Having read the reviews on Cruise Critic we were looking forward to our 7 day staycation cruise on the MSC Virtuosa. Some of the reviews wondered what it would be like when the ship was nearly full or full to capacity. The answer is bedlam!!
When we arrived at the port in Southampton we were met with a very long queue of passengers. It took us three and a half hours to get on board. There was no social distancing while queuing outside the terminal, within the terminal or onboard the ship. Neither were masks worn by many when walking inside the ship. On boarding, I was told there were 2,500 on board. A fellow passenger on our walking tour of Liverpool told our guide that there were over 3,500 passengers on board. A couple we met who boarded in Greenock said there were told that there were 4,000 passengers on board. Whatever, the figure, there were insufficient staff on board to deal with the increased capacity and our experience in Southampton was just the first of many long queues. From queuing up for breakfast at the buffet for over an hour because the only restaurant serving breakfast closed at 8:30 in the morning - the opening hours were extended slightly as the cruise progressed - to waiting in the Sky lounge for our pre-dinner aperitif for over 30-40 minutes. My husband started calling MSC, MSQueue
When we boarded the ship, we noticed that our dressing gowns and slippers were not in our cabin but we thought they would appear later, along with our case which turned up after we sailed, so we decided to go and book our massages at the Spa has they were included in our £2,700 Aurea package. That was when we found out that we were not on the Aurea package because it was not entered on our cruise cards. So, another long queue at Customer Services, the first of many. We had our cruise cards and the wrist bands which you need to wear when on board upgraded to Aurea. So, what else could go wrong?
Our cabin, it was fairly small in comparison with balcony cabins on other cruise lines we have been on. What was particularly irritating was the shower door constantly opening and closing whilst crossing the Irish Sea. We eventually found that the only way of stopping the crashing noise was to put a stool outside the shower door.
The coach tour started very well. We saw most of the attractions and were able to get out to see the outside of Belfast City Hall and Stormount Castle. Then our coach broke down and we had to wait over 40 minutes for a replacement coach. Our guide told us that because of the delay we will have to rush pass a few sights and miss some all together as he had to get us back to the ship in time for lunch. The sights we missed were the Peace Wall, the dividing line between the Catholic and Protestant Belfast and the main areas in those two communities. One of the sights we rushed past was the Titantic Museum. The coach sped quickly passed it without giving anyone time to take a photograph.
With the exception of Glasgow Cathedral, we, unfortunately, were on the only coach of the three which left Greenock not to stop anywhere in Glasgow. I overheard the driver telling the guide that he had an appointment to go to after the tour and, as a result, we rushed pass the attractions and most probably missed out on some sights of interest.
We went on a very enjoyable walking tour of the historical dock area, the three graces, the town hall, and the old and new Cavern clubs associated with the Beatles. Debbie, our guide, was very pleasant, extremely informative and a credit to Liverpool.