Monday, December 25, 2017

Mediterranean Cruise MSC Meraviglia 7N Genoa Civitavecchia Palermo La Valletta Barcelona Marseilles Pre Cruise Day

We go on another cruise!  This time, we sail out of Genoa, on a 7N cruise to the Western Mediterranean! The ship is the MSC Meraglivia, and the itinerary as follows:

Where is Genoa?  Quoting from Wikitravel - Genoa (or Genova in Italian) is a historical port city in northern Italy, the capital of the Region of Liguria. Genoa today, as a tourist attraction, is often shadowed by cities such as Rome or Venice, even though it has a long history as a rich and powerful trade centre. However, with its multitude of hidden gems behind cozy alleyways, excellent cuisine (notably fish and seafood), renovated old port, beautiful sights (including one of Europe's biggest aquariums), and its position as the European Capital of Culture in 2004 have made the birthplace of explorer Christopher Columbus an enticing place which is gradually becoming more included in the touristic market. With pastel-coloured terracotta-roofed houses, artistic churches, lovely seaside villas, and also several luxurious boutiques, Genoa is a must see if you want to experience the "quintessential" Italy.

In short, what the above description is saying that Genoa is a historical city, and we were told that her economy isn't doing very well these days, having been overshadowed by other bigger Italian cities.  Fortunately, tourism continues to be a big money puller.  They have a decent cruise port, and it is good that MSC ships call at her ports very frequently (in fact, some are home-ported here).

How to get to Genoa? Turns out that Genoa isn't that easy to get to, at least from Singapore. She has  a small airport (Genoa Cristoforo Colombo), with limited connected to Europe.  (Most flights are to other Italian cities).  The last time we flew into Genoa, using Ryanair from London Stansted. (They only fly 3-4 times a week).   This time, we decided to fly from Singapore to Milan Malpensa, and then find out way via public train to Genoa.

Flight from Singapore to Milan
We flew on Singapore Airlines SQ 368, Singapore to Milan direct and non-stop.  The aircraft departs Singapore close to midnight, and would arrive in Milan Malpensa Terminal 1 around 6AM in the morning, local Milan time.

At Singapore Changi Airport (which to me is the best airport in the world), I spotted this Christmas magical display of Sanrio characters.  Added greatly to the festive mood!

Priority Pass Lounge - SATS Premier Lounge
Since I had to use up some complimentary passes, I decided to visit a Priority Pass lounge at Changi. I chose the SATS Premier Lounge, as they are quite reliable.  Many airlines (those without dedicated lounges) also use this lounge for their business class pax. Here is a video of the lounge experience

SQ 368 to Milan
Singapore Airlines operates their Airbus A350 for the Singapore to Milan route. The plane I flew on was very new, I think about 6 months old.  Even though I have flown with Singapore Airlines many times (both in Economy and Business), this experience is still novel for me.  Why? As I was flying in Economy, and it was a red-eye flight, I decided to spend an additional USD 90 to purchase what is known as a Preferred Seat.  Other names include Emergency Row, or Exit Seat.   This is what my seat, 47J, looked like.  On the left of this picture.

Here is a screenshot of the seating plan on the SQ Airbus A350.  My seat was 47J.

Verdict? Was the USD90 worth it?

Verdict? It depends.

The Pros.
No doubt that the legroom was plentiful.  I could stretch my entire leg horizontally, with no issues.  This allowed me to have a very good sleep.  But take note the disadvantages below.

The Cons
1. Preferred seats are right next to the toilets.  Hence, this place could get very busy indeed, especially during peak hours for toilet use (e.g. after meals, before landing).

2. At 47J, you will hear a 'ding', 'ding', 'ding' (9:26), and a blue light coming on.  What was that all about?  Turns out that whenever a passenger presses the call button for a flight attendant, the ding sound will happen, and a small blue light will be activated. (9:26).  The ding beeper and blue light is located right above the aircraft door, near 47J.  You can imagine the 'ding', 'ding', 'ding' throughout the night.  Fortunately, they gave me ear plugs, and I managed to sleep through.   I think this wasn't an issue for 47B and 47C (i.e. the preferred seats at the other aisle), although I'm not sure.

3. Preferred seats have no space to put your backpack under your seat. Everything must go overhead.

4. The inflight entertainment screen can only be deployed when the aircraft is in the air. So you don’t have access to movies when the plane is on the ground, during take off, and during landing. Other passengers in normal seats have access to the IFE throughout.

Overall? Given that I had a good sleep (which was very important to me), the USD90 was worth the money. However, if I flew again, I would try 47A, 47B or 47C next time. (i.e the other side of the aircraft)

Seats-aside, the rest of the flight was good.  We were served supper shortly after takeoff from Singapore Changi. I chose the Beef with Noodles option.  I found the beef a bit tough, but it didn't bother me too much as I wasn't hungry.  We were given a Magnum mini as dessert - that was nice.  I slept a lot and woke up about 3 hours before landing.  Breakfast was ok. I chose the noodles again.  Everything went like clockwork and we landed in Milan safely.

Here is the video of my experience.

Arrival at Milan Malpensa
The airport was very quiet as we disembarked.  I think our flight was the first to land that morning, which was helpful because immigration lines moved quickly.  I noticed that they had only 2 counters in operation at that time in the morning.  After clearing immigration, we waited for a short while and got our luggage.  Take note that the trolleys cost 2 Euro (using coins from the machine).  I had to get a trolley since we had big luggage.  Fortunately we had some Euro coins from our previous trips to the EU.

Once we got to the public area, we headed to a cafe to get some coffee and food. Here is a video of us walking in Milan airport, then on the train, and finally arriving at Milan Centrale.

How far were the train rides? Well, it was two train rides. First, you need to take the train from Milan Malpensa Airport to Milan Centrale station (about 1 hour), on the Malpensa Express.  Next, from Milan Centrale to Genoa (Genova Principe).  The second leg is on an inter-city train.  Snapshot below from Google Maps.

Milan Centrale
In this video, I show you some scenes of Milan Centrale station.  The pickpocket situation in Milan is so bad, the first thing the machine tells you is to 'Beware of Pickpockets".  We arrived in Milan Centrale earlier that morning, from Milan Malpensa, after flying in from Singapore. (Singapore Airlines!)  At Milan Centrale, I had to buy tickets for the next leg, from Milan Centrale to Genoa Principe.  I used the Self Service machines.  They accepted credit cards, but required a PIN.  Thankfully I remembered my PIN. The second class ticket cost 21.5 Euros per adult.

It was quite a nightmare for us when we boarded the train to Genoa.  First we had to get our luggage on board the train - pretty high steps.  Then, we discovered there weren't proper areas to store our large bags.  Worse, some pickpockets made an attempt on one of us, thank God she didn't manage to steal anything.

Beware, they work in groups of 2-3. One of them will try to distract you.  In our case, she pretended to be a train passenger and appeared overly helpful with our luggage.  The other(s) will then try to pick from your pocket, handbag or bagpack. As the train was quite crowded and busy, people were in close proximity.

We also discovered that we boarded the wrong carriage.  When we took the train from Milan Malpensa to Milan Centrale, there were no assigned seats. But for this inter-city train (which went all the way to NICE), there were assigned seats and carriages.  My video shows you a picture of the ticket, and more importantly how to read the ticket (CARROVA means carriage).  Remember to board the correct carriage.

After all that excitement, we made it safely to Genoa Principe.  Phew!  Thank God.

Here is a picture of train tickets.

The earlier video also shows you our arrival at Genoa Principe and how to walk to the exit. From there, we took a taxi, to bring us to the Holiday Inn Genoa, where we would be staying for a night, pre-cruise. The hotel wasn't far away, but there were some surcharges. The bill came up to under 20 Euros. ( I think it was 17)

Holiday Inn GENOA
Checking in for the Genoa Holiday Inn was a breeze.  We arrived just after 1pm, and our rooms were ready, so we could get access to our rooms.  (Official check in time was 3pm).

For my family of 4, I booked a normal family room, and the hotel very nicely upgraded us to an Executive Family Room.  Very pleased.  This is the video of what the room looks like.   

It was time for lunch!  After putting down our bags and washing up, we asked the hotel reception to call a taxi for us.  We were headed to downtown Genoa, to get lunch at this restaurant called Yuan Restaurant Genoa.  I had found the restaurant on Tripadvisor (  

The restaurant clearly lived up to the recommendations on tripadvisor.  It was very good and inexpensive!  They had awesome lunch sets, costing  about 11Euros each.  I got this mixed sushi for 11 Euros.

My parents took the Chinese menu, which was 10Euros per pax, and it even came with two courses! It was very good value, as you can see in the video below.  We had 2 large bottles of beer, costing 4 Euro each.  Take note, there was a rather steep set of stairs to climb up to the restaurant. 

After a good lunch, it was time to take a walk.  Need to combat jet lag! We were in downtown Genoa, and it took us about 5 minutes on foot to get to the famous Piazza De Ferrari.  From Wiki,  Piazza De Ferrari is the main square of Genoa. Situated in the heart of the city between the historical and the modern center, Piazza De Ferrari is renowned for its fountain, which was restored in recent years along with a major restyling of the square. Today next to Piazza De Ferrari are numerous office buildings, headquarters of banks, insurances and other private companies, making of this district the financial and business centre of Genoa, so that Genoeses popularly refer to it as the "City" of Genoa. At the end of the 19th century Genoa was the main financial centre of Italy along with Milan, and Piazza De Ferrari was the place where many institutions were established, like the stock exchange, the Credito Italiano,[1] the branch offices of the Bank of Italy, founded in 1893.

After taking some photos of the piazza, I headed towards Piazza San Lorenzo, where the Genoa Cathedral is.   Along the way, we passed a nice Christmas market.  

We kept walking beyond the Cathedral (it was downhill) and ended up near the water.  We could see the aquarium.  Took a taxi back to the hotel from there.

Here is some Go Pro footage of the walk.  

We didn't do much later that evening.  Tired.  We had some food at the McDonalds (inside the Co-Op) opposite the Holiday Inn.  And it was time to rest and sleep.  

Steps up Italian Train
Before I end the pre-cruise day, here is a picture and a short video clip of the steps up a typical Italian inter-city train.  The reason I am showing you this is because you have to carry your luggage up and down the train, if you intend to use the train for inter-city travel.  Therefore, heavy pieces of luggage could prove to be a challenge. 

Here is the video.

Continue to Day 1 of the cruise, where we embark the MSC Meraviglia! 

1 comment :

  1. The stunning Mediterranean than aboard a top cruise ship, where you'll discover the vibrant cities, inspiring ancient ruins & sun-kissed beaches. Home to some of Europe's most diverse countries, the Mediterranean Sea is a treasure trove of dramatic coast lines