Just a few weeks ago, I had the chance to experience MSC Cruises´ latest fleet addition, MSC Preziosa, on a mini cruise from Barcelona to Genoa. The ship, which was originally ordered by the Lybian General National Maritime Transport Company (GNMTC) as MS Phoenicia in 2010, was introduced to the MSC fleet in 2013.
After the completion of the ship´s hull, the political instability in the Near East, also referred to as the Arabic Spring, left GNMTC penniless and MS Phoenicia without a future.
Since the design of the vessel was quite similar to that of the Fantasia ship-class of MSC, after thoroughly evaluation the Italian company decided in 2012 to take over the almost finished construction, furnish it and added her as fourth sister ship to the precedent MSC Fantasia, MSC Splendida and MSC Divina a year later. She is therefore the 12th ship sailing for the Italian family business that once started out as Cargo shipping line.
MSC Preziosa´s famous godmother is Italian actress Sophia Loren. She was christened on 23 March 2013 in her new home port Genoa. Since then, she generally sails the Mediterranean during Summer months while spending the European Winter in South America.
Knowing already her sister ships MSC Fantasia and MSC Splendida, it was thrilling to see how Preziosa would differ from them and how I would like the new features that had been installed.
Probably the most notable difference to her sister ships from the outside is the 120 metres long water slide “Vertigo” which springs behind the funnel and reaches at some point over the hull, offering a thrilling see-through section around 18 floors over the ocean. Unfortunately, I didn´t have time to try it out myself (Getting a whole ship on cam is quite an effort). But those who did slide down seemed to have the thrill of their lives!
But the white fleet with the royal blue funnels picture quite an eye catcher in every port in general. The sharp yet elegant bow, the sleek upper structures with roundly sloping stern, the shiny white hull, the dark tinted windows and railings and the distinctive UFO-shaped panoramic lounge throning above the sea right in the center of the top deck.
The exterior design of the ships is everything but unappealing. At least if you have some sense of style.
And something that I particularly like about the ships of MSC is their resemblance in layout. No matter if you sail on the smaller vessels or the larger ones, they mostly differ in colour schemes, styles and size. The arrangement of restaurants, bars, lounges and public spaces remain more or less the same. So every time you come back onboard, it is not too difficult to adjust and find your way around.
So it did not take me too long to get familiar with MSC Preziosa.
Like on most of the modern cruise liners, the bulk of public spaces, bars, lounges and restaurants are distributed over the first lower decks. In this case Decks 5 to 7.
Center piece is the glamorous Atrium with the world-famous Swarovski crystals enclosed stairs. It reaches over 6 decks and is a popular meeting point.
Deck 5 (Corallo) holds Guest Services, the Internet Café as well as the entrance to the Platinum Theatre (three decks high!) and the entrance to the lower level of one of the two main dining rooms, The Golden Lobster (two levels), as well as staterooms.
On Deck 6 (Diamante) you will find the gorgeous Millennium Star Casino which bursts with gold and polished black columns. It is like a set from a James Bond movie, hilariously overdone yet still acceptably luxurious.
Another place that I personally like a lot is the Phoenician Plaza. This facility is designed like an “authentic” Italian piazza with boutiques bordering around. On MSC Preziosa, the piazza has an Oriental touch to it in order to pay tribute to the ship´s foregoing history. It is a neat detail, yet it is more the Lavazza cappuccino and the tiny dolci that convinced me more.
The rest of the deck is occupied by the upper level of the Golden Lobster restaurant as well as more boutiques, the Diamond Bar & Library and Shore Excursions.
On Deck 7 (Rubino), fans of piano music and wine tastings will find their favourite spots: El Dorado Piano Bar and La Locanda.
As a wine enthusiast, a visit to La Locanda is self-evident for me. Small antipasti are served along with your choice of Italian or international wine and from 6pm you can also order freshly made-to-order pizza (new feature).
Right ensuing and an absolute first to the cruise industry is the first EATALY branch at sea. Kept in a clean and modern look, this speciality restaurant comes with an à la carte menu and an accompanying shop where you can take home some of the most popular Italian goods. I am a big fan of EATALY, so there was no doubt about me trying it out on the final night before disembarkation.
My verdict: Good service but rather high prices for a mediocre dinner experience!
Knowing EATALY´s branches around the world (including an amazing one in my hometown Munich) and the high quality in foods that they normally deliver, paying extra for a stiff steak and paper water cups and paper napkins does not justify the extra charges over going to the free of charge dining room, does it?
But should you still feel hungry afterwards, there is the rear staircase down to the panoramic L´Arabesque restaurant at the stern of the ship on Deck 6. Beautifully appointed in dark reds and gold, I would always chose this dining location over the two-level midship Golden Lobster!
But apart from eating, Deck 7 holds some other very typical MSC facilities: The Sports & Bowling Diner, a sports bar with bowling alley, the MSC Logo Shop, the Green Sax Jazz Bar as well as the ship´s social melting pot, the Safari Lounge.
With a large dance floor and stage, this lounge hosts most of the evening´s entertainment apart from the theatre or other venues.
Decks 8 to 13 feature the majority of staterooms and suites, most of them with a balcony. At first sight I was not too happy with the location of my balcony staterooms 8216 in the last third of the ship on the starboard side (right side in direction of travel).
Based on personal experience, Preziosa´s sisterships MSC Fantasia and Splendida suffer from major vibrations when cruising at low-speed in this area, yet I was happily surprised that this was not the case here.
While the living space of the cabin itself seemed a little smaller than that of other cabins of the same category (a couch that seats two is generally a standard furniture – in my case it was a small armchair for one person), in return I could boast to have a bathing tub instead of just a simple shower.
The MSC typical elegant decor (colour schemes differentiate from deck to deck and category to category) in dark wood and blue made me feel right at home. The only thing that I am still missing to complete the highly comfortable cabin interior are real duvet blankets for the beds! Apart from this, the interior cabin design belongs in my opinion to the Top 10 in the market of large cruise lines.
The generous balcony featured modern furniture and I could still enjoy the panoramic view onto the ocean irrespective of the cabin being located a little more offset inwardly than others. Due to the construction of the ship.
I did spend quite some time in the fresh air when taking a break from taking photos. And it was pleasant to see that this spot seems to be quite sheltered from the wind.
Up on Deck 14, the forward section is completely taken up by the Aurea Spa and the Fitness Center.
The spa features a steam bath, an ice room, an aromatherapy sauna, two Finnish saunas, a relaxation area (unfortunately a little small) and an array of treatment rooms, as well as a beauty salon.
The Fitness Center is equipped with state-of-the-art TechnoGym cardio and muscle toning equipment and features a large area for stretching, free weights and spinning bikes. For a gym rat like me a great place to stay fit at.
Ensuing lies the Playa Preciosa covered pool with retractable roof. Personally, I have never liked this indoor pool much on any ship. This place is ALWAYS crowded by families with children and obnoxiously loud at almost any time of the day.
The same applies to the main pool area that takes up about the center third of Deck 14. Not enough loungers in the sun, only one basin and four whirlpools to share is definitely not enough for the 3.500 passengers on a sea day. The integrated AquaPark, the prominently located stage (with Italian style animation) and the smoking area on the port side make the pool deck of the Fantasia-class ships actually my least favourite pool decks in the industry (along with those of the Breakaway-class by Norwegian Cruise Line).
Great design and plenty of seats (while it can get cramped there at certain times if the ship sails at full capacity) offers the enormous buffet area Inca & Maya Buffet in the rear. Lots of crafted woods, nice lighting and beautiful panoramic views onto the ocean make this a great place for breakfast, lunch and dinner .
By the way, one thing that MSC has very notably improved in over the last few years is the catering in the self-service areas, even on the year round Mediterranean cruises. While the crowd onboard the ships has radically declined in terms of behaviour, style and appearance (a general issue in the highly competitive price marketing within the cruise industry), MSC Preziosa holds against with constant quality and frequent improvements.
Like the newly implemented WiFi system. MSC Preziosa and MSC Divina are currently the first ships to feature the new broadband Internet connectivity with a simplified package and payment system.
I did try the new Social Media Package with unlimited dataset for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. This package costs only 3,90 EUR for 24 hours (clock begins with sign-in and ends 24 hours later). Indeed you will have to renew your sign-in every hour, the usage is limited to one device and there is no email reception or internet surfing included, but you can upload and post an unlimited number of photos (no videos) to your Social Media accounts.
Stability and speed of the connection are both quite good and reception is around the entire ship. Good job, MSC! Absolutely trendsetting!
Should you need more functions than this, you can still chose from any of the two other packages at very moderate prices compared to the current standards! More info here.
So what´s cooler than enjoying a Negroni at my favourite outdoor spot onboard, the Garden Pool (MSC Preziosa´s “infinity” pool on the aftdeck of Deck 15), while showing my followers on Instagram what a good time I am having so far?
Other innovations that are publicly accessible are the Galaxy Lounge Restaurant with adjacent dance club, the Formula 1 simulator and the 4D movie theatre on Deck 16.
Deck 16 also holds the entrance to the Vertigo water slide, the newly implemented Doremi Castle Waterpark for children and the Brezza Marina Solarium with further sun loungers and two whirlpools.
The sun deck TOP18 above the Galaxy Lounge is only accessible for certain cabin categories or pass holders, so is the MSC Yacht Club which occupies the forward section of decks 15 to 18 with a private lounge and sun deck. Only accessible for passengers traveling in the most exclusive suites onboard.
MSC Cruises was actually one of the first companies to introduce this luxurious ship-in-ship concept which can only be comparably found onboard Norwegian Cruise Lines´ Epic as well as current and future new builds Norwegian Breakaway, Getaway, Escape, Bliss, etc.
Something that absolutely sounds like worth trying, doesn´t it?
But even if I did not yet have the pleasure to sail in the exclusive Yacht Club, MSC Preziosa has convinced me in any case. From all the ships in the MSC fleet that I have already sailed on (2 x Lirica, 2 x Splendida, 1 x Fantasia), she is so far my favourite one.
She combines the elegant and classic Italian style that MSC Cruises stands for with the modern inventions that state-of-the-art cruising comes with. At very competitive prices!
For a detailed interior photo gallery of the ship, visit my photography website by clicking this link.
For exterior pictures of MSC Preziosa, click here.
Well, I hope you did enjoy my little tour of MSC Preziosa and I was able to give you a short overview on the ship. Happy sailing, folks! Enjoy her.