On most cruises, you will get a chance to experience full days at sea, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be bored. These giant moving hotels are fully equipped with restaurants, bars, a casino, theatre, spa, gym, etc. There are many activities that cruises offer plus it’s a luxury in itself for a full day with no real plans!
Long powerful waves come from the Atlantic Ocean rolling towards the ship, again, and again, as it has done all night. The MSC Armonia has ploughed through the Atlantic, heading for Morocco. The graphite-grey sea stretches to all sides because the 11th-floor fitness centre at the very front of the giant ship has panoramic windows with 180-degree views.
It’s nearing eight o’clock on the second day on board. The time of year is late January and the weather is like an unruly April day with wind and clouds. We are at sea all day and the following night too. But it doesn’t matter. There’s plenty to do on the 251-metre cruise ship, which seats 2,199 passengers.
There are two main restaurants, a cafeteria, several bars with and without music, a casino, a spa, an outdoor swimming pool and a large, well-equipped fitness centre with plenty of exercise machines to choose from. The funny thing to notice is that the stepper, treadmill and exercise bike speak Italian. Because MSC Cruises is based in Italy, of course.
A small, slender woman from Bali offers massages with her strong hands. She’s just begun an hour of traditional Balinese massage and continues with half an hour of anti-age facials with luxury Italian products. Afterwards, it’s time for the sauna and Turkish bath, which is also part of the spa complex, to kick-start the relaxation. Now that’s self-indulgence! It’s also very much self-indulgence to have the whole rest of the day at your disposal without deadlines, meetings, events, shopping, cooking, and whatever else belongs in everyday life.
Of course, it costs extra to choose an outside cabin. But a window is a must if you also want to enjoy staying in the cabin while sailing.
The ports of call know when the cruise ships are coming. Be aware, therefore, that taxis right by the ship, for example, charge more than those 500 metres away. Always agree on the price in advance – of everything you’re offered.
The daily newsletter delivered to the cabin also contains discount offers. For example, 30-50% off all spa treatments on a given day. It’s worth waiting for before booking an appointment.
Lots of activities available
Should you have difficulty filling the day yourself, the cruise line can also do it for you. Each evening a programme is delivered to the cabin for the following day. Today, for example, it’s a foxtrot dance lesson with Leonardo and Patricia at 10.30 in the Armonia Lounge.
At 11 there will be a German beer party around the pool on deck 11 and bingo with big chances to win at 11.45. In the afternoon, the deck is set for a fit dance and cocktails are served in the bars before the evening gala dinner. After dinner, there’s a show at Teatro La Fenice, while the lounge on deck eight gives the women on board the chance to dance with the ship’s officers. It almost goes without saying that the event is called Officers & Gentlemen.
I’m not equipped with the world’s best sense of place, and it takes me a few days to become fully familiar with the geography of the floating giant hotel. Although some of the seasoned cruise guests tell me it’s actually very easy: all the ships are built the same way – with the restaurants at the back, the theatre spread over two floors at the front and so on. And once you remember which of the four stairway/elevator sections leads up nearest your cabin, you don’t have to walk through endless corridors in search of the right one. In addition, all platforms are provided with plans over the entire ship with a red “You are here” sign. Practical and definitely useful.
Create your own cruise
Restaurant had an excellent offer of Italian style “antipasti”, followed by soup, and then by pasta, the main course and finished off by a desert.
After dinner, there was live music in the Bar del Duomo, and at 9.30 pm the theatre puts on a show: Pura Pasion is a fantastic performance by talented flamenco dancers under the starry sky of the hall. No doubt the artists on board know their stuff.
During the week I’m on board, I realise that cruising isn’t just one kind of holiday. As an excursion leader Sandra Pollini explains: ‘We have a lot of repeat visitors. The first time they come, they might just concentrate on relaxing on board, the second time they go on excursions from all ports and the third time well… there might be a combination.
How to get there: the cruise from Gran Canaria to Morocco with MSC Armonia was organised by Apollo, which flies direct from Copenhagen to Las Palmas. Flights are tailored to the sailing and round-trip airport-ship transfers are available.