MSC Seaside: Third Time’s a Charm (The Overview)

image

I started writing a day-by-day, blow-by-blow review of my September 14th sailing, and I’m still working on that. But it’s obvious that it’s going to take a while to finish (and that some people won’t have the time and patience to make it through the multi-part novelette), so I’m going to preface it with this summary that will focus on the highlights, the things that have been in question on the groups, and the things that were different from my two previous Seaside cruises.  Then I’ll publish the daily reviews.

Some of the things I’ll cover in those daily reviews will seem like “old hat” to regular YC cruisers because they’re just business as usual in the Yacht Club. However, I know there will also be readers who have never cruised at this experience level, as well as those who have never cruised on MSC or even cruised at all, so I’m trying to be as thorough as possible for them.

Also note that I took a lot of photos on this cruise, but most of those will be included in the day-by-day review rather than this summary. So stay tuned. This is only intended to be an appetizer. The main course is yet to come.

Finally, please excuse any typos. I wanted to get this up on the blog as quickly as I could since I have been so snowed under with other other obligations and wasn’t able to write it in a more timely fashion. 

Intro

The first time you do something new, you aren’t quite sure what you’re doing. You’re anxious, excited, focused on not doing anything wrong and learning how to navigate new (figurative) waters. You’re watching and figuring it all out. You miss a lot, but you learn a lot.

The second time, you’re a little more confident. You’re on familiar ground. You can delve a little more deeply into the things that interest you. You can make a point to get to those things you didn’t have time for or weren’t aware of the first time. You can immerse yourself in the experience.

The third time, though, you feel like a pro. You know what’s where and who’s who and where to go and what to do, and if you’re with others who are first-timers, you can show off your knowledge and help them learn the ropes.

In the medical field, they call it “see one, do one, teach one.”  In the world of travel and cruising, it’s just part of the process of getting to know a city, a country, a hotel chain, an airline, or a cruise line. I had cruised twenty times before I first stepped onto an MSC ship in February 2018, but it was a brand new and different experience, like starting all over.

When I took my twenty-fourth cruise – the third one on MSC – in September 2019, I felt like an old pro and I enjoyed sharing my experience with others on the ship who were new to the cruise line and/or to cruising in general. I always love to cruise with newbies, because it makes me see the ship and the sea through their eyes with all the wonder and awe of that first time.

The best part of “coming home” to a familiar place, though, is the people there whom you already know. We all love being in a place where “everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” And the wonderful staff and crew of the Seaside always make me feel that they’re happy to see me, both in and out of the Yacht Club. If I could say only one thing in this blog post, I would say a great big thank you to every one of the folks on board who make this cruise line and this ship so very special to me.

Image may contain: 10 people, including Francesco Di Palma and Thomas W. Shinder MD, people smiling, text

 

Working the ship

My approach to cruising is a little different from that of the majority of cruisers. But then, my approach to life is a little different, too. I’ve always loved learning. Lots of people love to learn new things, but I crave it. Always have and I guess I always will.

They say the world was once comprised of hunters and gatherers. I guess I’m a hybrid, because what I love most – what I just naturally do without thinking about it – is hunting down information and gathering it into a form to share with others. I’ve had a few different careers seaside top sail (9)over lo, these many years and all of them have followed the same pattern. As a paralegal, researching the law and then writing up what I found was what I enjoyed most. When I was a police officer, investigating and preparing the report was my thing. When I was teaching at the police academy and later at the community college, becoming expert in a subject and putting together the curricula and lesson plans was my favorite part of the job. And for the last almost two decades as a professional writer, it’s been all about learning everything I can on a topic and then putting it into words that will (I hope) make it easier for my readers to understand. image

So for me, every cruise is, in a way, a “working cruise” even when I don’t have paying projects going on that I have to tend to during the cruise. I observe, I experience, I analyze, and I document. It’s just what I do. Beforehand, I do my homework. I find out everything I can about the ship and the on-board protocols and I frequent the groups and forums and I read about others’ experiences and I compile a list of the questions that others are asking and I go into it with a dual purpose: to hunt down the answers to all of those questions and to have fun. But you see, hunting down the answers, to me, is having fun.

One thing I’ve discovered over the years applies to cruising and to life in general is to never assume that because I “know” something, that knowledge is still current and accurate. Things change. But ferreting out those changes is just part of the adventure. So here we are, and here are some of the topics I investigated and the answers that I unearthed.

Just keep in mind that a) some of the information I share is factual and some is only my opinion, and b) even the facts aren’t written in stone; they reflect my experiences at one particular point in time. Crews rotate in and out. Policies, procedures, perks, and names change (case in point is the rumored upcoming change in MSC’s top tier loyalty level from Black to Diamond). With that caveat in mind, let’s look at my impressions (and I definitely was impressed, again) of the MSC Seaside during the week of September 14-21, 2019.

Yacht Club Butler Service

One of the premier perks of the Yacht Club is the personal butler service, but in the past, it’s been a little inconsistent. Some folks would report that their butlers were extremely helpful and attentive, while others would come back lamenting that they hardly ever saw their butlers. I’ve been lucky to always get good butlers but I felt for those who didn’t. It is, after all, part of what we’re paying for.

It appears the YC management heard those complaints and have implemented measures to provide a better and more standardized level of service. One of the big changes I noticed was that butlers are now tasked with escorting their assigned guests to … well, almost everywhere.

image

Our butler this time, Primas, was there to introduce himself in the Top Sail lounge within less than half an hour after we embarked, and he came to tell us and escorted us to our cabin when it was ready. He offered to unpack our bags for us (an offer none of my previous butlers had made), to escort us back to the dining room for lunch, and to escort us up to the pool deck if we wanted to go there.

We declined all three; we wanted to get unpacked and settled into the cabin and then explore the ship on our own. We enjoy the butler’s services but we don’t really expect a lot from them. He asked what time we wanted to go to dinner and said he would come to get us and escort us there (which he did, and which ended up causing an unexpected brouhaha – not his fault; it was a “don’t shoot the messenger” situation) but I’ll get to that in the Day One review).

Throughout the week, we had an escort everywhere we went – to the specialty restaurants, to the theater shows, and of course on and off the ship at ports. There were times, I admit, when it got a little tedious (our stateroom was only a few yards from the door to the Top Sail lounge and the stairs to the restaurant, so it seemed a little silly to have him spend his time taking us there) but the intentions are certainly good, and for getting through crowds and past lines down in the “rest of the ship,” it certainly comes in handy and makes you feel special.

In addition to all that escorting (which was new since our cruise the previous September), your YC butler and junior butler service your cabin, bring you room service if you order it, and generally get or do anything you ask (within reason). Primas and his assistant, Sheena, did an excellent job of keeping the cabin clean, and except for one day, of keeping the mini-fridge stocked and the ice bucket full. They also left little treats for us in the evening – cookies, pastries, chocolate covered fruit, and such.

I’ll be talking more about the butler service over the course of the week in the day-by-day reviews.

Bottom line: It’s obvious that there has been a conscientious effort to increase the visibility of the butlers and make them more accessible to the guests and in our case, at least, that effort was successful.

Yacht Club Restaurant and Specialty Restaurants

One of the main selling points of the Yacht Club experience is the private dining room that boasts higher quality food than the ship’s main dining rooms. Last year I found the dining experience there to be equivalent in value to the (extra cost) specialty restaurants, and although on that cruise we had pre-booked an evening at Ocean Cay (the seafood restaurant), we almost hated to go because we didn’t want to miss even one night in the YC dining room with our wonderful waiter, Arthur Javier. IMG_20190915_183950

This year, Arthur was long gone – promoted and assigned to a new ship – and we had pre-booked Roy’s dining trio, which consists of three separate dinners (or two dinners and one lunch) in the Asian fusion, sushi, and teppanyaki experiences.

I had been hearing for months that the Yacht Club menus had changed rather drastically sometime in the summer, and there were quite a few complaints in the cruise forums saying that the new menus were inferior to the old ones, so I was hedging my bets by booking the specialty restaurants.

In addition, part of doing my homework was asking those who cruised in Seaside Yacht Club in the weeks before me for recommendations as to the best Yacht Club waiter. The consensIMG_20190915_175610us seemed to be that Christian Garcia was the man to ask for – he seemed to be well on his way to becoming the new Arthur – so as soon as we boarded the ship, I went to the maitre d’ and put in my request to be assigned to his section. Luckily, this also turned out to be the section that was on the starboard side windows, and we ended up with one of the very best tables, right on the glass.

Christian and his assistant, Reynaldo, ensured that we would never go hungry or thirsty as long as we were in their dining room. After a slightly rocky start (that was in no way their fault), food and service were impeccable every night.

On past cruises I’ve been on, most of the maitre d’s have been just nebulous figures who might or might not greet you at the door and might or might not breeze by your table occasionally and ask a perfunctory “is everything okay?” without slowing down much on the way to somewhere else.

That’s not to say they weren’t good at their jobs or that their roles weren’t important. There is a lot that goes into keeping a restaurant/dining room running smoothly and much of that takes place behind the scenes. But I can honestly say I’ve only really “felt the love” from a maitre d’ in a way that stands out three times out of twenty-four cruises. Two of those times were on the MSC Seaside, and one of them was on this cruise.

Ercan Demir is easily the best cruise ship maitre d’ I’ve ever encountered and he played a big part in making my birthday, and the whole cruise, a memory I’ll always treasure.

I’ll be writing more about our wonderful waiters and our magnificent maitre d’ in the day-by-day reviews.

When I first saw the new menus posted online a couple of months before the cruise, I admit I wasn’t too excited about them. The primary drawback is that there are fewer choices each night than thimageere were with the previous menus. However, somewhat to my surprise, it didn’t prove to be a problem.

Although there were nights when I didn’t, for example, like any of the appetizers listed, there would be two entrees that looked good so I would just ask for a small portion of one of them as my appetizer. On other nights, I would end up with a second appetizer as a main course. One night I wasn’t crazy about anything and they made me an off-menu pasta, so that all worked out.

And the answer to one of the frequently asked questions in the groups is: yes, they will make you an off-menu item if you ask. Maybe not Peking Duck (is it Beijing Duck now?) or puffer fish, but definitely a simple pasta or risotto. There is also an “every day” menu of steak, chicken, or salmon that’s always available, and there were a couple of nights when they had a “chef’s special” in addition to the regular menu items. I’m picky, but I still had more than enough that I liked to eat. 20190915_175204

Also note that they ask if you have any allergies or food intolerances, religious restrictions or just plain preferences, and are extremely accommodating in that regard; I had a friend on a previous cruise who has to have a gluten-free diet and they gave her a tour of the galley to show her that they even have separate kitchens for preparing those foods to avoid cross contamination.

The other change in the restaurant, that has nothing to do with the food, is the new strict enforcement of the dress code at dinner. No longer is “country club casual” – dressy shorts with a dress shirt or polo shirt – acceptable on non-elegant nights. Although the written dress code for MSC fleet-wide had included “no shorts in the dining rooms,” last year on Seaside that rule was not enforced on the “smart casual nights” in regard to the clothing style I described. This year it is, so be prepared for that.

I’ll write more the dress code and the impact of the change on our cruise in the day-by-day reviews. (Spoiler: while it was an annoyance, it by no means ruined our overall enjoyment of the cruise).

IMG_20190918_160358The specialty restaurants on Seaside are very good, although when you’re in the Yacht Club, you sort of hate to book them because of the way you become “attached” to your wait staff in the dining room – at least if you have good waiters, and as noted above, I always have.

On the previous year’s September cruise, we booked Ocean Cay and Teppanyaki and enjoyed both very much. This year we debated over whether to book any, but because you don’t get Asian food on the YC dining room menu (you do get plenty of seafood and steak), we decided to try Roy’s Trio.

IMG_20190918_180747.jpg

This consists of three meals: teppanyaki, sushi/sashimi, and Asian fusion. Even though it took us away from the YC dining room a couple of nights, we were glad we did it because the food was absolutely superb. If you enjoy this kind of food, I highly recommend it.

I’ll go into more detail about each of those meals in the day-to-day reviews

Yacht Club Grill

The first time I cruised on Seaside, the grill on the pool deck was my “go to” place for lunch and a couple of times for breakfast, although I’m not normally a big breakfast eater.  When I went back for the second time in September 2018 with Tom, we never made it to the grill; we ate in the YC dining room or in the buffet, which he liked for its large variety. In fact, he never even gave the grill a try. This time, I made sure he did, and he and I were both glad that I did.

image

The grill has changed a little since last year, although not substantially. It seemed to me that on a daily basis there were few fish dishes offered. On that first cruise, there would be mahi mahi, salmon, and cod all available on the same day. I realize this didn’t sit well with people who don’t like fish, and I’m sure it was their feedback that caused the change. I missed having all those choices (since I like certain types of fish much more than others) but I understand that it makes sense to cater to more American tastes.

The more limited selection of fish was more than made up for by something that was new to me. On my previous forays to the grill, they had a sign advertising made-to-order hamburgers, but now they also have a chef up there making fresh pasta dishes. I had that most days and it was fabulous. I especially liked the pesto linguine and would have been happy eating that every day.

Something else that’s new since we sailed last year is the deck party in the YC pool area on one night of the cruise. On our eastern itinerary, this happens on the day the ship ports in San Juan. It’s a late call there, from 5:00 pm to 1:00 am the next morning, so this does conflict with spending as much time as you might want in the city. I’d have preferred to have it on a sea day, or failing that on a port day when we’re back on the ship early, but I’m sure they have their reasons for scheduling it as they do.

pool deck party

Many of those who had cruised recently had posted great photos and videos of the party and I was looking forward to it. But we arrived a little late and unfortunately it was raining at the time, so we didn’t really get to experience this at its best. The live entertainers had shut down because of the rain, and the food variety was less than I expected, at least in terms of things that I like – but I know I’m not a typical American eater; I don’t eat beef, pork, or lamb. This wasn’t a problem, since there is always plenty of fish and seafood to be had in other eating venues and I was still full from dinner anyway.

I just had a drink and we sat and listened to the music for the short time the band was playing. It was pleasant, but not the big deal that it seemed to be on other sailings. Bad weather – or bad timing – can do that. There were others on the same sailing who were there earlier or later when the party was in full swing and said it was great.  We were tired from all the walking in San Juan and maybe less in a partying mood that we might have been otherwise, and that may have colored my perception as well.

Something else I’d looked forward to was “lobster lunch” at the grill. I’d seen the enormous seafood spread in others’ pictures and they had my mouth watering – but we ended up missing it. We had pre-booked Roy’s Trio online, and the first day of the cruise we had to schedule those three specialty restaurant meals. We picked lunch time on the last sea day (the only day the lunch slot was available) with the idea that we didn’t want to miss dinner in the YC dining room. Unfortunately, that was the day they had lobster at the grill.  If I’d known, I’d have scheduled differently but it wasn’t a big deal. The sushi was wonderful and we had a great time there and didn’t miss the lobster.

I’ll write detailed reviews of each of the specialty dining meals we had in the day-by-day reviews.

Top Sail Lounge

The TSL is still one of my favorite places in the whole world. I spent a lot of time in the lounge, as always, and most of the time I was able to get “my” seat (or rather “our” seat – as it’s also the favoImage may contain: people sitting, ocean, table, water and outdoorrite of several others in the Original Yacht Club Group on Facebook, and between all of us and all our cruises on different sailings, I think we keep it occupied for most of the year).

It’s a table for two way back in the port side back corner, tucked away behind the snacks display, far from the (only occasionally maddening) crowd.  It’s my onboard “work space” – I take my Surface Pro and set it up on the table there and take care of any necessary online business while sipping my morning coffee or a late afternoon piña colada and enjoying the utter beauty of the sea going by just outside the window.

Service in the lounge was wonderful, as usual. Ysabella took wonderful care of us.  And she always knew where to find us, in that secluded corner. As soon as one or both of us sat down, she was there to bring us whatever we needed. After the first sea day, she knew what we liked and how we liked it (i.e. my coffee in the morning, black with no cream or sweetener, my Bailey’s Banana Colada after lunch).

I had been a little concerned before this cruise that the ambiance in the lounge in the evenings might have changed. Some who had cruised in the previous couple of months had reported that the classical pianist and violinist I absolutely loved had been replaced with a duo singing pop songs, and that the volume was so loud it made it hard to have a conversation even upstairs in the YC dining room. Not what I wanted to hear during dinner, as I especially enjoyed being able to sit and talk with Tom while we ate and converse with our waiters.  I needn’t have worried.Image may contain: 4 people, including Thomas W. Shinder MD, people smiling, people standing and eyeglasses

Maybe we just got lucky or maybe someone had read my (and a few others’) posts about this in the groups, but it turned out not to be an issue at all.  We like to eat early, and between 6:00 and 7:30 the entertainment in the lounge was soft instrumental piano much like on my two previous Seaside cruises and made for a perfect background for dinner conversation. Iris Duo – the couple that others had written about — did come in later, but their sound wasn’t loud or overly “energetic” as I had feared; it was a perfect balance for sitting and listening with an after-dinner cocktail and most of the songs were ones I know and like.

We got to meet them when the male half of the duo, Maurice “Bowtie” Farmer, Jr. caught up with me and introduced himself downstairs one evening. We had a wonderful conversation – about pocket watches, of all things – and later on Tom and I also met and talked with him and Irina in the lounge. Maurice is incredibly talented on multiple instruments, and Irina has a beautiful voice. I feel silly now for thinking this change in entertainment might negatively impact my experience. Instead, their presence enhanced the overall experience and made a great venue even better.

Theater Shows and other entertainment

The year before this, we only made it to one of the shows in the theater, Fly. This year, we did a little better and managed to find time for three of them: Timeless, My Life in Music, and Starwalker (which I had missed on both of my previous cruises and which almost always gets rave reviews).

Unlike on the two prior cruises, they now have a reserved section roped off in the theater for Yacht Club guests, you don’t have to make reservations if you’re in YC, and your butler escorts you to the shows (although never fear – if you happen to be out and about on the ship when you realize it’s time for the show, you can just show up at the door and when they scan or see your YC wristband – or card – you’ll be allowed into the show and into the YC section).Image may contain: one or more people, people on stage, people dancing, crowd and indoor

Some people have expressed that they don’t care for the reserved seating because it’s near the back (in the center) of the theater. This didn’t bother us. We found the seats to be very good as far as viewing and hearing are concerned and didn’t have any desire to be closer to the front. From that location, it’s easier to leave at the end (and would be a lot easier to sneak out before the end if you find you don’t like the show or remember that you were supposed to meet someone for some other activity).

The shows were the same ones we saw last year, but with some different singers/dancers. We thought they all were good, some of them extraordinary. The “pole dancing” guy was amazing: such strength and flexibility turned into pure art. The costumes were beautiful. The Michael Jackson portrayal was very well done.

Some people in the Facebook groups complain about MSC’s shows because they’re different from the American cruise line norm. Yes, they are mostly singing and dancing and acrobatics. No, they don’t really have “plots” that  you can follow. Yes, there are some oddball seemingly random things, such as the “guy in the boat with the book” who goes back and forth and back and forth across the stage.

Contrary to what some will tell you, there is only one operatic performance, Butterflies, which is an adaptation of Madam Butterly that, ironically, is the one show that does have a defined story and plot (yet the people who lament about the lack of plotlines are usually the same ones who say they don’t want to see opera). It’s only shown at 4:00 p.m., before the regular nightly show times. If you do enjoy opera, it’s a must see.

seaside shows (10).jpg

Here’s the thing about the shows: MSC is a very international cruise line, even on sailings out of the U.S. This is another of the complaints we hear from many of my fellow Americans, sadly enough. People come from all over the world – Europe, Asia, Australia – to cruise on Seaside. That’s why announcements are made in seven different languages, after all.  And the kinds of shows that are common on the American cruise lines don’t work so well with an international audience, many of whom might not be able to follow the plots if there were any.

But song and dance and amazing acrobatics can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of language. So I don’t see MSC changing this anytime soon and frankly, I don’t want them to. (I do wish, though, that they hadn’t done away with what was my favorite show last year: Forever Frank. I guess I’m atypical, but I loved that tribute to Sinatra even if – or maybe because – the songs were sung with European accents. The rendition of “My Way” at the end really touched my heart).

Something else that we enjoyed were the improv comedy shows. Both the “family friendly” and the “adult” varieties were funny and interactive. Cari, Ryan, Tracy, and IMG_20190919_225618Guy made us laugh in a way the standup comedians on Carnival ships almost never did. There were no political jabs, and while there was cursing and sexual innuendo in the adult show, it wasn’t gratuitous or over the top.

There was plenty more entertainment going on every night, much of it musical. Jazz, country and western, pop, rock – whatever your genre, they probably had it somewhere at some point. One possible exception to that is Caribbean reggae. If you follow the online groups, you’ll see a lot of complaints about that. While I get that the ship is sailing in the Caribbean and it makes sense to have some of that music, it’s not a favorite of mine so I have no problem with this at all.

I see people saying there isn’t much to do on the ship and I just don’t get it. We were always busy almost every moment of the day, rushing from one thing to another, and not able to pack all that we wanted to do on board into the seven short days, even when we skipped getting off in Nassau. I guess it’s just a matter of what you like doing.

Party Time

One of the things that I enjoy is meeting other passengers, crew, and staff members at the various parties, and MSC throws a lot of parties. I already mentioned the deck party for YC guests on San Juan evening. In addition to that, there’s the Cruise Critic party on the first sea day, the captain’s welcome party for YC in the Top Sail lounge, the welcome back party for those who have cruised with MSC before, the Black party for those at the highest status level, and a party celebrating each of the theme nights (Gatsby/20s, County and Western, 70s, White Night, and Pirates).  The sail date-specific Facebook group that I started for our cruise also planned our own informal embarkation day party and MSC reserved a lounge for us. That’s a whole lotta partying goin’ on.

20190914_161030 20190915_101136

20190914_152422

Since my first Seaside cruise, I’ve been impressed with MSC’s party-hosting and this cruise lived up to all the expectations set by those other two.

I’ll talk more about the parties we went to and post pictures in the day-by-day reviews.

Officers, Staff, and Crew

Something that always changes over time, and can have a significant impact on the experience, is the people manning the ship. From the captain down to the galley workers, crew and staff rotate in and out of a ship, go home on leave, quit the business or go to another cruise line, retire, get promoted to different positions on different ships, etc.  I’m always disappointed to hear that one or more of the people I came to know and admire is no longer working on the ship, but more often than not, I end up loving those who have taken their places, too. And even if some staff and crew members aren’t as friendly as their predecessors or we just don’t “click,” there are always others who become dear friends by the end of the course.

CaptureI had cruised with Captain Francesco Di Palma before, and I was honored when he greeted me like an old friend this time. He and Captain Marco Massa (the master on my very first Seaside cruise) played a huge role in making me feel like part of the MSC family from the very beginning. I got a chance to talk with Captain Di Palma several times on this cruise and he was always gracious and personable and made me feel that he really cared about my opinions and feedback. After coming from Carnival, where most of the captains (with a couple of exceptions) stayed out of the public areas except for formal events where they were on stage and rarely mingled with the passengers, I was impressed with the charming Italian personalities of the men who command this MSC vessel.

I didn’t get to know as many of the other officers as on the two previous cruises. I met them at various parties and all were polite, but none stood out the way Hotel Director Ziggy and Yacht Club Director Ivan did on the first Seaside cruise. No big deal; they’re busy people with jobs to do that involve much more than gladhanding passengers – but I did miss Ziggy and Ivan a little.

Someone I didn’t miss from that first cruise was the cruise director. Not that he was a bad CD; he just wasn’t very memorable. In fact, I can’t even remember his name. I only saw him when he introduced the shows and I don’t recall him having anything to say at the Cruise Critic meetup or even being at the YC welcome party.

By the second Seaside cruise, Gene Young had taken over as CD, and he was very much “there” and smiling and greeting and showing a very active interest in the passengers. I was sad to hear Gene was leaving shortly before this cruise, but Eric Brouman, whom I’d previously met when he was a CD with Carnival, did an absolutely great job. He was full of energy, funny on stage, and friendly and helpful in person-to-person interactions. He, too, made me feel like a VIP every time I encountered him.

 image image

 image Eric Brouman CD

There were numerous other members of the crew and staff with whom we spent time during the cruise, including at least half a dozen of the butlers who worked in the Top Sail and up on the pool deck, servers and chefs at Roy’s, bartenders and servers “downstairs” at some of the various bars around the ship, a great photographer, Lisdon, who took some of the best photos of us that we’ve ever had made, and a very special bartender at Venchi’s, Igede Sandy Antara Yasa.

I’ll share more about some of the great MSC family members we met on this cruise in the day-by-day reviews.

Some subtle differencesImage may contain: outdoor

One of the nicest perks of being in the Yacht Club has been the butler escorts onto and off the ship. In ports of call, we would be taken past the lines to exit the ship, and when we came back, there would be butlers at the YC tent to take us past the lines again to board. The down side of this was always the dirty looks that we would get from other passengers who weren’t happy having us moved to the front of the line ahead of them when they were hot, tired, and ready to get back to their cabins after a long day of excursions or just exploring. This time, instead of having us go to the head of the line on the gangway, they opened up a whole separate entry for YC and Black card members. This avoided the issue of “cutting” in the regular line and worked out really well.

Here’s another nice surprise: Last year, the photos with the captain at the ship-wide welcome back party and the photo with the captain at the YC welcome party were included in digital format in the unlimited digital photo package that we purchased, but if you wanted prints of those (or any) pictures, you had to pay extra for them. This year, we received prints of the photos with the captain, along with the picture of the group at the Cruise Critic party, in our cabin on the last night and weren’t charged for them. I thought that was a nice gesture.

image20190920_144928

 

 

 

 

 

Also in regard to photos, last year we had to wait until the last day to download our pictures on board. This year they were available for download the next day after they were taken.

IMG_20190919_145054Crepegate” – the first time I cruised on Seaside, Venchi’s gelato and crepes, along with chocolate drinks, were free to Yacht Club passengers. Second time around, gelato was free but crepes weren’t IMG_20190918_213104included. This time, both gelato and crepes were included again. And unlike what some who cruised in between have reported, we weren’t limited to the “baby cups” of gelato. We could get the full size one, double scoops, as many as we wanted. Will that change again in the future? Who knows?  I just enjoyed it while I could.

Other than the dress code, the only not-so-subtle change that I didn’t love was that whereas the previous year on both cruises we could stay in the Yacht Club until 10:30 on debarkation day, this year they “kicked us off the ship” at 9:30 a.m. Certainly not a big deal, but the extra hour was nice for those of us who book late afternoon flights. I completely understand that they need to get things ready for the next sailing and this wasn’t a complaint, just an observation and a heads-up to those who might be expecting to be able to disembark later. If we’d known early enough, we probably would have tried to get a slightly earlier flight.

~~~

No two cruises are exactly alike, and of course there were other small differences between this year’s September cruise and last year’s. I’ll address some more of those in the day-by-day reviews. The important thing is that our time on Seaside this year was, overall, even more enjoyable than the previous time. It’s obvious that the company has listened to feedback from their customers and has taken steps to make some changes to better suit the American market. At this point, though, they haven’t gone too far in Americanizing the experience and in fact have struck a nice balance. I hope it stays that way.

As of now, this is how I feel about MSC in general and the Seaside in particular:

mscforme

hope this review is informative, a little entertaining, and helpful to those who have cruises on Seaside coming up in the near future. Stay tuned for the upcoming day-by-day reviews. You’ll find the Day One review HERE.

My next cruise will be on the Meraviglia, and I expect to see some much bigger differences there. Not only is the ship itself a very different design and layout, but she’s been in Europe since her launch in 2017 and my sailing will take place when she’s been in Miami for less than a month. I don’t know whether all the “new market shakedown” period will be over by then, so I’m prepared for some things to be unlike my previous Yacht Club experiences.  I look forward to exploring those differences and to see MSC’s new private island, Ocean Cay, which first opens just two weeks before my visit there. I’ll be an island beta tester!

About debshinder

Technology analyst and author, specializing in enterprise security. Author of or contributor to over 25 books, including "Scene of the Cybercrime." Fourteen-year Microsoft MVP, married to Microsoft FTE Tom Shinder, and proud mom of two wonderful grown-up human children and three amazing Japanese Chin pups. In my spare time, I love to travel - especially on cruise ships - and write about my grand adventures.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s