#beautyatsea #inprogress

After 8 cruises with MSC last year is not a secret anymore that I am a big fan of the Italian Cruise liner. This year I already booked 5 cruises and I was thinking to go on a back to back journey on their new ship MSC Bellissima.

Reading all the reviews online, checking photos on Instagram and messages on Twitter I got very excited. But suddenly I remember that couple months ago, Amazon deleted a lot of profiles of people writing reviews in exchange for products. Unfortunately, in the cruise industry is still trendy to write good reviews if you get a free cruise. So, I never trust, apart from www.cruisecritic.com, any reviews on-line or in the newspapers of “influencer” thirsty for free holidays. On the other hand, reading the first on-line reviews of passengers on different sites (the excellent Facebook forum page https://www.facebook.com/groups/MSCBellissima/) I saw plenty of ridiculous complaints and unnecessary moaning.

Therefore, I decided to book a mini cruise in Yacht Club and see with my own eyes the reality on board MSC Bellissima.

click here to see the teaser for my Bellissima mini-cruise

Because the virtual cruising space is full or general descriptions of different aspects of MSC Bellissima I will focused today only of a list of thumbs up and thumbs down of some of the features of the newest MSC ship which I have time to experience myself.

So, let’s take it step by step:

EMBARKATION

I embarked the ship in Barcelona and everybody knows already that is one of the most accessible ports if you travel within Europe. Using a private company ( I always use www.rideways with decent prices and very reliable, both in service and, if needed in service recovery) or one of the taxis (with fixed prices between airport and cruise port) in front of Barcelona–El Prat Airport.

681055_man_512x512 Embarkation for passengers in YC is always incredible with MSC. This time I needed only 7 minutes from the moment when I stepped out of my transfer car and until the moment when I enter my cabin. At my arrival the assistant head butler Jacky Solonirina and his team was waiting in a dedicated space for YC passengers. My luggage disappeared in a second and after that Jacky escorted me to a waiting lounge where the embarkation formalities were done before I managed to finish a glass with Prosecco. Under the attentive guidance of Jacky, I skipped the lines for check-in and security and I reach in no time the lift who took me straight to the deck were the YC Reception was located.

click here to see a video report of the embarkation on MSC Bellissima

When the elevator doors opened two familiar faces with genuine smiles were waiting for me: the YC Director Rosalia Scaldaferri and the Head Butler (a living legend on MSC world) Dani Agung Sri Prasetyo. And that professional warm and genuine smiles will be a constant companion for my entire mini-cruise. It is way you always have in the feeling in the Yacht Club that you are home away from home. And I didn’t believe that my luggage arrived in my room less than 30 minutes after I started the embarkation process.

thumbs-down-512  Now, to be objective, I saw the lines and the “organisation” for the embarkation of the rest of the ship and I think is something were MSC can pay a little bit of attention. Or the in-famous last words “YOUR EXPERIENCE MAY DIFFER” could be associated with an MSC cruise.

YACHT CLUB

681055_man_512x512  The Yacht Club is one of the best products in the cruise market at the moment, when you think about “a ship within a ship”. The level of attention to details, passenger’s focused service flows, genuine TLC, wow moments and personalised touches make Yacht Club the best, if not the only, way to travel. Maybe I am wrong, but Bellissima learnt some lesson from her sister ship Meraviglia and this time the Yacht Club seemed to be more spacious, more in line with the idea of luxury, paying more attention to passengers needs and expectations. The corridors, reception area, public spaces in general, didn’t give me the Meraviglia’s feeling that MSC are obsessed with more spaces (= more money) forgetting the comfort of passengers in YC.

thumbs-down-512  I still don’t understand the logic of MSC, building an exclusive elegant luxurious space with inside cabins (YIN) and leaving outside Yacht Club the fabulous Duplex Aurea Suite (D3)

TOP SAIL LOUNGE

681055_man_512x512  The TOP SAIL LOUNGE is still the heart of YC: an elegant and comfortable space for any moments of the day. The new cycle of snacks and nibbles is far much better than on the Fantasia class ships, addressing any gastronomic expectations and wishes. And once again the service is here at it’s best with an attentive and personalised service day and night. I loved the fact that the choice for live music change every evening and is an important part of the success of this public space.

click here to see a video report about the Top Sail Lounge

thumbs-down-512   Taking in the account the quite high number of passengers in YC, the lounge is quite small and can be sometimes crowded (during the evenings or special events organised for YC passengers).

YACHT CLUB RESTAURANT

681055_man_512x512  In so many previous MSC cruises, YC Restaurant was always the weakest link, with both hard and soft product in need for some serious improvements. On Bellissima the restaurant was an unexpected surprise.

click here to see a video report about the Yacht Club restaurant

For breakfast, lunch and dinner the menu was a culinary hit, and every meal was very close to what you expect in a high rated restaurant: excellent ingredients, fantastic mix of flavours with inspired gastronomic twists, state of art plating and, very important, something for everybody.

The Maître D’ Giovanni was leading in a perfect manner a very professional team of waiters, assistant waiters and sommeliers transforming every meal in an epicurean experience. Balancing perfectly the service between a white glove approach and a friendly “home like” meal Giovanni and our excellent waiters Konstantin and Giovanni never forget to mix the etiquette with personal recommendation and subtitle product knowledge and discreet wow moments for every meal in YC Restaurant. They know their passengers and after first few days they learn your preferences and always recommend you something new or different. And if you would like to try different dishes from the menu you could just ask to bring you half portion, also you could ask to add or not to add some ingredients and they do it for you. I had only one problem with food. So when some people write in their reviews that they were almost starving and that it was “impossible to find something to eat” I feel a bit sceptic. Please don’t forget that MSC is Italian company and food is mostly European and Mediterranean with Italian touch. But if you expect to eat burgers or steaks every meal you could be a bit disappointed.

I loved the design of the restaurant, now opened to the lounge downstairs creating a livelier atmosphere in both space but guarding the individuality of each of them.

YACHT CLUB GILL AND BAR

681055_man_512x512   Whoever had the idea of developing a private pool area in what is now YC Grill & Bar deserves a big accolade. I absolutely love this place which, when the weather is good, can be a serious competitor for the lounge downstairs. With fresh food served for every breakfast and lunch, with tasty all-day long snacks and with an excellent and extensive bar service the top deck dedicated exclusively to YC passengers is a place to be, to eat, to drink to chat or relax. Once again the staff here is always ready to transform with a genuine smile and high professionalism any wishes in your daily cruise routine.

click here for a video report of the Grill&Bar

YACHT CLUB CABIN (YC1)

681055_man_512x512Balanced living and sleeping areas, decent size balcony and bathroom, comfortable bed, modern decor, pretty good amenities and a lot of “make my cruise pleasant” gadgets =- this are the main coordinates of a YC1 cabin. I found the wardrobe and storage space a little bit more generous than on Meraviglia but I still need to find a solution for my 2 weeks cruise in December(and extra interior cabin seems to be a good idea). Maybe, for future buildings, MSC will take in the account that not all of passengers are travelling with low cost airlines where “hand luggage only” is the main rule and, maybe like me, some find dressing up as a sign of respect for the impeccable staff on board.

click here to see a video report of the cabin 18018 YC1

681055_man_512x512   Will not be fair to talk about my cabin without mentioning the excellent service of my butler Edwin Garcia and his ability to wear many hats in one day being a perfect personal assistant, greeter, event planner, etiquette expert and household leader and with a genuine smile and approach always focused on highly personalized service. Edwin and the head butler Dani Agung Sri Prasetyo mastered an incredible attention to detail and, most importantly, an incredible ability to bond with guests and make them feel comfortable, all while maintaining a professional distance.

thumbs-down-512   MSC needs to stop calling their YC1 cabin: “suites”. According to any hotelier’s dictionary a suite is “an accommodation with connected rooms under one room number, typical with one or multiple connected spaces and bathrooms” (see NCL, RC or Cunard suites). YC1 is, let’s say a “junior suite”, especially if you think about the bathtub being replaces with a shower on MSC Bellissima. For somebody with a lot of cruise experience, travelling for the first time with MSC this misleading information can be quite a disappointment.

GALLERIA BELLISIMA

   681055_man_512x512The two-deck walkway with its giant 480-square-meter LED screen, shops, restaurants and cafes is indeed breath-taking. Managing to mix two other original ideas: the RC’s dome covered wide space and NCL’s open space restaurants/bars/lounges concept, Bellissima, like Meraviglia transformed this area in the heart of the ship. Love the idea of a wide range of optional dinning spots and for sure on my back to back cruise in December I will try all of them)

thumbs-down-512  Despite the deco and choice of venues (dinning spaces, bars, lounges, shops) Bellissima lost the contact with the sea in the Galleria. Walking around, day or night I didn’t have the feeling that I was on a ship…was more like a shopping centre…a big and elegant one but, still a shopping mall. Couple of times I felt sorry for the great classical trio performing on end of the walkway in an ambience which remind me of an uninspired “flash-mob” in a shopping centre.

click here to see a video about Bellissima Galleria

AUREA SPA

681055_man_512x512  Excellent venue and facilities with a wide range of treatments and packages created to satisfy any taste or wish. And I love the idea of exclusivity and free access for YC passengers. At the end of the day you pay a premium price for a premium service. Price wise, I don’t agree with passengers complaining that is to expensive; at the end of the day is all about pampering and making your holiday memorable. Or put it like that: it is you choice if you want to pay and fly to New York in a reclining seat or in a flat bed…

thumbs-down-512 The obsession of up-selling and cross-selling in the Spa is very annoying. I can’t imagine anything more distressing at the end of an excellent massage or a pampering session in the Barber shop than being literally bullied in buying one of the over-priced products. The spa manager needs to re-think the balance between revenues and customer satisfaction. I need at least couple of weeks to forget the unpleasant selling session at the end of my hair-cut and step in again in the Spa … and who’s missing the opportunity taking in the account that I will board MSC Divina next month? Not me, for sure!

NEW ON-BOARD GADGETS

681055_man_512x512  MSC Bellissima offers a stunning array of features to rival those of her sister ship, MSC Meraviglia. Some of them excellent, others hilarious. All of them expensive!

C Innovative MSC for Me technology connects you to your fellow guests, the crew and the ship itself. The app is amazing and extremely reliable making you life on board easier and more tech with a huge impact on guest experience. From check-in to bookings, from maps to chats this app is one of the best on the market and it is worth to download before you step on board.

thumbs-down-512  The big news on board MSC Bellissima is Zoe, a kind of smart speaker or voice assistant developed by Harman. Zoe is described as a personal cruise assistant personal cruise assistant. It is “the most costly employee we have ever had” said Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises at a press conference. It is the most annoying MSC employee MSC ever had said me after 4 days “unhappy marriage” with Zoe. When I came on-board the ship I didn’t know much more than that it seemed to resemble my lovely ALEXA back home: you talk to her and ask a question that you – hopefully – then get an answer to. Zoe stands on the table in the cabin, clearly visible when you enter. She “woke up” immediately when I started talking and said “OK Zoe”. I had a little trouble understanding if I should ask my question before or after the beep that followed, that is, did the signal say that I was too late to speak or that I should wait for the tone before I started talking(the instructions in the room were not very clear). “I will start with something easy, like my cabin number” I thought to myself, but before I even had finished my sentence Zoe replied “You may refer this question to a cruise member or guest services”. Hm. New try with the same result. No help. When I asked about which show that was on for the evening, she responded by informing about drink packages and cocktails. Finally, I used some standard examples in the brochure that are next to the device and follow the questions there, for example, about where I can have dinner. Again, Zoe refers me to ask someone in the staff on board. Another attempt failed when I ask about the weather. Initially Zoe gave me the weather in Valencia (a stop in another cruise maybe) and at the second attempt she wonders if she can put on the TV for me, which I answer yes to. The TV is turned on and the weather forecast is displayed. Great! Although Zoe has been trained by 400 different people who have asked 2,2 million questions, has been programmed with 800 common questions, speaks 7 languages ​​and has been trained in 30 different accents – she doesn’t impress me, I don’t think Zoe she works very well. None of the people I asked on board had got Zoe to work satisfying. After Zoe’s experience I promised myself that I will never cheat my Alexa with another cyber-woman.

ANIMATION TEAM

thumbs-down-512   I was trying to find a reason for a thumb up when taking about the animation team and the activities on board but was kind of impossible. The day time and evening activities were like a flat line on a cardiac monitor with couple of participants which didn’t find another place to go and the famous MSC parties were an uninspired mixture of the same songs with the same dance routine. Even the signature White Party didn’t bring the usual vibe on board. You need more than some old songs, childish dance movements and second-hand props to create a good party. The funny thing is that I recognised couple of faces from the amazing parties on Seaview or Preziosa and I started wondering if the fault stays not with the team but the leader. Unlike the other +30 cruises with MSC I didn’t see the Cruise Director leading his team during parties and various activities in the right direction. And therefore, the animation team was like a giant octopus with strong tentacles but without a head. On the same not is funny how I remember the name of the Cruise Directors in the last years but I don’t remember the name, or even the face, of the one on Bellissima last week.

click here to see a video report of a MSC Bellissima party

thumbs-down-512  I didn’t have time for any shows on-board or Cirque du Soleil production but for sure talking about animation team and their activities, MSC need to re-consider the target: we are not in a kids club or in a cheap sea-side resort full of drunkies with no taste in music or fun

click here to see a video report of the White Party

THE CREW

681055_man_512x512  The Hotel Manager Giuseppe Maresca lead in all departments an excellent team who place the guest in the centre of daily routine. The excellence is part of the entire MSC experience and, despite the fact that acknowledgement the loyalty (for black card holders for example) and the YC guests still needs a bit of work, the MSC crew is the one making the cruise line unique. From the Sky Lounge to Top Sail Lounge, from the buffet team to YC Grill & Bar, everybody knows how to create great memories. And after a short chat with Pipo Maresca I realised how true is quote “It takes someone strong to make someone strong”

click here to see a video THANK YOU to MSC Bellissima crew

PUBLIC AREAS

681055_man_512x512 The Sky Lounge and the Champagne bar were my favourite spots when I decided to leave Yacht Club. Trendy designs and deco, inspired location on the ship made these two places excellent spots to sip a good cocktail before dinner. For sure I will have more to discover in December, but this time around the ship hosted too many corporate team’s events and most of the lounges were booked for private events.

thumbs-down-512 MSC needs to re-think very seriously the drinks package system. I know that in the current market revenues have a capital importance, but other cruise lines created a more user-friendly system with less tiers. On Bellissima, the run for making money created so much confusion not only for passengers but for the crew too. And once again the up-selling ruined some excellent venues. Took longer to order a drink in Sky Lounge just because you have to wait for fellow passengers to understand what is included or not and the question “Is this included in my package?” was the over-heard motto day&night. Was impossible couple of times to enjoy a glass with good champagne and delicious oysters in the Champagne bar because the place was full of beer drinkers taking the advantage of their restrictive drinking package.

thumbs-down-512  On other ships YC cabin gives you the possibility to drink whatever you want whenever you want wherever you want. Again, a premium service for a premium price. On Bellissima the rule changed overnight. You can have a Hendrick’s & tonic in YC as part of your Premium plus (or whatever the name is) package but if you go to Edge Cocktail Bar you are downgrade to a Gordon’s. It is a false economy of scale which will bring to MSC only the frustration of somebody paying more and getting less

Time for some conclusions

Of course, everybody experience is different, and consistency is not one of the strongest points of MSC. From my point of view, Bellissima is a great ship but the hashtag “beautyatsea” is a little bit too much; I think #oneofthebeautiesatsea” is more appropriate. MSC still needs to learn that is better to under-promise and over-deliver.

My recent experience was a great proof of the fact that when you check reviews of cruise lines you need to place yourself somewhere between the hype of “professional” reviewers fishing for freebees and the “professional” moaning so trendy now on-line.

click here for a PS of my cruise

Far from being perfect as a hard product, almost excellent from the soft product point of view Bellissima wow-ish me in this short cruise. Of course, she has space for improvement and I can’t wait to meet her again for two weeks in December. Or maybe sooner if I will decide for MSC cruise no. 6 this year. And changing a bit the final questions in the “0 to 10” MSC post-cruise survey:

Would you recommend MSC to your friends and family? – 9

Would you recommend Bellissima to your European friends? – 9

Would you recommend Bellissima to your UK friends? – 5

Would you book an MSC cruise in the future? 10+

logo-bellissima-white

~ by leonard69 on March 18, 2019.

3 Responses to “#beautyatsea #inprogress”

  1. I enjoyed your review immensely and I think it’s very quite equitable! For someone that has cruised often like yourself, your information here is just priceless! We sail Bellissima from Barcelona and we’re on the YC 18001 and 18002, so this article is exactly what we wanted to see. You covered beyond YC… wonderful! You covered the whole ship! Thank you so much!!!

  2. Dar MSC Seaside e in planul tau de vacanta?

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