MSC Seaside Cruise Review by Grantolomeo
- Sail Date: February 2019
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Fantastica Inside Stateroom
I just finished a 7 night cruise with my family onboard the MSC Seaside, and I’m going to tell you exactly why it is the best cruise I’ve been on so far, while still having plenty of ways it could be better next time we cruise with MSC on the Seaside.
One of the most important factors of cruising, especially when cruising with lots of family or guests, is the cost. This is one of the things MSC does better than almost anyone. One of my past-times in the evening is scrolling through cruise websites, looking for the cheapest cruises I can find. And truthfully, Carnival has some of the cheapest sticker prices I’ve found, but time and time again, MSC winds up being cheaper per person, per night. That’s because on all MSC cruises, KIDS SAIL FREE as 3rd and 4th passengers in a cabin. And with a family of 7, four of whom are my kids, that saves a lot of money. In fact, I had never heard of MSC as a cruise line until a couple years ago when my son was born, because they have NO MINIMUM SAILING AGE! That’s right, most cruise lines require babies to be 6 months old, But on MSC ships, they understand that everyone, including infants and their new mothers, need a nice relaxing vacation. So this 7 night cruise was perfect for us and our 4 kids, the youngest being our 2 month old Daughter, who was the youngest passenger on board by a couple of weeks.
We drove all the way to Miami from Chicago. It was a long drive, but it was nice to escape the -22 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures that we had the morning we left for Miami. Sailing out of Miami is great! It’s a beautiful port normally, but the Seaside disembarked around sunset and made for some really spectacular views of the skyline and other ships in the port.
Our two rooms were nothing fancy, just two interior cabins. When we booked, we had cabins that were right next to each other, but MSC reserves the right to move or upgrade your cabin to suit their needs. This happened to us this time, so it was a little disappointing that Grandma and our two oldest kids were staying on Deck 14, while my wife, and two youngest kids were staying directly above them on Deck 15, But it was fast enough to take the stairs or just call the other room whenever we needed something.
MSC provides different experience levels on their ships. Even the most basic “Bella” experience is wonderful, but because of a special promotion when we were booking, it was actually cheaper for us to book the nicer “fantastica” experience. It includes things like 12 free drinks per guest, including non-alcoholic drinks, and free room service if those are things that you like on your vacation. So it was nice to have those available to us even at a lower cost.
The ship itself is beautiful! The MSC Seaside has a unique, modern look that captivates guests. Everything seems cutting edge and new. The ship was just over a year old when we were sailing, and we even found some protective tape on some of the metal in our cabins that hadn’t yet been removed. Ooooo, shiny.
Even with over 5000 people on board, the ship didn’t feel crowded because of the spacious design choices on the decks, and in the lounges. I will say that on seadays, it was difficult to find a chair by the pool, but with a group of 7, we can be a tall order to fill.
The main pool area was fun, called the Miami beach pool. There was almost always a lot of people and organized activities going on around here. Another popular spot was the south beach pool at the back of the ship. This was a popular area for more adults as its bar was open late and at the back of the ship smoking was allowed. But we spent most of our time around the jungle pool area as it tended to be less crowded, could be made into an indoor pool if it was cold or raining. It also had the added perk of being right next to the kids Forest adventure water park.
The Forest adventure water park was awesome! If there weren’t any activities that we had going on, we were hanging out here. My oldest daughter, my wife, mother-in-law and I all really loved the bigger water slides! The most popular one was the inner tube water slide. It used to be for “slide boarding” but the inner tubes go faster, and allow for doubles to ride. My daughter loved going down this one with dad, mom, or grandma! There are really cool lights that make the slide interesting, until the end when it gets dark and there’s a really great drop right at the end. It’s no wonder this slide was so popular. On sea days there would be a line, but it was never too long a wait.
If you ever wanted to avoid the line, just hit up one of the other slides. There was a pair of racing slides that really got you going FAST! The slide on the right was definitely a little bit faster. It was a lot of fun to see just how fast you could get going. There was also a big, open slide, with some fun turns that would just throw you around. I once got going to fast, it rolled me over at the bottom.
And for anyone too little, or just needing a break from the more extreme slides, the splash pad was always right there available. Grabbing a water blaster, or spray cannon was great fun, as well as all the splashing that happened. There was even a giant bucket that would fill up and ring a bell when it was about to drop. I always ran away from it, but so many of the kids would run to get splashed in the down-pour.
Above all the water, safe from any splashing and water cannons was the ropes course. It was simple enough to be fun for even younger kids, but high enough to be quite a thrill even for adults. You also get some great views from being way up high.
All this seems like it’s great for kids, and it is!!! On top of letting kids 12 and under sail free and with reduced daily gratuities, they have a great kids’ program called Doremi. It was really engaging for all the kids we saw on board. My two daughters were in the “mini” club for ages 3 – 6. Their check in system was so easy and quick, and the one time they needed to reach us, they were able to get hold of us very quickly. The children’s staff were really passionate about the kids and families, we even had a staff person named Maria who remembered us from another MSC cruise we took over 2 years ago! That really impressed us. But so did the amount of energy the all put into making sure the kids had a great time. They even prepared a short talent show for the parents! They offered other activities like dance classes, and cooking classes with the chef, but also had plenty of free play where they could use their imagination with games, toys, and lots of Legos!!! Something I’d like to see different in the kids area would be the volume of their music brought down. I know they are trying to create energy in the room, but that can be achieved around 88 decibels, now I didn’t have my decibel meter with me, but they were easily approaching 100 decibels, too loud for many ears, especially young kids.
But the kids weren’t the only one’s having fun. MSC activities staff are really fantastic about getting you involved in their games and activities. Other cruise lines seem to merely provide the opportunity for everyone to get involved in trivia, games, and dance classes, but the crew on the Seaside really passionately drew you into each activity to make sure they provided you the very best experience possible. And as a side note, the prizes on the MSC seaside are the best I’ve ever seen. I’ve been on other cruises that will give you the same key chain for every activity you win. But on the Seaside, each game had different and really fun prizes including: MSC hats, visors, T-shirts, travel bags, pens, back packs, free drinks, bottles of Champaign and more. If you play to win, then MSC really does a great job rewarding your efforts, but there were plenty of times when even the losing team would get a smaller prize to thank you for trying your best.
Plenty of people just enjoy watching the activities, but when we came to ports, most people got off the boat. This is a great time to enjoy the ship all to yourself, or get off and explore with the locals. We had a great time on a cable car in St. Thomas that had some incredible views, and checking out a beach on the Dutch side of St. Maarten. But because we’ve been to Nassau, Bahamas so many times, we decided to enjoy the ship all to ourselves with very few other guests around.
Ports are great, but everyone needs to eat, and the MSC seaside never disappointed us. There are two buffets: the smaller Biscayne Bay Buffet on deck 16, and the main, Marketplace buffet on deck 8. Sometimes the hours of the buffet on deck 16 were shorter than we would’ve liked, but the other buffet was open 20 hours a day. The variety and selections were huge and changed from day to day. It was always fun to walk around the entire buffet and sample the different dishes they set out at the different stations. But they did consistently offer hamburgers, hotdogs, some of the best pizza you’ll ever have at sea. Which should be expected on this Italian cruise line. We loved grabbing a late-night slice just before bed. There are also two main dining restaurants. We got to eat in both the Seashore restaurant on deck 5 and the Ipanema restaurant on deck 6. The menus and chefs are the same, it’s just the décor that is different. Dinner was always a highlight of my day because the food was always so good. I literally had the best meal I’ve ever had in my life: the herbed rack of lamb. It was cooked to perfection, so juicy and tender. Not to mention I also had the single best piece of bacon I ever put in my mouth. And everyone can enjoy deserts, but I’m somewhat of an ice cream connoisseur, so every night I had the specialty ice cream the chef had made that day, including CACTUS ice cream. I’m serious! I didn’t know you could even eat cactus, let alone turn it into ice cream. That ice cream literally changed my life, I’m a different man than I was, a better man, than before I had those desserts.
We never did eat at any of the specialty restaurants on board, but we did develop a liking for the Venchi Chocolate bar! Remember those free drink coupons we got with the upgraded “fantastica” experience? We used the majority of those vouchers here for specialty milk shakes at the chocolate bar. And because they weren’t alcoholic, we were able to use the kids vouchers here as well. Every day we looked forward to trying a new milkshake. Our favorites settled on their specialty Oreo Crunch milkshakes, and their home-made Mango Gelato milkshakes. Something that MSC could do better in regard to this experience, would be provide some more training for servers and communication to guests as to what the drink vouchers can and cannot purchase. We were surprised when we tried to order shakes at a different bar only to be told drink vouchers didn’t cover milkshakes, even though the coupon itself clearly said it would. It’s just disappointing to think one thing, and then be told another as a customer. But those shakes were worth the confusion. And besides, the girls loved getting fancy drinks at the other bars made just for kids, and the bar tenders were extra nice, garnishing those “fancy drinks” with extra cherries because they learned how much my kids liked that cherry on top.
The proverbial cherry on top of a cruise for me is live music. The MSC seaside had some great live music, but it was mostly located in the Heaven lounge, or the Seaview lounge. Most of the other “live” entertainment, just barely met that criteria. Now as a musician myself, I might be a little bias against this, but most of the live entertainers were just playing a keyboard or guitar with lots of backing tracks and a singer out front. They had pianos everywhere on the cruise, but I only saw one actually played in the Seaview lounge. It was impressive, and I loved going in there to hear the piano player or the jazz band that they had, But MSC should hire more live musicians that play the music themselves and put them in and around all these venues. real live music would sound better instead just of DJs or tracks. I did what I could to fix this and sat down at the piano when I could to entertain myself and the other guests. I love playing piano, and it’s always been a dream of mine to play on board a cruise ship.
Even without a live band, the evening shows in the theater were incredible. I am amazed at how well MSC is able to captivate the attention of such an international audience as their cruise guests. The singers were the best vocalists I’ve ever heard at sea, bar none. But they were hardly the best thing on stage!!! The dancers blew me away, the acrobats amazed everyone with their strength and dexterity, and quick magic acts boggled your mind. The costumes for each show were unique and amazing. My favorite show was their rendition of Peter Pan called “Peter Punk” for licensing reasons, but everyone else’s favorite was clearly the final show, a tribute to Michael Jackson. The guy playing Michael was outstanding. Every move, every gesture was just like Michael. Truly impressive!
On the whole, a cruise on the MSC Seaside is amazing and affordable. The quality of everything MSC does just seems to be a notch hire than other cruise lines, even at a lower price point. The culture on board is very family friendly. I never felt like other’s were annoyed that my kids were their having a good time, they even had extra diapers for free in the bathrooms. The whole experience left me feeling cultured and valued. I loved that they embraced diversity and do everything they can to make sure that all guests, not just Americans, have a great experience. At MSC they never really say goodbye, instead they say, “arrivederci.” Which is Italian for “until we meet again.” And that really captures my sentiments about MSC and the Seaside. I cannot wait to sail with MSC cruises again, on the Seaside, or onboard their many other ships.
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