A Taste Of The Mediterranean With MSC
Until now, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has cruised only through Europe and the Americas (and the transatlantic route in between), but for the first time in the history of the company, a ship from its fleet has dipped into Aussie waters to bring the hospitality of southern Europe to our doorstep.
I was lucky enough to join the MSC Orchestra for a two-night sail from Brisbane to Sydney.
Upon embarkation, I was pleasantly surprised by the glamour of the ship. Not sleek and sparkly like Celebrity nor quirky and kitsch like Carnival, the decor was bold but inoffensive, interesting and, despite the leopard lamp stands in the aptly-named Savannah Bar, understated.
Our interior cabin was meticulously clean and cosy. Just twin beds (convertible to queen), a small desk, television above the mini bar and bathroom with stand-up shower.
We got a chance to see some other cabins during a tour of the ship and I noted that the ocean view and balcony cabins were substantially larger, with sitting room and sofa. It would be worth the extra money upgrading if you're sailing for more than a couple of days, especially if you've flown all the way to Europe.
There was a distinctly European feel on board that I'm sure would have been more keenly felt had the ship been in home waters. English was not the only language spoken, which made for an interesting Trivia quiz, with each question (and later, each answer) communicated in Italian, French, German and English.
I popped into the gym for a visit and happened to find, in my opinion, the best view on the ship. Running (and sometimes stumbling with the motion of the ocean) on the treadmill, looking out over the endless ocean was really rewarding.
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Those who don't plan on sweating it out at the gym on holiday (who can blame them), can take advantage of excellent sea day spa specials.
For me, the entertainment on this ship was the real highlight. The Orchestra's Batman-themed performance in the Covent Garden Theatre featured an extremely talented cast of singers, dancers, a juggler and magician. There was a huge amount of energy and the cast all appeared to be having a good time.
The entertainment staff also kept themselves busy getting people up to dance on the pool deck. The band was always lively and played a variety of music. We performed Zumba, line danced and free-styled. Top marks to the staff for all the entertainment options!
Overall, this wasn't luxury on the high seas, but it wasn't supposed to be. If you're looking for a good-value cruise in Europe or the Caribbean, MSC is absolutely a great choice. You'll pay much less for really interesting itineraries.
For travellers cruising without children, it's definitely best to avoid the European summer school holidays because kids cruise free (only paying taxes and port fees) and the ships can be slightly less than peaceful.
Written by: Kate Hamilton, Cruise Expert at Cruiseabout Bowral, NSW
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