Tuesday, October 8, 2019

MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review - Canada

MSC Meraviglia Cruise Review
October 8, 2019
Just the Facts:
Ship: MSC Meraviglia
Captain: Stefano Battinelli
Hotel Director: Guiseppe Pane  -  Cruise Director: Gene Young
Ports: New York City, USA - Sydney, Cape Breton Island - Cornerbrook, Newfoundland Canada  - Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island Canada - Québec City, Québec Canada  - New York City, USA.

I’m cruising as a solo. This is my final of four consecutive cruises on the MSC Meraviglia, my 13th MSC cruise and my 150th cruise overall.  I do have several clients and very good cruise and personal friends sailing.  I am sailing 40 consecutive nights on board the Meraviglia. 

Tuesday October 8  /  Embarkation  /  New York City, USA  /  Day 1
NY Skyline at Sailaway
This is the third easy embarkation day in a row as I’m already on the ship and U.S. Customs was cleared yesterday.  I do have to change cabins this time as originally the DW was joining me for this segment, but alas plans changed. I will enjoy the balcony.  I was up early and NOW the WiFi from previous cruise is working…so stayed up and took advantage of it setting up this new review and checking on business.  I went to breakfast in the MDR as usual, I heard the news about Québec no longer being an overnight from English neighbors also on a B2B.  Since we cleared customs GS was processing B2B guests, and there are a lot, so I went to the GS desk and they processed my new card.  BUT first they gave me the good news, they did process a credit for my WiFi, a equatable amount so I am very pleased.  MSC has been nothing but excellent in guest service to me.  I actually moved my own items to my new cabin, it only took 20 minutes, and I had control of everything and I was done with it.  So all settled into the new balcony by 10:30 am.  At 12:30 I lucked into a banquet for Travel Agents visiting the ship in the Panorama Restaurant.  We had a fantastic menu and I ordered: Creamed Mozzarilla LaFondant, Pepper Crusted Sirloin Steak, and Passion Fruit Panna Cotta,  all very good.  I went upstairs to the Sky Bar, still only serving wine and beer until we leave New York, seems to be a problem ship wide with drink packages not being recognized at bar stations.  I'm very lucky and feel a little guilty as there have been long lines for guests boarding the ship today including my friends, not sure if it's organization or the travel agents gumming up the process. I began seeing friends in the Sky Lounge…enjoyed visiting with them and the wonderful view of Manhattan.  I stayed to enjoy the view when everyone went to boat drill and a Casino party sprung up around me so I enjoyed some complementary Cosmopolitans, I had been trying to get two since yesterday.  Thanks Casino.The MSC Meraviglia pushed off pier 88 about 7:30 pm into the Hudson River.  The New York Skyline was so beautiful as we sailed down the Hudson.  The group and I have 8:00 pm dining this cruise in the L’Olive d’Oro dining room on deck six.  It was a mess going to dinner as so many guests were late at first sitting that they were late 20 minutes late opening and it was a mass of people trying to get into the MDR.  Worst I have seen.  Tonight I ordered: Nicoise Salad, Za’atar Crusted Lamb T-Bone Chops, and Catalonian Creme for dessert.  After dinner I had a Mango Sorbet on deck six, before retiring to the new cabin.  It was a stressful day for many boarding guests, but it was actually a great day for me on this transition day.

Wednesday October 9  /  Day at Sea  /  Day 2
Brass Anchor Pub
Rolling seas overnight with a lot of movement that can be felt on deck 13 much more than on deck 5 my previous deck.  I had trouble getting to sleep in my new environment, or it could have been the sorbet.  I went to the MDR at 8:00 am for breakfast, I don’t even have to order anymore…the waiters know me by name and what I like for breakfast.   We turned our time forward an hour to be on Atlantic Time so now 2 hours off of Texas time.  At 10:00 am they held a Cruise Critic reception in the Sky Lounge.  Very glad I went as I was recognized as having having sailed 100 times on MSC, of course not true, but fairly close to the message. I have experience on 150 cruises and my cruise line of choice is now MSC.  What I really appreciated was the seven people who came to me afterward and said they read my blog.  Thank you folks, I always wonder if people get good cruise information in my simple presentations here.  And thank you MSC Meraviglia staff. The seas are really rolling today, I doubt I will see my Cirque du Soleil show tonight.  I had lunch in the L’Olive d’ora Restaurant my first time in there.  I ordered: Cobb Salad, Penne Pasta with Shrimp Arrabbiata, and Boston Creme Pie.  It was good.  I alternated between the Brass Anchor and the Sky Lounge most of the afternoon.  I was right about cancelling shows, not only was Cirque du Soleil cancelled but all the Production shows in the theater as well.  Plenty of music in the lounges though. The group met for cocktails before dinner in the Sky Lounge, it was very nice.  There was not the big scene at dinner this evening as we were seated at 8:00ish the regular time.  Tonight I ordered: Greek Salad, Homemade Lobster Ravioli, Beef Tournedos, and Peanut Butter Pie for dessert.  All were very good especially the entree and pie.   I’m doing the Rest & Relaxation thing tonight and retired to cabin early.  My new internet package is actually working well through the stormy weather...much better than previous cruise but it is a limited package so I have to be careful with bandwidth,  It was a great sea day on the MSC Meraviglia.

Thursday October 10  /  Sydney, Cape Breton Island  Canada  / Sea Day  /  Day 3
Meraviglia Galleria
Rolling Seas overnight but improved by morning with blue skies through out the day.  I slept well, but woke early then went to the MDR for breakfast.  Another Heuvos Rancheros morning with extras for me, and I was in and out quickly.  Much better weather today and I went up to Sky Lounge on deck 18 to see if I could pick up WiFi from the coast of Nova Scotia on my iPhone, I could.  I spent the morning on the internet and also brought up the Marine Ships Application maps to see our location…we were due to dock at 1:00 pm then 2:00 pm due to leaving NYC late.  Looking at the marine charts I knew we were still hours from port in Sydney  when I finally thought to look at cruise details it listed Corner Brook as our destination.  I knew that I had information no other guests knew…we won’t make it to Sydney.  At noon when the Captain made his usual announcements he stated that due to the harsh weather yesterday they could not make up for the late departure and that we actually lost time so that we would not make our first port of Sydney.  I believe it was absolutely the correct call.  With reduced time in port it would have been a repeat of the New York fiasco with guests leaving and returning to the ship with long waiting times in a line.  It was the right call by MSC and they offered $300 per cabin compensation for missing the port.  That is very generous as they actually do not have to offer anything to the guests.  I will miss eating a Lobster Roll and my Cape Briton Fiddle excursion, but still the responsible decision by MSC.  We’ll now be in Corner Brook early and Canadian Customs will be able to clear the ship earlier…that will be good for guests aboard. A Housekeeping officer came by to check on things and I mentioned the wardrobe doors off the henges and I shred the story about MSC housekeeping locking me out on the balcony a few years back.  I went to the Marketplace for a Pizza lunch about 2:00 pm and discovered some Peanut Butter Pie as well.  Sweet.  About 4:00 pm we had a gathering in the Brass Anchor and I had my share of Stella Artois beer.  It was great fun with the old gang.  At 7:00 pm I returned to the cabin to prepare for dinner, wardrobe door now working fantastically, and made 8:00 pm start for dinner.  It was a Caribbean Night menu , a new menu to me and I ordered: Virgin Island Salad, Fisherman’s Plate, Oven-roasted Jerk Chicken, and Key Lime Pie for dessert.  Other options were: Jamaican Style Beef, Creole Pasta, Guadeloupe-style Shrimp Tails, and more.  I retired after dinner to update blog and review options for Corner Brook since we’ll be there a bit longer tomorrow.  It was a profitable and fun day on the MSC Meraviglia.

Friday  October 11  /  Corner Brook, Newfoundland Canada  /  Day 4
Colors of Corner Brook Festival
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. I woke about 7:00 am.  We turned our clocks forward a half hour…I have never done that before today.  Newfoundland and Labrador have unique time zones.  Beautiful sunrise, it looks to be a cool but clear and dry day.  I went up to the MarketPlace for a light quick breakfast then to the TV Lounge on deck 7 my excursion meeting spot. I discovered That I have friends that booked on the same excursion: Corner Brook Highlights. We were off about 9:30 pm, 52 new friends, for our two hour tour.  First two stops were the Old Man in the Mountain and a memorial Totem called Heritage Tree.  Kind of spots contrived by the locals for tourists, I didn’t mind as the weather was perfect and the trees were very colorful.  Final stop was the Captain James Cook Historic Site with an impressive view of the City of Corner Brook and the spectacular Blomidon Mountains, caves and the Bay of Islands explored by Cook.  A very nice site to visit.  I chose the drop off in town option and a good choice as the local Fall Festival Colors of Corner Brook was in full swing in the town center.  A few vendors, only one food truck, but nice Maritime/Celtic music,  I discovered a nice hotel restaurant/bar, the Crown & Moose (If I ever open a Pub it will be called the Moose & Squirrel).  I had a Black Horse beer, a beer just made for the Newfoundland market and a fried Cod Plate.  Both very good.  I walked bak to the ship and was on board by 3:00 pm.  It was a nice little tour of Corner Brook, but once you’ve visited your probably done, as lovely as it was.  I took advantage of my iPhone hot-spot to use the internet…I also discovered that there is a daily limit on international hot-spot bandwidth.  The DW called and she had an automobile accident last night, she’s fine, car not so much.  She ran into a group of feral hogs crossing the road in the darkness.  Another thing to take care of when I get back to the ranch.  Met friends in Brass Anchor before dinner.  I was hungry this evening and dinner did not disappoint.  I ordered: Asian Salad, Rigatoni Meatballs, Duck a l’Orange, and Kiwi Sorbet & Apple Strudel for dessert.  The Rigatoni Meatballs were really good.  Pub music in Brass Anchor and Jazz in the Sky Lounge my two favorite hangouts, but again retiring early with big excursion tomorrow. It was a nice visit to Corner Brook Newfoundland and afternoon on the MSC Meraviglia.

Saturday October 12  /  Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island Canada   /  Day 5
Green Gables
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. I woke about 7:15 am. We turned our time back the half hour so now back on Atlantic time, for a day.  I went up to the Marketplace for a very light breakfast, I forget that I have the Fantastica level this cruise and Room Service is included.  I’ll try that on next excursion day.  It was beautiful sailing into port but it’s a damp looking day.  Most of our group is on the same excursion today: Island’s Finest—Anne, Lobster, & Scenic Drive.  We all met at the theater at 9:15 and snuck to the buses about 10:00 am.  Soon we were on our way, but the weather is not cooperating as it’s raining.  We did a panoramic drive through downtown Charlottetown, a pretty little city, then headed north across the island.  Our guide was good, the countryside was green and the trees were full of color.  Soon we were at Green Gables Heritage Place the famous farm from the novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, a local.  It’s a very delightful place with museum displays, history of the people and novel, tea room, interpretive center and of course the famous farmhouse itself.  After our time here we went to the Prince Edward Island National Park where we had a photo opportunity on the north shore bluffs…it was only for the brave as the wind and rain whipping on this bluff…the sand dunes were interesting too. Our final stop was at the PEI Preserve Company, a great place for a Lobster dinner. I actually had a second entree, Potato Pie, just for a proper PEI food sampling.  We arrived back at the very nice PEI cruise terminal about 4:15 pm so time for a little shopping before returning to ship.  Very impressed with the cruise facilities, they had vendors, music, crafts, Wifi, tourist information, and more.  I had been getting football scores during the day and once onboard confirmed the victory of my Oklahoma Sooners over the Texas shorthorns.  I met friends in the Brass Anchor but I enjoyed only Coca-Cola as I had such a big lunch. Dinner tonight was good, I ordered: Crispy Bacon Salad with Chicken (a new item and that’s what it was called…I think they lost something in translation), Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo, Costeleta’s de Porco a Salsicheiro (pork chop), and Pudim Molotof for dessert.  Pork and dessert very different and very good.  I went on a walk about and also picked up a photo from Photo Department before retiring for evening.  I needed to update blog and review some NCAA football scores.  A very good day on PEI and the MSC Meriviglia.

Sunday  October 13  /  Sea Day  /  Day 6
My cabin - 13250
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. We turned our time back one hour for the final time…we are now on Eastern standard time…same as our final ports of Quebec and New York City.  I was up early and went to the MDR about 8:00 am for a nice breakfast.  Our group had our annual  Champagne party at 10:00 am this morning outside on the aft of deck 15.  The sea air was very nice.  I contributed three bottles of Prosecco I have collected on the prior cruises. We moved it indoors at noon and ate lunch in the Marketplace buffet.  They had a very nice roast beef at the carving station so I got buns from the fresh burger area and had a very nice Roast Beef Sandwich with fresh french fries.  It was very good.  I spent time in the Sky Lounge and Bar and had a couple of Raul’s nice cosmopolitans as I watched the St. Lawrence entry narrow and narrow, you can certainly see land on each side of the ship now. It’s also gotten cooler although I watched two girls jump into the main pool while I was up in the Sky Lounge. I met friends at the Brass Anchor just after 4:00 pm and enjoyed some Stella Artois beer and conversation. I happened upon the Beverage Manager on the way back to my cabin and confirmed that he was the one who sent me a gift of the Beverage Coupons … thank you.  I know they are again making some changes and I always liked the vouchers so I hope that they come back in the new drink packages or in the Fantastica bookings.  Tonight is Elegant night so I prepared for dinner, very few guests that wear formal now days, most just dress nicely. Dinner was good, I ordered: Arugula and Grana Padano Salad, Pappardelle with Sea Scallops, Oven-roasted Beef Prime Rib, and Ice Creme for dessert. All very nice.  So lucky to have a good wait team too. My usual routine after dinner, but I went right to sleep earlier than norm.  It was a nice sea day with friends on the MSC Meraviglia. 

Monday  October 14  /  Quebec Canada  /  Day 7
Calm water overnight and I slept very well.  I ordered room service breakfast and it was delivered on time.  The three Danish and two Fruit Plates were perfect.  Our meet time for out tour was 8:45 am and we have eleven on the excursion: Grand Exploration of Quebec.  We were off just after 9:00 am and basically jus drove 3/4 blocks across the boulevard to Old Town Quebec,  totally amazed with the original building and restorations to the 17th century.  Beautiful original square with the Palace Royal and the old Church Notre-Dame-des-Victoires surrounded by Shoppes, Boutiques, Bistros, and much more.  Just a block away is the La Fresque des Québécois or Quebec City Mural. What a wonderful way to show the history of Quebec but through this huge mural incorporating the past with the modern day.  We re-boarded our bus to go up to the Place d’Armes and scenic overview of the old city…very nice.  We then walked over to the Le Château Frontenac for our rest stop, first class rest stop at that.  The Château Frontenac is the huge hotel dominating the skyline of Quebec City and is a very nice hotel.  Then the bus drove by the Parliament House and fountain on the way to the Plains of Abraham were the famous battle between the French and British took place in 1759.  We had couple of photo stops here.  We then off to some of the outlying areas to visit.  We drove to Beaupre Quebec to visit the Shrine of Sainte Anne du Beaupre.  The Basilica here is the third largest church in North America as well as the oldest pilgrimage site.  I have to admit that I was unaware of this and found it both interesting and educational.  Our bus drew the short straw on lunch break but we were now on our way to the Isle de Orleans for our 2:00 pm lunch at Ralais des Pins what was originally an old sugar shack used to collect Maple Syrup.  It was a very nice lunch of Vegetable Soup, choice of Chicken Breast with Maple sauce or a nice Salmon plate, and simple dessert.  I would have eaten anything by this time.  The island is home to many farms and busy this Monday holiday selling Pumpkins and Apples to locals from Quebec City and area.  Some beautiful fall foliage here.  Our final stop was Montmorency Falls.  A recreational Park featuring large waterfalls and activities.  We arrived back at the pier about 4:30 pm along with dozens of other tour buses.  Most on the buses returned to the ship and long lines, some of my group had other evening tours, myself a few others chose to go the few blocks to Old Town.  We revisited the Old Square and the Mural and found a great spot at Bistro Sous le Fort to enjoy drinks while others shopped.  The guys drank the local Belle Gueule beer, we even ordered the local Poutine as well as plain petit frites.  The Poutine was different, but I will stay with the plain version of fries myself.  We did begin to get a shower so headed back to the ship.  We found a direct entry and gangway and there was no one in line…we walked directly into the deck 5 lobby, my old ‘living room’.  We were in time for 8:00 pm dinner but I had a beer in the Brass Anchor then switched to Coca-Cola to finish off the day.  I took some cokes to the cabin and made some brief notes of the day but retired early…I was long-day tired.  It was a fantastic day in Quebec, I hope to return.

(Photo: I had great photos today, but went with the La Fresque des Québécois' composite photo -click it to enlarge- as it shows all three major sites in old town…I’ll post my photos on FB)

Tuesday  October 14  /  Quebec Canada  /  at Sea  /   Day 8
My balcony view - Cabin 13250
This was originally a Quebec day, but changed due to needed earlier arrival back in NYC so we sailed about 1:00 a.m. this morning. (Guests received a $50 OBC for this before we even left NYC)  I slept very well but was up at 7:30 so went up to the Sky Lounge to whale watch as we were in the prime area for whales…the ship has slowed to under 10 knots as required in this area. I had a light breakfast but sat on port side with a watchful eye out.  Best weather of cruise on the sunny side of the ship, so I had balcony time most of the day.  I did get my refund on my cancelled Cirque show then went to the casino and lost $9.34, but I cashed out with $250 from my ship account. Then I went up to the MarketPlace for a custom Turkey Sandwich (turkey from carving station, bun & mayo from burger station) and ate it on aft deck, it was cooler there than my balcony.  I had an ice creme from ice creme bar on pool deck and took it back to my balcony.  The wind is blocked so still very nice all afternoon.  Nice to have a day to enjoy it. I used my iPhone for internet and made some phone calls since were sailing the St. Lawrence River and so close to land all day…fine connections and saving time on my ship WiFi plan.

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