After the many less than flattering reviews of MSC cruise, we were a bit apprehensive about our 7 day Splendida cruise. We traveled with another couple, and vacation plans required a Barcelona departure and return on a specific date. Given MSC's spotty reviews, we would have chosen another line had one met our logistics.
In the end, we were very pleased we sailed with MSC, but only because we were in the Splendida's Yacht Club. The cabin was certainly more expensive than the best cabin outside the yacht club, but well worth the extra cost. The benefits of the Yacht Club that MSC promotes are many, including nicer cabins located in the upper levels of the bow, free well drinks, butler service, private area including a lounge and pool deck, preferred embarkation and disembarkation, private dining and more. As there are few Yacht Club reviews on CruiseCritic and these cabins do require a substantial investment, I think the benefits deserve an extensive review.
Cabins: The YC1 level Cabins, while apparently no larger than the largest standard cabins are finished very nicely with wood paneling and fine linens. Our cabin, 16035 was one of a handful of YC1 Yacht Club cabins that were wider than most, but not quite as deep. We didn't get to enter any other cabins, but peeking in cabins while being cleaned showed that the wider cabins looked more spacious. The closet was spacious, while the bathroom was adequate in size with a roomy shower in tub, but only one sink. And the Yacht Club cabins are on the higher levels, forward. Note that some are on decks lower than the lounge. We were on the 16th floor, mere step and no lift away from the lounge or pool deck. I would recommend trying to get a room on the 16th or 15th floor, avoiding the very busy lifts. (A note on the lifts...Yacht Club members, when using their room key on the lifts to access their private floors sometimes will cancel any other lift users selections! Convenient perhaps, but a bit uncomfortable)
Private spaces: The Yacht Club section can be accessed only by guests, creating a wonderful respite from the crowded ship. The private areas are forward, near the rooms and include a very spacious lounge with a private concierge, a bar and seating area on the 15th floor. Snacks, small, but very good are offered throughout the day, changing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The lounge has huge windows across the bow allowing a fantastic 180 degree view. On the top deck there is a private outside deck area, with a small pool and 4 hot tubs. There is a full bar and snacks are put out during the day. We had heard the Yacht club (100 rooms) was only 60% full during most of our cruise, with that said, the spacious sun deck never had more than 15 people laying out at any time offering a very quiet and private experience. If you prefer a quiet peaceful cruise, this benefit of the Yacht Club may be worth the additional cost alone!
Free drinks: Well drinks (Beefeater, Absolut, Jim Beam, a good selection of beers and serviceable Italian red and white wine) are free and unlimited in the lounge, on the pool deck and in the Yacht Club's private restaurant, L'Olvio. Depending on your alcohol intake, at 7 to 10 Euro per drink outside the club, this could almost pay for your yacht club upgrade. There are of course call drinks available at 8 Euro and up, but we never felt pressured at all to order any. The in room mini bar is free as well, stacked with a few snacks, beer and the aforementioned well spirits. Bar service was excellent.
Private dining: The L'Olivio restaurant is for the exclusive use of the Yacht Club guests for (full) breakfast, lunch and dinner. No reservations are necessary (when I asked our butler for one the first night, he said "the restaurant is yours Mr. Davis, you dine when you like"), a very nice feature. The food is quite acceptable, with a few disappointing and a few very good dishes. Nothing really special, but much better than the food outside of the Yacht Club, if the reviews are indicative. We never had a meal outside of the club, but walking through the cafeteria showed a pretty boring selection of food. It is important to note that, at least on Splendida, the private restaurant is on the 15th floor on the stern. If you do not wish to walk outside on chilly evenings, you have a long walk, separate by two lift rides, and the lifts are slow and crowded.
Service: Embarkation was an absolute breeze. We were met at our cab, had a very quick private check in and were escorted directly to our cabin, where our luggage was waiting. We passed long check-in lines along the way. The butler service is excellent. He unpacked our bags upon arrival and packed on departure. He was available at any time with assistance, would escort us across the ship for dinner, and promptly deliver tea, coffee and warm pastries when we phoned in the morning. He was available to escort us off the ship on port days. The room was spotless every day. Upon disembarkation, we had our luggage in our room until 30 minutes before disembarkation, and the butler escorted us off the ship, meeting our luggage at the terminal and walked us all the way to our cab! The waiters in the restaurant, the bartenders and wait staff in the lounge and pool deck were all fantastic. The service in the Yacht Club was absolutely first class service at every turn.
We did not take part in any MSC arranged shore excursions nor attend any of the on board shows in the theater. The only bar we patronized outside of the Yacht Club was the Wine Bar, which was nice, with good charcuterie, but with a narrow, disappointing selection of wines.
All in all, it was an excellent experience on board. We all agreed that we would consider an MSC cruise again, but only in the Yacht Club accommodations. The rest of the ship was crowded, with slow lifts and long lines. They are measurably pricier rooms than the rest of the ship, but well worth the additional cost. Too bad MSC only offers this service on two ships.