Review: How to upgrade your MSC Virtuosa cruise to the MSC Yacht Club - Cruise International

Review: How to upgrade your MSC Virtuosa cruise to the MSC Yacht Club

By Qin Xie | 15 Jul 2022

MSC Yacht Club service

MSC Yacht Club service. Picture: Luc Selvais

Is it worth upgrading to MSC Cruises’ high-end Yacht Club, one of the ship-within-a-ship areas adding a little more luxury to your cruise? We test out the concept on MSC Virtuosa

A jovial group of lads, dressed to impress and each with a cocktail in hand, stumbles out of the mirrored lift as I pile in with a handful of other guests. There’s an air of buzzy exhaustion as we collectively lean back against the glass while the elevator makes its swift and smooth ascent.

“Too much booze, and too much good food,” one guest quips as he rubs his stomach; we all chuckle knowingly. It’s true. After a whirlwind cruise on glitzy MSC Virtuosa – the 19-deck Meraviglia-Plus vessel with room for close to 6,000 guests – we’re a bit overwhelmed.

It’s just as well I’m ending the night with a quiet drink in the Top Sail Lounge. An oasis of calm away from the party atmosphere of the decks below, this low-key bar and lounge has plush armchairs and banquettes from which you can enjoy table service. There’s not much to see besides the other guests when I slip in for a negroni just after midnight, but the view during the day from its front-of-ship vantage point on deck 16 is pretty impressive.

Top Sail Lounge, MSC Yacht Club, MSC Virtuosa

Top Sail Lounge, MSC Yacht Club, MSC Virtuosa. Picture: Ivan Sarfatti

What is it like in the Yacht Club on MSC Virtuosa?

Just a handful of people get that privilege though, as it’s open only to guests who are staying in the Yacht Club, MSC Cruises’ equivalent of first class. Described as a ship within a ship, the Yacht Club is designed to offer all the luxuries of a smaller vessel alongside the entertainment and facilities that you would expect to find only on larger ships.

There are just 95 cabins in a private section located at the front of the ship, between decks 14 and 18 (there’s no deck 17). Within this bubble there’s a separate lift, concierge station and three food and beverage venues for the exclusive use of Yacht Club guests.

Like first-class passengers on flights, there’s also priority boarding, 24-hour butler service, complimentary premium drinks, free internet access and discounts at the speciality restaurants and spa on board.

MSC Yacht Club Deluxe Suite, MSC Virtuosa

MSC Yacht Club Deluxe Suite, MSC Virtuosa. Picture: Ivan Sarfatti

Food and drink on MSC Virtuosa

During my short sailing, the Top Sail Lounge was a favourite for pre and post-dinner drinks. Everything from Nicolas Feuillatte Brut champagne to Johnnie Walker Black Label came in generous measures and without the extra price tag of other bars on the ship.

The Swarovski crystal-studded staircase spiralling straight up to the MSC Yacht Club Restaurant on deck 18 adds to the effect, so you always arrive and leave in style. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all served à la carte at the Yacht Club Restaurant, with the daily-changing menu pitched to a fine-dining standard.

I enjoyed dishes such as stuffed tortellini with asparagus and mascarpone cheese, and charred sea bass fillet with crab and rocket salad, all with a glass of something delicious from the wine list. There’s one further exclusive spot for Yacht Club guests – the sun deck on deck 19.

Laid out like a beach club, there are dozens of loungers facing the ocean, flanked by a bar at the back. Drinks and light bites are always available up here, and you barely have to lift a finger to get service. Situated to one side, a small heated pool and whirlpool bath complete the picture, along with a handful of cabana-style loungers that are assigned to specific Yacht Club cabins for exclusive use.

MSC Yacht Club Grill & Bar, MSC Virtuosa

MSC Yacht Club Grill & Bar, MSC Virtuosa. Picture: Ivan Sarfatti

What to do on board MSC Virtuosa

You will always find plenty within the Yacht Club to keep you occupied on a short sailing, like my jaunt to Guernsey, but for those who want a longer adventure, the ship within a ship concept is perfect because you can access the variety of dining and entertainment facilities that would be impossible to fit on a smaller vessel, but still escape back to the sanctuary of your bubble afterwards.

On MSC Virtuosa, the entertainment space is split into two areas. Deck seven is home to speciality restaurants that overlook Galleria Virtuosa on deck six, a promenade flanked by bars, more restaurants and the largest shopping area at sea. To the rear of the ship, through the casino, is the Carousel Lounge, where acrobatic-style shows are put on every night, while musical productions take place in the 945-seat Le Grand Théâtre to the front. A second entertainment space starts from deck 15.

MSC Virtuosa

MSC Virtuosa. Picture: Ivan Sarfatti

The open-air Atmosphere Pool takes pride of place in the middle of the ship, surrounded by bars, loungers and whirlpool baths, but there are a couple of others dotted around the ship. Dedicated kids’ and teens’ clubs are on decks 16 and 18, alongside a basketball court and virtual reality games. The interactive cinema is particularly thrilling.

However, the pièce de résistance is on deck 19, where an aerial obstacle course wraps around a water park. I managed just a fraction of the ship and was completely exhausted. Luckily, the memory foam mattress and Egyptian cotton sheets in the Yacht Club cabins make getting a restful night’s sleep a breeze.

Book the Yacht Club on MSC Virtuosa

A seven-night Norwegian Fjords cruise in a Yacht Club balcony cabin on MSC Virtuosa starts from £2,009. For more information or to book now visit msccruises.co.uk, see your local travel agent or call 0203 426 3010.

The Haven sun deck on Norwegian Viva

More luxury ship-within-a-ship areas

MSC Cruises isn’t the only line to offer a more luxurious enclave on board a bigger ship. Here are some of the other places to upgrade your experience

The Haven by Norwegian

NCL introduced The Haven on Norwegian Breakaway and has now rolled it out across nine ships in the fleet, with more to come on new vessels Prima and Viva. Expect a concierge and 24-hour butler; private sun deck, lounge and restaurant; in-room extras and more, with some inclusions varying by ship.

The Retreat by Celebrity Cruises

As part of Celebrity’s move to create a ‘new luxury’ vibe, enjoy private restaurant Luminae with dishes created by Daniel Boulud, complimentary in-suite dining, a sun deck with hot tub and loungers (on selected ships), plus a private lounge, premium drinks, pre-paid tips and onboard credit.

The Retreat, Celebrity Beyond

The Retreat, Celebrity Beyond. Picture: Ryan Wicks

Grill Suites by Cunard

Elevate Cunard’s classy cruises even further with its most luxurious cabins, which are not clustered together in a private enclave but rather occupy the most sought-after spots on the ship. Book a Princess Grill or Queens Grill suite to enjoy lavish accommodation, a more intimate lounge and restaurant with open-seated dining, bubbly on arrival, Penhaligon’s toiletries and a host of other in-suite extras.

Royal Suite Class by Royal Caribbean

There are three levels of upgrade in the Royal Suite Class – Sea, Sky and Star – which offer more spacious accommodation, priority boarding and upgraded amenities, plus, in higher tiers, concierge service, tips, speciality dining and a ‘Royal Genie’ butler. Latest ship Wonder of the Seas has even added a dedicated Suite Neighbourhood.

Read more: