FACT BOX

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

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

Mag­nifica:

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