I find myself disappointed in all the negative reviews. We have gone on about 10 cruises, with RCL, NCL, Carnival and last March for the first time on Seaside. We enjoyed Seaside so much booked again this March. Although the cruise was a bit out of the ordinary because of Covid-19, I feel we can give it an accurate review, having been on it two years in a row, a first for us.
First off, the cruise line did an excellent job with managing the passengers during a difficult time. Everything was super clean, someone was on hand at every food venue, theater show, and on and off ship to personally distribute hand sanitizer. The crew must have been upset by all the goings on, but acted professionally the whole time, giving us the best possible experience under the circumstances.
Now for the cruise in general. I'd like to address some of the most cited criticisms. For us, customer service was perfectly fine. Last year we had an issue with drink package, which meant standing in a long line and a little frustration, but it worked out perfectly in the end. All of the crew members we had contact with were polite and helpful. If someone approached us about adding a package, they'd leave immediately when we said no thank you.
Drink packages--we did extensive research both cruises. Last year we had drink vouchers, 12 each, as our promotion which worked out great for us. They no longer offer that promotion, though, so we did the math and found we could drink as much as we liked and still not come up to the cost of any drink package and that's including gratuities. We don't drink wine at dinner, which many with the packages did, so if you do, you might benefit from a package. When we cruise, we have two drinks before dinner with a beer or two in the afternoon or late evening. We came out way ahead for not having purchased a package.
Dining room food--it is not as good as we've had on RCL or NCL. I thought it was better than Carnival, but those kind of comparisons are so subjective and food quality on ships changes over time, I'm sure. My favorite dish this cruise was the salmon from the everyday menu, which I ordered several times. My husband also had the steak from that menu a couple of times and it was very good. We had a couple of less than stellar meals when we veered from our favorites, but there was always something delicious and we enjoyed the dining room atmosphere, our waiter, and the people we met at nearby tables.
Buffet--we found it to be the best buffet food of any previous cruise. While there are some dishes that are the same or similar each day (rotating fillings for sandwiches, same bread, for instance), there was always something new to try or another option to pursue. I thought the most variation came with the ethnic choices. We ate breakfast and lunch at one of the buffets every day. There were always made-to-order omelets in the morning and a meat carving station at lunch and dinner, excellent salad bar and fruit options, and favorite standbys, like burgers, hot dogs, pizza, sandwiches.
One thing I think more unique with MSC than other ships we've been on is the way they use public space. You really can custom make your cruise. There are sections of the ship to suit everyone. My husband and I like to keep to ourselves a bit more, play games, read, etc. Others find it more fun to be around a lot of people and have music. Both can be found easily on Seaside. Our daily routine included outdoor games under the overhang at the South Beach pool, afternoon games at Le Bistro, drinks at Seaview bar before dinner, swimming at the Jungle pool after dinner (very few people there and two hot tubs), late night snack and sometimes games in Marketplace buffet at night.
Stops--I agree that 5 pm in San Juan is very impractical. It was raining when we went and there was really nothing to do or see. We found a pizza joint a ways away that was quieter and had a rum drink and a beer, but that was about it. St. Thomas was fine, we just walked around in the sun. Nassau was our favorite of the three. We did a walking tour and saw some sights and some churches, stopped at John Watlings for a drink.
Ocean Cay--I can't say enough good about this. The same section-for-everyone concept was evident on this island. There were large lagoons with festive music and lots of people, a shallow lagoon for families with kids, and several quieter beaches away from the crowds for people like us. All beautiful. We followed the advice I read on cruise critic for the quietest spot and went straight to Paradise Sands beach. We rented an umbrella and stayed all day. We swam, read, walked the paths, ate at the closest food truck, had a fun drink at a nearby bar. It was such a wonderful day, I would do the whole cruise again just to experience it again. The weather was perfect that day, which I know can't always be counted on. If we went again and it was rainy or we couldn't stop that would be a huge disappointment, but not the fault of the cruise line. We didn't see the main buffet near the main pools, so I can't comment on that.
Rooms--last year we had Fantastica Suite, this year we opted to save some money and did a Bella balcony. The balcony and room were a bit smaller, but we didn't find the difference in size to be worth the difference in price. I love that MSC offers a balcony for such a low price. We sat and read on that balcony every day and just enjoyed having the option of open air any time we wanted. The closet is indeed small, but we knew that ahead of time and packed light.
Shows--last year we didn't attend a single one, but did two this year--Madame Butterfly and the Michael Jackson show. Both excellent. There were some extremely talented singers and dancers.
We can't know the future of cruising at this point, unfortunately, but if the opportunity arises, we will definitely sail on the Seaside again.