One of the most hotly anticipated cruise ship debuts of 2017, MSC Seaside arrives with a drenching water park, an array of dining spaces and plethora of outdoor areas for worshipping the sun.
But wait, there's already a ship sailing out of Miami that has those same features -- Carnival Vista, which only debuted a year and a half before Seaside. So how's a cruiser to decide which one is the best?
We pit MSC Seaside against Carnival Vista, comparing dining, bars, cabins, activities and outdoor fun, nightlife, family offerings and itineraries to help you decide which mega-ship is the best choice for you.
Size wise, the 26,000-ton difference between MSC Seaside and Carnival Vista is fairly negligible (Seaside is 160,000 gross tons vs. Vista's 133,500), but Seaside carries significantly more passengers -- 4,134 at double occupancy vs. Vista's 3,936 passengers. Despite its larger size, Seaside has one fewer passenger deck than Vista's 14.
What does all this mean for you, a possible cruiser? While both ships are, generally speaking, the same size, Seaside carries more passengers, meaning it could feel more crowded.
Another stat: At double occupancy, Carnival Vista has an almost imperceptibly better passenger-to-crew ratio -- 2.7 passengers for every crew member vs. Seaside's 2.9 cruisers to every one crew member.
Carnival Vista boasts 18 dining venues, of which 10 are included in the price of your cruise; MSC Seaside has nine places to eat, of which four are complimentary. Dining venues without a surcharge on both ships include two main dining rooms and two buffets.
Both ships feature two main dining rooms and offer traditional set-seating dining times, as well as a flexible option that gives passengers the freedom to choose when they want to eat dinner. Yacht Club passengers on MSC also have the extra included-in-the-cruise-fare choice of eating at the MSC Yacht Club Restaurant at the top of the ship.
Cruisers will also find an indoor buffet on both ships: the Deck 10 poolside Lido Marketplace on Carnival Vista and the Deck 8 Marketplace Buffet on MSC Seaside, as well as the Deck 16 family-friendly Biscayne Bay Buffet & Pizzeria.
But Carnival Vista outpaces MSC Seaside by miles when it comes to free dining as the ship also offers: a 24-hour pizza place; the lunchtime only Guy's Burger Joint, Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse, Mongolian Wok and Pasta Bar; the breakfast and lunch BlueIguana Cantina; a sea day-only oversized choose-your-fixings salad bar; and the evening Taste Bar.
When it comes to specialty dining venues -- i.e., eateries at which you must pay extra -- Seaside has three with cover charges and several others at which food and/or specialty coffees and pastries are priced a la carte. Vista, which offers three sit-down eateries with cover charges and four places at which food, specialty coffees and ice cream shakes are priced a la carte.
Both ships also have a Chef's Table.
As for the type of food you'll find onboard in the specialty restaurants, both Seaside and Vista offer seafood (the elegant Ocean Cay on Seaside and casual poolside Seafood Shack on Carnival Vista), fine dining steakhouses (Butcher's Cut on Seaside and Fahrenheit 555 on Vista) and an extensive selection of Asian dishes (Asian Market Kitchen by Roy Yamaguchi with sushi bar and Teppanyaki on Seaside; Ji Ji Asian Kitchen and Bonsai Sushi on Vista).
Carnival Vista also offers fine-dining Italian at Cucina del Capitano. There is no Italian-specific restaurant on MSC Seaside, but with its deep Mediterranean roots, Italian options are available nearly every day in the complimentary main dining rooms.
Bar hoppers have plenty of choices on both Carnival Vista and MSC Seaside, with the former home to 13 bars and lounges and the latter claiming it will have 20.
While not a lot has been revealed about Seaside's bars yet, some similarities in offerings are already apparent; both ships have a poolside bar at each pool and both are home to a sports bar.
Seaside will also have a Champagne Bar; Vista doesn't have a wine-specific bar though you can pour your own wine from self-serve dispensers in the Library Bar. Carnival Vista also has a cocktail-only bar, rum- and tequila-specific bars and a Cuban-themed bar with Latin America-inspired drinks and live salsa music and dancing at night.
You'll find the same basic cabin types on both MSC Seaside and Carnival Vista. Both have standard inside (no window), ocean-view (porthole or window) and balcony cabins, but they differ quite a bit when it comes to specialty cabins, as well as to the types of suites available onboard.
Among the non-standard cabins you'll find on Carnival Vista are the Havana group of rooms, so named for by their proximity to the Havana Bar and exclusive access to the Havana pool during the day. A handful of Havana cabins are insides or have balconies, but most (called Havana Cabanas) have private patios with loungers and swing chairs.
Another cabin category exclusive to Vista is Family Harbor, a block of inside, ocean-view and balcony cabins specifically designed for families -- all located on Deck 2 within the Family Harbor, some of which can hold up to five people.
What MSC Seaside has that Vista doesn't are the Family Cluster cabins, which are simply two to three connecting balcony cabins designed and sold as a single unit; depending on configuration they can fit up to 10 people.
As for suites, MSC Seaside has many more than Carnival Vista, as well as a robust program for Yacht Club passengers -- the ship's suite-only enclave.
Vista's limited choices include Junior Suites (275 square feet with a 35-square-foot balcony, Ocean Suites (275 square feet with a 65-square-foot-balcony), Grand Suites (345 square feet with an 85-foot-square balcony) and the Family Harbor Suite (275 square feet with a 65-square-foot balcony). The largest suite on Vista is the single accessible Ocean Suite (450 square feet with an 110-square-foot balcony).
In contrast, MSC Seaside has both Yacht Club and non-Yacht Club suite choices.
Non-Yacht Club suites range in size from 183 to 301 square feet with a balcony of up to 172 square feet. (Two suites have balconies sized approximately 409 square feet.) Among these suites, are the Whirlpool Tub Suites, which can accommodate up to five people and a 75-square-foot balcony with a whirlpool tub. Grand Suites are also located outside of the Yacht Club; they come in either one bed/one bath or two bed/bath configurations. Sizes of these suites range from 344 to 527 square feet, with all having a balcony of up to 226 square feet.
Within the Yacht Club there are three suite choices: Interior Suites can hold up to two people and are 226 square feet; Deluxe Suites can accommodate three to five people and are approximately 269 square feet with an 86-square-foot balcony; and Yacht Club Royal Suites are 667 square feet with a 355-square-foot balcony.
Because MSC sells cabins by the "experience" rather than the cabin style (although some cabin styles are only available to certain experience levels), the non-Yacht Club suite perks can vary. But perks for Yacht Club cruisers always include priority check-in and check-out, 24-hour butler service, 24-hour concierge, unlimited drinks in all MSC Yacht Club areas and free Thermal Suite access, among others.
Vista suite passengers only get priority embarkation and debarkation.
When it comes to comparing cabin sizes on MSC Seaside vs. Carnival Vista it gets a tad complicated as Seaside has more ranges within any given category (other than ocean-view, oddly enough) than Vista. But here's a generalized comparison:
- Inside cabins start at a larger size on Carnival Vista (185 square feet vs. 151 on Seaside), but Seaside inside cabins can be much larger (up to 301 square feet);
- Ocean-view cabins are generally the same size or larger on Carnival Vista (185 to 220 square feet vs. 183 square feet on Seaside);
- Balcony cabins (the inside part of the room) are almost the same size or smaller on Vista (185 square feet on Vista vs. 172 to 269 square feet on Seaside);
- The actual balconies in Balcony category rooms are also generally smaller on Vista (35 to 75 square feet on Vista vs. up to 97 square feet on Seaside).
Activities & Outdoor Fun
Cruisers looking to decide between MSC Seaside vs. Carnival Vista based on how much fun they'll have might have a hard time deciding. Both have or will have lots of activities and outdoor recreation available.
While cruisers can expect to find many of the same daily events (trivia, poolside games, bingo, etc.), the big attractions on each ship differ.
First, what they have in common. Vista has, and Seaside will have, a water park with multiple slides and a splash area for toddlers. On Vista, the park has the psychedelically themed Kaleid-O-Slide, a twister water slide, the PowerDrencher bucket and kids-only SplashZone. Seaside will have the much larger Forest Aquaventure and Adventure Park with five water slides, including a family flume-type slide, and an AquaPlay and AquaSpray area for the younger kids.
Vista has, and Seaside also will have, a ropes course, though on Seaside the Adventure Trail has participants ducking spray cannons while making their way around the course. Both also have three pools; one of the pools on Vista (the Havana pool) is reserved during the day for passengers staying in Havana cabins only.
Another attraction the ships will have in common when Seaside debuts in late 2017 is a multi-sensory movie theater in which moviegoers can feel the wind whipping through their hair or the sea spray of a whale surfacing.
Now the differences: Seaside will have a full-size bowling alley with two lanes, as well as a Formula One race car simulator. Carnival Vista, on the other hand, offers outdoor mini-golf, an IMAX at sea movie theater, an indoor Clubhouse at which you can find mini-bowling, Ping-Pong, sports video games and arcade basketball, and the suspended-in-midair recumbent bike ride known as SkyRide.
The fun on both MSC Seaside and Carnival Vista doesn't stop when the sun goes down, with both offering a variety of evening options, including comedy clubs, song and dance theatrical productions, and the aforementioned multi-sensory movie theaters on both ships.
Children's and Teen Programming
Families trying to choose between MSC Seaside vs. Carnival Vista will find similarities in the onboard kid programs, but big differences in many other family-related amenities (like the cabins and onboard character meet-and-greets).
Additionally, families will find the base rates for children on MSC Seaside to be less than on Carnival Vista; MSC offers free fares for kids under 2 when traveling in the same room with two full-paying adult passengers, while older kids get a discount.
Both Carnival and MSC have five kid club spaces, though the age ranges for each vary. Additionally, all kids clubs on MSC are LEGO-themed, so if you've got a LEGO-obsessed little 'un, Seaside might be the way to go.
The youngest age group on MSC starts at 1 year old and goes up to 3 years, while the youngest range on Carnival Vista starts at 2 years old and includes kids up to 5.
One level up on MSC is the Mini Club, which is open to 3 to 6-year-olds; on Carnival Vista the next age group, called Stingrays, encompasses 6 to 8-year-olds. Next is the Junior Club on MSC, which offers activities for 7 to 11-year-olds; on Vista the next group is the 9 to 11-year-old Sharks.
The tween and teen divisions are identical on both ships (12 to 14 and 15 to 17), with both having their own space so that 17-year-olds don't have to be in the same space as 12-year-olds.
When it comes to nighttime babysitting, parents will find supervised programs on both ships for an extra fee. Neither ship offers in-cabin babysitting.
One key difference between the two ships when it comes to families is in the accommodations onboard. MSC offers family cluster staterooms, which comprise two to three connecting balcony cabins, each featuring two twin beds that can convert to a queen, a bathroom and small sitting area with sofa. Because multiple staterooms are involved, the prices for this category are higher.
Vista, on the other hand, features an entire section of Deck 2 for the line's Family Harbor cabins. These cabins are designed to fit up to five people in one room, and families staying in these rooms get access to the Family Harbor Lounge, a space for parents and kids to hang out, play games and eat at the daily breakfast and lunch buffet. The entire Family Harbor section is keycard accessible.
As for family-friendly dining on MSC Seaside, the Biscayne Bay Buffet & Pizzeria is designed as the place for families to go to eat without anyone complaining if their kids run around or make too much noise.
Another differentiating aspect of the two ships are their family-related partnerships. As mentioned above, MSC has a partnership with LEGO that allows it to offer all kinds of LEGO-related activities onboard. But MSC also has a partnership with Doremi, a Japanese anime series. As part of this partnership MSC Seaside is able to offer a space called Doremi Studio onboard dedicated to family activities.
Carnival's partnership with Dr. Seuss, alternatively, gives Carnival Vista cruisers access to a Dr. Seuss themed breakfast with character appearances, a Dr. Seuss parade and Dr. Seuss Bookville, a family reading and play area.
MSC Seaside will join Carnival Vista in Miami when it debuts in late 2017 sailing alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises, though Carnival Vista, which already offers a variety of three- to seven-night Caribbean cruises, then moves to Galveston in September 2018.
There will be some overlap in port calls between the two ships with both stopping in San Juan, St. Maarten, Nassau, Cozumel and Ocho Rios (depending on itinerary). Of the two, only Carnival Vista will visit St. Kitts, the Dominican Republic, Curacao, Aruba, Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya and Bonaire.