“Once a year, go some place you have never been before” – Dalai Lama
My family and I have enjoyed short boat rides during seaside holidays, however never embarked on a long haul cruise before, so when my father asked us to vote between a Mediterranean cruise or trip to Singapore – our votes were unanimous … we would be sailing the seas! We booked our eastern Mediterranean cruise with MSC Cruises during August, as it was a special trip to celebrate my mother’s 50th birthday. The 7 day itinerary was Venice – Bari – Katakolon – Izmir -Istanbul and Dubrovnik, with 1 full day sea before returning to Venice.
MSC Divina represents timeless elegance and glamour, and was blessed by the iconic Italian actress Sophia Lauren in 2012. It can accommodate over 5,000 passengers (guests and crew), has 18 decks, and weighs 139,000 tons (that’s the weight of almost 20,000 male African elephants). The ship features a wide range of restaurants, from casual to fine dining, as well as several bars and lounges scattered across the decks. The centre point and to intensify the glamour, is none other than a stunning Swarovski crystal staircase, which serves as a meeting point. It also offers gift shops and bazaars where you can buy products at discounted prices, and let’s not forget, a fully licensed casino.
Let’s start with check in. Similarly to an airport, at your point of embarkation, there are check in counters. The staff register you and prepare an ID card for you, which mentions your stay dates, meal plan, and is linked to your passport and credit card, since no financial transactions are allowed on board the cruise. Once you check out, the finance office checks your card for all purchases made, and you settle the bill – just like in a hotel. We dropped off our baggage at the designated area, and it would be delivered to our rooms once we boarded the ship. Upon entry, there were scanners, again just like in an airport and the security scanned our ID cards, so that they can control the passenger manifest. As there are stops in several countries, this is how the staff keep track that everyone is back on board and no gets left behind.
Different room categories are available based on your budget, however each room is designed for ultimate comfort, with a bathroom en-suite, work station and satellite TV channels – just like in a hotel. My brother and I had an amazing room with a balcony, which is where I spent every morning and night, enjoying the scent of the blue sea. Every morning, we would receive a daily program which informed us about the weather, special activities taking place, a message from the captain, and information about our next destination.
The packages offered are based on all inclusive for meals, which meant, we could eat any where, any time we wanted to. Breakfast was served in the all day dining restaurant and featured dishes from around the world, catering to everyone’s breakfast preference. Lunch we generally enjoyed in the cities which we explored, while the ship was docked, however all restaurants were open and welcomed guests. For dinner, we were allocated a meal time at an Italian restaurant, which served a set menu every day (changing items of course), and a view to die for! When I think back of the options we had, I must admit the cruise was literally a small city on the sea – I cannot imagine anything was missed out on, in terms of variety of cuisine and cool concepts.
99% of our days were spent away from the ship, exploring the different destinations, however entertainment was offered all day and night long. There were fitness activities by the pool side, kids club shows and my favourite, after-dinner live musical shows, which literally brought tears to my eyes, how incredible they were! After the live shows, each bar had its own type of entertainment organized, whether a singing duo, fully themed party, or a funky DJ. Apart from the live shows, we especially enjoyed sitting under the Swarovski stairs and listening to the melodies performed by various singers, violinists and pianists (they even played some Disney songs).
The cruise always has a dedicated tourism office which can assist you in booking tour guides or activities in every destination. We preferred to take the big bus tours in the larger cities, and wandered around on our own, in the smaller cities. You may be wondering about that full day at sea, and it might seem boring or terrifying; the reality is far from that. The ship is equipped with almost 24 hour live entertainment, as I have mentioned above, and apart from that, it has the prefect facilities for relaxation. It’s gigantic swimming pool covers the entire upper deck, which means you can bake all day long while admiring the blue sea. The restaurants and bars are available all day long, so you will never ever feel a hint of thirst or hunger, and it has a state of the art gym and spa, offering full service treatments and classes, so you can get the 5 star pampering. What more do you need?
That was our first adventure in 2012, and because it was such an incredible experience, we booked a western Mediterranean cruise with MSC Precioza, the following year! That one took us to Marseilles – Genoa – Naples – Sicily – Tunis and Barcelona, with 1 full day at sea before returning to Marseilles. I must point out that the weather was perfect during both cruises, however my brother will never forget that one storm while we were crossing the strait from Sicily to Tunis, when (according to him), the ship nearly turned upside down and he was sitting in bed with his life jacket on. I however, slept peacefully through the night 🙂
Apart from spending an incredible week together, my family and I discovered new places which we probably would never have visited on a regular summer holiday. I always yearn for more travel because our world is so amazing, but I can honestly say the most magical part of both cruises, was that I have seen the sun rise and set in 12 different places. We are already planning our next cruise, which will explore the countries of the North Sea, and I cannot wait!
Check out the MSC website here, and book your dream cruise today!
Disclaimer: All views are my own and all photographs are © My Pink Diary, unless otherwise stated.