Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Blog Camp on Board - An Introduction to Cruising (Part 2)

Thank you to those of that read part 1 and that have come back for more. Ok, so when I left you last time we had just finished lunch and were moving on (very slowly after lots of dessert and wine). As it was blog camp we had the choice of a podcast session, a food photography session or a wander around on our own. After much debating and drinking water I asked a couple of other bloggers if I could tag along with them and get a proper look at this gorgeous ship especially the pools and hot tubs which are always going to be a winner for a water baby like me:

This is one of the main outside pools and one of four. A feature that I thought was really cool was pool number two next to the spa area:

What was so cool about it was the it has a retractable roof so no matter what the weather you can still swim!! Amazing! However as an outdoor swimmer the infinity pool at the rear of the ship was definitely my favourite and was by far the most secluded. I cannot tell you how tempted I was to get in and have a quick swim:

Plus more hot tubs than you can shake a stick at:

In part one, I spoke a little bit about the facilities that were on board for children. Well let's start with the Vertigo water slide:

I'm not entirely sure how long it was but it wound around both sides of at least half of the ship! For younger kids, there's also the Doremi Castle kids aqua park:

There are several different clubs for kids which are sorted into age ranges although these are a guide not a strict instruction, from babies to 17 year olds. They are all under the Doremi logo and the staff are super enthusiastic:

Children are given a security band when they board so that you're able to keep track of them and need to be signed in and out of clubs. When the clubs are at the pool above adults are not allowed in as it's for kids only.

 They have 4D cinemas, gaming consoles, kids menus and even lego rooms. What a brilliant idea for a European cruise ship where they may be language barriers where you have 35 nationalities of children. Who doesn't love Lego?? Also, a bowling alley:

The clubs have a schedule for the day and if the kids aren't interested in shore excursions then you can leave them on board with the Doremi staff. It all seems to be quite flexible so I imagine for our family that would work quite well as they could all dip in and out as they choose as clubs are open from 9am - 11pm. I'm not sure that we would want to be without the kids all day or that I would want to leave them on board whilst we were off on shore excursions but I guess whatever works for each family.

The schedule sounds amazzing and includes things like workshops on 3D printing, Dj-ing, STEm subjects, video making including starring in their Kelly and Khloe series, cookery lesson and hair and beauty treatments. Not sure we'd ever see Chick if she wanted to come on board with us!! Unfortunately I didn't get to see any of the kids areas but the other bloggers assured me they looked fab! However, all facilities aside, one of the things that I was most impressed with is the work that MSC do with Unicef so all kids can become a Junior Ambassador for Unicef and they teach the kids about social responsibility, what Unicef does and each Junior Ambassador gets  a certificate. What a brilliant idea!!

There is also plenty of style to be had if you are child free including private spa decks. The ships decor was as opulent and fab as you would imagine:

The Safari Lounge was my favourite bar as it reminded me of the Jungle Room at Graceland. It was also the scene of a brilliant metrics session with Sally and where we had cocktails and champagne. Some other highlights for me:

I hope that I've given you a good flavour of what life looks like aboard the MSC Preziosa. It was a really interesting visit and if I'm honest the only thing that has put me off previously is the cost. There appear to be some costs that I had assumed were included that are actually added on as extras including gratuities, drinks and having to pay extra to eat at a couple of the restaurants. However, if you factor these in then there are some great prices to be had. 

I was however really impressed with the family orientated nature of MSC and the passion of their staff and if ever I got the chance to spend longer on board then I would jump at it. They have a range of other ships including the Seaside which is a new ship launching in December.  The fleet also houses the MSC Magnificia which from March 2018 will be based out of Southampton and kids prices start from only £99 and free upgrades. Wondering if I could persuade hubby..........

Are you a cruiser? If you are, what do you love about it If not currently then what is it that puts you off?

Blog camp on board was hosted by Trips 100 and the lovely guys at MSC Cruises. I have not been paid or recompensed for this review in any way other than wine, lots of free wine with lunch ;)

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Blog Camp on Board - An Introduction to Cruising (Part 1)

Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to attend Blog Camp on Board which was held on the MSC Preziosa part of the MSC Cruises fleet. Now, I'm a relative newbie to cruising, apart from a short look around the QE2 many, many years ago so I was excited to see what was on offer and whether we may be interested in cruising as a family.

I headed down the night before and stayed in a very cheap and cheerful B&B (you do get what you pay for......) which as I hadn't done my research beforehand, I hadn't realised was smack in the middle of university hell on what appeared to be student night...... Let's just say they didn't quieten down until 5am and this girl needs her beauty sleep.....

Bleary eyed but very excited about getting to the Port, I figured (very naively) that once I'd parked the car that I would be able to have a walk along the docks and look at all of these amazing boats and cargo. Erm......no! It's pretty much the same level as security as an airport and you aren't getting near to anything especially not the sea:

Anyways, this was my first view of the MSC Preziosa:

As I've already mentioned security was very similar to the airport but pretty painless and then we were through and I started to wish I was actually sailing away somewhere:

I'm not sure if it's possible to tell from these pictures the sheer size of the boat. It holds around 4,300 passengers and 1,370 crew. I also really liked that there was a real European flavour to the ship both in crew and passengers although everyone did speak English very well. Conversely the passengers on this ship tend to be younger than traditional cruises and MSC apparently have a much more family ethos than some traditional cruise ships.

MSC are also introducing a new UK schedule to their offerings and the MSC Magnifica will be based in Southampton. This is aimed more at British clients and includes things like kettles in bedrooms, good old yorkshire tea, scones and high tea all run by a British hotel manager and Director.

Once on board this is your first view:

Look at the steps..... made of Swarovski crystals at a cost of 8,000 - £10,000 euros for each step... Now that's some decadence right there:

Obviously it's at this point that you realise what an amateur blogger you are for wearing scruffy boots and not some nice photogenic shoes!!

Unfortunately we didn't have too much time to stop and stare and drink it all in because we were on a tight schedule and had to board in small groups. I understand that there were some frustrations on the day and that as this was the first time MSC had hosted bloggers they had maybe underestimated quite how nosey we are and how often we want to stop and take pictures. So from here we met the rest of the group in the Platinum Theatre. Genuinely, this place is massive and seats 1600 guests but unfortunately my pictures are all a bit naff and don't really show the grandeur.......

We then had an introduction by Matteo who runs the kids clubs but there's quite a lot to talk about in terms of families and facilities for kids so I'll save that for part 2. Next up was a (very) quick tour of the ship which at the time I was a bit disappointed in as it was a real whistle stop tour of one deck and was mainly bars and restaurants. Whilst I was happy to see those, I was also desperate for a drink and loo break which did get sorted out eventually. It was super warm on board but I'm reliably informed by more experienced cruisers that this is not normally the case and that the air con is blasting. I guess as they were in the UK they didn't want their guests freezing to death!!

For lunch we were hosted in the Golden Lobster which was a really lovely space and I thought was luxurious:

Lunch was really interesting as were the people that I was sitting with. We could either choose from the menu or there was a buffet too:

Now, those of you that know me know that I'm honestly super fussy when it comes to food and as lovely as I'm sure this wasn't my kind of food so I went for the buffet option. I didn't get a picture of the mains as I was too busy stuffing my face but there was a choice of hot food, a huge meat and salad buffet and unlimited puddings and wine:

Interestingly, all of the other bloggers I sat with at lunch had food restrictions of some kind either gluten free, dairy free or vegetarian. They did get special menus to choose from and some of the waiters seemed knowledgeable about the choices available however the ladies did have to wait a  long time for their food to arrive. Our head waiter reassured us that it was because all of the food was purposely being cooked and prepared separately. During the Q&A session and afterwards the MSC team have assured us that guests travelling with the company give detailed information regarding dietary requirements when booking and their assigned waiter is aware of any these needs so it shouldn't be a problem if you are cruising with them.

I think we'll leave part 1 there for now but part 2 will be all about the other facilities, the kids clubs (amazing) and my favourite part without a shadow of a doubt - all of the gorgeous things for water babies like me including Vertigo which is the longest single water slide on the seas:

If you have any questions about cruising or about the day then please let me know and I'll include them in part 2!!!

Blog camp on board was hosted by Trips 100 and the lovely guys at MSC on board. I have not been paid or recompensed for this review in any way other than wine, lots of free wine with lunch ;)

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Sky Garden, London

Last weekend I was in London for the Shine walk, which is a half marathon (or full marathon of you're crazy!!) to raise money for cancer research. The idea was to go down to London, walk the walk, have some alcohol, sleep and come home again. However, the walk took me much longer than planned so no drinks afterwards. A couple of people suggested that instead of coming straight home we might want to see if we could get tickets to the Sky Garden which as they were free, I duly did.

Now the Sky Garden is described as a unique public space that spans three stories and offers views across London whilst wandering through landscaped gardens. Obviously I thought it sounded quite cool but I was blown away by the awesomeness of it. If you are ever in London you can book FREE TICKETS here (believe me, nothing in London is free!!!) It's situated on the top three stories of the "Walkie Talkie" building at 20 Fenchurch Street and is close to loads of tube stations and about a 5 minute walk from the Tower of London which is where we walked from.

It's impressive from the outside too:

The email and the tickets that we received from the Sky Garden did say that the time we had booked was our queuing time rather than our entrance time as you do have to show ID and go through airport style security to gain entrance. Luckily the views are pretty cool and it actually only took us 10 minutes to get through security:

Once you exit the lift at the top you are in this unbelievable space:

Not only do you have this amazing space inside with plenty of foliage, plants and spaces to sit down, there is also a viewing platform where you can see some of the best sights that London has to offer including the Shard, Tower Bridge, the Gherkin and out to Canary Wharf and Wembley:

For my 40th birthday last year, we went to the top of the Shard which cost about £26 each and this was far superior. I would recommend doing this first and saving your Shard money to have food and drink at the Sky Garden. I'd happily go back time and time again.

I honestly could have happily stayed here all day, found a little corner with a comfy chair and a book and not moved. Your time is limited to an hour but there didn't appear to be anyone monitoring this. There was even a vodka bar so more reason to stay all day:

Sitting here looking out at the City skyline! Awesome! Next time, I think we'll go back at night and have a proper drink. There is also a cafe and a brassiere but I that was slightly out of our price range on this occasion.

Genuinely the only downside that I could see to the Sky Garden was the queue for toilet and the time restriction, apart from that I have nothing but superlatives to describe how great it was. Have you ever been? What did you think?

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Curve, Leicester

Last week whilst browsing on social media I was lucky enough to come across a blogger invite to the press night of the Curve's young company and community production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Nick Winston:

I've only been to the Curve once before, a long time ago, and I'd actually forgotten how awesome it is there.  It's beautiful from the outside:

And then almost Industrial inside and set out over 3 floors:

What I like about it most though is the actual theatre. There are no bad seats, enough leg room and enough room in the seats for a rather large bottom like mine. As a regular theatre goer, let me tell you that this is almost unheard of. I think the Curve may be my new favourite place!!

Now I'm a real Musicals kinda gal so I wasn't sure how well my uneducated brain would get on with a bit of Shakespeare especially when it was billed as "A Mythpunk World giving classic folklore a modern twist - think Danny Boyle meets Tolkien". Readers let me tell you - It was absolutely incredible!!

Basically (if you don't already know) the story is about love, marriage, games and fantasy, an Enchanted Forest with a Fairy King and Queen and a play within a play. I fairly sure I'm making it sound more complicated than it actually is.

The stage set was fab. Real grass that smelled amazing, moving lights, various media and projections added to it but as usual what made it for me was the costumes and the acting. Everyone that played a main part was brilliant and there was just so much to look at all night. Helena (Lauren Jones) was great especially during the scene where she has both men chasing her, I was really giggling at her expressions:

The Fairy King, Oberon (played by Simon Butler) reminded me of Tom Cruise in Rock of Ages. I was both mesmerised and scared of him at the same time. I saw him outside afterwards and he was still scary. Incredible costume though!!

(Show photography credit - Pamela Raith)

The Fairy Queen was amazing too but I spent all night worried that she was going to tumble off her bed to her death as it was moving around across the stage (it's the Mum in me!!!)

Without a shadow of a doubt though the outstanding star of the night for me was Bottom hilariously played by Alexander Clifford. His Ass had me and the rest of the Curve laughing at almost every scene especially him turning into a donkey. Even writing this post I'm laughing at the memory of his character:

The whole show was a real feast for the eyes and heart and I honestly enjoyed every second of it:

The show is only on until the 20th August but if you get chance you should check it out as it was a great night out. Alternatively keep an eye on their What's On page for future shows.

The Curve is right in the heart of Leicester and has great transport links. I drove and parked at the NCP car park next door which said it would be £16 for 4 hours (gulp!!) However what I discovered last night is that if you pay for the parking at the Curve then it only costs £4.80!! Absolute result!

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Curve Theatre and received a complimentary ticket and programme however all thoughts and opinions are mine. All show photos courtesy of Pamela Raith Photography.