I have a confession. If someone had told me I had to ditch my all-inclusive package holidays and switch them for a cruise, I might have rolled my eyes and said, ‘Maybe in 20 years?’
But then a global pandemic hit and we couldn’t leave our houses, let alone board a plane and fly to an exotic destination. This also coincided with my new love for a cult reality tv show about a group of people who work aboard yachts. And, after more than 100 episodes, my perception of a holiday at sea was changing – suddenly all I wanted to do was hop on a boat and sail around the world.
Enter MSC Cruises, as it was about to make my dream a reality.
MSC Cruises is one of the fastest-growing cruise brands in the world and it has a strong presence in the Caribbean, North America and the Far East. It already has an impressive fleet and plans to have 23 cruise ships by 2025, all of which offer an enriching, immersive and safe cruise experience.
But when I landed at Dubai airport at the beginning of March I still had no idea what to expect, until I caught my first glimpse of MSC Virtuosa waiting majestically at the dock. Somehow, the 100-feet long yachts I’d seen on the aforementioned tv show didn’t seem so impressive anymore.
Something new to discover
As one of MSC’s largest cruise ships it ticks a lot of boxes for the ultimate holiday and it does so whilst being one of the most environmentally-sound ships at sea.
When I boarded the ship, I took one look at the Swarovski staircases, glamorous bars and stunning indoor promenade and quickly realized that this holiday would be anything but ordinary. A tour of the cruise ship confirmed this, as I explored the 19 decks which housed five pools, 10 dining venues, numerous bars and shops, a spa and wellness centre, two theatres, a casino, cinema, full-sized bowling alley, kids club, sports hall, 2,421 cabins and so much more. My room was on the 13th deck and it was a generous size with its own balcony providing a front-row seat to gorgeous sunsets. I was in heaven.
The room was fantastic, but the reality is you don’t spend much time in it as MSC Virtuosa has too much to see, do – and eat!
Oh the food! Now, this is something special. One of the best things about being on a cruise is that you can pretty much eat whatever you want, whenever you want. If you fancy grabbing a quick burger at lunchtime before lounging by the pool that is easy to do. And equally, you can mark an occasion by booking one of the specialty restaurants where you can dine on the likes of steak, sushi and teppanyaki. Don’t worry about the dress code either, as there are plenty of casual dining options alongside the fancier ones.
Before I went on the cruise, I wondered if I might feel claustrophobic and longing to be on dry land. But on MSC Virtuosa, getting your sea legs is easy, as it’s so huge that even after four days I couldn’t experience everything onboard. Each part of the ship is cleverly designed to feel like a different place, so nothing looks the same and there is something new to discover around every corner.
The Dubai cruise is also ideal as it means you can easily explore Dubai when it’s docked in the port. I arrived a day before it set sail and this meant I could soak up all the delights Dubai had to offer; from a fun-filled day at Aquaventure – one of the world’s biggest waterparks – to an evening of fine dining and live music at Parisian restaurant La Cantine. I was able to get my fix of Dubai glamor before a restful night’s sleep on the ship.
The journey’s just beginning
The ship is just the start of the holiday, as one of the main draws is you can see lots of different places. On this cruise, we set sail from Dubai and then traveled to Sir Bani Yas and Abu Dhabi with its voyage continuing to Doha in Qatar. This was the beauty of a cruise I hadn’t appreciated before – every day you can hop off and immerse yourself in a new place and its culture. One day I was soaking up the sun and kayaking on Sir Bani Yas Island and the next I was strolling through The Louvre Abu Dhabi. Previously, I thought a cruise was restricting and wouldn’t satisfy my desire for an adventure, but I found that it fulfilled my wanderlust.
One night, when I had just enjoyed a meal at MSC Virtuosa’s Indochine, a French-Vietnamese restaurant with a variety of mouthwatering dishes, I took an after-dinner stroll along the deck and spotted holidaymakers dancing under the stars at one of the ship’s themed parties. Entertainment is around the clock on MSC Virtuosa and it manages to cater for everyone, regardless of their age and who they are with.
This is the biggest misconception about cruises, as I believed that a cruise wouldn’t suit a millennial. But I saw firsthand that a cruise really is for anyone, whether you want to holiday with your best friends or with your family.
It was the first time I had experienced a holiday on a cruise ship, and I have a feeling it won’t be my last.
To find out more about MSC Cruises and to book a holiday, visit its website.