Well hello! It has been quite a while since I last did a live blog from a ship – albeit, we have had a ‘rather interesting time‘ over the last few years – and whilst I did spend two weeks onboard MSC Magnifica back in March earlier this year, the Covid-19 protocols and the fact I just chilled out for an entire two weeks meant you got no blog.
Sorry, not sorry – but I did feel incredibly refreshed after it – so cruising still works in 2022 you’ll be glad to know!
However, I am now back at sea, and this time, on MSC Preziosa – one of the Fantasia class ships (of which there are four – this one being the youngest – 2013) – this is my first time on the ship, and it is in the last week of her (short) season in the UK.
It is a fairly usual Winter itinerary for Northern Europe, as below:
|Saturday 29th October||Southampton, UK|
|Sunday 30th October||Sea day|
|Monday 31st October||Hamburg, Germany|
|Tuesday 1st November||Sea day|
|Wednesday 2nd November||Rotterdam, The Netherlands|
|Thursday 3rd November||Bruges, Belgium|
|Friday 4th November||Le Havre, France|
|Saturday 5th November||Southampton, UK|
I travelled down from ‘Up North’ (York) – and without all the average speed checks, holiday traffic and everything else – it is still quite the journey. (I feel for Scottish passengers – you must really love cruising from Southampton!)
I usually decide to stay in Portsmouth over Southampton because I like to have a little wander around Southsea on the day of the cruise – living landlocked in the north, it is so nice to get some fresh sea air during a walk.
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express (Portsmouth North), and the prices are pretty reasonable whenever you stay, plus £5 to park for the night. It is really handy for the M27 back to Southampton too.
After a late checkout, I headed to Southsea Esplanade (about 4 miles from the hotel) and took a stroll down the seafront, it was quite sunny, and the haze obscured the Isle of Wight, unfortunately – nonetheless, got my sea air fix.
After finishing up in Portsmouth, I headed over to Southampton. I had an embarkation time on my MSC eTickets of 13:00 – which, if you stick to it, means you won’t end up standing in a queue in the car park (the easiest of tips to follow)
As I arrived around midday, I headed to the West Quay shopping centre – which is just opposite the port, and I went for a little wander around the city – with it being Saturday, it was busy, and there were little market stalls dotted around. I like Southampton – there are lots of independent shops here as well as the big names for ‘last minute cruise shopping’ (that category could literally mean anything for me)
After collecting a few bits, I headed over to the port – a 5 min drive from West Quay to the Horizon Cruise Terminal – which is MSC’s terminal in Southampton.
Parking is absolutely no hassle if you pick AB Parking – they have a dedicated car park literally in front of the terminal – it doesn’t get much easier than that.
After being directed to a parking spot, grabbing a luggage trolley and then walking the 50m or so to the terminal building, you drop off the luggage you wish to check in at a magic hole in the wall (where it then reappears outside your cabin a few hours later)
At the terminal, they check your embarkation ticket and health form before sending you through to security.
Unlike airport security, you don’t need to worry about liquids here or taking your shoes off – but all the other stuff is the same, laptops out, belts off, and all electronics into the x-ray boxes.. followed by a hurried re-dress/pocket stuff before the next person’s stuff gets in your way!
After that, a quick escalator ride up to the 1st floor of the terminal building and you will be guided to the check-in desks – here, you’ll need your Covid-19 vaccination passport (or test result if you are unvaccinated) and your cruise ticket/health form/passport.
After a couple of clicks, a mandatory photo is taken, and your cruise card is handed to you. Off to the ship you go!
A short walk along the various walkways and you’ll board the ship.
From car to ship (actually, cabin) took me all of 15 minutes. Beat that, Heathrow!
The first thing to hit you when you enter the ship (in fact, any MSC ship) is the *Med by MSC aroma. They pump it out across the ship’s public areas, and I have to say – it feels like home when you smell it (albeit only if you’ve been on an MSC ship before!)
The usual glitzy but tasteful design of the ship was the first impression I got. Everything was spotless as usual (like most cruise ships out there), and after quickly avoiding the ‘Welcome Onboard’ photographers, I was soon into a lift and to my cabin.
If you’ve not been on a ship before, walking to your cabin can be a rather long adventure – even if you have been on one before, you will soon experience that familiar disheartening feeling of ‘Oh, I need to go back to my cabin‘ when you are at the opposite end of the ship.
As it is, you usually embark somewhere in the middle of the ship on your first day (they do this for many reasons – one being is you don’t need to hike all 300m+ length of the ship to get to your cabin!)
My cabin is on Deck 12, it is an Aurea (experience) balcony cabin. I picked it out on the deck plan specifically for its location (one reason to book Fantastica or above experience – pick your exact cabin).
* Med by MSC can actually be bought in the MSC Logo Shop onboard the ships – so you can actually make your home smell like their ships too!
Exploring MSC Preziosa
After dropping my bags in the cabin, and taking a photo of every square cm of it (so I can give you even more details later on) – I set about exploring the ship before having to return for the mandatory safety drill.
The ship itself was described to be as a ‘grown-up Magnifica‘, and to be fair, they weren’t wrong – it has a lot of similarities to the older Musica-class ships, some of the same signage – but then lots of tweaks which certainly work in its favour (it can carry approx 50% passengers more than Magnifica)
The buffet (actually, split into two Inca and Maya – both on Deck 14 ‘Smeraldo’ have lots of island stations and tables to eat at – plus some rather neat little bench/breakfast style bars to sit at too – ideal if you are travelling in a small party (that’s me this trip – solo) or if you want to get a quick bite and not hang around to find a perfect table.
I toured the entire buffet, and there was a huge amount of choice, from Classic British ‘Roast Beef’ (with everything) – to Indian, Chinese, Fast Food, salads, fruit and desserts (including a sugar-free range) to the delicious and freshly made MSC Pizzas (five types are made available for 13 hours each day!) – there is more than enough choice if you are prepared to walk around the entire buffet and seek it out.
I often see people complain the buffet is ‘the same every day’ and ‘there isn’t much choice’ – well, if you only go to the first aisle in a supermarket and wish they sold more, you’ll probably fall into that camp too. Grab a table and send one of your party off to explore if you don’t all want to hike around! :)
After getting a very quick bite to eat – consisting of a Mediterranean burger, fries and a drink (those are right at the front for those wondering) – I went to the outside decks for a little look around.
Southampton in October isn’t the best of seasons for exploring outdoors, and true to form, it delivered with a nice fine mist of rain across the open decks. Undeterred and looking to seek out potential sailaway viewing opportunities, I continued around until I reached the highest level of the ship (at least that I can get to) – that is, Top 18 – the exclusive area for Aurea passengers to sunbathe, relax in a whirlpool jacuzzi and have bar service.
Sounds perfect for those glorious sunny days, doesn’t it? Let’s stop right there, we are heading further north on this cruise – it is only going to get colder (and probably wetter) – so I am not sure how much of Top 18 I will be able to take advantage of. Certainly, one to book for sunnier climes, though.
After exploring some of the upper decks (Aqua Park, Doremi Castle, Vertigo (120m waterslide), I headed back to my cabin for the mandatory safety drill.
After watching a short (5 min) video on the TV, you ring a specific extension on your phone which registers that you watched the video and then head to your muster station (which is on your cruise card and the back of your cabin door) – after a short walk down a few decks and to my station (‘F’) the all clear is given, and you continue about your day as you wish.
Sailaway & The Evening
We are due to set sail at 8pm this evening – the late time is because today is also a port call for many already on the ship, so they got to spend longer in the UK visiting London, etc.
I watched from my balcony as the dock workers lined up and started letting the lines go from MSC Preziosa, so knew it was time to head to the open decks and watch us sail away.
MSC doesn’t really do sailaways in the same style as some of the other lines, which is one of the positive things for me. That said, there were quite a few people out on the open decks, braving the drizzle and watching as we slowly crept out of the Port of Southampton and down the River Test towards the Isle of Wight.
As it is only the week before Bonfire Night in the UK (and the fact we were watching from about 18 Decks above sea), you could see quite an array of fireworks across Southampton (in between the rainy mist, of course) – but undeterred, many families with children enjoyed the spectacle viewed from the ship, and it was an enjoyable sailaway, despite being in total darkness!
One thing MSC always does at a sailway is play the song ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ as the ship is leaving port. Whilst this song has multiple meanings for many people, it is a song you’ll hear almost at every sailaway on an MSC ship (unless a port doesn’t allow open deck noise), and it brings back lots of memories when you hear the song in the future.
This evening I had some admin to do with work and unpacking, sorting out my tech and so on. Therefore, I decided to take advantage of the MSC Pizza Delivery and order room service!
Whilst Fantastica and above get free room service delivery fees, you still need to pay for the items of food – which, to be honest, at 6 EUR for a pizza is here nor there when you compare it to a Dominos!
I ordered a Margherita pizza (there are six choices of pizza) and cheekily asked if they could bring a couple of Pepsi Max’s too (they don’t bring drinks usually) – in this instance, they happily obliged. Just 25 mins later, everything arrived!
Shortly after dinner (takeaway?) I set everything I needed on charge, took a look out from the balcony (it was really quite calm out there – but pretty wet), grabbed a quick shower and headed to bed.
Probably one of the first (and likely last?) times I was in bed on the first night of a cruise by 11pm.. but I have a lot to cover this week…
Tomorrow, we are at sea all day and, I look forward to waking up and viewing the North Sea from my balcony – sea days are my absolute favourite on cruises!
Catch you tomorrow!