Aimee Wells, a 28-year-old PR director, took her first ever cruise on MSC Fantasia from Venice in May – with a large group of relatives. Here’s her guest blog:
The general response I got when I told my workmates and friends that I was heading away on a cruise with 12 of my family members was a tepid: ‘Have fun.’ If I’m being completely honest, having never been on a cruise before, I was heading aboard with a few preconceived ideas of what was to come.
I was of the opinion, as I think many are, that the audience is largely of an older generation. However, our group ranged from 23 to 65 and every one of us disembarked converted.
We were heading off to celebrate my father’s 60th birthday on the MSC Fantasia, an Italian ship that caters to over 3,000 people. While I would say the Fantasia is more suited to families and couples, if you enjoy good food, relaxed, stylish bars and travelling to beautiful locations, then cruising might just be the right choice for you.
Travelling in a group of 13 people means someone inevitably becomes an umbrella-wielding leader. We made the decision that we needed to not rely on all sticking together as it could become incredibly confusing.
First impressions of the ship were that it is stunning. There is no expense spared in making sure it is constantly cleaned and each area has a distinctive look and feel. Upon arriving at our cabin, a man arrived at the door to bring us our suitcases and introduce himself as our room attendee for the week. It transpired he cleaned the room twice a day, providing fresh towels and turning down the bed.
Once we got settled we headed up to the top deck to watch the ship depart from Venice. En route we stopped to grab a drink from the bar. The most welcome advantage for us was pre-paying for the ‘Allegrissimo’ drinks package. It meant that we were covered for everything from coffee and smoothies to margaritas and spirits.
Our first stop was Bari, Italy. This wasn’t the most beautiful of places but it was rustic and held all the charm we needed for a morning’s disembarkation. I wasn’t sure how I would take to having such a short amount of time in each port, nor how we were going to manage a group so large. The key to this was that we are quite a laid-back group and went with it. Anyone who wanted to branch off did so and it was relatively smooth.
Being an Italian cruise ship, the food was mainly of the Italian influence with a stone oven cooking pizza 24 hours and fresh pasta available at every meal time. It’s dangerous to not come home half a stone heavier! However there is a fully functioning gym that overlooks the ocean as you work out so for those that want to cancel out their guilt, it made eating that last slice of pepperoni feel earned.
Over the next seven days we visited some truly stunning destinations, from crystal-clear waters in Corfu, where we had a lunch of fresh fish with salad and dived off rocks into the ocean overlooking Albania, to walking the city walls in Dubrovnik taking in the views of the whole city. The best part of going on a cruise is by and large the opportunity to see so many beautiful places. Every day we woke up in another stunning port and each day was different.
The only difficulty would be for anyone wanting to walk everywhere – you often need to take transfers to get to the most beautiful parts of the island. In Santorini, it meant a tender to shore, a cable car to the top of the mountain and a half-hour bus to get to Oeia – the iconic white town pictured in the postcards. It’s all worthwhile, though, so I would recommend anyone checks ahead of time to know where they are headed on each day.
We didn’t do any excursions, instead choosing to wander and find our own routes. We found we didn’t need to spend out on the day trips (which were in excess of €50) and often ended up doing similar trips without the additional cost.
When we docked back in Venice after seven days tanned and relaxed, I genuinely reflected that I would go on a cruise again. I still do think it’s better suited to couples and family groups and while I wont be going away on a girls’ cruising holiday any time soon, I might take up the Alston/Wells family on another en mass cruise.