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MSC Seaview

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MSC Seaview is a ship that doesn't shy away from embracing fun -- whether that's careening down the longest ziplines at sea, shooting water cannons at fellow passengers on the ropes course or dancing around the ship -- day or night. It's also a late-night ship -- the Garage disco closes when the last guests meander off to bed; the third seating for dinner is at 9:30 p.m. (yes, you read that right) and the final theatre show is at 10:15 p.m.

Seaview is also a very family-friendly ship -- and we're not talking about shoving the kids in the kids club all-day family-friendly -- kids are embraced everywhere and at pretty well all times of day or night (we saw babes in arms at the late-night disco). There's no minimum sail age, and parades, scavenger hunts, kids' discos, pool parties, sports tournaments and shows are not confined to the Doremi Club -- they are all over the ship. 

With so much fun onboard, it's no surprise that Seaview really is a party ship. But it's one of, if not the most stylish and elegant party ships we've ever encountered, both in terms of its design and decor as well as in the quality of the optional dining venues, and even the upmarket nature of the onboard shops.

For the most upscale experience you can have on MSC Seaview, cruisers will want to check out the MSC Yacht Club, the all-suite, keycard-access complex, which is as close to ultra-luxury as you can get on a giant mainstream ship. 

Seaview is also very European (or Brazilian, if you're sailing over the winter months); which may or may not be to your liking. As mentioned, onboard life goes until late and, unfortunately, service levels are not always what North Americans might expect. We found service to be more functional and less friendly. Additionally, Europeans (especially Southern ones), don't really understand the concept of waiting in line and though English is the first language, both in terms of announcements, signage and the majority of crew being able to speak it, the passenger mix hails from a multitude of different countries with not all passengers so fluent. Food also leans more toward the Mediterranean than, say, Texas. On the subject of food, it is hit and miss: a solid bet in most of the for-fee eateries, but sometimes not up to par in the free dining venues.

Having said all that, MSC has made strides in ensuring its ships have more of an American feel both in terms of food and service, while maintaining its Italian heritage. And despite the ship's size, its design is such that it's hard to get lost and, even on sea days, it rarely feels crowded.

MSC Cruises is definitely a casual ship during the day -- shorts and T-shirts are perfectly acceptable wear pretty well everywhere onboard. Come the evening, it's a slightly different vibe as the Europeans do like to dress up and there are two "Elegant Nights" (the equivalent of Gala Nights), where you will see the men in tuxedos and dark suits with ties and the women in ball gowns -- and even the children in suits and dresses. Note, this is not enforced (except in the main dining room), and if you don't wish to dress up you can always head to the buffet.

Theatre

The 934-capacity Odeon Theatre is the ship's main theatre and is located at the front of the ship on Decks 6 and 7. It's a grand space, with modern seating and good eye-lines. MSC has come a long way since some questionable entertainment (comedians telling jokes in six languages, subpar revue-type shows), and it's clear they have spent a lot of time, money and effort to ensure these shows compete with the best at sea. While we wouldn't go as far as to say they are up there with the Broadway shows shown on some major lines, they have certainly raised their game with a dizzying array of Cirque-style colour and acrobatics, fine singers and entertainers. The hard-working troupe put on three (yes three) shows a night to cater for three meal times; these might include a musical tribute, a French revue-style show (think Moulin Rouge) or an Italian-themed musical show. Additionally, there is late-night adult comedy and opera. Note you are required to reserve spots for the shows (there is no fee), which is more for crowd control. During the day, this is the spot for port talks and to gather for ship-organized shore excursions. 

Daily Fun

There are a multitude of events that take place throughout the day onboard, starting with fitness classes in the gym in the morning, dance classes, audience-participation games and bingo (all in the Haven Lounge), shopping promotions, aerobics, foosball tournaments, ping pong tournaments and trivia. These change daily, so consult your Daily Program.

You'll also find fun pool parties, especially on sea days, around the main Panorama Pool, during which the animation team (i.e., the cruise director's entertainment team) encourage passengers to participate.

The ship also has a large amusement arcade, but note -- fun comes with a price. You are best off getting a Fun Pass, which offers a set amount of onboard credit for gaming, rather than paying as you go, as the cost can mount up rather quickly. There are two bowling lanes, a wide range of arcade games, an F1 race car simulator, an interactive cinema with three different movie games and an air hockey table. On the opposite side of the ship is a small Billiards Room/library. The prices are sky-high: 10 euros for 15 minutes of pool, 10 euros for one round on the F1 simulator, 10 euros for the 4D cinema and 40 euros an hour for bowling.

At Night

The main area for live music is the triple-deck atrium where a live band plays every night from a recessed stage above the bar.

There's plenty of live music elsewhere on the ship, including the Haven Lounge, the Shine Bar and the Seaside Lounge; as well as by both main pools.

The Platinum Casino takes up a large chunk of real estate on Deck 7, and you'll find yourself having to walk through it to get from one end of the ship to another. There are 147 slot machines and 12 gaming tables for roulette, poker and blackjack; as well as electronic gaming. There are daily events and promotions such as Lotto and free chips -- check your Daily Program for details. There is a central bar in the casino showing sporting events. Worth noting: MSC allows smoking in here for gamblers, but thanks to an advanced ventilation system, the odour does not permeate the ship.

MSC Seaview Bars and Lounges

Seaview Bar (Deck 5): The main atrium bar runs in a semicircle around the lower deck of the triple-height space. It’s on the same level as guest services and reception, so it's constantly buzzing morning, noon and night. It's primarily a sit-up bar, to grab a coffee in the morning or sip a cocktail before dinner, but there are plenty of chairs and tables all around the atrium. It's a great space to while away some time, surrounded as you are by the dramatic space of the atrium, the Swarovski crystal staircases ascending vertiginously above you, live music every evening from the stage directly above and the constant coming and going of ship life. 

Shine Bar (Deck 6): This spot is just near the indoor Venchi and has chairs ranged around a small stage for live music.

Champagne Bar (Deck 7): The classiest bar onboard, Champagne Bar is in a prime spot overlooking the main atrium and opposite where nightly performances take place. There are stools at the bar, plus plenty of chairs and tables around the wide space with attentive table service. It gets crowded in the evening before and after dinner.

Haven Lounge (Deck 7): The Haven Lounge is a large space toward the aft of the ship, directly above the main restaurant. There is a bar at one end, a stage and a dance floor in the centre, with plenty of chairs and tables dotted around, as well as some high tables against the walls with barstools, rather than chairs. This is always lively in the evenings, with live music, dancing and dance classes taking place till late. It adjoins the Billiards Room and leads out to the Sunset Beach Bar. During the day, there are games, auctions and early morning exercise classes.

Sunset Beach Bar (Deck 7): This outdoor spot at the aft of the ship serves the Sunset Beach Pool. The bar is on the starboard (right hand) side of the ship, but there is seating on both sides of the ship (note the smoking area is on the bar side). The long bar is crowded from around 5 p.m., but table service is quick and efficient. There's always lots going on here throughout the day, from early risers enjoying a quiet espresso, to the constant flow of people using the pool throughout the day to those enjoying a sundowner before dinner. On most evenings, you'll find a DJ set up, providing sounds for a Miami-style beach party.

Garage Club (Deck 7):  You'll find this 1950's diner-themed area adjoining the amusement arcade. It includes 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 becomes the ship's disco and has no set closing time, which means it stays open until everyone leaves, which is sometime in the early hours whether the ship is in Brazil or the Mediterranean. 

Seaside Lounge (Deck 8): Our favorite spot to get away from it all, this is a great space during the day to grab a coffee (for a fee) and a pastry (for free) and enjoy some quiet time. There are plenty of sofas, plush chairs and low tables where you can read, undisturbed. There is a stage at one end and in the evening, it transforms into an intimate jazz venue. It's a lovely spot for a pre-dinner drink, but note that it is often booked for private events. This bar has access to the outdoor deck with seating and a small smoking area. You'll also spot a little room labelled "Broadcasting Room" -- you can't go in here, but you can observe the technicians coordinating all the high-tech entertainment on the ship's big screens.

Sports Bar (Deck 8): This is not quite the type of sports bar you might expect on an American ship -- think of it as a sports bar with a stylish European twist. So as well as a sit-up bar with screens above showing sports fixtures from around the world and large screens, you'll also find private booths with their own TV set and beanbags scattered around in a cute football design and the whole space is fitted out in chrome and glass. 

There's a wide range of international beers: 12 different types of draft beer, craft beers, stout ale and ciders; as well as bottles and cans. Karaoke also takes place here. There is very limited snacking, but you can grab some buffalo chicken wings to soak up those beers. The bar has direct access onto the promenade deck.

Panorama Bar (Deck 16): This is the main pool bar, serving frozen cocktails, beer and wines throughout the day.

Yacht Club Bar & Lounge (Deck 18): This beautiful space, only open to Yacht Club passengers, features a large bar, plenty of seating and double-height glass windows looking out at the front of the ship. There are snacks available here throughout the day and waiter service. 

Jungle Beach Bar (Deck 18): Located within the solarium, this bar serves the indoor/outdoor Jungle Beach pool area. 

Aurea Bar (Deck 18): This is a private bar, only open to passengers who have booked the Aurea Experience. It services the Top 19 Exclusive Solarium.

Miramar Bar (Deck 18): In a prime spot high on the ship overlooking the main pool area, but somewhat calmer and quieter than the Panorama Bar. 

Yacht Club Bar (Deck 18): Only open to Yacht Club passengers, this top deck bar services the private sun deck.

MSC Seaview Outside Recreation 

Pools

Seaview has three main pools, two outside and one covered by a retractable magrodome roof, as well as a fourth, private pool for Yacht Club passengers only. 

The Panorama Pool is on Deck 16 toward the aft of the ship. It consists of a main pool with a raised dais in the centre where the crew host sail-away and sea day parties. There's a large screen showing movies and music videos. In fine weather, it's always busy up here and although southern Mediterraneans are not chair hogs, you will still struggle to find a spare deck chair on a sea day. There are three hot tubs, as well as the glass-bottomed Bridge of Sighs platform. The Panorama Bar and Marketplace Buffet are nearby, too.

The Sunset Beach Pool is on Deck 7 aft, and is more of an adults-only pool (16 and older). It's in a great spot overlooking the wake and directly below the Miami-style condo apartments and glass elevators. Ice cream and crepes are available from the Venchi Gelateria and Creperie, while drinks can be had at the Sunset Beach Bar. The pool is not very big and there are a limited number of loungers available. Smoking is allowed on the right side of this area. 

The Jungle Pool is the ship's solarium and can be covered by a retractable magrodome roof in inclement weather. It has two raised whirlpools on either side and a bar area. There's also a lounge area adjacent with fun, colourful chairs, foosball and Ping-Pong tables. 

The MSC Yacht Club Pool on Deck 19 is for Yacht Club guests only. It's small and salt water, oddly. There are two hot tubs at the other end of the sun deck. There's a bar and grill nearby, as well as a juice and ice cream bar.

Recreation

MSC Seaview has an outdoor sports court -- the Sports Arena -- high up on Deck 20 where you can play soccer and basketball, among other sports. Tournaments take place here and the kids club will often use it for games and competitions during the day.

Seaview also has a dedicated water park -- Forest Aquaventure Park -- on Deck 18, which is slotted in just behind the funnel and adjacent to the kids club (you can access it from the kids' club). For the younger passengers, there is a wading pool area with water cannons and fountains, as well as a climbing area, which consists of a rope bridge suspended over the park. For the older kids and adults, there are 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.

Above here are the ziplines -- the joint-longest (with Seaside) at sea. The lines start on Deck 20 and take passengers over the sports court and Panorama Beach Pool area before ending up on Deck 18. The cost is 10 euros.  

If you've got a head for heights, try out the glass-floor Bridge of Sighs, which is set right at the back of the ship, nine decks above the Sunset Beach Pool and which makes for great photos.

Sun Decks

The main sun deck is the Panorama Sun Deck, which includes the Panorama pool area and leads to the back of the ship, near a pair of hot tubs and the Bridge of Sighs. 

The adults-only Sunset Beach Pool also has a small sunbathing area at the aft with a small number of lounge chairs. 

The Top 19 Exclusive Solarium is a space on Deck 19 reserved for Aurea experience and Yacht Club passengers only. There's a dedicated bar, as well as waiter service.

The Yacht Club's sun deck space is never crowded -- even when the ship is sailing full. It's a large space with plenty of deck chairs for sunbathing. For-fee cabanas are also available on a first-come, first-served basis at a cost of €30 each. Aluminium sunbeds are also available for €15. 

MSC Seaview Services

The reception, guest services and future cruise sales desks are all situated in the main atrium on Deck 5; Shore Excursions is on the deck above. The Art Gallery is also on Deck 5, as is the Photo Gallery, which has been renamed "Immersions," and is a high-tech take on the traditional Photo Gallery, completely digitized with self-service booths to print your own photos.

You'll find the majority of the shops just off the main atrium on Decks 6 to 8, including a logo shop, boutique, watch shop, jewellery, perfumes, cosmetics and accessories. There's even a mini-mall with technology, toys, games and confectionary on Deck 6. There is also a small conference room here, tucked away behind Venchi. 

The library is in the Billiards Room. There is a selection of multi-language books. 

Wi-Fi packages are not cheap, but they are fast and you can buy them for the entirety of the cruise, which means not having to worry about logging in and out the whole time. The cost is 99.90 euros for a weeklong sailing.

Spa

The Aurea spa is outstanding -- and huge -- a whopping 26,000 square foot, taking up most of the front of the ship on Deck 8. In keeping with the other spas on MSC, it is Balinese-themed with an army of body therapists waiting to greet you at the entrance. There are 23 treatment rooms, including one for couples, as well as four private outdoor cabana areas with access to a private hot tub (hire without treatment is 40 euros for two hours).

Treatments do not come cheap -- at the higher end of cruise ship spa pricing, and don't forget that stinging 18 percent service fee on top. Expect to pay around 120 euros for a 50-minute Balinese massage (plus the service), rising to 195 euros for a 75-minute Bali Thalasso Sea Massage. Introduced on sister ship, Seaside, you may also be tempted to try a bit of "vinotherapy" derived from the natural extracts from Boccelli wines and blended with Tuscan plants. The unique treatments and Lajatica products were developed in conjunction with Andrea Boccelli's brother, Alberto, who runs the family vineyard in Tuscany.

Look out for port day daily specials and buy one-and-get-a-discount-on-the-second-third-fourth-etc. treatments, which run throughout the cruise. Note there is also a doctor in residence who can consult on medispa treatments like Botox and filler treatments.

The spa complex also includes a superb thermal suite with the following: a snow room, a thalassotherapy pool, two steam rooms (one dark, one light), two saunas, a Himalayan salt room, an aromatherapy room, a Hamman, a relaxation room and an outdoor hot tub. The thermal suite costs $60 per person or $90 per couple for a daily pass, or $340 per person or $510 per couple for a cruise-long pass. It sounds expensive, but it is worth it if you think you'll spend lots of time there.

The spa also comprises a beauty salon from renowned French coiffeur Jean Louis David, where hair, manis and pedis are all on offer; there is also a gentleman's barber shop next door. 

There are separate men's and women's changing areas where you get your own locker. There are also showers and toilets and plenty of towels, but note: Bring your own robe (you can find one in your in-cabin wardrobe).

The spa is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Fitness

The gym is adjacent to the spa, but not entered through it (as you'll find on some ships), so you won't find towel-clad passengers getting in your way as you try and work out. 

MSC claim this (along with Seaside) is the largest gym at sea, and at 9,300 square feet, it may very well be. It looks and feels huge, packed with brand-new, state-of-the-art Technogym equipment. Treadmills, rowers and bikes (recumbent and sit up), all face the windows and offer lovely views out to sea. There is a room dedicated to group cycling at one side and another for classes such as yoga and Pilates on the other. 

Against the walls you'll find a whole array of weights and exercise mats, and plenty of private space to do your own thing. There is also a punching bag and a number of weight machines. 

Classes are all 11 euros and include Transform (yoga and stretching), Revolution (spin), Power step (athletics) and War (martial arts meets EDM). Personal training is also available for a fee. 

Just off the gym are separate men's and women's locker rooms with showers, changing areas, lockers and toilets, as well as separate saunas. Towels and a wall-mounted hair dryer are provided in each.

The fitness centre is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. From 13 to 15 years of age, children must be accompanied by an adult and sign a waiver. From 16 to 17 years of age, children can use the gym on their own, with the signed waiver.

There is not a proper jogging track, but once around the Promenade Deck 8 is about a third of a mile.

MSC Cruises has always struggled with the dining quality in its free venues; food is at best variable, at worst poor. Sadly, this ship is no exception. While the speciality dining venues are as good as any at sea, the main dining room fails to impress. Variable portions, often lukewarm and at times bearing little relation to the description in the menu, turn up time and again, often delivered with indifference.

Breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks, dinner and late-night pizza are served in one of the two main dining rooms. Like its sister ship, MSC Seaside, Seaview has two buffets (one on Deck 8, another on 16), which helps enormously with overcrowding at peak times. And also like Seaside, all the speciality restaurants, bar one, are clustered on Deck 16. Outside of the buffets, there are no other all-day dining venues except the two extra-fee Venchi venues.

Most of the speciality restaurants shine, and Seaview has most of the popular cuisine styles covered with French, seafood, steak and Asian fusion/sushi (no need for a pizza place as that's on offer in both MDRs). 

In terms of special dietary needs, you'll be best served by telling your waiter at the start of your meal. (We were not asked if we had any special needs at the start of our meals.) A number of vegetarian and gluten-free options are available.

Free Dining 

Golden Sand and Silver Dolphin (Decks 5 and 6): There are two Main Dining Rooms -- Golden Sand and Silver Dolphin -- both at the aft of the ship on separate decks. The former offers breakfast, lunch and dinner; the latter just dinner. Both offer three set dinner times (5:45, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.), with Golden Sand offering myChoice dining, as well (i.e., just turn up when you want between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m.).

You enter Golden Sand via a wine cellar tunnel, with brightly back lit bottles stacked high on either side: It's impressive. The restaurant, as the name suggests, has a golden hue with rust-red chairs and carpets. There are plenty of different table sizes. Silver Dolphin is designed in more silvery hues, again stylish and understated. Both offer the same menus. Typical starters might include soup and salad, and a few slightly more out there options such as pork loin in tuna sauce and seafood and vegetable pot stickers. There will typically be one vegetarian option of the four appetizer choices. Mains lean toward Italian specials -- fresh pasta (made onboard), risotto and saltimbocca, at least one of which will be vegetarian. You'll also get a fish and a meat dish option.

The most charitable thing we can say is that both food and service are variable. For example, the oven-roasted prime rib of beef we had was superb (slightly on the cold side and just one slice, but very tasty and perfectly cooked nonetheless). However, the saltimbocca Roman-style with potato puree and cannellini bean casserole was not: The beans looked like baked beans, the escalope looked like English bacon and the potato puree was an ice cream scoop-sized lump of cold potato, the net result of which was it looked like an English breakfast (but not as tasty). Desserts are also hit and miss -- a vanilla diplomat cream had the colour and consistency of baby food; by contrast the warm apple strudel was light and tasty (the pastry seemed fresh-made). 

Quality-wise the standard does go up on Elegant Night (of which there are two on seven-night cruises), where you can expect items such as an octopus carpaccio and lobster bisque to start and sirloin steak as a main. 

The menu indicates healthy options with carbs, protein and calorie details; and also two always available options -- salmon and chicken (Note: There is no always available veggie option). There is no obvious allergy information anywhere -- best to check with your waiter beforehand (we were not asked pro-actively, as is now customary on most ships).

The wine list is extensive and varied with glasses starting at a reasonable 4.50 euros.

Service-wise, we found our waiters warmed up as the meal progressed, but there was little smiling or banter and most dishes were plonked perfunctorily on the table.

Marketplace Restaurant & Buffet (Deck 8): One of two buffets onboard, which certainly helps with overcrowding at busy times, the Marketplace buffet's appeal is its outdoor seating (weather permitting), with chairs and tables on the promenade. There are multiple serving stations, including a carvery, as well as fresh-made options including a pizzeria where you can build your own pie. You can also grab a panini, wrap, burger and hot dogs. Lighter fare comes in the form of a salad bar and a fruit and veg "market," which is rather lovely. All bread is freshly made onboard, as is pasta. There are plenty of tables and lots of light, as well as a small bar on one side of the entrance. Open from 6.30 a.m. till 2 a.m., with brief breaks in the late morning and straight after lunch. You can also get afternoon snacks and late-night pizzas here. 

Ocean Point Restaurant & Buffet (Deck 16): Ocean Point is the other buffet, eight decks higher, smaller, slightly more intimate and offering cuisine theme nights at dinner like Mexican or Asian, so it's a nicer option than Marketplace if you're out for dinner. It also, very considerately, has kid-size counters serving favourite kids' dishes. Apart from these minor tweaks, it serves the same fare as you'll find downstairs. Open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with brief breaks after breakfast and lunch. 

MSC Yacht Club Restaurant (Deck 18): This restaurant is complimentary but only open to passengers staying in the MSC Yacht Club. It's a lovely spot overlooking the Yacht Club's Top Sail Lounge on Deck 16 (there is no Deck 17 on MSC ships as it's an unlucky number for Italians). Gray and burgundy decor prevails, and there are plenty of seating options, including large round tables that accommodate between six and 10 passengers as well as tables for two. The food here is a cut above, with different menus every night. Typically, there are five starters, including an impressive three vegetarian options, such as a salad and a soup. Other starters might include Parma ham or a fish carpaccio. Service is attentive, knowledgeable and friendly, particularly when it comes to the wine pairings. There are usually four mains, but five if you count the Chef's Special, which on the night we dined there was pistachio-crusted rack of lamb. This was superb: tasty, with a real depth, and cooked just the right side of medium-rare (not too rare). Other mains will likely be pasta-based and fish dishes. The shrimp and calamari skewer was not successful; both were soldered together in a panko-like batter. But that was one miss in an otherwise spot-on meal. Desserts were superb: The tarte Tatin was light and tasty with a scoop of melting vanilla ice cream.

Room Service: Room service is available 24/7 but only breakfast is free. It's available for order via forms that need to be hung outside the cabin door by 2 a.m. Items include yoghurt, cereal, pastries, toast, jam and coffee, hot chocolate, tea and juice. At all other times of day there is a 3 euro charge for delivery of one item, 5 euros for two, and so on upward as you order more items. Extra-fee menu items include pizza, burgers, sandwiches and salads.

Fee Dining 

Venchi 1878 Chocolate Bar (Deck 6); a la carte pricing: Seaview's signature cafe/chocolate hub is in the centre of the ship, on the main shopping thoroughfare. It has a large bar where you can grab a coffee to go or stay and watch the master chocolatiers creating everything from Hiccup in "How to Train Your Dragon" to Groot from "Guardians of the Galaxy." It also sells gelato, milkshakes and even chocolate-based cocktails. There is also plenty of chocolate -- boxes and pick 'n' mix -- for sale (careful -- it adds up fast). You can also sit down with your goodies in the nearby Shine Bar, where there are tables, chairs and a stage for live music. Open 8 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

Venchi 1878 Gelato & Creperie (Deck 7); a la carte pricing: An outdoor venue at the aft of the ship selling scoops of gelato, crepes, coffees and milkshakes. Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Bistrot L'Atelier (Deck 8); 23 euro prix fixe menu or a la carte pricing: This suffers from the fact that it's not a venue, but rather a series of tables arranged around one deck of the main atrium, so there is passing traffic as well as the noise from the atrium entertainers and bands. Though the red-leather seating and wrought-iron tables are reminiscent of a French bistro, the atmosphere is not. We did not have a chance to eat here, so cannot comment on the cuisine, but expect classic starters such as French onion soup, omelette, croquet monsieur and quiche, and entrees such as steak frites, moules frites and sole meuniere. Desserts include tarte Tatin and profiteroles. Reservations not necessary. Open for dinner.

Asian Market Kitchen by Roy Yamaguchi (Deck 16); a la carte pricing: Asian Market Kitchen comprises three Asian dining options -- Kaito Teppanyaki; a sushi bar; and Fusion, a restaurant serving Hawaiian-influenced pan-Asian cuisine. The restaurant and sushi bar comprise one space, with the Teppanyaki next door. The menu at Fusion is a combo of classic sushi and sashimi and rolls as well as Hawaiian-inspired poke dishes. Hot dishes include crab cakes, pork ribs, calamari and steamed clams; as well as soups and salads. There are also some delicious noodle-based dishes, including spicy tan tan ramen and pan-fried noodles. The Teppanyaki features cooking stations with seats arranged around an open top cooking space -- with chefs chopping, flipping food in the air, singing and entertaining the diners. The food is outstanding, delicious cuts of beef, chicken or seafood all served on soy-soaked beds of egg fried rice. Fusion is open for lunch and dinner. Reservations are recommended for the evening. Teppanyaki is only open in the evening. Reservations are essential.

Ocean Cay (Deck 16); 49 euro prix fixe menu or a la carte pricing: This is a lovely space with bleach-blond wood furniture and playful sculptures, expertly evoking a beachside restaurant. The same however cannot be said of the food. Two-star Michelin-starred Spanish chef Ramon Freixa lends his name to this venue, which first made an appearance (without his name attached) on sister ship Seaside. We're not sure his association helps: What's meant to be playful and inventive becomes tortured and unpalatable; simple dishes turn into over-complicated creations and exquisite flavours are buried in a mass of competing tastes. Take two of the most intrinsically delicious food items -- scallops and jamon iberico, which need little or no adornment to shine. So why cover them in thick bechamel sauce, creating a greyish, gloopy mess where flavours get buried? Fish and chips -- one of the simplest and most delicious seafood offerings when done well -- arrives in two fried slabs -- one deep-fried monkfish slathered in thick mayonnaise, the other deep-fried potato. We can't even. Red mullet was presented in tiny, individual portions atop green pods and asparagus. Nothing fresh about this, which was presented cold and tasteless. The best thing about the meal? -- the freshly baked, piping hot mini French baguettes -- simple and sublimely tasty. If only that principle could be applied to the rest of the dishes. A deep disappointment. It's only open for dinner and reservations are recommended.

Butcher's Cut (Deck 16); 39 euro prix fixe dinner menu or a la carte pricing: First appearing on MSC Meraviglia, Butcher's Cut is a classic American steakhouse serving prime cut steak and chops as well as a few non-red meat dishes. The venue is bright and airy with lots of natural light, tables for two, four or more, with faux-leather burgundy-coloured chairs and some that looked like they are covered in cowhide. One thing is for sure: you will not go back to your cabin hungry. Huge portions of steak (various cuts including New York strip, filet mignon and rib-eye), whole roast chicken, rack of lamb -- even a 16 oz. slab of American bison -- are served up here, with a large array of sides and sauces. We opted for a classic shrimp cocktail, which consisted of three huge shrimp on a bed of ice with a delicious cocktail sauce; a New York strip steak, which was hands down one of the best (if not the best) New York strip we have had at sea -- perfectly cooked, tender, juicy and packed full of flavour. It comes with a selection of sauces -- bearnaise, pepper, chimichurri and mushroom. The restaurant even had a French Dijon mustard available, which is rare at sea (normally the only mustard available is hot dog mustard).

The brunch option on sea days includes omelettes, homemade carnitas, sandwiches and pancakes and is a la carte. You can also add king crab or Maine lobster for a surf and turf option. Desserts include New York cheesecake, lava cake and a peanut butter and milk chocolate cookie. There is a wide and reasonably priced selection of predominantly New World wines. When we visited during the day, it was completely empty; it fills up in the evenings so reservations are recommended. Open for brunch (on sea days), lunch and dinner. 

Pizza (Delivery); 3 euros per pie: Pizza is freshly made and comes in varieties such as cheese, pepperoni and veggie.

Despite the vast size of this ship, there are really only four types of cabins -- Interior, Exterior, Balcony and Suite, with variations within these category types. There is also an exclusive suite complex, MSC Yacht Club, though this does not contain all the suites onboard. There are also a number of accessible cabins across category types and family cabins.

Seaview's cabins are modern and stylish with muted colours of brown and deep purple, almost three-quarters of which are have outside views or a balcony. We liked the modern touches -- USB ports by the bed, fully interactive TV, keycard-controlled power -- and we loved the fact that the sofa beds easily convert into bunk beds.

All standard cabins feature the following: two single beds that can be pushed together to form a queen (they are high enough to get several standard-size suitcases under); bedside tables with a couple of shelves, fixed lights and a nice touch this -- USB ports, ideal for charging your phone overnight. Beds are comfy, and the pillows are firm (there's even a pillow menu if the ones you find on your bed are not quite to your taste), a sofa that turns into a bunk bed, fixed desk/vanity area, low chair that doubles as somewhere to put your room service tray; safe, hair dryer and mini-fridge stocked with for-fee water, soft drinks, juice, beer and snacks; and a phone. There is a flat-screen interactive Samsung TV that you can pull out and angle, and which features MSC for Me, an interactive service that allows you to book spa treatments, restaurants and shows via the TV; on-demand movies (7 euros) and CNN International, Bloomberg Europe, CNBC, BBC World News, Euronews and a number of foreign channels in other languages.

Closets have sliding doors, and depending what type of cabin you're in, are very close to the bed (there's about a foot of space between them). Each closet has two bars on which to hang your clothes -- a long, high one and a smaller one about halfway up -- with hangers, but we found one side difficult to access. There are two drawers and four shelves.

Shower rooms feature a shower with variable sprays, a glass door, clothesline, foot rest for shaving, a sink with a trash can below, toilet and a few shelves for toiletries. Products are the omnipresent MSC Med fragrance (which you'll find pumped into the main atrium), which come from fixed dispensers in the shower and by the sink.

A couple of things to know: Cabin lights must be turned on with your keycard (you can't trick it with your credit card), which is great for the environment, not so good if you want to keep your cabin cool or charge any devices while you are out). Buttons near the door indicate whether you'd like your room made up or wish not to be disturbed.

Accessible cabins include five suites in the MSC Yacht Club, and 47 cabins across interior, ocean view and balcony categories. There are no solo occupancy cabins onboard.

Also worth noting -- MSC's cabins are attached to bookable "experiences," such as Bella (basic ship inclusions), Fantastica (free room service delivery, flexible bookings), Wellness (fitness and healthy eating amenities), Aurea (spa inclusions) and MSC Yacht Club (private ship within a ship area). Certain cabins can only be booked if you choose one of the higher-cost experiences, each of which offers a list of amenities and, usually, multiple cabin types.

Interior: Seaside has 411 inside cabins across the Bella, Fantastica and Wellness categories, as well as in the MSC Yacht Club. These range from 150 to 301 square feet (the size difference is due to the sub-categories within the Inside category and where on the ship the cabins are). As well as the aforementioned amenities, there is a chair instead of a sofa. (It's worth noting that even if you would never normally consider an inside cabin, by booking one in the MSC Yacht Club you do get access to an awful lot of amenities, including a private lounge, dining room, pool, sun deck and hot tubs. See MSC Yacht Club, below.)
  
Oceanview: The ship's 80 outside cabins are each 183 square feet; you'll find these on the lower decks. We loved the large portholes, which are recessed slightly back into the wall and so have a window seat with a cushion -- ideal for kids. This category, though the same square footage as the balcony cabin, has a different shape -- long and thin, rather than square. The result is there is more space beside the bed and the closet. The bathroom is exactly the same.

Balcony: There are 1,312 non-suite balcony cabins ranging in size between 172 and 269 square feet (not including balconies). They each include everything above, plus a 54-square-foot balcony with two upright chairs and a small drinks table. Some cabins in this category also have showers with bathtubs. They feel a little cramped in parts; there is hardly any space between the closet and one side of the bed.

Suites: There are six different types of suites on MSC Seaside, three of which are located in the suites-only MSC Yacht Club. All suites, regardless of location have bathtubs and balconies, unless otherwise noted. They also all include bathrobes for use on the ship and additional MSC Med-branded toiletry items including shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and shower gel.

Standard Suite: These range from 183 to 301 square feet with 97-square-foot balconies that have two loungers, two upright chairs and two drinks table. There are 88 of these across the Fantastica and Aurea categories. It's worth noting that the two suites in this category at the front of the ship on Deck 9 have slightly smaller cabins (182 square feet), but have larger, wraparound balconies (longer but also narrower) almost the same size as the room -- 172 square feet, with high walls on either side -- overlooking the crew pool and the front of the ship, which makes for some really wonderful views. The room also has a fun porthole window. Cruisers staying in these suites do not have access to the Yacht Club.

Grand and Wellness Grand Suites: These are available with Wellness and Aurea experiences only and there are just 14 of them. 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 five chairs, a sofa and small glass table and a walk-in closet. Note that suites 11001, 12001 and 14001 have two bedrooms (sleeping a total of four) and two bathrooms, and come in at the higher end of that square footage size.

Jacuzzi Suite: Utilizing the "hump" of the ship (where it juts out), MSC has installed 28 of these special cabins either side of the ship, with said Jacuzzi on the jutting out bit of the balcony rather than in the bathroom. They come in at 301 square feet apiece, and there are 28 of them for passengers who book the Aurea Experience. As well as large balconies (75 square feet) with upright seating and a small drinks table, they also include a sitting area with a sofa that converts into a bunk bed, and a walk-in closet. Bathrooms feature tubs, rather than just showers.

MSC Yacht Club: The ship-within-a-ship MSC Yacht Club has come to its perfectly realized conclusion on Seaside-class ships. Featuring 86 suites (including Insides), the keycard access-only area at the front of the ship also features a lounge with a bar with plenty of seating and double-height glass windows affording wonderful views, a dining room and a top deck with a pool, two hot tubs and a buffet area.

You'll find three types of suites in the Yacht Club: Interior, Deluxe and Royal.

Interior: The 12 interior suites come in at 226 square feet, which is bigger than many balcony cabins. They have one chair but no table; the rest of the features are the same as a standard cabin. Note the bathrooms are the same as a standard cabin. Even though these rooms lack any natural light, they could be a good (and more affordable) option if you are happy spending time making the most of the Yacht Club's many amenities.

Deluxe Suites: There are 72 of these 269-square-foot cabins, which feature sofas with a chair and a small table. Balconies measure 86 square feet and have two upright chairs and a drinks table. Bathrooms have more counter space and shaving/makeup mirrors, as well as larger showers (shower-only).

Royal Suites: There are just two of these, which at 667 square feet are the largest cabins aboard and feel more like small apartments. They feature a large living room with two sofas and two plush chairs and a coffee table, large picture window looking out onto the balcony, a bar setup and a huge flat-screen TV attached to one wall. Sliding-glass doors lead out onto a large balcony (355 square feet, bigger than many cabins onboard) with a private hot tub, two loungers, a drinks table and two upright chairs. The balcony is also accessible via the bedroom, which features a king-sized bed that actually lifts to store luggage underneath; a huge mirror on the opposite wall; and another flat-screen TV. The bathroom has a tub and shower, and marble decor. There's also a walk-in closet area and a door leading back into the living room.

Family: MSC makes a big play for the family market and there are a number of cabin types specifically designed for families:

Aft Family Cabin: Coming in at 290 square feet, there are 14 of these, two each per deck, in a great spot right at the back of the ship, each with a wraparound balcony. The layout is as follows: a small corridor leads to the main room, which features a double bed and two closets, rather than the one in a standard balcony cabin. There is a large picture window above a long desk, which has plenty of drawers and table top space. The living area has a sofa that converts into a bunk bed. Double doors lead out to the 161-square-foot balcony, which has the requisite table and chairs, and wraps around the back of the ship giving you views to the pool below, the glass elevators to one side and, of course, the wake. Bathrooms are a different layout (more rectangular), and so a little bigger than what's found in a standard balcony.

Super Family/Super Family Plus: These are multi-connecting rooms designed specifically for large family groups. They are formed simply by combining two (Super) or three standard balcony cabins (Super Plus), with interconnecting doors and balconies. You'll find these on Decks 9 to 15 and on Deck 18.

 
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