It is not the first line to offer a golf-focussed itinerary: Costa Cruises is the official cruise line of the 2023 Ryder Cup and will launch a ‘Cruise & Golf’ programme in May.
‘French passengers rank first worldwide for our “ship within a ship” concept,’ explained Patrick Pourbaix, Paris-based MSC Cruises general manager for France, Belgium and Luxembourg. ‘Even if our cruises are also meant for various types of people – for families – our Yacht Club represents an art of living, a French style service, a kind of luxury corresponding in some way to a cruise imagination which still exists in this country. It is probably a reason for its success here.’
According to Pourbaix, the French source market is especially receptive to the cost savings which the MSC Yacht Club offers, ‘French passengers – and not only them – are also responsive to assets such as an unbeatable price-quality ratio for this all-inclusive experience, which is fully personalised with 24 hour butler service, a dedicated concierge, several private decks at the front of the ship, an exclusive fine-dining restaurant, suite-grade cabins, dedicated privileges etc.,’ he said. ‘Keeping very reasonable prices for such a unique offering is something we achieve because of an economy of scale – it is a small space within a large ship. And Yacht Club passengers appreciate enjoying this luxurious escape while accessing all of the amenities, entertainment and atmosphere of our ships.’
MSC Virtuosa’s week long golf-themed cruise paired with an MSC Yacht Club stay will operate March 5-12, offering passengers the chance to visit Dubai’s Jumeirah Golf Estates Club designed by Greg Norman, Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Beach Golf Club designed by Gary Player, Education City Golf Club in Doha, which was imagined by José-Maria Olazabal and Emirates Golf Club in Dubai which was redesigned by Nick Faldo. The sailing is intended for a maximum of 30 passengers only.
‘We had started in 2019 to organise themed Yacht Club cruises…with some French partners. The COVID-19 crisis stopped everything,’ Pourbaix states. ‘We decided to renew this type of event: for example, from Dubai it was done with a French chef who worked for a week with our kitchen brigade.’
This March’s golf cruise is in partnership with Golfy, a French company with a wide international network of clubs who MSC Cruises has been working with for some six years. But, even if the long days in port combined with late departures – planned in the Med, in the Caribbean and Dubai – would fit the sport, the overall concept was in need of finesse. ‘The product we offered until now was not fully satisfactory, as it missed a more refined personalisation,’ notes Pourbaix. ‘As a long-time golf player, I know that golfers don’t like crowds, prefer to stay a bit apart, like to keep their clubs in their cabin. But they are not all big spenders. A Yacht Club stay was obvious, as it offered the quality-price ratio they looked for.’
More on the way?
‘...another one is to be launched soon in the Med,’ Pourbaix adds. ‘We are also working on other themes for this product.’ And if the idea was conceived in France, it has since made its way to MSC headquarters, 'There is not yet an international distribution channel for it, but if other Yacht Club passengers want to participate, it is not a problem. This MSC product is something we want to develop with other markets in the future. It’s a work in progress!’
MSC Yacht Club
MSC Yacht Club launched on MSC Fantasia in 2008 and is now available on 11 of MSC Cruises’ vessels, representing over 1,000 cabins for a total of 2, 260 passengers each week. For Patrick Pourbaix, ‘It is just like a small cruise company.’
Spread over four decks, the most spacious Yacht Club to date is on MSC Seashore, which has 130 suites and almost 3 000 sq m of outdoor space. It will also feature on board MSC World Europa – launching next year, it is the first LNG-powered vessel of the MSC World Class of ships and the largest of the fleet.