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Background Information We originally booked Seaside on 3/24/16 for the 1/20/18 sailing, when we thought Ocean Cay would be ready. When they announced the first year delay of the island opening, we rebooked on 4/12/17 for this sailing. When they announced the second year delay for Ocean Cay, we opted to keep the 12/8/18 booking since my husband Scott decided he wanted to celebrate his 50th birthday on Seaside. The ship was definitely more important than the itinerary - Scott had been obsessed with this ship ever since the artist renderings came out! We also took advantage of MSC's aggressive status matching program - with our Platinum status on Princess, we qualified for Gold level on MSC. Travel to Embarkation Port We flew into Ft. Lauderdale one day early and took a Lyft down to Miami (cost $39). Hotel Information We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Miami South Beach. The hotel had totally renovated interiors in 2016 - modern style with neutral colors. It's close enough that you can walk or take the free trolley to dining/shopping, but it's situated in a much quieter section of A101 (Collins Ave). Our room wasn’t overly spacious so having a lot of cruise luggage was a bit of a pain. But the bed was comfy, and the glass shower with very soft towels was nice. Embarkation Used Lyft to get to Port Miami. Cost about $17. Arrived at port 10:50 am. We were at Terminal F which is MSC’s terminal. Lots of traffic congestion getting to the specific terminal passenger drop off point - there were five other ships in port with us. Since we had priority embarkation privileges for booking Aurea experience, we ignored MSC’s suggested 2:10 pm boarding arrival time. We were thru security and in the embarkation waiting area by 11:15 am. We started boarding around 11:45 am. Cabin was not available until 1:30pm (promised at 2:30pm so this was good). After lunch, we went to access our cabin at 2pm, and our suitcases had been delivered by that time (priority luggage delivery is another Aurea perk). Muster drill was at 4:15pm (no life jackets required), and sailaway was shortly after 5pm. Cabin We booked an Aurea balcony stateroom on Deck 15. Room configuration had bed by the balcony sliding door, sofa, fridge/desk with one center drawer/flat screen TV unit, under desk stool instead of a chair, small hanging closet/three open shelves/2 drawers plus the safe. Three hooks on the wall by the door. Shower was glass door enclosed. Otherwise standard bathroom setup. On-demand video library is all for pay and no music channels. Limited selection of live channels - with several European options not surprisingly. If you like to watch movies/TV in your cabin, this isn't a strong point for MSC Seaside. Hair dryer is attached in the desk drawer. It’s the hold down the button type. Desk has two US power outlets, two European power outlets, and 2 USB ports. One of the bedside light switches also has a USB port. Suitcases fit under the bed. Each side of the bed has a nightstand with two open shelves. Each side has a light and a mini reading light. Mattress was comfortable though not overly cushy. Bedding was on the warm side - no top sheet, duvet only. I'm not sure if you could request alternative bedding. Usable size balcony with two chairs and a footstool. Ship Information This was our first time sailing MSC and therefore Seaside. First impressions - modern, technologically updated, lots of comparative public deck space, glass & chrome everywhere. We pre-paid for the Standard Internet package (20% discount pre-cruise $79.90pp up to 2 devices 3GB - if purchased onboard $99.90pp). We are used to Internet packages being based on time not GB, so we didn’t really know what to expect our usage would be. We ended up with way more data than we truly needed. Absolutely no complaints though with Internet speed - as good as land speeds - comparable to the new MedallionNet on Princess. But much to our surprise, messaging using iMessage worked for us without being connected to the Internet, and we continued to get social media and other app notifications without being online either. We pre-paid for the dining package "Discover Roy's Cuisine" (Sushi, Teppanyaki, Asian Fusion)—36% discount pre-cruise $65pp - if purchased onboard $90pp. Combo library/billiards room doesn’t work for a usable library - it's situated right off the Haven Lounge and the doors open out to the smoking section of South Beach Deck 7. So if you like a good library space, you won't find it on MSC Seaside. MSC keeps the balcony glass very clean. We have not observed this attention to cleanliness on other cruise lines. It was very nice to sit on our balcony and look through clear glass. So well deserved kudos to MSC for this seemingly small but important aspect! Theme Nights included Gatsby, White Night, 70s, Tropical, Pirate. We saw the most passenger participation with White Night by far, and smaller numbers for Gatsby and 70s. When we booked we got the Classic beverage package for free. Now this is called the Premium package. In general, this includes drinks up to $12. Not well documented, we found that this package includes small and large bottles of water and the gelato shakes. It does NOT include any drinks at the Deck 19 Wine & Cocktail Bar, including the $5-6 non-alcoholic drinks. Activities We had our Cruise Critic Meet & Greet in the SeaView Loung at 10am on the first sea day. MSC really makes a big deal out of the CC parties! All of the key officers attended including Captain Roberto Leotta. Free drinks (rum sour, vodka, aperitif spritz, champagne) plus canapés, chocolate dipped strawberries, and a specially decorated sheet cake were provided. A group photo was taken by the ship's photographer. We got use of the thermal spa as part of booking Aurea (otherwise it costs $70/day, $200 for full cruise). We used it twice, each time spending a couple hours trying the different saunas, rain showers, heated stone loungers, and the salt room. Played bingo - MSC only does a single line and then coverall so it’s a much shorter session than Princess does. $20 for a tri card, buy 2 cards get one free was the promotion. You can play in either the theater or up on Deck 16 pool deck - never seen a simulcast bingo before. We played in the theater twice during the cruise. Hung out at the Jungle Pool prior to our late arrival in San Juan. Jungle Pool is the ship’s solarium - open roof when it’s good weather but can be closed if inclement. It’s for all ages and has a depth of 5’3” for the pool but 6’3” when the surrounding pool deck “aka the beach” is filled which it was not. Had complimentary massages as part of our Aurea perks. We both chose the 45 minute Bali massages. Nice way to start the second sea day, but I would have scheduled at a different time had I known the Ship’s Tour (which is considered an excursion - “The Big Reveal: Come and See How We Do It” 2.5 hrs $62.90pp limited to 40 guests) was going to be offered at 8:30am on that day. Attended the Welcome Back Cocktail Party for Voyagers Club members since our status match got us Gold level. Entertainment We saw all of the production shows, except "Timeless" which was the night we were in San Juan: “Dream” - Some interesting costume choices. The roller skating duo was astounding. This was my next to least favorite show. "The Wizard" - great costumes and music. This was my 3rd favorite show. "My Life in Music" - focuses on Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ennio Morricone, and Andrea Bocelli. Dresses were beautiful and I’ll always enjoy hearing Music of the Night sung live, but the overall show wasn’t as appealing to me. This was my least favorite of the six shows we saw. “Fly” - really good specialty performers (aerialist, fast feet dancing duo, comedic trio of acrobats). This was my 4th favorite show. “Peter Punk” - this was my 2nd favorite show. Had the strongest theming of any show this cruise, despite the substitution of a dinosaur for the crocodile (it's MSC - they do things a little differently!). "Starwalker" - last night of the cruise was the debut of this show which is a tribute to Michael Jackson. This show had previously been on Divina, but has now replaced Forever Frank on Seaside. The guy playing Michael Jackson is impeccable - you’d swear he was channeling MJ. This show has gotten a lot of acclaim during its run on Divina, and I can see why. In addition to the lead’s amazing performance, this show did the best job of seamlessly incorporating the specialty performers, including the pole dancer of course to “Dirty Diana”. Definitely the best production show of the cruise! Listened to the piano player Norbert twice. First time was in the Piazza Lounge (not a great setup - he was interrupted by the liquor shop raffle drawing and the space just seems poorly designed). Second time was in the SeaView Lounge (much better location for his set). Norbert is a decent piano player, but he had absolutely no interaction with the audience, though to be fair there weren't that many of us there. Saw the improv group ‘BeerProv’ family-friendly afternoon show once, adults only show in the late evening twice. We are big fans of improv, and we tried not to miss any of the BeerProv shows. Watched ABBA: The Movie on the outdoor pool deck movie screen. Terrible quality movie but fun concert footage from the 1970s. MSC's movie screen isn't anywhere near the quality of Princess' MUTS. They also didn't offer as many or as recent ones like Princess does. So if you enjoy watching movies on deck, you'll find this subpar on MSC Seaside. Went to the Introduction to the Cruise Staff show on the first night as well. St. Thomas night theme party was the White Party. NCL does this too, but it seems like it was an even much bigger deal on MSC. Dining Breakfast - We ate in the Deck 8 buffet every day except once we ate in the Seashore Dining Room. Props for the breakfast pizza available on the buffet - Princess doesn't offer that. Lunch - We ate once in the Deck 16 buffet (fewer selections but less crowded). We ate once in the dining room. The rest of the time we ate in the Deck 8 buffet except when we ate on-shore during our St. Thomas and St. Maarten port stops - see port section for more info. Dinner - We had Anytime Dining and ate in the Seashore Dining Room three times - we never had any wait for our table for 2. All of the food we had was good or very good, and a few items were excellent - tomato soup, arancini, salt cod croquettes: 1) Embarkation Night - I had the ceviche, tomato soup, and grouper. Scott had the ceviche, shrimp cocktail, and the pork rolls. 2) Italian Night - I had the arancini, tricolor salad, risotto, and tiramisu. Scott had the calamari, vegetable bean soup, seafood skewer, and the lemon delight. 3) Final Night - I had the salt cod croquettes, the corn chowder, and the shrimp fettuccine alfredo. Scott had the same except the crispy bacon ranch chicken salad instead of soup. We did the Discover Roy's Cuisine package and had three dinners: 1) Asian Fusion - Excellent food! We ordered the braised pork bao bun appetizer along with the Treasure Box for 2. I had the blackened ahi entrée and Scott had the filet mignon. For dessert we both got Roy’s Chocolate Soufflé. 2) Sushi - For sushimi, we both had yellowtail, salmon, and shrimp. For entrées, I had the spring fever roll, and Scott did the 50% substitution option for the Surf n Turf roll. We also added on the poke ‘Don’. For dessert, we both chose the malasadas. Another excellent meal! 3) Teppanyaki - This was Scott’s birthday dinner as well. I did the Sencho menu which is the included menu with the Roy’s Cuisine package - sushi/sashimi, miso soup, seasonal teppan salad, salmon & prawns, garlic fried rice, filet mignon w/ seasonal veggies, spiced pineapple with choice of green tea or ginger ice cream. Scott chose to do the $20 upcharge to Shogun package, which replaces salmon & prawns with butterfish, scallops, & lobster tail and replaces filet mignon with wagyu sirloin. He also got a very large Happy Birthday cake, which we happily shared over half with our tablemates. We ate on-shore during our San Juan port stop - see port section for more info. Dessert/Snacks - Gelato shakes and caramel hot chocolate at the Venchi Chocolate Bar. Gelato shakes at the Miami Beach Bar. Late night pizza & cookies in the Deck 8 buffet. Wings (12 traditional or boneless with your choice of five sauces $11.21) at the Sports Bar. Prawn shrimp cocktail ($14) at the Champagne Bar. Port & Shore Excursions San Juan We walked around through Old San Juan and most of the Paseo del Morro. We had dinner at Barrachina, where the pina colada was first created in 1963. We had a extremely filling meal of grilled shrimp appetizer, fried grouper appetizer, and paella, along with pina coladas of course. St. Thomas Since we were in port for 12 hours, we decided to do Trunk Bay on St. John DIY. We were docked at the Havensight cruise terminal. Got to taxi stand area by 8:15, but our taxi made multiple pickups, and we didn’t get out of the port itself until nearly 8:25 for Red Hook. Fare was $10pp. Traffic congestion was bad, and it was looking doubtful we’d make the 9am ferry. But our driver drove quite aggressively, and we made it to Red Hook just a couple minutes before 9am. Fare is $8.15pp one way. Buy round trip so you can avoid the return ticket line at the Cruz Bay ferry terminal. After a 20 minute ferry ride, we arrived at Cruz Bay on St.John and then immediately took a taxi to Trunk Bay. Fare was $6pp. We arrived at Trunk Bay about 9:30am. Chair rentals are $6-$15 depending on style. You can also rent snorkel gear. Restrooms are maintained by National Park Service so they are full facilities not porta potties. Shower facilities also available but no food/drink so bring your own (still recovering from the 2017 hurricanes so the former snack bar has not been replaced). No fee to access the beach as of Dec 2018. Left Trunk Bay around 1:45pm and took a return taxi to Cruz Bay. Had drinks & apps at Woody’s Seafood Saloon and did a little shopping in town. Took 4pm return ferry which only took 15 minutes coming back. Left Red Hook via taxi at 4:20pm and got back to the ship around 5pm. If you have a long day in port, I’d recommend the DIY option for Trunk Bay (or any other beach of your choice on St. John). St. Maarten Did the Flavors of St. Maarten food tour - this was an independent excursion booked directly thru their website ($79pp 2.5 hrs). Tour guide was Shanira. She provided historical/cultural info in addition to food related commentary. She also talked about how the island is still recovering from the recent hurricanes. We stopped at four places - The Original Jerk & Roti House (callaloo patty), Antoine Restaurant (plate of grilled garlic shrimp, rice, and green salad), Juggie’s Place “The Smallest Bar in the World” (shots of passion fruit, honey, and chocolate infused rums), and Gelateria Milano (two scoops of gelato). Nassau Spent most of the day enjoying the two pools we had not tried yet - South Beach pool aft deck 7 (non-smoking side), and Miami Beach pool mid-ship Deck 16. South Beach pool is for ages 16+ and had a depth of 6’3”. Miami Beach pool is all ages and has a depth of 5’3” for the pool but 6’3” when the surrounding pool deck “aka the beach” is filled which it was. No problems finding open deck chairs, particularly in the afternoon. A lot more people than I expected chose to get off in Nassau. Disembarkation We were in no hurry to get off the ship since our flight out of FLL wasn’t until 4:40pm. We had been given priority disembarkation luggage tags since we were Aurea, but we exchanged those for the last color grouping (10:50am) departure. We left the cabin about 8:00 (required to leave by 8:30) and went to Deck 8 buffet for a leisurely breakfast (though no breakfast pizza just regular pizza available and they had run out of the little chocolate croissants). The Marketplace Bar was open so we could get a couple bottled waters from our drink package to go for consumption en route to the airport. We then headed up to the top decks to take a few last photos in port and then chilled out at the Jungle Pool seating area listening to the relaxing music for about an hour. Around 10am they called all colors to disembark. After a quick question at Guest Services, we finally meandered off the ship around 10:20. Took no time to find our luggage since most passengers had left. But they didn’t have the Global Entry line open so we had to wait in the regular customs line which took about 20 min. Not that we were pressed for time at all, but it was annoying we couldn't use our Global Entry privileges. With six ships in port, it was pretty chaotic outside the terminal, and the shuttle services were hustling to get business so we got a $15pp rate and opted for that over a Uber/Lyft. We arrived at the FLL airport about 11:30am. Service I’ve seen several online reviews complaining about the service quality on Seaside. This was not our experience at all. Our stateroom steward Jasmine was always very friendly & pleasant and kept our cabin very tidy, including our extra washcloths request. We had Anytime Dining in the Seashore Dining Room and had the same table for 2 section the three nights we dined there. So essentially we had the service benefits of Fixed Dining with the time flexibility of Anytime Dining. The assistant waiter was Miguel Santos from the Philippines and he was very amusing. The head waiter was Adi (can’t remember his last name) from Indonesia. We had good service at the bars for the most part as well. We had use of an MSC Wristband which was included for us being Aurea (available to purchase for $5 if it wasn’t included with your cabin level booking). We could use it to open the cabin door, obtain beverages with our drink package or purchase non-package food/drinks in the bars/lounges/restaurants as well as merchandise in the shops, and use it for the lockers in the spa (this worked for Scott but not for me for some reason). And finally, the smartphone app MSC for Me is by far the best onboard app I’ve seen! We could pull up all the dinner menus for the dining room to decide which ones weren’t appealing to us. Then we could make our Roy’s Cuisine specialty dining reservations for those nights we didn’t want to eat in the dining room. And then we could make our reservations for all the production shows we wanted to see based on our dining plans. We got all this done within the first 30 minutes of boarding the ship. Tips & Tricks If you prefer anytime dining, you have to book Aurea. This is one of the examples where MSC does things very differently than other cruise lines - they couple cabin choice with dining choice. If you're likely to do specialty dining, pre-book the package you're interested in as the pre-cruise savings are significant. Bring your own hairdryer if the "tethered in the desk drawer & hold down the button to use it type" drives you nuts like it does me. White Night is a BIG deal - be sure to pack some white clothes. Check out all the dining room menus via the MSC for Me app once you get onboard so you can plan which nights you might want to make alternative plans. If you like doing the ship tour, know that MSC treats this as an excursion so go to the Shore Excursion desk to book it and sign up early. You can get for-fee gelato in several places but if you want free soft serve the ONLY place & time you can get it is at lunch in the deck 16 buffet. In the Asian Fusion specialty restaurant, if you're doing the Roy's package, substitute one of the appetizers with the Treasure Box for 2 appetizer from the ala carte menu for 50% off ($9 and worth every bit of the additional upcharge). In the specialty restaurants the drink limit is $8 not the normal $12 for the Premium package. No wines qualify for the under $8 price point which was disappointing. If you want smoked salmon with your bagel & cream cheese for breakfast, the only place you can get it is in the dining room. Champagne Bar is an under-publicized food venue. Offers a variety of high quality seafood platters (all for a fee). They feature a daily special - the last two days of the cruise it was 20% off the $39 king crab legs platter. Final Thoughts This was our 17th cruise, but our first on MSC. We really enjoyed this cruise and there were a lot of positives. Seaside is just a beautiful modern décor ship, we had a very nice balcony cabin (with a usable size balcony!), and all of the restaurants in Asian Market Kitchen were top notch. The pizza is on par with Princess who we’ve long considered to have the best pizza at sea. We enjoyed most of the production shows, and we loved the improv group BeerProv. Public deck space seemed to always be available. We found the crew to be very friendly, and the technology (smartphone app, wristband, photo kiosks) to be highly functional in helping make our cruise go smoothly. We received an MSC Med fragrance room diffuser to take home as an Aurea gift and two drawstring tote bags as an MSC Voyagers Club gift. And MSC sponsors the best Cruise Critic Meet & Greet that I’ve ever seen. But of course we also found some things lacking in comparison to Princess & Celebrity. First and foremost is the absence of alternative complimentary dining venues. Your only option to the dining room are the buffets and room service (which we did not try although it was free for us being in Aurea). There are no poolside grill food options (burgers, hot dogs, fries) - those are all in the buffet. There is no piazza/atrium venue like the International Café to get pastries at breakfast, light sandwiches/salads, or small desserts through the day & evening. And it was pointed out to us by some coffee drinkers that you have to trek to the back of the ship to the buffets to get free coffee - which is a pain if your cabin is all the way forward. The buffet itself doesn’t measure up to what Princess has on the Royal class ships or Celebrity has in their Oceanview Cafes. The variety isn’t nearly as good, though the quality of what they do have ranged from ok to good. Kudos to having breakfast pizza and a decent chocolate croissant, but overall the buffet food definitely gets repetitive. Soft serve ice cream is only available at lunch in the small Deck 16 buffet - which we didn’t figure out until the end of the cruise too late. Never saw any fresh seafood like peel & eat shrimp or crab legs as we’ve seen on other cruise line’s buffets. The outdoor movie screen showed one movie a night (usually a subpar Christmas themed movie) and sometimes a late night concert type documentary. Seating area is small, and the screen itself had several missing pixels. It’s clearly not a big focus area for MSC as an alternative entertainment option. Princess definitely has the edge here with special chaise pads, blankets, and free popcorn, and a superior quality movie screen. Minor points of annoyance - Storage space, especially hanging closet space, in the cabin was not as much as what we are used to with Princess. TV channel selection was limited and no free video on demand. Bingo is only a line game and a coverall game, so fewer chances to win money than what Princess offers. Will we sail with MSC again? Definitely yes once their new private island Ocean Cay opens. Will MSC displace Princess or Celebrity as our favorite cruise line? Definitely no.

Trying out MSC - Nice Change of Pace

MSC Seaside Cruise Review by macusr

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: December 2018
  • Destination: Eastern Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Aurea Balcony Stateroom
Background Information

We originally booked Seaside on 3/24/16 for the 1/20/18 sailing, when we thought Ocean Cay would be ready. When they announced the first year delay of the island opening, we rebooked on 4/12/17 for this sailing. When they announced the second year delay for Ocean Cay, we opted to keep the 12/8/18 booking since my husband Scott decided he wanted to celebrate his 50th birthday on Seaside. The ship was definitely more important than the itinerary - Scott had been obsessed with this ship ever since the artist renderings came out! We also took advantage of MSC's aggressive status matching program - with our Platinum status on Princess, we qualified for Gold level on MSC.

Travel to Embarkation Port

We flew into Ft. Lauderdale one day early and took a Lyft down to Miami (cost $39).

Hotel Information

We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Miami South Beach. The hotel had totally renovated interiors in 2016 - modern style with neutral colors. It's close enough that you can walk or take the free trolley to dining/shopping, but it's situated in a much quieter section of A101 (Collins Ave). Our room wasn’t overly spacious so having a lot of cruise luggage was a bit of a pain. But the bed was comfy, and the glass shower with very soft towels was nice.

Embarkation

Used Lyft to get to Port Miami. Cost about $17. Arrived at port 10:50 am. We were at Terminal F which is MSC’s terminal. Lots of traffic congestion getting to the specific terminal passenger drop off point - there were five other ships in port with us.

Since we had priority embarkation privileges for booking Aurea experience, we ignored MSC’s suggested 2:10 pm boarding arrival time. We were thru security and in the embarkation waiting area by 11:15 am. We started boarding around 11:45 am.

Cabin was not available until 1:30pm (promised at 2:30pm so this was good). After lunch, we went to access our cabin at 2pm, and our suitcases had been delivered by that time (priority luggage delivery is another Aurea perk). Muster drill was at 4:15pm (no life jackets required), and sailaway was shortly after 5pm.

Cabin

We booked an Aurea balcony stateroom on Deck 15.

Room configuration had bed by the balcony sliding door, sofa, fridge/desk with one center drawer/flat screen TV unit, under desk stool instead of a chair, small hanging closet/three open shelves/2 drawers plus the safe. Three hooks on the wall by the door. Shower was glass door enclosed. Otherwise standard bathroom setup.

On-demand video library is all for pay and no music channels. Limited selection of live channels - with several European options not surprisingly. If you like to watch movies/TV in your cabin, this isn't a strong point for MSC Seaside.

Hair dryer is attached in the desk drawer. It’s the hold down the button type.

Desk has two US power outlets, two European power outlets, and 2 USB ports. One of the bedside light switches also has a USB port.

Suitcases fit under the bed. Each side of the bed has a nightstand with two open shelves. Each side has a light and a mini reading light.

Mattress was comfortable though not overly cushy. Bedding was on the warm side - no top sheet, duvet only. I'm not sure if you could request alternative bedding.

Usable size balcony with two chairs and a footstool.

Ship Information

This was our first time sailing MSC and therefore Seaside. First impressions - modern, technologically updated, lots of comparative public deck space, glass & chrome everywhere.

We pre-paid for the Standard Internet package (20% discount pre-cruise $79.90pp up to 2 devices 3GB - if purchased onboard $99.90pp). We are used to Internet packages being based on time not GB, so we didn’t really know what to expect our usage would be. We ended up with way more data than we truly needed. Absolutely no complaints though with Internet speed - as good as land speeds - comparable to the new MedallionNet on Princess. But much to our surprise, messaging using iMessage worked for us without being connected to the Internet, and we continued to get social media and other app notifications without being online either.

We pre-paid for the dining package "Discover Roy's Cuisine" (Sushi, Teppanyaki, Asian Fusion)—36% discount pre-cruise $65pp - if purchased onboard $90pp.

Combo library/billiards room doesn’t work for a usable library - it's situated right off the Haven Lounge and the doors open out to the smoking section of South Beach Deck 7. So if you like a good library space, you won't find it on MSC Seaside.

MSC keeps the balcony glass very clean. We have not observed this attention to cleanliness on other cruise lines. It was very nice to sit on our balcony and look through clear glass. So well deserved kudos to MSC for this seemingly small but important aspect!

Theme Nights included Gatsby, White Night, 70s, Tropical, Pirate. We saw the most passenger participation with White Night by far, and smaller numbers for Gatsby and 70s.

When we booked we got the Classic beverage package for free. Now this is called the Premium package. In general, this includes drinks up to $12. Not well documented, we found that this package includes small and large bottles of water and the gelato shakes. It does NOT include any drinks at the Deck 19 Wine & Cocktail Bar, including the $5-6 non-alcoholic drinks.

Activities

We had our Cruise Critic Meet & Greet in the SeaView Loung at 10am on the first sea day. MSC really makes a big deal out of the CC parties! All of the key officers attended including Captain Roberto Leotta. Free drinks (rum sour, vodka, aperitif spritz, champagne) plus canapés, chocolate dipped strawberries, and a specially decorated sheet cake were provided. A group photo was taken by the ship's photographer.

We got use of the thermal spa as part of booking Aurea (otherwise it costs $70/day, $200 for full cruise). We used it twice, each time spending a couple hours trying the different saunas, rain showers, heated stone loungers, and the salt room.

Played bingo - MSC only does a single line and then coverall so it’s a much shorter session than Princess does. $20 for a tri card, buy 2 cards get one free was the promotion. You can play in either the theater or up on Deck 16 pool deck - never seen a simulcast bingo before. We played in the theater twice during the cruise.

Hung out at the Jungle Pool prior to our late arrival in San Juan. Jungle Pool is the ship’s solarium - open roof when it’s good weather but can be closed if inclement. It’s for all ages and has a depth of 5’3” for the pool but 6’3” when the surrounding pool deck “aka the beach” is filled which it was not.

Had complimentary massages as part of our Aurea perks. We both chose the 45 minute Bali massages. Nice way to start the second sea day, but I would have scheduled at a different time had I known the Ship’s Tour (which is considered an excursion - “The Big Reveal: Come and See How We Do It” 2.5 hrs $62.90pp limited to 40 guests) was going to be offered at 8:30am on that day.

Attended the Welcome Back Cocktail Party for Voyagers Club members since our status match got us Gold level.

Entertainment

We saw all of the production shows, except "Timeless" which was the night we were in San Juan:

“Dream” - Some interesting costume choices. The roller skating duo was astounding. This was my next to least favorite show.

"The Wizard" - great costumes and music. This was my 3rd favorite show.

"My Life in Music" - focuses on Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ennio Morricone, and Andrea Bocelli. Dresses were beautiful and I’ll always enjoy hearing Music of the Night sung live, but the overall show wasn’t as appealing to me. This was my least favorite of the six shows we saw.

“Fly” - really good specialty performers (aerialist, fast feet dancing duo, comedic trio of acrobats). This was my 4th favorite show.

“Peter Punk” - this was my 2nd favorite show. Had the strongest theming of any show this cruise, despite the substitution of a dinosaur for the crocodile (it's MSC - they do things a little differently!).

"Starwalker" - last night of the cruise was the debut of this show which is a tribute to Michael Jackson. This show had previously been on Divina, but has now replaced Forever Frank on Seaside. The guy playing Michael Jackson is impeccable - you’d swear he was channeling MJ. This show has gotten a lot of acclaim during its run on Divina, and I can see why. In addition to the lead’s amazing performance, this show did the best job of seamlessly incorporating the specialty performers, including the pole dancer of course to “Dirty Diana”. Definitely the best production show of the cruise!

Listened to the piano player Norbert twice. First time was in the Piazza Lounge (not a great setup - he was interrupted by the liquor shop raffle drawing and the space just seems poorly designed). Second time was in the SeaView Lounge (much better location for his set). Norbert is a decent piano player, but he had absolutely no interaction with the audience, though to be fair there weren't that many of us there.

Saw the improv group ‘BeerProv’ family-friendly afternoon show once, adults only show in the late evening twice. We are big fans of improv, and we tried not to miss any of the BeerProv shows.

Watched ABBA: The Movie on the outdoor pool deck movie screen. Terrible quality movie but fun concert footage from the 1970s. MSC's movie screen isn't anywhere near the quality of Princess' MUTS. They also didn't offer as many or as recent ones like Princess does. So if you enjoy watching movies on deck, you'll find this subpar on MSC Seaside.

Went to the Introduction to the Cruise Staff show on the first night as well.

St. Thomas night theme party was the White Party. NCL does this too, but it seems like it was an even much bigger deal on MSC.

Dining

Breakfast - We ate in the Deck 8 buffet every day except once we ate in the Seashore Dining Room. Props for the breakfast pizza available on the buffet - Princess doesn't offer that.

Lunch - We ate once in the Deck 16 buffet (fewer selections but less crowded). We ate once in the dining room. The rest of the time we ate in the Deck 8 buffet except when we ate on-shore during our St. Thomas and St. Maarten port stops - see port section for more info.

Dinner - We had Anytime Dining and ate in the Seashore Dining Room three times - we never had any wait for our table for 2. All of the food we had was good or very good, and a few items were excellent - tomato soup, arancini, salt cod croquettes:

1) Embarkation Night - I had the ceviche, tomato soup, and grouper. Scott had the ceviche, shrimp cocktail, and the pork rolls.

2) Italian Night - I had the arancini, tricolor salad, risotto, and tiramisu. Scott had the calamari, vegetable bean soup, seafood skewer, and the lemon delight.

3) Final Night - I had the salt cod croquettes, the corn chowder, and the shrimp fettuccine

alfredo. Scott had the same except the crispy bacon ranch chicken salad instead of soup.

We did the Discover Roy's Cuisine package and had three dinners:

1) Asian Fusion - Excellent food! We ordered the braised pork bao bun appetizer along with the Treasure Box for 2. I had the blackened ahi entrée and Scott had the filet mignon. For dessert we both got Roy’s Chocolate Soufflé.

2) Sushi - For sushimi, we both had yellowtail, salmon, and shrimp. For entrées, I had the spring fever roll, and Scott did the 50% substitution option for the Surf n Turf roll. We also added on the poke ‘Don’. For dessert, we both chose the malasadas. Another excellent meal!

3) Teppanyaki - This was Scott’s birthday dinner as well. I did the Sencho menu which is the included menu with the Roy’s Cuisine package - sushi/sashimi, miso soup, seasonal teppan salad, salmon & prawns, garlic fried rice, filet mignon w/ seasonal veggies, spiced pineapple with choice of green tea or ginger ice cream. Scott chose to do the $20 upcharge to Shogun package, which replaces salmon & prawns with butterfish, scallops, & lobster tail and replaces filet mignon with wagyu sirloin. He also got a very large Happy Birthday cake, which we happily shared over half with our tablemates.

We ate on-shore during our San Juan port stop - see port section for more info.

Dessert/Snacks - Gelato shakes and caramel hot chocolate at the Venchi Chocolate Bar. Gelato shakes at the Miami Beach Bar. Late night pizza & cookies in the Deck 8 buffet. Wings (12 traditional or boneless with your choice of five sauces $11.21) at the Sports Bar. Prawn shrimp cocktail ($14) at the Champagne Bar.

Port & Shore Excursions

San Juan

We walked around through Old San Juan and most of the Paseo del Morro.

We had dinner at Barrachina, where the pina colada was first created in 1963. We had a extremely filling meal of grilled shrimp appetizer, fried grouper appetizer, and paella, along with pina coladas of course.

St. Thomas

Since we were in port for 12 hours, we decided to do Trunk Bay on St. John DIY.

We were docked at the Havensight cruise terminal. Got to taxi stand area by 8:15, but our taxi made multiple pickups, and we didn’t get out of the port itself until nearly 8:25 for Red Hook. Fare was $10pp. Traffic congestion was bad, and it was looking doubtful we’d make the 9am ferry. But our driver drove quite aggressively, and we made it to Red Hook just a couple minutes before 9am. Fare is $8.15pp one way. Buy round trip so you can avoid the return ticket line at the Cruz Bay ferry terminal.

After a 20 minute ferry ride, we arrived at Cruz Bay on St.John and then immediately took a taxi to Trunk Bay. Fare was $6pp. We arrived at Trunk Bay about 9:30am.

Chair rentals are $6-$15 depending on style. You can also rent snorkel gear.

Restrooms are maintained by National Park Service so they are full facilities not porta potties. Shower facilities also available but no food/drink so bring your own (still recovering from the 2017 hurricanes so the former snack bar has not been replaced). No fee to access the beach as of Dec 2018.

Left Trunk Bay around 1:45pm and took a return taxi to Cruz Bay. Had drinks & apps at Woody’s Seafood Saloon and did a little shopping in town.

Took 4pm return ferry which only took 15 minutes coming back. Left Red Hook via taxi at 4:20pm and got back to the ship around 5pm.

If you have a long day in port, I’d recommend the DIY option for Trunk Bay (or any other beach of your choice on St. John).

St. Maarten

Did the Flavors of St. Maarten food tour - this was an independent excursion booked directly thru their website ($79pp 2.5 hrs). Tour guide was Shanira. She provided historical/cultural info in addition to food related commentary. She also talked about how the island is still recovering from the recent hurricanes. We stopped at four places - The Original Jerk & Roti House (callaloo patty), Antoine Restaurant (plate of grilled garlic shrimp, rice, and green salad), Juggie’s Place “The Smallest Bar in the World” (shots of passion fruit, honey, and chocolate infused rums), and Gelateria Milano (two scoops of gelato).

Nassau

Spent most of the day enjoying the two pools we had not tried yet - South Beach pool aft deck 7 (non-smoking side), and Miami Beach pool mid-ship Deck 16. South Beach pool is for ages 16+ and had a depth of 6’3”. Miami Beach pool is all ages and has a depth of 5’3” for the pool but 6’3” when the surrounding pool deck “aka the beach” is filled which it was. No problems finding open deck chairs, particularly in the afternoon. A lot more people than I expected chose to get off in Nassau.

Disembarkation

We were in no hurry to get off the ship since our flight out of FLL wasn’t until 4:40pm.

We had been given priority disembarkation luggage tags since we were Aurea, but we exchanged those for the last color grouping (10:50am) departure.

We left the cabin about 8:00 (required to leave by 8:30) and went to Deck 8 buffet for a leisurely breakfast (though no breakfast pizza just regular pizza available and they had run out of the little chocolate croissants). The Marketplace Bar was open so we could get a couple bottled waters from our drink package to go for consumption en route to the airport.

We then headed up to the top decks to take a few last photos in port and then chilled out at the Jungle Pool seating area listening to the relaxing music for about an hour. Around 10am they called all colors to disembark. After a quick question at Guest Services, we finally meandered off the ship around 10:20. Took no time to find our luggage since most passengers had left. But they didn’t have the Global Entry line open so we had to wait in the regular customs line which took about 20 min. Not that we were pressed for time at all, but it was annoying we couldn't use our Global Entry privileges.

With six ships in port, it was pretty chaotic outside the terminal, and the shuttle services were hustling to get business so we got a $15pp rate and opted for that over a Uber/Lyft. We arrived at the FLL airport about 11:30am.

Service

I’ve seen several online reviews complaining about the service quality on Seaside. This was not our experience at all. Our stateroom steward Jasmine was always very friendly & pleasant and kept our cabin very tidy, including our extra washcloths request. We had Anytime Dining in the Seashore Dining Room and had the same table for 2 section the three nights we dined there. So essentially we had the service benefits of Fixed Dining with the time flexibility of Anytime Dining. The assistant waiter was Miguel Santos from the Philippines and he was very amusing. The head waiter was Adi (can’t remember his last name) from Indonesia. We had good service at the bars for the most part as well.

We had use of an MSC Wristband which was included for us being Aurea (available to purchase for $5 if it wasn’t included with your cabin level booking). We could use it to open the cabin door, obtain beverages with our drink package or purchase non-package food/drinks in the bars/lounges/restaurants as well as merchandise in the shops, and use it for the lockers in the spa (this worked for Scott but not for me for some reason).

And finally, the smartphone app MSC for Me is by far the best onboard app I’ve seen! We could pull up all the dinner menus for the dining room to decide which ones weren’t appealing to us. Then we could make our Roy’s Cuisine specialty dining reservations for those nights we didn’t want to eat in the dining room. And then we could make our reservations for all the production shows we wanted to see based on our dining plans. We got all this done within the first 30 minutes of boarding the ship.

Tips & Tricks

If you prefer anytime dining, you have to book Aurea. This is one of the examples where MSC does things very differently than other cruise lines - they couple cabin choice with dining choice. If you're likely to do specialty dining, pre-book the package you're interested in as the pre-cruise savings are significant.

Bring your own hairdryer if the "tethered in the desk drawer & hold down the button to use it type" drives you nuts like it does me.

White Night is a BIG deal - be sure to pack some white clothes.

Check out all the dining room menus via the MSC for Me app once you get onboard so you can plan which nights you might want to make alternative plans.

If you like doing the ship tour, know that MSC treats this as an excursion so go to the Shore Excursion desk to book it and sign up early.

You can get for-fee gelato in several places but if you want free soft serve the ONLY place & time you can get it is at lunch in the deck 16 buffet.

In the Asian Fusion specialty restaurant, if you're doing the Roy's package, substitute one of the appetizers with the Treasure Box for 2 appetizer from the ala carte menu for 50% off ($9 and worth every bit of the additional upcharge).

In the specialty restaurants the drink limit is $8 not the normal $12 for the Premium package. No wines qualify for the under $8 price point which was disappointing.

If you want smoked salmon with your bagel & cream cheese for breakfast, the only place you can get it is in the dining room.

Champagne Bar is an under-publicized food venue. Offers a variety of high quality seafood platters (all for a fee). They feature a daily special - the last two days of the cruise it was 20% off the $39 king crab legs platter.

Final Thoughts

This was our 17th cruise, but our first on MSC.

We really enjoyed this cruise and there were a lot of positives. Seaside is just a beautiful modern décor ship, we had a very nice balcony cabin (with a usable size balcony!), and all of the restaurants in Asian Market Kitchen were top notch. The pizza is on par with Princess who we’ve long considered to have the best pizza at sea. We enjoyed most of the production shows, and we loved the improv group BeerProv. Public deck space seemed to always be available. We found the crew to be very friendly, and the technology (smartphone app, wristband, photo kiosks) to be highly functional in helping make our cruise go smoothly. We received an MSC Med fragrance room diffuser to take home as an Aurea gift and two drawstring tote bags as an MSC Voyagers Club gift. And MSC sponsors the best Cruise Critic Meet & Greet that I’ve ever seen.

But of course we also found some things lacking in comparison to Princess & Celebrity.

First and foremost is the absence of alternative complimentary dining venues. Your only option to the dining room are the buffets and room service (which we did not try although it was free for us being in Aurea). There are no poolside grill food options (burgers, hot dogs, fries) - those are all in the buffet. There is no piazza/atrium venue like the International Café to get pastries at breakfast, light sandwiches/salads, or small desserts through the day & evening. And it was pointed out to us by some coffee drinkers that you have to trek to the back of the ship to the buffets to get free coffee - which is a pain if your cabin is all the way forward.

The buffet itself doesn’t measure up to what Princess has on the Royal class ships or Celebrity has in their Oceanview Cafes. The variety isn’t nearly as good, though the quality of what they do have ranged from ok to good. Kudos to having breakfast pizza and a decent chocolate croissant, but overall the buffet food definitely gets repetitive. Soft serve ice cream is only available at lunch in the small Deck 16 buffet - which we didn’t figure out until the end of the cruise too late. Never saw any fresh seafood like peel & eat shrimp or crab legs as we’ve seen on other cruise line’s buffets.

The outdoor movie screen showed one movie a night (usually a subpar Christmas themed movie) and sometimes a late night concert type documentary. Seating area is small, and the screen itself had several missing pixels. It’s clearly not a big focus area for MSC as an alternative entertainment option. Princess definitely has the edge here with special chaise pads, blankets, and free popcorn, and a superior quality movie screen.

Minor points of annoyance - Storage space, especially hanging closet space, in the cabin was not as much as what we are used to with Princess. TV channel selection was limited and no free video on demand. Bingo is only a line game and a coverall game, so fewer chances to win money than what Princess offers.

Will we sail with MSC again? Definitely yes once their new private island Ocean Cay opens. Will MSC displace Princess or Celebrity as our favorite cruise line? Definitely no.
macusr’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Aurea Balcony Stateroom
Cabin B3 15014
Room configuration had bed by the balcony sliding door, sofa, fridge/desk with one center drawer/flat screen TV unit, under desk stool instead of a chair, small hanging closet/three open shelves/2 drawers plus the safe. Three hooks on the wall by the door. Shower was glass door enclosed. Otherwise standard bathroom setup.

On-demand video library is all for pay and no music channels. Limited selection of live channels - with several European options not surprisingly. If you like to watch movies/TV in your cabin, this isn't a strong point for MSC Seaside.

Hair dryer is attached in the desk drawer. It’s the hold down the button type.
Desk has two US power outlets, two European power outlets, and 2 USB ports. One of the bedside light switches also has a USB port.
Suitcases fit under the bed. Each side of the bed has a nightstand with two open shelves. Each side has a light and a mini reading light.
Mattress was comfortable though not overly cushy. Bedding was on the warm side - no top sheet, duvet only. I'm not sure if you could request alternative bedding.
Usable size balcony with two chairs and a footstool.
Venice Beach Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Miami
    We walked around Miami Beach/South Beach and took the free trolley. Stayed one night pre-cruise at the Hilton Garden Inn Miami South Beach. Had great meals at Yardbird and Morenos Cuba.
    View All 2,405 Miami Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Miami Cruise Port Review
  • San Juan
    Since we were only there in the evening, we just walked around through Old San Juan and most of the Paseo del Morro. We had an excellent dinner at Barrachina.
    View All 3,783 San Juan Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's San Juan Cruise Port Review
  • St. Maarten
    Tour guide was Shanira. She provided historical/cultural info in addition to food related commentary. She also talked about how the island is still recovering from the recent hurricanes. We stopped at four places - The Original Jerk & Roti House (callaloo patty), Antoine Restaurant (plate of grilled garlic shrimp, rice, and green salad), Juggie’s Place “The Smallest Bar in the World” (shots of passion fruit, honey, and chocolate infused rums), and Gelateria Milano (two scoops of gelato).
    View All 12,995 St. Maarten Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's St. Maarten Cruise Port Review
  • St. Thomas
    Since we were in port for 12 hours, we decided to do Trunk Bay on St. John DIY.
    We were docked at the Havensight cruise terminal. Got to taxi stand area by 8:15, but our taxi made multiple pickups, and we didn’t get out of the port itself until nearly 8:25 for Red Hook. Fare was $10pp. Traffic congestion was bad, and it was looking doubtful we’d make the 9am ferry. But our driver drove quite aggressively, and we made it to Red Hook just a couple minutes before 9am. Fare is $8.15pp one way. Buy round trip so you can avoid the return ticket line at the Cruz Bay ferry terminal.
    After a 20 minute ferry ride, we arrived at Cruz Bay on St.John and then immediately took a taxi to Trunk Bay. Fare was $6pp. We arrived at Trunk Bay about 9:30am.
    Chair rentals are $6-$15 depending on style. You can also rent snorkel gear.
    Restrooms are maintained by National Park Service so they are full facilities not porta potties. Shower facilities also available but no food/drink so bring your own (still recovering from the 2017 hurricanes so the former snack bar has not been replaced). No fee to access the beach as of Dec 2018.
    Left Trunk Bay around 1:45pm and took a return taxi to Cruz Bay. Had drinks & apps at Woody’s Seafood Saloon and did a little shopping in town.
    Took 4pm return ferry which only took 15 minutes coming back. Left Red Hook via taxi at 4:20pm and got back to the ship around 5pm.
    If you have a long day in port, I’d recommend the DIY option for Trunk Bay (or any other beach of your choice on St. John).
    View All 4,657 St. Thomas Cruise Port Reviews
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