Thursday, 10 July 2014

New York, New York

It’s the concrete jungle where dreams are made of and where they come true, the big apple, the city that never sleeps, the one, the only, New York City. We are just too excited about MSC Divina’s Grand Voyage from Miami to Rome and, wait for it – calling in overnight in New York! So, let’s talk New York.

New York City - what else needs to be said?

In the words of Thomas Wolfe, “one belongs to New York instantly... one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years”. I've never heard a city having such an emotional effect on its visitors quite like New York City. There seems to be something intrinsically special about New York City that elicits such fond memories and bittersweet farewells.

Maybe it’s because New York lets you express yourself like nowhere else can. Or maybe it’s the sensational shopping and unbelievable gastronomy? Whatever it is, it’s clear that New York City doesn't live up to expectations, it surpasses them.

New York City's breathtaking Skyline
The famous New York City skyline is incredibly awe-inspiring. The hybrid mix of skyscrapers, monuments, buildings, bridges and waterways creates a jaw-dropping panorama that you will never be able to forget. To really feel the magnificence of the great New York City skyline, it is best viewed from above. The observation deck of the Empire State Building is my favourite, with an unobstructed, breathtaking 360-degree view of the city.

Bright lights, big city – you will truly get this feel standing in the middle of Times Square. With massive digital billboards, the light in this part of the city will make night-time seem like morning. Of the countless things to do in Times Square, it’s agreeable that a Broadway show would be a highlight. For the shoppers, department stores from Macy’s to Bloomingdale's are as unrivaled as the hundreds of chic boutiques found all over the city.  

Washington Square, New York

There is so much to do in New York City, so much to see, so much to experience! From an afternoon stroll in Central Park to an evening show at Broadway, to the feeling you get standing on top of the Empire State Building, the city will leave you absolutely captivated and planning your next visit. 

The city will definitely leave you in that New York State of mind. Just imagine standing in such an amazing city - the atmosphere, the feeling, the vibe, and the absolute and utter impressiveness of it all...

Thursday, 19 June 2014

MSC Cruises Kitchen: Straight from the Mediterranean




Today's recipe comes from the heart of the Mediterranean, a country so gastronomically diverse you wouldn't believe it. Today we bring you the recipe for tortilla de patatas, straight from Spain! 

Tortilla de patatas, or Spanish Omelette as we understand it, is a classic dish in Spanish cuisine, and actually the most common gastronomic specialty found throughout Spain (especially for a country with such extensive regional food variations). Now, it wouldn't be Spain if there weren't countless food variations – the most common version, however, is the one with just eggs, potatoes and onion.

According to legend, a general during the siege of Bilbao created the “tortilla de patatas” as an easy, fast and nutritious dish to feed his army. Another myth is that during the war, a general was in the field when he found a farmhouse and demanded a meal from the farmwife. All she had were a few eggs, potato and an onion, so she combined the three and made an omelette! Although it’s unknown whether this is actually true - I mean, what kind of general leading an army in war has time to cook or gallivant around fields?

Olive oil is a key ingredient in
any Spanish dish
What you'll need
  • 6 large eggs
  • 6-7 potatoes, peeled
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 cups of olive oil, for pan frying
  • Salt

What to do
  1. Cut the potatoes in thin square slices.
  2. Peel and chop the onion into ½ cm pieces.
  3. Mix potatoes and onion and add salt to taste.
  4. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat – it shouldn't be too hot so that the potatoes and onions don’t overcook ( Helpful hint: drop a single cube of potato to see if the oil is hot enough).
  5. When the potatoes and onion begin to brown, remove from frying pan and place in a strainer or on a plate with paper towels to strain excess oil.
  6. Now, beat the eggs in a large bowl and add the potatoes and onions. Mix well!
  7. Time to put the pan back on the heat – this time with just two tablespoons of oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Pour the egg, potato and onion mixture onto the frying pan and lower the heat.
  8. Move the mixture in a circular motion so that the tortilla does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  9. Once the tortilla begins to bubble – it’s flipping time! – the moment of truth. Cooking tortilla may seem easy, after all there’s no more than 4 ingredients really, but it takes skill – real skill.
  10. We've found it easier to flip the tortilla with a plate. Place a large plate upside down over the frying pan to cover the top and quickly turn the frying pan over so the tortilla falls onto the plate. Now, take the pan back to the stove, heat it back up with a little bit of olive oil, and carefully slide the tortilla (it’ll probably still be a bit runny) into the frying pan, using a spatula to catch any egg mixture.
  11. Use the spatula to shape the sides of the omelette. Let it cook for 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the tortilla cook for about 3-4 minutes.
  12. Once it’s golden, it’s ready! Carefully slide the tortilla onto a large plate and be ready to eat the deliciousness that is Tortilla de Patatas!


Friday, 30 May 2014

A Midsummer Night’s Dream…

Traditionally, Midsummer refers to the period of time surrounding the Summer solstice. If we want to get a little scientific, the summer solstice occurs when the earth’s semi-axis, in either the Northern or Southern hemisphere, is tilted toward and therefore closer to the sun. Although the solstice itself is only one moment, the word is widely used to mean the day when the solstice happens. The longest day of the year, in each respective hemisphere, the summer solstice usually occurs between June 21 and June 25 in the Northern Hemisphere.

Now, back to the fun stuff. Midsummer is the traditional celebration of the Summer solstice. Although celebrated all around the world, Midsummer and the preceding evening, is ridiculously popular in Northern Europe – to put this into context for you, Midsummer is as popular as Christmas in Sweden. When I first heard this I couldn’t believe it, but lo and behold – Midsummer is actually a public holiday in Sweden and Finland!

Imagine welcoming Summer cruising Northern Europe with
MSC Cruises...

Midsummer celebrations predate Christianity and are said to traditionally be related to fertility practices and ceremonies performed to ensure a successful harvest. Although the meaning of the holiday may have changed throughout time, you’ll still see some customs have prevailed.

The real fun starts during Midsummer’s Eve celebrations! 

Sweden: Midsommar

Celebrate Midsommar in Sweden!
In Sweden, houses are decorated with wreaths and flower garlands. A Midsummer’s Eve in Sweden would include singing and dancing around a flower-festooned midsummer maypole to traditional folk songs as bonfires crackle in the background. All this is accompanied by a ridiculous amount of food, flowers, and alcohol.

Denmark: Sankt Hans Aften

In Denmark, you’ll hear people singing “Vi elsker vort land”, which means “We love our land” while building a bonfire where straw witches are burnt in remembrance of the witch burnings in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Finland: Juhannus

An exciting aspect of Midsummer in Finland is the ‘white night’ and ‘midnight sun’. Finland’s location means that the nights near the Midsummer are short, or sometimes non-existent. That means, it’s daylight practically all the time! A big contrast to the darkness of winter.

Norway: Jonsok
Mock weddings and flowers under pillows... Norway during Jonsok!
The main Midsummer’s event in Norway is a huge bonfire. In Western Norway, mock weddings are arranged to symbolise the blossoming of new life. They say, if a girl puts flowers under her pillow that night, she will dream of her future husband. So any single ladies on-board during Midsummer, don’t forget to pop a flower under your pillow!

Cruise toward the Sun during the Summer Solstice!
While the earth’s semi-axis is tilting away from the Sun down here in the Southern Hemisphere, why not escape and help our friends in the North celebrate Midsummer? Imagine celebrating the amazing tradition of Midsummer on-board with MSC Cruises. Check out our Summer Northern European cruises

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Rain, rain go away, please don’t come again another day

Foreboding grey clouds threaten to release their wrath with loud and unwelcoming bouts of thunder and lightning. All this will be followed by their tears of joy in the form of rain, making everyday life that little bit more inconvenient. When the wind wins the battle against your umbrella, you’re left to fend off the chilly rain. So while boots and all that winter fashion may be exciting for a minute or so, after the constant discomfort of wet socks, dirty shoes, chapped lips, red noses and rain-frizzed hair – there is nothing stylish left about winter.  

And we think we can see the glass half full by delighting in romantic notions of cuddling and snuggling up with a blanket – until we realise our blankets are no match against the cold, making us shiver uncontrollably and pray for the warmth to come. Even if we find a way to warm ourselves a little, the discomfort of our ever-cold fingers, noses and toes is winters way of reminding us that this is a battle we just can’t win.

Dreaming of sipping on refreshing fruity cocktails
in the warmth of a summer's sun....
You know what they say – if you can’t beat ‘em, run away as fast as you possibly can! To the other side of the world perhaps? Where, while we live in the cold shadows of winter’s fury, our friends in the Mediterranean are laughing while they relish in the joys of a Mediterranean summer’s day and those in the Caribbean are kicking back and relaxing on their tanning chairs, sipping on Mojitos and exotic cocktails.

Imagine the feeling of the sun’s warmth defrosting your winter skin as you begin to feel your fingers and nose once again. This dream is not far from becoming a reality – you can escape the cold winter blowing our way, and enjoy the magnificence of the Mediterranean so that you‘re the one laughing at all your friends back home battling against unwelcoming weather conditions.
Appreciate the harmony of the sun, the sky, the sea,
the ship, and you..... 

Picture yourself, relaxed on-board an MSC Cruise as the warm sun beats down and your body invitingly absorbs it’s delightful rays, allowing you to experience the gentle touch of the Mediterranean sun.

Now imagine it’s evening time - you watch the sun descend into the horizon, illuminating the evening sky with a sunset orange you’ve only ever seen in photos. Nightfall swoops in and offers the relief that only a cool summer night’s breeze can. Looking up at sky, you’re awe-struck, gazing at millions of stars lighting up the night’s sky in the absence of the sun. Scientifically speaking, some of the stars we see have already died – but nothing has ever looked or felt more alive than this glorious star-studded night’s sky.


Watch the sunset beautifully every single day

There is something truly magical about cruising… 
There is something enchanting about waking up with a view of the sun singing good morning to the sky and the sea as it rises.
There is something enchanting about the way the ocean sparkles playfully in response to the sun’s touch.
There is something enchanting about  seeing the curvature of the earth on the horizon as you cruise to yet another captivating destination. 
There is something enchanting about having a different view every single day, one you didn’t think could be more beautiful than the last, but somehow it is.
There is something enchanting about how fellow cruisers go from being strangers to friends, sharing all the little moments that matter on your holiday.
There is something enchanting about stepping into another world, another life: that is, the world of cruising
There is something enchanting about the side effects of cruising – the laughter, the joy, the relaxation, and the absolute jubilation.

Share moments you'll never forget with new friends....

Wake up to an awesome view on-bard everyday

It’s time to step away from this cold winter’s reality and escape into our world of cruising. And it’s the perfect time to do so! Here at MSC Cruises we have something very exciting coming up – our  GRAND MAY SALE! Running from May 12th until May 21st, our very GRAND May Sale offers savings of up to 75% on many selected cruises. This is your best and last chance to book 2014 European summer cruises at incredibly discounted prices.

This huge sale covers over 130 departures across our entire fleet in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe as well as other amazing regions such as the Caribbean and Grand Voyages between countries. Just to give you a little indication of just how huge this sale is – a seven-night Mediterranean cruise begins at $449 per person and Caribbean cruises being as low as $329 per person!

Be quick to book your 2014 European cruise at these heavily discounted prices (click here). After all, it’s time to laugh in winter’s face for a change!


Our discounted 2014 summer cruises are waiting!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Take me away the MED way: Destination Malta

As the world awakens, the early morning sun streams through your cabin, enticing you to step outside and hear the gentle wind sing a song so tranquil and watch the ocean dance ever so gracefully. Trying to figure out whether you’re still dreaming or not, you realise that there is a beauty like no other in watching the sun dance with the sea as spirited sun-rays glisten across the ocean causing it to sparkle enthusiastically – it’s the perfect combination of energy and tranquility.

Feel the excitement of cruising into
a new destination
In the distance, the outline of an island so small begins to appear into focus. Cruising across a  shining sea while your body tingles in response to the sun’s warmth and the touch of a gentle ocean’s breeze gives you a sensation like no other, the beauty of your destination ahead becomes more apparent the closer you get. Mesmerised and awestruck by the magnificence of your surroundings, you breathe in deeply and exhale peacefully and slowly. This is what pure bliss feels like. The island, the tiny yet incredible nation of Malta, is slowly coming into focus and becoming more beautiful by the second but you’re in no rush to arrive as the journey feels just as exquisite as the destination looks.

As your cruise approaches La Valletta, the Baroque capital of Malta, you are welcomed by the ancient beauty of this historical, UNESCO World Heritage port - one of the most breathtaking ports in Europe. Greeted by honey-coloured stones contrasted against the deepest of Mediterranean blues, you are ready for what you know will be an unforgettable day.   

Get ready to be amazed by the beauty of La Valletta....

A hybrid of rich history and striking beaches, Malta has some of the most ancient free standing structures of recorded civilisation anywhere on earth while also being blessed with unbelievable blue waters. Malta is 7000 years of history living passionately in the present.  

Malta: the perfect hybrid of
contemporary antiquity
You’re warmly invited to step into the world of a wonderful culture, of the ancient and majestic beauty that is Malta. Malta is a gem in the heart of the Mediterranean and it will leave you enchanted, enthralled, and hypnotised.

Your Maltese journey can be one of discovery as you explore the island's incredible antiquity and one of relaxation as you swim in captivatingly clear waters, all against a stunning backdrop of Maltese architecture and spectacular scenery.

The option of various shore excursions in Malta gives you the opportunity to sit back and let us do all the hard work as you simply enjoy being captivated by the beauty of such a brilliant nation.

Relishing in the harmony of the sun, the sea, the wind, and the land, you have so much energy yet you’re so relaxed all at the same time. These are the side effects of cruising in the Mediterranean with MSC Cruises. This is where euphoria meets serenity, where reality feels like a dream…

Become encapsulated, enthralled, and entrenched – step into the world of another culture, of another time; experience Malta. Step away from reality and into our world of cruising. Let us take you on a remarkable journey, book a Mediterranean cruise on MSC Lirica this summer and grant us the pleasure of showing you Malta, the Mediterranean way…  


Experience Malta cruising the Med way - where euphoria meets
tranquility

Thursday, 24 April 2014

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother” – Abraham Lincoln

Sometimes I struggle to get out of my front door in time for anything, and always seem to forget something, usually resulting in a less than acceptable appearance with unkempt hair to boot. So when I woke up late this morning, resulting in a battle of me vs. the clock, I started to think of where it all went wrong. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always like this. Sometimes things go smoothly, and other times not so much…

Life would be a series of disorganised
messes without mothers...
After a few moments spent pondering, it dawned on me: when I was a child this never seemed to happen. As a child, my shoe laces were always tied, my bag always packed the night beforehand, my hair always brushed and neat, my lunch always ready and my breakfast always eaten. And then I realised, it’s all because someone else did it all for me. You can only guess who. Only one type of person on this planet would do all that for me, every single day: my mum.
I realised that while I was in my own little world of cartoons and make believe, I had someone making sure I was ready, set, go. All the while probably leaving the house like I did this morning. Only mother’s would make sure their children are ready and ok before they even look at themselves, usually not having the time to do so.

Thinking about all the little and big things that mother’s do made me really miss my mum. And all those times that I’ve been meaning to call her but was just ‘too busy’ came back to remind me what a horrible child I’ve been. So I called my main lady, just to say hello, and she was instantly worried that something was wrong. I guess it’s in a mother’s nature, to worry. I felt kind of bad that a phone call equated with the possibility of something being wrong. I really should call my mother more.
When I’m sick, be it with the common cold or hospitalised with an awful stomach bug, nothing ever makes me feel better than my mamma. No amount of medicine, no tv shows, no foods, no doctors, nothing adds up to having my mother by my side, cuddles and all.  

I remember as a kid getting ridiculously excited, as children do, over the smallest things and never once did my mother not jump in ridiculous joy with me, over-exaggerating her excitement about my new miss piggy toy.
They laugh, even when it's not really funny...
I remember having lunch once with my mum and being disappointed with a horrible meal. So my mum simply swapped my plate for hers, despite my protests, and continued to eat my unsatisfactory dish while I enjoyed hers. As Tenneva Jordan once wrote “a mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie”.
I remember having arguments with my mother, giving her way too much attitude and no matter how angry she would be with me, at the end of the day, we were always ok. Mother’s aren’t perfect but they sure are magnificent. As Maya Angelou said “to describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power”.

My mother is both my biggest fan and my biggest critic. She’s not the cool aunt who had let me stay up until all hours because it was her job to teach me all the hard lessons as well as let me have my fun.
My mother is always there for me, just a phone call away, always ready to listen and put me in my place if I’m wrong and rejoice in my accomplishments.
I’m guilty of taking my mother for granted and not calling her enough. Just because I know how much she loves me, I forget to let her know how much I love her and how thankful I am for always putting my needs before hers and for all the little things.
Make new Mediterranean moments with your mother...
A mother’s love, the purest love you will ever know, can be measured in the moments. At MSC Cruises, we understand the importance of family – trust us, as the largest owned private, family-owned cruise line in the world, we know family. We know mother’s. We understand.
Create new moments with your mother, with the family, create Mediterranean moments with MSC Cruises. Let us help you say thank you to all the superwomen out there. Let us make the experience all that more special. For all the little things you might forget to do, like call your mum, we’ll remind you and we’ll help you create magical new moments with your mothers. Nothing says thank you like an MSC Cruise; like the opportunity to explore new horizons with the one person who would let you have the last crepe in France just because your happiness means more to them than their own…
Say thank you for all the little things in a big way this Mother’s day, book a cruise with MSC Cruises.


What better present than an MSC Cruise to say thank you for all the
little things, in a big way

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Easter: from pot throwing to crime novels

So I’ve been guilty of thinking more about chocolate than anything else this Easter. I know that Easter falls on a different date each year but I didn’t know why or how the date is even decided. So I chose to push my chocolate day-dreams aside (just for a little while) and find out why.
 
The First Council of Nicaea (in 325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon following the March equinox. So there we go, that’s how the date of Easter is decided!
 
As much as chocolate is trying, and partially succeeding, to find its way back into my front-line of thought, my curiosity about Easter is still winning.  Not only does Easter fall on a different date each year, but its celebrations differ from country to country, culture to culture, coast to coast. The beauty of cruising during Easter is the chance you’ll get to experience numerous different, but equally as brilliant, traditions as you wake up in a glorious new city each day, faced with an exhilarating new Easter tradition.

Imagine being in Rome on Good Friday when the Pope commemorates the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) at the Colosseum. You’ll be mesmerised as a huge cross with burning torches illuminates the sky while your ears are graced with the sound of the Stations of the Cross described in many languages. Or imagine the atmosphere in Vatican City’s St Peter’s Square as thousands of visitors from all over the world await the Pope’s blessing from the Church’s balcony.
 
The beauty of Rome illuminated during Easter will
leave you breathless

One day Italia, next day EspaƱa. Wake up in the south of Spain where Semana Santa (Holy Week), which actually lasts for 10 days (yep only in Spain), means Easter processions and celebrations throughout town squares. Join a city full of people following the processions of pasos, wooden sculptures that depict individual scenes of the final period during Jesus’ life. If you happen to be in Malaga during Semana Santa, you might be lucky enough to run into Antonio Banderas who makes a huge effort every year to spend Semana Santa in his hometown where he leads the Virgin de las Lagrimas y Favores (Virgen de Tears and Favours) procession.

Next let’s head to Corfu where at 11am on Easter Saturday ‘botides’ (clay pots) are thrown from windows and balconies when the first ‘botos’ (bell ring) is heard marking the first Resurrection. After the infamous throwing of the pots, bands parade around the street. Easter in Greece is the biggest and most celebrated holiday of them all so it’s not surprise that loud is the volume of celebration during this exciting holiday.
 

Whether you're throwing pots with locals or relaxing,
visit Corfu when you cruise the Med with MSC Cruises

Easter in Norway means you’ll be greeted with the sinister sounds of crime novels. Yep, you definitely read correctly. I haven’t made a mistake. Chocolate is not effecting me that much just yet. Easter traditions take quite a different turn in Norway where Easter is actually a popular time for Norwegians to read crime novels, so much so that publishers actually release special ‘Easter thrillers’ known as Paskekrim or ‘Easter crime’. During Easters Holy Week, aside from the release of new crime novels, major television channels and magazines run crime and detective stories, and even milk cartons are altered as a new short mystery is printed on their sides. Although this may sound a tad peculiar, never fear (pun definitely intended), reading crime novels is just one tradition among the many Norwegians partake in during Easter such as staying at mountain cabins, cross-country skiing and painting eggs.
 
Although it may not look like it, Norway is filled with
people reading crime novels during Holy Week

It is nothing out of the ordinary to see Easter egg trees in Germany as decorated Easter eggs hang on branches and trees. If we’re still talking eggs, in Haux, France, on Easter Monday a giant omelette is served up in the town’s main square. If you want specifics, that’s 4,500 eggs that are used to make the omelette and feeds up to 1,000 people!

Easter on-board an MSC Cruise is one of the most exciting holidays and should really be experienced at least once in every life-time. Each day you’ll get to change the atmosphere, change the scenery, change the traditions, change the language, change the culture…..

Don’t even hesitate. Book an MSC Cruise for the 2015 Easter holidays so that while everyone back home is trying to escape the rains of Autumn, you’ll be welcoming the re-birth of Springtime and relishing in our very own on-board celebrations as we celebrate Easter in true Mediterranean style.
 
Now, it’s time for chocolate ;)