Well, the fun has come to an end. We debarked the Seaside yesterday morning for the final time on this trip, so I figured I’d get a start on covering our time on board. I purposely held off on writing posts while on the ship to allow myself time to digest everything that we saw and experienced. This is a brand new ship, and as such, there is a lot of interest in it. Hopefully the information we provide by way of this blog helps paint a picture of our experience for those sailing or thinking about sailing the Seaside any time soon. I have a short series of posts I’ll be doing on the experience over the next two to three weeks, starting with this overview of some of the highlights and lowlights. Details may be light, but in most cases will follow in the more detailed posts that come later.
First, we had an absolute blast during the two day inaugural. I previously covered the naming ceremony itself, but as far as the time on board, we had fun, and were very happy to have been invited to be part of it! The crew treated us very well, and while there were a few hiccups, those two days on board were really fun. Getting to see the ship while she’s not even close to capacity was awesome, as it really allowed us to explore the various public areas, as well as different categories of cabins. I’ll be including the latter in my planned posts on cabins.
Moving on, our actual sailing over Christmas is what I suspect those interested in the Seaside want to read about. This sailing represented the first time the ship was taking paying passengers out of its new home port of Miami, and it was amazing to be a part of. Full disclosure since I’ve seen people in various online communities make accusations of paid cheerleading by anyone that had anything positive to say: We paid full fare for this trip. No TA rates, FAM rates, or any sort of industry discount from MSC, we were just normal paying passengers who booked on our own over a year ago out of excitement for the product, and this is written from that point of view.
Going in, I expected there to be issues. I assumed we’d hit some of the following, and adjusted my expectations and patience level accordingly:
- Embarkation would be a little chaotic in the newly renovated terminal F
- The new technology on the ship (the MSC for Me app and wristbands) would be problematic
- Dining might be a little out of control the first night as getting seating and serving processes down when the ship is at capacity might take a night or two
- Room issues might arise. By this I mean things might physically fail or break. The ship is brand new, and even new things fail when introduced in such a large scale. We were aware of a few room issues during the 2-day, so as the ship reach capacity on the Christmas sailing, I figured we might see or hear of more of it.
Some of those did occur, and in larger doses than others, but nothing that ruined our trip. Let’s take a high level look at some of the good and bad. I’ll start with the latter so we end on a high note 🙂
Keep in mind that the ship just launched, this crew has only been working together a short time (since training started in Italy like a month or so before the ship launched) and as a result, I personally expect this to get better as systems get ironed out and processes are made more efficient.
Storage space in some of those cabins is really at a premium. We were in 11054 (Fantastica Balcony) for the inaugural and 9250 (Aurea Suite) for the Christmas sailing. Calling 9250 a suite is incredibly generous in my opinion. The interior of the room was identical to 11054 except for the bed and couch positions being reversed. Both suffered from the same lack of storage space. You get a closet, two smallish drawers, and three and half shelves (the half is shared with the safe). You also get two very small shelves in the nightstand on each side of the bed. Jen and I never unpacked in 11054 due to the short time on-board, but having that same small amount of space in 9250 with 3 people was a challenge. I think we’d have used the mini fridge for storage if we could have. We made it work, but due to the closet access being partially blocked by the sofa, all had to store our shoes under the bed instead of in the closet, which really wasn’t ideal. The bathroom is also really small. That shower (the same in 11054 and 9250) was absolutely tiny, and if you’re at all tall, forget about drying off in there :). Here’s a look around both the room and bathroom in 9250:
I also have 360 degree walkthrough video of this room and a few others that I’ll be processing and posting on our YouTube channel after we get back to Charlotte, so subscribe and be on the lookout!
Calling guest services proved to be frustrating. We had an issue the first night regarding luggage delivery with a key bag, and after calling a couple of times and getting no answer at all, the automated system finally asked if we wanted to request a callback, so we did. It never came. Ever. Okay, that was on the first night, so maybe they were just overloaded. Well, people were still having issues getting anyone on the final night. Someone next to us in line to be seated in the MDR had been trying to call room service for over an hour, no one ever picked up, and they also requested a callback that never came from the automated system. Not good.
The buffet is a mess. Literally. First, there are two buffets on the Seaside, the main one on 8, and a smaller snack-sized one on 16. This may end up being a common theme in my posts, but it just feels like they don’t have enough crew to service a full ship. When everyone was on board (sea days, before getting off in port or after getting back on), the buffet areas weren’t well-kept during prime eating times. In multiple instances, it was nearly impossible to find silverware and/or napkins. Paper napkin dispensers were constantly empty, and you could pretty much forget about finding cloth napkins/silverware. Tables also took quite a while to be cleared from what we saw. It wasn’t that crew were standing around doing nothing, we saw them busting their butts, it really just seemed like there weren’t enough of them to keep up with the crowd.
Note that this was far less of an issue on port days since many passengers obviously aren’t on the ship. The staff was better able to keep up in these situations.
Public bathrooms are also a mess. I actually don’t think I ever used one, but Jen and Bayley did (or attempted to) on multiple occasions and almost always complained of toilets that didn’t work, either overflowing or continuously flushing, stall doors that didn’t stay latched, bathrooms that were really messy overall. In each case where they encountered someone trying to clean a women’s bathroom, it was a man, and no announcement was made before he entered in any of those instances.
Overall, the ship’s cleanliness not up to Divina standards. We’ve always found the Divina to be a very well-kept ship, probably the cleanest we’ve sailed. We expected those same standards to exist on the Seaside, but on this trip, that expectation wasn’t met. In addition to the issues mentioned above, we constantly noticed a lack of cleaning across the ship. Examples of this: Coming down the aft stairs a couple of days ago, we came across a piece of bacon just laying on the floor (which we aptly named “stair bacon”), we found half-full cups just sitting on stairway rails a number of times, and more small things like that. Granted that type of thing is just as much on the passengers who felt it was okay to leave things like that in places they didn’t belong, but on Divina, things like that disappear quickly. In a bigger example of what I’m talking about, I went out to the South Beach pool area on the morning of the final sea day to catch the sunrise, only to find the tables and chairs around the bar still strewn about from the night before. Chairs all over the place, not set up with the tables they went with, etc. Tables in the buffet would sit with used plates and cups for long periods of time before being cleaned up, as well. Again, it felt like there simply wasn’t enough crew to keep up.
Bar and gelato service was hit or miss. Of the bars we frequented, we found the best service to be in the Haven lounge, and under the right circumstances up on deck 16. This isn’t a knock on the bartenders, they were doing their best to keep up, they just didn’t have the manpower to deal with a full ship, and bar service could be slow as a result. In a number of cases with both bars and gelato stands, we saw managers and officers stepping in to assist with basically everything, which I highly commend. If empty glasses needed to be removed, they were on it. If drinks needed to be made, they were on it. If gelato needed to be scooped, they were on it. There are also station inefficiencies that I have no doubt they’ll iron out. Heck, we saw one fixed over the course of the week in the Venchi chocolate/coffee station on deck 6. The bar manager was making us shakes and having to walk the length of the station 4-5 times per shake going back and forth between where we were, the milk was, and the gelato was located. A couple of days later, we noticed the milk had been moved to the chocolate side of the station in a chilled bucket to save time. Things like that will definitely help over time.
MDR service was very hit or miss. When it was a miss, it was a big miss. Being Aurea, we were assigned any-time dining in the Seashore restaurant. The first night there were no signs out telling Aurea/wellness guests where to check in, so it was a little chaotic among the other passengers that were trying to get MDR issues sorted, but once I got to the podium and asked, we were seated immediately. Service that night was pretty bad, with speed being the primary issue, taking over an hour and a half to serve 3 courses. I assumed that being the first night it’d get sorted out, but in the end really didn’t seem to be a process issue, more of a training issue. One night would be really slow, the next great, it really depended on what section you got seated in. The same held true for lunch in Seashore. I think the longest we spent in there for a dinner was 2 hours one night, while tables in other servers sections were out in well under that. On the bad nights, it really felt like we were being served by head waiters that had never worked on a ship prior to Seaside and didn’t understand any of the flow in how it all worked. I will say that on the good nights, we had servers who really knew what they were doing. Overall, the women were killing it, with two of our best nights being at Barbara and Brenda’s tables. I don’t want to leave Kikit out of this either, the night we were in his section was probably our quickest dinner all week. Those bad nights and lunches were incredibly frustrating, though. The last couple of nights we let our servers know ahead of time that we were trying to get done quickly to get to a show or some other activity, and that did help, but that really shouldn’t be necessary. It shouldn’t take 20 minutes to get a menu, and then another 15 minutes to get a drink, and so on. We actually walked out in the middle of one lunch in Seashore because we were tired of waiting and our wait staff had simply disappeared. Don’t get me wrong, they were all friendly, and all appeared to be working their tails off, but it again seemed to come down lack of experience with some of the head waiters.
Things around the ship were literally breaking. Remember that expectation of room issues I mentioned earlier? Yea, we’re aware of several instances of it. I’m not surprised. You install this many of the same items at this scale and some are bound to break, it happens. We had one panel in our first room on 11 (below the storage drawers) that was broken off, and our bathroom door wouldn’t latch shut, but other than that, nothing wrong in either of our rooms. We did, however, see reports in the Facebook group for our sailing and the group for our travel agent community of other things, like power outlets not working for the first few days, water leaks under floors, and other breakdowns like that. The worst, however, had to be the balcony issue for one family. The parents got up early on Christmas morning and went out on the balcony to see the view, only to get trapped out there when their balcony door wouldn’t open back up. After finally flagging down someone else out on a balcony, ship’s security had to guide them back in via another balcony, with their own taking a few hours to be repaired. With small kids in the room during all of this, I can’t imagine how they felt.
The ship is beautiful. Seriously. The design is stunning, and it’s a really photogenic piece of hardware. You’ve got the signature Swarovski crystal stairs in the atrium, well decorated hallways, elegant shopping areas, and awesome venues around the ship like the Sports Bar, the Haven Lounge, and of course the atrium. Oh that sparkly atrium. I can’t wait to get my 360 video walk through of that processed. In the meantime, here’s a full view of it from the top level:
The real beauty in the design of the ship comes from the awesome outdoor spaces. The ship’s design is inspired by the Miami condo scene, and it doesn’t disappoint. Outside there’s a lot to enjoy. There are Infinity bridges on each side that extend out over the ocean with see-through walkways, along with a “Bridge of Sighs” on deck 16 aft that extends out over the South Beach pool and also features a see-through walkway so you can see what’s happening below. It’s also a prime picture spot, with my favorite examples being my 360 shot on one of the sea days:
along with my shot of Bayley standing out there on our final formal night:
Seriously, this ship is incredible. Most ships have a lower outside deck, but on most, your view is obscured in some way by lifeboats. Like the outer deck lit in blue light here, with lifeboats overhead:
(Note – this obviously isn’t just a Carnival thing, I just happened to take this picture while docked in Nassau with this specific post in mind 🙂 )
That’s not the case at all on the Seaside, as the lifeboats are on a lower deck passengers can’t get to, while the outer boardwalk style deck on 8 has no lifeboats in view anywhere. The original renderings are pretty accurate in this regard, showing the deck 8 outside areas right above where the lifeboats are kept:
I know I’ve already said it, but she really is a beautiful ship, and if you’re not following us on Instagram, you’re missing out! I’ve still got plenty of ship shots left to post, so feel free to check us out over there!
Our balcony was pretty nice. While I stand by my point above that the room doesn’t really warrant the “suite” title, even with the Aurea benefits, having a longer balcony with loungers on it was nice. No crowding of the balcony if all three of us want on, and a place for all three of us to stretch out. The only downside was that we did end up with some trash out there, mostly in the form of jellybeans. Not sure if someone on an adjacent balcony dropped them and they rolled in, or if they were thrown from a higher balcony, but they got there, and got stepped on accidentally. Note that while people can see down in to this balcony from above if you’re out in the sunny part (on a lounger, near the glass, etc), you can slide back under cover near the door and get more privacy if you want. Take a look around and see for yourself!
The new technology on the ship worked really well! We got RFID-ish wristbands at check-in (free for Aurea and above, small charge for everyone else if I recall), and Jen only wore that, didn’t carry her ship card with her on-board at all, and we had no issues. We could pay at the bars with them, use them to open our cabin door, basically use them anywhere you’d normally use your ship card. The only exception to this was at the spa. If you use the thermal area, they prefer you hand over your card to get your pass into the thermal area vs handing over the wristband.
The MSC For Me app seems to really work well on-board. There were issues with it before sailing, like the itinerary not including Christmas day, but once you’re on the ship’s wifi, it really lights up. Bayley used it to book our show times all but one night, and it worked perfectly.
Additionally, the little tablets the bar staff had seemed to work pretty well for ordering an paying. You tell the server what you want, they enter it into their tablet and scan your card/wristband for payment. Then the order is transmitted to the bar to be made. I was surprised at how well these things worked so early in their use, and wish that they’d extend use to the MDR to make ordering/food prep more efficient vs using the old “write orders on a pad” method.
The buffet design is soooo much better than Divina. I’m sure I’ve noted in past Divina posts that one of my biggest gripes on that ship is that the walkways in the buffet are too small, with posts popping up at bad times, resulting in backups during busy times. That’s all been sorted from what I saw on Seaside. Walkways are much wider, allowing better flow. Obviously you still get people walking slowly in the middle of a walkway, or stopping for no apparent reason right in front of you, but the overall layout is much better in my opinion. There’s also more than one pizza station in the deck 8 buffet (the larger of the two buffets), so during busy times the wait for whatever flavor of pizza you want should be non-existent. Maybe I just got lucky, but I had zero wait getting a slice or two of pepperoni whenever we went, no matter how busy things were.
The entertainment team is still tops. This groups is one of the things we fell in love with on the Divina, and to be honest, I was a little worried they’d lose their edge on a bigger ship, but that wasn’t the case. It’s mostly a new cast of characters for us, with a few returning favorites (Andre as CD, Tyrone, Carlos, Wally, and Chante), and whether new to us or returning, they were all great. We attended numerous activities including trivia, scattergories, the evening parties in Haven, and all of the “moment with your cruise staff” activities in the atrium and enjoyed them all. Those last ones, the cruise staff moments, are oddly fun. It’s a 5 minute dance party with the entertainment team dressed in whatever the night’s theme is (Gatsby, horror outfits, western wear for country night, etc). They’re also well attended, with each floor of the atrium packed with people at each one we went to! Honestly, this team puts in more effort than I’ve seen on any other line to help ensure passengers are having fun, and they genuinely seem to be enjoying themselves regardless of the long hours they put in. They easily cancel out any of the issues I called out in the “bad” section.
The Captain is out and about quite a lot, and always friendly. We’ve sailed with Captain Scala before, during one of our Yacht Club sailings on the Divina, and were happy he’d be the captain for the first sailing of the Seaside. In that time, he’s developed quite a social media following and stays pretty active throughout each cruise posting various pics. We saw him out a number of times with his family as well, once at the Jungle Pool where he was filming this, as well as at shows, and even making an appearance at the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle! I have to say, it was a pretty well attended event, and very well done on MSC’s part, with a couple of cakes prepared for us, as well as a variety of cocktails handed out to everyone. Good times were had by all 🙂
The crew were always friendly. No matter how hard they were working trying to keep up, they were always smiling, asking how you were doing, and how your day went. I can’t imagine the hours they were having to put in to try and keep up with some of the issues I called out above, but they always seemed to do it with a smile.
The gifts! The wonderful gifts! There are two parts to this one. First, all cabins got presents for being on the first full sailing out of Miami. We came back to the cabin one night to find these sitting on our bed!
Combined with the gifts we got on the 2 day inaugural (these, among a few other items), we’ve got some cool stuff that we’ll definitely treasure!
Second, Santa did show up again this cruise, and like our Christmas sailing on the Divina two years ago, handed out gifts to all the kids 11 and under (I think that was the age group, anyway). Santa and his helpers (Rudolph and some elves were positioned at center stage in the theater, and lines were formed in different areas for different age groups. Kids went up, got a gift, and had their picture taken with Santa. I love that they’re still doing this 🙂
All in all, it was a great week. Yes, there were issues, and things on the MDR and buffet side really need fixing, but overall we had a great time and would do it again without question. I have no doubt they’ll get past the issues experienced this week over time, but I can understand how what we saw this week could frustrate people considering it was a Christmas sailing, and a fairly pricey one at that. Keep in mind that everything I’m posting here was based on our own experience, so what you read elsewhere may vary. Personally, I’m happy to have spent another fun Christmas at sea, this time aboard a brand new ship!
This is definitely a ship I expect we’ll sail on again, which isn’t something I say lightly, since we rarely sail a ship twice (the Divina being the only ship we’ve sailed on more than once at the time of this). Over the next two to three weeks I’ll be writing in more detail on the ship, the rooms we saw, the food, and maybe a few other things, and as previously mentioned will be working on getting all of my 360 video uploaded to our YouTube channel, but for now, it’s a New Years Eve in Miami for us!