Cruise day is once again upon us, and the cruise ship MSC Magnifica, is at Benito Quinquela Martin port in Buenos Aires. This MSC ship will become our home for the next 21 days as we make our way from Buenos Aires to Venice, via Rio, Salvador da Bahia and Recife which are our three stops in Brazil before five days at sea crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Then onto Cadiz followed by Malaga and Palma de Mallorca in Spain, after continuing on to Valletta in Malta, Dubrovnik in Croatia before our final stop in Venice.
Day 385 – March 22nd, 2015. Cruise Day 1 – Boarding MSC Magnifica & Sail away
As always, I had our gear packed and ready the night before, which allowed Moni the morning to do a few things online before we could make our way to the cruise terminal, plus I managed to watch the first half of Liverpool Vs Man Utd, probably a good job I missed the second half as the reds lost.
Arriving at the cruise terminal in Buenos Aires
Being a Sunday I knew that taxis were not going to be coming past in their droves so I walked to the end of our road and waited to hail one. Eventually at 11.45 we made our way to the cruise terminal, a 15 minute drive. Arriving at an already very busy drop off area, we joined the back of the long line of passengers with our luggage in hand.
This cruise is the first for 2015 and just over a year ago we boarded the Queen Elizabeth heading to Japan, since then we have managed to reduce our amount of luggage by half. Two huge suitcases and a carry-on have somehow been eliminated from our odyssey.
We shuffled our way forward before a porter came with a trolley and I made sure to hand our rucksacks to him as he stacked them on. We waited in line for a minute before Moni realised that we didn’t need to wait here anymore as the people in front were only waiting to actually hand their bags in personally, with that, we snuck in a side door and joined the end of the line again.
Finally we check-in… or do we
At 1pm we made it to our first check-in counter. Having showed the person our printed out ticket and passports, in return we received the standard health questionnaire and a number 29. We were told to sit and wait until our number was called and fill in the form.
Considering that check-in was from midday, the amount of people already here was staggering with the waiting area was full of people.
There is a cafe in the waiting area and Moni got us a coffee and croissant each. Luckily we had a few Argentine peso left over, having budgeted more for the taxi ride, which in fact was half of what we paid when arriving at the bus terminal in Retiro, and is only a short walk from here. I think we were taken on a wild city tour on our arrival day in Buenos Aires.
Little did we know, but those croissants and coffee were going to keep us sustained for the next few hours…
The number that was called at this time was 21, only 8 more before us, that’s cool, not long…
How wrong of us to think that. The line of people who were standing for over an hour (I did watch and time them) was ridiculous. One person actually collapsed and I ran to alert the staff, while others sat and stared. Strange to see some people just do nothing in that situation, a total no care, it’s not me attitude.
About five minutes later the medics arrived and the staff that came to the scene had brought the person around. We continued our wait while chatting and people watching.
Waiting, waiting… 2pm… Number 26 & 27 please
As soon as 28 was called we joined the end of the line, I know we had number 29 but figured that we should join it anyway.
The line that we joined without even our number being called was long (an hour), and as we slowly moved along, number 29 was called and even more people tried to push in, we had to defend our space sending those others to the back of the queue. Standing in line is a very British thing which the South Americans clearly don’t respect.
Reaching to the security area we could see why it was taking so long, there were only two gates open and this caused the long wait, crazy really. We passed through this security and collected the bags at the other end, then made our way upstairs.
This is the real check-in area with about 20 desks open, again we wait in line for our turn. We handed over our passports which she checked and scanned into the system. British & Swiss passport holders do not need a visa for Brazil but Australians do.
The check in lady did have to go and ask to be sure, but I had already done my research and found out. (Update note here, If you do NOT have a visa and are traveling on a passport which requires a visa for Brazil, you will NOT be allowed to board… I sat with a passenger at lunch later in the cruise that actually had this happen)
I gave my credit card and signed the charge documents before we received our cruise cards, all pretty standard. Not a word about the ship or what happens next. Anyway we walked to the next area which was Argentine passport control, no photos allowed here.
Handing over our Australian passports this time, we had our pictures taken and also a thumb print, which we found rather strange on exiting the country especially not having had one taken on our entry into Argentina via a bus over the Andes mountains.
The second check-in part was all quite quick, and confirmed to us that the bottle neck problem was simply caused by the lack of security gates not being open in the waiting area downstairs.
Following others out of this area, down some stairs we then boarded a bus that took us to the ship. Again, very few if any MSC staff were around to give information and guidance, I guess they just hope you follow the others, even though there was another ship in port at the same time and they had staff guiding passengers at various points.
A shuttle bus that pulled in and within a few minutes it was full and we were on the way to the ship.
First views of MSC Magnifica
The MSC Magnifica greeted us in perfect sunshine as we made our way between the ‘five high’ blocks of shipping containers. The container yard was very busy unloading and loading a ship the whole time we were in dock.
The bus reached the ship and we joined yet another queue to get on the ship. By the time we actually set foot onboard, the clock turned 3.15pm. Over three hours from arriving at the terminal to boarding… and as we spoke to a couple of people while waiting they had the same opinions about why it was taking so long.
As we came aboard our cruise cards were scanned and then our carry on bags had to be screened again. This was the reason for the queue of people waiting outside the ship, (not sure what happens when it rains). Very strange why we needed a second screening on the ship which made this area crowded as people had to take off bags etc to go through the X-ray machine.
A few steps more and we enjoy a welcome juice, a thimble full of orange juice, before a staff member requests one of the printed slips from our passports that we had received at check-in.
Then having to continue along with our walk, juice in hand (not for me as it was one mouthful) we then had to hand over our passports before continuing around the corner of the restaurant and back to the reception area this time on the other side of the ship.
As you could imagine the reception had plenty of guests waiting here and looking lost. There was not one member of MSC crew by a lift or guiding guests to any area of the ship. We made our way to the lifts and up to our cabin.
Unfortunately the entire check-in and the not so great welcome on board was all a bit of a blur, not once were we welcomed with a “welcome on board MSC Magnifica” nothing. I hope it gets better from here on…
MSC Magnifica Cabin #9027
Our balcony cabin was on port side (the left side looking forward) towards the front let’s take a look…
The cabin is great, it has a king size bed (two singles joined), bedside tables with lamps, a small desk with mirror and hair a hair dryer in the drawer, a tiny table and one chair, the other seat being a cube under the desk.
The bathroom is a decent size, with shower, toilet and sink. Cupboards under the sink, and three small shelves. A shower cap and no name shampoo & conditioner.
The wardrobe space compiles of a two door hanging space and six drawers below the safe with two shelves above.
A tiny TV sits above the mini bar and looks somewhat out-of-place. Actually it is a lot of wasted space above here as more storage could be fitted. Inside the cabin is a slot for your cruise card which turns on the power, and when on, it lights a small red light outside the cabin above your door that shows it’s on and I guess the room stewards can tell your in or out.
The decor is very dark blue but it doesn’t make the cabin feel dark, maybe because of the natural light from the balcony windows.
The balcony looks small, but is comfortable with two wicker chairs and a table. It has a glass screen and wooden hand rail. The door to the balcony is a sliding door which is a great space saver and ideal when wanting to leave it open.
The cabin doors do not have peep holes so you can’t see out to the corridors, which I miss. Also there is no post box for mail, the mail is slid under the door.
We have not yet met our cabin steward and there is no name of them in the cabin. Also no ship directory, no room service menu either. Actually we didn’t receive a guide to the ship (ships map) on check in and finding our way around has been fun.
Around 3.15 we went to the buffet for a late lunch. Again no greeting, guidance or anything here, just muddle your way through. Lucky for us seasoned cruisers we are pretty cool with how things work, but for newbies they would appreciate just a little help here and there.
We have a drinks package for the entire cruise called the ‘Cheers’ package which includes some unlimited drinks at lunch and dinner. A selection of beers and wines (two reds, two whites and a rose). Moni tried a red and I had a beer. We both had another beer which we kept with us as we walked outside and around a few decks. The buffet was nicely presented and the first meal was tasty.
Emergency drill on MSC Magnifica in 2015
The MSC Magnifica emergency drill was very civilised for us (others have reported to us was not the case). You must collect and take your life jackets to the muster station allocated to your cabin, at your muster station you have your cruise card scanned which is an awesome way to count and know who has attended the drill, kudos to MSC for this.
Our muster was in the Tiger Bar where you can sit down (in our case) and wait for the instructions.
Considering that every announcement is given in many languages, the drill was over very quickly, it would have to be the quickest and easiest by far, maybe not the most accurate or helpful as the majority of people paid no attention to the instructors who were difficult to see from our vantage point.
I imagine an emergency on a ship with only English-speaking guests would be a nightmare, now add 6 or seven different nationalities and you haven’t got a chance.
Dinner on our first night
There are two main dining rooms, the L’Edera on deck 5 and the Quattro Venti on deck 6, they both have the same menu for dinner, while the L’Edera is open for breakfast and lunch as well, the Quattro Venti not.
Our table for dinner is in the Quattro Venti Restaurant on deck 6 at 1st sitting. Leaving South America we are very pleased at that choice. 1st sitting is at 7.30pm and second is at 10pm, yes TEN pm, I don’t think I would want to be eating that late and go to bed on a full stomach.
Apparently as we cross the atlantic and the clocks go forward the dinner times will become earlier, I’ll report on that as we find out. (Update here, the clocks did go forward but the dinner times stayed the same for the entire cruise)
Our table is one for four and as per usual we were the only ones at our table this first night. Actually, the only ones in our waiters station which consists of 4 tables, 20 guests in total. Needless to say the service was great and also the meals not bad. The menu is printed in many languages.
A bottle of white wine was our choice for dinner as part of the ‘Cheers package’ which states glasses of wine with meals. I had the vision of one glass all meal thinking that it would take ages to get served, tonight put that out of my mind with our waiter Marlon keeping our glasses full without asking.
I had five courses and Moni just two, I guess that makes me a piglet and I do love my food. What did we have…
Caprese salad – Tomato & Mozzarella with basil, oregano and extra virgin olive oil (J&M)
Cream of tomato soup – with mediterranean herbs (J) &
Risotto ai gamberetti – with baby shrimp, cherry tomatoes and rocket (J)
Seared cod fillet – with anchovy caper sauce, on broccoli sautéed with garlic and rice pilaf (J)
Beef paillard – with vegetables of the day (M)
Rum baba – with pastry cream (J)
Picture sequence from top left to bottom right.
With both of us having over 20 years of professional cooking experience between us we could pick holes and critique the food in huge detail, but I’m going to keep it simple and say that each meal lacked the wow factor a nothing special feeling.
After dinner we were back in the cabin as Moni was pooped. Within minutes, she was all tucked up in bed and sleeping. The ship was due to leave at 9.30pm which was already different from the schedule that I got from the itinerary.
I watched for a while from the balcony as the container yard was working in full flow unloading and loading, 10pm, 10.30pm, 11pm and we still had the small gangway out. I must have fallen asleep then, as the bow thrusters kicked in and woke me just as we were pushing away from the dock, it was 11.33pm.
The ship manoeuvred her way right then left out of the harbour and I drifted off to sleep.