By Lisa Loverro
Cruising is not something I have ever considered as a vacation option, crowds of people occupying the same space for an extended length of time did not appeal to me. So when I was invited to cruise the Mediterranean, I skeptically accepted. This cruise, however, turned out to be a great way to see a multitude of countries aboard a truly unique concept in cruising. The MSC Yacht Club (www.mscyachtclub.com) aboard the MSC Splendida is more of a “ship within a ship” with deluxe accommodations, butler and concierge service along with private Top Sail Lounge and a private Top Deck. The Top Deck, on the 18th level, made the entire experience worthwhile ; a private deck for just its Yacht Club members, with swimming pools, Jacuzzis, restaurant and bar away from the overcrowded decks filled with the ship’s other guests. The Italian vessel, MSC Spendida, is a massive ship accommodating over 3,000 people offering 7-night cruises from April through November sailing into such exotic ports of call as Genoa, Barcelona and Casablanca, among others. The Yacht Club provides the same experience, sans the commoners.
My port of embarkment was just outside of Rome, a city I have longed to visit. Seizing this opportunity, I arrived a day early in Rome and arranged for a customized private tour through the ancient city with Through Eternity Tours (www.througheternity.com). My 8-hour walking tour was the perfect way to spend the day soaking in as much of the Roman Empire as possible. To ensure a good night’s sleep before catching the cruise the following morning, I booked a room at the Palazzo Manfredi (www.hotelgladiatori.it) in the heart of ancient Rome opposite the Colosseum. With a rooftop terrace, I sipped espresso within clear view of the Colosseum. My room was spacious and elegantly designed, looking directly onto the magnificent ruins. The perfect boutique hotel for my first Roman experience. As morning broke I headed to board my cruise ship, which was more like boarding my own private yacth. My assigned butler instantly whisked me past the lines of passengers waiting to board and ushered me to my luxury accommodations, complete with private balcony. As we set sail I sipped the complimentary champagne and bid a fond farewell to Rome, anxiously awaiting my first port of call, Genoa, Italy.
Waking the following morning, Genoa welcomed me and I fully embraced this beautiful port city. The home of Christopher Colombus (and my maternal Grandmother), I walked its streets, took in the sights and enjoyed what Genoa is famous for…gnocchi, pesto and Focaccia! I was quickly becoming a cruise junkie, anxious for my next port of call. Returning to the ship after a day of exploring, I settled into the Yacht Club’s Top Sail Lounge and enjoyed complimentary afternoon tea.
Tapas and Wine
Next up was Barcelona and I couldn’t wait ! Sailing into Barcelona was a dream come true. Another city I had never visited and was anxious to experience. A day of leisure in this city was spent primarily around the port area and Olympic Village, home to the very chic Hotel Arts Barcelona, managed by the Ritz Carlton (www.ritzcarlton.com). The hotel is stunning, offering unparalleled views of the city and perfectly situated along the beach within clear sight of Gehry’s majestic fish sculpture. There’s also a Six Senses Spa and award-winning restaurants. Here, I enjoyed a leisurely and traditional Spanish Tapas meal at the hotel’s premier restaurant, Arola by Chef Sergi Arola, a two-starred Michelin Chef. The restaurant’s relaxed atmosphere filled with beautiful people was the perfect way to soak in the flavor of Barcelona. Next up during my Spanish excursion was a walk along Las Ramblas. Filled with markets, street musicians, tapas restaurants and hundreds of pedestrians, Las Ramblas is a must visit when strolling through Barcelona.
My time in Barcelona passed much too quickly as I realized I needed to make my way back to the glorious MSC Spendida. Once arriving back at port I was a bit shocked (but not surprised) to see my butler anxiously awaiting my return. It was like returning home.
Next up was a glorious day at sea and dinner with the Captain at the Captian’s Table. A full day at sea on the MSC Spendida’s Yacht Club was glorious. The sun was shining, the sea air was salty and my spirits high knowing my group was invited to join the Captain and his crew for dinner at the coveted Captain’s Table. We cruised all day, with no land in sight, and I quickly adjusted to my surroundings by making my way up to the Top Sail Lounge deck. Away from the almost 3,000 people fighitng for their chairs on the other pool decks, this deck was empty and reserved for only the Yacht Club members. After a day in the sun, there was one more treat in store for me as we sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar. The stunning Rock of Gilbraltar to the right and Africa to the left…what a sight. Soon after, and dressed in a long gown, I made my way to gather with the group to meet the Captain. His arrival was something out of a movie scene, with his handsome crew in tow all dressed in their formal white suits. As we sauntered down the crystal winding staircase all heads turned to us, watching as we took our assinged seats. Lucky enough to be seated next to the Captain, a handsome man with thick Italian accent, we all enjoyed a delicious dinner and lively conversation.
At the close of my trip, the next morning we docked in Casablanca and I swifltly made my way to the airport for the flight home. A quick 5-days, visiting three countries and two continents aboard the MSC Splendida Yacht Club was a most memorable experience, and a must-do if you are considering a cruise. It’s the perfect balance of cruising a big ship while feeling like you’re on a private yacht.