Charlie and I and our friends, the Bohans, embarked on a new adventure. MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) is the second largest shipping (cargo and passenger) company in the world. Most people in the U.S. have never heard of them, and their presence in this market is very small, with one ship, the MSC Divina, sailing in the Caribbean. However, they have numerous ships in Europe.
Because we had never experienced MSC, we decided to take a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Divina this week. The Divina is quite a large ship, holding over 4,000 passengers. I must preface this by saying that we have sailed on ships with as many as 6,000 passengers and as few as 400. However, MSC has the concept of a “ship within a ship”. We much prefer a smaller ship. They are more intimate and the staff gets to know you and your likes and dislikes quickly. This “ship within a ship” is called the Yacht Club. Norwegian Cruise Lines also has The Haven on some of their ships that is the same concept.
We chose to upgrade to the Yacht Club on this sailing. I have to confess that I couldn’t imagine that there would be much difference in the service in the Yacht Club and the rest of the ship, but believe me, the difference is huge. Our stateroom was not much larger (approximately 200 sq. ft.) than the deluxe balcony cabins with the exception that we have a full size bathtub, and a walk-in closet with plenty of drawer and storage space. There is also additional storage on shelves that are behind doors.
When we arrived at the ship on Saturday, we checked in at the area for Yacht Club guests. There we were met by Kamil, the chief butler. Did I mention that each stateroom and suite in the Yacht Club has its own butler? Kamil had one of his butlers escort us to the Yacht Club embarkation desk inside the terminal. This very elegant room had a hostess who checked us in. Time elapsed – 10 minutes. No waiting in lines, no feeling of being herded, just a pleasant experience. While our documents were being processed, we were offered our drink of choice, a cool place to sit and another butler who escorted us to our staterooms. Total time from when we arrived at the port until we were in our staterooms – 15 minutes. Our luggage was also checked in at the outdoor area and was in our cabin when we returned from lunch. Our butler would have been happy to unpack for us had we wanted him to do so.
Access to the Yacht Club is by your stateroom key. With less than 200 people in this area, the staterooms are all on two decks. This is truly a ship-within-a-ship. We had our own concierge area, our own library, our own dining room (Le Muse) an indoor lounge and bar (the Top Sail Lounge), our own pool area and hot tubs, our private entrance to the Aurea Spa, our own outdoor dining venue and bar (the One Pool Bar) and so much more. It truly has the feel of a private yacht. Breakfast and lunch is served each morning in any of these lounges or restaurants. There are wonderful canapes and snacks all day in the Top Sail and One Pool Bar. And, ALL of your beverages are included in the Yacht Club area, including spirits, specialty coffees, sparkling and bottled waters, and a mini-bar in the refrigerator in your stateroom. Fresh fruit is replenished in your stateroom daily.
This ship is extremely beautiful with Swarovski crystals embedded in the staircases in the main atrium area as well as in the Yacht Club stairway between the two decks. The beauty of being in the Yacht Club is that you have the other amenities of a large ship, like incredible shows, the casino, the shopping area, the other dining venues and pool areas, etc., but the exclusivity of the small ship if you prefer a quiet and peaceful setting.
If you are looking for a true European experience, MSC is for you. There were more Brits, Germans, and Italians, and Aussies onboard than U.S. citizens. Did we mind? Not at all. All announcements are made in Italian, German, Spanish, French and English, so you must be prepared for longer than usual announcements. However, these are few and far between, unlike so many cruise lines that have announcements being made all day long.
The Aurea Spa is beautiful and has reasonably priced spa services. Both of us had Balinese massages and came back rested and refreshed. I also had a body scrub exfolliant treatment and massage, as well as an incredible facial. Now, if only there was a treatment to help me lose 30 pounds, I would be in Heaven.
This ship alternates Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries and will reposition to the Mediterranean after spring of 2015. There are some incredible bargains on this ship, but if you can afford the upgrade to the Yacht Club, it will be worth every penny you spend.