MSC’s Yacht Class is the epitome of luxury cruising
THERE’S cruising and then there’s MSC Yacht Class. Introduced on the company’s flagship Fantasia class (MSC Preziosa, MSC Divina, MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia) it separates the discerning traveller from the ordinary passenger.
Having said that, there isn’t much that’s ordinary about the MSC Divina. It’s the 10th largest cruise ship in the world, with a plethora of resort-type activities on board from a supertube for the kids to dance floors, speciality restaurants, buffets, swimming pools and even a spa.
Yacht Club, though, takes it all to a new level. Members are allocated two decks in the fore of the ship, above the bridge.
Access is controlled by key card and allows the member to access the Top Sail Lounge, a panoramic luxury lounge and bar directly above the bridge with the same 180o vista. Butlers attend to the members’ every need; from knowing what type of tea you’d like in the morning to afternoon cocktail. They will also bring you a specially printed onboard edition of your favourite newspaper.
Breakfast, tea, high tea and snacks are served in the Top Sail Lounge, while the five- course lunches and dinners, completed with paired champagne and wines are served in the bespoke Le Muse restaurant. It’s the kind of place where the waiters take it as a personal insult if you miss dinner to dine with the captain instead.
When it comes to basking in the sun, as you do when you are between naps, excursions or meals, Yacht Club members have their own exclusive pool area, served by a poolside bar which mirrors the meals available in the top sail lounge. It’s a rare experience designed to take the angst out of life on the ocean, starting with an expedited check-in to pain- free disembarkation for the daily excursions and never having to sign for a single drink – within the club confines – as everything, even the bar fridge, is complimentary.
All cabins are sea facing, with most having balconies, the rest have panoramic floor to ceiling windows instead. Each has an interactive flatscreen TV with games console for the kids; the bathrooms have actual baths and showers, while the walkin cupboard has a safe.
The level of service on the rest of the ship isn’t to be sneezed at either, with 1 300 crew on board for a maximum of just over 4 000 passengers.
The Divina offers almost nonstop entertainment morning to night, from vegetable cutting demonstrations and cha-cha lessons on the deck to dancing and gambling down below into the early hours.
There are two shows a night in the Pantheon Theatre and musicians playing guitars, violins or pianos at restaurants and bars across the ship.
As always, the biggest danger is food – the range, the amount and the round- the- clock availability, with breakfast to dinner and midnight snacks where you can make your own sandwiches.
Each night, a bulletin is slid under your door explaining the next day’s destination and how the ship will get there, expected temperatures on board, entertainment, the theme for the evening (there are two gala evenings on a seven- night cruise) and specials on sale from jewellery to perfume and pizza.
For the ordinary passenger there’s a reception area on Deck 4 the size of a large hotel, to answer all your queries.
And that’s the key to the Divina – it’s a floating resort hotel.
Like the MSC ships operating from Durban and Cape Town during the summer season, the Divina is a cashless environment. Everything is charged to your cruise card which is also your cabin key card and your identification card to embark and disembark at each port of call.
Your credit card will be debited and your cellphone will ping as you cruise around the Med and spend.
All food on board is free, except for the food in the speciality restaurants – Cantina di Bacco, the pizzeria; and Galaxy, the Mediterranean themed disco restaurant.
Drink is another matter. Coffee, tea and iced water are free from the buffet restaurants but cooldrinks, beer, wine and spirits are not.
The good news is that there are tipple packages that mean sizeable discounts (and peace of mind).
There is plenty for children on board, from age-appropriate discos to games rooms and even a fourdeck-high slippy slide.
There’s a well-equipped gym next door to the spa. Many passengers though, choose to power walk along the top public deck or even run past the aqua park and the sunbeds, accompanied by stunning vistas of the Aegean and the Adriatic islands.
For those in the Yacht Club, living atop an 18-deck ship guarantees a climb of 12 decks on embarkation from excursions or you can just use your key card to commandeer the lift and express ride it to the top, overriding the decks in between. Getting out of the lift, you’ll head past the private concierge and into the Top Sail Lounge where the butler will serve your favourite drinks, something light to nibble as the crew prepares to slip the moorings and Captain Francesco Veniero prepares to execute another incredible act of seamanship as he deftly orchestrates another flawless departure and sets course for the open sea.
It’s been a day in paradise, and the evening awaits.
SHEER SPLENDOUR: The MSC Divina offers the ultimate in luxury cruising.