From the Haven to the Yacht Club in 3 months - a crazy detailed review!

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#1
Ontario
645 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
My partner and I have been fortunate enough to have sailed in The Haven 7 times over the past 3 years.

Unfortunately, we have seen a steady decline in the product at the same time as prices have gone sky high.

We kept threatening to try MSC’s Yacht Club and finally took the plunge last week on Divina, three months after our last cruise on Breakaway.

I will attempt to review, contrast and compare The Haven to the Yacht Club focussing on whatever strange facts that I found interesting to me! I am posting this review in both the MSC and NCL boards.

Embarkation

On MSC, you pull up to the white Yacht Club tent and it's all pretty smooth after that. Your bags are whisked away curbside as are you! You are quickly guided through the crowds and handed a glass of prosecco to handle the stress of checking in. You wait in a room with a window having more prosecco and cookies. And more prosecco. The check in staff are efficient and organized.

In Miami, Haven check in has always been a hot mess with the generally bewildered check-in staff completely unable to figure out who arrived first. It is always as if they're doing it for the first time. You then wait in a small, closed - in room until you board, usually just before your head is about to explode but generally after general embarkation has begun.

Clear win for MSC.

Suites

Our cabin was ready and we were in one of the much discussed square Yacht Club Cabins. It was large, well appointed and decorated in shades of brown, beige and colours not seen since 1986. The lighting was excellent and the COMPLIMENTARY mini bar full and refilled daily. The bathroom was dripping in marble and soon dripping in water because of the insane ½ glass wall partition in the tub. You must shower with the bathroom door closed, otherwise your hanging toiletry bag will get drenched. Water temperature was extremely variable.

The walk-in closet was much appreciated as was the daily full printed copy of the newspaper of your choice. Our cabin crew were SUPERB! The MSC butlers wear many different hats - they're really super-charged cabin stewards who also work the lounge and pool area. As such, they service far fewer cabins than the Haven and ARE included in the tipping pool. The junior butlers just work the Lounge and One Pool.

Our usual Haven Spa Suites are probably a bit smaller but with a far more contemporary design and with a superb glassed-in shower stall and double sink. Haven Courtyard and Spa Suites are equivalent in size to the 8, larger square Yacht Club Suites. The majority of Yacht Club Suites are in fact, much smaller and there are only 5 cabins that are actually two room suites. There is a much larger selection of two room suites and larger in The Haven. There is always a complimentary flower arrangement and pod coffee machine in Haven Suites. Of course, your butler in the Yacht Club will extremely quickly bring you an amazing complimentary cappuccino within minutes!

Beautiful bed linens in both, better towels in the Yacht Club. Nicer toiletries in the Haven but decent in the Yacht Club.

Cabin: a draw. Cabin service: a win for MSC.

Dining

We went to our first lunch in Le Muse, the Yacht Club dining room and it aspired to be wretched . Excruciatingly slow with over cooked fish and sour beef. We left after two hours without even making it to dessert.

Dinner was much better as were all of our subsequent meals. This is where it starts to get complicated. The Haven really has better food and much higher quality ingredients . But the menu NEVER changes. The NCL concept assumes that you will eat at one of their numerous excellent specialty restaurants.

While MSC has some specialties, the focus for Yacht Club guests is Le Muse where there is a different lunch and dinner menu every day. The food is of a quality similar to how HAL was a few years ago. There are many superb items but unfortunately a lot of duds too. Frequently, many of the items are insanely oversalted.

Your choices of specialty dining are limited to the starkly decorated Eataly (we seriously skipped it for this reason) and the bizarre Galaxy “Disco Restaurant”. Actually great food but just a weird ambiance.

I will definitely give the dining advantage to NCL but MSC was decent enough. I didn't starve. A sort-of first for us - in spite of The Daily Service Charge, we additionally tipped FOUR of our Divina dining servers. They were just swell!

The Haven Lounge versus The Top Sail Lounge

The Haven lounges have no view but an active bar. The MSC bartenders are friendly but more reserved with little social interaction but the butlers get to know you by cruise’s end. The Top Sail is easily twice the size of the Haven Lounge and with beautiful forward facing window walls and live music in the evening.

There is always a fantastic buffet available with pastries, candies, nuts or just gorgeous and delicious antipasti. The large size of the room discourages easy socializing but is a win for MSC. It's waaaaaaaay more elegant than The Haven but ultimately not as convivial.

The Haven sun deck versus The One Pool

The One Pool deck is HUGE - chair hogging is nonexistent as there are simply so many chairs. There is also a bar and a mini buffet. But, unlike the Haven, the EXTREMELY uncomfortable chairs have no cushions and there truly is a complete and nonsensical lack of shade. On some afternoons, it is like the surface of the sun on the deck. Why they haven't installed umbrellas or pergolas is a huge mystery. The angled windbreaks basically stifle any air movement.

In fact, my sun loving partner cited this (spoiler alert!) as his number one reason why he wouldn't return on the Divina - its absolute and complete lack of comfortable lounge chairs in the shade. While your Yacht Club cabin also gains you admittance to the Top 18 Solarium, it was equally sun blasted with a different type of uncomfortable chair.

Even with the occasional screaming kids in the covered pool under the glass roof inside the Haven, I was almost always able to find a chair in the shade on the outer deck.

A clear win for the Haven.

Alcohol and other inclusions

MSC leaves NCL in the dust for wine drinkers. Each meal in Le Muse features generally excellent multiple choices of many varietals in addition to the superb selection of wines by the glass. The available liquors are all top shelf and bottled Pellegrino and still waters are available everywhere including your cabin at no cost. You can even get a glass of real champagne (no bad prosecco or NCL liquid poo) in one of the bars with your included deluxe package. The Haven bartenders are waaaay more animated and fun and mix much better cocktails though. Drink orders throughout the Divina were frequently wrong.


A draw - better selection on MSC but better mixology on NCL

Overall ambiance

Now, I had a mental image of what MSC would “feel “ like and I wasn't disappointed. Some of the decor is *ahem* CRAZY (chrome/silver pleather/Fred Flintstone boulders in plaster/Venetian chandeliers and marble)(I’m talking about just 50 square feet in one lounge!) but it somehow works! There are fantastic lounge acts with four and five person combos, generally mia on NCL. While crowded, the pool decks are extremely pretty with numerous pools, whirlpools and different levels. The numerous depicted fountains and waterfalls are ALL disappointingly turned off. The sun decks are far more appealing than the disasters of the “away” ships and Escape. A not surprising European vibe extremely different from NCL. Actually pleasant!

Odds and ends

The bars on MSC are ridiculously understaffed. The main Black and White Lounge had one (!) bartender around dinner.

Your included MSC Deluxe Beverage Package includes gelato at the various outlets and pastries and chocolates at the Pasticceria. But - the person serving you decides on whether they feel your Yacht Club cabin entitles you to the Deluxe Package or not. It does.

All exterior staircase treads on Divina have a brass facing - all glittering and gleaming. They are CONSTANTLY polished.

When we boarded in Miami after a large rainstorm, there were buckets EVERYWHERE in the deck 16 Yacht Club elevator lobby as water POURED in. For the rest of our cruise, both elevator lobbies smelled like giant and gross wet dogs. Unfortunately, Divina had numerous areas that just smelled of mold and mildew. Which is frankly surprising as the ship, as all of the reviews have stated is SPECTACULARLY clean and well maintained.

We were also on the rerouted sailing because of Hurricane Irma. I cannot say enough about how calmly and professionally this was all handled. The Concierge staff were SUPERB in helping us arrange an early departure from Cozumel. They waved most of the costs of our satellite calls and paid our Mexican immigration fees on leaving the ship! They also gave us 25% off our next MSC cruise- incredible.

Internet service, while “meh” on NCL is dismal on Divina. It practically ceased working after our itinerary was changed and everyone tried to log on.

Crew

This really is a “do you prefer the Moet and Chandon or the Veuve Clicquot” question. Both ships offered spectacular service for their Suite guests. Maybe we were lucky on both but I always think that an ounce of honey and a smile go a lot further than a pound of vinegar and a complaint ….

And Finally ...

Warts and all, I LOVED my Divina cruise in spite of some of the food, The One Pool and Hurricane Irma. It all kinda’ worked ! But, and it’s a big but ….I wouldn't return on a Caribbean sailing on Divina until they improved the One Pool experience.

If you're reading this MSC, get some cushions for the chairs and get some umbrellas or install some pergolas to block the sun. If NCL can do it on their ships, so can you.

The value for money, though, really leaves NCL in the dust . The imminent launch of Seaside combining MSC’s “signature” Yacht Club elements in a truly new and possibly revolutionary design is reason enough for me to try them again. Don't forget that this is the exact same prototype that NCL has purchased for Project Leonardo. The addition of numerous specialty restaurants along with the One Pool cabanas will hopefully take the product to the next level.

So … thanks for reading!
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#2
3,959 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
Thank you, Dr Cocktail, for an insightful review.

I'd just like to say that MSC has addressed a couple of the issues you had on Divina. We were in YC on Meraviglia in June. There are shaded areas on the One Pool deck, walk-in large enclosure showers installed in the bathroom and all the YC balcony cabins are similar in size to the square one you had. Also, the food offerings in the restaurant were better than we've had before and Butchers' Cut Speciality restaurant (which will feature on Seaside) was sooo much better than Galaxy or Eataly. These amenities are more than likely going to exist on Seaside.
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Bea
'Would I could set sail upon the water'.

PREVIOUSLY ON:

MSC Meraviglia June 2017 (YC)

MSC Fantasia Feb 2017
MSC Sinfonia Nov 2016 (b2b)
MSC Sinfonia Oct 2016
MSC Sinfonia Aug 2016
MSC Magnifica April 2016
Celebrity Millennium Jan 2016
MSC Divina Oct 2015 (TA)
MSC Divina Sep 2015 (YC)
MSC Preziosa Mar 2015 (TA)
MSC Fantasia Dec 2014
MSC Preziosa Aug 2014 (YC)
MSC Preziosa May 2014
MSC Splendida Feb 2014
MSC Splendida Feb 2013
MSC Splendida Feb 2012 (YC)
MSC Fantasia Nov 2011
Carnival Sensation Sept 2000
#3
Ontario
645 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
Originally posted by Beamafar
Thank you, Dr Cocktail, for an insightful review.

I'd just like to say that MSC has addressed a couple of the issues you had on Divina. We were in YC on Meraviglia in June. There are shaded areas on the One Pool deck, walk-in large enclosure showers installed in the bathroom and all the YC balcony cabins are similar in size to the square one you had. Also, the food offerings in the restaurant were better than we've had before and Butchers' Cut Speciality restaurant (which will feature on Seaside) was sooo much better than Galaxy or Eataly. These amenities are more than likely going to exist on Seaside.
I am aware of the changes and looking forward to trying both ships! I am really excited by the first ship-board versions of Roy's restaurants. We have booked Seaside - many of our favourite crew members are indeed transferring over in November.

Thanks for your comments!
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#5
Florida & Denver
232 Posts
Joined Feb 2007
Hey Dr. C: thanks so much for your very comprehensive, detailed, and often humorous review. You touched on many of the issues we often wonder about, with a new ship.
We're also doing a "first-timer" experience on the Divina, this December, in YC, so all your comments and observations were especially appreciated.
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Robkat
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Upcoming Cruises:
MSC Divina, Dec. 17
MSC Seaside, Dec. 18


Past Cruises:
Royal Caribbean: x 17
Celebrity: x 5
Princess: x 12
NCL: x 7
Holland America: x 7
Carnival: x 6
Costa: x 1
Others: x 4
#7
1,293 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
Thanks for this. I've shared it in my Haven and Yacht Club groups.
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#8
Charleston SC
2,316 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
We noticed after a few days that even though they look alike, there are two different 'models' of lounge chairs in the YC outdoor deck area. As I recall, the ones in the row facing the sea were horribly uncomfortable as there was some sort of gap between the back and the bottom. The ones in the row looking in were much better. So we kept dragging the good ones into the other row where we enjoyed the view. I may not have the rows correct but look around for different type loungers.

We found LeMuse vastly superior to the Haven and the pool sun deck as well. But they have to do something to bring in shade!!


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#9
Alaska
794 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
Thanks for taking the time to write your review.

~Brian
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MSC Divina - June 2017
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#10
77 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
Dr. Cocktail - many thanks for your informative and entertaining review. I think I may have have seen your post previously in the Oceania forum....may I ask how if you found the YC dining comparable to Oceania? I recognize food is subjective but in general would you say the quality and variety is similar? Based on the photos and postings so far, I can honestly say I thought the YC offerings were just 'meh' and not on par w/Oceania but of course, if I were to actually experience YC I may be blown away.

I am dying to try MSC but hubby won't even set foot on a MSC ship unless it's YC. We're actually not fussy travelers but good service is a "must have" whenever we travel. His motto is if we're paying all this money for a vacation, we shouldn't be hassled and I tend to agree. Based on many reviews, unless you are in YC it appears MSC experience can be a nightmare although there are several members that keep things positive (thanks Bea, Kiki, Pete, etc.) so I recognize that people may exaggerate their experiences.

TIA
#11
Ontario
645 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
Originally posted by cruzers j&n
Dr. Cocktail - many thanks for your informative and entertaining review. I think I may have have seen your post previously in the Oceania forum....may I ask how if you found the YC dining comparable to Oceania? I recognize food is subjective but in general would you say the quality and variety is similar? Based on the photos and postings so far, I can honestly say I thought the YC offerings were just 'meh' and not on par w/Oceania but of course, if I were to actually experience YC I may be blown away.

I am dying to try MSC but hubby won't even set foot on a MSC ship unless it's YC. We're actually not fussy travelers but good service is a "must have" whenever we travel. His motto is if we're paying all this money for a vacation, we shouldn't be hassled and I tend to agree. Based on many reviews, unless you are in YC it appears MSC experience can be a nightmare although there are several members that keep things positive (thanks Bea, Kiki, Pete, etc.) so I recognize that people may exaggerate their experiences.

TIA
An interesting question .... I LOVED the majority of Oceania Specialties and the buffet but was underwhelmed by the main dining room. Our few dining room meals on Riviera and Marina were quite dismal.

Having said that, I don't think that the food in LeMuse is on the same level as O - the ingredients on O are of a much higher quality. But LeMuse has a very nice, quiet atmosphere, with pleasant ambient music and great servers.

The hors d'oeuvres selection in the Top Sail lounge are of a high quality and it's pretty easy to fill up!
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#12
77 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
Thanks Dr. Cocktail for your quick reply! We too really enjoyed Oceania's specialties and agree w/you re their regular dining room (although still very good standard). Good to know Top Sail offerings were plentiful too. I hope we can get to try YC one day....so far, most of the more interesting itineraries (at least for us) are on sailings on ships that do not feature YC.

Btw, not sure if you've been to French Polynesia yet, but the Paul Gaugin cruise was an awesome experience and will have your sensory buds exploding in delight (assuming you're a foodie)! We went many years ago when it still fell under Regent vs. its now stand alone cruise company. But I'm hoping the culinary staff is still just as exceptional.

Thanks again for your review and I hope you continue to go on many cruises so you can write more reviews!
#13
5 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
Dr. Cocktail-
Having shared the cruise, (and a few pre dinner cocktails!) with the two of you, I think you have provided an excellent and fair summary of the differences between the Haven and YC! I, too, feel that for the money the YC wins hands down. Also, the sense that more of the staff truly wanted to please meant a lot to us on Divina as compared to Haven.
Thanks for posting! Hopefully our paths will cross on a future cruise!
#14
Ontario
645 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
Originally posted by Oppyguy
Dr. Cocktail-
Having shared the cruise, (and a few pre dinner cocktails!) with the two of you, I think you have provided an excellent and fair summary of the differences between the Haven and YC! I, too, feel that for the money the YC wins hands down. Also, the sense that more of the staff truly wanted to please meant a lot to us on Divina as compared to Haven.
Thanks for posting! Hopefully our paths will cross on a future cruise!
Hey! Hopefully you made it back home OK.

I did sent the two of you an email ... hopefully you got it.

p
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#15
248 Posts
Joined Jun 2002
Good review. I hoped the short-staffed bars in the common areas were just a circumstance on our cruise. Tipping by the drink didn't seem to help. And yes, the mixology was a short-coming. I kept looking for someone who knew how to make a proper Dark and Stormy. Even in the YC it was mixed with ginger ale and not ginger beer. But still - we had an awesome time!
#16
5 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
Originally posted by Dr. Cocktail
Hey! Hopefully you made it back home OK.

I did sent the two of you an email ... hopefully you got it.

p
We did make it home, thanks! Though not off until Thursday. They were letting people stay the entire week, and my wife wanted to stay, but duty calls!
We did get the email too.
#17
31 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
Dr Cocktail,
1. I'm jealous of your creative name "Dr. Cocktail". Well played. Dr. C. Well played.

2. Thanks so much for your comparison of Yacht Club vs. Haven. Greatly appreciated.

3. Thanks for the subtle decor humor. (I nearly spit out a very good red on my phone)

4.Thanks for the Oceania comparison. Actually helpful for my future planning.

5. Despite the fact that your summary was short and concise...your summary made me envious we weren't on the ship with you all.



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#18
Center Moriches, Long Island, NY, USA
472 Posts
Joined Mar 2001
Thanks for the comparative review. We have been in Divine Yacht Club three times and love her. We are also booked for three future Seaside YC cruises. Regarding the question of shade in the One Pool area, deck plans for the Seaside seem to show about 20 cabanas. That would sure add to the experience.
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Still To Come
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#19
Ontario
645 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
Thanks all for your nice comments!

Sunshine2u: Were you on the September 2nd sailing? If so, I'm trying to figure out if I would have seen you.

Database: Stole the name from a baseball cap years ago! The best part of it is if you call out either portion of my CC name, I will turn around!

What I have enjoyed about these interactions is that people have understood how much I enjoyed the product. My criticisms are almost frustrations - that is, with a little bit better corporate management and utilization of resources, this product could truly shame the competition.
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#20
Southern California
45 Posts
Joined Aug 2009
Excellent review! I really enjoyed your in depth review of both ships. I was on the same sailing and believe you and your partner sat next to my husband and I on the beach at the royal palms in GC and we discussed different cruise lines and ships. You actually encouraged us to give the Haven a try and specialty dining when we try NCL. I took good notes in my phone. We have a booking on the seaside in march but I think I'm going to cancel for now and wait for the reviews to come in after she starts sailing. The wifi has got to improve a lot. We flew home from Cancun to Los Angeles on Saturday and did not stay on the rest of the week. ~ Kris and Dave


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