Saturday, November 15, 2014

MSC Preziosa Cruise Review

 MSC Preziosa

Cruise Review 10/25/2014

Just the Facts:
Ship: MSC Preziosa
Cruise Director:
Ports: Venice, Italy - Bari, Italy - Katakolon, Greece - Izmir, Turkey -
Istanbul, Turkey - Dubrovnik, Croatia - Venice, Italy

This is my 2nd MSC cruise and 96th cruise overall.  I am cruising with my dear wife (DW) and although a seasoned cruiser this will be a very different set of cruise experiences sailing from Europe on an Italian cruise line.  I know it will be very different than the standard American oriented cruise lines.

Saturday October 25  / Venice  /  Embarkation / Day 1

St. Marks Square - Venice
We have been on a European holiday so we are already in Europe and in Verona, Italy on the day of sailing.  We took the 1:00 pm train from Verona into Venice arriving about 2:10 pm.  We noticed that there are five cruise ships docked as we approached the island. There is a location in the train station where you can check your bags with MSC and they will be transferred to the ship and your cabin…well worth the fee (€5 per bag) for the convenience and service.  We were then off to the People Mover train that takes you from Piazzale Roma to the Marritima port (€1.3).  You can then walk to your ship pier or there may be a shuttle bus to the ships docked further away from the station.  We took the Preziosa shuttle bus to it’s pier and discovered a huge line to check luggage, fortunately since we had already checked ours at the train station, we proceeded directly into the building for embarkation.  I must say it was a very crowded, we had hoped we would be arriving after the ‘rush’ to board, but I think people arrive later since they can come from from half of Europe by train on the day of sailing.  It may be best to arrive early in this port.  We received a boarding ticket (#20) when we entered, then stood in line to check-in.  Once we received our boarding documents we still had to wait until our boarding number was called. Staff was selling excursions, wine packages, and drink packages while you waited or stood in line. We did purchase the Allegrissimo package. After a 15 minute wait primarily because security was at level 1, the highest level, we went though the X-ray machines we were finally on our way to the ship.   It was almost 4:00 pm by the time we got to the cabin and dropped my backpack so we headed to the Buffet as they were already making preliminary announcements for boat drill and we knew they may soon close.  We kind of ‘settled’ for what was readily available so I had Indian food & DW food from the children’s area that was perfect for her current restricted diet.  She loved her kiddie vege’s, but the highlight was the desserts…they were amazing.  Trying to make a good impression with a great selection and quality of desserts is my guess (it worked on us).  By the time we arrived back at the cabin our bags had arrived, but we headed up to pool deck to watch our sail away from beautiful Venice.  We were able to enjoy a few Bellini cocktails as we sailed past Harry’s Bar (home of the original Bellini) and then St. Marks Square.  It was so nice to relax after a very hectic day.  Following sail away we returned to the cabin to unpack and watch us sail through the Lido basin at sunset from our aft facing balcony…nice.  We had requested early dining, but were assigned late seating; however, since it was so late in the day when we had lunch we decided to try late dining tonight.  We explored the various lounges and decided on the El Dorado for aperitifs.  Dinner is at 8:45 in the L’Arabesque Restaurant located deck six aft.  We have a nice eight-top table with all English speakers: two couples from New Zealand and two nice ladies from Scotland.  For dinner I ordered the fresh Tomato Soup, Spaghetti Carbonara, and the Fish entree.  Not overly impressed with dinner, but it may have been my individual selections, and the Tart that I ordered for dessert was not as good as the ones from earlier in the day.  DW’s vegetarian entree was good.  After dinner we retired to the cabin and set back our clocks one hour for daylight savings time.

Sunday October 26 / Bari, Italy / Day 2
Trulli homes in Alberobello
Smooth seas overnight just enough movement for an enjoyable nights sleep. We  are scheduled for a 10:00 am arrival in port. We ordered a room service continental breakfast about 8:30 am. and watched us approach Bari from the balcony until time to meet our excursion at 9:50.  We booked a tour to Alberobello.  This is a UNESCO cultural heritage site known for unique dry stacked limestone conical style homes called Trulli.  These are commonly found in the countryside, but at Alberobello there is an entire village of them, very interesting and unique. We returned to the ship about 2:30 as we have a 3:00 pm sail away.  Security was very thorough (level 1) so there were long lines to board.  Once we boarded we went direct to the Lido buffet for some food and then explored the upper decks of the ship stopping to have a few Heinekin beers along the way.    After some cabin R&R we went to the El Dorado Piano bar for some Cosmopolitan cocktails then to the L’Arabesque for dinner. The NZ'ders changed to early dining so just us and the Scots at our table.  The Tiramisu dessert was good.  The production show was Sogno Italiano.  In addition to the production shows each night, they have a ‘fun’ style of entertainment at 11:00 in the Safari Lounge each night.  Since there are no comedians due to the language barriers, they have comedic skits, dance, or visual art.  The entertainment is very well organized and presented.

Monday October 27 / Katakolon, Greece / Day 3
Mt. Olympus, Greece
I slept very well although it was short having lost an hour of time and a very early arrival at Katakolon.  We booked the Taste of Ancient Greece excursion and met our tour group at 7:45 am for our trip to Mount Olympus and the site of the ancient Greek Olympics.  The site is of course in ruins but you can see the location and ruins of the Temple of Zeus, various athletic buildings, the original stadium, and more.  We saw where they have the lighting of the torch ceremony for the current Olympic Games tradition.  Following this we went to a very nice private club where we were served a sampling of Greek food and treated to great Greek folk dancing.  This was a fantastic excursion with history, food, and folk traditions.  We returned to the ship for a very early sail away at 1:00pm so an excursion is really the only way to go visiting this port.  We went to the buffet as well as ALL the other passengers so it was very busy, on reflection we should have gone to one of the ‘pay’ venues such as Eataly for premium pizza.  We enjoyed beer and the wonderful view from our balcony and decided to make this an afternoon and evening of rest.  We had an early dinner in the Maya buffet and there were just a few guests this evening, the opposite of lunch, with most enjoying the Gala dinner night in the MDR’s.  With twelve consecutive days of touring we needed and enjoyed a ‘night off’ this evening.  We didn’t attend, but the production show tonight was Wonderland and we later heard it was very good.

Tuesday October 28 / Izmir, Turkey / Day 4
Library of Celsus  -  Ephesus
Very smooth seas again overnight and I slept very well. It’s a beautiful sunny day and we are in the port of Izmir this morning, my first time in continental Asia. We ordered a room service continental breakfast as we have a 8:15 meet time this morning for our Ephesus & Mary’s House excursion.  We have now become veterans of the excursion process and were soon on our bus and on the hour drive to Ephesus. Mary’s House is located on the mountain beyond Ephesus and was the first stop.  This is now a shrine built over the ruins of the original house.  It is a beautiful site and we sampled some of the holy water as well.  Hopefully it will do us good.  Just a short drive down hill to the upper gates of Ephesus.  Our tour guide lead us through the various ruins explaining each on the way through.  Several sites were most impressive: the Temple of Hadrian, the Library of Celsus, and the Amphitheater.  We had some free time following to visit the Museum shop or vendors located at the main gate before boarding our bus.  Total time here was about two hours and we needed every minute of it, a very impressive and historical site.  The tour returned us to the port in Izmir for our 15:00 sail away.  After boarding I got a couple of beers for our balcony sail away party for two.  We had a great view of the City of Izmir, a much larger city than I had imagined and very impressive and modern.  DW restocked the beverages and it was soon a very relaxing sunset party as we left the bay and sailed north towards the Dardanelles.  We went to the production show: The Witches of Paris in the Platinum theater and I especially enjoyed the Cancan portion that not only included the dancers, but acrobats as well.  After the show we had cocktails in the Diamond Bar with new friends until dinner.  Dinner was actually the best so far, I ordered the Spanakopita, Green Salad, Seafood Pasta, and the Chicken Cordon-blu entree.  The vegetarian selections continue to be excellent.

Wednesday October 29 / Istanbul, Turkey / Day 5

Hagia Sophia Mosque
It was a cloudy day all day, but fortunately never rained.  It’s an early morning  for us and we can see the Mosques from our balcony early this morning.  We actually arrived earlier than our scheduled time of 7:30 so I wanted to be at our excursion meet point at the listed time of 7:15 for the Deluxe Istanbul Tour.  We boarded the bus about 7:30 and were off.  On all four of our English speaking excursions we have taken we have been the only Americans, although we say we are from Texas when asked.  We have had Canadians, Aussies, etc., but most are ‘other’ European or Asian.  Interesting.  It is a national holiday in Turkey today, their Independence Day of the Turkish Republic so there are some good and bad with that—there are Turkish flags everywhere and bunting hanging on many major streets, very festive; however, the Bazaar is closed today for the holiday.  We started out with a drive over the Bosphorus Bridge to the Asia side of Istanbul, just so that we could say we’ve been to Asia, but we were in Asia on Tuesday so that was moot.  IMHO we were actually ‘killing time’ until the Blue Mosque opened as that was our next stop.  We stood in a long queue until opening time then we had to remove our shoes and ladies had to cover their hair before entering the famous Mosque.  Our guide pointed out the major historical points while we were there.  It was very interesting for many reasons.  We left the Mosque and walked to the nearby Hagia Sophia Mosque, here we did not have to remove shoes as it’s now a historical site, not a religious site and the guide again pointed out the major historical points while there. This was originally a Christian Cathedral for a thousand years that was later converted to a muslim Mosque.  Fortunately not all the Christian frescos were covered, but many that were have been restored.  Of course the building had also been ‘sacked’ many times as well by various armies over the two thousand years as well.  Architecturally it’s really a good example of a combination of the two religions in one site.  We then went to the Sultanahmet Palace for a wonderful luncheon.  This was a former Ottoman Empire palace now administered by the Four Seasons Hotel next door.  They offered a varied selection of entrees, sides, wine, and desserts.  After lunch we left from the Sultanahmet Palace dock and were taken on a cruise on the Bosporus so we could see the sites and architecture from the water.  We were dropped at at a different location where our bus picked us up and took us to our final site the walled Topkapi Palace.  After an introduction from our guide we were on our own to visit the various museums and sites within the Topkapi Palace area.  We visited the Jewels & Treasures room and enjoyed the grounds until time to meet for our return to the ship.  It was a long tour and I was ready for some cabin time upon return.  We had cocktails and attended the production show: The Show Must Go On, a tribute to the rock group Queen.  We had dinner in the MDR then cabin time following on this long and busy day.

Thursday October 30 / Day at Sea / Day 6

Preziosa Lobby and Preziosa Bar
We are sailing through the Greek Islands all day as we make our way back to the Adriatic Sea. I had a very enjoyable nights sleep knowing we had a sea day today.  I was awake just after 8:00am and enjoyed lounging and catching up on internet news and mail.  DW ordered room service and I went to the L’Arabesque Dining Room for breakfast.  I shared a table with a couple from Germany that had a great aft view and I ordered Eggs Benedict (served on nice toast), bacon, and vegetables (potatoes, mushrooms, grilled tomato).  It was a very good breakfast.  When I returned to the cabin DW had begun a laundry day.  Those that read my cruise blog know I recommend magnets and they are very helpful on laundry day if you want to hang clothes or even a hanger in you cabin or on the balcony.  When not used for a special use such as laundry I use the magnets to hang hats on the cabin wall.  I worked on this review until lunch time and we then went to the L’Arabesque for a very nice lunch.  I ordered a Waldorf Salad, Penne Pasta with Bolognaise Sauce, and the Veal Tenderloin entree.  Very nice.  After lunch we explored the ship and went into all the shoppes, we even found the Muammar Gaddafi waterfall (this ship was originally ordered by the Libyan Government and he ordered a huge fish tank for this location) kind of hard to find. We received an invitation to a ‘private’ cocktail party that assume is a pasr guest party, but we passed. I spent the rest of the afternoon on our aft balcony watching the Greek Islands pass by, enjoying a few beers, and spending a bit of time on the internet.…isn’t life grand?  We went to the production show: Pandora in the Platinum Theater, they incorporated colorful costumes, dance, music, contortionists, trapeze, and more into an interesting show.  After the show we went for a cocktail in El Dorado, but due to faulty sound (thankfully) we went to the Galaxy Lounge for a very nice evening of cocktails and live jazz music. 

Friday October 31 / Dubrovnik Croatia / Day 7

A busy Luza Square - Dubrovnik
A little bit of rocky seas overnight.  Very sunny and pleasant weather all day.  We  don’t arrive in Dubrovnik until midday so we slept late and also turned back our clocks one hour to CET.  The Captain made an announcement that we would be arriving an hour early so that seemed to motivate everyone including us to go up to the Inca buffet for breakfast before debarking.  We arrived about 11:00 am and we were off soon afterward.  They ran out of taxis so we began walking, but soon took a bus to the Old Town.  We did get to walk by the new harbor and from what we could see on our own and from the ship, Dubrovnik is a beautiful clean city.  When we arrived at the old walled city we were amazed with the beauty and history.  We really enjoyed just walking around the old city.  We stopped at a cafe on Luza Square for a Coke and could see four ‘must see sites’ listed in my Dubrovnik guide from our table.  Dubrovnik rates just behind Prague and Ceske Krumlov as our favorite cities on our European tour.  We actually returned a little earlier than intended as we just happen upon a City Gate and thought we would go ahead and get a taxi while the getting was good.  That got us back to the ship before the crowds and there was no line to board, we decided to head direct to the Inca Buffet for a nice late lunch.  We had cabin and balcony time until we went to the Green Sax Jazz Lounge for cocktails prior to the Production Show: The Best of…, that was some of the highlights from previous shows.  We had cocktails with our Scottish friends in the Preziosa Lobby Piano Bar before our final dinner in the L’Arabesque dining room.  After dinner it was back to the cabin to pack and put our big bags out to be picked up.

Saturday November 1 / Debarkation /  Venice
Smooth seas overnight and a clear and sunny day, in fact, we saw the sunrise on the horizon.  We are scheduled to dock at 9:00 am and have a 9:50 am group time for departure.  We were up early and finished our packing then watched us sail into Venice from the balcony on this beautiful morning.  We then went up to the buffet for breakfast and finally to the Safari Lounge our designated debark area.  At 9:50 we went off the ship, I made the mistake of confusing the colors pink with lilac and went to the wrong luggage area so had to repeat some steps to get into the lilac color area.  It was not clear that there where two luggage areas, but we did learn some good intel that will help with embark tomorrow.  Once we had our luggage we found the shuttle bus to the People Mover and were on our way to Venice.  We had no real problems getting elevators at both ends of the People Mover and soon we were in Piazzale Roma.  You can actually see our hotel from there so we crossed the square and made our way across the single canal bridge to Hotel Arlecchino.  Our room was to be ready in only a few minutes so we went next door to see if our friends had arrived and very soon both were there.  We went back to place our luggage in the room and were away with our good friends for a great day in Venice.

Maiden Voyage: 2013  I  Gross Tonnage: 139,072 tons
Passenger Capacity: 3959  |  Crew: 1370  I  Length: 332.99 meters
Max Cruising Speed: 27 knots  I  Avg Speed 23.7 knots
Installed power: Diesel (40,000kW)  I  Propulsion: Twin propellers


We have cabin 12264 an aft facing balcony located on deck 12 and there are aft elevators located nearby.  It is a well decorated and spacious cabin.  The cabin has a push button safe, twin/queen beds, large padded headboard, two night stands with lights, a large decorative mirror, a small refrigerator, small table, couch, seat at dresser, and TV with interactive features.

Our MDR waiters were very efficient as were our cabin stewards, but overall the crew were not really very friendly, there were some exceptions, but it’s a very different environment from most cruise lines. We actually found this same attitude throughout Europe not just on the ship.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment

Entertainment is the strong suit of MSC with very elaborate production shows and live music in most all venues. In addition to the production shows they have a ‘fun’ event scheduled every night night at 11:00 pm in the Safari Lounge (large  venue located far aft).  I was a bit disappointed with the MDR dinners, they were not as good as when we sailed on the MSC Poesia.  The Inca and Maya Buffet were adequate, it was different food and that is a good thing.  They had some very nice lounges and bars, we tried to visit most.  We did get the Allegrissimo package (~$30 per person per day) for unlimited liquor, cokes, water, etc. and it seemed to be worthwhile.

We did not know this would be a school holiday in Europe and there would be so many children and families.  Many children were well behaved, but many were not and there are always a few very bad apples.  As mentioned I knew it will be very different than the usual American cruise lines and if your looking for the same experience it will be much different.  You may like the differences or you may be very unhappy with the differences.  If you don’t like change or are not flexible you will probably NOT like sailing a European cruise line. We enjoyed ourselves and because we had the sanctuary of our own nice balcony we enjoyed the cruise and especially the excursions.

Highlights of the Cruise

Aft facing Balcony Cabin
Mount Olympus Excursion
Ephesus Excursion
Istanbul (not Constantinople) 
MSC Production Shows

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