Last year, I was the lucky Silver Travel winner of an MSC 7 night Mediterranean cruise for 2. I chose a cruise from Venice with 5 ports of call on MSC Magnifica.
The Magnifica is a medium sized ship approx 90,000 tons holding just over 3000 passengers.
We had an early morning flight to Venice and were the first to check into the MSC welcome tent where we were told there would be a 55 minute wait for the shuttle bus to the ship which we had pre-booked. By the time the 55 minutes was up. the number of passengers in and around that tent must have been several hundred but we boarded the first bus and were on our way to the ship.
Boarding was not the best experience we have ever been through, the queue was wide and very long and the multinational voices created a tremendous amount of noise.
After what seemed like an eternity, we boarded the ship and made our way to the cabin to drop off our hand luggage and then to the buffet for lunch.
The buffet offers a great choice and there are separate sections for hot dinners with a daily roast, pizzas, pastas, some salads, burgers and hotdogs with chips, fruits and desserts. it is the same down each side of the buffet but the area can get very congested at peak times. We did try going to the restaurant for lunch and the staff had no problem in seating same nationalities together.
There are 2 dining rooms for dinner and it is fixed dining on fixed table at 6.30 or 9pm. Second sitting was far too late for us so it was first for us. We had a table for 8 half of whom had to sit on a rounded bench like seat which was not too comfortable. We enjoyed the food. We could have up to 7 courses. We opted for 4 and we liked the fact that no dish was over large. There were usually 2 soups, 2 pastas/risotto, one salad and 2 varying starters. Main course was usually a choice of one fish, one vegetarian and 2 meat dishes. We had to pay for water and the waiter suggested we buy a package of 14 bottles which cost 30 euros including service charge we got a booklet of tickets which we exchanged each time we got one. No tea or coffee after dinner.
I liked the layout of the ship. Decks 6 and 7 were the hub of the ship. The theatre was beautiful and was the height of 3 decks. There was a good sized casino (smoking permitted but it wasn’t too smoky) and 2 large show lounges – The Tiger Lounge which was covered in tiger print – the carpets, the walls and the seats – and the Tropicali. These lounges were the main thoroughfare through the ship. There was a large show lounge at the back of the ship (L’Ametista (?)) with windows on three sides and dark purple furnishings. This was used for dancing lessons and evening dancing.There was also the usual photo gallery, excursions desk, loyalty manager, shops and the restaurants.
Only one speciality dining on the ship – Oriental.
On Deck 13 was the Sahara Buffet along with two swimming pools – one of which had a retractable roof. There was plenty of deck space and deckchairs but these were the most uncomfortable chairs I have ever sat in on a cruise ship. They were very reclining with no tilt adjustment and fairly low backed.
Our cabin was a Fantastica balcony located on Deck 10 near the front of the ship. It was slightly small in that there was no sofa and hence was a little tight on storage but otherwise it was fine. The balcony had enough space for a wicker style table and 2 chairs with just about enough room. The cabin was cleaned thoroughly twice a day including towel change.
The theatre was absolutely lovely but the shows were very amateurish (my zumba class has more energy!!) apart from the second Gala Night when it was excellent.
No hard sell for speciality dining, drinks, spa etc
Port intensive itinerary
Enjoyed the food (portions not too large)
Very efficient disembarking at ports. As soon as the ship tied up, the gangways were down and we were off. Max 10 minutes.
Too many groups and children on board
Shows terrible apart from formal night
Dress code ignored
Multi lingual announcements
We had a wonderful time but now for a bit about the ports:-
PORTS OF CALL
Free shuttle bus into the town where we just went for a wander. There is a nice waterfront and there were several free museums to visit. We also visited a sepulchre. A Hop on Hop off bus departs from the shuttle stop but by the time we decided to go it it was too late in the day. We had a delicious Italian ice cream sitting by the waterfront.
The port for Olympia. We pre-booked a private tour by taxi. Our driver’s name was Takis and he was worth every cent. He drove us straight to Olympia with commentary all the way and we arrived there just before the tour buses. Very fascinating and amazing to walk where the Olympics were held 2500 years ago. We then drove on to a nunnery which was well off the tourist route. It was high up in the hills and had a wonderful view, lovely birdsong and a beautiful chapel. Awesome! Then on to a beach but it was a bit chilly so we didn’t stay long, back to Katakolon for a look at the shops and back to the ship. An excellent trip.
We took to Hop on Hop off Bus to get an overview of the town. We got off in the old quarter to have a look around and to visit a bazaar. There is also a nice waterfront quite close to the ship if you are happy to run the gauntlet of tour guides asking for business.
We weren’t really looking forward to Istanbul but came away really impressed. We did our own thing going on the local tram. It took as straight to the Blue Mosque although as we hadn’t got off the ship early, there was already a 2 hour queue so we gave it a miss. The locals were so friendly and helpful and the place appeared really clean. There was ‘The World’s largest carpet of Tulips’ there – quite a claim. We walked on to the Topkapi Palace which was extremely busy. The Topkapi gardens were lovely and peaceful though. On the tram, we had spotted some very elaborate boats next to the bridge, so we walked back along the tram route to find them. This was much less touristy as we mixed with the locals. By then, having walked almost 8 miles, we decided to catch the tram back to the ship. Loved Istanbul but we really needed more than a day there. Must go back.
We were there last year so this time, we took a cab into town and explored inside the city walls. Once again, we found ourselves exploring all the little side streets. As we left the city, we spotted the Fort and, in a moment of madness, decided to walk up the 166 steps to get a better view of the old city. It was definitely worth it.
We had an early evening flight home so we took an excursion to St Mark’s Square to while away a few hours. We went in search of a stall where we bought some pictures last year but this year they had none. We had lunch at a street cafe away from the main tourist area and, of course, we had to have a final Italian ice cream before catching the boat back to the ship.
All in all it was a fantastic cruise. We would cruise with MSC again but only from a UK or US port.
Thank you Silver Travel for providing this wonderful prize.