Saturday, September 14, 2019

MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review - Baltic

MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review
September 15, 2019

Just the Facts:
Ship: MSC Meraviglia
Captain: Roberto Leotta
Hotel Director: Guiseppe Pane
Ports: Copenhagen, Denmark - Helsinki, Finland - St. Petersburg, Russia - Tallin, Estonia - Kiel, Germany -  Copenhagen, Denmark.

I’m cruising as a solo. This is my second of four consecutive cruises on the MSC Meraviglia, my 11th MSC cruise and my 148th cruise overall.  I do have some clients and new cruise friends sailing.  I will have sailed 40 consecutive nights on board the Meraviglia. 

Sunday September 15  /  Copenhagen  /  Day 1

Floating Island dessert
Smooth sailing overnight. I was up periodically checking NCAA football scores…Oklahoma’s game was at 2:00 am Central European Time.  I was up for the day about 8:00 am and went by Guest Services to pick up my new Black Sail Card for this cruise.  So easy when doing a B2B in the EU as no waiting to do the customs thing as in the USA, you just go pick up your new card.  I had a nice breakfast with a large table of German guests most leaving the ship today.  I did have to go by and register my credit card to my sail account since I have a new card.  Easily done and there is a machine by my cabin corridor.  Then to the cabin to watch the highlights of the OU vs. UCLA football game.  The Sooners did well, but I knew the score at 3:00 am and was confident it would hold up through the game.    It’s rather cool and windy today and I’ve decided not to try to go into Copenhagen today, just stay on board and enjoy the ship.  I went on a walkabout so that my cabin steward could clean the cabin and when I returned I had a clean cabin and Champagne, deluxe fruit basket, and a fruit bowl. Nice to feel like a VIP.  I had not had lunch in the MDR as yet so today I ate in Waves, the usual Breakfast restaurant, on my deck five.  I ordered: the Madison Salad (DW would like this), the Roast Veal in Rosemary Sauce, and the Floating Island for dessert.  So glad I took waiters recommendation on dessert, it was really special (poached egg whites floating on vanilla creme anglaise, caramel) and unique to me. Try it if you get an opportunity.  See Photo.  After lunch it was to the cabin for afternoon nap time.  Boat drill for those boarding today woke me from my nap, but it was still a nice nap.  Dinner was nice tonight, I ordered:  Lasagne Bolognese, the Oven Roasted Prime Rib of Beef entree, and Warm Apple Strudel with Ice Creme for dessert.  I retired soon after dinner tonight as I had some projects to finish since I decided to purchase the unlimited internet for this cruise.  A little business, but I’ll enjoy having the WiFi for news and sports too.  It was another good day on the MSC Meraviglia.

Monday September 16  /  Day at Sea  /  Day 2
Production Show: Way
Generally smooth seas overnight with a little more movement than previous nights.  Sometime early during the night I strained ligaments or pulled some muscles in my knee/leg and it was painful, could be the ACL.  Barely could hobble to the bathroom.  Nothing to do but hope it improved.  Only slightly better in the morning, I had to hop to the door to receive more goodies being delivered. Breakfast was out of the question, but at least I have fruit to enjoy this morning.  A hot shower and heat on the area helped, at least I could walk with a limp by lunch. I wanted to experience the Panorama Restaurant and had a nice table center at the aft windows.  Great view.  I ordered: Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls, the Club Sandwich, and Tropézienne for dessert. I sat too long and had to limp back to the cabin.  I discovered I was an hour off on time this morning, we are now on Helsinki/St. Petersburg/Tallinn time.  I knew we would change but overlooked the notice on the Daily Program.  I had a nap after lunch…nice I don’t do that at home.  I went up to the Brass Anchor for a couple of Stella Artois and ran into friends.  Dinner tonight was good, perhaps the best menu from last week.  I ordered: Tortelli as a starter, the Leg of Lamb entree, and rhe Choco-gianduja Sundae for dessert.  The entree was very good.  I did attend the production show tonight: Way.  Live orchestra, dancers, and feature singers preform various Broadway and show hits. They even had a can-can number for me.   I enjoyed the show very much.  I retired following the show and my leg/knee/back is much better. I hope it’s fine for tomorrow’s excursion in Finland.  It was a great Sea day on the MSC Meraviglia.

Tuesday September 17  /  Helsinki, Finland  /  Day 3
Helsinki Cathedral
Rolling seas in the Baltic overnight and I slept well and feel good.  I went to breakfast in the MDR about 8:30 am. and had scrabbled eggs for the first time.  You can get spoiled having bacon and fresh fruit daily…I’m enjoying it while I can.  I had a 10:30 meeting time for my excursion: Porvoo & Helsinki site seeing.  We had a full bus of English speakers and two other buses on the trip.  Porvoo is about 50 kilometres east of Helsinki.  It is an old city… one of the six medieval towns in Finland, first mentioned as a city in texts from the 14th century. The Porvoo Cathedral was built in the 15th century, although the oldest parts date from the 13th century.  It is a popular with local and foreign tourists as the old town is considered the most picturesque of any small town in Finland. The red warehouses along the river and old medieval buildings have been converted into shoppes, art studios, restaurants, tea rooms, candy operations, and more.  I had time to enjoy a wonderful local beer: a Malmgård dry hop Pilsner. (€8.5) Very Good beer and I met my new Finnish friend Tommy.  After a few hours the tour returned to Helsinki and we saw: Market Square, Esplanadi Park, Uspenski Cathedral, the Helsinki Cathedral, National Museum of Finland, and much more.  The bus stopped and all had opportunity to visit the Market Square area, but having done this area previously I hopped a Shuttle back to the ship.  It was a nice tour, but Parvoo is what I wanted to see.  I did take advantage of some fruit in my cabin as no lunch today then had time for the  2 for 1 special on Stella Artois beer at the Brass Anchor.  Have I mentioned that they have twelve beers on tap?  For dinner tonight I ordered: Tuscon Soup, Linguine with Shellfish as my pasta starter, the Grilled Beef Sirloin entree, and Arroz con Leche (cinnamon rice pudding) for dessert.  Our waiter Julis actually brought all the gentlemen two steaks on the entree plates.  He takes care of us…that’s why we had requested him again this cruise.  Lot’s to do and a big excursion tomorrow so I retired to the cabin after dinner.  It was a nice Finnish excursion and good evening on the MSC Meraviglia.

Wednesday  September 18  /  St. Petersburg, Russia  /  Day 4
I met Catherine, she was Great !
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. We were docked well before 6:00 am when I first woke. I went to the MDR for breakfast about 7:45 am about the same time they allowed guests off the ship. I gathered my Russian rubles and passport and met friends to get our excursion numbers about 9:30.  I believe it was the most popular excursion today: City Tour & Hermitage with lunch. We had a good bus only about 36 folks.  The tour basically went strait to the Hermitage as we had 11:00 am entry tickets.  We had a pretty intense tour lasting a bit over two hours. Our guide was good about avoiding other groups, we only got trapped in a room once.  We saw the original Winter Palace including the Grand Staircase, Audience Chamber, Grand Halls, and former Private Chambers.  Our guide must have been an art major as she got us to various art collections and masterpieces including Madonna Litta by Leonardo da Vinci, Penitent Magdalene by Titian, Saint Peter and Saint Paul by El Greco, The Lute Player by Caravaggio, Self-Portrait by Anthony van Dyck, and Danaë by Rembrandt,  We saw even more  classics including Frans Hals a personal favorite, and didn’t even get to the Impressionists.  I did see the very beautiful Palace Chapel that I had not seen in my previous visit.  Overall a very good tour of the Hermitage.  Following our tour we walked along the embankment a few blocks to a lunch provided to us in a former palace. Our group had our own dining area and it was nice,  I purchased a Russian Beer and Bottled Water & Vodka was provided to us as well as a nice Salad, Soup, a nice Chicken Cutlet entree, with ice creme for dessert.  It was a filling and very good lunch.  Next stop was the Church of the Spilled Blood, my favorite thing in St. Petersburg,  It is closed on Wednesdays, but it was just a photo opportunity on this tour anyway. I did run into some friends there, see photo.  We stopped at the Peter and Paul Cathedral located inside the Peter and Paul Fortress.  The tombs of the Czars located there are very interesting.  The rest of the tour was panorama with only two additional photo stops.  I think most were very happy with that as they were tired from the walking in the morning.  We saw: the Bronze Horseman, Strelka, the Admiralty Building, Alexander Column, the Nevsky Prospekt Avenue shoppes, and basically all the major buildings of central St. Petersburg.  We were returned to the Meraviglia about 6:45 pm so it was a long day,  It felt so good to have a hot shower and clean up once back in the cabin.  I made reservations at the steakhouse for tonight then I met with the Matre’D and finalized seating for my new clients boarding for the Transatlantic cruise next week.  I had time to go to deck 18 for a couple of cocktails in the Sky Lounge before another wonderful meal at the Butcher’s Cut steakhouse.  I ordered the Burrata & Beet salad,  The Choice NY Strip Steak with sides of Creamed Spinach & Potato Wedges, and Cheesecake for dessert.  It was a great visit to St. Petersburg and great dinner on the MSC Meraviglia on this long busy day.

Thursday September 19  /  Tallinn, Estonia   /  Day 5
Kadriorg Palace from visit two years ago
Smooth seas overnight and I slept off and on very well.  All the muscles and joints feel well considering all the activity yesterday.  However I have a slight cough and I don’t want to come down with a cold or sore throat so I decided to stay aboard ship today and rest  Tallinn is a great port stop as it has a walkable old town on two levels with historic medieval architecture and nice shoppes and interesting churches.  I really enjoyed it when I was here two years ago.  I slept in as long as possible and had a banana for breakfast, those fruit baskets have come in handy.  Booked a cruise for regular friends and did some other business while enjoying cabin time.  I went to the MDR about 12:30 pm for lunch and get a supply of water.  Americans automatically get a complementary water package if booked through MSC-USA but it’s only good in one of the MDR’s at lunch and dinner.  For lunch I ordered a Waldorf Salad, the Bismarck Hamburger, and Caramelized Banana for dessert.  It was very good. The rest of the afternoon was rest and recovery time.  I had a great nap. I had a delivery of sweets not sure what they are called, but I would call them a cake ball.  I looked at the time and it was 6:35 pm or dinner time.  I quickly dressed and was there in time to order, but I wasn’t last to arrive just by different accidental circumstances we were all late.  I ordered:  Aubergine Rolls Mediterranean-style, Herb-crusted Beef Tenderloin, and Baked Alaska & Coconut Mango Tapioca Pudding for dessert. My friends seemed to have a fun day in Tallinn. It is White Party night on board the MSC Meraviglia.  More guest dressing up for it this cruise. Keeping my R&R theme I retired to the cabin.  It was a restful day for me on board the MSC Meraviglia.

Friday  September 20  /  Sea Day  /  Day 6
Smooth seas continue and I slept well overnight.  Still in R&R mode this morning so had some fruit from my fruit baskets this morning and continued to sleep as long as possible.  We turned back our clocks too so that allowed even more rest. My home remedies seem to be working so I cleaned up about noon then went to a nice lunch in the Panorama restaurant when it opened at 12:45 pm.  I had a table to myself and noticed that they had probably two dozen very nice two-top tables across the back windows.  I had a share table in center previously.  I think my clients will be very pleased with dinner arrangements next cruise.  For lunch I ordered: Sparkling Water, Seafood Cocktail, Caprese Salad, Mongolian Style Beef, and Nutella Creme Mille-Feuille.  Waiter brought a Pan-seared Fillets of Red Mullet, I knew as soon as he gave me the fish knife that he would bring the fish…but it was good.  A nice formal lunch.  It was now 2:00 pm and I knew friends would be meeting at the Brass Anchor so went by to visit for a while. I didn’t stay as I’m going to hold off until the Black Party this evening to drink.  R&R day.   About 5:00 pm I went up to the Sky Lounge on deck 18 for the MSC Black & Gold Party.    It was quite fun. I had my share of Aperol Spritzers.  There were more people than last cruise and the Captain didn’t attend but a nice room and the entertainer was a torch singer…my favorite genre of music. Guiseppe Pane was senior and he announced MSC’s plans for a Diamond level above the Black Card…interesting.  It was now time for our 6:30 dinner.  Very impressive when I walked into the MDR…new theme:  Mediterranean Night.  Nice new table runners, new uniforms for the waiters, and new menu covers all in a matching light green.  Great new menu items too, tonight I ordered: Nicoise Salad, Spanakopita, the Veal Ossobuco entree, and Turkish Baklava & Ice Creme Sundae for dessert.  All very good. Best dinner so far on the cruise.  I retired after dinner to update blog and get news. I didn’t want to push myself with such a fun evening.  It was a very nice sea day on the MSC Meraviglia.

Saturday  September 21  /  Kiel, Germany  /  Day 7
Eutin Castle Garden Facade
Again smooth seas overnight and I slept well. Feeling much better this morning too.  It’s a transition day here on the MSC Meraviglia and most of the passengers are leaving the ship today with more to board for the transatlantic.  My clients will board tomorrow.  The MDR was open very early so I had to get in before the 8:30 am close.  I had a nice three-egg and bacon breakfast.  I have an excursion today: Castles, Lakes & Roses I met in the group area at 8:45 am…soon we were off for shuttle that then took us to the tour buses.  Kiel port logistic are not simple.  I had a good bus and good seat and we were on our way to Plön, Germany.  First we toured the gardens and out buildings of Plön Castle then had some free time in the little village of Plön.  It was nice.  Then we stopped for our Five Lakes Boat trip.  Just before we boarded the weather broke and we had beautiful sunshine the rest of the day.  Best weather in two weeks.  I celebrated by enjoying two König Pilseners and the very pleasant one hour boat ride.  We were then take to the town of Eutin.  Here it was again a tour of the Castle Gardens, but I went for a park bench in a very beautiful setting for a nice rest.  Eutin Castle is surrounded by a moat and adjacent to a lake and the gardens I did see were old and beautiful. (PHOTO: above is actually the side view of Eutin Castle, but I love the reflection in the moat) The Castle itself was nice with great courtyard, would be ideal for a period movie set.  The group then went to the old town Square.  The guide tipped me off to the best craft beer so that is where I stopped for a Pils and some goulash to tide me over.  Both were very good.  We were returned to Kiel and the Meraviglia about 4:45 pm.  There were still lots of new guests waiting to board.  Boarding for us today as transits was very easy.  There will be a lot of Germans on the transatlantic.  Dinner was unusual as they opened the doors at 6:00 pm and will be changing the times.  Also all three restaurants will now open at 6:00, that will slow service for all.  Should have left it as is IMHO.  But the menu is NEW, first of the more American and Caribbean style menus to come.  Tonight I ordered: Fire-roasted Tomato Creme Soup, Bay Scallops Ceviche, Braised Beef Short Ribs (entree), the Rollo deCochinillo y Patatas Bravas entree (rolled pork), and Catalonian Creme for dessert.  A different variety and a good meal.  I did some shopping after dinner then to the cabin to use as much WiFi as I can as I go onto a new plan tomorrow.  It was an interesting transition day on the MSC Meraviglia and a great excursion day.  Tomorrow I begin the Transatlantic.

Maiden Voyage: 2017  I  Gross Tonnage: 171,598 tons
Passenger Capacity: 4500  |  Crew: 1536  I  Length: 1036 feet
Max Cruising Speed: 22.7 knots  I  Avg Speed 21.8 knots
Installed power: Wärtsilä Diesel (51,500hp)  I  Propulsion: Azipod
Godmother: Sophia Loren

I have cabin 5097 a port side forward interior located on deck 5. Only a few guest cabins on this deck as the lower Atrium deck (mid ship) and the Main dining Room (MDR) -Waves Restaurant are all located on deck 5.  The cabin is just one deck below theater, Galleria, & Main dining rooms, and one deck above the port gangway.  A great location. It is somewhat spacious cabin for an interior.  It has a push button safe, twin/king beds, two night stands, wall lighting at bed, a small refrigerator, seat at dresser/desk, and TV with interactive features.  There is a large wardrobe with two drawers upper shelves and large hanging area with two doors.


The GS (Guest Services) staff is very friendly and nice. I see them each morning as I leave my cabin.  Our MDR waiter Julius is very efficient. My cabin steward was wonderful. Overall the crew is more friendly than the old MSC.  Most cocktail servers and bartenders provided very good service. Officers very friendly and helpful.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment
Entertainment is the strong suit of MSC with very nice production shows and live music in most all venues. Cirque Du Soleil is a unique special show and you do pay a premium for that venue. In addition to the production shows they have ‘fun’ events scheduled every night in the various lounges. Also the Dome shows in the Galleria each night. The MDR dinners are good to very good, Buffet food is good to excellent depending on selections. The Marketplace pizza station, bread station, and salad bar are excellent. The MSC Meraviglia has some very beautiful lounges and bars with live entertainment, I try to visit most. My favorites were the Infinity Bar and the Brass Anchor this cruise

Black Card — I received a dinner in a specialty restaurant, a Chocolate ship, two private Cocktail Parties, Champagne & Chocolate strawberries, a logo gift of a travel bag, a photograph, and more.   Good program.

Highlights of the Cruise
St. Petersburg -- just the experience
Castles, Lakes & Roses excursion
Porvoo Finland
Butchers Block Steakhouse
Black Card Benefits

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