Posted by: Tom Baker | April 11, 2018

MSC Seaside-Bella Italia in Miami


MSC Cruises recently made a huge investment in the North American market with a US purpose-built ship, the MSC Seaside. She is a massive line designed architecturally to mirror the exciting condo architecture of Miami’s hip and sexy high-rise condominiums.

MSC will also bring the 2017 built MSC Meraviglia in 2019 as well as the return of the slightly older MSC Divina for longer Caribbean Cruises and the smaller decade old and recently stretched Armonia to sail to Cuba from Miami.

This is good news for cruisers who want something very different. MSC is different from almost every other purpose built Caribbean ship or those catering to the North American client. The primary difference is that this is a European run and styled cruise line with a whiff of amenities catering to a typical US or Canadian Traveler. The MSC client is truly international coming from every part of the world. On my sailing, the clientele was about 40% American and 60% from the rest of globe, there were Chinese, French,  French Canadians, Germans, Swedish, Brazilians, Emirates, Italians, and more… I would say this was truly a United Nations of  globally based guests of all age groups-all getting along famously well.

The first thing people ask me is “does everyone smoke?” The answer is a resounding No. MSC does not allow smoking anywhere inside the vessel or anywhere on a balcony and accesses huge fines if caught. There are two outdoor areas for smokers and I found the odor to not be as pervasive as some other US based ships I have sailed on. This ship also reminded me of cruising back in the 1980’s when people dressed nicely for dinners and going out in the evening. This was refreshing but not at all stuffy or over the top… This was not a ship where many guests show up in their gym clothes for meals.

The MSC Style offers more live music, more dance clubs (3 with DJ’s on my March sailing), a new review show every night that garners rousing standing ovations, a lively cruise staff that keeps things hopping day and night but in a fun way where everyone enjoys it. The White Party held on deck was attended easily by 2000 of the 4500 onboard and it was super fun. The daytime foam party held poolside was also great fun. Oh, by the way- English is the primary language onboard and including all signage throughout. Non English speaking guests have dedicated cruise staff hosts and a TV channel to communicate shipboard activities, safety drills, shore excursions and more..

The service staff are a bit more low key than US based ships and service was not as frantic throughout. Yes, bar service was a little slower paced, but it was pleasant and very efficient as I found everywhere on the ship. The dining room service was paced, and dinners are stretched out not too far from a typical European dining experience where meals last two hours. We Americans like to eat and run so if you don’t like sitting down to a longer meal, maybe this line is not for you.

Being a new ship and a big ship, there are still some teething problems and mechanical issues where an elevator was out of order from time to time, there were some periods where a sewage smell (not a deal breaker but it did appear) showed up in some mid ship areas, and some other smaller service areas where added training will correct. BTW, every ship has these same issues ongoing at some point or another. There is no perfect ship or perfect product!

My only critical points would be the buffet areas were always crowded and full when open like on most ships, the pool area is jammed on sea days so if you do not save a chair early on, you have to look far and wide to find a chair unless you are in the Top 19 (Aurea Class Cabins-These are higher priced balcony cabins and regular suites that include all beverages and have a dedicated sunning area or the MSC Yacht Club, a ship within a ship class for suite guests that has a large and beautiful pool deck and sunning are for its exclusive guests. More about these two classes of service later on in my review…

I will say, I loved this ship. I loved the service, the food, the pizza (yes, it is excellent and addictive), the shows, the kind service staff that I found throughout, the sexy style, architecture of the ship, modern furnishings, the high quality of boutiques, my cabin and its very nice amenities, and the fact that this is a European style ship different from other US Caribbean ships…

As I stated earlier, this giant of a ship was purpose built for Miami and entered service in the North American market in December of 2017. MSC Seaside is 160,000 gross tons, is 1059 feet long, carries 4134 passengers in double occupancy cabins, has 1413 crew to cater to its passenger compliment. MSC Seaside’s Godmother is the Italian actress and personality, Sophia Loren who holds this title for all 14 MSC cruise ships!

This is one of the most technologically advances ships with an incredible jumbotron outdoor TV screen showing movies and perfect sound system, easy to use directory boards throughout the ship where your provided MSC wristband not only opens your cabin door but charges and records all onboard expenses including allowance to book alternative dining and shows. I really liked this tool and aspect.

The ships architecture, wide promenades, two buffet restaurants, 2 main dining rooms,  4 swimming pools, amazing Aurea Spa and massive gym powered by Techno-Gym, multiple bars and clubs, entertainment venues, incredible kids club, Venchi Chocolate shop, café (best Chocolate Martini ever), incredible alternative dining venues (6 in total) that in my opinion are best in class managed by famed Hawaii Chef Roy Yamaguchi, all add up to a fantastic ship and cruise experience if you want something different… Oh, this ship has 322,000 square feet of public spaces!

Cabins and suites rang is square feet of 130 for a typical inside, 172 square feet for ocean view, 226 square feet for a typical balcony and suites range from 250 square feet to almost 1000 square feet including balconies…

MSC separated the class of cabin into these categories:

  • Bella- basic cabins and lower cruise fares
  • Fantastica- a bit higher price range and includes confirmed dining time and some drink vouchers
  • Aurea- higher priced yet and offers open dining, the Top 19 exclusive deck area for sunning, inclusive of almost all beverages, and provides a spa treatment for 2!
  • MSC Yacht Club- high atop the ship and forward facing where suites have card access, private check in area, private 2 level gorgeous lounge, private restaurant where the menus change daily for lunch and dinner (NCL’s Haven menu is the same every day and night), English trained butlers and Concierge service, a private pool, outdoor buffet area, and so much more. Pricing here is the highest, but rates are FAR LESS than their competitors offering similar service i.e NCL!

MSC also allows brand loyalty match so they ill honor their own provided amenities based on your tenure cruising with other brands. Proof of your status must be downloaded on the MSC web site and voila, a few days later, you are confirmed based on approval. I am a platinum Plus member with NCL which gave me Black Status-MSC highest loyalty level. Here is was showered with incredible amenities, champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate model of the ship, dinner for 2 in an alternative restaurant of my choice, and much more..

I loved this ship, the cruise experience, and while MSC has been controversial in some of the cruise review boards, I believe much of the experience is misunderstood by US travelers expecting an all-American experience and this it is NOT!

I think the product in under-priced in the US market frankly and this too creates issues for MSC. If you are a world traveler and want a lovely Italia style cruise with truly and international flare, try this ship.. I would go again in a heartbeat…

See all my pictures here:

Happy Cruising!




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