MSC Cruises are certainly the trailblazers in the Cruise Industry in Great Britain at the moment. They took the risk to be the first Major Cruise Line to restart cruising in the British Isles, soon after the British Government gave the go ahead after covid restrictions. I, and I know so many others are incredibly grateful to MSC, for all the hard work to ensure time aboard the ship was as safe as possible. I can honestly say I felt far more safe on Virtuosa in our covid world, compared to say Central London or in a local restaurant or pub.
I booked our cruise with Emma Otter of Travel Advisors, some months ago. Initially our first cruise back was going to be our Tradewind Voyages trip, but as soon as I heard MSC were going to be cruising in May, I jumped at the chance to book! I did originally have the Annual leave booked over the first Maiden Voyage, as we were supposed to be at the Monaco Grand Prix with Azamara, but sadly that didn’t happen this year and I then relinquished the leave over that weekend so we went on to book the third Maiden. ( We’re re-booked the Grand Prix voyage for next year, so hold tight for some Azamara/Monaco/Formula 1 content next May!)
Initially I booked a Standard Balcony under the Bella experience. (Our booked cruises tend to range from Obstructed balconies, to Suites, working in healthcare and my husband having had his life changed 20 years ago by a large Brain haemorrhage, we have an appreciation that life can be short for some so chose to spoil ourselves within reason! For 4 nights away, we felt a standard balcony was suffice. Maybe optimistic given the British weather, though for this cruise we were spectacularly lucky with the beautiful British sunshine!
I have not had previous experience of an email upgrade system in the past. I received an email from MSC Upgrade and decided to bid over the minimum amount for a Suite with Whirlpool Bath. There were many glitches in the system, resulting in my bid being declined, fair enough. However I was still charged, just under half the cost of the total cruise again. This took a good few days to be acknowledged and has now on my return been sorted with different people and finally a supervisor seeming to sort out the issues alongside many phone calls to my bank. Not really the initial return to cruising I was hoping for, after the last 18 months or so away, but by Friday, embarkation day I was refusing to be upset by large chunk of money missing from my bank account any more! I knew, without a doubt, that the service on board would be absolutely fantastic, so after a fretful morning with phone calls and emails between MSC and HSBC, my lost money finally being located, I was then able to embark the Masterpiece that is Virtuosa and enjoy every moment!
Staff were welcoming, organised, slick, speedy and safe! As we were boarding to a standard balcony cabin, we had no priority check in, which Yacht Club passengers would usually have. I can’t see how the check in could be any better! Check in commenced with temperature checks outside the terminal building, then document checks inside the building, dropping off luggage, then through security, onwards for a Nasal covid swab, cabin/ship check in, then a seat in a numbered area awaiting the outcome of your Test and waiting to be invited to embark onto Virtuosa.
Our tests were negative and on we went. In essence to speed up to the Yacht Club experience, do watch my first ever vlog posts on my YouTube channel about our first few hours on the ship.
Our Yacht Club experience began when my husband received a phone call from our future Butler Mary, informing us, that she was coming to collect us and to take us to our new cabin. I have thanked MSC profusely for this upgrade in any way I can! (It was related to the errors that happened and has actually resulted in us cancelling a suite we had booked for the Caribbean next January with a rival company and rebooking a Yacht Club Grand Deluxe Suite on Seashore next January because the difference in service is insanely good, and the better service, in the YC, is over £3k cheaper! Bonkers )
Mary arrived, was so friendly and insisted on taking one of our cases. We then walked from our previous cabin near the Aft right to the Bow and up to the 16th Floor.
The main entrance to the Yacht Club is in the most forward lift lobby, a swipe card or swiping your bracelet is required to open the entrance door. It seems a little cruel that the doors are see through, I think the times I am outside exclusive areas, I would rather not see what I am missing! Then alternatively I am sure some would like a good old nose!
On entering, immediately on the left is the Yacht Club concierge desk, beaming, welcoming smiles surround you and many introductions take place! Our names were already known, I expect seeing an upgrade they assumed we would be complainers, thankfully for them we are the polar opposite! I will almost never send food back, if there is a wrong order I will usually take it to prevent any extra work. I have no judgement about people who do, honestly I admire their assertiveness. I am just a most amenable person and tend to enjoy going with the flow on a ship, well until someone touches the cruise fund pot in my bank account without asking! Then I can get really rather grumpy and upset. However credit where credit is due, MSC more than rectified the issue. I am so impressed.
Our Butler Mary, the Head Butler, the Yacht Club Director were all introduced to us in quick succession. Given we were in shock at finding ourselves in the most exclusive part of the ship, upgraded and in awe of our new surroundings, we were thanking everyone profusely. Mary escorted us to our new cabin just a short 5 second or so walk from the concierge desk. We were now taking up residence in a Yacht Club Deluxe Suite.
On entering the Suite, it did take your breath away. I’ve cruised in around 5 suites with P&O Cruises and always feel that when you enter such a nice cabin, then remember it is on a ship, where space is at a premium you really appreciate the extra room that little bit more. Granted it is no necessity, but it is absolutely a lovely perk to make your cruise even more special. Seeing people die suddenly every day in my job, were I support amazing selfless families save strangers lives by Organ Donation and also having had my husband recover from a spontaneous brain haemorrhage some years ago, you really do start to look to enjoy as many experiences in life which you can, as not everyone gets the privilege to be alive and well.
I think spending time with lots of people all day long in my work, I do enjoy having an oasis of calm on the ship. I enjoy heading to a bar, taking a quiz, watching a show, but I also greatly enjoy my own space to marvel in gorgeous ocean views and ponder on whatever I wish. I true introvert… luckily Dave is too!
I will produce a Deluxe Suite Cabin tour in due course, as soon as I can edit all my videos and photographs! Then will update this post to include the link, in the meantime I will whet your appetite with some photographs. We had a double bed set up, you could also have two single beds, if you preferred. A sofa, which could sleep a further person or two and two chairs around a table in a sitting area. A desk area, a large TV, an included mini bar, a Nespresso machine, lots of storage space including drawers and one and a half wardrobes and a large spacious bathroom including a double shower. Previous suites I’ve had have all included baths in the bathroom, often spa baths. I feel MSC had the room to add a bath, however I didn’t actually miss it. I suspect maybe European folk prefer their showers to baths, despite being a massive Bath lover, when you think about it, showers are far more hygienic! There is no shortage of whirlpools aboard to satisfy any bath style desires! The shower was really lovely with both a normal shower attachment and a monsoon shower head too. The Balcony was gorgeous, small for a suite compared to previous suites I have stayed in, but absolutely suffice and with the added bonus of a large private sundeck only a short walk away, it was far more than adequate.
MSC describe the Yacht Club as ‘an exclusive haven of refinement’. A perfect description. It is a ship within a ship experience, an area to saviour a little bit more exclusivity and privacy. I am interested to see how we feel it will compare to a SilverSeas cruise we have booked for next year. I feel my expectations are that SilverSea will be quite similar in regards to service, however you don’t have a whole huge ship full of exciting extras attached, which currently I feel gives MSC Yacht Club the best of both worlds! We shall see, after a Voyage aboard Silver Dawn, I may well change my mind! Watch out for a future Blog comparison and of course lots of Silver Dawn content!
On arrival into our suite there was a delicious selection of fruits and nougat awaiting us to delve in and taste! It tasted as delicious, as it looked beautiful. Every day a different treat arrived. A delicious Lemon meringue pie with a pot of strawberries and a tray of salmon goodies were also delivered. We also had a fruit basket, which I think was due to my loyalty tier rather than the yacht club.
As part of the Yacht club experience, you are invited to chose a litre bottle of spirit to enjoy in your suite. Mary was quick to point out only the first litre was complimentary, however we were quick to thank and also reassure her that there was no chance we would finish a litre of spirit in 4 days! We chose Tanquery Number 10 off the menu and actually never opened it! So it returned home with us, thank you for the free bottle of Gin MSC! On top of this gift, Yacht Club suites also have an unlimited mini bar. Our Mini bar contained iced tea, fresh fruit juices, Tonic water, sparkling and still water and a variety of beer and soft drinks. This mini bar magically refilled whenever we left the suite! It also contained one complimentary milk chocolate toblerone, my favourite, however being so full of delicious food aboard, this also came home with us! My understanding is on a longer cruise you can let your Butler know your preferences and they will stock the mini bar accordingly. We aim to have plenty of soft drinks and tonic water on our Seashore Yacht Club Cruise in January, do keep following for lots of Seashore Yacht Club content and Vlogs!
Oh back to Loyalty tiers, briefly, do make use of the free status match system MSC have, Click here to go to it. It seems a bit hit and miss which tier you’re allocated too, being the top tier on P&O after nearly 300 days at sea resulted in their mid range level, however for free , this perk is brilliant! I have had people tell me that recently the status match is capped at Gold , which would make sense. Either way, it’s a fabulous perk from MSC and from my experience the loyalty extra goodies seem very generous compared to rival lines.
Concierge is open 24/7 , though we never had any reason to go to concierge for. Whenever we left our Suite, Mary was on hand in a completely unobtrusive way, politely check on our well-being and if she could assist us in any way. We took a daily visit to the concierge desk for our daily morning temperature check, a extra touch to allow us all to feel like we were cruising in the safest possible way. We once completely forgot our masks, we could have easily returned to our suite, less than a 5 second walk away, but were quickly furnished with a disposable mask each, we did not forgot again! Talking of masks, each evening we were supplied with an envelope with a selection of complementary free masks, so really had no reason at all to forget!
I assume it is expected that the first port of call for any enquires you have in the Yacht club would be with your Butler. A 24 hour butler service is not something I have ever been offered before. We never felt any need to contact Mary, our wonderful Butler, however she was always unobtrusively around if we left the suite. It was a pleasure to catch up with her, we hope we were actually really rather easy to look after!
A Cruise experience like no other.
Lavishly appointed suites, an exclusive 24 hours Butler service and a dedicated concierge are only the start.
All inclusive á la carte meals served at your preferred time in the private restaurant, unlimited drinks in all MSC Yacht Club areas or from your minibar and exclusive access to The One sundeck and Top Sail Lounge are just some of the other privileges.MSC Cruises
We chose to eat Breakfast every day in the Yacht Club restaurant, there is an option to have your breakfast within your suite, with a form you fill out the night before. However as the restaurant was only around a 10 second walk away we wanted to explore the full breakfast menu! I think perhaps we may treat ourselves to breakfast in bed or on the balcony occasionally in the Caribbean.
Breakfast was delicious, lots of choice to order from, using either a paper menu or scanning a QR code for an electronic menu. It made no difference to us which we used, whichever was easier on that particular day for the staff, sometimes we had a paper menu given to us before getting our phone out. Needless to say in my opinion, however I order the food makes no difference to me. Unfortunately we did hear some people moaning about the option to use their phones. Life is far to short to moan about that! Talking of moaning, something you do tend to hear a lot of on some ships. There was hardly any! I think over the whole 4 night Cruise I only heard one older lady in the Yacht Club Restaurant moaning about the order in which her Husbands breakfast had been brought out. I’m glad we are happy to have which ever delicious goodies we have ordered delivered in whichever order the fabulous waiting staff see fit, after all they are the experts!
Following Breakfast, we enjoyed a daily stroll down the Swarovski staircase down to the Top Sail lounge to enjoy a morning Latte and glass of water, whilst admiring the empty Top Sail lounge and the beautiful Ocean views. Previous ships I have been on, have almost always had this bar area as a Crows Nest style bar for the whole ship to use. So to have this area solely to Yacht Club guests was quite a treat, throughout the day tables where available wherever you wanted to sit. Service was fabulous, no sooner had you sat down, was your order taken. I did like the way that had no requirement to sign for any drinks , as it was known that they were all included within your package.
For lunch, yacht club members had the option of a more formal, yet still relaxed served lunch in the Yacht Club Restaurant or to head up to the one sundeck and order from the grill menu there.
On entering one Sun deck area you are spoilt for choice with seating areas, comfortable wicker style sunloungers, chairs, sofas, bar stool style chairs with high tables. However you wish to spend your time there is a chair to suit your needs! There is also a lovely quiet pool and a hot tub. Yacht club towels are stacked on a table to either help yourself to. Though , it will come as no surprise a yacht club employee will probably beat you to it and will pamper you an ensure you are all set up where ever you wish to relax!
There are incredibly efficient sun blocking glass panels above your head in areas dotted around the deck, so whether you wish to lap up the sunshine or relax in the shade you’ll find a spot perfect for you. I even saw the pool lifeguard moving the sunbeds every 15 minutes or so for a couple who wanted to chase the sun on a moving ship, how is that for fantastic service!
The service throughout the yacht club is out of this world. The staff on the sundeck certainly wanted to ensure you enjoyed your day in the sunshine with not a worry in the world. My husband had bespoke cocktails made for him, when he joked with the Barman to surprise him with a cocktail, these cocktails (below) , as you can see are works of art. On a few occasions we had a new drink delivered, prior to finishing or ordering the next, which we found fantastic, it really made us feel special and cared for, a simple touch. When the Yacht Club opens up to more normal numbers, Mary informed us that extra staff would return, so I assume the service will remain fantastic. The Yacht Club Butlers would be up around deck and Mary would often very kindly check that we were ok, would enquire if we’d had a good day, a lovely little chat, as we never have any complaints, it really was a pleasure to have a regular little chat which such a wonderful , lovely Lady.
Apart from heading for Dinner in the Butcher’s cut one evening, we otherwise ate dinner in the Yacht Club Restaurant. I plan to write a separate post about the food we ate on board, so will save more details about the Yacht Club for that. I can however say, as a lover of all things Steak and enjoying trips at home to Hawksmoor and Gaucho, I can honestly say the NY Sirloin Steak we ate in Butchers Cut, was without a doubt the best Steak, I have ever eaten! It melted under the knife, melted in your mouth, it was just so delicious.
We could have asked Mary to book Butchers Cut for us, however we booked whilst in our first cabin and used the really easy to use ‘MSC for me’ app. She enquired if we had made a booking and insisted she accompany us from our Suite to the restaurant. How could we refuse! I am sure as a busy lady she had so much to do, however she was so politely insistent we took her up on her kind offer, it is not particularly necessary, however its a lovely extra touch, we were very grateful for, as it certainly makes you feel very special!
Dinner in the Yacht Club Restaurant was perfect. On entering the restaurant there were sinks available to wash your hands. As a Nurse, professionally obsessed with hand washing, these sinks made me very happy and the soap smelt like marzipan. Good enough to eat, if it wasn’t soap! We would then be shown to our table, menus were again on QR codes or delivered on pieces of paper. There was adequate choice of starters, mains and desserts, some dishes were always available. We’re not fussy eaters so always had lots of choice! Water was offered, both still or sparkling. Bread is served with your choice of butter or oil. Wine pairings are suggested, or your preferred choice poured for you to enjoy with your meal. I had Prosecco to accompany my meal each night, after all it was a celebration being back on a Ship finally! These pairings are included within the Yacht Club Drinks package.
Dinner service was excellent and the food was delicious. I always find Cruises are a fantastic opportunity to try food you wouldn’t usually try. Mainly because it will be prepared / cooked to perfection aboard a ship and secondly if you don’t like it , you most definitely won’t starve on a ship! We were both very impressed with the food on board, the portions were perfect and the food delicious. We kept on piste, so to speak, on the menu, however there were a good selection of always available dishes and I am certain if there was nothing you found you could eat, they would no doubt ensure you did not go hungry!
After Dinner we tended to go for an explore around the ship or to one of the shows, then undoubtedly return to the Top Sail Lounge for a drink. Every evening the lounge was quite quiet, which suited us fine. However if you are more of a party animal you have the whole ship outside the Yacht Club to explore!
I had not realised until leaving the ship, that our daily newspaper in the Yacht Club was different to the rest of the ship. Having embarked to a standard balcony, then having been upgraded whilst on the ship, our Yacht Club newspaper had only the opening times for the Yacht Club facilities. Though it did also include all the activities on in the main part of the ship too.
Sadly, our voyage aboard MSC for her third Maiden Voyage all too soon, came to an end! On the final morning of our full day aboard, disembarkation information was left on our bed. A perk of the Yacht club is the ability to disembark the ship whenever is convenient for you, sadly never, was not an option! Mary enquired as to a time we would be ready to leave, as Dave was working on our disembarkation day I was led by him. We decided on 08:30. We awoke early and attended the Yacht Club restaurant for our final meal aboard. We were expected to vacate our suite at 08:00, so returned briefly after breakfast to collect our hand luggage and make our final checks, that we had not left anything! Our main luggage was left outside before 0100 the night before, with yacht club stickers attached to it. As usual on cruises, MSC would disembark this luggage and we could pick it up in the luggage hall in the Cruise terminal. As we left our Suite for the final time, Mary appeared outside, the plan was that we would sit in the Top Sail lounge and have a coffee before disembarking at 08:30, however she was free at 8am, and offered to disembark us then if we wanted. Anything to make her life a little easier! Off we went, we gave out MSC bands back, profusely thanked everyone around the Concierge desk and off Mary took us. She escorted us down in the lift to deck 6 where she then said goodbye and handed us over to another Butler who kindly escorted us to the gangway, he led us past a very short queue of people and just like that we had disembarked. The process of finding our luggage in the terminal was easy, considering the suitcases also appeared to be social distancing!
I’m sure with 6000 on board, it would take a little longer, however Yacht Club guests luggage was separate so even easier to be found. Disembarkation was such a slick process that we left our suite at 0800 and were sat on the 08:30 Southampton to London train, first class, for a little final treat, on behalf of my husband who works for a train company and our first class staff passes!
All in all, we had an absolutely fantastic time in the Yacht Club aboard the fabulous MSC Virtuosa. Granted it was probably even more fabulous being free, thank you very much MSC Cruises for this and for refunding my account.
I would most certainly recommend people booking a Yacht Club cruise, if you want to treat yourself, just because. Or if you have a Special occasion to celebrate!
We enjoyed our time so much, we have booked two weeks aboard the MSC Seashore Yacht Club next January around the Caribbean. I do hope Covid behaves itself between now and then. I can not wait to experience MSC’s largest and most luxurious Yacht Club and especially can not wait for two separate days to explore MSC Ocean Cay, MSCs private island in the Bahamas including Ocean House, the Yacht Club Beach Club. Keep following for Seashore Yacht Club content and Ocean House Content! Let me know if there is anything you would like to see!
Thank you for reading!
I will add a Ship tour and Deluxe suite tour to my YouTube channel soon!
Look our for future blog posts here re my time aboard too!
Make sure you follow my Instagram account @nocruisecontrol85 for regular cruise content this Summer, with trips planned aboard Tradewind Voyages Golden Horizon for her dress rehearsal Cruise, P&O Cruises Iona’s Maiden Voyage, Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady, Disney Cruise Lines Disney Magic, Princess Cruises Regal Princess, P&O Cruise Iona for a couple of weeks in the Canaries, then MSC Yacht Club on Seashore next January and Azamara and SilverSea Silver Dawn later in the year! I also aim to continuing blogging and vlogging my experiences on board!