AS WE sailed out of Venice, my love of cruising went up a notch. It was a b e a u t i f u l l a t e S e p t e mber afternoon and the sight of a buzzing St Mark’s Square a few hundred yards away soon had me on cloud nine, albeit there was not a cloud in the sky.
We watched as hundreds of tourists were milling around the bell tower, St Mark’s Campanile, and the stunning Doge’s Palace, no doubt breathing in the romantic aroma.
We waved to them from our balcony as we meandered along the Grand Canal as we embarked on a seven-night Mediterranean cruise, taking in such places as Dubrovnik and the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey.
I was on MSC Magnifica, admittedly not an obvious choice for Jewish cruisers who generally choose Celebrity or Royal Caribbean. It’s a mid-size ship that carries around 2,500 passengers, PACKAGE MSC Magnifica sails from Venice calling at Bari, Italy; Katakolon, Greece; Izmir, Turkey; Istanbul, Turkey; Dubrovnik, Croatia and back to Venice. Departs April 16, 2016. COST from £849pp for a balcony cabin, including flights and transfers. www.msccruises.co.uk mostly Europeans plus a smattering of Americans, Canadians and Aussies.
MSC was established in 1987 by Gianluigi Aponte and came about because of a tragic story.
An old family friend of Aponte’s, Achille Lauro, owned a cruise ship of the same name which was hijacked by the Palestine Liberation Front off the coast of Egypt in 1985.
Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled Jewish businessman, was shot and tossed overboard in his wheelchair.
The incident caused international outrage and the financial repercussions badly damaged Lauro’s company. Aponte stepped in and bought the ship.
Nearly 30 years on, MSC has gone from strength to strength — seven more ships are on order. Some boast Swarovski crystal staircases and all comprise elegant dining rooms and a variety of other delightful rooms that combine the charm of old-world cruising with the demands of the modern world.
For example, the internet room proved popular but it was fabulous seeing the attractive card room busy with passengers of various ages playing board games or shuffling a deck in anticipation of a new hand as we drifted between destinations.
There’s also a sprawling spa with a menu of treatments, a fitness area, kids club and two pools.
The buffet lunches are as varied as any at sea and available at several serving stations. I loved the fruit station, which had an excellent choice and
a midsized ship popular with Europeans was decorated by boxes of uncut fruit placed high above. There was a decent choice at dinner, both in menu and location.
We dined in one of two traditional restaurants as we like the idea of eating at the same table every evening and also dressing to the nines on a couple of them — “nines” being appropriate as that was the time for the second sitting here. The earlier one, at 6.30pm, may suit some Brits better, especially those with kids, but the Europeans do tend to venture out a bit later. The buf- fet venue, high up on deck 13, served dinner in a much more informal environment.
But I prefered waiter service and our man, Fredy, was more than happy to deal with some of my (occasionally difficult) requests. For a treat — and