Is an MSC Cruise Really The “BASIC ECONOMY” Experience at Sea (Unless in Yacht Club)?

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Let me start out with the fact that I am so happy that in my well over a decade of blogging at BoardingArea.com, I have never ever taken one “comped” or company-sponsored trip in the air, at a hotel, or with a cruise line – nor will I ever. Personally, I feel that any review of an experience, when you did not pay for anything for it, is going to be biased. Heck, I have even been threatened with being tossed in jail for one of my reviews posted on EyeoftheFlyer.com.

a sign on a wall

A “BA” blogger, Kyle Stewart, a travel agent, recently took an MSC Yacht Club cruise paid for by MSC. He gushed on and no about how well he was treated in the Yacht Club. If you are not familiar with this concept, it is similar to what other cruise lines do that have the “ship within a ship”, that is, one level of service and food and so on in a private area for suite guests and then the rest of the guests outside “the club” get what the ship offers to everyone. In his review he stated:

Another Boarding Area blogger had posted a poor experience in MSC choosing not to opt for Yacht Club or extras. The complaints aligned with a passenger that might fly Basic Economy on American Airlines but then attribute that to the entire experience of American when, in fact, business class is a completely different experience. Perhaps in a standard cabin, issues of drink packages, and dinner times are inconvenient. But if you’re a business class customer, you shouldn’t fly in Basic Economy – it’s a mismatch.” – Kyle Stewart, Liveandletsfly.com (bold mine)

Mr. Stewart did not link to my post or even mention me personally by name. However, his comments clearly indicate that he was referring to my dismissal and horrid cruise with MSC, an experience I will never subject myself to again—yes, it was that bad. I do know MSC has a history with those who dare to blog or vLog negative things about them. For example these famous vLoggers, who btw paid for Yacht Club, left their Yacht Club cruise early due to questions about some of their previous MSC reviews! But I wanted to focus in on Mr. Stewart’s comparison of not booking in Yacht Club to “Basic Economy” travel.

BE or Basic Economy with airlines is the dirt-cheapest ticket you can buy and still fly. Depending on the airline, even though you are on the same plane as everyone else, you may not get free bags (checked or even carry-on) or an assigned seat. You probably won’t earn elite credit points or redeemable miles. You are paying cheap, so expect cheap! It’s basically a bus fare. You get the idea.

When it comes to cruising, I have found that no matter what the cruise line (other than MSC), everyone onboard gets a fantastic experience. From the food to the shows to the pools and dances, everyone is having a blast and building memories of a lifetime. The cabin you are staying in really matters little once you are onboard, as for many, this is just a place to sleep as the ship (and destinations), with all they have to offer, is the point of the cruise vacation.

Thus you are not branded with some scarlet letter once you board and if you are not in a suite and you should not expect to be treated like a “steerage class” passenger onboard. That is, you don’t expect your cabin to be smoke-filled (like mine was on MSC) or the food to be sub gross (again like on MSC) or the wine to be un-drinkable (like in only one bar on MSC) and so on. Sure, if you are in a suite, you are likely to get more perks like priority boarding and more. But you can pay for this perk with some cruise lines or get it with status (not that it matters much if with MSC) as well as reserved seats at shows and better customer service. Most times, suite guests have access to a private desk or the concierge onboard but these are perks most normal people pay for.

I have been on a lot of cruises in my life (a bulk of them with NCL), but no matter what cabin I have been booked in, my experience has been very good. The food has been memorable and the entertainment, if not memorable, at least entertaining. The service has been good, if not great, and I have been treated as a valued guest.

Now is MSC really the BE of cruising? Based on my experience, I would have to agree and say yes as, even though just based on one horrid cruise, the MSC experience is a cheap one vs. a quality one with just about any other cruise line. Reading Reddit or other cruise sites reflects the same: don’t expect much with MSC unless you are in Yacht Club (and maybe not even then per some of the comments from readers on this blog).

What do you think? Do you feel if you are not in a cruise ship suite it is the same as flying BASIC ECONOMY with an airline? – Rene

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René de Lambert
René de Lamberthttp://www.FrequentFloaters.com
René de Lambert has been a travel blogger for over 10 years covering the travel industry - including cruising.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I have sailed MSC in Europe and it was old school- set dinner times at a specific table, etc. I have tried to sail MSC here in the US and they refuse to sell a solo traveler a cabin. Yes, you read that right. As a solo traveler, I am used to having to pay for both beds in the cabin ($298pp = $596 solo) and I am fine with that. MSC refuses to sell me a cabin. They will only let a solo traveler on their boats in one of their solo rooms. What if I want to buy a nicer cabin? Nope, can’t do that. So, it’s been a while since I have sailed them. I wonder how many of these odd policies lead to their boats not being full and the super discount prices in the US?

  2. @BookGirl305 – I think the reason MSC won’t sell a double-occupancy cabin to a solo traveler even at a 100% surcharge is that their model is to upsell onboard charges to make their profits on the cruise. This perfectly aligns with the question posed by René in the post – is an MSC cruise like a basic economy airline ticket? Instead of having to pay for seat selection, water, a snack, a checked bag there’s the expectation that you’re going to pay a surcharge for edible food in specialty restaurants, an upcharge on the drinks package to get drinkable wine, lose money in the casino, etc. This is why I challenge a lot of folks when they’re comparing a line like MSC against a line like Holland, Princess, or above that they think about the TOTAL cost of a cruise including what they normally charge on board per day vs. just the cost of cabins. On more premium lines more things are included that, if you would have purchased them anyway, might actually end up saving you money.

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