We awoke around 7am and as we had slept with not only the balcony curtains open but the balcony door open too we could see the sun was rising and that we were slowly going astern (backwards) into the port.
Although MSC Cruises operate cruises that allow you the option to embark at a port of your choosing (compared to just one turn-around port), you could say that Genoa is pretty much the MSC homeport in the Mediterranean. You’ll not only find at least one, two or three MSC Cruise ships in port most days but also sister company ferry vessels operate from there too.
A Balcony Breakfast
For us, dining on the balcony (whilst in port or at sea) is one of the must-do things when on a cruise. It is really nice to sit sipping hot coffee and eating fresh pastries whilst taking a look at the new port (or country too in this case!) that lies before you.
On that basis, we had ordered our breakfast the night before with a little card you mark with your requirements and leave outside on the handle of your cabin. If you take the Fantastica or above MSC Experience when booking then coffee, tea, juices, a choice of cereals and/or pastries are available free of charge (with no delivery fee either) to your cabin each morning – and at a time that you prefer too! This is an ideal option if you want to grab a quick bite before leaving for a shore excursion.
Although our first visit to Genoa, it feels somewhat already familiar because of MSC Seaview’s naming ceremony that was held here just a few months ago. From pictures and videos that friends put up, to the videos that MSC released – the naming ceremony looked to be an exciting occasion for all involved!
When it comes to naming ceremonies – MSC Bellissima is up next and is due in March 2019. MSC Cruises are celebrating their new ships by being a little different and naming them in different ports! This gives the chance for their loyal cruisers (and new cruisers too!) the chance to sail on a Maiden Voyage directly from their home country. MSC Bellissima will be the biggest cruise ship to be named in Southampton and, as MSC Meraviglia’s twin-sister will become the joint-5th biggest cruise ship in the world!
After her naming ceremony, she’ll be setting sail from Southampton on a 10-night voyage to her Mediterranean homeport for the summer which will be Genoa!
Shore Excursion: Portofino
We decided that for our visit to Genoa that we would take a shore excursion to the old fishing port of Portofino. Once a small marina for Italian fishermen, its main business is now tourism. It is situated just along the Ligurian coast from Genoa and takes around 1.5 hours via boat ride to get there.
After registering our attendance at the designated Shore Excursion meeting place (this morning was the TV Studio, Deck 7 above the promenade) we were lead off the ship by our Shore Excursion host and took the short walk through the terminal building and along towards the back of the ship. Up close, we really got the feeling of just how big MSC Meraviglia is. The sleek curves at the rear of her make her into a great looking ship for her size.
We boarded the boat (around 80 of us) which had an inside and outside top deck and set off out of the port. The port itself takes around fifteen minutes to sail out of and has many different types of ships operating from it – from previously mentioned cruise ships to ferries, private yachts, coastguard vessels and ships undergoing dry-dock maintenance.
Sailing down the Ligurian Coast
As we sailed down the coast we had chosen seats on the far left of the boat which allowed us to see all the detail of the coast. Along the way our guide gave us details about what we could see in English first, then in Italian and vice versa which made a pleasant journey! About halfway there one of the crew came round with a huge tray of freshly baked focaccia for us to eat and this was much appreciated by everybody.
We got to the Portofino peninsula and rounded the corner slowly to expose the small, but beautiful harbour. Many a backdrop for adverts, holiday brochures and even Top Gear at one point, Portofino is an absolute gem on the Italian coast.
The history of Portofino can be traced back to as early as AD 23-79 when it was referred to as Portus Delphini (Port of the Dolphin). At least as early as 1229 it was part of the Republic of Genoa but since 1861 it has been part of the Unified Kingdom of Italy and has always supported a small fleet of fishing boats in its natural harbour.
On arrival, you are greeted with a small horseshoe-shaped walkway around the harbour, lined with small chic cafes and restaurants with some boutique clothes shops peppered between them and a small town square. Taking into consideration that Portofino is only one square mile in size and has approximately 450 residents, it is well-packed with features without being overbearing or being too sparse either!
There are additional excursions you can take from Portofino if you have arrived there by other means (we had 1.5 hours to spend there, which was plenty!) or you can visit the Botanical Gardens (up around 50-60 steps) with a small cover charge of 5 EUR or you can just sit and enjoy a nice glass of wine and look out across the pretty harbour and out to sea (like we did in the end!) But first, we took a quick walk up one of the side streets to a little deli and purchased two different focaccia bread – one with mozzarella and another with thinly sliced onion on top – they were delicious!
Whilst we were there today, around fifteen Ferrari’s turned up and parked right at the harbourside. They are out on a Ferrari Factory Road tour, organised by the car manufacturer and in 2017 they named one of their new models after Portofino!
An interesting fact about Portofino – at the inlet to the harbour, at a depth of about 17 metres is a statue of the Christ of the Abyss. It was placed underwater in 1954 and is sculpted as Christ with his hands pointing up to the sky in the act of a blessing and a sign of peace. The statue was placed there to protect fishermen and scuba divers that leave the port!
After our bread and some lovely white wine at one of the restaurants, it was time to board the boat again and take the 1.5 hour journey back down the coast to Genoa. Sitting on the right we were able to see the coast very clearly again and enjoyed the warm Mediterranean air blowing across the deck as we sailed back.
On arrival back at Genoa we made the quick transfer by foot to the port building and once through security we boarded MSC Meraviglia again.
Today is a busy day for MSC Meraviglia – but you wouldn’t really think it. Around 4,000 guests embark at Genoa on each itinerary and the ship was operating just as normal for us as any other day. We headed up to the indoor Bamboo Pool and Bar and had a couple of deliciously cold cocktails made for us before heading to the Marketplace Buffet and getting some fresh pizza. A short walk and we were on the Deck 15 terrace at the rear of the ship and it was very reminiscent of the times we had on MSC Magnifica with the same food!
After lunch, we headed back to the cabin and showered, changed and then took to the rear of Deck 18 and to the Horizon Amphitheatre. From here we watched the beautiful sail away out of Genoa and back into the Mediterranean Sea.
After a short while, we decided on some pre-dinner drinks. So we went to the Champagne Bar on Deck 7 and had a cocktail (Rosato Mio – included in our All Inclusive drinks package) followed by two lovely glasses of Laurent-Perrier champagne (not included in our package, unfortunately!). The service was great with the bar staff talking about the different champagnes they had available and what vintages were also on offer. Fresh oysters were also available to accompany our champagne if we had so wished, but as we had a meal reservation in a short while we decided to skip them this time!
After our aperitifs, we headed down to Galleria Meraviglia on Deck 6 (this is the official name of the indoor promenade) and tonight we have booked a meal in Eataly which is an Italian restaurant and part of the five speciality restaurants that MSC Meraviglia has (and that her sister, MSC Bellissima will have) onboard.
The speciality restaurants all offer a la carte menus, a set price menu or if you prefer you can purchase a dining package which combines three of the restaurants of your choice at a discounted rate compared to purchasing the set menu in each.
We have the triple dining package and tonight we chose from the set menu in Eataly!
To start, I had La Parmigiana (Eggplant, Parmigiano, Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil) and Sara had Nudo E Crudo (Hamachi Crudo, Vegetables with Lemon-Infused Yogurt).
After our starters, I had La Tagliata (Grilled Beef Sirloin “Tagliata”, Steamed Crushed Potatoes with Green Zucchini) which was cooked to perfection for my taste! Sara had Il Branzino (Wild Sea Bass, Potato in a Clam Soup with Marjoram) – there were no complaints from Sara either, both very filling meals. Although dessert was still to come!
For dessert, we both had Lo Spumone (“Golosi Di Salute” Coffee-Infused Biscuit with a Mascarpone Mousse) and it was the perfect end to the meal.
The service was fantastic and the venue, which has been well thought out and feels like a small, upscale restaurant makes you forget you are even at sea! Of course, if you have the inclusive drinks package like us, your drinks in the restaurant are included too – no bill at the end for anything! I was able to choose a nice glass of Chardonnay and Sara had a Merlot with her meal, accompanied with still and sparkling water.
In case you were not aware, Eataly is a large Italian marketplace/food hall brand comprising of a variety of restaurants, food and beverage counters and a bakery. It has stores worldwide (12 in Italy, 5 in the USA currently and more elsewhere!) and sources their food ethically around the world. Oh and of course, if you haven’t already worked it out Eat-aly = Eating Italian. Although these days it isn’t just Italian food they specialise in, but also the Mediterranean diet and cuisine that is so well known in Europe. This is a perfect example of how cruise lines, MSC, in particular, are joining high-quality land-based brands with their ships. We’ve another great example coming up in a couple of days and SO excited about it – but, you’ll have to wait! :D
After dinner, we took a walk along Galleria Meraviglia and decided to look at the entertainment at the end of the promenade. At the Meraviglia Bar and Lounge, there was a lot of dancing, music and people having a good time! Lots of new arrivals were finding their way around the ship it seems and we enjoyed watching the live music for a little while before we headed back to our cabin.
We’re heading back early tonight and skipping any shows or further entertainment because we’re currently en route to Civitavecchia (Rome) We’re travelling South East for the next 210 nautical miles and should arrive at Civitavecchia at around 7am. Our excursion tomorrow leaves at 7.45am, so it is off to bed we go and we’ll be back tomorrow!
For this voyage, we were guests thanks to MSC Cruises UK. The content published is covered by our Transparency and Ethics Policy.