The luxurious MSC Cruises Yacht Club -- where passengers have their separate section of the ship, including a lounge, pool and restaurant -- was introduced on MSC Fantasia, when it debuted in 2008. Since then, the Mediterranean line has added the Yacht Club to MSC Splendida, MSC Divina and MSC Preziosa, as well as newer ships such as MSC Seaside, MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaview.
Fares can vary, but in general, cabins in the Yacht Club cost double what you'd spend on a regular cabin. So why should you upgrade? Overall, you'll find an experience that's more refined and upscale than the frenetic activity and packed pools located outside its walls. In addition to the MSC Yacht Club benefits we'll list below, there's the obvious one: With fewer cabins and lots of dedicated space, the club lends a feeling of serenity, far from the rest of the bustling mega-ship. We think it's the perfect choice for luxury lovers who want to feel pampered at a reasonable price or families who want the fun amenities of a big ship, while still having an aura of exclusivity.
Read on for a list of MSC Yacht Club perks and our take on why you should be sailing in the Yacht Club on your next cruise.
1. Priority Boarding
Your MSC Yacht Club experience begins at the curb. No lengthy embarkation lines for you. Instead, a butler checks you in, and you're whisked immediately onto the ship. Your bags will also arrive when you do; everyone else will have to wait a few hours for their luggage. This front-of-the-line service doesn't stop on day one. Yacht Club members also disembark the ship first for excursions, for tenders and to leave the ship on the final day. If the idea of queues gives you the heebie-jeebies, this alone will be worth the price.
2. Butler Service
That butler we mentioned? One of them will be assigned to you for the entire cruise. He or she can assist you with making all your reservations, spa appointments, excursion choices and more. (There's also a concierge desk to help with this, but the butlers provide a more personal touch.) Additionally, they can stock the included mini-bar with your preferences, alert your room steward when said mini-bar needs refilling or make sure that you get your afternoon cheese plate. Think of him or her as the person most interested in making your cruise the best it can be.
3. Better Cabins
The suites within the Yacht Club start at 295 square feet -- much larger than you find in the cabins on the rest of the ship. The suites also have walk-in closets, as well as tub-and-shower combos in the bathrooms. The decor, brown and mauve, feels more upscale and sophisticated than what you'll see elsewhere, and the TVs are larger than in standard rooms. With memory foam mattresses and a choice of pillows available from a menu, you might just sleep better as well. (MSC cruisers in the know ask for "Yacht Club" pillows to replace the notoriously hard ones in the regular cabins -- but such substitutions aren't guaranteed.) The Yacht Club is also positioned with a special elevator and staircase directly to the spa, so the masses won't see you slipping through the corridors in your workout gear or bathrobe.
4. Access to Top Sail Lounge
The dedicated lounge for Yacht Club passengers has one of the ship's premier locations -- at the absolute front of the ship, with panoramic views from the slanted windows. The multipurpose space is the perfect place for a quick continental breakfast in the morning or a pre-dinner drink and a cocktail in the afternoon. And at night, a pianist keeps passengers entertained.
5. Private Restaurant Dining
The menu at the Yacht Club restaurants (which have different names, depending on the ship) might look similar to what's being served in the main dining room, but the execution of the dishes is on another level. The escargot we tasted in Le Muse on Divina, for example, seemed like a completely different dish than what we had in the main dining room; it came to the table perfectly baked in its garlic sauce with a petite crouton on top, as opposed to the green gloppy mess we received in the main dining room. Other pluses: The dining room is intimate, so you see the same people every night, yet tables are set farther apart, so you have more privacy. You can eat when you please, as opposed to fixed seatings. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner on both port and sea days. All in all, if you're a foodie, the Yacht Club is the way to go.
6. Entry to Exclusive Pool Area
The Yacht Club has its own private sun deck, pool and hot tubs, along with accompanying bar and grill, on the forward portion of Deck 18. Dubbed "One Pool," the area is really an oasis, albeit a windy one at times. There will be no battles for sun loungers, either, as there are plenty, but do know that families book in the Yacht Club, so the pool area is not an adults-only experience. The pool and hot tubs aren't large, but they suffice.
The bar and grill are what make the area shine, however, and give the area a feeling of liveliness. Food is served all day at the grill, starting with an omelet station in the morning, changing over to a pasta station and salad bar at lunch and, finally, canapes in the evening. Covered tables allow you to eat and drink in the shade, and if you still want sun, waiter service is prompt.
7. Included Drinks
Yacht Club cabin occupants are granted with all-inclusive beverage status. In other words, they can enjoy complimentary drinks throughout the entire ship; they're not limited to the confines of the club (Top Sail, the restaurant, One Pool Bar and the in-cabin mini-bar).
8. Private Island Extras
Although it's not the norm for cruise lines to extend onboard perks to its highest-tiered passengers while they're ashore, amenities like butler service and dedicated spa facilities will be afforded to MSC Yacht Club cruisers when MSC's new private island and marine reserve, Ocean Cay, opens in fall 2019.