(7:30 a.m. EDT) -- We've just returned from MSC Cruises' latest ship, MSC Seaview, after a spectacular christening event, and prior to its first revenue sailing.
We're having a bit of deja vu -- the ship is stunning, featuring elegant decor, shiny chrome, glittering Swarovski crystals and enough electronic gadgetry to make even the most tech-savvy passengers swoon -- but we've seen this ship before.
And that's not a bad thing.
Seaview, a near-identical twin to MSC Seaside, which launched late last year, is big (4,132 passengers) and bold, featuring the same main attractions as its predecessor: five waterslides, two ziplines, 10 restaurants and an entertainment complex with bowling, a Formula-One simulator and 4D cinema. And let's not forget nightlife that keeps cruisers going until the sun comes up.
It also boasts a high ratio of outdoor to indoor space, which encourages passengers to enjoy the outdoors via alfresco dining, a boardwalk, a glass-floored viewing platform over the ship's wake and even a ropes course for kids, which makes sense as the ship is headed to permanently sunnier climes in Brazil at the end of this year.
So, while there isn't much that differs between the two vessels, there are some notable variations. Read on for our take on how they enhance the experience.
The names of several of Seaview's pool and bar areas have been changed to reflect a more general vibe, rather than one specific to Florida, where sister Seaside is based. For example, instead of the Miami Beach Pool/Bar, passengers will find the Panorama Beach Pool/Bar. This allows the ship to better fit with its planned markets in the Med and South America. Additionally, names have been changed for the casino (from Miami Casino to Platinum Casino), theater (Metropolitan Theatre to Odeon Theatre) and French eatery (Bistrot La Boheme to L'Atelier Bistrot). The names of the main dining rooms have also been changed to Silver Dolphin and Golden Sand instead of Seashore and Ipanema, and the main buffet is dubbed Ocean Point Buffet, a departure from Seaside's Biscayne Bay Buffet.
In addition to the Butcher's Cut steakhouse and Asian Market Kitchen by Roy Yamaguchi, Ocean Cay once again appears onboard in the collective area known as Chef's Court, but it carries an added twist on Seaview. Although the bright, airy and relaxing decor hasn't changed much from what's on Seaside, the menu has been redesigned by Michelin-Starred chef Ramon Freixa, who's known for his seafood dishes. He blends his knowledge of traditional Spanish food with a bit of innovation, and the results are choices like steak tartare with caviar; octopus with fried quail eggs and potatoes; cheese flan; and melon and mint soup. Our tip: Try the tuna tartare; you won't regret it.
The color palette has also changed in several spaces of the ship, including the Garage Club, which is predominantly orange instead of blue; the French bistro, which is burgundy, rather than dark green; and in passenger cabins, which are deep green instead of maroon. Apart from the colors, the decor is nearly identical. The Jungle Beach Pool area's color scheme has also been toned down a bit, featuring brown faux bamboo chairs, rather than bright green ones. Overall, the color selection is cohesive throughout the ship, and it does a good job of mixing sophistication and glamor with fun.
As on Seaside, two outposts of Italian chocolatier Venchi appear on Seaview, selling decadent gelato, chocolate by the gram and a variety of tasty drinks, with and without alcohol. However, the first thing we noticed is that the giant chocolate fountain wall appearing behind the counter on Seaside at the main venue has been replaced by a display of plastic ice cream cones on Seaview.
While much of the general decor remains the same, we did notice that the sports bar features memorabilia from pursuits that are more reflective of the ship's audience, such as soccer/football and cycling instead of American football.
Entertainment has long been one of MSC's strongest points, and the trend continues on Seaview. With seven new shows, all of which differ from what's performed on Seaside, there's something to entertain just about everyone. So far, we've seen "Bizarre" and "Fantasia," both of which combine singing, dancing and stunning, colorful costumes and makeup with acrobatics, feats of strength and fun talents like juggling and pole dancing. Frankly, we were left amazed.
For more on the differences between MSC's two Seaside-class ships, check out our in-depth comparison, MSC Seaside vs. Seaview.
--By Ashley Kosciolek, Editor