Thursday, 11 April 2013

Why I'm a convert to cruising

I wasn't all that keen on going on the recent maiden voyage of the MSC Preziosa to be completely honest. I can be seasick on a millpond and some of my previous cruise experiences had been less than stellar, marked by a high bogan factor. 

What swung me was the ports that the spanking-new Preziosa was going to visit: Naples, Messina, La Goulette in Tunisia, and two cities I particularly enjoy: Barcelona and Marseille. 

And I certainly wasn't disappointed, although being accommodated in the up-market Yacht Club section of the ship made a huge difference and is a worthwhile upgrade for anyone who values their peace and quiet.

Christened late last month at a glittering black-tie ceremony in Genoa, the MSC Preziosa was sent off on her maiden voyage by veteran actress Sophia Loren, the "Godmother" of the MSC cruise fleet, to music conducted by the great composer Ennio Morricone.




The exclusive Yacht Club suites are just 69 in all and home to the movers and shakers on each cruise. These guests sip their drinks in the dedicated lounge, barely getting their lips wet, as a pianist in the lounge tinkles unobtrusively in Richard Clayderman-style.

Those staying in the Yacht Club enjoy cabins with walk-in wardrobes, full bathrooms with bath and showers (and towels that are replaced twice daily on request), a complimentary mini bar, balcony or panoramic views and room service. There's king-sized bed with Egyptian cotton sheets, widescreen TV and a reserved area in the ship's Aurea Spa facility, operated by Balinese therapists.

Yacht Club guests also have their own private pool and jacuzzis on the bow of the ship, unlimited alcohol and canapes, and are served high tea each afternoon, while a daily paper from your home country is delivered to your cabin each morning. 

There are private butler and concierge services as well, should you need another selection from the pillow menu or to book a shore excursion. Concierge Maria, an Italian who speaks six languages, organises my visit to Carthage and Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia, while butler Jeannot, from Madagascar, is on hand to help should I need escorting to a part of the ship I am not familiar with. 

The food throughout the ship has a largely Mediterranean vibe – and many of the chefs and waiters are Italian, although there were crew from 48 different nations on board the inaugural cruise.

The boast is "the flavours and aromas of the Mediterranean", which seemed to please most guests. The star is the Eataly restaurant – the first afloat – which highlights artisanal Italian dishes and organic Italian wines. For someone who loves food and wine, I was in my element.

I ate well, drank well and slept well. And not once did I feel even remotely seasick.  

The writer was a guest of MSC Cruises and Emirates Airways. For details visit www.msccruises.com.au.



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