Last year, my BFF and I tried a week on the NCL Escape in the Haven. This year, my Significant Other the MI (Melancholy Italian) and I had a week on the MSC Seaside in the Yacht Club. It was our first MSC cruise, and I did a lot of research before hand on these boards, so wanted to pay it forward a bit. I won't cover every detail, but did want to make some comparisons between the 2 cruise lines and the 2 ship within a ship concepts.
Both YC and Haven have nice private lounges for boarding with expedited service. Both offered snacks and drinks, and both escorted you to the lounge bypassing all lines. Where MSC shone was in disembarking, our butler took us past every line (which were HUGE) and we were off the ship in less than 5 minutes. MSC wins this first round!
Last year we had an aft penthouse suite. The room was huge, with a real bedroom and 2 bathrooms, and the balcony would have been perfect for ballroom dancing. This year, we had a deluxe suite on MSC, which was more like a mini suite on Princess. There was no division between the living area and the bed, and the bathroom, while lovely, was quite a bit smaller than the Haven bathroom. Have to give this round to NCL.
No comparison. Our butler this year was Glen, and he was an absolute delight. He was always trying to think of things to do for us, including keeping the fridge stocked with a glass of Bailey's for the MI's morning coffee, and 2 glasses of Cabernet every evening for us to enjoy before bed. Both the MI and I got dreadful colds (I blame flying into Orlando with dozens of sick kids on the plane) but he offered us hot tea with honey, offered to escort us to medical for cough medicine, and escorted us on and off the ship at every port and when we left the ship on Sad Saturday. Last year we hardly saw our butler and he really did almost nothing for us. MSC and the Yacht Club won this round hands down.
MSC hands down again. The staff was amazing, we had the same waiters for most meals and they quickly learned our preferences. I loved that the menu changed every day for lunch and dinner, vs. the same choices every day in the Haven restaurant. The Yacht Club homemade rolls, pastas and fish were all outstanding - better than anything I had in the Haven last year. Really flawless experience.
MSC all the way. The views from the lounge were amazing, where as the Haven was completely enclosed with no view. Service was outstanding, we never waited more than one minute after sitting down for someone to offer us a drink. The bar was huge, and they could, and did, make anything we asked for. We also loved the little snacks available all day, not just candy like I saw in the Haven last year, but little sandwiches, fantastic salmon sushi, and things like cake pops and pastries. The space is so large and open and very comfortable, and there is outside seating as well. We spent a lot of time just relaxing here and enjoyed every minute.
Private pool deck
MSC again. Lots of loungers, and the buffet area was great. We had breakfast and a couple of lunches here and everything was fresh and good. There wasn't much shade if you wanted a lounger, but there were shaded areas at the bar and tables so we were fine. Again, excellent service all around.
Loved having the mini bar free in the Yacht Club. We enjoyed the nuts and Pringles, and any kind of soda was free as well. They serve Coke products, which would have made my BFF very happy (only Pepsi on NCL). There was also unlimited still and sparkling water and we enjoyed that a lot. There was also fresh fruit and nice little treats at night, along with real champagne when we arrived in the room. Once again, MSC wins the round.
She was a ninja - rarely saw her, but our room was always immaculate and she was delightful when we saw her in the halls. Our steward last year in the Haven was equally stellar so a tie for this round. Staff all around the Seaside were warm and friendly, I never passed any staff member in the halls that didn't say hello and smile.
We loved the atrium, so beautiful and bright. The crystal stairs were fabulous, and the LED screens were amazing. The ship was crowded, but so was the Escape last year. Everything was clean and beautiful. Shops were nice, but it was odd that there was no place to get small sundries you forgot (like cough syrup!). The Venchi bar was fantastic - the #2 chocolate martini was one of the best drinks I've ever had. The MI tried the F1 flight simulator and had fun, but didn't need to do it more than once. We did not try the bowling but saw a lot of kids having a great time. MSC wins again!
Best Shows On Any Cruise I've Been On! (Celebrity, Princess, RCL, HAL and NCL). The shows were fantastic! The singers had wonderful voices, and the stunts and dancing were absolutely amazing. I loved the shorter length and didn't notice any accents that detracted from the songs. Really, really well done. They made the shows on the Escape look like high school musicals (no offence to high school musicals).
This was NOT included in the Haven, but was free for Yacht Club members. It was beautiful, loved the salt room and heated loungers. I had a massage (only $70 booked ahead of the cruise) and it was one of the best I've ever had, with no hard sell afterward. The spa on the Escape was equally lovely, but since it wasn't included in the Haven we didn't get to enjoy it. I had given the MI 3 sessions with a personal trainer as a gift but he was only able to use one due to being under the weather. He really enjoyed the one session he did do, and wished he could have done all three. Once again MSC for the win.
We really enjoyed the international mix on the ship. We met wonderful people from Canada (shout out to the delightful Peter and David from Toronto), Germany, Italy, Spain, and Brazil. We didn't mind the announcements in 5 languages because they were infrequent and not invasive. Almost everyone was polite and friendly. It never felt like a booze cruise, but we did always welcome our return to our sanctuary in the Yacht Club. MSC again!
We had 2, one on St. Thomas (kayaking, hike and snorkel) and a boat ride to the beach by the airport in St. Martin. Both were fine, and were enhanced by being escorted off the ship by our wonderful butler. We bypassed all lines and had a private entrance when we came back to the ship. Really well done and worth the money.
NO comparison! We paid 1/2 of what I paid for the Haven last year. It was an absolutely amazing experience for the money, and I can't recommend it highly enough. I hope to be back in the Yacht Club next year, and every year after that, God willing and the crick don't rise. 😉
I'm happy to answer questions, but wanted to put anyone who hasn't cruised the Yacht Club yet at ease - it was a wonderful, wonderful experience!
Cathy and The MI