Over a couple decades of cruising, I have tallied more than 90 voyages across all kinds of cruise lines and cruise ships. I have enjoyed them all for the variety of styles and charms that they offered.
I really am simple. I do prefer a balcony but have stayed in interior cabins. Big ships are great for the variety of dining options, large pool decks, spas, fitness center and broad range of entertainment. I especially think the mega-vessels are perfect for friends and family getaways.
The intimacy of a river cruise and intensely fun experiences available on expeditions ships really help you connect as a traveler and explorer in amazing destinations around the world.
I can enjoy the most rustic and austere conditions, and sometimes, I even prefer them.
Like I said, I enjoy all types of cruise travel. But every now and then, it sure is nice to bask in a little luxury and pampering.
We sailed on MSC Cruises' MSC Meraviglia for a weeklong trip in the Bahamas (with a stop at Ocho Rios, Jamaica).
I know what you're thinking. MSC can hardly be considered a luxury cruise line.
MSC Meraviglia is definitely a mass-market, budget-friendly mega cruise vessel.
But it also features the MSC Yacht Club. This is a ship-within-a-ship experience that turns the typical big-ship cruise into a next-level experience that will leave you plenty spoiled and craving this type of cruise again and again.
MSC Yacht Club is offered on many MSC ships, and on Meraviglia it is located in a complex spanning Decks 14 to 19 at the front of the ship and only accessible by your key card or a wristband (wearable wireless tech that acts the same as your sea pass card).
This was our first stay in MSC Yacht Club. We had heard a lot about the experience and that people who book these cabins swear by it as the only way to cruise with MSC.
I wanted to give you a look at our week onboard MSC Meraviglia and what it's like to stay in the exclusive MSC Yacht Club.
I'll start by telling you that it makes you feel as if you are having a boutique yacht experience despite being within the confines of a massive cruise ship.
We arrived to Port Miami for our check in, and we soon learned that the ship would be carrying slightly fewer than 1,500 cruisers. That meant the ship felt quite roomy all week, as Meraviglia can carry more than 4,500. These uncrowded cruises have been typical all year as the industry restarts after a long shutdown from the pandemic.
This shutdown cost tens of thousands of people worldwide their jobs and livelihoods. So, it has been refreshing to be able to get back on the ships to enjoy vacation travel and to interact again with the crew who are so grateful to be back at work. This was evident in the early moments when we checked in for the cruise and met our butler Putra at the special MSC Yacht Club check-in lounge at Port Miami.
The special touches associated with staying in the Yacht Club begin right away as you are greeted by friendly agents and MSC staff who offer refreshments and then escort you onto the ship. We had Putra, who we learned is from Indonesia, and MSC Meraviglia's MSC Yacht Club director Robbie help us with our luggage and walk us to our special enclave on the ship.
Our first stop was the Top Sail Lounge for a glass of bubbly before we were shown our suite. Our stateroom was located on Deck 16, port side and was the forward-most cabin. It offered wonderful balcony views for sunrises and sunsets. We were just two decks above the bridge wing. In the MSC Yacht Club complex, Deck 16 is home to the concierge desk and Top Sail Lounge with its bar area, small buffet serving small bites and sweet treats all day and the great views through the windows right at the front of the ship.
We also would come here for a cocktail most nights before dinner while we enjoyed the live piano music.
- Top Sail Lounge, a panoramic lounge with sea views, a bar, light snacks, premium drinks, afternoon tea and live music;
- Dedicated concierge to book spa treatments and shore excursions and make theater and dining reservations;
- MSC Yacht Club Restaurant (exclusive dining room just steps away from your cabin);
- Unlimited drinks in all MSC Yacht Club areas and from your in-cabin minibar;
- Yacht Club Sun Deck, Pool & Bar (lounge chairs, daybeds, buffet breakfasts and lunches, small swimming pool and a hot tub);
- Private beach and the Ocean House experience, with special lunch menu on MSC's private beach Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve in the Bahamas (certain itineraries);
- MSC Aurea Spa, unlimited access to the Thermal Suite, which offers a range of shower experiences, therapy pools, sauna and steam rooms.
We loved having lunch at Hola! Tacos and Cantina, a Mexican street tacos-style eatery. We also booked specialty dining at Ocean Cay for seafood delicacies and at Butcher's Cut, the steakhouse on MSC Meraviglia.
We participated in trivia contests every night in Brass Anchor Pub, a lively British pub that is also a great place to watch live music performances or catch a game on the TVs while enjoying a beer or craft cocktail. Of course, we also got in a daily workout at the well-equipped fitness center. Plus, we treated ourselves to a couple of spa treatments (a Balinese massage and a shave treatment for me) and a few trips to the Thermal Suite.
However, most of our time was spent enjoying our time in our suite. Now, about the accommodations and amenities you will enjoy on MSC Meraviglia when staying the MSC Yacht Club: They are awesome!
The whole experience is affordable, too, when compared with other luxury cruise experiences that offer butler service and so many inclusions with your fare.
Your cabin comes with a comfy bed with Egyptian cotton sheets, a memory foam mattress and a pillow menu. It also features premium toiletries.
He also was up early to greet us for breakfast on the Yacht Club Sun Deck and always on call when we wanted to have a meal in our suite (the pizza is the best!). He would come and set up the table, clean up when we were done and always had our mini fridge stocked with our favorite beverages.
For us, though, our experience went beyond the service we received from Putra and all of the others in the MSC Yacht Club. (We had wonderful interactions with about a dozen warm, friendly and highly efficient staffers there.)
The past year and a half has been much tougher on some people, and those who rely on the travel and hospitality industry to make livings and support their families have been especially affected. Colleen and I savored the chance to disappear into our retreat during the day and wander out into the main areas of the ship (or not) when certain activities or shows appealed to us. It was actually quite blissful to have a special quiet space, and we really enjoyed getting to know Putra. He is from Ubud on the island of Bali in Indonesia, and was just starting his third week back at work. The worldwide cruising shutdown ended this summer, and workers have been excitedly coming back to the ships from their home countries during the restart of operations this summer.
Putra is new to his job as a new butler and extremely proud to have worked his way up to the "famous job" after beginning his career with MSC Cruises more than a decade ago. We appreciated his highly professional work ethic and energetic and personable approach to the job.
He said that he and his colleagues have been so relieved to be able to work again. I told him that we also have learned not to take travel for granted and are so glad that we are able to get to make new friends like him once again.
With all that's included, MSC Yacht Club is something you have to consider when looking at a cruise with MSC.
Thanks for reading,