I was a late entry to the list of attendees to this years Blog Camp, which is run by the Tots network. I entered the original draw for tickets (which are free), which I didn’t get, then I was in the draw for the reserves which I didn’t get, then finally in the third reserve list I got a place! On the day there was lots of excitement, we needed our passports even though we weren’t going anywhere, and everything was checked and triple checked. I arrived a little later than planned due to me underestimating the time it would take in rush hour, plus my epic sense of direction letting me down yet again!
Once I got there and parked I could see the impressive ship from MSC, named the Preziosa, meaning Precious in Italian. It’s huge! We got through security and boarded the ship, feeling like I was an extra in Titanic. I was happy to note plenty of lifeboats.
Once we were on board we were walked through several sumptuous rooms and atriums, including the main hall with glass elevators, glittery steps (that cost 10000 Euros each) and a casino. Everything is uber glamorous, shiny and sparkly. They say the aim is Eurpean glamour, and I think they’ve got it right. We ended up in the impressive theatre, which looks like a west end theatre and a cinema combined.
Spot the bloggers all taking pictures! We had a presentation from the children’s club and Sally from Flea enterprises said a few words about the day. The children’s club has different clubs for different ages, and they can take care of your children with organised activities from 9am until 11pm if you so wanted – all of which is included in the cruise price. Perfect, although I would like to spend some time with the children if I went on a cruise. Maybe an hour or two here and there! The crew were all very friendly and attentive. They have partners with Lego, and they offer all sorts of kids activities including learning to code and filming web series, to more traditional games and crafts. They have a splash park on board, as well as other pools on deck and a spa pool with jacuzzis.
We went on a mini tour of the ship and the spa facility, including a make up and hair lesson, which wasn’t very useful, I think we all thought a tour of the spa might include a mini treatment, or maybe a tour of the treatment rooms, but they didn’t even explain what hair and make up they were doing, and most of us just spent time catching up on e-mails and social media instead! The spa looked lovely though. Treatments aren’t included, you can buy them, along with the make up.
After that it was time for the networking lunch. Before we went we all filled in a form about our preferences on sessions, and also if we wanted to sit with anyone in particular at lunch, plus topics we could talk about or wanted to learn more about. On the day we just filed in with who we were standing with, and no direction was given over lunch so we just chatted about whatever. The food was lovely, we had a buffet and a menu to order from. The wine was lovely and if I wasn’t driving home I would have had more!
After lunch we had the choice of a more comprehensive ship tour or a session on food photography. I’m always trying to improve my photography so I went for that one. I have no formal training in photography so any tips are welcome. I did learn a lot, and mostly that you don’t need a lot of equipment or to pay out for what you need.
Next we had the choice of a food presentation from MSC or a metrics session from Sally. I chose the metrics session, although I thought it was more about analytics, in fact it was all about the Tots network (Tots100, Foodies 100, HIBS100 and Trips100) and how they calculate their rankings. So if you have any questions on that I’m your gal. Somewhere there was a session on working with brands but I missed when that was which I’d like to have gone to. At the end of the day we had cocktails (non alcoholic for me) and the CEO came to answer our questions. They had some difficult ones to answer, including are all your lightbulbs eco friendly? I think the answer may have been a no, but they make their fuel as green as possible and are aware of eco issues. I had a question about child safety, there are barriers up but if you have a wayward toddler there is a possibility they could climb over but it would be pretty hard to do.
Before going I would have said that cruises aren’t necessarily for families, but this one seems very geared up for families and children. The only sticking point would be the price, most families with young children just don’t have that sort of disposable income to spend on a holiday, in fact price was not mentioned at all during the day. I’ve done some research and here is the ballpark figures: for the cheapest cabin type going on a northern european tour in August it’s around £879 per person for a weeks cruise, with children at £119 each. So for a family of four you’re looking at around £1996 which is about standard for this type of holiday. It includes 20 hour dining, kids clubs and the whole experience. I really felt cossetted and like I was in a luxury other worldly experience. You can leave from Southampton on The MSC Preziosa or The Magnifica, one of their other ships. I think it competes well with other all inclusive holidays abroad, plus you get more than one destination without having to pack your suitcase!
Have you been on a cruise? Would you consider it as a family?
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