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We, as a family of five (three adults and two teens), decided to try a comparison cruise with MSC through the Caribbean, having had great past experiences with Holland America and Celebrity. As always, we went with a standard Veranda, but enhanced it a bit with MSC’s “Aura Experience”. With one exception, I’ll explain later, it’s definitely worth every penny. Thanks to Aura’s priority embarkation we were aboard quickly—look for the PRIORITY sign off to the left as soon as you get inside the cruise port. We had intentionally arrived in early afternoon (for a 7pm sailing) and we’d barely gotten aboard (ducking the beverage card hawkers) when an announcement was made that our staterooms were ready. One of our family members required a wheelchair so I immediately made my way to the customer relations desk to arrange for one. I expected a long line, being departure day, and indeed it was fairly long, but I was in no hurry. It did surprise me that the desk wasn’t fully manned, I know this because I had to return the wheelchair on the final day and at that time the desk was full. Our steward did a wonderful job, replacing towels whether we’d left them on the floor or not, and other subtle touches. Sorry, for those who crave towel critters, there’s none of those here. Basic shampoo and soap were provided in the shower to wash the pool salt from one’s hair but, sorry, no conditioner. Stewards don’t have it nor do the stores… but then, we couldn’t find a store that sold any basic personal items like, say, hair conditioner or sun screen. But if you took the cruise to buy jewelry, you’re in luck. This was our first experience with a ship of this size and this many passengers, and there were some things that were somewhat frustrating. One has to believe that the ship’s architects must have considered traffic flow as one of their top priorities, and yet, all their effort goes for naught by the placement of two posts and a rope, or a locked glass pass-through. One such place is the large buffet where traffic is designed to flow around a large center island. All is well until a stretched horizontal ribbon sends the flow back on itself, and making those sitting a short distance beyond the no-man’s-land, to be detoured back through the whole circle. A smarter approach was sometimes used—simply stretching plastic across the offerings of a section that wasn’t ready. Another traffic oops was constantly taking place a few decks below our stateroom as we watched hapless passengers, like an ant colony, make their way along the deck to a locked glass door that wouldn’t allow them to go from aft to fore because, as near as we could figure, they’d be going past the windows of an exercise area. I could picture some poor architects pulling their hair out. But there was one traffic flow issue they did to themselves by the placement of the theater—nearer to mid-ship—forcing those who wanted to travel fore-to-aft to figure out the most efficient elevator rides up-and-over or down-and-under, over-stressing the elevators which are always unavoidable bottlenecks. The sole downside to the Aura experience (especially with a wheelchair) is that the staterooms are located forward, so we had a long trek to the main pool, buffets, dining room and everything else located aft. It probably wouldn’t have helped, but what I thought was a forward elevator when I booked our stateroom turned out to be a crew-only stairway—my bad. There was no far forward public elevator. Perhaps due to the size of the ship or the calm seas but throughout the entire cruise it barely felt like we were moving. If I hadn’t looked outside I’d not have known when we’d arrived or departed a port-of-call. The wristbands are not dead-on location-accurate but a definite step in the right direction. No need to take our cards when we went to the pool, the bar or wherever aboard ship—even unlocking our stateroom door. Very nice. Room food service was available but our wheelchair-bound person was disappointed in the selection. We assume that with so many to serve, unless we wanted to pay a pricey fee, the options were quite limited. Best was to inconvenience a family member to go to the buffet to make the self-delivery. If one leaves dirty dishes on the dresser the stewards will remove them—outside your room, they’re on their own but will eventually disappear in a day or two. The food options at the buffets were somewhat repetitive but, with minor exception, there were enough choices for our satisfaction. I found by the third day that the smaller buffet was the best-kept-secret way to do breakfast—especially on excursion days when the early crowds were heaviest. The smaller buffet had all the breakfast choices, but less crowed and therefore less competition for seating. By the last day people were catching on. I always find that chefs most always do an awesome job but, being chefs, they tend to make decadent desserts. I would prefer just a tasty slice of pie, a simple brownie, a dish of pudding or ice cream (there was none of the latter in either buffet). To their credit, attendants do try to serve the needs of those dining in wheelchairs, even running off to get food for them. The main dining room menu had multiple offerings for dinner. It’s a wonderful way to experience unfamiliar dishes. The service was friendly, fast and efficient. No complaints, here. There’s no way around it, the large pool is quite crowded on at-sea days. The main pool was 6.5 feet deep throughout but with it being a warm salt water pool it didn’t take much effort to stay afloat. And they did have a lifeguard keeping watch. I reminded myself that one does not walk on the wooden part of the deck near the pool in bare feet on a sunny day—ouch! But I did discover that I could grab a regular-size gelato on my beverage card at no charge. As usual, there were no lack of bars. If one was busy, it was never a long walk to another. Some cruise lines won’t allow ordering more than one drink at a time on a single card—not so with MSC. And, of course, if you replace anything drunk from the minibar there’s no fee. Excursions were excellent, most having various levels. Take the one that has the most entertainment value for your budget. Finally, de-embarkation was done quickly—using facial recognition at security greatly sped things along. Well, except for our 13-year-old whose picture looked nothing like it did in her 4.5 year old passport. Chuckles all around. Here, and throughout the trip we found the staff members we encountered were polite, respectful and willing to help. All said and done, after polling our family members, most would likely do MSC again, however some thought they’d opt for something smaller.

MSC Seaside review

MSC Seaside Cruise Review by .DR.

2 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2019
  • Destination: Eastern Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Aurea Balcony Stateroom
We, as a family of five (three adults and two teens), decided to try a comparison cruise with MSC through the Caribbean, having had great past experiences with Holland America and Celebrity. As always, we went with a standard Veranda, but enhanced it a bit with MSC’s “Aura Experience”. With one exception, I’ll explain later, it’s definitely worth every penny.

Thanks to Aura’s priority embarkation we were aboard quickly—look for the PRIORITY sign off to the left as soon as you get inside the cruise port. We had intentionally arrived in early afternoon (for a 7pm sailing) and we’d barely gotten aboard (ducking the beverage card hawkers) when an announcement was made that our staterooms were ready.

One of our family members required a wheelchair so I immediately made my way to the customer relations desk to arrange for one. I expected a long line, being departure day, and indeed it was fairly long, but I was in no hurry. It did surprise me that the desk wasn’t fully manned, I know this because I had to return the wheelchair on the final day and at that time the desk was full.

Our steward did a wonderful job, replacing towels whether we’d left them on the floor or not, and other subtle touches. Sorry, for those who crave towel critters, there’s none of those here. Basic shampoo and soap were provided in the shower to wash the pool salt from one’s hair but, sorry, no conditioner. Stewards don’t have it nor do the stores… but then, we couldn’t find a store that sold any basic personal items like, say, hair conditioner or sun screen. But if you took the cruise to buy jewelry, you’re in luck.

This was our first experience with a ship of this size and this many passengers, and there were some things that were somewhat frustrating. One has to believe that the ship’s architects must have considered traffic flow as one of their top priorities, and yet, all their effort goes for naught by the placement of two posts and a rope, or a locked glass pass-through. One such place is the large buffet where traffic is designed to flow around a large center island. All is well until a stretched horizontal ribbon sends the flow back on itself, and making those sitting a short distance beyond the no-man’s-land, to be detoured back through the whole circle. A smarter approach was sometimes used—simply stretching plastic across the offerings of a section that wasn’t ready. Another traffic oops was constantly taking place a few decks below our stateroom as we watched hapless passengers, like an ant colony, make their way along the deck to a locked glass door that wouldn’t allow them to go from aft to fore because, as near as we could figure, they’d be going past the windows of an exercise area. I could picture some poor architects pulling their hair out. But there was one traffic flow issue they did to themselves by the placement of the theater—nearer to mid-ship—forcing those who wanted to travel fore-to-aft to figure out the most efficient elevator rides up-and-over or down-and-under, over-stressing the elevators which are always unavoidable bottlenecks.

The sole downside to the Aura experience (especially with a wheelchair) is that the staterooms are located forward, so we had a long trek to the main pool, buffets, dining room and everything else located aft. It probably wouldn’t have helped, but what I thought was a forward elevator when I booked our stateroom turned out to be a crew-only stairway—my bad. There was no far forward public elevator.

Perhaps due to the size of the ship or the calm seas but throughout the entire cruise it barely felt like we were moving. If I hadn’t looked outside I’d not have known when we’d arrived or departed a port-of-call.

The wristbands are not dead-on location-accurate but a definite step in the right direction. No need to take our cards when we went to the pool, the bar or wherever aboard ship—even unlocking our stateroom door. Very nice.

Room food service was available but our wheelchair-bound person was disappointed in the selection. We assume that with so many to serve, unless we wanted to pay a pricey fee, the options were quite limited. Best was to inconvenience a family member to go to the buffet to make the self-delivery. If one leaves dirty dishes on the dresser the stewards will remove them—outside your room, they’re on their own but will eventually disappear in a day or two.

The food options at the buffets were somewhat repetitive but, with minor exception, there were enough choices for our satisfaction. I found by the third day that the smaller buffet was the best-kept-secret way to do breakfast—especially on excursion days when the early crowds were heaviest. The smaller buffet had all the breakfast choices, but less crowed and therefore less competition for seating. By the last day people were catching on.

I always find that chefs most always do an awesome job but, being chefs, they tend to make decadent desserts. I would prefer just a tasty slice of pie, a simple brownie, a dish of pudding or ice cream (there was none of the latter in either buffet). To their credit, attendants do try to serve the needs of those dining in wheelchairs, even running off to get food for them.

The main dining room menu had multiple offerings for dinner. It’s a wonderful way to experience unfamiliar dishes. The service was friendly, fast and efficient. No complaints, here.

There’s no way around it, the large pool is quite crowded on at-sea days. The main pool was 6.5 feet deep throughout but with it being a warm salt water pool it didn’t take much effort to stay afloat. And they did have a lifeguard keeping watch. I reminded myself that one does not walk on the wooden part of the deck near the pool in bare feet on a sunny day—ouch! But I did discover that I could grab a regular-size gelato on my beverage card at no charge.

As usual, there were no lack of bars. If one was busy, it was never a long walk to another. Some cruise lines won’t allow ordering more than one drink at a time on a single card—not so with MSC. And, of course, if you replace anything drunk from the minibar there’s no fee.

Excursions were excellent, most having various levels. Take the one that has the most entertainment value for your budget.

Finally, de-embarkation was done quickly—using facial recognition at security greatly sped things along. Well, except for our 13-year-old whose picture looked nothing like it did in her 4.5 year old passport. Chuckles all around. Here, and throughout the trip we found the staff members we encountered were polite, respectful and willing to help.

All said and done, after polling our family members, most would likely do MSC again, however some thought they’d opt for something smaller.
.DR.’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Ages 13 to 15
Service
Onboard Experience
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Cabin Review

Aurea Balcony Stateroom
Cabin B3 13033
Our stateroom was clean and we especially liked the clever switch system MSC uses to control the lights (stowing one’s card in a slot by the door gives light control) and also the system they use to notify the stewards when the cabin’s available for a cleaning or do-not-disturb. Bring charge blocks for your electronics as, per usual, there’s only one outlet and it’s at the desk. A larger table would have been nice but we made it work. There was adequate storage for two.
Venice Beach Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins