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Beamafar

Notes from Armonia Miami-Havana Jan 2019

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Having disembarked a week ago, now, I thought I’d get a start on sharing our experiences onboard before any more time goes by and I talk myself out it!

 

We had decided not to head down to the port too early in the morning so we didn't leave our hotel 'til 11.50am ... we were onboard by 12.20pm!  That's how quick embarkation was.  There were no queues, so no need to join the 'Priority' line;  we were next up for checking -in.  We received our cruisecards here as well as had our photo taken then we headed off (on a fairly long walk) to board the ship.

 

The MDR wasn't open for lunch, so we went up to the buffet where it was already very busy.  We managed to get seating at a table at the back of the ship with another couple.  (The tables outside weren't being used as it was a cold day in Miami!)  There was a Chicago round (beef) on the carvery (this always looks so good, but never is, so I decided not to have it).  Other choices were beef stroganoff, roast chicken thighs & drumsticks, a fish offering, then mashed potatoes, curry rice, mexican rice and re-fried beans (can't remember any veg) - quite a limited selection, but, then again, it's a small ship, hence a small buffet.  Of course, there was a salad selection and cold meats and cheeses, fruit and bread.  There was a choice of 3 desserts;  one particular one which looked like carrot cake with frosting on top was scrumptious!

 

After lunch, we headed for our cabin, which as Fantastica suite #1131.  The 'Cleaning in Progress' sign was still on the door so we decided to peek inside to see what stage it was at.  The room was ready except the daily planners hadn't been placed on the bed, so we went in and began taking photos (before we messed the place up with our belongings LOL).  Shortly after, our steward arrived with the planners and we were able to discuss our requirements for the mini-bar.  We were assured that it would be refilled twice a day - and it was!  This is omething we've had problems with in the past, so we were extremely happy with this - and the overall service we received all week from our steward.  We never had to ask him for anything!  Everything had been supplied in the cabin, from the robes and slippers (which we get as Black Card members - though it could have been because we were in a suite?), to face flannels (which are never usually supplied;  we always have had to request them), to breakfast menus and mini-bar forms (again, these have been missing from our cabin on other cruises).

 

In no particular order, here are a number of things that I took note of (I'll post relevant photos later from my phone.  At the moment I want to get as much text done on my laptop):

 

We weren't given an excursions guide with our planner;  you have to go to the excursion desk area to pick one up.

 

For those of you with mini-bar included who don't know ... the bottle opener is in the bathroom!

 

The cabin number was not indicated on the cruisecard (a move that I welcome!)

 

On Armonia, because the ship is old, you do not have to use your cruisecard in a slot for power - there isn't one.  Nor can you access your onboard account on the TV.

 

There were no laundry packages available on this cruise.  (I was told that previous Cuba-based sailings only offered packages mid-cruise and for a limited time).

 

Our Voyagers Club level was indicated on the laundry list (never seen this before, but it made no difference as we never received a discount on our laundry bill for being Black - we usually do).

 

We received a voucher for our Black Card benefit of a meal for 2 in the speciality restaurant, Surf n' Turf.

 

There is only ONE 'Elegant' (Gala) night on this itinerary (when I queried this I was told it was because the itinerary is "port-intensive".  So are Med routes, but that doesn't stop them from having 2 gala nights!)

 

There were 2 drills on embarkation day (so I recommend you don't go to the first one LOL - There was also another one the following morning for those who'd missed the first day's ones)

 

There were English language movies on TV for a couple of days (DH watched Hans Solo (?) and the other latest Star Wars film - don't know the name of that one, either 🙄) as well as movies in the Business Centre; the latter were advertised on the daily planners.

 

Anyway ... more to follow with pics of cabin, menus and food offerings, etc.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Beamafar

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All good so far Bea!

A good read for those booking or booked on this sailing no doubt.

*I always get 'Mrs Frank' to carry my bottle opener in her bag, but this is for various strategic manoeuvres lol

Looking forward to the pics too 

Frank

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Hi Bea!

 

Great to hear about your Armonia adventure.  Keep it coming...you always have the inside info.  

 

Frank’s comment brings to mind what I always tell my friends who are cruising for the first time.  “DON’T FORGET THE CORKSCREW!”  

 

CGT

 

 

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Our Fantastica suite was fantastic (which, on this class ship entitles you to MyChoice dining)  - lots of space and storage; the extra chair beside the coffee table was a welcome bonus and was very comfortable. There was also another chair at the desk, which had a mirror above; the hairdryer and safe were stored behind this.

 

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Walk-in wardrobe:

 

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Nice-sized balcony

 

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Hairdryer & safe:

 

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Edited by Beamafar

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The cabin was quite chilly, even after we turned the heat on to full, so I went down to Guest Services to report it.  There was quite a queue;  there is usually someone within the area who will check to see if there's anything they can assist with to save you waiting to get to the desk.  I approached the person who was in this role (the only rude crew member we encountered in the entire week!) and asked if I had to queue to report the matter.  He, rudely and abruptly, indicated "Yes" with a nod of the head.  When I queried this ("What?  are you serious??"), I got the same response, so I continued to queue as I had to get this sorted ASAP (I wouldn't have been able to sleep that night the cabin was so cold).

 

Anyway, another crew member appeared and I asked her if she could make a note of the problem to which she replied "Of course;  I'll report it for you - no need to queue"!  Later that day I found that the air-con had been fixed.  We even received a phone call to the cabin from Guest Services that evening to enquire if it had been sorted!

 

While I was on the queue, the captain came over the tannoy to announce that, because of bad weather, we would have to miss Jamaica and he would probably change course to go down the western side of Cuba to reach Georgetown, Grand Cayman, which would result in us having the next 2 days at sea .  I had noticed earlier that excursions were being offered for Ocho Rios despite the fact that we were expecting to go to Montego Bay and had intended to query this at the excursions desk as we had an excursion booked from MB.  However, this was now a moot point!  I was a little disappointed with this turn of events as Jamaica is the only country that DH has visited that I haven't been to and I was delighted to see it on the itinerary at the time of booking.

Edited by Beamafar

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Overall we found the food to be very good and it was almost always piping hot! DH never blows on his food - even Apple crumble almost straight from the oven! Well, I actually saw him doing it on one or two occasions!

The service, too, was great! As mentioned above, we had MyChoice dining and had a table in La Pergola which we had for the duration of the cruise as we went at the same time each evening. It appeared that most people did the same. This MDR was also open for breakfast and lunch for suite guests (though not every day for lunch ... more on that, later).

I didn't take a photo of the menu or food on the first night, but I did for most nights after, which I will share here throughout this report.

It was the first time I'd seen a room service breakfast menu with hot food items so I decided that we'd have a nice breakfast in the cabin on the second day. There was a charge of $7.95 for delivery (continental breakfast delivery was free). Ironically, they added a 15% service charge to this! Here is what we had delivered:

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Here's the continental breakfast menu:
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... and the 'American' one:

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Thanks so much for the review and looking forward to more 

 

We’re going in May and also have a Suite w the Aurea package 

 

Glad to hear the info about the mini bar and hot breakfast available for suite guests as well 

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14 minutes ago, LaCal said:

Thanks so much for the review and looking forward to more 

 

We’re going in May and also have a Suite w the Aurea package 

 

Glad to hear the info about the mini bar and hot breakfast available for suite guests as well 

 

Hope you enjoy your cruise as much as we did!  If you have any questions I'll do my best to answer. 

 

I just want to clarify that the hot breakfast is not exclusive to suite guests;  anyone willing to pay the $9.14 ($7.95 + 15% - service charge on top of a service charge LOL) can order it.

 

 

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Another clarification ... we had the mini-bar because we upgraded to the (old) Deluxe package.  (Just in case there's a misunderstanding that the mini-bar is complimentary for Suite guests - it's not).

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1 hour ago, Beamafar said:

Another clarification ... we had the mini-bar because we upgraded to the (old) Deluxe package.  (Just in case there's a misunderstanding that the mini-bar is complimentary for Suite guests - it's not).

Thanks.  Yes we had already upgraded to the old deluxe drink package as well that includes the mini bar 

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Great!  (I was concerned I'd given the wrong impression about what was included when booked in a Fantastica Suite).

 

Here's a photo of the mini bar contents:

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We just filled out the form for what we wanted replaced every morning and evening.  We used to order 2 gins and 2 whiskies as we didn't want the vodka.
 

Edited by Beamafar

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The CC meet & mingle was held at 9.30am of this (first) morning at sea. Out of 16 who signed up, 7 turned up. I'd spoken to an officer the night before whom we'd previously met on our 28 night Sinfonia cruise; he is now Director of Hotel Services (one step below Hotel Director). He joined us with a wonderful couple we met at the event who had status-matched to Black.

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I had a good discussion with DHS about the VC before we were interrupted by the CD who welcomed everyone and then went on to say "I take it you're all status-matchers"! The DHS laughed at this as we had just been discussing the number of cruises we'd done. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed with the CD making that assumption! Funny thing was, we also knew him from the Sinfonia cruise and he had recognised us, too. He obviously had a speech prepared and hadn't adjusted it to take into account that we were regular MSC cruisers!

It was very obvious from this talk how much MSC is trying to attract people from the US. The focus was totally on Americans and the American market. However, it seemed a bit limp considering there were so few Americans onboard. Still, I suppose they're depending on word-of-mouth as one way to spread the word.



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The captain didn't attend this event ... we were told that he was busy due to having to change course as a result of the bad weather.  He'd promised the day before to try to get us some good weather and he delivered on that ... it was a glorious day!  We had the sun on our balcony for most of the day which I made good use of!

 

At lunchtime, we received another phone call from Guest Services asking how everything was, had we enjoyed dinner the previous night and if there was anything they could do for us to let them know!  I assumed this was on account of knowing the DHS (though something that happened later that evening left me wondering if "that" had anything to do with it.

 

The ONLY 'Elegant' night was on this night.  We only spotted one or two dinner suits on men; quite a lot wore shirts and jackets; very few ties, even.  I had discouraged DH from bringing either a tux or jacket and he was glad he hadn't.  Very few women were dressed up, too.  It really didn't feel like a gala night in the way that it does on non-US based ships.

 

While we were at dinner, the ship's m'D approached my husband and told him that the captain would like to offer us a bottle of wine with his compliments.  Well, we were totally taken aback and, caught on the hop, didn't know how to respond.  I was already enjoying the Oberon red which was included in our Deluxe package, plus, how could we decide what to choose on the spur of the moment like that?  Anyway, he handed us an envelope and told us we could take our time and maybe choose later in the cruise.  Turns out that Dave (Sidari) on the forum here is friends on FB with Captain Scala and had told him we were onboard.  The 'With Compliments' card in the envelope states  from "Master Captain Pier Paolo Scala ... and Dave Darby"!  :classic_biggrin:

 

07ee92d68fc12f1659db7178135fe93d.jpg

 

 

Almost immediately after the m'D left, the Hotel Director came to our table to have a few words.  When he left, we were visited by the asst m'D, then each of the 2 head waiters in La Pergola in succession.  The couple at the table next to us must have thought we were VIPs. (We didn't get talking to them 'til the next night when we were able to explain what all the attention was about!  They were a wonderful couple from Sweden and we were sorry that we hadn't broken the ice and got talking to them on the first night!)

Edited by Beamafar

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thank you so much for this great post!   picking up so much valuable information.    (remember to pack face flannels)

 

Shout out to Dave Darby!   what a man!!! 

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No need to pack face flannels ... just ask your steward to supply some if they aren't already in the bathroom.

 

Agree about Dave!  It's not the first time we've received a bottle of something as a result of him letting a senior crew member know we were onboard the ship that they were working on!

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I've just realised that I've gotten ahead of myself and forgot to post the lunch menu (which I'll do now ... followed by the Gala night menu)

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We both had the fish n' chips ... which we always do when it's on. It was particularly delicious this time:

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I enjoyed a glass of champagne with mine, as you can see! I enjoyed seeing the bill even more:

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Now for the Gala night menu

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I had the pecan-encrusted red snapper which I enjoyed (never had it before):

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The one dish I was really disappointed in was the dessert. I had been so looking forward to this since they stopped doing it in other regions (though they did have it in YC on Splendida last year. It was so good I asked the asst m'D if it would be on again later in the cruise. He had the chef come out to me who promised he'd make it again. True to his word, he made individual ones for DH and I specially one time - though, unfortunately it wasn't as nice.  The one here was very poor, indeed!):

744c097e89e26af626037f48a58cb8b0.jpg



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Edited by Beamafar

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We had to go to the Cruise Consultant's desk to pick up our Black Card members' 'gift'. We had a choice of tote bag (we've enough of them at this stage!), a choice of pens - one with a moving ship in it which we'd received on our last cruise - or a book on the Renaissance project. We chose the latter as well as the alternative pen to the moving ship one (you might just be able to make out the pen at the top of the book):

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The book was quite weighty - luckily we had some allowance in our luggage!



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"Must have thought we were VIP's"

Bea, you ARE a VIP!  Who else on these boards has been such an avid MSC enthusiast?  You have taken many cruises with MSC, thoroughly reporting without embellishments and giving all of us an inside look at the entire spectrum that MSC offers.  I am sure that your posts are well known and well received in Europe and Florida.  Your cheerful willingness to help newbies (even though the same questions have been posed a thousand times...lol) is most appreciated by those who are just beginning their MSC adventure.  If Good Will could be bottled then MSC would send you a case of Moet every time you board one of their ships!!

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Wow ... CGT - a heartfelt thank you!  (Why did they get rid of the 'blushing' emoji?!)  

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Great review Bea, so much to benefit the cruisers pending this ship and itinerary. 

Love the fact MSC are bending over backwards (not your words I know) to court the US market.

The elegant ight menu was impressive.

Your fish and chips were no doubt much improved by champers...think I may suggest that here on friday ...early warning that the answer will be colourful and contain the word 'off' somewhere.

Those nuts must be a suppliers dream, the tin count would be impressive ....Im adcited to the cocktail ones with the walnuts, pecans, brazils and almonds! :classic_blush:

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Bea ... Glad you enjoyed your surprise, Pier Paolo said he was glad you had a good time ... 😀

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