Mark Hover – 24-06-2013 – MSC – Preziosa
My first time on an MSC ship, and I have to say that I was really surprised with the whole experience.
Launched earlier this year she is the newest of the MSC fleet joins Fantasia, Splendida and Divina in the Fantasia class lines up and with a capacity in excess of 3800 is a large family orientated ship with great facilities.
On arrival at the ship she looks elegant, however I noted that there are the main bulk of central balcony cabins that are inset and in the shade of the large overhang of the deck above.
The ship was on a circular Mediterranean itinerary and embarks and disembarks passengers at multiple ports. Not having to check in the full capacity of passengers meant that checking was completed in a matter of minutes and on boarding the ship there was a nice touch as we were shown to our cabin by a crewmember.
The initial feel of the ship was very different from other cruise lines I have been on. Less traditional than other lines, however very elegant in design, with a generous scattering of bling. This is rammed home when entering the main atrium, a stunningly elegant view with the highlight being the Swarovski crystal grand staircases, these are absolutely stunning and I am told that each section of staircase cost £1.5 million! This style set the tone for the experience I came to find on the ship as the elegant design and modern artwork continued throughout the ship.
The mix of passengers is very diverse. A real mix of nationalities (from the usual European nationalities to Russian, Chinese and a good number of British passengers) and overall a much younger demographic than I expected with everything from young families to retired couples.
The atmosphere was relaxed and family orientated. There were activities for everyone with the quiet secluded calm of the Yacht Club through to the busy public deck and pool areas. From quiet pianists and string quartets through to Queen Tribute throbbing production shows and a cruise staff demonstrating their Gangnam Style moves by the pool and from a quiet library area through to a 4-D cinema and a fantastic F1 simulator experience. Very diverse & something for everyone!
One thing I was not looking forward to was being driven mad by every shipboard announcement being made in 6 different languages however, I found that on-board most of the interactions and communication is given to you in your home language, and MSC reduce the amount of ship wide announcements made so they are not at all intrusive. The one exception to this was sat around the main pool where the cruise entertainment staff were running events and messages were repeated multiple times (& I could not even understand those in English!!!) Easily solved as there were lots of quieter pool area to relocate to and even on a sea day there were sunbeds free but not so good if you want to participate in activities.
My cabin was excellent . Much larger than expected with bed & sofa sitting area with a table and chairs on the balcony. Bathroom was spacious with a fantastic shower. Overall, Comfortable, modern looking with plenty of wardrobe and draw space it was hard to fault it! Electrical sockets were both US & European spec (no UK plugs!). Cabin steward was friendly and fantastic and unseen did a great job.
If recommending a midships balcony cabin I would avoid the decks 11, 12 or 13 as they clearly suffer from the overhang of the decks above.
There are two main restaurants (Golden Lobster and L Arabesque) the bling continues and they both look modern and stylish. A generous menu consisting of 8 courses was served every day with an Italian feel to the menu: appetizers, soup, salad, pasta courses etc. in addition to the main course but there was also a choice of the always present chicken & steak etc. option. High praise here as the food in the main dining room was the best I have ever had in a large capacity dining room on a ship! Served red hot and there was not a dish I tried which did not taste superb.
As usual, speciality restaurants are on board. The Eataly restaurant offers a gourmet dining experience for a price of 30 euros for the set price menu. A fantastic pizza restaurant, Restorante Italia offers individual Pizzas for 5 euros or a full one metre of pizza for 14 euros (oh and 1 metre of beer, any 10 draft beers for 22 euros!)
A large self-service buffet restaurant, Maya, provides meals nearly 24 hours a day (tea and coffee is always available here). Normal range of cruise ship buffet food. I only used the buffet at breakfast and a bite for lunch but I have to say the food here was a disappointment. Typical cruise buffet and nothing wrong with it but just did not meeting the superb dining experience of the main dining rooms. The one good thought in the Maya buffet was a separate line for young children. Fenced off, it allowed them to serve themselves food and had some extra items just for the kids. A great idea and went down well with the kids & parents using it.
Dress code was advised daily and formal night was well supported with the majority of passengers well dressed and the ships photographers doing brisk business. Semi formal and casual nights were standard cruise casual attire.
Entertainment is varied there is an activity for everyone however, especially catered for are the young and family audience. The amazing Vertigo waterslide ride (a direct copy of the Disney Aquaduct) hangs over the edge of the sea, a kids waterpark, 4-D Cinema, Formula 1 Racing simulator and bowling lanes keep everyone occupied. The shows in the theatre are aimed to please families with lots of music and acrobatics. The highlight being a Queen tribute show. Entertaining even if one version of Freddie Mercury was female and the other resembled Meatloaf!
Every bar seemed to have its own house singers or musicians so without going to the main theatre there was always entertainment around the ship. A fantastic nightclub on the 16th deck.
The kids clubs are well run and British parents said the staff worked hard to integrate all children. As in Disney kids can dine with their parents and then be picked up mid meal and taken to the mini and junior club. Teens have their own club Graffitis which has table footballs, games consoles a dance floor etc and they looked to be having a great time! Kids aged 12 to 17 can be issued with a teen card. Preloaded with 30 or 50 euros these cards allow them greater freedom on board whilst along parents to control their spending.
There are also a lot of pool options, there are Jacuzzis everywhere, with a large outdoor pool, a covered pool that can have the roof opened on sunny days and an infinity style pool at the rear of the ship that was a brilliant location. There is a huge and very good gym, which was very popular, driven by the younger and more active passenger profile. The Aurea Spa looked popular with the usual discount deals offered on sea days.
An exclusive feature of MSC Preziosa, and of all fantasia-class ships in the MSC fleet is the MSC Yacht Club, a private area akin to the Haven on NCL ships. Privileged passengers staying in the 69 exclusive MSC Yacht Club suites will be able to take advantage of the private bar, solarium, hydro-massage pools, and the spectacular glass-walled observation lounge with amazing ocean views. A butler service will offer assistance at check-in, transport luggage, unpack, serve traditional English afternoon tea as well as arranging cigars and beverages, booking tables at restaurants, treatments in the MSC Aurea Spa, ad hoc excursions and even arrange private parties.
Cocktails on board are around the 6.50 euro mark but fantastic value is one of the Allegrissimo drinks packages:
ALLEGRISSIMO ADULT 23 euros a day. Unlimited wine by the glass (choice of 2 whites, 1 rosè, 2 reds, 2 sparkling wines, 1 dry and 1 sweet), draught beer, soft drinks, mineral water and a wide selection of drinks and cocktails and spirits from the bar, as well as take-away ice-cream in a cone or cup. There is a premium package but at 42 euros a day it is just not worth the extra!
ALLEGRISSIMO CHILD at 12 euros a day Unlimited soft drinks, mineral water, fruit juices, hot drinks, virgin cocktails, smoothies and milkshakes, as well as take-away ice-cream in a cone or cup.
The Daily Program is delivered in the evening, showing what is happening the following day – useful but not as clearly laid out as other cruise lines.
Excursions were actually well priced. Prices varied but most half day excursions were less then 50 euros for adults and 30 euros for children. Full day tours etc were between 60 to 70 euros.
Overall, I really enjoyed my few days on board. The ship surprised me, surpassed every expectation I had and proved by preconceived views very wrong! I enjoyed the elegance and bling and was blown away by the quality of the main dining room food. Always plenty to do, it was hard to call where to go or what to do and the fantastic value drinks package ensured a beer or cocktail was never far away.
In reality I think I would recommend MSC to my customers wanting a great value cruise (there are some superb deals available) or families wanting to cruise together and who want to stay together and spend family time together rather than participate in all the cruise staff activities.