The thing about cruising on a vast ship like the MSC Preziosa is that it offers something for everyone. I’m on board the Preziosa right now with my fifteen year-old daughter. After she finished her GCSEs last week we wanted to go on a relaxing trip somewhere warm. Neither of us had been on a cruise before but a seven-day MSC cruise of the Eastern Mediterranean sounded ideal for us. (Before we left I asked some other bloggers who are experienced cruisers for their advice – here are their tips). We’re travelling as guests of MSC and now that we’ve got the hang of life on board I think that this trip is perfect for us.
Finding our way around
Launched in 2013 the MSC Preziosa is enormous. I’m sure it’s bigger than Monte Carlo. It has 18 decks, four swimming pools and 22 bars and is one of the largest cruise ships in the world. The Preziosa can carry up to 4251 passengers and is full for our cruise with more than 40 different nationalities on board. There are also 1,301 crew members and they’re from all over the place. As the ship is so big it took me a while to find my way around although my daughter got her bearings pretty quickly. The ship is 38 metres wide and 333 metres long but you can’t walk from one end to the other because it’s divided into sections so that each part can be isolated if there’s a fire. This means that you sometimes have to go up a level and then down again in order to walk to where you want to go. I’m getting quite good at this now and am consulting the maps at every lift and stairwell less and less often.
Choosing the right cabin
We have a lovely balcony cabin with twin beds which feels like home already. It’s much more comfortable and roomy than I’d expected and reminds me of a good, compact hotel room with the bonus of a fabulous and ever-changing view. Between the beds and the balcony are a sofa, a low table, a fridge, an interactive TV which we’ve not watched at all and a desk which has a hairdryer in one of its drawers. Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors open on to the balcony where there are a couple of chairs and a table. The balcony front is clear glass below a wooden railing giving uninterrupted views of the sea or the port. The furniture is of a dark wood colour, the sofa and carpet a deep red, the walls beige and the curtains black and red. As you come in to the cabin there’s a wardrobe on one side with hanging space, drawers and a safe. Opposite the wardrobe is a compact, white bathroom with a shower, loo and sink with storage underneath and a mirror and shelves above. The cabin is cleaned and preened twice a day by our lovely cabin steward and it’s relaxing spending time there. There are some family cabins with sofa beds or bunk beds available on the ship and you can also book cots for babies. If there were more than two of us sharing a cabin though I don’t think it would be great: I’d prefer interconnecting rooms if we came on a cruise as a family. Nor would I like a cabin with no balcony.
Enjoying life on board
There are so many things to do on board the ship that you couldn’t experience everything in a week if you tried. From Italian classes to bingo to dance lessons to World Cup table football to disco nights there’s always loads happening if you want to get involved. There are clubs for teens and for kids from three years old. There’s a 4D cinema, F1 simulator, bowling and a brilliant kids’ pool with slides and mini water cannons to play with as well as a 120 metre long water slide that we’ve not braved. There’s a different show with singers, dancers and acrobats on every night at the vast theatre (1603 seats) and those we’ve seen have been very good. If you just want to relax the spa is wonderful (we loved our facials and massages there) and there’s a sun deck where kids aren’t allowed. The only thing missing (I’m thinking of my son here) is a space for kids to run around and play games like football.
The endless food
The food is good, varied and plentiful and you can choose to eat in a restaurant, at the buffet or from the room service menu. Everyone’s given a time slot of either 6.30pm or 9.00pm for dinner and a specific restaurant and table to eat at. This all takes a bit of getting used to but I guess that with thousands of people eating at the same time there has to be some smart planning and organisation. We were given a dinner slot of 9.00 pm but we soon changed to the earlier sitting at 6.30 pm. The buffet is open 20 hours a day so you can always eat there if you prefer to.
Going on shore
Our cruise stops at a different port every day, apart from one day at sea sailing from Istanbul to Dubrovnik. If you want to go ashore you can pay to go on excursions organised by MSC to places like the Grand Bazar in Istanbul or ancient Olympia in Greece or you can explore independently. We’ve done a bit of both and opted to stay on board and relax for one day in port. My favourite day of the cruise so far was the one we spent on an MSC tour of the marvellous city of Istanbul and I’ll be writing about that separately. My daughter’s favourite day was when we stayed on board when the ship docked at Izmir.
Before the cruise I was pretty certain that I’d be seasick and that we’d annoy each other sharing a cabin for a week. I was completely wrong. I haven’t taken a travel sickness tablet since we boarded in Venice and sharing a cabin with my girl has been lovely. I also thought I may feel a little claustrophobic on board and stifled by spending a week in close proximity to thousands of people. Wrong again. It does get busy sometimes but the ship is so big that there are always quiet, empty places to go to and our balcony is a real haven. I’m really enjoying the experience of being on a ship and I love watching the sea and land and thinking about our journey as we travel. I’m definitely a cruising convert.
Family travel lowdown
The price for this seven night MSC cruise staying in a balcony cabin from Venice to Bari, Katakolon, Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik is from £1059 per person including return flights from London. There are additional charges for the excursions, spa treatments, 4D cinema, bowling and F1 simulator.