I’ll put it out there from the off… I don’t do boats. I once did the boat trip around Zakynthos – you know, the one where you end up at the famous white shipwreck beach? Crystal clear blue water, calm as anything… I spent the majority of it lying down below deck, dosed up on travel sickness tablets.
Then we tried a 24 hour cruise to Bilbao from Portsmouth. Much bigger ship and we had a cabin. Big mistake. I was pretty green by the time we docked in Spain, and spent the entire journey back sitting up on deck, staring at the horizon and checking my hastily-bought sea bands were still in place. I don’t know what possessed me to even try it – ferry trips over the Channel to France were always a challenge when I was a kid!
So, it’s safe to say that going on a cruise holiday has never been something I’ve been desperate to try! Aside from the motion sickness, the whole cruise thing just hasn’t appealed; I’ve always imagined ships full of rich, older people dressed up to the nines for dinner, spending the days lounging around on deck or the onboard casinos and the evenings watching cheesy entertainment shows.
But, when I was offered the chance to spend the day on board the MSC Preziosa, one of the top five cruise ships in the world, curiosity got the better of me; I wanted to see if my stereotypical view was really the case, or could family cruising actually be something a family like ours could consider as a holiday option?
MSC Cruises – Family-Focused Family Cruising!
It was made pretty clear from the off that MSC Cruises were keen to show us bloggers just how family-focused they are. We were introduced to the various children’s clubs and activities and treated to a special song and dance from the entertainment team in the spectacular Platinum Theatre!
Image courtesy of MSC
Across the fleet, MSC host 200,000 children from 35 countries every year. There are five clubs for different age ranges, from babies right up to 17-year-olds and the clubs are open from 9 am to 11 pm.
There’s a wide range of activities for kids to do on board, whether as part of the kids’ clubs or not. These include:
Formula 1 racing car simulator
Vertigo – the longest single-rider water slide on the seas (MSC Preziosa)
Children and Family Pools
Virtual World Games Arcade
As part of the kids’ clubs, there are sports tournaments, dance competitions, games console challenges, karaoke, movies, discos… probably more fun that you can fit in! MSC even have their own web series for kids, called ‘Kelly and Kloe on Board‘ (good name choice!), which introduces children to the facilities and activities available on board.
The restaurants have family-friendly menus and cater for all tastes and dietary requirements (although I bet they’d get fed up of making Small her eggy bread every day – I know I do!).
Even the cabins are geared towards families, with interconnecting cabins available for larger families and even plans to introduce 3-in-1 cabins for up to 10 people!
There’s baby care for teeny ones to give parents some time alone, a laundry service for young kids’ clothes (cos you could never bring enough if they’re anything like Small for getting mucky!) and even a special pre-paid debit card for older kids and teens to use to pay their way on the ship.
MSC are very proud to have forged partnerships with big companies such as Chicco and Lego (the universal language!) to give the children in their care some fantastic and educational play equipment, and they even have bang up-to-date technology such as 3D printers!
My Day Onboard MSC Preziosa
I’ve never been on such a large ocean liner, so I couldn’t wait to see what the ship was like inside. But first, we had to pass some pretty strict security; I managed to set off the security scanner and we couldn’t work out what caused it, so I had an early-morning grope by the security lady! It was actually reassuring to see security so tight given the current mood across the world.
Once I actually made it onto the ship, it was almost as I had expected, only on an even grander scale! Sparkles, lights and bling were the order of the day, giving a real sense of luxury and opulence (or tackiness, depending on your viewpoint!). The Swarovski crystal staircase was a popular feature and each step costs between 8,000 and 10,000 Euros! I must admit, it did elicit some “oohs” and “aahs” from the bloggers.
During the morning we were given a demonstration from the onboard hair and beauty team and a tour of some of the ship. It was something of a logistical nightmare trying to manoeuvre over 100 bloggers and their cameras around the ship, and it didn’t always go smoothly, so we didn’t get to see all of the Preziosa, which was a shame. But, with 18 decks, it would have probably taken all day! We also weren’t able to see inside any cabins, as the ship was mid-cruise and the paying passengers wouldn’t have taken kindly to 100+ bloggers appearing at their doors, mobile phones in hand!
We did, however, see some of the kids’ areas, including the games arcade and younger kids’ club; the disco bar, the gym (who goes to the gym on holiday? Or at all, come to think of it…), spa and, casino and outdoor pool area.
Eventually, we made it to the restaurant for lunch, where we were seated at beautifully laid tables. We could choose to order off the menu or go to the buffet, which is what I opted for. Shoulda stuck with the menu! The food was nice enough, but had that certain European quirkiness about it! The pastries and fruit for dessert were delicious, however.
In the afternoon we were divided into groups to do some serious bloggy learning. I stayed in the Safari Lounge, which certainly had a touch of the Pat Butchers/Bet Lynches about it, with lots of gold and animal print! Here I learnt more about using natural light for food photography and blog metrics.
Image courtesy of MSC
After the bloggy stuff, we sat and sipped champers as the Managing Director of MSC Cruises UK and Ireland, Antonio Paradiso, proudly told us all about the upcoming expansion plans of the MSC fleet, which includes a liner based out of Southampton and aimed at the UK market. The MSC Magnifica will carry 3,200 guests and will have 23 sailing dates from the port between April and October to Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. They’ve done their research, as Antonio informed us there will be kettles in the cabins and Yorkshire Tea onboard. (Lucky customers – I didn’t so much as get a sniff of tea all day – sad times!)
Finally, to end our day there was a Q & A session, when the MSC marketing team were given some tough questions by some bloggers, particularly those concerned about allergies and special needs requirements. Sadly, they weren’t able to answer most on the day, but have since come back to us with detailed replies. I will admit, for someone like Small who has some sensory issues, a busy cruise ship with low ceilings, lots of lights, noise and a constant vibration would probably be a sensory nightmare! However, for people with mobility issues, there are great provisions and facilities in place, including larger doorways, hoists and even a Changing Places toilet.
Thank you to Antonio and his team and all the crew onboard the MSC Preziosa for their hospitality. I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience the inside (and deck!) of such a large cruise liner and it’s certainly changed my view on family cruising. The day was a great chance to meet up with other bloggers who I know online and it was a couple of days away from home, so it was all good!
MSC Cruises to Northern Europe are available departing from Southampton onboard the MSC Magnifica. There are several dates available throughout 2018, with prices starting at £579pp, with children sailing from just £99! The price also includes free parking at the port and a free balcony cabin upgrade.
If you want to sail further afield, MSC cruise liners sail all over the world The MSC Preziosa will be cruising the Mediterranean later this month, and it then moves on to South America before making its way back to Northern Europe.
MSC is the largest privately-owned cruise company in the world, and they put family cruising firmly at the heart of what they do.