We slept extremely well last night after a very long excursion the day before – the cabin is not only spacious (large 3-person couch, double-sized desk) but is well thought-out too (3 large hooks behind the door for coats, large shelf for keeping all your paperwork/tickets to hand and a separate section to keep the tv remote!).
Hot tubs and scenic views
BeyondCruise Live Voyage: MSC Meraviglia – (Missed a day or just got here? Skip to any day!)
Another thing we love to do when on a cruise is going for a dip in the pool and hot tubs in the early morning. MSC Meraviglia offers 9 hot tubs across the ship, with several cantilevered out across the side of the ship on Deck 16.
We took an early morning dip to wake up as we sailed into the beautiful port. After getting dry we headed to the Marketplace Buffet on Deck 15 for breakfast where we both enjoyed a nice hot breakfast.
We headed back to our cabin and got showered and changed ready for our tour of Palermo today.
The Port of Palermo
Palermo is the capital and the biggest city out of nine in Sicily. Sicily itself is the biggest island in the Mediterranean, covering 26,000sq KM. The port is popular with cruise ships and many ferries. In fact, the number one source of revenue is shipping.
The city itself was founded in 734 BC, making it over 2,700 years old. It is one of the biggest cities in all of Italy, stretching over 26km in length and has an Arabic-Roman style look and feel to it. It is well known not just for its architecture and history, but gastronomy and culture.
The port is located right by the edge of the city centre and allows you to walk off the ship and directly into the city within a few moments.
Shore Excursion: Palermo Sightseeing and A Taste of Sicily
As this was our first trip to Palermo (and Sicily) we decided to take a shore excursion, because after reading beforehand that the city stretched for 26km we didn’t fancy walking that in a day! (Despite our mammoth 14km walk we did in Porto earlier in the year!
Today we met in the Broadway Theatre on Deck 6 forward. The screen at the front showed you which side to queue to pick up your tour bus number and after a short while we were lead out of the theatre and off the ship.
As usual, the shore excursion coaches were located right next to the ship and within a few moments, we were off and away into Palermo. Our guide spoke English and Spanish throughout the tour and was happy to answer any additional questions we had throughout the tour. He first took us on a coach tour around part of the city, showing us the different architectural styles of the city. We also went past areas like the commercial fruit and veg market where traders fill up their small vehicles daily and then park them on street corners to sell to the public!
We also stopped at the Chinese Palace, an ancient royal palace dating back to the late 18th Century.
After a drive out to the beach and past several 4-6 Million EUR properties which lined it, we were back in the heart of the city again and our tour went from coach to on foot.
We followed the guide through the small streets until he took us to several venues to try out some of the Sicilian delights.
The first one was Cannolo. These consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta. We were given two each (Cannoli), one of which was ricotta the other one was chocolate and they were delicious!
It was interesting to note that whilst we were all outside eating the cannoli that the local school children were visiting the same establishment to buy slices of pizza with chips (french fries) on them. I thought that food was just something you created after a drunken night out at a local takeaway – it appears not!
The next stop was a small bar that served us a small sample of Italian sweet dessert wine. Just what you needed at 11 am, right? It was pretty sweet and available for us to purchase at 13 EUR per bottle if we wanted (a few people did). Whilst we were here I bought an espresso and it was fantastic! Just opposite the bar was Catterdrale di Palermo (Palermo Cathedral) which opened in 1179.
The walk continued through the streets and got chance to look at the “4 Canti” which is an octagonal piazza, four sides being the streets; the remaining four sides are Baroque buildings, the near-identical facades of which contain fountains with statues of the four seasons.
Then we headed to one of Palermo’s five local markets. We got to explore the Mercato di Capo, which is a fresh food market squeezed into tiny backstreets. The smell of the fresh fruit, veg and cooked goods, as you walked through the streets, was amazing. Our guide took us to a small cafe where they had organised for us to have two Arancini each. These are stuffed rice balls, coated with mozzarella and then deep-fried – they are delicious!
After our walk through the market, we headed back into the busy city centre main streets and past the pedestrianised shopping area. Here we viewed the Teatreo Massimo from the outside and our guide discussed the history of it with us. We then were given an hour of free time if we wanted or we could make our own way back to the ship (which was about a twenty-minute walk along the pedestrianised shopping area).
We chose the walk back to the ship and it wasn’t hard to find it, a simple right at the end of a road and you couldn’t miss MSC Meraviglia towering in the port!
Palermo from the air
Once back on board it was nice to see some strawberries dipped in chocolate and a bottle of Prosecco on ice awaiting us. These aren’t any special perks for us – you get them if you are at the Black level in the MSC Voyager’s Club. How do you get to that level? Take a number of cruises with MSC Cruises or use their amazing Status Match scheme and you’ll either get it immediately or can level up (depending on your loyalty with other cruise lines). If you haven’t been on an MSC Cruise yet and haven’t done their Status Match scheme yet – then you absolutely must do it, there are numerous other free perks too! You can read about what it is, how it works and how to apply for it on a guide we’ve published previously!
We decided with the weather conditions and surroundings being good that we’d get our drone and get back off the ship to do a bit of filming. Those that followed us on our MSC Magnifica voyage will have seen some of the stunning footage we managed to capture of MSC Magnifica in various ports as we travelled around Northern Europe and the Mediterranean.
After taking some short footage of the ship and some aerial photos we headed back onto the ship and went to take for a look around her. We decided as we were leaving early that we’d watch the sail away from our balcony, especially considering it looked like a storm was heading over Palermo and to us. Thankfully, as we are in the ‘ship for all weathers’ it wouldn’t curtail any of our evening plans!
After we set sail, sure enough, the wind started, it started raining and the sea state got a little choppy – the ship is moving around a little now, but nothing too uncomfortable for us.
We decided to use our third Speciality Restaurant booking and tonight we decided upon Butcher’s Cut
First though, let me just say – due to the fact I was busy copying photos, setting things to upload and so on, I realised we were going to be late for our reservation at 6. Now usually you would just phone the restaurant and make the change – but on the MSC for Me App and on our cabin TV you can find your reservations and simply modify the time to one that suits you! How cool is that? I moved it to 7 and it confirmed it on the screen.
Butcher’s Cut is described as a laid-back American-style steakhouse. It is located on Deck 7 on the upper terrace of the promenade and offers seating outside (overlooking the promenade) and inside too.
As we had the dining package, we had a choice from the Set Dining Experience. This is valued at 39 EUR each and offers exceptional value for money. Again, you can purchase additional mains, sides or desserts on top with a 50% discount on each.
For starters, Sara had Hearts of Palm (Avocado, Campari Tomatoes, Raspberry Vinaigrette) and I had the Classic Caesar (Romaine, Croutons, Parmigiano Reggiano).
For our main course, we both had the Filet Mignon steak and it was so tender that just writing about it right now makes me want to go back there in an instant! Instead of picking one sauce, you are given a selection of four on a small platter to share.
Finally, for dessert, Sara had the NY Cheesecake and I had the Lava Cake. Although Sara’s looked great and she said it was really nice, I without a doubt picked the dessert of champions. It was incredible – baked to perfection, the chocolate just oozed out as I cut into it and it had the right amount of vanilla ice cream with it too!
Again, we used our inclusive drinks package to have wine and water with our meal – so no bill at the end and the staff were very friendly with great service.
After dinner, we took a walk around the ship and visited the casino briefly (Deck 7), although tonight decided we weren’t feeling lucky enough and just looked at what was on offer. Unfortunately, the ship was still moving around a fair bit as crossed the Tyrrhenian Sea en route to our next stop and Sara was getting a bit seasick. So, we decided to cut our night short and head back to the cabin.
Back in the cabin, it was apparent just how bad the weather was. According to the map on the cabin TV, we had winds of over 50knts blowing across the ship and spray was blowing up past our balcony in huge quantities. I opened the balcony door briefly and was quickly showered with spray, but for you lucky readers, I braved it a short while to take some photos and record some footage of the bad weather. After I dried off and finished writing up the day I thought it was time for bed. We are now en route to Cagliari on the island of Sardinia and have 218 nautical miles to say in a Westerly direction. Hopefully, this storm will have gone before we get to the next port – it’d be a shame to have a non-sunny port!