It was an exciting day today, as I had been invited to attend a Champagne reception and lunch on board the new Italian cruise liner – MSC Divina. 150 VIP’s attended including the secretary for tourism and Madeira’s President, Alberto Joao Jardim who inaugurated the ship, that sailed into port earlier that morning on her maiden visit to Madeira.
For me, this was a ‘must do’ experience as I have never set foot on a floating hotel before. My previous experiences of anything that didn’t sink was a recent trip aboard the Porto Santo line ferry, and several years ago the Dover to Calais ferry and in May the hover craft to the Isle of Weight; but none of them come remotely close or can compare to the opulence of a cruise liner, the size of the Titanic.
At 10.30am we swapped our ID’s for a visitors badge and boarded the ship in small groups whilst passengers were still disembarking and making their way to the town for their 5 hour visit to our Capital. Once we had cleared the baggage x ray machines we were led into the shiny new ship that resembled (in my mind) an extravagant Dubai shopping mall – not that I have ever been to one I might add, but can imagine from luxurious pictures I have seen recently of the standard of living to be expected if one ever lived there.
The enormity of the ship was really quite breathtaking and we seemed to walk miles before we reached the area where we were being received. Exquisite décor in gold finish, silver patterned walls, intricate light fittings, alien shaped seating and quirky mirrored tables, plush velvets and crystal were a feast for my eyes, every nook and cranny had a spectacular feature, nothing from the floor to the ceiling was missed in design or contemplation. (And my mind wandered back when I passed those passengers who were disembarking as we were getting on, I looked at their faces, how they were attired and what shoes they wore, and wandered how in these desperate times how anyone can afford to have a holiday on this incredibly expensive floating palace)!
Whilst we waited for the welcome speeches, Champagne appeared (not the cheap fizzy stuff, but the real deal) and it flowed……Jorge, my companion for the day, took full advantage as I couldn’t – I was driving!
Madeira’s President, Alberto Joao Jardim made a speech (in English)! And thanked the president of the Cruise ship company for supplying us with more tourists as the ship will be passing by our little island more regularly from now on. Once the speechs and presentation had concluded, we were rounded up into small groups for a private tour of the rest of the ship. Jorge and I were included with the other members of the press which included RTP TV, SIC TV, The Diario, Tribuna and various other mainland publications.
For the next hour and a half we trekked across the liner, examining most of the communal areas from restaurants, bars, shops, night club, theatre, health spa, gymnasium, indoor and outdoor pools, and my favourite recreation area, a casino. A cigar Lounge that my sister and brother in law would live in if they could and a 4D cinema with moving seats. Everything one can imagine to keep the most fractious person entertained has been squeezed into the 19 public accessed decks of the ship!
To end the tour a few of us were allowed to have a sneak peak at the MSC yacht club deck, the penthouse area where the really rich could live in true style and comfort with the aid of a 24 hour personal butler. So Jorge and I split up as I joined the TV camera men for this part of the excursion. This area reserved for the elite had extra security, a private rest area and bar, butler service and prestige. We were shown the Sofia Loren room, which I am surprised to say, felt quite small!
By this time my feet (I had swapped my flip flops for heels today) were really suffering from the amount of walking we did and due to the enormous length of the ship was somewhat surprised that they didn’t do the golf buggy thing or shuttle bus to get around it, but then I suppose when one is stuck out to sea for a few days, you need the vast amount of distance to be able to use up the time when bored to get from A to B.
Thankfully it was time for lunch and we were manoeuvred to the dining room where I had expected a buffet style meal before we would kicked of the boat. But we were VIP’s and treated as such, and offered a menu choice and a waiter serviced dining experience.
After lunch we were once again on the move and shown to another bar area to enjoy an Italian Coffee and some after lunch relaxation before being politely asked to exit the ship shortly after. The weather that morning had been fine but as the day drew on had started to cloud over and as we took our leave, we walked back into the port to the start of some unwelcome drops of rain. As we had a long walk back to my car and neither of us had any gear other than what we were wearing to protect us from the elements, we jumped into a taxi to take us a few yards up the road and were staggered when the driver wanted to charge us 10 euros for the privilege! Thankfully Jorge tore strips of the geezer in his native Portuguese and I ended up handing over a fiver in the end, but that experience rather soured the ending of our exciting day aboard the ship.
But to conclude it was a great day out and really good fodder for some articles for us both. A delightful experience that has really left me feeling that I would love to one day take a cruise. But before I do that I need to meet the man of my dreams who can afford to take me on one!!!!
Below are some more pictures of the day…….