Jaz Aqua Marine – Hurghada

In a break with our usual holiday style we booked a last minute holiday for 7 nights all inclusive at the Jaz Aqua Marine through TUI. When I say last minute I mean it. We finalised plans on the Wednesday to fly out on the Thursday morning.

The 9:30am flight from BHX meant we were in the hotel by 6pm. Important to note is that on arrival at Hurghada (and all Egyptian airports) it is necessary to purchase a visa at $25 USD or £20GBP. Take cash with you for this as it is not possible to use cards to pay.

Our Superior Room, 1250 was nice and spacious with a balcony overlooking one of the hotel’s many pools. Here’s a tour of the room:

As with most traditional all inclusive resorts most meals are buffet style, however guests of the Aqua Marine can enjoy three meals on a 7 night holiday in the a la carte restaurants – Italian, Chinese, Indian, Seafood or Middle-Eastern cuisine.

On the first night we had some food in the buffet and it was themed that night around Chinese with plenty to choose from. I could imagine at full capacity the buffet would be incredibly busy, however the longer opening hours would help negate that.

The styling of the hotel is classy with plenty of wow factor:

In terms of the Speciality dining, we tried the Italian, Nino’s and found the food very good with an ambient atmosphere. We enjoyed it that much we had two of our three meals there. We also tried the Chinese but didn’t enjoy it so much.

Other dining options during the day include the pool bar La Perla and the Paradisio beach bar plus sandwich, hot dog and pizza offerings around the hotel gardens, in addition to the buffet. We tried both La Perla and Paradisio as well as the pool bar at Jaz Blue.

All of the food we ate was to a good standard and service consistently friendly and efficient.

Sample pool / beach menus:

The all inclusive drinks package offered a good range of beverages, including cocktails which can be ordered between 10am and 11pm. As it’s so long since our last holiday like this we’d forgotten about ‘local spirits’ which are the standard for this kind of holiday. Alternative brands were available, at cost however the charge was prohibitive. It is perhaps something tour operators could consider on whether to offer a premium plus upgrade option, however id imagine in countries such as Egypt where importing alcohol is costly this might not be a viable opportunity.

For an excursion we made contact with Mahmoud Eid via Facebook and one of the groups set up for the guests of the hotel. Mahmoud provides us with a trip to the ‘Dolphin House’ – a full day out to sea, swimming with dolphins, snorkelling at the coral reef, banana boat and lunch for £20 – absolute bargain.

We really enjoyed our holiday, and would recommend it as an alternative to traditional destinations. Egypt is a safe country to visit and we hope to return one day for another Nile cruise. If direct Luxor flights aren’t resumed we’d definitely opt to stay at the Aquamarine either side.

MSC Grandiosa – dining

The MSC Grandiosa offers a number of dining options from complimentary snacks in the Sky Lounge through to Spanish Tapas in Hola! The speciality restaurant by two-Michelin star chef Ramon Freixa.

So… let’s have a look at some of the different options available!

Every ship will have at least two complimentary options. Bella and Fantastica guests on MSC Grandiosa will be assigned a dinner table in one of the Main Dining Rooms on deck 5 or 6.

Here’s a video to give you a feel for this area of the ship.

Aurea guests have their own dining room, a new addition to MSC Grandiosa. This is conveniently located on deck 7 by the Champagne Bar! (Note Aurea comes with the Easy drinks package which does not include the Champagne, you’d need Premium Plus for that, or pay as you go!)

Aurea restaurant

MSC Yacht Club guests dine in the exclusive restaurant on Deck 17, reached from the Top Sail Lounge by the line’s signature Swarovski crystal staircase

So this leads us on nicely to the Speciality Dining options. We dined in two of them, The Butchers Cut and the L’Atelier Bistro.

L’Atelier

L’Atelier, as we mentioned in our other post about Grandiosa, is situated on the Galleria Grandiosa and features distinct seating areas including a private dining space. Not to be missed is the collection of original Degas paintings!

The escargots in here were amazing and probably the best I’ve ever had.

Sitting in the bistro and sipping an absinthe whilst listening to the cool melodies you can transport yourself to Paris.

Butchers Cut

The Butchers Cut steak house is the most popular speciality dining in the fleet and MSC have recently converted the speciality dining option on their Fantasia class ship to Butchers Cut!

Sitting outside the restaurant on deck 7 means you get to people watch and observe the fantastic dome shows!

Kaito Sushi and Teppan Yaki

Right next door to the Butchers Cut is the Oriental speciality option. We didn’t eat here but loved the Teppan Yaki on the Meraviglia so much we went twice! Important to note is that Teppan Yaki is no longer included in the Diamond Card perk, however Sushi is.

Hola!

The Tapas bar on deck 6 offers a selection of authentic Spanish tapas and fine wines including dreamy Rioja!

Masters of the Sea pub

The pub offers a small selection of bar snacks, including burgers, hot dogs and fish and chips. We shared a hot dog one day and it was delicious!

Interested in finding out more about MSC Cruises? Come join our dedicated Facebook group MSC Cruises UK & ROI Passenger Forum!

Read more about MSC Grandiosa here: Greatness At Sea

Greatness At Sea

Before we write our full review, we wanted to share with you a few things which definitely shouldn’t be missed on MSC Grandiosa. Some are unique to this ship and others are firm favourites on MSC ships.

 

Sport-plex including F1 simulator, bowling alley, VR Maze and cinema as well as a games arcade (all at extra cost).

Whilst many of these features can be found on the newer MSC Cruises ships, the offering is somewhat enhanced for MSC Grandiosa. We’d highly recommend checking out the Fun Passes that are available and offer extra credit. Tim particularly enjoyed the VR Maze featuring the legend of the Minotaur (the huge spiders that were scurrying around were pretty scary!)

 

The Sky Lounge

The adults-only mixology bar on deck 19 offers a varied selection of smoky and molecular cocktails (available on the Premium Plus package) as well as classic cocktails, bottled beers and wines by the glass. Over-looking the main pool area this can be a quiet haven. In the evening expect chilled out music and also savour the delights of some canapes or sweet treats. Those familiar with the design of MSC ships will understand there is no forward-facing observation lounge as the front of the ship is occupied by the exclusive MSC Yacht Club, so the Sky Lounge offers a great place to watch from as you arrive in to port.

The Sky Lounge can also be found on MSC Bellissima and MSC Meraviglia.

 

Do-Re-Mi Land, Himalayan Rope Bridge and Aqua Park

The kids clubs on MSC cruises are second-to-none with different options available depending on the age of your child. MSC Cruises gave partnered with Lego and Chicco to provide the very best activities for children.

Of course the fun doesn’t have to stop when you reach adult hood! The Himalayan Rope Bridge and the Aqua Park featuring various different water slides offers fun for everyone (height restrictions apply to some activities)

 

Galleria Grandiosa

No blog about this ship would be complete without mentioning the Galleria Grandiosa, which features a giant LED screen which runs along the domed roof of the Galleria. It is perhaps the signature of the Meraviglia and Meriviglia-plus class of cruise ship.

The Galleria is the focal point for entertainment activities such as dome shows featuring outer-space and fireworks from around the world. The scene on the dome changes throughout the day and can include the flag of the country where you’re docked, the roof of the Sagjada Familia or even Galleria Umberto to name just a few. It is stunning and will surely take your breath away if you’ve not seen it before!

The central bridge in the Galleria is also where the ship’s Godmother Sophia Loren officially welcomed the ship to the MSC family, soon followed by DJ sets from Mousse-T on the christening night, and of course “DJ Paradise” welcomed Scott Mills to play an excellent set whilst the ship was over-night in Southampton.

This leads us on nicely to what we think is the number one feature of MSC Grandiosa…

 

L’Atelier Bistro

The Bistro, as it’s name will suggest, is a French restaurant located off the Galleria on deck 6. It truly is a stunning venue, with the feel of an authentic Parisian spot. A formal dining restaurant in one section, with a private dining table available for groups of up to eight guests. An informal bar area with tables out in to the aforementioned Galleria and also a cocktail lounge which plays host to some excellent musicians. The styling of L’Atelier reminds us of the best parts of The Ivy and Malmaison where we have had some excellent times together, but then taken to the next level.

The menu for the restaurant features French classics such as rillettes, escargots and moules. The extensive drinks list offers various types of absinthe, pastis as well as fine cognacs and Champagne. It’s important to note this is a speciality restaurant so an Easy drinks package cannot be used here, however the Premium Plus package will ensure you can enjoy the absolute best drinks on offer (a varied selection is also available with the Premium Package).

But that’s not all. L’Atelier is also home to 36 original Degas drawings. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better… BOOM! Bravo MSC! The hash tags for the ships are so accurate, if MSC Bellissima was #BeautyAtSea then MSC Grandiosa truly is #GreatnessAtSea

The perfect recipe

Ingredients –

The city: Hamburg

Cruise line: MSC

Ship: MSC Grandiosa

Godmother: Sophia Loren

Music: Mousse T

Method:

Embark the ship at 12 noon and be welcomed aboard in true MSC style with an Aperol Spritz and quickly follow with a glass of Champagne .

Meander around the stunning ship and experience some of the speciality restaurants, diverse and wonderful bars taking in the atmosphere, meeting friends from previous cruises and of course make new friends.

Change in to evening attire ready for the evening’s festivities. Drink more Champagne.

Attend naming ceremony – ensure you’re within touching distance of Sophia Loren

Go for gala dinner with menu curated by 3 Michelin star chef Harald Wohlfahrt.

Go to Casino and lose €500 worth of chips on Roulette

Continue partying until the early hours. Drink copious amounts in order to ensure the ship is not carrying too much weight in the form of bottles.

Go to bed.

Wake up next morning with headache and go to Guest Services to arrange to transfer cabin to the exclusive MSC Yacht Club.

Cruise and Maritime Voyages Magellan

In early October 2019 we took a 3 night mini cruise on the CMV Magellan, which was built in the 80s and served as the Carnival Holiday, hence her dolphin wings on the funnel.

We had booked an outside cabin and were assigned 6131. The cabin had twin beds that could be made in to a double and a Pullman on the wall. As to be expected the cabin was dated by modern standards but on first appearance clean and would do us fine for 3 nights. We decided not to get the beds pushed together to make a double as it wouldn’t be quite big enough.

Owing to the age and size of the ship we fully expected it to be different to our usual size of cruising, and were up for the small ship experience of getting to know the crew and fellow passengers. We knew the entertainment would be somewhat more sedate and the range of bars limited.

Drinks prices were reasonable which was great since a drinks package was not available. £15 for a bottle of house wine isn’t too bad.

Our assigned dinner table was in the Waldorf Restaurant on a table for 6. Our table companions were people who’d not cruised before and we all got on incredibly well.

The food on the first night was tasty enough, particularly the Thai Beef Salad. The Carbonara didn’t appeal as it should NEVER contain cream!

one disappointing aspect was that a number of times we were asked by crew if Andy is my dad. I think about 15 times in total over the 3 nights with most being on the first night.

After a couple of drinks in the pub listening to some Irish music and by chance meeting some ladies who follow our blog and MSC groups it was soon time for bed.

On getting in to bed, I noticed that the light fitting above the bed had what appeared to be flies in it! After further investigation so that I could ask the steward when I saw him to give it a wipe, it turned out to be thick with dust!

Obviously this didn’t impact my sleep, and could wait until the next morning, just wasn’t nice to see (this fitting is open so it was easy just to put my phone up to get the picture.

What did impact our sleep was the bizarre whistling noise heard intermittently through the night! I contacted reception and they just advised the ship was full and nothing could be done. Great.

The next morning we went to the Kensington restaurant for breakfast which was served quickly. A range of traditional breakfast items were available to order, and we had a quick look at the buffet to check whether it was roughly the same. Andy didn’t enjoy his full English and thought the ingredients were cheap. I was surprised at the sauce on the eggs florentine – it wasn’t smooth in the way a Hollandaise tends to be, perhaps they were sat warming for a long time?

It did feel as if it was an inconvenience to ask for another glass of orange juice.

We watched the sail in to Dublin from the top deck and I had a cappuccino from the pool bar – again I think we inconvenienced the bar man as most of the customers were using the ‘free for all’ in the Raffles bistro to get their own hot drinks.

We arrived in Dublin and took the complimentary shuttle to the city and took in the main spots such as the GPO and Temple Bar

We headed back to the ship in time to change for dinner, and as we’d not eaten since breakfast and were on the late sitting went to the buffet to get something to tide us over. The evening menu wasn’t to our taste so we therefore went back out to Dublin and had a fantastic night out on the town, taking a taxi back to the ship at around midnight.

It did seem strange to have a gala night when the ship was overnight in port with many guests out on an excursion for the evening!

Unfortunately yet again we didn’t sleep well due to the thin walls but owing to the tiredness perhaps better than the first night. The steward still hadn’t done anything about the dust that I’d pointed out to him!

For our second day in port, Saturday, the programme of events on the ship was the same as the day before – I.e. very little with activities such as take yourself for a walk, Christian meet up and jigsaw puzzles.

With that in mind we caught a shuttle to Dublin with the aim of spending as much time off the ship as possible. We went to the Guinness stores and had a great time, learning about the black stuff and pulling our own pints (someone knocked me slightly so there’s a little spillage on mine)

By this point we’d decided that aside from the dust, thin walls and the noise the line just wasn’t for us even though there was nothing ‘wrong’ with the line. Fair enough the food and entertainment wasn’t to our personal choice but that’s exactly all it is – personal choice and we completely understand why others would actually find what they enjoy on this line.

Then things got worse.

We got back on to the ship and went to the cabin. We walked past one a couple of doors down that had the door open and an industrial blower. We got back to ours and lo and behold there was one in ours. The steward soon came to say there had been a small leak a few doors down, ours wasn’t impacted too badly but to give it an hour and we should be fine. Not a problem we thought an hour isn’t too bad and we could drop the bag and go on deck to relax.

An hour and a half later we went to change for dinner. Andy has a bottle of cola by the window and went to get it. The floor was sodden. So much for an hour!

There was no way it would be dry that evening or we could have the dryer going. Back to reception!

I asked the receptionist what had happened with the leak and he was oblivious. We showed him the video of the wet floor and he replied that it wasn’t the cruise line’s problem and not their fault! We had to be very insistent to move cabin for the final night, so it was then back to pack earlier than we anticipated and to move.

Our new cabin on deck 7 was of a similar standard – we didn’t bother unpacking for obvious reasons! There was a bag of laundry in the room that was removed promptly. We both noticed a tube of Pringles on the tea tray and thought it odd as there is no mini bar type service…

On to the restaurant for dinner and we had another lovely time with our tablemates.

The food again was tasty enough but really felt too similar to what we could have at home, whereas when we go on holiday we enjoy ‘different’ cuisines and more unusual choices. We both commented on how nearly every hot dish is served in a sauce – possibly because it’s easier to keep warm?

On returning to the cabin that evening we were exasperated to find that the new cabin steward had placed someone else’s rubbish of a toothbrush, ratty old suit carrier and an empty sea sickness tablets box on my bed! Where on earth had that come from? Did she think it was ours that had been left elsewhere in the cabin since we had the cases on the bed ready to put out for disembarkation? Why were they still there from the last passenger? The mysterious Pringles has also gone so I can only assume that the room hadn’t been fully cleaned after the last guests had checked out in Dublin!

A slightly better nights sleep followed after I’d calmed down however we were again up early to make sure we were ready to disembark as early as possible. We were ready to leave the ship after the issues and near sleepless nights!

When our allotted time came to disembark we went to the gangway on deck 3. There was one last parting shot after queuing for 30 minutes or so. We were not allowed off the ship as reception wanted to see us.

Back up to deck 5 to reception. Gave our details, the receptionist looked perplexed and searched for the details. It was regarding the flood and was to ask us to see reception when we got back onboard the day prior!

Back down to queue again and we were finally let off the ship.

We will not be going with CMV ever again after this. As mentioned previously we would have been happy to have turned round and said it was ok but not for us, but with these further problems our opinion is very negative.

It was of course wonderful to see the Liver Building and the Cunard Building!

What a week!

Thought we’d write a short blog post as what we have to say is too long for a Facebook status update!

This week has been so busy it’s been incredible. Monday was an ordinary day taken up by our day jobs (hey, it pays us to go cruising so we can’t knock it!).

Tuesday we travelled down to MSC’s offices in Uxbridge for the big announcement about MSC Magnifica being renovated and coming back to the UK for her 2021 summer season with some exciting itineraries to the Meditteranean, Norwegian Fjords and the Canaries. This kept our Facebook group really busy and we’ve started another one for MSC Magnifica.

You can read more about our night out here:

MSC Magnifica news

Prior to the announcement we had a tour of the MSC Cruises Cruise Management Centre from where the company look after the whole of their cruise fleet, world-wide with cutting edge technology. We were really wowed by this.

Our main Facebook group https://m.facebook.com/groups/MSCUKForum/?ref=group_header&view=group reached a new high of membership numbers with over 4,800 people belonging to our group.

We also have a group specific for travel agent deals and one of our travel agent friends has booked 100 passengers on MSC this week, many of whom made contact through that group.

On Friday we then booked ourselves on a cruise. Magnifica was just too magnificent to resist the deal we got on a balcony on this cruise:

You cane read what we thought of our first trip on Magnifica in this post: https://timthorpetravel.com/2018/04/02/hannover-and-msc-magnifica/

Our weekend consisted of a visit to the fantastic Electric Cinema in Birmingham to watch Downton Abbey followed by some fantastic drinks in Birmingham. Then lots of shopping and gardening over the weekend as we try to get back to normal after building our extension earlier in the year.

MSC Magnifica news

The news is finally out regarding MSC Magnifica and the ambitious plans for renovating the nine year old Musica-class ship ahead of it’s home-porting in Southampton for the summer season of 2021. We’ve known some of the details about this since March this year and it’s killed us keeping it a secret.

We’ve built an excellent working relationship with MSC Cruises mainly due to the forum we run https://m.facebook.com/groups/MSCUKForum/?ref=group_header&view=group and of course having cruised with the line 28 times in five years means we have a great knowledge of the company. We were honoured to be invited to the company’s head office in Uxbridge last night for the unveiling of the plans and the fabulous new itineraries.

In the same style as every MSC cruise a reception was held with free flowing Aperol Spritz and Prosecco on offer.

MSC moved in to their new offices just days after the Brexit vote in 2016 and since then have invested heavily in the site, with MSC Cruise Management being based in the building. This impressive operation has a state of the art control room with direct links to every ship in the MSC Cruises fleet and is the nerve centre for the fleet worldwide. The Cruise Management area is also set up with representatives from every department you’d find on a cruise ship.

Captain Pier Paolo Scala and MD of MSC Uk and Ireland Antonio Paradiso gave us a talk on this impressive operation.

Following the tour of the Cruise Management Centre it was back down to the atrium for the big reveal from Antonio – you can watch the full video live in our Facebook group but the key highlights are:

  • MSC Magnifica will sail from Southampton once again in 2021 after being renovated at Fincantieri’s ship yard
  • The renovation will include the addition of a new 25 metre section to stretch the ship
  • 215 new cabins will be added, which will take the percentage of balcony cabins onboard to over 65%
  • A new water park and splash area will be added, some of which will be indoors – perfect for any weather
  • An additional speciality restaurant will be added and the existing one reconfigured
  • The Southampton season will feature 24 sailings, with exciting, new itineraries to the Canary Islands, Norwegian Fjords, The Baltic and of course the favourite Northern Europe classics of Zeebrugge and Hamburg
  • MSC Magnifica will only embark guests at the port of Southampton

Speaking to us Antonio mentioned that a lot of feedback has been taken from the conversations on our Facebook forum and he spends time everyday reading the forum to keep up with how UK and Irish guests are feeling.

The evening was rounded off with a DJ set from DJ Paradise! Thank you for such a great evening MSC