MSC Seaside: The Food!

Having been forced to eat non-cruise food for almost a week now, I figured it was time to go back and relive everything we had to eat on the MSC Seaside. In my ‘initial thoughts‘ post I talked about the service issues we encountered in the MDR and at the buffet, so I’ll skip those here and focus on the food itself. I’ll be starting with the buffet food and working my way up to the Teppanyaki specialty restaurant, so stick around and enjoy all of the pictures along the way!

When I think of an MSC buffet, the first thing that comes to mind is the pizza. Oh that glorious pizza. It’s one thing I really look forward to when we set foot on an MSC ship, so the Seaside had a lot to live up to. I’ll just say she didn’t disappoint, and I was happy to enjoy the buffet pizza more than once. It felt slightly thinner than the buffet pizza on the Divina, which is fine with me, but in the taste department, I was completely satisfied. The other thing I liked, something else I mentioned in the initial thoughts post, is that there are multiple pizza stations in the main buffet on deck 8, and when the buffet was full of people, I don’t recall a single instance of having to wait for a slice of pepperoni, they seemed to be keeping up with demand just fine.

The rest of the buffet was actually pretty good, at least what I had, with one exception, the bacon. For whatever reason, most of the time I got bacon in the morning, it was fairly flavorless. I’m not really sure how you can do that, but when I’d find warm, crispy bacon, it just had no flavor to it. One morning I tried some softer, slightly less cooked bacon, and it had a decent flavor to it, but for whatever reason, anything resembling crispy bacon had none. Outside of that, I enjoyed the buffet, and once I discovered the soft warm pretzels, I was in heaven:

The last day we also found some corn dogs up on the smaller deck 16 buffet, and they were pretty tasty. I think you see where I’m going with my buffet choices here, I basically eat like a kid in there :). That falls in line with one tip I posted early on, they have delicious fries, and some pretty good mac and cheese (only found the mac and cheese on 16 though), and when you combine them, you get total deliciousness:

One other thing to mention with the buffet is the ice cream. If you’re looking for a soft-serve machine, save yourself some time and head up to the deck 16 buffet. It appears (unless I missed others) that the only soft-serve machine on the ship is located in the ‘family & kids’ section up here. The nice lady behind the counter was quick to get everyone cones, so it’s not a big deal, just don’t forget about it if you want ice cream:

While I’m talking about ice cream, let’s also talk about the gelato. The Aurea experienceย includes the non-premium unlimited drinks package. That drink package includes gelato!ย Did we take advantage of that? Heck yea! Even on the 2-day sailing we made stops at gelato stands pretty often. Their gelato is soooo tasty, it’s worth at least one try. It’s offered in cups, cones, shake, and even in bar form. I absolutely loved the bars (lemon and dark chocolate were my favorites), but during the Christmas sailing they were hard to come by, as the gelato stands were having a hard time keeping it in stock, as this stuff is all made fresh. Regardless, my goal of at least one cup/bar of gelato every single day was met, and I enjoyed all of them. There are multiple places to get gelato on the Seaside, be sure to try them all!

Next up, the MDR! As Aurea guests, we were assigned any-time dining in Seashore restaurant on deck 5 aft. For this sailing, the starboard half of the restaurant seemed to be reserved for Aurea and Wellness any-time passengers. You enter the MDR down a little side corridor on the starboard side, are greeted by a very friendly hostess who then takes you to an open table fit for a party of your size. I don’t think we ever had to wait to be seated more than 5 minutes on any night. I should note that we also ate here for lunch twice, and like any cruise ship MDR at lunch, you just walk in the main entrance, tell them how many people you have, and they seat you pretty quickly.

As far as the food, I’d say pretty good! The various pastas and lasagna were easily the best in my opinion, but everything else I had was good too, except for the Philly cheesesteak I had in there for lunch one day. The bread was fine, but the meat and cheese just weren’t up to snuff in my opinion. Jen had some short ribs one night she wasn’t a big fan of as they were overcooked, but outside of that, I think we were all pretty happy with our food choices. The menus themselves usually had a decent variety, save for the holiday and elegant menus, which didn’t offer the ‘classic menu’ options, the things you can get any night if that night’s choices didn’t appeal to you. Here’s a sampling of the menus, along with some of the items we had:

Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about the specialty restaurants! While I wish we’d have also tried the steakhouse, we only ended up going to the Teppanyaki restaurant, which is one of the three venues in the Asian Market Kitchen by Roy Yamaguchi. I mentioned in my ‘5 things we’re excited for‘ postย that I was really looking forward to eating here, which we did for lunch on Christmas eve, and it did not disappoint in any way. We also got a small sampling of it during the two day inaugural, and while the food we sampled was excellent, nothing prepared me for how good the entire experience would be.

We had a noon reservation, and once seated, realized we were the only ones in the place. Not sure if people didn’t realize you could eat here for lunch right away, didn’t realize it existed, or simply didn’t want to pay the premium, but it was kinda cool to have our chef and the staff in there all to ourselves, at least for a while, as another family did show up ~12:45, followed by a group of officers around 1:00. Everyone working in here was excellent, starting with the wait staff all the way up to the chefs who made our food. They were very accommodating on some changes to the menu Bayley and I asked about, namely subbing chicken in place of the salmon and noodles in place of the sushi on the set course we were ordering, which is the “Sencho” option on the menus below (click a page to see it larger)

Every single thing I ate here was delicious, and our chef was outstanding, making each course at a perfect pace, and cooking everything exactly as it should have been. I’ve mentioned in past blog posts that I’m not a shrimp/seafood guy, but I decided to give those huge shrimp a try, and was not disappointed, I started questioning whether I should be avoiding shrimp at all! The chicken he made us was also really, really good, and cooked perfectly. By the time it came to the filet I was ready for a little red meat, and it too was outstanding, cooked exactly as I’d requested. He also cooked some of the best noodles and rice of any Teppanyaki-style place we’ve been to in my opinion. Again, everything that hit my plate was delicious. I highly recommend giving this place a try if you’re on the Seaside and looking for something outside the normal MDR experience one night. You won’t be disappointed!

All in all, we were pretty happy with the food we had all week. I’m no foodie, and Jen likes to claim that Bayley and I only eat yellow food, so your experience might vary, but for me, I could spend another week on this ship eating what it has to offer and be totally satisfied! Next time, maybe we’ll spend the week eating at a different specialty restaurant each day, or maybe we’ll just eat Teppanyaki each night ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Carnival Vista – First Impressions

Anyone who’s been following our social media accounts has probably noticed that we spent the last week aboard Carnival’s newest ship, the Vista. This was our national conference for our travel business, hosted by our franchise’s parent company. An 8 day conference aboard a cruise ship? Yea, that’s my kind of conference :).

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you may remember that our conference last year was aboard the Norwegian Escape, and that my primary post-cruise blog post was more of a pros/cons list (well, plus one food post. The yummy, yummy food). My plan here to to do something similar. With multiple sessions happening during sea days, it’s not really fair to do a full review of the cruise in my opinion, since we didn’t get to experience so many of the things we normally do. That’s not to say we didn’t have fun, so let’s get in to the list!

Note – To save space I’ll be linking to pics vs inserting them in the post

Pros

  • The Ship: She really is a beautiful ship, and continues the same beachy decor the Breeze has. There are some positive additions as well, including the large DreamScape in the atrium and the smaller one in the casino. I really do like the decor theme in this class of their ships.
  • The Cabins: Overall, nice. We had a standard balcony on deck 7 aft, and aside from a slightly hard mattress were comfortable all week. We had really good cabin service all week as well.
  • Matt the Cruise Director: While we didn’t get to enjoy all the entertainment staff had to offer, we saw Matt around the ship a lot, and he was always smiling and friendly, even in the face of our own stupidity (like when one of our suppliers sent a huge group of us down to the gangway in La Romana well before we were allowed to get off :)). Matt seems like one of the better CDs we’ve encountered on past sailings.
  • The Staff: Everyone was great this week. Granted, they knew there were several hundred travel agents on board, but everyone we encountered was very friendly, and always offering to help with anything you needed.
  • The MDR food: Really good all week. We ate there all but one night and I honestly don’t remember anything I had that was bad. People like to knock Carnival for their food, but the MDR food seemed better than what I remembered from the Breeze, and I liked that too
  • The SkyRide: Super fun, great concept. Jen and I did this on the first sea day and had an absolute blast. If it’s running, it provides an awesome view at sunset, too. Highly recommend doing this. Just note that you’ll see this in my cons list, too.
  • The Internet: I’m sure some will disagree with me, but we had both the mid-range and premium packages, and I felt that it was noticeably better than the Oasis’ Voom internet. Peak times were a little slow, but I didn’t encounter much in the way of downtime, and as Instagram shows, I was constantly posting ;). For satellite-based connectivity on a moving ship, they’ve done a solid job.
  • Lido food: Specifically Guy’s burgers and Blue Iguana’s burritos. Just as good as I remembered on the Breeze, and the lines seemed to move faster than they did on that trip. Mmmmmm
  • The DreamScape: They really are cool. I don’t envy the technical challenges ahead of them (it encountered technical issues a couple of times on our sailing), but it’s a great idea that really makes the atrium look cool.

Cons

  • The Ship: Yes, there is some bad here, too. Namely the main theater, which seems smaller than the Breeze. I assume Carnival was seeing a lot of empty seats in other ships in this class and as a result shrunk the theater, but the resulting design is just horrible. Really bad sight-lines throughout, rows in the back that sit lower than the row in front of them, and an odd center setup that’s totally flat (with non-permanent chairs) result in a place I really couldn’t stand to watch a show. The Divina showed us it is possible to build a large theater without things blocking your view, so what I saw in the Liquid Lounge was just mind boggling. Don’t even get me started on the useless cup tray permanently attached to every other armrest. Too slick to actually hold cups, yet totally uncomfortable for resting your arm on. Another ship design problem was the entrance to the Reflections dining room. Both sides are way too small, so the cattle-call queuing that happens prior to the MDR opening results in everyone standing even closer together. On the plus side, if you come in mid-ship, you can stare at the main DreamScape :).
  • The Pizza: Oh MSC Divina, you’ve ruined cruise ship pizza for me. I only ate this one night, tried 3 different varieties, and finished none. The pizza on Oasis was actually better than this in my opinion.
  • SkyRide: While super fun, it has a serious design flaw that results in it being unreliable later in the day. We were told that moisture/sea air end up making the inside of the track really slick as the day goes on, which can result in people getting stuck around the back of the track. Happened to me, so I got to see it first-hand. You basically end up unable to move forward on the uphill portions, as pedaling gets you nowhere (it can’t grip due to the moisture). In my case, I kept at it for a couple of minutes and finally hit a spot where it caught and propelled me forward, but we saw several cases where the operators had to go fish people off by either towing them from aother bike, or pushing them with one. The second to last sea day we were in line to do it again, and they closed it early due to this issue when we were next up. They took our names and told us we could jump the line the next day (the final sea day), but by the time we got done with sessions at 4pm, it was closed for the day for the same reason, with mechanics working on the bikes. Grrr…. As I said in one of my posts, do it early, or risk not getting to go.
  • The Casino: Small and smoky, to put it bluntly. Much like the Escape last year, this is a brand-new ship and the smell of smoke permeates every inch of the casino already. We didn’t gamble once as a result, and we were really missing the Divina’s smoke-free casino.
  • Temperature variances: They seemed to be having HVAC system issues all week, as it was really hot in parts of the buffet area (for example) while freezing in the theater (according to Jen :)). We did see people working on HVAC a couple of times, and heard that the buffet HVAC was down early on in the cruise.

I’m sure there are a few things I’ve missed here, but these are the big ones I wanted to call out, and frankly the cons really weren’t that big of a deal. We had an amazing week onboard, and the team at Carnival couldn’t have been better hosts. We’re admittedly Carnival fans, and this sailing only solidified our opinion of the brand. It truly was an amazing week on a beautiful new ship. One of these days we’re going to have to sail her again as normal passengers so we can experience everything the ship has to offer!

That’s all for now. After a short stop in St Petersburg to pick our daughter up and do some laundry, we’re off to Disney World for the week!