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MSC Seaside Thoughts From A Mostly Loyal To Royal Family

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So how does the MSC Seaside stack up against Royal?

 

Some background info:

My family of 4 just returned from our weeklong spring break cruise on MSC Seaside.  This is our 15th cruise, 8 with Royal and 6 with Disney.  Our last 5 cruises in a row have all been Royal as Disney went from high priced to crazy priced.  Additionally we really enjoy many aspects of Royal equal or better than Disney at this point.  Every future booking that we currently have is on Royal so we are mostly drinking the Kool-Aid around here.  I originally switched to this MSC sailing in place of an Oasis sailing as it was cheaper, a brand new ship, a better room, and better perks.  We stayed in Room 11003 which was advertised pre-build as a 2 bedroom suite with a giant wrap around balcony.  It actually ended up being a one bedroom suite with an above average but one sided balcony.  Our travel agent was able to get us some OBC for this false advertising.  Overall my thoughts below are mostly when comparing Seaside to Oasis class although I have been on Brilliance, Enchantment, and Indy.

 

Let’s get to a bullet form of positives and negatives

 

Here is a list of positives for Seaside as it compares to Royal:

  • With our Aurea Package drinks and spa access is included on top of a cheaper room we easily saved $500 per person of additional cost from Royal.
  • Doubles (and sometimes triples) drinks were no problem and sometimes encouraged by the bar staff.
  • Mixed drinks were all from canned soda which is a better quality soda.  Often they would give you the can with your drink. 
  • The cost of after hours kids club can be billed per night per kid and is less expensive than Royal.  Their after hours pricing was $6 per hour, $10 for the night, and $50 for the week.
  • The vibe of the adults only aft pool area was very cool.
  • Overall I would rate the Seaside MDR slightly better than any of Royal’s that I’ve been in.  Close but overall food quality I would score a bit better.
  • PIZZA-No single item clearly dominates over Royal more than the nonstop fresh and quality New York style pizza.  50% of my weight gain on this cruise was directly from pizza I am sure of it.
  • The kid’s water park was slightly better than any of the Royal splash pads.  It was an enclosed and shaded area with 4 slides and a large splash pool and an additional toddler slide area. 
  • Room service was included with our Aurea package all day except from 11PM-5AM.
  • A bowling alley, we bowled twice and really enjoyed this.
  • Gelato and gelato ice cream bars are included with the Aurea package.  The chocolate ice cream bar in particular was awesome.
  • The main stairways are gorgeous in the atrium area.  It is a beautiful ship for sure.
  • Ocean views are everywhere.  I told someone it reminded me of a Brilliance ship on crack.  If Oasis class is called too inward facing this is certainly its foil.
  • The value of our room size for what we paid was great; MSC is trying to buy some business of course since they are the new ship in town.
  • The supporting team below the cruise director was very good.
  • Tons of places to eat outside.  All around the main buffet you could eat outside.
  • The Jungle pool area was a hit for our family.  It has a retractable roof that they usually had half closed.  It created some warmth on the cooler days.  It was similar to the Solarium but having it family friendly was a plus for us.  Lots of shade too.
  • The tipping was completely unexpected by the employees.  I like to tip throughout my cruise on Royal but maybe because of the European origins of MSC, you couldn’t even add a tip to a bar item if you wanted to.  From a cost perspective this is a positive but I actually like to tip so a mixed bag. 
  • Push buttons by your room entrance door that would put a color above your door so your cabin steward knew if you wanted privacy or wanted your room serviced.  Plus they knew if you were in the room even if you didn’t ask for privacy since your room card had to be in the holder by the door.
  • Way more roaming drink servers all around the ship than Royal. 
  • They did a better job with seating the theatre each night.  Attendants would check every row and fill every seat and escort the last 50-100 people to the last seats available.  Splitting parties as necessary.
  • Very nice sports bar.
  • The selection of the buffets was less than Royal but I thought the flow and food quality was slightly higher.
  • The talk about tons of opera is completely unfounded.  Across the 7 shows I doubt there was more than 10 minutes.  There is some music from Phantom of the Opera and other musicals but Royal does entire productions so I think that’s a non-issue.
  • The ocean views from many of the bars in the atrium were beautiful.

 

Here is a list of negatives as it relates mostly to Royal:

  • No kids club on day one, major bummer, it was only open for family time.
  • As many have mentioned, it did have a faint sewage smell when we first entered.  I don’t know if we just got used to it or if it improved throughout the week.  The only place I continued to smell it all week was in the shower before I turned on the water.
  • No Michelob Ultra on the ship, my wife’s drink of choice!
  • My drink of choice Jack Daniels was not on the Aurea package.  For $80 a person for the adults we both upgraded to the deluxe package so that I could have my drink of choice.  Royal has Gentleman Jack as well which they don’t have.  One plus to this was that the upgrade to deluxe gave us unlimited access to our room’s mini bar.  It was stocked with 4 different beers, all of your major sodas, a few weird European juices, water, Pringles, a few hard liquors, and some other snacks.  You would leave a form daily and your room attendant would reload it with no additional charge.
  • We tried morning room service twice and it was late and very limited in selection.  There was a special breakfast sandwich that you could pay $2 for but both times we ordered it they didn’t have it.  One time our delivery guy went back and got us a few eggs Benedict instead which was nice of him.  Overall though not much to get for breakfast by room service.
  • The entertainment was good but not as good as Royal’s on Oasis class.  They had a different 30 minute show every night.  We went to all 7 shows so it was good but still what the Oasis ships offer can’t be matched at sea.
  • The ceilings felt lower than some of the newer Royal ships in some areas.  I have no data to back this up but being a tall guy I felt closer to the ceiling at times than on newer Royal ships.
  • No hand washing was required for people that walked into the buffet.  This was shocking after seeing Disney and Royal really push this.  They had nice soap and water hand washing stations and sanitizer always available but many people just walked on by and there were no employees there to compel them to do the right thing.
  • The service was good but as a whole I think I would rate it slightly lower than Royal’s.
  • Not a single bar of soap anywhere, just pump stations in the showers and at the sink.
  • Their towel policy was bizarre in that you could only trade them out at one spot on the whole ship.  The main expectation was that they are kept and replenished in your room by your attendant.  If you lose one supposedly it’s a $20 charge.
  • Less vegan options at the buffets than with Royal.
  • Essentially no arcade whatsoever.  There were only 2 racing games and 1 air hockey table in the entire ship.  Our kids love the arcade on Royal.
  • Internet speed was good and 6 gigs to share for 4 people for $130 wasn’t a bad price but the no-worry nature of Voom can’t be beat.
  • There are significantly less activities than on most Royal ships, especially on seas days.
  • Our balcony wall was white so you couldn’t see anything from the chairs but white.
  • The splash pad hours were poor.  Closed the first day (and we had our suits) and on other days it closed pretty early.
  • Water was everywhere in the kids pool area.  No employees were using squeegees to keep it relatively dry.  It made a shocking difference on a busy day and I think a few lawsuits and they will change this.
  • Not enough covered hot tubs.  Also the main pool area was totally devoid of shade for the most part.
  • Embarkation was good but the first hour on the ship was very crowded and disorganized.  We waited in places we didn’t need to wait because staff wasn’t directing well.
  • No bar service in the theatre.
  • Not enough room to eat breakfast outside on the balcony for the level room we had.
  • Vegans don’t get offered dessert at dinner.
  • No alcohol allowed near the pools or hot tubs.  You can’t leave your drink behind the hot tub and sip it; you had to leave it by your chair.
  • You could not get the same servers every day or the same table.  In our dining room it was first come first serve.  If we weren’t early we couldn’t get the server and table we wanted.
  • Reservations are needed for the late night kids club (we never tested this room so not sure if it held up).
  • Overall the kids clubs were nice but things appeared much more chaotic and we didn’t feel comfortable with our kids there to the same degree that we do on Royal and Disney.  AdventureOcean staff really is great.
  • The bowling is timed with no warning so we got shut out of our tenth frame.
  • Kids weren’t allowed in the spa to tour even on the first day.  Kids Club is closed and the Spa doesn’t allow kids, someone at MSC hasn’t connected the dots there.  Let the families check it out the first day like they do on Royal.  Essentially you can not use the spa on the first day if you have kids.
  • While the pizza is amazing, they stop making it at midnight even though the buffet is open until 2am.  Room service is the only way to get food for the really late hours when you shouldn’t be up anyway.

 

 

Overall what is our final evaluation?  I would say that we had a great time on this cruise.  All in all I don’t think the Seaside or the American MSC experience is as good as the Royal experience but it’s not a landslide victory.  I think if pricing or benefits drop the total cost of a Seaside cruise a fair amount lower than a cruise on one of Royal’s newer ships that it is worth checking out.  We would sail on Seaside again but we didn’t rebook onboard and I am not looking at their website on a regular basis like Royals!  If you fear the Carnival clientele I can say that the Seaside guests were similar to what I’d see on Royal except that there were many more foreigners as you would expect.  I also saw numerous Disney Castaway Club Lanyards as previously loyal Disney cruisers look for a more reasonably priced cruise vacation.  I think in the end Seaside is a great thing because it puts pressure on the big 3 and Disney in the Florida market.  When there is competition and all of these companies keep trying to one up each other ultimately the consumer wins.  I think the new sports bar on Symphony is a response to the sports bar on MSC Seaside and other ships as Royal has been lacking in that arena.  Royal wouldn’t be dropping wheel barrels of money into Coco Cay if it didn’t feel the need to stay ahead of the competition.  So if you can live with 7 days on a beautiful ship where you don’t earn any crown and anchor points this could be a ship for you to try if the stars align.  I also think if you are a bigger ship person you might prefer this over many of the older Royal ships.  However overall if you are a loyal to Royal type I don’t think it will convert you but you’ll enjoy the experience and probably enjoy jotting down all of the different nuances between the brands as my family did.

 

Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try to answer them and thanks for reading if you made it this far!

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@ShakeDownCruise we were on the March 10th sailing. We too also decided to try Seaside because of the pricing. We enjoyed our trip, but still prefer RC and Celebrity. Here are our takes on it:

Positives:

  1. Yacht Club was great, although we hardly saw our butler (but she did escort us when disembarking past the “regular” line to our own line where we were first to get off 😊).
  2. Having our own deck & buffet & lounge away from the crowds. Never had to look for a lounger. The pool was cold and the whirlpool was more like bath water LOL. We had breakfast out on deck 19 in the morning and lunch there in the afternoon. On Friday they had grilled lobster!
  3. Being escorted on and off when in port, especially in Grand Cayman (a YC perk). A butler brought us right to the gangway and we were on the first tender. On the way back, there was a HUGE line down the street. We saw a butler with a sign and just showed him our card. He brought us and others past everyone and right to the tender. 
  4. Because we were black card holders (we did the status match) we received a free dinner in one of the specialty restaurants. We went to Butcher’s Block (delicious). We also chose to go to the French restaurant which was $23 US PP and it was fantastic (they had escargots, French onion soup, steak, crème brulee).
  5. Having access to the thermal spa area was a plus. Large area, didn’t feel crowded – they also have a room with “snow” to cool off.
  6. Mom really enjoyed getting gelato almost every afternoon at Venchi. We also enjoyed their chocolate martinis and bought some of their chocolate to take home for souvenirs.
  7. The room was wonderful and the bathroom was gigantic for a cruise ship bathroom .

 

Cons:

    1. We didn’t feel like there were good choices/options in the Yacht Club dining room and a couple of nights we didn’t care for our meals. But the service was good and it was never crowded nor did we ever have to wait when we went around 6:30 pm.
    2. My cousin and her hubby had the Aurea experience and were on deck 9 with the extended balcony (9207). I don’t recommend this room. People on the decks above can look down on you and it was also above an outdoor restaurant. They did enjoy having the 2 massages with their packages and access to the thermal spa area.
    3. They said that the main dining room was a little chaotic. I know that it often took 2 hours for them to eat and they went at 6:30 pm (she said some kids were crying) -long waits in between courses. A friend  was also on the ship and they had 8:30 dining and it also took 2 hours to eat.
    4. The entertainment was no where near what we are used to on Royal. We only went to one show because it wasn’t very good.
    5. The muster drill was chaotic. We met in the casino. There were a few workers demonstrating how to put on a lifejacket and instructions were over the loudspeaker. People were still talking, drinking, not paying attention. 
    6. HUGE line up for self disembarkation. It took my friend an hour to get off.

 

ycroom.jpg

ycbathroom.jpg

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@ShakeDownCruise and @bellemiche thank you so much for such a comprehensive comparison. I know that many here, myself included, have been looking for a true comparison from experienced RC cruisers. Many "good" reviews that I have read so far of the Seaside are either from first time cruisers or those coming from carnival (sorry, not trying to offend anyone but I have to read those with a grain of salt). 

Anyway, this feedback is much appreciated as I too am trying out YC on the Seaside come July.  I'm pretty loyal to royal as well but like @ShakeDownCruise mentioned, the price was less than a JS on Harmony, I like newer ships, and Hubby did not want to sail Harmony again after just doing it last summer, so that left Seaside. Thanks so much for sharing! I'm looking forward to experiencing it myself but my next few cruises after July are also still with RC. I have a feeling it still won't compare with RC. While on board Anthem, a good friend was reading my blog while on the Seaside and I hear that CK food still rocks the Seaside 😉 And well, I love to eat and sleep on a cruise so that's a huge deal for me lol!

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Wow!   Great write ups.

 

Shakedown - what wonderful comparisons and so detailed.   

 

I doubt that I'll ever get to try MSC, but I'm not super happy with the constant increases with Royal.  MSC sure is tempting, though.

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On 4/4/2018 at 10:05 PM, ShakeDownCruise said:

@Lovetocruise2002 I think you’ll have a great time.  No it’s not Royal but the beauty of the ship and the views of the oceans really are terrific.

Just hope the captain don't run her into any docks / piers.

 

 

Too soon? :3_grin:

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Just back from our week on Seaside ... as has been noted this is a Royal Caribbean focused website so I am not going to do an exhaustive review but thought I would post a few comments and be happy to answer any questions that I happen to have answers for :)

Generally the experience was good, at a summary level I would say probably a notch below my experience on the mainstream Royal/Carnival/Norwegian (comparing flagship levels, clearly not fair to compare Seaside to one of the older small ships and say it is "better") but at the price point, the value for the $ leans MSC ways for me.

Some key thoughts ...

Staterooms -

We had a balcony, the room itself was normal/comfortable in size as was the balcony. The bathroom was tighter than we are used to seeing though. Storage would have been tight but workable for 2 people for a week, not enough space for the 3 of us though.

Food -

Variety of food on the buffet was much more limited than we usually see and even at dinners in the MDR it felt like there were a couple of choices less than we would expect to see. Food taste/quality (especially on breads/pastries/deserts) was absolutely, clearly, unequivocally the best we have ever experienced on any cruise. Food portions (at MDR anyway) were slightly smaller than normal which actually worked out well since we actually wanted to eat everything rather than skipping the tasteless deserts for example.

Entertainment -

Shows were not at the Royal "broadway" show level but were entertaining. Beerprov was not at the level of the Carnival comedy clubs but again entertaining. The standard white night, 70's shows, etc all seemed to be in play. The trivia/bingo/misc entertainments were there but seemed lower key than on other ships.

Excursions -

Standard excursions offered in the ports, prices seemed similar to other cruise lines.

Drink Costs -

Beers were around $5-$6 ... mixed drinks $7-$8 ... 15% gratuity ... definitely much cheaper and again great taste/quality throughout.

Multicultural/Language Skills -

All announcements were made in 6 languages ... a muster drill in 6 languages is a major ordeal ... luckily held in a bar with no attempt to make sure you paid intense attention to every moment of the drill. Interestingly it felt a little bit that English language skills were maybe a little less than on a comparable US based cruise ... probably in part because they were looking for people that spoke all the other languages as well. At no point did we find ourselves unable to find out what we needed though.

Value -

At just over 1/2 of what we would pay for a comparable Royal (closer to 2/3 of a comparable Carnival/Norwegian), I would say the value meter tips towards MSC. Be curious to see how much of that has to do with introductory pricing on MSC and how much truly is the "true value" of one vs the other though.

Probably a bunch of other things I will think of in a moment but lets leave it there and say "open for followup questions".

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ZIpline was fun, my wife says better than the one on Oasis class (I didn't try that one) but still clearly inferior to what you would find on land. Their system has some bugs to work out (in terms of efficient line flow, not safety).

Slides were good, have yet to do a slide on a Royal so cant directly compare but they seemed to have good line flow on those.

They had multiple pool areas which personally I don't care for since it feels disjointed but probably helps with being able to stage slides, etc.

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Reminded me, I did one to touch on the "feel" of the ship ... very modern European, lots of dark trim, mirrors, shiny metal, etc. It actually felt a little confusing for me in that, there are lots of nooks and crannies that you cant really tell if they are hallways or just "architectural features" and then no obvious signs, so is that a hallway or a doorway into a store for example.

Visually striking but hard to navigate might be the better way to put it.

Elevators all emptied into closed off "lobbies" that all looked the same, which made it confusing at times to figure out which way to turn.

The main top deck (oddly of all decks) suffered from "you cant get there from here" disease ... due to the specialty restaurants being clustered at mid ship on that deck .. so you had to go up or down to get past the restaurants and then come back to the other side of the deck. Hard to describe accurately but frustrating for most of the cruise until you got used to it. 

Also, the wall of liquid chocolate in the shopping atrium is awesome if you love chocolate ... the smell of chocolate fills the atrium constantly ... imagine it would be like the smoke in the casino effect though if you are a chocolate hater.

 

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