Departure port: Southampton
Destinations: Hamburg, Zeebrugge, Rotterdam, Le Havre
Cruise Line: MSC

This time we’re doing something different and trying MSC Cruises. The surprisingly low fares, coupled with the fact that they are the only operator still running cruises out of the UK at this time of year makes MSC the obvious choice for a short break.

MSC ships leave Southampton later in the evening, so there’s no need to stay in town the night before. Instead we take a leisurely daytime drive down without any major headaches.

Once in town we had planned to stop for lunch in the Westquay Shopping Centre. As we head up from the carpark, I remember there’s an escape room across the road, so we forget about lunch and head over to Locked in a Room instead. The venue is deserted and we are able to walk straight in. We choose Parallax which turns out to be the hardest room of the two on offer but we do manage to escape with six minutes to spare. The theming is great and the games masters really get into character – we have a great time (much better than a KFC).

Top tip: Look under everything.

Afterwards we stop for a Krispy Kreme donut and drive to the port (after much hassle trying to pay for parking). MSC sail from the Horizon Terminal which would be an easy walk from the city centre.

Our first sighting of the MSC Virtuosa moored in Southampton
First ‘glimpse’ of the MSC Virtuosa

Parking is right outside the terminal which is great. The journey through the terminal is smooth and hassle-free – none of the grief we have come to expect when sailing Princess Cruises. No queueing, no shoving, no complaining – incredible.

Once onboard, the sheer size of the ship becomes apparent. With a max passenger capacity of 6334 (+ crew), this place is enormous. There’s plenty of glitz and shiny stuff, much to Linda’s excitement.

Top tip: MSC offer a status match program, so if you’ve achieved status on another line, use the form here to apply for the MSC equivalent. Our Platinum Captain’s Circle status on Princess equates to ‘Gold’ level on MSC.

The cabin stateroom itself is nice, although the MSC experience lacks much of the polish we have come to associate with Princess. This is particularly true when it comes to tannoy announcements which are given in five or six languages, dragging on for several minutes at a time.

That said, we’re looking forward to our latest adventure…