This was our first experience of MSC cruises, but not our first of an Italian Cruise Line! Whilst all cruises are great there are indeed differing degrees of excellence and our previous trip on Costa (many years ago) made us more than a little apprehensive of sailing with MSC.
On Costa we found the Italian passengers were like their drivers, everything seeming erratic and slighly chaotic. We had originally booked a fantastica balcony cabin, however the opportunity to upgrade to the Yacht Club, as this cruise was to cover our wedding anniversary, was just too good to miss and we were allocated a category YC1, no 15032.
Our impression of the ship in general was very favourable. The Preziosa, with its silver Swarovski Crystal Staircases certainly set the atrium off. However, the Gold Crystal one in the Yacht Club concierge area really set the standard for excellence and luxury. We immediately knew that we had made the right choice and from the minute we arrived at the dedicated baggage area we knew we were in for a real treat and we were not disappointed.
Your Yacht Club experienced starts from the minute you drop your bags off at the dedicated Yacht Club bag drop, from where you are escorted by a butler in their smart uniform of morning suit and pin stripe trousers to your dedicated check in. Check-in is smooth and takes minutes as your cruise cards are waiting for you in your suite.. Whilst you are waiting for a butler to escort you onto the ship, there are complimentary refreshments including Prosecco, however, I only managed a few sips before a butler arrived! We were escorted onto the ship and whisked up to deck 15 forward where the Yacht Club is situated. It is over 3 decks forward (15, 16 and 18 as the number 17 is unlucky – the Italian equivalent of 13 to us). Deck 15 has suites, concierge, library and Top Sail lounge, deck 16 is suites and deck 18 has the One Bar and One Pool. It would be entirely possible and very tempting, to spend the entire cruise within the Yacht Club environment (as I wanted to do but had to force myself out on excursions!), venturing out only to go to La Palmeraie, the Yacht Club’s Restaurant. The staff, as were all we came into contact with, in this restaurant are wonderful and they went out of their way to make dining a pleasure!
It is not just the tranquillity and comfort that makes the Yacht Club special, it is the little extras. Never mind the welcome bottle of Prosecco, twice daily replenishment of the complimentary mini bar, and fruit bowl in your suite plus your own printed version of a daily newspaper of your choice. Drinks in the Yacht Club are also complimentary and the butlers on duty in the Top Sail Lounge ensure that your glass (or cup as speciality teas and coffee are also available) is, should you wish, never empty. With the traditional drinks package you need your card to obtain a drink and this is discounted from your shipboard account. There is no such vulgarity here, you are a club member, and as such your drink is delivered with minimal fuss and without the need to brandish your card.
Whilst the pillows on your bed are wonderful, should they be too soft, too firm or just the wrong shape you have a pillow menu to choose alternatives. Each morning your daily paper is on your suite door. There is an extensive selection, and it is interesting to see all the international choices hanging on the doors as you walk down for breakfast. You know it is your paper, as it is printed with your name and suite number printed on the top of each page.
Many of us know that entering a dark room, finding the slot to put your card in to get the lights to work can be a struggle, so we take an old cruise card and just leave it in the slot. Unfortunately, you can’t do this in the Yacht Club, in order to ensure a discreet service, when your card is in, there is a light above the door that tells the cabin steward that the cabin is occupied.
The other great benefit of the Yacht Club is that you need never worry about people hogging loungers. There seemed to be three for every two passengers, and having your own pool deck and bar area directly above the suites was superb.
You also have direct access to Aurea Spa where the relaxation room and sauna are available to Yacht Club members as part of the experience.
The only drawback of having experienced the Yacht Club is that cruising will never quite be the same again. Although exclusive, it could not be described as stuffy or snobbish and compared to Suite Class travel on other cruise lines it is available at an affordable price. For those of us not used to such luxuries this is great. For those who are, give it a try as you won’t be disappointed.