MSC Grandiosa Postcard #4 – Southampton & Disembarking

We sailed into The Solent and Southampton before the sun had risen so no great fanfares for the new ship this morning. We were alongside a little after 7:00 by which time we were sat in the buffet enjoying our last meal onboard.
We had to vacate our cabin by 8:30 and be off the ship by 10:00 so once we had filled our belly’s we took one last look around the ship before we grabbed our luggage and walked off to get a taxi to the airport to pick up the car. No queues or any obstacles at all.

We now have nothing booked so I have no idea when the next instalment will be or even what it will be, fingers crossed we don’t have to wait too long.

MSC Grandiosa Postcard #3 – A Sea Day

After the muster we met up with some of our forum friends for a quick drink before dinner in The Master of the Seas pub on deck 7.  If it wasn’t for the payment method and the uniforms of the staff you could be in any pub in the UK. However our dining experience left a lot to be desired, it was painfully slow which you could sort of write off because it was the first proper sitting on the ship but you could argue that all the staff should know exactly what they are doing because most have been selected from other ships in this class to open this ship. Also Nicole was very disappointed that the menu only contained one solitary vegan option. MSC seem to be miles behind some of the other cruise lines in this respect. The consequence of this is we may eat in the buffet tonight instead.
After dinner we once again met up with our friends and proceeded to try and find a bar where we could all sit together, this turned out to be a bit of a task, firstly as weren’t able to find enough seats in any of the bar’s we first selected, then we came up against the obstacle of not being able to use the basic drink package in some of the others. The result being we ended up back in The Master of the Seas for the remainder of the evening.
I have no idea what time I retired to bed but I can confirm that I slept like a rock.

The clocks changed this morning and we had an extra hour in bed. For breakfast we decided to brave the buffet and although it was busy there were plenty of seats and it also meant Nicole could pick and choose things she could eat more effectively.

At 9:30 we had to go to the Sportplex for face to face control with the British Immigration Authorities. We were in and out within minutes and then set off to explore the ship some more.

Starting from the top we worked our way down deck by deck, most of the public areas are above deck 15 and between 7 and 5.

At 12:10 we made our way to the Purple Crab dining room for a spot of lunch, again a lengthy process, however it was made much enjoyable by being able to share a table with friends who just happened to arrive at exactly the same time as us.

A good test of a ship is is ability to keep people occupied when the weather isn’t brilliant.  During lunch there was an announcement over the PA informing us the the open areas of the ship were being closed off due to the extremely high winds.

Not wishing to part with any more money than really necessary we decided to head back to the cabin for 40 winks. That should answer you about how this ship is when you can’t get outside. As much as I would like, I can’t eat and drink solidly for 24 hours a day.

I am struggling to find the correct way to describe the ship without being too negative, Grandiosa is a very big ship and also very similar in many ways to the Royal Caribbean set up with a central promenade which takes up two decks. This area houses many of the speciality restaurants along with the shops and boutiques. Until you reach the atrium there is nowhere that you can actually see outside through a window, I do find that a very disappointing design feature on a modern ship which is one reason why we would probably never book a cruise on this class of ship. For us the Seaside class is a much more favourable option should we ever decide to book MSC again.

Most of area’s on the two classes are very similar in detail but the actual layout couldn’t be more different. However, the buffet footprint is practically identical and we found it very easy to navigate due to its similarly to the one on Seaview. Also, what has become very evident is the amount of time it takes to get from one end of the ship to the other, especially for us with our cabin right at one end of the ship.

At 6:00 we once again met up for pre dinner drinks but this time in the Sky Lounge. We had also decided to eat in the buffet this evening so Nicole could pick and choose things to eat rather than be subjected to a single course.

I am starting to feel the pace of the last few days tonight and may well turn in early but not before a couple of nightcaps….

MSC Grandiosa Postcard #2 – Hamburg & Embarking

After a good night’s sleep we awoke feeling refreshed and ready to go again. We skipped breakfast at the hotel as it was incredibly busy so opted to go out instead with the hope of finding something. Our walk took us to a few of sites we failed to visit yesterday on our self guided tour.

Heading back towards the harbour we passed two ships, Cap San Diego and the Rickmer Rickmers. It was then on to the St. Paul Landing Bridges followed by a trip through the Old Elbe Tunnel which is the longest river tunnel in the world. It was built in 1911 and is 24 metres under the River Elbe.

From there we headed back to the hotel to wait for some forum friends with whom we are sharing a lift to the ship with.
With our taxi booked for 1:00 we actually inadvertently managed to get one 20 minutes earlier. By 1:10 we onboard by making full use of the Diamond Card priorities and headed straight for the buffet.
It’s a very busy ship and the buffet although busy was still very comfortable to use, by that I mean no queues and argy bargy.
Around 2:30 we set off to find our cabin, first impressions were very good as we have found many comparisons with Celebrity’s Solstice class. It’s quite compact but very functional and would be ideal for a couple.

Muster at 5:15 and we are meeting with fellow forum members straight after.

MSC Grandiosa Postcard #1 – Heathrow to Hamburg

We spent last night at The Sofitel at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 in preparation for our early flight this morning to Hamburg. After dropping the car at Southampton airport the next stage which was a train to Woking didn’t go exactly to plan, with lots of disruption, reroutes and delays we eventually arrived at Heathrow not at 7:10 but at 8:30 and because of our early start it was then pretty much straight to bed.
The transit through Heathrow went very swiftly and we were soon on our way to Hamburg taking off just 10 minutes after our scheduled time.
On arrival at Hamburg we were again swiftly through the arrival procedures and on our way to our hotel. The route was via the S1 railway to Hamburg Central Station where we then changed to the U4 underground to HafenCity Universität pictured below.

From there we had just a 5 minute walk to the Holiday Inn HafenCity where we had booked a room using previously earned points. Unfortunately at 11:00 in the morning our room wasn’t ready so after dropping the cases off we set off to explore Hamburg. As a guide we downloaded a self guided walking tour which started at the Central Station so being as we had public transport costs covered with a Hamburg Card we retraced our steps using the subway.

First four sites were Central Station, Hamburg Kunsthalle (Art Gallery), Binnenalster (artificial lake) & Alster Arcades.

Next were Jungfernstieg ( one of Hamburg’s oldest streets), Bleichenfleet (one of the many canals in the city), Hamburg Stock Exchange then the Town Hall (Rathaus).

Moving on we found the Bucerius Art Forum, St. Peters Church, Kontorhausviertel office block and the 10 storey Chilehaus which is arguably the most famous office building in Hamburg due to its angular end.

Poggenmuhlen Bridge & Speicherstadt then St. Michael’s Church where we were able to go up the tower for arguably some of the best views of the city and port.

On our way back to the hotel we passed the Elbphilharmonie and the HafenCity waterside. Stopping only for a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants in the area before finally arriving at the hotel just after 6:00.
Totally cream crackered but having had an amazing but long day.

Time to take it easy for the night, we intend to head off in the morning to explore some more as boarding doesn’t start until 2:30 and we have our room until 2:00 so everything seems to be working out quite nicely timewise.

MSC Grandiosa (Inaugural Cruise) Preamble

Back in 2016 we were very fortunate to be allocated a free cruise on MSC Splendida from forum which was a 2 night cruise from Hamburg back to Southampton. When a similar opportunity arose for a 2 night inaugural cruise on MSC Grandiosa I once again put my name forward in the hope we could enjoy a similar experience. Due to the fact that this time no flights or transfers were included the demand wasn’t as big so we found ourselves once again lucky enough to have been selected. We have managed to keep our expenses down to a minimum by booking pre-fight accommodation along with flights themselves with Avios points and then pre-cruise accommodation in Hamburg as an IHG reward night. The only outlay being the car park at Southampton Airport and then the train fare from Southampton Parkway to Heathrow T5, (the last two bits are  exactly the same as we did in 2016 on Splendida).

MSC Grandiosa is a the latest addition to their fleet and we are really looking forward to comparing the design of the ship with the Seaside class which we enjoyed cruising on last year. Granted we only have 2 nights which basically equates just one full day but we fully intend to make the most of the experience.

We have been allocated cabin 9030 which is not in what we would consider the most ideal location on the ship but being as its only for two nights and it cost nothing we can’t really grumble. As you will see below on the graphic, we are right at the pointy end virtually under the bridge.

Given the short length of the cruise I may not do an instant update on the sea day, the standard Wi-Fi cost being an eye watering £ 32.50 per person for the whole of the two night cruise (with the onboard price being an extra 20% more) and as keen as I am to make a post, I’m not that keen. I’m sure you can wait 24 hours to find out what we did on our sea day…………………………….