May 30, 2010 in Mediterranean | Comments (61)


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The towering figure of MSC Magnifica

(This is a wrap-up on the earlier posts onboard MSC Magnifica on the Mediterranean – 24 April to 1 May.)

MSC Magnifica is a gleaming white, brand new queen of a ship with a vast interior loaded with everything you expect on a cruise – from pools, bars, restaurants and shops to gym, spa, casino, cinema and a theatre that holds 1500 people. Towering up to the 13th and 15th floors, the boat offers 1500 cabins most with private balconies.

We  cruised for seven nights – an adventure in multicultural living.

The ship bubbled and simmered with voices, like a veritable Tower of Babel. Occasionally a loudspeaker would boom into higher life, like a god in the sky:  “Bonjourno”.  Italian would be followed by English, French, Russian and other tongues.

In the a la carte restaurant included in the fare, we found ourselves among quiet Swedes needing to shout a little to compete with the background of more talkative nations. In the buffet restaurant the voices seemed to ricochet everywhere.

But we had our retreat – our cabin high up on the 10th floor was a pleasant and comfortable home – with wall to wall windows and drapes, and the luxury of our own balcony where we sat in sun and wind  away from the crowds on the decks. The bathroom had place for our make-up and the shower was always hot. At night we fell asleep with the sound of the waves.

Other places where luxury of calm prevailed were the spa, hairdresser and beauty salon and some decks that mysteriously remained quiet.

Magnifica has a happy lively feel – but since the main thrust is touring, the partying is quite serene. You are tired at the end of the day, and after a long dinner  plus one of the nightly shows,  you take a few drinks at the bar, browse in the shops,  or sip some decaf – and head to bed. And . I didn’t see a single drunk person – quite a contrast to some cruises I might name…

The route 24 April to 1 May brought a tantalizing taste of different cultures – inviting further travel to  Venice, Bari, Katokolon, Izmir, Istanbul, Dubrovnik, Venice… and tours took you to ancient ruins like Ephesus and Olympia, cathedrals, mosques and markets.

Tours were well organized in an Italian kind of way, considering the vast numbers to get off the one or two gangplanks on arrival at ports. For those of us who chose to go our own way, freedom was sweet, but a little overshadowed by the fear of not getting back to the boat in time (and the difficulty of finding where the boat would dock).

MSC Magnifica is in pristine condition, and they have thought of everything to provide luxury – except perhaps the reception. They need not one, but 10 reception desks to get up to luxury level for all those 2500 passengers. It’s hard to be caring and answer all questions when you have such a pressure of people, and such a range of passenger nationalities.

There was so much to do and explore onboard that you could spend seven nights there and still not see it all.  My favourite spot was one of the deck bars where I drank hot, fragrant latte macchiato (only 1.9 eur), with nut icecream on the side. The air under the retractable glass cover was relaxingly humid like a Finnish sauna, though the noise level was more Italian. There was also a vast deck with glass sides for shelter, and others higher up. Hundreds of sunbeds were dotted around ( usually taken) and bubbling Jacuzzis and imitation palms added a kind of lazy lushness here and there.

The décor is extraordinary – kind of art deco fringed with glitz. The theme is waves and ripples, so the walls all curl and sweep around, and every surface is decorated with wave-like mouldings and textures, with colours changing as new spaces open, and little lights studding the roofs. It does suggest action – and action there was.

All the time something is going  on with 2500 passengers being treated to nightly bands, ensembles, concerts, gala dinners, markets…and the all important ”travel agency” where you crowd around some girls trying to rapidly sell tours. A constant topic of conversation at meals is what tours you will do at the next port. We shared information as information was hard to come by.

Passengers – who are they? Italians were the biggest contingent, Croatians, Swiss, Germans, Austrians, Swedes  – those are the ones I met. But I heard Russian, French, Spanish … and others I cannot name.

Age range on our cruise was wide – with very few young singles, but lots of couples with young children (playroom, children’s pool, underwater world, video arcade). There was also quite a contingent of active pensioners – who enjoyed the tours, dressed up for dinner, watched the shows and sunned on their balconies when time was over, looking very healthy and rosy….

I met a Swiss woman Margaretha Weber who flew her daughter back to Zurich from Istanbul, as she felt there were too few people her age (18) – and felt the disco at midnight was too late after all the early risings.

A little questionnaire I carried out among 6 Swedish passengers gave the reception the lowest points:

Average number stars  out of 5:  Service 5, Shows 5,  Ship facilities 4.8, Cabins  4.3, Food 3.9, Reception 3. Most excursions were considered good.

Service refers to mealtimes. There were four restaurants (one buffet and one a la carte were included in the fare). The waiters, all from Bali I was told, were totally attentive and tried so hard you wanted to cry on their behalf if they made a mistake.

For a day by day account – see the old posts under the blog written on MSC Magnifica.

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