Dear Mummy, I was lucky enough to board my first ever cruise ship recently. We headed down to Southampton on a grey blustery day to see this floating hotel. I was super excited at the prospect of setting off to sea on a voyage of discovery. However Daddy informed me that we were just having a look around this magnificent ship and in fact we wouldn’t be leaving port. But there was more than enough sights to be seen onboard and he was right. For one day I was transported to another world and back within this floating city.
The ship we boarded was the impressive MSC Preziosa and it was so large that it felt we had walked from one building into another! MSC Cruises is Italian born and bred, created in 1990 as a small offshoot of the massive, privately owned Mediterranean Shipping Company. MSC Cruises has grown to be one of the most popular in Europe, operating a fleet of 11 ships and with another two on the way. More than half its fleet is made up of massive modern megaships (including two that are among the largest at sea), while the rest is made up of comfortable midsize vessels.
The ships mainly sail around the Mediterranean however MSC Cruises do travel around Northern Europe, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, South America, and Africa seasonally. A combination of cost-effective fares and a policy by which kids 17 and under travel more or less free (when sharing a cabin with two adults) means a lot of families sail aboard, especially in Europe.
MSC Preziosa sails in the Mediterranean and offers an exciting array of destinations – who doesn’t want a little taste of Greece, Turkey, Italy, and Croatia all in the space of one holiday? Cruise holidays offer the perfect opportunity to sample a number of destinations in a short space of time, perfect for families. The selection of ports is bound to strike your fancy irrespective of whether you’re a Instagrammer capturing Dubrovnik’s beautiful streets, a wanderluster seeking the hazy charm of Istanbul, chasing history in Olympia, or being hopelessly romantic in Venice. The ship docks at ports for anywhere between 8-15 hours and all are culturally and historically rich.
Italian is a concept you’ll see on an MSC cruise, where the atmosphere (and the attitude) is Italian all the way. There is a lovely family feel on board and the staff are friendly and accommodating. The ship can accommodate over 4300 passengers and 1400 crew members. That’s almost 6000 people. Phew!! The sheer scope of the ship can take the breath away.
Spread over 14 passenger decks, it can be easy to forget that she is, ultimately, a ship. Staircases, ornate elevators, endless buffets, dozens of bars – it was practically a floating city. We were impressed with the glitz and glamour of the ships interior and our jaws dropped when we saw the sparkly Swarovski Crystal staircase made out of 15,000 crystals in each step.
MSC Cruises’ uncompromising dedication to its passengers is nowhere more evident than the unrivalled entertainment programmes and facilities offered on board, with its state-of-the-art 1600 seat theatre, futuristic disco and casino with over 1000 square metres of casino gaming, virtual world and a video games room. It seems like the ship has been built for families and there is something for everyone. Long gone is the stuffy, elderly stereotype of cruises decades ago. The ship itself is an amazing feat of modern engineering – it has everything from four pools and loads of jacuzzis to an elaborate water park a bowling alley, 4D cinema, F1 simulator for kids and alfresco bars and coffee lounges for adults, so there is never a shortage of things to do during the day.
Onboard amenities of the MSC Preziosa are impressive and guests will find five restaurants waiting for them, alongside two self-service buffets, coffee bars and ice cream parlours and 21 bars…21 bars?!? That’s crazy and you will never find yourself parched. Being an Italian cruise ship, you could tell that food was going to occupy pride of place on our day tour around the ship and we could see a holiday onboard being endless buffets, dozens of cocktails, fine dining and indulgent dinners and Mediterranean snacking – all quite calorie laden.
It was nice that the ship had menus for kids in the restaurants and much smaller portions available. We could see it being quite dangerous to not come home half a stone heavier! However daddy was relieved to see a fully functioning gym that overlooks the ocean to rectify guilty pleasures.
The ship seems well equipped to ensure passengers stay active whilst travelling. We were impressed with the gym that had panoramic sea views and an outdoor jogging track. There was also a spa onboard which offered a range of treatments, including massages, facials, aromatherapy, as well as the only Balinese Spa at sea to help with wellbeing onboard.
MSC pay special attention to the needs of families travelling with them, and it is easy to spend time together onboard the ship…or not! There are comfortable, purpose-built family cabins, and a variety of experienced staff onboard to look after the younger passengers while parents disembark upon shore activities or make use of the onboard facilities. On the day we visited we were really impressed about how nice the kids staff were and we got on like a house on fire. Special mention to Bruno and the girls!
The Kids Club comes in five different age groups from a baby crèche up to an adult-free zone for teenagers. Kids’ activities follow a similar vibe, emphasizing playful fun over the kinds of elaborate venues and branded cartoon-character meet-and-greets you find on some American lines. Supervised activities are available for kids 3–17 and include dress-up, dancing, pajama parties, treasure hunts, pool games, quizzes, volleyball, and arts and crafts. We liked the colourful play rooms, wading pools, water slides, splash zones, and jungle gyms. Parents can have absolute peace of mind that should a problem arise the MSC team have a ship wide communications system that means they can track you down very quickly if your child needs you or if there is a problem.
MSC are the first line to implement their unique experience system. There are four different ‘experiences’ to choose from when booking the holiday, each comes with specially designated rooms and benefits like a spa package, luxury package etc.. The options are: Bella, Fantastica, and Aurea…. of course being called Bella I would surely go for the first option!
MSC Preziosa has a first-class section onboard called the Yacht Club. Usable by suite guests only, it combines 71 suites with a private bar, solarium, combo concierge/observation lounge, glass-roofed pool, and two hot tubs. And of course, there’s also 24-hour butler service, private afternoon tea, and private, suite-guests-only parties. Sounds amazing and if we won the lottery we’d cruise around the Med like this! If that wasn’t enough there is even a luxurious Gold Swarovski Crystal staircase that adds that extra element of sophistication and elegance (apparently each step is worth over 10,000 euros).
MSC Cruises offer a wide range of cabins and suites to meet different budgets and expectations. From peaceful, economical and comfortable inside cabins to spacious suites with private balcony. All offer stylish features and modern conveniences to make you feel right at home whilst you’re on holiday.
MSC Cruise Holidays start at £500/ 7 nights per person for an inside cabin. This price includes accommodation, all meals (except for meals at their á la carte restaurants), and evening entertainment shows.
More information on their website http://www.msccruises.co.uk Next year MSC has the MSC Magnifica cruise ship sailing from Southampton from April through to September in 2018 with cruises to the Norwegian Fjords, the Baltic Capitals, Great Britain and Scotland. MSC has introduced an all-inclusive drinks packages as well as free WiFi. Full information on MSC, the ships, cruises and prices are on the website.
Who knows maybe one day we might set sail!
Love Bella x
Disclaimer: We were invited for a day on board MSC Preziosa in exchange for our thoughts about the ship and facilities. Sadly my mummy couldn’t make it as she was in hospital so daddy stepped in.