My wife and I are both MSC veterans with many cruises over the past ten years. This, however, would be the first time we cruised in Yacht Club and the first Transatlantic. I’m an American and she Italian and both well over 65. I ... Read More
My wife and I are both MSC veterans with many cruises over the past ten years. This, however, would be the first time we cruised in Yacht Club and the first Transatlantic. I’m an American and she Italian and both well over 65. I realize that our YC experiences were for the most part vastly different from those enjoyed by the passengers in aurea, fantastica, and bella classes.
Embarkation: We live in Rome so we took the early morning Frecciabianca train to Genoa where the Divina was to board and sail from. Arriving at the Piazza Principe station I elected to take a taxi to the ship rather than lug four suitcases down to the port. There were several other MSC passengers doing the same thing (both the Divina and her sister ship Preziosa were boarding that morning) but after a short wait it was our turn and the taxi (€15) drove us right to the Divina boarding point. I had the driver drop us at the white Yacht Club tent where the porters took our bags and a YC butler tagged them. We then had to wait a few minutes for another butler to arrive who escorted about ten of us to the YC check-in desk in the passenger terminal where pastries and drinks were available. After a prosecco and a pastry we were called to the counter where our cruise documents were checked, passports swiped, and cruise cards issued. A butler then escorted us through security and onto the ship to the forward elevators and up to the YC concierge desk. I believe the entire process from baggage tagging to the concierge took about 40 minutes.
We were welcomed by our two very pleasant and efficient concierges, Lucia Taloti from Italy and Ovidiu Moldovan from Romania, and the chief butler, Kamil Mustapa from Indonesia. The maitre d’ from the Le Muse restaurant, Giuseppe DI Nardo, was also on hand to ask our dining preferences for dinner. After this we were free to go to our cabin.
The 139,072 ton Divina was built in 2013, third in the Fantasia class of now four MSC cruise ships which include the Splendida and the Preziosa. It has a total of 18 decks of which 13 are for passengers and has a capacity of over 4,000. The crew numbers more than 1,300. The regular cabins are mostly found on decks numbered 8 through 13, the vast majority with balconies. Much has already been written about this beautiful ship so I won’t elaborate more.
Yacht Club in General:
The exclusive Yacht Club area is on decks 15, 16, and 18 at the bow of the ship and consists of 70 suites plus the Top Sail Lounge and bar. Above on Deck 18 is its private pool, Jacuzzis, bar and sun deck. Entry into the YC area is by the same key card that opens the cabin door and serves as a personal passport for exiting and reentering the ship. YC members have their exclusive restaurant, Le Muse, on deck 15 at the stern of the ship. This requires a bit of a walk outside along deck 15 which is fine in good weather but when it’s raining, cold, or very windy, the only other option is to go to a lower deck to the aft elevator and stairs and climb back up to 15. Most go down to deck 7 but this is usually quite crowded with lounges, shops, and the photo area. Deck 14 means fighting your way though the chaotic self-service buffet. The speedier way is to walk the cabin-lined corridor of deck 13. For the Spa, there is a private elevator to the rear of the Concierge desk. A well stocked library is also behind the Concierge.
Top Sail Lounge:
This is the area most YC members gathered to relax and intermix with other members. It is basically a very pleasant and comfortable lounge spaced all along the front of the ship with an expanse of glass that lets you see from one side to the other, truly spectacular. Private areas of comfortable divans, easy chairs and small tables allowed both large and small groups to socialize. Toward the rear of the lounge is a well-stocked bar, and a small self-service buffet offering little tidbits to eat throughout the day and evening. Pastries, cereals and fruits for breakfast, sandwiches and desserts at lunch and throughout the evening.
Waiters (called junior butlers) bring you anything you want from the bar, as well as carrying it to your cabin should you so desire. The wait staff was efficient and absolutely wonderful. I would specifically cite May from Myanmar, Gianna from Madagascar, and Agus from Indonesia as those we had most contact with. The chief butler Kamil and his assistant Dani Agung were nearly always present supervising either in the lounge or up at the pool bar. Aside from some premium liquors and cocktails, all drinks are free whether it be coffee, water, aperitifs, cocktails, whiskies, etc. On many days we chose to take our breakfasts and/or lunch in the lounge instead of walking to the restaurant.
The One Bar and Pool:
The private YC elevator behind the Concierge desk lifts between the Spa on Deck 14, and the pool deck, deck 18. The exclusive pool/lido area consists of adequate sun loungers for every YC member on board. Never is there a problem finding one with distinctive blue beach towels (the rest of the ship has orange colored towels). Exiting the lift on the port side are showers and the smokers’ area (the only one in YC) with tables, umbrellas and sun loungers. Walking to the right (towards the bow) are the elevated two Jacuzzis and salt water pool with all the other sun loungers directly ahead. Walking around the pool to the starboard side is the bar and covered table area where one can drink, eat and read in the shade. There is also a small buffet that has food for breakfast and lunch. Again, everything is free. The rear of the pool area looks down on the lido area for the general population.
Le Muse Restaurant:
The YC dedicated restaurant has its own kitchen with a chef and a half dozen cooks and assistants and served the most wonderful food. The chef is Giovanni Chiaramonte from Calabria. The dining room was supervised by the maitre d’, Giuseppe Di Nardo from Bari assisted by the fine sommelier Luigi Fusco from Caserta. We ate in Le Muse each evening at dinner and most lunches as well. I splurged with an American breakfast two or three times. All in all we enjoyed both the food, the atmosphere, and the great staff who couldn’t do enough to make our dining experience wonderful. The menus offered much more international fare than the predominantly Italian we’ve been used to on MSC cruises but we had no problem finding items to our taste. The seafood served, while necessarily from the freezer, was excellent including the smoked salmon plates we frequently ordered. The dessert menu at lunch had a New York cheesecake to die for! We had the same waiter throughout who was both friendly and extremely competent – Wady Nurdin from Bunaken Island, Indonesia. Wady brought us anything we asked for, whether it was on the menu or not, and kept our water and wine glasses filled. We usually went to dinner around eight or eight-thirty and Giuseppe always had a table waiting for us.
Ours was number 15010 on the starboard side of deck 15, very convenient to the Concierge area and the Top Sail Lounge. Not much larger than a standard balcony cabin, it was more luxuriously outfitted and had a walk-in closet as well as the normal divan and desk. The bath was larger as it had a tub. The balcony was standard size with two chairs and a footstool. The niceties were many, the bottle of prosecco (actually two bottles since we’re black members), chocolates, fruit, 24 hour free room service, as well as our favorite newspaper hung on the door each morning. The minibar was stocked with various beverages and of course free. Other amenities included YC bathrobes and slippers, and special bath products. Our butler was a very fine fellow, Adam Mandjra from Madagascar who attended to our every need. Our very friendly cabin steward was Donald from Jamaica.
Our 140 fellow YC passengers were different from what we’ve experienced on other MSC cruises in that they were probably 80% English speakers mostly from the US and Britain. The remaining 20% was made up of several German and Italian couples as well as family groups from Spain and Turkey.
We had a wonderful American piano player every evening in the Top Sail Lounge named Alan. Aside from that we had very little contact with the ship’s animation team and did not frequent the other bars or lounges. Evening entertainment on the other hand was the Theatre at 7 pm where we went most days. We found practically all of the shows very good, some with themes we had seen before on other cruises but very well performed. The dancers and particularly the singers were all very good with shows ranging from Italian and Neapolitan favorites to opera and classical themes.
I had six very nice massages down in the Aurea Spa by a cute Balinese lady named Ratna Dewi. The ship was spotlessly clean as are all MSC ships and smoking was not a problem. The entire YC area was smoke-free except for one small area on the pool deck. On this ship even the casino was smoke-free. My wife was very proud to have taken six hours of English language lessons taught by a British couple in a conference room.
Weather and Climatic Conditions:
We experienced cold rainy weather the first few days of the cruise but the sun came out when we reached Funchal, Madeira and stayed with us for much of the remaining days. In the Caribbean we had heavy rain the day we docked at Martinique and for much of the time we were on St. Thomas. Temperatures during our five day Atlantic crossing went well over 30 degrees Celsius making it a bit uncomfortable out on the open decks.
Port Calls and Shore Excursions:
We remained on board during the stops at Barcelona and Malaga, having visited these cities on numerous occasions. At Funchal we went ashore and took a ride around the city on the red city sightseeing HoHo bus. At Bridgetown, Barbados, I had booked a five-hour catamaran cruise with Cool Running which was very nice. We had opportunities to snorkel with hundreds of multicolored fish (like in the Red Sea) and were fortunate to swim alongside a large sea turtle. We stayed on board at Martinque due to the rain. On St. Maarten and St. Thomas we took round the island excursions organized by the ship. We had two more ship’s excursions at San Juan: The El Yunkee rain forest in the morning and a country pig roast fiesta about an hour away at Cayay in the central area of Puerto Rico. The rain forest was excellent but the pig roast we could have done without. It was expensive, loud, and the food was only so-so. At least we mixed with local Puerto Ricans and saw how they party.
A piece of cake as they say. My credit card voucher was on the cabin door and I signed it for the concierge. After a relaxing breakfast in the Top Sail Lounge, we were in the first group to disembark at Miami. Led by our fantastic chief butler Kamil, we bypassed all the other passengers and were taken directly to our luggage. The customs inspectors merely gave us a glance and we were out on the street and into a taxi that took us to the Avis rent-a-car office.
It was a great cruise which we thoroughly enjoyed. If our future MSC cruise itineraries will be on one of the Fantasia class ships, we will definitely go in Yacht Club. Read Less