Monday, 15 June 2015

7 night Cruise onboard MSC Fantasia, 7 night Spain, France and Malta Cruise

David Kinsella, 7 night Cruise onboard MSC Fantasia.

My cruise began in Genoa,Italy from where MSC Fantasia sets sail every Sunday on its 7 night Spain, France & Malta cruise. Although Genoa is inconvenient for flights from Ireland, the great thing about Fantasia is that she will also pick up guests in Barcelona on Friday's- which is very convenient for e travel customers.

My home for the week had 18 decks of entertainment, restaurants, bar, shops & pools- everything you could want on a holiday, all in one location, just press a button in the elevator and see where it takes you! I had an Balcony cabin on port side with splendid sea views and each morning it was a pleasure to stand in awe as we arrived at a new port of call. Equally in the evening, the sail away from port as the sun set was a sight to behold.

Genoa itself is an interesting city and a taxi is cheap to the centre. Further afield by 30 minute train is Santa Margharita. Walkers will love the coastal walk from here to famous Portofino. MSC has 4 hour excursions to Genoa (€40) and €60 to Portofino- not cheap but may suit some.

Most evenings we ate in our designated waiter restaurant "Red Velvet"  The menu consisted of 6 course meals which apparently is the Italian way of evening dining. Each course is relatively small so you should go for at least 4 if not all 6. Worried that it would be all Italian, I was relieved to find only one pasta course- otherwise a varied international choice was offered. We dined at at 9pm (alternative is 6.30pm). I found the waiter service very good but do allow 2 hours for evening dining. First night is casual dress. 

The buffet restaurant is open up to 20 hours per day and serving up to 13 different nationality of foods. It is extremely popular and nearly always busy. I found the waiter restaurant Il Cherchio D'Oro much more relaxing for breakfast & lunch although it has limited opening times.

In Naples I went on an excursion to Pompeii (€52/ 4 hours). I have been before but am always intrigued by this story of its excess & disaster. Other MSC excursions go to Sorrento (€40/4 hours), Capri (€80/5 hours), Naples (€52/4 hours), It is worth noting that all are easily done independently for a fraction of the cost. 

The suggested dress for the second night was White. While this is not compulsory, entering into the spirit of things will really enhance your experience on an MSC cruise. The 45 minute theatre show was a "cirque de soleil" style show with dramatic acrobatics. Shows are at 7.45pm for second dining and 21.30pm for first dining. There are at least 14 bars on board and each offer their own entertainment- Karaoke,  Jazz, Piano, dancing, live music, quizzes, bingo, wine tasting bar, Cappuccino Bar, Sports bar and Night Club to name but a few.

Messina in Sicily featured next on the itinerary. The charming town itself is easily managed on foot from the ship independently although the local shop owners did not appear to be too fussed about selling to its visitors?  MSC offer excursions further afield to Mt Etna (€52/ 4 hours), Taormina (€56/ €5 hours) and full day combinations from €63/ 8 hours). There were plenty of taxi drivers negotiating at the port for island tours.

MSC cruises are a very family friendly cruise line and therefore expect the pool areas to be very busy with families, music & entertainment. An excellent alternative is the adult only Deck 18- a quiet oasis to sunbathe all day (€10 per day or €40 for 7 day package)- well worth it.

Tonight was the first Gala Night with Black Tie as the suggested dress.

A short stop but very rewarding port of call was Valletta- capital of Malta. The centre is easily found by elevator (€1) or a variety of taxis, electronic cars and traditional horse-drawn carriage have you there in minutes. For me the electronic car was an entertaining and hilarious trip as our driver pretended to just about make it to the top of a steep street and then go over the brow like a roller coaster! I visited the Co-Cathedral of St John. So plain on the outside- hiding an incredible interior. €6 including audio guide. Valletta is stunning, its people very friendly and prices inexpensive.

Very much an Italian theme tonight and suggested dress was Green,White & Red. Classical Italian Arias were performed in the theatre show. 

There is a sizeable Spa area, huge casino, and excellent sports facilities such as a state of the art gym, basketball court, tennis, squash, mini golf. The ship also features a 4D Cinema, duty free shops and an exclusive suite only area called The Yacht Club.

My next port of call was Palma de Mallorca- this time the ship arrives in the evening time 9pm until 5am. Palma itself looked stunning lit up in the night sky. A 10 minute taxi took us into the Cathedral area where we visited a beautiful bar called "Abaco" hidden in a courtyard with stunning floral arrangements, birdcages, candles & fountains. Cocktails were €16- expensive but high quality. Other members of my group took off to lively resort of Magaluf  (15 mins taxi) where shots were €1 and "fishbowl" cocktails €5!! A popular MSC shore excursion is Flamenco show Son Amar €65/ 3 hours).

On board, tonight we tried the Tex Mex alternative restaurant which has an a la carte menu. A tasty change to the more formal dining with typical dishes €5-8.

The stop in Barcelona was from 2 in the afternoon to 11 at night which gave us a taste of this wonderful city by day and night. The late departure is ideal for guests arriving from Ireland- giving them plenty of time to explore the Gothic streets and amazing architecture.

No set time tonight- the restaurants change to Open dining.

Finally Marseilles to add a french feel to this lovely itinerary. Popular excursions were combining this city with towns such as Avignon, Arles or Aix En Provence (€80/ full day) and 4 hours tours about €52. Again with a little homework- some of these towns can be reached by train and explored independently.

The final formal night- again Black Tie suggested. The waiters parade the Baked Alaska dessert through the restaurant to triumphant music. The theatre show tonight was particularly good- The Michael Jackson Experience.

And then it was all over as we arrived back into Genoa. Disembarkation was civilized but sad as we said goodbye to a truly amazing cruise ship.

The Allegrissimo drinks package (Unlimited 24 hours) was included and I would recommend it highly- even if you do not drink too much-  it includes unlimited bottled mineral water & copious branded soft drinks such as Pepsi as well as delicious Italian gelato ice cream not to mention very drinkable Italian white, red & rose wine by the glass, preseco, draught Heineken beer, branded spirits such as Smirnoff, Bacardi, mixed drinks & cocktails. 

 For more details please contact David in eTravel on 01 4081999 or 

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