MSC Virtuosa: What to expect onboard from testing & protocols to food & entertainment
MSC Virtuosa set sail for the first time post-pandemic last month and Cruise Trade News editor Gary Peters boarded the ship for its second UK cruise out of Southampton.
What testing rules are in place on MSC Virtuosa?
Cruise passengers have plenty to think about in the lead-up to cruising.
You need evidence of a negative lateral flow test taken within 72 hours of departure, a cruise ticket with a health questionnaire completed, and evidence of travel insurance with COVID-19 cover.
I highly recommend printing out your cruise ticket - it's got me out of many pickles! Print it, stick it in a folder and have it ready.
Passengers are then tested using a lateral flow test after the usual security checks before boarding and have to wait for their negative result before they can board.
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What Covid protocols are in place on MSC Virtuosa?
The sheer work that has gone into these sailings makes the mind boggle. MSC has stepped up to the mark and the crew are busy making sure everything goes according to a very detailed plan.
It’s very easy to adjust to the new health and safety protocols in place in my opinion and it all really becomes second nature very soon after boarding.
Guests have to wear their mask while walking around the ship but it can be removed when sitting down for drink and food and in other venues.
Temperatures are taken during the day, social distancing is not an issue and hand sanitiser is available throughout the ship.
Even the TV remote in the cabin comes in its own envelope!
Don't worry, everyone knows the rules; it’s very much about being sensible – and staying in bubbles.
Does it feel different onboard?
Due to current Government limits on domestic cruises, only 1,000 passengers are allowed to sail - a stark drop from the 6,334 guests MSC Virtuosa can fit in normal times.
With so few passengers, the ship does feel empty, but seeing kids exploring – and their parents amazed at the choice on offer – is great to witness.
The other perks of having fewer people on board are no waiting in long queues, no struggle to find somewhere to sit by the pool, no fight at the buffet to grab a table.
Guests are also given an MSC wristband - I use swipe mine a lot to order food and drink and to enter my cabin.
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What's the food and drink like on MSC Virtuosa?
MSC Virtuosa has 10 restaurants in total – five complimentary and five speciality.
The Butcher’s Cut – the steakhouse onboard – definitely takes top prize for me, but the choice is endless and every taste is catered for. Indochine, a beautiful and elegant French-Vietnamese restaurant, is another winner.
New for MSC Virtuosa is Hola! Tacos, a casual street food dining concept offering Latin American and Mexican-inspired dishes and drinks - it also puts on mezcal tastings.
If you want to go all-out and treat yourself, there’s the MSC Yacht Club, the private enclave on deck 18.
Here, guests have their own facilities, 24/7 butler service, pool area and a lavish restaurant with expansive views overlooking the ocean.
As for bars, there is one place that garners more attention than anywhere else – the Starship Club.
Of the 21 bars and lounges on MSC Virtuosa, it is by far the most unique, as it is home to Rob, the first-ever humanoid robotic bartender. Rob is fully functional, mixing and serving cocktails while engaging in conversation with his customers.
- READ MORE: Everything you need to know about MSC Virtuosa -
What entertainment is on MSC Virtuosa?
Evening entertainment is great fun. A particular personal highlight is the Soul Sisters in the Carousel Lounge, an upbeat Motown-inspired 40-minute show that has everyone tapping their feet.
The Le Grand Theatre is home to a variety of shows, such as le Ciel de Paris – Parisian cabaret – and The Big Apple, dedicated to all things New York.
For the pop and rock stars on board, there’s karaoke in the TV & Studio Bar (I’m not brave enough to give it a go), and dance lessons, among several other activities throughout the day, such as pub quizzes, aerobic classes and more.
Alternatively, hit the gym or relax by the pool.
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