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MSC Cruises: MSC Sinfonia

Fodorite Reviews

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Mar 28, 2017

Review of MSC Sinfonia

Richard petersen Age: 39 Occupation:Supervisor Number of Cruises: 1 Cruise Line: MSC Cruises Ship: MSC Sinfonia Sailing Date: 2016-05-1 Itinerary: Capetown walvisbay capetown The most amazing thing we have ever done so far.everything was great. Very good.the chefs must get an increase.to cook for so many hungry eaters its a gift Very cozy rooms All was cool We didnot get off but the day in namibja habour was good. It was marvalous great thanks

MSChope eveyone in the world could affort or get the oppertunity to do this its awsome.

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May 11, 2016

Capetown walvisbay capetown

The most amazing thing we have ever done so far.everything was great. Very good.the chefs must get an increase.to cook for so many hungry eaters its a gift Very cozy rooms All was cool We didnot get off but the day in namibja habour was good. It was marvalous great thanks MSChope eveyone in the world could affort or get the oppertunity to do this its awsome.

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Jan 14, 2013

Cape Town-Mossel Bay-Cape Town

MSC Sinfonia was a very bad experience. The que to board took forever. We sat on the ground. No shade, no chairs, no refreshments for more than 2 hours before going into their terminal. No coffee, tea in room. Unfriendly male waiters. Worst of all was the food. No taste, no variety, just bland bland bland. I will never cruise with MSC again! Now my biggest problem is to try and convince my husband that not all cruise lines are like this.

He says never never again! Shame on you MSC cruises! Just because you are the only cruise line cruising our waters does not mean you have to treat us like this! YUK!!!!! Balcony suite was clean and nice. No coffee, tea or pen in our room? no problem there No excursions as the cruise line left late due to weather Never again! I would love to do a cruise in the Med but my husband says never again if that is what cruising is like!

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Oct 20, 2012

Medfiteranean

The ship was about 90% non british which is not a problem as we have been on the MSC Magnifica. In brief the ship was totally geared towards Italians whether it be entertainment, announcements etc. I would like to think my manners are very good but the rudeness and disrespect of the passengers was awful. We had the formal/casual dining but most turned up in jeans T-shirts flip flops, you name it. The ship was totally devoid of any atmosphere and the

shore excursions were very poorly organized. MSC have a policy of 7 euros a day per person service charge and 15 % service charge on all drinks so my 'tip' was about £140 which is scandalous. Would never go on another MSC ship.. The food was good in the restaurant but very ordinary in the buffet. The room was good and we always had a clean room by very good room guys. Absolutely awful. Nothing more to say. The shuttles to the centres were all overpriced. 12 euros for a 10 minute journey is ridiculous. We were just supporting the Italian economy.

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Mar 9, 2012

Durban to Mozambique

There is so little information on the Web about this cruise. MSC operate two ships from South Africa for the summer season. We took the cruise from Durban to Maputo in Mozambique - and had one other Port planned but due to the notoriously bad weather in our area - had to redirect. This clearly happens often. We love crusing - but all our other cruises have been international and are very different. This is 100% south african and caters for

that market - without competition. Therefore, whilst the ship is terrific, the food was of a different standard in terms of both quality and presentation. That was a disappointment. The theatre shows were excellent and thre was a lot of activity at the pool - but geared for the south african market. I dont think we would do another 'local' cruise but this was offered on a special and we did have a great time. Having since tried to find sites to log and read reviews - I have found a lot of complaints (on a local site) and decided to try and register my review where I can - to assist prospective passengers in making informed decisions. Also a word of wanring - embarkation was a nightmare. The queues and the facilities!! This needs to be upgraded (apparently there are plans) and I point fingers at both SA authorities and Starlight Cruises for this. We all boarded with raging tempers - which wasnt necessary. This ship is being redirected to Cape Town and will cruise from there. Presumably the waters will still often be rough - but maybe a little more predictable. I just hope the catering standards are addressed or their passenger numbers will dwindle and that will be sad. The crew need the income - the ship is very very nice - and the potential is there. Needs someone to take over the quality and the presentation. I was also in the formal dining room for lunch twice on a 4 night cruise - and the menu was the same. Thats unacceptable and easily addressed. I would have loved vegetables but they were rare. The soups were very good - but more than that - they need to up their game which I am sure can be done - perhaps by limiting the number of choices but improving the quality and presentation. Devilled cockrell with I forget what was delivered as a chicken drumstick with about 8 chips. Small portions = GREAT becuase there are so many. But keep it to a cruising standard. Especially where these itineraries frequently end up with ports being missed and more days at sea. Food will be focus. (For those who arent seasick - and there were many. Seems there always are.) Very nice indeed - great storage and very bright. Smallest shower ever - but so be it. Loved the theatre shows. Didnt do much else - poolside was quite afrikaans and geared to the South African market. Also VERY hot so we relocated to a lower deck with a sun lounger, in the shade - with good books. Our piece of paradise. This is NOT Europe, For a first time visitor - go and see Maputo. We took the official shore excursion which wasnt exciting - but was interesting. Much of it is within walking distance frmo the port - and there is a little tourist train that can take you around. The market is very limited and not a must see - and there are a lot of persistent hawkers. Nonetheless it is a new country/city and you should see it at least once. We got a terrific special so found it was value for money and whilst we were disappointed in the food - we were never hungry. We went to unwind and relax - it delivered! Would we do it again - same route? Same ship - no, UNLESS the reviews rave of the food.... and the new itineraries from CT are offered on another unbeatable special.

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Feb 26, 2012

Mozambique

This review will appeal to South Africans “particularly those who have not cruised before and are looking for detailed information on what to expect “as it covers a five night cruise on the MSC Sinfonia from Durban to Portuguese Island, Maputo, Inhambane and back to Durban. These cruises are extremely popular among South Africans and it appears as if about 80 to 90 percent of passengers are South Africans. They often travel in groups made up of

friends or family, and it becomes quite affordable. This was my first cruise and it was a wonderful experience. I found the activities on board, entertainment and facilities on the cruise ship varied and interesting. The food was very good with plenty of variety. I would not hesitate to recommend this cruise to anyone. In terms of the food, we found it very tasty, with more than ample variety. Occasionally, there was the odd dish that we did not like at all, but there is so much to choose from, it was not a problem. We fell into the pattern of having dinner in the assigned restaurant (there are two on the Sinfonia), as it is nice to be served and to dine with decent crockery etc. There are seven or more courses, which of course you don't have to work your way through, however the portions are fortunately fairly small. We preferred to have breakfast and lunch in the buffet restaurant on the pool deck as you can have more fruit, and less of whatever else, and at lunch you can enjoy plenty of salads. We missed the fact that there is no ice-cream at the buffet restaurant – seems to be only at the “sit down” restaurants. Of course there is ice-cream to buy from the ice-cream parlour. There are also coffees of all types that you can order. The coffee at the buffet venue is only instant Nescafe (quite adequate if you make it strong). We were a group of 6 "girls" all around the age of 60 on this cruise. We had two girls in one (inside) cabin and four in another sea-facing cabin. The use of the bathroom, and storage space was a challenge for us, but with patience, it was possible for us all to shower and dress in the confined area. The cabins are small, but comfortable. They were kept clean with regular changes of towels. There is plenty of entertainment, with a variety of live music in all the bars, and a dance floor in the Manhattan Bar. There were shows every night (two seatings) which lasted about 45 minutes. We found them entertaining and worth watching. The cruise director is very professional and hugely entertaining. On the last day, crew members took part in a “talentless” show which was extremely funny. I am not able to comment much on the excursions as I only took one: a dolphin watching cruise. We saw plenty of dolphins and although somewhat pricey, it was worth the cost. It was possible to go ashore without taking an excursion, as MSC makes provision for all passengers to be transported from the liner to the shore at the two places where the ship cannot come close to the shore (i.e. at Portuguese Island and at Inhambane). Zodiac-type boats (probably taking about 30 to 40 people) are used to transport passengers to shore and there is a bit of wading in the sea that needs to be done from the rubber boat to reach the beach, but it's fun. The water is extremely warm and gorgeous for swimming. MSC appears to have some sort of concession to use Portuguese Island as they have erected some thatched structures for shade etc. The crew prepare a very delicious "braai" (barbeque) on the beach for lunch. In Maputo of course there is a proper harbour so disembarkation is in the normal way. It's really not necessary to take one of the excursions – especially if you are a group – as you can hire a taxi to take you around on a "private" tour. Always bargain before accepting the price agreed-upon. As this was my first cruise, apart from a cruise from Cape Town to Durban about 45 years ago (which hardly counts), my views may be considered by many as biased as I do not have the advantage of comparison with other vessels and cruise lines. However, there has been a lot of criticism of the MSC Sinfonia and other MSC vessels, that I am not entirely convinced is justified. I read many reviews before departing, and decided to keep an open mind. I did not find the language issue much of a problem as most crew speak some English. The waiters in the restaurants are extremely friendly and accommodating, whereas the waiters in the buffet restaurant were less friendly. Cabin stewards were also quite friendly and helpful. There is plenty of shopping to do if so inclined, and if you take into account that the items are duty free, you can get perfume, for example, at much less than you would pay in South Africa. The one criticism in general is the matter of queuing. Yes, you have to queue at times, especially to go ashore, and to get the Zodiac to go back from shore to the cruise ship. It is difficult to imagine how else transporting such a large group of people is going to be done, except for queuing everyone wants to go back to the ship at the same time. The queuing at Portuguese Island was not pleasant as it was in the boiling sun. This is the only serious criticism that I have and no suggested solution. The final issue I wish to mention is the question of the cost of the drinks. These are always said to be very pricey on cruises, however, not on the MSC Sinfonia. I found the prices of the drinks very similar to what you would pay in a restaurant in South Africa, or in a hotel. There was always a "cocktail of the day" at a reduced price (about $3.70 or R30). There was a rose wine by the glass for $2.00 (R16) and Drostdyhof light by the glass for the same price. The Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc was $2.50 per glass. I cannot recall the cost of the beers but I do not believe that they would be excessively expensive.

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Sep 11, 2010

Mediterranean western

MSC cruises offer great itineraries and nice newer ships. (monaco, tunisia, Ibiza, Valencia, Catania, Naples, Florence) The ship is gorgeous, clean and well kept. Food is just ok by American standards, guests are 95% Europeans. Our Balcony suite was the largest and nicest we have had in over 25 cruises. Large room, sofa, walk in closet, 2 chairs 2 desks and the balcony was a good size and private with walls on each side. The itinerary offers

a port every day, though we were only in most ports for a half day. We thought that was very nice, no days at sea and plenty of time to relax. DO NOT take this cruise if you expect American cruising style. You will be disappointed. We took this cruise the 2nd week in Sept. Zillions of families. Expect that. If you do not want kids around, do not take their cruises. Kids in the whirlpools, in the bars til midnight and in the halls all day and night. Kids in the fitness room. This is not Sandals or Beaches! We only took one shore excursion and felt it was priced fairly and the guide was good. Other Americans we met on the ship were pleased with their Shore excursions. They did caution that some tours were given in English and one other language but not problematic. Meals were just ok. But at every dinner we had at least one thing that was supurb and one thing that was not good at all. Portions are modest which was fine with us. Someone at our table asked for a 2nd dessert and was denied. Coffee is not available with or after dessert. You must go to the Coffee bar. (Almost a dealbreaker for me!) Not a big deal, but uncommon on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean etc where I have seen people order 2 main courses and one of each dessert. Breakfast and Lunch buffets were a feeding frenzy. I do not want to hear that Eurpoeans eat reasonably and Americans all eat like football players. (cereal bowls full of bacon, 6 to 8 croissants....4 hamburgers. Also, it isn't a reflection on the ship, but Italians approach a line/queue like a rugby scrum. No neat single files like the Brits and most Americans. The style is to approach the line from all sides (like they drive) and lightly push or scrum till you get to or near the front. Some even "excuse me" all the way to the front. This is not a reflection on the cruise line, but a cultural one. Shows were average to below average, but not what WE went for. Bars and entertainment lounges were nice. Before we left, I read some reviews that people were furious that you had to pay for water. We received coupons at check in for a large bottle of mineral water each night at dinner. Water in the room was 1.80 euro for a big bottle. (yes you can brush your teeth with the water in the sink.) There were water dispensers in the breakfast and lunch buffets. But come on. If you are in European restaurants, you get used to purchasing a large or small bottle of water with your food. They do add 7 euro per person per day gratuity charge. We found the cabin staff to be above the ordinary. We found the waiters and dining staff to be overworked and not very friendly. Hey, they aren't working for tips. The cruise line says they discourage tipping over and above, but our cabin steewardesses were amazing...better than most. We did reward them. Desk staff was just ok. Check in and check out were very easy. We filled out the forms on line before we left home and joined the "free" MSC club, which rocketed us through check in. Debarking was efficient. Lots of cabs available to the train station. Very nice and easy. Another aside. MSC allows people to check in at every port. Really a nice idea. That way you don't have 2000 people getting on the ship and off the ship at one time. That means the dining room, excursion desk, reception etc will always have new people and people who have been on board for a number of days. That changes the learning curve. We found that even though we spoke very little spanish, german, french or italian, our cruisemates were always eager to try their english and help us or talk to us and we tried to reciprocate. The shops on board were really nice and offered a huge selection onboard. Bottom line is. If you want a European experience and are willing to "do as the Romans" you will learn a lot and have a great time. We did.

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Aug 3, 2010

Mediterranean

We booked the MSC Sinfonia from Livorno Italy in July 2010. Although I have been on smaller cruises, this seemed like a good option for my retired mother and me to see some new sites and have a new experience. Unfortunately, these gigantic cruises are a failed concept and coupled with other issues, made it an entirely disappointing experience. This is by no means a Luxury cruise nor is it billed to be, but I guess I kind of expected more. I thought

once we booked & paid for the cruise, that would be the majority of the outlay. That was in incorrect assumption. I call this cruise a failed concept because the entire IDEA of a cruise is to be able to sail to different ports & get a flavor of each place. Primarily, these boats are so large that they are forced to dock at freighter terminals that are typically MILES away from the locations you are scheduled to visit. Thus, to actually visit the ports that are promised, one needs to pay daily for shuttles or pricey tours, to each city. Then the big kicker is that you are only in each port for 5-6 hours. Of course there are shops on board which is convenient when you have forgotten something, although pricey. However, it seems like at every turn they are selling stuff on deck, so it often feels like a floating flea market. The most disappointing issue is the Management; see more below. The food is reasonably good at the dinner seatings, but the breakfast and lunch buffets are like a feeding frenzy & is nothing exceptional. The atmosphere of the ship seemed to bring out the worst manners in people. It was disheartening. I have found things in my food that I didn’t want to, at nearly each meal at the buffet, and there seems to be an issue with clean dishes, glasses & flatware. Fine; actually more storage than I thought. They were non-existent unless you paid for them. Onshore Tours/Excursions: We had ENDLESS issues with the off shore excursions. Firstly, the MSC website allows you to download paperwork to book these tours in advance & at a slightly lower cost. This sounds convenient, but as it happened our paperwork was lost, even though I had received a confirmation that my fax went through, so we ended up paying full price on board. Then, once we did book, one of our tours was cancelled and we were not informed early enough to take another cruise. Luckily we found an independent tour guide(at a lesser cost than the tour offered thru MSC cruises) to give us a personal tour. It is worth noting that the MSC tours are quiet expensive; at least 40-50 euros per port(minimum 7 x 40=280 additional Euros per adult for sightseeing if you care to see every port). I actually would not mind paying these prices if I felt the tours were a value, however once you get off the ship, you are loaded onto buses & most of the tours are conducted in this fashion. It would be nice if these tours were more personable. On another note: if you take the tour in Tunis that includes the Medina market..don't bother to buy anything there-it's like a feeding frenzy for tourists & everything is marked up 200%!!! There is a REALLY lovely, clean shopping area directly in front of where the ship docks. Prices are marked on the merchandise & the shopkeepers seem much more respectful of their clientele. I only wish I had waited to buy everything there. Summing it all up..if you want a vacation on a large, impersonal, floating bus, go on an MSC cruise. If you want a more meaningful experience, look for a smaller cruise line. The most disappointing issue is the Management. I have had a few problems and asked for the Managers name so I can write a letter and was denied this information!!!! It seems the buck stops nowhere and each desk employee is happy to explain how every problem is not their fault. I feel like in being denied the name of a manager, a great disservice is being done, as the managers does not hear the complaints or issues. How can these be fixed if they are not being heard??????? One can only assume that the Management prefers it this way. The Desk personnel are often quiet snippy; however dealing with issues and unhappy customers, is part of customer service in the hospitality industry. Then sitting next to them in the lounge, having to listen to them complain about their jobs, seems a bit unprofessional. Especially, when I felt like no one wanted to listen to me when I had a complaint or an issue that needed resolving.

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Mar 22, 2006

Western Mediterranean

First, I'll begin with the positives about our cruise on the MSC Sinfonia.  The ship was immaculate, if not a particularly attractive ship in the classic sense.  The cabin was well appointed with more than enough space for all we brought, including formal attire and a small telescope, tripod and camera gear for the eclipse, which was the reason we booked this cruise.  Our cabin had two single beds which could be made into a king plus

two bunks folded up on the walls.  There was a minibar, television, make-up dresser and safe.  A fruit bowl was filled on our arrival.  Additionally, the itinerary was intriguing and very rewarding.  We sailed from Genoa, Italy, visiting many ruins of the ancient world from Egypt to Greek to Roman ruins.  Malta was a wonderful stop but way too short to even sample what this island country has to offer.  Other ports of call included Naples (for Pompeii); Syracuse (Sicily) with a charming old town and ancient Greek ruins; Alexandria, Egypt (for pyramids at Giza & Sakkara plus Memphis); Tobruk (for the 2006 Total Solar Eclipse which was fantastic); Tripoli, Libya, where we visited the fabulous Roman ruins at Leptis Magna; Valetta, Malta; Salerno for the well-preserved Doric temples of the ancient Greek/Roman city of Poseidiana/Paestum; and back to Genoa.  Weather was cool in Genoa becoming more pleasant and warm as we ventured southward. For first timers or less experienced cruisers, this ship may have been adequate or better but for experienced cruisers this ship was a big disappointment.  It seemed that they were unprepared for the number of English-speaking passengers.  Previous reviews by such individuals seemed to indicate that there were only a very few English speakers cruising with MSC.  The majority of crew did not speak much English making it difficult to communicate our desires or even have an amiable conversation.  For example, our cabin steward was from Madacasgar and seemed more fluent in French.  In the dining room we had requested a table for two and were located was in a back corner with servers who hailed from Bali.  When we ordered off the menu printed in English our waiter often could not understand what we said unless we pointed to the menu. Service was probably the worst we have experienced for dining but perhaps we were assigned servers with less experience or training.  We had to repeatedly ask for water, or even get it ourselves and our primary waiter never seemed to learn that my husband wanted coffee after his meal (The bus boy actually learned that by the end of our cruise and brought it himself.).  Other passengers were satisfied with the service they received in the dining room so our experience may not be representative of the entire dining staff.  However, no maitre'd ever spoke with us.  Often the servers would shout and argue among themselves which was very annoying. Dining itself was also a disappointment.  Being on an Italian ship for the first time, we were looking forward to the cuisine which turned out to mediocre at best.  Meat was tough, fish was "fishy," soups were bland and most dishes were uninspired.  For dinner there were no options except the main dining room at one's assigned table.  The breakfast buffet was run-of-the-mill but there was an ample amount of food.  The best lunches were had at the Caffee del Mare grill where we ate delicious hamburgers and french fries (pizza was edible but nothing special).  We actually ate one of the best pizzas ever while ashore in Valetta, Malta. The pooling of tips which is common on most ships today may account for some of the decline in service.  We were royally spoiled on Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas during a Baltic Sea cruise in 1996.  On that cruise the cabin stewardess, Anna, and our waiter, Attila, provided superb service, plus they were both outgoing and fun.  At that time, passengers paid there tips directly to the staff who had served them.  Passenger capacity of this ship is over 2000 passengers, There was much disorganization aboard the MSC Sinfonia from embarkation, shore excursions, collecting passports, and disembarkation.  Rarely did anything begin on time (except for meals) and we had to wait for everything.  The crew had not anticipated dealing with such a large contingent of English speakers, most of whom were American.  The Travel Quest/Sky and Telescope group for the eclipse accounted for more than 70% of the passengers who numbered between 1500 and 2000. In the past we have cruised on large vessels with much better organization than this one run by Italians.  Embarkation was long and tedious, taking about 2 hours to actually arrive at our cabin.  The crew member who escorted us to our cabin simply left us there, showing us nothing in the cabin including the location of our life jackets.  Most announcements could not be heard inside the cabins–one had to open the door to listen.  And the one and only (mandatory) life boat drill was a joke.  Not all passengers even attended and no roll was taken.  Instead it was used as an photo opportunity by the ever-present paparazzi who intruded on us during dinner, followed us on shore excursions and frightened young children with their clown and pirate costumes.  The ship's photographers were truly shameless in their pursuit of money. It seemed that we had to pay for everything.  On the Marco Polo (Orient Lines), ice cream was served daily for free.  On the MSC Sinfonia the Gelateria was never open but occasionally ice cream out of a cart was served on the pool deck–at a cost.  On arrival there were two bottles of water in the cabin but again, they were not gratis.  As we left the ship for our excursions, water at a cost was offered.  Most cruises we have taken provided water bottles for free. Activities were very limited for individuals with our interests.  Fortunately, there were regular astronomy-related lectures which were informative, interesting, and quite entertaining.  The lecturers had a good sense of humor which the crew seemed to lack.  There were a number of planned activities and events for children, however, and this ship may be more enjoyed by families. My husband and I particularly enjoy ballroom dancing and we were looking forward to an opportunity to dance on the MSC Sinfonia.  However, the quality of music was lacking and one of the best bands on the ship refused to play if only one or two couples were in the Sinfonia lounge.  The program would list the times they were to play in the daily program, we would appear, and the group would sit in their corner chatting for 45 minutes or more of that scheduled time.  The best dancing music was available in the Buddha Bar provided by one Gianni Dale and his piano.  Unfortunately, there was no dance floor in this bar but we danced on the carpet anyway, often joined by one or two other couples. Bottom-line: Fabulous itinerary with a chance to visit Libya and see our 5th Total Solar Eclipse.  However, we will never cruise with MSC again and would not recommend their ships to any experienced or English-speaking passengers. 

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May 22, 2005

Western Mediterranean

Overview This was our first cruise, and we chose MSC for a combination of the itinerary, the price, and the newness of the ship. We weren't disappointed. The ship is about 3 years old since first going into service with another cruise line, but was bought by MSC in September 2004 (the other line having gone out of business) and refitted during the winter. It entered service with MSC in March 2005. The cruise was simple 7 night round-trip

from Genoa, and calling at Naples, Palermo, Tunis, Palma, Barcelona, Marseilles, and returning to Genoa. We called at a different port each day, with stays in port ranging from half-a-day to a full day. Embarkation at Genoa was easy and unhurried, although the whole day was rather long - we left home at about 6:45 am for a 9:30 flight from Manchester to Milan Malpensa, followed by a two-hour coach transfer to Genoa where we arrived by about 3:30 pm. We were in our cabin before 4 pm. The transfers all worked well. Money: we spent about €525 on board, including €200+ for excursions and about €50 for photos. The rest was drinks, coffee, etc. We also gave €150 or so in tips. Then we spent about €200 ashore - some lunches, drinks, taxis, and other transport. Our Cabin We were in a standard inside cabin, #9010, right at the bow on deck 9. On Sinfonia almost all the cabins are the same size, they are either inside or outside. If they are the latter then you get a (non-opening) window, while inside cabins just have a picture of some sort. We were perfectly happy with our inside cabin – while a window cabin would have been nice it would not have been worth the extra cost (£500). In fact we spent very little time in the cabin, apart from sleeping; we were either eating, drinking, lounging, or ashore! I think on this kind of cruise - a port every day, and on most days the ship is in port all day - the cabin is just somewhere to sleep, dress, etc, and the standard cabin is fine. It might different on a longer cruise where the ship spent some entire days at sea – in that case I can imagine that you might want to retire to your cabin and be able to see outside. Wardrobe space in the cabin was excellent. We took two outfits for every day - daytime and evening - and had no problem fitting everything into the wardrobe. Val was able to hang her long gown without a problem, and there was plenty of room for my shirts, dinner suit, and jacket. We were able to put one of our suitcases in the wardrobe - it fitted under the shirts at my end - but we had to leave the other one out. (I’ve learned since that we could probably have put it under one of the beds.) There was also good drawer space for underwear, t-shirts, etc. Finally there was a big cupboard with a safe built into it. This was very useful, and we felt much more comfortable with having that present - we left money, passports, iPods, etc, in there most of the time. The bathroom had a washbasin, toilet and small shower. The toilet and washbasin were fine, but the shower was very small - when you turned round you could expect intimate contact with the shower curtain! But it worked, had easy-to-use controls and there seemed to be plenty of hot water. There was also a hair dryer in the bathroom, and Val didn't find that so good - it was too fierce, and of course it was in the bathroom, which is not the best place to try to dry hair. I think she would have preferred to have brought a hair dryer of her own if she'd known. The Ship - Public Areas There were a lot of these – two restaurants, half-a-dozen bars, several lounges, the open deck areas for sunbathing, the pools, and the reception & atrium area. From what I've read about bigger ships I think this area in Sinfonia is quite restrained - just two decks high. Reception and Excursions were the main offices, plus there was an accounts office that was open for just a couple of hours most days. They were all attractive and efficient, manned by staff who were able to switch languages with ease. There didn’t seem to be any significant queuing at any of the desks. The bars and lounges were attractively furnished - good solid comfortable chairs and seats - mainly in shades of burgundy and green. Mostly we used the Cafe Greco and the Buddha Bar on deck 6 (one deck above Reception), and the Sinfonia Lounge (deck 7, forward). There were also the Manhattan Bar and Shelagh's Irish Pub (!), both on deck 5, but we didn't use these much. The Manhattan Bar was the largest bar area on the ship with a small stage and a dance floor, but thanks to the very 'family' nature of the cruise there was often some organised activity going on here, e.g., kids' dancing to an Italian version of 'Agadoo' (by the sound of it). Not our thing, but we were always able to find another bar so it wasn't a problem. There is smoking on board, but there's a clear rule - smoking to Port, non-smoking to Starboard (I think that was the way round), and this was carried into the bars - one side would have ashtrays on the tables, the other would have 'no smoking' signs on them. We never saw an ashtray being moved into a no-smoking area, nor did we see smokers in the non-smoking areas, nor did we see staff smoking. The restaurants were all non-smoking, and as far as we could see that rule was observed. Food & Service For dinner, we ate at first sitting in ‘Il Galleone’, the larger of the two restaurants. The dinners were always very good, and occasionally excellent. The portions were not too large which was as well because there were lots of courses - appetizer; soup; pasta; main course; dessert. There was always a good choice - typically, a choice of four main courses and three of each of the others - plus there were the old favourites: steak, roast chicken, etc, if there was nothing else you fancied. There was always a vegetarian choice, and this seemed good. I had a veggie main course one night - a vegetarian crepe in a light cheese sauce - and it was excellent. I think the main Italian flavour in the menu came though in the choice of appetizers, soups and (of course) the pasta dish - the main courses were less 'Italianate'. So from the point of view of the food itself, the dinners were very successful, and we always got up from the table feeling both happy and not too full. There were two formal nights, and on these evenings Val & I dressed up – DJ for me, long dress or cocktail dress for Val. The other evenings were supposed to be semi-formal – men were asked to wear a jacket and tie – but we did notice that not many did, especially on the first night, and again by the end of the cruise. However this may have been partly because we were in first sitting for dinner along with a lot of the families. I suspect that second sitting was perhaps a bit smarter. Unfortunately our Italian waiter (Lorenzo) didn't have much English so he wasn't able to explain anything to us. For example, we might ask 'what's 'consommé marmitte'?', and he would reply 'is a soup....'. Well, yes, we already knew that because it was listed under 'soup' on the menu.... As it happens we are pretty familiar with Italian cuisine so we didn't have many questions, but if you aren't then this might be an issue. Our second waiter was Balinese and spoke excellent English, but he had to play second fiddle to Lorenzo so didn't push himself forward. And it was Lorenzo that took all the orders. That apart, we had no complaints about the service but then again we aren't especially experienced in formal dining. But we got what we ordered, it was served with a smile, and we were at the table just long enough - typically, from 7 pm to 8:40 or so. We didn't feel rushed. Unfortunately, lunches and breakfasts were considerably less good. These were were available in various locations: the restaurant, and in a self-service snack bar. In the restaurant they were good, but if you were on a morning excursion then you didn't have time for this. In this case the recourse was the self-service options, either in the Terrazza snackery, or out on the deck. These breakfasts were pretty stodgy - runny scrambled eggs, greasy bacon, and hash browns, potatoes and mushrooms that were cold. Not very good at all. Lunch was probably not quite so poor, but still not good unless you went into the restaurant. Again, however, if you were on a morning excursion you might find that when you returned that only the self-service choices that were open. In fact for the last two days we took lunch ashore. Entertainment This isn't something we pay a lot of attention to. There was a theatre that seemed good and comfortable. We visited it for the Captain's Cocktail Party, and we went to one show, a magician/illusionist. It was OK - exactly the sort of show that works in an multilingual setting - but he did have to repeat his patter three or four times over. Most of the bars had resident singers or bands, and these were less good. I remember one evening in the Buddha Bar listening to a keyboard player/singer. I think he was a good musician (ie, he could play an instrument) but he couldn't sing, so there was also a female singer with him. She was doing about one number in three. For the intermediate numbers she looked totally bored - head on her hand, staring glassy-eyed into the distance. Had we been looking for scintillating entertainment we would have been disappointed. There was also a lot of organised entertainment by the pool. There were a lot of families with kids on this cruise and there were many organised activities for them, mainly of the games and dancing variety, from late morning through to teatime. The presenters and artistes for these certainly seemed to be working very hard, and putting lots of energy into it, and these was a constant stream of activity. Certainly the kids loved it. It's not for us, but for families with young kids - say, 6 to 12 or so - I imagine it was excellent. Ports & Excursions There was a port every day, as follows: Naples (from 1 pm or so to 7 pm); Palermo (8 am to 6 pm or so); Tunis (7 am to 2 pm or thereabouts); Palma (2 pm to 1 am the following morning); Barcelona (8 am to 6:45 or so); and Marseilles (8 am to 7 pm or so). There were multiple excursions every say, some all day, some just half-day. We went on three excursions: first to Cefalu, a small seaside town in Sicily (from Palermo); second, History & Culture from Tunis (basically, a visit to the ruins around Carthage); and third, Cassis, another small seaside town but this time near Marseilles). We did our own thing at Naples, Palma and Barcelona, and in the afternoon at Marseilles. These are covered in more detail in the separate sections. One thing about all the excursions - we had underestimated the travelling time. A four-hour excursion would leave a bare 2 hours (or less) at the destination. Here are my conclusions on some of the places on our itinerary: Naples and Palermo lived up to their reputations of being chaotic and mad. The traffic in both towns was unbelievable. In Naples we went on our own to San Martino, a museum with gardens right at the top of the town with amazing views back over the harbour. This was hard work - very few signs, and no English spoken by anyone. We got there in the end, and it was worth it, but as I say it was a bit if a struggle. Tunis: I got a strong feeling that doing your own thing was not encouraged here. Other than the excursions, the only way into town (the harbour is about 12 kilometres from town) is by hiring a taxi. Palma: the civilized nature of the Spanish towns became evident immediately we went ashore here. We took a taxi up to Castell Belver (above the town) and we were taken there by a direct route, in a taxi with the meter running! Very friendly, very helpful. Barcelona: again, very civilized. We visited Sagrada Familia in the morning, which is stunning. Marseilles: after returning from the Cassis excursion we got on the shuttle bus into the Vieux Port for lunch (we couldn't face the ship lunches any more!). Again, this was easy and excellent: lunch in an street cafe/bistro near the Hotel de Ville, walk around the old harbour, walk around a couple of old streets, find another cafe, have a beer... civilized people, the French. In general the accessibility of the town or city from the port was very good. At Naples, Palermo, and Barcelona the cruise liners moor at a dock pretty close to the main parts of the town. In Barcelona we were able to walk to the bottom of La Rambla in about 5 minutes, for example. In Palma we were out at one end of Palma Bay (but still in the city) but there were easy city buses into the town (plus taxis, of course). In Marseilles the dock was 5 or 6 kilometres away from the city centre in an industrial dock area, but MSC laid on shuttle buses. In Tunis the port is almost a separate town, about 10 kilometres from Tunis itself, and here the only options were taxi and the excursions. Fellow Cruisers There were far more families on board than I had expected. Mainly Italian families, but also German and Spanish. There were very, very few English people on board - perhaps a couple of dozen out of almost 2000. The majority were Italian followed by Germans, then Spaniards and French. So it was much more family-based than I had expected. I would say the typical age was late-twenties to late thirties, with a couple of young kids. I don't know how typical this is: someone suggested that they had heard that southern Germany had a school holiday that week, and Munich to Genoa is drivable in not too many hours, of course. There seemed to be very few English-speakers on this cruise - we only once or twice heard English being spoken in passing - and at first we were sat with non-English diners. On the first night we were sat with an elderly couple from Switzerland who were German-speaking. Well, we don't have any German and only the gentleman had a bit of English so that was a rather stilted affair. We requested a change of table, and for the next 4 nights were sat with four Swedish people, two of whom spoke excellent English, so we had some conversation on those nights. They disembarked at Barcelona and for the last two nights we had a big 6-seat table to ourselves. Ashore in Naples We were in Naples for just half-a-day, from lunchtime to about 7pm. There were a number of excursions, including visits to Pompeii, Capri, and Vesuvius, but we felt that given the shortness of time it might all be a bit rushed so we decided to do our own thing. This was helped by the fact that at Naples the cruise ships dock right at the heart of the old city. We decided to make our way to San Martino, an old monastery at the top of the city overlooking the old town and the bay. Getting ashore was easy – just get the card swiped (which recorded that we’d left the ship) then walk across the open car park to the main road. That was when we had our first experience of Neapolitan traffic. It really is as mad as they all say, with the scooters the biggest menace of all. We saw a lot of cars with all four corners crunched, and some had one side or the other scraped as well… Eventually we found our way to the bottom of a funicular railway that took us a long hill to a point high over the city. We then had to walk further up and around a number of streets until eventually we found the entrance. Despite supposedly being one of Naples’ top attractions (it’s a leading museum), we found that San Martino was very poorly signposted, at least from the direction we approached. But eventually we found it and once we got in and found the gardens, it was every bit as beautiful and peaceful as we’d hoped. One more comment about Naples: very little English is spoken there and very few signs, instructions, etc, were in English. Of course, you could say “why should there be?” But this contrasted greatly with Barcelona, as we found later on. Postscript: Later in the week we learned that our Swedish table companions had some not-so-good experiences at Naples. Two of them went to Pompeii and the other two to Capri. The Pompeii excursion went exactly as described, but it was a rush. Again, it was very busy - 50 coach loads from the two ships in port (Sinfonia and Costa Fortuna) so it was very busy and they felt they were just running after the guides all the time, they didn't really get any feel for what they were seeing. The Capri trip ran over time and our table companions had no time to repair before dinner - just a quick wash and change, no time to shower. It would not have been a problem for 2nd-sitting diners, however. Ashore at Palermo – excursion to Cefalu Cefalu (from Palermo): a beautiful little town. Sadly our visit here was curtailed even more than expected as a result of the strangest industrial action I've ever encountered. The (horse-drawn) carriage drivers in Palermo had got into a dispute with the port authorities and the cruise lines. They wanted to come onto the dockside, the companies wouldn't allow them. We saw some serious arguments between groups of drivers and the authorities (armed policemen...), and then the action started: the drivers blocked each road lane on the busiest road junction in Palermo, by edging the carriages into the roads. It took us an hour to get past the dock gate. This meant that all we had was just over an hour in Cefalu, which was disappointing. Cefalu itself was delightful. A small town clustered round the huge Normal cathedral. Interestingly, although the town is on the sea it has largely turned its back on it: if you look at the pictures you’ll see many houses with sheer walls onto the sea rather than, as I might have expected, making a feature of the sea vista. There is a small beach but there’s no real port. After returning from Cefalu we decided to stay on board, and sat on the Lido Deck all afternoon and relaxed. I think I actually fell asleep for a while…. Ashore in Tunis – excursion to the ruins at Carthage, and Sidi Bou Said We docked at the port of La Goulette, which is about 10 or 12 kilometres from the city of Tunis. There were two excursions available from here, Carthage: History & Culture, or a visit to the Medina (the bazaar) in Tunis city. Both excursions ended with a visit to a picturesque village, Sidi Bou Said. Apart from these excursions, the only way of getting away from the harbour area was by taxi. We also had to get entry visas to enter Tunisia. This was done by a team from the relevant Tunisian ministry coming aboard unfeasibly early and issuing temporary visas, on production of a passport, in the theatre at 7am! We duly got our visas which were desultorily checked as we stepped of the gangplank for our excursion. We did the history & culture one, which was a two-part excursion: about 2 hours being shown round the ruins of Roman & Byzantine Carthage (and a museum) followed by a visit to Sidi Bou Said. We had an English-speaking guide, Mr Habib, who was extremely knowledgeable about his country and its history, and the first part of this excursion was excellent. The visit to Sidi Bou Said was more challenging. First, it was very crowded - not only were there a number of coaches from Sinfonia (at least a dozen) but there were at least as many from Costa Fortuna, also in port that day. Second, it became obvious that the name of the game was to persuade the rich europeans to part with some of their cash - there were hundreds of traders, selling everything from carpets to trinkets. And they were insistent. I don't mind a bit of hassle, I can deal with it, but for the first time I was conscious of myself as a 'rich' person - like all the other tourists I had paid unimaginable sums of money to be there and I was festooned with the latest generation of western techno-toys. I was very struck by the difference between me and the Tunisians. But no, I didn't buy anything, they had nothing that I wanted. Should I have bought something anyway, to help them? I don't know the answer. Ashore at Palma We knew Palma somewhat from our holiday in 2004 and therefore decided not to do the excursions (which didn’t seem very attractive anyway). We aimed for Castell Belver, a historic castle at the top of the town, with (you guessed it) great views back over the city and Palma Bay. A quick taxi ride got us there very quickly and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours (or near) up there, walking around it and taking pictures. There’s a museum of Palma history inside, with attractive displays and informative explanatory panels, in Spanish (or Catalan – I don’t know), French and English. Then we walked down a path and towards the old town, eventually along the harbour. This was rather further than we’d expected and we got a bit hot, but revived ourselves with a beer (Tom) and an ice-cream (Val). Then a taxi got us back to the ship in plenty of time for dinner. Ashore at Barcelona We did our own thing again at Barcelona, but this was a less successful day. Nothing wrong with Barcelona, quite the opposite in fact, but we made some wrong choices. The ship docked almost at the bottom of La Rambla, the main tourist drag, so we walked happily up it in the morning. A quick coffee was an effective reviver, then we walked around the ‘Bari Gotic’ – the old town. Then we made our mistake – following advice, we got on one of the open-top Barcelona Sight-Seeing buses. This was not very successful. First, we found that to get to the spots we wanted to go to we had to change buses – the company had two routes that intersected. There was a certain amount of hassle in waiting for a bus then just going half a mile or so, getting off, and then queuing for another one. Second, we found that once out of the immediate city centre, the route the buses took wasn’t that interesting. It wasn’t actively unpleasant, but (for example) the route over to Sagrada Familia is through ordinary suburbs – not the most fascinating places. In the afternoon we went on the bus for 90 minutes or so, and that was a serious mistake – we went upstairs in the sun, it was very hot, the bus took a long time to get anywhere (not helped by the occasional 5 or 10 minute wait at a bus stop); basically we just fried in the sun. And then when we got to our destination – Montjuic, the hill that gives a great view over the city – we found that the cable cars that take you to the top were out of action for the whole of 2005. So we just went back to Las Ramblas and had a drink in the shade. We did see some good things in Barcelona. Mainly, we saw Sagrada Familia, which is probably the most impressive building I’ve ever seen. Crowded out, of course, but amazing nonetheless. And that was about it, really, although we did enjoy lunch & drinks. Oh, and we had a couple of trips on the metro which was quick, cheap, cool and easy – the ticket machines had instructions in English. If we go back we’ll buy a day ticket for the metro, not the open-top bus. Ashore at Marseilles Marseilles was our last full day. The ship docked in the new docks, about 6 km from the city centre, and in addition to the formal excursion coaches there were regular shuttle buses to and from the city centre (there was a small charge for these). Our feeling about Marseilles was that it was more likely to be a working, industrial port so we had better do an excursion. There were a number available – we could have gone to Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, or a trip into Marseilles centre itself, but we chose to go to Cassis, a beautiful small harbour town about 30 or 40 kilometres away, which turned out to be absolutely delightful. The coach took us through the centre of Marseillles then out along the sea road to the east. During this stage we drove past the famous Le Corbusier building, ‘Unite d’Habitation’. Then there was an interesting drive along a mountain road to Cassis. The coach wasn’t able to go into the town itself because the roads were too narrow, so we were dropped off above the town and took a little road-train – actually, a diesel vehicle pulling a load of passenger trailers – down to the harbour area. Cassis itself gave us all the activities you could possibly want to do in a beautiful seaside town in the south of France. Admire the harbour: check. Have a coffee in a pretty harbour-side cafe: check. Walk out to the end of the pier: check. Paddle in the Med: check. Walk around some old streets admiring the shops: check. This was excellent. Return to the ship was by coach again, by a different and quicker motorway route. We were back on board by about 12:30 but this time decided that we couldn’t face another shipboard lunch, so bought a couple of shuttle-bus tickets and went straight back into the centre of Marseilles. The coach dropped us off at the centre of the Vieux Port, the historic harbour area of old Marseilles. These days cafes and bars surround this, which was exactly what we wanted! So we had a good lunch, walked around a bit, had a drink in a bar, walked around a bit more, and eventually got the shuttle bus back to the ship. This turned out to be a better day than we had expected. Disembarkation Our luggage was collected from outside our cabin late on the last night after we'd labelled it up. Then we were up fairly early for our coach back to Malpensa airport. We waited for a while in the main lounge, then our group was called and sadly we were off the ship. We found our luggage very quickly, saw it loaded onto the coach, and waited for just a few minutes before setting off. A uneventful two-hour drive saw us at Malpensa airport before 12 o'clock, in plenty of time for our flight at about 2:30.

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