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Review of Seaview Yacht Club Mediterranean Cruise 9/28-10/5, 2019

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This is a review and blog of the Jazzbeaux MSC Seaview cruise from September 23 to October 5, 2019.

 

We flew to Barcelona on Delta, spent four nights at Le Méridien Barcelona, and boarded MSC Seaview for a 7-night cruise around the Mediterranean and back to Barcelona.

 

During the trip, Jazzbelle kept detailed notes and I [Jazzbeau] took lots of pictures.  After returning home, I revised the notes to remove names [to protect the guilty, as they say…] and put it in my voice to avoid confusion.  Jazzbelle became ‘DW’ in internet parlance [‘Dear Wife’].

 

In planning for this trip I used several Rick Steves books:  

Barcelona [2018], Italy [2019], Provence [2018], and Spain [2020].  I also used Fodor’s Essential Spain [2019], and Tom’s Port Guide – Rome [2018], as well as Trip Advisor and, of course, Cruise Critic.

 

What follows is a day-by-day account of the trip.  But since I assume that most CC readers are most interested in the review of MSC Seaview Yacht Club, I will start with that in the next post.

 

The same text is also available – with lots of pictures – on my blog for this cruise:

jazzbeauxmediterraneancruise2019.wordpress.com

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Review

 

This was our 22nd cruise, but the first on MSC.  We would never have tried MSC, based on its reputation at the bottom of the mass-market category – but glowing reports about the Yacht Club ship-within-the-ship put it on my radar and this itinerary [with Cinque Terre and, supposedly, Corsica] plus very reasonable pricing for the level of luxury led us to give it a try.

 

We are very glad we did.

 

Between the time we booked and the time we boarded, there had been many posts on Cruise Critic lamenting declines in quality and service in MSC YC [also true about every other cruise line that I check on Cruise Critic…].  Most troubling was a detailed ‘live from’ thread from the Seaview cruise immediately before ours.

 

Our experience was different.  NONE of the things that the previous posters complained about happened, or bothered us, on our cruise.  Note: this is not to dispute that they did happen to those other posters – if you compare our daily activities to the other threads, you’ll see that we look for very different things on a cruise.  But I do suspect that some of it is different expectations, and some was clearly a difference from one cruise to the next.

 

As an example, there have been many complaints about the menus in the Yacht Club [‘a dearth of interesting choices,’ and ‘the food didn’t live up to the descriptions’] – but we found the choices varied and the experience as good as the expectation.

 

Also we didn’t use [because we don’t care to] several of the facilities that have featured in other reviews: we never visited the casino [except to walk through it while holding our breath against the smoke]; I only ordered one cocktail [a G&T at the YC lounge bar, where I had to use my 'NY elbows' to get past the server and chat directly with the bartender to avoid the dreaded Royal Club tonic; he did go in the pantry and find me a can of Schweppes.  But after that I decided it was too much hassle and just went with the included wine choices, which I found very good]; and we never spent any time at the YC pool deck [since we don’t want to risk more skin cancers and don’t like to dine al fresco].  I mention these points because they may help you evaluate whether our reactions are relevant to your expectations.

 

So, on to our review:

 

First off, the ship.  MSC Seaview is quite new [2018] and gets a very high rating from the Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2019 guide:  the ship is rated 1,557 out of 2,000 overall for ✭✭✭✭+, and was named the “#9 large resort ship.”  Food is only rated 276 out of 400, but that is for the ship overall, not the Yacht Club restaurant specifically.

 

Our impression backs this up.  It’s not the most beautiful ship [every large resort ship looks like an apartment block stuck on a container ship platform], but you can immediately see the huge number of balconies.  The atrium is several decks high but isn’t very deep – this works very well when they have parties there because the balconies provide excellent viewing areas but the noise doesn’t permeate the entire ship.  The casino is unfortunately in a location that makes it a passageway – and it is predictably smoky when open – but you can go up or down a deck to avoid it and it doesn’t smell too bad when it’s closed.

 

There seemed to be lots of entertainment and activity venues throughout the ship, but we didn’t explore that much and we only used the Theater [and the party Atrium].  We did notice the bowling alley [extra cost, and not advisable with our aging shoulders] and arcades – because they were on the way to one of the Venchi locations.

 

We went to several of the theater shows and found them ok.  There is no live band, but the singers worked well with the recorded tracks.  And, surprisingly, after the Cruise Director’s multi-lingual introduction all the songs were in English!  [Except, I assume, the one ‘Italian pop songs’ show.] The theater is very well laid out so every seat has a good view.  The sound was turned up too loud for me, but that’s true in most pop music venues.  And one night the spot lights were strafing the audience in a way very problematic for those with migraine tendencies.

 

Next, the food and included drinks All the food in the Yacht Club Restaurant [which was the only place we dined all week] was delicious.  We found the choices varied and the presentation and taste as good as the expectation.

 

I would put the Yacht Club dining experience at the same level as Azamara and as Celebrity’s suite restaurant Luminae.  Certainly higher than our experience on Ponant this August.  [None of these are true ‘luxury’ cruise lines, but MSC Yacht Club underprices even these ‘premium’ lines so this equates to real value.]

 

And the Yacht Club Restaurant was open for lunch every day [unlike Luminae].

 

It is different than American cruise ship cuisine, but we are adventuresome eaters so that was all the better for us.  There was lots of pasta and risotto – both of which were more al dente than we are used to.  But also more meat choices than on Ponant, and more choices overall than on any of the other lines I mentioned.

 

The included wine was just fine by me [I am a knowledgeable wine drinker, with catholic taste; DW doesn’t drink].  Every night they offered two reds and two whites [plus Prosecco and at least one rosé] – but you could see many more selections on the side table because if you didn’t like the first two offered they were happy to work with you to find another wine that would suit.  And they opened a fresh bottle of wine for each table, so there was no delay while they fetched another bottle midway through dinner.  [They also opened a fresh bottle of water for each table – in our case, two bottles because DW drank ‘still’ and I had San Pellegrino.]  This was a level of beverage service we have not experienced on any other ocean cruise to date – my glass was never empty!

 

Another top-notch food note is that the orange juice at breakfast in the Yacht Club Restaurant is fresh squeezed.  This is something that Celebrity dropped a while back even in Luminae, so it’s worth noting that MSC still provides it.  Of course that means that some days the OJ was a little tart, as real oranges vary, but most days it was exquisitely sweet and orangey.

 

I will concur with several other reviewers that the Eggs Benedict was bland – but it was freshly made [not congealed].  I found an easy workaround by ordering poached eggs [they come on toast, which I like even better than English muffins] and crispy bacon.  That left more calories for croissants, which were excellent.  Café latte was quickly and reliably brought, to round out my breakfast, so I was a happy camper.

 

Finally, while the breakfast menu doesn’t change [frankly I have never understood why people expect it to, since you can design your own different omelet every day and every other choice I can think of is listed], lunch and dinner do change every day.  And there are more options [between the regular menu on the left side, the ‘healthy’ menu on the right side, the ‘everyday’ choices, and the ability to ask for any entrée as your appetizer] than the other premium cruises we have taken.  Again, this is a level of choice – backed up by quality – that is top-notch.

 

There was lots of confusion on Cruise Critic about whether Venchi is free to Yacht Club guests.  Our documents stated clearly that the gelato was free, but not the other items [chocolates and crêpes] – and while we had to scan our room card each time, we were never charged for the gelato.  It was also the best gelato we have had on any ship.  [The evening turn-down service ‘pillow chocolates’ were Venchi and were also quite good.]

 

Our Yacht Club Deluxe Suite cabin was large enough, well laid out, and pleasingly decorated.  If I were to complain about anything on Seaview it would be the over-use of chrome, even in the cabin – but I was grateful for the quantity and placement of mirrors.  The bed was very comfortable.  We had a small couch and two chairs, a coffee table, lots of counter space, and more closet space and drawers/shelves than we could use.  We even found a way to use the strange room-divider shelves, although I think this would be better if it could block the light from the window for a late sleeping spouse.  [That would be moi.]  The balcony was larger than on most new ships but it didn’t have loungers and only one footstool to share between the two chairs [we didn’t sit out there much anyway with this port-intensive itinerary].

 

The bathroom was the best on any cruise ship so far.  Quite large – not the largest, but those larger ones were let down by a tub/shower that I find increasingly dangerous getting in and out of.  This bathroom had a spacious shower stall with a bench and the choice of rain shower or hand-held, and great water pressure [although the temperature did occasionally go super-hot or super cold for a brief period when someone else used water on our line].  I much prefer having the toilet in the main bathroom [unlike Ponant’s separate toilet closet that means using your unwashed hands to open that door on the way to the sink].  And the counter was notched so that you [if nearsighted like me] could stand at just the right distance from the mirror while shaving, etc.  Terrific ventilation system with the side benefit of drying laundry really quickly.  The MSC-brand toiletries didn’t seem to have any scent, which is ok by me.

 

Our cabin was on deck 16 [16041], which is also where the YC Concierge and the YC Lounge are located.  We felt that this was ideal.

 

Service in the Yacht Club was just about perfect.  We were greeted at embarkation and given the special YC treatment – lounge in the port building, Butler leading us to the YC lounge until our cabin was ready, and fast delivery of our luggage.

 

We did experience the often-noted MSC service variability [or lack of organization] from the get-go.  DW was told to wait for our Butler to escort us to the cabin, but while I went down to Customer Service someone else came and led her to our cabin – luckily when I didn’t find her in the lounge my next thought was to check the cabin.  OK, it was disorganized – but the bottom line is that we got into our cabin faster.

 

We never had to wait for our particular Butler [which had happened to @WonderMan3 on our same ship on the cruise just before us].  We experienced the Butlers working as a team, with the Concierge calling whichever Butler was handy to escort us, etc.  This worked very well and gave us the full level of service without any waiting.

And it was very nice having the Butlers available, since without that service you could be stuck in very long queues on this very large ship.  Being escorted off the ship meant going right to the head of the line.  We even learned from a Cruise Critic review to seek out anyone with an MSC uniform on returning to the ship, so that we would be taken to the front of the tender line or up the front stair directly to the Yacht Club elevators.  And while the shows on our cruise weren’t full, it was nice knowing that our Butler would get us seated in any case.

 

The YC Concierges were also a valuable asset.  We never had to deal with Customer Service or Shore Excursions, because they could do everything right at their desk.  And Emanuel was a true delight, always brightening our day.  [Not to mention the ‘1,000 watt smile’ of our Butler, Rosa.]

 

Another area that didn’t seem to work quite as planned was the Yacht Club express elevator service.  Apparently on some MSC ships using your YC room card overrides prior selections and turns your cab into an express up to the YC – which I can see would really tick off any non-YC passengers already in the cab!  On Seaview, they have reserved one cab in each bank as YC-only – so when we scanned our room cards we were always directed to wait for that cab [which sometimes didn’t come before a regular cab that was heading in our direction]. Also sometimes [but not every time] we weren’t given the choice of which YC floor we wanted – our cabin was on 16 but often we went straight to 18 and had to walk down a flight [avoiding the missing deck 17 or platform 9 3/4].

 

And the YC Restaurant wait staff seemed to have a slightly different dining room organization every meal [especially breakfast].  The service was always friendly and they got the job done, but you never knew how they were going to go about it.  But instead of getting upset at this style of service, we enjoyed watching them reinvent the rules every time.

 

Ultimately I think of the MSC Yacht Club service as similar to an Italian car.  The head of Maserati once said that if you want only reliability you should buy a German or Japanese car, but if you want Italian style you will forgive the odd glitch here and there.  [Full disclosure: I drive a BMW, but I do lust after an Alfa Romeo.]

 

Internet  We bought the Premium Internet Package with 10GB for $94.  We used it freely on 4 devices (2 MacBooks and 2 iPhones) and only went over 4GB at the end of the 7 days.  So the 2020 Yacht Club benefit of free internet should work for most people with only a small top-up.

 

Excursions   The ship’s tours on MSC were surprisingly good [based on low expectations…]  The buses were packed, and time was wasted for WCs and shopping, but there was none of the dreaded ‘mandatory shopping stops’ where you are stuck in the middle of nowhere at a place that gives the cruise line a rebate.  The rates were also lower than any ships’ tours we have seen before.  Kudos to MSC.

 

Summary – We loved the MSC Yacht Club on Seaview and have added MSC YC to our short list of cruise lines for future plans.  The one thing that may limit this is that MSC’s itineraries tend to be what I consider ‘introductory’ samplings of a wide area [our cruise visited Spain, France, Italy, France again, and Spain again in 7 days] while we prefer longer cruises and the country-intensive approach of Azamara, Ponant and Windstar.  But if the right itinerary comes along, we’ll be back!

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Monday September 23, 2019 – Up, Up and Away!

 

The limo was on time for our 4:30 pm pickup and traffic to JFK wasn’t too bad so we had plenty of time to enjoy the Delta Sky Club lounge.

 

Our Delta flight pulled out on time, and their schedules obviously reflect the 45 minutes you waste at JFK taxiing from Terminal 4 to the runway [which must be somewhere in another state!] because we landed early.

 

The flight was smooth, and the food and service were so much better than Delta’s flights to Iceland earlier this year.

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Tuesday September 24, 2019 – Barcelona La Mercè festival

 

Flying time was almost 7 hours so we arrived in Barcelona around 10 am their time (4 am NY time).  It took quite awhile to get through customs, etc. but all our checked luggage arrived and we met our driver from Barcelona Day Tours who brought our luggage to the Mercedes S-class car, and we were at our hotel Le Méridien Barcelona (Marriott) in 20 minutes.  Thankfully, our suite was ready.  [This is a blessing that you can never count on.]

 

We were out on Las Ramblas in no time.  [We racked up 7.5 miles of walking in the city.]  The weather was warm, in the 80s with sunny skies.

 

I had learned after we booked this trip that we would be arriving on the last day of the annual 5-day La Mercè festival.  Dating back to the late 1800s, it honors Barcelona’s patron saint, Our Lady of Mercy, who years before had saved the city from pestilence [a plague of locusts – how Biblical!]

 

After downloading the schedule of events [in English – as is almost everything in Barcelona], I had plotted out several activities (parades, dancing, concerts, and fireworks) all around the city, and we managed to see most of them – it was a great bonus to an already great tourist city!

https://www.barcelona.cat/merce/recursos/docs/Merce19-ProgramaButxacaENG.pdf

 

Just a few blocks from our hotel, on Las Ramblas, we caught the first parade of the day which was the Gigantes (Giants Parade).  One individual supports this structure/costume of a giant which could represent a king/queen, tradesman, saint, etc…

https://www.barcelona.cat/lamerce/en/seguici-de-la-merce

 

We then headed over to Plaça de Sant Jaume where we were packed in like sardines to see the Castellers (Human Towers) who build walking human pyramids.

https://www.barcelona.cat/lamerce/en/diada-castellera-de-la-merce

Exiting from there was even more challenging than getting in, as the crowds continued to grow!

 

We attempted to get into Palau Güell (with complimentary passes from the hotel) but it was a free day and they had no tickets left.  We walked to La Boqueria market but it was locked up because of the festival.  So we returned to our room and took long naps.

 

At 6:15 pm we were at Plaça de la Mercè to witness Sardana Dancing.

https://www.barcelona.cat/lamerce/en/ballada-de-sardanes-0

It is the national dance of Catalonia.  It is a collective dance.  Dancing men and women hold hands in a circle and do a simple routine of tapping their feet to the music.  [Simple for DW, that is – I am pedally challenged…]  People continued to join in, enlarging the original circle or creating new ones.  Pretty soon the entire square was filled with dancers.  There was an orchestra that filled the large square with music – and volunteers going through the crowd selling stickers to show that you had donated something in support.  It was very uplifting to watch as a tribute to the continued importance of traditional culture.

 

We moseyed on to Bar Celta, a tapas restaurant, for a bite to eat.  We shared pulpo à la Gallega (octopus) and chicken croquetas [and a cerveza, por favor].

 

On we went exploring the area of the Port Vell (the old harbor).

Eventually we made our way via Metro to Plaça d’Espanya for the Musical Fireworks Display that closes out the La Mercè festival.

https://www.barcelona.cat/lamerce/en/piromusical-de-la-merce

 

The show lasted 35 min. and included amazing fireworks that were timed to the rhythm of a wide variety of musical selections [from classical to Glenn Miller and the Beatles] – it was the best fireworks we’ve seen.

 

After exiting the Metro, we found a gelateria and each ordered a favorite flavor which we ate on the way back to our hotel.

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Wednesday September 25, 2019 – Barcelona Sagrada Familia & Barri Gòtic

 

We slept very soundly and somehow hadn’t set an alarm, so we woke up late and had to rush like maniacs to get to our 11 am reservation at Sagrada Familia, the famous basilica designed by Antoni Gaudí.

 

Work was begun on it in the 1880s and the anticipated date of completion is 2026.  [We had seen it eight years ago on our first ‘post-children’ cruise, and it was amazing to see how much work they have accomplished since.]

 

It is like no other cathedral in the world.  We will let the photos speak for it [except for me to say it is the most beautiful place I have ever seen]

https://jazzbeauxmediterraneancruise2019.wordpress.com/2019/10/22/wednesday-september-25-2019-barcelona-sagrada-familia-barri-gotic/ 

 

Gaudí was a visionary, a genius, a geometrician, an architect, a religious man…  [But even geniuses can slip up, as he was killed by absently walking in front of a tram.] We spent 3.5 hours there.

 

Today was about 10 degrees cooler.

 

We bought our tickets for tomorrow’s trip to Montserrat at the TI in Plaça de Catalunya and ate lunch at 4 pm at El Cortes Ingles [a major department store chain in Spain] in the 9th floor cafeteria with great views over Plaça de Catalunya.

 

We then did Rick Steves Barri Gòtic walking tour, including visits to the Barcelona Cathedral [which we had visited in 2011] and the Gaudí Exhibition Center.  [We spent a lot of time with Gaudí this trip, and still have several days’ worth of sights for our next visit!]

 

Although we walked a mile less today, standing still was harder on our feet and backs as we did several audio tours.

 

We took the metro to Restaurante la Palmera for dinner.  I had squid ink croquettas with squid chopped up in them and duck breast for my main course.  DW had a green salad with goat cheese, craisins, tomatoes, bacon… and shrimp/crab stuffed cannelloni.

 

We walked around that neighborhood looking for an ice cream shop which the hotel concierge had recommended, but De La Crème was already closed.  When we got off the subway I found gelato at a stand on Las Ramblas [so the cravings were satisfied].

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Thursday September 26, 2019 – Montserrat

 

Today was a glorious day—clear, sunny, high 70s.  And we spent most of it on Montserrat.  We had bought ‘Tot Montserrat’ tickets that included two Metro rides, round trip commuter rail, round trip cable car up the mountain, funiculars on the mountain, museum and AV show, and lunch.  Because we had heard that the train might be packed on the way back, we bought extra tickets that let us take the rack railway down to the earlier train station.

 

It took an hour and 45 minutes to get from our hotel to the monastery atop the mountain [metro, commuter rail, and cable car].  We were disappointed to learn that there was no daily Mass in the Basilica, so we took seats in the pews and prayed as we waited for the 1 pm singing of the Salve Reginaand Vilorai by 50 choir boys.  What clear, beautiful voices!  [We also had a chance to view La Moreneta, the ‘Black Virgin’ statue that was found in the Sacred Cave.  We couldn't visit the Sacred Cave because that funicular is closed for long-term maintenance.]

 

The interior of the church was ornate and overly decorated with no regard to trying to blend patterns, styles, colors…  It made us appreciate Sagrada Familia even more.

 

We ate lunch in the Self-Service Restaurant [cafeteria] before taking the funicular farther up the mountain.

 

From there we hiked trail 3A [steeply up] to the hermitages [or remains thereof] named for Saints Joan (John), Onofre and Magdalena.  It was a grueling and challenging trek holding onto to roping, tree roots and branches, trying to avoid the overly-polished stones on which we tred in order to find more sure footing.  We survived unharmed save a small cut on DW’s arm from a rough wall.  I can hear our son now telling us we shouldn’t be engaged in such dangerous activities.

 

However, we were afforded some magnificent views from our climbs.  We could see why Gaudí was inspired by these mountains in his design of Sagrada Familia.

 

We took the funicular back down to the level of the monastery and explored the museum, which had some very impressive artwork.  Before we knew it, a guard was telling us it was closing time.

 

We hotfooted over to the Cremallera [rack railway] where we got tickets and eventually connected with the commuter rail back to Barcelona just before 8 pm.

 

We walked 5.5 miles today.

 

We cleaned up and took a cab to La Barca del Salamanca out at Port Olimpic.  Known for their paella, we ordered dinner and thought the waiter understood but language was an issue.  He must have gotten the mistaken idea that DW was a vegan as she requested asparagus for her salad/appetizer.  He thought that was all she wanted and only brought paella for me [it was listed on the menu as ‘for 2,’ but the waiter winked and said he had done me a favor – luckily the ‘single’ portion was enough for 2!].  It was a truly strange dinner as we shared our two dishes and then a serving of Tarta de Santiago for dessert [not the best, but we’re not in Santiago…]

 

We left the restaurant and walked up out of the port, finding a taxi stand across from the Casino.  We were back at Le Méridien by midnight.

 

Checking my computer, I found an email cancelling our walking tour for the next morning, as the guide was injured in a motor accident.  Time for a quick replanning!  [I am often reminded on trips of the quote from General Eisenhower: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”  All my pre-trip planning gives me the resources to roll with the changes like this.]

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Friday September 27, 2019 – Gaudí and more Gaudí in the Eixample

 

The weather cooperated again for our sightseeing.  After a good breakfast at our hotel, we walked and took the Metro to our first Gaudí  sight.

 

Casa Batlló did not disappoint. Originally built as a linear iron-framed apartment building [its unmodified sister still sits across the street], it was transformed by Antoni Gaudí.  The humpbacked roofline suggests a cresting dragon’s back, the balconies Mardi Gras masks, the façade is covered with random broken tiles assembled into mosaics. Inside, the woodwork on doors, windows, floors is breathtaking.  We climbed 6 flights of stairs to look at some public rooms and the rooftop.

 

Diagonally across Passeig de Gràcia is an over-the-top mansion also designed by Gaudí – La Pedrera (aka Casa Mila).  Radically different from the architecture and construction of the time (1906-1912), La Pedrera has undulating lines, symbolic shapes all reminding us of what was essential to Gaudí: nature as an expression of divinity.

 

We stayed in that neighborhood and followed the Rick Steves Eixample Walk.

 

We worked in a rest break for late afternoon.  DW took a nap!  [It’s always harder for her to overcome jet lag.]

 

An early dinner in the hotel restaurant [CentOnze] was convenient as we had 9 pm concert tickets.  Dinner was the best for DW so far: a large market salad with mixed greens, soft white cheese, cashews, craisins, sweet potato, apples… and tender, moist chicken breast with pumpkin/date puree and snow peas hit the spot.  I had marinated tuna followed by pulled pork on brioche along with cole slaw and fries [also very good, but I will remember not to order BBQ outside the US].

 

We walked 15 minutes to the Palau de la Musica Orfeo Catala for a Tribute to Paco de Lucia concert.  The Barcelona Guitar Trio (three master, classical Spanish guitarists) plus a very accomplished percussionist and a pair of Flamenco dancers entertained us nonstop for 90 minutes.  What talent in all quarters!  We were in one of the forward side boxes so had excellent views of the stage and the performers.  To watch how the different musicians held their instruments or how the dancers not only could keep time with the best Irish Riverdancers but used their hands and arms as part of their art was amazing.

 

At one point the youngest of the guitarists came front and center with his guitar.  The other two walked forward with empty hands as did the percussionist.  The four then proceeded to play that one instrument in unison – 3 on the strings, 1 tapping a beat on the wood body of the guitar – to Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean.  What a spectacle!

 

I am including the names of the artists because you might want to Google them and watch the dancers perform:

  Barcelona Guitar Trio: Manuel González, Xavier Coll, and Luis Robisco

  Percussionist: Paquito Escudero

  Dancers: Jose M. Álvarez and Carolina Morgado

 

Several standing ovations at the end!

 

We walked home via a different route so we could stop for gelato.  Yum!

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Saturday September 28, 2019 – Boarding MSC Seaview

 

No sightseeing today, so we got up later than usual for breakfast, took it easy and packed for our transfer to the MSC Seaview.  We were able to get a cab right in front of our hotel for the short ride to the port.

 

As MSC Yacht Club customers, we received preferential treatment bypassing lines, being offered pastries and hors d’, Prosecco, juice, etc…  We were escorted to the YC lounge on the 16th deck by Richard from Mauritius.  Here we could wait while our suite was being prepared.  In a short time, it was and our luggage soon followed.

 

We headed for lunch at the Yacht Club Restaurant, one deck up on 18 [Italian ships do have a deck 13, but no 17].  I had Hamachi [white fish] and avocado carpaccio, then Gratinated lasagnette with Asiago cheese and Parma ham.  DW had Asparagus mille-feuille [napoleon], Rockfish stew, and Carrot cake.  We got into conversation with the couple next to us.  They were from Bordeaux and only she spoke some English, certainly better than we did French but we managed to chat for quite awhile until the wait staff practically asked us to leave.

 

We returned to our cabin, unpacked and headed to the casino for the most haphazard muster drill we ever attended.  Afterwards we rendezvoused with a much younger couple from Germany [Ingo and Lydia] with whom I had connected on Cruise Critic.  We did the shortest cabin crawl in cruising history.  We finally went our separate ways.  Their English was much better than the French couple’s.  Good thing, as we know about 5 words in German.  [Regular cabins on MSC seem very tight; our Yacht Club ‘Deluxe Suite’ – actually the only type of veranda cabin in the Seaview YC – was not palatial but very suitable.]

 

After resting a bit, there was a knock at our door.  It was our butler Rosa who had come to introduce herself.  She left with DW’s dress in hand to get it pressed.  [We had great difficulty figuring out the laundry ticket, as dresses cost a great deal more than most other items but this was a ‘little black dress’ and only needed a press.  It turned out we were only charged the basic price for simpler items.]

 

We went to the Yacht Club Restaurant for dinner [as we did every night – it was so good that we had no desire to pay for a specialty restaurant].  I had a small portion of the Cannelloni filled with veal, then Sliced tuna steak in salmoriglio sauce.  DW had Vegetarian ceviche, Filet mignon [from the ‘everyday’ menu] and Warm apple crumble à la mode.  Her filet was perfectly cooked, but a little chewy for that cut of meat.

 

As YC members, we were guaranteed seats at the theatre performances so we didn't need to make a reservation.  And we were escorted there to make sure we got a seat.  The show tonight was Eclipse, a psychedelic salute to the 60s and 70s.  Well done but overkill on the spotlights which were sometimes blinding.  [Lighting directors are over-using the computer capabilities of the spotlights.  Light up the show, not the audience!]

 

We then went down to deck 6 to overlook the bottom level of the Atrium where passengers were gathered to celebrate that era at the Flower Power Party.  Lots of disco music and people having a fun time dancing.

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Sunday September 29, 2019 – Ajaccio, Corsica – no, make that Toulon, France and Aix-en-Provence

 

Today we were supposed to be docking at Ajaccio, Corsica [a major factor in selecting this cruise].  However, for some still unexplained reason we were rerouted to Toulon, France.  [We learned this a few days ahead thanks to @WonderMan3's ‘live from’ thread; many people onboard had not heard, as MSC seems to have made no effort to notify passengers.]

 

So our shore excursion in Corsica was cancelled and I scrambled to find a private tour to take us to Aix-en-Provence.  [We had missed seeing this city on two prior trips to France and it was on my bucket list.]  Several tour guides got back to us saying they were fully booked [as was the ship’s excursion by the time we lowered our expectations enough to ask].  The tourist information desk in La Seyne-sur-Mer [docking port for Toulon] was not very helpful either, suggesting that we take the water shuttle across the harbor to Toulon proper and try to find a taxi there.

 

But as we walked out of the port building in La Seyne-sur-Mer there were a few taxis.  One was willing to take us there, wait while we explored, and drive us back to the ship in time for sailing [for 300 Euros, more than the ship’s tour but half what the private guides would have charged].

 

It was an hour drive and our cabbie [who spoke fairly good English but had difficulty understanding it] pointed out some interesting sights on our way. The impressive Mont Sainte-Victoire [a favorite of Cezanne] loomed on our right.  

 

We arrived in Aix-en-Provence around 11:30, left him parked in a taxi zone right at La Rotonde, and headed for the tourist info office to get maps and walking tours. Off we went to the Church of St-Jean-de-Malte only to find that the Mass we thought was at 12:05 was not offered on Sundays.  We arrived just as the 11 am Mass was getting out, and it was very uplifting to see the packed church [in highly secular France!] and the obviously vibrant community. We stayed to do the Mass readings and reflection and pray, before being asked to leave as they were closing.  [A very nice, simple church – and one of the rare places that we would be happy to worship in rather than gawk at.]

 

We walked next door to the Musée Granet which provided an overview of art from the 14th to 19th centuries and was currently showing works of a contemporary artist, Fabienne Verdier. The exhibit was titled Sur les terres de Cezanne.  “The father of modern painting,” Paul Cezanne was born and raised in Aix and the permanent collection contains several of his works [featuring Mont Sainte-Victoire].

 

We left there and moseyed through the old city, winding up at our taxi to let him know we would get lunch before heading back to the ship.  I had a Kir Provence [white wine with raspberry liqueur] and we both had moules frites in Le Cintra, then walked back to the cab.

 

We asked our driver to take us to the Cathedral on the way out of Aix, but he mistakenly drove us near St-Jean-de-Malte again.  [He later explained that he assumed there was only one church in Aix...]  We walked and walked toward the Cathedral as far as the Palais de justice, but eventually realized we couldn’t get there in a timely manner.  So back to the taxi and off to our ship!

 

Catching up on messages and naps were in order.

 

Dinner in the YC restaurant was at a table between our French couple and two English married men, one a flight attendant for Virgin Atlantic.  We both ordered the Asparagus and beetroot tart for starters.  I also asked for a small portion of the Fennel risotto and DW had the Tuscan soup with chick peas.  For our entrées, I got Pan-fried sea bream and DW had Chicken Oscar medallion (with crab leg meat and Hollandaise sauce).  I had Arroz con leche (cinnamon rice pudding) for dessert.  DW held out for gelato later.

 

That was after an entertaining show called Bizarre which featured acrobats, gymnasts, contortionists among the dancers and singers in a French revue.

 

In wandering around looking for Venchi on deck 7 aft we discovered a bowling alley and arcade plus several dance venues.  But we were on a mission, and DW got her salted toffee gelato.

 

DW joked that this was hardly a cruise: it was more like a float as the ports were so close together and the sea so calm.

 

The weather today was beautiful!

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Monday September 30, 2019 – Genoa

 

Another lovely day and we got to explore Genoa [aka Genova], which may have been named after Januarius [the god who looked two ways] as Genoa is the gateway from the Mediterranean into Europe.

 

A manageable sized group from our ship (16-18) were on a ship's tour with Marco of 'Trumpy Tours.'  It started at the Maritime Terminal and we walked to the 16th C. Palazzo del Principe across the street, which belonged to navy admiral Andrea Doria [remember that name from the ship that collided with the Stockholm in 1956, killing 51 passengers?]

 

We spent about an hour there viewing frescoes, tapestries, artwork of the old masters – and then boarded a bus that took us into the heart of the city. We saw statues of Victor Emmanuelle and Garibaldi, the Opera House, the Albaro district where the aristocrats once lived, the monuments on Victoria Square, the lawns displaying Columbus' caravels in flowers, and the main Via XX Settembre avenue.

 

Then we disembarked at the seaport, stopped in a gelato shop for WCs and a snack, and continued on foot.  One of the first sights was the Bank (16th C.) and Palazzo San Giorgio (13th C.).  We moved on to the Plaza Banci where banks occupied 3 of the 4 corners of the financial marketplace and the stock exchange the 4th.

 

We passed a yellow Rococo style church on our way uphill to the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo.  Gothic, it was done in black and white stripes outside and in (along with other colors of marble, which was so accessible in this region).  The church opened in 1118 but its solitary tower was not finished until the 1500s.  From the outside we could see the presence of a rose window but we were not permitted beyond the last pew to get a look back at it once inside.  There was a beautiful stained glass window of the Assumption over the side altar.

 

We left the tour group and continued exploring the area on our own seeing Piazza di S. Matteo and the Palazzi dei Rolli on Strade Nuove (Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Bianco).  [Lots of getting lost in the old town, but a helpful clerk in a bookstore pointed us in the right direction at the crucial moment.]

 

We found our way back to the seaport and entered the Aquarium.  Wow!  We spent almost 3 hours there.

 

Then we walked a mile back to the Seaview.

 

DW had to have her fix of gelato.  Salted Toffee—small cup, please!

 

Tonight the theme on board was White Night where guests try to wear white.  [We didn’t go all-out but did have partly white outfits.  No way am I wearing white slacks – I’d be afraid to sit down and stain them!]

 

It was also Mediterranean Night so the wait staff wore green aprons and the menu allowed us to sample culinary treats from different countries.  I had Bouillabaisse, Moussaka, Roasted beef loin in Chianti wine sauce, and a Seasonal fruit ice cream sundae.  DW had Spanish tapas, Bouillabaisse, Moussaka, and Turkish baklava.

 

We opted out of the show as it was Italian song favorites [and I didn’t think they meant a Dean Martin tribute...]

 

We were asleep by midnight.  A first!  Had to get up early.

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Tuesday October 1, 2019 – La Spezia and Cinque Terre

 

Up and at ‘em!  We were on the free shuttle bus out of the port, on our way to explore Cinque Terre, before 9:00.  [I know that doesn't sound very early to many of you, but I prefer to see all four digits lit on my clock before arising...]

 

After the bus, we got a taxi to the La Spezia Centrale station where we bought a combo ticket [all-day train pass plus Trekking Card for 16 each].  We caught the next train out but it was standing room only for the 10 minutes to the first stop [Riomaggiore], where lots of people got off.

 

We disembarked at the second stop and took the connecting free shuttle bus up the cliff to the village of Corniglia. [Corniglia is the only Cinque Terre village that isn’t right on the water; it sits on a cliff that the train line burrows through.]

 

Then we headed out on the Volastra Trail.  First stop, at the top of the village, was St. Peter’s Church.   I had warned DW the two-hour hike would be steep at first, but I didn’t mention steps [who knew?].  DW (and her right knee) hates steps!!!  On we went regardless!  [I have to admit the trail was steeper than I expected.]  We took a number of breaks.  We hiked up the mountain and then across a ridge [where thankfully the trail leveled out].  We passed olive trees, went through vineyards, private property [there was a particularly beautiful view from someone’s back yard], ancient terraces.  We just kept following the red/white trail blazes. We spotted anoles darting away from us.

 

We reached Volastra and visited its church, Nostra Signora della Salute.  Fairly simple, as all the Italian churches have been so far.  Not nearly so ornate as the Spanish!  [Italy didn’t get all that gold from South America.]

 

We asked directions to the bus stop.  Only a 15 minute wait and off we went on the free shuttle dropping us down in Manarola in 10 minutes.

 

We walked back up the hill to visit the Church of St. Lawrence (dating from 1338) before eating lunch in Cappun Magru.  I had ravioli and DW ham/cheese focaccia.  I also got a three-course tasting of wines from Cinque Terre; the wines were very good and the descriptions of them added a lot.  [We just picked the place because it looked nice, but checking later I discovered it is considered the best restaurant in Manarola.  And thankfully it’s not listed in Rick Steves…]

 

We strolled along the main street [Via Discovolo] down to Piazza Capellini and then onto the harbor.  The streets were lined with boats.  A crane is needed to lower/raise these small work boats into/out of the sea.

 

We had heard that the Cinque Terre villages are overrun with tourists, but our experience was varied.  Neither Corniglia nor Volastra were crowded [maybe because we got to Corniglia early and you have to hike to get to Volastra]  Manarola was crowded, but not as bad as Florence had been in 2011.  But on the hiking trails, once you go above the paved part of town you are pretty much on your own.

 

We considered taking the train further on to Vernazza, but we still had the walk through La Spezia back to the ship so we decided to head there directly [so we could get back to the Venchi gelato bar sooner!]

 

We got seats on the train back to La Spezia where we did our own walking tour, starting at the Garibaldi Fountain, passing Santa Maria del Assunta, riding the free elevator to Castello di San Giorgio, and wrapping it up in the very modern Cathedral of Christ the King.  137 steps to climb to reach it!  Europe doesn’t seem to worry about catering to the disabled.  No ramps, elevators…

 

All in all a very satisfying day, with the full flavor of Cinque Terre.

 

Back on board around 4 pm, we headed to the Venchi on 7 and found some different flavors of gelato.  Yes!

 

Tonight was formal night, but very few women were in long dresses and some people were still in jeans…

 

Dinner was very good.  I had a Twice-baked blue cheese soufflé and the ‘Blackened Angus filet steak’ [much better than the ‘everyday’ menu cut, despite the strange name – I assume they meant ‘Black Angus tm’].  DW had a Williams salad (mixed greens with fruit and walnuts) and Gratinated monkfish medallion (with mussels and bouillabaisse sauce).  We both enjoyed the special dessert: Crêpes suzettes [which had been poaching all evening at the entrance, perfuming the dining room with that lovely butter smell!]  Delicious!

 

We went to the show Simply the Besta tribute to Tina Turner.  Unfortunately, the two women directly behind us thought it was karaoke night and started singing.  “Don’t give up your day jobs, girls!”  [I left; since they were enjoying the show more than I was anyway, what was the point of ruining their evening too?]

 

One thing in these countries is that no one is shy about hanging their wet laundry out their windows to dry.

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Wednesday October 2, 2019 – Tarquinia, Tuscania & Civitavecchia

 

We docked in Civitavecchia (port of Rome) but since we had spent several days in Rome on a previous cruise we decided to explore the countryside instead.  We took a ship’s tour to visit Tarquinia and Tuscania, two ancient hill towns north of Civitavecchia.  Steeped in Etruscan history, the area is home to necropolis sites which are their burial vaults.  Unfortunately, they were not part of our tour.  We drove past them on our way to Tarquinia.

 

Our guide had just begun our walk through the town when it began to rain. She continued despite loud claps of thunder as fellow passengers wisely left the shelter of trees.  We poked into the Vitelleschi Palace/Archaeological National Museum to see authentic Etruscan sarcophagi.  Etruscans believed in an afterlife, so they were buried along with their favorite belongings.  Consequently, the sarcophagi, carved from stone and painted, were considerably larger than necessary for a body alone.  We saw the ancient walls of the city and the gates used for protection.  We passed churches, convents, hostels on our way.

 

She set us loose after a short time and we had 45 minutes to fill until our bus returned.  The two of us took shelter in the tourist info office which turned out to be very interesting as it had genuine Etruscan artifacts and good copies, as well.  The rain let up so we ventured out to take some photos.

 

Next stop was due east in Tuscania.  We passed fields of sheep on our way.  Tuscania had unpaintable rock so the sarcophagi were made out of terracotta.  Luckily the rain stopped, so viewing this town was more pleasant.  We first saw the fountain at the town center and then walked on to the town gate/wall named for Saint Francis.  [There had been considerable destruction here following an earthquake in 1971.]  We were afforded great views (what one might find in a pastoral painting) of the valley and distant countryside.  Looming were two churches – St. Peter and St. Mary.  There were many photo ops from the San Francisco vantage point.  Once again, the formal part of our tour ended and we were free to explore the town on our own.

 

[The ship’s tours on MSC had time for shopping, but none of the dreaded ‘mandatory shopping stops’ where you are stuck in the middle of nowhere at a place that gives the cruise line a rebate.  The rates were also lower than any ships’ tours we have seen before.  Kudos to MSC.]

 

The bus had us back to the Seaview by 1:30 in time for lunch.  And what a delicious lunch it was: spicy Vegetable samosas; L’Olivo salad (baby spinach with nuts, bleu cheese, berries); then Tagliolini with roasted scallops and leeks; followed by Coconut cream cake with raspberry coulis.

 

[This was the menu that featured the perplexing entrée ‘Oven-roasted Pork Feather.’  I demurred on trying it, deciding to wait ‘until pigs fly’…  But a little research shows that this might have been very nice. It is a translation of Pluma Iberica, a cut just behind the neck of the pig and claimed to be ‘unbelievably tender’ and also very healthy because of the high content of oleic acids (monounsaturated fatty acids) that lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and raise ‘good’ cholesterol.  Iberico pork fat contains more than 55% oleic acid—only olive oil has a higher concentration.  If I had chosen that for lunch, I would now be so healthy that I might live forever!]

 

Good thing we were heading out to walk around Civitavecchia, the name of which means ‘very old city.’  Still standing is evidence of Roman ruins, the Michelangelo fort [he added the tower], the 18th C. Cathedral of Saint Francis, the Church of our Lady of Prayer and Death [and sure enough a coffin was just being loaded into a hearse].  We never found the Church of the Immaculate Conception, nor made it far enough to the Church of the Japanese Martyrs [because Tom’s Port Guide got us lost at the very beginning with a recently-closed staircase, we wasted a lot of time getting our bearings].

 

As time started to run out, we took a cab back to the ship.  [We thought 20 Euros was a lot, but the taxi took us right up to the gangplank instead of dropping us at the shuttle bus stop – so it was worth it!]  Once again we got special treatment as Yacht Club members and were ushered up a separate forward stair [closer to our cabin].  We really appreciated that as today was one of the days for passengers to begin or end their cruise so the main stair had a slow line with the embarkation security procedures.

 

For dinner tonight, I had Crispy aubergine mille-feuille (paper thin crispy slices of eggplant with peppered goat cheese, cherry tomato); followed by Sea bass fillet with kalamata and tomato compote, caper and nut remoulade.  DW had Maryland crab cake with green apple and fennel salad, then Magret de canard (maple glazed breast of duck).  For dessert we both enjoyed Warm apple strudel with vanilla custard.

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Thursday October 3, 2019 – Cannes & Antibes

 

Today was our only tender port.  We boarded one fairly quickly [no line, but our Butler would have taken us to the head of any line anyway] and were docked in Cannes in less than 10 minutes.

 

We walked to the RR station and caught the next train to Antibes.  We spent almost 3.5 hours there exploring the Old Town, a warren of narrow streets and red-tile roofs rising above the blue Mediterranean.  It is protected by twin medieval towers and wrapped in extensive ramparts.  It was founded by Greek traders in the 5th Century BC. It boasts Europe’s biggest yacht harbor [with some of Europe’s biggest yachts…]  The pathetic remains of a once-hearty fishing fleet are moored in front of these multi-million dollar pleasure boats.  [The Mediterranean is pretty much fished out.]

 

We walked to an overlook of Plage de la Gravette, a quiet public beach.  From there we could see a large modern white sculpture, Nomade, a man of letters looking pensively out to sea [probably wondering what happened to his clothes…]

 

In Old Antibes we visited the Market Hall, bustling with shoppers buying flowers, produce, beach accessories, Provençal products, etc…  We toddled up to the Church (former Cathedral) of the Immaculate Conception.  Built on the site of a former Greek temple, a church has stood here since the 12th C.  Above it to its right is the Chateau Grimaldi which houses the Picasso Museum.  We passed on it and continued our walk to the History and Archaeology Museum, which was shutting its doors for a 90-minute lunch break but offered great views back to the city.

 

We walked the length of the ramparts with more views of the harbor, including another modern sculpture Colonne à la mer, and Cap d’Antibes.  Then we wandered through the narrow, twisting streets of the neighborhood, dumping us out into a large square with an ongoing flea market with vendors of fine, old glassware and china.

 

We had lunch in the Antibes train station while waiting for the 1:54 back to Cannes.

 

Cannes is the sister city of Beverly Hills: it is for strolling, shopping, dreaming of meeting a movie star (especially at the big film festival in May).  One does not go to Cannes for museums, culture, enrichment.

 

First up the obligatory Carousel, a feature of every French city we have seen...

 

Walking along the Boulevard de la Croisette one passes some of the most expensive apartments and hotels in Europe.  [Rooms at the Hotel Carlton go for 1,500 to 7,000 Euros a night!  But think of the loyalty points you could accrue!]

 

The biggest attraction is the Film Festival Hall.  Aside from the movie awards, it is used throughout the year for trade conventions.  [And aside from A-list movie stars in season, it doesn’t offer much in the way of attraction.  And – quel dommage! – we were out of season…]

 

We walked past the Hall up the hill to Le Suquet, Cannes’ oldest neighborhood.  It is a steep 15-minute climb that offers panoramic views from its ancient church, Notre Dame de l’Esperance [Our Lady of Hope – but inside it said it was the church of St. Nicholas ???]

 

Returning to the Seaview we saw one final modern sculpture, Mille formes a la conquête de l’espace.

 

We then caught one of the last tenders and went straight to Venchi for gelato.

 

Tonight for dinner we were seated in Kicky’s section.  He is an excellent waiter.  I had Foie gras terrine, Traditional Caesar salad, Filet of beef Rossini, and Coconut tapioca pudding.  DW had Rich shrimp cocktail, Asiago cheese fritters, Roasted loin of veal, and Tiramisù.

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Friday October 4, 2019 – Mallorca

 

Palma de Mallorca was the last port before returning to Barcelona.  We had a lazy morning because the ship did not dock until 12:30 pm.

 

DW had her usual breakfast while I slept in [and was missed by our Concierge and the wait staff!].  For lunch I had Mussel potato soup, then Seafood spaghetti, while DW had Summer salad, then Moroccan-style couscous.

 

We disembarked around 1:30 and walked and walked [long pier] to the public parking lot where we found our rental car from Arash Rent a Car [Opel Corsa – small but brand new and with the promised automatic] waiting with the key in a coded lockbox.  DW drove while I navigated [calling on the included TomTom GPS and my pre-printed google maps].

 

Up, up into the mountains we went on twisting roads but at least not much traffic.  Our first destination was Valldemossa, nestled into the side of the mountain.  We paid for parking, got a map in the TI and toddled over to walk the streets of this quaint but overrun town.

 

We particularly wanted to see Real Cartuja [Monastery].  Early on it was the palace of King Sancho I and passed on to Carthusian monks who lived in it for 400 years.  Chopin visited a number of times and got great inspiration for his composing from being in this hilly retreat.  He was usually there with his partner George Sand.

 

We also went into the Hostelry of the Nobles and the Palace of the King before heading to a famous viewpoint, Miranda des Lledoners.

 

Back on the road we attempted to visit several sights but parking became an issue and the hours of operation were already over for the day.  [This was the downside of the morning lie-in with our late port schedule.]

 

We were able to visit Son Marroig, the home of Archduke Luis Salvador of Austria.  The house had great views of the sea and the mountains, and especially of the unusual rock formation called Na Foradada ('pierced rock').  Afterwards we walked through the gardens [we were restricted to one area with a tiny pond with two ducks].

 

We drove through Deia– we couldn’t find the church with the great view – and Casa Museo de Robert Graves was closing for the day as we pulled up.

 

We continued down the mountain and caught sight of the sprawling city of Sóller.  Going round and round, in and out of narrow winding lanes [and round again], we finally found a parking place [which seemed to be free, even though we weren’t sure it was legal!]  DW took photos of street signs and landmarks as we tried to find the City Centre.  [This was her way of dropping bread crumbsto find our way back.]  We finally followed the trolley tracks on another tourist’s advice and wound up in the main plaza [Plaça de sa Constitutió] facing the Modernista-style Church of Sant Bartomeu.  DW peeked inside: very ornate!

 

Next to it was the former Banco de Sóller [now Santander] which is another Modernista-style landmark.

 

We walked up the street to the RR station which houses two small museums—Miró (paintings) and Picasso (ceramics).  [Thankfully they were free because we wouldn’t want to have paid money to see these works.]

 

We finally found Ca’n Prunera Museu Modernista, but it was closing [we thought we had time, but were misinformed about the hours].

 

We found our way back to the car [without needing the breadcrumbs] and it was still there and unticketed!

 

We began to head out of Sóller to find a special viewpoint up in Fornalutz, but DW opted to turn around as the streets were less than narrow and it was too harrowing a drive.

 

I got us out of town fairly quickly and onto the major roadway back to the port, which has a tunnel through the mountain [much to DW’s relief – I had planned it this way, knowing that we would be tired by this point].  We had to top off the fuel tank, but finding a station was a challenge.  We passed one on a one-way street coming out onto the highway and couldn’t find another. So we drove up and down and around and finally DW made an illegal turn into the station’s exit, passed the pumps and made a U-turn back to fill up.  No harm, no foul!

 

The GPS now became a problem, as I didn’t have an address for the parking lot where we had found the car.  But our joint sense of direction got us back to the port area and we found the port entrance [on the second pass…]  Navigating within the port area was still confusing, so when DW spotted the rental car building she expertly guided the car over a pedestrian walkway and got us in the back door.  [Rick Steves should love that!]  We were able to park the car in the exact same spot where we’d found it.  As instructed we paid one Euro to get a parking receipt for the dashboard.  Amen!

 

A note about Mallorca: many of the place names seemed odd for a part of Spain [Fornalutx, Andratx, Plaça de sa Constitutió].  I checked with @roger b, the Mallorca expert on Cruise Critic, who confirmed that it is Catalan!

 

We were back in our suite before 8 and got ready for dinner.  We were in Allan’s section, as we were most nights, and I tipped him before we left.  I started with a small portion of Gratinated lasagnette with Asiago cheese and Parma ham and DW had Vesuvius salad, before we both devoured the Pistachio-crusted rack of lamb.  For dessert, we both had Tarte Tatin [with vanilla ice cream on the side, as suggested by Allan].

 

Time to pack!  We got the bags out into the corridor at exactly 1 am [the late deadline is another benefit of the MSC Yacht Club].

 

I was fighting a head cold, so both of us began taking Zicam.  [I still got the cold, but it was mild and over in a few days – and most importantly it stayed in my throat through the plane ride.]

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Saturday October 5, 2019 – Flyin’ Home

 

Up at 7 am and out of the room by 7:40 to breakfast in the YC Restaurant. Emanuel (the singing concierge) held our carry-ons at the desk.

 

When we were ready to leave, Rosa our butler escorted us to baggage claim in the terminal and made sure we found everything.

 

Just after 9, our driver from Barcelona Day Tours showed up, brought our luggage to the Mercedes S-class car, and chatted us all the way to the airport.

 

It took around 45 minutes to get through security and passport control. We also checked two duty free shops for Silent Pool gin.  No luck! [I didn’t actually have much hope, but we had time so it was worth looking.  I will have to consider flying home via LHR in the future, to keep up my supply…]

 

We still had time to kill, so we took advantage of our Priority Pass lounge membership to visit the Joan Miró lounge.

 

Before boarding our plane, I was pulled aside to be searched by airport security.  They wiped down my clothing and my carry-ons.  Luckily I didn’t have anything verboten [thank God we hadn’t packed a lunch!]

 

Our Delta flight was again on time, and we again enjoyed great service and surprisingly good food from our top notch flight crew, who were both personable and efficient.  [Comfort Plus is almost like flying coach in the ‘60s!]  And our captain got us home an hour early – luckily the limo driver was just dropping someone off, so he could loop around and pick us up just as we pulled our bags out of the terminal.

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Thank you for your superb and extremely comprehensive review!

 

Of course, I took particular enjoyment in your comments as they mirrored mine!  We took our first YC cruise two years ago and are returning on our 5th later this year.

 

You identified so many of the "MSC buttons" that people comment on so I will take the liberty and add my own comments on some of them.

 

I think that a big mistake that people make is going in and expecting a North American cruise line that has "Italian Night" seven days a week. It's not - it's truly Italian with all of its quirks, irritations and as you stated in your car analogy - excitement!

 

The value (while admittedly not as good as it was even two years ago ...) is superb and unmatched in the industry.

 

You mentioned Ponant - we went on a cruise along the Croatian Coast 6 years ago and it remains one of our favourite cruises ever - despite the cruise line! Dinners were a miserable affair and the cost, even then, was about two YC sailings today.

 

Our return to Celebrity this past year was fine. No-one died, I wasn't mugged on board and the power stayed on. It's a little head scratching for me to see how people discuss the suite experience on Celebrity on these boards in reverential tones.  I left Celebrity after about 250 nights on board 6 years ago and decided to give them another chance in May.  There really was very little value for the amount paid.

 

In terms of service, we may have been lucky but I really can't remember any staff on MSC that I encountered with an attitude or problem. I have always used the Golden Rule with all staff that I encounter and realize what it's like to be away from your family serving people who may not always appreciate their efforts.  As a non-light drinker (I'm trying to be polite), I like interacting with the bartenders and it's never been a problem to lean against the bar and chat with the bartender. It's true that I tip for my drinks as I go along but a please, smile and enquiry about their day certainly doesn't hurt!

 

I really enjoy the various lounge entertainments (especially in the Top Sail Lounge) but their production shows are a bit .... insane. They remind me of travelling as a teen in Europe in the 70's and watching the various Italian variety shows on TV that appeared to be Second City spoofs. The less said the better. But again - I'm a live music guy and MSC offers far more choices than the competition.

 

As for the food, I will walk the line between your observations and those who really didn't like what was offered.  It really helps to be an omnivore and follow the server's recommendations. It's a little judgemental, but I shake my head at people who go on an Italian line and want roast/grilled chicken or a steak every night. If that's your default, perhaps you should stick with one of the other big players.

 

Unfortunately, I frequently found the quality of the raw ingredients in the YC restaurant to be a bit disappointing. But again - no problem as the price paid for the cruise and the cost of the excellent specialties was so reasonable, that I simply started dining out more!

 

I have stated numerous times - I welcome the naysayers as it helps keeps the cost down for us True Believers!

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Thank you excellent review that mimics our recent experiences on both Seaview and last week on Fantasia, the value in the YC is still very high, as you say, especially when compared with pricing in the luxury, 6 star cruise line market.

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Thank you for your review a true pleasure to read. I love MSC and all it offers and the more you cruise with them the more you get use to Italian disorganisation 😃 you just learn to  go with the flow and have another prosecco .

We normally cruise with Non Yacht club but this November we have been upgraded to YC deck 18 so it will be very interesting to experience it. We cruised non YC the same time last November but a different itinerary 

So pleased you didnt encounter the issues Wonderman claims to have.

Can I ask though were there cushions on the sun loungers on the pool deck 

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24 minutes ago, glittergal1 said:

Can I ask though were there cushions on the sun loungers on the pool deck 

 

We never went up there, so I really don't know.

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1 hour ago, glittergal1 said:

Thank you for your review a true pleasure to read. I love MSC and all it offers and the more you cruise with them the more you get use to Italian disorganisation 😃 you just learn to  go with the flow and have another prosecco .

We normally cruise with Non Yacht club but this November we have been upgraded to YC deck 18 so it will be very interesting to experience it. We cruised non YC the same time last November but a different itinerary 

So pleased you didnt encounter the issues Wonderman claims to have.

Can I ask though were there cushions on the sun loungers on the pool deck 

None on Fantasia last week, our preference is the dining type chairs and a table, with an umbrella if one is free.

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Thanks Jazzbeau, great review. I'm not so fond of the food as you, and would agree with Dr Cocktail's comments in this regard.

 

We always set our expectations though - when we book an MSC cruise, it's for reasons other than the food, and we're paying a reasonable price. It is definitely a factor that comes up every time we book a cruise - 'Food's not as good as XYZ line, BUT....'

 

You also did all the ports justice! A shame you missed Corsica but you certainly made the best of it.

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12 hours ago, glittergal1 said:

Thank you for your review a true pleasure to read. I love MSC and all it offers and the more you cruise with them the more you get use to Italian disorganisation 😃 you just learn to  go with the flow and have another prosecco .

We normally cruise with Non Yacht club but this November we have been upgraded to YC deck 18 so it will be very interesting to experience it. We cruised non YC the same time last November but a different itinerary 

So pleased you didnt encounter the issues Wonderman claims to have.

Can I ask though were there cushions on the sun loungers on the pool deck 


“Claims” 🙄🙄🙄🙄

And people wonder why I haven’t posted a final review of my cruises...

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