Hollie-Rae Merrick tries out MSC’s ‘ship within a ship’, Yacht Club
My butler already knows my name before I get the chance to introduce myself.
“Hello, Miss Merrick,” he says with a big smile on his face, and I instantly feel relaxed after an early morning flight and a quick dash to the port of Barcelona to board MSC Splendida.
The Yacht Club – my home for a couple of nights – is all about personal service. Only available on MSC Cruises’ Fantasia-class ships, it is promoted as a ‘ship within a ship’, and I quickly realise that is exactly what it is.
This year the cruise line is proactively promoting the Yacht Club to the UK market for the first time as it introduces a new pricing structure based on experiences rather than cabins.
The four experiences – Bella, Fantastica, Aurea and Yacht Club – all offer something different and are already sold in a number of European markets.
Bella fares offer a basic experience, while Fantastica offers 24-hour room service, Aurea fares include benefits from the Aurea Spa. The Yacht Club experience includes dining, most drinks and a butler service.
MSC Cruises chief executive Gianni Onorato admits that the line hasn’t always presented the Yacht Club enough to market.“We have to start promoting our Yacht Club more,” he said. “It has been shown to be an extremely successful product. Unfortunately, we have not been very good at presenting it all the time.”
The feel of the Yacht Club is completely different to the rest of the ship; peaceful, relaxing and calming – more akin to traditional luxury cruise lines.
“This is a product where the daily rate is getting closer to the prices you see on Silversea or Seabourn” he added. He said the Yacht Club meant MSC could target guests who were looking for a “more upscale experience”.
The area is completely private, and only accessible to those staying in its 71 suites, so there is a real members-only feel to it. The suites aren’t for minimalists, with typically Mediterranean but rather over the top decor – think dark wooden interiors and blue and gold furnishings.
They are also large, with a massive mirror at the end of the bed that makes it impossible to ignore the impact of the strawberry daiquiris consumed the night before – trust me!
With its own reception, lounge, bar and sundeck, complete with a pool and two Jacuzzis, there isn’t much need to leave the Yacht Club (although I’d recommend emerging to explore the rest of this glamorous ship).
The club even has its own private entrance to the Aurea Spa. The spa is one of my favourites at sea – the staff are friendly and don’t push for you to buy lots of products after your treatment – something that can be a bit of a bugbear.
Yacht Club guests can dip in and out of activities within the main ship as much as they want – their butler will even escort them to their destination and back.
The main ship is fun and active, with people partying into the night in the club and singing karaoke in the sports bar (both of which I ticked off my list during my sailing).
It’s also perfect for kids – I lost count of the number of swimming pools on board and there’s also a bowling alley and a 4D cinema, which makes you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster.
Passengers booking the Yacht Club suites are more likely to be couples, who aren’t fussed by gimmicks and just enjoy the simple cruise experience in luxury surroundings. However, the wider facilities of the ship are available to those who want them – two ships for the price of one, in effect.
Book it: A Mediterranean Summer round-trip cruise on MSC Splendida’s Yacht Club from Genoa visiting Marseille, Barcelona, Valencia, Tunis and Civitavecchia costs from £1,249 including flights, on selected dates between March 16 and July 20.
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