This was our third cruise on MSC Splendida and our seventh MSC cruise in total, having been twice on her sister ship MSC Fantasia and also on the Lirica and Armonia.
The cruise departed Southampton on 5 October, heading towards Genoa via La Coruna, Lisbon, Gibraltar and Barcelona, having set off from Hamburg two days prior. The cruise was booked via the MSC Voyagers Club Selection, which is their reward scheme. We got an incredible deal and packaged the cruise with a stay in Lake Garda and Milan before flying home.
Embarkation at Southampton was quick and efficient. Our boarding time was 3pm but we were onboard by about 12:30, despite my other half having put the cruise paperwork in the main luggage and this being sent to the ship before we’d checked in!
Splendida is an absolutely beautiful ship, there is no doubt about that. As we boarded the ship we were ushered in to the main atrium area, which is just absolutely stunning. There are bars on three levels, deck 5, where there is a grand piano and seating area, deck 6 where there is the mixology bar, serving all the usual drinks plus expertly crafted cocktails and deck 7 where there is the coffee bar. All of these decks are linked by two sweeping Swarovski crystal staircases, which apparently costs €5000 per step!
We headed to our cabin to collect our cruise cards and found a tray of chocolate covered strawberries and a bowl of fruit in the cabin from MSC. Our balcony cabin, on deck 10 (cabin 10114) was of the usual MSC standard, with a large double bed, plenty of wardrobe and drawer space, shower room and sofa. The beds are high enough of the ground to allow you to store your suitcase underneath which is a bonus, we have been on cruises or at hotels where this hasn’t been possible.
Having picked up our cruise cards we went to the buffet for a spot of lunch and were immediately greeted by a beaming smile and hello from the waiter who had looked after us at Christmas on MSC Fantasia. When you consider how many guests he must see over the year it’s quite something to be remembered.
Following lunch we headed down to the piazza area on deck 6 for a glass of champagne, no surprises that the crew in there recognised us too and made a fuss of us being back. Whenever we step foot on an MSC ship, my partner and I look at each other and think ‘we’re home’. The piazza is a great area for people watching. It’s set out like a small town square with a couple of shops around the outside and iron tables and chairs on a tiled floor, with some tiled benches for extra seating. There are excellent cakes and ice creams available here (at an extra cost, depending on your drinks package) and we often skip dessert at lunch and come here for a cake and a glass of champagne for afternoon tea.
Following the muster station drill it was time to change for dinner. We were on the first sitting in the La Reggia restaurant. Although we had requested a table for two we were on a table of eight, six of us English and an Australian couple, they were a great crowd therefore we didn’t look to move to a table of two, had there been one available. Every night we were nearly the last table out of the restaurant as the conversation just kept flowing between us, with plenty of laughs and discussion thrown in. Your dinner guests really can make a holiday in that respect.
A lot of people seem to complain about the food on MSC. What I would say to them is don’t go with the expectation that you’re going to have steak and chips every night. MSC is an Italian cruise line, the Italians like to take their time over dinner and have up to seven courses, with an appetizer – perhaps prawn cocktail, smoked salmon or something like that, then a salad course, then soup, then pasta or risotto, an entrée, dessert and cheese. You don’t have to have every course. My advice would be to try a bit of everything though! With so much choice on the menu I do find it hard to believe that people can’t find something they like.
Food is very subjective, but my favourite entrées are duck breast with sour cherry sauce or the roast prime rib of beef.
Breakfast and lunch in the restaurant has altered since we first started cruising with MSC, there is now a ‘bistro’ concept in the MDR, which consists of a buffet area in addition to the a la carte options. You can order from the menu and help yourself from the buffet selections. The advantage of this is that the deck 14 buffet gets incredibly busy at peak times and it can be difficult to find a seat. In the MDR you are shown to a table and have waiter service, much more civilised. There are also items on the menu that you wouldn’t get in the buffet such as smoked salmon, eggs benedict etc.
The evening entertainment was varied, and some of the theatre shows very impressive. On one night the lead singer in the show ‘Amour’ which is an opera gala was ill so this was cancelled and another show put on in it’s place. Amour was then shown in the afternoon of our final day at sea, I’m so glad we made time to go and see it; the show was really good with an amazing sound, backed by a pair of violinists and a pianist.
As Splendida has so many bars and defined areas, there are so many different acts you can see. The Purple Bar was a great spot to watch Irena, a European singer who sang both English and German songs. We got to know her over the week and on our final night she actually changed her line up and sang a song from her other set that we’d told her was our favourite!
The Inoteca wine bar has another grand piano, the pianist in there played a mix of songs from musicals, classical and old favourites. This is a great spot to sit and they have some wonderful wines available and will bring you some tapas to go with your wine. The service in here was excellent, with the two waiters Ivan and Ivan working well together and always with a smile on their faces.
The Aft Lounge is a bit of a party venue, with a dance floor and a proper band playing the usual party type music, and the animation team having fun and encouraging people to party.
In terms of the ports visited, they were all very nice with plenty to see and do. La Coruna is a very pretty town, however it turns out we visited on a local holiday day and a lot of the town was shut, with the exception of churches, museums etc. We didn’t go to the Hercules tower, although we sailed out past it and got a few good photographs from the top deck.
Sailing in to Lisbon was a wonderful experience, going underneath the bridge – I was on the top deck and wondered whether we would make it underneath, there can’t have been much more than ten feet between the very top of the ship and the bottom of the bridge, or at least it seemed that way!
I was sad to leave the ship as we had such a wonderful time, with no problems whatsoever. We did encounter a few English people who had decided it wasn’t for them as they were used to Cruise and Maritime – MSC is a world away from CMV’s offering, so I can understand why they didn’t enjoy it.