Updated February 25, 2019
MSC Cruises set the bar high with its Meraviglia class of ships in 2017 -- the biggest ship built in Europe for the European market, with a wealth of stand-out features including a stunning kids club, the biggest MSC Yacht Club, an 80m-long LED ceiling atop a huge indoor promenade and a number of stand-out restaurants (MSC Meraviglia won ship of the year in the Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards in 2017).
Then, just six months later, the line launched a second class of ship, MSC Seaside, which was followed by a sister, MSC Seaview, in mid-2018. Then in March 2019, a second Meraviglia class of ship -- MSC Bellissima -- launched.
Both classes are classified as megaships (4,435 vs 4,132 passengers), and do contain some of the same features. For example, the signature MSC Swarovski crystal staircases in the main atrium such as restaurants, shared celebrity chefs and the popular MSC Yacht Club (though these are completely different in layout on both classes).
But that is largely where the similarity ends with both classes bearing radically different designs, styles and layout. MSC Cruises describes Meraviglia as "the ship for all seasons," while Seaside (and Seaview) is "the ship that follows the sun" -- and therein lies the key differences. While Meraviglia looks in, with a dazzling inside central promenade, Seaside class looks out with an outdoor walkway with shops, restaurants and bars.
To help you decide which class is right for you, we compare and contrast to help you choose which MSC Cruises ship class is for you: Meraviglia or Seaside.
The Meraviglia Class comprises MSC Meraviglia and MSC Bellissima, with two "Meraviglia-plus" class ships on the way: MSC Grandiosa, launching towards the end of 2019/early 2020; and MSC Virtuosa, launching in September 2020. Though these will be significantly bigger, they will contain the same basic layout, featuring a long indoor promenade.
The Seaside Class has just two ships: MSC Seaside and MSC Seaview, with two more enhanced versions on order -- MSC Seashore in 2021, part of the line's "Seaside-Evo" class; and an as-yet-unnamed sister the following year.
Meraviglia class is larger than Seaside class: 4,475 at double occupancy compared to Seaside's 4,134. And as for the passenger-to-crew ratio? Despite Meraviglia's larger size and higher passenger capacity, they offer identical ratios of 2.9 passengers for every one crew member.
As for the ships on order, Meraviglia plus will carry a maximum of 6,297 passengers; while Seaside Evo class will carry a maximum of 5,632 passengers and will feature 200 more cabins than the first two Seaside-class ships.
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Meraviglia class has 14 dining venues; Seaside class has nine. Six on Meraviglia class are included in the cruise price, four are included on Seaside class. Dining venues without a surcharge on both ships include two main dining rooms on Seaside class -- four on Meraviglia and Bellissima; two buffets on Seaside and Seaside and one on Meraviglia class; and several quick-bite, order-at-the-counter spots on both ships.
All the ships offer traditional, set-seating main dining rooms (with early and late dining times), as well as a flexible option that allows passengers to choose when they want to eat.
Suite passengers on both ships have extra dining perks: a suites-only restaurant called the Yacht Club Dining Room, as well as casual Solarium Grill. Both restaurants are in lovely spots at the top of their respective ships and offer lunch and dinner with a menu that changes daily.
There are also buffets on both ships: Marketplace Buffet on both classes; and on Seaside and Seaview, the Deck 16 family-friendly buffet.
All other included-in-price eateries on both ships are casual spots, where you order food at the counter (or browse buffet-style) and either take the food to go (like at Atmosphere Bar South on Meraviglia and Bellissima), or sit at tables inside the venue or located nearby.There is, in addition, a dining room in the Yacht Club on both ships -- but note, this is for Yacht Club passengers only.
When it comes to restaurants that carry an extra charge, Meraviglia class has five a la carte restaurants, and one with a cover charge (not a restaurant, but Chef's Table). Two made their debut on Meraviglia: Butcher's Cut, an American-style steakhouse offering prime cuts of steak, lamb and even buffalo. And Kaito Teppanyaki, which is a 32-seat venue with a sushi bar out front. Bellissima sees the debut of Hola! -- a tapas bar by Michelin-starred Spanish chef, Ramon Freixa.
On Seaside and Seaview you'll find Asian Market Kitchen by Roy Yamaguchi, with a sushi bar and Teppanyaki by Roy Yamaguchi, which is similar to Kaito Teppanyaki, but with the famous name attached; Ocean Cay Restaurant, which has Freixa's name attached to it and Bistrot-La Boheme. There is also a Butcher's Cut onboard both ships.
The other for-fee spots carry small charges -- on Meraviglia and Bellissima snacks in the Brass Anchor pub and crepes at the Jean-Philippe (Maury, a French chocolatier) Creperie; on Seaside and Seaview, it's the Venchi Cioccogelateria & Coffee Bar, created in partnership with chocolatier Venchi, which features an open kitchen so cruisers can watch confections being made (as they also can on Meraviglia and Bellissima).
Meraviglia class has 17 drinking establishments, Seaside class 20. The bars on Meraviglia and Bellissima are hopping at night with live music in many of the venues, promenade parties and salsa dancing in the many lounges.
Highlights on Seaside class are the the Atmospheric Comedy Club. Other bars to check out will include the Champagne Bar, Sports Bar and South Beach Bar.
Meraviglia class has a fancy Champagne bar, a Sports Bar and a Cocktail Bar, plus Brass Anchor, a "traditional" English pub with 45 different bottled beers; and a sophisticated lounge bar with live music, Sky Lounge.
Both classes share basic cabin types -- standard inside (no window), ocean-view (porthole or window views) and balcony cabins. Both classes also have Family cluster cabins that are made up of two to three connecting cabins. Depending on configuration, these cabins can accommodate up to 10 people.
Meraviglia debuted a number of cabin firsts for the line, including Duplex Suites, which are double-height, with a living room on the lower level and the sleeping area above; as well as 15 inside studio cabins. Seaside class has neither of these types.
Worth noting, that Bellissima debuts a first-at-sea -- a voice enabled, artificial intelligence digital cruise "assistant" called Zoe, which will be placed in every cabin and is pre-programmed to answer 800 cruise-related questions. The device will be rolled out to all subsequent new builds.
Meraviglia debuted the biggest Yacht Club -- the line's suites-only, key-card access "ship-within-a-ship" complex -- in the fleet, boasting 94 cabins across five decks, and including a restaurant, lounge bar and sundeck; Bellissima's is the same. Seaside and Seaview also have a Yacht Club, but it's not as big and is in a different layout. [Perks](/articles.cfm?ID=2490) are extensive.
The Yacht Club is where the majority of suites are located, including the "standard" Yacht Club Deluxe Suites (301 square feet on Meraviglia class; 270-square-feet on Seaside class).
Both ships also boast two Royal Suites apiece. These top suites come in at a hefty 699 square feet and include a bedroom, walk-in wardrobe, a bathroom with tub and a living room. The configuration is different on each ship; on Meraviglia the bedroom has its own separate balcony; on Seaside both the bedroom and the living room lead out onto a 430-square-foot balcony with a dining area and a whirlpool tub.
Activities and Outdoor Fun
There is no shortage of fun on both of these mega-ships, whether that's indoor or outdoor, adult- or kid-oriented. There's always a party going on, on Meraviglia and Bellissima it's usually on the Pool Deck. By day it's pool games, trivia and various water sports tournaments to the accompaniment of very loud music; by night it's the White Party and an open-air themed disco.
On Seaside and Seaview, it's all about the outdoors with an alfresco spa and outdoor fitness facilities, which include spaces for open-air spa treatments. The ships also offer the longest (426-foot/130-meter) zipline at sea.
Both ship classes boast water slides -- on Meraviglia and Bellissima you've got the Polar Aqua Park, which includes a kids' splash area and three slides; on Seaside class you can expect The Forest Aquaventure and Adventure Park, which includes five water slides.
Other water park offerings include an AquaPlay and AquaSpray park for the youngest cruisers. Along with the water park, passengers can climb high on the Adventure Trail, a ropes course that will have cruisers ducking spray cannons. Both have multiple pools: four on both. On Meraviglia class, the Bamboo Pool has a retractable roof; on Seaside class a magrodome roof covers the Jungle Pool on Deck 18. Both also share a Horizon pool at the aft of the ship; Seaside also has a hip South Beach Pool on Deck 7 and the Miami Beach Pool on Deck 16.
Both also have a basketball court that can convert into a volleyball court or occasional soccer pitch. Both classes have an Amusement Arcade, which includes a flight simulator, Formula One simulators and a 4D movie theatre.
Where the ships differ significantly is design. On Seaside class, the outdoor theme means there is a seafront promenade lined with places to drink, shop and sunbathe on Deck 8.
Meraviglia class has an indoor promenade, lined with shops, bars and restaurants, and which turns into a spot for parades and parties at night. An 80-meter-long LED ceiling projects stunning images day and night (this will be 110 metres on the Meraviglia-plus ships).
Day and Nightime Entertainment
The big ticket shows for Meraviglia come from Cirque du Soleil, which has created four new productions exclusively for the ship (and will be rolling out more on future ships). Sonor and Viaggio are classic Cirque -- extraordinary acrobatics, wonderful visuals, booming sound and fairly plot light. Meraviglia also offers a number of more "standard" revue-type shows in the main theater.
Seaside meanwhile has shows which feature Cirque-style color and acrobatics, fine singers and entertainers. The hard-working troupe put on three (yes three) shows a night to cater for three meal times; these might include a musical tribute, a French revue-style show (think Moulin Rouge) or an Italian-themed musical show. Additionally, there is late-night adult comedy and opera.
Children's and Teen Programming
Both score very high marks for their kid offerings, with a dedicated space at the top of the ship: the Doremi Club. Both ships also have dedicated rooms for specific age groups; Meraviglia and Bellissima even have a couple of extra rooms: a science lab and a family/performance room.
They also cater well for babies; MSC has partnerships with both Chicco (an Italian babywear specialist), and LEGO, which means all the kids' rooms are LEGO-themed. All ships also have a teen hangout room, the Teen Club.
The big difference on Seaside and Seashore is there is direct access to the Aquapark, whereas on Meraviglia class it is on the deck directly above.
Meraviglia is US-based, specifically New York for the start of 2019, before heading to Miami for the 2019/2020 winter season. MSC Seaside is Miami-based year-round, offering Caribbean cruises. MSC Seaview divides its time between Brazil and the Mediterranean and Bellissima is spending its first summer in the Med before heading to the Gulf for 2019/2020.
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