As one of the fastest-growing cruise lines in cruising, MSC has 23 ships in its fleet. In March of 2023, my husband Jim and I set sail on the MSC Seaside from Port Canaveral to The Bahamas on a four-day, three-night cruise. After reading several reviews on MSC cruise lines, we were pessimistic regarding this cruise. However, once onboard, We found our pessimism was unfounded.
MSC’s cruise ship, the Seaside, set sail in 2017 and relocated to its new homeport of Port Canaveral in April 2023. Designed exclusively for cruising in the Caribbean, her itineraries will include three and four-night Bahamas cruises and seven-night cruises that include Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico, Belize, and Ocean Cay Marine Reserve.
MSC Cruises is a relative newcomer to the North American market. It has broad market appeal across many demographics, from Europeans who love to party until sunrise to American families who love the affordable fares and “kids sail free” pricing.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Before you embark, check out our full cruise packing list so you don’t forget anything you’ll need, and don’t pack anything you won’t!
Port Canaveral Embarkation
Embarkation at Port Canaveral was relatively painless. When you check in online and receive your embarkation documents, you are assigned a time to arrive at Port Canaveral cruise port. Our arrival time was 2 p.m., and we arrived at Port Canaveral at 1:30 p.m. and dropped our luggage off to be loaded onboard the MSC Seaside.
The line for check-in wrapped around the front of the building. We stood outside for approximately 45 minutes and another 30 minutes inside before we reached the check-in counter.
A water station was available outside, which was much appreciated considering the sweltering Florida heat. All of the staff were friendly and smiling.
Once we arrived at the check-in counter, we checked in with our documents and received our sea passes in less than five minutes.
Upon boarding the ship, we were pleasantly surprised that our room was available immediately.
How Big is the MSC Seaside?
The MSC Seaside is massive, with 19 decks and a length of 1,060 feet and 135 feet wide. She is the first ship in the Seaside class of ships for the cruise line. With 2,066 staterooms, the Seaside can accommodate 5,179 guests.
One of the features that I loved on the Seaside was the panoramic elevators – they offered some interesting perspectives of the fantastic public spaces! The ship was at maximum capacity on our sailing. However, with so many public spaces, it never felt overcrowded.
Fun-Filled Days and Nights
Whatever flavor of cruising you desire, MSC has you covered. If you are a foodie, you’ll delight in the culinary creations; if you seek peace, quiet, and relaxation, you can find it; if the active lifestyle beckons you, there is plenty to fill your days and nights.
You can get your adrenaline pumping with an exhilarating zipline adventure or try your hand at Formula 1 virtual reality racing.
For those who thrive when just relaxing, you’ll love the outdoor spaces, where you can soak up the sun, and it is quiet. Or head to the spa for a treatment and take advantage of the thermal area and the sun deck.
The Aurea Spa
Having cruised on several other cruise lines previously, I have to say that the Aurea Spa is unique and fantastic! The spa is pricier than other cruise lines we’ve taken. However, it is the standout on the Seaside. The spa is on Deck 8, and there are 24 treatment rooms for massages and facials, a hair salon, a nail salon, a tanning booth, and a barbershop.
The thermal suite, which is always my favorite place to relax, features changing rooms for men and women, thermal heated loungers, dark and light sensory steam rooms, saunas, a salt relaxation room, a thalassotherapy pool, and a cold room with snow. It is over-the-top fabulous!
Aurea Spa’s private sun deck, reserved exclusively for passengers who have booked spa treatments, features lounge chairs and two whirlpools. Also, you can rent spa cabanas on the private sun deck, with treatment included.
Unlike Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruise Line, Aurea Spa does not offer in-port day discounts. The cruise line does offer special promotions throughout the cruise and discounts for multiple massage reservations.
Pools and Fun
With four pools, four waterslides, three hot tubs, and a wading pool, there is plenty of fun for everyone! On deck 18 is the Jungle Pool, which offers fun for the whole family. Here, you’ll also find the waterslides, waterpark, the Forest Adventure Park, and the Adventure Trail, a ropes course. The Jungle Pool lounge and bar are located in this area as well.
The South Beach pool area, located in the aft of the ship on deck 7, is an adults-only pool. The South Beach pool is active and always hopping with music and fun. This aft area of the ship on deck 7 is also where you’ll find the South Beach bar, Venechi 1878 Creperie and Gelato bar, interactive cinema, Garage Club, arcade, and Formula 1 simulator.
Located on deck 16, you’ll find the Miami Beach pool area on the aft of the ship, and it is the main pool onboard. This area is also where most pool deck events occur during your cruise.
The exclusive Yacht Club class area on the forward of the ship on deck 19 is where you’ll find the Yacht Club pool, sun deck, the Yacht Club Grille, and Bar. Deck 19 is also where you’ll find the Aurea Bar and Top 19 Solarium.
Top Notch Entertainment
The live shows are stellar on MSC Seaside! They rival shows we’ve seen in London’s West End and New York City’s Broadway! We saw three shows during our four-day Bahama cruise. Each show incorporated music, acrobatics, and gymnastics.
The three shows were Peter Punk, a take on Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, a tribute to Michael Buble, and a Michael Jackson tribute show. Jim and I loved the Peter Punk show, and the Michael Jackson tribute was excellent!
On MSC Seaside, you do need to make reservations for each show, and the show times are 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. The acoustics are fantastic, and there is not a bad seat in the theater.
MSC has an app you can download to your phone to make things easy. The app shows all the extras you’ve purchased, and you can make reservations for the theater on the app as well.
Our MSC Seaside cruise made two ports of call, Nassau and Ocean Cay Marine Reserve, MSC’s private island. Having explored Nassau extensively on past trips to The Bahamas, we felt no need to get off the ship. That said, we could tell by looking at the cruise port that it has been improved since our last visit. There are lots of little shops that have popped up.
What we were looking forward to was the visit to Ocean Cay. Ocean Cay is off the coast of Bimini, Bahamas, and is fantastic! Almost like an extension of the ship, you can book massages, dine on the island, hit the shops, or spend the day relaxing on the beach, swimming in the ocean or the lagoon. The choice is yours!
SheBuysTravel Tip: The Ocean Cay Lighthouse puts on a late evening laser light show that is stellar! Don’t miss it; head to the outside decks ahead of time to snag your place to watch the light show.
MSC Cruises Staterooms
When booking our Bahamas cruise, we had several cabin choices. The first choice is cabin type: inside cabin, ocean view cabin, balcony cabin, or suite. We chose a balcony stateroom.
Choosing your “Experience Package” is the second choice. With the experience packages, MSC allows guests to choose what amenities are important to them, and you can personalize your cruise with benefits that suit you.
The four experience packages are:
- Booking Flexibility – comes with a fee
- Discounted drink package option at the time of booking
- Earn MSC Voyagers Club Points
- All the Bella Perks
- One free change to your booking
- Choice of early or late dinner seating
- Choose your cabin and location
- Complimentary breakfast in your room
- 20 percent discount on specialty dining packages
- Earn MSC Voyagers Club Points
- All the Fantastica perks
- Flexible My Choice dining that lets you dine at any time you want between the set dining hours
- Choice of specific balcony cabins and suites in prime locations
- Complimentary 24-hour room service delivery
- Welcome gift of Prosecco and chocolates
- Complimentary access to the ship’s solarium and thermal area
- Bathrobe, slippers, and a pillow menu in your cabin
- 40 percent discount on prepaid spa packages and 10 percent off all individual spa packages purchased on board
- Priority boarding and luggage drop-off
- Earn MSC Voyagers Club Points
The MSC Yacht Club Experience
This experience is the height of exclusive luxury onboard. It is an authentic, all-inclusive, and outrageous luxury experience.
- Dedicated priority check-in and check-out
- 24-hour room service
- Complimentary access to the Thermal Suite in the Aurea Spa
- Premium Extra drink package
- Dedicated 24-hour concierge
- Premium internet package for two devices
- Relaxation amenities in each suite
- Exclusive sun deck with pool, whirlpool, solarium, and bar
- Gourmet dining in the private MSC Yacht Club restaurant
- Exclusive Top Sail Lounge access that includes bar, afternoon tea service, and light food selection 20 hours a day
- Earn MSC Voyagers Club Points
We chose the Aurea experience and a balcony cabin on the 9th deck. Our stateroom was roomy, though the shower in the bathroom was a bit tiny; it was bigger than what we experienced on our previous Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruises. The bed was very comfortable, and the pillow menu was a delightful surprise. However, the standout was the fantastic balcony!
We spent most of our cabin time on the balcony, especially when steaming toward Nassau, Bahamas. Late at night, we would head to our balcony, sit under the stars, and listen to the silence, sipping a glass of wine or a cocktail.
Dining on MSC Seaside
The food onboard is European style and features Italian and Mediterranean-inspired dishes, which we found very appealing. The food was tasty and artfully presented. The portion sizes were not huge; they were satisfying, and we had room for multiple courses.
Both of us love an experience when we are dining out. Onboard, we enjoyed relaxed meals that were not rushed but allowed us to savor the cuisine and linger over our meal, making it an ideal dining experience.
The main dining restaurants on board are Ipanema Restaurant and Seashore Restaurant. We were assigned to the Seashore restaurant, and with our Aurea experience, we had My Choice Dining, which allowed us to change the times we wanted to dine daily.
Most evenings, we found ourselves dining for two hours or more as we sipped wine and enjoyed each other’s company and the food. The service was attentive and friendly, and the servers were well-versed in the menu.
As this was our first cruise with MSC, we chose not to try any specialty restaurants. However, we were tempted by the Asian Market Kitchen, serving Pan-Asian, teppanyaki, and sushi.
Included Dining Options
Main Dining Rooms Ipanema Restaurant and Seashore Restaurant
Every menu for the main dining rooms includes an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. The menu offers “Classic Favorites,” and Chef’s selections.
The Seashore dining room is open daily for breakfast, lunch on sea days, and dinner every night with three seatings. Guests who choose the flexible My Choice dining can eat dinner at Seashore any time during the restaurant’s opening hours.
Market Place Buffet & Biscayne Bay Buffet
The Market Place Buffet is the main buffet onboard. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It offers snacks in the afternoon and late-night.
Biscayne Bay Buffet, located near the main pool area, is a smaller and more family-friendly buffet. In both venues, you have the option of indoor or outdoor seating.
MSC Seaside Specialty Restaurants
Asian Market Kitchen
The creation of renowned chef Roy Yamaguchi, Asian Market Kitchen is a trio of dining options – sushi bar, Kaito Teppanyaki, and Hawaiian-influenced Pan-Asian cuisine.
Ocean Cay serves delightful fish dishes with fresh ingredients, offering expansive views from floor-to-ceiling windows.
Butcher’s Cut is an American-style steakhouse that serves Linz heritage beef, custom cut by master butchers.
Venchi 1878 Chocolate Bar and Venchi 1878 Gelato & Creperie
I am a serious coffee snob and love specialty coffees. So, I gravitated to Venchi for my “specialty coffee fix” daily. The coffee is smooth, and the specialty coffee creations are delightful. Make sure to leave Venchi with a chocolate treat – it is a fantastic taste of European chocolate!
Final Thoughts on MSC Cruise Line and the MSC Seaside
Having cruising on Celebrity Cruise Lines, I think that MSC has the edge here with its Aurea class compared to Celebrity’s Aqua Class.
With Celebrity Aqua Class, you get the thermal spa, which was just the heated thermal beds last time we cruised them, and the Aqua class dining room. MSC’s Thalassotherapy Pool, steam bath, snow room, sauna, and salt room are definitely a step up. The shows on MSC are fantastic, and the public spaces are over-the-top gorgeous.
Would I book another cruise on MSC after our MSC Seaside cruise? We already have! We are scheduled to take a multi-generational cruise on MSC’s Seashore, the sister ship to the MSC Seaside.