MSC Seaside Cruise Review by stevegivens
- Sail Date: October 2019
- Destination: Western Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Fantastica Balcony Stateroom
While waiting for our cruise date to arrive, we learned about the Voyagers Club and MSC's match program. After determining that MSC would match Hilton Honors, we applied in that regard and were matched to "Black" based on my wife's Hilton Honors status. Black card status offers quite a few nice perks which are outlined on MSC's Voyagers Club web page. Additionally, we signed up for various cruise information pages on Facebook, Cruise Critic and others. While most of the reviews were positive, the negative ones stood out, particularly regarding rude staff members, slow elevators, pushy Europeans and bad food. We carried on with an open mind.
On 10/4/19, we drove down to Miami and checked in to the Double Tree Grand Biscayne. They have a package where you can stay overnight and leave your vehicle at the hotel for the period of your cruise. You need to call the hotel to book this package. We had a nice room and complimentary breakfast. The Double Tree does offer a shuttle to the port, but we opted for Uber.
Per MSC, our boarding time was 3:00 p.m. on 10/5/2019, the day of our cruise. Disregarding that time, we headed to the Port of Miami at 10:15 a.m. Upon arrival at Terminal F, we were greeted by a porter who gathered our luggage and reminded us to be sure we had all our documents, passports etc... in hand. We tipped him and walked into the terminal at 10:25 a.m. and approached the Priority / Black Card member line. At 10:30 a.m., the standard security lines were opened, we emptied our pockets, put our carry on luggage through the screening machine and passed through the metal detectors without fanfare. We proceeded to the ticketing area where we submitted our passports, had our photo taken, passports returned and received our cruise cards. We then moved on to a Priority member holding area and had a "Bon Voyage" photo taken. We then had to wait until about 12:00 p.m. to board the ship. We heard that customs was scrutinizing passengers disembarking; I don't know that to be a fact.
Once on board, we were customarily accosted by staff members offering specialty dining, massages, excursions, drink packages and photo packages. We initially succumbed to specialty dining in the Teppanyaki Restaurant for that evening. We then walked right up to a kiosk to register our credit card (no PIN needed for us). We proceeded to the Champagne Bar to toast our cruise. Found out that we could check our hand luggage near the Shine Bar, did that and started checking out the Seaside. Found the Spa area and had a nice tour of the facilities. While there, we scheduled Peggy's massage for Sunday and were talked in to turning it into a couples Bali massage (yes, for a charge). At 2:00 p.m., an announcement was made that staterooms were ready. We picked up our hand luggage and went to find our stateroom (11110) on deck 11, midship, starboard side.
We easily found our cabin, used our cruise card to unlock the door, then put the card in the slot box inside the door to turn on the electricty and air conditioning. Your outlets will not work if you don't have your card in the slot. Any other card will not work. Our room was nicely appointed, clean and ready for us. We unpacked our hand luggage, checked out the balcony etc...We then left to go purchase wristbands ($5.00) each from guest services. With the wristbands you can unlock your door, purchase drinks, services etc...The mandatory safety drill was conducted at 4:00 p.m. We returned to our room afterwards and found our luggage had arrived. At that time, we also met our room steward Handry from Madagascar. We asked Handry for wash/face cloths and for a top flat shut to be placed under the duvet, which he did later. Handry provided excellent and consistent service. I will now attempt to get out of the "weeds" as the above was what we had most pre-cruise anxiety with.
Saturday night we went up to deck 16 for sail away which was about 7:00 p.m. Later on we dined in the Teppanyaki Restaurant. Our chef John Paul was very entertaining and the food was great. During dinner, we were approached about attending a wine tasting later in the week (for an additional charge), which we like doing and signed up. We also signed up to eat in Ocean Cay specialty restaurant Sunday night.
Sunday, we explored the ship some more, visited the Thermal Area and had our massage which was great. At the end of the massage we were offered (for an additional charge) an additional massage on Thursday for a discounted rate which we agree to. Sunday was also Elegan/Gatsby night for which I wore a tuxedo and Peggy a cocktail dress. We had numerous photos taken around the ship. Before dinner we had "Smoked" cocktails prepared by Gian Carlo at the bar near the specialty restaurants, they were great. Dinner in Ocean Cay was great. Isabella was our server. Played slots in the casino for a while using cash.
Monday was excursion day in Ocho Rios. We participated in a bamboo raft trip on the Martha Brae river, about a 45 minute van ride from the port. Our raft guide was Captain Wilkie, he was great fun. Our tour guide was Paula who was a lot of fun. More smoked cocktails on 16 forward.
Tuesday was excursion day on Grand Cayman. We went on the Wreck and Reef Snorkeling trip. Small tender boats were used to ferry us to the port. We met up with our tour provider and walked to our snorkel boat. James and Shannon were our guides. We took the boat to the site of the sunken USS Kittywake. We had a brief safety orientation and plopped in to the water which was rough in our opinion. One of the guides was in the water with us. Too rough for Peggy, she stayed in the water next to our boat. You could see the wreck but was too deep to snorkel close too. Not too many fish. We then reboarded the snorkel boat and moved to Cheeseburger Reef. No guides in the water, but the reef was pretty shallow and had lots of tropical fish. After snorkeling, we had a few drinks and lunch before returning to the ship.
Wednesday was excursion day in Cozumel Mexico. We went on the National Geographic Snorkeling Trip. Our snorkel boat picked us up right next to the cruise pier. We had three guides which were in the water with us at all times. The guides pointed out all types of fish and sea creatures and were very attentive to our location and safety. We even had a woman with us who could not swim. The guides had her inflate her snorkel vest and used a life ring. She did great. We visited three reef sites. After a couple of beers on the way back, we at at La Chouza restaurant and had a great meal. Beware of hucksters trying everything under the sun to get you in to their stores. Had a margarita at Senor Frogs...expensive in my opinion. White night was a lot of fun. Most guests dressed the part.
Thursday was sea day. We did the Thermal Spa, massage, Peggy had a haircut, napped. Elegant night again, tuxedo repeat for me, Peggy wore a long formal dress. I would say we were way in the minority as far as formal dress is concerned, but we enjoy doing it. Luggage labels were delivered in preparation for having our luggage to be placed in the hallway for pickup on Friday night.
Friday was port day in Nassau Bahamas. We did not do an excursion but did go ashore, walked around and had something to eat, it was nice. Packed up our luggage, leaving out what we would need for tonight and tomorrow morning. Placed our luggage in the hallway about 7 p.m. That night, we had arranged for the Chef's Table experience in the Butcher's Cut specialty restaurant. The meal started out okay, but Peggy got woozy and returned to our cabin leaving me to finish dinner. The meal and service was okay, but not great. I have thought a lot about the service and I am not sure how good it can get considering the age, experience and employment contract length of the staff, especially those you interact with directly. Don't get me wrong here, everyone was very polite and accommodating but not 5 star service. That night, I was in the casino for quite a while and ended up with 30% off our next cruise without plunking down much money. Played one slot machine. Had fun.
Saturday morning. Awake at 6:00 a.m. Showered and went to breakfast. Finished up packing our hand carry luggage. Our disembarkation assembly time was for 7:40 a.m. in the Metropolitan Theater for priority (Black card) guests. We started off the ship at our appointed time. Walked in to the terminal, were processed by facial recognition, found our luggage with the help of a porter, got an Uber to the Double Tree Grand Biscayne, checked in to the hotel early and were in our hotel room by 8:00 a.m.
We had a great trip and will cruise with MSC again. Never encountered rude staff or pushy Europeans. Yes the elevators were crowded particularly after theater shows and on disembarkation morning, not complaining here, it isto be expected. We did use the stairs a fair bit of the time. The buffet food was good with a wide variety in our opinion. The buffets were a bit crowded, particularly on excursion and disembarkation mornings, but not a big deal. No trouble finding a table ever. The main dining room food was a major disappointment. We feel the food lacked greatly in flavor and presentation. Yes, they were happy to bring you something else right away and you could have as much of anything as you wanted. Still, we were disappointed in the Main dining room.
The entertainment, particularly the shows in the theater were excellent and we only missed the afternoon opera show Butterfly. We really enjoyed the show scenery, music, dancing and variety of acts.
The service throughout the ship was outstanding in all ways. I did notice an erroneous charge to our account for a bottle of wine we didn't order. I had to visit guest services twice to have this corrected. We did book the Behind the Scenes tour of the ship (additional charge) that was well worth it. We were not allowed access to the bridge or engineering spaces. With over 4700 guests and 1400 crew, we never really felt crowded on the Seaside and would happily sail her again.
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