Steve (DOS) and I sailed MSC’s Seaside cruise ship for the first time this past week; October 15 – 22, 2023 for a 7 night cruise to MSC’s Ocean Cay (MSC’s private island in the Bahamas), Costa Maya, and Cozumel Mexico. As this was a new cruise line for us, I’ll detail my/our experiences here in a bit more detail, similar to what I did when we first sailed Virgin Voyages this past July. Warning: this is a long post with lots of photos! (Sorry in advance for any typos!)😀
First some quick ship stats: for the MSC Seaside (per Wikipedia)
- 153,516 Gross Tons
- Length: 1,059 Feet
- Beam: 141 Feet
- Total Cabins: 2,067
- Passenger capacity: Max 4,961
- Entered Service: December 2017
- Cost when built in 2014: €700 million Euros
- Country of Registry: Valletta, Malta
- Current number of cruise ships in MSC fleet: 23
DRIVE TO THE PORT: As we live in the Orlando, FL suburbs, the Port of Cape Canaveral (where the Seaside is currently sailing from) is only an hour drive from our house, which make it super convenient. Not only that, but Cape Canaveral, in my humble opinion is one of the easiest embarkation/debarkation points we have sailed out of. It is not the closest port, however, to the airport as it’s an hour’s drive via car or shuttle bus, unlike Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) which is a short distance from the FLL airport terminal.
ARRIVAL AT PORT CANAVERAL: MSC currently leaves from terminal 10, which is the former Royal Caribbean (RCL) Cruise terminal. We saw RCL’s Wonder of the Seas docked further down the terminal channel, so I guess they needed bigger space for their mega series of ships.
We arrived at Port Canaveral Terminal 10 around 10:45am, and the luggage drop off and parking were a breeze, thanks to the good signage and uniformed port staff providing directions. There was very little car traffic at this hour, and the tour buses coming from the airport had a drop off point just for them, so they weren’t interfering with the flow of traffic. We parked on the ground level of the garage (shaded area), took a photo of where we parked, and walked the short distance to the terminal with our carry-on luggage, taking a selfie along the way of us with the giant ship behind us. One huge thing that at least the Port Canaveral Terminal Garage 10 does, is collect the parking fee upon entry via credit card. This really expedites the traffic flow upon debarkation, something other port garages such as Miami do not do, which caused lengthy exit delays when we sailed out of there in late July on Virgin’s Scarlet Lady. Ideally Miami’s garage should at least have an EPAS exit, as their garages handle multiple cruise lines out of the same garage, with various lengths of cruises, so pre-paying is perhaps not an option there.
Once at the terminal, we quickly found the Yacht Club (YC) tent area where we were verified for YC, and then sent thru a quick security check line. From there we were directed to a dedicated large conference-type room in the terminal, where we would then check-in for our cruise. We had already completed the paperwork and had downloaded the MSC app, but we still printed out our travel documents per MSC’s website guidelines, which makes it easier should the phone need re-charging or an update when you’re trying to check-in. (I’m old fashioned I guess, but I always print my boarding pass for the airport for the same reason; don’t always trust the phone and/or app when I need it most.)
The check-in process was very quick and we were given a glass of champagne as we entered the room. We then received our room card key which indicated YC access. They did not have the blue wrist bands available at check-in, (which will also allow you to open your stateroom door), but we picked up our complimentary bands two days later onboard at the photo gallery. While we waited a few minutes for our boarding to commence, we sipped our glass of pre-boarding champagne together with the other YC guests, and toasted to an awesome cruise ahead!
After a short wait in the pre-boarding area, we were escorted in small groups aboard the ship where we were led directly thru the main lobby atrium. Here we met our personal shipboard Butler Agus, who assisted us from there. Agus helped us with our carry-on luggage and escorted us from deck five thru a few public areas, until we reached the forward elevators which took us to our “ship within a ship”, the Yacht Club section. The Yacht Club occupies the forward third of the 16th, 18th, and 19th decks aboard the Seaside. (There is not a deck 17 on this ship as it is an Italian ship, and 17 (like 13 in the US) is considered an unlucky number.)
Once in the Yacht Club, we had a seat in the Top Sail Lounge, which is the huge main cocktail lounge exclusive to the 200 Yacht Club passengers. We had yet another glass of the complimentary Champagne in the Lounge (actually Prosecco to be technically correct), and met some of our fellow passengers, while we again sipped our Bubbly. (And it’s not even 11:30am yet!). There was a nice assortment of snacks, nuts and pastries as well, but we skipped over those for now as lunch was in the near future for us. In a few minutes, we were gathered with a few other guests for a quick orientation of the Yacht Club’s services, amenities, meal hours etc, which was lead by the lead Concierge staff person, Raj. After the 10 minute or so orientation, we went to our cabin, which was just down the hall, also on deck 16. We knew from the moment we boarded that the Yacht Club was truly special, and this would be an awesome cruise!
STATEROOM: After the orientation in the Top Sail Lounge, DOS and I headed to our stateroom which was just down the hall. Our room was 16014, with 16 being the deck number, and 014 the room number. The room was quite comfortable, and categorized by MSC as a “Superior Yacht Club Suite”. While our room was not what I would consider a full suite, it was a nice sized Jr. Suite in size, similar to those on other cruise lines and quite spacious enough for us. We had a King sized bed, half open-sided wall adjacent to the bedroom, dividing off the living room sofa, a large bathroom (no tub) with decent sized shower and a large single sink vanity. Robes were provided for use onboard, and the large towels and bed linens were of very good quality.
The outlets for electronic devices were a bit lacking as they weren’t located on either side of the bed, but on the long table with pull out drawers. We brought a cruise-allowed power adapter (not a surge protector which are banned on all cruise ships) we bought on Amazon which is cruise-safe, and handled our other devices, such as our iPhones, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac Book. The is also a European power outlet under the TV, as well a couple USB outlets.
FIRST MEAL ABOARD: LUNCH! After briefly settling into our cabin and unpacking our carry-on items, we headed up to Deck 18 (only one level up due the “skipping” of the 17th floor per Italian superstition) to the Yacht Club (YC) Dining Room. I’ll talk at length about the Yacht Club further down in this post, but for now the relaxing lunch with wine made for quite a friendly welcome aboard and literally a taste of what was to come over the next 7 days. We met our waiter and assistant waiters, who would expertly serve us throughout the cruise.
EXPLORING THE SHIP: After lunch in the Yacht Club, it was time to venture out of the YC exclusive area, and explore a bit of the rest of this mammoth ship. I say “a bit” as even by the end of the cruise we felt like we had only seen some of the major ship venues, and never quite learned our way around the ship, even with the lighted ship maps located near the elevators and elsewhere.
The layout in some places could be a bit strange, such as on Deck 16 towards the mid/aft of the ship, where you needed to go down or up a deck to cross all the way to the back of the ship (due to a galley blocking part of the passageway) or the plethora of mirrors aboard in some corridors that had us saying hi to the “other people” coming towards us, only to realize we were saying hi to ourselves! LOL! 😂
Part of the fun of going on a new ship, however, is getting lost finding your way around; it really is a beautiful ship with so many sectional venues that it will take some time to explore even the main parts of the ship by day and night.
MAIN LOBBY: At the centerpiece of the ship are the beautiful Swarovski decorated crystal staircases located in the ship’s main atrium. These staircases lead to several levels, and flank either side of the multi-level stage areas that are used for various musicians throughout the day and evening, as well as on the main open air bottom level of the lobby. The backdrop of the atrium is an ever changing myriad of colors and scenes, depending on the occasion.
There is a huge semi-circular bar which is visible from the staircases and overlooks surrounding them, and serves as a focal point entertainment venue for the numerous onboard events and parties. We even saw Elvis, and Michael Jackson one night!
ELEVATORS: The ship has two primary banks of elevators; one towards the forward of the ship; and one a bit past the middle of the ship. The main elevators are “smart” elevators, although I would say the “smart part” needs a bit of tweaking to them. The idea in theory is great, provide more efficient elevator access by matching groups of passengers going to the same floors, although at peak times that doesn’t work the best. Basically by each elevator there is a mini iPad type device where you select your floor, which is also indicated by the deck’s name; i.e, Miami Beach deck.
The elevator then calculates which elevator will be the quickest, and tell you the elevator (via letter and number, i.e. G5) and the approximate wait time. During slow periods, these worked fine, but when several hundred people got out of a show at the same time or returned from a busy port of call, things got a bit more hectic. Ideally each person in their group, say four people, should enter the floor number, not just one person from the group, so the elevator can calculate the capacity as 4 riders instead of 1. Unfortunately this is not obvious, and I don’t recall seeing signage to tell people to do this which at busy times can be quite crowded and confusing with multiple groups of people trying to ride as a single passenger, instead of their actual group size.
Busy periods aside, though, I really love this concept, as busy elevators on these mega ships in general (most other lines included) face the problem of over-crowded elevators, and people riding up to go down, and not getting off at the correct top or bottom floor; instead just getting on to secure their space in the crowded elevators. These “smart” elevators do not have any floor buttons once you are on board so you can’t change your mind or better yet, don’t have kids pushing every floor button of the elevator!
There is also one small bank of two elevators in the aft area of the ship by the aft pool, which are not the “smart elevator” type. There is also an elevator inside the Yacht Club for exclusive use of the YC passengers, but it only operates on the YC floors 16 – 19.
LOUNGES/BARS: According to the MSC website there are some 19 bars and lounges onboard! And, no we didn’t try all of them out on our seven day cruise! While we primarily used the Top Sail Lounge in the Yacht Club, as well as the YC’s pool bar, we did go to several of the other bars and lounges in the main part of the ship as well. We were concerned the main bars/lounges outside the YC would be jam packed all the time, but that really was not the case most of the time. While many were busy, with the exception of the large main atrium bar, and main and aft pool bars, we didn’t have trouble finding seats or barstools at some of the other bars and lounges. We tried the Sports Bar, which had a large selection of drafts (but oddly no IPAs such as Lagunitis here or elsewhere on the ship I could find), the Seaview Lounge, and the Haven Lounge, both of the latter offered live entertainment, as well as the main atrium lounge.
We didn’t try out the Champagne Lounge on the upper level of the main atrium, but walked by it several times as well as the Chocolate Bar; both of which looked nice but not overflowing with crowds.
There is also a small bar (more of a to-go bar) in the buffet area on deck 8 which is open late while the late night buffet is being served until 1am, which is fine for grabbing a brewski or drink to your table while munching on the midnight food and snacks.
GAME ROOM: We didn’t utilize the game room, but did pass thru the Game Room Arcade a few times when walking towards the back of the ship. There was a Formula One Race Car simulator, complete with an actual size car that can be “driven” around the large virtual screen track directly in front of it. It looked pretty realistic, and we watched a man probably in his early 40s having a ball with his racing skills!
There is also a two lane bowling alley in the arcade room, but we never saw anyone bowling, although we weren’t there very much other than just passing thru. I was hoping to video someone bowling as it must be quite tricky on a moving ship; I’m sure there’s lots of curve and gutter balls even from experienced bowlers!
There are also other video games as well, all of which required payment or a game pass of sorts via the ATM like kiosk or pre-pay on the cruise card.
We did like the cold towels the Spa staff handed to all guests when they came back from port, on the dock area near the entrance to the ship. The white washcloths were chilled (like Celebrity Cruises and Princess does), but also sprayed with an exotic Eucalyptus mixture that smelled divine. Of course they sell the bottled mixture in the Spa if you like it!
POOL FUN: The main (non Yacht Club) portion of the ship has several pools, divided into different sections. There is an adventure pool area that has a kiddie pool and other water activities, while there are 2 racing water slides that go out over the starboard side of the ship, while on the port side there is a similar, but larger twisting water slide that uses a raft to ride the slide down to the bottom. Scrunched in-between, in the center of the Adventure Club area, is another twisting slide that finishes on the bottom deck of the Adventure Club pool area. None of the slides were overly busy and were complimentary, although you had to sign a waiver and get a wrist band prior to riding them. Adults as well as kids seemed to be enjoying themselves! I’m sure in peak summer or holiday periods there would be hundreds more kids using these facilities, though on our mid-October sailing it was not overwhelming.
SAIL-AWAY PARTY: Sure enough, as quiet and empty as the ship was when we first got on and started exploring the ship, it quickly filled up by sail-away time. There was a big sail-away party at the aft pool deck area, but it was a bit too busy to see the entertainment staff, and a bit too noisy for us to enjoy, so we retreated back to the quite calm of The Yacht Club. I told Steve (DOS) at times leaving some of the crowded main areas of the ship was like being in a busy airport terminal, and then suddenly entering the calm of an airline’s international First Class Lounge! Not really an exaggeration either, as a couple of fellow Yacht Club passengers said something similar.
SHOPPING GALLERY: As expected for a ship of this size, there are several shopping areas aboard the ship, ranging from logo items, to duty free liquors and other items, to Swarovski crystals, jewelry, cosmetics, to men’s face creams to make you look ten years younger. Maybe I should have bought two of the face cremes to shave 20 years off my age!🤣
We’re not big shoppers except for souvenir type items, but we did purchase the ship’s Seascape model (which I try to collect of ships we have taken), which was priced at $56, and was a nice quality metal model on a wood base. I wanted an MSC cap, but oddly enough they were out of them, and I didn’t see any nice logo T-shirts that I cared for, so we settled for just purchasing the ship’s model.
We had the same issue on Virgin Voyages recently where they were out of their logo caps, and like on MSC, this was only on the second night. Don’t know if ships are having supply-chain issues or people are gobbling them up right away (I think the former as you they would want to advertise their product), so if you see something you want in the gift logo shop, I would buy it early on in the cruise.
CASINO: While we’re not gamblers, we did stroll thru the casino after the theater shows let out, as it was a passageway towards the mid to the aft of the ship, and you really couldn’t avoid it. Although MSC allows smoking in the casino, it really was very well filtered, and this comes from someone who is very sensitive to second-hand smoke. There were definitely plenty of slots for every type play you like, as well as many table games as well.
The huge bar served as a functional and aesthetically pleasing circular sports bar as there were TV monitors mounted from the ceiling pointed down to the bar below.
YACHT CLUB EXPERIENCE: Wow oh Wow! What can I say about this? The Yacht Club (YC) is an exclusive area for 200 or fewer passengers, which makes up only 5% of the ship’s capacity, yet offers the best service, food, and amenities aboard. The YC occupies the forward 1/3 of decks 16, 18, and 19, with YC cabins on decks 16 and 18 (there is no deck 17 on these Italian ships due to superstition of the number 17). The YC offers mostly similar “Superior Suite Balcony” cabins, although there are 2 Royal Suites, and a few inside cabins as well, all which receive the same Yacht Club service, although the Royal Suites do get a reserved onboard pool-side cabana and much larger suite. (There are other cabanas in the YC available complimentary to YC passengers, on a first-come basis, and can be reserved onboard.)
Note there are actually several categories of larger suites aboard the Seaside that are not in the Yacht Club area, and these do NOT include the 5 star Yacht Club admittance and perks; they are basically larger cabins located throughout the ship among the masses of other passengers. Even though we’ve had very large suites on other lines, the room on MSC was almost secondary as the service and amenities in the public Yacht Club areas were far superior than being in a large suite in a non-Yacht Club area, although the larger space would be good for families needing extra space. All of the rooms in the Yacht Club are in the same key-only accessible area, and it was like being at a Country Club as it was such a small group of passengers with such a high staff to passenger ratio. It was easy to meet most of the fellow YC passengers over the course of the cruise, and it really was like a family between the staff and passengers by the end of the cruise.
The Yacht Club is entered via a key-carded entry door, where the 24 hour Concierge desk and staff are located, and glad to answer any questions, assist with shore excursions, specialty dining, and any type special request you may have.
The long hallway internal to the YC is mirrored on both sides, a common design theme used throughout the ship; lots of mirrors everywhere! On the starboard side where our cabin was located, there is also another keyed entrance door which bypasses the Concierge, and lead down a couple hallways to our room.
At the end of the hall on deck 16, is the Top Sail Lounge, a large and elegant cocktail lounge exclusive to the YC passengers. It faces the front of the ship and has plenty of seating on chairs, sofas, and at the bar area as well. It is here where (well actually anywhere in the YC) you can truly relax away from the mass market crowds of passengers in the main parts of the ship. No loud music and shouting, although there is a piano player/singer who entertains in the evening and special events such as the Captains cocktail party, High Tea, etc, and one night there was a saxophone player entertaining as well.
During other times of the day and night there is light and soft jazz or supper-club type music piped in thru the speakers, which makes a subtle background effect, without being overwhelming, even in the pool lavatory! There are always plenty of staff serving the YC, and there is never a wait for a drink, be it bottled water or your favorite cocktail, wine, or beer, and all but the most premium wines and liquors are included both here and throughout the ship (with two exceptions, the chocolate bar and the gelato bar in the main areas of the ship.)
Meals Aboard: Unlike the main part of the ship which has 3 seatings in a couple of dining rooms, which require a reservation time, the YC is open seating, and offers 3 waiter-serviced meals a day, in addition to the YC buffet which is available until 7 -10 am for breakfast and normally 12 – 3pm for lunch. We usually ate at the outdoor buffet for breakfast and lunch as the service hours were later and longer than the restaurant, and it was quite an extensive buffet you could enjoy around the pool, or outdoor seating area.
We did have lunch in the Yacht Club Dining Room the first day, and breakfast in the Dining Room on Debarkation Day; both of which were leisurely and wonderful, but we preferred the casual poolside buffet most days for breakfast and lunch. (The YC buffet is not open for dinner, although they have hors d’oeuvres in the Top Sail Lounge for a pre or post dinner snack.)
We always had dinner in the YC Dining room, which was truly a treat! Dinner is served nightly from 6pm to 9pm, and is open seating with no reservation required for whatever time you like to dine between the posted hours. We requested the same section each night so we had the same wait staff, and normally dined around 7:30pm. The menu selections changed each night with the evening’s theming, but they always had a few classics you could order from if nothing was to your liking, which including a Filet Mignon, Salmon, Cesar Salad etc.
Unlike other mainstream US cruise lines, there are 3 courses offered instead of the usual four on RCL, Celebrity, Princess and others. The portion sizes are also a bit small than other lines, but we thought this was actually a positive thing as many times cruise lines oversize their portions, although that too has changed since COVID in serving size portions. MSC offers a choice of several starters, entrees, and desserts (including selections from the cheese cart which I loved.). If you wanted another entree or like Steve (DOS) another or different starter, the wait staff was only too happy to oblige. As drinks were included, we tried several different wines with different food pairings over the week cruise, and one night the sommelier surprised us with a Beaujolais to try with our starter. We never would have guessed what it was (he didn’t tell us initially) as it was quite complex; like a more full-bodied Pinot, than a Beaujolais which is usually a young and more simple wine. Our wine of choice however, was the French Medoc they freely poured, or the Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon.
The food, presentation, and service were truly outstanding in the YC, and the Chef visited us table-side a couple evenings, while the Maitre D’ always stopped by to check on us. Our waiter and assistant waiter were absolutely some of MSC’s best!
Outdoor YC Pool Area/Bar/Buffet: On deck 19 was the YC Sun Deck, pool, and bar/buffet and outdoor seating area and cabanas. This was a large area, although most of the lounge chairs were not shaded unfortunately. As the YC’s sundeck was in the very front of the ship, umbrellas would probably not work due to the wind, although the area was quite protected by full length window panels, which mostly blocked the wind. On the downside, the large window panels created a bit of an obstacle for taking photos, although for sunset photos or in-port photos such as MSC’s private island, we could get good and unobstructed photos from our room’s balcony, as the window panels did not block the view as they did on the sundeck.
The YC saltwater pool was deeper than it looked, at around 5 feet deep, although the sign said 4’8″. The pool was a fun place to socialize and cool off, and we used it most days due to the great weather.
There are also two whirlpools located a bit further forward of the sectionally partitioned YC club, which are on the forward part of the YC sundeck.
Little extras mean a lot: The Yacht Club includes so many little extra touches with attention to detail, which makes it so extra-special. Your choice of daily newspaper: Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, and others, which are condescended versions of the papers, and printed daily on site.
Evening chocolates on the pillow, and some type of surprise treat each evening, such as white chocolates in a plexiglass box, a bottle of Prosecco one evening, a box of 4 sampler chocolates in a gift box the last night, replenishment of your mini-bar beers, water, sodas per your request etc.
Butler Service is included along with your room attendant, and the Butler will escort you anywhere on the ship and even to the exit for port days and debarkation. This was a huge benefit, especially being led to the reserved Yacht Club section for the Theater production shows. The High Tea service was especially nice and classy, and served in the Top Sail Lounge.
Production Shows: There were FIVE Production shows on this 7 night cruise! (Most 7 and even 10 night cruises only have a maximum of three, filled in with other acts on the other nights). Each show was different and some were better than others, but were all energetic with 4 main singers and 9 dancers, with additional specialty-act performers on some of the shows, such as the Peter Punk and Michael Jackson show.
The show theater itself while very large with two aisles and a center section (with stadium type seating allowing for great views), seemed a bit under-sized for a ship this large, sailing with 4,300 passengers on our sailing, so a couple of the most popular shows actually had 3 seatings (7:30, 9:30, and 10:30pm) instead of two most nights, due to the capacity requirements.
Unlike most other cruise lines, the Cruise Director did not make an announcement forbidding photography or even video taping at each show, and it seemed like quite a few people discretely videoed some of the performance number highlights, including myself, which I have included a few short segments below of some of the shows.
We enjoyed all of the shows, although we did not go to the two comedy shows on the non-production show nights, with the Circus Spectacular and the final night’s Michael Jackson show really extra well-done.
PORTS OF CALL: MSC OCEAN’s CAY was without a doubt our favorite port stop on this cruise. Like other cruise lines, MSC has their own private island in the Bahamas, however on our itinerary we were docked at Ocean Cay overnight, allowing for two full days on their private island, something other cruise lines do not do.
The island is also reachable via a dock area, so there is no need to tender to the port. As our cabin was on the starboard (right) side of the ship, we had an awesome view of the private island, including the landmark lighthouse, which has a light show at night, overlooking the beach party there.
We absolutely loved MSC’s Ocean Cay, and as DOS and I both agreed, it reminded us of Royal Caribbean’s (RCL’s) Coco Cay, before they turned the quiet island into a “theme park” with gigantic waters slips, a hot air balloon, zip lines etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if you want a bit of adventure for the whole family, but we much prefer the more pristine and natural look of a tropical island without all the added frills which we could do onboard or at a waterpark back home if we wanted to.
As there is no tendering required, it’s quite easy to debark the ship, and quickly explore the island. Our ship was the only ship in port both days, so it really did feel like a private island without the crowds. As passengers in the Yacht Club, we were escorted down to the exit, and once on land directed to a golf-cart tram, which transported us to the other side of the island, to the exclusive Yacht Club compound on the private beach.
The Yacht Club section includes the only air-conditioned passenger building on the island for the club house bar. There was really no reason to access the bar most of the time though, as the service was exceptional, both on the beach as well as at the adjacent Yacht Club Ocean Restaurant. We did go in there a couple times for a quick bottled water or drink if we were passing by there for a restroom stop or to cool off a bit.
As lunch the first day was from noon to 2pm, (11:30am – 1:30pm on the second day), we were a bit early for lunch, so headed to the gorgeous private beach just steps aways from the restaurant/bar area. The private beach area was huge, and offered plenty of lounge chairs with umbrellas (complimentary). We had read that the beach itself could be a bit rocky, so we brought some waterproof beach shoes which were great for not only the water, but walking on the hot beach.
In addition to the complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas, beachside cabanas could be pre-reserved as well for a fee. As the service was so good to everyone, we really didn’t see a point in getting a cabana, and were quite comfortable with our beach chairs and umbrellas, as servers were constantly coming by on the beach to provide us beverages. The beach chairs were actually closer to the water as well. The Bahamian water was so crystal blue and clear, it invited most passengers in for a refreshing dip.
Snorkeling was not offered at the Yacht Club beach, possibly as there was no protective netting there (more in a moment – yikes! 😱), but it was offered at the non-Yacht Club main beach areas for a fee.
We went to lunch around 1pm at the Yacht Club outdoor Ocean House Restaurant, which is covered in most areas, along with ceiling fans to cool off. The food has different menus both days, and unlike a Buffet for the non-Yacht Club areas we passed on the way in, the YC section has full waiter service. It is served by the same wait staff on the ship, so it’s nice they know you, and you know them for the service they provide with a smile.
Steve (DOS) had always wanted a lobster roll (served on the second day on the island) but doesn’t like mayonnaise, so he told that to the waiter, who in turn talked to the chef, and DOS got his lobster roll without mayo and loved it! Later on in the cruise, the chef actually came by our table one evening at dinner and asked him how he liked the lobster roll without mayo! Outstanding service, and passenger memory preferences as well!
After a leisurely lunch, we headed back to the beach to relax for a while and enjoyable the beautiful mid-October day in the Bahamas. We actually got more than we expected, with some “wildlife” viewing, swimming around in the water. Yes, we saw a few sharks really close to the shore! 😱 These were sand sharks, and I guess when everyone was at lunch and the water was empty of beach goers, they decided to swim close to the shore and feed on the tiny needle or other fish. I could not believe how close the sharks got to the shore; literally in a foot of water! 🤪😜🤔😱
We, along with most our fellow passengers at the beach took photos and video of the sharks swimming around, although I don’t think anyone else got back in the water that afternoon. There is a lifeguard, and he cautioned people about the sharks, but it didn’t take much caution for us to avoid the water after lunch!
The next day, we didn’t see the sharks though, and it seemed safe to go back into the water. I looked up sand sharks when we got back to the ship and Wikipedia had this article on them. They are normally “docile” to humans and are not aggressive unless provoked. They are usually more active at night, so I guess we “got lucky” by seeing them in the afternoon!
In the evening of our first day at MSC’s Ocean Cay, there were two lighthouse shows, and a huge beach party on the sand. We intended to get off the ship and go to the party, but after a big dinner and a few drinks we felt a bit lazy, so watched the show and party from our 16th floor balcony; actually probably the best view from anywhere.
The beach party was adjacent to the lighthouse, and in full view for us as seen from our balcony, looked lively and fun as well. The beach party, and island “curfew” lasted until 11:30pm, at which point everyone rebounded the ship until the next day, while the “island people” who live there freshened up the island overnight.
There were two different light shows; one at 9 and one at 10pm, and in between the shows were rotating light effects; i.e. MSC logo, different color lights etc, and coordinated with music as well.
The second day on Ocean Cay was basically a repeat of the first day, but without any shark sightings.😀 It was nice to sleep in a bit, have breakfast aboard the ship, and then head back to the Yacht Club Beach Resort; it had a feel of staying at a nice Caribbean land resort. DOS had his lobster roll for lunch, while I had the lunch tournedos of beef, and an ahi tuna salad.
We sailed from Ocean Cay on our second day there, at 5:30pm for our next port, Costa Maya, which we would arrive in two days, after a day at sea on the way there.
COSTA MAYA, MEXICO: This is a newer Mexican port as far as tourism goes, but already it has gotten quite popular, and unfortunately crowded. The day we we docked here, there were a total of 4 mega ships in port, (RCL’s Adventure OTS, Allure OTS, Carnival Pride, and our ship MSC Seaside) and as the ships shared the two long dock areas, it was quite busy just walking down the long perpendicular dock ramps to the Costa Maya cruise entrance.
Once there, it felt perhaps a little less busy than Mardi Gras, with most passengers wandering around aimlessly watching the free show in the town square, going to the many bars there, shopping, some even swimming in the huge pool there, or like us heading down to the “swim with the dolphins” area to have a look.
We skipped on doing Costa Maya’s “Spa Treatment”, which consisted of women (and even some men) soaking their feet in an aquarium filled with tiny fish. Supposedly the fish gently chew on your dead skin, and somehow this “reduces stress” and “makes skin smooth and soft!”. I don’t know, but I got stressed just watching these ladies with their feet getting chewed on by those little fish! To each his own I guess; hey they’re in Mexico enjoying themselves. (At least the lady on the right. The lady on the left kept looking at her watch, like “how much longer do I have to have my feet in this horrible tank!”
We did not do a shore excursion or tour here on our own, as we stopped here last year in March 2022 on a Princess cruise and had gone into town on that trip. While there were mega ships in that day as well, as it was still the trailing part of the COVID pandemic, most of the ships were only sailing half full then, so while the port was busy in places (such as the taxi stand), the port itself was more like a ghost town compared to this trip’s visit to Costa Maya. The one part that was busy then was when we took a taxi into town, and it was a bit of a free-for-all getting a cab. The town itself wasn’t as busy as the hectic cruise port, and offered massages on the beach next to one of the many ocean front beach bars and souvenir shops. The town was worth a look if you hadn’t been, and it had much more of a feel for the “real” Mexico with its rustic sea-side village. You can view our stop in Costa Maya last year on this Princess post if you want to see the village town of Costa Maya.
COZUMEL MEXICO: We’ve been to Cozumel several times over the years, and always enjoy the stop there. While there were three or four ships in port the day we were there, Cozumel has several docks which are spread out by a couple miles, so it’s not nearly as overwhelming with crowds compared to Costa Maya, where the docks are all in the same area. We were docked at the International Cruise Port Terminal, which is the preferred terminal as it’s in town and the port area has some of the fun places to visit; i.e. Margaritaville and Señor Frogs among others. We had no excursions booked here, so basically wondered around the port area and into town for some exercise and bought a souvenir hat, being the big spenders we are!🤣
I first went to Cozumel in 1987 on my very first cruise, Bahama Star Line’s Veracruz, when Cozumel was not a well known port of call, and the ships that did stop there were much smaller than today’s mega-monsters. That first 5 day cruise on the Veracruz, got me hooked on cruising for life, and I have fond memories of the 3 cruises I took on her the first two years alone, eventually expending my cruise repertoire to now over 75 cruises on various cruise lines with different cruise lengths and regions of the world That tiny ship, the Veracruz was only 10,000 tons or so with perhaps 700 passengers, and there were no balconies, specialty dining, internet (Internet! 🤣🤣🤣 It wasn’t even invented yet!🤣🤣🤣), but it brings back great memories to this day, and many former passengers and staff have commented on my Veracruz post from a few years back with their stories down memory lane on her as well.
Anyway, sorry I digress down memory lane. What reminded me of Cozumel and the Veracruz, was the Hotel that you see in port, at the International Terminal where we were docked on the MSC Seaside. That Hotel has been there for years, although has undergone many renovations (even now) due to hurricanes and general upkeep and modernization.
It was formerly called “El Sol”, Spanish for “The Sun”. I never stayed there, or even visited the property, so DOS and I toured the lobby of the hotel and grounds, which although under partial renovation, looked very nice. Even though it was so close and just across the dock area from the cruise ships, it had a secluded feel to it, with a nice pool facing our ship, a nature walk with outdoor spa, whirlpool, bar etc, and was tropically landscaping as well. DOS even went to inquire on room types and rates at the Front Desk before we left, which is now called “El Cid La Ceiba”.
In my younger, “Veracruz” days, (pre-DOS) I would take the old Fiesta party boat as a shore excursion to a private beach, with unlimited rum punch and a piñata party and dancing on the way back to the port.
I’m sure they have something similar to the Fiesta boat now, but we skipped the party scene on this return trip to Cozumel, although did have a look in at Margaritaville and Senior Frogs. I settled for my souvenir cap from Ron Jon’s Surf Shop in Cozumel, and we made our way back to the ship for lunch. It was a beautiful day in Cozumel while we here on the MSC Seaside in mid-October 2023.
MISC/OTHER Onboard Experiences: On MSC Seaside, there were several other optional tours and events, wine tastings, backstage tours, Bingo, Slot Pulls etc you could signup and pay for, although we did not do any of them; not so much out of lack of interest, rather there were so many other activities to do, and hanging out by day at the Yacht Club pool area was one of them! 😀
Behind-the-Scenes Tour: I would have loved to have taken MSC’s Behind the Scenes Tour, but it was quite an extensive tour and required lots of walking up stairs and other areas of the ship (per their description) and as I’m still recovering from my heart surgery last year and I didn’t want to over-exert myself, although I’m doing fine walking on level surfaces. The backstage tour includes off-limits areas to guests including the Engine Room, Galley, Bridge, and Backstage of the Main theater among others. The Backstage Theater tour was always my favorite on Celebrity Cruises, and I’m sure this all inclusive Behind-the-Scenes tour would fail to disappoint as well.
Wine Tasting Events: Another event that sounded promising was one of the wine tastings. We walked by the display table for the wine tasting event that was setup adjacent the Butcher Cut (Specialty steak dining venue), and it looked quite elegant with various size Riedel glassware and fine wines. We’ve done many ship wine tastings on many different ships, and have always enjoyed them, so from the descriptions of the wine tasting it sounded very nice; again it was more of a timing thing for us. We enjoyed one wine tasting event on Celebrity Cruises years ago, that got us hooked on the Riedel glassware and use it to this day (after breaking a few glasses over the years and replenishing them obviously!)😱 A proper wine tasting with Riedel should include a different type glass for each varietal tasted, noting the differences and shapes in the stemware, paired with the appropriate wine for the glass from which you are sampling.
Caviar Tasting: We did not do this, but met a couple of ladies in the Yacht Club who did, and loved it! I believe the cost was $50 for this tasting, which is held at Butcher’s Cut Steakhouse at various times.
Specialty Dining: There are several Specialty Dining venues on board, including the Butcher’s Cut, an Asian Restaurant, and a Seafood Restaurant. The Butcher’s Cut especially looked wonderful for me Steve (UNO) as I’m a steak and potatoes kind of guy, and the cuts of beef (and wines) are on display adjacent to the Specialty Restaurant’s Lounge and worth at least having a look.
We actually enjoyed the Yacht Club Restaurant so much we didn’t even make it to one of the Specialty Dining’s Restaurants aboard (although I would have chosen The Butcher’s Cut if we had gone) as we had an included complimentary Specialty Restaurant dinner with my (status match) Diamond status on MSC. Passing up on a complimentary meal at Butcher’s Steakhouse tells you how much we enjoyed The Yacht Club’s restaurant. (Actually though, I was getting a bit Filet Mignon’d out by the fourth day!)😀
Optic Eye: This was unique to us, and again we didn’t do this, but it was interesting, at least in concept. According to MSC, “it’s all the rage in Europe”, although we’ve never heard of it there either. Basically they scan your eyes with a device similar to one at an optometrist office, and it creates a colorful artwork design of your eyes, enlarged to make a poster, photo, canvas etc. I don’t know maybe it’s me, but I don’t think I would want my eyes staring at me all the time at home in the living room, but it is a unique conversation piece.🤔
BINGO! Everyone knows Bingo and if you play it, you know it! Onboard every cruise ship.
Zip Lining! This is one activity I definitely wouldn’t do, but was hoping to watch. They only offer it certain times of day, and unfortunately the last sea day was a bit windy so it was closed. I just wanted to video the brave souls that soared high over mid ship’s top deck toward the aft pool area. The zip line, (after you sign your life away waiver) costs $11 a zip. No thank you from the Steve’s, although it’s probably a blast if you’re an adventurer type.
I’m sure there are many other paid events and experiences aboard, but these caught my “eye” so to speak, out of interest even though we didn’t do them. There were plenty of free activities as well such as trivia, karaoke, dance classes, beach parties, pool parties, sail-away parties, etc, etc, etc. Whatever you do, you won’t be bored or run out of things to do, and you certainly won’t go hungry.
Farewell Day at Sea: The last day of the cruise is traditionally sad for us, as you have to pack up and realize the cruise is ending early the next morning. On this cruise, most likely due to the Yacht Club service, accommodations, easy itinerary and mostly casual clothes, we were really able to relax the last day.
Traditionally the first and last night of a cruise are very casual with the idea being passengers just arrived and/or have not unpacked their luggage, or on the last day have already packed up their luggage for the trip home. On MSC in the YC at least, about 50% of the passengers dressed up in semi-formal attire for the farewell Italian dinner on the last night of the cruise. This was the only night I wore shorts to the dining room as we had already packed and were only traveling an hour home to Orlando the next day. I felt a bit uncomfortable although quite a few other Floridians and others were wearing shorts as well. Some of the passengers also wore shorts to dinner on the port days, but mostly it was dress casual aboard except for the one formal night, which was not the last night of the cruise.
We spent a good part of the day by the pool area, having lunch as usual at the outdoor YC buffet. As a nice afternoon treat, the waiters come by and pass out your choice of ice cream too!
For dinner, it was Italian night, and all of the waiters were dressed in tuxes with the Italian flag colors for the tie and vest. Even the tables had alternating colors of red, white, and green of the Italian flag.
Disembarkation: We had our farewell breakfast in the YC Restaurant at 8am on disembarkation day, as the regular pool-side buffet breakfast was not served on the last morning. Having the full breakfast and not being rushed on Debarkation Day was especially nice vs the normal Continental Breakfast you get on some lines as you’re in a hurry to get off the ship and avoid crowds.
After breakfast, we waited for a bit with the other YC guests in the Top Sail lounge as we waited to be called; rather escorted down to the exit one last time. The “walk off” guests were called first; i.e. those passengers aboard the ship (everyone, not just YC) who were carrying their own luggage off the ship (as opposed to checked luggage), which must have been a few hundred passengers. No rush for us though as we were comfortably seated in the lounge area.
We disembarked around 9:10am, and were escorted all the way to the exit, following a roped off line so the passenger mix wouldn’t get in with our flow of YC traffic. Our luggage was waiting for us in the terminal, and we got a porter to assist us (very smart move!), who wheeled our luggage thru Customs and all the way to our parking spot in the parking garage. We were on our way home by 9:30am, and home by 10:35am; quite an easy disembarkation and trip home. Welcome Home!
Final Thoughts on the MSC Seascape after our first sailing:
- Certain areas of the MSC Seascape (more so than allowed on most other cruise lines) allow smoking. This seemed to be the main pool on the starboard side, but even the YC allowed smoking on the front portion (away from the pool though) starboard side. I don’t recall anyone smoking in the YC area however, so it wasn’t a problem for us, although on the main pool area starboard side there were quite a few smokers. The casino allows smoking but it is really filtered well, so wasn’t terrible just walking thru it, as we don’t gamble.
- YC is truly a class by itself, and is so worth it if you can afford it. Compared to booking a suite on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, or Princess, it’s quite a bit cheaper as well, and RCL doesn’t include the drink package with all but the very top suites, nor their Beach Club access on their private island (an extra $200 a person for the one day there!)
- The production shows in the theater do not allow you to bring a drink into them. Not a huge deal though as the shows are typically 30 -35 minutes. There were actually 5 production shows on this 7 night cruise, plus two comedy shows. The shows were shorter, except for the Michael Jackson show which lasted about 45 minutes vs 30 minutes for the others.
- YC service includes Butlers who will escort you anywhere on the ship, and for disembarking in port as well as final debarkation. While we normally only used this service for the theater shows and going off the ship, it really does save lots of time, and makes it much easier to attend the shows, as you don’t need a reservation for the reserved YC seating area. Main passenger guests need to make reservations for the shows and queue up, while YC passengers are escorted by a butler 10-15 minutes prior to show time in a dedicated seating area which always had seats for us and others, even on the full shows.
- YC guests do not need a reservation for dinner as it’s open seating in the YC Dining Room. Other guests must make reservations for dinner, and depending on the fare level you paid, you may not be able to pre-reserve your dining preference at one of the three seatings.
- To us it seemed a bit of an oddity, but there are ATM-like credit card verification kiosks several places aboard the ship, where you needed to verify your credit card to enable charging on your account. We just thought it was a given to charge your credit card on file, but I guess some people put down a cash deposit, and need to have a card cover their excess charges on board. We just provided a credit card and “activated” (that’s what MSC calls it) when we boarded, and we were good to go for any incidentals.
- The YC covers all meals, 2 internet devices per person, virtually all alcoholic and other drinks, Butler and Room Attendant services, complimentary room service (you can even order a whole pizza to your room!), dedicated Concierge service, nightly turn down service (with chocolates!), daily choice of newspapers, pillow menu, etc: so worth it all! Best of all are the dedicated spaces for it’s own restaurant, lounge, private pool and sundeck area, and the YC Beach section at Ocean Cay, as well as complimentary access to the Spa Thermal Suite.
- The YC does NOT include daily staff gratuities, shore excursions, spa, or gift shop items.
- MSC will “status match” their frequent quest program to another cruise line or an elite Frequent Flyer or Hotel Program. I got status matched with Hyatt Globalist which gave me Diamond status with MSC. It’s not a huge benefit, but provides a 5% discount, and one specialty dinner aboard. The YC restaurant itself was so good, however, we didn’t even go to one of the specialty dining venues, even though we had a complimentary meal at the speciality restaurant of our choice.
- At least on the Seaside out of Port Canaveral, the shipboard announcements were not as many in quantity as we expected. It’s possible these (except for emergency or Captain’s announcements) were muted in the YC area, but we didn’t hear any more than you would on a Princess or RCL ship. This would be different in Europe I imagine due to the many nationalities boarding there, as well as the different length of cruises, even within the same 7 or 10 day itinerary (people may disembark in one port, vs taking the whole roundtrip cruise like on the Seaside out of Port Canaveral).
Finally, If you’re still here reading this; thanks for sticking around! I’ll finish this lengthy post with the finale the MSC singers and dancers concluded the Michael Jackson show with on the final night of the cruise. This song was a fitting sendoff to everyone, and in effect the ship itself is a bit of the United Nations itself with the multiple nationalities from both crew and passengers, that make up this floating city. The video is taken from the back of the theater, so it’s not the best quality, but it gives a happy and bittersweet moment for the end of show and cruise. Thanks for reading, and God bless the crew members here and worldwide that work so hard for us, and are away from their families for months at a time, so that we may enjoy our cruises. Take care everyone, and safe and happy travels!