Our first cruise was on MSC Sinfonia in May 2005 – a week from Genoa, calling at Naples, Palermo, Tunis, Palma, Barcelona & Marseilles. Sinfonia is a (barely, these days) medium-sized ship of just under 60,000 tons and a passenger capacity of just under 1900 at standard occupancy. Built in 2002 for Festival Cruises, she was acquired by MSC in the autumn of 2004, refurbished over the winter, and entered service for MSC in March 2005.
We selected MSC because we fancied the idea of cruising ‘abroad’ – we were hoping that the fact that it was an Italian line & ship would make the time on the ship seem as much like being abroad as the time ashore. We enjoyed the cruise very much, it was a good introduction to cruising for us. I wrote a full review here, and published these pictures taken on the cruise:
Norwegian Jewel, August 2005
Having been bitten by the cruising bug after our cruise on Sinfonia, we were tempted by a 2-night introductory cruise on Norwegian Jewel out of Dover, in August 2005. The ship was brand-new – this was her first voyage after hand-over by Meyer Werft. We were in an inside twin somewhere above the main lounge decks.
This cruise was not so successful. NCL practices ‘Freestyle Dining’ – turn up at a restaurant whenever you like. On that ship, for those nights, we found that the restaurants were crowded as everyone wanted to eat at the same time as us, of course. We were queueing outside one of the main dining rooms for almost 30 minutes on the first night, and we only avoided this on the second night by booking a meal in one of the extra-cost speciality dining rooms, at an additional cost of $30.
Our conclusion was that Freestyle Dining is not for us, and that in future we would look for cruises that featured traditional dining arrangements: set sittings, set dining companions.
Norwegian Jewel herself is a great ship – at 90,000 tons she’s big enough to have a wide range of facilities yet not so big as to be unmanageable. I enjoyed everything about her, except for the dining arrangements.