April 29, 2017

Cruising-Part Two

Cruising-Part Two

There is so much to write about from our cruise experience, that I broke it into a few sections. 
Here is part one...

Arrival:  I broke down arriving in details HERE.  What I didn't mention is that we arrived at 1000 and the ship wasn't quite ready for us (we arrived via an MSC shuttle bus (more to come on that).  Our room wasn't ready for us yet since we were so early. The rooms were available after 1400.  But, they still let us on the ship and we got to explore it practically empty. For early passengers, you could check in your backpacks and carry ons at a temporary luggage station.
The center of the ship
Balcony/top decks

Rooms:  There are a variety of rooms to choose from and they all come at different prices.  We got a room on the top floor with a balcony. 
Our friends, that previously went on a cruise, recommended we get a room with a balcony for 2 reasons:
1)  it makes the room feel larger than it is
2)  the rooms get stuffy.  It's nice to air out the room by opening the balcony doors. 
We really enjoyed our balcony because it offered amazing views!!!!
The balcony rails were high enough that I didn't have to worry about my 7 and 9 year old going over the edge and the bottom of the railings were so close to the floor that I didn't have to worry about one of them falling between the bottom of the railing and the balcony floor. (hope that all makes sense).
We were a family of 4 and I thought the kids were going to have to share the pull out couch in the room.  We were pleasantly surprised by having a wall bed.  My son loved it!
Turn down service in the evening
The room servicing was amazing!  We were shocked daily at how clean everything was.  The room got cleaned twice a day.  Once in the morning and then there was a turn down service in the evening that involved room cleaning as well.  We were not expecting this at all!  With both daily cleanings our trash was taken out and we got fresh towels.

Daily Newsletter:  Every night a cruise employee brings you a newsletter for the next day.
It includes a TON of info:  Excursion meeting times and locations, night show info, spa specials on the cruise, disembarkment times and the time you need to be back on the cruise for it to depart in the afternoon. 
You can see in the top right hand corner ours stated "Eng" for English version. 
I would carry this on me at all times on and off the ship.

Language: Even though the MSC cruise line is a German cruise line, everyone spoke English.  The majority of the people on the ship were either English, French, Italian, or Deutch.  The ship would make announcements in EVERY language (I counted 6 different languages every time), even the emergency procedure that they make you go through before you even leave the initial port.

Cruise Card:
You use your cruise card for everything.  I describe in detail the cruise card HERE.
What you also use it for is when you order any drinks, ice cream, dinner, book any excursions-really anything on the cruise!  It's also the card to get into your room.

Payments: You don't use money for anything on this cruise.  Don't get me wrong-you pay for everything you eat, or do.  But, there is no money exchange. 
Here is how it works:  When you get your cruise card, there are all these little payment machines on the cruise ship (mostly by the customer service desk).  You pop your cruise card into the machine slot and it reads your info.  Then it will ask for a form of card payment (credit card).  Then you swipe the credit card you want to use when paying for anything on the cruise ship. 
That's it!  super easy!  However, if you don't like that, then you can register a credit card, debit card, or euro at the customer service desk.  They make you put as low as 230 euro on your cruise card, like a down payment or security deposit.  If you use all that money, plus more by buying cruise excursions or using the spa on the ship, etc. then you will end up getting a bill at the end of the cruise on your last day.  But, if you don't use all the 230 euro deposit, you'll get the remaining balance refunded to your credit card that you registered. 

Excursions:  The cruise website lists the excursions that the cruise company offers and you can prebook them online before the cruise.  But, if you wait-it's not a problem.  On the first day of the boat, as soon as you arrive, go to the excursion desk (for our cruise it was beside the customer service desk).  The excursions fill up fast, so do not wait too long.   Book them as soon as you get on board the first day.  The excursion office provides early sign up sheets and break downs of all the tours offered through the cruise line for each port destination listing:  ease, price, length, descriptions of tour, etc. 
We only booked one excursion through the cruise line.  The other days, I had done tons of research on our locations and we were able to choose from prints outs I had brought from Rick Steve's and cruise critic.com and some other blogs I researched.  Our last day, we were in Spit in Croatia and did a 'Game of Thrones' Tour-IT WAS AMAZING.  I'll write more on that later;)
This is just one page of the excursion brochure
We registered for an excursion before there was anyone manning the desk with the below form and by that night I confirmed we were booked and good to go.  The excursion got booked on our cruise card and the charge was deducted from our 230 euro we had on security deposit (explained earlier in this post).
When no one is at the excursion desk, just fill out one of these booking forms
and place it in the box on the counter labeled for the forms. 
I recommend returning to the counter to confirm
everything was booked accordingly.
Daily Disembarkment:  Almost every day of the cruise you have the option to leave the boat. some people stay on the boat and enjoy having it almost completely empty since most people get off the ship.  We docked every day, except for one, due to being at sea for one entire day.  This was when I enjoyed a spa treatment and my kids enjoyed the kids club on the cruise. 
When you leave the ship-you must present your cruise card to security on your way out.  They scan it to get a head count, to identify people on the ship, and those that are off the ship exploring.  When security scans it, your photo comes up on their computer, and they verify that it's actually you that is associated with your cruise card (hope that makes sense).
Each time you get on the boat, after exploring the country you are docked in,
you will get in line to go through security to get back on the ship. 
There are open area tents to protect you from the harsh sun or sprinkles. 
Coming back on: After exploring off the ship and returning, you'll have to go through security again.  Any alcohol or knives (anything they consider a weapon) will be confiscated.  But, you'll receive a receipt and when you disembark on the final day,  you can get your items back.  Super efficient-just don't lose the receipt they give you when they confiscate your item.  When getting back onto the ship, you will go through metal detectors.  Security will also scan any bags and check your purchases. 
This is what you encounter when coming back on the ship: 
security on the left scans your cruise card,
you go through the line and through the scanners.
Travel sickness:  You can definitely tell you are on the boat!  My daughter and I get severe motion sickness-severe!  I had packed Dramamine for kids and myself, acupuncture pressure bracelets and even had a prescription patch for behind my ear.  My daughter and I didn't need any of it!  It was great! 

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