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Background: We are a family of four from Orlando, mid-30’s and our two boys (9 and 6). We are frequent cruisers (this was number 7 for the kids, 20+ for each of us, spread across 6 different lines). We were on the inaugural Seaside Caribbean sailing 12/23/2017, and while we enjoyed it, found many shortcomings on that sailing. What we learned from that experience was that we would not be happy on MSC in anything lower than Aurea, and for this sailing we went with one of the Aurea Whirlpool Suites. There are a few reasons for minimum Aurea cabin for us… 1) My time dining. We hate to be locked into a dining time. Having the flexibility is a must for us. Lots of the complaints people have in the dining rooms on the Seaside are about feeling rushed or being assigned to a time that doesn’t work for them. For us, 5:15 is way too early, and 7:30 is way too late. Being in the Aurea dining section, there was no rushed feeling at all, the servers took the time to get to know us, we actually got bar drinks from the servers without an issue, and it was overall a great experience. 2) Cabin size/storage. Living in Florida, we are serial over-packers because we never have to fly to the ship. Unless we have 2 cabins, it has to be a larger room for all 4 of us to be comfortable and have space for everything. 3) Priority Check-in/Embarkation. This is an amazing perk for Black Card, Aurea, and Yacht Club. So easy to get on the ship, so quick and painless. The Cabin The whirlpool suite (12007) was a great room. The only thing that could have made it better would be if it had a separate bedroom (think Grand Suite with a whirlpool). The size was great, the walk-in closet was amazing, and the bathroom, while still small, had enough space to move. The half shower door was awkward, but by pointing the water straight down instead of into the middle of the shower we did not flood the bathroom at all. The whirlpool itself was great in that it was more like a jetted bathtub, which was filled and emptied each time it was used. The water was clean and not ridiculously chlorinated like the ones on deck, and we could make it as hot as we wanted. Fair warning, there is NO privacy in the whirlpools. Facing the front of the ship, the bridge has a direct view into your tub, as do many cabins further forward. Our cabin steward was amazing. Our room was serviced twice a day without fail, and having had the old deluxe package, our minibar was kept fully restocked twice every day. We told him the first day the items we wanted to keep coming, and he delivered them twice a day. We spent quite a bit of time back and forth to the cabin, and he always managed to find time to get it done in between. The Entertainment First, let me say that MSC made a great hire with Gene Young as the cruise director. Gene was brought onto the Seaside after many years with Holland America, with the specific purpose of bringing an American perspective to the ship. He is there on a 5 year contract, 4 months on and 4 weeks off. The shows and activities we attended were much more Americanized than we had last year. A lot of the opera was eliminated, and Butterfly was moved to be a matinee show instead of a nighttime feature. The shows were entertaining, and the specialty artists were great. The 30 minute shows are a perfect length to keep your interest and not get boring. The shows did fill up for every show time every night (Granted this was Thanksgiving week and the ship was completely maxed out with over 1,100 kids on board), but we never had trouble getting a seat. We booked all 7 shows as soon as we got on board. We really liked the show the second night (I think it was called My Life in Music, it was a bunch of recent songs), and our kids were in love with Peter Punk. According to Gene, the Michael Jackson show is coming back in February. I was thrilled that the sports bar received both of the UCF football games during that week as well. With the two sports channels they receive (ESPN Caribbean 1 and ESPN Caribbean 2), it is a toss-up whether you see football or cricket at any given time. The sports bar had a great atmosphere during the games, almost to the point of being in your neighborhood bar back home. This feeling applied to the NFL games as well. Kids Club Our kids really enjoyed the kids club this trip. They made friends, and actually asked to go quite a bit, which lately is rare for them. They liked the video games, the carnival, the parades, and the arts and crafts activities. The staff was great in the kids club, with one of the counselors actually remembering our kids from last December. As soon as we walked in to register, she remembered them. We did not find the hours to be that bad, with the typical mid-afternoon closing on sea days and open all day on port days. This is something you find on every cruise line, and is not unique to MSC. They do not provide phones for contact, and will not try to find you unless there is an emergency. That helps eliminate the kids from pulling the “I don’t want to be here routine” and gets them involved in the activities because there is no easy out. The Food Very subjective, and I only speak for myself and the group I sailed with in this review. We happen to enjoy the food on MSC. The smaller portions don’t bother us, as I like to order two entrees or an entrée and pasta dish a lot of times. The food itself we found to be tasty, save for a couple of dishes that just didn’t do it for us. The kids ate off of the adult menu every night and loved it. They will always bring you a second serving, an extra side, etc. if you need more. The pizza, as usual on MSC, was amazing, especially when it was fresh out of the oven. I don’t know how people say the buffet is the same food every day, unless they don’t walk around to all of the sections. There are different pastas, carved meats, and entrees daily, and while yes, the sliced meats, pizza, sandwiches, etc. are repetitive, that is true on any buffet anywhere, because truthfully, there is not much variety you can really have there. Those who said the ethnic station was tacos every day didn’t see the whole thing, as there were different stir-fry’s every day, as well as different Indian dishes. Is the buffet the best I have ever eaten? No. Do I have any complaints with it compared to other cruise lines? No. Will I enjoy the food on Celebrity in January any more than I did on this ship? Maybe/Maybe not. Completely depends on the menu and my personal taste. But I am also paying more for an oceanview cabin for 2 of us on Celebrity in January than a whirlpool suite for 4 of us over Thanksgiving for this trip. Perspective. The Drinks So if I have one complaint, it is that MSC has now done away with the old deluxe drink package. Luckily, I still have two more cruises booked with it, and they are continuing to honor it until everything booked before November 11th 2018 has sailed. This goes through my Meraviglia sailing in March 2020. The bar service could be slow at times, but with so many bars on board, you could easily just find a different one within 50 steps. I used the atrium bar frequently, and Cayo made some amazing drinks for us down there. We also used the Top 19 bar when out at the pool, and the Miami Beach bar. The other bar up on 19 (I forget the name) where the smoothies are we also spent plenty of time at. We never waited more than 5 minutes for service, and if we saw a lot of people crowded around a bar, we just went to a different one. We had no issues getting everything we expected with the deluxe package, including crepes, milkshakes, gelato, double pours of premium liquors (Grey Goose and Patron Silver are good friends of mine), chocolate martinis, etc etc etc. The Ports We love the western Caribbean itineraries. In Ocho Rios, we used Peat Taylor tours for an excursion to Dunn’s River followed by White River tubing. It was a great time. On the way back, our driver obliged our request to stop for some authentic “Patties”, and took us to a local chain called Juicy’s Patties. They were incredible. In Cozumel, I highly recommend using Cozumel Chef for Mexican cooking classes or local food tours. These days in Cozumel, we just wander around the city eating. We avoid the tourist roads, and go where the locals go. My advice…Bring pesos if you plan to do this. In Costa Maya, we did the MSC excursion to the Lost Mayan Kingdom (waterpark/ziplining). MSC was actually much cheaper than doing it independently. It was a great day, and the kids loved it. There is a 41” or so minimum height on the slides. Beware though, the only food at the park is a buffet that looked like food poisoning in a warmer tray for $25/adult and $15/child. Eat a big breakfast before you go and prepare to not eat until you return to the port area or the ship. Grand Cayman for us was a great day to enjoy the ship. The Ship The ship is beautiful. It was always clean, maintained well, and does not show much aging at all after a year of service. There are a few shortcomings, primarily the lack of AC in the elevators and in the hallways up by kids club, and the tricky navigation in some areas. The slide hours were a bit frustrating at times. Our kids wanted to use them in the mornings before kids club, but they generally did not open before noon. We did not use the zipline, 5D, bowling, or arcade on this sailing, although our son loved the zipline last Christmas. Even with a filled to capacity sailing, the ship generally did not feel overcrowded. We were always able to find deck chairs by the water slides, both sun and shade, and didn’t feel like we were pushing through crowds to get anywhere. We used the casino very little on this trip, kind of rare for us to not spend a lot of time there, but there were a lot of other things to do and knowing we have other cruises coming up soon it wasn’t a priority this trip. The area by the table games was not smoky at all, although the slot side could get a bit stinky at times depending on how many smokers were there. We had a very smooth sailing, probably one of the smoothest we have ever had on a Western Caribbean. Overall We had an amazing cruise. Our friends that were sailing with us who have primarily sailed Disney in the past thought the experience was amazing and had no complaints. I think MSC has turned a corner with the Seaside since last Christmas. The challenge I think they are going to have moving forward is two-fold…One, getting people to try it is difficult when the pre-cruise customer service can be so questionable. They need to have serious agent education classes for their call center staff. Two, the price increases recently, combined with the unfortunate drink package changes, eliminate a lot of the value of sailing on MSC. MSC stood out for the past few years due to their low prices and value of drink packages. While it clearly isn’t sustainable to offer so much for so little as they have been, I think they took away a bit too much in the new packages. I think the Aurea experience is very much devalued by only including the new Easy drink package, as they are running an offer now that includes that same package with Bella and Fantastica. A massage, anytime dining, priority boarding, and thermal area access for $800+ is a hard sell. Also, the removal of the gelato items from the packages makes it a little less exciting. One of the things I notice when dealing with MSC is the lack of autonomy given to MSC USA by the head office in Italy/Switzerland. I know it is a European company cultural thing to maintain control of your US subsidiaries, but I think MSC USA needs to be given a bit more leeway to run their business for the American traveler they say they are trying to cater to. They are doing better on the ship with the new cruise director, but it needs to translate to the corporate offices as well. I get very tired of calling needing to get something done, and the answer being they are waiting on Italy. The lack of communication between Italy and the US also needs to be addressed. The roll-out of these new packages was done terribly, and the price increases are going to drive people away. I am curious if wave season will bring any better promotions or if prices will come down at all during that time, but that remains to be seen.

Amazing Family Cruise - Much Better than the Inaugural!

MSC Seaside Cruise Review by slei15

8 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: November 2018
  • Destination: Western Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Aurea Suite with Whirlpool Tub
Background:

We are a family of four from Orlando, mid-30’s and our two boys (9 and 6). We are frequent cruisers (this was number 7 for the kids, 20+ for each of us, spread across 6 different lines). We were on the inaugural Seaside Caribbean sailing 12/23/2017, and while we enjoyed it, found many shortcomings on that sailing. What we learned from that experience was that we would not be happy on MSC in anything lower than Aurea, and for this sailing we went with one of the Aurea Whirlpool Suites. There are a few reasons for minimum Aurea cabin for us…

1) My time dining. We hate to be locked into a dining time. Having the flexibility is a must for us. Lots of the complaints people have in the dining rooms on the Seaside are about feeling rushed or being assigned to a time that doesn’t work for them. For us, 5:15 is way too early, and 7:30 is way too late. Being in the Aurea dining section, there was no rushed feeling at all, the servers took the time to get to know us, we actually got bar drinks from the servers without an issue, and it was overall a great experience.

2) Cabin size/storage. Living in Florida, we are serial over-packers because we never have to fly to the ship. Unless we have 2 cabins, it has to be a larger room for all 4 of us to be comfortable and have space for everything.

3) Priority Check-in/Embarkation. This is an amazing perk for Black Card, Aurea, and Yacht Club. So easy to get on the ship, so quick and painless.

The Cabin

The whirlpool suite (12007) was a great room. The only thing that could have made it better would be if it had a separate bedroom (think Grand Suite with a whirlpool). The size was great, the walk-in closet was amazing, and the bathroom, while still small, had enough space to move. The half shower door was awkward, but by pointing the water straight down instead of into the middle of the shower we did not flood the bathroom at all. The whirlpool itself was great in that it was more like a jetted bathtub, which was filled and emptied each time it was used. The water was clean and not ridiculously chlorinated like the ones on deck, and we could make it as hot as we wanted. Fair warning, there is NO privacy in the whirlpools. Facing the front of the ship, the bridge has a direct view into your tub, as do many cabins further forward. Our cabin steward was amazing. Our room was serviced twice a day without fail, and having had the old deluxe package, our minibar was kept fully restocked twice every day. We told him the first day the items we wanted to keep coming, and he delivered them twice a day. We spent quite a bit of time back and forth to the cabin, and he always managed to find time to get it done in between.

The Entertainment

First, let me say that MSC made a great hire with Gene Young as the cruise director. Gene was brought onto the Seaside after many years with Holland America, with the specific purpose of bringing an American perspective to the ship. He is there on a 5 year contract, 4 months on and 4 weeks off. The shows and activities we attended were much more Americanized than we had last year. A lot of the opera was eliminated, and Butterfly was moved to be a matinee show instead of a nighttime feature. The shows were entertaining, and the specialty artists were great. The 30 minute shows are a perfect length to keep your interest and not get boring. The shows did fill up for every show time every night (Granted this was Thanksgiving week and the ship was completely maxed out with over 1,100 kids on board), but we never had trouble getting a seat. We booked all 7 shows as soon as we got on board. We really liked the show the second night (I think it was called My Life in Music, it was a bunch of recent songs), and our kids were in love with Peter Punk. According to Gene, the Michael Jackson show is coming back in February. I was thrilled that the sports bar received both of the UCF football games during that week as well. With the two sports channels they receive (ESPN Caribbean 1 and ESPN Caribbean 2), it is a toss-up whether you see football or cricket at any given time. The sports bar had a great atmosphere during the games, almost to the point of being in your neighborhood bar back home. This feeling applied to the NFL games as well.

Kids Club

Our kids really enjoyed the kids club this trip. They made friends, and actually asked to go quite a bit, which lately is rare for them. They liked the video games, the carnival, the parades, and the arts and crafts activities. The staff was great in the kids club, with one of the counselors actually remembering our kids from last December. As soon as we walked in to register, she remembered them. We did not find the hours to be that bad, with the typical mid-afternoon closing on sea days and open all day on port days. This is something you find on every cruise line, and is not unique to MSC. They do not provide phones for contact, and will not try to find you unless there is an emergency. That helps eliminate the kids from pulling the “I don’t want to be here routine” and gets them involved in the activities because there is no easy out.

The Food

Very subjective, and I only speak for myself and the group I sailed with in this review. We happen to enjoy the food on MSC. The smaller portions don’t bother us, as I like to order two entrees or an entrée and pasta dish a lot of times. The food itself we found to be tasty, save for a couple of dishes that just didn’t do it for us. The kids ate off of the adult menu every night and loved it. They will always bring you a second serving, an extra side, etc. if you need more. The pizza, as usual on MSC, was amazing, especially when it was fresh out of the oven. I don’t know how people say the buffet is the same food every day, unless they don’t walk around to all of the sections. There are different pastas, carved meats, and entrees daily, and while yes, the sliced meats, pizza, sandwiches, etc. are repetitive, that is true on any buffet anywhere, because truthfully, there is not much variety you can really have there. Those who said the ethnic station was tacos every day didn’t see the whole thing, as there were different stir-fry’s every day, as well as different Indian dishes. Is the buffet the best I have ever eaten? No. Do I have any complaints with it compared to other cruise lines? No. Will I enjoy the food on Celebrity in January any more than I did on this ship? Maybe/Maybe not. Completely depends on the menu and my personal taste. But I am also paying more for an oceanview cabin for 2 of us on Celebrity in January than a whirlpool suite for 4 of us over Thanksgiving for this trip. Perspective.

The Drinks

So if I have one complaint, it is that MSC has now done away with the old deluxe drink package. Luckily, I still have two more cruises booked with it, and they are continuing to honor it until everything booked before November 11th 2018 has sailed. This goes through my Meraviglia sailing in March 2020. The bar service could be slow at times, but with so many bars on board, you could easily just find a different one within 50 steps. I used the atrium bar frequently, and Cayo made some amazing drinks for us down there. We also used the Top 19 bar when out at the pool, and the Miami Beach bar. The other bar up on 19 (I forget the name) where the smoothies are we also spent plenty of time at. We never waited more than 5 minutes for service, and if we saw a lot of people crowded around a bar, we just went to a different one. We had no issues getting everything we expected with the deluxe package, including crepes, milkshakes, gelato, double pours of premium liquors (Grey Goose and Patron Silver are good friends of mine), chocolate martinis, etc etc etc.

The Ports

We love the western Caribbean itineraries. In Ocho Rios, we used Peat Taylor tours for an excursion to Dunn’s River followed by White River tubing. It was a great time. On the way back, our driver obliged our request to stop for some authentic “Patties”, and took us to a local chain called Juicy’s Patties. They were incredible. In Cozumel, I highly recommend using Cozumel Chef for Mexican cooking classes or local food tours. These days in Cozumel, we just wander around the city eating. We avoid the tourist roads, and go where the locals go. My advice…Bring pesos if you plan to do this. In Costa Maya, we did the MSC excursion to the Lost Mayan Kingdom (waterpark/ziplining). MSC was actually much cheaper than doing it independently. It was a great day, and the kids loved it. There is a 41” or so minimum height on the slides. Beware though, the only food at the park is a buffet that looked like food poisoning in a warmer tray for $25/adult and $15/child. Eat a big breakfast before you go and prepare to not eat until you return to the port area or the ship. Grand Cayman for us was a great day to enjoy the ship.

The Ship

The ship is beautiful. It was always clean, maintained well, and does not show much aging at all after a year of service. There are a few shortcomings, primarily the lack of AC in the elevators and in the hallways up by kids club, and the tricky navigation in some areas. The slide hours were a bit frustrating at times. Our kids wanted to use them in the mornings before kids club, but they generally did not open before noon. We did not use the zipline, 5D, bowling, or arcade on this sailing, although our son loved the zipline last Christmas. Even with a filled to capacity sailing, the ship generally did not feel overcrowded. We were always able to find deck chairs by the water slides, both sun and shade, and didn’t feel like we were pushing through crowds to get anywhere. We used the casino very little on this trip, kind of rare for us to not spend a lot of time there, but there were a lot of other things to do and knowing we have other cruises coming up soon it wasn’t a priority this trip. The area by the table games was not smoky at all, although the slot side could get a bit stinky at times depending on how many smokers were there. We had a very smooth sailing, probably one of the smoothest we have ever had on a Western Caribbean.

Overall

We had an amazing cruise. Our friends that were sailing with us who have primarily sailed Disney in the past thought the experience was amazing and had no complaints. I think MSC has turned a corner with the Seaside since last Christmas. The challenge I think they are going to have moving forward is two-fold…One, getting people to try it is difficult when the pre-cruise customer service can be so questionable. They need to have serious agent education classes for their call center staff. Two, the price increases recently, combined with the unfortunate drink package changes, eliminate a lot of the value of sailing on MSC. MSC stood out for the past few years due to their low prices and value of drink packages. While it clearly isn’t sustainable to offer so much for so little as they have been, I think they took away a bit too much in the new packages. I think the Aurea experience is very much devalued by only including the new Easy drink package, as they are running an offer now that includes that same package with Bella and Fantastica. A massage, anytime dining, priority boarding, and thermal area access for $800+ is a hard sell. Also, the removal of the gelato items from the packages makes it a little less exciting. One of the things I notice when dealing with MSC is the lack of autonomy given to MSC USA by the head office in Italy/Switzerland. I know it is a European company cultural thing to maintain control of your US subsidiaries, but I think MSC USA needs to be given a bit more leeway to run their business for the American traveler they say they are trying to cater to. They are doing better on the ship with the new cruise director, but it needs to translate to the corporate offices as well. I get very tired of calling needing to get something done, and the answer being they are waiting on Italy. The lack of communication between Italy and the US also needs to be addressed. The roll-out of these new packages was done terribly, and the price increases are going to drive people away. I am curious if wave season will bring any better promotions or if prices will come down at all during that time, but that remains to be seen.
slei15’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Ages 3 to 6
Ages 7 to 9
Service
Onboard Experience
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Cabin Review

Aurea Suite with Whirlpool Tub
Cabin SJ3 12067
The whirlpool suite (12067) was a great room. The only thing that could have made it better would be if it had a separate bedroom (think Grand Suite with a whirlpool). The size was great, the walk-in closet was amazing, and the bathroom, while still small, had enough space to move. The half shower door was awkward, but by pointing the water straight down instead of into the middle of the shower we did not flood the bathroom at all. The whirlpool itself was great in that it was more like a jetted bathtub, which was filled and emptied each time it was used. The water was clean and not ridiculously chlorinated like the ones on deck, and we could make it as hot as we wanted. Fair warning, there is NO privacy in the whirlpools. Facing the front of the ship, the bridge has a direct view into your tub, as do many cabins further forward. Our cabin steward was amazing. Our room was serviced twice a day without fail, and having had the old deluxe package, our minibar was kept fully restocked twice every day. We told him the first day the items we wanted to keep coming, and he delivered them twice a day. We spent quite a bit of time back and forth to the cabin, and he always managed to find time to get it done in between.
Venice Beach Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Costa Maya
    In Costa Maya, we did the MSC excursion to the Lost Mayan Kingdom (waterpark/ziplining). MSC was actually much cheaper than doing it independently. It was a great day, and the kids loved it. There is a 41” or so minimum height on the slides. Beware though, the only food at the park is a buffet that looked like food poisoning in a warmer tray for $25/adult and $15/child. Eat a big breakfast before you go and prepare to not eat until you return to the port area or the ship.
    View All 12,467 Costa Maya Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Costa Maya Cruise Port Review
  • Dunn's River Falls
    we used Peat Taylor tours for an excursion to Dunn’s River followed by White River tubing. It was a great time. On the way back, our driver obliged our request to stop for some authentic “Patties”, and took us to a local chain called Juicy’s Patties. They were incredible.
    View All 248 Dunn's River Falls Reviews
  • River Tubing
    We used Peat Taylor tours for an excursion to Dunn’s River followed by White River tubing. It was a great time. On the way back, our driver obliged our request to stop for some authentic “Patties”, and took us to a local chain called Juicy’s Patties. They were incredible.
    View All 71 River Tubing Reviews