This is the second installment of the day-by-day, blow-by-blow review of our September 14-21, 2019 cruise on the MSC Seaside. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read the “long form,” there is an intro/overview that hits the highlights HERE.
Sunday, September 15th
After a mostly great embarkation day with one glaring glitch, we woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold our heads that didn’t hurt — no, no, strike that; that’s just an old Kris Kristofferson song that started playing in my mind. Actually, we woke up feeling good and ready to have a fun and relaxing day at sea. There turned out to be more of the former than the latter, but that was more than okay.
Morning has broken
We began the day with snacks in the Top Sail lounge. When I cruised solo, I got my breakfast from the Top Sail snacks case almost every day. They always have plenty of yummy fruit and pastries, and sometimes tiny pancakes and waffles. And you certainly can’t beat the view.
Tom is more of a breakfast person than I am, though, so a little later, we trekked up to the YC pool deck to check out the “real” breakfast spread up there. I have to say there was an impressive selection.
I was anticipating several parties coming up where there would be food and drinks, though, so I just enjoyed my coffee and another nice view, while Tom sampled some of the offerings.
Party time again
10:00 a.m. might not seem like the most likely time for a party, but that’s when they’re now scheduling the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle and the Captain’s Welcome (the former for anyone on the cruise who signs up for it through the CC web site, the latter only for YC guests). Invitations to both had been delivered to our cabin the previous evening.
My first time on Seaside, in Feb. 2018, the M&M was held at 5:00 p.m. in the Haven Lounge. I personally prefer that timing. Since it was elegant night, most people were dressed up and there was just more of an air of elegance about it. The captain was in dress uniform, the lounge was a bit more elegant in decor and atmosphere, and it felt more upscale.
However, I understand the probable reasons for the change. It’s likely more people will attend, since the 5:00 p.m. time cut it close to early dining schedules, and indeed both of the cruises where the party was in the morning had better attendance. The more casual atmosphere encourages more mingling among officers and guests. It’s also no doubt more convenient for the officers to do the M&M and YC Welcome parties one right after the other. Finally, it’s likely there are cost savings since most people tend to drink less of the free alcohol in the morning vs. in the evening.
The M&M was held in the Seaview Lounge on deck 8. Unlike the two previous years, our butler came to escort us down to the party. The room was closed off to the general public for the special event and they were asking to see our invitations at the door.
The first time I went to a M&M on Seaside, I was amazed at how differently MSC does this in comparison to Carnival. On that line, they provide a lounge and that’s about it. No drinks, no food, and either no staff/crew or one low-level employee attends. At least that’s been the case when I’ve gone on Carnival ships.
In contrast, MSC goes all out, with free cocktails, snacks, and a big and beautifully decorated cake that – unlike many beautiful cakes – actually tastes great.
I was surprised and happy beyond words when not only did cruise director Eric Brouman remember me from Carnival days and come over to talk to me, but Captain Di Palma also remembered me, had a long conversation while we were waiting for the party to get started, and then pulled me in beside him for the “official” group photo.
The YC Welcome with the Captain in the YC lounge was scheduled immediately after the M&M, at 11:00 a.m. We got to the lounge before most of the rest and settled in at the bar. Then we got to do it all over again – without the cake, but with more champagne.
Captain Di Palma gave another great talk, and we all got to toast the wonderful staff and crew who work in the Yacht Club, including the fantastic butlers, waiters, and maitre d’.
We stayed and hung out in the lounge for a while after the party was officially over. It’s still one of my absolute favorite places in the world. Tom seemed to be enjoying himself, and the previous evening’s dress code aggravation was all but forgotten.
By then it was noon, but we weren’t very hungry after all those snacks, so we took a walk around the ship to get some steps and enjoy the beautiful day. Then we went down to deck 8 to check out the buffet, and grabbed a quick bite to hold us over until dinner. For me, that meant the pizza, which in my opinion is the best at sea and better than most on land.
Of course, pizza requires more walking to burn off some of the calories, so we made the rounds of the ship again, enjoyed more great views, and did some people-watching – always a fun pastime on a cruise ship and made even more so on Seaside, thanks to the geographic diversity of the passengers. Then it time to go back to the stateroom to rest up a bit and then shower and get ready for dinner.
There would be no dress code issues on this night, since it was the first gala (elegant) night and we had come well prepared for that. We got all spiffed up and went to the YC lounge for a drink before dinner, where Ysabella took a great picture of us.
First elegant night on Seaside is also Great Gatsby/Roaring 20s night. We had great fun dressing up last year – me in my sequined and fringed flapper dress and Tom in his “gangster” style suit – but this year I didn’t get a chance to shop for a different dress and instead of doing the same clothes over again, we opted for more of a “wedding” look, to get photos that would commemorate our 25th anniversary coming up very soon.
Primas showed up a few minutes before the dining room opened up, and escorted us up to be greeted by Ercan and then shown to our table by the window. The entrees on this night’s menu, in my opinion, were less impressive than last year’s first elegant night selections, but the starters made up for it — I had a hard time deciding between my top three, and ended up getting both the escargots and the rock lobster bisque, both of which were very good. I did look longingly at the blue cheese souffle, as well.
My entree was the vegetable risotto, which was light (and that was exactly what I wanted after consuming both starters.
Tom went with a double entree: the chef’s special signature dish, Galzed Pluma of Iberico Pork, which was on its own separate menu, and the jumbo shrimp and calamari skewers.
After all that food, you’d think we would have no room left for dessert, but somehow we managed. I just couldn’t pass up the crepes Suzette, and Tom always loves to finish up with the cheese plate.
As delicious as the food was, and as beautiful as the restaurant and all the formal clothes were, what really made the evening special was the people with whom I got to share such a lovely meal.
Service was nothing less than exemplary, and I felt as if this night, rather than the one before, was the true beginning of the magical experience that would be this birthday cruise.
After that glorious dinner, we went on a long walk around the ship, took in a little musical entertainment, and had our formal photos taken with Captain Di Palma.
That put us in the mood to model some more, and since we were all gussied up in our finest, we made the rounds of the photographers in the atrium and got over sixty pictures taken. We had pre-purchased the unlimited digital photo package (last year we bought it on board and paid $50 more), so why not? I was thrilled when the vast majority of them came out looking great.
Even though some of the photographers seem to be a little disinterested and in a hurry to just snap, snap, snap, they still got some really nice pictures. And those who took their time and adjusted lighting and angles and bothered to pose us got some amazing ones. I highly recommend this package; it’s a much better value that most studio portraits you can have done on land.
How do you top off a perfect night? Why, you go to Venchi for a nightcap, of course.
My chocolate martini was exactly what I needed to end the evening on a sweet note. And what a sweet day it had been — chock full of fun and food and family, both my immediate family in the form of my husband, whom I was so glad to have along with me, and my MSC family – la mia famiglia.
I went to bed that night tired and very happy to have met so many new family members, and looking forward to spending the coming week getting to know them better. I was also eagerly anticipating the next day in Old San Juan, one of my favorite “walking around” cities.
Stay tuned to read all about that one.