WE’RE GOING INTERNATIONAL WITH MSC CRUISES

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The expression, ‘Bon Voyage,’ took on a whole new meaning the moment we boarded the MSC Meraviglia! Let me tell you about our experience aboard this beautiful monstrosity of a ship. Yes, it’s massive and gorgeous. It is the fourth largest cruise ship in the world and it holds 4,500 guests. From the moment we stepped on, we were awe-struck- impressed by it’s magnitude; however, despite it’s size, it was inviting, warm, and just waiting to be explored! Where to even begin!

As a writer and influencer, I am fortunate to be invited on some pretty spectacular trips and events, and this one was one for the books. Of course, there were a few things here and there that we didn’t necessarily fawn over, but that’s expected. Our experience cruising on MSC exceeded our expectations- from dining at the speciality restaurants, to the state of the art technology aboard the ship. It was impressive.

This was the first trip my husband and I have taken abroad since becoming parents. There was a mixture of anxiety and excitement to know that we would be embarking on this incredible journey on one of MSC’s newest ships with an amazing itinerary that would make two stir-crazy parents giddy with traveling anticipation!

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Right off the bat, the ship’s colorful and bold LED dome, located in the promenade, takes your breath away. It is the longest LED dome at sea, and it runs on a timer, displaying visual images and landscapes from sunsets to evening skies. In addition, it also displays prominent worldly architectural structures during a daily light show. Imagine walking underneath Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, Istanbul’s Hagra Sofia, even the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

The promenade itself feels like a tiny main street inside a ship. From a chocolate and coffee bar by renowned pastry chef, Jean-Phillippe Maury (Jean-Philippe Chocolat & Café), gift shops, to gelato cafes (Jean-Philippe Crêpes & Gelato), the promenade is an artery of entertainment and socializing that cruisers can enjoy from day to night. You can even catch some of the nightly musical acts while walking by!

One of the first things we did when we got on the ship was explore! We hit up the Brass Anchor Pub for a pint and some wine and people watched from above the promenade. Brass Anchor is just one of the few dining options the ship offers. They did a fantastic job of making it as authentic as possible- from the menu to the pub atmosphere. We loved it!

 

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We were eager to see the pool deck and their Atmosphere pool. Even thought Mediterranean is more popular during the summertime, traveling during the fall has it’s pros. If you haven’t seen Europe in the fall, you must! Temperatures hovered between the 50s-60s so no swimming for us! That didn’t mean we could not admire the Palazzo-style pool and grab one of the many lounge chairs available on the deck. There are even a huge screen offering some atmospheric visuals while we took21 a few minutes to enjoy the surroundings (and those crazy cruisers brave enough to jump in the pool!). On the other end of the ship, you can find the Horizons pool- a smaller pool but with premium views and lounging areas!

One of the great things about cruising, is all the great deals you get the first day you get on; and that means, great deals at Aurea Spa! These two tired parents were in need of some rest, relaxation and pampering! We each booked ourselves a traditional Balinese massage, a hand massage and Coco even made his massage a four-hand massage (two masseuse). He gave new meaning to ‘living his best life.’

The moment you stepped foot into the spa, you automatically felt the zen. It’s got to be something in the vents, right?! Whatever it was, it was instantly relaxing. The space is airy. The service was fantastic and everyone was super attentive and friendly. When we purchased our massages, we were also given vouchers to enjoy the thermal baths, which I did once and fell asleep!

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Here’s a fun fact. Did you know that the mozzarella aboard the MSC Meraviglia is made fresh daily in their Mozzarella station? It’s not only available at their restaurants, but these juicy mozzarella balls are also available at their buffet! You better believe we loaded up as soon as we saw them! I just won’t tell you how many we ate.

When in Rome…

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That brings us to our first stop- Rome! Ah, Roma! This was our third time in Rome, and it still felt as magical and euphoric as the first time! Here’s something else I really loved about cruising with MSC. We made a stop at a different port every day. On our itinerary, there weren’t any days at sea. We stopped in a new city everyday and it was awesome- at least for us, because it meant more to explore and more to see!

Rome greeted us with some rain but that definitely did not dampen the mood (or the tulle skirt I decided to wear that day). We were eager to get moving since you only have a certain amount of time in each city. I did wish we had a few more hours in each port so it didn’t always seem so rush rush. Coco and I love sightseeing and eating our way around a city, so we definitely focused on the ‘must-sees’ of each city so we wouldn’t miss out.

First on that list was the Colosseum. We had done tours in the past so we were sure we didn’t need to go inside. The crowds were massive so thank goodness that had already been checked off the list. We snapped a few photos outside on the way to the metro, so that fulfilled our wish list!

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The Trevi fountain was a must-see for me! There’s something truly surreal and momentous about standing in front of one of the most famous fountains in the world. It was designed by Italian architect, Nicola Salvi and done in a traditional baroque style.  Who can ever forget La Dolce Vita?!

Thank goodness for my Instagram husband, who was a good sport and took over 100 photos of me throwing coins and standing at every corner of the fountain just so I could get the best angle. You wouldn’t even know it from looking at the photos, but the fountain is surrounded by a clutter of shops, small restaurants, street vendors, and a plethora of tourists.

Once we got our fill at the Trevi Fountain, it was time to mangiare! The beauty of Rome is that anywhere you go, you are bound to find good food. We walked a few blocks from the fountain and found this little wine bar/bistro named, Il Chianti Wine Bar and well, it was absolutely delicious. Have you ever seen a more charming building? I’m sure the answer is yes, because hello, Europe, though this one is one of many. It’s like being alive in a postcard.

Also, lets take a minute to salivate over this Pappardelle.

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How do you go to Rome and not have gelato?! Well, you just don’t. As we made our way to the Pantheon, we popped into a gelato shop and indulged in a cone and espresso before heading to our next adventure! By the way, did you know that the Pantheon is now a church? It used to be an ancient Roman temple and it’s been used as a church since the 7th century. It’s pretty surreal to be walking along the street, and looking up, and seeing these magnificent structures that were built thousands of years ago and here they are. Mindblown.

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Alright- the last and final stop on my Roman Holiday were the Spanish Steps. Here’s a funny story. The Spanish Steps were on my must-see list, and when Kathy sets her mind on something, she does it! Coco, on the other hand, was worried that we needed to walk back to the excursion bus and that we would be cutting it close. Plus, his feet hurt because he wore the wrong shoes. I was not getting detoured. How could I possibly be in Rome and not see that breathtaking view from the steps?! It’s a picture that is still in my head.

Kathy came. Kathy saw. Kathy conquered. Kathy also took a cab back to the bus so she would make it on time. Don’t know what would be worse- taking an hour cab ride back to the port or hearing my husband say, “I told you, Katherine.”

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Not only were we getting spoiled on our stops with amazing food, but we were also getting spoiled aboard the Meraviglia thanks to its many restaurants. We were craving some sushi so we decided to make a reservation at Kaito Teppanyaki and sushi bar. We grabbed a table outside because we wanted to be up close and personal to the LED dome light show. I loved that we had the option of having sushi at our fingertips. We split a few rolls and sashimi along with wine (which was included in our drink package) and hung out talking and people watching. We caught a performance by a string trio (included in my awesome video on the gram), and called it a night shortly after. Day One at Sea and already I was a fan.

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Our next stop was Palermo, the capital of Sicily, located in Southern Italy. This was our second visit to Palermo and Coco and I both love this city. I like to call it, Rome’s grungier cousin. It’s a little more rugged, with more wear and tear, but still so much character oozing from every alley and building.

When putting our trip together, we honed in on excursions that would really let us focus on aspects of the city that we were really looking to explore and discover. Another plus when you cruise on the MSC Meraviglia are the endless options of excursions available. Whether you want an easy tour on a bus visiting the top sites or something strenuous like a walking tour, there is something for everyone at every level of ease and difficulty. For Palermo we wanted to focus on the ‘Tastes of Sicily.’

Our tour began at a popular local fresh market so that we could sample some of the veggies and fruits and Sicilian favorites popular in town. Never have I seen such vibrant and rich colors. Coco was in paradise! I mean, everything from strawberries to a head of the greenest broccoli you ever did see, was begging to be photographed. It was absolutely beautiful. We also sampled arancino– traditional Sicilian rice balls.

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A stop at Palermo, or anywhere in Sicily for that matter, isn’t complete without having a cannoli! Cannoli originally came from Sicily and now they are a staple in Sicilian cuisine. It’s the filling that gets you- a creamy, and sweet ricotta filling that is made fresh daily. We sampled some at Bar Katia surrounding the Palermo Cathedral, and we had to help ourselves to two servings because they were that good! They also served us cannoli with a hazelnut filling, which was quite delectable!

In between munching on cannoli and sweet wine, we explored the grounds of the Palermo Cathedral, which are breathtaking. The structure is considered a mix of Gothic, Neoclassical, and even some Baroque.  This particular excursion I really enjoyed because once we were done with the tour, we were allowed to go on our own and had the option of detaching from the group and walking back to the ship on our own, and that’s what we did.

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We couldn’t miss an opportunity to visit the Teatro Massimo of Palermo (Godfather 3, anyone?). It is the biggest opera house in Italy and known for it’s exceptional acoustics.

Not pictured: Us doing some retail therapy in Palermo!

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Here goes, guys! My favorite night by far of our MSC Meraviglia cruise experience- captain’s night! It’s an opportunity to get all glam and decked out in your fanciest looks and enjoy a beautiful night on the ship with your family and loved ones, taking photos, going to dinner, and enjoying the ship dressed to the nines! One thing I did not like- seeing other guests under dressed in the restaurant where we were having dinner. We really made the effort, as did many other guests, to stick to the dress code and really take advantage of such a special night. While I understand that not everyone is into dressing up, they should be shown to a different dining room that does not have an elegant dress code.

Look how handsome my other half looked in his dapper tux?! I even made an appointment at the Aveda hair salon on the ship to get my locks gala night ready! They did an amazing job! You better believe we took photos with every possible backdrop available!

After dinner, we got some gelato at Jean-Phillippe’s and again, watched the LED light show! Our night was only just beginning!

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I’m a planner by nature and while not everything does go according to plan, it is nice to have the option. With MSC, you can download the MSC for Me app for your smartphone, and you can basically make and organize your reservations, shore excursions, find out about special deals or events happening on the ship, and even get a rundown of the ship itinerary all from the comfort of your app!

In addition to the app, you’ll find these large touch screens above, scattered throughout the ship where you can also make reservations, check out photos, and even book a show like we did! Let’s move on to the show because I think this is one of those special features that the MSC Meraviglia has that no other ship does!

MSC has an exclusive partnership, with get this, Cirque du Soleil! Featured on the ship’s Carousel Lounge, guests can take in not one, but two different and unique productions that are only available aboard the MSC Meraviglia. The shows, Viaggio and Sonor, are both visually stimulating, creative, fun, and high-impact! There’s also an LED element to both shows. If you think stunts and the elaborate nature of traditional Cirque shows is scaled down because it’s on a ship, think again! These productions are top notch and do not disappoint. You have the option of doing dinner and a show or just the show with a complimentary drink. There’s no bad seat in the house and the lounge is set up for the optimal experience.

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We were up early for another port and another excursion! This time we were headed to Sardinia, which we had never visited before. Coco and I were both excited because we had signed up for an olive oil and wine tasting tour, and we couldn’t shut up about it! We visited Olio del tempio, a premier olive oil mill, which proudly produces 100% Italian olive oil. Here are some of the olive oil tips we learned:

1- Never buy extra virgin olive oil in a transparent glass bottle because when the light hits it, it ruins it.

2- When tasting olive oil, you use a colored glass. It doesn’t matter the color of the oil.

3- A can is the best way to package olive oil.

4- When tasting olive oil, remember that olive oil is supposed to smell fruity. Then you’ll feel a bitter sensation on the tongue and finally a spicy sensation in your throat.

5- Oil is made at 27 degrees and stored at 20 degrees celsius.

It was such a fascinating tutorial on how to differentiate authentic olive oil, from cheap olive oil that is often mass produced and sold as “original.” We were able to sample their three famous oils- the Rogo del Tempio (spicy olive oil that has chili peppers), the traditional Olio del Tempio, and the Limolio, which has hints of lemon. I can’t begin to tell you how many times we’ve gone to the market, purchased some Italian bread, and just sat watching TV and dunking our bread in this light, and aromatic oil. It’s the simple pleasures!

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We then rode to one of the most famous wineries in Sardinia- Argiolas Winery. We took a tour of the winery, learned about the production, and went to the cellar where many important people (including royals), keep their special vintages.

They prepareda lovely sampling of some of the Argiolas white wines, and two reds and Coco and I were able to sample their rosè as well. We left with three bottles of wine; two of which we drank on the ship in our cabin! It was such a great excursion. The only downside is that because we were running on a specific time table, we had no time to stop and eat and we were all quite hungry. My suggestion would be for this excursion to include some form of meal (minus cheese and meats).

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The only reason I was quite okay with that is because Coco and I had made a reservation to dine at another specialty restaurant, Butcher’s Cut, an American steakhouse that serves premier cuts of beef, but also boasts a robust dining menu, along with a wine list. This dining experience exceeded our expectation. Our server was the sweetest and eager to make our meal beyond exceptional. The ambiance gave off a dark and sexy vibe with the dark wood and mood lighting.

The picture above was not staged. That was my face upon seeing that beautiful porterhouse! If you’re a meat lover, wouldn’t you react the same?! It was love at first sight.

Full bellies is an understatement and after that meal, there was no other place to go but bed. It was a satisfying, culinary kind of day on the MSC!


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I’ll admit- it’s a little hard to get motivated to hit the gym when you are on vacation and eating and drinking your way through the Mediterranean; but I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to work out on the ship’s gym, stocked with all TechnoGym equipment! While I burned some of that steak on the treadmill, I had a view of the ship’s upper deck and of the vast and endless Mediterranean Sea! There’s also a walking/running track on the upper deck, which Coco and I did some laps before getting off the ship at Palma De Mallorca.

Plus guess what?! The weather in Palma was in the low 70’s so many guests took advantage and hit the pool, including my polar bear (see above)! I can’t get over how large the pool is on the Meraviglia. Most cruise ships have teeny tiny pools that are often packed and this one was such a comfortable and nice size.

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Palma de Mallorca was by far our favorite stop on our Meraviglia adventure! A city that is booming and alive during the peak summer months, and we were able to experience it’s stunning beauty and beachy laid back vibe without the mobs of tourists. Often referred to as ‘the pearl of the mediterranean,’ Palma is a gorgeous resort city filled with so much culture, shopping, and above all, exceptional dining! Oh the dining!

Palma has so many charming promenades and plazas filled with taperias, wine bars, and shops, and it’s just so picturesque! The Palma Cathedral is a perfect example of that. We had about an hour to explore on our own before we headed to a show so Coco and I, in true foodie fashion, found a tiny little restaurant and bar called Bistro Carmencita, and ordered some wine and tapas to kick off our visit in this jewel of a town! We ordered croquetas, gambas al ajillo, and a traditional paella. It was tiny feast that did not disappoint!

Palma was definitely one of those cities that we wanted to do a ship excursion for, especially one that involved flamenco dancing.

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We were pumped to watch a traditional Flamenco show at Son Amar . Son Amar is breathtaking! It’s a 16th century manor surrounded by lush greenery and an open courtyard with some of the best flamenco dancers in town! It is a dinner and a show experience but you can also opt for just catching a show.

We enjoyed sangria with some meats and cheeses and watched some spectacular dancing and singing in an intimate tablao settingA flamenco show is so sultry, passionate and sexy. It really encompassed the energy and flavors of Spain and its culture.

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If you are wondering why there aren’t any photos of us back on the ship, well, that’s because after a few hours of eating at Palma and boarding late, we walked into our cabin and fell asleep! All that walking, eating, and drinking was catching up with us- and we still had two more days!

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Oh Valencia! We almost (almost) missed the ship because of your enchanting spells- or really because of your tasty gastronomic delights! The last time I was in Valencia was almost twenty years ago so it felt like I was rediscovering it for the first time! We had the taxi drop us off in the heart of town- right smack in front of the Valencia Cathedral- in all it’s Gothic glory.

Valencia is the kind of city you want to get lost in- walk aimlessly and stumble upon the most picturesque alleys and streets that have the most magical restaurants tucked in its crevices. We knew wanted to tapear as the Spaniards would say, which means, hop from bar to bar, doing a little grazing while enjoying some vino!

It was glorious to eat all the jamon serrano at our fingertips! Coco was in his happy place and can I just say, THANK YOU MSC MERAVIGLIA, for giving my husband and I the opportunity to reconnect and reclaim our relationship! We had so much fun, just us two, getting lost in Mediterranean cities, laughing, eating, and just being us. This cruise had cruisers of every kind- couples, families, even senior citizen groups. I’ll tell you this, it’s a great cruise for couples. I would call it, at least for us, a second honeymoon at sea.

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You would think after eating our way through Valencia, we would be completely comatose in a food coma. Nope- not us! We still had energy and some space in our bellies to enjoy the last formal night on the ship! Yes, we got all gussied up in our fancy duds once again, and enjoyed an evening meal in the main dining room.

But first, let me take a selfie with these cool cruisers I found aboard the ship! They do know I have to approve that photograph right?!

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So here’s another cruise favorite- The Champagne Lounge. I was a regular in the ship’s champagne lounge! Every night, I would go grab a glass or two and upload all my photos and videos for the day. I really wanted to stay in the moment at each of our stops, so instead of worrying about finding wi-fi and having to post,  I saved that for the evenings. I’ll tell you this, social media goes well with a nice glass of bubbles!

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With only one more stop to go, our MSC Meraviglia journey was coming to an end, but not before a stop in France! The last and final city on our itinerary was Marseille. We were really torn between staying in Marseille or taking an excursion to  Aix-en-Provence, the city of fountains. The city literally has thousands of fountains scattered all over! It is also known for it’s art and universities and quintessential street cafes! It’s a classic Provencal town- small, walkable, but also very rich (did I mention, rich?!)

It is also the home of famous French painter, Paul Cezanne!

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There’s no way a visit to Aix is complete without snagging a seat along one of the famous cafes on Cours Mirabeau- a very tre chic tree-lined promenade that is straight out of a French film! It’s quaint, pretty, and lined with art shops, book stores, boutiques, and restaurants.

When in Aix, the drink du jour is rosé! Provence is the birthplace  of Rosé so of course we had to indulge! We made our way to Les Deux Garcons, a very famous cafe on Cours Mirabeau, and had the most fantastic cheeseburger ever! It was seriously mouth-watering, juicy, and so crispy! The only downside of coming to Aix? Having to leave. I wish we had more time because it was such a beautiful town!

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Now it’s time to say goodbye……

We weren’t ready to fully say ciao yet! We missed our babies terribly and we were eager to get home to them, but our time on the MSC Meraviglia was so priceless and special! We got to experience luxury on the high seas, we got to explore new cities, and we got to reconnect and fall in love all over again- not just with traveling but with each other. Who better to see the world with than with the ones you love!?

I hope this isn’t my last time seeing the world with MSC. I couldn’t wait to share this post with you and I thank all of you for following along on my Instastories and posts! I loved reading all your messages and comments. If theres anything you want to ask me about the cruise, just drop me a line! I love answering all your questions!

Our MSC cruise was truly an unforgettable journey and I encourage you to getaway and see the world aboard this beautiful ship.

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Ciao and see you very soon!

Kathy