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Captain-John

Meraviglia YC Experience - Baltic Itinerary

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Cap'n ... this photo is so stunning, it deserves another outing (and I've just made it my desktop picture  👍)

 

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Posted (edited)

Awesome - I have a new camera phone and I was going all out trying various modes and settings.

 

Also took many sunset photos was so easy with the panaramic windows in the YC area. 

 

Will continue the review tomorrow evening! 🙂

Edited by Captain-John

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Posted (edited)

Apologies for the delay - I'm now back in the saddle and hope you haven't lost interest in the meantime!

 

We finished on the St Petersburg evening. Next day, Tallinn - a pretty 'old town' (there are a few that have a similar feel, although perhaps not the same setting). Last year we visited in July, peak tourist season. Perhaps because it was new for us at the time, we overlooked a few things that irritated us this time round. It was way too busy - people soup. In addition to the 3 cruise ship loads of passengers, there were also tens of busses parked up outside the walls. These were either ship tours that had been, or were going, elsewhere and making a pit stop - or land-based tours. There did seem to be large contingents of people who weren't visiting from a ship.

 

Plenty of colourful buildings and cobbled streets. Very easy to walk to from the ship. Don't be duped into taking the shuttle bus unless you have mobility issues.

 

Pleasant for a wander for a few hours, but I think it would be hard to spend an extended time here unless you enter every museum or church etc. Many sat in the cafes around the various squares soaking up the sun. No real knowledge I can bring to you about this stop, as we didn't take a tour (as is our style - we just like soaking in the sights at our own pace). I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

 

We lasted 2 hours and then headed back for the ship. I'll let the pictures do the talking. IMG_20190516_105859.thumb.jpg.a4b57b4de149f4e8c6bb09276ab5b07f.jpg

 

 

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Edited by Captain-John

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After boarding again, having walked 20,000 steps or so, we decided we deserved lunch. We were either too late, or didn't fancy anything on the lunch menu. I think it was the latter as I look at the timestamps on the photos - lunch was still open. We did look at the YC Grill offerings but again nothing appealed. I think we ordered room service - I had the BBQ chicken wrap, which was nice - tasted like a fajita that was already rolled up for you. DW had a club sandwich which was HUGE.

 

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Then it was time to say goodbye to the Regal Princess which had shadowed us from SPB.

 

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A trip to the TSL for some drinks and SNACKS!!! (surely not more snacks?!)

 

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It was the most glorious, clear day - slipping into evening although very bright for 1905. This kind of view typifies what I love about cruising and being out on the water.

 

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Thanks for that Captain 🙄

I’ve just had my own version of the ‘wellness salad’ but..... you reminded me why I did 😂😂

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Just to say Captain, this is the best review since ‘everything’s going splendidly on Splendida’. 

If the adjudicators ever stumble across the MSC site...... you’ll win a prize 😀

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54 minutes ago, thecruisers6 said:

Thanks for that Captain 🙄

I’ve just had my own version of the ‘wellness salad’ but..... you reminded me why I did 😂😂

 

Everything will taste all the better if you sacrifice before hand, I promise you!

 

46 minutes ago, thecruisers6 said:

Just to say Captain, this is the best review since ‘everything’s going splendidly on Splendida’. 

If the adjudicators ever stumble across the MSC site...... you’ll win a prize 😀

 

Very kind of you to say - I struggle a bit with these things as people tend to want more of one thing over another. I feel I'm quite picture heavy in this one, and try to add some useful text where I can - not enough for some and probably not enough photos for others! I find I can elaborate more text wise if I'm asked a direct question... Anyway I'm rambling on and on. Time for more review.

 

Dinner this evening (Elegant or Gala night, one of them).

 

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Cheese fritters were very tasty indeed - just the right balance between being flavoursome without being overpowering.

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Rich shrimp cocktail - again I don't eat the stuff but I am told it was very nice.

 

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Gnocchi - a wrong choice on DW's part as not very filling, although tasty. She regrets not having the halibut special.

 

 

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However, an absolutely divine piece of fillet for me. Gorgeous. Cooked perfectly, so so tasty - I wish I had ordered this again another night by 'special request.' Apologies for the graphic photo below this one - if it offends. A greasy, gravy and salt covered plate with a piece of medium-rare beef hanging from the end of the fork - heaven for me!

 

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The most gorgeous sunset was playing out again...

 

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To top off a (mostly) fabulous meal all round:

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a plentiful and delicious cheese plate:

 

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And the ice cream pyramid

 

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Definitely befitting the Gala or Elegant status.

 

A point to touch on here - I did mention it in another thread, but I can't remember if I have in this one so far. It'll do no harm to repeat. I found myself liking the Bordeaux the most - receiving it readily in the TSL when asked, without objection (except when they ran out on one occasion). However trying to get this in the restaurant was a nightmare. I wasn't assertive about this as I should have been.

 

I clearly asked for Bordeaux, and on one occasion was told 'Try this' with no explanation that it wasn't Bordeaux, or why. I did try it, and asked for the glass to be filled. On another occasion, I asked for Bordeaux and was given something else - which I didn't like, so for the second glass I switched to Merlot, which I saw another diner have (so knew there could be no objection to me getting this).

 

I've read the waiters like to give you what's open, or what the sommeiler wants to get rid of. Odd though that in the TSL it was never an issue. In October, I am definitely going to be more assertive about this - I liked the Bordeaux, I wanted the Bordeaux and I asked for the Bordeaux - yet was given it maybe 30% of the time.

 

Occasionally I was also presented with 'Porto' - no doubt due to my accent!

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Posted (edited)

Another tour around the ship at night.

 

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Back to the very cosy TSL, enticed in by:

 

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A few nightcaps and then off to bed. Black Card chocolate ship delivered tonight.

 

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and more snacks

 

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A bittersweet (or very sweet, including the snacks!) evening - when we wake up, it's a day at sea (and our last full day onboard). 😞

 

 

Edited by Captain-John

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We woke up to overcast skies and rain. But it was still warm outside and certainly wasn't going to spoil our day.

 

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Brunchtime snacks:

 

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An Irish coffee later and a switch to afternoon snacks:

 

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Another tour of the ship

 

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I told a lie earlier in this review. We had the BBQ wrap today from room service. Must have been the buffet yesterday. Spent too long with the barman!

 

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Topped off by - guess what?

 

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Posted (edited)

After another hard day lounging around, I decided to get my money's worth out of the YC Pool area and the Aurea Spa. I was the only person outside, which was great, as it wasn't cold and I was getting wet anyway. One thing to note - all of the loungers up here had padded cushions, when it was dry. Something I've read isn't consistent across the YC decks throughout the fleet.

 

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Time to get changed for dinner. A special red wine cocktail made by Alex, fantastic bartender in the TSL. He had made many cocktails for us throughout the week. He was so engaging with all the guests who chose to sit at the bar. He played games, told stories and kept up with the orders throughout the lounge. Absolutely fantastic service and I would love to sail with Alex again.

 

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I spoke to the YC concierge to see if I could fill out a recognition slip or the like (NCL have them). I was advised the best place to do this was in the post-cruise survey, which gets shared directly with the ship. I did. You will be in for a great time if Alex is serving. He's worked in Russia, won competitions in Dubai... the list goes on. MSC have a gem.

 

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Edited by Captain-John

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One of your photos (the one of the stairs) has just reminded me that MSC replaced the drab stairs from deck 16 down to deck 14 with the Swarovski steps - something I'm looking forward to seeing.  Originally, the 'flash' stairs were only up to deck19 from deck16.

 

I really enjoyed those bbq wraps on Splendia last year - I had 4 in total over the course of the cruise.  😜  I don't usually care for bbq sauce, but the one these use for this is really nice (same thing with MSC's sweet & sour pork - the only place where I'll eat sweet & sour is on an MSC ship).

 

Keep up the good work, Cap'n.  I know it's time-consuming and uses a lot of energy, but it shows!

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Time for the last supper

 

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Spanish tapas (could have been better, think the photo says it all)

 

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Buffalo mozzarella caprese - as they make their own onboard, it was quite tasty, although required seasoning and more balsamic

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I also had the Gazpacho - tasty, spicy - I don't like spice so could have done with it a bit milder but suspect it hits the mark for most people and I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

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Mixed fried seafood - could have been better. The underlying fish was fine, but again not filling and the batter not as crisp as it could be. Wrong choice.

 

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My BBQ pork ribs weren't much better. I wish I had asked for the fillet again. Very, very little meat on the bones and poor quality. Onion ring was delicious though!

 

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Baklava

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And the cheese again

 

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Lovely chutney/preserve with the cheese. Baklava was OK I'm told.

 

So not a great meal to finish the cruise with. Still, I've resolved to ask for what I want next time round. They can only say 'no' and it sounds unlikely they would.

 

A welcoming sight after a long day relaxing at sea. Not so welcoming it would be our last sleep in it.

 

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15 minutes ago, Beamafar said:

One of your photos (the one of the stairs) has just reminded me that MSC replaced the drab stairs from deck 16 down to deck 14 with the Swarovski steps - something I'm looking forward to seeing.  Originally, the 'flash' stairs were only up to deck19 from deck16.

 

Deary me - given the overall cost of the ship it seems quite a strange omission from the initial build - glad they remedied it! Not sure I got a photo of the steps themselves.

 

15 minutes ago, Beamafar said:

 

Keep up the good work, Cap'n.  I know it's time-consuming and uses a lot of energy, but it shows!

 

Thanks very much Bea. Yourself and others contribute so greatly to these boards, I relish the opportunity to give back a bit, and also relive all the fun. 🙂

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6 minutes ago, Captain-John said:

 

A welcoming sight after a long day relaxing at sea. Not so welcoming it would be our last sleep in it.

 

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A very welcoming sight, indeed, Cap'n.  I can certainly live with that image to come back to at night after a hard evening spent in TSL   😜  I'm feeling better now about our YIN for October.  Thank you for this wonderful photo!

 

I find that ribs are never good on MSC;  they're not cooked enough.  The meat should fall off the bone.  As you say, there's very little meat to even speak of!  In fact, they're usually on the lunch menu!

 

I had a similar Spanish tapas plate once;  I have no idea what the meat was, but it was so revolting I had to remove it from my mouth (which is something you do not want to be doing in a restaurant full of people!).

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Forgot to add, before going to bed we did a final lap

 

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and back to TSL

 

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Posted (edited)

So how can I wrap up this review? I'd like to give a summary at some point, but I'm running out of steam tonight. I'll finish with our disembarkation day, relay another tale and move onto a teeny-tiny bit of Hamburg as it made such a good impression on us.

 

The instructions were given that we had to vacate the cabin by 8am - I didn't want to get into the technicalities of the Black Card perk of an extra hour in the cabin (or whatever the perk is - the docking time also plays a part in this I believe - don't have the details to hand). So we set a cursed alarm. We both feel (although fully understand why) that on the last day of a cruise, you're 'kicked out' more so than a hotel on land. Check-out times on land are usually later, and you don't need to put your luggage out the night before etc. This is one reason we again like NCL - we can walk our own luggage off at disembarkation. I asked the YC concierge if this would be possible in Kiel. No was the answer - easier for MSC and us if we allow them to take our bags off. I disagree with this, as we could have quite comfortably taken our luggage off ourselves and onto the shuttle bus at Kiel port.

 

Again on land you have your luggage available at all times. Still, a very small price to pay for all the advantages cruising brings compared to a land-based holiday.

 

Before all that though, I have quite an unpleasant experience of a bartender in the TSL to relay. I've forgotten his name (and probably wouldn't publish anyway, we all have bad days?) - but the service the day prior to disembarking (last sea day), in the afternoon hours, was shocking.

 

Given the inclement weather, the TSL was busier than usual. Still, we entered and after 20 minutes we had not been attended to despite trying to catch the attention of the one butler working the whole lounge. I approached the bar to place an order, only to be barked at - 'Sit down, someone will come for your order' - I said 'Who?' as the lounge was now devoid of any butler or waiting staff. He again barked that someone would come and shooed me away from the bar. Another 5 minutes passed and I again approached the bar to order as no-one came.. I managed to get the order out this time, but he did not allow me to wait for it - he said it would be delivered. I was a bit miffed at this point, and I explained the whole mess to him. I advised someone should be calling for extra assistance if TSL was busier than usual. He dismissed me.

 

Again I returned to my seat and 30 minutes after entering, we were served our simple drinks order. Going for a second round later (there were 2 or 3 butlers by this point, but I had been out at the toilet or up getting a snack - near the bar in any event) so I placed another order at the bar - to be grunted at again.

 

OK, he was having a bad day - but a total contrast to Alex who, I'm sure, if faced with the same circumstances would have handled it with better grace.

 

Anyway - I'm sure the grumpy barman was glad to see the back of us on disembarkation day, as we were him!

 

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Until next time, Meraviglia! * I'll qualify this statement in my summary.

 

We utilised the MSC shuttle to Kiel train station to join our Hamburg-bound train for an overnight before flying home on the Sunday. The shuttle was around 5 Euro each, a bargain compared to a taxi and we were grateful we could use it as at first I thought it was only for guests who were visiting Kiel as a destination and returning to the ship letter as opposed to disembarking. Around 3,000 would have disembarked in Kiel with the remainder in Copenhagen, assuming they weren't B2B etc.

 

 

Edited by Captain-John

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Hamburg was charming and we would definitely return - for either a cruise departing directly from Hamburg with a stay before or after, or a city break in its own right. Very impressed. Clean, not too expensive, easily walkable, cheap to get to, not too outrageous to stay.

 

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We stayed in the Park Hyatt. As this isn't the platform for it, I won't detail the experience but instead include a few photos.

 

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And more Hamburg. We also visited the miniature museum (Miniatur Wunderland) , which was incredible - the most expensive and detailed railway set you've ever seen. But frightfully busy.

 

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CaptainJohn. Thank you for your detailed trip report. I know the effort that goes into a report as l have failed on a few. As we sail on Meraviglia in August, l found it very interesting. Ken

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I can't wait!  Thanks for your report, menus, and observations.  I tend to be one who sits at the Bar on cruises.  I have met more interesting people and engaging in very interesting conversations with those guests as well as the bartenders than in any other venue.

 

Reading the menus that you kindly posted, I see no reason to dine outside the Yacht Club Restaurant.  My booking includes a dinner and show for Verragio that I hope to change to a cocktail show for that performance.     

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8 hours ago, CruiseIreland said:

CaptainJohn. Thank you for your detailed trip report. I know the effort that goes into a report as l have failed on a few. As we sail on Meraviglia in August, l found it very interesting. Ken

 

You've never failed in your reports, Ken - certainly not in my eyes.  I always enjoy them - especially the great info you give on the ports of call.

 

I didn't know you had booked Meraviglia - hope you have a fabulous time onboard.  I look forward to hearing how you get on.

 

Cap'n ... thank you so much for all the work you've done and for the amazing photos.  You have me convinced, now, to visit Hamburg (at some stage!).  A Baltic cruise is on my bucket list, so, hopefully, I'll find the itinerary I want leaving from Hamburg.

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Thanks for your review I sending the link to our friends who are travelling with us in October on Meravigia.

 

Regarding the wait in TSL its a bar why can't we get our own drinks --we had this a couple of times on previous cruises. My usual thing is to say Hello to bartender and place an order for the butler to bring and if wait is long I will go back for the drinks myself.

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9 hours ago, Beamafar said:

Cap'n ... thank you so much for all the work you've done and for the amazing photos.  You have me convinced, now, to visit Hamburg (at some stage!).  A Baltic cruise is on my bucket list, so, hopefully, I'll find the itinerary I want leaving from Hamburg.
 

 

Definitely worth it. When we did it first time 'round last year, we thought it would be a long, long time before we returned. Little did we know.....

 

8 hours ago, emmas gran said:

Thanks for your review I sending the link to our friends who are travelling with us in October on Meravigia.

 

Regarding the wait in TSL its a bar why can't we get our own drinks --we had this a couple of times on previous cruises. My usual thing is to say Hello to bartender and place an order for the butler to bring and if wait is long I will go back for the drinks myself.

 

I hope they find it somewhat useful. 😄

 

I know, it's absolutely crazy. I think it links into the taking the whole butler thing too seriously - I even had drinks taken off me, put on a tray, walked 5 or 10 feet forward, then put back down again. I could do it myself far quicker. It was more the attitude of this bartender that irked me - shooing me away like an irritating dog.

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10 hours ago, Beamafar said:

 

You've never failed in your reports, Ken - certainly not in my eyes.  I always enjoy them - especially the great info you give on the ports of call.

 

I didn't know you had booked Meraviglia - hope you have a fabulous time onboard.  I look forward to hearing how you get on.

 

Och! Thanks Bea. Since I changed jobs and computers, I have struggled to load pics onto CC.

 

Yes, remember we discussed the Fjords cruise? Off in August. Looking forward to it. Not Aurea this time, just Fantastica. Ken

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Posted (edited)

So how would I summarise this trip? I notice a few people have recently objected to sentences which say 'I'd do it again, but only in the YC.' Unfortunately, that's how I feel about Meraviglia. There was something about the layout of the ship, and the sheer number of passengers on board, that made it feel very busy at key times. The fact 3 dinner sittings are required is quite telling in my opinion.

 

On this particular itinerary, there were two sea days, which didn't help the crowd situation, and the weather that wasn't always conducive to sunbathing so this drove people inside. I didn't get this feeling on Preziosa, Fantasia, Orchestra etc. - as their layout is different - less 'concentrated.' Everything on Meravaglia is focused on the promenade area - including all the speciality restaurants and a handful of bars/entertainment venues.

 

I like nooks and things tucked away - helps with the dispersal of people.

 

Plusses:

 

* Fantastic YC1 cabin. Very spacious, plenty of storage, lovely bathroom (no bath). On this subject, I forgot to add into my report - on the first night we set the fire alarm off when we opened the bathroom door after showering. It wouldn't go off. The response team came and advised we open the balcony door to clear the steam. They then had to radio the bridge to say all was OK. 😮 Be very careful with the water too - it's boiling hot if you don't get the mix right. Every evening after that, one of us would open the balcony door when the other was leaving the bathroom. Way too sensitive detectors though - I'd have thought they would be smart enough to distinguish smoke and steam.

 

* YC area: TSL, Concierge and restaurant. All fantastic. A cosy bubble to escape to. Good drinks and service in the TSL in the main. Priority lifts were a nice perk, as was the odd butler perk we utilised (mainly for skipping queues!). YC concierge helpful in obtaining tickets for the shuttle to Kiel station, providing maps, Googling things for us. Not so helpful when it came to my ShoreEx complaint but overall very pleased. Alex in the TSL made good times even better.

 

* Modern, stylish, clean ship - as always with MSC.

 

* Food - when compared to MDR fare of non-YC cruises, it was a noticeable step up. I did comment on another thread though that other mainstream lines have more 'hits' with me - both in terms of choice/variety, and delivery in terms of flavour etc. However, the good meals were really great. The poorer meals were disappointing. Like I say, I've learned and I will just ask for what I want in advance (within reason) next time.

 

The convenience - we turned up to eat when we wanted and never waited longer than a minute or two - similar to the NCL 'Freestyle' we are accustomed to. Also experience 'MyTIme' or whatever it's called under Aurea but we had to wait longer with that arrangement.

 

The BC speciality restaurant was absolutely fantastic and I'm so pleased it's being rolled out to other ships in the fleet. Also I think they are all underutilised as a booking was no problem just 7 hours in advance and the restaurant was about half full.

 

The buffet at lunch and dinner had a reasonable selection - not the largest or most varied, but enough so as not to be frustrated. Large sections of the buffet roped off for Tata Motors employees at night though.

 

* Guest Services (reception) staff were fantastic. So polite, genuinely interested and seemed to care - a model for all staff.

 

* Butler/Assistant butler were friendly and the assistant certainly worked hard cleaning the room twice a day. We didn't use the butler Bruce very much but have full confidence that if we needed to, he would have delivered.

 

* YC pool deck - the pool was lovely and warm (as was the indoor pool in the public areas). I also managed to have it totally to myself one day which was great. They could do with 1 extra hot tub on the YC deck (I thought there was 2 but I must be getting mixed up). Padded cushions on the loungers a plus. Grill section nice to have, although we never actually ate anything from there.

 

Minuses:

 

* Spa way too small for the number of people who have access. Not sure if this has been remedied on the 'Sea-' ships - they certainly look larger and brighter areas.

 

* Popular venues always full - the Sky Lounge for example, or Brass Anchor. Buffet very crowded at times - true of most ships but still.

 

* Unhelpful ShoreEx staff with a bad attitude, and an even worse manager.

 

* Difficulty in getting the wine I wanted at lunch and dinner in the YC restaurant - made more frustrating as there was no explanation as to why the wine was switched.

 

 

--------------------------

 

I'm not detracting this from MSC, but on a personal note, having done two Baltic cruises with identical stops, I'd be looking for more variety (Riga, Gdansk?) for the next one.

 

A final note on MSC customer service. I regret heaping praise on them. I had an issue prior to the cruise whereby passport information was being deleted at the check-in stage, stopping tickets being released. I e-mailed to complain and was called within 24 hours. I submitted the post cruise survey and followed up by e-mail on Monday 20 May and heard not a peep. When I called I was told there is an ABTA statutory 28-days for a response - obviously given it's a post cruise gripe they no longer care as much as when it was pre-cruise.

 

So overall - a very enjoyable cruise. I would in the first instance aim to sail in the YC for future cruises - but not at 'any' price. I have a firm(er) idea in my mind now of what I think the product is worth, based on this experience. So I can definitely return to 'steerage' - just not on a ship designed like Meraviglia.

 

We have the YC to look forward to again in October aboard Preziosa in any event, and we've booked Celebrity for next April so it will be a while before I'm looking at the next cruise after that in any case - anything could happen between now and then to change my opinion again!

 

Thanks for bearing with me and for all the input and kind comments as I went along. 😄

 

 

Edited by Captain-John

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