Ok, truth be said, there a far more experienced cruisers out there, who undoubtedly are in a much better position to compare.
I’m a novice cruiser, who only did a Western Caribbean cruise on board of Regal Princess, in early February this year, and loved it.
We’ve been very hesitant on cruising, and when we finally decided to try one, we we’re recommended Princess or Celebrity, because they offer a semi high standard. I know that sounds snob, but it’s just that we like our privacy, good food, good service, a place to relax and read, away from the hustle and crowds, and yes, we love luxury too.
Regal Princess ticked all the boxes, and more, so why MSC which - according to experienced cruisers, our travel agent, and internet, is a step down.
The answer is simple ; Yacht Club !
On our 4th day, on sitting in the ‘top sail lounge’ with a martini & Tonic, enjoying the view of leaving Palermo, and the quit atmosphere, while writing this review.
Our embarcation port was Valencia, Spain, and the journey did not begin well. The port of Valencia is a nightmare, apparently road signs showing tourists to the that part of the port where you need to board, are not a requirement, and so we drove back and forth, passing MSC Meraviglia more then 5 times, before finally taking the ‘road of last resort’ leading to the cruise terminal, which is shared with ‘local ferries’ going the the various balearic islands.
What a contrast with Fort Lauderdale.
But then the Yacht Club kicked in, where a butler awaited us in front of the cruise terminal, took charge of our luggage, and guided us to the yacht club check in area. No waiting lines, no cues, but a private escort right to the stateroom on board. Lovely !
We booked the last available stateroom in Yacht Club, a ‘YIN Suite’ ; Yacht Club Interior Suite. I wouldn’t call it a ‘suite’ since it’s definitely the smallest room I ever stayed in, even including my ‘road side’ rooms in these cheap highway chain hotels, for example ‘Accor’.
That being said, a bottle of cava, fruit basket, chocolates, Nespresso machine, well stuffed mini bar ( included ), housekeeping, beds being made up ( even again after a ‘siesta’ ) towels folded to different animals everyday, and the omni present smile of our state room attendant and private butler. Yes, a 24/7 on call private butler is part of the Yacht club service too. So, perhaps, it’s not a suite in size, but it definitely is in service.
Then we started our tour of the ship. Since it was after 14:00 h, the yacht club restaurant was closed, and because it was pouring rain, the Sundeck pool buffet was closed, so we decided to go to ‘the marketplace’ the main buffet restaurant. Bad idea !
It immediately made us realise why MSC is considered ‘a step down’. Crowds, pushing and shoving, cues, people trying to cut the lines, a slice of pizza on the floor, horrible. We decided to skip the longest lines, and ‘fought our way’ to a slice of pizza, freshly baked, right out of the oven, then passed to the kids corner - because there was no cue there - for some condiments, and rushed outside to the tables alongside the pool. Quit ? No, but a huge difference with ‘in the marketplace’. A waiter came by, and soon after, brought our drinks. Nice.
We continued our exploration through the central gallery with it’s impressive led dome, complimentary restaurants, bars, tv studio, etc, and a nice ambiance.
Strange how such a big ship has such a simple layout, and I mean this in a positive way. On regal princess it took us days to figure out which floor we needed to go to for, say the theatre, which zones to cross, etc. On Meraviglia, it’s simple. Meraviglia - Regal Princess : 1-0.
Soon, we ended our exploration tour, and headed back to Yacht Club, and only returned to the rest of the ship ‘when necessary’.
Dinner in the Yacht Club Restaurant, free dining, great. Menu, food, presentation, wine, service, right up there with Regal Princess. A nice touch are the daily changing wine suggestions, and it you prefer another one, they’ll get it for you. Great !
A large selection for breakfast in the restaurant, and then some, or a breakfast buffet at the poolside sundeck. Great. So is the service at the sundeck, the buffet, the bar, etc.
Add to all that the 24/7 yacht club concierge, who are perfectly able to attend clients in 5 languages. Great personal attendance, but with a downside, since all shows and announcements are done in 5 languages, a bit boring sometimes, even more when during the weekend the mandatory safety drills for new arriving passengers are also announced in 5 languages, and on Sunday at 7:37 an announcement of ‘all on board at 18:30’ was done in 5 languages. I did not quiet get the need for that.
We booked the optional ‘Cirque du soleil at sea’ show and were escorted to the theatre by our Yacht club butler, passing the waiting lines. So relaxing. The show was good, not spectacular, but then again who’s complaining if you only pay 15 € per person, including a cocktail for a 45 minute show.
In yacht club all drinks - and yes I mean almost all drinks, even premium whisky, cognac, … - are included. Truth be said, some are not, but then we’re only talking about the truly very expensive ones.
And here I stumble upon a point of criticism ; from the info prior to booking the cruise we understood that only soft drinks are included in the yacht club and our travel agent was also very uninformative about this, and since we do like our gin&tonic, wine,… we decided to book the optional premium all inclusive drinks package. A total waste of money.
When on vacation, we love to relax and read, in all serenity and tranquility.
On Regal Princess that made us decide to - on sea days - rent a cabin in the adult only retreat section.
On MSC Yacht Club we thought that we would have that anyway. Not so.
It’s totally uncomprehensive that the MSC Yacht Club is not adult only.
Don’t get me wrong, I love children, but on vacation, I love to relax without running, screaming children.
And apparently other guests did so too, since when on day 3 of our cruise a couple boarded with 2 young children who monopolised the yacht club pool and hot tub, while continuously shouting, a lot of guests moved away to the far side of the yacht club, away from the pool.
I was informed that since recently, yacht club also has family staterooms, and the concierge was aware of these 2 children, since the clients for their neighbouring staterooms had also already complained.
My advise to MSC ; make yacht club adult only, or make some cruises in yacht club adult only, so that clients can choose wether they want to take the risk, or not.
So what did we miss ? Well, ‘Movies under the stars’ like on Regal Princess, the ‘love boat’ episodes on the stateroom television, and the ‘sail away’ party with the love boat tune from the ships horn.
So, I think it’s time to conclude, and of course all based on my subjective, personal opinion.
For future cruises, the choice between Princess and MSC will entirely depend on the itinerary and the price, comparing MSC Yacht Club with Princess.
I feel that the ‘standard service’ and overall quality of Princess is very comparable with MSC Yacht Club.
But to make a fair comparison, I do have to include the premium drinks package and a retreat cabin for ‘on sea’ days on Princess.
Let’s wait and see which - based on these conditions - will be our next cruise, and if MSC decides to make Yacht club adult only. If not, the choice will be very simple.
Small but very nice cabin with all necessary amenities, and then some
We live near Valencia, so we know it very well, and it was our port of embarcation.
As port, it's lousy, not well indicated where to go, and there is no cruise terminal, only an overcrowded ferry terminal
We did a free walking tour of 2.5 hours. Very good.
Not the 'dangerous' city it was before, but a nice, clean city.
Again, we booked a walking tour with the local tourist centre.
It was good, though a bit 'dry', I mean historical, interesting, cultural, ... but it could have been presented a bit 'lighter'
Rome is very nice, but we had visited it only a few months before, so we decided to spend the day relaxing on board
Again a free walking tour.
Palermo has soo much to offer, it could be a beautiful city, it it would have been maintained well. Instead garbage and litter on the streets, graffiti everywhere, buildings and houses clearly desperately crying for attention, ...
Again, a free walking tour. Calgliari is a very nice city !
We know Palma, and it was our last evening, so we stayed on board