NCL Haven vs MSC Yacht Club

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Which is better, Norwegian’s Haven or MSC’s Yacht Club?

Since our trip on the MSC Seaside, this has been the most asked question and I can understand why. They both look similar but which cruise line does it better? In my opinion, after sailing on the MSC Seaside, MSC does the “hotel in a hotel” experience the best and the Seaside has quickly become my favorite ship of 2018. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE the Haven (we have sailed with NCL 16 times) and there are some areas where the Haven shines but keep reading if you want to see why I think the Yacht Club does suite level the best…

Embarkation from Port Miami – (Yacht Club Wins):

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Yacht Club: 
Embarkation in the Yacht Club was a breeze and is truly a first class experience. First, there is a special loop to drop off your luggage. We simply pulled into the special loop and there was a dedicated Yacht Club porter there waiting to take our bags. After parking the car in the garage, we came back to the same area where we dropped off our bags and a butler escorted us into the terminal. We were escorted through a private security line to the concierge waiting area (the waiting area was huge! Lots of chairs and space for everyone).  While we were waiting to take our picture for our cruise card, we were handed champagne by our butler and asked if we would like any snacks from the snack table. Talk about a great way to start your vacation. After about 5 minutes, we had our cruise cards and our butler was leading us onto the ship. From there we had a direct butler escort all the way to the Yacht Club lounge (Top Sail Lounge) and again we were handed a glass of champagne as soon as we sat down. First class all the way.

The Haven: 
Embarkation on NCL is the same for everyone, until you get past the security line. You drop your bags off with the porters and then proceed to the security line, like everyone else. We have waited in Norwegian security lines for up to 30 minutes. I am not complaining about the wait because it never bothered us but I did want to mention it because it is very different from MSC. After proceeding through the security line, you are directed to a small room dedicated just for Haven guests. It’s a small lounge where they have cookies, water, coffee and juice (this area is very small. We have been forced to wait outside the lounge many times because there was no seating or space to stand inside the lounge). After you receive your cruise card, you are then escorted to the ship by an NCL employee with a sign. They take you up to the ship security point and hand off the escort to a ship employee. The ship employee then escorts you to the Haven Courtyard where you gather for a group orientation about Haven perks from the concierge.

Overall Embarkation:
Both companies have a completely different view on boarding the ship. MSC seems to take the stance that your vacation starts at bag drop off and NCL seems to believe your vacation begins once you arrive in the Haven Courtyard. Both are acceptable and great perks at the suite level but MSC seems to have embarkation perfected.

Staterooms/Cabin Size – (Haven Wins):

haven-room

Before I start comparing, I want to point out that we stayed in a Yacht Club Inside Cabin on the MSC Seaside. This is the smallest cabin in the Yacht Club and something that the Haven does not have. We did make friends with a couple who let us tour their Yacht Club Deluxe Suite. I would compare the Deluxe Suite to a Courtyard Penthouse on a Breakaway Class ship so I am going to compare those cabins to each other and not our interior YC suite.

The Haven:
Cabin space in a Courtyard Penthouse Suite in the Haven is wonderful. The cabins are a great size for a suite. They are not huge (we still talking about a one-bedroom room) but they are large when you compare them to other cruise ship cabins.  You get a king bed, a huge closet and a really nice bathroom. The storage is also plentiful in the Haven Courtyard Penthouse. I love the layout especially with the walk through closet and I love that the bathroom comes with a bathtub. Very nice overall space (except the balcony. The balcony is very small. Enough room for 2 chairs and a small coffee table.)

Yacht Club:
Cabin space in the Yacht Club is small. The Deluxe Suite is much smaller compared to the Courtyard Penthouse. There is a queen bed, a small closet and a decent size bathroom. The bathroom has a shower (no tub combination) and the sink is made of marble, which is nice. I believe the Yacht Club bathroom is a little larger than the Haven but the tub is nice to have to soak in and I don’t have to do a split in the shower to shave my legs.

Overall Cabin Size:
The Haven wins this category but just by a hair. The rooms may be smaller in the Yacht Club but I don’t really spend a lot of time in the room, so this one is not that important to me. If you can only sleep on a king bed, then the Haven is for you. If you need the tub, then the Haven is for you. I liked our Yacht Club cabin very much (even though it was an inside cabin) because we got access to all the Yacht Club amenities but if cabin size is really important to you (as in, you never leave your room, EVER), you may want to stick with the Haven.

Amenities – (Yacht Club Wins):

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Let’s talk stuff you get with your suite. This category is all about the extra perks you get with your suite and hands down, the Yacht Club wins this by a mile. There are so many perks that you get in the Yacht Club and here are just a few:

  • Yacht Club: 
    • Private, exclusive area – Stating this is putting it mildly. Not only do you get a private area, you get the whole front of the ship on Deck 16, 18 & 19. Seriously, the entire front of the ship.
      Deck 16 – You have access to the Top Sail Lounge. This lounge is the largest, private lounge you have ever seen and it is absolutely gorgeous. There is a full length bar, a piano, plenty of seating and to top it all off, floor to ceiling glass windows that overlook the front of the ship. And there is even an outside portion to the lounge. There are loungers and chairs so you can enjoy the sea air and you still get served by the Top Sail Lounge Staff. And I cannot say enough great things about the staff in the lounge. They were always attentive to your needs and very friendly. We always love talking to ship crew and the Top Sail Lounge crew is top notch.
      Deck 18 – You have access to the gorgeous and huge Yacht Club Restaurant. The restaurant sits on top of the Top Sail Lounge and has views that look out the front of the ship. If you time dinner just right, you will have the most amazing sunset meals and you can even catch a sail away if you leave a port a little later in the evening. We were even able to see sail away from Miami with the wonderful later time that MSC leaves the port (it was raining when we left Miami but I can imagine how amazing the Miami sunset would be leaving on a nice day. Sail away from Miami is beautiful during the day but a sunset sail away would be even better).
      Deck 19 – The pool area in the Yacht Club is the largest area I have ever seen dedicated to suite level guests. The pool area features a nice size pool, a huge sundeck, a full length bar and a grill that serves breakfast, lunch and snacks. If you walk closer to the front of the ship, there are two additional hot tubs (with the most amazing views) and there is plenty of tables and loungers throughout the entire deck. This area is so pretty. Pictures do not do it justice. Again, I can’t believe there was so much space dedicated to the Yacht Club. MSC really got this one right. Plenty of space for everyone to relax and soak up some sun. (speaking of sun, if you don’t like the sun, there isn’t a lot of shade on the sun deck. They don’t have umbrellas or anything like that to cover you. They do offer private cabanas that have a cover. This is an upcharge but, if you are a pool person, the amenities are pretty cool. There is a sign at concierge that explains al the benefits you get by purchasing a private cabana.)
    • Dedicated concierge – the concierge is different from NCL. The concierge is run more like a front desk rather than a private person helping you out. I liked this concept a lot. It added to that “hotel in a hotel” feeling. We have met some amazing concierges on our NCL journeys and they were wonderful. You do not get that same interaction on MSC but we do not use the concierge a lot on NCL so this was a great way to ask questions
    • Mini-Bar Included – this was a HUGE perk for us in the cabin. It was really nice to grab an orange juice or soda in the morning or mix a drink later at night. The mini-bar also came with a handful of snacks like mixed nuts, Pringles and assorted chocolate snacks which was so great. I didn’t know I needed the mini-bar until it was included with the Yacht Club.
    • Snacks – this is my favorite thing about cruising. I mean SHIP SNACKS are the best!! MSC does snacks right and this goes with the all-inclusiveness of the Yacht Club. First let me talk about the kinds of snacks available:
      • Chocolate – Oh the chocolate. So much chocolate. From chocolate ships to chocolate pillow snacks, you had access to chocolate galore. If you love chocolate, MSC is definitely for you.
      • Gelato – Yep! All you can eat gelato is included with the Yacht Club. This is typically an up-charge item on a cruise ships but it is included on MSC. And it is truly the best gelato I have ever tasted (yes, I have been to Italy and this is still the best gelato ever).
      • Pizza – Ok, this one is for everyone on the ship but it was hands down the BEST pizza at sea so I consider it to be an amenity. I think the only thing better than pizza on the Seaside would be New York City pizza. Seriously, it was the most amazing snack. The pizza was available at the regular buffet and it was also available at the family buffet during late night. I can’t tell you how many times we ended the night with a fantastic slice of pizza and sat out on the deck in front of the Top Sail Lounge watching the stars. It was the perfect way to the end the night.
      • Top Sail Lounge Snacks – there were snacks in the lounge available morning, noon and night and these were in addition to the snacks and food offered at the pool. Breakfast snacks had everything from pastries to mini-pancakes. Lunch had mini-sandwiches, vegetables and fruits. Dinner had sushi, sandwiches, and they would later bring out small desserts. Usually more chocolate. Yum!
    • Priority Elevator – MSC allows Yacht Club guests to use their key card to make the elevator a private access elevator that will be called directly to the floor where the card was used. We used this feature time and time again and it was so nice to have direct access to floors, instead of stopping on every floor as you go. (we are aware of such perks in the Haven but it is not talked about. We have used this feature twice on the Epic. However, we were instructed on how to call the priority elevator from our butler on MSC)
    • Afternoon Tea – I didn’t know I liked afternoon tea until we experienced it. It was such a lovely thing to do on a ship. Tea was served at 4pm in the Top Sail Lounge. A butler would come over, offer you a nice selection of teas, you chose your tea and then he/she would proceed with the service. We were also served an arrangement of awesome snacks and pastries with our tea. It was truly delightful and something that I recommend everyone try if available.
  • The Haven:
    • Priority Seating in Theater –  this is a great perk on NCL and one that I wish MSC would adopt. It is really nice to know that you have a dedicated area in the theater that you don’t have to wait in line for. I like how the seats are opened to everyone at the 5 minute mark and I think this could easily be implemented on MSC. Waiting for the shows was the only thing that really made me feel like I was not in a suite level room. I am not above waiting in line for anything but I do not like when I arrive 35 minutes before the show begins, stand in line and then get pushed out of line 5 minutes before the doors open by someone who is impatient and feels like they don’t have to wait.
    • Private Concierge – the Haven concierge is a totally personal experience. The concierge knows your name, your schedule, if it’s your birthday, etc. These are important things and a very nice amenity on NCL. The concierge on MSC is like the front desk of a hotel. They are always eager to help with any information or anything you need, but they do not know who you are. It is a far less personal experience.

Service – (Yacht Club Wins):

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We absolutely love the crew on NCL and we have made many, many lifelong friends but the service in the Yacht Club was top notch. The servers were always attentive and you were always being asked if there was anything more that you needed. We never had to wait for a drink, food, snack or any cabin related items. It was truly a first class experience. This service is hard to put into words. I guess it was a feeling that we were important and our vacation mattered. Service in the Haven is a little different. We have always received great service but after experiencing MSC, I can now say that service felt a little forced in the Haven comparatively speaking. More like “this is what I have to do” versus “what I want to do for you”.

Service is one of those areas that is not really quantifiable. It is hard because every week can be a totally different experience based on the mood of the crew. Maybe they are having an off week or maybe something happened at home. Whatever the reason, the crew cannot be on their A game all the time. We had a great week on the Seaside but I know this could be different with the exact same crew during a different week. Everything just came together perfectly for our Seaside cruise.

Food – (Yacht Club Wins)

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Food is always an interesting topic because it is subjective. What I like, you may not like and vice versa. I want to point out that we are not foodies at all. We like good tasting food but it doesn’t have to be fancy. I just want food that tastes good and is cooked well.

Yacht Club:
Food in the Yacht Club Restaurant was amazing. Breakfast was ok (although I was brought Fruit Loops without ordering. That goes back to the amazing service) in the Yacht Club but lunch and dinner were always wonderful. I especially enjoyed how the dinner menu would change nightly but there was a fixed side to the menu as well. I had always head on NCL people complaining about how the menu never changes. This never bothered me until MSC. It really is nice to have the change but it is also nice to know that there is a fixed menu so I can always have something that I like, even if I don’t like the new menu items. There was also something awesome about being surprised each night for dinner and getting to decide what delectable dish you were going to order (they do have the menus posted by lunch time but I never wanted to read them because I liked the surprise).

Talking about the food I loved the most – I had the most amazing lobster I have ever had on a cruise ship or even on land. It was cooked to perfection and had the best sides. Sean had an amazing steak that night as well and I saw a bunch of people order them together. Perfect surf and turf!

The Haven:
Food in the Haven is great and it is always great. You never have to worry about will my steak be cooked correctly, will I need to send this back or that back. Nope. NCL is consistently great when it comes to the Haven Restaurant.
Like I just mentioned, I never knew I would like a changing menu until MSC but now I understand the frustration that the menu never changes. One thing that hands down NCL does better – Breakfast!! The best eggs, bacon, breads, etc. NCL does breakfast right!

Disembarkation – (Yacht Club Wins)

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Disembarkation is probably the biggest reason we like to sail at the suite level. There have been more times than we can count where we have been included or have seen some kind of violence while guests are waiting to disembark the ship, standing in the walk off line. Shoo, there is nothing worse than having your vacation ruined by some idiot who is mad at the world and thinks they deserve to get off the ship before everyone else. Priority disembarkation solves all of this. You get to wake up in the morning, leisurely have breakfast and then casually walk off the ship. Both NCL and MSC have great disembarkations but MSC is a little more personal.

Yacht Club:
On the last day of our cruise, we walked out to the concierge area (the front desk) and the concierge called our butler. Our butler and room steward took our luggage (we did walk off) and escorted us to the gangway to leave the ship. That’s right. We had a personal walk off from our butler and room steward. It was amazing. They walked us right past the walk off line and we were out the door just like that. It was a nice way to say a final goodbye to these 2 people that took such great care of us all week.

The Haven:
Disembarkation begins by everyone waiting in the concierge, lounge area. Once the order has been given, the concierge walks a group of guests down to the gangway. The concierge uses the crew elevator and escorts you down to the security line. This is where you merge into the big line of guests who are doing non-priority walk off. I always feel a little bad cutting in line in front of these people. There are usually words thrown at us like “must be nice” or “why do they get to cut in front of us? We have been waiting for 2 hours”. These comments make disembarkation a little less than enjoyable but you don’t have to deal with it too long and you are off the ship.

Overall Disembarkation:
Overall, I really like the way MSC handles leaving the ship. It is a first class experience and you get to go through security by yourself, while they keep the mass line farther back from the exit. There is no mass merge with the crowd and therefore, no harsh words heard at the end of a great week. I also really liked saying goodbye and hugging our butler and room steward at the gangway. It was just a nice way to end our cruise and had me walking away with a smile.

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Overall Feelings

We love both NCL and MSC. We have a lot of history on NCL (16 sailings to date) but MSC has opened our eyes to some things that we absolutely love but didn’t know we loved until this cruise. We always like to compare our experiences to other things in life for reference. Overall I would compare the service on the Seaside to be first class and I would compare the Haven to be business class. Both will give you an amazing experience and provide you a great vacation but MSC does the “hotel in a hotel” experience a little bit better than NCL. We love both cruise lines and I cannot wait for our next Haven and Yacht Club cruises!

Stefanie Mullen is a Travel Filmmaker, Vlogger, Artist, Brand Ambassador and the CFO & Customer Service ninja of Rampant Design, Inc. She is a talented painter and former Walt Disney World parade performer. Stef is married to the AMAZING Sean IRL.

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