Saturday, September 7, 2019

MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review - Norway

MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review
September 8, 2019

Just the Facts:
Ship: MSC Meraviglia
Captain: Roberto Leotta
Hotel Director: Giuseppe Pane
Ports: Copenhagen, Denmark - Geiranger, Norway - Flam, Norway - Stravanger, Norway - Kiel, Germany -  Copenhagen, Denmark.

I’m cruising as a solo. This is my first of four consecutive cruises on the MSC Meraviglia, my 10th MSC cruise and my 147th cruise overall.  I do have some clients and cruise friends sailing.  I will have 40 consecutive nights on board the Meraviglia. 

Friday & Saturday /  September 6 & 7 / Travel

Kong Frederik Hotel - Rådhuspladsen in background
I finished packing Friday morning and we were soon off for DFW airport about 11:15 am.  We took a new route going up Hwy 67 to Hwy 287, than onto the somewhat new Hwy 360 toll road.  We stopped at a very nice Chick-fil-a for lunch then took 360 on to DFW airport.  The DW was so sweet to drop me off at DFW as it’s not as easy as Waco, my usual departure airport.  I was through customs and at the United Airlines gate well before boarding.  When they asked for volunteers to check carry-on luggage to final I did so, one less bad to worry about.  The flight to ORD in Chicago was fine but I had a long lay-over before the 10:30 pm flight on Iceland Air. I needed the time as the terminal change took 40+ minutes  I did have a nice greek pita dinner at ORD while waiting.  I was able to get a nice seat upgrade and the six hour flight went very well.  The flight landed in good order about 10:15 am local time at Keflavik, but only an hour before the flight to Copenhagen, but the Keflavik airport is very efficient.  I cleared EU customs and was at the gate 40 minutes before boarding.  This final almost three hour flight  went well and I again had a good seat.  Allowing for two more time zone changes I was finally in Copenhagen by 4:15 pm.  Unfortunately after waiting for baggage I had to admit to myself that neither of my bags had arrived.  Many know that moment of dread at the beginning of a long holiday when this happens.  And both bags…what are the odds?  I went to the SAS baggage services office and after waiting with number in hand finally made it to an agent.  She typed away at her computer for a long while  then told me scanners indicated that one bag was on a carousel  different than the one for my flight.  It was my large original checked bag.  The bad news is the small carry on bag that I voluntarily checked at Dallas/Fort Worth never arrived in Copenhagen and it could not be readily found anywhere.  May still be at DFW for all we knew.  As a part of my annual Travel Guard travel insurance I have a lost bag service included, my SAS lady actually called them with all the details of my lost bag.  Hopefully it will be found, it had my new clothes purchased for this trip and my favorite dining room khaki slacks that I have worn on over 60 cruises.  The nice lady did send me away with a parting gift of over 600 Danish Krone and a men's toiletry kit.  I assure you the whole time I was waiting for a clerk no one else was given anything.  She did her best, but it could not be found.  Hopefully it will be.  I was well over an hour past the time I told the hotel I would arrive so I continued on my way.  The metro station at the airport is VERY easy to use.  I took the M2 metro train (~$3) to Nørreport Station and then a 15 minute walk to the hotel stopping at the Copenhagen Cathedral for photos along the way.  I am staying at the Kong Frederik hotel.  A very nice hotel located in an old historical building near Tivoli Gardens and the Rådhuspladsen or City Hall Square.  Very happy with hotel and location.  I ended up enjoying several Danish beers in the old beautiful lobby area this evening, a relaxing ending to a LONG and somewhat frustrating travel day.

Sunday September 8  /  Embarkation  /  Copenhagen  /  Day 1
Hans Christian Andersen
I was up early so took advantage of the fast WiFi to catch up on news, football scores, and get this blog started.  No news on lost bag though. about 9:00 am I went down to the restaurant for the breakfast buffet.  Lots of typical Danish went fresh breads, cheeses, meats, etc. although they did have bacon and an egg dish.  Afterward I walked down to the Rådhuspladsen and took photos of the Hans Christian Andersen statue and entry to Tivoli Gardens.  Then back to hotel to use that fast WiFi until the noon checkout.  I took a taxi to the port (275DKK) arriving before 1:00 pm and was amazed looking at the MSC Meraviglia for the first time: large, sleek, & impressive.  No wait going through security and I was handed a group 9 boarding card.  As I entered the waiting hall they were boarding group 3, but they did have an express line for Black Cards so I was processed strait away. As easy an embarkation as I have experienced.  You enter the ship on deck five and they have areas set up to purchase drink packages, spa services, and dining specials.  So easy to go to my cabin since it’s on deck five (yes I planned it).  The cabin is very large for an interior with a lot of floor room. There were some VIP gifts awaiting…thanks MSC-Miami. Cabin storage is adequate for myself as a solo, but only two drawers inside wardrobe…may not be enough for two.  I went up to deck 15 and the buffet for a light lunch then returned to deck 5 where I registered and linked my credit card to my shipboard account as you do on all MSC ships then went to guest services about my lost luggage.  They were very helpful, I gave them the information that was given by the SAS airport baggage for them…they loved that,  It’s not really responsibility of cruise lines to find the lost luggage but most actually do their best to get it for the guest.   From MSC I was given a card for 40% off purchases in the logo shop and was offered free laundry until my bag arrives.  Very nice.  There are very few TV stations available in English and no American networks, but that’s really to be expected on an international ship.  A great feature though is the virtual portholes available on the TV screen.  You can choose between starboard or port side view…very nice.  It was soon time for safety drill and my muster location was in the center of the Galleria just up one deck on six.  This is the shopping mall/restaurant area with unique ceiling that displays graphics.  During boat drill it is a deck plan of the ship with muster stations.  After boat drill it became the Sistine Chapel ceiling.  Impressive. I returned to the cabin and contacted my two very nice clients onboard and made arrangements for dinner.  Although we were linked we weren’t assigned together (unique booking situations on MSC) but it was sorted out and we have a nice four top table for this week in the L’Olive d’oro dining room on deck six. We met for dinner and it’s nice to have english speaking friends to enjoy dinner.  I ordered the salad, the pasta, the Prime Rib entree, and for dessert the Strudel.  All good.  After dinner I enjoyed two Cosmopolitan cocktails at the Infinity Bar before retiring to the cabin for needed rest after a very long and busy day.

Monday September 9  /  Day at Sea  /  Day 2
The Brass Anchor on deck 7 - Great Pub with beer variety
Smooth seas overnight with just enough movement for a very enjoyable nights sleep. The bed is ideal and very comfortable. I have four nice pillows, so very adequate.  I awoke about 7:30 am and about 8:30 went to the MDR for a proper breakfast. This is too easy as the morning MDR is on my deck and an easy stroll across the lobby.  I sat with two German couples and one Austrian couple who spoke English.  I ordered a Fruit Plate and Eggs Benedict with a side of Bacon & Hash-brown potatoes.  I was served Hot Milk that is not always easy to get on other cruise lines but very common on the MSC and the Meraviglia.  After breakfast I finished cabin set-up converting 220 plugs to 110 and a charging station for my laptop and iPhone, put up magnets, and stored items for the duration of the cruise. I received an email from AIG lost bag service that my bag had been found in Chicago.  I took that information to Guest Services and they were appreciative as didn’t have that information.  Stravanger, Norway is the goal to be reunited.  Since this was the second day MSC gave me a €100 credit.  WOW.  I will get some shirts from the Logo shop.  I send my laundry in this morning and hopefully it will be back tonight as that’s the only jeans I have and I have an excursion tomorrow.  I received an invitation to a reception for noon  today in the TV lounge on deck seven.  My friends were there and as far as I could determine this was for the English speaking passengers on board.  We had complimentary Champagne and many ships officers were introduced.  I noticed an English style pub across the way so the three of us headed there and enjoyed a couple of Stella’s on draft.  As far as I can tell this is the only location on ship with a variety of draught beers.  They also accepted my drink vouchers left over from previous MSC cruises so a win win here.   I went shopping this afternoon, the Boutique prices were very dear so even with discount over may budget.  I ended up getting a couple of t-shirts at the MSC Logo Shop.  They had very small and very large sized t’s on sale 2 @ €20  so that worked for me.  I enjoyed apéritifs with Maria at the Infinity Bar, she make a good cosmo…and takes drink coupons!!  My friends were at table 880 at 6:30 on this Captain’s night dinner and we enjoy a nice dinner, better than last night.  I ordered a new and different Escargot served in a puff pastry, the Tortelli pasta as a starter with Marcarpone & Asparagus, the Leg of Lamb entree, and the Choco-gianduja Sundae for dessert. All Very Good.  I returned to the cabin and my laundry was back...thanks for the great service Meraviglia.  Rest in cabin befoe excursion tomorrow.  It was a great first full sea day on the MSC Meraviglia.

Tuesday September 10  /  Geiranger, Norway  /  Day 3
Came to Norway just for this view - Geirangerfjord
Very calm in the North Sea overnight and I slept well…I woke very early at 5:00 am but I had 7 hours counting a late nap yesterday.  I went up on deck very early (6:00ish) to get a since of where we are docked as the sun comes.  We are actually at Geiranger at the end of the fjord, a bit surprised we sailed through darkness, but they have a LOT of excursions to offload. I was so near the Market Buffet I popped in for some hot milk and ended up eating a light breakfast as well.  I had a fresh omelette and nice bacon…it was good but not as good as the MDR. I’m sure I’ll be staying with the Dining Room for breakfast in the future.  This early you see crew members (3 different) you have already met and it’s nice to be greeted by name. GS wanted to update me on the lost bag, but no internet today as we are so deep into the fjord we have very little sky to catch a satellite.  We are docked on a floating dock…this is new…it really speeds thing up for the large ships such as the MSC Meraviglia.  There is also a lot more to the little village than when I was here last about five years ago. My excursion: Mountain Road up to Dalsnibba meets at 10:15 am. This was the road I did not take when here previously and we stopped at one of the most popular photo locations in Norway where I took photos of the ship and fjord below.  Most will recognize the setting.  But we were only 1/3 of the way to the top of Mount Dalsnibba.  Enjoyed the beautiful scenery including: a deep Mountain loch, a Glacier, and fresh fallen snow.  One of the most windy roads I have traveled. We made it back down about 1:00 and we have an on board time of 1:30. I had just enough time to purchase the obligatory refrigerator magnets. A bit of a line to board the ship as most of the excursions returned near the same time. Once on board I had time for one Perone beer at the Brass Anchor before they began making departure announcements. We left about 2:30 pm to allow time for guests to enjoy sailing through the actual famous Geirangerfjord during our return in daylight hours.  It was quite spectacular.  I believe there were more waterfalls than my previous trip in the fjord, but the area is already receiving some snow.  Dinner time comes even before we are fully out of the fjord, but it’s much wider now and we have WiFi.  Fewer at dinner tonight I guess many are watching the scenery… I ordered the Tuscan Soup, Linguine with Shellfish, the Grilled Beef Sirloin Steak, and Arroz con Leche (cinnamon rice pudding) for dessert.  Julius didn’t recommend the steak and he was right. The other items were good, soup the best tonight.  Still skipping the shows and tonight no cocktails as I have internet work to do on upcoming cruises and rest and relax rest of the evening.  It was a fantastic day in Norway.

Wednesday  September 11  /  Flaam, Norway  /  Day 4
Beautiful Norway
Smooth seas and I slept very well. We were docked about 7:00 am in the beautiful little village of Flam.  This is a new port for me so looking forward to seeing as much as I can.  I went to the MDR for breakfast about 7:45 am and sat with a very interesting German couple.  I enjoyed the three Eggs with bacon and the company.  My meet time for tour is 9:15 and I’m doing the Norwegian Falls & Dramatic Sceneries by Train excursion or in layman terms the Flam Railroad plus.  My friends are doing this as well. We began by walking to the Flaam train station and settled into our seat in the narrow gauge rail passenger car.  Lot’s of lovely scenery and we stopped at a waterfall for a photo opportunity before arriving at a proper rail station.  Here we boarded the regular Norwegian Rail for our trip to Voss.  Very nice cars and nice train, I wouldn’t hesitate to travel rail in Norway.  In Voss we stopped for nice lunch buffet at the Fleischer’s Hotel located next to the train station.  Time for a nice Haas Beer and hotel Wifi in the lounge before boarding buses for the journey through the mountains back to Flaam.  Again our first stop was at a unique waterfall before journeying through beautiful mountain passes and along rivers and lakes.  Amazingly beautiful. We also went through the 2nd longest tunnel in Norway and what to have been the third longest as well when we popped out at Flaam. It was a wonder excursion, a bit damp and a bit dear, but prices for everything in Norway are expensive.  I still had a slight buzz from the Haas beer so stopped by the Brass Anchor for a couple of Peroni beers to maintain.  Back to cabin to update blog and prepare for dinner.  6:30 came early, barely made it on time for dinner.  Tonight I ordered:  Vesuvius Salad, Cannelloni Pasta Tuscan style, Risotto Pescatora, and Cherry Clafoutis Creme.  A good dinner.  Following I retired to the cabin to finish some work.  It was another great day in Norway.

Thursday September 12  /  Stravanger, Norway   /  Day 5
Swords in the Rock - Stavanger Norway
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well, I’m sure the Advil-PM helped that I took for some muscle relief.  I was up about 7:30 am and I feel good considering all the activity yesterday.  I had a note from Guest Services so I went by expecting to be told that they would have the missing bag today in Stavanger.  Surprise!! They had the bag. It came aboard at Flaam and that’s such a small and remote port…what a journey that bag must have taken.  It had Oslo and Bergen tags so it went by air that far and must have gone by rail or ferry the rest of the way to Flaam. Amazing.  Thank you MSC for such a wonderful job.  I went to the MDR about 8:30 and saw the Hotel Director, he knew the bag had come when I praised the GS department.  This morning I sat with some nice Germans by a window and had Eggs Benedict with extras, a nice breakfast.  I took a walk on deck as we were sailing into Stavanger to see the island that Cleeng Pearson was born.  Cleeng is famous in Norway as the Father of Norwegian Emigration, and saved many from hunger in the 19th century.  He is buried at the Norse Church only four miles from my ranch in Texas. I got a poor excursion time of 5:00 pm and I would not have booked it had I known, but it rained in the middle of day and I used my Spa time this afternoon so it turned out fine.  Pizza day for lunch and I tried something new: a charcoal pizza…it’s a black dough…I have no idea how they make it.  Good pizza though especially with a beer.  I met my excursion at 5:00 pm, it’s called: Stavanger Sightseeing & Swords in the Rock.  Of course I was only interested in the Swords in the Rock and that is the first place they took us.  The monument itself was impressive, but the park area around them need some TLC.  On the tour we saw some of the affluent areas, the Beach, the University, historic Wooden Houses, the Harbor, Downtown, and more.  I noticed most of the homes had nice manicured lawns and something that I knew from living in a Norwegian community:  Norwegian know how to build rock walls.  Very impressive rock walls around homes, gardens, businesses, and parks.  Using very large stones too…very impressive.  Because the excursion was during my dinner time as soon as I returned I booked the Butchers Block Steakhouse for tonight at 8:30.  I started with cocktails at the Infinity Bar with Maria.  Nice with the entertainment in the lobby.  I ate inside the Butchers Block although half the tables are out overlooking the Galleria.  I ordered the Hearts of Palm as a starter, the Sirloin Steak entree with mashed potatoes & asparagus, and Banana Pudding for dessert.  Excellent especially the steak, perfectly cooked. I popped into he Brass Anchor to remind them that they had charged my beer on account when I had given them coupons and that place was packed, I guess I hadn’t been out late before tonight.  All the lounges were packed with happy guests.  I actually ran into my friends and some new German friends on various decks of the lobby area. Party night on board the MSC Meraviglia.  I returned about 11:00 ish to update blog and cabin time.  Stavanger was fine, but It was a great day on board the MSC Meraviglia.

Friday  September 13  /  Sea Day  /  Day 6
Meraviglioso Amor
Smooth seas continue and I slept very well overnight.  I went to the MDR about 8:40 am for a smaller breakfast just two small pancakes and bacon.  Service has been great each morning in the MDR.  Then some business to take care of…I’ve been very easy on the WiFi time…just halfway through my allotment of 2500 MB and two days to go.  At 1:00 pm they held a Welcome Back cocktail reception on deck six for members of MSC Loyalty Club.  Very nice with Prosecco seved and you get a complementary photo if you wish.  This afternoon I actually had a two hour uninterrupted nap…wow…maybe I can stay up until 11:00 again.!!  The thing one gets excited about once they get a little older.  I went by the Infinity Bar for pre-party cocktails with Maria, nice cosmopolitans, then at 5:15 pm it was up to the Sky Lounge for the Gold and Black Card Party. First time I’ve seen Gold included but it was a very manageable crowd.  I thanked Giuseppe the Hotel Director again, and I also thanked the Beverage Manager for honoring the MSC drink vouchers that have been paid for prior to the program being discontinued.  That has really help me this cruise keeping my costs inline and will next cruise as well.  I enjoyed a few Aperol Spritzers and the company at the party…great fun.  It was now time for our 6:15 dinner.  Full room tonight and I ordered: the Caesar Salad, Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms, Herb Encrusted Beef Tenderloin, and Baked Alaska & Coconut Tapioca Pudding for dessert.  All very good.  I finally made it to a Theater production show this evening: Meraviglioso Amor a show featuring romantic Italian love songs.  I had great seats on row 3.  Of course Con te Partiro brings down the house as a finale.  Great show and I’ll catch up on the ones missed on the next cruises.  I retired after the show to update blog and get some news.  It was a very fun sea day on the MSC Meraviglia.

Saturday  September 14  /  Kiel, Germany  /  Day 7
Roast Beef at Carving Station
Again smooth seas overnight, but I had trouble getting to sleep.  It’s a transition day here on the MSC Meraviglia and most of the passengers are leaving the ship today and a new group will board including some more clients.  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. About 10:00 am I debarked from my deck 5 and took a shuttle to the ferry into Kiel.  About an hour total for this process, but only €10 return fare from MSC.  First stop was for a Coca-cola and WiFi in a very nice shopping mall area in the city center. Nothing special in Kiel other than it’s sailing history…no old town as everything was leveled in WW2…nice modern mall and a good transit location for ships and trains. I went to a trendy place Vapiano on the downtown pier for a couple of the local beers Krombacher, it’s a nice beer. No Wifi, but a view of the ferry so I can relax while waiting to return to the ship. The second beer went down quick as I saw the MSC ferry arrive. This boat was full of crew, transit guests such as myself, and new guests who came by train.  Once back on board I had some Pizza including the new Charcoal pizza that seems to be the new trending thing.  Notice the Roast Beef in photo...also three whole sirloins to be sliced on lower left...very nice items on today's Welcome Buffet.  A very nice sweet plate was left in my cabin, no card but I suspect it’s a B2B gift, but it was very good, a great dessert after my Pizza time. Walked around the ship watching the new guests who boarded today and had a nice visit with the Hotel Director.  Our new friends were at dinner, we now have an eight top table for the six of us in the same restaurant and with the same waiter.  Tonight I ordered: Gardener’s Minestrone Soup, Artichoke Risotto, the Oven-roasted Veal Leg Goccia d’Oro entree, and Warm Apple Crumble with Ice Creme for dessert.  All good.  I’m somewhat retiring early as magician is feature and not my thing, but will listen to music on deck five before sleep.  It was an interesting transition day on the MSC Meraviglia.  My NEW cruise day begins tomorrow.

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
Geirangerfjord cruising and Excursion
Scenic Mountain Excursion from Flaam Norway
Butchers Block Steakhouse
Black Card Benefits

MSC Meraviglia in Stavanger

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