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MSC Meraviglia- Truly a Wonder

As part of my growing commitment to my clients and my continued education in the cruise industry, I decided it was time to experience something other then Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines. After finishing my training with MSC Cruises, I was given an opportunity to experience firsthand what this cruise line had to offer. So, after much deliberation, I decided I was going to have to bite the bullet and force myself to get on one of their ships. Okay, lets be real, a week in the Caribbean, on a cruise ship, during a Minnesota winter, there was not much deliberation needed. For this trip I decided my partner in crime would be my Mom. Say hi Mom. Well you will just have to trust me, she said hi. For this voyage, we decided to venture out on the beautiful MSC Meraviglia which stands for a Wonder in Italian.

Our journey began like may others do from Minnesota, on an airplane. As usual our adventure started with a flight on Sun Country to Miami. I was a little worried about our flight when the pilot informed us that the green seats in the plane meant it stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. You know how that stories always end. I kind of think based on the landing that maybe it was the pilot that stayed at the Holiday Inn Express the night before. We kind of landed with a thud, but we landed and in one piece so that was good. After claiming our luggage, it was out to find the hotel shuttle. For those who have never been to Miami Airport and had to catch a shuttle, here is some advice. The airport does not have a designated stopping point for your shuttle. The various hotel shuttle drivers circle around the airport like sharks around their prey. If you see your shuttle, you must wave them down otherwise they will just drive on by. Luckily, we found ours right away.

Our choice of hotel for the evening, The Element Miami International Airport. The Element is a Westin brand hotel and part of the Marriott Family. This hotel is billed as an ecofriendly hotel and we would later learn what that meant. The hotel is conveniently located near the airport and the bus, train and car rental terminal at the airport. It is also located within the flight path of the airport so there is a little noise with the airport, but not bad. We stayed in a king studio which included a full kitchen except for an oven. The room was nice and included a king bed and a sleeper sofa. As we were getting ready to turn in for the evening, we learned about how they were ecofriendly. As I pulled out the sofa bed, we noted there were no sheets or other bedding in the room. After three phone calls and two hours, still no bedding. So apparently ecofriendly means not having extra bedding which would require more laundry. But seriously, we were told three times they would bring it up and nothing. By 1230 am I gave up and went to be without it. I stole the comforter from my mom’s bed and made do. Breakfast in the morning was nothing to write home about but was edible. The best part of this hotel was the shuttle driver Angelo. He was very help and knowledgeable and provided good insight for the following morning.

Around 930 am, we caught an Uber to the port. For the first time ever using Uber, things went smooth. We ordered a UberXL simply because of the size of our bags. We paid around $30 with tip from the hotel to the port. As we arrived at the port, our bags were taken by the porters and off we went. MSC was not quite ready for us to check-in so we had to wait for approximately 45 minutes for security to open. Once we got to the MSC check-in desk, we quickly moved through the process and headed to the holding room. As we checked in, we were assigned a boarding number and had to wait until our number was called. Luckily, we were group two, unfortunately they did not start boarding until 1200 pm. This was significantly different then my last two cruises with Royal Caribbean. Each of those times, we checked in and walked on the ship. So, we waited like everyone else and when our time came, we hopped on board.

For this sailing we booked a dining package that included one of the Cirque Du Soleil shows and other specialty dining options and booked the other Cirque Du Soleil show with a specialty drink. We went and verified our reservations with the restaurants and the show. If you sail with MSC and book these types of reservations it is important to verify the times. The times we had selected were not the times we had received. So, we corrected the times and set up our onboard account. One of the interesting things about MSC is that they do not allow you to pre-authorize your card at check-in like some of the other cruise lines. You must find a kiosk and do it on board. The process is simple but make sure if you are using a debit card that you let your bank know. I recommend having a credit card available for this as it is much easier. After setting up the account, off exploring we went.

Actually, to the buffet we went but we explored the buffet. The buffet had a wonderful set up. With multiple stations in different areas. This allows guest to select the food the want and do so from multiple lines. I also found the seating in the Marketplace to be abundant. The buffet also has an outdoor sitting area which makes for a great spot to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner. After finishing lunch, we toured the ship.

We checked out the pool areas on the ship. The Meraviglia has three distinct pool areas. On the rear of the ship is the Horizon pool. This pool is small and over looks the ocean from the rear of the ship. There is also amphitheater style seating which makes it convenient for sunbathing. Also, on the back of the ship is the polar aquapark which includes several slides as well the ropes course. Next in midship is the Atmosphere pool. This is the main pool which includes daybeds and lounge chairs. The pool is rather small and can not accommodate a lot of people. Next is the Bamboo pool which is a nice secluded area and includes a ceiling incase of bad weather. Again, the pool is not very big and will not accommodate a lot of passengers. There is also another pool on the ship in the Yacht Club, however you must book into that section of the ship to experience it. We also made quick stops at the Sports deck which included an indoor basketball court/multi-sport court, a bowling alley, F1 and Flight Simulators and a very small arcade.

Our staterooms were not available until 2:30 pm. Our stateroom was located on the back of the port side of the ship- left side facing the front. We were literally the last room facing the port side. Once our rooms opened, we headed down the long walk to our room. Unfortunately, there was no quick way of getting there. As we headed to our room, we noticed mom’s bag and blown a tire- i.e. the porters popped one of her wheels off. Now mom has a tripod for a suitcase. The stateroom was nice with a slightly larger balcony. I noticed however that the room appeared to be smaller the some of the others I have stayed in. I noticed the storage space was lacking. The closet space was minimal, and the location was not convenient to access it. Despite what appeared to be a smaller room, we were able to fit and store most everything we had in the room. The fridge in the room was used as a mini bar verses a fridge which is fine except that there is not where to keep anything cold.

After putting everything away, we headed down for the mandatory safety drill. MSC caters to a wide range of clients. Many of them are from foreign countries so a lot of the presentations and demonstrations are in multiple languages. The safety drill was no different. This time however Spanish did not appear to be the second language.

Once we were done with the safety drill, it was back to the room for the sail away. Most people will think I am weird, but I love watching as we leave port. It is like pushing away from the terminal before a flight. The excitement and the anticipation of what lies ahead is exhilarating. For me the best place to do it is from the quiet and comfort of your private balcony. So back to the room we went. If you are wondering, we hit our steps for the day a long time ago. We watched as ship after ship left the Port of Miami. In all eight ships were in port that day. As each one sailed away, we got closer and closer to our departure. Unfortunately, it also got later and later, and we started to bump into our 5:15 dinner time. So, we cleaned up and headed off to dinner.

The Meraviglia has several different restaurants for their main dining. They offer 4 main dining rooms each with the same menu. We were seated at a table of 8 in the corner of the restaurant. As we arrived, we met out table mates for the week. We met Tina and her friend from New York and Dick and his wife, also from New York. As we talked with each of them, we soon learned that in each pairing there was a travel agent. My years of training in law enforcement told me this was not a coincidence. We learned that we were all sailing as part of the Get Onboard Promotion. Each of us had our own stories to tell and learned a little about each other’s life. All in all, the conversation was nice, so much that it took awhile for us to realize we were moving.

The dinning room was a different experience. Unlike some of the other cruise lines, the tables were extremely close together which made for a noisy meal. There also appeared to be larger round table in general through out the dining room. For dinner I tried the Bay Scallop Ceviche for an appetizer, the New York Strip Steak for the main course and Banana Ice Cream dessert x 2. The selection of food was limited but definitely had more of a Mediterranean flare. This week will be about trying new things, I guess.

After supper, we headed off to the Virtual show in the main theatre. The Meraviglia’s theatre is smaller in size compared to some of the other ships I have been one. You are encouraged to make reservations for the show to ensure you get a seat. You can do that on the MSC for Me app on your phone. The show was well done and features something we all struggle with, our cellphones. It explored a journey of a young man trapped in his phone. While some of the parts of the show were interesting, overall it was a well put together production and it feature emojis- who doesn’t like dancing emojis.

Once the show was completed, it was off to bed. Nope wait the casino was calling like a beacon to someone. So, after the show it was off to the casino. We played for over two hours on $20 and almost quadrupling our money, then we lost it. Darn slot machines. Until next time. Once our $20 had run out, it was back to the room for the evening. Tomorrow is a big day and we have decided to simply stay on the ship tomorrow. After all, it is a sea day and they recommend it. Until tomorrow.

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