Have you ever walked into a restaurant and just wished you were sitting at that swish, sought-after table? Me too. So on my first night aboard the MSC Preziosa, as I entered the l’Arabesque dining room, I found myself with a table-for-three next to floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at a stunning vista.
Strategically placed at the stern of the Preziosa, all you could see was the vessel’s wake and a skyline which drifted serenely into the distance.
And it was at this moment – after a hectic day’s travelling from Manchester to Venice where we embarked on our seven-day cruise – that I knew I was going to simply love the Preziosa.
The ship was only built in 2013 and you quickly get the sense of its modern touch. We had a balcony cabin which was spacious, providing plenty of room for my wife and I, plus a sofa-bed for our seven-year-son Thomas. This was erected and dismantled every day by our room attendant, who was only too happy to make sure our trip was “plain sailing”.
Probably the best thing I can say about the cruise is we maybe switched the in-room television on a couple of times. For if we weren’t gallivanting around on a shore excursion, or lounging by one of the numerous swimming pools, we preferred to open the curtains and watch the world float by.
I found my own little oasis on the balcony, where I could pick up a book and read away, just the crashing of the waves against the hull to accompany me. Of course, if you needed an adrenaline rush, there was the Vertigo waterslide – which MSC proclaims as “the longest waterslide at sea at 120m long” – or a Formula 1 simulation ride to try out.
I have a confession here, though. I was on board an entire week and still felt I had not explored everything the Preziosa had to offer by the time it quickly came to depart for our flight home.
With 18 decks, 14 of which are for guests, 1,751 cabins and a capacity to host 3,502 passengers, it’s a fair bet too that you won’t bump into the same folk every day.
There are two main restaurants, Golden Lobster on deck 5 and l’Arabesque on deck 6. You can choose between two sittings for dinner, while it’s open seating for breakfast and lunch. There are also speciality eateries, like the Eataly Restaurant, which obviously gives you a taste of Italy, or the Galaxy Restaurant.
The Preziosa is proudly European and after travelling on several US and English ships it took us a while to get used to the mix of languages. But if you fancied something distinctly American, there was the sports diner, which offered your fill of burgers, and even a bowling alley.
With a young family, we often ate at the buffet-style restaurants, Inca and Maya, where the choice of dishes was astonishing. The only problem was trying to leave room for the assortment of puddings served up each day.
If you feel the need to shed a few pounds after over-indulging on lunch, there are several swimming pools, including an infinity-style backdrop at the rear of the ship which was my favourite.
One of my favourite memories of the trip was lazing in the pool after a day’s sightseeing in Dubrovnik, Croatia, as the Preziosa sailed away down the rugged coastline. And if you need more relaxation, then you never seem to be too far away from a hot tub to jump into, while kids of all ages will love the on-board water park.
And if you fancy a bit of pampering, then you can always spoil yourself with a visit to the Aurea Spa, for that much-needed facial or massage.
For those with children, an on-board kids’ club is great news. Thomas would beg to join in the activities each day, from shirt-making to performing arts, and would come back afterwards – the centre is secure for peace of mind with trained staff – offering up some new creation or prize he had won.
He even got to go on stage at the 1,600-seater Platinum Theatre with his new-found friends to perform a dance and song routine they had rehearsed. The encore the following evening in one of the numerous lounges on board was also a thrill for the youngsters.
Our week-long cruise certainly packed in plenty, from the moment we departed Venice. Four countries in seven days, offering new experiences in every port, from the bustling Italian city of Bari to the Greek stop-off at Katakolon, where you can visit the birthplace of the Olympics, and from the beautiful walled city of Dubrovnik to the Turkish delights of Ismir, with its palm-lined promenades.
But my favourite port of call was Istanbul. I had visited several years previously, and was intrigued by the vibrant mix of east and west.
The melting pot of cultures reminded me of New York City, and we spent the day walking the streets, shopping at bazaars and admiring the amazing architecture and uniqueness that is Istanbul.
It always amazes me to watch the thousands of fishermen on the city’s waterfront, ignoring the multitudes who walk by each day, from city workers to inquisitive tourists wondering what the day’s catch has brought.
For me, I am happy to leave them with their supper, as I head back for my window seat overlooking the ocean and ponder steak or fish for my main course tonight.
• MSC Preziosa departs from Genoa and calls at Civitavecchia, Palermo, Cagliari, Parma, Valencia and Marseilles before returning to Genoa. A seven-night fly-cruise on this itinerary costs from £749pp (£449 for a child), including return British Airways flights from London Gatwick and overseas transfers, based on May 2 departure.
A seven-night cruise on MSC Magnifica, calling at Venice, Brindisi, Katakolon, Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik before sailing back to Venice, costs from £799pp (£449 for a child), including return British Airways flights from London Gatwick and overseas transfers, based on May 3 departure.