Sparkles & Surprises on the Family-friendly Cruise Ship MSC Preziosa #BlogCampOnBoard

I have always wanted to step onboard a cruise liner, enjoy a glimpse into a luxurious life on the ocean waves with fabulous food, exciting destinations and entertainment from dawn til dusk.

I have a wardrobe full of nautical striped clothing, an appetite worthy of a ship-full of restaurants and a love of travel albeit with a more than a touch of comfort.  Lets just say, my tastes are more five star hotel than backpacker hostel.

On Board MSC Preziosa cruise ship #BlogCampOnBoard

 Sadly until now a busy life producing and rearing our extra large family has meant the only water surrounding my holiday accommodation is generally large puddles on rain-soaked campsites but a girl has got to have a dream hasn't she?

I honestly thought the chance of me ever getting even a glimpse of cruise life was slimmer than a gap year student with a parasite but thanks to the lovely people at Tots100 this week I got to finally wear some stripes on an actual floating vessel.

Yes - this year's Flea Ents BlogCamp was being held on MSC Preziosa, a majestic beast of a boat towering even above the IKEA store opposite the docks in Southampton where I finally got to walk up the gangway into a world of sparkliness.

Swarovski crystal staircase On Board MSC Preziosa cruise ship #BlogCampOnBoard

In my desperation to gain access to this highly sought after event having failed to secure one in the initial free for all, I had volunteered at the last minute to help with the event. I felt a bit like Charlie Bucket getting the last golden ticket!

Luckily, as well as helping with the event I got to tag along with the tour and attend some of the events on the day. Unfortunately despite having showed my passport and having my bag X-rayed, we weren't going to actually leave the berth (get me bandying around my new nautical terms) but once on board it was easy to imagine the excitement of preparing for a voyage of exploration.

MSC offers a range of cruises (175 cruises with 113 itineraries) visiting some amazing destinations including the Med, South America, Asia, South Africa and the Caribbean and Cuba.

You can enjoy short Northern European trips leaving from Southampton on the MSC Preziosa or MSC Magnifica encompassing France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands with prices starting at just £99 for a cruise from Hamburg to Southampton on the MSC Magnifica!

MSC Cruises

If you have time and a healthy budget you can enjoy one of the MSC Grand Voyages which in my opinion would certainly rank as the trip of a lifetime.

You might have seen MSC on TV recently - it's the cruise company featured in Cruising with Jane McDonald on Channel 5.

The company has 16 cruise ships, each with a different identity but all featuring the kind of comfort you would expect from a top quality cruise liner.

Having said that, I was surprised to discover I didn't feel the atmosphere on the Preziosa was stuffy or  intimidating. Yes, there was lots of glitz and glamour with hardly a surface which wasn't reflective or illuminated, (you can see the beauty salon, pictured below, has both!) but even wearing jeans and the aforementioned stripey top, I didn't feel out of place among the paying passengers who were just beginning to board for a trip.

On Board MSC Preziosa cruise ship #BlogCampOnBoard

The staff also seemed friendly, in particular the restaurant staff who were attentive, helpful and friendly even though our hungry and thirsty group of over 100 bloggers descended on the restaurant en masse desperate for refreshment after a busy morning.

food On Board MSC Preziosa cruise ship #BlogCampOnBoard

I discovered lots of unexpected and useful facts about cruising with MSC during my visit.

One of the first questions I ask any holiday provider is if they can even cater for our large family of 9.  Many just can't so we have to rule them out immediately.

Of course since I started blogging, some of my children have grown up and moved away but it seems MSC could handle that number and more with new cabins for 10 on some ships.

There's also the option to book inter-linked cabins so big or extended families, or other groups can ensure they are accommodated close to each other, assuming they book early enough to get adjacent cabins before they get taken up.

I had always imagined cruising to be something you do when the birds have flown the nest but having learned about MSC Preziosa's five kid's clubs and seen the amazing array of facilities  just for youngsters and the pools including a splash pool playground that even on a chilly windy day looked appealing, I realised that actually a cruise can be the perfect family holiday in many people's eyes, no matter what age children you have.

On Board MSC Preziosa cruise ship #BlogCampOnBoard

From Lego equipment and activities and beautiful baby toys and equipment from Chicco to the latest consoles, 4D cinema  and even a Prom night for teens the MSC seems to have it all - great for me with children aged 9 upwards!

On Board MSC Preziosa cruise ship #BlogCampOnBoard

Worried about security? Children are given a security bracelet when they board and you can even hire pagers or special phones so you can keep in touch on board at all times.

There are lots of opportunities for kids to be looked after by trained and qualified staff and mingle with their new friends, while you get your hair or makeup done for a big night on board or experience a West End quality production at the huge theatre (there's just over 100 bloggers in the pic below to give you an idea of how big the theatre is).

Theatre On Board MSC Preziosa cruise ship #BlogCampOnBoard

There's even childcare available late at night when parents can make new friends of their own at one of the many nightspots on the ship including 26 bars and restaurants, places to dance and a casino.

One of the 26 bars & restaurants MSC Preziosa cruise ship #BlogCampOnBoard

You can even leave your children in the capable hands of the kids club staff while you go on shore for one of the many excursions on offer. At first I thought that sounded a bit odd. Why would you leave your children on the ship while you go and explore exciting new destinations?

Then I remembered that some children don't find historical sites, stunning panoramas, art galleries or shopping trips quite as exciting as their parents might, even in foreign climes, and that in fact they would probably prefer a game of football or mini golf on the ship rather than drag themselves bored rigid and whining following their parents.

I could go on (and on and on) but the one thing I learned during my day trip is that my expectation of what a cruise can offer and who it might suit was completely wrong. It's not for everyone of course but I would say don't rule it out until you have looked into it - your local travel agent can talk you through the best options, ships and itinerary for you and/or your family or you can explore the MSC website here.

I'd certainly consider it - although most of my flock have flown the nest now I know my youngest would love it!

Southampton docks MSC Preziosa cruise ship #BlogCampOnBoard

Disclaimer: I spent the day as a guest of Tots100 and MSC Cruises and chose to write this review. Views and opinions remain honest and my own. You can read lots of blog posts about the event, the MSC Preziosa and MSC generally from other writers on Tots100's sister site Trips100