On the 28th April 2015, myself and Assistant Cruise Editor, Anthony Marshall, toured MSC Splendida on her maiden arrival into the Port of Southampton. The visit gave us the opportunity to experience MSC Cruises who are know for their modern, European style of cruising.
After watching the ship dock at Mayflower Cruise Terminal shortly before 8am, we were originally meant to board the ship at 10:30am, however due to a compulsory coast guard fire drill, embarkation was delayed until midday.
Once at the terminal, we joined a group of travel agent guests, who were also touring the ship that day. It was nice to see the newly refurbished Mayflower Cruise Terminal, which had only just re-opened two days prior. The additional check in desks and expanded security area, means that the terminal will be able to accommodate larger ships much easier than before.
MSC Splendida was only visiting Southampton for the day, en-route to Hamburg, so very few guests were embarking. As such, the terminal only had one security line open. Due to our late embarkation, we were given priority through security and those guests who had just returned from a shore excursion were annoyed. One security worker told the guests to move back, so that our group of around 70 could go through security. Passengers were not impressed and refused to move back, resulting in the temporary closure of the security area until the guests complied with the instructions.
After an eventful embarkation, we boarded the ship. As we were part of a large group, we all had to be escorted around. Our first stop was the two deck high La Reggia Restaurant.
I was handed the bulky menu, which consisted of around 10 pages, two for each different language. The menu was set out clearly highlighting the Appetizers, Salad, Soups, Pastas, Fish, Meat, Vegetarian and Dessert options. A useful thing that MSC Cruises offer is the Express Lunch, which enables you to enjoy a delicious three-course meal, all under 30 minutes. This makes it a perfect option if you’re booked on a shore excursion and want a quick, filling lunch ahead of your busy day.
To begin, I had a spicy Chorba Soup, followed by Pork Escalopes topped with cheese and tomato. For dessert I chose the Hazelnut Praline Cake. In all honesty I was not impressed with the entire meal. Dishes seemed bland and tasteless and the selection of dishes were not that appealing, but this might have been down to the fact that there were 2,000 German guests on the cruise and 1,000 Italians.
After a somewhat disappointing meal, we were escorted up to the Aft Lounge on deck 7 for a 10-minute coffee break, despite our short time-frame remaining to tour the ship. On our way we past La Caramella, a delicious shop for those with a sweet tooth, selling a variety of souvenir candy and famous brands.
On deck 7 we passed through the L’Enoteca wine bar as well as the ship’s speciality restaurant, Tex Mex. Instead of paying a set cover charge to dine, the price is determined by what meal you have. A Chili Con Carne is priced at €8, whereas a succulent tenderloin steak is priced at €22. The decor of the restaurant transports you to Mexico, and all tables even have a cactus centrepiece!
After our coffee break , we continued our tour heading forward along Deck 7. We reached the impressive atrium which spans five decks. Our guide gave us the opportunity to walk on what is probably the most expensive staircase in the world. Each step of the four Swarovski diamond staircases cost over €3,000!
Next up on the tour was the Sports Bar. Several separate booths with TV screens show different sports games, such as football and snooker. In addition, there is even a two-lane bowling alley and giant TV wall, which shows the main sporting events! Located close by is the suitably named Purple Jazz Bar. Home to great nightly entertainment, this vibrant bar has fun, over-sized seating and great décor.
The nautical themed La Prua bar is a bright and comfy lounge by day, perfect for relaxing with a good book. In the evening, the bar plays host to live piano music from talented on board performers. A grand staircase situated within the La Prua bar, leads directly down into the large Royal Palm Casino.
We then ventured forward into the impressive three-deck high Strand Theatre. Rehearsals were taking place, which meant the theatre was in darkness, but on the plus side it gave us the opportunity to hear the talented artists performing.
We then went to visit an inside cabin onboard MSC Splendida. Rooms were fairly standard and featured the usual amenities. I loved the fact that MSC Cruises offer a pizza delivery service, serving a variety of freshly cooked pizzas, which are delivered direct to your cabin for just €5. Two bottles of water and an ice bucket can also be found in the rooms.
We then visited the MSC Aurea Spa. The size of the place was impressive and there was variety of treatments on offer. A healthy fruit bar located adjacent to the large gym, serves herbal teas and fruit juices, and is the perfect place to refresh after a tiring workout.
After touring the spa, we walked along the pool deck. In total there a four pools onboard MSC Splendida. One in the exclusive MSC Yacht Club, two on the main pool deck, and one overlooking the aft of the ship. Due to our short time on board, we only had the chance to see two of the pools.
The L ‘Equatora pool is just outside the entrance to the spa. Featuring a sliding roof, this is a tropical paradise no matter what the weather is like outside. There are three whirlpools surrounding the area, as well as plenty of sun loungers. A drinks bar and Nutella stall…yes that’s right, Nutella stall…are also located near by.
The outdoor Aqua Pool is a maze of shallow paddling pools, fountains and of course a main swimming pool. There’s also an outdoor movie screen and a small stage.
The next stop on our tour was Club 33, a striking lounge at the very top of the ship overlooking the open decks below. Decorated in vibrant orange, if MSC Crusies ever formed a partnership with Nickelodeon, this venue wouldn’t have to be changed one single bit! Club 33 is the main nightclub on board and home to karaoke contests.
By this point it was nearly time for us to disembark the ship. Our guide quickly showed us the F1 simulator which gives you the opportunity to drive a virtual race car. We just had enough time to quickly try out the XD Cinema, which was by far the highlight of the entire tour. Seating eight people at a time, the 5 minute film we watched transported us into a world of flying cars which were racing around a track. Big jolts and vibrations from the specially designed seats gave the sensation that we really were actually travelling in the car!
Overall the ship was very elegant and sophisticated as well as modern and stylish. The on board amenities and venues on board were great. However, I felt that fellow passengers were not impressed with us being on board, such as a guest refusing to share the elevator with our group.
It was great to experience the MSC Cruises brand and we can’t wait for our cruise on board MSC Preziosa in February 2016!