Daniel Bailey embarks on a European voyage of discovery
Sea legs on and suitcases packed, my wife and I were really looking forward to our week of sunshine at sea.
As fairly inexperienced cruisers, we knew we were venturing into the unknown with MSC, but were excited about what the European liner had in store.
Magnifica is not only a beautiful ship, but a floating resort combining cutting-edge technology and timeless glamour with a sprinkle of top-class service.
After an early flight to Venice, we were greeted at the airport by an MSC crew member who escorted us to the bus for our 15-minute transfer.
We breezed onto the ship using priority boarding and didn’t need to worry about our suitcases in the knowledge they would be dropped off outside our cabin door.
The cruise had an immediate global feel as I noticed the plethora of different nationalities on board from Italian, English, French and German to Japanese, Korean, American and Indian.
The crew members hail from far and wide too, but on-board communication was never an issue as all the important announcements and notices were provided in a variety of languages.
Cabins equipped with balconies are recommended as it’s the best way of enjoying the stunning views, none more so than on the first day as we sailed along Venice’s canal of St Marco, taking in the city’s famous plaza and breathtaking architecture.
Purchasing one of the on-board drinks packages is a must. We went for the Allegrissimo option, which gives you unlimited drinks including cocktails, wines, and beer along with various soft drinks and speciality coffees. From £20 per person per night, it’s the best way of keeping tabs on your spending without the fear of over-indulging.
Our first stop was Bari, the main city of Italy’s Puglia region with its labyrinth of narrow streets, closed courts and tower houses. Then it was on to Greece and the gateway to Olympia Katakolon, before setting sail to stunning Mykonos with its pristine white buildings and streets where you can hear a pin drop.
The last Greek stop was Pireaus, the largest passenger port in Europe, before we set off for Croatia with a full day at sea sandwiched in between.
Winding our way through the Greek islands and along the Albanian coast, the break from sightseeing gave us a chance to soak up some sun and enjoy the outdoor swimming pool, which boasts two bubbling hot tubs and La Conciglia cocktail bar.
Rain greeted us in Dubrovnik but with the city’s old town only a short distance away, it’s worth venturing out. If you want you can see the city by Segway by booking through the ship’s shore excursion desk.
Payments are hassle-free using your MSC cruise card. With a simple swipe it records everything you spend and also doubles up as your cabin key.
Dining is always an important part of a cruise. Some prefer to eat in the casual surroundings of the Sahara Cafeteria, but there’s two great formal restaurants - L’Edera and Quattro Venti - for those wanting a bit more sophistication.
You can sit at your own table, but if you’re feeling sociable you can opt to share and make some new friends while tucking into six courses of fabulous fine dining food.
The menus have a European feel - with lots of fish, pasta and salad dishes - and the two ‘gala’ evenings give men and women the opportunity to don their tuxedos and ball gowns.
It’s worth trying Magnifica’s Oriental Plaza restaurant, where you can enjoy some sublime Asian food taking you on a culinary journey through Japan, China and Thailand.
Evenings are planned around the spectacular shows in the glitzy Royal Theatre, where the highly-skilled entertainments team put on a different performance each night.
You cannot fail to be impressed by the variety of talent on display from the team’s contortionists, acrobats, dancers and jugglers.
Other features on Magnifica include an excellent spa, large fitness area and kids club.
This isn’t just any cruise. MSC has been sailing the world’s seas for generations and it’s the attention to detail that makes them stand out.
www.msccruises.co.uk/Tel: 0203 426 3010