Overall Rating: Excellent
|Destination:||Caribbean - Western|
|# of Nights:||7 Nights|
We booked this cruise on this brand new ship as soon as bookings opened in January 2017. The ship was christened in Miami in Dec 2017, and commenced revenue sailing later that month. They have four classes of service aboard: Bella, with no extra perks; Fantastica, with choice of cabins on upper decks, 24 hr room service, including continental breakfast; Wellness, with a variety of wellness relate perks, and Aurea, with all-inclusive beverage package, spa package, access to solarium, and open seating in a private dining area in main dining room. In addition, they have the Yacht Club suite accommodations with controlled access, room and butler service, private pool, unlimited bar, private restaurant, and more.
We chose a Fantastica private balcony on deck 10, and it included an extra perk of unlimited bar because we booked as soon as it opened. Normally, Fatastica would have received 12 drink tickets per person. This was our fourth MSC cruise, which included the Poesia, Orchestra, and Divina before Seaside, so we expected an intercontinental passenger mix, menu, and entertainment. The cabin was average in accommodations, comfortable bed, adequate outlets and USB ports. The closed was not as accessible, as it was adjacent to the bed, and the cabin could definitely use more drawer space. The bathroom was adequate but the shower was smaller than on most lines, with a glass door and European hand shower head available.
MSC also honors the past passenger levels of other lines, and because we had submitted verification, on this cruise we enjoyed the benefits of the highest MSC Voyagers Club level, the Black Card. That includes a wide variety of perks, including a gift, a photo, an elaborately decorated birthday cake if appropriate, and a complimentary dinner at one of the specialty restaurants onboard.
We don’t normally use much specialty dining, and prefer late dining at a table for 2 in the main dining rooms. We checked early and confirmed that is what we had been assigned, in the Seaside Restaurant. Service from our wait staff was very good, prompt, and after a night or two of refilling our wine glasses, they simply left a bottle of wine on the table. Our main courses we chose included: rack of lamb, grouper infused with lime and chili, duck breast (after ceviche, and pate), pecan encrusted red snapper, mahi-mahi, pork tenderloin, Italian night (which we skipped to eat in a complimentary specialty restaurant and missed osso bucco, fish skewers, caprice and lasagna!), swordfish skewers, short ribs, oven-roasted salmon steak, duck ala orange, cioppino, ravioli, and NY steak. Desserts ran the limit including baked Alaska. Breads were fresh and varied. Two nights were Elegant Nights, but with many families aboard, not as many people dressed formally as on other lines that still have formal or elegant nights. On our last night, the delivered a large light, nicely decorated birthday cake for my wife personalized with “Happy Birthday Karen”!
The most memorable meal was the night we chose to eat at 8:30pm in the Ocean Cay Seafood Restaurant for our complimentary meal. We each had a dozen fresh oysters on the half shell, and bouillabaisse for 2 that contained the requisite mussels, clams, shrimp, and fish in a superb soup base. It was accompanied by the finest pinot noir we have ever enjoyed, and we drink wine daily with dinner. Service was excellent the whole evening!
The entertainment shows most nights was offered at 7pm, 8:15pm, and 9:30pm, allowing much freedom to take in the shows and dinner. They ran 30 minutes, with six shows predominantly in English, including the best Michael Jackson show I have ever seen! There was also a production of Madame Butterfly, an afternoon operatic performance, and some classical piano &violin concerts. In other words, there was something from everyone, regardless of tastes. The production shows included acrobats and gymnasts, too. They also have unscripted comedy by an Improv group at 10:30, 10:45, or 11:15 most nights.
We did not use the spa, or the children’s programs, but the children were numerous and involved. In addition to the three water slides, there is a children’s water park, including tipping buckets of water!
There are two buffets, on different decks, with slightly differing hours, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and pizza 12 hour a day, an excellent thin crusted pizza like I recalled from Naples! Fresh eggs, omelettes, breads, a variety for lunch from sandwiches, hot entrees and salads, and free ice cream!
Our ports were Ocho Rios at pier for 8 hours, Grand Cayman at anchor for 8 hours, Cozumel at the downtown pier for 8 hours, and Nassau for 7 hours. As we have been on over 80 cruises over the years, I won’t comment on port visits, except that in Grand Cayman we chose to remain aboard and enjoy the uncrowded ship with 3 pools. Some folks have noted that the pools are deep and do not have wading areas, so there is space to swim laps if desired, and what few children were there used flotation devices.
We found the bar service to be excellent, and enjoyed the atrium and plaza area bars and entertainment. Premium beverages were readily available. We even had a merengue dance lesson one afternoon, with only two couples participating! While there were smoking areas available, they were not intrusive at all.
In summary, this was a terrific week on an amazing, sparkling ship with great food and entertainment, with hard-working staff who did not display any language difficulties despite the multilingual passenger mix. We are looking forward to another MSC cruise in the future, perhaps after the third MSC ship becomes US based in the not too distant future.