Six things that surprised me on my first post Covid Cruise

MSC Virtuosa ship in Southampton

I knew things would be different aboard MSC Virtuosa, but there were six things on my first post Covid Cruise that particularly surprised me and I wanted to share them with you…

We were welcomed aboard by this Union Flag blowing in the breeze!

Cruise is Back in the UK!!

I’ve just come back from the first UK Cruise to sail in 15 months!
We sailed from Southampton aboard MSC Virtuosa on a short 4 night itinerary and had a fantastic time.
I knew when we booked that things would be different but there were six things that particularly surprised me that I wanted to share with you…

#1 – How NORMAL everything felt onboard!

The Brand New MSC Virtuosa waiting for her first passengers!
 I really expected to feel a bit alien on board, especially after so long away and with all the new protocols but I immediately felt relaxed! MSC’s UK MD Antonio Paradiso said ‘ Cruise is Back!’ and he’s right… it even feels as if it never went way – looking out at Southampton from our balcony I felt I had come home!
We had been told that arrival times should be strictly adhered to to allow for social distancing and testing. So we arrived at our designated time at the Terminal and were onboard within half an hour. There had been some delays earlier in the day, as some people had actually ignored their designated slot – this played to our advantage with a boarding time of 15.00, but was unfair to others who arrived at their designated time and found a long queue. 
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I LOVED the new Muster – it was very clever to give a code at the end that you had to dial on your cabin phone. 
It is a great  way to know exactly who has and hasn’t done the drill and there was a re-run next day for those who had chosen to ignore  instructions!
The Union Flag  has changed to Muster signage!
You still have to visit your muster station to scan your card which seemed to cause a bit of a bottle neck on the stairs.
MSC may want to consider giving a longer time frame in which to visit but apart from that I thought it was a HUGE improvement!  
Everywhere onboard was open, the crew were well prepared and were all ready to welcome us. The ship had that with that glorious just out of the showroom smell.
Having sailed on all the Meraviglia-plus class ships, I felt as if I had come home! 

#2 – the Tech didn’t feel at all INTRUSIVE

MSC & ME - Dining Options
The MSC and Me app worked well especially the deck plans and messaging capability.
The Daily Programme was available too and also as printed schedules in the cabin.
Sadly. I still couldn’t get Zoe to do anything other than be an excellent Bluetooth speaker from my phone! 
Zoe and the Room service QR code
Zoe and the Room service QR code
MSC Bracelte
The Track and Trace bracelet was light and comfortable and I was genuinely sad to leave my bracelet on board.
I wore it all day – opening doors and purchasing drinks quickly and effectively. I didn’t want to wear it in the evenings so I just popped it into my bag which was fine.
It was good to know that if someone did test positive that there would be a way of knowing if you had been at any risk.
Temperature checks as you arrived for breakfast were quickly dealt with.
The QR codes for menus and drinks lists worked well but if you didn’t want to use your phone a paper version was quickly delivered – these are single use only so you kept it for the whole meal! It was slightly odd to see so many people on a ship glued to their phones but it was much as it would be at home.

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#3 – how CHEERFUL and well trained the staff were!

Jennifer neatly demonstrates Smeyesing!
I was very impressed with the ability of the staff to communicate wearing a mask so that you couldn’t see their lovely smiles! Its really hard look happy and cheerful behind a mask but the body language and attitude was upbeat and positive.
MSC Crew had definitely learnt the art of ‘Smeyesing’ or smiling with your eyes.  It definitely brightened my day and everyone you passed had a wave or quick comment! The level of pride in their brand new ship was skyhigh!

#4 – What a GREAT atmosphere there was on board. 

Even though we were less than 1000 guests, onboard on a ship that has a maximum capacity of 5772, there was still a great buzz everywhere you went. The Entertainments team were in action as usual and there was socially distanced or ‘bubbled’ dancing every evening as well as quizzes, bingo and other activities as normal. 

I thought the new sun bed layout around the pool was great – it was good to have more space and not to be onto of other people! In bars and restaurants the seating configurations made it much easier to make new friends or catch up with old ones than I had expected. Some seats were closed off but you were close enough to be able to have a conversation without shouting! There were no seats at the bar and you had to sit at a table to be served – once seated you can remove your mask

All the speciality restaurants were open but not all of the Dining Rooms were in use, otherwise almost all of the ship was open and in use. There were no ‘sittings’ on this cruise – Anytime Dining being the norm which kept the atmosphere buzzing as people came and went

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Strict UK Cruise guidelines in place for the first cruises had closed some areas of the Spa but the stone beds and Salt Room were open. In other places, such as the Sportsplex, climbing ropes and water park, there were periodotic closures for cleaning – both areas were running booking systems so that you could plan ahead and they could control levels of use.

None of this seemed very onerous and it definitely didn’t detract from the cruise experience! 

#5 -how UNCHANGED the Buffet was! 

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If anything I liked it more!  After all the doom and gloom about the death of the buffet I found choosing your food and it  being plated for you simple and easy – I am sure it will lead to less waste! 

The Buffet wasn’t duplicated on both sides due to reduced numbers but there was the normal choice of options – you can order from different stations but you can’t pass a plate over to have items added – they will come on a separate plate. So there is more washing up but absolutely no chance for cross contamination. 

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The one way system was well adhered to and signposted with floor stickers so that there was no confusion about where to go or what to do.
The spacing between tables, and the table service for drinks were both excellent!

#6 Mask ENVY is a real thing! 

I had remembered to take masks with me and whilst there were a couple left for us in our cabin these weren’t replenished so don’t rely on them. The bars and restaurants will give you one if you ask – I managed to lose one on deck so grabbed one from the nearest bar but it was very hot and uncomfortable in comparison to the masks I normally wear. It made me doubly impressed with how cheerful and positive the staff are whilst wearing them. 

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What I hadn’t remembered to pack was something a little more glamorous or nautical than the utilitarian masks I use in my everyday life!
A little time sourcing some more glamorous masks would not have been wasted!!
There are a few ideas in the
Cruise Addicted Amazon Store

I thoroughly enjoyed my time aboard MSC Virtuosa and would go back again in a heartbeat given the chance!! Sadly over the last year we have all had to make adjustments on shore and now things are a little different at sea too but if you’re concerned about cruising with Covid Restrictions I really would say to give it a chance  – I’m extremely glad I did and can’t wait to go again!

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I thoroughly enjoyed my time aboard MSC Virtuosa and would go back again in a heartbeat given the chance!!
Sadly over the last year we have all had to make adjustments on shore and now things are a little different at sea too.
But if you’re concerned about cruising with Covid Restrictions I really would say to give it a chance  – I’m extremely glad I did and can’t wait to go again!

I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on MSC Virtuosa – please DM me or comment below with any questions. If you are planning an MSC Cruise you will find more information here

Published by Cruise Addicted

Passionate about ships, the sea and everything cruise related!

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