Discover the grandeur – that’s the ambitious slogan for MSC’s latest megaship, MSC Grandiosa, but when you first step aboard, you start to appreciate that the mission statement is no idle boast.
This latest addition to the Italian-owned cruise line’s fleet is 67 metres high, 331 metres long and 43 metres wide, and it can accommodate a whopping total of 6,334 passengers in its 2,421 cabins and two Royal Suites.
On the cold winter’s night when I arrive for my visit, the ship is docked at Southampton, but once you embark on MSC Grandiosa, the atmosphere feels warm, inviting and yes, very grand. I’m here overnight to check out the facilities, so first stop is my stateroom, to drop off my suitcase.
My balcony cabin is stylish and spacious, and has an extremely comfortable bed. But if you’re feeling flush then you may want to upgrade – the MSC Yacht Club suites come equipped with luxurious memory-foam mattresses, crisp Egyptian cotton sheets and a complimentary mini-bar.
This ‘ship-within-a-ship’ also features 24-hour butler service and a dedicated concierge, plus a private area on the foredeck, complete with an exclusive bar and lounge, a gourmet restaurant, pool area and a sundeck spanning some 1,225sq metres.
In kitting out its new megaship, MSC has gone large in every way – the decor, entertainment and the shopping have all been done on a lavish scale (hardly surprising, when you consider that glamorous actress Sophia Loren is the ship’s godmother).
As you’d expect from an Italian line, the food on board is spectacular. There are no fewer than 13 different outlets around the ship, including pan-Asian, an American-style steakhouse, Spanish tapas and my favourite, the Marketplace, with its own mozzarella station, where the cheese is freshly made every day. For dinner, I choose the Purple Crab, where I love the sophisticated ambience and seriously good food, including a sumptuous lobster bisque.
The line is collaborating with several big-name chefs for MSC Grandiosa; the best-known of these in terms of a British audience is probably Raymond Blanc, French mastermind behind the charming and justifiably renowned Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire. So if you’re lucky enough to book on to Grandiosa, you’ll be in for a culinary treat.
After dinner, a stroll through the impressive Galleria Grandiosa on deck seven is a must. Here you’ll find a number of the ship’s many bars and speciality restaurants, with costumed entertainers delighting the younger passengers.
And if you look upwards you’ll see an awe-inspiring, 93-metre LED sky screen featuring a range of eye-catching images (it also creates a stunning son et lumière-type experience three times daily).
The winter weather in Southampton is far from suitable for using the outdoor facilities (although one of the pools does have a sliding roof), but the ship’s thrilling aquapark promises lots of fun. It features three waterslides and two racing tube slides, plus a Himalayan Bridge 80 metres above the deck where guests with a taste for the high life attach themselves to a rope course.
Other onboard attractions include the largest dedicated retail space so far offered at sea – an incredible 1,200sq metre area featuring no fewer than 12 different boutiques where passengers can browse and shop.
Then there are dazzling performances from Cirque du Soleil at Sea: two breathtaking original shows that will feature innovative acrobatic acts as well as audience participation for anyone adventurous enough. The Aurea Spa, meanwhile, blends a range of organic brands with new technologies for an ultra-relaxing experience.
MSC Grandiosa is the company’s sixth ‘connected’ cruise ship’, offering next-level MSC for Me features such as the multi-lingual Zoe app, which can assist guests with queries about the on-board facilities and help book services such as speciality restaurants.
Later in the evening, the Galleria plays host to the smooth grooves of Radio One DJ Scott Mills. As the music plays, the cocktails flow (there’s a huge choice on offer, but on a cruise, you just can’t beat a good old pina colada) and the guests party, you know for sure that this amazing ship will live up to her name.
Visit msccruises.co.uk for more information and bookings.