Today, the ship will call at Valletta, Malta. When we booked this cruise, about a year ago, the ship was scheduled to dock at Tunis. Unfortunately, tragedy struck with the mass shootings of passengers from the ship. Condolences to all the deceased in that horrific act of terror. As a result, the itinerary was changed and instead, we would call at Valletta, Malta.
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As the ship was only going to dock at 10am, we had plenty of time in the morning, for breakfast and to relax on board. We had breakfast in the suite restaurant, as usual. In this video, I just highlight the very nice bottled yogurt that we can get in the YC areas. I couldn't find this yogurt in the main buffet.
This was the MSC Express breakfast. One of my kids must have asked for this.
We had some time after breakfast to wander around. So I went up to check out the kiddy water play area. Hadn't taken a close look at it the last time round. So here is a video.
They have this Top 18 Exclusive Solarium. You have to pay some money to use this space.
How much? I took this picture. I didn't pay to go up, so I have no idea how that area looks like.
I wasn't the only person out of deck. Many passengers were up here to watch the beautiful sail in. Good weather today.
The scenery as we sailed in was great! In this picture, I am back on the balcony of my cabin.
Looking gorgeous in the sunlight.
The ship had to make a turn using her azipods, before moving backwards to get into port. This was to facilitate leaving port later. Azipods in action to turn the ship around. As we sailed in, backwards first, we spotted this 3 mast luxury yacht. Wow.
Made a video, of the luxury yacht.
At about this time, on the cabin TV, I noticed that they were playing advertisements from Etihad. Are MSC and Etihad in some alliance? Or maybe Etihad just bought advertisment space. Not sure.
The ship has docked in Valletta, Malta. From our balcony, I took this picture and noticed some interesting ships ahead of us.
And there was a submarine! Best part, it started to leave port. Looked like a tug boat was helping the submarine to make a sharp turn.
Fun to watch! I made this video while watching the submarine leave port.
The port was very convenient. We got off the ship.
A map of the waterfront. You have to walk along the waterfront (many shops) to the end where there are many private tour operators and taxi operators canvassing for business.
We walk along the waterfront. Pretty pleasant. Many private tour operators at the end of this short walk and the fares looked reasonable. For us, we ended up going with a white taxi company. We bought a 4-hour package (for 80 Euros) and the driver would bring us to the major sites, like Blue Grotto and Mdina. Follow along!
We were on our way! In the white taxi, which looked like this.
A very short video clip from the front passenger seat as we were leaving the port area. In Malta, the driver sits on the right side of the vehicle, like in the UK, Singapore, Malaysia. Makes sense - they were a former British colony too. Officially, they were called the Crown Colony of Malta, from 1813 to 1964. Fascinating, when compared to Singapore. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles founded Singapore in 1819 and we became fully independent in 1965. Very similar time frame.
Some photos of the traffic, which could get very heavy during their peak times. Our driver told us that Malta had a serious car problem. Coming back, I googled the issue and indeed, they have a serious car problem. Way too many cars for a small island. They don't have an underground system and the public bus system doesn't see to be too well developed either.
The driver asked where we wanted to go. We said the most famous place which interested us was the Blue Grotto and so we wanted to go there first. And so we headed to the Blue Grotto. Took about 20-25 minutes to drive to get to this view point. I made this video of the viewpoint.
In the video, you can see that we were not the only people at the viewpoint. There were two tour coaches and I soon discovered that they were from the MSC Preziosa, ship's tour. In this photo, you can see our taxi parked in front of the two ship coaches.
A beautiful view of the blue grotto from a high position. Beautiful day! But it was going to be even more fun taking a small boat to go under the Blue Grotto.
We didn't stay too long at the viewpoint. We wanted to go for the boat road quickly, so as to get there before the crowds. And so we did. From the viewpoint to the place to take the boat ride was about 10 minutes. We had to walk down some rather quaint slope and buy our tickets from this very quaint shopfront.
Knowing that this boat ride would be very awesome, I focussed on getting good video compilation. So here goes. In this first video, we buy the tickets for the boat ride and get to the pier, to wait for a boat. Then we set off! This is the video of part 1.
In this video, we continue on the boat ride. In total, the ride will take about 25 minutes. It is in the open, so thank God for great weather. We visit many sea caves. The seas were very calm, which helped. We complete the rest of the caves and make our way back to the pier. A very memorable boat ride indeed! Beautiful weather and it was neither too hot nor too cold. Later our driver told us that in summer, the temperature could rise to 40 deg C. Thankfully we were not here in summer!
Here are some stills from the Blue Grotto boat ride. A boat behind us. See the lady with the placard. Folks from the ship's tour had arrived.
More passengers from the ship boarding! This and the previous picture should give you a good idea how easy or difficult it is board the boat. There is obviously no step-free access. You will need to step into the boat and find your seat. They will pack 3 pax per row.
A picture of the pier as we leave.
This was the boat we took and the pier.
After the Blue Grotto ride, we would head towards the old historical city of Mdina, but before we do Mdina, we would visit some souvenir and glass shop. I took this photo while in the cab. The sticker tickled me a bit. "Meter or Bargain" Interesting.
In this video, you will see some scenes from the glass factory, souvenir shop and the drive there. Turns out that the souvenir shop area used to be a very important Allied airfield during WWII. They still had some photos of the airfield, see 1:45 of the video. I don't know much about the history of Malta's aviation but I think Malta saw a lot of aviation action during World War II.
Here are some stills of the WWII photos on display in the souvenir shop. This photo suggests that the first Spitfires arrived in Malta on 7 Mar 1942.
This photo shows some Hurricane aircraft.
And this photo shows a Canadian pilot by the name of George Buerling. The inscription on the photo says that he flew Spitfires from Malta and shot down 25 German planes. Very impressive! Back home, when I googled the name, I found out that Buerling was considered the most successful Canadian pilot during WWII. During the siege of Malta, he was credited with shooting down 27 aircraft in just 14 days.
Some pictures of the souvenir shop, where all the aviation history photos were located.
These artistic tiles were very pretty.
Plenty of mugs and smaller souvenirs, all very pretty. My kids bought a couple of key chains and magnets.
After the souvenir shop, it was a short drive to the glass factory, where we spent just a very short time looking at the goods. Didn't buy anything. There was supposed to be some demonstration but I think they were taking a break when we got there.
VISIT TO MDINA
Mdina also known by its titles Città Vecchia or Città Notabile, is a fortified city in the Northern Region of Malta. It served as the island's capital from antiquity until 1530, when the capital was moved to Birgu.
Mdina is a medieval walled town situated on a hill in the centre of the island. Punic remains uncovered beyond the city’s walls suggest the importance of the general region to Malta’s Phoenician settlers. Mdina is commonly called the "Silent City" by natives and visitors. The town is still confined within its walls, and has a population of just under 300, but it is contiguous with the village of Rabat, which takes its name from the Arabic word for suburb, and has a population of over 11,000.
This place felt more touristy. We had these horse carriages waiting for business. But there was no real practical need to take the horse carriage as the walk into Mdina wasn't very long, unless you can't walk much, then perhaps the horse carriage would be a good idea.
See the horse carriage going into the walled city. There was a small van in front of the carriage.
This map shows you the major sight within the walled city of Mdina. The place isn't too big.
According to the Bible, (ref Acts 28 1-10), the apostle Paul was being brought to Rome when he was shipwrecked, and he landed in Malta. This is the biblical text from the English Standard Version (ESV).
28 After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The native people[a] showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. 3 When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. 4 When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice[b] has not allowed him to live.” 5 He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. 8 It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him. 9 And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They also honored us greatly,[c] and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.
This video shows us walking inside Mdina. Fascinating, that this place was from biblical times.
Museum of crime and punishment. Sounds scary. We didn't visit.
By this time, we were a bit hungry, so we decided to look for some place to eat. We hadn't done any prior research so we weren't sure what there was to eat. Perhaps we would just grab a quick bite and then eat more when we get back to the ship. Or, if we found a decent place, we would eat an full meal. Let's see what we could find. We walked into this cafe place, but the food didn't look too palatable.
So we kept walking and saw this sign. Xpresso bar and cafe at Palazzo de Piro.
Looked interesting. So we decided to go check it out. It turned out to be a lovely restaurant for lunch, at least for my family. Check out the video I made.
This was my burger. Freshly made. The kids loved the fries. You can see their pasta in the background.
This was my burger. Freshly made. The kids loved the fries. You can see their pasta in the background.
The views from the patio were awesome. We didn't sit outside (a bit too cold) but we came out to take some photos and videos.
After lunch, we would head back to outside the walled city where our driver would be waiting for us. On our way out, I spotted this sign. This walled city had her own police station. Neat.
Outside the walled city. This is the drop-off area and you can see some people waiting to board the coaches. On closer look, they were from the MSC Preziosa tour group! (Group number 36)
We went to the carpark just beyond the bus bay and found our guide very easily, which was good. Soon, we were headed off to some gardens. The traffic started to build up now. Too many cars in Malta, our taxi driver kept complaining.
Here is a video showing some snippets of the drive as we left Mdina and headed in the direction of Valletta.
What gardens? Oh this place we were going to turned out to be the St Anton Presidential Palace and St Anton Gardens.
We only took about 20 minutes here, enough to walk quickly through the gardens, see a bit of the palace from the outside, and walk back to the taxi. The best part of this visit was a nice pond where they are beautiful swans. Here is a short video.
Our final stop would be at Valletta itself. Here, we bade goodbye to the taxi driver, as he would drop us at the entrance into Valletta and take his leave. Later on, we would walk back to the ship from Valletta, which took about 15 minutes. You could also take a taxi, and the driver told us don't pay more than 15 Euros. (Usually the taxi drivers will charge you 25 Euros). It was worthwhile to spend some time in Valletta, as you shall see. This was the entrance.
Looked to be another fortified city of sorts? Very interesting.
And we take a walk along the streets.
In this video I show you some scenes of our walking. We stop at McDonalds to use their loo, and in the process I discovered that the McDonalds had free WiFi which was easy to use (didn't need password, I think). I guess such networks are not very secure, so do not transact confidential stuff.
The Parliament of Malta. This place was close to the entrance to Valletta, and not where the soldiers were standing guard.
There was some restoration work going on. Not sure what historical site this was, within Valletta itself - looked like roman-style columns.
That is the Parliament building of Malta - stylish design.
After our short walk around Valletta, we decided to head back to the ship. The taxi driver told us we could walk (15 to 20 minutes), so we decided to walk. It was a nice walk, downhill. This video shows you how to walk from Valletta to the cruise port. [Insert Video Later]
Along the way back, I managed to catch a good picture of this ship - Volstad Surveyor. It is an IMR vessel, deployed in the offshore industry.
In this picture, the MSC Preziosa is docked behind another vessel.
And we head back to the ship after a wonderful day out!