I confess, in my time as a travel writer, not once have I ventured to go on a cruise. It's not that I haven't had the time. Quite the opposite. However, the idea of being stuck on board with a "smorgasboard crowd" without being able to get off does not appeal to me in the slightest. However, my perception of cruising was turned on its head when I attended a presentation by MSC Cruises. Hosted by MSC's stylish and very dynamic MD, Lynne Clarke, she had me at, "A Mediterranean Way Of Life."
MSC has a long and impressive history of seafaring. From as early as 1675, the Aponte family from Sorrento (Italy) dedicated themselves to navigating the oceans of the world. From its rich origins, MSC's distinctly Mediterranean cruise culture emerged. With a fleet of over 400 container vessels and 12 state of the art and ecologically friendly cruise ships, it has earned for itself the well deserved title of "Masters of the Sea."
MSC's ships' interiors are as far removed from the cruise-white "Love Boat" decor as one can get. True to their origins, MSC ships' interiors boast an uber-stylish, contemporary Italian flair. As for the cuisine, MSC has recently partnered with "Eataly", a popular Turin-based chain founded by Oscar Farinetti upon the principles of the slow food philosophy, with an emphasis on local, artisanal producers, food education, accessibility and affordability, sustainable sourcing, and production.
Carefree days at the sea transform into opportunities to indulge oneself on an MSC Cruise, with a complete range of state of the art facilities and activities, from a theatre, disco, casino, duty free shops, library and internet, to the swimming pools, and cutting edge sports and fitness equipment. A rich programme of music and activities, tailored to each cruise itinerary and related to the destination, are free and flexible. For the sports aficionados, a wide selection of sports and tournaments - including football, volleyball, basketball, mini-golf and Formula 1 racing simulator - are there to enjoy. A plethora of workshops, classes and courses of every description are there for the offer for those into self-development. If solitude is your thing, there are a multitude of quiet pockets for uninterrupted moments at any time.
The entertainment at MSC doesn't stop at sunset but continues well into the night. With theme nights - e.g. Italian nights, the White Party, Beer Festival, Flower Glory, 70’s Party, Hollywood Night - nightly karaoke’s, spectacular shows inspired by the cultures along the route, dancing-till-dawn night clubs, and the casino, the cruises cater for night owls of every description. For a quiet night in the cabin, there's WiFi, interactive TV and in-cabin movies.
All that eating and partying can play havoc on one's energy levels. Having that need covered, MSC have the internationally renowned Aurea Spa, the only authentic Balinese spa on any cruise ship. A tranquil Oriental paradise with superb sea views and exotic modern decor that utilises natural stones, wood, and rich mosaics, the "Fantasia Class" ships boast a comprehensive thermal area, a couple’s harmony suite, and a range of original signature treatments inspired by precious minerals.
Last but not least, there's the MSC Yacht Club, a ship within a ship. This super-exclusive category offers an impressive 24-hour butler service, entry to Yacht Club members-only venues, a concierge lounge with selection of fine delicacies, dedicated restaurants with open dining times, and exclusive sun deck complex with private pool, bar, spa baths and light meal proposal.
Other Yacht Club amenities include: • exclusive private restaurant offering a variety of Mediterranean and international dishes made using only the finest, scrupulously selected ingredients • Dedicated priority check-in and check-out • spacious luxury suites with fine furnishings, all with bathtub and shower • towel change twice a day and luxury courtesy bathrobes and slippers • deliciously healthy dining options for guests who like natural ingredients, full flavours and balanced menus
And so I have added cruising to my bucket list. I look forward to boarding a ship that says that no one is a stranger, that rules can make way for instincts, that good food is a way of life, and that family is at the heart of everything. Indeed, the Mediterranean is more than where MSC comes from and sails through. It inspires everything that their cruises have to offer, with a firm belief that life should be measured in moments, and that every moment must be savoured. Now, that's my kind of cruising.