The Grandness of a Grand Voyage

Apologies this is a long post! I just wanted to get this finished a) before I start to forget some of the details and b) so I can focus on our forthcoming wedding and honeymoon on MSC Seaview!

So, as mentioned in my last post I’m changing tact and not doing a day by day update as there are only so many time’s it is possible to say how fabulous the service from each and every one of the crew we encountered was, how helpful they were, but once again I’ll mention our butlers Suantara and Nurus, Gavriela and Bogdan in the Top Sail, the head butler Dany, our waiters Claudio and Penny, Maitre D’ Giuseppe and all of the bar crew from around the ship – particularly Viktoria (who told her colleague to get us a Hendrick’s, pronto, on the first day as she remembered us from a previous cruise on MSC Splendida), Rudolph (in the Cantina Toscana wine bar who knew we wanted a glass of Provençe rose as soon as he saw us) and Elvis (at the Gaudi bar and La Vele).

So what-is a “Grand Voyage”? Simply, it’s MSC’s way of branding a long cruise aka a repositioning. When a ship has finished it’s season in one region and moves to another for the new season. We have completed three of these trips now, with Splendida from Southampton to Genoa, Fantasia from Dubai to Genoa and this latest one from Barbados to Genoa…. Perhaps the heart of the Roman Empire has moved and all “roads” now lead to Genoa! 

Our first port of call on this cruise was Santa Cruz de Tenereife, which is located in the North of Tenerife. Our time in port was about 7 hours if I remember correctly. Although one of the perks of Yacht Club is that you can skip the line to get off the ship at a port of call we weren’t in any rush to go and see the city so enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and got ready to explore Santa Cruz.

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The Bird of Paradise is one of my favourite flowers and it was so lovely to see them growing out in the open – I’m still trying to get mine to flower (indoors) at home – one day hopefully! 

There was a wide range of ship’s excursions available but as we’d been at sea for 5 days (the perils of a trans-Atlantic!) we decided to just have a walk around the city.  Santa Cruz as the capital of Tenerife was well worth a visit, with a nice market, beautiful architecture and lots of nice squares with fountains and gardens. We enjoyed our visit, did some shopping (aloe vera for the sunburn was needed – the wind when crossing the Atlantic disguised the effect of the sun!) and went back to the ship after a couple of beers in the city.

Prior to the cruise, through one of the Facebook groups I made friends with the mother of a trainee Officer onboard, and she had asked whether I’d take her son some custard cream biscuits as this was his first contract. Of course this wasn’t a problem, so I asked the Yacht Club concierge to pass them to him with a note. As you’d expect from the concierge nothing was too much trouble and these made their way to him – to my utter delight his mum posted a picture of them on Facebook! This goes to show the power of social media and the positives it can be used for. There’s so much negativity out there we can all do something small that would make a big impact to someone’s life.

I can imagine that during that first contract, away from home, travelling across the world would be very difficult for a young person and I’m really glad to have put a smile on his face and hopefully eased any home-sickness he was feeling.

Without turning this in to a blog about the positives of social media – here is another!! Through another of the cruising groups we made acquaintance with a lady called Karen and her husband Chris, a pair of Expats now living in the beautiful mountainous area near Malaga. Chris very kindly offered to give us a walking tour of Malaga when we docked there.

Our pre-conception of Malaga, having never called there before was similar to that of Benidorm with high-rise hotels and kiss-me-quick hats. We were taken aback by what we encountered. A charming and ancient Spanish city, again with beautiful architecture and a great vibe to the place.

Chris, I’m sure you will read this and thank you so much for the tour! We will definitely be back!

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At Valencia we stayed onboard, the time in port was pretty short (again another peril of a long cruise, the aim is to get the ship from one area to the next and add in a passenger experience) so we decided to stay onboard and be pampered!

As Black Card members of the MSC Voyagers Club loyalty scheme we were entitled to a free meal in the speciality restaurant El Sombrero – Tex Mex. I’ll be brutally honest here and we tried it on MSC Splendida, didn’t particularly enjoy it so weren’t too fussed about going again, but as it was a fake sea day we chose to go for lunch and take our friends Lesley and Tony with us.

The restaurant was very quiet, with just one other table occupied. The restaurant itself is styled in the American wildest style, with the front of a beautiful Cadillac, cacti, barrels and chairs that don’t look as comfortable as what they really are!

The Black Card selection offered a choice of two starters and two mains and dessert, and should only be used for dinner, however a friendly word with the host and we were able to use our vouchers for lunch – this is something I have always found with MSC – if you ask they will try and do what they can to assist you.

The food arrived and we throughly enjoyed what we had – the Margherita was particularly excellent, and the rib steak was sublime!

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Prior to sail away we went back to the cabin to collect the iPad and a small bluetooth speaker. One thing we used to really love about MSC was the sail away to Time to Say Goodbye. On the sail away from Barbados David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ was played which took some of the magic away for us, so we wanted to (quietly) recreate some memories by playing it ourselves. No need! MSC had sorted it and reverted back to Andrea Boccelli! What is more perfect than sitting in the sun with a glass of Champagne whilst you sail away and on to your next destination.

So, in order to wrap-up this blog as I’ll soon have another one to write about MSC Seaview what more can I add as the highlights of the rest of the cruise?

Afternoon tea in the Top Sail Lounge, served by butlers with white gloves with some very relaxing live piano music playing whilst we savoured sandwiches, cakes and a rarity for us a pot of tea… champagne did follow!

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In terms of ports of call, we had already visited the rest, so we just did our own thing – a bit of shopping in Barcelona, a fake sea day in Marseilles. 

The ‘Bye Bye Show’ performed by the general crew (IE not the professional dancers) on deck towards the end of the cruise was excellent, with crew members from various departments dancing on on the pool deck and show casing their talent. This actually got me quite choked up and feeling like I didn’t want to leave, despite being a few nights prior to the end of our cruise!

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The Dining Services Team including our waitress Penny (middle) dancing

It was also ‘Bye Bye’ to another one of the butlers, the wonder Gavriela who we’d met on a previous cruise – she was going home for a holiday. On her final evening we asked the pianist in the Top Sail Lounge to play ‘Sailing’ for Gavriela – very emotional and appreciated by her. 

There was also another crew show called MSC’s Got Talent, where crew members from all departments took to the stage of the Teatro L’Avanguardia to put on an amazing show. Bogdan was accompanied by one of his colleagues with an excellent rendition of Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’.

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The final dinner was again excellent with a well-balanced steak tartare, champagne risotto and a mixed grill from the Tex Mex being on the menu. Saying goodbye to the excellent staff we’d made friends with in the restaurant was tough and I hope to meet them all again one day!

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Penny, Claudio, Giuseppe and us

 

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The sun sets for the last night on our cruise credit Tony Mellish

 

Disembarkation in Genoa was easy, we were escorted off by our butler Nurus all the way through Passport control to baggage reclaim. Waiting for the coaches to the airport could have been better and perhaps next time given the proximity of Genoa cruise terminal and the airport we will take a taxi.

All in all this was a great cruise from start to finish. The Yacht Club really is something special with luxury spilling out of the seams. That being said, we really enjoy the usual MSC product and the food in the ‘normal’ dining room suits us, so if by the time we have our usual balcony cabin with premium drinks Yacht Club is within reach we will of course cruise Yacht Club, however I wouldn’t say I would only cruise in the Yacht Club as others have mentioned previously. We have four more cruises on MSC ships booked in, and cannot wait to be back onboard.

To us, a holiday is about all of those moments that make memories. I hope you’ve enjoyed me sharing some of them with you through this blog.

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