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MSC OrchestraMSC Orchestra
"Beautiful, Passionate, Italian" Cruising

by Linda Coffman

Cayo Levantado
Loosely translated as “Floating Island,” Cayo Leventado is located off the Samaná Peninsula on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic. Not owned by MSC Cruises, the unspoiled cay is leased by a development company that installed beach chairs, a dining facility, and miles of walking pathways through the rainforest. The area is open to use by other cruise lines as well. All food and beverage concessions are privately operated and there is a charge for refreshments and the beach buffet prepared by the island's own chefs (not brought from the ship) is $15 and included is local seafood as well as the usual barbeque fare. Bring cash or a credit card because your ship charge card is not accepted ashore.

Cayo Levantado MarketOnce we'd arrived by tender, Cayo Leventado afforded us the opportunity to laze in the sun, swim in crystalline waters, and participate in beach games. Gear was available to rent for those who wanted to snorkel, sail, or lie on a float in the water. Trails through the forest are available for exploring, but volleyball seemed to be the most popular active pursuit during our day at the beach. The most popular non-active activity was shopping. A flagstone path from the pier passes the arts and crafts marketplace and affords accessibility for strollers and wheelchairs, although you’ll have to bring your own as none are provided. In addition, you can opt to feed a playful sea lion (purchase your tickets on the ship before departing), get a massage in an open air cabana, or relax in the shade and watch a folkloric show.

Tours are available to those who want to explore the Samaná area by Jeep safari, hike to a mountain waterfall and ride horseback, take a speedboat to the bird sanctuary, or sail away for a snorkeling adventure. Whale watching boat excursions are even offered seasonally.

Kid Stuff
MSC Orchestra Kids Play AreaSpring break is a great time for a family getaway and there were large multi-generational family groups on board for our sailing. With MSC Cruises’ Kids Sail Free program (children 17 and under as the 3rd & 4th occupants in a stateroom), a cruise is a great value for families and MSC Orchestra carried 2,900 passengers during our week-long Western Caribbean sailing, with a surprising 98% of them from North America.

Facilities for children and teens include playrooms, outdoor play spaces, a kiddy-pool, and video arcade. Activities for younger cruisers included games, arts & crafts, sports (ping-pong, miniature golf, and "bowling" ), and even their own circus show. Teens had a soccer tournament, Olympic games, pizza parties, and disco dancing on their schedules. Not surprising, two of the most popular spots on board for kids and their parents during our cruise were the miniature golf course and ping pong tables.

Just For Adults
MSC OrchestraMSC Orchestra's Body & Mind Spa gets high marks for one of the most tranquil settings at sea. In addition to a full range of treatments that range from salon services to relaxing Balinese massages and body treatments, there is acupuncture to relieve anxiety and stress, pressure point therapy, treatments designed specifically for men, and even a juice bar. If you can't tear yourself away from the pool, the massage therapists come to you—offering poolside mini-massages. Naturally, those services all come with a price, but there is a complete gym and exercise classes available at no charge and a complimentary thermal suite with coed sauna, steam room, and a hydromassage pool.

If all you wanted to do was relax in the sun and read a book, the loungers have a feature that was new to me—a built-in cover that could be adjusted to keep your face shaded. In addition to the pool deck, lounge chairs were located in a Solarium deck and in several quiet areas fore and aft.

Activities & Entertainment
With a name like MSC Orchestra, you’d naturally expect to find music on board—and we did. From a raised platform in the atrium lobby, where the musicians varied every evening from the Latin sounds of Los Paraguayos (pictured here) to classical presentations by the Moonlight Quartet, to the late night R32 Disco, the music seldom stopped.

Most daytime activities were scheduled poolside with early morning aerobics, mid-day trivia, dance lessons, and crafts classes, and late afternoon yoga. Mixed in were silly pool games, mini-golf, shuffleboard, and ping pong tournaments.

MSC OrchestraBingo is, of course, a cruise staple, as are art auctions, and gaming in the casino. A lecture was scheduled on “Life Enhancement” and a “Technical Ship Presentation” offered an inside look at the workings of MSC Orchestra. Italian language lessons proved to be as popular as the midnight buffets.

As the sun began to set and everyone headed indoors, the activities and entertainment didn’t stop. The Savannah Bar was the nightly setting for dancing and themed parties where Mr. and Miss Orchestra were chosen on consecutive evenings and the 50s & 60s were celebrated with a “Grease” party. Other lounges featured a piano bar, dance and easy listening music, and karaoke. For passengers who’d rather go to a movie, they were shown under the stars on the big screen over the pool deck.

By far, the highlight of every evening was a show in MSC Orchestra’s Covent Garden Theater. Extremely talented dancers, singers, an acrobatic group, and an illusionist performed nightly in Vegas-style, operatic, circus, magic, and Broadway-themed production extravaganzas. When the entire cast took to the stage and sang “Time To Say Goodbye” on the last night of our cruise, they were rewarded with a standing ovation.

We really hated to say goodbye.

Back to Part One

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