Across various forums I see people asking what to expect on their first cruise. With that in mind I thought it would be a great blog post!
Our first ocean cruise was in April 2014 aboard the MSC Fantasia; our previous cruising experience had been of the Nile river – an incredible experience but quite far removed from ocean cruising.
In the run up to the cruise, we had no idea about all the various internet forums, specialist travel agencies or really how to book a cruise. Andy’s parents had been on a number of cruises and told us all about them, which initially planted the seed we’d like to try an ocean cruise.
During a short break to Venice a Vaporetto water bus we were on from Lido to St Marco had to stop to allow this huge, majestic, bright white cruise ship through the Laguna. I was completely in awe. Surely enough that ship would happen to be MSC Fantasia. I said to Andy ‘next holiday we’re going on that!’
When we got home we started making enquiries, and went to a High Street travel agency to pick up a brochure. We found the itinerary and the ship we wanted and decided to book. There was no negotiation or shopping around – Error number 1!
April soon came round and we were all set for our cruise. We arrived at Venice airport and found the MSC transfer to the cruise terminal. After the short transfer we found the terminal a little overwhelming, there were 4000 passengers getting ready to embark, we didn’t know how anything worked and it seemed a little daunting. Embarkation took quite a long time with no updates to let us know what was happening.
We got settled in to our cabin and started unpacking, then we realised it was dinner time. We rushed to the dining room and were seated at a table for eight. This seemed really alien to us and we were’t at all keen on the idea. The waiter also wasn’t the most friendly chap and seemed to begrudge getting us a glass of wine.
Our table mates were less than friendly, and they seemed to be trying to out-do each other with how many cruises they’d been on, what they did for work and other inane subjects. We found out that one chap was a barbed wire salesman and the mother and daughter team over the table were on the cruise courtesy of the daughter’s boss’s bonus she was spending to avoid him telling his wife about their relationship. All within 30 minutes of meeting these people!
Needless to say, we spoke with the restaurant manager on the way out of the restaurant and he very kindly agreed to change our table for the next evening to a table for two.
Andy and I then went to a few of the many bars around the ship and had no idea about how the drinks package at the time worked, and thought there were whole bars we were excluded from because of the wording on the menu ‘items on this menu are not included in the Allegrissimo drink package’.
With a heavy heart we went back to the cabin thinking we’d made a mistake in booking a cruise, and that we wouldn’t do another one.
After a good night’s sleep we woke up and went for breakfast in the restaurant. We were taken aback by the service and menu options – smoked salmon for breakfast with a glass of Prosecco from the bar seemed like a real treat! Over breakfast we spoke to each other and decided we’d launch ourselves in to the experience and make the most of our time onboard.
This was a real epiphany moment – we turned a frown upside down and we were smiling from ear to ear.
A waitress explained to us how the drinks package worked and that we could have ‘standard’ drinks even in the bars with the more ‘upmarket’ cocktails.
That evening we went to see an opera in the massive theatre; the one on MSC Fantasia holds 1600 people so is easily as big as many theatres on land. We had our dinner at a fantastic table for two over looking the wake of the ship and a fantastic waiter, Sulastra who was a shining example of the best customer service at sea.
From then on we couldn’t wait to see the Daily Programme for the next day’s activities and plan out what we wanted to do, whether that be games and quizzes or chilling by the pool, going to the theatre or taking a long lunch.
We both now look back with great fondness of our first MSC cruise and are so glad that we managed to turn things round. We’re now nearly ready to head off on ocean cruise 19 since that first cruise 4 years ago we love it that much. At the time of writing this blog we have 5 more MSC cruises booked, in a variety of cabin grades and on different ships. Perhaps our favourite so far has to be the MSC Seaview’s inaugural voyage which was also our honeymoon.
We also run what is probably one of the most active MSC Cruises groups on Facebook, MSC Cruises UK Passenger Forum – please do come and join us if you haven’t done so already! https://www.facebook.com/groups/MSCUKForum/