Since my first cruise in 2004, I have been on quite a few different ships in the cruising fleet.
Some have been smaller, more intimate settings with 600 to 700 passengers. Others have been floating cities, with as many passengers as the population of the small town I grew up in (5,000-plus).
I have found something to love about all of them.
The largest ones promise and deliver days that are completely boredom free with activities that range from Bingo to ice skating to bumper cars.
The smaller ones have classes, comfy nooks for reading and educational presentations. They all have excellent music and good shows.
All have good food and plenty of it, and a staff that takes hospitality seriously.
As I prepared for my first cruise on the MSC cruise line, I got that sense of excitement that comes with a new adventure and not knowing what to expect. I did the online virtual tour that is available to everyone and the travel agent courses available to agents.
Still, it was with that sense of excitement that I boarded this large ship in Miami, ready to set sail for Jamaica and the Bahamas.
The MSC Meraviglia holds approximately 5,900 passengers. There are just over 1,000 on this voyage as ships ease back into sailing. We have seen the MSC ships primarily on our European destinations but this is my first time onboard. I actually was awarded this cruise free from my travel leader and advisor Shannon.
Even with all my study and preparation, I wasn’t expecting the ship to take my breath away. I can truthfully say I have never been on a more beautiful ship.
The entrance was dazzling with chrome polished to a blinding gleam. Dancing off the shine was the spiral stairway with steps filled with faux diamonds that sparkled off the jewelry-store lights.
There is a plexiglass hallway with clear cubbies holding wine bottles that shines like a crystal palace.
The ceiling on deck seven can be seen from decks six and seven and runs half the length of the ship. When we entered, I looked up and saw what looked like a beautiful stained-glass ceiling. Later, the ceiling dome was a field of flowers. Since we have been on the ship, we have seen the ceiling morph into many different scenes – from a Jurassic world to outer space to replicas of the world’s most famous ceilings, courtesy of some high-tech LED screens and electronics. Three times a day, the dome ceiling is featured in a five-minute presentation set to music.
Perhaps the most deliciously beautiful thing on the ship is the Jean Philippe Chocolate shop. The window display is a mechanical clock with exposed works that move with a pendulum accuracy. Inside the shop is a dragon that weighs 99 pounds, along with a seahorse, lobster and giant crab coming out of its shell.
And they are all made of chocolate.
It takes more than a beautiful vessel to make a great cruise.
MSC has delivered so far on all the things we look for that give good value.
And the beauty of the ship gives it a glow that will be hard to match.
Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987.