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aldrich - Answered a Question by norris (07 Jan 08 08:08)

She is brand new, big' glitzy and Italian... This review seems good: "We returned yesterday from a wonderful 7 day cruise on the MSC Orchestra. This was my 8th cruise- I have been on Holland America, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Costa- this was the first time on MSC. We flew Iberia air from Washington to Venice with a stopover in Madrid. Iberia air allows you to stop in Madrid for a $25 charge and then continue the flight to Venice a few days later- we spent a day and a night in Madrid then flew on to Venice. We booked the MSC airport shuttle service ($18 from airport to ship)- when we got off the flight in Venice, we gathered our luggage and saw the MSC representative outside of the security area. This was the easiest way to get to the ship but be advised that no one explains anything once you get to the ship port. It turns out that when you get off the airport shuttle bus at the ship port, you have to get an electronic tag for your luggage from one of the MSC reps. Then they take away your luggage and you don't need to handle it again until it arrives in your cabin. Check in went smoothly- the lines were short since we were there early (around 10 am). We were assigned a boarding number and told that boarding would begin around 12:30 noon- it actually began at 12:00 noon. We waited outside the ship until 12:00 watching the busy water taxis next to the ship. There is a duty free shop inside the registration area where you can buy wine and bring it right on board into your cabin. They also sell hard liquor at the shop and I think you are also allowed to bring that into your cabin but we only bought wine. Buy your wine at this shop- we bought Italian wines for around $8 per bottle. We were told it was okay to empty out the mini bar on the ship- the steward just placed all the items on the top of the fridge and then we were able to load the fridge in the room with our own wine. You can sign up for the ship's excursions in the registration area. We booked an outside balcony room. It was a decent size and the bathroom was larger than expected. There were 2 plastic wicker type chairs and a small table on the balcony. There are outlets for both American appliances as well as European appliances in the room so adaptors are not needed. We asked for extra towels the first day and from then on the steward always put extra towels in our room. Our steward also brought us fresh wine glasses and left them in the room each day. As others have mentioned, there were no towel animals or chocolates on the beds each night but for the money saved on MSC, we did not need these little touches. The meals were better than expected. We only ate breakfast once in the dining room- it is the same menu as the buffet. The breakfast buffet did not vary much - each day there were french toast, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon , sausage, baked tomatoes, hash browns, fresh fruit, excellent yogurt and lots of cereals and a variety of breads including focaccia, muffins, pastries and toast. Lunch was good with plenty of variety each day. We liked the pizza , there were also hot dogs, hamburgers and many types of hot main dishes, salads etc... We had the late dinner seating at 9:15. Our wait staff was very efficient and friendly. The dinners were better than expected with many entrees to pick each night.There is always a pasta and a risotto- the pumpkin risotto was wonderful! They also had a lobster night- although the lobster was a bit over cooked, it was a good size and tasted great! Lobster night was one of the formal nights and they did a parade of baked alaska the same night. We ate one night in the Chinese restaurant and thought it was excellent- two of our friends went back to the Chinese restaurant for a second night. The Chinese restaurant is very reasonable- all kinds of dim sum for 1 euro apiece or entrees for around $9. I did not expect to like the food on the ship based on past reviews , but it was much better than expected (I recently cruised on Holland America and was surprised that I liked the food on MSC almost as much as the food on Holland America) We thought there was a lack of activities on the ship. On other cruises there have been kitchen tours, food/cooking demonstrations, movie nights etc.. but MSC did not offer any of these. They did offer various exercise classes and some craft classes. We went to a few of the shows- really enjoyed all the acrobats and the magician. We did not make all the shows since we had such a late dining time and the late shows did not start until 11:15-11:30. Some people mentioned that there is a man in charge of the pool area who yells if you move a pool chair, we did not find that on our cruise. No one seemed to care where you put your chairs. You can not get towels at the pool, you have to use the pool towel that is put in your room. There were several days when we did not get a pool towel and we had to search for our steward to find it. We signed up for the ship's tour to the Sassi in Bari but the English speaking tour was cancelled since they did not have enough sign up- they did run an Italian and Spanish tour to the Sassi but we passed on that and walked around Bari on our own. We took a cab to the city center and then walked the town and walked back along the water to the ship (we easily could have walked to the town center from the ship) We enjoyed watching the fishermen catching fresh squid on our way back to the ship.We felt that Bari was a port that we would skip in the future. MSC stops there since it takes on new passengers and lets off other passengers in Bari. We did a private tour in Katakolon- our taxi driver took us to Olympia to see the ruins and then we stopped to shop a bit in the town of Olympia. After Olympia, we went and toured a winery near the ship and then stopped at the shops in Katakolon. We used katakolontaxi@gmail.com and would recommend him again- although he could not give us a tour at the Olympic site since he is not licensed to give tours, he was very flexible with where we wanted to go and stopped whenever we wanted to see something. We paid 180 euro for the 4 hour tour-this did not include admission to the Olympic site. We also had a private tour in Izmir. We toured Izmir and the Virgin Mary's house- we used www.kusadasi-taxi.com- paid $300 for the 5 of us- this included admission to the sites. We toured Istanbul on own- hired a taxi driver for a 45 minute tour around the city and then he dropped us off at the Blue Mosque. Everything is walking distance- the mosque, Hagia Sofia, Topkapi palace, the grand bazaar and the Spice market. We also were able to walk back to the ship. We did not do a tour in Dubrovnik. The ship offers a transfer to and from Dubrovnik for 8 euro (I think), since we were a group of 5, we took a private taxi for 10 euro each way -this was better than waiting in line for the ship's shuttle in to town. There are plenty of taxis waiting when you get off the ship to take you into town. Our biggest complaint about this cruise was the rudeness of the European passengers. There were very few Americans aboard and as others mentioned, the Europeans are very pushy, cut in line, bump into you and don't say "excuse me" and the men have no chivalry! Our other complaint is that you can not get drinking water after 4 pm unless you buy bottled water on the ship. All other cruise lines offer free water in the buffet area most of the night. We also felt the stops in the ports were too brief. Overall it was a great cruise with perfect weather. We would all cruise MSC again!

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norris - Answered a Question by norris (10 Jan 08 16:40)

Thank you.......you gave a very informed overview Helen Norri.

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Christou - Answered a Question by norris (22 Feb 08 13:10)

My family and I are cruising with MSC Orchestra in August and I can say that I am pleased to read a relatively good review for them at last. If you only ate breakfast in the restaurant once, where else are you allowed to eat breakfast for free included in the price then.

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