Oops! … MSC did it again!

After 20+ cruises on MSC and couple of reviews I started to worry a little bit about my “unconditional love” for Yacht Club. WOW moments are part of the daily routine in Yacht Club and MSC creating this concept of “a ship-within-a-ship” knows exactly how to make you feel “a privileged few among many” rather than one of many privileged, which for some, heightens the sense of luxury.

My last MSC cruise in Yacht Club was on MSC Fantasia and started in Genoa in a sunny day of May visiting in 7 days Cannes, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, Ajaccio, Rome and La Spezia. And of course, my choice was an YC1 cabin, starboard, room 16014.

Of course, after being spoiled so many times in MSC Yacht Club (as you see I already forgot my New Year cruise on MSC Meraviglia) my expectations were quite high and being back on MSC Fantasia was a pre-cruise guarantee of an amazing experience.

But I was wrong! My 7 days in Fantasia’s Yacht Club were far above any expectations, creating space for a sad, depressing moment (don’t remember last time when I felt the same) when leaving the ship and stepping in to Genoa Cruise Terminal.

How many “WOW moments” you can create in a 7 days voyage? To be honest this time on MSC Fantasia I lost the count and every day, every moment was a memorable one.

And it is not only about the ship, itinerary or concept! It is more about the people and their passion and pride in creating 27/7 an unashamedly elitist experience

At embarkation in Genoa … business as usual: When arriving at the Cruise Terminal to embark, the personalized touches began immediately.  At a special tented area, just for guests staying in MSC Yacht Club, with no lines (there was a huge line for the rest of the ship), I provided preliminary information. From there, one of the butlers took my carry-on bag, and personally escorted me to a special embarkation lounge where the welcome glasses of prosecco were waiting and where I did the rest of my check-in paperwork. A butler waited for me, then escorted me through the MSC Yacht Club Concierge lobby area on Deck 16 and to my suite.  He mentioned the butler for my suite would be stopping by and that happened just a short time later. Another butler took me to my stateroom, and then our personal butler throughout the cruise took charge. There wasn’t an unaccompanied step. I mentioned that was “business as usual”, but this time MSC managed to beat it’s own embarkation record: from the moment when I stepped out of my transfer to the moment when I entered my cabin: only 5 minutes! WOW no.1!

Click here to see a video report about the MSC Fantasia check-in experience

Dwi Yatnawati, the butler for my suite, made introductions and also mentioned that Budiasih, the junior butler would be assisting her.  I could reach out to them for any special requests, even down to additional help unpacking if needed.  Despite the fact that I forgot the number of nights spent in Yacht Club in the last 3 years provided details on the suite along with areas within the MSC Yacht Club and special VIP one-of-a-kind amenities. Within those first two hours, I could immediately tell butlers within the MSC Yacht Club took pride in roles. Professional, yet personable, and at my “beck and call,” the butlers and staff were making this the beginning of an extraordinary experience.

Dwi and Budiasih, two lovely ladies from Bali were simply perfect bringing a sense of security and comfort during the entire cruise in an unnoticeable way. They knew how to think ahead quietly and discreetly and ensure that every detail that makes the day go smoothly happened with maximum efficiency and minimum fuss. On the second morning of the cruise, my partner was in the Top Sail Lounge enjoying breakfast and called to see if I wanted any cappuccino. I mentioned that would be great, but instead of him bringing the cappuccino back to my cabin,  Dwi delivered it to me promptly. Another evening while getting ready for dinner I casually mentioned to Budiasih that I was heading over to El Sombrero  Restaurant for dinner. I still don’t know when the information was shared, but Dwi personally walked me over herself. The cabin was always sparkling clean and tidy but more important was the genuine and kind smiles of Dwi and Budiasih. After a long day I couldn’t stop myself to ask them the secret behind their genuine excellence. The answer was simple, sharing a wonderful point that was part of Yacht Club work ethic: “Service has to come from the inside out.”

Located on Deck 15 and just off the reception area, the Top Sail Lounge is a favourite meeting place for many of the guests in the MSC Yacht Club, including me. Was great to have a good cocktail there before dinner or before heading to one of the night parties on board or it was fun just taking in the beautiful panoramic views. On MSC Fantasia was great to see that one of my previous suggestions was taken on-board and the musical performances in the lounge alternated two different excellent musicians (Eduardo and Olga) with different repertoires. Of course, was another WOW moment to see that previous acquaintances from previous cruises remembered my likes and dislikes with an incredible precision: my 9.00AM Bloody Mary, my passion for Grok (- a divine crunchy cheese snack) or the way to make a perfect Dirty Martini before dinner. Dony, Carlos and Bogdan always delivered an impeccable service spiced every time with a pleasant and genuine chat.

Click here to see a video report about the Top Sail Lounge experience on board MSC Fantasia

The itinerary of the cruise was perfectly balanced with interesting ports of call and enough time to fit in my day a self-guided tour or a perfect organised MSC Shore excursion plus enough shopping time and pleasurable on-board wondering.  The MSC Yacht Club provides quiet exclusivity, but guests were still able to enjoy all the other areas of the ship. The MSC Yacht Club Daily Planner included services and hours for everything going on around the ship – entertainment highlights for the day and evening, services, activities and events along with hours for bars, lounges and restaurants.   With a wide array of lounges, entertainment, as well as diverse shows every evening, it was fun to take these in as well. And everywhere the same gentle, genuine high class service made me to find difficult to split my time on-board between Yacht Club and the rest of the ship. My favourite places? For sure Manhattan Bar where the professional service of Pandri and Viktoria balanced quite well the pretty mediocre performance of the Pop-up Band Quartet and L’Insolito lounge where Dan was the master of cocktails with a twist, mandatory ingredient to enjoy the on-board parties organised by the Cruise Director Jimmy and his animation team.

Click here to see a video report about White Party on board MSC fantasia

One evening I decided to try the “El Sombrero” restaurant and that’s why another WOW moment was added to my list. El Sombrero Tex Mex is Fantasia’s Mexican speciality restaurant with a show gallery kitchen where guests can watch the food being prepared; and bar serving traditional Mexican drinks from beers to Tequila and Margaritas with Latin American music playing in the background. Is hard to say what I enjoyed the most: the tastes of Mexican cuisine from Texas steaks to enchiladas, fajitas, burritos and tacos or the superb service

Normally I try to avoid the “official & social events” when I am cruising, but this time two massive WOW moments were created by the F&B Manager Gennaro Andrione (what a charisma this guy has, covering the lack of presence of the Cpt. at the cocktail party) and his team.

The Yacht Club cocktail, normally a basic, quite boring event for passengers and a “tick the box duty” for crew involved had a completely different dimension. Fabulous venue (The One Pool area), exquisite service from the Yacht Club butlers’ team, elegant passengers and charming officers, everything embedded in a stylish atmosphere made this cocktail a memorable moment in cruise’s diary.

Click here to see a video report about the Yacht Club Cocktail on-board MSC Fantasia

It was quite a surprise when I returned to my cabin in Palma de Mallorca to find an invitation to an exciting event: “Buffet under the stars”. Again, WOW! The new concept stimulated my imagination, but the dimensions of the real event surpassed all my expectations. In the area of “The One Pool” transformed in an elegant and stylish dinning & mingle space, with an exclusive service provided by the head butler and his team, the great live music performed by Duo Overmoon and Riz, excellent food, the presence of Executive Chef and officers, transformed a “concept” in a successful event which, for sure, will be part of cruise’s memorable moments for everybody in the Yacht Club.

Click here to see a video report about “Buffet under the stars” on Board MSC Fantasia

During this cruise I lost the count for all this WOW moments but, at least, I know who’s behind all these unforgettable memories.

Without doubts and without exaggerations the only one “guilty” for this list of WOWs was Dani Agung Sri Prasetyo the Head Butler on MSC Fantasia. His genuine, polite, kind and professional way which can’t be described in words and experiencing his service on board raised the bar for MSC very high.

Dani was in the Top Sail Lounge at 8.00AM to check if my laptop needed an adaptor and my cappuccino didn’t get cold.  On the days in port, Dani was around the reception before going on shore to be sure that somebody will escort me down to the disembarkation area and help you to skip the lines. At 1.00PM Dani will quietly approach me in the lounge or by the pool reminding me about the lunch served in the One Pool area and suggest something not to be missed in the menu. In the afternoon Dani was checking that the high tea served in the lounge was at 5 star standards and had always handy some suggestions about my evening on board. Before dinner Dani would be in the Lounge just to be sure that my Dry Martini was perfect and to suggest which party would be the best choice that night. And guess what, close to midnight Dani was in the Lounge asking about dinner, the evening’s party and being sure that I would not go to bed without a nightcap. The next day history would repeat itself!

I couldn’t stop asking myself: how many “DANIs” MSC Fantasia had on-board? Did they clone him or what’s the secret of his around the clock excellence? The answer came one day, when chatting with Dani by the pool: “I love what I do, and I do what I love”. Simple like that and he moved smoothly to his next duty. What a treat to have Dani on-board!

His passion and his professionalism was clearly transferred to his team in Yacht Club. Dani was not only a perfect butler, but he was an excellent leader too. His ability to learn from himself and others, no matter the situation, his humbleness that was inspiring, his integrity, honesty and his strong moral compass made the Yacht Club team unbeatable in high performance. Everybody defines leadership differently, but Dani gave another dimension of leadership, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” During my week on board MSC Fantasia he proved to be a difference maker between success and failure knowing how to turn his ideas into real-world success stories.

It’s clear now: I suffer from an obsessive unconditioned love for MSC Yacht Club!

But…wait a second…they were some weakest links on board MSC Fantasia this time. Shall I, or shall I not? OK, I like to be honest and I know that for MSC feedback is a gift so:

The Concierge

It was the weakest link in Yacht Club, more like a 3 start hotel reception than a real Concierge, with a service based on “The answer is NO! What’s your question?” philosophy. The two ladies and the gentlemen in the night shift were masters of avoiding guests, hiding behind the computer screens and always typing something when somebody approach the desk with a request or a question. For sure “eye contact”, “anticipating guests needs” or “being approachable”, basic rules of customer service were erased from their training. Irina, for sure, deserve a diploma in “how to avoid/ignore guests” skills. After the first days I gave up waiting for an answer to my “Good Mornings” and directed all my questions to the butler’s team far more efficient and approachable. When assistance was needed (I had couple of minor maintenance issues in my cabin) I had to check couple of times that the night shift will pass the message or better sort everything with the butler. It was a big surprise the way how the Yacht Club Reception aka Concierge performed, especially when I still have fresh excellent memories about of Leandro and the Concierge on MSC Divina from couple of weeks ago

L’Etoile

Fantasia’s MSC Yacht Club exclusive restaurant located on deck 15 supposed to provide guests with a gourmet dining experience inspired by both Italian and French culinary traditions. This time the Sommelier was missing but his duty was excellent covered by the waiters. Excellent managed (big change from my previous experiences on board MSC ships) by Maître D’ Ionut, the waiters provided an efficient and excellent service. The hiccup, as always on MSC vessels, was the food. Let’s be honest MSC is not famous for offering a gourmet experience in Yacht Club restaurants across the fleet, but this time the standards were very low; cold food (a moussaka with a frozen core and just microwaved outside it is not a food hazard?), weird recipes for well-known dishes (a Bouillabaisse which would make Marseille to frown or a hummus which never meet tahina or olive oil) or culinary experiments (a not at all flambé “Flambé Cherry Supreme”) made me choose instead of L’Etoile the excellent dishes in the Top Sail Lounge and twice the Mexican restaurant on-board. But still the question of quality & consistency need to be addressed by MSC.

 

You can not save a restaurant only with a good service, they need to have good food to serve, too.

Top Sail Lounge

The dedicated lounge for Yacht Club passengers has one of the ship’s premier locations — at the absolute front of the ship, with panoramic views from the slanted windows and the tranquillity and comfort of the Yacht Club are at their best here. At least in theory…the reality on MSC Fantasia was a little bit different. Couple of evenings I had the unpleasant surprise to discover that part of the lounge, especially the smoking area, was taking over by members of the security team, having a break. Despite being in a public area (all the cruise line observes very strict the rules of staff presence and behaviour in guest’s areas) the security staff seemed to have a “nice break” in a space reserved for passengers who paid quite a lot of many for their privacy and comfort. The MSC security staff is renowned to be rude and unpleasant (despite the fact that you can be assertive and polite at the same time as other team from Greece or Nepal proved on other ships) but using a private space designed for high paying guests and treating the lounge staff like their personal servants is a little bit too much. Interesting is that, when I mentioned that in a twitter post, the replies showed that my experience was not singular.  One was the replay to my twit was quite interesting: “Absolutely typical of MSC. I complained about just this on my last cruise on Fantasia, their amazing reply was that it was “their home too”. What a joke, which other cruise line have you ever known this. Disgusting!”. Still waiting for a reaction from MSC.

Every MSC Cruise is distinguished by the quality of hospitality and the attention paid to the little details that make the difference. The MSC Yacht Club takes these distinguishing features to unprecedented levels, setting new benchmarks in guest comfort and satisfaction. While providing all the comfort, service and privacy of a personal yacht, MSC Yacht Club also offers the best of both worlds, bringing full and privileged access to the incredible variety of superior sports facilities, shopping, dining, gaming and entertainment found on the magnificent floating city And, like all private clubs, the only way to appreciate it is to experience it for yourself.

After my last MSC Fantasia experience I am so tempted to book another MSC cruise and not wait until the next booked one (in September, again on MSC Fantasia, this time in the Royal Suite).

And guess what, I just found an available YC1 cabin in 4 weeks time!

~ by leonard69 on May 22, 2018.

One Response to “Oops! … MSC did it again!”

  1. This beautifully written chronicle has whetted my appetite for a Yacht Club Christmas cruise in December 2018, on a B2B Seaside/Divina. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: