Review of MSC Magnifica Northern Europe 8th – 15th October 2018
Monday 8th Oct – Southampton
Upon embarkation we were notified that we would not be docking at Le Havre as the French were on strike and that we would spend 2 days in Zeebrugge instead.
We had lunch on embarkation day in the L’Edera restaurant which was delicious. Went to Guest Services to set up our complimentary wifi then used the machine to register our credit card. All straightforward. Settled back with a drink utilising our all-inclusive package which is incredible value. We paid £20 pp per day but I believe next year it has gone up to £23 pp per day (on cruises of 7 days or shorter) I believe its cheaper the longer your cruise).
We had to change dinner sitting time from late to early sitting (despite 1st sitting being confirmed over a year ago) – why do MSC ignore passenger dining requests. It’s beyond me.
After dinner we went along to the Tiger Bar where all the action seemed to be. I won a t-shirt in the ‘Name that Tune’ game which was fun.
Tues 9th Oct – Zeebrugge
We caught the free port shuttle bus to the port gate then exited left & left again from the new cruise building then right at the road over the tracks, walked for 10 mins to the little Spar shop where we bought an all-day travel pass on trams & buses for 6 Euros each. Caught the tram to Blankenberge, walked across the tram line to the train station and bought a return ticket to Ghent (at the over 65 rate) for 6.5 Euros each return. The trip only took 40/45 mins. The centre of Ghent is some way from the train station but it was okay. We couldn’t find the Tourist Info Office, despite following the signs, so I popped into a travel agency and they told us how to get to the Cathedral. In the Cathedral it was 4E to view the Mystic Lamb painting by van Eyck. This was the Ghent Altarpiece which was depicted in the movie The Monuments Men with George Clooney.
So, the whole day cost us 16.5 Euros each. The ships tour Medieval Ghent & St Bavo Cathedral was 69.99E each.
We were too late back for 6pm dinner so went to the buffet. There wasn’t a great choice and the food was not hot.
Wed 10th Oct – Zeebrugge
We took the tram into Blankenberge for the day and walked along the seafront. It’s a pretty little place. You could also catch the No. 33 bus into Bruges using the day pass which some people were planning to do. The tram back leaves across from the train station – look for Knokke on the front of the tram and the stop you need to get off for the ship is Kerk.
Thur 11th Oct – Amsterdam
From the cruise terminal we crossed the road & tram tracks and caught the No. 26 tram to the Central Station. Onboard we bought the all-day travel pass for 7.5E each. From there we caught another tram to the Albert Cuyp open air street market (260 stalls) selling everything from fruit & veg to clothing & cameras.
Another tram took us to the Flower Market where I bought some wooden tulips (9 for 15E) and 50 tulip bulbs for 6E then caught the metro to the Jewish Quarter and the Red-Light District. A good day. Again, the weather was just right.
Fri 12th Oct – Departed Amsterdam 7am then day at sea
Sat 13 Oct – Hamburg
We caught the ferry from behind the ship – make sure it’s going in the right direction as we jumped on as it was just leaving then realised we were going the wrong way. Duh. Anyway, one journey is 1.6E which takes you from Dockside (where the Magnifica docked which they called Altona) to Landungsbrucken. From there it’s a fair walk to the city centre. We spent about 3 hours in Hamburg then made our way back to the ferry platform. We bought our 1.6E tickets but when the ferry came in people pushed forward and I was nearly lifted off my feet. Each ferry carries 250 passengers and there must have been over 500 people trying to get on. It was hot, it was claustrophobic and we decided to walk the 2 miles or so back to the ship.
I believe you can also catch a metro but I didn’t see that.
Some people on our table had caught a local bus but they too ended up walking back because they didn’t know which bus or bus stop to get the return bus from.
Sun 14th Oct – At sea
I love sea days. So relaxing. Naturally the all-inclusive bar & restaurant package was hammered today. We had lunch in the main dining room.
Mon 15th Oct – Southampton
On our disembarkation info we were informed at ABP parking would lay on a bus to take us back to our car as we had returned to a different dock however when we got off and asked someone, they said no bus was needed – just cross the road and there’s your car. He didn’t know why MSC insisted in saying people need to catch a bus because they’d told them no end of times that wasn’t the case – just about sums MSC up really.
For info only. Your bags were scanned port side and not as you boarded the ship at any of the ports.
Our table companions were 2 sisters from Indiana and a couple from Florida. They were of the opinion that if MSC want to break into the US market they would need to up their game. I could see what they meant. At breakfast and lunch in the dining room they have a system whereby you can order off the A La Carte menu but there is also a buffet/bistro facility. My husband used the buffet/bistro and had finished his soup & roast beef dinner before anyone had even come and given me a menu. It just didn’t work. They should either have a section dedicated to those who wanted to help themselves and another section for A La Carte. When I finally did place my order and managed to get a glass of wine – that was it – no refill – no ‘anything else I can do for you’ – nope, you’re on your own. I got the feeling that they ignored you hoping you would get fed up and go to the bistro. Very disappointing. Of course, there’s always the buffet on deck 13.
The Magnifica is a beautiful ship and the staff were always cleaning and polishing. The bar service could be slow at busy times but you’ve got to expect that. We found the staff fine but others thought they could have been friendlier. I think they were run off their feet and didn’t have time to chat.
The Tiger Bar was where the games were usually held but there were other quieter bars for dancing / chatting etc.
The shows were mediocre but it’s tricky when there’s people speaking 7 different languages onboard. We took in a couple of shows which were alright.
Our cabin was on deck 10 and it was quiet, comfortable and serviced twice daily. Our balcony didn’t seem to get much sun so we didn’t sit out but it was nice to watch all the comings & goings.
We had the Fantastica experience so we had breakfast delivered to the cabin most days free of charge. Its so convenient if you’re off on a trip early.
We also used the MSC Status Match which means MSC will match any existing level of loyalty you have with another cruise line (and some hotels I believe). We were Elite with Princess which put us at the top level of Black Card. There were quite a few perks, bubbly & chocolate dipped strawberries in your cabin on arrival (one per cabin), robes & slippers, 2 chocolate ships, 2 one-hour spa sessions, 2 dance lessons, 2 complimentary speciality meals, a free photo each which must have been taken at the Black Card cocktail party. (we only went for the last 10 mins after dinner) to name a few.
So, to sum up. MSC must be doing something right because we’ve done this itinerary twice before and are doing it again next year on the Preziosa.
For the price of the cruise and for the drinks package alone, it’s worth giving them a try.