I'm going to devote a blog post to the cruise ship itself. I feel like if I try to intermedently explain it in my other blog posts it'll get confusing really quickly.
We choose to use MSC, the same cruise line that we used when we lived in Germany and took a spring break cruise trip. This time, however, we stopped in different locations.
Our boat was the MSC Preziosa and we were on it's inaugural voyage. The cool thing about this cruise is that it picks up and drops off people in almost all the cities it goes to. Therefore, when we got on in Barcelona, it was the 7th or 8th day of it's 14 day route. We stayed on it until it went back to Barcelona, which was after seven days. Now that I'm explaining it, it doesn't really make sense how that worked, but nonetheless it did work.
We noticed a lot of differences between our cruise of six or so years ago and the one of this year. It's possible it's because it was a nicer cruise than the one we went on before, which was a family cruise instead of a luxury one, or just things have changed in six years. Probably both.
Because we'd been on an MSC cruise, we came into it with a certain kind of expectation. I was really looking forward to drinking all the tea and coffee that I wanted. Well, we got to dinner and found out that 1) they don't serve coffee at dinner and 2) no drinks are free at dinner. We were shocked because they wouldn't even serve us tap water. It was really weird. On the last cruise, you'd have to pay for sodas and alcohol, but water, tea, and coffee were always free.
The maitre'd told us that the buffet on the 14th deck (yes, the 14th deck) had free coffee, so after dinner we went straight up there. To our displeasure, the coffee was absolutely disgusting. I mean, how do you mess up coffee? It had absolutely no taste and I don't really like strong coffee. When we got off at Marseille, Dad went and bought instant coffee to add to it, which helped a lot.
One of our theories about the Preziosa was that it was a more expensive ship. I've noticed that at more expensive hotels you have to pay for more things than you do at cheap hotels. So when I said this, Dad remarked, "Yeah, we need the Hampton Inn cruise." I got a kick out of that.
It was kind of ridiculous all the things you had to pay for. There were specialty shops and restaurants all over the place. We ate at the restaurants or dining halls for all our meals, since our meals were covered by what we'd already paid for, but had we not, we could have easily spend a fortune.
Now, you're probably reading this and thinking that I had a miserable time. Besides the crowds and uncontrolled children, those are my only major complaints and now I can move onto the totally awesome things.
Our cabin was a pretty decent size considering it was on a boat. It got tight at times, but it was fine. There was a guy who would unfold the couch bed for me at night and then put it back up during the day time. When the couch was folded, the cabin was actually very roomy. AND we had a balcony!! It was so nice to be able to stand out on our private balcony and watch the ship pull into harbor in the mornings and simply watch the ocean go by the rest of the time.
We had assigned cruise cards that allowed us off and on the ship and were also to be used for on board purchases. Pretty much the cruise ID card in other words. On the card, every person had an assigned table and dining room for dinner. There were two formal dining rooms. Ours was called La Arabesque, which in my opinion is a much cooler name than The Golden Lobster (the other one). Were they trying to copy Red Lobster? Who knows. But for lunch and breakfast, you were allowed to eat in whichever dining hall because they only checked the cards at dinner. We ate in the dining room every night and for breakfast and lunch we'd eat in either the buffet, the dining hall, or in our designated city (but we always took some food from the buffet--we were paying for it after all!).
The buffet room was enormous. It took up half the top deck pretty much. One end of it was called the Inca and the other was called the Maya. They'd close off the Maya section when it wasn't meal time. There were always all sorts of food options there. I loved all the fruit they had and regularly ate kiwi. I figured out a way to make delicious coffee at breakfast. I'd either go find a Nescafe decaf packet or I'd use some of Dad's Nescafe, add it to my coffee, and then go to the waffle station and mix in whipped cream and caramel syrup. It was delicious! The whipped cream made the coffee have the more frothy taste.
The other half of the top deck consisted of the pools, hot tubs, and sunbathing areas. I learned quickly that's it wasn't feasible to sun bathe or really even swim while the boat was moving because of the wind. However, if we got back on deck a few hours before the ship left, I'd swim/hot tub and then lay out reading by the pool. There was also this awesome water slide that I had every intention of going on, but then I forgot all about it. Whenever I'd walk by it, I was wearing clothes or the one time I had on my bathing suits there were crazy kids at the bottom trying to climb up it. I wasn't feeling that.
I normally really like kids, but the kids on the cruise really got on my nerves. They would run around uncontrolled and just otherwise be really annoying. At breakfast, the buffet was always so packed and it was really hard to navigate with them running around at your feet. I'm really tall and sometimes it's just plain hard for me to see kids.
It was interesting seeing my parents and the few other Americans experience the culture shock. The first few nights, we sat with a couple from North Carolina at dinner (they moved to a private table later on because that's what they had originally requested) and I would listen to them talk about it with my parents. It was mostly the little things, like people pushing you to get by instead of saying "Excuse me" and waiting or pushing past you to get on the elevator instead of letting you off. Europeans can be a bit more aggressive while it comes to moving about than Americans.
It was really easy to get turned around on the ship because it was so big. Picture a giant hotel turned on it's side. I ended up being the one who could navigate us around. I never thought I had a good sense of direction until I arrive here. Good to know! However, on our second to last day, we came into the room and found the ceiling leaking. We had to completely relocate for the rest of the cruise, which got really disorienting because we were on the other side of the ship (at least it wasn't the other end) and our new cabin was the mirror image of our old one, meaning everything was opposite.
After Tunisia, we had a day at sea on our way to Barcelona, meaning we didn't stop anywhere that day. We basically slept in and then explored the ship some more. We tried to swim, but as I said earlier, it was ridiculously cold. There was an entertainment crew on deck and they were having outdoor activities by the pool. We played a song guessing game and then did aerobics and stretching. It was fun! We also played cards some. All in all, it was a relaxing day.
Speaking of the entertainment crew, there were tons of activities all day, but at night there was always some sort of show. Normally the shows didn't really make much sense, but they always featured really cool acrobatics, dancing, singing, and stunts. For example, there was an Alice in Wonderland themed one as well as an Avatar one. They only resembled those movies by the costumes. Everything else just didn't follow the plot at all. However, they did have to appeal to a multi-lingual audience so it makes sense.
That's about all I got. Sorry about the delay in posting it!