Unless you are a cruising aficionado, it is hard to prepare yourself to set sail with almost 4,000 of your closest non friends. Having cruised three times in my life, as a child and then again in graduate school, I admit that although I was excited about our cruise on the MSC Fantasia, the bulk of my excitement was about the itinerary through port cities that I had always wanted to explore. I mean really…Santorini, Dubrovnik and a chance to explore the Acropolis in Athens? There was also the fact that our ship would depart from Venice, and the idea of sailing through the city that I love most in the world, was enough to make me giddy.
And yes, it is true. I loved the itinerary and each day in port. We explored, uncovered, relaxed and ate our way through each Greek island happily. But also? The MSC Fantasia is stunning ship (even when she looks like she is eating Venice sailing through the canal). So stunning, that after a long drought of fully recharging on vacation, I can officially say that I was able to let go and relax aboard the MSC Fantasia.
5 Favorite Places to Relax on the MSC Fantasia
Starting on the inside- Piazza San Giorgio, Cantina Toscana and il Cappuccino Bar
Some travelers worry about being overwhelmed by the size and number of passengers when sailing a large cruise ship like the MSC Fantasia. And while it is a lot of people (I admit to feeling overwhelmed by the number of people the first time we ate at the breakfast buffet), the essence of the Mediterranean way of life on the MSC Fantasia is that you can pick and choose areas and parts of the ship to meet your needs whether you want to be in the mix of it or prefer something quieter and smaller. (MSC also offers a Yacht Club area that the ultimate in luxury, like a cruise within a cruise with its own separate pool, concierge, lounge and restaurant).
My solution to create a relaxing breakfast was to enjoy a cappuccino and croissant from one of the smaller lounges-like the Cappuccino Bar- although we could have ordered room service for breakfast as well.
The MSC Fantasia is lined with lounges, cafes and bars that have a way of spreading out passengers, sometimes so much so that you forget how many other people are on board. We loved the Cantina Toscana for an early evening aperitivo and hors d’oeuvres (which was also a perfect way to nosh after a day in port to satisfy our appetite before our late dinner). Another favorite spot- for espresso, pastries or gelato was Piazza San Giorgio. The starlit ceiling made you forget that there were more than ten decks above you and made you feel like you were out strolling in an Italian piazza, window shopping before sitting down at a favorite cafe to people watch. (And although we never thoroughly investigated, the menu of gelato inspired desserts looked decadent- which is never a bad thing).
Of course if you sat at dinner long into the night talking with your dinner companions like we did (often closing down the restaurant), the other passengers seem like figments of your imagination by the time you ordered an after dinner grappa, espresso or hot chocolate at the The Cappuccino Bar while overlooking the Swarovski crystal staircases in the main atrium lobby.
Top 18 Adult Only Solarium
Although it was never a problem finding a lounge chair on deck, sometimes a parent on vacation just wants (or craves) a little quiet time to get lost in her Kindle. Top 18 was that haven for me. Even though the solarium lounge areas on the stern of the ship were quiet, there was something transformative about this adult on space with rattan beds and lounges. Although there is a fee to spend the day (or half day) at Top 18, this gift of relaxation was exactly what my tired body and mind needed. I literally spent the day going back and forth between dozing and reading without any real sense of time. I cannot remember the last time I spent an entire day doing so little and enjoying it so much.
Our Stateroom Balcony
As much as I LOVED Top 18, the one spot on the ship that could edge those fabulous rattan pods out as my favorite spot on the MSC Fantasia was our balcony. (If MSC were to make cabins with balconies equipped with the rattan pods, I might never leave the stateroom).
We actually slept with the curtains open so that we could always wake up to the changing but exquisite views. Whether we were looking at mountainous Greek Islands or a horizon of nothing but sea, sitting on the balcony, enjoying the quiet beauty of sailing was something I could do every single day.
The of course came our nightly routine. By the second day of our cruise we settled into a pattern of getting afternoon sun after being in port and coming back to our room to enjoy down time on the balcony before dinner (and since we had the late seating, aka 9:30 pm, that meant about two hours daily of balcony relaxation downloading pictures from the day or getting lost in one of my books).
While watching the sea views or sunrise and sunset from were memorable, sailing away from ports like Santorini from our balcony made it almost like we were sailing away from these dream destinations on our own private yacht. Talk about sheer bliss.
I suppose being on a ship is no different from being at a resort- large or small. You quickly discover the places on board that you love and return to every day, creating relaxing routines that you look forward to so much so that you wish you could recreate them at home. So far though (and sadly), I have not been able to locate rattan pods for our patio or the same ambiance for an after dinner drink.
What about you? Did you have a favorite place on a recent vacation where you felt most relaxed?
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