Lewis (Marketing Manager) and his family set sail aboard new MSC Virtuosa for a 4-Night UK Staycation
When the opportunity arose for us to book and travel, on an actual cruise, in 2021, we did not hesitate! Right up until 4 hours before boarding, our 2 boys had no idea they were about to sail on their first ever cruise! They stood at Mayflower Park in awe of MSC Cruises‘ magnificent MSC Virtuosa!
Their faces were a picture when they found out!
After booking all the pre-cruise testing protocols were made very clear… proof of full vaccination, or a negative test up to 72 hours prior to departure were all that was required. We used the free NHS lateral flow tests. Simple to do even for the kids. So, zero hassle as far as we were concerned.
We were given our time slot to arrive at the port for check-in (3pm). It was very important you stuck to those times to keep the crowds down. There must have been no more than 60/70 guests we saw in total. From entering City Cruise Terminal, we wore our masks and had our temperatures checked by the staff at the door. From here our tickets, negative test results and insurance documents were checked.
TOP TIP: It is important not to forget to take proof of insurance with all passengers’ names on, we did see some guests having issues having not got this.
Our luggage was then taken away and we walked through to security… again there must have only been 2 couples in front of us. From here had our tickets checked and we did another very quick and painless lateral-flow Covid test… the kids’ eyes were watering but no tears… result!
We then collected our wristbands and cruise cards and headed for the waiting area. The wrist bands could be used for purchases and for entry to your cabin, to limit contact – a great idea. We did not even have time for a drink when the lady called our group out and we headed for the ship! I would say from door to ship was 30 minutes max… very impressive.
Upon boarding we found our room (a 4-berth inside cabin). Very comfortable, just enough room and the kids loved the bunk beds. Very cosy for us but we do not spend a huge amount of time in the cabin, so it was more than enough. The cabin was very nicely decorated, with lovely grey woods and emerald green carpets, very modern. 2 wardrobes too which gave us plenty of storage space and a bathroom with a shower. I would say the kids missed having a window so next time, we would probably pay the supplement to upgrade to an Oceanview.
The boys were so excited to see us sail away that we headed straight for the indoor pool as the weather in Southampton was ‘traditionally British’!
For The Kids…
I have never been away and seen so little of my children!
From the moment they laid eyes on the kid’s club that was it! The staff were so good, greeting them with huge smiles (behind a mask) each day. They spent a huge amount of time playing Lego, Nintendo Switch, sports games in the multi-story sports hall and dancing at the disco! They were made to feel so welcome.
In-between this they enjoyed the waterpark at the back of the ship. So many slides and things for kids of all ages to enjoy! And my eldest (9yrs) said his favourite part was the Himalayan Bridge overhanging the waterpark and back of the ship – not for the faint hearted!
Another highlight was the Arcade… I can highly advice purchasing a ‘Fun Pass’ before you sail as you get more for your money than paying onboard. We paid £70 and got £90 of credit which was more than enough for 4 nights. There is a range of arcade games, air hockey, an XD Cinema, bowling alley, Formula 1 simulator and VR style games!
The main pool was also a highlight, with double mattress style sunbeds surrounding a large double pool, we could relax while the boys played in the water. It was a little cooler in the morning so we would sit in the Solarium by the indoor pool. There were waiters walking around so you could get drinks delivered straight to your beds! At times it was a little slow, but by day 2 the sun was out so many of our fellow passengers were out getting some well-earned vitamin D!
Mealtimes were very relaxed. We were on second sitting, but no matter what time we went to the restaurant the waiters would find us a table. Our allocated dining venue was the Blue Danube Restaurant. On entry each day a staff member would take our temperature and you would be asked to wash your hands at the sinks to the side of the entrance. It was a 3-course meal with a different menu each night, food was delicious as you would expect an any cruise! You had the option to take the kids for an early buffet before evening kids club too, which gave us some time to dine alone on a couple of nights. It had a theme each night and there was always something that the kids would enjoy.
There were also 5 speciality restaurants, Hola! Tacos & Cantina – Latin American and Mexican inspired street food. Indochine – Vietnamese classics with a French twist. Butcher’s Cut – American style steakhouse. Kaito Teppanyaki – modern East-West cooking style of Japanese cuisine on two teppanyaki grills. And Kaito Sushi Bar – fresh sushi, sashimi and tempura being prepared by master sushi chefs!
On the final night as the kids were in club, we opted for Indochine, it was a lovely Parisienne café with Vietnamese small plates, situated on the main promenade. Absolutely delicious. I cannot say any more than that. I will let the pictures do the talking!
The promenade was where it was busiest most nights, the English pub ‘Masters of the Sea’ was where we would spend most of our evenings. We even got to watch the Europa League Final much to my wife’s delight! The kids were entertained with Lego they had bought from one of the many shops along the promenade! My youngest got tired quite early but you could borrow buggies from the kids club at no charge so he was able to fall asleep while we had drinks with friends.
After 4 nights we were sad to pack our bags and leave.
Suitcases were taken from outside our cabin and we were instructed to meet in the Theatre at 8.30am. We were in a group of about 40 as we disembarked. Still no real queuing. Straight to our car which was parked directly opposite the terminal at ABP. A very streamlined process.
Overall, I could not fault MSC Cruises at all, we felt completely safe onboard. Everyone wore their masks between venues and the hygiene protocols were all followed strictly. The boys have now got the cruise bug and I’m sure it won’t be long until we’re back onboard!