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Cruise review: MSC Virtuosa Southampton to Lisbon

by Louise Atkinson
Cruise review: MSC Virtuosa Southampton to Lisbon

Louise Atkinson joined a three-night cruise aboard MSC Virtuosa heading for Lisbon in Portugal, on a quest to seek out healthy food and activities and maximise relaxation time. She discovered that cleverly selected upgrades allowed her to create a personalised experience away from the crowds.

Where is it?

MSC’s cruise ships Virtuosa, Grandiosa and Preziosa sail out of Southampton throughout the year on short (two or three-night) and longer (7-15-night) tours of Northern Europe and the Mediterranean.

MSC virtuosa at sea
MSC virtuosa at sea

What’s the accommodation like? 

Cabins are compact (you’ll need to turn sideways to slide down between the wall and the end of the bed) but clean and well-equipped with a comfy mattress, loads of pillows, sofa, mini-ensuite shower room and plenty of storage. For more space and a ‘club class experience’, upgrade to a suite.

What did you eat and drink?

Breakfast and lunch are all-you-can-eat at the Marketplace buffet (you pay extra for speciality coffees or alcoholic drinks) and dinner is a five-course waiter-served affair in one of three main restaurants (you are allocated a restaurant and an early or late dining time on arrival). For special occasions you can pay extra to eat at one of five speciality restaurants (a steak house, a Mexican cantina, a sushi bar, teppanyaki or Asian fusion restaurant).

Louise enjoying her first custard tart
Louise enjoying her first custard tart

What is there to do?

A daily planner lists over 60 activities which run from a 7am abdominal workout session, through trivia quizzes, cooking demonstrations, dance classes, arts and craft sessions, (free) kids’ clubs, live music, a huge casino, West End standard entertainment, and late-night discos. Fitness enthusiasts can enjoy the gym, the 300m jogging track or a game on the full-sized basketball court; daredevils can raise adrenaline levels at the aquapark or high ropes course or test their driving skills in the F1 simulator. Alternatively, you could invest in a drinks package (which offers unlimited drinks for a set fee) and work your way around the 21 onboard bars.

Horizon pool
Horizon pool

What do I need to pack?

If you are sailing out of Southampton, keep in mind that UK weather can be very changeable, and it can be windy (and wet) on deck. Even if you’re heading south, you’ll need warm clothes (and possibly a light raincoat) for sea days.

Bring your smartest dressing up outfits – though black tie is not compulsory, there are plenty of great opportunities to dress up for dinner and many people do.

Bring a highlighter pen to help you navigate the extensive list of daily activities available.

Lasting memory

Waking up to see the floor-to-ceiling windows of the main buffet dining area transformed from sea and sky, to the stunning Lisbon cityscape with terracotta tiled rooves, churches, cobbled streets and whitewashed buildings right there by the quay.

Sainsbury’s magazine insider tip

Scrutinise the various upgrade packages available. Basic cruise prices vary enormously according to date, destination and availability (you may pay much less if you book well in advance, or very close to departure), but you can completely personalise your holiday to suit you or your family through selecting upgrade packages for drinks, food, wi-fi and entertainment.

How to book

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