Winter Holiday 2017

I received a promotional email from MSC Cruises a few weeks back with a very tempting offer – and at a bargain price: A 17 night repositioning cruise from Genoa, Italy to Dubai. It was just too good to pass up!

17 Night MSC Cruise from Genoa to Dubai

Since the cruise departed in early December, I decided to add a few days in Switzerland beforehand, so the family could enjoy The Alps in winter and hopefully have some fun in the snow.

So we flew to Zurich on Emirates then caught the train to Luzern where we stayed the first night. Fortuitously it was the opening night of Luzern’s Christmas Market at Franziskanerplatz, so we were able to enjoy Glühwein and roasted nuts in a lovely festive Christmas atmosphere.

Christmas Market in Luzern

Next day we caught the train to Engelberg  and found ourselves in a winter wonderland of snow. We stayed at the historic Eidelweiss Hotel, which was to be our home base for the next 3 days.

Engelberg in Winter

Engelberg is the location of the cable car station to the summit of Mt Titlis and, as luck would have it, once a month, on the full moon, the Panorama Restaurant on the summit of Titlis opens for dinner. (It’s not normally open in the evening.) The dinner is a Swiss specialty – fondue. Since I’d had the foresight to make a reservation well ahead of time, so it was that evening we found ourselves dining over 10,000 feet up in the Swiss Alps with a moonlit view of snow covered mountains. It was a real treat.

The following morning we retuned to the summit of Mt Titlis. The views were breathtaking – as was the temperature! -17 Celsius with a strong wild howling. By cripes it was cold! But so beautiful.

The Summit of Mt Titlis

Zawadi, Amani & Malaika did skiing lessons the following day. They hadn’t tried skiing before, but the children took to it like ducks to water. Zawadi… not so much. But she did try!

Malaika skiing

It was a long but fun day, with no serious injuries thankfully.

All too soon it was time to say farewell to Engelberg. I think we all hope to return one day. We left by train around noon, and by evening were in Milan. Had a nice long walk around the city centre then enjoyed some pizzas for dinner. Late the next morning we continued by train to Genoa, simply walked the short distance from Genova Piazza Principe station to the port and boarded the MSC Splendida.

Comfy Balcony Cabin on the MSC Splendida

Coincidentally we were last on the Splendida just 2.5 years ago, when we did a two week Norwegian Fjords cruise.

The Colosseum in Rome

The cruise was very enjoyable, with the first port of call being Civitavecchia, from where we spent the day in Rome. The ship sailed down through the Strait of Messina – maybe you know it as the place where Italy kicked Sicily into the sea LoL. We stopped in Heraklion, Crete, then cruised through the Suez Canal and on to, what for me, was the highlight of the trip – Aqaba, Jordan.

I’d pre-arranged a taxi for the day, to take us to Petra – one of the wonders of the ancient world. It’s long been on my Bucket List, and it didn’t disappoint. Magnificent.

Petra – Absolutely Magnificent!

Muttrah Harbour

By the way, if you’re ever in need of transport in Jordan, get in touch with Yousef. He took good care of us.

After sailing the length of the Red Sea and passing (incident free) the Horn of Africa, funnily enough the next port of call was Muscat! It was beautiful cruising in to Muttrah Harbour at dawn. Our cruise package happened to include a free shore excursion in Muscat, so rather than stay on board we visited the Grand Mosque, Mutrah Souq, Bait al Zubair and HM’s Muscat Palace.

We passed through the Straits of Hormuz the following day and then Doha, Qatar was the next port of call. The city has interesting architecture and is particularly beautiful by night, when many of the buildings are colourfully lit.

Doha

The ship moored at Sir Bani Yas Island the next day. Not a terribly interesting place. Then the final port of call – Dubai. Our final night of the cruise was spent in the harbour in Dubai.

Since we disembarked on the 23rd of December, we decided to spend Christmas in Dubai. Dubai was enjoyable but very busy. We did manage to get a balcony table at TGIF at Dubai Mall, so we were able to watch the musical fountains while enjoying some kind of ‘Death by Chocolate’ desserts! That was nice :)

The Burj Khalifa at Dubai Mall