The newest ship of the MSC fleet at the time of writing, I was excited to board the Seaside as its design really stood out of the regular cruise ship. And I was particularly curious to board her after having sailed her bigger sister launched last year, the MSC Meraviglia, which I was particularly disappointed when reviewing her earlier this year. So I wasn’t expecting too much of MSC since I know the company’s reputation to be a third class type of cruise in terms of quality. But being their new star sailing out of Miami for a mostly American market instead of a European tour on the Meraviglia, I had predicted MSC would have to step up their game as the competition is so much more intense in the North American market that they could never hope climbing up the latter if not done so. So how does the seaside stand up compared to the competition? This is what I cover in this article…
Arriving at the port of Miami, I was really impressed by the seasides appearance from outside. It looks gorgeous, especially next to the other mega ships docked at the port. And to my great surprise, this positive first impression continued all the way inside the ship, with a beautiful modern atrium hosting a DJ playing electro house music. The style of the Seaside resembles one of a Zara Shop, with a modern, clean, minimalist design focusing on colourful lights and white furniture. This is a refreshing design that surely has to do with Italian expertise in design. At this point, I was hoping for the best and hoping they had corrected all the flaws I was horrified with on the Meraviglia in my review. But unfortunately, I started noting the same mistakes over and over again as the cruise went on, remembering me I wasn’t one a dream cruise from Norwegian cruise line or Royal Caribbean, but only on a second class MSC cruise… So how does the MSC seaside stand up in each category? read-on to find out…
Ship Common Areas 9/10
Entertainment on-board: 7.5/10
Theater Shows: 10/10
Room Comfort: 6.5/10
Service Quality: 6/10
Check-in / Check-out: 8/10
Overall satisfaction: 7.5/10
Special Note on the rating System: The rating system on my Cruise Reviews is based out of comparison to what many consider the best cruise line over the board: Royal Carribbean. In fact, Royal carribbean have become so good at the game that they currently have a steady 25% of the clientel of cruise ships over the world, a very considerate amount. I must agree that Royal carribean is the best experience one can have on a cruise, and this is due to the fact that they are excellent in absolutly all the categories I list in my Rating articles. When I say excellent, this means they pretty much rank a 8/10 without exception. Some cruise lines may have one or two categories with higher ratings than RCCL, but may lack in other caterogies. So in mt rating system, for comparison purposes, if a category ranks 7/10, it means it is lesser than the RCCL’s average, while a 9/10 means an Exceptional rating, better than the RCCL Average.
Sunset over the MSC Seaside
Ship Common Areas
In general, the ships look great! Even though it is a little smaller than the MSC Meraviglia, the interiors infrastructure could not be more different than the Meraviglia! There are much more common areas and sitting areas for passengers to hang out. It is definitely a summer ship and the outdoor common space is great in general, with 3 pool areas. It is definitely one of the nicest ships I’ve seen out there, with a nice piano/jazz bar and a big sports bar which were really appreciated by fellow guests, as well as another dozen bars to hang out at. My only complaint of the ship’s architecture would be the rather awkward design of the main pool deck, called the Miami pool. The pool is minuscule and the whole living area is separated in the middle with an elevated Heli Pad… This creates a sort of separation between the two sections and while the front area is used for dancing and games, there was close to no space for people to watch between the beds and the big Helipad blocking the view.
Other than that, I loved the other pool areas, as well as the glass bridge in the back of the ships which looks gorgeous. Overall, I have to give it to MSC; they really have a latest generation state of the art ship. It is just a shame they lack behind in maintaining it and providing a first class experience as I will review in the next categories.
The other good thing about this ship is that they delegate many facilities to private companies, which increases the quality. The gym, for example, is handled by Technogym, and managed to make one of the best gyms at sea I’ve seen. The Salon, by Jean Louis David. Same applies to the gelateria onboard. Definitely a good idea to delegate some areas to smaller businesses which specialize in their domain.
Rating Ship Common Areas 9/10
Trendy Atrium with a DJ Playing
The onboard entertainment on the seaside is definitely a step above compared to the MSC Meraviglia
which was a definite disappointment. The animation is present every night and entertaining the crowd by dancing with them, as well as organising games with the passengers mostly on the pool deck. But as I had reviewed on the Meraviglia, their participation goes as far as they are asked to, and their enjoyment didn’t feel legitimate with few other interactions with guests outside their shift every night where they would just disappear after 30 minutes.
On the plus side, the musical bands were good in general, especially the Jazz band which was the best I’ve seen on any ship. I ended up attending every night to their Quatuor jazz show. Big thumbs up to their incredible jazz signer which has a voice to kill for! I wouldn’t be surprised to hear her on MTV in a near future! Their jazz bar also hosts a pianist prior to the Quatuor, which was another good entertainment option before dinner. The other bands are also good in general.
Overall, its an improvement but definitely not to the level of Royal Carribean and far behind Carnival which is the king in this category as I have reviewed in my Carnival Glory’s Review
, not labelled the fun cruise for nothing.
Rating Entertainment on-board: 7.5/10
The MSC Divina had the reputation of having the best quality shows at sea and I remember I was incredibly impressed back when I sailed on her about 4 years ago. And I expected that to be MSC’s signature before cruising the MSC Meraviglia, which I was overall disappointed. So this time around I didn’t know what to expect. I am happy to report that MSC has put the whole package on the seaside in what could be described almost as “overdoing it”! Passengers will be offered one production show every single night on a 7-day cruise from Miami, and the shows are of amazing quality! I counted as many as 32 participants on stage at its maximum, with a mixture of dancers, singers, opera singers, acrobats, rollerblader acrobats, contortionists, magicians, professional pole dancer, etc…
As a means of comparison, Norwegian was my top ranking cruise line for its shows, which do so with usually about 10 artists max on stage, but with a near perfection composition. What a team of talented artists I must say! Looking at it from a different perspective, I believe MSC is in some sort of seduction strategy to put the whole package on their most important Miami route, on their most important ship to date. In fact, I noticed similar shows from the Divina which I had sailed 4 years prior, as well as some of their star artists that have been brought from the Divina. This is definitely a strategy to move their best assets to their newer ship which will eventually replace their Miami route, and the Divina can be expected to be retired from Miami and be relocated away to another less attractive market, with less quality shows similar to the Meraviglia. Bad news for the Divina probably, but great news for the Seaside which its shows are in my opinion its best aspect, and the best in the industry, ranking a well deserved 10/10!
My only downside was the size of the theater, which is so small for the size of the ship that they had to present the shows on reservation only and that, 3 times nightly. The theater fits on only 1 floor, and is about half the size as the theater on their smaller Divina ship! A weird choice in my opinion…
But nevertheless, I must give a big thumbs up to MSC not only for their excellent shows which are worth the trip alone but also to their dedication to provide a production show every single night! This is a great accomplishment since most ships will provide 4 shows only per 7 day cruise, like Norwegian and Royal Caribbean for example, and even less in the case of Holland America which only provided 2 out of 7 nights! Cruise ships usually fill the nights with no production show with boring comedians or low key signers… But on top of providing these shows every night, MSC even provides extra shows, like an Opera in Italian, as well as an improvisation show called Beerprov.
Rating Theater Shows: 10/10
Excellent Shows every night!
As it would be expected on a newer ship, the rooms feel new. However I felt they were a little cheap, the walls being so thin I could hear a grandma in the neighbour cabin at all times! The walls are thin and feel really cheap and insolated. The rooms are also on the smaller side compared to other ships. This is to be predicted as they manage to overcrowd a boat with 5500 passengers, the same amount as the oasis class on Royal Caribbean which are much larger. The second negative point is the blanket, which is of lower quality synthetic blanket than what other ships provide, usually high-quality duvet blankets like on Holland America for example.
Rating Room Comfort: 6.5/10
This is perhaps one of my weakest categories when ranking the Seaside. Their service is really poor, thanks again to the typical MSC Italian style of managing the ships. All other cruise lines I have reviewed offer top-notch quality service as is expected in North America. By offering European style service, many passengers I have talked to agree they felt unwelcomed on the Seaside by the crew, especially from the white-uniformed managers on the ship. The personnel in white uniforms, usually the Italians, behave in an arrogant way which has irritated more than one guest on the ship. I have even noticed two of them deliberately laughing at a passenger in front of her face in Italian, believing she wouldn’t understand (but I did…). The sad part is that I had noticed the same behaviours on every other MSC cruises I have boarded, notably on the MSC Meraviglia
previously this year. This is a shame because the South East Asia staff are constantly providing great service and this Italian style service is tainting their great effort to provide what is expected by clients on a cruise ship.
In one occasion, an old woman was requesting help to one of the managers “dressed in a white uniform” in the buffet about the lemonade machine which she said was not working. The man told her in an awkward way “maybe you should call the Divina to see if there is some left over there”… said in a way he was obviously laughing at her… Other times you would see the “white uniformed men” walking around the bars and clubs trying to flirt and harass some female passengers who didn’t appreciate their advanced. Cruises Lines usually have strict rules for crew members not to flirt with passengers, but that doesn’t seem to bother the MSC Crew…
Rating Service Quality: 6/10
This is officially my biggest disappointment on this otherwise generally positive cruise. Why would you have one of the best and newest cruise ships at sea, but continue to provide the poor quality food that was offered years back on their older ships? MSC was the worst food I had tried on any ships prior to the seaside and they continue on the same lane. The buffet offers always the same food, apart from a couple of changes. In fact, they almost don’t change their menu at night! The food is often found cold, way too many times! This can happen once or twice, but when it is encountered on a regular basis, this is unacceptable. The whole experience in the buffet, adding with the overcrowded dining area feels much like a high school cafeteria than a real restaurant. It is also so overcrowded that service personal struggle to keep it clean, with food everywhere on the floor and hardly a place to sit most of the time, with long lines to reach the food. The meals were of poor quality, full of cheap pasta on almost a third of the menu.
This could be pardoned if at least the restaurant was better, but that was not the case. The restaurant provided mostly the same food that was found at the buffet, and was most of the time unimpressive and poorly created. They seemed to struggle to provide logistics in creating a mass amount of food for the 5500 passengers present, ending in unimpressive ingredients and often cold meals.
Rating Food: 5/10
The Sports Bar – One of the many bars Onboard
At first sight, when entering the ship, it feels clean. But it doesn’t take long to feel lacks in cleanliness here and there. The floors are filthy dirty at the pool area, with spilt cocktails everywhere and big chunks of hair flying everywhere, bandaids around the pool… In fact, apart from the jungle pool, I would never dare enter the other ones which felt dirty and greenish after being frequented with their 5500 passengers and kids… Same applies at the buffet and restaurants where I noticed more than once very dirty tables. with stains from other past guests as they have 3 services per night. The buffet is also so crowded that food lies all over the place, and little is done to keep it clean, adding to the “high school cafeteria” feeling I described before.
However, there is a definite improvement compared to the MSC Meraviglia in Europe which didn’t have any hand sanitizer anywhere on the ship! It was provided here on the seaside as I had predicted that this kind of behaviour would not be accepted in the North American market. So there is an improvement but considering they have one of the most crowded ships at sea, they will have to figure out a way to keep the ship, especially the buffet area, much cleaner to be able to compete with other cruise lines in this category.
Rating Cleanliness: 6/10
Check-in / Check-out
In general, the experience was positive from the port of Miami. They seem to have a newer terminal and it seemed to be working quite efficiently! So thumbs up for this.
Rating Check-in / Check-out: 8/10
MSC is still considered a lower quality cruise line in the industry, and so, they are much cheaper than the competition. For this, it will feel like you have more for your money. But somehow, they are charging too many extras here and there which feels like they are trying to take advantage of their clients and cash in on other ways. For example, they offer drinking packages starting at around 40$ daily but even when that is charged, they will charge a service charge of 15% on top of every drink that is ordered! That charge applies on almost everything purchased on the ship, even a haircut!
Rating Quality/Price: 8/10
The excellent Quatuor Jazz Band, best performers onboard
Fellow Passengers On-Board
MSC is an Italian company and thus, will always carry many Italians who don’t speak English at all. On top of this, MSC concentrates there Marketing to an international crowd, mostly Europe and Latin America, but also in Asia. They are one of the few cruise lines which wants an international crowd rather than focusing on Europeans and North Americans, and with this, you will hear their announcements translated in 5+ languages for your whole cruise. In general, I liked the mix of international crowd and the average age which is much younger than on most cruises out of Miami! There are many kids but their kids’ club seemed to take care of them enough so they would not interfere too much around the adults, except for the main pool (which was always overcrowded anyway). But overall, its a nice mix, not too old, not too young, with a lot of mid-aged adults ready to fill the nightclub.
In my opinion, If they can fix the major issues like their lack of management, they would increase their score significantly. Having a 5000+ Passenger ship is definitely a major challenge and the company really needs to be at the top of their game in terms of logistics to make it happen. I believe MSC is not ready to deal with 5000 passengers at a time, making the ship feel too cramped and overcrowded to my taste. For example, the buffet can hardly deal with the 5000 passengers without feeling like a mess, cleanliness and too many passengers being the main issue. Kids in the gym or in the bars and clubs were common even though they restrict it (that was also reported on the Meraviglia). Until they get in trouble for having a kid hurt in the gym, or underage kids getting drunk in the clubs, I don’t think they really care at this time. And forget about trying to get a beach bed near the pool on a sea day (even on port days) as people come early in the morning dropping their towels to reserve every single seat… Most ships make sure to advise passengers against staying away from their seat for more than 30 minutes. Not on the Seaside, which is a shame for those who have enough respect for others not to do it. With the type of management they have right now, they should stay at the 3500 passenger range. To deal with more, they need stricter rules.
I am pretty happy with my cruise on the Seaside in general for the price paid. I was afraid it would be as bad as the MSC Meraviglia which I had previously reviewed and did not recommend it. Choosing the Seaside for your next holiday will require sacrifices, especially on the great food other ships offer as well as their excellent service compared to the Seaside. But if you are here to enjoy excellent entertainment and Live Shows, while experiencing a stylish state of the art ship, the Seaside is a great choice! I definitely don’t regret coming on board and I was really impressed with the quality of Shows they provide. If MSC can keep the price of the seaside lower than the competition, they might have a chance to attract more passengers on the ship as they offer a less quality experience than Norwegian and Royal Caribbean. But they clearly are trying hard to make the seaside a better experience than their other ships.
I gave the seaside a very honourable score of 7.5, which is almost on par with Royal Caribbeans score, thanks to their theater shows which makes the score jump higher. My recommendation is that if you find a deal on the Seaside, book it! It will be worth it! If you cannot find a deal on the Seaside, then choose Norwegian or Royal Caribbean instead as they provide much more for your money in my opinion. So my score of 7.5 is considering the Seaside was one of the cheaper options out of Miami when I booked it.
Rating Overall satisfaction: 7.5/10
The Beautiful Ship at Port
At Sea, Arrival at Puerto Rico
Me… At Port
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