Most cruise lines segregate by cabin grade, particularly when it comes to suites.

Suite guests often get access to perks and areas that regular passengers do not. That might include an exclusive restaurant or private deck space, priority embarkation, priority seating at theatre shows, and so on.

MSC Cruises is a bit different and offers “experiences”. Take the Yacht Club for instance. Value hunters can book an inside cabin on the Yacht Club experience, usually at a cost saving compared to the same category of suites. On other cruise lines, the best cabins are suites, and they are all large, expensive rooms with balconies.

On MSC Cruises, you can mix and match many cabin grades with experience levels (subject to availability, of course). But which level is best? It’s a question that regularly crops up in my inbox, which is why I put together this guide.

Bella

Consider the Bella experience as the no-frills option. It’s the lowest grade of experience and therefore usually the cheapest. It includes:

  • Preference of cabin
  • Choice of dinner seating preference

Both of these are subject to availability. The MSC Cruises website lists more ‘perks’ for the Bella category, but these are standard features that apply to all sailings in all grades (e.g. access to the buffet, access to the pool area, etc.).

Buffet on MSC Preziosa

Buffet on MSC Preziosa

Regarding exclusions, these are:

  • Delivery of room service order is chargeable
  • No inclusive drinks as part of your cruise package (although you will find self-service water, tea, and coffee in the buffet)
  • Limited flexibility in amending your booking (check the Booking terms for exact details)

If you do not tend to use room service, or you tend to buy a drinks package, or you do not need the flexibility to amend your booking, this is the ideal experience for you. It’s basic, no-frills, and great value for money.

Fantastica

The next level up from Bella is Fantastica. Most customers tend to compare these two packages the most, and while Fantastica includes extra perks, the difference is not as great as you might think. Fantastica includes:

  • Choice of dinner seating preference
  • Priority in choice of dinner sitting (early or late seating)
  • Choose between Classic or Flexi Dining with a preferred seating time
  • Free delivery of room service orders
  • Free delivery of in-cabin breakfast orders
  • 50% discount on fitness classes and personal trainer for adults
  • Activities for kids including foreign language learning games and Doremi Chef cooking sessions
  • Maximum flexibility in amending your booking (check the Booking terms for exact details)
  • Choose from the best cabins available

Again, all the above options are subject to availability.

Restaurant on MSC Preziosa

One of several restaurants on MSC Preziosa

The only real exclusion is:

  • No inclusive drinks as part of your cruise package (although you will find self-service water, tea, and coffee in the buffet)

Bella vs Fantastica

If you prefer to have dinner at a set time, or want dining flexibility, or enjoy in-cabin dining, Fantastica is the experience level for you. It usually comes at a small premium over Bella. Keep an eye out for deals as MSC regularly offer free upgrades from Bella to Fantastica.


From here, the packages diverge with little overlap. The Wellness experience aims at fitness fanatics who like to stay fit on holiday. The Aurea experience focuses on the relaxation seeker, and the Yacht Club aims squarely at luxury connoisseurs.

Wellness

This new experience level is born out of the cruise line’s partnership with Technogym.

  • Free delivery of room service orders
  • Free delivery of in-cabin breakfast orders
  • Choose from the best cabins available
  • One sports drink per day in the in-cabin minibar
  • Free water from the bars, restaurants, buffet, and in the cabin
  • One complimentary fitness class per day (excluding embarkation and debarkation day)
  • Access to book optional Wellness shore excursions
  • Personalised indoor/outdoor Wellness programme
  • Access to the sun deck to relax
  • A Wellness welcome kit in the cabin. Expect to find a T-shirt, shorts, a sports towel, and a “Wellness device” (my guess is a pedometer)
  • Maximum flexibility in amending your booking (check the Booking terms for exact details)
  • Choice of dinner seating preference
  • Priority in choice of dinner sitting (early or late seating) or opt for flexible My Choice dining
  • Get a health check-up with the MSC doctor
  • Have an analyser test with your personal trainer
  • Take advantage of the laundry service for your gym clothing
  • Internet access to the Wellness Experience App
  • Take home a souvenir with one group photo with all guests on the Wellness Experience

All the above options are subject to availability.

Wellness vs Bella and Fantastica

The Wellness experience targets fitness fanatics. If you expect to spend much of your free time on the ship in the gym, this experience offers additional features over Bella or Fantastica that may suit. For some, the cost of upgrading from Bella or Fantastica to Wellness exceeds the benefits. If you prefer to train alone, are not bothered about energy drinks, free water, free gifts, fitness classes, and an appointment with the doctor, Fantastica would be the next best experience.

Aurea

After all the energetic excitement of the Wellness experience, it is now time to look at the soothing and calming Aurea experience. This package is ideal if a cruise means relaxation to you. Perks of the Aurea experience include:

  • Free delivery of room service orders
  • Free delivery of in-cabin breakfast orders
  • Free all-inclusive drinks package (the all-inclusive restaurant & bar drinks package or all-inclusive classic drinks package, depending on cruise destination)
  • 50% discount on fitness classes and personal trainer for adults
  • Activities for kids including foreign language learning games and Doremi Chef cooking sessions
  • Access to the sun deck to relax
  • Priority boarding and luggage service on embarkation day
  • Wellbeing package, which includes one free massage of your choice from the Spa menu (up to 60 minutes), tanning booth, Spa welcome cocktail, private wellness consultation, and access to the Thermal Area throughout cruise (for adults only)
  • Ensure your cabin smells divine with a 100ml MED by MSC room diffuser
  • In-cabin bathrobe and slippers
  • Choose from the best cabins available
  • Maximum flexibility in amending your booking (check the Booking terms for exact details)
  • Priority in choice of dinner sitting (early or late seating) or opt for flexible My Choice dining

All the above options are subject to availability.

MSC Aurea Spa entrance

MSC Aurea Spa entrance

Aurea vs Bella and Fantastica

Relaxation is the order of the day with the Aurea experience, and it gears to spa lovers. The all-inclusive drinks package, the free massage, and the thermal suite access are the real perks here. The cost of the Aurea package is much more than Bella and Fantastica, but remember to factor in these benefits when assessing value for money. Book the Aurea package if you are a spa lover.

MSC Yacht Club

The top-tier experience is the MSC Yacht Club. Combine this experience with booking a suite, and you will have a cruise holiday experience similar to suite experiences found on other cruise lines.

  • Free delivery of room service orders
  • Free delivery of in-cabin breakfast orders
  • Ergonomic mattress, luxury sheets, a pillow menu, a marble bathroom, a plasma TV, and ample mini-bar in the cabin
  • 24-hour butler and concierge services
  • All-inclusive lunches and dinners in the private MSC Yacht Club restaurant
  • Unlimited drinks in all MSC Yacht Club areas
  • Free Thermal Suite access with a direct private lift to the MSC Aurea Spa from the Yacht Club
  • In-cabin bathrobe and slippers
  • Entry to the Sun Deck and the Top Sail Lounge
  • Choose from the best cabins available
  • Choose between Classic or Flexi Dining styles in the main restaurants, or enjoy free time dining in the Yacht Club Restaurant

All the above options are subject to availability.

MSC Yacht Club entrance

MSC Yacht Club entrance

Rather than include the benefits of the Wellness and Aurea experiences, the Yacht Club experience is an altogether different package. There are glimmers of overlap, but you do not get the free massage from the Aurea experience or the complimentary fitness classes of the Wellness package. Curiously, you do not get the all-inclusive drinks package although you do get all-inclusive drinks in the MSC Yacht Club areas, and quite honestly, if I had access to these spaces, I probably would rarely leave them. Butler and concierge services plus access to exclusive areas is why you would choose this package.

Yacht Club vs Bella and Fantastica

Clearly MSC Yacht Club outstrips the benefits of the Bella and Fantastica experiences. Where Bella and Fantastica is sold on the bases of value and no-frills, MSC Yacht Club is sold as the most luxurious choice.

It is incredibly popular too, helped by a limited supply of Yacht Club cabins on each sailing. Despite the high price tags, these cabins are snapped up very quickly by those in the know, so book early if you want to try MSC’s luxury experience.

Compare the experiences

That ends my in-depth look at the various packages. I would like to see MSC Cruises move to a system where each tier builds upon the last so that Yacht Club experiences benefit from the full range of Wellness and Aurea perks, but I imagine business reasons dictate why this is not currently the case.

To conclude, here is a table of highlights of each package and who I think would suit each experience level.

ExperienceTop PerksIdeal for
Bella
  • Preference of cabin
  • Choice of dinner seating preference
  • Budget sailors
Fantastica
  • Free delivery of room service orders
  • Option of flexible dining
  • Room service addicts
  • People who need dining flexibility
Wellness
  • One free sports drink in-cabin per day
  • Free water from the bars, restaurants, buffet, and in the cabin
  • One free fitness class per day
  • Free welcome pack of clothing
  • Fitness fanatics or those that want to stay fit at sea
Aurea
  • Free massage
  • Thermal suite access
  • Free all-inclusive drinks package
  • Access to the sun deck
  • Spa lovers
  • People who love to relax
  • People who were planning to buy an all-inclusive drinks package
MSC Yacht Club
  • 24-hour butler service
  • 24-hour concierge service
  • Thermal suite access and direct spa access
  • Access to exclusive areas and restaurant
  • Luxury seekers
  • Spa lovers
  • People who were planning to buy an all-inclusive drinks package

Download a PDF checklist of what is and is not included in each experience courtesy of MSC Cruises here.

Which experience package would you choose on your next MSC cruise? Let me know in the comments below. Also, let me know if you have had first-hand positive or negative experiences with any of them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *