Multiple destinations in one trip with zero airport queues?
Multiple destinations in one trip with zero airport queues? I’m in.
I must admit, up until this year, I cannot say I had ever considered a cruise holiday. I was always under the impression that cruises were the preserve of an older, wealthier crowd, where my Zara wardrobe would be too low key and the trip itself, well, out of my price range. However, around 2018, I started noticing a shift on social media: young people, people a good decade or so younger that myself, cruising. Instagram snaps of smiling millennials drinking pina coladas in the golden hour sunlight. Long, gushing captions about waking up in a new destination every day. And if that wasn’t enough to make me green with envy: no airport queues.
With “revenge travel” (the new buzzword for catching up on all the trips you’ve missed during the pandemic) being such a huge thing right now, airports are overloaded. Flights cancelled, missing luggage, archaic scenes at security and queues of biblical proportions, it’s no wonder that nearly 40% of 16–34-year-olds are considering taking a cruise in the next few years. The joys of being able to visit many destinations without packing and unpacking repeatedly means you can make the most of the journey without the stressors of multiple airports. So, in the name of travel journalism, I embarked on MSC Virtuosa for my very first cruise.
MSC Virtuosa is one heck of a vessel: carrying up to 6,200 passengers at full occupancy and serviced by 10 restaurants, 21 bars, a shopping galleria, multiple theatres, waterparks, an arcade, a world-class spa, and, if you’re so inclined, a gym, there’s little risk of being bored. For those wanting to avoid the hustle and bustle, an upgrade to the MSC Yacht Club provides access to the suite only section stretching across the three decks at the front of the ship. With a members-only lounge, restaurant with sweeping views and glittering Swarovski staircase, and a private, adults only sundeck, MSC Yacht Club provides an excellent option for those lusting after a little more exclusivity.
If you think there’s not much difference between cruise ship and airport check in, then think again. Once you’ve checked in and gone through security, your luggage will magically find its way to your cabin. You are free to board the ship, where you are met with a sparkling lounge and welcome drinks. Your holiday starts here.
The cabins are clean and spacious, with excellent storage facilities plus room under the beds for storing cases. Each cabin has a ZOE speaker for playing music or audio books, and a large television that can be used to access your billing information in addition to the normal channels. The beds are incredibly comfortable, and the bathrooms have more than enough room for manoeuvrability (which is shockingly lacking in many ships). If it’s within your budget, an outside cabin with balcony is a real treat, especially in the evenings. There is nothing quite like sipping wine as you watch the sun set, excited for your next destination tomorrow.
What about entertainment?
This is where MSC Virtuosa really shines. Entertainment onboard includes:
The Galleria Virtuosa, containing an abundance of bars, shops, restaurants, and evening entertainment options. Cast your gaze upwards to view the 80-meter-long LED display that morphs and changes throughout the trip.
Indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, surrounded by an array of sun loungers for catching those rays between ports.
An incredible spa featuring a salt walled relaxation room, ice therapy, multiple saunas, and my personal favourite, mist showers. Whilst you’re there, treat yourself to a gloriously relaxing deep tissue massage. You will be floating back to your cabin in no time.
Matinee and evening shows including magic, musicals, and all manner of top-class performance art in the ship’s theatre and Carousel lounge.
A well-equipped gym with ocean views, plus running and walking tracks around the deck.
For the high rollers, there is an extensive casino complete with both electronic and table-based games.
Finally, for the children, there is a games arcade, rope walk, basketball court, and a LEGO-themed kids club.
The ship also provides a jam-packed daily itinerary including yoga, dance classes, karaoke, and quizzes, perfect for the longer days at sea.
There is a general assumption that it’s easy to pop on a few pounds during a cruise and I can completely understand why: The options onboard are plentiful, delicious, and it took every ounce of self-control I have not to go all out and do my best Pac Man impression eating my way through everything the ship has to offer. The buffet restaurant provides an impressive spread of international cuisines, sides, and desserts. The specialty restaurants such as Butchers Cut steakhouse, Indochine (a French-Vietnamese fusion), Hola Tacos, and Kaito Sushi & Teppanyaki are all worth a visit, just make sure you pre-book as soon as you can as they fill up pretty quickly.
There is a drinks upgrade package available if you are partial to a high-end tipple, and an abundance of options available if you’re saving your cash for on shore. With 21 bars on board, including one staffed by a robot bar tender, there’s no excuse not to get that perfect iced cocktail shot for the ‘gram.
Book a balcony cabin at the back of the ship for a hypnotic view of the wake trailing through the water.
Keep an eye out for dolphins: They love ships and can often be spotted frolicking past.
Book a massage and/or time in the spa. Your back will thank you for it.
Visit the chocolatery at Galleria Virtuosa for some tasty treats and souvenirs for friends and family back home.
How to book:
Bookings can be made direct with MSC here. Alternatively, call 0203 893 4203 or request a call back via the website. Current deals include a 7 night Northern Europe cruise from the UK from only £449pp (see website for full details).