MSC Seaside **

Time travelled: End of September 2021



The corona epidemic has hit many businesses in the hospitality sector, drastically decimating businesses dependent on visiting and staying guests to make revenue. One of these industries is the cruise ship operators, as cramming 4.000-6.000 guests onto a ship spells trouble with any communicable disease on board, but especially with Covid-19.

Subsequently, cruise lines have had to double up on security protocol, imposing restrictions that might turn many tourists to other destinations. These include accepting only vaccinated or recovered guests, imposing strict masks-only rules and restricting going on-shore to (paid) trips organised by the cruise line. One would think that the management has had quite a bit of time to work on solving these requirements, optimising them for efficiency and low nuisance factor. Unfortunately, at MSC, this isn’t the case.

Embarkation

To start with, it was mandated to bring printed-out, negative PCR test results to checkin. This was still before the October 15 cut-off for free-of-charge tests in Germany, so we lucked out there. After this date, the price of a test would likely have been at 40€ per person. At check in (or afterwards), no one even asked about us having had a test.

For the embarkation process, we were assigned a group number and were moved through the various steps in that group. MSC put us through a mandatory PCR test as part of the process. Once you got to the line that zig-zagged in front of the registration desks, that group separation failed. While you controlled the distance at least to the people in front of you, there was no distance at all between „folds“ of the line, so you met up with people in different onboarding groups that were still waiting in front of you and others behind you. A big fail on the part of MSC in my opinion, degrading the embarkation group concept to a big farce.

We have been on MSC ships before, but this was the first time we were literally inundated by personnel trying to sell us drinks packages or pay-extra restaurant seats right after boarding. You basically had to squeeze your way through personnel standing left and right to get to an elevator or the stairs. We’ve never had that on any cruiseline’s ship. Very annoying, it reminded me of a shopping street in southern Turkey many years ago where shopkeepers would yell all sorts of enticements about their wares and all but pull you into their stores.

Ship Design
Having had the chance to see ships run by AIDA, Celebrity, Costa, MSC and NCL, we have had the chance to gather a pretty large impression of designs and decoration themes to reference to. In comparison to any other ship we’ve been on, I found the Seaside to be incredibly drab and boring. The only decoration on walls seem to be mirrors and other chrome elements, the staircases are not decorated at all. You have brownish tones flowing into wine red into gray, with odd combinations of reflecting and dull metallic surfaces breaking these up. I have no idea what this style is called, and while I’m not a fan of gaudy decorations, this is the far other side of colorful. When your eye only sees drab colors, elements such as light rails done in black, with black lamp shades held onto the rails with cheapo plastic mounts in stark white really blows a fuse on the right side of your brain.
This drabness inundates you everywhere, including your cabin. There are seating arrangements in the pool area, for example (a „couch“ for two people and two chairs, all around a table), that were made of cheap looking plastic.
Lounge chairs in bars will also radiate a certain „cheapo“ quality, I remember sitting in one at one of the bars for about half an hour and finding my back wet from sweat. These „lounge“ chairs are all, in my opinion, very uncomfortable - either you have to slide back too far to make contact with the backrest which leaves the edges of the seat digging into your calves or the chairs are plain uncomfortable. Maybe that is intentional, to keep you moving to different locations, hopefully consuming more drinks?

Service
Also, due to having the comparison with quite a number of other ships, unfortunately I have to voice my disappointment in the service on this ship. With exceptions (for example in the Ipopema restaurant), service was poor to exceptionally horrible (Sports Bar), from clearly being ignored in bars to odd occurrences in the cabin. Example: for some reason, the cover of our son‘s bed cover had been partially dislodged one night. The next day, it had been removed and not replaced. I called reception three times (after being redirected from cabin service… why?) when finally someone came by with a completely new blanket (including cover). The „innards“ of the previous blanket stayed in our cabin until we disembarked.
Another example: my son and I came back from the pool, he left his pool towel on the bed to be changed. The cleaning guy took it away but never bothered to replace it (if you don‘t have all the pool towels when you disembark, you‘ll be charged 20€). I subsequently spoke with another guy making up a cabin two doors from ours. He made a couple of calls and assured me it would be taken care of. It wasn‘t - I had to go down to reception to get it settled. Annoying.
It seemed pretty obvious that the ship didn‘t have enough personnel in all areas except for the sit-down restaurant. When we tried to get our excursion confirmed that was to take place the next day (since the „smart“ TV in our room showed „no excursions booked“ - see below), we waited nearly 45 minutes since the poor guy at the excursions desk was all on his own.

Technology
Compared to other MSC ships, the build year is representative of technology used on board. Quoting a crew member, „this is a smart ship“. Unfortunately, the „smart“ isn‘t all that smart. Example: the drinks you consume during dinner are all shown on one tab and the waiter has to move all the drinks that aren‘t yours off into a holding tab before cashing you out. Bizarre.

They also implemented a new (well, not that new) concept for elevator operation: instead of pushing an up / down button to call an elevator, you select the floor number you want to go to and it assigns one of the four elevators to you.
I used a system like this at the German Post tower in Bonn many years ago. On the Seaside, the system doesn’t work very well at all. For one, the elevators don‘t have an indicator of which floor they are currently on, which leads to impatient folks hitting their floor number again and again, seemingly surprised that the system assigns them the same elevator over and over.
For another, the system frequently uses an elevator to pick up plenty of floors in one go. This leads to massively packed elevators, something the system is really supposed to try to avoid, especially during Covid times.

The TV in the room is also „smart“ - demonstrated expertly by the time it takes to „boot up“. It supports „video on demand“, something we didn‘t use and subsequently I don‘t know how much it costs (it certainly doesn‘t give you a clue when you select the service).
Oddly, it didn‘t have any information on the excursion that we had booked for the next day, rather disconcerting considering that you don‘t get your confirmation and tickets until about 8PM the night before (subsequently, you also don‘t know what time to meet the next morning - seeing that the times vary day by day - that is really a shame).
Despite the advertised capability to book excursions right from your TV, this failed at the end due to the „buy now“ button being grayed out for no discernible reason.

On the second to last night we nearly had an issue when our door lock all of a sudden stopped reacting to key cards held on it. Luckily, one of the kids was in the room when this happened and was able to let us in. One of us went down to reception and they sent someone to change the batteries.
Folks, I‘m a smart home fan of sorts and I also have an electronic lock on my office door that runs on batteries. My lock‘s software is programmed so that you have to be a blind oaf to not realise that the batteries are running down. Not so with the lock on our cabin door: it didn‘t beep, it didn‘t flash red, it didn‘t give any clue whatsoever that it was time to change the batteries - it just died. I wonder what they do if no one happens to be in the cabin when the lock decides to quick working…?


Cabin
We had a regular balcony cabin. There are other forms, such as cabins likely the same size as ours but with a huge balcony, extending all the way to the roof of the outside dining area, as well as balconies that have some sort of (tiny) bathtub on them. Of all the ships we’ve been on, this cabin had the least amount of stowage space by a long shot. Where normally you would have shelves around the TV, that space here is wasted with a plain wall. Above the bed would have been a great place to put some storage - but no, nothing. All we had (for two adults and two teens) was a smallish closet with three small shelves and two small drawers. Oh, and the drawer under the desk.
On the positive side, the couch folds out to two full-size bunk beds, quite an incredible feat of engineering. Much better than the “beds” that fold down out of the ceiling on some of the older ships. The TV was on the small side (I’m guessing 30”), so unless you have awesome eyesight, forget watching a soccer game from the bed.

Restaurants
For a ship this size, the number of specialty restaurants is surprisingly low (5) and they are all on deck 16 and exceptionally small. Apparently, the market for pay-extra dining on a ship like this just isn‘t big enough to warrant more sellable real estate.
There are two buffet restaurants available, but despite it being a great idea during Covid times to try to separate people from one another as much as possible, the one on deck 16 („family lounge“) was opened only once. What a missed opportunity. On the positive side, we spent most evenings eating in the sit-down Ipopema restaurant on deck 6, with a table for four by a window. The food selection was excellent, the food quality good to excellent. Individual servings were rather small, making dessert a near-necessity (albeit a tasty one) in order to feel half way satiated.
Drinks are, of course, not included and with wine bottles running from 25 to 140€, the option of having your server save the half-empty bottle for the next evening is a good option.
In general, drinks on board were expensive: €7,50 for an imported draft beer is up there, as is 9€ for a gin and tonic. That is without the 15% service charge. Mind you, it may be that all cruise companies adjusted their drink prices steeply to offset some of the losses during lockdown periods, but even higher-value cruise ships run by AIDA weren‘t this expensive.

The main buffet restaurant, the Marketplace Buffet, is a tight job for normal times; with the special Covid rules in place, the line to pick up the mandatory tray and plate often runs out of the restaurant. Right around the corner from picking up the trays is where drinks are distributed, so you have a pileup here as well, making walking through that part of the restaurant a real challenge. If you sit near this area, you get to be privy to a number of near-misses (or complete drink or plate trashings).
There is a second buffet restaurant on deck 16 that was closed until the second to last day of our cruise, where they opened it for about 2 1/2 hours. Another lost chance to get more space between people. Instead, for the most part, you were stuck squeezing through the crowds (sometimes the lines went out of the restaurant straight back to the elevators!).


Pool + Slides
The two water slides that both “hang over the deck” are a real draw, of course, though even the “see-through” slide isn’t as thrilling as it looks, as the tube isn’t really see-through.

On the negative side, you have to walk up metal stairs that are exposed to the elements to get to the starting platform, so if you’re cruising (as we were) in October, the walk up and the waiting in line gets very windy and cold. Also, at least on the one sea day I checked, they were closed. The Seaside was originally built to sail in the Carribean, where open waiting areas aren‘t an issue - in the Mediterranean in October, this just doesn‘t work.

Due to the Covid rules, hot tubs need to be registered for a 20 minute slot if you want to bubble in hot water. Oddly enough, there doesn‘t seem to be a limit on the number of people in the pool.

Excursions

According to MSC, you can only go off the ship if you join an MSC-organised excursion. While I greatly doubt the legality of this scheme, we weren’t going to engage a lawyer about it. Gone are the days of using a fantastic port of call for a leisurely walk through town, stopping at the shops you find interesting and possibly having a taste of the local cuisine here and the local wine there.
Not only aren‘t all excursions bookable (or even shown) before setting off on your cruise, actually booking them is quite a challenge (see references to this above).
This scheme by MSC is really infuriating in several ways. For one, it completely cuts off the competition (yes, there are alternative tour operators that offer excellent packages for much lower cost than the cruise lines). For another, it means that worst case, you get hurried through the scenic part of a town by a tour guide that barely speaks your language, basically telling you what you should find of interest.
To be fair, not every guide was like this, some were quite excellent, some gave you „20 minutes to shop in the MSC-approved souvenir store, though I won‘t be checking on you…“
What makes an MSC-approved store „safer“ than the store next to it? This situation alone tells me this has nothing to do with preventing the spread of Covid, it is just abusing the situation to create a „captive audience“.

Summary

In a nutshell, cruising with these restrictions in general is not something I would recommend to anyone that is not the „we want everything organised for us“ crowd. Our next cruise is booked for next summer and hopefully, restrictions will be more relaxed. It will also be on AIDA, which has exceptional ship management, a fantastic food concept and much better service, all areas that MSC has failed on this ship and cruise. While MSC does have better ships, the Seaside is one I personally rate one star out of five. That is harsh, and I‘ve never rated a ship this badly, but there were just too many issues and bad experiences during the week we spent on board.
Comments

Leonardo Royal Hotel Berlin Alexanderplatz ****

Stay: Feb. 2020

At first, I was disconcerted to stay at another Leonardo hotel after my experience last year in Hamburg. However, this one is several classes better than the other - maybe that is why they slap the label „Royal“ on the name.

I‘m always infuriated by the naming of hotels after well-known landmarks, even if those are nowhere close. This is such a case - while you can seen the TV tower from the street (and likely from some of the rooms), the „Alex“ is a good 15 minutes walk away.

The hotel interior is actually quite nice, very modern but not annoyingly so. The personnel at the desk are friendly and there are three elevators serving 6 floors, though why only two of these are on the same call button is beyond me.

My room (653) was in the rear part of the hotel, in the section that is at right angles to the main part. This means taking a pretty long hallway that was built on the top of the 5th floor at some point. This ends in short stairs to the perpendicular hallway, which makes it impossible for anyone in a wheelchair (and tough on those with issues walking stairs).

The room was relatively large and the bathroom quite nice, except for the spot of mold on both back sides of the shower doors. I took part in a conference that was in the same hotel, and the facilities there are quite good. Both breakfast and the lunch provided to the conference participants was excellent, with lots of different foods to choose from.

There are tram stations not far from the hotel, so you‘re good for public transport.

All in all a good experience and a hotel I can recommend.
Comments

Hotel Palace St. George, Mönchengladbach ****

— English translation below —

Februar, 2020

Das Hotel ist Teil einer Kasernenanlage und beherbergte - laut Rezeptionsauskunft - die Kirche. Tolles Gebäude, von außen so wie von innen. Deko erinnert an 60er Jahre im Stil eines alten, britischen Clubs. Das hört sich bizarr an, funktioniert aber.

Mein Zimmer (304) war im Dach, im 2. Stock. Bis auf das periodische Knallen der Gangtür, die direkt außerhalb des Bads lag war es sehr ruhig im Zimmer. Bequemes Bett, ungewöhnliche Bezüge. Großes Fenster, mit dickem Vorhang zuziehbar.

Ein kleiner Fernseher, ein Schreibtisch, ein Stuhl. Hauptkritikpunkt zum Raum: es gibt keinerlei Haken um Mantel, etc. aufzuhängen! Den Kleiderständer habe ich mit Anzug und Hemd belegt - Hänger wären mir lieber gewesen. Dafür gibt es eine Nespressomaschine mit Kapseln.

Das Bad ist relativ groß, wobei durch die Dachschräge natürlich etwas nutzbarer Platz verloren geht. Drei Wände sind mit 1x1cm Mosaik gekachelt - der Boden auch. Gut, dass diese Taubeneiblau sind und nicht weiss, sonst hätte es etwas von einer Metzgerei.
Ungewöhnliches Waschbecken mit mittelgroßer Ablagefläche, einen Fön hat es auch.
Nervig ist die Dusche. Zum einen ist der Zugang (über die Ecke der zwei Glas-Schiebewände) recht eng - beleibte Personen dürften hier Probleme bekommen - zum anderen ist die Hyper-designte Duschanlage ein kompletter Schwachsinn.
Es gibt einen Duschkopf an einem Rohr aus der Wand - dieser (siehe Bild) hat aber eine so eigensinnige Konstruktion, dass die hintere Düsenreihe nur gegen die Wand spritzt. Der Kopf ist nicht drehbar, habe ich probiert.
Der rechte Drehregler leitet das Wasser entweder zum 2. Duschkopf (an einem Schlauch) oder zu dem Überkopf. Dieser Regler ist so schwer zu drehen, dass ich zuerst Angst hatte etwas kaputt zu machen - vor allem, da er nicht wie erwartet über die Außenseite des links stehenden Wasserreglers, sondern über die Innenseite gedreht wird. Typisches Beispiel von „Hauptsache es sieht gut aus, ob es funktioniert ist egal“).

Preislich war die Übernachtung absolut in Ordnung - die Nähe zum BVB Stadion lässt ahnen, dass die Preise an Spielabenden sicher höher liegen.

Frühstück hatte ich keines gebucht, da ich mich im Frühstücksraum mit einem Kollegen getroffen hatte war mein Eindruck aber, dass die 11€ für das Frühstück zu viel ist.

Da ein Kunde sein HQ um die Ecke liegen hat, würde ich dieses Hotel sicher nochmals buchen, auch wenn die Dusche nervt. Es liegt ziemlich außerhalb der City, d.h. für einen Bahnreisenden voraussichtlich keine sinnvolle Übernachtungsstätte.

——— ENGLISH ———

Stayed Feb. 2020

The hotel is part of a barracks complex and - according to reception information - housed the church. Great building, from the outside as well as from the inside. Decoration reminds of the 60s in the style of an old British club. It sounds bizarre, but it works.

My room (304) was in the roof, on the second floor. Except for the periodic banging of the corridor door, which was just outside the bathroom, it was very quiet in the room. Comfortable bed, unusual covers. Large window, can be closed with a thick curtain. A small television, a desk, a chair. Main criticism about the room: there are no hooks to hang up coats, etc.! I covered the coat rack with a suit and shirt - I would have preferred to hang it up. There is a Nespresso machine with capsules, however.

The bathroom is relatively large, but due to the pitch of the roof some usable space is lost. Three walls are tiled with 1x1cm mosaic - the floor too. Good that these are pigeon egg blue and not white, otherwise it would have something of a butcher's shop. Unusual washbasin with a medium sized shelf, it also has a hair dryer.
The shower is annoying. On the one hand the access (via the corner of the two sliding glass walls) is quite narrow - obese people might have problems here - on the other hand the hyperdesigned shower system is complete nonsense.
There is a shower head on a pipe from the wall - but this one (see picture) has such an obstinate construction that the back row of nozzles only sprays against the wall. The head is not rotatable, I tried.
The right knob directs the water either to the 2nd shower head (on a hose) or to the overhead. This knob is so hard to turn that I was afraid of breaking something at first - especially since it is not turned over the outside of the left standing water regulator as expected, but over the inside. Typical example of "the main thing is that it looks good, if it works it doesn't matter").

In terms of price, the overnight stay was absolutely ok - the proximity to the BVB stadium suggests that the prices on match nights are certainly higher.

I hadn't booked breakfast, but as I met a colleague in the breakfast room, I felt that what I saw wasn’t worth the €11.

Since a customer has his HQ around the corner, I would certainly book this hotel again, even if the shower is annoying. It is located quite outside the city, i.e. for a train traveler probably not a reasonable place to stay overnight.
Comments

AIDAStella - Kanaren-Kreuzfahrt

Feb. 2020

Die Kreuzfahrt startete (und endete) in Gran Canaria, was ein Flug von und nach Frankfurt bedeutete. Der Flug war eine Chartermaschine von SunExpress - mehr dazu im Disasterbericht.

Die Stella ist ein kleineres Schiff (im Vergleich zu den Riesen, die in den letzten Jahren von allen Kreuzfahrtgesellschaften in Betrieb genommen wurden), was uns eigentlich besser gefällt. Nachteil eines kleineren Schiffes ist die reduzierte Anzahl von „Schmankerln“ wie einem Innenpool oder den von uns auf der AIDAprima häufig frequentierten Tappas Bar + Currywurst-Stand.

Kabine
Unsere Balkonkabine war die letzte auf Steuerbord auf Ebene 5 (5147). Alle Balkone auf dieser Ebene haben ein Geländer aus Stahlblech (anstatt Glas) - und da wir die letzte Kabine vor dem Kids Club waren auch noch eine Stahlblech-Schräge - wahrscheinlich aus statischen Gründen angebracht. Das schränkte die Sicht natürlich ein wenig ein, war aber nicht wirklich schlimm.
Viel lästiger war, dass der Qualm aus den Schloten bei freier Fahrt öfters recht heftig auf unserem Balkon zu riechen war - sicher ein Nachteil aller Balkonkabinen im hinteren Bereich (je nach Windrichtung mal Steuer-, mal Backbord).

Zwar hat man wenigstens von einer Seite durch den angrenzenden Kids Club einen „ruhigen Nachbarn“, die letzte Abholzeit scheint aber kurz vor Mitternacht zu sein - es gab also jede Nacht für ca. 10-15 Minuten Trubel.

Die Kabine war nicht sonderlich groß - mein Eindruck war, dass die der Prima um einiges größer ausfiel. Aus diesem Grund war das 4. Bett nicht neben dem 3. (Ausziehcouch), sondern ein Pullmanbett. Dieses war aber idiotisch angeordnet, nämlich quer zur Kabine direkt vor der Tür zum Balkon - sonst haben wir Pullmanbetten nur längs zur Kabine gehabt. Unnötigerweise hat unser __ das Bett nach der Kabinenreinigung heruntergeklappt gelassen und sich nicht bemüßigt gefühlt hat dieses Abends herunterzufalten, so dass wir nach der ersten „könnten Sie jemand schicken der das Bett herunterfalten kann“ Erfahrung immer Acht genommen hatten, dieses nicht ganz zu arretieren.

Im Gegenzug zur etwas kleinen Kabine waren Verstaumöglichkeiten und Bad eher unerwartet groß: Neben zwei Doppeltürschränken, jeweils mit vielen (danke!) Hängern und einem Regalteil gab es noch über dem Fernseher und an der Wand zwischen Bad und Bett Regale satt. Zu viert hatten wir bislang auf jedem Kreuzfahrtschiff zu wenig Stauraum - die Stella ist das erste Schiff wo ich nicht diesen Eindruck hatte.
Das Bad besteht aus Glasdusche, WC und Waschbecken, ist aber mit Schrägen an den richtigen Ecken versehen die einem mehr Raum geben als sie nehmen. Auch im Bad gab es Regalplatz im gefühlten Übermaß - sehr schön.

Das Bett war in dieser Kabine durchaus bequem, auch wenn es für manche eher zu weich sein würde. Das Pullmanbett war mit einer recht dünnen Matratze ausgestattet; sonderlich überbequem war die Ausklappmatratze der Couch (auf dem Boden) wohl auch nicht.
Wegen einem Sandsturm haben wir noch eine weitere Nacht auf dem Schiff verbracht (siehe separaten Bericht hier), so dass wir Innenkabinen auf Deck 9 und Deck 4 testen konnten. Hier war zumindest das normale Bett in der Deck 4 Kabine (4341) extrem unbequem und dünn. Auch bekommt man in dieser Kabine recht viel Lärm vom „Crew Only“ Bereich mit, der hinter und rechts von dieser Kabine liegt.

Wir hatten zwei recht turbulente Seetage (zu und von Madeira) die oft unerklärliche Geräusche in der Kabine hervorbrachten, von heftigen Knarschen bis hin zu „ist da eine Bowlingkugel gegen die Wand geworfen worden?“ - wo die Stabilisatoren auf diesem Schiff eingebaut sind, weiss ich nicht, aber diese haben sicherlich recht viele dieser Geräusche verursacht.

Schiff
Man findet sich recht schnell auf dem Schiff zurecht, vor allem da die meisten Einrichtungen auf Decks 9-11 liegen. Es hat zwei große Restaurants, die aber viele Unterteilungen haben, so dass man nicht den Eindruck einer Kantine bekommt. Positiv - im Gegensatz zu vielen anderen Schiffen: wir haben eigentlich immer einen Tisch gefunden und auch das Gedränge am Buffet hielt sich angenehm in Grenzen. Die Auswahl an Speisen war enorm - auch wenn man hier keine „Thementage“ hatte, wie es auf der Prima bzw. anderen Schiffen öfters der Fall ist. Es gab auch ein „Brauhaus“ - hier wird u.a. an Bord gebrautes Bier aus (entsalztem) Meerwasser angeboten, das ich sehr lecker fand. Es gibt nebenbei ein Burger-Restaurant sowie ein Steakhaus - alle drei a-la-carte. Das dritte Buffetrestaurant ist ein „Asia“ Restaurant, das etwas in der Auswahl an tatsächlich asiatischen Gerichten enttäuschte.
In den Buffetrestaurants gibt es Wasser, Tischwein und selbstgezapftes Bier inklusive - die Tischweine (Rot und Weiß) fand ich fast ungenießbar, aber als Bewohner der Südpfalz ist man da sehr verwöhnt.

Shows
Die Shows sind, wie auf der Prima auch, in einem offenen, zentralen Theater zu sehen. Alle Shows waren Gesang mit Musik aus der Dose, eine der Shows noch mit (guter) Akrobatik, jede Show mit einem anderen Thema („Queen“, Rock, Disco, etc.). Pro Abend gab es zwei Shows, allerdings sollte man eine gute halbe Stunde vor Beginn da sein, sonst sind auch die schlechtesten Plätze belegt. Von diesem Theaterkonzept bin ich noch immer nicht überzeugt, auch wenn es kein störendes Grölen aus dem Casino gab, das im ganzen Theater während der Show zu hören war (wie auf der Prima).

Wir hatten auch einen Nachmittag im Spa gebucht - erfreulicherweise war ein Nachmittag in der Woche ein Besuch mit unseren zwei Teens möglich - ansonsten ist das Mindestalter hier 18 Jahre. Der Spa ist, im Vergleich zur Prima, ziemlich enttäuschend. Neben vielen Liegen, ein paar Himmelbetten und drei Wasserbetten gibt es noch einen Whirlpool und eine „Erlebnisdusche“ (kalt!) - das war‘s. Die Sauna ist extra zu buchen. Da war das Spa auf der Prima um Welten besser - die zusätzlichen Ausgaben auf der Stella sind es nicht wert.

Gym
Der Gym dagegen ist hervorragend ausgestattet - mit verschiedensten Geräten, Freeweights, vielen Laufbändern und Heimtrainern, sowie einem Aerobics-Bereich. Hinter dem Gym eines viel größeren Schiffes wie der Prima muss sich dieser absolut nicht verstecken.
Lediglich die Info-Monitore waren Vorboten für das Management-Disaster, das sich scheinbar durch das ganze Schiff zieht: zum einen zeigten diese noch mitteleuropäische Zeit - was uns am 1. Seetag um das Mittagessen gebracht hat (wir dachten, das Restaurant hätte eben geschlossen), zum anderen waren die meisten Monitore falsch eingestellt, so dass sie einen Teil des Bildes links und rechts abschnitten.
Als ich die AIDA-Leute hinter dem Tresen ansprach, meinten die - da könnten sie nichts tun, das könne nur der Mediencenter. Scheinbar gibt es auf der Stella kein Teamwork und viel Wurstigkeit was andere Bereiche angeht. Diese Monitorinhalte gab es auch auf anderen Teilen des Schiffs (z.B. im Theater), so dass recht viele Leute sich mit der Uhrzeit vertan haben dürften. Mir ist absolut unklar, wieso ein solcher einfacher Fehler nicht behoben wird! Das Schiff war sicher schon länger in der WET Zeitzone unterwegs.

Pool/Deck
Die Poolanlage auf dem Oberdeck ist recht bescheiden - leider. Der Pool ist nicht nur klein, sondern auch seltsam geformt, was nicht zum Badespaß beiträgt. Nicht geholfen hat, dass der Pool nicht beheizt war. Es gibt noch zwei kleine Whirlpools, das wars. Auch diese waren nur lauwarm.

Hier gibt es auch eine ziemlich große (und erstaunlich hochauflösende und helle) Leinwand, auf der z.B. die Show viel besser angesehen werden kann als im Theater - wenn der Abend nicht zu kalt / windig ist.

Ausflüge
Über AIDA buchten wir nur einen Ausflug (der alternativ nicht günstiger zu haben war): eine Fahrt zum Siam Park auf Teneriffa. Nichts sonderlich kompliziertes (Busfahrt hin, Eintritt, Busfahrt zurück) - das klappte erwarteterweise gut, auch wenn wir locker eine Stunde später zurückfahren hätten können, ohne irgend jemanden in Verzug zu bringen (schade, denn der Park ist toll).

Stops
Es macht wenig Sinn über die verschiedenen Inseln zu philosophieren, das ist schließlich sehr subjektiv (mir hat z.B. Teneriffa als Stadt nicht gefallen) - jede Insel auf der Cruise ist anders und das Schiff konnte immer recht nah oder sehr nah am „Geschehen“ anlegen. Nur auf Madeira waren wir ein wenig weiter draussen, aber hier wurde ein Shuttlebus für knapp 6€ pro Nase (Flatrate für den ganzen Tag) angeboten.

Sandsturm
Leider ereilte uns am späten Nachmittag auf Teneriffa ein Sandsturm vom Afrikanischen Festland; die Stella fuhr zwar über Nacht nach Gran Canaria zurück, eine gute Entscheidung war das aber nicht. Der Flughafen von Gran Canaria wurde schon am Spätnachmittag vor unserer Ankunft geschlossen, die folgenden 24 Stunden zeigten leider in aller Deutlichkeit, welch schlechtes Krisenmanagement AIDA hat.
Wen das interessiert, kann meinen Bericht dazu lesen.

Fazit
Wer kleine Schiffe den großen Pötten vorzieht, der ist mit der Stella nicht schlecht beraten. Man kann auf diesem Schiff - wenn alles glatt läuft - eine entspannte Cruise verbringen und muss nicht auf viel ggü. einem größeren Schiff verzichten.
Ob wir nochmals mit AIDA fahren, stelle ich aber stark in Frage.
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Hotel Egon, Hamburg **

Stayed: February, 2020

The hotel is right at the end of the Reeperbahn. If you‘re planing a visit to that section of town, the location is quite good as the exit of the subway is right next to the hotel.
This brings with it a certain clientele on the streets surrounding the hotel that you may not be that happy with - day or night. The uncanny feeling I had was confirmed by a locked, separate security door set up so that smokers can stand outside the hotel without being molested.

The room (161) was pretty small and had a diagonal wall (behind which lay the bathroom) on one side, adding to the constricted feeling. The room was towards the oddly constructed internal courtyard, which means that other room windows are about 3m across from you. Luckily, you can draw a black curtain across the window.

The bed was surprisingly wide - but for two people probably a little too small. It was comfortable. Unfortunately, there were frequent sounds from other rooms and from the hallway to be clearly heard.

The bathroom was clean and the shower had a thermostat, but unfortunately it was blocked off by a shower curtain (which I hate). The bathroom is tiny - don‘t even think about being in here with two people!

The hotel does have a restaurant, but I didn‘t test it, nor did I have breakfast the next day. What really annoyed me, however, was the price tag of €4,50 for a simple bottle of water in the room.

You do get free Wifi that is relatively speedy.

Considering a Motel One room - if it isn‘t booked solid - is usually about the same cost (and much better quality), I would certainly prefer that next time.
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