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New York is a wonderful port of call for MSC cruise liners on Grand Voyages cruise itineraries. Hidden gardens next to postmodern skyscrapers; priceless art tucked away in medieval-style cloisters; a revamped waterfront you can stroll along to take in the view.
Wandering through the patchwork of neighbourhoods is as great a thrill as any single sight. Frantic Chinatown edges stylish Soho , which is but a stone’s throw from the quiet, angled lanes of the once-bohemian West Village . A perfect espresso in a shabby-chic Williamsburg café, a rooftop view from Chelsea’s High Line or a ride on the “A” to Far Rockaway is worth much more than an “I Love New York” handbag. Cheaper, too, and the memory will last longer.
New York City officially comprises the central island of Manhattan and four outer boroughs – Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. For many, Manhattan simply is New York; indeed, when your MSC cruise takes you to New York, you’ll probably spend most of your time here. Understanding the intricacies of Manhattan’s layout, especially beyond its grid pattern , and getting a grasp of its transport network should be top priorities during your MSC excursion.
New York is very much a city of neighbourhoods, most compact enough to be explored on foot (at least below 59th Street). On your Grand Voyages cruises to New York, of all America’s symbols, none is more enduring than the Statue of Liberty, looming over the harbour from its pedestal on tiny Liberty Island.
Indeed, there is probably no more immediately recognizable profile in existence than that of Lady Liberty , who stands with torch in hand, clutching a stone tablet. Measuring some 305ft from her pedestal base, she has acted as the figurehead of the American Dream for more than a century.
Bermuda (officially, The Bermuda Islands or The Somers Isles) is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, it is situated around 1770 km (1,100 mi) northeast of Miami, Florida, and 1350 km (840 mi) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about 1030 km (640 mi) west-northwest. It is the oldest and most populous remaining British overseas territory, settled by England a century before the Acts of Union created the United Kingdom.Although commonly referred to in the singular, the territory consists of approximately 138 islands, with a total area of 53.3 km² (20.6 sq. mi.). Compiling a list of these islands is often complicated, as many have more than one name (as does the entire archipelago, which, in addition to its two official names, has historically been known as “La Garza”, “Virgineola”, and the “Isle of Devils”). Despite the limited land mass, there has also been a tendency for place names to be repeated; there are, for instance, two islands named “Long Island”, three bays known as “Long Bay”, and “St. George’s Town” is located on “St. George’s Island” within “St. George’s Parish” (each known as St. George’s), whereas Bermuda’s capital, the “City of Hamilton”, lies in Pembroke Parish, not in “Hamilton Parish”, on the largest island, “Main Island”, which itself is sometimes called “Bermuda”.Bermuda has a highly affluent economy, with a large financial sector and tourism industry giving it the world’s highest GDP per capita in 2005. It has a subtropical climate, beaches with pink sand, and cerulean blue oceans.
Largest place in the Azores and capital of São Miguel since 1522, Ponta Delgada is a flat town that stretches along a bay on the island’s south coast. Boasting many impressive churches, convents and majestic white houses, visitors are constantly reminded of its wealthy and illustrious past, when the port was a crucial staging post between Europe and the New World during the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries. Ponta Delgada is a good base from which to make day tours of the volcanic crater lakes and thermal springs in the centre of the island. A short drive north-west of the city is the spectacular setting of Caldeira das Sete Cidades, an extinct volcano which holds two adjoining lakes, one emerald-green and the other sapphire-blue. On the east side of the island and within easy driving distance from the capital lies the spa resort of Furnas. Alive with steam vents, thermal pools, hot springs and boiling mud, Furnas is the best place to witness the geothermal activity taking place beneath the surface of the Azores.
As you arrive in Funchal on an MSC cruise, your ship will cast anchor in a bay protected by mountains rising straight up behind the port. The name, Funchal, derives from that of the fennel plant, the funcho still used today in the traditional sweets known as rebuçados de funcho, that one can find anywhere on the island of Madeira.
An excursion will take you around the town centre, to visit historic churches, from the A Sé Cathedral, with its inlaid ceiling, to the majestic Church of the Incarnation, to the church of Carmo without a vault.
Another MSC excursion will take you up to the village of Monte, from where one can admire a spectacular view of the Funchal bay. You can visit its 18th century church and the tomb of the last Austrian emperor, Charles I, and stroll around the magnificent botanic gardens. But if you like heights, there’s nothing more impressive than the Cabo Girão and its 589 metre tall cliffs, amongst the highest in the world, at the foot of which lie the cultivated lands known as Fajãs do Cabo Girão.
If you’re looking for an equipped beach during your MSC cruise, another excursion will take you to Machico. Founded in the 15th century, it hosts the oldest religious building on the island, the Capela dos Milagres, and the fortresses of São João Baptista and Nossa Senhora do Amparo built in the beginning of the 16th century.
The more lively tourist attraction is instead in Calheta, on the south-west coast. Splendid yachts cruising across the Atlantic are moored in the port and if you want to go for a swim there are two beautiful beaches of golden sand; in spite of the modern structures Calheta dates back to the mid-15th century. This is where they make the “Aguardente”, the best white rhum, and fundamental ingredient of Madeira’s typical drink, the “Poncha” .
Cádiz is among the oldest settlements in Spain and one of the country’s principal ports.
On an MSC Mediterranean cruise excursion, you can visit its old town, built on a peninsula-island, and remaining much as it must have looked in those days, with grand, open squares, sailors’ alleyways and high, turreted houses.
Literally crumbling from the effect of the sea air on its soft limestone, it has a tremendous atmosphere – while slightly seedy, definitely in decline, it is nevertheless full of mystique.
The Museo de Cádiz, the province’s most important, overlooks the leafy Plaza de Mina and incorporates the archaeological museum on the ground floor with many important finds and artefacts from the city’s lengthy history. Almost irresistible, even if you don’t normally go for High Baroque, is the attraction of the huge and seriously crumbling eighteenth-century Catedral Nueva.
Cádiz is one of Spain’s top holiday cruise destinations for its cathedral, too, decorated entirely in stone, with no gold in sight, and in absolutely perfect proportions. On the edge of the Barrio del Populo, the city’s oldest quarter dating from the Middle Ages, lies the “old” or original cathedral, Santa Cruz.
This was one of the buildings severely knocked during the English assault on Cádiz in 1596, causing the thirteenth-century church to be substantially rebuilt. A fine Gothic entry portal survived, and inside there’s a magnificent seventeenth-century retablo with sculptures by Martínez Montañés. A first-century-BC Roman theatre has been excavated behind.
Much closer to us in time, instead, is the eighteenth-century mansion, Torre Tavira, with the tallest tower in the city, from where there are great views over the rooftops to the sea beyond. In addition, one of the most impressive Baroque buildings in the city, the chapel of the Hospital de las Mujeres, houses a brilliant El Greco painting.
One of the busiest cruise ports in the Mediterranean, the seaside city of Barcelona is known for its iconic architecture, colourful culture, and world-class drinking and dining.
Explore Antoni Gaudí’s surreal Sagrada Família, the famous boulevard of the Ramblas, the medieval Barri Gótic, and the Museu Picasso. But there’s even more to discover in this sprawling Spanish city, an MSC Mediterranean Cruises destination: from hidden tapas bars and fabulous food markets to Europe’s biggest football stadium.
On the spectacular coastline of the French Riviera lies Marseille, an MSC Mediterranean Cruises destination. This atmospheric port city is known for its unique mix of grit and glamour, seen in its labyrinth of streets and historical architecture. Only a few miles from Marseille’s charismatic cafes and bustling Vieux Port, stunning cities are to be found. Visit Aix-en-Provence, birthplace of Cézanne, or take in the ancient beauty of Avignon.
Genoa is marvellously eclectic, vibrant and full of rough-edged style; it’s a great cruise excursion.
Indeed “La Superba” (The Superb), as it was known at the height of its authority as a Mediterranean superpower, boasts more zest and intrigue than all the surrounding coastal resorts put together.
During a holiday to Genoa you can explore its old town: a dense and fascinating warren of medieval alleyways home to large palazzi built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by Genoa’s wealthy mercantile families and now transformed into museums and art galleries. You should seek out the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, the Palazzo Ducale, and the Renaissance palaces of Via Garibaldi which contain the cream of Genoa’s art collections, as well as furniture and decor from the grandest days of the city’s past, when its ships sailed to all corners of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Acquario di Genova is the city’s pride and joy, parked like a giant ocean liner on the waterfront, with seventy tanks housing sea creatures from all the world’s major habitats, including the world’s biggest reconstruction of a Caribbean coral reef. It’s a great aquarium by any standards, the second largest in Europe by capacity, and boasts a fashionably ecology-conscious slant and excellent background information in Italian and English.
Just 35 km south of Genoa, there’s no denying the appeal of Portofino, tucked into a protected inlet surrounded by lush cypress- and olive-clad slopes. It’s an A-list resort that has been attracting high-flying bankers, celebs and their hangers-on for years, as evidenced by the flotillas of giant yachts usually anchored just outside. It’s a tiny place that is attractive yet somehow off-putting at the same time, with a quota of fancy shops, bars and restaurants for a place twice its size.