From next year, MSC's exclusive Yacht Club will be available on four ships. Jane Archer sailed the Med and tested out Fantasia's luxury offering
MSC Cruises launched the Yacht Club concept on MSC Fantasia in 2008, offering an exclusive area with an enhanced service for passengers who are prepared to pay more.
Today the cruise line has three ships with a Yacht Club – MSC Splendida (launched in 2009) and MSC Divina (launched in May).
The fourth, MSC Preziosa, was unplanned – MSC took over the new-build, which had been ordered by Libya – and will enter service in March 2013.
MSC Divina, which holds 4,363 passengers, is mostly a replica of its sisters, but with a few tweaks. Yacht Club cabin 16007, a vision in red, was designed by Italian diva Sophia Loren, who is godmother to most MSC ships.
Some of her favourite books are in the Yacht Club library. The Top Sail Lounge has been redesigned to give the pianist a prominent position – this is in response to comments from passengers, who said that there was no entertainment in the evening – and there’s new shaded seating by the Yacht Club’s al fresco bar.
When MSC Preziosa enters service, MSC will have four ships in each of its Lirica, Musica and Fantasia classes. Chief executive officer Pierfrancesco Vago said: “MSC Melody doesn’t fit. We will sell it by the end of the year.”
We sailed on a seven-night round-trip cruise from Genoa. As MSC allows passengers to embark at various ports on the itinerary, I joined in Barcelona, which has more frequent and cheaper flights from the UK.
WHAT YOU SEE
We visited Valletta in Malta, and Messina, from where we joined an excursion to Taormina. We did a Rome-on-your-own tour from Civitavecchia (you get a return transfer but otherwise you are free to go where you want), and called at Genoa in Italy, and Marseilles.
The itinerary was good, and we had some great days out, but I was more interested in finding out if the Yacht Club, a separate area of the ship accessed by keycard, really was a luxury enclave within a large four-star resort-style ship, as MSC claims.
Yacht Club passengers have a butler and concierge, access to the Top Sail Lounge and sun deck with a small swimming pool, and a private entrance to the spa.
YACHT CLUB HIGHLIGHTS
Our butler, Kamil, was brilliant, friendly, and always on hand but never intrusive. As the butlers work as a team, if he was busy with other passengers, he made sure one of his colleagues was around to look after us.
Free drinks in the Top Sail Lounge, one of the Yacht Club benefits, created a relaxed atmosphere, and it was lovely to have a private deck where you could always get a sunlounger. Open dining in L’Etoile Restaurant, exclusively for Yacht Club passengers, was really appreciated.
KEY SELLING POINTS
The Yacht Club is a luxury experience, but not an alternative for folk who want an intimate six-star cruise. Sell it to young couples and families who want an upmarket cruise and big-ship facilities such as a kids’ play area, disco and 4D cinema, and colourful production shows.
A seven-night round-trip cruise from Genoa in a Yacht Club suite on MSC Fantasia on September 2 including flights, private transfers and drinks in the Top Sail Lounge starts from £1,999.
Our itinerary, sailing from Genoa and visiting Barcelona, La Goulette, Valletta, Messina and Civitavecchia (for Rome), is offered this year on MSC Splendida, and starts from £1,999 for seven nights departing September 8 with the same inclusions. Offers available until July 31. msccruises.co.uk
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