MSC Bella Vs Fantastica Vs Aurea: Which To Choose? (2022)

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When you book a cruise with MSC Cruises, as well as deciding all the usual things such as which is the best ship, which cabin type to go for and whether to buy the drinks package, you’ll have an extra decision to make…

MSC Cruises offers three different ‘experiences’ which are named Bella, Fantastica and Aurea. Each has different benefits and a different price, so you can decide whether you want a budget-friendly cruise, or to pay a little more for lots of added extras.

If you’re trying to decide whether to go for the Bella experience, the Fantastica Experience or the Aurea experience for your next cruise, read on and I’ll help you to make the right decision based on your preferences…

My Family on MSC Virtuosa
We upgraded from Bella to Fantastica

Please note that MSC Cruises has changed what’s included in the Bella, Fantastica and Aurea packages for 2022 onwards. I’ve updated this guide with the latest info, but some of the info you may find from other sources may not be up to date.

MSC Bella Experience

What is the MSC Bella experience?

MSC Cruises’ Bella experience is the standard cruise package with no extra cost. You’ll get everything that you would expect on a cruise – accommodation, meals, entertainment and use of the kids’ clubs and leisure facilities.

What’s included in the Bella experience?

MSC Cruises’ Bella experience includes the following…

Accommodation

With the Bella experience, you’ll only be able to choose only from cabins in the less-desirable areas of the ship such as right at the front, right at the back or somewhere noisy like right above the nightclub.

If you choose a Bella balcony cabin, it may have a metal rail rather than glass, which means that you would have to stand up to enjoy the view. Bella balcony cabins sometimes have obstructed views or they may be in locations that are prone to being windy or shaded.

As you can see from the following photo, the Bella balconies have metal fronts, so if you have kids aged about six or under, they won’t be able to see out. This could make it more tempting for them to climb on furniture, so I’d avoid these balconies with young kids.

That said, not all Bella cabins are bad, some of them are actually just as good as Fantastica cabins. So check the deck plan before you decide.

If you want to change your Bella stateroom or your booking, you’ll be charged an admin fee.

Suggested read: How To Upgrade Your Cruise Cabin After Purchase

Food and drink

With MSC Cruises’ Bella experience, you’ll be able to dine in the buffet or one of the main dining rooms at no charge, as well as having the option to eat in the speciality restaurants for an extra fee if you wish.

You can submit a preference for an early or late sitting, but there’s no guarantee that your request will be met as the first choices are given to guests who have booked the Fantastica or Aurea packages.

Activities

With the Bella experience, you’ll be able to use the ship’s pools, gym, sports facilities and see shows in the theatre at no charge. Your children can attend sessions in the kids club each day for no extra cost.

Services

Each cabin (at least on the newer ships) has a voice-enabled digital cruise assistant called ZOE. If you’ve cruised on MSC Cruises before, you’ll know that ZOE jas never actually worked. It either didn’t say anything at all, or if you were lucky enough to get the thing to speak, it would just tell you to ask at guest services no matter your query.

MSC ZOE

Rather than fix the technology, MSC Cruises no longer mentions ZOE as a perk of cruising and has quietly removed references to it from the website.

Loyalty points

Whichever experience you choose, you’ll earn MSC Voyagers Club points which will give you discounts and perks on future cruises.

MSC Virtuosa inside cabin
When I stayed in this inside cabin we had the Bella experience

Which cabin types does the Bella experience apply to?

You can select the Bella experience when you book any Interior, Ocean View or Balcony Cabin. You cannot select the Bella experience if you want to stay in a Suite.

MSC Fantastica Exerience

What is the MSC Fantastica experience?

The Fantastica experience is an upgrade to MSC Cruises’ standard package. For an extra cost, you’ll enjoy a range of perks such as a cabin in a better location, the first choice of dinner sittings and more flexible booking terms.

What’s included in the MSC Fantastica package?

MSC Cruises’ Fantastica experience includes…

Accommodation

When you upgrade to the Fantastica experience, you can choose from cabins in the most desirable areas of the ship, such as in a mid-ship location near the elevators.

The wider choice of accommodation means that you may have the option of a sofa bed for kids, rather than a Pullman bed. You may also be able to find a cabin with an extra-large balcony if you study the deck plan carefully.

Our Fantastica Balcony Room on MSC Virtuosa
Our Fantastica Balcony Room on MSC Virtuosa with sofa bed

If you make the wrong choice with your cabin, you’ll be able to change it for free. If MSC Cruises have to change your cabin number for operational reasons, they will give you an upgrade.

If you wish to change your cruise dates or destination, you’ll be able to do this once for free. However, you’ll need to do it at least one month before departure and the new date must be within three months of the original. You should also note that it doesn’t state that you’re allowed to change the ship, just the date and destination.

Food and drink

In the past, as well as dining in the buffet and main restaurants, if you chose MSC Cruises’ Fantastica experience you could also enjoy breakfast delivered to your cabin at no charge.

The wording on the website has changed from ‘Breakfast in your stateroom (delivery + breakfast free of charge)‘ to ‘Breakfast in stateroom (free delivery)‘.

This seems a little ambiguous – At first, I wasn’t sure if you now have to pay for the breakfast items. I reached out to MSC Cruises for confirmation on this and they said that yes, you do still get breakfast for free with Fantastica.

However, while Fantastica guests were once able to get free delivery on room service throughout the day and just pay for the food items, they now also have to pay a delivery fee of around $4.

If you choose the Fantastica experience and book a Balcony room or a Suite, you’ll have the first pick of dining times. This means that you’re virtually guaranteed to get the early or late sitting that you request.

On MSC Opera, MSC Lirica, MSC Sinfonia and MSC Armonia, Fantastica guests staying in Balcony cabins and Suites can also opt for flexible ‘My Choice’ dining in the dedicated restaurants.

New for 2022, Fantastica guests also get a 20% discount on a dedicated speciality restaurant pre-paid package.

Activities

Just the same as the Bella experience, you’ll be able to use the ship’s pools, gym, sports facilities and see shows in the theatre at no charge. There are no longer any extra activities like cooking classes and foreign language classes for kids staying in Fantastica accommodation.

Services

Last year, a photographer would circle around the main dining room on Mediterranean Night taking photos and you could collect a printed photo for free from the photo counter. This is no longer a perk for Fantastica guests so if you do want any photos, you’ll have to pay for them.

Loyalty points

Whichever experience you choose, you’ll earn MSC Voyagers Club points which will give you discounts and perks on future cruises.

Which cabin types does the Fantastica experience apply to?

You can upgrade to the Fantastica experience when you book any cabin type, including Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite.

What is the difference between Bella and Fantastica?

When you upgrade from Bella to Fantastica you will get:

  • Choice of the best cabin locations
  • Free room service at breakfast time
  • The first choice of dinner sittings (Balcony and Suites only)
  • Opportunity to change your cabin, cruise date or destination for free

MSC Aurea Experience

What is MSC Aurea experience?

The Aurea experience is MSC Cruises’ top package. For an extra cost, you’ll enjoy benefits like access to exclusive areas of the ship, priority boarding and discounted spa treatments. However, MSC Cruises no longer offers free drinks for Aurea guests.

What does the MSC Aurea experience include?

MSC Cruises’ Aurea experience includes…

Accommodation

MSC Cruises’ Aurea experience lets you choose from the same cabins as you’d get in the Fantastica experience and the same booking flexibility. The only accommodation perk that you get is a bathrobe and slippers in your room, plus a pillow menu.

Food and drink

Last year, the main benefit of the Aurea package is that you would get a free Easy drink package. This would entitle you to free draught beer, house wines, selected spirits and cocktails, soft drinks, fruit juices, bottled water and classic hot drinks.

For 2022, MSC Cruises has removed the free drink package perk for Aurea guests. Instead, you’ll get a ‘welcome package’ with prosecco and chocolates in your room on departure day.

Suggested read: MSC Drink Packages Guide

The MSC Aurea experience also gives you the option to enjoy My Choice dining in a dedicated restaurant or area as well as a 20% discount on a prepaid speciality dining package.

Activities

The Aurea experience gives adults access to an exclusive sundeck on your ship. You’ll also get a Wellbeing package which includes access to the Thermal Area of the spa throughout your cruise where you can visit the sauna, steam room and jacuzzi.

From 2022, Aurea guests will no longer receive the free ‘Well Being Package’. This did include a welcome cocktail in the spa, a private MediSpa doctor consultation, a 50-minute massage and a tanning booth session. Instead, you’ll now get a 40% discount on a dedicated spa prepaid package or a 10% discount on any other spa treatments.

Services

Aurea guests get priority boarding on embarkation day. There’s no VIP line at guest services or any other priority treatment during your cruise.

Loyalty points

Whichever experience you choose, you’ll earn MSC Voyagers Club points which will give you discounts and perks on future cruises.

MSC Cruises Aurea spa
The sauna on MSC Seaview
Photo credit: MSC Cruises

Which cabin types does the Aurea experience apply to?

The MSC Aurea experience is only available for guests staying in Balcony cabins or Suites. If you want an Interior or Ocean View cabin, then you will have to choose either a Bella or Fantastica experience.

What is the difference between Fantastica and Aurea?

When you upgrade from Fantastica to Aurea you will get:

  • Welcome prosecco and chocolates
  • Pillow menu
  • Dining in a dedicated restaurant or area at flexible times
  • Access to Thermal Area of the spa and the Top Exclusive Solarium
  • Discounted spa treatments
  • Priority boarding

Which MSC experience is best?

Which MSC experience is best depends on how much value you place on each of the added extras and the cost of the upgrade.

The price to upgrade from Bella to Fantastica or Aurea varies from cruise to cruise and can also change over time. It also depends on the cabin type, so you might find that upgrading to Fantastica could cost £140 extra for an Inside cabin, but only £30 extra for an Ocean View cabin, as an example.

The price of upgraded experiences is payable per person, but it usually only applies to the adults in your cabin.

Are the Fantastica or Aurea experiences worth it?

On a seven-night cruise, let’s say that the Fantastica experience costs £50 per person extra and the Aurea experience costs around £100 per person extra (the actual prices may be different on your cruise)

So, you would need to look at the perks and decide if they are worth it for you…

MSC Fantastica perks:

  • Choice of the best cabin locations
  • Free room service at breakfast
  • The first choice of dinner sittings (Balcony and Suites only)
  • 20% discount on a prepaid speciality dining package
  • Flexibility to change your room, cruise date or destination

MSC Aurea perks:

  • All of the Fantastica perks
  • Welcome prosecco and chocolates
  • Pillow menu
  • Dining in a special area with flexible times
  • Access to Thermal Area of the spa and Top Exclusive Solarium
  • Disocunted spa treatments
  • Priority boarding

MSC Cruises perks that you can no longer get in 2022

  • Free drink package for Aurea guests
  • Free massage, tanning booth and cocktail for Aurea guests
  • Free delivery of room service outside of breakfast time
  • Extra activities for kids
  • ZOE virtual assistant
  • Free photo

As MSC Cruises has considerably reduced the perks for 2022 and beyond, you should think carefully before upgrading from Bella to Fantastica or Aurea.

When to upgrade to Fantastica

The Fantastica package can be worth it…

1. If you’re not happy with the choice of Bella cabins

Take a look at the cabins you’re offered with Bella. If you don’t like any of them, you should probably consider upgrading to Fantastica for more choice.

2. If your dining time is important

On MSC Cruises, the second dinner sitting usually starts at around 8.30 pm, meaning that your meal is unlikely to be finished until well after 10 pm, possibly as late as 11 pm. If you’re cruising with kids, you’re unlikely to find this to be acceptable.

While you can speak to the maître d on the first evening and request an earlier dining time, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to do this for you, even if you have young kids.

When to upgrade to Aurea

The Aurea package can be worth it…

1. If you hate fighting for sunloungers

On some MSC Cruises ships, you’ll find that other guests reserve sun loungers with towels all day. Which means that there aren’t enough loungers for everyone else. If you have access to the exclusive sun deck for Aurea guests, this should be less of an issue.

It’s important to note though, that kids aren’t allowed in the spa or the private sundeck. If you have kids with you, you’ll only be able to use these areas when your little ones are in the kids’ club. You need to be child-free to really make the most of the Aurea experience.

2. If you like to dine at different times each day

One day you might like to dine at 6 pm right after your excursion, another you might like to lay in the sun until 8 pm, get ready for an hour and then eat at 9p m. The Aurea package allows you to do this with the flexible dining option.

Don’t Overpay For Your MSC Cruise!

Here’s how I get the lowest price when I book a cruise…

1. Compare prices from every travel agent in one place.

2. Choose a trusted travel agent with a best price guarantee.

Please don’t book with any old company just because they have a cheap deal. I recommend that you find the best price and then take it to a trusted travel agent who will beat it, as well as giving you the best service.

To conclude

If you’re cruising on a budget, the Bella experience will be the best one for you. However, depending on your circumstances and the cost, it might be worth upgrading to Fantastica or Aurea.

If you’ve not cruised with MSC Cruises before, I’d recommend that you read my next article ‘Why Are MSC Cruises So Cheap?‘ to get an understanding of how MSC Cruises compares to other, more expensive cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and P&O Cruises.

If you want special treatment on your cruise above and beyond what you get from Aurea, I recommend that you look into the MSC Yacht Club instead.

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8 thoughts on “MSC Bella Vs Fantastica Vs Aurea: Which To Choose? (2022)”

  1. I’m thinking about upgrading to Aurea but my daughter will be 15. Is she allowed to use the private sundeck? If not Aurea isn’t right for us.

    • Hi Gar. The Top 18 subdeck is adults only, so yes, Aurea isn’t worth it for you. Jenni

  2. No matter what experience you choose, you’ll have a wonderful time . Staff is wonderful and the ship is absolutely gorgeous.

  3. Ok so if u booked last year & auria pkg included easy drinks, massage etc, was that grandfathered in ? I will be livid if they’ve taken it away from the booking that I paid for last year.
    Are the changes to the packages effective for
    BOOKINGS after January 1/2022

    • Good question! Definitely, worth checking with MSC on that one, I would hope so.

    • They should accommodate that. I book a super family balcony and they no longer offer those as of this year, but they are still giving it to me because that is what I originally booked last year.

  4. At last someone is talking honestly. Thanks!

  5. Fantastic information spoken by a real person – thanks (ex travel consutant)

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