We are all packed and ready board MSC Bellissima for a 7 night Yacht Club sailing, come with us as we travel to and embark in Naples.
A bright and early start from the Hampton by Hilton at Stansted Airport, dragging our 46Kgs plus carry on weight I located the easyJet bag drop area. Stansted was very much awake at just before 4am, with queues and people everywhere. The airport was hot, seriously overcrowded and under construction – not a nice place to be.
Nevertheless, our luggage was checked in using the automated systems then, we made our way to the departure lounge via a busy security area and onto our easyJet flight. Click here to read our full easyJet trip report for all the aviation geek detail.
We arrived into Naples around 30 minutes early, around 9am, almost 3 hours before the ship arrives. Usually Naples is infamous for its slow immigration, so we’d buffer some waiting in the terminal time in the queue. I didn’t expect to fly through passport control with some of the quickest e-gates I’ve ever used. We had our bags and were heading out of the airport just 30minutes later – record time.
I had prepared for the taxi hustle, armed with the fixed price tariff on my phone I approached the organised taxi queue; already with a family having a debate over fares. The excuses come flying out out faster than you can say margarita, the taxi price is finished, it doesn’t include bags and great offence at how I could question his pricing. We eventually shook on 25EURO all in, a 4EURO apparent win for him and the satisfaction in my mind that I would’ve tipped him it anyway. In Naples official taxis are white, and have the prices on a board hanging inside the car.
After a good broken Ital-english chat we arrived somewhere near the port about 25minutes later. I say near the port as we had arrived during the Summer Universiade – a mini olympic games. Huge amounts of security and confusion, probably as we were so early – around 10.15am and the ship wasn’t there. We eventually walked the last part to the terminal and managed to get through 2 sets of scanners. We then set up camp in the terminal cafe and played some cards to pass the time, watching the others just as confused wander into the terminal.
At 11am sharp the MSC Bellissima carefully reversed into her dock next to the terminal. Her sheer size and white-ness dominating the 80’s terminal and making our 3am eyes a little sore. After a flurry of passengers disembarking – both for the day and at the end of their holiday – the crew came into the terminal and started to set up the check in areas.
The ’embark at any port’ model that MSC Cruises divides opinion, with some saying that it doesn’t feel like a cruise where everyone is on the same voyage and it’s more like a bus, but with a ship the size of Bellissima I feel it works well. It means less queues at the port, less of a stress for crew to turnover the whole ship in one day and more opportunity for dates that work with your holiday schedule.
At around 12 I made my way over the Yacht Club (YC) check in and asked if they were ready. No sooner had I asked our luggage was collected and a glass of prosecco poured. We then sat in the roped as YC crew came and kept us updated and fully refreshed – much to the annoyance of the other passengers who kept on approaching and asking to come in. In the area was a table containing sandwiches, cakes and drinks and then around four patio tables for you to sit at.
At around 12.45 we were able to board. The YC crew member took our hand luggage and escorted us onto the ship. We avoided the tables of upsells, photos and other MSC services and were taken straight into the Yacht Club Top Sail lounge located on Deck 16. We were offered another glass of prosecco; if I can recall this was my 4th so far. I was fully integrated into cruise life before I had chosen my international daily newspaper (we selected the i from the UK and the ladies opposite from New York opted for the NY Times).
Our very friendly concierge explained the ship features, drinks package, restaurant, Yacht Club perks and answered any questions in great detail. The concierge desk was manned by three amazing team members on this cruise – they really knew it all and were so friendly, remembering names after just one meeting. He confirmed that we had pre-booked the Cirque de Soleil show and that we just needed to choose our day within the next 24hours at our leisure.
We were then escorted to our cabin (14008 and if you haven’t read Part 1, you should) by Sonya from the Ukraine. Sonya would turn out to be a total star throughout the week, always super happy and worked so hard making sure everyone had their favourite drink, with a little humour mixed in.
She talked us through some of the cabin features, pointing out that the mini bar was all included (check out Part 3 for the cabin tour and debrief) and that we should either have lunch in the main Yacht Club restaurant – located on Deck 17 or accessed from the Top Sail lounge via the Swarovski staircase – or on Deck 19 where there is a grill and small buffet.
As it was warm outside and we still were awaiting our luggage we decided to check out the restaurant. There were about 4 other couples dining at the same time, so service was friendly and excellent. A daily changing full three course menu is provided for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day in the restaurant and it’s open seating, turn up at any time.
One difference from my last MSC YC cruise is that the ‘Always On’ section has disappeared from the menu. This was a section which didn’t change and included a burger, chicken breast and a tomato pasta dish. I confirmed that they still have these options and all you have to do is ask.
After a great first lunch – fresh pasta, burger and a coconut gelato – we went back to the cabin where our luggage was waiting. We unpacked and with a quick swimsuit change headed up to Deck 19 where the Yacht Club sun deck and pool area is.
This area is at the front of the ship, with the majority of the deck covered by a glass wind deflector (check out the video tour for a better idea) and each side of the ship has a non-covered area. On one side is a smoking area, and the opposite a bar with the grill and buffet area. A variety of seating is on offer, from tables and chairs, loungers with very comfortable padded cushions and sofas. In the centre there is a huge octopus statue next to a plunge pool and a hot tub.
On the same side as the smoking area, there are three cabanas. These are wicker three sided constructions facing out to sea. Inside are two loungers and a shelving area. They are available for reservation at an additional fee or included with the Royal Suite. They were mostly unoccupied on our sailing and I don’t think I’d want to go inside and cut off the sun.
There was always plenty of loungers to choose from, even on a sea day. Towels were free of charge, and you can take as many as you want from the pile underneath the octopus or rolled up on the loungers.
Waiters, or ‘butlers’ as MSC enjoy calling them, roam the deck offering you drinks – pretty much anything you can imagine can be served to your lounger. Throughout the whole YC enclave there is no requirement to present your band or cruise card for drinks, they just serve as it’s included for everyone.
After several hours relaxing we decided to retire to the cabin to prepare for dinner. Our first night was designated a theme of ‘White Night’, which means you should wear your brightest white outfit and there is a huge party on deck (weather permitting) where everyone is in white – it really looks quite spectacular.
It is now a requirement that all passengers attend a safety or muster drill before the ship sets sail. This means that MSC has one of these every day – apart from the sea day – and as we were embarking in a smaller port then it was conducted in the theatre. You do not need to take your life jacket on MSC, and onboard Bellissima life jackets are no longer stored in your cabin but at the muster station. Crew will demonstrate the procedures in the unlikely event of an emergency and how to fit your life jacket should it be required. It was a very quick procedure even with the multiple languages, and lucky for us our muster station was the theatre so we didn’t need to follow our crew member to our muster station.
Before dinner we sat in the Top Sail lounge and enjoyed some more prosecco and a few cocktails. We then made our way up to the restaurant where the first of many great quality meals were served with excellent, attentive service. A wine list is provided should you wish to purchase a premium bottle or champagne, but for us there was a great selection of wines included by the glass and staff were happy to get other drinks from the bar, again all without charge.
After a few games of cards we moved up the Swarovski staircase into the Yacht Club restaurant. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is exclusive for Yacht Club guests. It has it’s own menu and includes items such as lobster on gala night and steak available each night. You do not need to make a reservation and it is open seating, on nights where the restaurant is full they may offer for you to share a table or wait in the Yacht Club bar until one is free.
Tonight was the night we met our favourite waitress, Anna from Italy. She served us most nights, apart from the one we ate out in the additional charge restaurant – The Butchers Cut. I love the fact on a cruise ship you can order any course at any time, don’t be scared to have a main course for a starter or ask for a larger portion of a starter for your main course. I had an amazing pesto pasta dish from the main course section for my stater and ordered from the ‘always available’ menu for my main course. I opted for the filet mignon served with creamed potatoes served with grilled vegetables. For dessert I managed to fit in a creamy portion of coconut gelato, which was pure perfection.
Temptation won over and after dinner we slipped back down to deck 14 to our beautiful king size bed, which was much needed after a full day of travelling and enjoying the opulence of the Yacht Club.