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CeleBrat

Informative, detailed HONEST review of the Orchestra 04/04/09 sailing

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We booked this cruise over a year ago, based on a fabulous KIDS FREE deal that included Spring Break week. Was it too good to be true? Just how “Italian” and quirky would it be? We had over a year to plan for it, and surprisingly, despite my compulsive schedule/planning desire, I never once, in the 370 days of waiting for the cruise, planned a darn thing. This was going to b a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants cruise. I did join the Roll Call for this sailing, so instantly had a large group of friends on board.

 

But, back to the review…

 

Traveling on this cruise is myself, DH, DS (8) and DD (6). We have been on many cruises, on many cruiselines, and were looking forward to trying this unique cruiseline.

 

Living in Central Florida, we drove down the Port Everglades, spending 3+ hours in the car with my DD snoring away. We opted to park at United Parking, since it was HALF the price of port parking (OK—this is the one thing I did research.)

 

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The United facility is located in a very industrial section of town, but only a few miles from the port. Oddly enough, their website directions even mention “It will appear that the road ends at the railroad tracks. Make a left and keep going.” It’s somewhat remote. The facility offers covered (for a premium) or non-covered parking for $56+ tax for the week. A courtesy shuttle is also offered to the port. We arrived, checked our car in, and were on our way to the port in about 20 minutes. The random strangers that we were riding with in the shuttle actually swung by the port first to drop off their luggage. Ohh---smart idea.

 

At the port, we are able to pull right up to the terminal, unload the luggage, and be processed on the ship very quickly. Less than 30 minutes total, and that even included the mandatory “Welcome Aboard” photo.

 

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While we were going through the on-board journey, we encountered out first “quirky” moment of this Italian cruise line: we had to stop by a table to pick up the kids lifejackets. At first we were taken aback, but then remembered how many times we had been on other ships and had to ask the Room Steward multiple times for kid-sized lifejackets before receiving them. We’ve even been to the Muster Drill with the kids in the adult jackets and been scolded for not having the kids jackets, which, of course, is SO NOT OUR FAULT!! So, this little quirk was a good thing.

 

 

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We also noticed that the x-ray machine bag screeners are affiliated with the port, not the cruise line, so they could care less what you carry-on in your bag, even if it’s soda or alcohol. We had a 2 L bottle of Diet Mt Dew, and no one batted an eye. Just sayin’, for those who need to know such things.

 

Also need to give a shout-out as to how nice those port people are. Everty single one of them wished us a “good sailing” or “nice cruise”.

 

Once onboard we were directed up to Deck 13 for the buffet lunch. After having read (on this board) that the best location to avoid crowds was the aft section of the buffet, we quickly headed back there to find….it was closed. Hmm…that was odd. So, we fought the crowds in the non-aft section and enjoyed our first meal. And, it was quite good. Although some may disagree, it seemed very authentic Italian, having just been there in the past year. Good stuff: thinly sliced and fried pork, lots of interesting salads, etc…

 

The windows in the buffet are floor-to-ceiling, so it seemed like we were eating on the edge of a precipice.

 

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Following lunch, we learned our cabin was ready. We quickly navigated our way one deck down to 12056, an interior quad cabin, and definitely the smallest cabin we had ever had. Ever. We really had to work hard to keep everything neat because the cabin was so small. There really wasn’t any shelf space for clothing, so I double or triple hung things on hangers, some of which I had brought from home. We also used the space behind the TV to store things, and hung our beach bag from the corner of the mirror. The 3-door closet featured 2 sections for hanging clothing (check), and one section that was a set of 7 small drawers with safe on top. YIKES! We are used to much more space than that. We took the life jackets off the shelf and put them in our suitcases so that we could use the lifejacket shelf to store thing. And, thank goodness we had our over-the-door shoe holder. NOTE—we are not picky-cabin people, and can easily travel with the 4 of us in an interior, but this week we were really wishing we had booked a balcony.

 

On a funny note, we turned on the TV to find “WELCOME to the McFerrin Family." Who are the McFerrins? Not us!

 

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So, we jokingly wondered if we had been upgraded somewhere else (haha), or if there would be another family stopping by claiming the cabin as theirs. Fortunately, or unfortunately, neither happened, and later that evening our names had been magically corrected on the TV.

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Once properly acquainted with our cabin, we set out to explore the ship. It was somewhat confusing with no major central atrium that spans the ship, there is a 3-story atrium in the center of the ship, but since it is so small, it failed to anchor us.

 

 

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The 3 “main floors” of the ship were a mix of bars, and more bars, and lounges, photo gallery, casino, Internet Café and card room and library tucked away. It was easy to forget which floor you were on. There was also no main Shop onboard. Rather, the shop was series of individual shops that sprawled out over half a deck. Those shops included several jewelry stores, perfumery, high-end fashion, and souvenir shop. My advice to MSC—if they want people to really spend money, they need to find a way to tie those shops together so that you only enter once, and get “sucked in” until you reach the other side. Frankly, it was too hard to ship! And OH NO, was there not a $10 Bijoux Terner store onboard. It is traditional that every time I cruise I buy a $10 Bijoux watch to wear during the cruise. If I can’t do this, we will not know what time it is!!!!!!

 

While exploring, we discovered several playgrounds on Deck 14, above the pool deck. All total, there were 3 play areas, 2 of which included slides and bouncy animals, and 1 that was a fun-house type climbing structure (like Mc Donald’s Playplaces)

 

 

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The kids playground are the most elaborate I’ve ever encountered on a ship. Usually, there is only a random slide or bouncy animal, or climbing structure located inside the Kids Club. This was all located outside, available to all. It was a great place for the kids to blow off steam. The Kids Clubs were also located near the playgrounds.

 

 

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Later, we attended our Cruise Critic Meet/Greet that included a visit with MSC President Rick Sasso. WOW! What an honor to hang out with him for a moment. He seems to be very concerned with ensuring everyone has a good cruise. At the Meet/Greet, I was also able to put names to faces, and discover who all my Cruise Critic friends were. Hi guys!!

Special thanks to agentgirl for arranging the Rick Sasso visit and meet/greets. If anyone ever gets a chance to cruise with her, do it! She went above-and-beyond for our group, and actually put together an amazing book that had each of our internet bios. And no, we didn’t send her any info. Rather, she sneakily compiled it from our posts. AMAZING!!

 

Following the M/G, it was time for the dreaded Muster Drill. No on really likes this, right…? We traipsed down to our Muster Station, to happily find that it was in the Casino. Woo Hoo! No standing outside and sweating for us!!! We got to leisurely sit in the stools and partake in the drill. Just call it the Muster Station for High-Rollers. (Right!)

 

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No sooner had the drill ended, than the neighboring ships began to sail away. We watched the Independence of the Seas depart, while standing outside, and chatting to our parents (DD and DS Grandparents) on the phone. DD built a bed for herself out of those lifejackets so she could recline while talking on the phone.

 

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Since we weren’t scheduled to depart until later, we headed down to dinner: early seating in L’Ibisicus, table 668. There has been a lot of negative information on these boards about dinner, and the fact that it takes forever. Not sure what happened on our cruise, but we were always able to get in and out of the dining room in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Our waiters were super-efficient, and we were also able to hit the “ late seating” show, which started at 6:45 or 7pm. And, to make matters worse, we actually ENJOYED our food. It was hot, and cooked well, and good to eat. Some of the choices we made were a bit odd. For instance, DH ordered “Chicken Bites” the first night as his main course, and was dismayed to find that it was a leg and a thigh covered with sauce. Not-so-much normal–sized bites. Oh well.

 

After dinner, we opted NOT to go to “Welcome Aboard” show. Rather, we headed up to the pool deck so DS could play some foosball. And this is where we encountered one of those embarrassing American passengers. He and his friend were standing in the hot tub are, sopping wet, drinking their buckets of beer, and arguing with the Security Staff. It seemed that the pools and hot tubs had closed at 6:30pm, but Embarrassing American Guy decided that he didn’t agree with the rule. So, he refused to get out of the hot tub. And continued to drink. Because he was so argumentative, and drunk, there were quite a few Security Crew Members present, all dressed in dark suits, with radios in the ears. Embarrassing American Guy kept saying, “This is Sh__. If I pay for this cruise, I should be able to use all this stuff for way longer than 6:30. It’s CR__. What are you gonna do? Throw me off the ship?”

 

At this point, although we had sailed away from Ft. Lauderdale, we had stopped sailing, and were just floating off the coast of Florida. Embarrassing American thought the ship had been stopped so it could be turned around and he thrown off.

 

“They’re throwing me off the ship! I can’t believe this Sh__! Are you throwing me off the ship because I won’t get outta the hot tub?”

 

He kept going on and on, and the Italian Security guys were scratching their heads stymied with what to do with the drunk Embarrassing American. He was so loud, you couldn’t help but stop and watch, and a crowd of onlookers had also gathered on the deck above the hot tubs.

 

We walked past to the foosball tables, and tried to ignore it, but like an accident on the side of the road, you couldn’t help but continue to look.

 

Eventually, he ran out of beer. So he got mad, and left the hot tub. So, the staff quickly shut it down. But, Embarrassing American didn’t go far. He planted himself at the table right next to ours, and began to demand that someone bring him beer. He approached the bar behind us, which was also closed, and asked the lone attendant to “Get me some beer.” The attendant shook his head, and said “Sorry, this bar is closed,” and returned to mopping the floor. So, Embarrassing American said, “Cantcha call someone to bring some here?”

 

The lone attendant sheepishly picked up the phone and called someone, most likely Security, for assistance.

 

We eventually left, and continued to see Embarrassing American throughout the week. We were astounded that he was still onboard, and sober!

 

And so ends our first adventurous day aboard the MSC Orchestra.

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DAY 2—At Key West

 

Our oh-so-dark interior cabin allowed us to “sleep in” until 8:30am. EEEK! We quickly dressed and dashed up to the buffet, and were ecstatic to find that the “secret” aft buffet was open, and not crowded…at all! Hurray! Again, in direct conflict with some of the info found on this board, we found a nice assortment of breakfast foods, including meats, pastries, traditional hot breakfast food, and cereals. Two things of note that we wouldn’t normally find on other cruise lines: the choices or both pancakes and waffles, as most other cruise lines offer one or the other, as well as a nice assortment of cereal that include Cookie Crisp, DD's fav! Nice!

 

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I do have do admit that the bacon was a little crazy because it was chopped up into bits, which made it very hard to eat. For those that are more adventurous, there was also sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, tomato foccacia bread and baked beans for breakfast as well.

 

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How good and fresh does all this stuff look?

 

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Having been at Key West many, many times before we were in no rush to get off the ship, and instead just lounged around the rest of the morning. It wasn’t until after lunch that we finally got off the ship.

 

But the water in Key West was calling to us...

 

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Donned in swimsuits, we headed to Fort Zachary Taylor beach. (OK maybe I researched this beach on the internet well…) I was initially dismayed to find that we were docked at the “faraway dock” (the military base) which meant a shuttle ride to the downtown area, since I was armed with walking directions to the beach from downtown. But imagine our surprise when the shuttle driver tells us, “To your right as we leave the port area is Fort Zachary Taylor Beach. Anyone need me to stop the shuttle so they can get off?” US—US—US!!

 

We raise our hands, and everyone on the tram looks at us. Graciously, and importantly we exit the tram and begin the 10ish minute walk down the winding and somewhat barren State Park entrance road to the beach. We could still see the ship as we walked down the road.

 

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NOTE—entrance fee to the park is a whopping $1.50 per person!

 

While walking down the road we observe several people on bikes, and make a mental note that if we end up at the downtown pier next time we visit, we would rent bikes to get to the beach. While walking, we also pass the fort, after which Fort Zachary Taylor beach is named. From afar it does not look to be in great shape. Plus, it’s super hot out, so we opt to walk to right on by. At the end of the road is a bike parking area (file that away for next time too), as well as the start of several nature trails. Nope, too hot for them too.

 

We follow the signs into an area shaded by pine trees, and discover the beach. Is there any way better to hang at the beach than by leaving your things at a shaded picnic table? This place ROCKS!!!

 

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The beach is somewhat rocky, by very clean, and not crowded at all. There are several patches of rocks to climb on that also make great photo ops.

 

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We spend several hours at the beach and are also able to watch our FAVORITE cruise ship arrive at port as well—the Disney Magic. We LOVE the Disney Magic, but this cruise was all about trying something new, and a good price!

 

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Throughout the beach area there are several works of art, including this cool metallic wall:

 

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It's the best I looked in the swimsuit all week!

 

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And this concrete garden:

 

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As well as this cool “Where in the world is?” sign”:

 

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Also available, for those who are interested in going to this park, is a snack bar serving sandwiches and drinks (cash only), clean bathrooms, showers, and an “on your honor” box of sand toys to borrow. You can also rent snorkel equipment and kayaks.

 

Fort Zachary Taylor Beach is definitely someplace I would highly recommend, and we will definitely go back next time we end up at Key West.

 

One downside though…is attempting to get back one of the shuttles to get back to the ship. We walked back to the checkpoint for the shuttles, you know, the one where they check everyone’s ID and ship card before allowing the shuttle to enter the base, and waited for several shuttles before one finally showed up that had a few empty seats. People on the shuttle already were a little confused as to why we were boarding there, seemingly in the middle of “nowhere”.

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Once back onboard, we headed up to the pool deck to watch the sail away. There was no fanfare, or deck party, or music or anything. The ship just blew its horn several times, then started to sail.

 

And that’s when we realized the ship is lacking somewhat in ENERGY. We noticed, as the week went on, that it was rare that we encountered any music or muzak. The only music we heard was either the trio or quartet that would play in the atrium from time-to-time, or the singers in the lounges. That’s it. There was no steel drum band, or poolside atmosphere music coming through the speakers, or anything anywhere. It was oddly quiet, and thus seemed lifeless at times. Just an observation.

 

Dinner that night was formal, so we dressed in our finery.

 

 

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While preparing for dinner, we encountered the dreaded washcloth “situation”, as previously mentioned here on Cruise Critic. I hate to admit it, but our bathroom was not stocked with washcloths for the first two days. After I started using the medium-sized hand towels for washcloths, the real washcloths did show up. But, they disappeared later again on day 5. It seemed to be a rolling shortage, that phantomly hit each deck on a different day.

 

Our day onboard couldn’t be complete without a visit to the Gelateria on Deck 13, which served true, authentic, gelato. Oh-my-gosh-it-was-good! MSC is making quite a mint on their gelato, charging $1.50 per cup. Our family went once per day, but couldn’t resist.

 

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We did have to laugh at the people who didn’t understand that it was Italian gelato, and not just ice cream. We overheard one woman say, to her husband “It looks really strange for ice cream, but it sure does taste good.” .

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Great review so far, love the pics.

 

JMHO but I thought the $1.50 price for the Gelato was a bargain. I can't imagine MSC making a 'mint' at this price.

 

Looking forward to reading the rest.

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Can't thank you enough for your detailed review. As I said before...the one you wrote about the Gem was the best I've ever read on here.

 

I love how you add the pictures...and above all else...your honesty.

 

Looking forward to the rest of this cruise....and for the ones to come.

 

Thanks again.

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You are such a natural at this!! I am loving your review and your photos. It is bringing it all back.........and it was a joy to see you on the ship. Maybe I'll run into you at the House of the Mouse one of these days!

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wHAT A WONDERFUL DETAILED REVIEW. iT IS REALLY ENJOYABLE TO READ AND SEE YOUR PICS TOO. cANT WAIT FOR THE NEXT INSTALMENT

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Glad you guys are liking the review. I really enjoy writing them. (It drives my family nuts though, since I'm constantly taking notes of things we do, and millions of pics.)

 

Great review so far, love the pics.

 

JMHO but I thought the $1.50 price for the Gelato was a bargain. I can't imagine MSC making a 'mint' at this price.

 

Looking forward to reading the rest.

 

Thanks monicajay!

 

We guesstimated that each pan of gelato was worth at least $50 by the time they sold their multiple $1.50 servings. And, it seemed like there were ALWAYS people waiting in line to buy gelato.

 

It sure was good to eat though, wasn't it? I know our family alone "donated" $35 to gelato last week.

 

CeleBrat

Edited by CeleBrat

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DAY 3 COZUMEL

 

Oh-my-gosh, starting a cruise with no sea days is quite stressful. Here we are on Day 3 with no time to relax quite yet. Right!

 

Our interior room allowed us to sleep in again until 8:30am. So, once again we jumped out off bed, got ready, and headed up for breakfast to our secret aft deck.

 

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We had also been to Cozumel a million times, and were in no rush to get off the ship. So, our family split into the boys vs. the girls. The boys lounged around onboard, playing foosball, while the girls darted off the ship for a quick shopping venture.

 

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We were docked at Punta Lagosta, so our disembarkation was quick and easy.

 

Out-of-the-blue, DD decided that she wanted to take a "Leaning Tower" picture with the ship. Huh? "Remember?" she said, "In Italy where you take a picture and you hold up the tower?"

 

Ah yes...

 

Here is our version of the "Leaning Tower Ship" picture.

 

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As you reach the end of the pier, you are “smartly” routed through a shopping mall before you can reach the street level. In previous years, many of the stores in this mall were more pricey than the local street vendors, so we would walk past them down to the street. This time, we noticed a “Fiesta Bargain Store” as we walked through the mall, so decided to take a peek inside to see if there were truly any bargains.

 

And surprisingly, there were!

 

Many of the trinkets and whatnot were less than $5, which is important when you are allowing DD to spend her own money on souvenirs. From that one store, we picked up beer bottle openers for $1 each, several toy trinkets for DD for $1 each, and several pottery items for $5 each. We had such good luck at that first store that we decided to just stay in the mall and shop for the rest of the morning, and found it to be quite reasonable.

 

DD bought name bracelets for herself and her brother, which was very exciting for her.

 

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Frustratingly, DS lost his bracelet after only wearing it once. Anyway...

 

We also found some good quality inexpensive t-shirts and XMAS ornaments. All total, we spent 90 minutes at that mall before we decided to head back to the ship.

 

On the way back, DD was complaining about a new blister on her foot (from her sparkly silver flip flops), and I was dreading the walk on the long pier back to the ship. Not-to-worry, several industrious locals were offering pedicab rides from one end of the pier to the other for FREE (just tip us, please senorita). So, we hopped on, and laughed like crazy as the pedicab driver dodged around all the walking pedestrians. We made it back to the ship in 2 minutes. How fun!

 

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Back onboard, we met up with the boys and tested out our golfing skills. It’s a good thing there are only 5 holes on this course, since we were in the blazing-hot Mexican midday sun.

 

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Nearby on the other upper Sports Decks are also tennis courts (what?!?!) and basketball hoops. And, if you’re the type that didn’t plan ahead and bring your own rackets, then not-to-worry. The ship has some that can be signed out, as well as tennis balls and basketballs.

 

Right on schedule, following our sports zone visit, we ate lunch. There was no need for us to go all the way back to the aft section, because clearly, we were the only ones NOT on shore in Mexico at that moment. We had the place to ourselves! But we wonder, why do people automatically stop at the first buffet line they see? Why do they not explore and find the way-back buffet like us?

 

Even though it was only Day 3 of the cruise, I was already feeling guilty over the kids horribly unbalanced cruise diet of pizza and French fries. So, I forced them to eat some spinach at lunch today too. You can just hear them saying “Awww….Mom!”

 

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On the other end of the spectrum, I discovered my all-time FAV dessert from the buffet—a square cream-filled pastry. Perhaps I ate two during that meal? Don’t worry, I had spinach too.

 

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For the more adventuresome, there was also seafood salad available, with squid, octopus, and scallops. No thanks! Although, it was pretty to look at.

 

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After lunch, we all headed off-ship together as a family, this time to Paradise Beach. On the pier, DD convinces DH that the pedi cabs are THE BEST THING EVER, so we pair up and hop into them, racing boys vs. girls. The boys won.

 

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Cab fare to PB from Punta Lagosta was $14 each way. The cabs (there and back) were clean, and had seatbelts, (for those who would like to know).

 

We have been to PB 3 times before, and always enjoy our time there.

 

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This time no exception. Again, the facility was clean, the staff welcoming, and the drinks cold. The wristbands for the water toys now cost $10, but there are more toys available in the water to “play with: 2 water trampolines, several anchored rafts, climbing iceberg, and giant combo balance beam slide thing, which can be seen in the background of this photo.

 

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DS tried to master the iceberg, but truthfully, couldn't get past the first row of steps, as seen here:

 

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He had better luck on the trampoline.

 

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DS had lots of fun and wore himself out swimming between everything. I too got a good workout attempting to keep up with him.

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New at PB, or at least we didn’t notice these things last time, were a land trampoline. Free, except for tips. I couldn't convince DS to go on it, and DD, well, she's too girly to try it. Maybe next time we visit...

 

Several macaws.

 

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Free 15 minutes of internet, although we couldn’t get it to work.

 

Hammocks.

 

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And the usual massage tent, shopping area, and water sport rentals.

 

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Never changing, from year-to-year, is the amazing atmosphere and tropical view.

 

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We also noticed a few things that really impressed us. Those PB owners are really saavy business owners. Outside the bar, there are several open-air tents set-up with soda machines. They are there for the taxi drivers, and is PB’s way of ensuring the taxi drivers stay at PB so there is always a cab for the guests to take BACK to the port. We also noticed an ambulance on standby-by in the parking lot. Maybe it was just there for the day, or maybe it is always there, just in case. Who knows? I was impressed to have medical help nearby.

 

The waiters are also very trusting of you. When we arrived, we offered to pay for our first round of drinks. Instead, the waiter said, “No, we will start a tab.” How did he know we weren’t going to dine-n-dash? And lastly, lifeguards. Those guys are in the water, in kayaks, paddling around. Now granted, they can’t see the entire water areas at once, so someone could still drown. But still, must knowing that there are lifeguards there is reassuring.

 

Always a good day at Paradise Beach….

 

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Edited by CeleBrat

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On our way back to the ship, we are routed again through that mall. But, we discover a cool cut-out photo moment. Who can’t resist these silly photos?

 

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Back at the pier, we splurge for another pedicab race, this time the girls win!

 

I also laugh at this…Just LOVE Mexico!! Phones anyone…? Actually, who still uses payphones these days? It made for a beautiful picture though.

 

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Once back onboard, we opt to skip dinner in the dining room so we can watch the ship sail away. Because we have early seating dinner, we have to start getting ready for dinner at 4pm, and we just weren’t in the mood for that. Instead, more some pool/hot tub time.

 

A few obligatory blasts from the horn, which causes DS to plug his ears, and we are on our way!

 

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We eat in the buffet with a seaside atmosphere. What a view!

 

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We discover that the food in the dinner buffet is the same as in the dining room (by comparing menus), although obviously it isn’t presented as nicely. I also have to work much harder in the buffet because I must first get the kids drinks, then supervise them as they get their food, then settle them at the table, then get my food. Phew!

 

The dessert selection at dinner is suspiciously similar to the desserts offered at lunch. OK—they were EXACTLY the same as the ones offered at lunch. I’m a little disappointed, as dessert is my favorite part of the meal and I love discovering new fun dessert treats.

 

To make up for that, we make a quick visit to the Gelateria. DD made sure she licked every last bit of the gelato out of that dish.

 

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Then DD went off to the Kids Club, while DS hung out at the foosball table. He also “hung out” at the bars surrounding the stairwell supports as well.

 

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I am beginning to suspect he will not step foot in the Kids Club on this cruise, probably because the “Juniors” Club is childishly circus themed, complete with tiger and zebra chairs. I don’t know about you, but the circus is not too hip with kids his age.

 

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I honestly think that while this ship is in Europe, the "Juniors" Club room actually houses toddlers, due to the highchairs that can be seen pushed up against the back wall of the facility. Since this is MSC's first season in the USA, they just haven't figured out how to transition to accommodate the older American kids. The same could be said for the teens,who didn't have a dedicated facility to go to. Rather, they assembled at the disco,which resulted in adults and teens being present in the same venue during the later evening hours.

 

DD has fun in her “Mini” Club though. Themed as a Safari, the club has a giant padded tree in the center of it, and the kids get a kick out of being able to sit on the roots.

 

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Mini Club activities for the evening include a Mini Disco and Ice Cream Party. What could be better?

 

DH and I sit poolside, watching DS from afar at the foosball tables. The sunset was a spectacular sight as well that evening.

 

DSCF0353.jpg

 

We laugh when the poolside staff begin to drag all the tables and chairs away in preparation for the poolside movie. They stop at our table and give us a look, as if to silently say, “Are you really going to continue to sit in those chairs because we need to move them?”

 

Just another little quirk…

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We are seriously looking at MSC for next spring break. Could you tell me what you had to pay for (besides the ice cream and room service) that is usually free on other lines? Thanks, and great review - please keep it coming!

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Didn't have to pay for room service. Was a charge for gelatto and ice cream. But RCC charges at their Ben and Jerry's as well.

One thing I found on MSC was that Photos were far less expensive than other cruise lines. Drinks seemed less too. Beer was a bucket of 4 for $12, and often had a special of 4 for $10.

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Great review, Celebrat! However your use of "Embrassing American" only adds fuel to those that feel that MSC is anti-American... Why don't say "embarassing fellow passenger," "jerk," or something like that? Manners or lack of them are not an American issue, but a universal one. I am not American and, granted, I am embarassed when I see somebody from my own country behaving as a bad tourist. Still , we should not be blaming nationality for lack of manners of some people.

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Great review, Celebrat! However your use of "Embrassing American" only adds fuel to those that feel that MSC is anti-American... Why don't say "embarassing fellow passenger," "jerk," or

 

I'll back Celebrat on this one. I'm an American, and I think most visitors to this country would agree that most Americans are normal and quite nice people. HOWEVER, we do have a small but very very obnoxious subculture which might be called "alcoholcentric": if it doesn't involve mass quantities of alcohol it isn't "fun", and the only purpose of drinking is to get drunk and stay drunk. Some other nations have this attitude, but not all.

 

Most of us have overindulged at one time or another and have learned that the more you drink the louder and dumber and more infantile you get. These alcoholcentric types are unable or unwilling to break the cycle. Getting hammered every weekend from the time you're in junior high is a great way to remain a perpetual adolescent. Despite being obnoxious and self-centered they are used to being waited on hand and foot by the bar industry, just because it is so incredibly profitable. When they encounter staff not inclined to indulge them like a baby needing a diaper, they sulk at the "rude" behavior. Never been to Italy, but I do not believe they encourage public drunkenness to anywhere near the extent we do. Perhaps the "stares" from the Italian staff are richly deserved; and the staffers from Indonesia, a Muslim-majority nation, must be quite expert at biting their tongues.

 

The number of Americans who do not drink at all is doubtless higher than those who overindulge. But probably few other cultures encourage irresponsible drinking in public to the extent that it happens in America. Witness the squalid legions of teens turned loose on Fort Lauderdale and South Beach every spring. Most teens, of course, sow their oats and move on. For some it becomes a sad lifelong spectacle.

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Great review, Celebrat! Keep it coming. It is so nice to read the review and it is bringing back all of the memories that we had in Jan. on the Orchestra. I wish I was there again.

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Glad you guys are liking the review. I really enjoy writing them. (It drives my family nuts though, since I'm constantly taking notes of things we do, and millions of pics.)

 

 

Hi Celebrat - didn't get to meet you at the 1st meet and greet - we were late! I love what you said above - that is how my family feels about me! I'm going to post my review this week - we had a GREAT vacation on our 1st ever cruise - look for my review soon!

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Great review, Celebrat! However your use of "Embrassing American" only adds fuel to those that feel that MSC is anti-American... Why don't say "embarassing fellow passenger," "jerk," or something like that? Manners or lack of them are not an American issue, but a universal one. I am not American and, granted, I am embarassed when I see somebody from my own country behaving as a bad tourist. Still , we should not be blaming nationality for lack of manners of some people.

 

 

I agree with Celebrat - when I post my review - I will first off start by saying the group of passengers that made us not enjoy cruising (this was our first cruise) - were the OBNOXIOUS, drunk Americans and the ignorant Americans that kept complaining VERY loudly that "we were in America and all these Italians and foreigners needed to learn English and remember that!"

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While I am glad that you and your family had a great cruise, the 19 people we had on board did not. Yes, I refused to get out of the hot tub.this being my 15th cruise and knowing what amenities that are offered on all other cruise lines, I come on these cruises for the hot tubs and the pool. No where in any of MSC policies and passenger ticket do they state that the pool area will be closed at 6 pm. Also many others that were on the ship with us were rather upset with the service we did not recieve. We also pay good money for these cruises and I have never been treated as badly as what we were treated on this cruise. And while I posed a embarrassment to you,many others were grateful that some one stood up for what was right. If MSC wants to cruise in an american market they must adapt to what most people want from a carribean cruise. Finally after many conversations with the guest relations officer on this ship I did offer to him that I was sorry that we inconvienance his crew by taking the time and money to sail on their cruise line.

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DAY 4 GRAND CAYMAN

 

Another lazy start today, as we weren’t in a rush to get off the ship since we’ve been to Grand Cayman a few dozen times. And, DS was sunburned from Paradise Beach so was proclaiming “NO WAY I’m going to a beach today! And NO SHOPPING either!” Clearly, he was in a grumpy mood that morning.

 

DSCF0358.jpg

 

OK, that left nothing to do, as we had also been to Hell, Stingray Sandbar, and on a van/town tour on previous visits to Grand Cayman.

 

And, the Cruise Director was informing us via one of his chipper announcements that we would be leaving Grand Cayman an hour early due to incoming inclement weather. Great!

 

So, we ate breakfast in our favorite way-back aft spot and decided that the girls would get off the ship to shop while the boys just lounged around.

 

We were excited to see both the Disney Magic and the Carnival Legend anchored nearby, both of which we had previously sailed on. It was like a ship-reunion for us!

 

DSCF0359.jpg

 

After breakfast, DD and I gathered our things and took the elevator down to Deck 5 in search of a tender ticket. The elevator opened up right into the midst of the tender line, which was jammed into the stairwell just outside the elevator doors. It was a very crowded and complicated mess. According to MSC policy, you need to get a tender ticket, and then WAIT for your number to be called before attempting to board the tender.

 

But, no one from MSC ever checked for the tender tickets, so it was a “survival of the fittest” type moment. We merged into the line, and were able to get onto a tender after about a 20-minute wait. During that time, we noticed people holding really low tickets (#10) as well as really high numbers (#34). Over the loudspeaker, we were hearing that #12-15 were currently “valid” for boarding. Clearly, the tickets were a non-requirement for boarding since no one was checking.

 

As you can imagine, lots of people were getting frustrated, rightly so. To fix the problem, MSC needs to ensure that they check for the tickets, and also find a way to limit access to the tender access area via the elevators and nearby hallways, which is where all the line jumpers (like us) merged in.

 

The tender trip to the island was quick, easy, and painless, despite feeling like line-jumping criminals. Once we were on the tender, everyone forgot their angst about being in that crazy squished line.

 

I always enjoy the strange close-up views of the ship you get while traveling on a tender.

 

DSCF0362.jpg

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DD and I did not plan on spending a lot of time on shore. My main goal was to find my FAVORITE store—the one that sells linens. I knew it was on a side street, but wasn’t sure which one. So, we randomly walked and checked several until we realized we were too far away from the main area of town.

 

Along the way, we discovered that the two-story outdoor mall has public bathrooms available (2nd floor, all the way in the back), and that there is an ATM machine near the waterfall/Stingray statue. Note—it is a VISA-only ATM, so my Master Card was not usable in the machine.

 

We also discovered this pirate:

 

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And shark:

 

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And these cute stingrays:

 

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And these phones, where DD just had to pretend she was calling someone. (OK—really, we are not obsessed with pay phones, even though I ALSO photographed them in Cozumel too.)

 

DSCF0381.jpg

 

We also re-discovered that Grand Cayman is pricier than Cozumel. No $5 t-shirts, or $1 trinkets. Be aware that some shops in Grand Cayman post prices in GC dollars, not US$. So, the final price, after converting to US$, is higher than the marked price.

 

We finally found “my” store, called “Faraway Places” on the first side street away from the tender pier. So close, yet so far! One tablecloth and two runners later, our shopping expedition was complete!

 

So, back to the ship for us, on a nearly empty tender. More interesting ship views on the way back, this time of those other ships.

 

 

DSCF0393.jpg

 

NOTE—there are lots of tour vendors at the tender pier hawking $20 tours to Hell/Tortuga Rum Factory/Island, etc. and $40 Stingray sandbar tours. Just sharing, for those who are looking for an inexpensive excursion option.

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Back on board, we met up with the guys, and shared lunch at the buffet. This time we sat near in the front (the way-back was closed). Sitting between the two salad bars, we noticed the many fruit/veggie carvings that were all around the buffet. So, I spent a few moments doing the ultimate “Tourist” activity: photographing the food.

 

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And how nice do these chopped salad ingredients look?

 

DSCF0405.jpg

 

And what’s up with Garlic/Mussel pizza? Only for the truly gastronomically adventurous!

 

DSCF0402.jpg

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After thoroughly embarrassing my family by taking pictures of the food, we headed for the Card Room for an invigorating round of family-team card playing.

 

DSCF0415-2.jpg

 

Since DS and DD are 8 and 6 respectively, cards with them equals the Winnie the Pooh version of Crazy 8’s. DH was rolling his eyes and trying so hard to “enjoy” himself.

 

Card game(s) over, we headed back up to the pool deck to participate in Animal Trivia, which involved listening to various animal sounds and trying to guess which animals they represented. It was an interesting take on trivia. We did not win, due to confusing a lion for a tiger.

 

Italian volleyball bowling was another option that afternoon at the pool deck. And, I can proudly say that I did WIN at that. The pins were actually empty blue plastic Bud beer bottles, and the ball was a volleyball. So, if you tried to roll it the normal “bowling” way, the ball would bounce and veer off course. I opted to roll the ball slowly, from between my legs (like a child), and managed to knock all the pins down.

 

DSCF0428-2.jpg

 

The macho guys standing behind me were impressed with my style. But their macho-ness did not allow them to do the same when it was their turn, so they lost. HAHA!!

 

My prize: a crazy surgeon-type MSC cruise hat. Not sure what I’m going to do with it, but DD seems to like it just fine.

 

DSCF0430-1.jpg

 

Once again, the sailaway was uneventful, and involved several blasts of the ship’s horn before quietly sailing away. That bad weather that caused our departure never really materialized.

 

Dinner was quite eventful, as this was the DREADED day we were going to FORCE the kids to eat spaghetti. They are the world’s pickiest eaters, not usually liking to eat things that are new, different, or have green things in them. But, we had warned them prior to sailing that they would try the “real” Italian spaghetti being served onboard the ship. “Nooooooooooooo!” they whined.

 

But, they liked it.

 

DSCF0446-1.jpg

 

So there!

 

After our fulfilling meal, which was served to us very efficiently, we dashed off to the 2nd seating (and thus earlier) show, which was being advertised as an evening of Magic with Jorgos. It was a good show, and he performed several entertaining illusions. He did stumble though, when we pulled an audience member on stage to perform some up-close magic, and she did not speak English. So, many times she just shrugged her shoulders or said, “Yes”, even though he was not asking a question. It was a little awkward.

 

There wasn’t a lot else going on that evening, at least for us. So we spent the remainder of the evening just aimlessly wandering around the ship. I do have to admit we were a little bored. Even the Kids Club had a lull in their activities for the evening, which primarily consisted of attending the show in two sessions, based on whether you were an 1st or 2nd seating diner.

 

So, a quick visit to the Gelateria concluded our night, then we were off to the cabin to watch the Cartoon Channel in English with Spanish commercials.

 

DSCF0454-2.jpg

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Really enjoying this Eva. Sorry we didn't meet on board. We crossed paths a couple of times, including Paradise Beach. Love how you are using your pictures to help tell the story.

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Still loving your review! Be sure to post it in the review section when you get back. It will counter all of the negative reviews. I, too, had a great time on MSC!

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I've never sailed on a non-mass market line yet, but your review gives me a new perspective on cruiselines. I've sailed several of the mass market lines, and I hope I'll be able to cruise MSC or others in the future!

 

Enjoying the review!

 

Jacquelyn :D

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"they must adapt to what most people want from a carribean cruise."

 

I have to respectfully disagree with this statement. I met so many varied individuals on this cruise - Americans included - most were wonderful and all had different reasons for being on this cruise/vacation.

 

This may have been our first cruise, but I know plenty of American cruisers that are not cruising the Caribbean for what you think "most want." Everyone has a different reason for cruising - even in the Caribbean. How sad that some cruisers may only look at the Caribbean as a place to drink and eat as much as they want in the sun. The Caribbean nations (yes, they are actually nations and unique cultures) are steeped in beauty and history - not just Red Stripe and Pina Coladas (both of which I enjoy).

 

We were interested in cruising to experience a cruise ship - but our main interest was the travel aspect - the opportunity to see different places within one vacation. We are true "travelers," (having traveled and spent large amounts of time in Europe and Asia) not "cruisers," and I'm now beginning to think there is sometimes a difference between those who enjoy cruising and those who truly enjoy traveling. I have also learned that "cruising" does not necessarily make someone an experienced traveler, unless they have cruised countless times to ports over and over.

 

The lack of civility, respect for others or portraying some dignity when amongst large crowds is what, personally, turns me off when traveling in any mode (plane, ship, train). It is possible to do portray these traits and still have fun and even a few drinks (somehow - my husband and I manage to enjoy our drinks and do this).

 

Celebtrat - you review is wonderful, as others have said - the photos are bringing back wonderful memories!

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"they must adapt to what most people want from a carribean cruise."

 

I have to respectfully disagree with this statement. I met so many varied individuals on this cruise - Americans included - most were wonderful and all had different reasons for being on this cruise/vacation.

 

This may have been our first cruise, but I know plenty of American cruisers that are not cruising the Caribbean for what you think "most want." Everyone has a different reason for cruising - even in the Caribbean. How sad that some cruisers may only look at the Caribbean as a place to drink and eat as much as they want in the sun. The Caribbean nations (yes, they are actually nations and unique cultures) are steeped in beauty and history - not just Red Stripe and Pina Coladas (both of which I enjoy).

 

We were interested in cruising to experience a cruise ship - but our main interest was the travel aspect - the opportunity to see different places within one vacation. We are true "travelers," (having traveled and spent large amounts of time in Europe and Asia) not "cruisers," and I'm now beginning to think there is sometimes a difference between those who enjoy cruising and those who truly enjoy traveling. I have also learned that "cruising" does not necessarily make someone an experienced traveler, unless they have cruised countless times to ports over and over.

 

The lack of civility, respect for others or portraying some dignity when amongst large crowds is what, personally, turns me off when traveling in any mode (plane, ship, train). It is possible to do portray these traits and still have fun and even a few drinks (somehow - my husband and I manage to enjoy our drinks and do this).

 

Celebtrat - you review is wonderful, as others have said - the photos are bringing back wonderful memories!

 

 

Right on! What I liked most about MSC was the overall lack of "Spring Break" ambiance. I am not against drinking (even bought beer and wine packages) but I do not like to see thousands of people drinking by the pool from early morn. Since MSC waiters do not walk with ready made drinks by the pool, I felt that there was much less indiscriminate drinking than in my previous NCL cruise.

Still, I think that excessive drinking or lack of manners are not exclusive American traits. We will alawys find obnoxious people everywhere in the world.

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While I am glad that you and your family had a great cruise, the 19 people we had on board did not. Yes, I refused to get out of the hot tub.this being my 15th cruise and knowing what amenities that are offered on all other cruise lines, I come on these cruises for the hot tubs and the pool. No where in any of MSC policies and passenger ticket do they state that the pool area will be closed at 6 pm. Also many others that were on the ship with us were rather upset with the service we did not recieve. We also pay good money for these cruises and I have never been treated as badly as what we were treated on this cruise. And while I posed a embarrassment to you,many others were grateful that some one stood up for what was right. If MSC wants to cruise in an american market they must adapt to what most people want from a carribean cruise. Finally after many conversations with the guest relations officer on this ship I did offer to him that I was sorry that we inconvienance his crew by taking the time and money to sail on their cruise line.

 

 

I think that a comment card about your disagreement with the hours of the pool would have been enough. I had a wonderful cruise, although thought that the pool closed too early as well. I noted that on my comments. Did it occur to you that the crew trying to get you out of the hot tub are not the people that decide the hours of the pool?? I imagine they delighted in being rude to you the rest of the cruise after that stunt.

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Celebrat I love the review please keep it coming, as for embarrasing american guy I would have felt the same way and if I am not mistaken I read some where that the pool area closes at 6:00 pm so he should have expected it.

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