Todays cruise ships come packed with nearly every amenity imaginable. Except, perhaps, one: a means of stamping out the competition with your fellow passengers for everything from spa appointments to pool lounges, and bar space to the all-too-few, out-of-the-way quiet areas. Enter MSC Yacht Club.
Dont be surprised if you havent heard of MSC. Though well known in Europe, the Italian cruise line is just making headway into the American market, thanks in part to a marketing push behind the brands 2009-debuted, high-end Yacht Club.
Offering guests unlimited wine, beer and cocktails; a private lounge; a dedicated concierge; expedited check-in; upgraded room amenities; and butler service, MSCs Yacht Club, at first glance, looks similar to the concierge-level decks available on many ships. Those perks are all terrific but they still wont get you a chaise lounge by the pool on a sunny day at sea in the Mediterranean, when experienced cruisers rise at dawn to stake out the best ones. Thats where the Yacht Club has set itself apart: Not only do members have their own pool deck, theyve got their own pool, complete with Jacuzzi tubs and a bar that serves lunch. Even on our full day at sea, which was blissfully warm and sunny, nearly half the deck was empty. Perhaps they were making use of the spa, which keeps two treatment rooms available at all times for Yacht Club guests, who arrive and leave via private elevator.
Yacht Club members rarely wait in line, either. Tucked into the front of the ship behind key-accessed glass doors, the 71 Yacht Club staterooms (out of a total of 1,637 cabins on the ship) are just steps away from the Top Sail Lounge, a private windowed space set into the bow of the ship that serves light meals, sweets, snacks, cocktails, and coffee from morning until after dinner. Rarely crowded and Wi-Fi accessible, Top Sail is a perfect nook for curling up with a book, a laptop (which are on loan and free to use, although youll pay for internet access), and an espresso or glass of wine while you watch the ship plow through the ocean. Theres also LOlivo, the Yacht Club-exclusive restaurant which offers open seating for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In hotels, butlers often function like personal concierges, fetching tea or coffee, getting shoes shined, and ensuring that all of your needs are met. Yacht Club butlers do all this and more. Before boarding the MS Splendida, my butler, Thierry, met me outside the ship, whisked me through embarkation, and led me through a maze of restaurants, entertainment venues, and glittery public areas to the club, where I took care of all the requisite business and received the key to my stateroom. At every port, Thierry and his team not only led our small group past the lines so we could slip off the ship without waiting, but materialized outside when we returned from excursions to lead us around the queue and into the ship.
In 2011, experience the MSC Yacht Club onboard the MSC Fantasia and MSC Splendida on 4- to 11-night year-round Mediterranean itineraries. www.mscyachtclub.com