stay in Miami Beach, we chose the Loews for both the location and that it looked really nice.

 

Itinerary:

28.11 - Flight OSL-CPH-MIA

29.11 - Miami beach

30.11 - Miami beach

01.12 - Embarkation

02.12 - Sea day

03.12 - Ocho Rios

04.12 - George Town

05.12 - Cozumel

06.12 - Sea day

07.12 - Ocean Cay

08.12 - Disembarkation and flight MIA-OSL

 

Pre-cruise, 27.11.2019

 

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After having dropped off our dog we took the train to Thon Hotel Oslo Airport for a couple of hours sleep. Although we only live an hour away from the airport, our 06:05 flight meant that it was too early to take the airport train on the morning of our flight, and I wasn't tempted to drive to the airport in the middle of the night. 

 

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View from the room

 

I've stayed here before, and while it's not directly at the airport, the beds are comfortable, and the rooms are quiet and clean. 

 

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It's 04:00 and we head to the buffet restaurant for a quick bite and a coffee before our taxi arrives. Its too early for the full buffet to be open, but there are different breads, cold cuts, cheese, yoghurt, juice and coffee.  At this hour, we are the only ones here. 

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04:12, and the taxi arrives and within 10 minutes we are at the airport

 

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Although I would prefer a flight later in the morning, one benefit is that the airport is virtually empty and we are through security in no time. 

 

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At the gate waiting for boarding to commence.

 

SK 1461 is operated by an Airbus A320-200 today

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We had seats D and E, but luckily the nice woman who had the window seat asked us if we just wanted to scoot in so I got the window seat instead. 

 

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Bye bye winter and snow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by AeroXWD
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Touchdown in Copenhagen

 

The flight from Oslo to Copenhagen was 10 minutes delayed due to de-icing at Oslo, but we had two hours in Copenhagen before our next flight so that didn't matter. We had booked our flights in econom, but put in a bid to upgrade our CPH-MIA leg to SAS PLUS, which . 48 hours before our flight, we were thrilled to learn that our upgrade bid was successful. That meant we had access to the lounge to get something to eat and relax before heading to the gate.

 

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SAS Lounge at CPH. The lounge is split in two sections/lounges. On the lower floor is the SAS Lounge for SAS Plus and Business, while the top floor is reserved for Eurobonus Gold and Diamond members/Star Alliance Gold.

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After relaxing for a while, we headed to the gate where Erik Viking waited for us. Erik is a A330-300 from 2004, but was refurbished a few years ago and looked like new. 

 

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The aircraft is configured with 32 seats in Business, 56 in Plus, and 178 seats in Go (economy). 

For intra-european flights, the onboard product in SAS Plus is basically just a blocked middle seat and Wifi, and not worth it IMO. I hadn't tried SAS Plus on their widebodies, but I was pleasantly surprised by the product.  The seats had 38 inches of pitch, compared to 31-32 in economy, and this was both noticeable and appreciated. Business class is out of my budget, but Plus was a good middle ground. The seats are also slightly wider, have bigger screens and provide better recline and configured in 2-3-2 instead of 2-4-2. Unfortunately, on our flight the WiFI wasn't working or wasn't installed. 

 


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Had the chicken for the first meal which was unremarkable, but the cake was really good. 

 

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They came around with drink trolley and snacks throughout the flight

 

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Flying over the US east coast we were served "breakfast" which was good with a little Sauvignon blanc.

 

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2 hours and 40 minutes to go!

 

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Obligatory lavatory-pic

 

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Miami in sight! 

 

Our flight landed slightly ahead of schedule and parked at an empty terminal. I don't know if it was because it was Thanksgiving, but there were no queues at immigration whatsoever. I had been dreading long lines, but we were through the airport in no time. 

 

 

Overall, the flight was great and an excellent way to start our vacation. 

 

 

Edited by AeroXWD
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39 minutes ago, Andy cruiser said:

Great start!

 

We are doing the same cruise in February.

I will be following this thread.

 

/Andy Cruiser

 

You have a lot to look forward to! 

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We tok an UBER from the airport to our hotel on South Beach. We arrived at 14:30, and the receptionist told us our room wasn't ready yet, but would be ready by 16:00.

 

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We had initially booked a City view with a king bed, the cheapest room category, but after constantly checking on Hotels I cancelled and rebooked a Skyline view at a lower rate than our first room. Still, the receptionist tried to sell us a partial ocean view room at a reduced rate,  and told us that the room we had booked had poor views and was at a low floor. I knew it wouldn't be an ocean view room, but considering we would be on a cruise with ocean vistas all around, this wasn't a big deal. I thought the upcharge from City view to Skyline view meant that at least we would be on a higher floor, but apparently not. Anyway, we passed on the offer. 

 

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Beautiful public areas, but my initial impression of the service was less than stellar.

 

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Being tired from a long flight and only a few hours of sleep the night before, we had an hour to kill before our room was ready, so we hit the bar. 

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At 16:00, our room was finally ready.

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Up the elevator we go

 

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Elevator lobby

 

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As I'm following the signs towards our room number, I have a feeling that we would not be getting a "skyline" view room due to the fact that we are walking towards the ocean...

 

 

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I'm always excited to see if I've gotten a good, average or poor room. This year, I've been lucky on all my stays, so I'm fearing that I'm about to run out of luck soon.

 

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Is the view just of other buildings or is there a glimpse of the sea somewhere?

 

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I see the beach!

 

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Well equipped room with a Keurig with *free* pods, an expensive minibar that I'll never use, iron and ironing board, USB-outlets everywhere, and the softest and best bathrobe I've ever gotten in any hotel.

 

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Decent toiletries

 

Overall, the room was great. Spacious, clean, and I really liked the decor. Comfortable beds and ample storage space. Wifi was really good as well. 

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After taking a shower and unpacking, we went to Española Way.

 

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In the mood for some pizza, we ate at La Leggenda Pizzeria, which had good ratings on TA, and claimed to have the best pizza in Miami Beach. 

 

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The pizza was good enough, but nothing to rave about. After finishing, we were really starting to feel  jet-lagged and having been (mostly) awake for 22 hours had taken a toll, so we called it a night at around 8pm. 

 

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Edited by AeroXWD
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29.11 - Black Friday

 

Having slept for around 10 hours, we woke up to this view from our balcony:20191129_063643.thumb.jpg.3520c8a32e21e9eea2611498be004088.jpg

 

We quickly got dressed and headed out to the beach to watch the sunrise.

 

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We weren't the only ones out at the beach taking pictures. 

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The swimming pool before the crowds arrive. Although the pool area itself is lovely, the loungers are so closely put together, that it felt far too crowded here, so we just walked past it and opted for the beach instead. 

 

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Out on a morning sightseeing-run down to South Pointe before the heat

 

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Looking over to Fisher Island

 

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I had to run down to take a few shots of some of the iconic lifeguard shacks

 

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After our run, we went to get some breakfast at the coffeshop outside the hotel to save some money, but two avo toasts with juice still ended up costing around $60, and I didn't think it was all that good. The rest of the day was spent on the beach reading a book before we went out to eat Mexican food at La Cerveceria on Lincoln rd. 

 

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Mexican cuisine tonight

 

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Enchiladas verde 

 

Being Black Friday, she wanted to shop a little... 

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I got bored, and had no desire to part with any money, sale or not, so I just went outside and walked around a little.20191129_213255.thumb.jpg.347fb45835ebe145761b40cdb12d849f.jpg

 

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23 minutes ago, Happy Cruiser 6143 said:

Did I miss it?  What was the name of your hotel?  Thanks.

 

I mentioned it in the first post, but I forgot to mention it later. We stayed at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. 

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I am seriously enjoying your report so far...with all your excellent pics, I feel like I'm there with you!

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30.11 - Saturday

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Screenshot of weather forecast. -2 Celcius at home, 27 in Miami. It's especially great to be on vacation when it's wet or cold at home.

 

This was my girlfriend's birthday, so I surprised her with large number-shaped metallic balloons I had inflated during the night and a gift that I felt was very much appreciated. After having coffee on the bed and having a slow morning, we got dressed and went to the breakfast restaurant at the hotel.

 

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One of the plates I got from the buffet - Belgian waffle, French toast, pancake and something I don't remember...

 

I've never paid $120 for a breakfast for two, but truth be told, I've never ordered a bottle of prosecco for breakfast either. Judging by the waitress' reaction, I don't think many others do either. As hotel buffets go, Loews was just fine, but not worth the price in my opinion. The service was excellent though. 

 

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After breakfast, we had a nice day on the beach, just reading and swimming in the lovely water (although I was slightly alarmed to learn that the purple flags indicate dangerous marine life, but you only live once, and I didn't see any sharks nor man-of-wars. I would see one of those things later on, but I'll get back to that). 

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Hanging out at the balcony after the beach - a cruise ship sailing by from Ft. Lauderdale. During the evenings, you could see a string of cruise ships sailing by.

 

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Random photo of the hotel seen from the balcony when looking in the opposite direction. Most rooms have balconies, but every third room doesn't (and there is no apparent way to know what you'll get except for Ocean view balcony rooms).

 

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For dinner we went to Lure Fishbar, which is located on the hotel premises. As one probably shouldn't do at a fish restaurant, I ordered a jalapeño steak, but I thought it was good nonetheless. She was wiser and ordered some seafood. Good atmosphere and excellent service. 

 

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Seared jalapeño New York Strip 12oz prime beef with shiitake, teriyaki and rice. 

 

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I saw these signs at every bathroom, but I can't remember seeing them in any other country. Is this mandatory in Florida/the US? Reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry eats at his girlfriend's father's restaurant and sees him not washing his hands in the bathroom...

 

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Lure fishbar on the left, hotel bar on the right

 

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Pool at night

 

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Walked a little up Collins Ave after dinner to stretch our legs after hanging out at the hotel all day long before returning for a night cap at the hotel bar and then packing for our cruise.

 

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The recently opened Lennox hotel. I was close to booking it, but since it was new there were few reviews, not on the beach, and only slightly cheaper than Loews. 

 

01.12 - Cruise day!

I won't bore you much longer with my pre-cruise activities! 

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We ate at the hotel restaurant, but ordered a la carte (Avocado toast with coffee) and skipped the bottle of bubbles. A more reasonable, but still shockingly expensive breakfast totaling $63. (Note: I usually don't like to talk about money and what everything costs, but I find it helpful when planning and budgeting to know what things costs when I'm in different places. So I hope I don't come off as too gaudy, it's certainly not my intention)

 

We checked out of the hotel at two minutes past 11, and got a porter to staple together the temporary luggage tags we got with our e-tickets. For good measure, he used 20 staples on each tag. 

 

Loews Miami Beach Hotel review - Exective summary 

Beautiful room and public spaces, excellent service with the sole exception of the first receptionist we encountered, and a great location. It was expensive (at least on our dates), but I think it was worth it. The resort fee annoys me to no end, but I've learnt that it's pretty much unavoidable in Miami Beach. Wifi was great even on the beach, and the loungers and towels provided there were good. Beach umbrella costs extra though. If you like to hang out at the pool, you might want to look at another hotel unless you like the feeling of being a sardine in a can. Other than that, I would reccomend it, and I hope to be back.

 

As for Miami Beach, this was my first visit, and I really liked it. It felt safe, and vaguely European. It was shockingly expensive though, but I know we stayed in the middle of the tourist area, and we could probably have done it cheaper if we had tried. But with a short time, we wanted to maximize our stay and be able to walk everywhere. 

 

--

Our MSC e-tickets stated "Your check-in opens at 15:10 * Please do not arrive for check-in before the time indicated in the field"  so I went down Lincoln to look for a paperback since I was afraid I would run out of reading material on the ship while killing time. On the way back from the book store, I  briefly remembered that I had read somewhere on CC that you could board much earlier than the stated times, and after double searching for that post on CC, we ordered an UBER ($18+tip) to the

port. 

 

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12:40, en route to PortMiami.

 

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Looking forward to your review of Meraviglia. Spot on review of Miami.  I live on the Gulf Coast side of Florida and our Beach prices are high from December to April. This is when most retailers and resorts make their money.

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01.12 - Embarkation

 

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The almost brand new Norwegian Encore as seen from the UBER. We were close to booking that cruise. 

 

As our UBER dropped us off at Terminal F, a porter wanted to take our bags. Thanks to this forum, I had learned to not give them our luggage, but to proceed to the YC tents.

 

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The YC tents

 

After handing over our luggage, passports and e-tickets at the table seen in the picture above (where the gentleman in white shorts is standing) we waited for about a minute before being escorted as a group of around 10 people to security. As we were going through security, I overheard an employee telling her co-worker at the terminal that it was important that a line was being held open strictly for Yacht Club passengers -The Yacht Club experience had begun. Security was a breeze, and within a couple of minutes, our group was through. We went into the terminal lounge and were told to wait until our name was called. 

 

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Waiting for our name to be called

 

After just a couple of minutes, we were called to the white desk, pictured above. We were asked to show our ESTA-application (which we never had to show at the airport), passports, and e-tickets again, and then given our MSC for me-wristbands and cruise card. We could also choose a newspaper to be delivered to our room daily. There were about three or four different Norwegian newspaper to choose from, and chose our favorite. 

 

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I went to the table where they had set up some snacks and beverages and asked for two glasses of sparkling wine, and sat down to wait for our group to be called. I barely had time to finish the glass before we were escorted through the rest of the terminal. With a butler paving the way, we went past the lines of people waiting to board, and at this time I felt slightly embarrased as it felt like we were just cutting the line. Up an escalator we went, had our cards scanned, and onboard the Meraviglia we were. 

 

The butler followed us to the elevator and waited for a priority elevator to be available, even though there was a non-priority elevator already there waiting. This would be a recurrent theme through the week. Anyway, we were then shown to the Top Sail Lounge and had a glass of Prosecco. Our room was already ready, and we were told to simply call upon a butler when we wished to be shown to our room. 

 

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Oasis of the Seas and Norwegian Encore in front of us

 

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I had read on these forums that Champagne would be available in the TSL without having to pay extra, but I couldn't see it on the menu. It didn't matter at all to us, we were thrilled to be onboard.

 

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After emptying our glasses, we asked to be shown to our room. I felt kinda silly asking to be shown to our room, as I knew exactly where it was located, approx four meters behind me in the above photo through a door, but for the first days, I just decided to go with the flow and let the butlers escort us as they seemed to want to do. 

 

Overall, the embarkation process was a stress-free experience, and a great way to start the cruise. The picture of the YC tents at the top of this post was taken 13:02, and we were in the terminal lounge at 13:23 (20 mins elapsed), and in the TSL at 13:45, so in total 43 minutes from curb to enjoying a glass of Prosecco in the lounge. 

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1 hour ago, AeroXWD said:

We could also choose a newspaper to be delivered to our room daily. There were about three or four different Norwegian newspaper to choose from, and chose our favorite. 

And which one is your favourite? Did you choose "Aftenposten"? 😂
Enjoy your cruise in YC! 🛳️😀 Looking forward to read your story as well as take part in your upcoming experiences 🤪

(I am - like the two of you - a Norwegian, living in Sweden though - and was employed for 12 years at MSC's office in Stockholm....until I quit approx one year ago)

Edited by Frode

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34 minutes ago, Frode said:

And which one is your favourite? Did you choose "Aftenposten"? 😂
Enjoy your cruise in YC! 🛳️😀 Looking forward to read your story as well as take part in your upcoming experiences 🤪

(I am - like the two of you - a Norwegian, living in Sweden though - and was employed for 12 years at MSC's office in Stockholm....until I quit approx one year ago)

 

Of course, what else?!

 

 

Edited by AeroXWD

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01.12 - Yacht Club Deluxe Suite 16005

 

At 14:10 we where shown to our room, 16005. When I chose the room, there were only a few left on deck 16, zero left on deck 18, but there were many available on decks 14 and 15. It was a convenient location, just a few steps from the TSL, and with no support pillars obstructing the view which some rooms have. 

 

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The complimentary bottle of sparkling wine

 

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Tissue was provided (which I believe I have read was not available on the previous and subsequent sailings?)

 

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Toiletries

 

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The minibar as it was stocked when we got into the room. (Note: no Pringles, only chocolate covered peanuts which weren't replenished, not that I requested it)

 

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I think there were around 24 hangers, which was appreciated. Bathrobe was OK, but not nearly as nice as the ones we had at Loews. 

 

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Closet opposite the wardrobe closet. 

 

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Room location

 

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We took a glass of the sparkling wine while unpacking.  Around this time, our butler Pravin introduced himself and told us he would restock our minibar twice daily and asked us what beverages we wanted, and he could stock it with any beers available in the TSL. Corona it was. If there is one thing I missed during the cruise, it was the beer selection onboard. There were many different light lagers, but no IPAs or similar beers (I know I could find it in the British-style bar, but didn't see it elsewhere). But I digress. 

 

After unpacking, we took a stroll around the ship.

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YC pool deck

 

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Pool was freshly painted (and was open the next day). They were also painting/lacquering the railings around the ship on embarkation day. Generally, the ship looked like new and in excellent condition.

 

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Main pool looking great and uncrowded

 

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On a tour of the SPA. 

 

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Walking through the promenade. In contrast to some other people's experience, I didn't experience anyone trying hard to sell us photos or drink/meal packages. They had their tables, but we didn't weren't approached by anyone. 

 

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Checking out the Carousel lounge, with Celebrity Silhouette spying on us. 

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Back into the room finishing unpacking before Muster.

 

Muster drill was at 17:00, and after demonstrating how to put on the life jacket in 5 different languages, we were excused and asked to watch the safety demonstration in our cabin, which I had already done. It only took 15 minutes or so to complete the drill, but I thought it was a farce. I don't think that demonstration would help anyone in the case of an emergency, but oh well. 

 

After Muster, we went back into the room and watched the Silhouette sail by us. 

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I've always found the Celebrity S-class ships to be great looking, and perhaps the best looking ships externally at least. 

 

 

Edited by AeroXWD
Irrelevant photo removed

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I have been enjoying your review, somewhat vicariously until I got to your last post which caused me great ... sadness!

 

We were actually supposed to be in 16005 RIGHT NOW (as in, boarding a few hours after you left) but had to cancel 48 hours out because of a medical emergency.

 

I had actually booked this specific cabin on the day that bookings opened almost two years ago.

 

Oh well, at least someone enjoyed that cabin!

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10 minutes ago, Dr. Cocktail said:

I have been enjoying your review, somewhat vicariously until I got to your last post which caused me great ... sadness!

 

We were actually supposed to be in 16005 RIGHT NOW (as in, boarding a few hours after you left) but had to cancel 48 hours out because of a medical emergency.

 

I had actually booked this specific cabin on the day that bookings opened almost two years ago.

 

Oh well, at least someone enjoyed that cabin!

 

I'm sorry to hear that! I hope you'll get another chance at a later date. 

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Thanks!

 

I'm happy to hear that my detective work would have resulted in a good cabin. I actually looked at external pictures of the ship!

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As the sun was starting to set, I went for a walk around the ship to take some photos of the Miami skyline before sailaway.

 

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Went up to have a look around the pool deck, but with all the glass and lights, there wasn't much to see.

 

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For some reason, I took a photo of the elevator lobby on deck 18...

 

 

 

Went back to the balcony just before the ship set sail. Sometime around this, there was a knock on the door, and Rishi introduced himself as our assistant butler (or what they are called). Very nice guy and was at the end of his contract. 

 

One of my favorite moments of the cruise was just standing on the balcony and watching us sail away from Miami.

 

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If I were not on the Meraviglia, I wouldn't pass on an opportunity to go on a cruise with that yacht...

 

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Another mega-yacht

 

After the lights of Miami were out of sight, we went up to the YC restaurant for dinner. I forgot to take a picture of the menu, but we both ordered the vegetarian ceviche for starter (Delicious!), and the champagne risotto for our entre (good).

 

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This was very good! I'm going to try (and fail) to make this at home sometime

 

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The champagne risotto. Good. 

 

Since they don't give out a drink card, I didn't know what to order except that I wanted a red wine. The waitress suggested I try the Malbec, but that she would get me something else if I didn't like it. I thought it was decent enough. 

 

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The YC restaurant at 21:06. Very good service, and a quiet atmosphere in the restaurant that night. 

 

After that, we retired to our room after a long day. I just sat out on the balcony for an hour, enjoying the sounds of the ocean and being slightly overwhelmed by everything. 

 

--- 

Some random observations that are neither here nor there, but I'd hazard a guess that the passenger mix in YC was approx 50% Americans, and the others a mix of pretty much everything. There were at least two other Norwegian couples, a couple from Sweden, another from Finland, Canada, Britain, some Italians, etc. 

 

Another thing I noted was that Meraviglia had gotten a slight facelift, with the trim around the windows on the bridge being painted black instead of white as I had seen her on pictures. This might seem like a minor detail, but I think it makes her look much sharper. 

 

Wifi was also generally pretty good, although you had to log into the mscwifi-page multiple times. We had 6GB included in our fare (which we used up before our cruise was over, so I'm glad I didn't try to live-report this).

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02.12 - Monday

 

I awoke at 06:50 and saw the beautiful sunrise over the ocean. 

 

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Don't remember which Bememoth of the Seas this is, but I think it might have been the Oasis which left from Miami shortly before us. We ended up racing past her in the Mediterranean Speed Cruiser Meraviglia.

 

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06:57 - From this picture you can see the pole that just ever so slightly obstructs the view from room 16003.

 

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Also on the 16009

 

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07:30

 

At a little over 8, we went to get breakfast at the pool deck.

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Breakfast with a view! (Also note the wristband - I noted that some other passengers had the YC-logo on theirs, while others did not)

 

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The freshly painted pool was filled up

 

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The daily planner for December 2nd. Elegant night nr. 1 tonight.  I barely looked at these, and I think this is one of the few I photographed. 

 

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