Did you see the recent announcement that MSC Cruises was changing its fare categories? The line will introduce the Bella, Fantastica, Aurea and Yacht Club bands into Winter 2014/15 sailings. But what do they mean?
The new entry price-point is Bella, which is essentially a ‘cruise-only’ package. Guests can choose from inside, ocean view or balcony rooms and will have access to the inclusive restaurants and services – but have to pay for extras.
Next is Fantastica, which again is available on inside, ocean view and balcony cabins only. The package includes all of the benefits of Bella but with better choice of cabins, more flexibility around bookings and cancellations, free delivery for room service and priority dining times for the ship’s gourmet restaurants.
Next highest is Aurea which is only available on balcony cabins and suites. The level includes everything in Bella and Fantastica but with added benefits like free breakfast in your cabin, priority boarding, unlimited drinks with meals, access to a private sun deck and a great spa package with unrestricted use of the Thermal Area throughout the sailing.
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The top package is of course the MSC Yacht Club. This remains unchanged and is available for those staying in the exclusive ‘ship within a ship’ area. Guests can enjoy unlimited drinks, dedicated concierge, private areas of the ship plus everything the Aurea, Fantastica and Bella packages offer.
That’s just a little break-down but what does the company itself say? We spoke to MSC Cruises national accounts manager Craig Jeffs to get a little more detail.
1. What are the main differences compared to previous categories?
The price differentiation is based not only on cabin type and deck, as today, but also on benefits included in each ‘Experience’ (e.g. flexi dining, booking flexibility, SPA package, etc.)
2. Are there any differences among ships?
The items comprised in each ‘Experience’ are always the same. However, for the sun deck there are slight variations due to the different characteristics of each class of ship and so the reserved sun deck is not always in the same. On the Fantasia Class it is located on Top deck 18; on the Musica Class it is on deck 16 on the bow solarium and on the Lirica Class it is located on deck 13 on the bow sundeck.
3. Will it be possible to add any additional packages to the ‘Experiences’?
Yes, you can buy any additional services / packages. E.g. if you booked a Fantastica balcony cabin, you can still add a drinks package.
4. What is the time plan for the adoption of the new ‘Experiences’?
The new price model will be valid from winter 2014/2015 season onward.
5. Dining choice. How will it work?
– Guests booking Bella cabins can indicate their dining choice at the time of booking but will only receive confirmation of the sitting after check-in.
– Guests booking Fantastica cabins will be granted priority choice of dining times in our gourmet restaurants. The final sitting assignment will be confirmed on board.
– Guests booking Aurea cabins will have access to the Dining Room at any time during service, including the break between first and second seating (opening and service times for the Dining Room are printed on the ‘Daily Programme’, available in the cabin). A dedicated area in the main dining room will be allocated in order to accommodate them.
– Guests booking MSC Yacht Club will have access to the exclusive Yacht Club restaurant and so can benefit from a flexible choice of dining time.
6. What are the “booking flexibility” conditions included in the Fantastica and Aurea tariffs?
It depends how many days before the sailing the guest wants to change the booking. For Fantastica, it is free to change a passenger’s name up to 14 days prior to departure but £50 per change for any changes made to the sailing.
However, if there are any changes made less than 14 days before the departure, it will be taken as a cancellation and the passenger will be charged 80-100% of the cruise total.
With Aurea, there is no fee for passengers wishing to change either their name or the sailing up to 14 days before departure. However, changes made less than 14 days before departure will result in a cancellation and 80-100% of the cruise price will be payable.
Guests are allowed one free name change per guest and one free sailing change per booking. When flights are involved, terms and conditions of the carrier apply.
7. What are the main special kids’ events?
– DOREMI CHEF (included in the price for Fantastica and Aurea)
A special cooking demonstration for children aged 3 – 11 hosted by the Head Pastry and Mini-club Chef. There is also a cooking class for kids (twice a week) where they learn how to make cookies and pastries.
– DOREMI LANGUAGE GAME (included in the price for Fantastica and Aurea)
A special game to learn basic sentences in 6 different languages: Italian, English Spanish, French, German and Portuguese.
8. What services are included in the reserved sundeck?
– Refreshing chilled towel
– Tiki bar (for Fantasia class only)
– Bar service (Lirica and Musica class)
– Specially dedicated SPA menu
– Water cooler
9. How does the Aurea priority boarding service work?
– On the day of embarkation, all Aurea guests will have priority check-in and boarding with dedicated check-in desks and embarkation corridor (depending on the cruise terminals facilities).
10. How will MSC Club members relate to the ‘Experiences’?
– The MSC Club tiers are independent from the price categories but all ‘Experiences’ will earn loyalty points