December 2013 - 7 Night Western Mediterranean (Barcelona Roundtrip) Cruise on MSC Splendida
Great getaway to banish winter blues
A first experience for us on this cruise from Marseille - beautiful sunny day to start our journey, and the first view of this huge ship was amazing. It's a good 8+ Km from the town to the port, so you need transport, we arranged a taxi through the Ibis hotel. Our cabin was lovely - up on the 13th deck with a decent balcony, and no problem with noise either from above, corridors, adjacent cabins. Although the ship can take over 4,000 guests, it only had about 3,200 for our cruise round the Med, and very few children - most of which were under 5, and kept very busy with the Club Staff. Our first stop was Barcelona where we had a walking tour (I'd organized with Runner Bean Tours) which was excellent. Then we had a day at sea - on reflection wish this had been day 4 or 5 rather than day 3 as the schedule is quite full-on and if you're going on the cruise-arranged trips you have to be up, washed, dressed, breakfasted and ready in the meeting area soon after 8.00 a.m. each morning. Day 4 we arrived at La Goulette for Tunis and saw our only heavy rain. We were all given blue plastic ponchos (made us look like a parade of Smurfs) to get from the boat to the coach. Lots of street sellers, very pushy - not my scene round the souks, but the buildings and decoration were beautiful. Only a very cursory visit to Carthage, which was a disappointment. Day 5 saw us arrive at Palermo, Sicily. Lovely sunny, cold morning, but unfortuately for me, I started to experience vertigo, though I wouldn't have said we'd had rough seas. Didn't help that we wound our way up the mountain for better views, and that the visit to the beach was curtailed as the access was closed. My husband made the trip to Rome alone, as I didn't feel able to make the 1+1/2 hour trip each way from the boat. Don't think he was that impressed, but took lots of photos/video!
I was feeling a bit better by day 7 when we reached Genoa - a lovely city and accessible easily from the port. Our walking tour was very good and was timed so that we could go into the cathedral. On the boat, all the staff were friendly, polite, smiling and helpful. Food was plentiful (though there were some amazingly greedy passengers) and the amount of waste was astounding. The choice of food available at evening dinner in the restaurant was amazing, with up to seven courses offered. We opted for 3 most nights, and had also taken the drinks package, which proved good value, even though I didn't have any alcohol for 2 days. The buffet was well organized, and there was generally enough space for everyone, though I imagine it could be a bit hectic when the boat is at full capacity with a lot of children. Piano bars/lounges were comfortable with music to suit all tastes and always somewhere to sit - only slight disappointment was the lack of talks, and rather uninspiring "shows". All in all, very good value for money.