Their first family cruise on board MSC Magnifica proved to be a very successful holiday for Kim Nash and her son Ollie
I am like a child in a sweetshop, running from one side of the ship to the other so that I don’t miss a thing, as MSC Magnifica sails through the heart of Venice along the Guidecca Canal. As we pass palazzos, churches and St Mark’s Square I’m captivated by the iconic architecture – now I know why sailing out of Venice is regarded as one of the world’s most memorable cruise experiences.
My eight-year-old son Ollie and I were thrilled at the prospect of our first cruise holiday. He was excited about the ship and I couldn’t wait to explore the destinations – Bari in Italy, then Katakalon in Greece, the island of Mykonos, over to Piraeus for Athens and then on to Dubrovnik in Croatia, before heading back to Venice.
As soon as we had embarked we started exploring the ship, investigating our home for the next eight days. Ollie was amazed at the open-air pools, mini-golf, 10-pin bowling and all-weather sports ground – within an hour of boarding he had been invited to join in a game of football and started making new friends. I was delighted to find our stateroom was light and airy with a huge queen-sized bed and a balcony made for relaxing with a G&T and watching the world go by (I tested this out just to make sure).
Travelling as a single parent is sometimes quite daunting but I quickly discovered that cruising is so relaxed, we never felt out of place – you can mix with other people very easily and make friends, or simply do your own thing, and we were very happy to do that too.
We quickly settled into a rhythm that worked for us. Most of our meals were eaten in the Sahara Buffet Cafeteria – children like to eat when they’re hungry, so the flexibility was perfect for us, plus it had the most amazing breakfast choices and the food was great. We also dined in the Quattra Venti restaurant, where the surroundings are extremely classy and the food completely divine.
Every evening after dinner we visited L’Olimpiade Sports Bar, which was Ollie’s favourite of all the bars as he could watch the football there.
Our first trip off the ship was to Mykonos. We took the tender boat across to the pretty harbour with its tavernas and sat watching the world go leisurely by. We also wandered around the winding streets of the small harbour town where the vibrant bougainvillea contrasted beautifully against the white stone buildings and also do some shopping, picking up small mementoes of our trip to a place, which we completely adored.
It’s incredibly refreshing to wake up in a different place each day, and on the morning that we opened the curtains to a view of mountains and cream cottages with terracotta roofs clustered on the hillsides, I felt as though I had found my spiritual home; Dubrovnik is absolutely magical.
We took the shuttle bus into the charming Old Town, and walked through The Pile Gate, which looked for all the world as if someone had been up all night polishing the paved streets. I don’t think I have ever seen anywhere look so pristine.
The pedestrian-only town hosts Baroque churches and stunning palazzos and the side streets are packed one way with hundreds of steps leading up to the hills and the other way filled with cafes, bars and restaurants where you can sit and drink freshly brewed coffee and eat divine pastries and just while away the hours. Dubrovnik is definitely a place we’ll go back to, sooner rather than later.
On our sea day, we enjoyed pottering around the ship and relaxing. Being in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight, with a book in one hand and a cocktail in the other, made me feel incredibly at peace with the world. Nothing was required of me; food and drink was available at every moment of every day, and there was no worrying about the challenges and chores of everyday life back at home. I was completely stress-free, and I definitely enjoyed the novelty of it.
We also found the staff on board friendly and welcoming; most would stop to have a chat and check we were enjoying ourselves, and everyone was so kind to Ollie and made him feel very important. As a single parent, I felt totally safe and knowing my son was having a wonderful time meant that I was too. A few days before our cruise ended Ollie said to me: “This is just the best holiday I’ve ever had. Can we come and live on this ship? It’s awesome.” What better endorsement could you want?
GETTING THERE: Magnifica’s autumn school half-term sailing will begin on 15 October. Prices for the seven-night Eastern Mediterranean start from £899pp (adult) and £599pp (junior), including flights and transfers. For more information and to book visit msccruises.co.uk.
Kim blogs at kimthebookworm.co.uk.
Whether you’re looking for a cultural holiday or relaxing break, find your perfect cruise here.