UPDATE: Our MSC Meraviglia Christmas 2019 Cruise
Updated: Jan 29
We decided to try a "new for us" cruise line, MSC, after hearing such great things about them and getting a price that couldn't be beat for a Christmas Vacation cruise...
Now, I like to think I am pretty in-the-loop when it comes to travel and cruises, but until earlier this year...April to be exact....I had never heard of MSC Cruise Line. It's sort of a roundabout story, but I was thinking about a Hawaii vacation and I was on the website for Roy Yamaguchi, who is our favorite chef and the founder of the Roy's Hawaiian Fusion restaurants. I knew he had opened a few different restaurants and while on the website, I saw one I was not familiar with: Asian Market Kitchen by Roy Yamaguchi. Naturally, I clicked on the link and I was taken to the MSC Cruises website. Sure enough he has a restaurant on the MSC Seaside!
"What is this? Roy has a restaurant on a cruise line?" My interest was seriously piqued, so I started to explore the MSC website and low and behold, they have Caribbean cruises! I figured if Roy Yamaguchi would allow his name to be used with a cruise line , as does Martha Stewart...she has Martha Stewart branded shore excursions on certain MSC ships, I knew this had to be a decent cruise line. (You hear that, Mom? Martha Stewart...your favorite!)
We live in Central Florida and here at Port Canaveral, the staples are Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL and Disney. Down in Miami, you also have Princess, Celebrity and Holland America. I honestly don't remember ever seeing an MSC ship in port before, but after doing a little reading, it said they had 2 ships, the MSC Divina and MSC Seaside, already sailing itineraries in the Caribbean, with another ship, the MSC Meraviglia making its Caribbean debut in November of 2019.
After looking at this ship, I was blown away. It is GORGEOUS. I figured it had to be out of our price range and I had to remind myself we already had a Christmas cruise booked on the Carnival Magic. Still, I spent an afternoon scouring the website trying to learn more about MSC and get an idea of the prices. On the Carnival Magic, the three of us were booked in a Mini-Suite that I had booked as part of a Black Friday 2018 special for around $3600 for the three of us for a week long cruise to Aruba, Curacao and the Dominican Republic, which are all places we've never been. I decided to compare Carnival's prices to that of MSC and this was what I found.
On Carnival, we had a balcony mini-suite stateroom. No drink package, no spa package, no Onboard Credit. Total was $3600 (give or take a few $$). If we did the all inclusive drink package, which we always do, it costs about $850 additional and for the spa passes for the two of us would be $280. So we're at $4730, give or take.
When I was looking at the MSC cruises, I saw that how you book with them is different than on other cruise lines. First, you choose the type of room you want and they offer the following (room types depend on particular ship):
Suite with Large Balcony
Family Balcony, Family Oceanview (One Oceanview Cabin, 1 Inside Cabin) or Super Family (2 Collecting Balcony), etc...
MSC Yacht Club Interior
MSC Yacht Club Deluxe Suite
MSC Yacht Club Deluxe Club Royale Suite
So once you have your cabin picked, you then pick the "experience" to go with it: Bella, Fantastica or Aurea. I liked that the Aurea came with the "Easy Drink Package" which is a REALLY basic drink package (really basic!) and also comes with access to the spa, Priority Boarding and Embarkation and a private sundeck for Aurea guests. With taxes and port fees included, it came out to be $4563.00 for the three of us. So when it came down to it, technically the MSC cruise was cheaper. However because of the basicness of the drink package, to upgrade it to a level that is comparable with what you would get on Carnival, it would cost an additional $300, so once all is said and done, the MSC cruise would be around $150 more.
We cancelled our cruise on the Carnival Magic and booked a Balcony Aurea Cabin for Dec. 22, 29th of this year. We are so excited! Look at the chart below and you can see what you get on each level of experiences. Bella is the most basic, Fantastica is a step up, Aurea is the nicest....but then there is the MSC Yacht Club.
If you have ever been on an NCL cruise, you may have heard about "The Haven". that is the part of the ship that is the upscale, fancy area with their own pool, special access and restaurant. On MSC, they have the Yacht Club with for all intents and purposes is comparable to the Haven. As they state on the MSC website:
Exclusivity and Privacy in a World of Choice
"Discover a ship within a ship. A place where you can savor exclusivity and privacy in a world of choice. Where you can indulge in the luxury of a private club while enjoying access to the myriad of recreation and entertainment possibilities that the rest of the ship offers.
Welcome to all-inclusive luxury cruises in the MSC Yacht Club, a cruise experience like no other. It's your time to discover a ship within a ship. You can discover all-inclusive luxury vacations in the MSC Yacht Club on: MSC Bellissima, MSC Divina, MSC Fantasia, MSC Meraviglia, MSC Preziosa, MSC Seaside, MSC Seaview and MSC Splendida."
The epitome of elegance and luxury at sea, the MSC Yacht Club offers a cruise experience like no other.
Lavishly appointed suites, an exclusive 24-hour butler service and a dedicated concierge are only the start.
All-inclusive meals served at your preferred time in the private restaurant and unlimited drinks in all MSC Yacht Club areas, all bars and restaurants throughout the ship, and from your mini-bar. Exclusive access to The One Sun Deck and Top Sail Lounge are just some of the other privileges. So, if you’re looking for exclusivity and privacy in a world of choice, the MSC Yacht Club is the ultimate solution."
Luxurious accommodation and all-inclusive services are only the beginning. The MSC Yacht Club also boasts a range of superb private facilities.
Like the elegant Top Sail Lounge, a panoramic lounge with spectacular views, a fully dedicated restaurant, and the One Pool Deck, with its own private swimming pool, whirlpool baths, sun deck and bar. This is one amazing all-inclusive cruise deal you don't want to miss out on.
Enter a world of around-the-clock service. A world where your every need can be promptly satisfied, thanks to the Concierge Reception, open day and night, and the 24-hour butler service. Our butlers are dedicated to assisting you in any way possible. This is all part of the all-inclusive cruises in the MSC Yacht Club.
Step into a sensual world of well-being and relaxation just moments from your suite.
The MSC Aurea Spa is a serene sanctuary where you can pamper yourself with a superb choice of revitalizing health and beauty treatments, including aromatherapy and Balinese massages.
As a guest of the all-inclusive MSC Yacht Club, you can take advantage of complimentary access to the Thermal Area in the MSC Aurea Spa, where you’ll find an exclusive MSC Yacht Club massage and treatment room.
Enjoy the special services of the all-inclusive MSC Yacht Club anytime, anywhere.
For example, book private, after hours shopping in the on-board boutiques, accompanied by your butler. Or enjoy an exclusive jewelry viewing in the comfort of your own suite (additional charges apply)
The MSC Yacht Club’s dedication to service extends from our ships to every port of call, enabling you to explore the world in the same style, privacy, luxury and comfort.
As an MSC Yacht Club guest, you can not only select any of the acclaimed MSC excursions and guided tours, but also design your own tailor-made excursions, benefiting from the personal advice of our Butlers and Concierge Staff to ensure your experience at every port of call meets your preferences precisely (additional charges apply)".
Doesn't it sound fabulous? Yes and that is why these cabins are usually the first to be booked, because compared to the cost of The Haven, which for the same cruise length and same itinerary would be $14,500 for 3 people, the MSC Yacht Club with the upgraded drink package (Premium Plus), the Spa access and even with the additional the cost of 2 separate shore excursions for 3 people that we also added to our cruise booking, the cruise for all three of us cost $8500.
Yes, that is a $6000...SIX THOUSAND DOLLAR...difference in price. So, yes, before you ask, about two months after we booked our initial Balcony Aurea Cabin, a Yacht Club Deluxe Suite opened up and we were able to rebook, with the assistance of our super awesome MSC Travel Agent Tina Robinson-Quirke (contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org) and now we are going to have an even more memorable Christmas Cruise Vacation!
I realize that you might be wondering why I, of all people, would be using a travel agent. travel planning is my thing, right? Well, I am smart enough to know when I am out of my element and since I knew very little about MSC Cruises and Tina had been on a few of them in the Caribbean and was very well versed in the ins and outs of MSC, I decided to leave it to the expert. I'm so glad I did. She really knows her stuff and she will also be on the same Christmas sailing with her family and they too will be in the Yacht Club, AND her travel agency gave us a $250 onboard credit to use on the ship! Score!!! You can't beat that!
It's truly a beautiful ship...Glitzy, but not in a tacky Las Vegas Carnival way. The main interior Promenade has a changing LED light screen, it has multiple pools, a water park with 2 slides and ariel rope courses, 2 different Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows, a full sized casino (sorry, no Craps tables) and a 985 seat theater. Check out these pictures:
So there it is...our plans for Christmas this year. You may have seen MSC commercials on TV and know that they aren't some fly by night company. They are a global cruise line registered in Switzerland and until recently were known for their European cruises. It was founded in Naples, Italy in 1989 and MSC Cruises is the world's largest privately held cruise company and is part of the MSC Shipping company (you may see their shipping containers loaded on the docks at the major ports). While the company may be based in Switzerland, they are know as an Italian cruise line, so it is IMPORTANT that you recognize that a cruise on MSC is going to be different than your typical cruise that most American travelers are accustomed to. The food definitely has a more European flair, the pace of meals is a little slower, announcements are made in 6 or 7 different languages and some American cruising audiences may be put off because it isn't that whole "America is the coolest, let's have a hairy chest contest and drunk fest dance party" atmosphere by the pool. The shows are more musical and visual rather than spoken word due to the traditional multi-national audience in Europe, so don't be expecting Priscilla, Queen of the Desert or Jersey Boys. I guess you could say it is a bit more cerebral, but still fun.
And the Pizza on board is supposed to be Ah. May. Zing. All their pastas, breads and pastries are made fresh every day. I've heard some not so good things about the food on the buffet, but I'm not going to let someone elses taste give me a pre-conceived negative idea in my head.
I can't wait to share this trip with you!!! Only 2 more months until we leave and head to Costa Maya, Mexico; Belize; Roatan, Honduras and then to their new private island in the Bahamas, Ocean Cay Marine Reserve, which is a former island quarry that was purchased by MSC and turned into a private island Marine Reserve. It opens in November and it is going to be beautiful!
UPDATE: The cruise was WONDERFUL. The MSC Yacht Club experience is wonderful, the suites are roomy, the service impeccable and the staff very welcoming and friendly. the MSC Meraviglia is a beautiful ship, but it may be too large and overwhelming for those who are used to smaller, non-megaships.
This is a very diverse ship in both staff and clientele. We met people from all over, primarily Europe (Germany, France, Luxemburg, Belgium, Spain and the UK), South Africa and South America. I've never heard so many different languages spoken on a cruise line before!!
Since we were in the Yacht Club, I can't really speak as to what the cabins were like on the rest of the ship and we did not eat at any of the specialty restaurants, as we had our own designated dining room with stellar food and service, but I can say the apizza on the buffet and the crepes they serve at the Creperie on the Promenade are AMAZING!
Feel free to contact me at email@example.com if you have questions or would like more information about the MSC Meraviglia!