Nick’s experience cruising MSC Seaside in the Caribbean: Very good overall

21

Last week, I took another free MSC cruise thanks to the guide I wrote last year about How to get free cruises by gaming casino status matches. This cruise was my wife’s free MSC cruise thanks to Ocean Prime status and we cruised from Guadeloupe to Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, and Martinique over a 7-night cruise on the MSC Seaside. Last year, someone asked me whether I would consider paying for a cruise on MSC and while we loved the port stops and entertainment on our European cruise with MSC last year, I said that I didn’t think I’d consider paying retail price. This cruise changed my perspective on that: I found plenty to really like about my MSC Caribbean cruise and I’m not disappointed to be getting back on board another MSC cruise later this year.

Positives

Cost

This should almost go without saying, but the cost was hugely positive since I used status matching that I’ve written about previously to pay very little for this cruise.

The cruise fare was free for my wife and I thanks to our Ocean Prime status, which we got by matching from Wyndham Diamond (courtesy of the Wyndham Earner Business credit card) to Caesars Diamond and then we went to Atlantic City and matched from Caesars Diamond to Hard Rock Icon to Ocean Prime without gambling a dime. See more details in this post: How to cruise for free by gaming casino status matches.

There is a surcharge for a third and fourth passenger, so the kids cost us $259 each. We paid a $400 deposit that we got back as onboard credit. It was easy to cash that out by loading a slot machine and charging it to our onboard account, though it looks like even things like gratuities could be covered with the onboard credit.

Speaking of gratuities, those are very reasonable on MSC. They call them “hotel service charges” on MSC and it came to 84 Euro per adult and 43 Euro per child for this 7-night cruise. That’s about $274 total for all four of us in USD — so in the end, the cost totaled to a bit under $800 USD all-in for the full 7-night cruise for all four of us. There are no port taxes on the free MSC cruises.

I should note that because the currency on board was Euro rather than US Dollars, we got a little slighted on our onboard credit: they gave us 350.88 Euro in onboard credit, which is more like $377 USD — so I guess we overpaid for that by $23.

Newer ship = better experience

The MSC Seaside isn’t MSC’s newest ship, but it is significantly newer than the MSC Orchestra and we discovered what long-time cruisers know: a newer ship definitely makes a difference. There were several reasons why we enjoyed the MSC Seaside much more than the MSC Orchestra.

  • Nicer facilities in general. Everything was more modern and generally speaking the ship was in very good condition (with a few exceptions).

    Things were clean and bright and looked modern.
  • There was a lot more to do. I mentioned this in my post about lessons learned by new cruisers, but what there is to do on board certainly influences your experience. In addition to standard stuff like restaurants and shows, this ship had a small bowling alley, several large waterslides, a couple of little kid water slides, large buckets that filled with water and tipped over / splash pad type amenities, and a lot to see.
    The arcade was small, but they had a bowling alley and an F1 simulator. None of that was free, but bowling was $35 for half an hour and you could buy arcade credit in advance at a discount to make the arcade games cost less than $1 each.
    The selection of arcade games was small — it was just the two games to the right here (both driving games — one car and one motorcycle game), a couple of “claw” type prize games, air hockey, the F1 simulator, and bowling. We had purchased $140 in arcade credit for $80, which ended up being overkill given the limited selection of games.

  • There was more space for (almost) everything. Despite eating most of our meals in the buffet, we only had to hunt for a free table one time during the entire cruise (whereas breakfast was an absolute zoo every morning on the MSC Orchestra, where we had to stake out tables where people looked like they were almost finished and then hope to pounce on the table the moment they stood up and before anyone cleaned it).
  • SpaceX Starlink Internet was very good. I was really impressed with the quality of the Internet connection. Speeds were consistently around 90-100Mbps down and 15-20Mbps up. Greg and I recorded the podcast while I was floating in the Caribbean and it worked just fine. I had no difficulty uploading photos for posts I wrote or videos to my Instagram stories, etc. It was of course expensive as cruise ship Internet usually is ($144 for the week for premium Internet or $98 for standard browsing speeds), but it is worth noting that getting work done was not challenging on the premium WiFi.

Overall, we really enjoyed the nicer and more modern facilities. There was plenty for our kids to do.

There was a “forest park adventure” that was sort of like an enclosed ropes course.
My kids loved this splash pad area, which had two small slides that you can see to the far left of the picture. There were also several larger waterslides (see the brown one to the right of center and the two blue tubes you can barely see on either side of the platform at the top here). You had to be 7yrs old for the slides, so my kids didn’t get to do those, but my wife and I did. The one slide included the use of an inflatable tube and it was surprisingly fun (though that one was completely dark until the end, which is a little weird).
This play area was really soft — everything was made out of foam, so no worries about letting the kids run around here.

Long port stops = more relaxing

As you can see, the route for this cruise kept us in a relatively tight geographic area. Distances from one stop to the next were pretty short.

That meant that port stops were very long on this cruise. We generally arrived at 7 or 8am and at a couple of the stops, we only had to be back on board by ~8pm or 10pm. Our kids are young, so we wouldn’t have been out that late anyway, but what was nice was that we felt no pressure to set an alarm and get an early start. Whereas in Europe we wanted to be sure we got off the boat early to see/do something and get back by the onboard time of 3 or 4pm, on this cruise we got up when the kids woke up and took our time heading to breakfast, then back to the room to finish getting ready. We hit a beach by 11am or 12pm and hung out for ~2 or 3 hours and then had no rush to get back to the ship, so we could take our time grabbing an ice cream or a cold drink or whatever on our way back to the ship and still make it on board in plenty of time to shower up and get to dinner and a show.

We enjoyed several easy, relaxing beach days like this one on Barbados.

It’s worth mentioning that we didn’t work too hard at all at sightseeing on this trip. We booked this specific cruise to get away from the winter weather and hit a couple of nice beaches and check out a newer MSC Ship. I’m sure that we could have packed a lot more sightseeing into our days, but our kids aren’t great at long car rides (in fact, we had to pull over as one got car sick on the ~30-min ride from the airport to our Airbnb in Guadeloupe), so we wanted to keep it simple and get to a beach that didn’t require a lot of time in the car. I imagine that our very laissez-faire attitude toward this cruise was heavily influenced by the fact that it was nearly free. Had we paid the sticker price, I might have felt more pressure to do more sightseeing, but as it stood I was happy to get some powdery sand between my toes each day.

Entertainment continues to be pretty good

I continue to be impressed with the quality of MSC’s entertainment overall in that they definitely hire actual dancers and singers and acrobats rather than people who just wave around their arms to the beat a bit or spare crewmembers. Several of the show performers on this ship had seriously impressive talent.

On the whole, I’d say that entertainment on our cruise in Europe was better — there was more variety and the opera singers they had were very powerful. On the MSC Seaside, a couple of the shows consisted of basically the same lineup of performers with different sets of music, so that was a little disappointing. And they had a magician who performed a small part in one variety show and who was then the sole performer one night who was only OK. And then there was the moment when MSC sort of “jumped the shark” — the picture above is from a Peter-Pan themed show (note the pirate-themed costumes), but as you can see in the picture “one of these things is not like the others” — I don’t know Peter Pan all that well, but the T-Rex that came out of nowhere to scare pirates seemed….misplaced.

The live music vibe was more relaxed-Caribbean and I found it a bit sleepier than I wanted, but the musicians were all solidly good.

One of the theater shows entirely consisted of Michael Jackson music complete with a Michael Jackson impersonator who really danced the part well. One section of that show was a bit questionable for a family affair IMO, but overall we really enjoyed MSC’s entertainment.

I enjoy the European culture of it all

One of the most common complaints I’ve read about MSC is that announcements are made in five or six languages, so a 4-minute announcement can turn into a 20 or 25min affair. However, I didn’t hear many four minute announcements (with one exception noted under negatives).

Personally, I love the fact that the cruise director opens the nightly show sliding effortlessly between 4 or 5 or 6 languages (almost always English, Italian, Spanish, and French — sometimes German and Portuguese also). I love that my kids are playing in the kids club and pool with kids who speak other languages and I enjoy the occasional cross-cultural interactions. I love the different styles — everything from the eyeglasses to the fashion choices. It also makes me more aware of my American-ness, which I always find insightful.

That said, the European feel probably isn’t for everyone.

Nights are LATE. Dinner in the buffet doesn’t even start until 6:30 (there was pizza available between lunch and dinner, so we had pizza several nights because our kids usually go to bed between 7:30 and 8pm). The early shows start at 7:30 (my 3yr old completely fell asleep during the Michael Jackson show and I picked him up and carried him back to our cabin without him even noticing). I only met one other American during the entire cruise and they lamented not being able to converse more with others because of the language barrier (I didn’t find it to be a problem, but then I wasn’t primarily looking to socialize, so I maybe this would be a factor if I primarily looked forward to the social aspect of a cruise). The late schedule is unideal for our family, but credit to the Europeans: they party late into the night. I was constantly surprised that there were strollers everywhere at 11pm / 12am — and somehow, I don’t think I saw any kids crying at that hour.

I love the energy and as someone who isn’t really a big drinker myself, I enjoy a more European approach to cruising.

Food was worlds better (including my free specialty dining experience)

I mentioned in my review of our experience aboard the MSC Orchestra that the food on board made me crave getting into port to get something to eat (in fact, the one day that we didn’t leave the ship, the most difficult part of the decision was knowing that we’d be stuck eating the food all day!). Catering was very different on the MSC Seaside. We actually enjoyed the buffet quite a bit this time around and we found enough variety on the nights when we were there after 6:30pm.

That’s not to say that dining was a gourmet experience. Breakfast was very repetitive, with the same exact options available every morning — though, in fairness, there was enough variety that I wasn’t bothered by it. MSC’s pizza continued to be solidly good and pasta dishes in general were also decent on this cruise. The coffee was far more drinkable — whereas I don’t think I found the bottom of a single cup of coffee on the MSC Orchestra because it just tasted that bad, I had a couple of cups of coffee just while outlining this post on the MSC Seaside! (A word to the wise: I’m normally a 1-cream-1-sugar kind of guy, but two sugars helps the MSC coffee along).

We only ate in the main dining room one time on this cruise as we’ve discovered that cruise ship main dining rooms are just too slow for us — more on that under negatives below.

My wife and I both have MSC Diamond status thanks to their status match program (I matched from Hyatt Globalist and my wife matched from Hilton Diamond). One of the benefits of MSC Diamond status is a complimentary meal in one of their specialty restaurants. That deal is good for the Diamond member and one companion in the same cabin, but only if they don’t also have Diamond status. We asked whether it would be possible for us to each bring one of our sons as our companions (since neither of them have Diamond status). I’m not sure whether that’s how it worked if it it was because the kids were under a certain age, but one way or another we got a complimentary meal in the specialty restaurant of our choice on this cruise. We went with Butcher’s Cut, MSC’s steakhouse, which I believe is the name of their standard specialty steakhouse (it exists on a number of ships).

I’m not really a huge steak eater, but since Butcher’s Cut seems to exist on a number of ships, I figured it would be relevant to be able to speak to that specialty dining experience. I’m happy to say that the restaurant was quite good. I had filet mignon and ordered it medium and I was impressed with how it was cooked just right (neither overdone nor underdone) and it was as tender as one would hope. I thought it didn’t have a ton of flavor without the delicious sauces they provided with it, but that may be the “not-really-a-huge-steak-eater” in me talking. The goat cheese tart I had to start had a pleasantly flaky crust and when my wife tasted it she lamented that she hadn’t ordered it. She had salmon and commented both on how well it was plated and how much tastier it was than she expected.

I’ll also note that service in Butcher’s Cut was a clear cut above the main dining room (see what I did there?). I’m sure that was largely influenced by the fact that it is much smaller and we went during lunch, when it was not even close to busy. Dishes came reasonably quickly and service was very attentive. I don’t think I’d have been disappointed to pay the upcharge for a dinner at Butcher’s Cut (though I was of course happy not to pay any charge at all). I should note that the Diamond-member dinner included an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert. As you can see on the menu below, the “Dining Experience” would ordinarily cost 47 Euro per person. Our kids ate from a kids’ menu.

On the other hand, don’t go into an MSC cruise expecting food in general to be fancy. They don’t go to much effort to make you feel fancier than you are by trying to impress you with labels.

Negatives

Dinner starts too late for my family

My kids were often wiped out by the time dinner would have actually opened on the buffet.

I mentioned above that I love the European nature of it all….but the late schedule for dinner just doesn’t work for a family with young kids on a more “American” schedule. Granted, our kids may go to bed earlier than some their age (we usually aim to be reading bedtime books between 7-7:30 and have lights out between 7:30-8pm), but I know other parents whose kids are in bed before ours. The early seating for dinner in the main dining room on MSC starts at 5:45 and it is slow.

In fairness to MSC, that seems to be a universal (and understandable) truth about cruise ship dining: a dining room serving hundreds of people at once has to time out the courses in a more standardized way, but at ages 6 and 3 our kids just aren’t really up for a 2hr meal. Truth be told, neither are my wife and I these days unless the food is exceptional. Again, that’s not a knock on MSC really — we’ve not really enjoyed the drawn-out nature of main dining room meals on any of the cruises we’ve taken. This time around, we made it to one meal in the main dining room. We got there at 5:45 and ordered quickly. We only ordered entrées, drinks, and dessert and the entrées didn’t come out until after 6:30 (about 50min after we’d ordered) and I didn’t get the Pepsi I ordered until after I’d finished my entrée. We finally left at 7:00 — dessert, the only other course we’d ordered at 5:45pm, hadn’t even arrived yet, but the kids were done after an hour and fifteen minutes.

Instead, most nights we opted for the buffet. However, that was on a late schedule also. Lunch ended at 4pm and Dinner options didn’t open until 6:30pm, which was unideal for us since we usually eat dinner around 5:30. Thankfully, there were a couple of stations that stayed open in between lunch and dinner, including the pizza station, the fruit station, and the station with hamburgers and hot dogs. That worked well enough for our kids, but it got a bit repetitive for my wife and I. There was at least one night when we ended up being there long enough that the dinner options came out and a couple of times I went back up to the buffet to eat after the kids went to bed – so I can report that the buffet was tasty and had a good variety of options that differed from one night to another, so I think it would be less likely to bore of the dinner options.

Note that none of the above would be a major problem if our kids were older or if we were traveling without kids. I’m still not sure we have the patience for the pace of main dining room meals on cruise ships, but at the same time it wouldn’t have been a big deal (and certainly the buffet starting at 6:30 would have been fine).

Limited late-night dining

I have enjoyed the fact that other cruise lines often have a couple of options for food late-night dining like a pizza shop, coffee shop, sandwich shop, etc. MSC only had the buffet open late at night and then only had very limited items (pizza, French fries, some cookies and cakes, and not much else). I should reiterate that MSC’s pizza is pretty good, but since I had it for dinner quite a few nights, I would have appreciated the ability to get a panini or something later in the evening on the nights when I was up late working.

No iced tea / lemonade / free drink option

Free drinks on MSC include juice at breakfast and otherwise just water and coffee / tea / milk throughout the rest of the day. Other lines we’ve cruised include lemonade or iced tea or both. I appreciate water and day to day at home I mostly drink water and coffee anyway, but I did find myself wishing that MSC offered something like lemonade every now and then.

Casino was bigger than the last MSC ship I think, but still really small

Hopefully you like these machines, because the whole casino was basically another set or two of these same machines basically.

I’m surprised that MSC gives out free cruises expecting you to lose enough money in the casino to cover the cost of the cruise given the size of their casinos on the ships we’ve sailed so far. The casino on the MSC Seaside is pretty small. Table games were limited; there was a baccarat table, but it was never open, and there was roulette, which surprised me as other lines just use automated / electronic tables for that game. Otherwise, it was just blackjack variants and Ultimate Texas Hold-’em for tables and what seems to me to be a pretty limited variety of slot machines.

I should note that I’m not really a slot player, so if you’re a serious slot player don’t take my word for it on what a limited variety of machines looks like. However, the machines looked very repetitive throughout the casino anyway.

Funny enough, one of the bit bosses at the table games was also on my MSC Orchestra cruise in Europe last summer. Out of all of the cruises MSC offers, I found it surprising to see someone I recognized from the previous ship.

Back to the main point: neither of the MSC ships we’ve been on have had large casinos. Also disappointing to me is the fact that the casino operated in Euro rather than US Dollars. MSC’s website suggests that cruises in the Caribbean operate in US Dollars and when I asked in Frequent Miler Insiders before the cruise, all of the responses I got indicated that those who had cruised on Caribbean itineraries had found casinos used US Dollars. It wasn’t a huge shock that a European cruise line that mostly appeals to Europeans and that departed a French Caribbean territory where Euro is the currency operates its casino in Euro, but I was hoping for US Dollars so I wouldn’t get stuck with a bunch of Euro to convert at the end of the cruise as that just isn’t very cost-effective. I therefore didn’t end up using the casino as much as I’d hoped.

Service isn’t awesome

Service on board a cruise ship in my limited experiences with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, and MSC tends to be over-the-top friendly and helpful. On MSC, some staff approach service in that way, but others just aren’t as friendly. It seems that this is much more hit or miss on MSC.

For example, we found that some simple requests were often overlooked or mistaken. For instance, we have requested distilled water on each of the cruises on which we’ve sailed (my wife has chronically stuffy sinuses and uses a neti pot nightly). While I called room service and requested distilled water like for a medical device, we returned to the room later and they had delivered a bottle of still water. When I called again, the person who answered the phone clearly just didn’t understand what distilled water is and I eventually gave up (I’ve since read that MSC can be hit or miss in whether or not they have distilled water aboard, so if you need it plan to bring your own). We had a few other small misses like this where it wasn’t a big deal individually, but that combined to make service seem a notch below other lines (and given what is ordinarily a more economical price via MSC, that shouldn’t be a shock).

One area where I think MSC could stand to improve upon is letting you know what’s going on. I found Carnival to be a bit overbearing about letting you know what is going on where every minute of every day, but MSC errs on the opposite end and you’d often have no clue if anything interesting were happening unless you carefully check the daily schedule (thankfully, this time around the MSC for me app had the daily schedule available and easily viewable).

I mentioned before that announcements in several languages didn’t bother me and that was true on all except our last night on board. I should explain that most cruise lines seem to sell a cruise for embarkation at one point only — which is to say that if the cruise starts in Miami, all 2,000 people get on board in Miami on Day 1 and all 2,000 people get off the ship on the last day. MSC handles at least their non-US cruises differently: they sell their cruises from almost every place where they stop, so there are people getting on and off the ship at every stop. I actually really like that — it makes both the embarkation easy (you’re not fighting with a huge line of people) and the debarkation not at all stressful (while the room steward will knock on your door at the time you’re supposed to be out, nobody is pushing you off the ship since a lot of people aren’t getting off the ship — so you can really disembark at a leisurely pace.

However, some ports are obviously more popular than others for embarkation/disembarkation. On our cruise, it seemed that a large percentage of the ship embarked/disembarked in Martinique, which was the stop before we were due to disembark. The MSC Seaside has a relatively small theater and apparently there were too many people embarking that day to do the safety briefing in the theater as they had on the day that we got on board. The safety briefing for embarking passengers was therefore shown on the TVs in the cabins. I guess they decided to do that pretty late at night because the Martinique stop had a very late all-aboard time (10:30pm!). Unfortunately, they piped the announcement telling people to watch the safety briefing into all cabins, not just those who had embarked that day. Around 9pm, there was an announcement that the safety briefing would begin in fifteen minutes. Then at 9:10pm there was a 5-min warning. Then at 9:15pm, it was announced that it would begin (along with which channel to watch for each language). Then at ~9:30pm there was an announcement that it was over and you should dial a number on your phone to indicate that you’d watched it. Then, starting at about 9:40pm, there was an announcement every ~5 minutes telling those in cabins on decks X through Y should now go to their muster station. All of these announcements were in 5 different languages, it took a couple of minutes every time and none of them applied to those of us who hadn’t embarked that day. I mentioned above that my kids are usually in bed between 7:30-8pm. By 9pm, they were asleep — until those announcements started, and then they were woken up again every few minutes for most of an hour. That was really annoying. I would think that technology would have made it possible to pipe those announcements only into the cabins that had embarked that day or at the very least for the announcement for people on decks 8-11 to go to their muster stations to only play in cabins on decks 8-11 (just as an example).

And while this is only tangentially related to service, I have to say that we encountered a few places where the ship was in less stellar condition as compared to most of the ship. This ship featured two see-through glass walkways that they called “infinity bridges”. I was really surprised when we got to the end of one infinity bridge and saw this.

Of course my 6r old jumped on it like it was a game before I could grab him and thankfully it was fine (I’m sure there are more than enough panes to withstand one or two of them shattering), but still — I thought it was odd that this was neither replaced nor blocked off. There was one window in the main buffet that looked like this by the third or fourth day of the cruise and it didn’t get fixed while we were onboard.

Restrooms were constantly out of soap. Constantly. Gross.

This was my biggest complaint on this ship. Everything in the restrooms was touch-free, so it is a little difficult to know whether the soap dispensers were truly out of soap or just weren’t working right, but we were constantly finding that there was no soap in restrooms. I don’t mean once or twice — it happened far too often. We had to hunt out a different place to wash our hands more times than we should have.

Shows required reservations

I debated including this in negatives because it wasn’t actually a problem for us except for the fact that it wasn’t mentioned anywhere and so we only found out when we arrived at the first show and someone was standing at the door scanning cruise cards. On past cruises, we’ve always just shown up at a show if the timing worked out for us to be near the theater, but on the MSC Seaside you needed a reservation. You could do this in the app or at screens found around the ship.

I assume that the existence of the reservation system is due to a combination of factors. First, this is a newer ship and it makes some sense to me that they would build it in a way that takes advantage of the the use of technology to gather data (MSC can track which shows you went to see, etc). More importantly I think was the fact that the theater was surprisingly small for a ship of its size, so they had to do something to limit the number of guests at any given time.

Like I said, the need to make reservations wasn’t really a problem for us — there were always plenty of available seats for the 7:30pm show (and you don’t reserve specific seats but rather just that you’d like X number of seats and then you sit where you like on a first-come first-served basis when you get into the theater and you could see how many seats were available still — there were usually hundreds available an hour or two before the 7:30pm show). My only disappointment here is that I couldn’t go back to a show later at night like I did on the MSC Orchestra. There were a few times during our European cruise where the kids lost interest or where the show was just so good that I was happy to head back down and catch it (or at least the end of it) again late at night, but on the MSC Seaside the system said that guests could see each show one time per week.

Kids activities were LAAAAAATE

The Kids Club had some fun activities on the schedule, but they were almost always at a time like 8:30pm. That was probably designed for parents to be able to dop the kids off and catch a showing of whatever was playing in the theater, but it was too late for our family’s habits.

There were some kids activities during the day, like the MSC Masterchef at Sea program, which was the same as the one on the MSC Orchestra. But most stuff happened late.

Ocean view cabin layout wasn’t great

Our previous “free” cruises have been in a balcony cabin (we paid for an upgrade on the “free” Holland America cruise we took, but the others were offers for balcony cabins). This was our first time cruising in an ocean view cabin. While it wasn’t terrible, it made me appreciate the benefits of a balcony cabin.

First of all, the layout of the cabin was a little odd. Our closest was in an awkward spot next to the bed that made it hard to get stuff in and out since there was only barely enough space to stand between the bed and the closet door. Furthermore, the closet door was designed to slide from side to side to open either end of the closet, but the door was constantly getting stuck. It just didn’t work well.

The closet door was difficult to move back and forth and it was a squeeze to get a suitcase in the left side of the closet given how close it was to the bed.

Finally, the main bed was uncomfortable. I ended up spending a couple of nights on the sofa bed and letting my kids sleep in the main bed because both my wife and I woke up very sore from the main bed (ironically, I think the sofa bed was more comfortable). That’s obviously entirely subjective. The bed didn’t feel noticeably uncomfortable when I first laid down, but we both woke up feeling tired enough to want to sleep longer but sore enough not to be able to do so. I felt more rested after a shorter night on the sofa bed.

On the other hand, the shower was surprisingly spacious and the bathroom was clean and nice.

Overall thoughts

Overall, I enjoyed our MSC cruise. I listed the negatives above to paint a full picture, but my wife and I walked away feeling stronger about MSC after much better food on this cruise, entertainment that continued to be entertaining, and a more modern ship that offered plenty of opportunities for fun times. I would definitely consider a future MSC cruise in the Caribbean.

We’ve got another MSC cruise scheduled later this year and I’m actively excited about it. We’ll be back in Europe on that one, so I’m a little concerned that we won’t get the same catering as I’ve heard that MSC’s catering is generally better in the Caribbean. That said, the port stops should be good and at this point I feel like we have a good handle on what to expect with MSC and as such we’ll be prepared.

My wife and I never had any interest in cruising before all of these “free” cruise opportunities arose, but our perspectives have certainly changed for our season of life. With young kids, cruising affords the opportunity to visit multiple places without having to pack up and move hotels multiple times and it provides activities and entertainment and dining experiences that are helping us lay the foundation for future stuff we’d like to do anyway (like fine dining and theater shows). While I’d previously said that I don’t think I’d consider paying sticker price for an MSC cruise, I think these free cruises are slowly changing my perspective on that. Don’t get me wrong, we probably won’t ever become cruise fanatics and it wouldn’t be my first or only choice for a trip in any given year, and I’ll continue to take the free or highly-reduced price cruise opportunities wherever they come in the short term, but in the long run I think that MSC has won me over for a future return to the Caribbean.

Want to learn more about miles and points? Subscribe to email updates or check out our podcast on your favorite podcast platform.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

21 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
JohnB

Nick, thanks for the thorough review on your MSC Caribbean cruise. We may try to get a US sailing from FL. I won’t sail MSC from Europe. For all the efforts to get to Europe, I want a higher quality experience than MSC.

Grant

Thanks for sharing your MSC experience. It seems like every cruise line, every cruise ship, and every region has some variance, so you never quite know what you are going to get when you get on. I’m sure there are bits and pieces you like from various cruises and some stuff you could do without. Looking forward to your next cruise post 🙂

stvr

This is a very sweet tender advertisement for norovirus, complete with the soft ban on hand washing. LOL.

Art Vandalay

We out here wearing Speedo shirts now?

Thomas Hurd

Nick Reyes, you do more cruising than a young Mick Jagger and I love it!!!

David Arnett

This seems like a nice cruise compared to the older ships but the room decor is really tacky. Even the higher level suites are just as bad. I find this with Virgin Voyages too. I don’t know why a European cruise line can’t do better.

MarQ

What points and airline did you use to get to Guadalupe? This is not an easy destination to get to!

Last edited 2 months ago by MarQ
Scott Thomas-Holmes

I took my husband on his first ever cruise on the MSC Seashore from Port Canaveral to Ocean Cay and Nassau. I booked a guarantee balcony and got an offer to bid up to yacht club with balcony. The service was amazing and the private lounge, pool, restaurant, etc. really helped you escape from the crowds.

Michael Tarlow

Nick, happy to read your review. My wife and I both scored oceanview rooms on MSC from Ocean. We are doing back to back cruises out of Venice this summer on the Sinfonia and Splendida. In our cases we upgraded our oceanview to a suite and Yacht Club for $1500 and $3000, respectively. Yacht Club is a completely all-inclusive suite (except for excursions) with butler service. MSC decribes it as a “cruise within a cruise”. When you upgrade you are responsible for the difference in the taxes and MSC applied our onboard credit to cover that. While it may sound expensive, it’s actually less than half the real (not rack) rate. Your review was very helpful and we will benefit from a number of the points you made. Thanks for sharing and enjoy your next cruise.

JohnB

$3K for a 10 night cruise? Have you sailed any other cruise line?

Michael

I have, HA, RCC many yeards ago. Just came off Carnival. Cruising Princess in May, 2 MSC in June and Princess again in Sept ’25. Four of the last 5 are casino cruises. Thank you very much!

The $3k is for an upgrade from Oceanview to full suite Yacht Club. The Yacht Club averages $4k/pp/wk. Virtually every review I read raves and says it’s worth every penny. Think Regis on a ship complete with butler service. Definitely not for everyone. You’ve helped to make it happen. Thankfully most of my vacations don’t cost much out of pocket so I can splurge when it does
.

JohnB

The $3K is for a week cruise upgrade to Yacht Club “suite”. Part of the cost is for upgrading to a suite. Your original comment stated $1500 for a a suite on one cruise and then $3K for the Yacht Club on another cruise. I abhor MSC, that is why I have issues with spending so much money on anything MSC. I know the YC includes the drink package, WiFi package, and a variety of other features. I just find the $3K amount hard to accept. I also sold travel for 30 years and have 55 cruises under my belt.

Maybe, after you return, you post about your experiences on the Frequent Miler Facebook page?

Last edited 1 month ago by JohnB
Dar

Not 100%, but I think those cracks on the walkway are purposely there – as a psych-out. I think I’ve seen them at other venues – Auckland Sky Tower, for instance. A gimmick, for photo opts.

Noah

Thanks Nick – this is encouraging! After your last writeup, we were a bit concerned but decided if we book a newer ship it should be a lot better – and are sailing on the Seaview and World Europa in Europe this summer – so it’s good to hear confirmation of an improvement on the Seaside!!

Terri D.

Good review, Nick. I have cruised MSC in Europe and really enjoyed it. I have Caesar’s Diamond. Could I go to Atlantic City to match and submit for a free MSC cruise? If it is still available I think I would make a quick trip and then try MSC sailing out of the states.

Kevin

Hopefully Wyndham Biz earner will still be a path to Caesar’s Diamond going forward.

Dave Hanson

Really appreciate this writeup, Nick. Glad this experience was better.

Given that you’re cruising MSC later this year, I wonder if there are any itineraries in particular you (or other status matchers) might recommend we check out? (Kids are grown and away, so just two adults.)

I did the Ocean’s Prime match as well, and need to decide whether we’ll try to schedule our first MSC cruise before our offer expires by June.

JohnB

You have to sail by June 30th. I have the same offer. Getting award flights to Europe in this time frame, is difficult. Instead, we are checking sailings from the USA. But MSC is my lowest choice to sail on.