MSC Seaside is lively and fun, incorporating jaw-dropping entertainment, lots of outdoor spaces (it's a sun worshipper's paradise!) and family-friendly activities that include a 4D cinema, bowling, ziplines and a large water park.
But what really sets Seaside apart from other ships sailing in the Caribbean is its European flair and service and the international mix of cruisers onboard. The vessel's interior showcases glitzy Italian design, meals in the dining room are European-style (read slow, sometimes taking more than two hours) and service from waiters and bartenders usually comes minus the smile many North Americans expect. Don't get us wrong, most of the crew onboard are pleasant and generally helpful; just don't expect the over-the-top friendliness you often find on other cruise lines.
The one exception to this can be found in the ship's Yacht Club, a suites-only enclave for the ship's highest-paying passengers. Here, service is friendly, attentive and efficient, and many Yacht Club passengers spend the bulk of their time onboard within its confines, whether in the spacious lounge or on the exclusive Yacht Club sun deck with accompanying pool.
To cater to the ship's largely 40-something English- and Spanish-speaking passengers -- many of whom live within driving distance of Miami -- most announcements on Seaside are only made in English and Spanish. In the theatre, however, you'll hear about five languages, and there's usually a large contingent of passengers from several European countries, including Italy and Germany. There are plenty of opportunities to make new friends from all over the world, with anywhere from 50 percent and up of your fellow passengers from outside of North America.
One final note about MSC Seaside: Be prepared to pay extra for most of the onboard activities, including all of the oversized arcade-style attractions (4D cinema, Formula One racecar simulator, bowling, etc.) and outdoor activities like the zipline.
Daytime: Dress is casual, with people sporting everything from jeans and T-shirts to bathing suits and flip-flops.
Evening: In the evenings it's dressier, but more smart casual than formal, except for the two "elegant" (not formal) nights per cruise. Jackets for men (tie optional) and dresses or pantsuits for women are appropriate, but the code isn't enforced. Suits, tuxes and ball gowns are not necessary, but many passengers do wear them, particularly on "Meet the Captain" night.
Not permitted: T-shirts and shorts are not allowed in the ships' public areas in the evenings. No swimwear is allowed in main dining rooms. Jeans are not allowed in the dining room on elegant nights.
Day & Night
Seaside offers various activities throughout the day, including stretching and tai chi in the mornings, several different types of trivia, dance classes, foosball and Ping-Pong tournaments, scavenger hunts and art auctions.
The ship also has an impressive repertoire of extra-fee amusement games, including a self-levelling pool table and an arcade with a Formula One simulator, a 4D cinema, dual bowling lanes and an air hockey table.
Additionally, the ship boasts a casino, as well as a selection of board games for passengers to borrow.
At night, the Metropolitan Theater is home to production shows, concerts and comedy sketches. MSC's goal in making the theatre smaller than those on other ships was to create a more intimate experience with more flexibility for passengers. To that end, the line offers three nightly performances of about 30 minutes each; there are seven shows altogether, one for each night of the cruise with three time slots of the same show each night.
In an effort to more closely align with North American interests, MSC has added an improv comedy bit, called BeerProv. This is a big step for a line that has traditionally relied on jaw-dropping visual performances -- acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, magicians -- to avoid language barriers among its international passenger base. We're happy to report that the entertainment remains phenomenal.
Passengers are asked to reserve spots (but not specific seats) for particular show times in advance to ensure there's enough space. Unclaimed reservations are released five minutes before each show.
Once per cruise in the late afternoon, the performers put on a shortened version of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly."
With so many spots onboard to drink, it's no surprise that several drink packages are available, ranging from basic to premium all-inclusive. (If one person in the cabin purchases a package, everyone in the cabin must purchase one.)
Seaside Bar (Deck 5): The Seaside Bar sits at the base of the ship's four-deck central atrium, making it a great location for an embarkation-day drink or a pre-dinner cocktail. Its backdrop is a trio of giant LED screens showcasing a rotating selection of nature-themed scenes that include jellyfish, water and plant life.
Shine Bar (Deck 6): Found on the second level of the ship's atrium, this centrally located watering hole is, like the Seaside Bar, perfect for pre-dinner drinks. What's special about it is the amount of chrome used throughout. Its intent is to catch the sun's rays as they come through the floor-to-ceiling windows that surround the bar, giving it a glistening appearance.
Venchi 1878 Chocolate Bar (Deck 6): This sweet shop and coffee bar, one of two Venchi outposts onboard, also sells speciality cocktails like coffee martinis and "Chocolate and Bubbles" -- prosecco with chocolate and truffles.
Champagne Bar (Deck 7): On the third deck of the ship's atrium is the Champagne Bar, a bright and elegantly modern space with a white bar and stools, flanked by two smaller bar areas that can be booked for private tastings.
Garage Club (Deck 7): This 1950s diner-themed area boasts a bar, dance floor, jukebox, neon signage, vintage Gulf gas pump, high-top tables with chairs and a classic car that serves as a DJ booth. At night, it's the ship's disco. It has no set closing time, which means it stays open until everyone leaves. The DJ told us that's often as late -- or as early -- as 4 a.m.
Seaview Lounge (Deck 8): This quiet lounge with excellent sea views is frequently home base for daily activities. Just next door, a see-through broadcasting booth allows passersby to watch as the cruise director records the morning show.
Sports Bar (Deck 8): This bar offers drinks, added-fee finger food and semi-private booths with individual TV screens so groups can watch sporting events together. Walls are decorated with autographed memorabilia, adding to the vibe. More extensive than the offerings on most ships, the beer menu includes more than 30 different brews.
Top Sail Lounge (Deck 16): Those booked in MSC Yacht Club cabins have access to the two-deck Top Sail Lounge, a private lounge with free drinks and a restaurant on its upper level.
Miami Beach Bar (Deck 16): This bar is where you'll want to go for your ice cream fix. Priced a la carte, you can purchase by the scoop or can splurge on a sundae or milkshake. Also available is a full menu of cocktails, frozen drinks, beer and wine.
The main pool is the Miami Beach Pool, which can get crowded. It's a zero-entry pool surrounded by a sizable sun deck with plenty of loungers and giant movie screen. At night, the pool is covered and transformed into a stage for outdoor entertainment.
There are three hot tubs nearby, as well as the Bridge of Sighs (a glass walkway that lets you see the ocean below).
The South Beach Pool overlooks the ship's wake and is reserved for passengers aged 16 and older. There are no hot tubs, but a small number of loungers is available. Note that the starboard side of this area allows smoking.
The Jungle Pool has a retractable roof and is close to the kids clubs, AquaVenture water park and entrance to the ship's zipline. There's also a nearby lounge area with chairs and foosball and Ping-Pong tables.
Finally, the MSC Yacht Club Pool on Deck 19 is for private use by cruisers booked in Yacht Club cabins. Cabanas are available on a first-come, first-served basis for an extra fee.
Pool towels are provided in cabins for passenger use. There is a fee for unreturned or missing towels.
As part of its dedication to sailing in warm climates, Seaside has a huge, colourful water park area known as the Forest AquaVenture. The facility comprises a wading pool area with sprayers and fountains, a giant climbing structure and four water slides: a standard water slide, two "racing" slides and a slide for slideboarding, where passengers use their boards to select colours that light up inside the slide as they glide through it (sort of like "Guitar Hero" or "Dance Dance Revolution").
MSC's Aurea Spa has 24 treatment rooms for services like massages ($60 to $250) and facials ($69 to $130).
Just outside of the spa is a private sun deck for use exclusively by passengers who have booked spa treatments. It features lounge chairs and two whirlpools. You'll also find spa cabanas for rent (extra fee, treatment included).
The noteworthy thermal area offers dark and light sensory steam baths, a salt relaxation room, aromatherapy, a thalassotherapy pool, two saunas and a cold room with real snow. Passes are required and can be purchased by day or for the entire cruise.
The spa shares space with hair and nail salons, a tanning booth and a barber shop featuring men's services.
Port-day discounts are not offered, but you'll find a variety of promotions throughout the cruise, as well as discounts for multiple massage reservations.
The large, well-equipped onboard gym has partnered with Technogym to offer weight and cardio machines, and equipment like heavy bags and rings. Each passenger must sign a waiver to work out.
We love the amount of open space. Because not every square inch is crammed with equipment, it's easy to find areas to do bodyweight movements without having to wait until the aerobics studio is empty.
Classes -- Transform (yoga, stretching), Revolution (spin) and War (Thai boxing) --, as well as personal training, are available for an extra fee.
Just off the gym are separate men's and women's locker rooms with showers, changing areas, lockers, toilets and saunas.
Food aboard MSC Seaside is generally enjoyable, with dishes focusing heavily on meats, fish and homemade pasta. Dishes tend to be small but filling, leaving you feeling satisfied but not overfed.
In true European style, expect meals in the dining rooms and alternative restaurants to be long, drawn-out affairs, sometimes taking between two and three hours.
Seashore Restaurant (Deck 5) and Ipanema Restaurant (Deck 6)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D)
The Seashore Restaurant is open every day for breakfast, for lunch on sea days only and for dinner every night, in three set seatings, though passengers who choose MSC's flexible My Choice dining can eat dinner at Seashore any time between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m.
Ipanema is open nightly for dinner only. It shares a menu with Seashore and also has three set seatings. Both offer sea views through large windows. Tables seat anywhere from two to 10 people.
Chef's selections are noted on the menu, and a "Classic Favorites" section features a variety of items for picky eaters. Extra-fee items are also offered, each with one free side.
Service in the main dining room is generally efficient but not overly engaging.
Marketplace Buffet (Deck 8) and Biscayne Bay Buffet (Deck 16)
Meals: B, L, D
MSC Seaside has two onboard buffets: Marketplace, the main buffet near the ship's outdoor promenade, and Biscayne Bay, a smaller and more family-friendly buffet near the ship's main pool area.
Both buffets are open for breakfast and lunch daily, with virtually identical offerings, but only Marketplace is open for dinner each night. Both are also open during select between-meal hours to offer pizza and grill items. Additionally, Marketplace does afternoon and midnight snacks like sandwiches and cookies.
An out-of-this-world standout is the ship's buffet pizza, which is made fresh throughout the day.
Both buffets offer indoor and outdoor seating.
Note that passengers cannot access the Biscayne Bay Buffet from the forward end of Deck 16. It can only be accessed from the aft elevator bank and stairs, so anyone already on Deck 16 but at the front, will need to go down a deck, walk toward the back of the ship and then go back up.
MSC Yacht Club Restaurant (Deck 18)
Meals: B, L, D
This restaurant is restricted to and complimentary for passengers booked in the MSC Yacht Club. The space is set on a balcony overlooking the club's private Top Sail Lounge on Deck 16. Tables accommodate between two and 10 passengers.
The menu varies daily but is different from what passengers get in the main dining rooms; it often features higher cuts of meat than what you'd find elsewhere.
Pricing was accurate at the time of review but might have changed since.
Asian Market Kitchen (Deck 16); a la carte, $9 to $55
Meals: L, D
Headed by renowned chef Roy Yamaguchi, Asian Market Kitchen is a trio of Asian dining options including Kaito Teppanyaki (with four menu choices), a sushi bar and Hawaiian-influenced pan-Asian cuisine.
The sushi and pan-Asian eateries share one space, with all items printed on one menu. For the Pan-Asian choices, there's also a prix fixe dining package that lets you choose three dishes from a smaller menu for $35. Service is attentive and friendly.
Ocean Cay (Deck 16); $49 prix fixe or a la carte
Meals: L, D
This bright eatery with a nautical but classy theme was the most pleasant culinary surprise of the sailing for us. The prix fixe dinner option entitles diners to one dish from each section of the multicourse menu, up to a maximum of three dishes. (Several of the higher-priced menu items are not included in the prix fixe menu.) Or, you can order a la carte.
Tip: Book a table for lunch for gorgeous sea views.
Butcher's Cut (Deck 16); $39 prix fixe or a la carte, $3 to $50
Meals: B, L, D
The menu is extensive at this fine dining steakhouse. The prix fixe option lets you choose up to three dishes, but no more than one from any given section, or you can order a la carte. We had no complaints about the food and left feeling completely stuffed.
Brunch is served at Butcher's Cut on sea days. All items range from $5 to $8; there's no prix fixe brunch.
Venchi Cioccogelateria & Coffee Bar (Deck 6); a la carte and Venchi Gelateria & Creperie (Deck 7); a la carte, $3.50 to $8.50
Through a linkup with Italian chocolatier Venchi, MSC offers two outposts for anyone with a sweet tooth. The cioccogelateria and coffee bar indoors on Deck 6 features gelato, speciality coffee drinks, milkshakes, sweet alcoholic drinks, Italian hot chocolate and chocolate by the pound. The gelateria and creperie, found outdoors on Deck 7, serves crepes, milkshakes, waffles and ice cream.
Cabins on Seaside are comfortable and spacious with adequate storage for two people's clothes, toiletries and suitcases. Staterooms are chic and modern, and 73 percent have either a porthole or a balcony. All are nonsmoking, including on the balcony.
We love the ship's aft-facing Miami-inspired condo cabins, which overlook the wake; interconnecting staterooms that allow families and groups to stay closer; and the ultra-exclusive luxury of the cabins in the Yacht Club. We don't love that rooms are far from soundproof, particularly those with connecting doors.
All cabins have two twin beds that convert to a queen, flanked by bedside light/reading lamp combos and small nightstands with just enough space to store a couple of pairs of pyjamas. Each room also has a couch; individual climate control; a hair dryer; desk/vanity area with a chair that doubles as a coffee table; an ice bucket with a bottle opener and drinking glasses; and a mini-bar stocked with for-fee water, soft drinks, juice, beer and snacks.
A flat-screen Samsung TV features the interactive MSC for Me system, for-fee on-demand movies and a selection of news channels, as well as channels with cruise information.
Closets have sliding doors. Although there's ample space inside, we found one-half difficult to access due to its proximity to the bed. Closets also contain code-operated safes.
Bathrooms in standard cabins are shower-only with glass doors. Shelf space is ample, as is under-sink storage, but there's little room on the counter. In some accommodations, there's considerably little leg room for anyone sitting on the toilet. Additionally, bare minimum toiletries -- shampoo and shower gel only -- are offered in anything below a suite.
Cabin lights must be turned on with a keycard. Outlets include at least one USB near the beds and both American and European outlets. Buttons near the door tell your room steward if you'd like your room made up or if you'd rather not be disturbed.
MSC's cabins are attached to bookable "experiences," such as Bella, Fantastica, Wellness, Aurea and MSC Yacht Club. Each of these experiences offers a list of amenities and multiple cabin types.
All suites have bathtubs, bathrobes and balconies, unless otherwise noted. They all include MSC-branded shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and shower gel.
Interior: Seaside has 411 inside cabins across the Bella, Fantastica, Wellness and MSC Yacht Club categories, ranging from 150 to 301 square feet. Instead of a sofa, these rooms have a chair.
Oceanview: Spanning the Bella, Fantastica and Wellness experiences, the ship's 80 outside cabins are each 183 square feet.
Balcony: A total of 1,312 non-suite balcony cabins range in size between 172 and 269 square feet (not including balconies) and are available in the Bella, Fantastica, Wellness and Aurea experiences. They each have a 54-square-foot balcony with two upright chairs and a small drinks table. Some cabins in this category also have showers with bathtubs.
Basic Suite: There are 88 of these between the Fantastica and Aurea categories. They range from 183 to 301 square feet with 97-square-foot balconies that have two loungers and a drinks table.
Grand and Wellness Grand Suites: Fourteen of these are available with Wellness and Aurea experiences only. They range from 344 to 527 square feet with up to 226-square-foot balconies that hold several upright chairs and a couple of drinks tables. Each also offers an indoor dining table with chairs, a sofa and small glass table, two bedrooms (sleeping up to four), two bathrooms and a walk-in closet.
Whirlpool Suites: Suites with private on-balcony whirlpools are 301 square feet apiece, and there are 28 of them (Aurea bookings only). In addition to large balconies (75 square feet) with upright seating and a small drinks table, they also include a sitting area with sofa, a small glass table and a walk-in closet.
MSC Yacht Club Suites: In the MSC Yacht Club, all cabins are suites outfitted with Nespresso machines and large-screen TVs. The 12 interior suites, at 226 square feet, have no windows or balconies, a chair but no table and are shower-only, but they're larger than some cabins that do have balconies. Deluxe Suites (269 square feet) feature sofas with a chair and a small table. Balconies in these 72 cabins measure 86 square feet and feature upright chairs and a drinks table. Bathrooms have increased counter space and shaving/makeup mirrors, as well as larger showers (shower-only).
Royal Suites: The largest staterooms onboard, the ship's two Royal Suites are more like small apartments. At 667 square feet, there's enough room for a separate bedroom, a bathroom with a tub and shower, two sofas and two plush chairs with a small table in the living room, a large balcony (355 square feet) with a private hot tub, two loungers, a drinks table and two upright chairs. There's also a walk-in closet area and a bar setup.