Welcome to Sardinia
Neither of us slept too well last night – we had big storms crossing from Palermo over to Cagliari and our cabin is quite high up (Deck 10) and fairly forward so it seemed like we felt every big wave the ship went through! Saying that I absolutely love the sea like this because it feels like I am actually on a ship and not just in a hotel, Sara would disagree with me though – based on the empty packet of seasickness tablets on the side. MSC Meraviglia is a big ship and has stabilisers too, so you don’t get much rolling, if anything, just pitching (that is the front/back motion like a seesaw).
Breakfast in Waves
As we were awake early we decided we’d go to the Waves restaurant for breakfast this morning. It is one of the main dining rooms and as you enter you can choose from a table of 2, 4, or more – we were seated next to a huge window and had a great view of the port in the distance. Both of us ordered the MSC Express Breakfast – which is kinda like a Full English breakfast. We both had fresh juice which was replenished quickly and coffee too, along with some toast. As we were literally charging everything to the last minute, we didn’t have anything to take photos with – nevermind, we are planning on going back there for breakfast tomorrow!
Shore Excursion: City tour of Cagliari
As neither of us has been to Sardinia before we decided again on a shore excursion. I know many of you like to plan your own port visits and actually if I have already visited a port in the past I do the same too (unless it is a really special excursion that I couldn’t organise for myself). But when visiting new ports, the ship makes it so easy to maximise your time in the port – they are the experts after all!
Sardinia is the Mediterranean’s second largest island (behind Sicily) and has a population of 1.6 Million – though over 400,000 people live in the Cagliari region.
We met in the Broadway Theatre again this morning, checked in with the staff and showed our tickets. We were quickly allocated a tour number and then headed off the ship to the coaches that were waiting outside for us.
We boarded our coach and set off on a drive around Cagliari. Our guide told us some interesting facts along the way, which included things like Sardinia’s largest industry is not actually tourism but agriculture. Because of the microclimate that Sardinia has they grow pretty much all of their own fruit and vegetables from the North to the South of the island. There were also various military bases on the island, from the North, a submarine base for the Americans and in the South a large NATO base. Both of these have since been retired and Sardinia decided to make them into protected nature reserves. These days they are covered with flamingos and unusually for the birds, they not only stay all year around in Sardinia but they also nest very close to the towns.
The tour stopped off at a couple of viewpoints for us to leave the coach, take photos for a few minutes and then board again.
Eventually, we got into the old city and left the coach for a walking tour up the small streets.
I guess you could describe Cagliari as a mixture of Italian and Spanish architecture – everything feels a bit of a mix between the two and there is some incredible history based in Cagliari itself. One thing to see is Mussolini’s name which remains on a facade – it is still uncovered because the people of Sardinia believe that you can’t wash away history and even bad things should be left up to remind those not to go down the same path again.
Our tour guide took us to Cagliari Cathedral and we spent some time touring around the inside of it, including the crypt.
After a short while, we ended up via one of the main shopping streets and were given 45 minutes to go and explore ourselves. Hungry as ever (and our last chance to get some bonafide Italian pizza – aside from on the ship!) we found a small cafe and ordered a Funghi Pizza (yes, pattern emerging – my favourite which Sara has to endure when it comes to pizzas is mushroom!) it was washed down with a lovely cappuccino. The tour coach turned up after our 45 minutes and we boarded the coach before heading back to the port.
It was nice to see another MSC ship docked alongside us – MSC Opera was also in port!
This afternoon we enjoyed some quiet time on the balcony as the sun wasn’t directly on us but the warm air was still blowing across it. We went to the Bamboo Bar and got a couple of cocktails which we brought back to our cabin and we watched a couple of ferries come and go, amongst other port traffic. The port itself offers a free shuttle bus from the ship to the main entrance (for safety reasons) and from there you can get into Cagliari yourself if you want.
It’s Day 4 and we’re feeling a bit sad that we’re already past the half-way mark with only two full ports left to go before our disembarkation port. We feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface of this ship as there is literally so much to do. So this evening we’re doing a bit of a whirlwind tour of things!
For the sail away we decided to go treat ourselves to a glass of champagne at the Champagne Bar on Deck 7. On arrival one of the friendly bar staff came over and helped us choose from the menu. They have 35 different varieties of champagne – it isn’t an easy choice! With their recommendation, we each had a glass of Veuve Cliquot Rich Rosé which is served with some sliced strawberries that you drop in and swill around your glass. Let me tell you now, those drinks were heaven! We enjoyed the slow sail away from Cagliari whilst we sat at a little bar looking directly out to sea.
As we’re going to a show tonight we have a schedule to keep. So we left the Champagne Bar and decided to go for dinner in the main dining room. Currently, we’ve only eaten in the buffet and speciality restaurants for our evening meals since we got onboard. Although that’s because all these different restaurants are a novelty to us, we’ve been keen to try out the main dining room on MSC Meraviglia!
Our restaurant is the Panorama Restaurant located on Deck 6. It has huge windows across the entire back and sides of the ship allowing you to look out to sea (if it wasn’t dark already that is!). Tonight in the main dining room (of which there are four by the way!) is Mediterranean Night – a menu put together that celebrates all the foods you can commonly find in the Mediterranean and let’s be honest, who is the best to put that together? Mediterranean Shipping Company, that’s who!
For starters, I had some Spanish Tapas which were lovely and Sara had Mussels in White Wine.
It was followed by our main courses which were Eggplant Moussaka for me and a Seafood Platter for Sara, though because she couldn’t choose she also had a Vegetarian Baba Ganoush and hummus. MSC is very accommodating, want two starters or two mains instead of one? No problem, just ask and they’ll bring it for you. There is no way you’ll go hungry in there! The service was great and using our drinks package – again no bill at the end, both of us enjoyed a glass of the house wine (white for me, red for Sara) and a couple of bottles of sparkling water.
Finally, for dessert Sara had Baklava and I had Chocolate Profiteroles!
After dinner, it was time for something very special!
Cirque du Soleil at Sea
Now, as soon as we knew we were coming on MSC Meraviglia we were so excited that we were going to be actually able to see a Cirque du Soleil show whilst at sea! The two shows (Viaggio and Sonor) were made especially for MSC and they are shown in the Carousel Lounge on Deck 7 – this was purpose built for Cirque du Soleil and according to rumours, cost $20 million dollars alone for the theatre! The shows change depending on the night and there is usually one night of your cruise where they are dark (no shows at all). Each show is performed twice nightly (usually 6.30pm and 9.30pm).
Having experienced many of the Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas I was really excited to experience them at sea and we booked one of the show packages as soon as we got onboard. This can be booked via the reservations desk in the Carousel Lounge (check the Daily Program for opening times) or next to the Infinity Reception is a Cirque du Soleil desk where you can also book. There are two options available, a meal + show or cocktail + show. We choose the cocktail + show (there are only so many meals we can have!). Once reserved, our tickets were waiting for us in our cabin the day before the show!
The Carousel Lounge is accessed by walking all the way through the Casino Imperiale on Deck 7 and to the rear. Once there, you present your ticket and a member of staff takes you over to several trays of cocktails. There are alcoholic and non-alcoholic available. After you have picked your drink you are shown to your seats.
Whilst waiting for the show to start there was a trio providing some live music to listen to. Like all Cirque du Soleil shows, they are timely on when they start – late arrivals are not admitted, just like the land shows, so make sure you get there on time (you have a 40-minute window when the doors open until they close) – when they start it is not only distracting but dangerous for people to be moving around when there are performers moving around the theatre!
The show we saw (Viaggio) is billed as A Painter’s Imagination. In true Cirque du Soleil style the music, props, performers and atmosphere is magical. What they’ve created really works – even at sea! Taking into account that usually the theatres they have in Las Vegas cost $100 million plus and are huge, to get that same Cirque du Soleil feel into the 120-seat Carousel Lounge is something – we felt the same excitement as the shows we have seen elsewhere and we honestly would recommend you book one of these shows when you get onboard!
The dining package starts a little earlier than the cocktail package as there are several courses, although we didn’t see a menu the entire Carousel Lounge was full – both shows are popular and do sell out fairly quickly. Unfortunately to the point that we aren’t going to be able to see the other show, Sonor on this trip!
If you’ve already been on MSC Meraviglia and seen both shows – there is some good news! MSC Bellissima, when launched in March 2019 will feature two completely different Cirque du Soleil shows than on MSC Meraviglia – MSC must know my weakness for these shows, we’re already looking at suitable itineraries!
After the show, we had one last place we fancied visiting before bed. The Sky Bar on Deck 18. This bar, with a near enough fully-panoramic view across both sides and forwards, overlooks the Atmosphere Pool on Deck 15. We both enjoy cocktails and whilst on MSC Magnifica we had enjoyed the MSC Molecular cocktails, which usually are created with theatrical effects!
The Sky Bar offers the same and many more cocktails with it being MSC’s flagship and we browsed through all the cocktails until we found one we both liked the sound of!
We each had one of the Smoked Cocktails – In this instance, The Hazy Shade – which consists of Bulleit Rye Whisky, honey syrup, fresh lemon juice, Angostura bitters and then smoked with rosemary!
Wow, what can I say! You can really taste that smokiness, it was a perfect cocktail to finish the evening off and even though our inclusive drinks package didn’t cover it – at 8 EUR each, it was certainly cheaper than buying one of that standard in a bar back at home. In fact, if you have the Deluxe All-Inclusive Drinks package, all of the smoked cocktails are included – make sure you visit this bar on MSC Meraviglia (or MSC Bellissima – she’s getting the same bar too!).
Once back in the cabin it was back to the usual routine of plugging everything in to charge and taking a quick peek out of the balcony. Tonight the weather is calm and it is a full moon – it looks beautiful out there as we head the 345 nautical miles towards our next port (our first Spanish port!) Palma de Mallorca!
That’s all for now, keep those questions and comments coming!
For this voyage, we were guests thanks to MSC Cruises UK. The content published is covered by our Transparency and Ethics Policy.