October 10, 2009
MSC Fantasia Western Med. week cruise review.
Relax and enjoy this wonderful cruise . After reading so many negatives we were a bit nervous about our choice of MSC since we are first time , American English speaking only, cruisers in our mid sixties. The ship is lovely, the rooms are large, immaculate, as is the entire ship. The food was abundant and varied. The entire crew were all very polite, well groomed, and eager to help. When language was a barrier , ( very seldom) they were most patient muddling through until we all were clear on the question and the answer. The nightly entertainment in the theater varied each evening and lasted about 45 minutes . Go, do not expect Broadway Stars, but very talented , multi cultural , enthusiastic performers. Each presentation was a delight to the eye, extravagant costumes, brilliant lighting, and great musical numbers. All can be enjoyed by any language or age.
We changed our dinner seating , we were assigned a table with French speaking only couples. They were very nice, but we felt sort of awkward doing charades etc. People change every evening as they meet people they want to eat with . The procedure is easy, just go to the dining room you are assigned between four and six. Speak to the maitre d and they will switch you . We found, that a smile or a laugh , and common courtesy is the best way to get anything , just as anywhere else in the world. We did not encounter any rude Italians, French, stodgy, whiny British, that have been alluded to in other reviews . Everyone was friendly, and in a vacation mood. I wonder, after reading so many negatives reviews , if these people are unpleasant when seeking help etc. , then are met with the same attitude . Just a thought. Coming on board was easy in Marseille, a que of about twenty minutes . Our luggage was at our door by the time we had walked around the public spaces . ( There is an orientation meeting held in your native language , but we were not aware of that . It is listed in the daily paper that in your room when you arrive. We just didn't read . So check that as soon as you get to your room .) Disembarkation was easy, there is a meeting the night beforeand you also get papers on what to do with passports etc. It was fairly simple, you do not need to be in the lounge at 8 am, but you do need to pick up you passport at reception AFTER 8 am. We didn't leave until around 9:45.
A hint : The ship sells goodmaps of each town at Reception for .50. Well worth it so you can plan ahead. We basically did our own thing in each port except Naples and Barcelona. Naples we did the Pompeii tour, but would suggest you do the Museum in town since most of the artifacts from Pompeii are housed there. Barcelona: we caught a Blue bus to town, meets at the terminal, 3 Euros round trip compared to the MSC shuttle at 6 eurs. Then caught the Hop on and Off bus right at the drop off spot. There are people at the terminal with information and pamphlets, just ask. This was a more reasonably priced way to go than a tour.
Marseille: The Old Port. You need to take a taxi or walk out of the terminal ( about a mile and a half ) to the bus stop at the entrance the terminal or take a Hop on and Off bus which was there at the dock, too far from town to walk . Genoa: the port and the back streets. We just walked to town, you can walk to the Aquarium too. There are inexpensive harbor tours , like 10 euros. Palermo: we walked to town , head for the old town and the main shopping streets. We found an old market street that was absolutely glorious in colors along with some old, incredibly beautiful 1600s churches tucked in among the food vendors. Tunis , get a cab right at the dock for about 40 euros for three hours , the driver will wait for you when you want to get out and walk, shop or eat etc. and tell you about the area . Palma, again we walked to town. The harbor is vibrant, some fun seafood spots, the Cathedral is at the far end of the harbor, a couple of miles. Worth the leisurely walk .The grounds are interesting as are the back streets . Wonderful little shops tucked in the side streets with pastries, and other goodies. Barcelona: ( Hop on and Off ) the huge food market was immaculate in the old town area, a good place to have paella for lunch. The Olympic Games grounds offers a good view of the city. We were impressed at how clean the city is. The tram to the fort was a hit with others in our dinner group. The itinerary of cities was excellent.
A couple of suggestions. Take some wire hangars and a few clothes pins fo the clothes line in the shower, ask for a room on the left side of the boat since that is the side that faces the coastline. We took two insulated/covered coffee mugs and instant ice tea and lemonade . Used the ship water and had ice delivered every day ( no charge). The ship's water is fine to drink. We chose the soft drink package for 29 euros.If you want to go on an excursion you need to book them within the first day or so to save 5%. They do their darndest to book you on a tour in your language, but sometimes it may be two languages.
Meals: The waiters bend over backwards to make you happy. Get to know them. We had breakfast and lunch ( when on board) in the dining rooms. The Zanzabar Cafeteria on deck 14 is a bit of a mad house. But, the view is wonderful. There are hundreds of choices and a super place for kids with huge appetites. All you can eat.) The dining rooms have a more limited menu , but much quieter . Breakfast and lunch are casual attire, but no short shorts , swim wear etc. Some reviews complain about not having twenty four hour food etc. Well breakfast starts in the cafeteria at 6:30 am and is open until 10. The lunch opens at 12 and closes at 4. Tea is at 4 to 5 at the Zanzabar , first dinner starts at 6:45 , there is a midnight buffet . So there is ample time to eat. PLUS you can buy gelato, pastries, etc. through the day. No one starves. Actually some passengers seemed downright gluttonous.( A reason we chose to skip the cafeteria.)
Dress: Again posted in the daily news letter . Sadly, there were some who chose to ignore the dress code and came across as crass . Tuxedos are too formal , but a dark jacket, slacks, shirt and tie for the men works for Formal and Informal evenings. The Causal night is shirt with no tie and jacket. Ladies usually wore cocktail dresses, but basically a snazzy black, wrinkle free dress with a couple of dressy jackets or wraps and you are set. I did see a few people turned away from dinner because of their extremely casual attire. ( flip flops and bermuda shorts ). I felt people were allowed to flaunt the dress code because the crew were too polite to embarrass them.
On Deck: Upper deck in the BACK is the ZEN area , no children allowed. There are deck chairs all over the ship, no need to worry about getting one. The pools were a bit chilly , they are emptied each night and didn't seem to warm up much. The main pool areas were busy with families , games, dance classes, and a giant screen showing a variety of things going on . The exercise area is in the front of the ship , you have to go through the spa. A wonderful panoramic view, lots of equipment .
The Room:Shampoo and soap are included, some reviews have said they aren't. Plug ins are various types . Blow dryer is in the drawer. Towels are changed almost every time you step out of the room by the wonderful room elves. Pool towels are provided by the pools and hot tubs. Beds are turned down each night , and the steward ( Patricia) made us feel spoiled.
We would recommend this line , the price was about $3500 less than friends who are going on a similar cruise on another line with a balcony room. That's another two trips! There were few children , but this time of year that was to be expected. We were in minority as Americans, but we weren't going on the trip to be with Americans. The service was excellent, the ship is amazing,we didn't feel like we were being hustled at all. We spent a total of 129 Euros on board for a tour and pop. Plus our tipping fee at the end. So we felt we certainly got our money's worth and had no surprise charges. Bon Voyage. Arivederrci .. Ciao...