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MSC Splendida cruise ship review
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MSC Splendida Facts & Figures

In the past ten years or so, the Europeans have finally embraced cruising and the best proof of this is MSC Splendida, the latest and largest in a long line of new buildings for MSC Cruises. Built by STX Europe at St. Nazaire, France, the 138,000 ton giant calls Barcelona, Spain home on all-European, all-year cruises in the Mediterranean. Catering almost exclusively to Europeans, MSC Splendida is all you would expect from a floating Mediterranean resort. In true MSC fashion, Sophia Loren was asked to perform the role of god mother and it was on July 12, 2009 that the ship was officially named in a star-studded ceremony in Barcelona.

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MSC Splendida docked at Barcelona MSC Splendida up close The MSC Cruises logo is prominently displayed Just hours before the naming ceremony
MSC Splendida at Barcelona Up close and personal The MSC Cruises logo Docked at Barcelona

Every weekend in summer, the Port of Barcelona looks like the new Miami. Rows of gleaming white cruise ships gobble up thousands of passengers for a weeklong roundtrip in the Western Mediterranean. The youngest (and largest) girl visiting the Spanish port is the brand new MSC Splendida. Delivered on time by her French builders in July, 2009, this ship is another proof of the expertise of European shipbuilding. With a cheerful "buon giorno" we are welcomed on board for a two-night stay which will culminate in a sensational quayside naming ceremony.

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All is ready for the naming ceremony Sophia Loren speeches ... in Spanish! I name this ship.... Beautiful fireworks light up the Spanish skies
All is ready for the ceremony Sophia Loren "I name this ship" Fireworks end the ceremony

On Sunday evening, in the light of the setting sun, MSC Cruises show they know how to throw a party. After many speeches from all sorts of important people, there is a standing ovation as Italian movie star Sophia Loren, godmother for all new built MSC ships, takes to the stage. At age 74, she is as glamorous as ever. After Sophia, it's time for world famous tenor Josť Carreras to mesmerize the crowd with his fabulous voice. Just before Midnight, the bottle breaks on MSC Splendida's hull and a gigantic firework display lights up the skies over Barcelona.

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Splendida's towering atrium Looking down towards the Splendida Bar The Splendida Atrium Note the Svarowski glass stairs
Splendida Atrium Splendida Atrium Splendida Atrium Note the Svarowski stairs
Splendida Reception Splendida Atrium Shopping! One of four beautiful main stairwells
Splendida Reception Splendida Reception Shopping! Beautiful stairwells

Once again, MSC Cruises turned to Italian Studio de Jorio for MSC Splendida's interior design. The result is nothing short of stunning and the unique use of colors and materials make the interiors of this (and any other MSC) ship instantly recognizable. MSC Splendida is another fine example of Italian design and the well thought out use of space make this ship feel less gigantic than it actually is. Most guests will enter the ship in the Splendida Atrium, the social, 5 deck high heart of the ship. Focal point here are the two see-through sweeping staircases covered in Swarovski stones - making guests stop for photos from day 1.

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Cabin corridor Outside stateroom with balcony Outside stateroom with balcony Bathroom
Cabin corridor Balcony stateroom Balcony stateroom Bathroom

MSC Splendida boasts 14 passenger decks, with 1,637 cabins. A whopping 80% of all staterooms have private balconies. All staterooms are very tastefully decorated in deep reds, greens and yellows, giving them an intimate but still modern, fresh feeling. The bathrooms are plain white but well laid out with a good shower. The balconies are on the small side though. On MSC Splendida and older sister MSC Fantasia the cruise line is premiering a concierge class level called Yacht Club. Up on decks 15 and 16 you will find 99 larger staterooms and a private lounge and restaurant. Butler service is available in all Yacht Club staterooms.

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MSC Splendida - The Aft Lounge MSC Splendida - The Aft Lounge MSC Splendida - Photo Gallery MSC Splendida - Entrance to Santa Fe Tex Mex Restaurant
The Aft Lounge The Aft Lounge Photo Gallery Santa Fe Tex Mex Restaurant
MSC Splendida - Santa Fe Tex Mex Restaurant MSC Splendida - Santa Fe Tex Mex Restaurant MSC Splendida - Santa Fe Tex Mex Restaurant MSC Splendida - L'Enoteca Wine & Tapas Bar
Santa Fe Tex Mex Restaurant Santa Fe Tex Mex Restaurant Santa Fe Tex Mex Restaurant L'Enoteca Wine Bar
MSC Splendida - Santa Fe Tex Mex Restaurant MSC Splendida - L'Enoteca Wine & Tapas Bar MSC Splendida - L'Enoteca Wine & Tapas Bar MSC Splendida - L'Enoteca Wine & Tapas Bar
Santa Fe Tex Mex Restaurant L'Enoteca Wine Bar L'Enoteca Wine Bar L'Enoteca Wine Bar

On deck 7 aft, the appropriately named "Aft Lounge" serves as MSC Splendida's secondary show lounge and ballroom. The decor is whimsical, with faux stone walls and trendy lounge sets. Further forward is the innovative Photo Gallery and the Santa Fe Restaurant, one of Splendida's specialty restaurants serving Tex Mex favorites. Reservations are recommended here and there is a cover fee. In L'Enoteca Wine Bar you can enjoy wines and tapas in a very welcoming setting. Everything here breathes "wine" so even the chairs are made out of wine casks!

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MSC Splendida - L'Espresso Coffee Bar MSC Splendida - Sports Bar with bowling alley MSC Splendida - The Purple Jazz Bar MSC Splendida - The Purple Jazz Bar
L'Espresso Coffee Bar Sports Bar The Purple Jazz Bar The Purple Jazz Bar
MSC Splendida - The Purple Jazz Bar MSC Splendida - The Purple Jazz Bar MSC Splendida - La Prua Piano Bar  MSC Splendida - La Prua Piano Bar 
The Purple Jazz Bar The Purple Jazz Bar La Prua Piano Bar La Prua Piano Bar

The hugely popular L'Espresso Coffee Bar is located on the third level of the atrium. Try a cappuccino or espresso here! Further forward are two smaller public rooms. On port side you'll find the Sports Bar featuring MSC's first ever bowling alley. With its almost sparse decor, the Sports Bar greatly offsets the rich, bold Purple Jazz Bar on starboard side. This is arguably one of the most attractive night spots on board, home to a resident jazz band. Should you look for something more sedate, the La Prua Piano Bar is only steps away. This room has a distinct nautical flavor with its teak floor and portholes.

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MSC Splendida - The Strand Theatre  MSC Splendida - The Strand Theatre MSC Splendida - Royal Palm Casino MSC Splendida - Royal Palm Casino 
The Strand Theatre The Strand Theatre Royal Palm Casino Royal Palm Casino
MSC Splendida - La Piazzetta MSC Splendida - La Piazzetta MSC Splendida - La Piazzetta MSC Splendida - L'Aperitivo Main Foyer
La Piazzetta La Piazzetta La Piazzetta L'Aperitivo Main Foyer

Nightly entertainment is featured in the enormous Strand Theatre, spanning three decks. Sightlines are excellent and seating is nothing short of superb - this is a proper showroom that would not look out of place in any mid-sized town. Directly aft of the theater on deck 6 is the Royal Palm Casino, which is quite large for a ship catering exclusively to Europeans. You will also find a separate Poker Room on starboard side.

The design team has worked hard to make La Piazzetta look like a genuine Italian village square. Somehow or other, the room doesn't work for me. Blame it on the blaring music or the overkill in shiny surfaces! Still La Piazzetta proved quite popular during my time on board, probably because of the delicious Italian ice creams, cakes and coffees that are served here. For me, L'Aperitivo which overlooks the atrium, proved a much better venue. By using very dark colors, the brightly lit atrium attracts all the attention here and Studio de Jorio should be commended for creating a warm and intimate atmosphere in what basically is an atrium bar.

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MSC Splendida - La Reggia Restaurant MSC Splendida - La Reggia Restaurant MSC Splendida - La Reggia Restaurant MSC Splendida - La Reggia Restaurant
La Reggia Restaurant La Reggia Restaurant La Reggia Restaurant La Reggia Restaurant
MSC Splendida - Villa Verde Restaurant MSC Splendida - Villa Verde Restaurant MSC Splendida - Villa Verde Restaurant MSC Splendida - L'Olivio Mediterranean Restaurant (for Yacht Club guests)
Villa Verde Restaurant Villa Verde Restaurant Villa Verde Restaurant L'Olivio Restaurant
MSC Splendida - Pago Pago Cafetaria MSC Splendida - Bora Bora Cafetaria MSC Splendida - Bora Bora Cafetaria MSC Splendida - Pago Pago Cafetaria
Pago Pago Cafetaria Bora Bora Cafetaria Bora Bora Cafetaria Pago Pago Cafetaria

MSC Cruises are in the process of upgrading their food offerings and during our stay on board I noticed that the quality of the food has already improved. Breakfast, lunch and dinner (in two fixed seatings) are served in two main restaurants. The corn colored La Reggia is the largest of the two, spanning two decks. The beautiful Villa Verde Restaurant aft on deck 6 is arguably more elegant. But the most exclusive dining experience can be found in the L'Olivio Restaurant, reserved for guests of the vessel's Yacht Club suites. Open most of the day is MSC Splendida's huge casual eatery on deck 14 aft. The Pago Pago Cafetaria and Bora Bora Cafetaria are sporting the same interesting South Pacific look, with lots of dark wood paneling. MSC Cruises have learned from the awkward design of the buffet restaurants on their Musica class ships and have now chosen for a free flow concept on their Fantasia class ships. The ingenious (and very attractive!) design of the room on MSC Splendida make the buffet restaurant a winner!

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MSC Splendida - novel sun deck furniture MSC Splendida - Aqua Park MSC Splendida - Aqua Park at night MSC Splendida - L'Equatore Pool (with sliding glass roof)
Lounging on deck 18 Aqua Park Aqua Park by night L'Equatore covered pool
MSC Splendida - Playa del Sol pool (adults only) MSC Splendida - Aqua Park MSC Splendida - Aqua Park MSC Splendida - view from Club 33 Disco
Playa del Sol pool Aqua Park Aqua Park Club 33 Disco
MSC Splendida - Club 33 Disco MSC Splendida - MSC Aurea Spa MSC Splendida - MSC Aurea Spa MSC Splendida - MSC Aurea Spa gym
Club 33 Disco MSC Aurea Spa MSC Aurea Spa MSC Aurea Spa gym

MSC Cruises have always made their pool deck feel like the ones found at land based resorts and the Aqua Park on MSC Splendida is no different. Its terraced pools, fountains and Jacuzzis provide fun in the sun for the whole family. More peace and quiet can be found in the delightful L'Equatore Pool which can be covered by a glass roof in inclement weather. When open, the roof is completely invisible - a great feature. Last but not least, the Playa del Sol pool aft is reserved for adults, so you won't find any kids running around here. Overlooking the Aqua Park is the Club 33 Disco, done in a bright orange bubble gum style. And what would a modern cruise ship be without a spa? For passengers looking for complete wellness, the MSC Aurea Spa is huge and features treatment rooms, a gym, hairdresser and all the usual features.

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MSC Splendida is a stunning ship. Or better, a stunning resort catering to European vacationers of all ages that would otherwise head for the Spanish costa's or the Turkish beaches. While not overly luxurious, this ship will dazzle first time cruisers and aims at pleasing a huge audience from all over Europe. MSC Splendida's interiors are modern, fresh and easygoing, just like the overall MSC Cruises experience.
 
 
 

Photos and text: © 2009 Bart de Boer - www.ShipParade.com

First published on September 20, 2009

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