Grey skies and rain greeted me as the British Airways plane from London Gatwick landed in Genoa. I could just make out Regent Seven Seas Explorer under construction amidst the foggy conditions. The place looked bleak, but the sight of MSC Preziosa soon brightened the place up.
I would spend the next seven-days sailing the Mediterranean (Genoa, Civitavecchia, Palermo, Malta, Sea, Barcelona, and Marseilles, Genoa) aboard MSC Cruises’ current largest cruise ship, MSC Preziosa, which entered service in 2013, after originally being ordered by President Gaddafi’s son. It was my first time cruising with MSC, so I was keen to try them out. I had heard mixed reviews online – food being the main concern raised by people – but I kept an open mind.
Check-in was fairly quick, with minimal time waiting for our embarkation number to be called. Some of the passengers were already beginning to annoy me. They were blocking the entrance to the security area, waiting for their number to be called, instead of just simply sitting down in the waiting area.
My inside stateroom (#9249) was fairly spacious, especially compared to other cruise ships I have been on. The room was nicely appointed, with rich blues and dark wood. Even with the dark colours, the room still felt bright. The stateroom featured a large wardrobe, with two hanging spaces, floor-to-ceiling shelving and plenty of draws. Even though I had an inside stateroom, luckily it was situated just a few doors down from the aft of the ship, which features doors leading onto large spacious public balconies that overlook the back for the ship. It seems most passengers don’t know about these rather hidden areas, as I hardly saw anyone on them.
The buffet area is located at the aft of Deck 14. Theoretically there are two buffets onboard the ship – the Inca and Maya – but it is incredibly difficult to identify where the Inca Buffet ends and where the Maya Buffet starts. I don’t quite understand the need for two names, when they seemed to serve roughly the same sort of food. There is a good selection of dishes to choose from, but I found myself sticking to the amazing burgers and freshly made pizzas!
There seemed to be very few staff members clearing tables, which during busy periods, required us eating around a mound of dirty plates and used napkins. The flow of the buffet could be improved. There were several key areas which caused congestion. The main causes for these holdups were groups of people having conversations in the middle of the walkway, and people oblivious to their surroundings. Despite the crowds and annoyances of fellow passengers, the buffet was most peaceful and quite at around noon during port days.
There are two main dining rooms onboard MSC Preziosa, L’Arabesque and the twin-level Golden Lobster Restaurant, where I dined each evening. After experiencing lunch onboard a visit to MSC Splendida in April 2015, I was slightly apprehensive about what the food would be like. The food was better than I was expecting, but still nothing that made me go WOW. Some dishes were very hit and miss, but you could usually guarantee that the Italian and fish dishes would be done to perfection. There were no thick steaks you’d expect to find on American cruise ships, instead just thin slices of meat.
One of the nights I dined in Eataly. As I was a Black MSC Voyagers Club member, (the highest possible tier, despite never having sailed with them – thanks MSC Status Match program!) it allowed me to dine in a specialty restaurant for free, the only catch was I could only have the tasting menu. The cafeteria-like surrounding, with bright white lights, vibrant red chairs, and paper water cups, was a somewhat bizarre way to spend Gala Evening. The place had no atmosphere, but the food was amazing nonetheless.
The Green Sax Jazz Bar was my favourite venue for a pre-dinner drink. The bar was always busy in the lead up to dinner, but was a quiet retreat in the day. The bar is used as a thoroughfare for those heading to the theatre, which did become slightly irritating.
After dinner, the Safari Lounge is the place to head for. This African safari-themed lounge is home to various themed parties and entertainment. The place always had a lively atmosphere in the evenings and was always busy.
The La Locanda wine bar serves an amazing metre long pizza and rack of beer! Brick tiling and zesty orange chairs in the shape of wine barrels add to the atmosphere of the bar.
At the heart of the ship is the spectacular atrium, with Swarvoski diamonds embedded into the four staircases that wrap around the three main public decks. Each step of the staircases costs over €3,000!
Il Cappuccino is the perfect place for coffee lovers. Overlooking the stunning atrium, the aroma of fresh Lavazza coffee fills the air. It’s a great spot to return to after a busy day sightseeing.
I had MSC’s Allegrissimo drinks package, which for the price, was incredibly good value for money, especially as it includes a great selection of soft drinks, cocktails, beer, wine and spirits! I don’t usually drink cocktails, but the Strawberry Daiquiri and Frozen Raspberry Mojito were my two favourites.
The main nightclub onboard is called the Galaxy Bar and easily offers some of the best views of any nightclub in the world! Sweeping panoramic windows offer a 180 degree view overlooking the pool deck and sides of the ship. The Galaxy Bar is transformed into a specialty restaurant in the day time, serving Mediterranean-inspired dishes, but it’s the evenings when the place comes to life. Neon lights illuminate the floor and ceiling, along with laser lights and a complimenting range of popular chart-topping songs and Latin hits, making sure all nationalities can enjoy the evening. In the dark, energetic surroundings of the nightclub, you can quite easily forget that you’re on Deck 16 of a 333m cruise ship!
The Platinum Theatre is without a doubt one of the most impressive venues afloat. The cavernous theatre, with clear sight lines no matter where you sit, is modern and stylish and seats have plenty of leg room. While the singing probably wasn’t as refined as those you’d find on other cruise lines, it was still exceptionally good, considering the singers were Italian speaking and singing in a foreign language to them. This was evident when they sang opera, or Latin numbers, as their vocals were spectacular. Shows were only on for a very short 30 minutes, and even then you had people turning up 20 minutes into the show, but considering the team had a variety of different nationalities to cater for, production shows were very well executed, combining dancing, singing, aerial artists, slapstick routines, and jugglers.
The Millennium Star Casino is your typical cruise ship casino, featuring various slot machines and card tables. A grand staircase leads up to the El Dorado Piano Bar, which was a good place for an early evening drink, but the smell of cigarette smoke coming up the stairs from the casino really put my off staying there any longer than one or two drinks, which was a shame as the actual bar itself is very nice, with subtle nautical-themed decor.
MSC Preziosa features three main pool areas. My favourite of which was the infinity-style Garden Pool overlooking the aft. But despite the spectacular views, it seemed the warmth of the glass-enclosed La Playa pool beckoned guests during our mostly overcast cruise. This is usually the adults-only area, but as our sailing was in the Italian school holidays, those rules did not apply. The main Aqua Park pool did look very inviting, but my go-to-spot on the ship was one of the two slightly hidden whirlpools located at an area called Brezza Marina near to the Doremi Castle water-park. Tucked away, you could almost guarantee at least one would always be free, while the others in the Aqua Park and La Playa would always be crowded.
The Doremi Castle water park looked great fun for kids. It features a small slide and a bucket, which pours down water every now and then. Directly above the water-park is Vertigo, and at 394 feet, it is the longest water-slide at sea. While not extremely fast or full of twists and turns as other cruise ship slides, it it still thrilling as you slide over a clear section, which extends over the side of the ship!
Hidden away down a neon purple passageway in the Virtual World arcade is the Formula 1 racing simulator and 4D cinema. I experienced the 4D cinema on MSC Splendida in April 2015 and it was good then, but not really worth the €6 charge this time round. These two large attractions should be popular, but by the looks of it they seemed hidden and forgotten about by most guests onboard. When I was taking photos of the area, the man overseeing the operation was playing on his phone and seemed surprised that someone had actually visited!
As part of being an MSC Voyages Club Black Member, I received a complimentary 1 hour session in the MSC Aurea Spa Thermal Suite. It was an enjoyable and relaxing experience, with various scented steam rooms, saunas and a frigidarium, but it would have been nice to have had a small pool, as for the money (around €19), I wouldn’t say it was all that worth it.
Nevertheless, the Spa also offers various treatments and massages, as well as a salon and large gym with panoramic sea views overlooking the bow.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time on MSC Preziosa. The food certainly was not the best, but I still enjoyed my meals onboard. You just have to remember it is an Italian ship, so don’t go expecting the service and quantity of food you’d find on American-based cruise lines. I did find bar service rather slow most of the times. In my observations, it seems the bar staff behind the bar are purely there to make drinks, rather than to take orders from people.
The value for money was simply incredible and the whole ship was really impressive. Although the majority of guests were Italian and German, there were never any language barriers and all nationalities seemed well catered for – although it did get a little annoying having to listen to every announcement in five different languages!
Before, I was always skeptical about trying MSC because they were so cheap, but after going on my first MSC Cruise, now I can’t believe I hadn’t cruise with them earlier!