I’ve been traveling with my toddler since she was 2 months old; road trips, flights domestic and international, but I always shied away from cruises.
My primary reason was the itinerary. How much fun could it really be? For children, especially.
My secondary reason was the potential for motion sickness. Would I be seasick the entire trip?
Still, after a friend posted about her time aboard MSC Cruises, I began my research and soon thereafter booked an eight-night, seven-day cruise through the Caribbean aboard MSC Seascape, the cruise line’s newest ship built in 2022.
And it was one of our greatest travel experiences yet.
Choosing an Itinerary
Depending on your availability, you can choose to embark between 1-5, 6-7 or 8+ nights. I chose 6-7 nights. This decision was because of MSC Cruises Eastern Caribbean cruise 7-night itinerary.
The cruise ship would stop in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, and Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, two places we had never traveled. And Nassau, Bahamas, and Ocean Cay Marine Reserve. The latter being MSC Cruises’ private island.
Since we had never traveled to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, my thought was to make it part of our cruise vacation, explore the towns for a day and if we felt there was more to be explored, and/or loved our time there so much that it felt too short, we could book a longer vacation to either destination another time. Something like a taste test.
Read More: 7 Awesome San Juan Resorts
Choosing the port from which you embark is equally important as the destination(s). I chose Miami, Florida as our port; it’s a familiar city we have visited quite a bit.
And to avoid any anxiety that comes with missed or canceled flights, we flew in on American Airlines the day before the cruise ship was to set sail. And early enough that we spent our initial day in the Florida Everglades with Gator Park on an airboat ride tour and then dinner at Gianni’s on South Beach.
I highly recommend staying in downtown Miami as you are mere miles from the Port of Miami, from which all cruise ships embark.
We loved our stay at Eurostars Langford. The rooms were clean, spacious and the staff was great. They even allowed for early check-in at no additional cost. It was also within walking distance to several breakfast spots.
Downtown Miami is so close to South Beach that after breakfast, we took an Uber to Ocean Drive for a quick swim in the ocean, then back to the hotel to get dressed, all before boarding the ship.
Read More: Fun and FREE Things to Do in Miami with Kids
Exploring MSC Seascape
The MSC Cruises onboarding process was very easy; I felt so welcomed. And a bit overwhelmed – in a good way, with all there was to see and do.
MSC Seascape is a gorgeous new ship! I prepaid for a drinks package, so that was my first order of business as we sat down to take it all in.
Soon after, we dropped our bags in our stateroom. And we began exploring all that the ship had to offer. And it was a lot!
There are multiple pools including an adults-only pool, infinity pool with loungers, a Robotron overlooking the top deck, basketball court, state-of-the-art arcade, and Pirate’s Cove aqua park for kids that became my daughter’s favorite place. We would spend hours there.
I learned within an hour on board that it was much easier on both of us if I pushed my toddler around the ship in her stroller, as opposed to making her walk or her wanting to be carried. There were plenty of places to park the stroller while we swam, ate and played.
SheBuysTravel Tip: If you are prone to motion sickness, try taking a Dramamine each morning before breakfast. Just one sustained me the entire day. Only a few times did I feel the boat swaying, but I never felt sick. And that says a lot for a person who suffers from motion sickness.
When given the ability to choose a stateroom while booking our cruise, I honestly had no idea what I was doing. Should I choose a stateroom on the 9th, 10th or 11th floor? Front, middle, or back of the ship? I randomly selected a stateroom with a number I liked and on the 10th floor and it was perfectly located.
Again, I would highly suggest a room with a balcony as it really adds to the sight-seeing. We were able to watch the sun rise and set, listen to the ocean at night, having breakfast, lunch or dinner with a view, and if we were lucky, our ship would sail into port with our side facing the island. And when that happened in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and Nassau, Bahamas, we had a view of the entire island from our cabin.
Our room was spacious enough once we made use of every ounce of closet and drawer space. We even were able to store our empty suitcases in the closet. The room was clean and comfortable. And the hot water never ran out… a plus!
And when we’d return to our cabin by the afternoon, our in-room attendant had already been there to freshen it up and provide new linen, and washcloths and towels, if requested.
There wasn’t much of a selection to watch on the television, but I didn’t mind that at all as the only time I turned it on was for background sounds to fall asleep.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Avid cruise travelers decorate their door with the event they’re celebrating such as honeymoons, anniversaries, etc. We were celebrating my daughter’s 4th birthday so I spent the last bit of our time in Nassau, Bahamas looking for decor to decorate our cabin door as a surprise to her. All I could find was a table runner and a pack of squiggly balloons but I made it work… and she loved it!
Dining Aboard MSC Seascape
I’m a vegetarian and even still, the selection was vast and the food was very, very good. If we were hungry after our breakfast at The Green Wave Restaurant or after our dinner seating time at Cala Jondal, the Marketplace Buffet had an excellent selection, plus a kid’s buffet, and they were always churning out fresh dishes. All three of the above are part of the complimentary dining.
In addition, MSC Seascape had a great selection of specialty restaurants including a steakhouse with a butcher’s cut menu for an upcharge.
As a vegetarian, I knew I could only partake in some appetizers and side dishes. I made a reservation at the Mexican restaurant on board, and the food was great. Also on board was a chocolate bar, wine bar, sports bar, casino, and plenty of specialty stores including Venchi 1878 Gelato which paid homage to the cruise line’s Italian heritage.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Be on time for your assigned dinner seating in the main dining room! I missed our seating time at Cala Jondal Restaurant because we didn’t want to miss the Sailaway Party on the top deck. After arriving 20 minutes late they weren’t able to seat me. I had to then hope no one showed up for the later 7:30pm seating time and they would accommodate me. That wasn’t the best experience but I had no one to blame but myself. They were able to seat me and from then on, my daily priority was to make sure we made our dinner seating time, on time.
Things To Do Aboard MSC Seascape
The daily itinerary that was available via the MSC App and a printed version left in our room every night prior was filled with activities on several areas of the ship, often happening simultaneously and for all ages.
There was no shortage of things to do and fun to be had…exhilarating and/or relaxing fun. On board MSC Seascape was even a Kids Club with rooms dedicated to age groups. We toured the Kids Club and while it looked like a good time for all, my daughter didn’t spend any time there.
Next time I will definitely pack outfits for themed nights such as the all-white party. While we still showed up and felt more than welcomed, I wish we had dressed for the occasion.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Choose a cabin with a balcony if you can as it offers another activity. Throughout the day, especially for days at sea, we’d grab food from the buffet, gelato from the top deck and just take in the view, be it ocean view, other cruise ships in the distance or passing by islands.
Disembarking in the Caribbean
There are more than 5,600 passengers disembarking your cruise ship, so keep that in mind when it comes to activities off the ship. Lines get long, as do wait times at tourist attractions.
I made sure to be one of the first passengers off of the ship. Anticipating a long disembarkment, I was very early in line. But it wasn’t necessary because I had a stroller so I had to disembark on another floor and it was an easy and efficient process.
Every disembarkment after that, we’d wake up, head down to breakfast at The Green Wave Restaurant or the Marketplace Buffet, come back to our stateroom, get dressed and watch from the balcony as our ship cruised into port, before heading down to disembark.
Ports of Call
Prior to boarding MSC Cruises, I researched things to see and do at every destination so only in the Dominican Republic did I book with a tour guide company to show us all Puerto Plata had to offer.
In Old San Juan, 80 percent of the attractions were walkable. Same in Nassau, Bahamas. And once in Nassau, there were plenty of individuals offering tours. MSC Seascape offers the ability to book tours prior to disembarking but I preferred to do our own exploring, at our leisure. And it worked out really well.
A note: When we pulled into Old San Juan and Nassau, we were docked alongside Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian and Carnival cruise ships. While it tripled the number of passengers on and off the island, it never felt overwhelming or too crowded.
In the Bahamas, rather than book to swim with giant pigs, we found a small company that offered swimming with baby pigs. And it was a dream, especially with a 4-year-old.
There were fewer than 10 people on the beach at the time, we had a clear view of Atlantis Resort and we got to spend quality time with about 9 baby pigs. We were told the pigs’ parents stay in the brush and don’t come out to mingle with tourists. We stayed there for four hours or so. It was perfect!
In each port, MSC Cruises allotted between 7 and 9 hours for guests to be off the ship. It was enough. I never felt rushed and we would even reboard the cruise ship well before the mandatory board time.
MSC’s Private Island Ocean Cay Marine Reserve
The last day of our cruise, MSC Cruises docked for 12 hours on its own private island, MSC Ocean Cay Marine Reserve. Because it’s owned by MSC, there were no other cruise ships docked.
The island is huge and filled with so many activities including kayaking, jet skiing, touring the lighthouse, swimming in the ocean, and paddle boarding.
The crew served lunch, buffet style, and you saw much of the same staff on the island as you did on the cruise ship.
There was an age limit on the sea excursions so we spent most of our time in the lagoon. A lifeguard even shared that four friendly reef sharks live in the lagoon but they don’t bother swimmers.
The one tour she could do, climbing the lighthouse on the island, was a highlight for my 4-year-old. She was so proud of herself for climbing to the top. And the lighthouse guide was so informative. She gave the history of the island and how MSC acquired it and how they’re building it up.
There are staff who live on the island 24/7, serving 1-2 MSC Cruise ships a day. Prior to setting sail, we all watched the lighthouse light show at dusk.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Make reservations for your excursions on the private island; some activities can reach capacity.
Overall MSC Cruises Seascape Experience
Overall, I’m grateful our first cruise experience was with MSC Cruises and MSC Seascape as it was nothing short of amazing. We never had to wait long for service at the bar, breakfast or dinner. The hospitality staff – from servers to bartenders to in-room attendants – was spectacular.
I heard murmurs of complaining about the elevator wait times. However, I found the multiple elevator system to be state-of-the-art. But when you have 5,600+ people using the elevators especially when reboarding the ship, wait times would top 10 minutes. Plenty of people could be seen taking the steps in these cases.
Gratuities weren’t expected until our last night, but I was happy to leave more than the standard amount for our in-room attendant. And there was an automatic per passenger, gratuities cost you must settle before disembarking that is split between all staff on board.
I booked during one of the many MSC Cruises sale offerings and felt I got more than my money’s worth. And I spent less than $150 between my daughter and I, on food, activities and souvenirs at each port stop.
I’m looking forward to booking my next excursion with MSC Cruises and their Western Caribbean itinerary as it makes stops in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.
As this was my first time on board MSC Seascape Cruise, or any cruise for that matter, I was ignorant to all that there is to do for adults. This trip was to celebrate my daughter’s 4th birthday so I wasn’t thinking about myself but next time I’ll travel with another adult as there were activities I wasn’t able to participate in including Le Cabaret Rouge, the ship’s two-story nightclub. Granted she could have spent time in the kids club, but I wasn’t comfortable leaving her with strangers. And we played so hard that we were in our room, in bed by 8:00 every night.