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 experience includes the non-premium unlimited drinks package. That drink package includes gelato! 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‘ post 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 🙂

 

MSC Divina: The Food!

We’re now on the last day of our current sailing on the Divina, and with some free time while we’re docked in Nassau, I figured it was time for an update! The past four days since my last post have been a whirlwind of fun, and being totally exhausted from it, I hope this post makes sense. This is the first time in four sailings on the Divina that we’ve done this itinerary, and even though we had fun on the previous three, it was, in some ways, a nice change of pace, but three back to back ports where we spent a lot of time in the sun has me a bit, well, off ;). I’ll save the port-specific stuff for a later post and focus this post on the food and dining service on board the ship this week.

When we sailed over Christmas in 2015 (our only other non-Yacht Club sailing), we were assigned to the Black Crab restaurant, and if you saw my recap post, it wasn’t the best experience. It felt too crowded, service was really slow, and the food was hit or miss. This time around, we’ve enjoyed the MDR experience so much more. We’re in Villa Rosa this time, and were assigned late dining. At first we considered requesting a change to early seating, but after our first meal decided we against that, as we really like our table staff, Erwin and Noel. They’ve done an awesome job all week, so I’m glad we chose to stick with the later seating even though we prefer to eat earlier. The food itself does seem better than last time, but still has hit or miss moments. Take last night for example (as seen below), the 90-day aged carpaccio was excellent, but the beef wellington was just okay, as it was a little tough for my liking. I’d say most of the nights have been like that, but I’d say that’s par for the course with the main dining room on any contemporary line. Feeding 4000 people isn’t an easy task, and frankly most of it’s been pretty good all things considered! I think the only real complaint would be from Jen. On the 2015 sailing, the tiramisu parade was followed by the waiters cutting slices from the ones they paraded around, and she absolutely loved that specific tiramisu. This time, you don’t get served from the paraded ones, you just get pre-sliced ones that she says aren’t nearly as good as the ones on that Christmas sailing, so Italian night was a letdown for her.

As mentioned in my first post, we also decided to try some of the specialty restaurants onboard this time. With the current dining plan pricing, it just seemed like too good of a deal to pass up. We chose the 3 meal plan at $50/pp, which gave us a night in Eataly Steakhouse, Galaxy Restaurant, and La Cantina di Bacco. The first two do require reservations, but having never seen either of them busy, we didn’t bother to get any reservations ahead of time. The plan was to check out the MDR menu each day and decide based on whether or not we wanted anything on that menu. The first night we ate in one ended up being the first formal night, and for that we went to the steakhouse. Beef? Yes please! On the dining plan, you get something off the appetizer or pasta menu, one entrée, and one dessert. As shown below, I went with beef carpaccio, filet mignon, and the bomboloni (donuts with ice cream). It was all very good!

Next on our specialty dining tour was Galaxy Restaurant. We did this after our stop in Cozumel, again because there was nothing on the MDR menu that really called out to us. We didn’t call for a reservation until after we got back on the ship, but were able to easily get a table at 7pm. Arriving at the restaurant, we were seated at a spot by the window with an amazing view, and given our Samsung tablet containing the menus (ordering from a Galaxy tablet in Galaxy restaurant, clever 😊). Now at this point the one annoyance of the evening hit, as it took almost 40 minutes for our server to take our order, which seemed odd considering there was only one other group in the place, but other than being slow, the experience in Galaxy was great.

On the dining plan, you get one thing from the appetizer menu, one from the pasta menu, an entrée, and a dessert, so one more course than we got in the steakhouse. I admit that going in I was a bit concerned about this one, as my daughter and I are picky eaters, and I having seen the menus ahead of time, I didn’t think there was anything on the appetizer menu we’d eat. I decided to put that aside and try something new, so for my starter, I went with the duck breast morsels. I’d never had duck before, and frankly I’m not a big fan of bird meat in general, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, it was absolutely delicious! The teriyaki sauce on it was excellent as well. For my pasta selection, I decided on the homemade tagliatelle, and the pork in it was cooked to an almost bacon-like consistency. If this dish was the only food I had in here, I’d have left stuffed and happy! For my entrée, the tournedos of Angus beef, which was cooked to a perfect medium rare, and on par with the filet I’d had at the steakhouse a few nights earlier. My final course was the moelleux au chocolat, basically molten chocolate cake in vanilla sauce. Amazing, absolutely amazing. The warm chocolate gushed out of the cake as soon as I cut the firstbite, and when combined with the vanilla sauce the taste was just perfect.

The entire meal was excellent and well worth the money in my opinion. I really don’t understand why the steakhouse and Galaxy restaurant aren’t busier, they’re both great!

For the final meal on the 3 night dining package, we had lunch at La Cantina di Bacco. We decided to go the lunch route specifically so we didn’t miss out on another evening in the MDR. In lieu of individual pizzas off the menu here, we chose to go with the meter of pizza. We’d done this once before and loved it, with it being my favorite of the three different pizza styles you can get on the ship. Keep in mind that this isn’t traditional pizza, and as such, more traditional American toppings like bacon or pepperoni aren’t available. For the meter of pizza, you can divide it up into 4 different sections, with different flavors on each. We ended up with prosciutto on two sections, one margherita section, and a four-cheese section. Each and every one was delicious!

The dining packages at current pricing definitely seem to be worth the money if you’re looking to try something outside of the normal main dining room. We all agree the food was excellent, and provided a nice smaller venue free from the noise of the MDR. The only exception was Galaxy, where people kept cutting through to get to the virtual world area, but even then, that was only a small distraction. Why more people aren’t giving the specialty restaurants a shot is beyond me.

Moving on, the buffet. This is one of the places where I immediately started missing Yacht Club. I’m a breakfast eater, and love grabbing some eggs, bacon, bread, etc, and finding a quiet spot with a view to enjoy the morning. Well, unless you get up early, that’s not a thing in this buffet. One of the key things I mentioned in the posts after our first sailing in 2015 was the layout. The way the room is set up, you can easily end up trapped behind slow moving people when moving between stations, or when looking for seating. It can be extremely frustrating trying to navigate the room during busy times, so if a crowded buffet isn’t your thing, go early or late. Exact times for that are hard to pin down, as it changes based on whether or not you’re in port, and I’m sure it changes with different passenger demographics. On the first sea day, I went up around 9am or so, and it was pretty busy. I didn’t even bother waiting for pancakes, as that station was just a sea of people. On port days? Yea, either go an hour before you dock, or some time after. In Ocho Rios I got up there about 15 minutes before we docked only to find all bread stations almost entirely empty. Now today, I waited until about 15 minutes after we docked and it was just fine. Plenty of food, and a small crowd since most of the ship was making their way into town by this point.

As far as quality of the food goes, I’d say it’s pretty standard buffet food. The scrambled eggs have been good, the pancakes, when I did make it there, were delicious, and the bread was pretty good. The one day I had bacon it was a little undercooked for my taste, but still had a good flavor. Then there’s the pizza. Ahh, the pizza. This was my first stop when we got on, and one I made almost every day at some point. I consider their pizza to be the best I’ve had at sea, and the buffet pizza is just as good as the meter of pizza we had at La Cantina di Bacco. If you only eat one thing off the buffet, make it the pizza!

There's the view I've been looking for 😊 #msccruises #cruise #bestpizzaatsea

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I think that about covers it for the food this week. The very noticeable improvement in MDR service has been a welcome change from 2015 in our eyes, and we couldn’t be happier with our dining staff. Aside from that, I highly recommend trying the specialty restaurants when sailing the Divina, as they offer some delicious food in a smaller, quieter setting. If we have the opportunity to sail the Divina again, I’m planning to give the Italian venue a shot, as it was the only one we missed this time.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow morning we disembark and drive home, and while I am sad in a way, I’m also ready to rest for a few days. We’ve kept ourselves busy all week both on the ship and in port, and frankly I’m exhausted! Here’s hoping debark and the drive home are both uneventful tomorrow!

Outstanding service all week from Erwin and Noel in Villa Rosa! #mscdivina

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