#BlogCampOnBoard With MSC Cruises & Foodies100
In our experience, holidays with allergies are as simple or as complicated as you make them. I like a simple life so every year, we pack everyone in my Roxy car with enough clothes for a week and head to Cornwall. Same country, same language, same NHS and self-catering. And this is just us dealing with relatively mild reactions in the Peachicks and ignoring my issues.* Aside from our honeymoon, we haven’t ever considered any sort of catered holiday and definitely not one where for part of it you could be in the middle of an ocean! So when I got the chance to spend the day aboard the beautiful MSC Preziosa with Foodies100 and MSC Cruises for #BlogCampOnBoard I jumped at it.
*No its not clever or sensible but to be honest by the time I’ve sorted them out I literally don’t have the energy to deal with my lungs & allergies too!
Obviously there were lots of other reasons for going on to my first ever blog event, like seeing my fellow Freefrom Gang members (like Kate, Glutenfree Alchemist & HRH Lady Deely Boppers of Glutarama), meeting other bloggers for the first time and learning a few website related things along the way! But mainly I just wanted to have a nose around a cruise ship and find out if it really was a viable option for us a family!
If like me, you are from Southampton, the ‘Boats’ that come in and out of port each day are just part of the skyline. Driving over the flyover into town when the ships are in is a spectacular sight. They are just stunning, especially with the sun glinting on them. And it is hard to choose a favourite between them all. This week, the familiar sound of the fog horns have provided the sound track to my working hours & kept Alys from getting homesick on a residential with school. Growing up we used to go to Royal Victoria Country Park and stand on the beach, in the freezing cold, waving the new ships out as they were sent off on their maiden voyages with spectacular fireworks.
A new view for me – the Southampton skyline from a cruise ship!!
BUT I have never, ever been on one!! Closest I ever got was lining the red carpet, waving a flag as the Queen came in on the QE2 when I was about 7! Well that and standing on Town Quay, 8 months pregnant on a freezing, damp, January night waving the in-laws off on a round the world cruise – most expensive 2 hours of parking on record – we paid for parking then got a £100 fine & had to shell out on a new car battery!!
True the in-laws are rather keen on cruising, but aside from their extensive collection of holiday photos, I really didn’t know what to expect as we stepped on board. This is what we were greeted with….
And those stairs (inlaid with Swarovski Crystals & worth 8-10K EACH)….
I’ll be honest I did spend the first few minutes swinging between ‘OMG Its so shiny & pretty, I love it’ and ‘This is really fancy, I really, really don’t belong here.’ But then you are talking about the girl who spends the week covered in paint, glitter & brushing assorted woodland debris out of her hair!
So did I enjoy my day at #BlogCampOnBoard? And do I think an MSC cruise would be a good holiday choice for us? As a large family with allergies, medical conditions, wheelchairs & those who cruise already?
Actually Yes I do!
AND here is why….
MSC are Family Centered Cruises
First order of the day was listening to a presentation by the kids entertainment team in a very beautiful, very comfy theatre! MSC is firmly a family company, family owned with strong family centered ethos. There are 7 different children’s clubs open until 11pm that cater specially for babies, littles & young people up to the age of 17, thanks to great staff and collaborations with brands like Chicco and Lego.
Watching with my work head on (Teacher, Preschool Deputy, former Zoologist) I have to say I was really impressed. Matteo & the rest of the staff spoke with great enthusiasm about the facilities for children. I know The Peachicks & my littles at work would have been completely engrossed in what was going on and have all given the Doremi song their seal of approval!
The Zoologist in me is always concerned about what legacy we are leaving our children, the health of the planet as well as inspiring a sense of responsibility in them to take guardianship of it in the future. It is the centre of everything I do at work as well as a parent. And it is part of the ethos of the kids clubs onboard MSC cruise ships. In fact every child that takes part becomes a junior ambassador for UNICEF, very impressive. As part of the Q&A session with MSC in the afternoon we were also told about the new technologies, MSC are looking into using to make their ships run cleaner.
MSC take Safeguarding of Children in their care Seriously…
As someone who spends a lot of a working week, involved in the safeguarding of other people’s children I have to admit I can be a little bit awkward when it comes to my own children…. Just ask any Nursery they have ever been too! So I was pleased to hear that MSC have policies and procedures to cover this. For example, parents of children in the kids club are asked to sign BEFORE the children attend if they are happy for them to be taken on activities out side the setting of the kids club and if they are also happy for photos to be taken.
Kids splash Park which I know The Peachicks would absolutely LOVE! (MSC Stock Photo)
In the event of a concern being raised that another passenger is taking photographs of the children in the kids club, the youth staff would call security. Security then challenge the passenger and investigate. The whole ship is also covered by CCTV for added security.
Inclusion of Kids with Allergies & Medical Conditions
When your child has a medical condition like allergies, leaving them with someone else is such a cause of anxiety. Will they listen? Are they trained properly? What happens if something goes wrong? Its what makes us ‘those awkward parents’ things have to be right, the consequences if its not just don’t bear thinking about. We have never left The Peachicks in a kids club. I barely manage to leave them at school everyday without hyperventilating. So when I heard about MSC’s policy for including children with allergies in the kids clubs I was quite impressed.
Like me, a lot of the youth staff will be first aid trained which usually includes some form of auto-injector training. However, on MSC they are not allowed to administer medications. (Cue momentary panic attack…) SO in order to care for children with medical conditions, one of the nurses from the ship’s medical team will be stationed in the kids club at all times the child is in attendance. This means in the event of an allergic reaction, the nurse will administer the medication and then be responsible for aftercare while waiting for any other medical staff necessary. (Ok, panic over) This also means that not only does the child have immediate access to trained medical professionals BUT the ratios and care of the other children in the club is not compromised in any way. And that for me, as a childcare professional would be a massive help!
So like I said, the inlaws love a cruise. Whilst they have never tried an MSC one, looking at what they have been on before (and their assertion that P&O is not an option) I do think that MSC could be a good option for all of us together. We get the amazing kids facilities and family centered holiday we need and they still get the glitzy glamour that they go cruising for. The Preziosa is absolutely beautiful, with a definite Art Deco feel. Old time glamour with a few modern touches, all alongside the medical facilities and ease of wheelchair access we would need. The welcoming atmosphere on board, also means that I wouldn’t have to spend the entire time worrying that The Peachicks had dared to set foot anywhere!
Enjoy a few photos of my favourite places…
There were a few of these beautiful black & white friezes around the ship
which I have to say I absolutely loved and were one of my highlights!
The Safari Lounge – which I rather liked – comfy chairs, large windows and amazing coffee…. what more do you want!
One of the Outdoor Pool Areas complete with moody Autumn Southampton sky –
I could definitely see us in this frequently by day & Hubby & I sitting out stargazing by night!
These pretty water fountains were in the indoor pool area –
I love the lights in them & could imagine The Peachicks would love them too!
If you are going to spend time on a ship, out to sea for a day or so at a time and miles away from a hospital, you want there to be good staff on board. Afterall, with no access to your own cooking facilities and no control over any environmental allergens that may be around, you have to trust them. Especially when like me you can react to touching a handrail that someone with latex gloves has just cleaned and require a lot of medication to control your grumpy old toddler lungs.
I was really impressed with the staff. I know they were showing off the ship but I cannot fault them. Those that we met were lovely. Very helpful, all down-to-earth but above all else professional, approachable & knowledgeable… Basically everything you would want in people you had to entrust with looking after your children, your medical needs and general welfare.
AND there were lifeguards around the indoor pool! A definite plus for us having to take three water babies like the Peachicks swimming!
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY….
The Peachicks Could Eat & It would be more than just fruit!!
As part of our day, we ate in the Golden Lobster Restaurant. It is a beautiful setting, lovely comfy chairs, clean crisp table cloths and water & wine readily available. The food was also REALLY good!
Although I do have some pretty severe allergies, I did eat from the buffet. Fortunately with most of them, my daily dose of anti-histamines is enough to prevent a major reaction plus I was literally 5 minutes from home! I had some salad, roast pork and roast potatoes with possibly the best brussell sprouts I have ever eaten outside my own kitchen!! Baked dairy & eggs are pretty ok for me to eat so I did have a few samples of the dessert buffet, and everything was amazing! It is a shame though that there wasn’t many dairy or egg free alternatives apart from fruit, which was arranged individually and not just in a large mixed bowl!
That said – eating off the buffet is not something we would be advised to do if we were cruising. MSC do not label the allergens in dishes on the buffet and obviously can’t guarantee that dishes wont become cross contaminated. There are also loose nuts of different kinds used as garnish on the dishes. Had it been peanuts I wouldn’t have touched the buffet at all – its just not worth the risk.
Mind you, as lovely as this section of the buffet looked, the universe did seem to be warning me & my orange allergy not to eat it…
Ok so according to MSC, at the point we booked the cruise we would be asked about any dietary restrictions, requirements or allergies we have. This information is apparently checked a few times throughout the booking process before being passed to the Catering Team. The staff will them make any special orders necessary before the start of the cruise – I assume this would mean that they would try & source the right milk, cheese etc that we know are safe for me & The Peachicks.
Onboard there is a dedicated allergy kitchen that is responsible for catering for those with food allergies. On the first visit to the dining room we would be greeted by the Maître d’hôtel. During our visit, he was the only person able to take our special orders and I was impressed at the number of times he checked each individual requirement before food was actually handed over!
Whilst on board we did have a brief tour of the ship which took us through a really lovely little patisserie area complete with the most beautiful coffee machine I think I have ever seen… The cakes & patisserie were absolutely stunning and could see hubby & I sneaking away while the Peachicks were off at the kids club for an afternoon cake & coffee. I didn’t see many allergy friendly options but then I wonder if part of the catering for individuals with allergies would be to provide alternatives in the main dining room.
A beautiful display of cakes & patisserie that has just made me more determined to make a physical Peachicks’ Bakery a reality.
Allergy & Vegan friendly versions of all of these are actually pretty simple to make with a little practise and sourcing the right ingredients!
From next year MSC are using Southampton as a home port for their beautiful MSC Magnifica and its Northern Europe cruises. Which is great news for the area and is just another massive plus for us as a family. AND the Magnifica has berths big enough for us as a family of 5 too! For more information on destinations & timetable of cruises available see MSC website here.
There is so much more I could tell you about our day, and what I thought. BUT I feel like I have waffled enough – I also feel like you should get some kind of medal for reading all of this if you got this far!! AND I didn’t even get to tell you about the gym, spa, bowling alleys, casino or jazz clubs!! IF even after reading all of this you still want more information then don’t hesitate to leave a comment & I will do my best to find out for you!