I had always imagined cruising would be a lovely, relaxing way to travel, so when we saw a great deal for a week-long western Mediterranean cruise on the MSC Splendida…
departing from Barcelona on a convenient date (fitting in with a week’s accommodation further down the Spanish coast in Peñíscola), with exciting destinations such as Tunisia, Malta and Italy, we grabbed it!
If you, like us, manage to find a cruise for under $100 per person per day, cruising is great value (isn’t the internet a wonderful thing!) After all, it’s your major transport, all meals on board, decent accommodation…
and plenty of daytime activities and evening entertainment taken care of.
Drinks are extra, as are on-shore excursions, but we were fairly conservative with those, and a 300 euro win at the on-board casino helped balance the budget!
In reality, with 6 ports in 7 nights, this cruise was pretty full on, especially since we wanted to make the most of it – both on and off the ship: up early each morning to watch us pull into a new port, the days spent exploring on land, and the evenings were filled with wonderful multi-course meals and great company – usually followed by a flutter at the casino, a live show, a dancing lesson, and even a little karaoke some nights.
A hectic, fun-filled pace, and by the end of the week we felt like we need a holiday after our holiday!
It was far from the laid-back cruise of my imagination, especially with a surprising amount of children on board, adding to the busy and bustling atmosphere, especially around the pool areas and in the cafeteria where we generally had breakfast (though we were usually early enough to beat the crowds).
Mind you, all meals could be taken in the quieter formal dining rooms…
but only at certain times, so after a morning off-ship the buffet style cafeteria became a bit of a madhouse, with a throng converging to grab a late lunch.
One of our well-travelled dinner companions told us this was not representative of cruises in general and shouldn’t put us off cruising again, and I must say it hasn’t. When you try something new it’s natural to have some pre-conceived ideas, and to compare your experience based on those expectations.
But that said, we loved the way cruising gave us a little taste of all the places we stopped at, and just like trying all sorts of new foods at a buffet, whetted our appetite to go back for more. In fact, 2 of the destinations are already on our itinerary for next year’s European adventure!
Maybe next time we will pace ourselves a little better, and of course have more realistic expectations.