3-16-2019 - MSC Seaside Yacht Club...An Honest Review!
MSC Seaside Cruise Review to Caribbean - Eastern
Review summaryAs I sit here outside on an empty Deck 19 of the MSC Seaside, watching the sun come up, soft music playing, a nice cool breeze, making our way back to Nassau and Miami….I figure no better time than the present to recap my week. Let me start by saying I’ve cruised Disney, RCCL, Carnival, Celebrity, NCL and some long gone cruise lines. I think each cruise line has its own thing to offer, it’s own niche. There is no PERFECT cruise line, only what works for you and your needs and wants. This is my first time sailing MSC and I’m not really sure what I expected. My family and I (Late 40/Early 50ish couple with 12 and 14 year old boys) chose to cruise with the Yacht club cabin/experience. Not only because it was recommended to me, but I got an incredible deal on it (especially for spring break). I’m not going to go into WHAT the Yacht club is….you can search that up, but I’ll detail some things with critiques. We arrived in Miami the night before and stayed at the Intercontinental Doral. Great hotel. Perfect for 1 night. Worked too bc we left our car there (no charge) and took an UberXL to the port. (about $41/half for Uber X). Easy easy! We went around 11am – ish to the port, so it was busy coming in, but I’m sure if you waited until around 1p, there’d be little traffic. With the Yacht club, exclusivity has it’s privileges. There’s a tent set up curbside that says “Yacht club” when you arrive. We walked up, they took our name and paperwork. A porter took our luggage and we were escorted past the masses of people, thru security and into a private waiting area with small sandwiches, drinks and champagne, etc until our name was called to process us in (ship cards etc). From there, had a brief wait and when they allowed boarding, escorted us directly onto the ship with an escort to the Yacht club area on Deck 16. A butler took both of our Roll bags and carried them up for us to the area. Now the Yacht Club area is the 3 floors, exclusive area in the front 1/3 of the ship. Deck 16 was some cabins, concierge, and the Top Side Lounge (think Living Room!). Very comfy, very cozy with 180 degree view out the front of the ship with a bar. You could sit inside or outside. Just above you in this area was the Yacht Club Restaurant which sits on deck 18 (there is no deck 17 on this ship). The restaurant overlooks the Top Side Lounge along with this 180-degree view. Absolutely awesome. There were some cabins on this level also. Then Deck 19 is your own private pool with a bar, small buffet with 2 hot tubs in the forward part of the ship and sun area. All with this 180-degree view. Come to find out, there are only about 85 cabins in the whole Yacht club area. OK, so back to our start….we briefly sat in the lounge and had a drink and a small snack and then our butler and junior butler (essentially took care of Stateroom) introduced themselves to us. They saw we had the boys and the bags so they called to see if our stateroom was ready, which it was, walked us there and kind of briefed us on things. Super easy on, very attentive. Loved it. Now, throughout the cruise, essentially any need you had, you could put thru your butler/junior butler. If they couldn’t address it, they would tell you where you could. Concierge could assist too, but we generally went to our butler/junior butler all of whom were usually around. Primas and Olena were our Butler/Junior Butler and they were fantastic!!! We will miss them dearly. (Just good people!!) Before moving from embarkation, let me note that there was no hounding to buy anything. There was a spa associate in the lounge to take bookings, but that was about it. There was no embarkation photo. No photographers in the lounge, etc. Very chill and low key. In fact, came to learn photographers were not allowed in the Yacht club area unless there was a special event. You had to go to the main ship/central atrium for pictures if you wanted them. Moving on to the Food. I very much consider myself a foodie/food snob, but try and take everything in perspective. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have been cruising since I was 8 years old, so I’ve seen the industry evolve. I read a lot of reviews (good and bad) prior to sailing MSC Seaside. I think the easiest way to say this is….you’re not going to starve. Having been on several other lines, I don’t think MSC is any better or worse than anyone else. There are a few differences. They are not as expansive, as say RCCL, but it is a European line. Is this bad? Well, if that’s what you expect, yes. If you go with it…you’ll be fine. Our food the first night for dinner was great, 2nd and 3rd night, not so much. You have the option to eat by the pool for lunch (Again, talking Yacht club) with some decent choices (Lamb chops on embarkation day were PHENOMINAL!!). Mind you we didn’t scour the ship for food, but when we did, we were not able to find a dinner buffet anywhere. There were “snacks” etc scattered around (even deck 19 in Yacht club), but not a full buffet with entrée choices (talking dinner). That’s not to say there may not be one, we were just not able to find one when we wanted. Deck 8 did have a nice area with Pizza, Salads, Sandwiches, fruit, desserts, but I did not see any hot entrees. We did not venture into any of the specialty venues on this ship. I thought the food we were getting was fine and saw no reason to drop $100-$200 on meal. Normally I would, but I found it a little overpriced for what they were offering. As far as food prep…some meals were good and some were not. Being a foodie (and teaching my boys to taste anything), we experimented with a lot of items on the menu at dinners. The majority of dishes were good, but they killed their Prawn dish one night (horrible taste), and another fish dish. I generally love Escargot, but didn’t care for the prep on this ship. Their clam and mussel pot was aweful (super salty). Salmon dishes were generally good. Tonite (at sea heading back) is lobster/prime rib, so….I’ll keep you posted. I don’t want to dabble too much on taste as everyone’s tastes are different and that’s really a person to person thing. Service overall…….whew…where do I start. Butlers and Junior butlers (at least ours….A++). Waiters in the Top Sail lounge, every one of them were amazing (we really enjoyed Vishnu who was super personable, attentive, and pleasant every day)!! Waiters in the restaurant… hit or miss! (MOSTLTY MISS!). We tried our initial waiter given for 2 nights. He was short and seemed liked he was trying to be nice to us. We swapped on 3 occasions to 3 different areas and all those waiters were excellent, pleasant and attentive. (Emmanuelle and Ted (from S. Africa) were 2 waiters who really stood out and provided good service and pleasant). I don’t know if our first waiter had a beef with us specifically or not, but…generally all the others we used were good. Food service overall was Slllooowww!! I don’t know if this was the waiter’s fault or the kitchen. As much as these guys were moving (and the Yacht club restaurant is not big), I would have to say the kitchen was slow. To give you an idea, the kids gave us “date night” last night and it was the two of us. We sat down a little after 7:30pm. We got served dinner at 8:45-8:50p. So….not sure what’s going on there, but…a little adjustment needs to be made. The Matre’d was pleasant and around, but generally did very little (in my opinion). My one son had asked for Crème Brulee, which is not served on any of the general menus, only in the specialty restaurant. He got it for him 1 night, but it kind of seemed a bother. As a Matre’d, for 1 kid, why not have it every night (or at least offer it). Never offered any specialty dishes or anything. So…not much to say other than kitchen was slow (so that’s kind of on the Matre’d) and didn’t do much else for us. On a side note, the hostess in the Yacht Club Restaurant (Yulia) was absolutely fabulous! She seemed to run that place (more so than the Matre’d) and really went above and beyond, not just socially but from a work standpoint. Very spunky and upbeat. In my opinion, the restaurant is a key part of the cruising experience and MSC mauled it! From Etiquette (not taking order/serving the lady first – Multiple waiters), to not explaining/recommending dishes, to failing to check the table periodically, to not making sure order is correct, to forgetting to bring things out…this was consistently poor in the Yacht Club restaurant – across several waiters. It takes a lot for me to put down a food service, but I can honestly say aside from the restaurant hostess (who not only sat people and greeted everyone but also cleaned and re-set tables and assisted waiters and assistant waiters), I’ve had better service at my local Chili’s /restaurant chain. The staff didn’t seem trained and was very inconsistent….all the way around (and we were waited on by 4 or 5 different wait staff). Now some of you may comment, why didn’t I say something to the Matre’d and my response to that is…this is not something that is going to get corrected in 1 day or even 1 cruise. An overall re-evaluation of this needs to be done. I was not able to get any assessment of how it was in the main dining of the ship, but I would assume better as they had 3 dinner services to tend to and were on a time limit. Perhaps it’s time to go back to gratuities for work done and not “well I’m getting it either way so why does it matter?” I’m all about tipping for service and will (and did) tip to anyone who went above and beyond. Enough about that!! Ports – The ports are the ports. Not going to say much there (We did Eastern Caribbean). Having cruised so much, we didn’t book any cruise excursions. Only things to note here…when it’s time to get off (in the Yacht club), you go to the lounge and are escorted off (and back on when you return). Nice little touch. You’re given waters and rain poncho (if needed). Rest of the ship… All the main ship pool areas were nice/crowded. We generally stayed in the Yacht club area. Our kids did the slides on occasion. Kind a of a pain in the neck as you have to sign a waiver and get a wrist band (kids/adults) in order to ride any of the slides. The waiver included the zip line too, though. Lines were long first 2 days. It would be nice if MSC had waivers available with the Yacht Club concierge and be able to turn them in there instead of mass chaos that is was to get it done. That or include it in your cruise documents and have it ready to go when you get on board (only 1 more piece of paper to print, why not!). Arcade….well…(sigh)….another gripe of the trip. We purchased 2 “fun passes” for our kids prior to sailing. When we did it online, it did not give us the option to put it on their ship card, so the “Fun Pass” was on my card and my wife’s card. We TRIED to get them to transfer it to the kids, but they could/would not. Hence, I had to give my card to my kids every time they wanted to use the arcade. The fun pass included a Formula 1 Simulator (not a Flight simulator as advertised), a 5D theatre which was open here and there and meh, bowling that was a pain in the neck to get a “reservation” for (again, would be nice if you could reserve from Yacht Club Concierge), an Air Hockey Game, and 2 video games. Air hockey was pretty much open and our go to game. My advice is save your money on the fun passes. Don’t pre-buy the $100 (with $180 worth of credit). NOT WORTH THE $. Had I known there were 2 video games and all the trouble to use everything else, I would have never bought!! To add insult to injury here, there were 2 gentleman who ran this area and they were rude and short with us and many other passengers. My guess is because they were always overwhelmed. MSC needs to do a little re-evaluation of this area too and make some changes (IMO) Kids loved the crepes/Gelato on the back of the ship (Deck 7). This is included with Yacht Club. Deck 6 was the shopping area. Typical cruise shopping area. Do your homework and know what you want. Looked at an “older” watch for my son and they sell for the retail price with a “discount”. Checked online and could get the watch for over $100+ less than what they were offering on the ship. So…not that they are ripping you off, just…do your homework if you’re looking for jewelry. That’s all I’ll say. Chocolate bar in the middle of the ship looked great. Can’t really give a review as we didn’t eat or drink anything from there. Casino was ok. Quite small for ship this size. There is no Craps. There is no poker table. The ventilation is poor in the area and tends to be very smokey. Didn’t really venture in here much. They have newer slots with lots of buttons. (Whatever happened to put your token in and pull?!?). lol Things overall on the ship ran as scheduled. If it opened at 8a, 8a it was, not 7:55a, not 7:59a. This is not a bad thing, but in the customer service industry, sometimes you need to be a little flexible. Example, walking back onto the ship from one of the ports, they have a station for a cold face towel. I asked for one and was told they don’t start until Noon (it was 11:56-57am). Little things like that can be a put-off. The ship itself was beautiful/modern. Outside of the yacht club area, I think the ship lacked flow. (ie you couldn’t walk straight thru to things or easily get to things). It was a bit difficult to navigate at times. My wife and I saw an infinity bridge (bridge with glass on it) but couldn’t figure out how to get there. Eventually, after making our way out there, there were some other doors leading out we found, but not well marked. OK. Sun is up and beaming and family awake. Stay tuned…! Driving home from Miami now…and continuing on…. Prime Rib and Lobster dinner (Sea day) was good. Presentation was AWEFUL. Prime rib was slathered in a brown gravy (not necessarily bad, just not how I prefer) and lobster was plopped in this gravy as well. Plate was not clean presentation at all!! Lobster was NOT served with drawn butter. We asked the waiter if this was how it was to be served and he said told us “yes”. Eventually, they brought drawn butter out, but it took almost 10 minutes and my lobster was cold by then. Still tasted good cold. Last night in the dining room, they had rack of lamb. Luckily, I had an ordered a truffle risotto (which was very good, but undercooked) and my sons were served the lamb while I ate the risotto. Again, the lamb was slathered in a thick brown gravy with cooked cherries. (sorry, this one was aweful). Luckily, I was able to head my waiter off at the pass and had the sauce put on the side. Lamb was herb crusted and absolutely delicious. One of the best meat dishes of the cruise. Not sure what’s up with the sauces, but….perhaps if the waiter took the time to explain the menu and make recommendations, the food review would be a little better. With MSC being a European line, I said things were different, however (IMO) if you’re going to operate in an American Market, I think they need to take note of some differences and make accommodations. My final observation of the whole Yacht club experience sort of has to do with the rest of the ship. My general feeling was….once you were out of the Yacht club, you were just another bean. Nothing exclusive or priority. My wife purchased a massage and our butler walked her down to the spa. After the butler left, the spa attendant asked my wife, “who is he?” We also had a little issue with the photo shop as we pre-bought a photo package before sailing. The product was listed as “10 prints and 10 digital photos”. It did not specify if they were the same or not. Having cruised before and inconsistences, I called MSC prior to sailing to clarify the package before purchasing. It was explained to me that it was indeed 20 different photos. My wife and I went to the photo area Thurs night to pick out our photos and get it out of the way before the masses hit Friday night. The attendant (who I learned was new) told me it was only 10 photos. I explained to her otherwise that’s not what corporate explained. After a slight back and forth, she advised she’d get with her superior and get back with me Fri morning. I never received any follow-up and went back down late Friday morning of which I was told I was correct and it was 20 different photos. Now they couldn’t find the 20 photos I had given them the night before and couldn’t reach the young lady we were dealing with. I was told to return around 4p which I did. They confirmed everything, gave me my 10 prints and now told me to come back between 10-10:30p for the disk with the other 10 prints. When I arrived back (around 10:15p) it was mass chaos in the photo area. The disk was not ready and I was told 10 minutes. I left the photo area at 10:55p. Just watching the chaos of 4-6 people just standing there doing very little (bc they were awaiting photos/disks to made) was comical. I had to take a video of it bc it just showed how disorganized this was. Disembarkation – 1 word…SUPURB!! Best disembarkation I’ve EVER had. I stood outside my stateroom door at 8:45p. My wife accidently lost her key card, so our junior Butler got us a new one, walked us down to Deck 6 where we were greeted by our butler. Both took our rollaway bags (2) and walked us past everyone to the ship exit. We said our goodbyes/took photos and walked off the ship. We weedled around the port of Miami…went thru immigrations which is a facial recognition camera, and continued on to our luggage area (weedling a little more). Yacht club bags were at the very end. Got our bags, walked out the door and grabbed an UberXL back to the hotel. Stateroom door to packed car ready to go….(with the drive) – 1 hr. BOOM. Couldn’t ask for anything better!! In summary, overall, we had a great cruise. We’ve had good and bad cruises and take things in stride. I’m a little more old school having experienced “cruising of the past”, so my expectations are probably a little higher. Sad to say, the industry and has changed. You have to pay for experiences (like the Yacht club) in order to get that old school treatment. Sadly, MSC has some work to do in some areas to improve this. This was one of the most “relaxed” cruises we’ve done and really enjoyed that aspect. The Yacht club experience without all the “cruise fluff” thrown at you is a great option. Even with the things that need correcting, MSC has a pretty good product and I think just needs to hone some in an American market. I would definitely sail MSC again and would choose no other option than the Yacht club for this line. I think it was worth what I paid for my family and I. If you have super active children who need to be stimulated all the time, not sure this would be the line for you. Our kids are older and a little more low key and they enjoyed it as well. I would definitely entertain this line for an Alaska cruise. The Yacht club experience in the Alaskan market would be plus. Sorry this is such long review, but I hope it gives you an idea of the experience onboard, at least from a Yacht club perspective. Bon Voyage
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
GO Yacht Club. Totally worth the $$!
Ports of call
Nassau, Bahamas Did not visit port