MSC Opera – Day 10 – Istanbul, well sort of…
We awoke as the ship sailed back down the Bosphorous strait and docked in Istanbul, the only city in the world spanning two continents. We’d already decided to stay onboard today as we were both a little concerned about safety in the region but Finn needed no convincing over a ‘bonus sea day’. The port is well positioned giving you spectacular views of the city and it’s many impressive mosques and you can even hear the call to prayer at regular points throughout he day so I felt we’d experienced something of the city without even going ashore.
We skipped breakfast and had a lazy start to the day relaxing in the cabin before visiting the spa on deck 11 to book our complimentary massages which were included in our Aurea package. There’s also an impressive, well equipped gym adjacent to the spa but I had no intention of using that on holiday! We wandered along top deck which was absolutely deserted and we literally had the ship to ourselves. Finn had a play in the spray ground while we had a pre lunch aperitif.
We were tempted by the promise of Turkish kebabs in the buffet but opted for an al a carte lunch in La Carvella instead. The restaurant was also incredibly quiet so we enjoyed very attentive service from the waiting staff. We all chose a fabulous meatball starter with rosemary potatoes from the self serve area then I had a turkey and ham kebab which was actually a wrap served with fries and Andy had a beautifully cooked boneless chicken leg from the lunch menu. We then took full advantage of an empty ship and chose some sun loungers right next to the pool which for a while we had all to ourselves. Finn swam a total of 20 lengths with the odd rest in between and it’s been lovely watching him grow in confidence in the water during this cruise. Glorious sunshine and temperatures touching the nineties have certainly helped him along.
At 4pm it was time for our massages so Finn went to kids club which was a bit of a palaver as the kids and staff weren’t actually at Junior club so it took a call to reception to locate them. Apparently they alternate between junior club on deck 12 and mini club on deck 11 and were at the latter. He’s not used the club as often as he maybe would on a P&O or a Royal Caribbean ship and I suspect this is because of the mix of nationalities and languages which means it’s a little harder to make friends. Rather selfishly I’ve enjoyed that he’s spent so much time with us on the cruise as normally I’m trying it drag him away from kids clubs!
Myself and Andy both had a free 45 minute Balinese massage which would usually cost around 70. We were told to arrive 5 minutes earlier for a consultation which I feared would be an attempt to upsell other products and treatments but thankfully there was no such thing and the therapist just escorted us to the treatment rooms. The massage was fabulous and incredibly relaxing apart from that awkward moment where you’re never too sure how much clothing to leave on or take off! We’ll be returning to the spa later in the week to enjoy the complimentary sauna, relaxation area and spa baths that are also included in our package.
We left feeling distinctly chilled out and went to collect Finn who was having none of it as he was having too good a time playing on the Xbox with some Italian boys and a Russian girl. I guess video games are a kind of international language when you’re seven years old. We went back to our room and glass in hand watched the sailaway and a fearless pilot jumping off the ship to his waiting boat which got a round of applause from the balconies and a little bow in response.
We picked up Finn and just had time for a quick change into our formal wear for tonight’s gala dinner. As a member of the MSC Voyagers Club (their loyalty scheme for returning guests) we’d been invited to a reception with the captain. This took place in the Byblos Disco, a really lovely bar and dance floor situated on deck 12 aft. We’d not had the opportunity to drink in this bar as it doesn’t open until 11pm and is usually just an adults only space. Given it’s location and panoramic views MSC should possibly rethink this and open it a little earlier as it would be a great spot to watch the sunset and I’m sure would prove very popular with guests. The free Prosecco was flowing and the captain said a few words and introduced his team in the usual five languages but it was a lovely start to the evening.
The Voyagers club is well worth joining and is free to sign up which you can do on your first MSC cruise. It’s a points based system with various levels, we’re silver currently but will be gold next time we sail MSC. You earn points based on the number of nights on board, the class you sail in and your on board spend. Benefits at silver level include discount on internet packages, a complimentary cocktail and a basket of fruit in your cabin. Gold includes a free spa treatment, priority boarding and tendering and a free gift. We have no loyalty to one specific cruise line but we are members of all the loyalty schemes on those we sail with as the points and benefits certainly add up over the years.
We enjoyed another excellent gala dinner although as I don’t eat fish I was struggling a little on the starters but our waiter happily arrange a simple and very tasty spaghetti as an alternative for me. Andy had the leek and potato soup with added shrimp and a pasta with scallops then we both had the steak main followed by dessert wine and cheese. We were served another complimentary Prosecco to end the meal which was a nice touch and another example of MSC going the extra mile.
After dinner we had a drink in the pub and watched Clarke the guy with a guitar play a great set ahead of tonight’s show, Mytheon. Somehow we managed to find three vacant seats on the end of the front row and settled in to enjoy an impressive Greek god themed performance of acrobatics, dance and spectacular costumes. Our Greek mythology mad boy loved it and the entertainment is definitely improving as the cruise goes on.
MSC Opera – Day 11 – Mykonos
At 8am I went to reception to pick up the tender tickets for today’s and tomorrow’s ports, the Greek Islands of Mykonos and Santorini. They were available up until 1pm but I was glad I’d gone early as there were already big queues as the ever patient staff explained the process and allowed people to choose time slots across the two days. Fifteen slightly frustrating minutes later my mission was complete and I rewarded myself with a warm pastry and a diet Pepsi in Aroma coffee bar which was full of officers getting their daily caffeine kick.
We weren’t due to dock at Mykonos until 2pm so the boys enjoyed a lazy start to the day with breakfast in bed which we followed with a small al a carte lunch while we waited for the tender announcements. It was noticeably windy, so much so that the walkways around the top deck and the solarium were closed, and the sea was getting very choppy so we weren’t surprised when the Captain announced that it wasn’t safe to tender at this time and he’d reassess the situation and make another announcement later. It caused much disappointment amongst the guests but was completely understandable and safety must always come first. We did what cruise passengers do in times of distress, ordered a glass of wine and had another lunch! Burgers, fries and hot dogs all round!
We found a sheltered spot on the pool deck to make the most of the sunshine and noticed the wind beginning to drop and the sea becoming calmer. The Captain soon made the announcement everyone was waiting for to loud cheers and a round of applauso (Italian for applause!)
We were tender ticket D so when they called A-C we went to get our bags from the room and by the time we’d reached the theatre, the waiting point for the tenders our letter was called. We were soon aboard a port operated tender and on our way. Thankfully the waves didn’t feel too bad and the staff were very helpful and vigilant getting passengers on and off. We docked at the pier and walked along the sea front to a small beach were Finn decided he wanted a quick swim before we headed into Mykonos Town’s labyrinth of white buildings and narrow streets which twist and turn into gorgeous little squares lined with bars and tavernas. We found one called Familia which was very stylish with carved wooden furniture and a canopy of deep pink bourgainvillea where we enjoyed a glass of red for 6 and watched the world go by. The island is renowned as a gay paradise and the restaurant soon filled with handsome, well dressed men enjoying dinner ahead of the night time partying the island is famous for. Our ship wasn’t departing until midnight so there was an ample opportunity to sample the nightlife but although it sounded like great fun it probably wasn’t appropriate with a 7 year old in tow!
We explored a bit more and found an art gallery with some fabulous work including a Julian Opie original, one of our favourite artists. Just out of interest I enquired about the price which was62,000! Thankfully it wouldn’t fit in our case so we had to decline : ) We headed back towards the harbour through a maze of upmarket shops and restaurants and knew we were heading in the right direction when we started to feel the sea breeze. Finn decided he wanted a Greek bracelet he’d seen earlier so we returned to a shop on the waterfront to get it and then jumped a tender back to the ship. We were back on board and sitting down for dinner by 8.30pm but the restaurant was incredibly quiet as the majority of guests seemed to have chosen to dine ashore. We enjoyed great service, plentiful wine and as always, delicious food. Andy went for a lentil soup, I had a lamb pasty, and then we both chose the asparagus risotto followed by lamb in a balsamic vinegar reduction. Finn chose a cheese toastie and then chicken escalope and chips from the kid’s menu and we ended the night with a final glass of red in Sorrento’s.