MSC PREZIOSA Preview, Part One

Peter Knego heads off to “La Superba”, aka Genoa, for the two night inaugural visit and christening of MSC Cruises’ spectacular new MSC PREZIOSA. Part One gives a general overview of the ship and her public spaces.

MSC Cruises USA

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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2013 unless otherwise noted.

Friday, March 22, 2013

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Stazzione Marittima, Genova.

For some inexplicable reason, Genoa remains the most underrated Italian city, although I’m certain the locals like it that way. It brims with palazzi, medieval and baroque monuments, a glorious coastline peppered with hamlets (Rappallo, Camogli, Santa Margherita) and mountains that rise majestically from the sea.

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Italia history in Ponte Millie, Genoa.

Genoa’s ancient harbor has transitioned through the ages but still boasts two glorious passenger ship terminals, Ponte Andrea Doria and Ponte MIllie (also known as Stazione Marittima). This was where REX and CONTE DI SAVOIA departed on their trans-Atlantic journeys before the war and it was “home base” for my all-time favorite post war liners, MICHELANGELO, RAFFAELLO, ANDREA DORIA, CRISTOFORO COLOMBO, GIULIO CESARE and AUGUSTUS — along with the ships of Lauro Line, Costa, Lloyd Triestino and many more.

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Boarding card.

After a short wait, I was issued my boarding card for MSC PREZIOSA, the latest and final installment in the four ship, 139,400 gross ton, 3,502 passenger FANTASIA platform introduced by the rapidly growing cruise division of Mediterranean Shipping Company. As a matter of fact, the debut of the PREZIOSA gives MSC title of world’s third biggest cruise line for a brief spell until next month’s introduction of NCL’s new BREAKAWAY.

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Atrium facing up from Deck 5.

All four FANTASIA ships feature soaring atria with fountains, fiber-optic lighting, panoramic elevators and staircases that are inset with glittering Swarovski crystals. Here’s to glimmer and sparkle in the modern cruise era!

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Swarovski steps.
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Totally random crystal shot.

While most of the ship will be fully covered in an upcoming Decked!, I’ll start with some key spaces that are pretty similar to those on the other three ships, albeit with different color schemes and decorative concepts. On the PREZIOSA, that concept is, not surprisingly, “precious things”.

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Yacht Club stairs.

Upping the Swarovski ante a bit for Yacht Club guests (The Yacht Club is the exclusive “ship within a ship” domain of suites on Decks 15, 16 and 18), the grand staircase in the Yacht Club is infused with golden crystals.

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Top Sail Lounge, facing starboard.

Yacht Club guests also have a spectacular 141-seat concierge lounge with a view over the bow called the Top Sail.

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Golden Lobster Dining Room, facing starboard.

Meanwhile, back in the main portion of the ship, the Golden Lobster is a two deck, 1,115-seat restaurant that offers dinner in two seatings. Located on Decks 5 and 6, it was the one we did not get a chance to dine in but the menus are identical to those in L’Arabesque (see end of this blog).

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El Dorado, facing aft/starboard.

El Dorado is a handsome 198-seat piano bar on Deck 7 that is connected to the Casino below via a grand staircase. On the port side, smokers are welcome.

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Mayan Restaurant, facing aft.
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Inca Restaurant, facing forward.

Up on Deck 14, there are two adjoining buffet-style eateries, the 404-seat Maya and the 412-seat Inca, both of which are decoratively and functionally interchangeable. They are very well laid out with “action stations” providing a variety of foods and full length windows offering the backdrop from a fourteen story vantage.

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Il Cappuccino.

Another favorite space is Il Cappuccino for its extra-tariff, frothy, caffeinated confections, its solid marble-topped tables and a lovely view over the atrium.

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Platinum Lounge, facing forward.

The Platinum Lounge is the ship’s largest public venue, seating 1,603 guests in a giant theater setting with excellent sight lines in a shell of Frank Gehry-esque brushed aluminum panels.

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Safari Lounge.
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Totally random Safari carpet shot.

Occupied primarily for press functions all day Friday and Saturday, the 295-seat Safari Lounge, located at the aft end of Deck 7 is a hub for cabaret-style entertainment, general functions and after dinner drinks.

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Statuesque in the vestibule.
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Reflections of PREZIOSA.

There is a distinct European style to the décor, courtesy of Milan-based architects Studio de Jorio, who have contracted with the company since the latter life refits of ACHILLE LAURO in the early 1990s. Mrs. Rafaela Aponte, wife of the owner of the MSC, works closely with de Jorio to give each of the ships her own personal touch.

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Galaxy Restaurant, facing aft.

And now for some spaces that make the PREZIOSA a little different from her three sisters (MSC FANTASIA, MSC SPLENDIDA and MSC DIVINA). One of my favorite new rooms is the 55-seat Galaxy Restaurant on Deck 16 with its panoramic views and deep violet/purple palette. An adjunct to the disco on the other ships, it is now an a la carte aperitif eatery with various dishes available for purchase.

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Diamond Library, facing aft.

The Diamond Lounge that overlooks the atrium on Deck 6 has a small library, versus the same spaces on the other ships.

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Sports and Bowling Diner.

All MSC ships have a Sports Bar but the PREZIOSA and her sister DIVINA are the first with their own mini-bowling alleys.

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Eataly, facing aft.

With the PREZIOSA, MSC has partnered up with New York-based Eataly for a special, 115-seat Eataly a la carte venue on Deck 7.

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Restaurant Italia, facing aft/starboard.

Adjoining Eataly is the affiliated but more upscale 30-seat Restaurant Italia for a sophisticated, top-quality, extra-tariff dining experience.

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Cabin 12277, facing port.

At noon, the cabins were readied for occupancy. I was in a commodious balcony cabin measuring 26-square-meters. Its soothing deep brown/gold ambiance and appointments would make a nice home for the next two nights. All such cabins feature individually controlled air conditioning, plenty of wardrobe and cabinet space, a desk, small sofa, wifi connection (for a fee) and interactive television.

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Cabin 12277 balcony.

Balconies are small but adequate with two chairs and a cocktail table.

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Cabin 12277 wc.

Bathrooms are well-designed with plenty of cabinet storage and a shower that unfolds via a pair of plexiglas doors.

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In cabin dispensers.

MSC provides shower gel and shampoo via built-in dispensers, thus eliminating the wast of small plastic bottles.

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Massage shower heads.

Showers have adjustable massage heads that pack a powerful spray.

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Lunch cuts.

After stowing my luggage, I took a short lunch break in the Inca. Or was it the Maya? MSC’s buffet offerings have come a long way since my last inaugural sailing with the MSC FANTASIA a few years back. There is an excellent salad bar (with fresh olive oil and balsamic vinegar options), quality cold cuts, hot veggies and excellent pizza.

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Parmesan bits.

I was especially pleased to see a genuine Parmesan wheel. Now, that’s Italian!

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Il Cappuccino versus Swarovski.

After a thousand photos taken and lunch devoured, I needed a fresh charge with an “atrial view” from Il Cappuccino, where the friendly attendant whipped up a double shot macchiato.

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The view aft from Vertigo.

With the ship now full, it was time to cover the outer decks. Exclusive to the MSC PREZIOSA is an impressive water park that borrows a little from Carnival with its dunker and winding Vertigo slide and a little from Disney with its loop that extends over the side of the ship. At 120 meters, Vertigo is the longest single-person water slide afloat.

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Funnel, facing aft from port.
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Most people are correct in dismissing modern cruise ship architecture for its functionality over form but I have to credit MSC’s team for giving the FANTASIA class ships some pleasing design elements, such as the gentle taper of the caged funnel, the saucer-shaped terraces at its base and the sleekly angled bulwarks in the forward part of the ship.

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Midships Pool, facing forward.

The vast open-air midships lido has a large pool, two bars, a gelateria, jaccuzzi platforms and fountains for extra ambiance.

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Aft from Yacht Club.

And here is the view from the terrace adjacent to the Yacht Club, all the way up on Deck 18.

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Infinity Pool, facing starboard.

At the very stern on Deck 15, there is an impressive “infinity pool”, the first of its kind I have seen on any cruise ship.

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MSC PREZIOSA versus Ponte Millie.

With most of the ship now covered, I had some time to wander along the Genovese waterfront to take a few exterior photos. Some 20 years prior, I had made my first visit to Genoa to board her ancestor, the ACHILLE LAURO, at Ponte Andrea Doria. There was no way then that I could have fathomed the shipping empire she would spawn.

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MSC PREZIOSA over Genoa.

From Ponte Andrea Doria, the PREZIOSA looked absolutely massive. Six ACHILLE LAUROS, and then some…

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L’Arabesque Dining Room, facing aft.

I unpacked, had a quick workout, attended a cocktail party in the Yacht Club, then joined the U.S. and U.K. media for first seating dinner in the 766-seat L’Arabesque on aft Deck 6.

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Vol au vent.

Honestly, I was not sure what to expect. I’ve had brilliant food on MSC OPERA, so-so food on MSC MONTEREY and unmentionable food on MSC FANTASIA. Happily, the quality of the cuisine on MSC appears to be on a nice rebound and the service at our table, especially considering the frenzied nature of inaugurals, was both friendly and efficient. Hat’s off to the crispy, flaky vol au vent starter!

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Salad course.

The salad was simple but very fresh with free-flowing olive oil and vinegar and a nice little bit of buffalo mozzarella for a genuine Italian flavor.

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Banana Baked Alaska.

After the long-haul flights and a non-stop day of photographing an almost 140,000 gt ship, I was pretty spent by the time our delicious banana Baked Alaska dessert arrived.

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Wonderland on stage.

Eyelids creaking shut and legs not responding to the brain’s commands, I barely made it to the Platinum Theater to see “Wonderland”. Must say, it was quite the spectacle and MSC never seems to disappoint in delivering a grand international show with a minimum of lyrics and a gorgeous, incredibly nimble cast.
However, this would be a mere drop in the proverbial bucket of wonder we would witness the following day.

End of MSC PREZIOSA Preview, Part One

More to Come…

Very Special Thanks: Yvette Batalla, Martin Cox, Gail Nicolaus, Gene Sloan

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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