We are back from our most fantastic exploration thus far! We celebrated my 29th birthday in Rome on a week-long cruise of France, Italy, and Spain. The perfect vacation, at the perfect time. We had beautiful weather, ate and drank like kings, and experienced some beautiful spots in the Mediterranean.
We cruised with the Italian cruise line, MSC onboard the Splendida. The ship made it’s first sail in 2009 and was christened at a ceremony in Barcelona by Sophia Loren. She is a few years old, but the Splendida was quite beautiful. The only sign of its constant use was the wear in the cabin carpets. The design was as glitzy as Las Vegas, but refined, as you would expect from Italian designers.
Fil and I were both incredibly impressed with the ship and especially the staff. We agreed that we would absolutely cruise with MSC again—possibly in the Far East or Caribbean. On board, six languages were standard for all announcements and printed information, Italian, English, Spanish, Portugese, Russian, and German. We are fairly certain that every staff member spoke at least 3 of these languages if not more. They all switched between languages so quickly, it was truly amazing. While much of the staff were Italian, it truly was an international ship. We spoke to staff from Italy, Indonesia, Mexico, the Netherlands, and many more places that we simply cannot remember.
Vincent, the maître d at the restaurant we were assigned to, was great with Brock. He called him McQueen since he was always wearing his McQueen hat and shared some of his childhood memories of Italy with us. Brock would watch a movie on the IPad during dinner, and Vincent would look in to see what it was. His face filled with joy one night when Brock was watching The Resquers, a movie that Vincent remembered watching as a child, but in Italy it was called The Adventures of Ms. Bianca and Bernard (translated). Our waiter, BamBang, was from Indonesia and told us how he told his wife about us as Brock reminded him of his son at home. Aside from being a wonderful human being, BamBang gave me a wonderful birthday treat! He walked up to our table with a makeshift microphone made of a breadstick and bun, and I admit I was a bit worried. I hate extra attention like that. Be he opened his mouth and Fil and I both hit the floor as a perfect Italian Tenor flowed from him. We were stunned and didn’t even notice the whole restaurant staring at us as he directed his song to me. It was beautiful.
Those two staff, aside from our housekeeper, were the staff we interacted with most, but it seemed that the whole crew knew our little McQueen. Everyone greeted him special, and once he had his camera souvenir (which he did not take off) they all asked for photos. Brock obliged them all as they made silly poses. It was adorable.
We booked the Aurea experience which is the nicest package they offer, aside from the very exclusive Yacht Club. With our package we had priority boarding (aside from the 20 people sailing in the Yacht Club we were literally the first people on board), all our drinks included, extra comforts in our room, and we each got a one hour spa massage of our choice. There were many more benefits to this package but that basically sums it up. The package was well worth its cost. We really feel like we got an amazing deal. Fil enjoyed his first ever massage, a deep tissue massage, and I went for a Himalayan Salt massage that I loved so much I went back to the spa for an additional massage and body scrub. There was an exclusive deck that we could relax in as Aurea passengers, but children weren’t allowed so we never did make it there. We did however put the “all drinks included” part of our package to good use.
Oh! I almost forgot! Also included was all the Italian gelato we could eat! Fil and I controlled ourselves to a few treats but one little mister enjoyed his daily ice cream. Remember what I said about the staff? The men at the gelato bar remembered Brock after only one trip! His second trip to the counter they greeted McQueen and asked if he wanted the small cup of chocolate with sprinkles like he had the day before! Wonderful people all around.
As you might guess, with our ships location, we ate like sea kings. Lunch, when we were on board, was just as amazing as dinner! Both meals had a starter, entrée, and dessert… and for each you had a pick of 5 options. We had 8 dinners, and 4 or 5 lunches on board and not once did we see an item repeated. Not once. We had veal, duck, mussels, sea bass, salmon, trout, squid, octopus, shrimp, cuttlefish, and our favorite… squid ink tortelloni, made on board fresh and filled with salmon. The restaurant was delectable. The chef really blew our expectations out of the water. Twice, Fil simply could not pick one entrée and so he had two instead of dessert! BamBang thought it was hilarious that Fil was having duck as dessert the first time he did it. Truly, some of the best food we have ever eaten. Add in prosecco with our meals and lemoncello with dessert and we were happy as clams. I cannot say it enough. Hands down, we would cruise again with MSC… but maybe without Brock. He did really good but some private time would have been nice.
We started our trip with a quick 1:15 flight to Marseille, France. From there we cruised through the Ligurian, Tyrrhenian, Mediterranean, and Balearic Seas. Our geography is not up to snuff so we thought it was all the Mediterranean, but we actually spent most of our time in the beautiful Tyrrhenian Sea. Compare our itinerary below to the geographic map to see what I mean.
With the exception of one day where we arrived at dock at 2pm, we pulled into a new port every morning around 9 am. We never had a day at sea, and almost all of our sailing was between dinner and breakfast. Flat seas meant we did not have any sea sickness (thankfully) but surprisingly I got sea legs pretty fast. I was surprised that with such flat seas it took a full 2 days for my body to adjust to being back on land. It made me wonder how my Grandpa did when he sailed with the Navy!
We really have nothing but wonderful things to say about MSC, and Lufthansa too! We had a bit of an issue with our flight but Lufthansa went above and beyond to make it right. When leaving Frankfurt we had a bit of a weather delay, plus our gate was one where you take stairs to a bus which takes you to the plane. I think in the rush to get us out, the gate attendant forgot, or maybe just ran out of time, to get our stroller on the flight with us. The attendants in Marseille copied our cruise itinerary and although they were sure they would get the stroller to us before the ship was to leave the next day, they promised that they would forward the stroller to the next port and get it to us ASAP. It was very comforting that they were going to go through so much effort for us, and thankfully it didn’t come to that. The stroller was delivered to our stateroom a little bit before we left the port. Not having the stroller could have seriously ruined the trip so we were very thankful to have it back.
I have to apologize, I realize now that we didn’t take any pictures of the ship! But if you are interested, just follow this link to a google search… you can browse as you like. But here we go! All of our pictures are posted on Flickr that you can check out as you like, or just wait… I will be writing a post for each port of call to share our adventure with you and the pictures will go with each posting.