MSC Seaside: The Ship!

The Seaside is, in a word, beautiful. There’s no denying that. If you want to see for yourself, check out the videos we’ve been posting from on-board that include public area walk-throughs and cabin tours. We’ve got plenty more to come too, so be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel! If you’d rather watch them on a dedicated VR platform, follow us on VeeR, as all of the 360 videos in question are posted there as well! In addition to all the video, throughout this post I’ll be including pictures we’ve posted on Instagram of the ship, and even including a slideshow of mostly interior shots at the end, including a bunch of shots from the various kids club areas, so read on!

I called this out in my “initial thoughts” post, but if you consider the traditional ship design, you generally an open open upper deck or two, and one lower deck that while providing a view of the ocean, also has a number of obstructions of that view, typically involving the ship’s lifeboats. The Seaside changes that by moving the upper decks inward, allowing them to create an open lower deck that gives you a much more immersive outside feel, almost like walking in a park, if that park was in the middle of the ocean. I’m once again going to be using one of MSC’s initial renderings to show what I mean:

The design definitely lives up to the goal of bringing you closer to the sun, and provides plenty of lounger space on those outer decks. There are multiple highlights of these new outdoor spaces, as well.

  • Infinity Bridge: On each side of the ship out on deck 8, there’s an Infinity Bridge with a clear glass floor that allows you to walk out over the ocean. 360 video of this is coming soon on our YouTube and VeeR channels!
  • Bridge of Sighs: At deck 16 aft they’ve placed another clear glass bridge that allows you to walk out over South Beach pool, which is 9 floors below. It’s an incredibly picturesque spot, definitely one to see during multiple times of the day. Don’t believe me? See for yourself with our 360 degree tour of it!
  • South Beach Pool: In the rendering above, this is the open aft section on deck 7 that contains a pool, loungers, and a bar / gelato station. When you’re hanging out back here on a sunny day, the look of it, with the condo-style balconies towering above you, really does give you that South Beach condo-scene feel.
  • Forest Aquaventure Park: A multi-story waterpark in the center of the ship that contains kids pools and 4 water slides. One kids slide, two high-speed racing slides, and one with Slide-boarding technology, combining an interactive game, lights, music and a 367-foot water slide. We rode the racing slides and the interactive slide, and personally, I prefer the racing slides, mainly because the whole points-based game on the other slide didn’t really appeal to me. The kids riding it really seemed to like that one, however, as there was usually a line at the bottom to get one of the slide boards you have to ride down on.
  • Zip Line: The Seaside boasts what MSC calls the longest zip line at sea. We took a run down this while docked in Nassau, and I have to say that it’s worth a ride, it’s definitely better than the zip line on the Oasis class, and gives you a great view of everything around you. The downside of the open design of it is that windy sea days might mean closure, as we encountered early in the cruise. On our sailing it was free, which meant really, really busy. I’d heard of people waiting ~45 minutes to ride, as they were only opening one side at a time. We got there about 30 minutes before it opened the second time in Nassau and were first in line for a 2pm run. We’ve heard that after our sailing they implemented a fee for the zipline, $10 per person or $50 per cabin. As mentioned, it’s a fun time offering a great view, easily worth a try!

Even though the decks above 8 appear to almost be squished inward to accommodate the open-air design, you don’t really lose anything in the way of public space. That mostly appears to be due (in my totally uneducated guesstimate) to the public areas like the atrium, shopping, and entertainment spaces existing on decks 5 – 8, where the ship is still the full width. Those interior public areas are just as beautiful as the outside area, too, with the Seaside’s atrium being the center piece of it all. In keeping with previous MSC designs, this 4 deck atrium houses the signature Swarovski crystal staircases, along with a bar on the bottom floor, and stages positioned on each of the three floors above it. I’ll have some pictures of it below, but if you want to take a virtual tour, check out my 360 degree walk-through!

Up next on page 2, interior entertainment venues!

MSC Divina: Day 5 Recap

Before we get to day 5’s fun, I wanted to take a second to call out one of the highlights of our trip: The entertainment staff. The Divina’s entertainment team has easily been the best all around group we’ve had on a ship. From the Bingo Boys, to trivia, Scattergories, Foosball, arts and crafts, etc, the sea days have been an absolute blast. This group has a level of energy and enthusiasm I envy, and they’ve really been fun to watch.

Alrighty, on to day 5

We arrived in Old San Juan pretty early as far as I could tell, with debark scheduled to start at 8. The daily schedule indicated the gangway might be closed from 8:15 to 9:00 due to dock activity, so we set our alarms for 8:30, hoping to avoid the same debark lines we saw in St Thomas. I had actually been up since 7:30 and had never heard an announcement that we could get off, so shortly after 9 we decided to head down and see what was going on. Not sure if we’d missed the announcement, but the gangway was open with no lines, so we headed ashore.

Being that we waited way too long to plan this and all the stuff we wanted to do was full, we decided to just walk around. As we exited the security area, a tour guide approached asking if we wanted to join a 1+ hour tour of the area. For $15/pp, we figured why not, and hopped on. There were around 25 people including us on the bus, and it ended up being a pretty good tour. He took us over to the newer San Juan area, stopping at the Walkway of Presidents along the way to allow people to take some pictures. We stopped at a beach in the newer area of San Juan, along with one of the main government buildings, and then finally a 10 minute stop at one of the island’s forts that overlooks a cemetery. Along the way, he did a very thorough job of telling us about the area, and did so in both English and Spanish to ensure everyone on board had the chance to learn. Definitely worth the $45 for the three of us in our opinion.

IMG_4089 IMG_4092 IMG_4093IMG_4107IMG_4109IMG_4144

He dropped us back in the main square in Old San Juan around 11am, and after walking around the little square area for a bit, we decided to stop and eat lunch at CB Cafe and Restaurant at the top of the square. While it was a little pricey, it was really good. My cheese tortellini was excellent, and frankly the sauce on all three of our meals was really, really good. In addition to my tortellini, I’ve included a shot of Jen’s chicken Mofongo, as it definitely won for best presentation.

IMG_4154 IMG_4158

We spent the next 2-3 hours walking around the area doing some shopping. Considering there were 3 ships in port (us, the Carnival Valor, and the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam), it never felt overcrowded in the shopping areas. The girls picked up a few things along the way, and once done, we headed back to the ship.

IMG_4163 IMG_4171 IMG_4172 IMG_4174 IMG_4179 IMG_4180 IMG_4185 IMG_4186 IMG_4188 IMG_4202

One thing about getting off and on in port we’ve noticed with MSC: There’s nothing at the end of the gangway, just the pier. On other lines, you’ll typically see photographers trying to take more pictures to sell you as you get off, and when you come back, others may offer water, juice, and maybe even a cold, wet towel to help you cool down. None of that here. I don’t care about the pictures, but it would certainly be nice to at least have some water there, especially after a hot day walking around the area. I admit we considered walking over to HAL’s gangway for a cold towel 🙂

Once aboard, we decided to give the water slide a try, since it was supposed to be open from 2-5. As we were walking up (somewhere around 3pm), one of the pool staff was walking away from the entrance, having just locked it. Some kid standing there said we had a wait a little longer, but after 10 minutes of seeing no one come back to re-open it, we gave up. We got tired of watching the Valor’s water slide fully functioning while the guy running ours inexplicably stood a deck up doing seemingly nothing. When you only have a three hour window for something like this, I really expect you to be open when you say you’ll be open, especially in port when the weather is perfect.

Next up was trivia, once again hosted by Jaime. We paired up with a really nice older couple from Canada that we’ve played with before, and lost by only one point. I gotta say, this trivia has set the bar for future trips, it’s really that good! Difficult, non-repetitive questions, and a great host!

At this point it was right around 4pm, so we headed up to deck 15 to see if there were any runners. Sure enough, a passenger was standing at the end of the gangway on her cellphone, and a short time later (maybe 4:10), her husband came running down the dock. That was a long run, too, as they had already closed the closer gangway, so he basically had to run the length of the dock.

After they closed up the gangway, we headed back to the wine bar where the girls made Christmas wreaths as part of another holiday themed arts and crafts event. The MSC staff has done a really good job of integrating holiday activities in to the schedule this week!

We’d checked out the MDR menu, and between the lack of things that sounded good and our overall exhaustion, we decided to skip it and eat later in the sports bar. After a snack (pizza :)) and a short rest, we headed to the theater for the early show. Tonight’s show was another one of the singing and dancing shows, and again, they’re all great singers, it’s just not my cup of tea. One little soapbox moment, though: If you’re going to come to the show, be quiet. Keep your kids quiet. Two rows behind us, some woman and her kids would not stop talking. They got plenty of angry looks and people telling them to shush, but to no avail. If you or your kids can’t keep quiet for 45 minutes, please do the rest of the people in the theater a favor and don’t show up. You’re just ruining it for those around you.

After the show, we stuck around for bingo, as the Bingo Boys are just that entertaining. Seriously. Even if you don’t like bingo, just go and watch, you won’t be disappointed!

With bingo over, we headed for the sports bar to grab dinner. The room was pretty empty the entire time we were there, since second dinner seating and the second show were both happening. The food itself was fine, but a couple of notes here: apparently all burgers automatically get mayonnaise. That’s fine by me, and I enjoyed my bacon burger, but even the pre-made burgers at the buffet have this, which we discovered on day 1. Not everyone likes mayo, so maybe just leave it off and put some on the side? Also, they have fish and chips on the menu in the sports bar, but when Jen asked if they had malt vinegar, she was told no. We know they do somewhere, since she had it on one of the early sea days, but oh well, she skipped the fish and chips this time. It’s pretty standard bar fare; burgers, sandwiches, fries, finger food, etc. The dessert menu also includes molten chocolate cake, as shown below.

IMG_4225 IMG_4226 IMG_4227

After dinner, we walked around a bit, finally ending up at the Flower Glory Party (60’s/70’s/80’s) before calling it a night. We got our hour back tonight, so hopefully we’ll be all rested up for our final day at sea, where we’ve got a bunch of activities highlighted on the schedule!

One final note – cabin service has really been hit or miss. Mostly hit for Bayley in her cabin (12039) and miss for us (9164). One example: we woke up this morning to find that our steward didn’t empty the trash in the bathroom or leave any toilet paper yesterday, so we’re down to our last few sheets. Time to go rectify that…

Our 3rd Favorite Port: Aruba

We stopped in Aruba on Thanksgiving day 2013 while on the Carnival Breeze, and it was definitely an excellent way to spend Thanksgiving, as Aruba is an incredibly beautiful and scenic island. I love to be outside on the ship watching our arrival in to port, and the beauty of the island really made getting up early for that worth it. On this cruise we had an oceanview at the front of the spa deck, which gave us quick access to the “secret deck” at the front of the ship, so I popped right out to watch us dock in Aruba as soon as I saw we were close. In a word: Wow. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves

Docking1Docking2Docking3

For this stop, my wife had set us up with an all day tour through HF Tours, and we loved every minute of it. There were 5 of us on the tour, as my mom and step dad were on the cruise too, and we got a 5 hour tour in a 15 person van for $65/pp, which seemed very reasonable compared to past tours we’d done. To add to it, our guide was outstanding, one of the best we’ve ever had. The tour itself took us over a large portion of the island, including stops at the California Lighthouse, the Old Dutch Windmill, and Eagle Beach.

Eagle1Eagle2WindmillLighthouse

While those stops were all cool, our target for this tour were really the following landmarks:

Philip’s Animal Garden: While all three of us enjoy animals, my daughter is definitely what I’d categorize as an animal lover. Her goal in life is to work with animals, as she wants to train animals for TV and movies after she graduates from college. She also has her cat at college with her, has an Instagram account for him, and as you can see in those pictures, he’s quite active with her on campus. Back on topic, Philip’s was the first long stop we had. Our guide dropped us off right at the gate, and after paying the entrance fee, had a guide come up and walk us around, talking about the history of the facility, and telling us about all of the animals they had. If I recall, we spent about 45 minutes there and enjoyed it from start to finish. Very beautiful facility that’s growing, and doing good work, as they take in and house all kinds of animals that people decide they no longer want. Well worth the stop.

PAG1PAG2PAG3PAG4 PAG5PAG6

Casibari Rock Formation: This was a pretty cool stop, allowing us to climb up to the top of the rock formation, where we had a great view of the island. Not much to say about this, as it’s a giant rock formation, but it’s a cool place to stop. If you go, be sure to climb the rock, it’s worth the effort. If you look carefully in the picture of my daughter and I, just above her head, you’ll see the two cruise ships in port that day.

CMB1CMB2CMB3CMB5CMB6

Donkey Sanctuary Aruba: You read that right, we visited a donkey sanctuary. Did I mention my daughter is an animal lover :)? The road leading up to the sanctuary is a bit small and rocky to the point that we weren’t sure the van would make it, and pulling up we really had no idea what to expect from the facility. Walking in, I was amazed at how many donkeys there were, they were everywhere! There really isn’t anything else to the stop, but it’s exactly as advertised, and run by some very friendly people. We spent some time there feeding the donkeys and listening to them talk about the facility. It was definitely an interesting stop.

Donkeys1Donkeys2Donkeys3Donkeys4

Natural Bridge: This is one of the most well known landmarks in Aruba, and was very cool to see in person. Unfortunately the bridge itself collapsed several years ago, but it’s still a great area of the island with spectacular views, and it’s a great place to walk out on the rocks, watch the waves come in, and clear your head. Almost cathartic.

NB0NB1NB2NB3NB4NB5

I know I said this earlier, but we really enjoyed this tour, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend HF Tours to anyone going to Aruba. I’d have loved to spent some time in the water at Eagle Beach, but that’s for another trip, as Aruba easily made our shortlist of places we want to spend more time. Even after such a long tour, we had plenty of time to stop and do some shopping in the area around the port before boarding, so here are some shots of that shopping area, along with a couple from the ship as we were pulling out of port.

S1S2S3S4S5S6S7S8S9S10

%d bloggers like this: