Samantha Morgan, 41, her children, Anna, 6, and Alex, 4, plus grandma, Joan, 65
Where we went
A seven-night cruise around the Mediterranean, taking in Italy, Spain and France, on the MSC Preziosa
With major renovation works going on in our house and May half term fast approaching, I decided to 'jump ship' with the children (leaving my long-suffering husband to contend with the builders) to board a much more luxurious vessel for a week-long cruise around the Med, taking my lovely mum along for adult company. Amid much excitement, we took a BA flight to Genoa, where we were to embark on our voyage, and as the coach that was delivering us from the airport neared the port, we spotted the MSC Preziosa, docked resplendently in the harbour. To be fair, you’d be hard pushed to miss it, being one of the biggest ships in the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) fleet!
First launched in 2013, and costing a whopping $550 million, MSC Preziosa (Italian for precious and a nod to MSC’s Neapolitan owners), is truly a wonder to behold. Indeed Anna and Alex were rooted to the dock, mouths agape at the sheer magnitude and magnificence of it all. Accommodating more than 4,300 passengers, with a crew compliment of a little over 1,300, the ship is a floating village, albeit an amazingly opulent one with every conceivable amenity, plus a few you’d probably never thought of. Boarding was swift and efficient, and we were soon walking the gangway, clutching our individual cruise cards, which would serve as our passports and currency throughout our stay. Once inside, it was me and mum’s turn to marvel at the scale and grandeur, with our favourite piece of flamboyance being the sweeping central staircase encrusted with Swarovski crystals. Liberace, eat your heart out!
With 18 decks in total, 14 of which are for passengers, it can be tricky finding your way around the ship at first. After several false starts, we did eventually locate our cabin on deck 10, known as Tormalina, where our luggage thankfully awaited. We had opted for a Balcony cabin, and jolly lovely it was too, with its contemporary design giving it a bright and airy feel, further enhanced by sliding glass doors leading out onto said balcony, complete with table, chairs and glorious views. A huge double bed meant mum and I could comfortably share, while the overstuffed sofa in the corner doubled as the children’s bed, meticulously made up each evening by our lovely cabin steward, whose attentive service throughout the cruise could not be faulted. Clever storage solutions meant keeping ship shape wasn’t a problem, while the flat screen TV and fridge with mini bar would help stave off cabin fever, should you choose to stay put.
Things to do
Not that you’re likely to spend an awful lot of time in your cabin, as there’s so much to see and do. Shore excursions aside (on our cruise we took in Rome, Sicily, Sardinia, Majorca, Valencia and Marseille, hopping off at each port to get a taster of the nearby city, all beautiful in the late spring sunshine and all with their own, distinct character), the ship offers activities and entertainment to suit all ages and tastes. Usually reluctant kids club goers, Anna and Alex became part of the fixtures and fittings at the one on board the Preziosa. Perhaps it was the fact that there were so many other children at the Doremi Mini Club for ages 3 to 6 (there’s Junior Club for 7 to 11-year-olds and Babytime for the under 3s), or perhaps it was because the ‘pirates’ who manned it were so friendly and entertaining – whatever the reason, me and mum weren’t complaining as it freed us up to lounge on deck at our favourite spot beside the Garden Pool (there are four in total, plus ten whirlpools), reading magazines and supping on an Aperol Spritz. Bliss! When not in the club, Anna and Alex would join us, playing in the water playground, where the water pistols and drenching bucket proved big hits! One of the Preziosa’s biggest claims to fame, however, is its Vertigo waterslide, which snakes at over a 120 metres (with a transparent section which shoots out over the edge of the ship) and holds the record for being the longest slide at sea! Anna and her newfound friends from the Mini Club, couldn’t get enough of it, but Alex, being that bit younger, preferred to stick to the playground, gleefully soaking anyone who came within a few feet of him. With relaxation being the name of the game, I decided to shun the gym during the voyage in favour of the spa, enjoying a fantastic Balinese massage followed by a facial that left me feeling all a glow on one particularly indulgent afternoon. Of an evening, live music can be found in many of the ship’s 20 bars, while the 1,600 seat Platinum Theatre hosts a wide variety of shows. We caught a Queen tribute act there one night, with mum and the kids joining in with ‘Freddie’ for a resounding chorus of We Are the Champions, which had me in stitches!
What we ate
The Italians know a thing or two about food, and that was very much in evidence in what we ate on the Preziosa. Buffet breakfasts were fresh and plentiful, while lunches, if not on shore, would usually be taken on deck. A selection of tasty paninis and pastries were more than enough to tide us over until dinnertime, which we took, first sitting, in the opulent Le Arabesque restaurant, where a United Nations of smiling waiters served four course meals that never failed to impress. The children’s food was served with equal flourish. Quite a feat, when you consider the numbers! As an extra special treat, we dined one night at the speciality Ristorante Italia, where my homemade crab ravioli followed by slow cooked osso bucco were a revelation. I think mum and the children enjoyed their choices too, if their empty plates were anything to go by.
Whether with a baby, toddler, child or teen, MSC Preziosa has all bases covered, and what’s more, cruising really is the perfect multi-generational holiday as older passengers are perfectly catered for too. Knowing everyone is happy means that you get a proper break, where you can kick back, relax and simply watch the world go by.
A similar seven-night Mediterranean cruise on MSC Preziosa (embarking May 2016) costs £2,966 for a family of four in a Balcony cabin and includes British Airways flights from Gatwick to Genoa. For more information visit msccruises.co.uk or call 0203 426 3010
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