We are experienced cruisers who have traveled many times to other continents, and the cruise on the Seaside was our third and fourth MSC cruise. This review is about two separately booked back to back cruises, but not much changed between the two weeks except the passenger composition and itinerary. We really like the Divina (a ten-day cruise in the Eastern Caribbean) and found the Grandiosa in Europe to be similar to the Seaside in many respects.
Right up front, I’ll repeat another reviewer’s accurate observation: the ship is a good value for Yacht Club passengers and for bargain cruisers who purchase the cheapest inside cabin and do bare-bones travel. The experience can get pricey for everyone in between and for those with higher expectations.
Because we have Diamond status, the embarkation was very easy and fast as we had priority. The rep gave us cards with the wrong photos, so we had to stand in a long line later at Customer Service to fix this error.
Disregard the time MSC tells you to board. In reality, you can come around 10:30 or 11:00 and no one checks or asks. We were told to come at 3PM but showed up at 11:00. Those who follow these silly instructions will feel cheated out of several hours of their cruise. MSC is just attempting to control the flow of passengers. We were on the ship around 11:30.
You can go up to the buffet at noon and enjoy a lunch before you explore the ship.
Passengers were allowed into the cabins at 2:00. Our luggage arrived right after the muster drill which took place in the Haven Lounge. The drill takes three times as long as it should because passengers don’t listen to the announcements. Maybe people tune them out because there are so many? Be sure to insist someone scans your card at the drill. We met a couple who attended, but the staff went AWOL, and they were made to return the next morning for another drill.
The Public Areas
The ship is absolutely beautiful, and most public areas are very nicely designed. Lounges that featured entertainment were too small (Haven Lounge, Seaside Lounge, and Piazza lounge) and too few for this large capacity ship. Most ships with a 2,000 capacity have this many and size lounges. No forward lounge as this area is taken up with the Yacht Club.
The pools were jammed packed like people soup. The chair hogs were out in full force at about 6:30 each morning. We don’t lay out, so this didn’t bother us- just an observation.
The buffets were never horribly crowded because many ate at the pool areas.
Another reviewer mentioned that a lot of the ship’s property in the public areas on Decks 5 to 8 are dedicated to sales of merchandise. Display cabinets take up space in the middle and could be used to expand the lounges and other public areas. The EFFY store managers make frequent announcements and interrupt the entertainment at the Piazza Grande Lounge.
The selections in the MDR were generally uninspiring, and the entrees were bland. I am surprised that their Italian food is so ordinary. I ate in the Grandiosa’s specialty restaurant (which was excellent- none on the Seaside) and have dined in many fine Italian restaurants. I don’t have a drop of Italian blood in me, but can make much better than on the Seaside! The lasagna was like frozen Stouffers’ lasagna. I had to salt and pepper everything.
On the first week, we were seated at a two-top. The people next to us never showed up until the last evening (they were delightful.) We asked to be seated at an English-speaking table for our second week and enjoyed very nice people at our table.
Both waiters were very efficient and personable. A bottle of water is randomly put at the table for the entire table- sometimes not. All the staff in the MDRs seemed very good.
We ate at the Butcher’s Cut and Ocean Cay. The Butcher’s Cut dinner was excellent, as was the service. Ocean Cay was quite a letdown, and it seems my opinion is the general consensus as there was only one other couple for the two hours we were there. The fish was very bland, and the crab cake was ordinary. We heard this opinion of Ocean Cay echoed by others who ate there (I wish I had heard this previous to going there.) The cheesecake was very good, as was the service. The restaurant itself is delightfully decorated, but the menu needs attention.
Most desserts were ordinary, but the Italian Cream Cake offered for special occasions is outstanding. Also, the special back to back luncheon was excellent. They had a special dessert buffet each Thursday where very pretty cakes were offered, but they were usually just white cake with different decorations and not many flavor variations. At least they were pretty!
The two buffet areas have plenty of seats as long as the weather is nice so you can use the outside areas. The pizza, like everyone says, is good as are the burgers. I appreciated that there was a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, but the cooked food was uninspiring. I had to keep searching for something appealing. You won’t go hungry, but they need to improve the variety of appealing foods. The staff in the buffet generally did their jobs, but only a few made attempts to smile. I had a sense they were quite unhappy. This is in marked contrast to the usually pleasant demeanor on other cruise lines.
There are premade omelets available at the morning buffets but no specialized ones. The breakfast selections are typical and were just fine.
The Market place buffet on Deck 8 is the larger one and opened more hours. The buffet on Deck 16 has limited hours and a lesser selection.
It was disappointing that the Seaside had no alternative small complimentary café as some of their other ships and cruise lines do.
We had a rather large inside cabin, which was nice, but like others have said, the storage is minimal, and the bathrooms are very tight. I’m just 5’1” and pretty small, and I can only imagine the struggles a large person would have! The beds and pillows were comfortable.
There were no cups in the bathroom, so we took some from the buffet. There were glass ones on the desk, but we didn’t want glass in the restroom.
The TV was in an odd location- to the right of the head of the bed, so we couldn’t watch TV head-on. Not a big deal since the TV selection is so minimal.
Our attendant took good care of the room and was pleasant and efficient.
Cruise Critic Party
I was so impressed with the CC Meet and Mingle on the Divina in 2019, but the Seaside’s was a bit of a step-down. The beautiful cake was such a nice feature on the Divina but was not on the Seaside. I heard it was because of increased sanitation due to the coronavirus. We did receive a group photo in our cabin for both meetups. We met many nice people, and the captain was very kind and pleasant as were his staff.
The theater performances are really a step above most other cruise lines, and MSC is to be complimented for this. No single entertainers are featured, and the same performers are seen frequently throughout the seven days. The highlight was the Michael Jackson Show called Starwalker. The impersonator was spectacular, as were the high energy dancers. That is one of the best ever, and I’m not a big MJ fan…
The other shows had themes and were also well done. I saw each show two times because of being on both weeks, but there is so much going on that the repeat didn’t bother me a bit.
The sets and costumes are exceptional, and I appreciated that most of the female dancers’ outfits were rather modest.
Also, different talent is sprinkled through the thirty to forty-minute shows. A very talented roller-skating couple was my favorite. Several “Cirque de Sol” types of acts were far superior because they were just a few minutes each rather than a whole show of strong men, jugglers, gymnasts. Etc. I loved the huge T- Rex in Peter Punk.
The male vocalists were exceptional.
Butterflies, a shortened version of Madame Butterfly was featured in the afternoon. It was well done, and if you have never seen an opera, this is a nice introduction.
There was an improv group that did a family and adult show. We didn’t particularly enjoy them and didn’t return for other performances.
The lounge entertainment was a weak area on the Seaside, and our review is mixed. We enjoy dancing, but the groups except for the Duo Remedy didn’t have a diverse repertoire. No foxtrot or slow waltzes, etc. Duo Remedy was the only group who attempted to interact with the audience and try to access what was popular with the dancers. They even learned a fast waltz for one couple.
• Two different guitarists who didn’t seem to attract much of a crowd.
• Latin Fusion and Fusion Groove who were just fine for those who like Latin music but didn’t have much of a repertoire beyond that. They generally played in the largest lounge, the Haven.
• Jazz n More played in the Seaview Lounge. They were good, but the lounge isn’t large enough, and the bar attracts lots of people who just want to drink and chat- nothing wrong with that, but the seating is very limited for those who want to listen or dance. One lady who wanted to listen complained to people who dared to have a conversation. Yikes. It got tense there.
• A piano player didn’t attract much of our time.
The entertainment staff was fine, but their dance instruction wasn’t very skilled. Teaching the Argentine Tango in twenty minutes with no partnering is worthless and having a woman start with the left foot is confusing. Typically, a woman begins to dance with her right foot backward in step one, and the man begins to dance with his left foot forward. Other cruise lines do this so much better.
They were great at game shows and trivia, although they use many of the same questions in trivia from one week to the next. Maybe a little time doing research should be part of their job? MSC gave out much better prizes than most cruise lines. Kudos here!
As dancers, we had an issue with little children on the dance floor by themselves while the parents sat at the table, taking photos of their sweeties. That was an effective way to clear the floor of adult dancers! After witnessing a running around two-year-old on the Grandiosa who caused a dancer to stumble over and injure a child, I’m not a fan of kids on the dancefloor by themselves. I think it is great when an adult holds hands with the child of any age and tries to dance with them, but letting your darling run back and forth is obnoxious. I was impressed when a young father reprimanded his mother for chasing her grandson all over the dance floor. “You’re just getting him all stirred up, and this isn’t the place, Mom!” Right on, Dad/Son!
As is usual, the musicians and staff are put in a delicate situation, not wanting to enforce common sense and courtesy. I was impressed when a dance instructor called for the parents who were no where near their two-year-old to come and get her because she was a safety issue. This was on the Grandiosa, not the Seaside.
The staff is all hardworking and generally pleasant and efficient but seem overworked and a bit unhappy at times. I’ve only encountered one sour and incompetent crew member on all the cruises I have ever taken, but this crew seemed a little down. Perhaps many are worried about their families back home in Asia or the downturn in the travel industry and are worried about their jobs. Many of those returning get temporary jobs in the hospitality industry. They must be quite concerned about their futures.
The one sour area were the females at customer service. My past two MSC cruises had outstanding staff at the CS desk, and one nice one on the Grandiosa even sent us special gifts (bags and caps) because we were so pleasant with them! These CS ladies on the Seaside were probably imported statues from Easter Island. Cold, rather rude, and curt making the passenger feel rather stupid (I overheard some conversations.) I asked questions of the two men at CS, and they were very pleasant and efficient. What is it with the women at the desk?
MSC is a cruise line that attracts many non-English speaking passengers. Many Americans assume they are from Europe, which is generally not accurate in the Caribbean. The French speakers tend to be Canadians, and the Spanish and Portuguese speakers are generally from the USA or Central or Southern America. Many are in large family and friend groups.
The Italians and Germans tend to be Europeans.
You will see many more children on MSC cruises and lots of big strollers. Any week that coincides with a school holiday (even the one day off for Presidents’ Day in the USA) results in an explosion of school-age children (elementary and teens.) I asked a few families, and they generally said their child had Monday off, so they felt their kids could miss the other four days since they were such “good students.” So, they aren’t really on vacation, and they aren’t homeschoolers, but are missing school.
This results in significant overcrowding because the cabins now have about four people instead of two. Your total passenger count will be much higher than typical, and concerns like no loungers on the pool decks, capacity in the theatre at each performance, etc. gets to be an issue.
I enjoy being in different countries, but the announcements in five languages started to grate on my nerves. At one show, the CD asked for a show of hands as to how many passengers needed the five languages. Only one Portuguese hand went up. All that time, giving the announcements in Portuguese for one person? The back to back meeting was the worst as they gave all the directions that were written on a PowerPoint in the five languages orally. Then, we discovered, the information pretty much didn’t apply to us. Forty minutes lost. That meeting could have just been eliminated with a piece of paper given to the B2B passengers.
BTW- why are so many people who need instructions in their own languages wearing shirts with English wording? Just a thought…
ther features of the ship:
The library had no books, and there are no games available. There was a sign in the cases that the contents had been removed for increased efforts in sanitation. We brought our own, so this wasn’t a problem.
All the other amusement and entertainment areas cost extra: bowling, zip lines, pool table, F1 Race, etc.
The gym was well equipped and very clean. Like most ships, it is busy in the morning.
Ocean Cay Island
We were fortunate on the first week to enjoy a full, sunny day at Ocean Cay. MSC has around a 60% chance of docking there because of winds and weather. There are many lovely beach areas, and the entire island is very walkable. It will be really lovely when the trees are mature.
The area to the left has chairs and cushions only- no loungers. The few umbrellas there are free, but the rest of the island beaches charge $15 for one. There are plenty of chairs and loungers all over. The tram’s schedule is random and changes paths occasionally. Their pick up areas are not well marked.
The buffet was really very good, and we arrived within the first hour of opening. After that, the lines were very long. Not many places to sit in the shade.
Most passengers come on board around 5PM for dinner, and a few venture out after dusk for the parade and light show. The facilities, including the restrooms, are closed, so be aware of that! The lighthouse show is a really nice multi-media display that can be seen from many areas of the ship.
On the second week, our time was cut short on the island. We were allowed island access at 9 AM and had to leave by 2:30. Good thing, since it started to rain, and the rest of the evening was rainy. The weather was very nice while we were on Ocean Cay and we had a lovely day. This time, we went back to the ship for the buffet to allow the new passengers to have two fewer folks in line. The rain continued into disembarkation in Miami the next morning. Lots of ship movement and pitching during the night. It must have been quite a storm out there!
The Daily Planner is delivered each night and provides good information. In addition, you can make dinner and theater reservations on the TV in the cabin or the many electronic boards all around the ship. Be sure to reserve your favorite seating time for the shows. They allow those without reservations in five minutes before the show. Usually, the early show can be accessed without a reservation. They scan your card before you enter.
Some people found the MSC app difficult to access. We didn’t even try as we don’t seem to need that as it is just the two of us. We don’t get internet access because we use the internet at the port on our smartphones.
Health and Sanitation
The ship itself was kept very clean, and the first week seemed like the other passengers were quite healthy. That changed with the second week, probably because of the increase in school-aged children onboard. The ship made daily reminders about handwashing, but it was futile with the worst offenders who sneeze and cough into the air and avoid any attempts to wash their hands by the buffet wash stations or even use the hand sanitizers. The number of sick people became perceivably higher as the second week progressed. I just read a post on the Seaside Facebook group where a woman alerted others that her husband was just diagnosed with the flu and she suspects she now has it. She is convinced he got it from the cruise ship as his symptoms started on their return flight on Saturday.
I don’t know how much more a ship can do to encourage better hygiene from their passengers and crew. I did note one crew member eating from her plate while standing in the buffet line (many crew are allowed to eat in the buffet on port lunch days.) Yuck. I confronted her directly about it.
Heaven help the Caribbean countries if a cruise ship passenger sets off the coronavirus while visiting the islands.
We didn’t take any excursions as we had been to most of the ports before. To be honest, I love the warm weather and sun but don’t find the Caribbean Islands all that interesting beyond the climate and natural beauty. We had just finished a very rigorous month in the Eastern Mediterranean in December and weren’t interested in lots of adventure. So, our travel goals to enjoy the sunny climate were achieved.
Lucky us because we had a late flight and were allowed to stay in our cabin until 9:30 (Diamond Perk). Most passengers are told to vacate the cabin at 8AM. We just hung around the public areas of the ship until about 10:20 and then disembarked. There was still a bit of wait for immigration and customs. We grabbed an UBER to FLL and had a smooth and uneventful experience.
As I write the review, several countries are experiencing a real problem with the coronavirus. My current thinking is that even scientists don’t really understand the details, and it appears the incubation period is now longer than 14 days. With all of this instability, we are taking a break from all travel for a while until things settle down, and we know more. Observing my fellow passengers’ poor hygiene made me worry about how not serious some people are in doing the very basics. I’m a diligent hand washer who also follows other protocols, like not touching buttons with my fingertips, not eating finger foods, etc.
I also have come to the conclusion that the Caribbean is not my favorite area to visit, so perhaps when we resume travel, we need to go to a part of the world where it is warmer in the winter. I also need to be more diligent in avoiding the times when lots of kids travel. I forgot about Presidents’ Day, but many parents have no hesitation in taking their kids out of school for a week-long vacation. Christmas, spring break and summer are no longer the only time you will find lots of kids, esp since so many internationals have very different school and holiday breaks. I need to select cruises longer than seven or eight days.
The Seaside experience was also one of my least favorite cruise ships for many of the reasons stated above. It’s time for me to re-examine other cruise lines. MSC cruises are very inexpensive, but the experience was not that enjoyable compared to my other cruises, so paying more is worth it in the long run.
I enjoy all sorts of tea flavors, some more than others, but MSC Seaside is one I would leave in the box from now on. Maybe you would love the MSC Seaside, but it just wasn’t our cup of tea.
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