The luxurious MSC 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 line has added the MSC Yacht Club to MSC Splendida, MSC Divina and MSC Preziosa, as well as all newer ships since including MSC Seaside, MSC Meraviglia, MSC Seaview, MSC Bellissima, MSC Virtuosa, MSC Grandiosa -- and the ship I am currently on -- the newest in the fleet, MSC Seashore.
Fares can vary, but in general, cabins in the Yacht Club cost double what you'd spend on a regular cabin (see below).
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.
It's 4 p.m. and like a conditioned Pavlov's dog, my stomach growls. I'm ready for my canapes.
No matter that I already ate an embarrassing amount of shrimp at the seafood extravaganza lunch in the Top Sail buffet, reserved for the guests on MSC Seashore staying in the ship's suite-within-a-suite complex, the Yacht Club. So many shrimp that the Yacht Club waiters, used to anticipating your food and drink needs, brought out extra cocktail sauce.
But that was all of four hours ago and now it's time for canapes. Or a scone with clotted cream and preserves; the Yacht Club has a full English tea in the lounge daily at this hour. Or you can get your tea sandwiches and pastries near the Yacht Club pool and bring them to your plush lounger or daybed. I choose the latter option, knowing it will keep me content until dinner at the Yacht Club's special restaurant.
If you're feeling peckish, there's no reason to leave the Yacht Club unless you want to. A small buffet is set out all day long outdoors at Top Sail, with a rotating list of goodies, ranging from breakfast to lunch to afternoon snacks and tea. Downstairs in the lounge, you'll also find small bar snacks. And I already mentioned the canapes that magically arrive at various hours of the day.
There's no question that the Yacht Club is a splurge. Interior cabins start at around $2,800 for two people and a balcony will run you $4,100 for two people. Expect the cost to rise as your suite gets bigger, as Royal Suites cost around $12,000 and the Owners Suite can get up to $16,000 for a couple (figures are averages, given to me by MSC Seashore's Yacht Club Director Robert Balla).
Look beyond the base cost, though, and notice what you're getting. All Yacht Club suites come with a premium drink package that covers all beverages, alcoholic and non, up to $15. On MSC Seashore, that price limit means you can order almost any kind of fruity cocktail you want, wherever you go on the ship. (The only exception to this we found was in the Hola! Tacos specialty restaurant, where you do pay extra for your margaritas).
The Yacht Club package also includes a two-device WiFi package and access to the thermal spa suite. Before you write off the latter as "nice to have but not necessary" category, know that MSC Seashore has one of the larger thermal suites that we've seen at sea, with not just the usual saunas, steam rooms and thalassotherapy pool, but a Kneipp progression of spa showers, a Himalayan salt room and a snow room.
Wait, you're still thirsty? Don't forget the minibar, which your butler will stock daily with beer, sodas, iced teas and a choice of sparkling or still water. In the upper suites, you also get a bottle of your favorite spirit, along with mixers.
Our privileged Yacht Club experience started as soon as we rolled up to PortMiami. We found the white Yacht Club tent, where our names were checked off the list and our vaccine cards, passports and COVID-19 test results were examined and photographed. Then a "land butler" -- a shoreside employee who mimics the butler service that you'll receive once you're on the ship -- escorted us to a separate line for our rapid COVID-19 antigen test.
As we waited for our results, we were introduced to Manoj Pereira, our Yacht Club butler for the week. Right away, I knew that Pereira would take great care of us for the week, taking our hand luggage from us as we went through security and walked on to the ship. While this kind of kid glove treatment isn't something I necessarily seek out -- I'm more of a do-it-yourself-er -- having all the doors magically open and not fumbling in my bag for everything did make the experience less stressful.
Yacht Club guests are also able to get off the ship first, which means we don't have to worry about those late-morning flights home.
Often, passengers mistake the Yacht Club for MSC's loyalty program, Voyagers, Balla told us. Anyone can buy a suite within the Yacht Club -- you don't have to be a member -- but you'll want to plan ahead, as the rooms tend to sell out early.
Even during periods when the ship was kept at lower capacity for COVID-19 restrictions, the Yacht Club is proportionately fuller than the rest of the ship, and that's because the line invites passengers to bid for upgrades. On our February 2022 sailing, the Yacht Club was 55% full, compared to about 20% for the ship as a whole. By March 2022, Balla expects all 131 suites in MSC Seashore's Yacht Club to be full.
With every new ship, MSC Cruises keeps improving their Yacht Club, and on MSC Seashore, the space is at the top of its game. The Yacht Club here takes up the front part of the ship on three full decks, encompassing a lounge and restaurant and the Top Sail Lounge with a saltwater pool and two whirlpools.
And unlike the rest of the ship, which famously has staircases made with Swarovski crystals and has a fair amount of glitz, the line has gone for more of a toned-down, upscale look, with neutral tones. It's a little bit Restoration Hardware, with an Italian twist. The balconies on MSC Seashore are larger than many new ships, with more room to spread out than even on quasi-siblings MSC Seaside and MSC Seaview.
The sun deck cushions in the Yacht Club are also posher than what you find on the rest of the ship, and come in a variety of configurations. You can lounge in a partially covered king-sized day bed -- guests in the highest level of suites, the Owners Suite and the Royal Suites, have these reserved for their entire cruise. Or choose a sofa to spread out, a table for al fresco dining or a luxe lounger.
Most people on our cruise were sailing without kids, but make no mistake, MSC Cruises is a family friendly line and the Yacht Club is open to all. Several cabin categories allow kids, and you will see them in the pool and whirlpool.
That being said, Balla said that disruptions are infrequent. MSC Seashore has an entire waterpark with slides dedicated to kids, as well as a large arcade area and a whimsical jungle pool. Most kids prefer to go to those areas of the ship during the day, and grab a hot dog, hamburger or pizza the main buffet, as opposed to the Yacht Club's more sophisticated fare.
If you really want to avoid children on your Sea Day, your best bet is to go down to the ship's Infinity Pool on Deck 8. This pool is marked Adults-Only and has a similar Miami chill vibe as the Yacht Club.
A cruiser cannot live on canapes alone, and the Yacht Club restaurant is heads above the main dining room that's used by regular passengers. That's by design, Balla said -- the Yacht Club spends more per passenger on food and drink, and the dishes have better quality ingredients.
When you dine in the Yacht Club, your server will give you recommendations from the daily menu -- or if you really want something from the main dining room, they'll get it for you. On lobster night, for example, passengers had no problem turning their entrees into a surf and turf option. Want a smaller portion of another entrée to try? No problem.
The Yacht Club also goes out of its way to accommodate guests with dietary restrictions. Our butler asked us on Day 1 about our food preferences and allergies. Once he knew that we were seafood fans, he made a point of telling us the best nights to go to different restaurants.
Speaking of your butler, you will never know how much you need one until you've stayed in the Yacht Club. Pereira made it clear that while we were on MSC Seashore, he would make it his mission to make our every request come true.
To that end, Pereira made our dinner reservations every night. He escorted us to the Lounge for a nightly cocktail and then delivered us to our restaurant, instructing the servers there to take good care of us. He made sure our daybed on the Top Sail sundeck was set up when we wanted to go, and had a steward fill the jacuzzi on our balcony. Coffee arrived every morning at 7:30 a.m.
Some of this personal attention seems unnecessary when you're on a ship with low capacity. But it's a godsend when MSC Seashore returns to full capacity, particularly when it comes to shows and shore excursions. Even when getting off at the line's private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, we were gently nudged to the head of the line as Pereira expertly maneuvered the crowd.
The butlers are a key element of the MSC Yacht Club VIP experience and making you feel special onboard.
On the rare locations that Pereira was not around, I relied on the Yacht Club concierge to get things done. On one windy afternoon, the cabin felt a bit chilly. No problem; a call to the concierge and a blanket arrived at the suite.
The concierge desk also helped us get a cash advance so we could tip Pereira a little extra (while gratuities in the Yacht Club are automatically levied, we believe firmly that during the pandemic, it's good to tip a little extra). I also noticed the concierge personnel speaking a variety of languages to the international guests, which likely made them feel much more at home.
Your Yacht Club perks extend beyond the ship to Ocean Cay, the private island. There is an entire section of the marine reserve dedicated to Yacht Club guests, as well as a separate restaurant with delicious food called Ocean House. As soon as you get off the ship, your butler puts you on a tram and you are whisked away to your private enclave.
On our first day in Ocean Cay, the weather was extraordinarily windy, and the Yacht Club section of the island wasn't actually the best place to be; the conditions were actually better in the non-exclusive part of Ocean Cay. We stayed because we had a cabana that blocked the wind, but you don't have to rent something extra to have excellent service here.
The Ocean House lunch, though, is far above what you find on the buffet elsewhere. Our drink package also extended to the island; this is actually the case for all passengers.
I am sold on the MSC Yacht Club experience. When you weigh all of the perks and inclusions, as well as the enhanced dining experience, the equation comes out in favor of the Yacht Club, at least according to my priorities of comfort, ease and service.
Put it this way -- I would rather buy an interior cabin in the Yacht Club than a balcony elsewhere on the ship. While I would miss the view, I would be OK with making the most of my outdoor time at the Top Sail sundeck.
Of course, everyone has their own vacation needs and budgets. But if you're looking to be spoiled for a week, while still traveling on a megaship with a variety of activities and shows, it's hard to do better than MSC's Yacht Club.