The Big Trip: D-Day

Having settled our expenses in the hotel in Maribor, we were off to Venice, the departure port or our cruise, in no time. It took us a little more than 3 and a half hours to get there, following the lovely Slovenian highways and then the busy Italian ones. One thing to note about the Italian highways, is that these are toll-roads: there is no need to pay a general vignette, but you’ll have to get a ticket when entering them and pay when you get off. For us the toll-machine showed the price of €10.80 when getting off near Venice, so I think it is not as cheap as any of the other Highways.

Upon arriving to the pre-booked parking (P5) at Marco Polo Airport, the barrier automatically opened up as it recognized the license plates (it would have opened up anyway because there were enough free spaces 😛 ) and a ticket was issued. We parked the car at a convenient place, memorized the location (:) ) and headed off with our luggage towards the arrivals terminal, where we could hop on to the ATVO bus bound to Piazzale Roma in Venice. From there we took the People Mover and we got under the MSC flags at the port in no time (some details about how to get there are in my previous post). From there, checking in to the MSC Fantasia was not a quick process. Even though the company does everything to speed things up, the sheer number of passengers (~4000) takes time to get processed, so it is done in steps.
Step 1 – show your boarding pass and drop off your suit-cases: You have to stand at the end of one of the long-long queues and patiently wait until you get up front to show the ticket, get a bunch of welcome papers, and directions about where to leave your luggage and where to continue to proceed with checking in.
Step 2 – MSC Cards: Take the usual (as I was later informed) “on-boarding picture” and carry on to receive your MSC Card, get our ID-picture taken so that they do not loose you anymore ( 😛 ) and get a bunch of more papers about your cruise. After this you also get a bonus walk-through of all the discounts you can get if you buy one of the drinks packages you actually don’t need… no thanks 🙂 .
Step 3 – security: Almost as checking in to an airplane, you have to walk through a metal detector (somewhat lighter version) and then you may proceed to the ship.

When first encountering the MSC Fantasia in it’s full size, I had to stop: It was HUGE… I took a moment to take a video to try and capture this feeling for the future. No more words here, just watch:

After waking up from the initial shock of encountering the ship, the next challenge is to find your room. Everything is well labeled, but still it is a labyrinth. We had a windowless, interior room, on the 12th floor, because we figured we would not stay too much in the cabin during the day (and boy we were right… ). The initial encounter was not bad: everything was well prepared (apart from the Russian (!) language welcome paper, which was cordially switched after we notified it) and very tastefully decorated. Entering the room was possible with our MSC Cards (which we later found that had even more powers 😀 ).

Our luggage did not arrive to our room, yet, so we went to the reception and here… I had to take another video:

There was one more important thing to do at the reception: giving our MSC Cards some more power. This was achievable by going to the reception and ask the man at the desk to fill it up with the amount we payed by cash (minimum of €250 ). After this was done, we had all the power to freely move around and access (almost) all facilities of the ship.

Next stop, was the Zanzibar bar on the 14th floor, where we could take a plate and just fill it up with any kind of food. The selection was huge. And because we were hungry, the pile on the plates got huge, too. It was a nice first meal 😉 . This was the first time we had to use one of our MSC Cards for payment, too: every type of food is free at the buffet, but you have to pay for the beverages (apart from water and the liquid called coffee coming from the machine). The price for a coke (0.33l) was €2.5 plus 15% service charge.

After our delightful lunch, we were ready to take part in the compulsory safety training, so we had to go to our meeting point (indicated by our cards) together with our life-vests (from our room) and listen to the instructions. This was necessary to be done by all guests and we could not leave before this training was done. Once this finished, we were ready to go up to the sun-deck (15th floor) and take part on the departure ceremony. This meant basically a reasonable fight to get to a good position at the side of the ship, wave around (“smile and wave” 😀 ) to the people in Venice and listen to the music selection compiled specifically to this occasion:

By the time the houses of Venice got small enough to be boring, we went back to our cabin, and to our delight, we have found our suitcases already delivered there. This was wonderful news: we could at last get a shower and prepare for the evening show at the theater. We were 2nd seating diners, this meant that the show for us started at 19:45. It was OK, I was not that hungry, yet, anyway… The first show was very interesting: full of acrobatic moves, singing and dancing. It was a lovely 45 minutes, where we first encountered the animator team of the ship also.

The next big event of the day, was the dinner (from 21:00). Dinner on the ship for us meant gourmet-style dining, complete with white dress waiters and words you cannot even pronounce from your menu. All the food was included in the ticket price, so we just had to choose what to eat and eat it. Again, drinking was not free of charge even in the restaurant (which was called “Il Cerchio d’Oro”). Again, we had to use our MSC Cards for water and wine that we wanted to consume during our dinner. The prices were OK: a quite tasty glass of wine was for instance €5.50, plus 15% service charge.

After a tasteful dinner, we were ready to go to bed: it was a long day, with a lot of new things and we already had to be ready for the first destination of the cruise the next day…


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