IT’S the 12th ship in the fleet of Italian giants MSC – and the launch of Preziosa has turned them into the third biggest cruise company in the world. It’s a half-billion dollar, 140,000-ton statement of intent that Europe is catching up with the American big boys in the cruise industry.
The launch in the port of Genoa, attended by Sophia Loren, the heads of Italian football giants AC Milan and Napoli, and celebrated composer Ennio Morricone, was a lavish, no expense spared occasion. If you’re familiar with the Fantasia class of ships (Preziosa’s the latest vessel to join the likes of Fantasia and Divina), it’ll be a cinch to find your way around.
At the central atrium, the staircases are lined with Swarovski crystals, the shopping area is like a classy Italian street and the ship even has an ultra-exclusive Yacht Club away from the main ship for an extra price.
The ship embraces Italian culture, from the slow food concept in the restaurants to the wine bars, pizzerias and classy theatre. And don’t forget the fun – I loved the indoor bowling alley in a bar and the Galaxy lounge has the pumping sounds of a pulsating nightclub on the continent. And the big difference here is the 120-metre long Vertigo water slide down around the side of the deck which isn’t for the fainthearted.
Kids get a new water park, the Doremi Castle Aqua Park, and it’ll be hard to keep the grown-ups away too.
Cabins, from the most basic interior ones, are comfortable and classy, with flatscreen TVs, plenty of shows and on-demand movies.
The big advantage of MSC is the kids-go-free policy on ships, and it’s worth checking out the deals on offer (see factfile) and talking to your travel agent about maximising your holiday euro.
Preziosa is as good as anything you’ll find on the seas, and it’s a huge leap from the days when European lines were seen as being behind international carriers in terms of style and service.
It’s the ultimate in la dolce vita.
Deals are available from msccruises.ie on Preziosa, with a special in September offering a cruise only from €599pp, with an upgrade to all inclusive drinks for €160. If you want a flights package in the early summer, cruiseholidays.ie has a nice deal.
It includes return flights from Dublin to Barcelona, two nights at the city’s Atenea Barcelona Aparthotel, seven nights onboard Preziosa, with ports of call in Marseille, Genoa, Naples, Messina, La Goulette in Tunisia and back to Barcelona.
Cocktails on the deck, Martinis in the evening, and a few tipples into the early hours – the choice is endless.
Onboard you’ll find three al fresco bars – Saphir, The Garden Bar and Turquoise – for those endless summer days around the Med. By night, you’ve a choice of nine bars (not including the smoking-allowed casino bar), scattered around decks five, six and seven.
The Preziosa Bar, in the foyer, is a lively pre or post-dinner place to unwind, with a good band and great selection of drinks.
The Green Sax is a chilled jazz bar, while if you’re interested in dancing earlier in the night (or trying karaoke), the Safari Lounge is the place to be.
And if you’re still on your feet late in the night, the top of the ship Galaxy Lounge is the place to dance till the sun comes up.
Preziosa boasts two main restaurant over two floors, the Golden Lobster and l’Arabesque.
Menus are typically Italian, with a huge selection of starters, soups, main courses and desserts, with over 100 wines available for purchase.
Fine dining (Italian fusion cuisine) is available for an extra price high up in the Galaxy Lounge restaurant , which has a 1950s supper club theme.
Other select venues are Eataly and Ristorante Italia, ocean branches of the Turinbased, high end chain with a slow food philosophy and emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients.
There’s the usual self-service restaurants and also check out La Locanda, a stylish wine bar and pizzeria also serving tapas.
While you enjoy the likes of the indoor pool (inset), the kids will be kept entertained. The children’s clubs cater for all ages, while there’s splashing fun, including water cannons and slides, at Doremi Castle Aqua Park Adventures. Older teens will love the Formula 1 simulator and 4D cinema. Grown-ups will love the exclusive adults-only Top 18 pool, while elsewhere there’s a range of pools, 10 whirlpool baths, a 235 metre jogging track, as well as a state-of-the-art fitness centre and spa with treatment rooms.
Fitness fans can buy gear at the Adidas corner, while shopping fans will love browsing the boutiques and duty free shops, with 11 stores in total