October 2014 - MSC Preziosa to Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Oh my goodness, we have just returned from a fantastic holiday with MSC on the Preziosa and I would certainly cruise with them again, I can’t understand why there are so many bad reviews on here? The ship was immaculate, it gleamed everywhere. The staff were friendly and ready to help whenever they could, yes sometimes there was a wait for bar service, but we were on holiday and in no rush, so we would just sit back, people watch and wait for a staff member to get around to us. English was spoken by all of the staff so there was never a language barrier and the majority of the passengers were from foreign shores so it was like a proper foreign holiday not a butlins holiday camp!
We boarded the ship in venice and were told we could book in from 12.00. As it happens we arrived at the port at 11am but we just followed the queues and were on board early with very little delay. We caught the Alilaguna boat from St.Marks to the cruise terminal which was great, 8E plus 3E for a suitcase, although on the return journey the lady in the kiosk told us we didn’t need to pay extra for the luggage.
We ate in the L’Arabesque dining room every night and were sat with a lovely South African couple who became good friends with us. The waiter service in there was exceptional; it was great getting all dressed up and being treated like royalty. The menu was varied and with 7 courses to choose from there was always something nice to enjoy, and if a dish wasn’t to your taste they quickly whisked it away and brought you something else. We regularly had 5 courses and were never over faced. We had the drinks package which meant the bottles of wine were ready and waiting for us at the table when we arrived, our waiter always remembered what we drank! There was also bottled water and an amazing selection of fresh bread rolls brought to the table.
We had breakfast in the buffet which was chaotic, but we would just find a table, either alone or sharing with another couple and then cruise around the wonderful selection of food filling our plates with far too much food! Breakfast can also be ordered directly to your cabin using the complementary breakfast room service so we always had a drink in the cabin whist getting ready for the day, and we had the full continental breakfast delivered on the morning where we were off the ship for 8am. At lunchtime we would just cruise through the buffet picking up a salad or a wrap etc.....but be fair, the pizza always won us over and ended up being the snack of choice for us both! You can eat at the tables on the deck outside the buffet area which was always a preferred choice for us....and a cheeky cocktail was always nice to finish the meal off with. The ice cream on board was also fantastic, I’m a bit of an ice cream snob, but that stuff was awesome and included in the drinks package!
The cabin was fantastic, we had opted for a balcony one and I’m so glad we did. It was a real treat being able to sit out there before the evening meal...a quiet haven of peace with a perfect view. It was nice to be able to get fresh air into the cabin too, the Aircon was great but nothing beats fresh air. The bathroom was fine too, our friends had an inside cabin and they struggled with a small shower, but ours was fine so again worth the extra we paid for the balcony. The cabin steward was in there twice a day making the bed up and turning it down again at night, we never saw her but she did a great job. The mini bar was a bit of a waste of time, although we did keep a couple of cans in there to cool. You are charged if you drink from it, including the bottled water, however both cans and bottles are available from the bars around the ship so a bit of forward planning was all that was required to have drinks in the cabin. We also regularly took coffees, cocktails and snacks to the cabin and there was no issue with this.
The 30 mins shows in the evening were “entertaining” ! We regularly had a chuckle at their productions, but maybe not for the right reasons sometimes. It’s only half an hour so give them a go, but don’t forget to take a drink along with you!
We didn’t take any of the MSC excursions; in fact we only did the one private excursion to Olympia with a company booked through ShoreBee who were waiting just outside the port gates, Katakolon is only a small town but you could pass an hour around the small shops and in the seafront cafes. At Bari we just strolled into the town as it’s only about a ten min walk, not too much to see but a nice seafront with lots of fishermen preparing squid which was a sight to see. Izmir was a bit of a nightmare as the taxi dropped us just outside the bazaar, even though I’d asked for Konak square, and a “friendly” shop keeper met us from the car and wanted us to check out his shop. But we just declined and headed off on our own; make sure you have a map of the area as the signs aren’t too good. Inside the bazaar it was fine, the shop keepers just allowed you to browse at your own leisure and it’s just a nice size to pass an hour. At Istanbul we walked about five mins from the port towards the bridge to pick up the tram, make sure you have Turkish lira to pay for the tokens. It’s cheap and a fast way to get around the city. We did the blue mosque, which had a huge queue although we did wonder if we could have bypassed it and gone through the entrance for prayers that was in the courtyard but this would only work if you were properly attired as the loan headscarf’s and trousers are only available as you approach the main entrance. The Hagia Sophia was well worth the entrance fee, although buying a ticket was a nightmare as there was little direction as to where to go for a single ticket, the museum passes seemed to be the preferred ticket choice but they are of course more expensive. Make sure you go up to the gallery as it’s even more spectacular from up there. The basilica cistern was also worth the visit, it’s an unusual place and if the photo booth inside hasn’t a big queue when you go in treat yourselves to a silly photo! We never got to the bazaar as we ran out of time but I heard it was huge compared to Izmir.
Dubrovnik has to be one of the best ports, we taxied to the old town, about 30min drive because of traffic, and then walked around the walls. The view is fabulous from up there, the town looks beautiful. But make sure you take a drink and visit the loo before you set off! We stopped at the Buza bar, the bar on the rocks but this can’t be accessed from the walls, you have to get down from the wall and then try and find it! But the view was lovely and the cider well worth the trip. A little haven of peace. The harbour area is worth a visit, the waves were crashing on the rocks when we went. I was gutted we didn’t get up the cable car, I had planned for us to do that first, but the taxi took us straight to the old town and it was then a climb up to the cable car station we decided to give it a miss. If you are taxiing back to the ship leave plenty of time, there was a huge queue when we went about 45mins before the ship was due to leave.
My only complaint with MSC was the lack of information we got from them prior to the holiday and about the ports during the holiday. There were 2 gala/formal nights and 3 theme nights (white/Italian/60’s,70’s & 80’s) in the main dining room however this was not communicated to us until the night before. We knew of passengers who then had to go out the following day and buy a shirt for a formal evening. MSC are very focused on selling their excursions so they do not produce any information about the port and sights that are worth travelling to, so the best information I could give anyone would be to do the research before, google is a valuable tool!
So as you can see we loved this holiday and would definitely book with MSC again