Soak up Seaside’s fun on-board adventures

Once in a while, a ship comes along that is boldly disruptive. It changes the way that we think about what constitutes a cruise, and what is possible on an ocean-going vessel. Geneva-based MSC Cruises may have done just that with its newest megaship, the 4,132-guest MSC

The first thing notice about MSC Seaside is how different she is — and I don’t just mean in terms of size. The way the ship looks, flows and feels is unlike anything else afloat. Over a thousand feet (323 metres) long and 20 decks high, MSC Seaside is an entirely new class of ship from Europe’s fastest- ocean cruise line.

On my week-long Western Caribbean cruise from Miami, I tested out as many as I could, and still came away feeling I needed another week on board to fully experience it all. The ship, which was just launched in late December, is the first new vessel in the MSC fleet to be christened and home-ported in the United States.

Throughout the ship, public rooms have their own distinctive vibe and drink menus; some are loud and boisterous; quiet and subdued. Some, like the Seaview Lounge on Deck 8, with its sweeping banks of windows and jazz duos, are so classy I could have been on a luxury line. Others are hip and cool. How many ships have you been on with a DJ and a jazz musician playing cool club beats in an atrium flanked by staircases with inlaid Swarovski crystals? This is not your grandmother’s cruise ship.

For families, MSC Seaside has the best kids and teens clubs I’ve seen outside of Disney Cruise Line, including Club Lego that made me wish I was a kid again. A two-lane bowling alley with adjacent 5D theatre and a F1 racing simulator; two massive waterslides; a zip line; and an uber-fun Forest Aquaventure splash park are just some of the family-friendly diversions on board. Equally noteworthy is an on-board chocolate lounge operated by Italian chocolatier Venchi. You’ll smell its delicious aroma before you see it. 

For adults, the MSC Aurea Spa is a wonderful enclave. In the Thermal Suite, a snow room, Finnish saunas, rainforest showers, a salt room, and a thalassotherapy pool soothe the body. The usual assortment of treatments are available, and you can even rent (at a cost) cabanas situated on the forward end of the promenade deck, complete with inclusive massage. Guests choosing Aurea Spa Suite accommodations receive complimentary access to this area throughout the cruise.

Praise should be given to the production shows and their short, 40-minute duration that allows you to take in multiple events each evening. Ditto for the fabulous and reasonably-priced guided cycling excursions offered in almost every port of call, using MSC own fleet of high-end Shimano bicycles. I spent an enjoyable day cycling in Costa Maya, Mexico, on a six-hour guided tour that included a 90-minute rest at a quiet beach.

The crown jewel of MSC Seaside, however, is her Yacht Club experience. Guests booked in Yacht Club staterooms and suites are treated to an amazing private lounge that spans two decks in height. On its uppermost level, the Yacht Club Restaurant breakfast, lunch and dinner in a relaxed and indulgent setting overlooking the equally private Topsail Lounge. Service is excellent, and the views are commensurate with the experience. A private sun deck comes complete with pool, hot tubs, a bar, and plenty of loungers and cabanas. 

There are still some growing pains. The ship’s layout is somewhat disjointed, and a lack of printed information in staterooms on general shipboard features and procedures results in long lineups for guest relations for basic questions, like how to register your credit card once on board (use the kiosks!) or the fact that reservations, though free, are still needed for the most popular evening shows in the ship’s main theatre.

Nevertheless, this is a ship that is big, unconventional and thoroughly fun, and attracts a diverse crowd of international families. MSC Seaside makes her home year-round in the Port of Miami, where she offers up a splash of the European way of life, transplanted to the Caribbean for all to enjoy.

Happy cruising.  

Visit Portsandbows.com, sponsored by  Expedia CruiseShipCenters, 1-800-410-4744, www.cruise.center, for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an email newsletter on the site for even more cruise information. Aaron Saunders may be contacted directly at [email protected]

 

About Dave Pottinger