Booking with MSC cruises was different than booking with other cruise lines. Guests customize their cruise experience by selecting from several experiences. The experience based pricing structure allows guests to personalize their cruise based on their unique needs and wants. We purchased the MSC Aurea Experience during our recent sailing on the MSC Magnifica. Since we weren’t entirely sure what to expect with the experience, we’ve created this article to help you understand what’s included and to help you determine if it’s worth the cost.
As I mentioned in my MSC Cruise Travel Secrets article, each experience provides different benefits and also dictates which staterooms are available for booking.
- The “Bella” Experience is perfect for budget savvy travelers.
- The “Fantastica” Experience offers more ideally located staterooms, free room service, and the Fantastica Drink Package.
- The “Aurea” Experience offers premium balcony stateroom or suite, free UNLIMITED drinks & more. Read more on the Aurea experience coming soon.
- The MSC Yacht Club offers all-inclusive amenities and is the top tier experience for cruisers.
- The “Wellness” Experience is a new service dedicated to health and fitness.
MSC Aurea Experience
Preference of staterooms was one of the greatest concerns of the package for my family. Guests will have the opportunity to choose amongst the best staterooms available.
Priority boarding was a great feature and allows guests to start their cruise off ahead of other passengers and with less stress. The MSC Aurea Experience enables cruisers to go to the front of the line and board before other waiting passengers. We arrived around 12:30 pm for our cruise sailing out of Genoa, Italy. The people that came in at the same time as us were given a boarding card with #19. When we jumped the line and were going through security, those with #15 cards were just being called.
However, it was difficult to know where to go with our Priority Boarding card. There wasn’t a separate line for priority. There was a sign but only one person was working in the area & it wasn’t clear where we were supposed to go. Do we wait in the line to pick up paperwork or walk to the front? We waited but were then ushered into a roped off line with only one other couple in front of us. We avoided the line with 30+ people waiting! We were then next to have our boarding documents and passports verified.
By the time our documents were checked, a long line had already formed at security. Again, we weren’t really sure what to do. Derrick walked to the front and realized all the people were standing around waiting for their card number to be displayed. We walked up with our Priority Boarding card and were allowed immediate access through security and onto the ship. The entire process from arrival to boarding was approximately 30 minutes.
Although the boarding process was easy for us, I could see where it would be unorganized and chaotic as more cruisers arrived at the port.
Priority Disembarkation was also included although it wasn’t mentioned in the cruise documents. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of being the first one off the ship, it was nice not to have to wait around. MSC Voyagers Black Card Members and Aurea Experience guests were the first to disembark. However, I preferred the benefit of NCL’s priority disembarkation where we could show up anytime between set hours and be escorted off the ship.
Allegrissimo Drink Package is an unlimited drink packages which included specialty coffee, bottled water (still or sparkling), wine, beer, cocktails, soft drinks and gelato. The package is valid for non-premium alcohol only. The cost without the MSC Aurea Experience was 26€ per day for adults or 12€ per day for children.
It was a bit disappointing to have a mid-level drink package with the Aurea Experience. There was only one beer choice (Heineken) and low grade wine choices.
Since Heineken was the same price as several other beers, it was ridiculous to only have one included in the package. Also the wine selection wasn’t great. There were only 2 whites, 2 reds and 1 rosé. Even though other glasses are the same price. Though, thankfully, more wine choices were included than beer.
The package does include a variety of cocktails just not with premium liquor.
The kids loved the package. Even though they don’t drink a lot of soda, having the treats of gelato, milkshakes, smoothies and kids cocktails made them happy. However at 12€ per day, I’m not sure it’s worth it. As kids cocktails and milkshakes are 4.20€ each, they needed to consume at least 3 treats per day to break even.
Sundaes aren’t included, but the kids didn’t miss them with all the gelato, milkshakes and slushes at their disposal.
For those whose experience didn’t include the drink package but wanted it as an add-on, I think it would be a little irritating to discover that everyone in the stateroom has to purchase the package. Had we gone that route, Derrick and I wouldn’t have been able to get a drink package and not have the kids get a package. Or vice versa. Without the Aurea Experience, it would have been a huge added cost to the price of the cruise.
Tip – Ensure you bring extra paperwork to prove you purchased the Aurea Experience. Cruise cards are placed in the stateroom, so they aren’t available until after 2pm.
My Choice Dining was a nice bonus as we never knew exactly when we would want eat. For the first couple of days, I made reservations in advance, so we didn’t have to wait but we did find that 6:30 was a good time to get a table. The popular settings were after 7pm. Tables for My Choice Dining were reserved in a dedicated part of the restaurant.
Wellbeing Package included one massage from the spa menu, tanning shower, spa welcome cocktail (strawberry smoothie) and access to the thermal area throughout the duration of the cruise. The thermal area includes full access to the sauna, Turkish baths and 3 whirlpools in the Aurea Spa.
We chose the couples massage, but guests can pick their preferred massage from the spa menu. There were a few specialty massages not included with the package, but most were available for booking.
Access to the thermal area was a great bonus. This is the first cruise we’ve used saunas and found it a great way to relax. Plus the area wasn’t crowded, so we were able to use the whirlpools without the crowds.
Free Room Service between 6 am – 11pm. This is perfect for having breakfast delivered to your room.
Free kids foreign language and master chef class was subject to availability. However, the kids cooking class that was offered during our cruise was available to everyone in the Kids Club, according to Lucy. So while I thought this would be a great feature, it’s not something necessarily exclusive for Aurea Experience guests.
- 50% discount on fitness classes and personal training.
- Med by MSC 100 ml Room Diffuser.
- Bathrobe and slippers to use during the cruise.
- Access to exclusive sun deck on select ships. Not available on the MSC Magnifica cruise ship.
Compare the experiences here.
So, why did we choose the MSC Aurea Experience? During our cruise, there were two embarkation ports – Genoa and Civitavecchia, Italy. Remaining staterooms available for booking were not only limited by the embarkation port, but to the experience purchased as well. If we cruised out of Genoa, I needed the Aurea Experience t0 get my desired room. If I sailed out of Civitavecchia, I didn’t need the Aurea Experience to get one of my choice rooms.
However, once we calculated the cost of flying into Rome, transportation to the port, an overnight stay, and the approximate cost of alcohol, we were almost to the cost of purchasing the Aurea Experience and sailing out of Genoa, so this is the one we chose. Since massages and a few other perks were also included, the cost made sense for our family.
While I wouldn’t pay for most of the benefits of the Area Experience on a normal cruise, it was worth the cost as a package in our situation. Calculate the rates and benefits to determine which experience is best for you.
I hope this has helped clear up any questions on the MSC Aurea Experience. If you’ve sailed with MSC, which experience did you purchase?
Don’t miss our MSC Cruise Travel Secrets! We have over 20 tips & tricks for sailing with MSC.