(Note – Any Seaside images/renderings used here belong to MSC Cruises)
In 4 short days, we embark on MSC’s newest ship, the Seaside, for two back to back sailings, kicking off with the 2-day inaugural that includes the naming ceremony, followed by an 8-day Christmas sailing. This is one we’ve been excited for going back well over a year, as we’ve become big fans of the MSC product, and are really looking forward to checking out their brand new ship! If you’re not familiar with what the Seaside has to offer, this post is for you! Let’s take a look at the top 5 things we’re looking forward to seeing onboard!
Our Cabin – Aurea Suite 9250
While the inside portion of the cabin itself doesn’t appear to be any bigger than a standard balcony room, it comes with a longer balcony, giving us more space outside, and it overlooks the outside boardwalk area. Having done standard balconies, larger Yacht Club balconies, and even an aft wrap, we wanted to try something new this time around, and this seemed to fit the bill! With this cabin comes all the Aurea benefits, which are a nice added bonus! I’ve circled the area where our cabin is here:
Zipline and Waterslides
Ziplines at sea are always a blast. We’ve done the one on Oasis of the Seas, and very much look forward to trying out the one on the Seaside. I hope they allow you to take a camera, too, as I’d like to make a 360 video of this similar to the one I did for Royal Caribbean’s zipline on Labadee! The Seaside’s zipline is billed as the largest at sea, and I’m excited to take a run or 3 down this. Check out Captain Scala’s test run to see it for yourself!
The 4 water slides available on Seaside far surpass the single slide on the Divina, and include two high-speed racing slides that include clear loops extending over the sides of the ship. Yes please! They also have something called “Slide boarding technology” that, in their words combines “an interactive game, lights, music and a 367-foot water slide”. Sounds like fun!
Okay, he’s not really a feature of the ship, but he’s going to be present for the naming ceremony on Thursday evening, which we’ll be at! I admit, I’m a fan, and hope that we get the chance to meet him! Yes, with all of the celebrities they’ve announced as being part of the ceremony, Marino’s the one I want to meet :). Pretty sure if you asked Jen who she wants to meet, it’d be Mario Lopez, but does Lopez hold the record for most games with 450+ passing yards? I think not!
If you want to watch the naming ceremony live, keep an eye on the event page around 6:45pm ET on 12/21!!
While I’m exited to try the included main dining room and really looking forward to that awesome MSC pizza, this is more about the specialty restaurants. As I mentioned in a previous post, we finally tried a couple of the specialty restaurants on the Divina during our last sailing, and loved them! The list of restaurants on the Seaside includes one that we’re definitely going to visit, the Teppanyaki restaurant by Roy Yamaguchi. We love a good Teppanyaki style eatery! We’ve eaten at ones on the Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Epic and Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas, and the ones on the Escape and Harmony set very high bars in our eyes (both were outstanding in their own ways), so I’m excited to see how the Seaside’s compares!
I know I said I was only going to mention 5 things, but I simply couldn’t leave out the crew, so consider it a bonus! We’re excited to see some of the same faces we’ve come to enjoy from our past Divina sailings:
It all starts at the top, as we’re very happy to be sailing with Captain Scala again, easily one of our favorite cruise ship captains.
This sailing will be the 4th one with Andre Schlemmer as our cruise director! Woot! I’ve talked up their entertainment team in past posts from each sailing, and that all starts with Andre!
A few members of Andre’s Seaside staff have been on at least one of our past Divina sailings, including Carlos and Wally!
I’m sure there are some crew I’m leaving out, and apologies if I did, it wasn’t intentional. There are others we’re not sure of, like Giuseppe from Le Muse. Even though we’re not in Yacht Club this time, it’d be cool to stop in and say hi!
Another year, another national conference in the books! As I’ve mentioned in the past, our parent company holds our national conference at sea each year, and we were fortunate to attend for the 3rd year in a row, with this one being the Halloween sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas. Being that we were busy with sessions and other business-related events most of the week, we didn’t get to enjoy everything the ship has to offer, but it was still an awesome cruise nonetheless! If you happened to catch my Oasis of the Seas series last year, you might have noticed that I was a little disappointed in aspects of that sailing. Going in to this trip, that experience was forefront in my mind, but I’m happy to say that this trip exceeded my expectations in just about every area.
I’m still not a fan of the layout of the port itself, as we decided to park right at the ship and had to wait in a rather long line of cars to get in to the lot due to some pretty poor traffic management, but once we were in, everything else was cake. Embarkation went even faster than last time! Once we got past security, we headed up to the desk to check in. With no line, we got up there immediately and were checked in pretty quickly. Walking up to the waiting area, we found that they were already boarding, and had no wait here either. We basically walked in to the building, checked in, and headed right on to the ship. Start to finish, everything took maybe 15 minutes after we parked. It always amazes me how fast they are able to board a ship of this size!
Royal Caribbean set the bar really high all week in how they treated our group, and day 1 was no exception. They blocked off the Silk dining room for us to grab food after boarding, knowing that we needed to eat pretty quickly so we could drop our stuff in our rooms and head to our first general session. Frankly, they took good care of us all week, especially at the parties they hosted for us. Take the first night, for example. We were in the skating rink, Studio B, and they laid out an amazing spread of food, drink and ice sculptures!
They went all out on our Halloween party, too. I feel kinda bad for the rest of the passengers, as Royal closed the boardwalk that night for a few hours to host our party, and once again, it was well catered and an absolute blast. Oh, and yes, we brought our costumes! Frankly, I was surprised at how many people on the ship brought theirs, too. We walked through the promenade a few times after our party, and there were a lot of people dressed for the occasion! It was fun walking through in costume, too, we had a number of people stop us for pictures and selfies, which was really fun!
Royal also hosted a beach party on Labadee’s Adrenaline Beach for us too, which was awesome. Free Labadoozies, fun competitions, and beach time, what could be better? Oh, right, a trip down Dragons’ Breath Flight Line! That last one we paid for, but having done it on our Oasis trip, Jen and I both were excited to try it again! Last time we did this I had my GoPro with me and got some decent (but shaky) video, but this time around I had my new toy, a Garmin Virb 360. I like this footage a lot more than the GoPro, as you can use a VR headset or something simple like Google Cardboard to watch it in a VR-like mode and fully immerse yourself in it. Don’t have those? Well not to worry, you can still watch it on YouTube in a normal way and drag around the video to see it from every angle! It’s also now a featured video on one of the major VR platforms, Veer VR! Check it out, and be sure to move around and see all of the action around me, not just the forward view!
Moving on, let’s talk about our room. We again had a boardwalk balcony, which I wasn’t a huge fan of last time, as I found the balcony fairly useless outside of aqua shows, due to the boardwalk acting as a trap for the heat and humidity during the time of our sailing (mid-May). This time around we did find it more useful, as it wasn’t quite as hot outside on this sailing. I used it a few times, including once where I hung out there in my wolf mask for a little bit just to mess with people :). The room itself had plenty of space for us and was very comfortable, and this time around came with a couple of really nice boardwalk balcony amenities: The Royal Refreshment soda package, and a 4-person credit to Johnny Rockets. Those are definitely nice additions to the room category!
Moving on to the internet speed, I was pleasantly surprised. On last year’s sailing, I was pretty disappointed in the overall speed and reliability of the Voom offering, and wasn’t sure what to expect this time around, since they had given all conference attendees the fastest package, which meant that in addition to the regular passengers that would be using the internet, there were 1,000 for sure that had would be on it constantly too. Outside of a couple of small outages (WiFi hotspots totally disappeared from device view), it was pretty reliable and fairly quick. I also really like the unlimited packages, as I hate having to worry about the amount of time I use. It’s not so bad when uploading pictures, but when attempting to upload video, you have to hope things are moving quickly, otherwise you burn a bunch of time off your plan. Not on Voom, however! I ran a couple of speed tests during the week just to see how it looked, so here’s one taken around noon on a sea day, which should have represented a peak time:
One of the other cool things we got to take advantage of on this sailing is their huge dry slide, the Ultimate Abyss. This was new to us, as Oasis doesn’t have it, and is exactly what it sounds like, a long dry slide at the back of the ship that starts on deck 16 and takes you down to the boardwalk on deck 6. We did this pretty early in the sailing, and while we enjoyed it, didn’t really feel the need to do it again. Note that you really do need to pay attention to their instructions, as you can easily turn the wrong way, lift a leg wrong, etc, and end up rubbing some skin off on the way down. I chatted with another agent that took some skin off one leg that way, and he’d seen a kid on the ship who had taken some skin off an arm by hitting the side on the way down. It’s fun, just follow their instructions and you’ll be fine! Since you’re not allowed to take GoPros on this (or the water slides, both of which were pretty disappointing) I don’t have any video, but here are a couple of pics of the Abyss instead. In the second one, you can see the two slides spiral down near the back of the ship:
Even though we were there for work, we did catch as many shows as possible. Frankly, Royal’s really stepped up their entertainment game over the years, and have some of the best shows available at sea in my opinion. We caught 1887, Columbus, The Fine Line, and Jen caught Grease, and every one of them were amazing. I reallyenjoyed Columbus and The Fine Line. The latter is one of the shows held in the Aqua Theater, and incorporates a lot more in the way of artsy visual elements than the traditional aqua show we’d seen on Oasis. I can’t recommend it enough!
Let’s end this by covering a few of the negatives I called out last year in my final Oasis post, as well as one or two other things called out in various posts from that sailing:
Windjammer: Maybe I’m completely mis-remembering the Oasis, but I swear that Harmony’s buffet area is bigger. We ate there a few times and it never felt as crowded as it did on Oasis. I do really like their buffet food too, some of the best of the lines we’ve sailed.
Coke Freestyle machines: I think we had an issue once all week. Last time they were constantly down/being repaired, but this time around we had no major issues with them.
Lack of water slides: We were a little disappointed last year that Oasis had none, but happy to see that had been rectified on Harmony. We both tried them after getting back on the ship in port one day and had a blast. They’ve got two slides dedicated to racing each other, which are pretty standard (but fast) waterslides, and then next to those is The Perfect Storm, a slide with several clear sections that ends up dumping you into a large bowl near the end. Fun stuff, I just wish they allowed you to take a GoPro to film it!
Overall, we had a really great week, and were treated very well by the Harmony’s crew. Next year’s conference is aboard the Norwegian Bliss out of Long Beach, and I have to say, Royal set a very high bar as a conference host, so I hope NCL was paying attention!
I do have one more post in this series covering the food we enjoyed aboard the Harmony, which I hope to have up in a few days. Thank you for following along!
I’ve mentioned before that embarkation day is a love/hate thing for me. Going in to this boarding day, I was excited enough to not care how painful boarding would be, but we still decided that we weren’t going to rush to the port, instead opting for a slightly later arrival in the hopes of avoiding some of the crowds. Well that didn’t really work, as in our excitement we still left a little too early :). Around 11:30, after moving our cars over to the cruise parking area at the hotel we’d stayed at, we grabbed a Lyft and headed to the port. For anyone who’s familiar with the area, it took all of 5 minutes to get from our hotel, the Radisson, to the port. So much for a more relaxed arrival time that would allow us to walk on with little wait!
After passing through security, we headed for check-in. For non-concierge folks, there are two possible lines you end up in, either the first time Disney cruisers line, or the Castaway Club line. Being our first Disney cruise, we obviously landed in the former. It moved pretty quickly, and start to finish I think it might have been 10 minutes before we had our cabin keys are were off to wait for our turn to board. Not too bad! Part of that check-in is getting your boarding group number, which in our case was 25, about 22 from where they currently were. No biggie, we decided to get in line for a picture with Minnie prior to boarding, which definitely killed some time, as they were all the way up to group 17 by the time we finished.
After wandering the boarding area for another 20 minutes, our boarding group was called, and it was time to get things rolling. One of the cool things about boarding on Disney is that as you walk on to the ship, you’re welcomed on board by name:
Once on board, we headed for Royal Palace, as we wanted to try and get reservations for the brunch buffet at Palo, and hadn’t been able to prior to sailing. Having boarded at 12:55, we only had 5 minutes before they opened the room to allow passengers to come in and request dining changes like this, so we jumped in a line that was surprisingly short, with only 5 or so groups in front of us. As you’ll see in a later post, we did manage to get the reservation, so that little victory behind us, we headed to lunch. We’d decided ahead of time to eat our first meal in the Dream in Enchanted Garden to avoid the buffet crowd. Not a bad call, other than somewhat slow service. The dining staff were very friendly and quick to respond to whatever you needed, but it seemed like there were too few of them in a space where there are too many tables crammed around each other. The sundae at the end of the meal made up for it, however. Amazing. That proved to be a common theme on the cruise, as their ice cream is delicious!
After lunch, we headed to the room. We were booked in cabin 7004, a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Porthole (OV) all the way forward on deck 7. It’s a fairly spacious cabin with plenty of storage with a porthole that overlooks the front of the ship. One thing I really like about the room’s design is the split bathrooms. One bathroom with a sink and toilet, the other with a sink and bathtub/shower combo. Having another bathroom with its own sink separate from the shower allowed more than one person to be getting ready for dinner at the same time. So nice :). My only gripe about the room was the slanted front wall, due to that being the front of the ship. I intentionally chose that side of the bed (power outlet and USB ports in the alarm clock FTW!) and ended up hitting my head more than once. Really, that’s all I’ve got in the complaint department where the room is concerned, I really liked it. Here’s the 360 shot of it, take a look around!
Here are a few more of the room, including the bathrooms, and one of the couch after it’s been turned into a bed:
After dropping our stuff in the room, we gave Bayley a tour of the kids club since it would be the only time she’d be able to go in. As expected, Disney’s got a great setup down there. I posted some pics of it during our tour of it back in December, but to recap, some of the highlights include a Star Wars themed section where kids can fly the Millenium Falcon, Andy’s room from Toy Story, and large video enabled floors where games can be held. As we walked through, there was in fact a game going on at one of them, which Jen and Bayley happily took part in. Jen thinks they were frogs, stepping on the screen to throw out its tongue and catch bugs:
After a little walking tour of a few areas, we headed up to deck 12 to take in the sail-away party. Having mis-judged the number of people who’d be attending, and getting there as it was starting, our initial spots weren’t that great, so I moved around a little to get a better view:
It’s a good time, complete with a number of Disney characters, so if you want a good view, get there a little early and get up against the rails on either side of deck 12, or up front by the stage on deck 11.
After the sail-away party, we explored the ship a little more before heading to the main show. We’d been assigned late dining (8:15), which we normally don’t like (this trip did nothing to change that), so we were in the early show. The first show of the sailing was the Golden Mickeys, an awards-style show geared towards celebrating Disney’s vast catalog of movies. We do like the Dream’s theater, as it’s fairly open throughout, with excellent sight-lines in most places. They do use the forward balcony boxes in the shows, so the closer to center the better, but we sat on the sides a couple of times and had clean views of the stage itself. Couple that with snack bars just outside the theater by each entrance, and it’s up there as one of my favorite theaters on any ship we’ve sailed. Far better than whatever it is that Carnival decided to do with the main theater in the Vista.
The show is where I really started to appreciate Disney’s ability to provide outstanding entertainment regardless of location. Prior to this, MSC held the title of best entertainment at sea in our eyes, but Disney’s on a whole other level. For that very reason, I still categorize MSC as the best in the contemporary non-Disney class when it comes to original shows. When you factor in Disney’s vast catalog of movies and cartoons that they can pull from for the show (without having to pay royalties), there’s really no way for anyone else to compete, as Disney’s in a league of their own. The show itself was outstanding, with excellent performers and vocalists, a theme that held true all week.
The theater is also where I started to notice and appreciate Disney’s enforcement of the rules. Leading in to the show, they’d warned people multiple times that no photos or video recording were allowed in the shows, and as usual, people didn’t listen. What set them apart from other lines is that they actively enforced it. In Cats when we were on the Oasis of the Seas, a woman a few seats over recorded a large chunk of it fairly obviously (the screen on her phone was large and bright), and none of the staff members did a thing even though we were all warned before the show about doing just that. In here, the ushers quickly spotted those with even the dimmest screen, walked over, and told them to stop. It made for a much more enjoyable experience. I admit I did take one picture, but well before the show started so I could show our viewing angle:
After the show ended, we still had time to kill before our 8:15 dinner seating, so we headed to D Lounge to catch part of the Family Fusion game show. Good stuff, similar to the Match Game. I didn’t stay in there long, I wanted to get some outside shots as the sun was going down, so I headed out to get a few shots while the girls watched the game:
After that quick stroll outside, I headed back in to meet up with the girls so we could head to our dining room for dinner. For those that haven’t sailed Disney, they have multiple dining rooms that you switch between each night, with your dining staff following you. For night #1, Animators Palate was on tap. That’s a really fun venue, and probably our favorite MDR of the sailing. Being that we had 4 nights in 3 dining rooms, one was repeated, and I really wish it had been this one. Beyond the cool decor, Crush is jumping between the different screens talking to various guests at their tables while they eat. If you’ve ever been to Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot, it’s very similar, just in a dinner setting.
Dinner itself was delicious. From the top left, moving clockwise, I had the Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes, Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup, Ginger Teriaki dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin, and the Cookies and Cream Sundae. Like the sundae at lunch, it was outstanding. I could have eaten sundaes all week and been perfectly happy :).
Our only complaint with dinner was how long it took. Felt like we were never going to get out of there, taking just over 2 hours from the time we were seated until we were done with dessert. One of the reasons we prefer early dining is that they actually have a set schedule to keep, needing to get people out quickly so they can clean up for the next seating, a deadline that’s just not there with late seating. Our wait staff was great, it just seemed like another case of too many tables for too few staff. It took so long that we missed one activity that started around 10pm or so. Might have been a character meet and greet, but I forgot to note it unfortunately.
Our dinner finally over, we headed to the Quest game show, which was followed by their version of the marriage show. Normally we like to play along during Quest, but getting there so late and being completely full from dinner, I really wasn’t up for it. There weren’t any really convenient seats for running up to the host, either, so we just watched this round. The host for both of these events, Chris, was outstanding. I highly recommend attending the late night stuff he hosts if you’re looking for fun without the kids :). In case anyone from our sailing happens to read this, I’ll close this post out with some shots from those games, including a picture of the marriage show couples. Couple #1 was one of the funniest pairs I’ve ever seen in this type of show, for reasons that should stay on the ship 😉
At this point we’d only been on-board for half a day, but were having an absolute blast, and for the most part our Disney cruise was living up to the hype. Next up, the ship makes its first stop. Did we get off in Nassau? Stay tuned! In the meantime, enjoy a few more pics from day 1: