Coming off of the MSC Seaside a few weeks ago, I started to think about the best possible way to share our experiences on the ship. For those about to venture on the MSC Seaside or thinking about what ship to choose for your next sea adventure, I thought it might be helpful to compare the MSC Seaside to the Norwegian Getaway.
I spent hours reading reviews and data on many ships looking for comparisons between the various lines before our trip. In this three part series, I’ll walk through what to expect and some of the highlights of our experiences on both the Seaside and Getaway.
Ship Theme & Vibe
The Seaside has been called “the ship that follows the sun.” MSC has marketed the ship as the world’s newest luxury high-tech cruise ship.
Clearly the ship is beautifully designed and many of the features we experienced first hand were designed for a high technology experience. The only challenge with investing in technology and branding is making sure that the customer experience is consistent when using the various connected features.
Mostly, our experience was very good on the ship, even our use of WiFi. However, the MSC Seaside app has a variety of issues that the company should look at closely. One is the inconsistency of the MSC App, how it is organized, the functionality and what is stated in the content. There were several times where the app stated information that was incorrect.
For example, on the app it says under Library that you can visit Guest Services to check out an e-book on your cruise. When I visited guest services, they spent some time trying to figure out what this meant and revealed that the information was incorrect. They were kind and gracious, but it is important for MSC to think about making sure their marketing/content matches up to what is available for cruisers.
Overall, it would be to MSC’s advantage to spend some time thinking about their entire digital presence (including their website) and the overall customer experience.
The Norwegian Getaway is one of the line’s Breakaway Class ships. The ship is the epitome of Miami’s spirit and festive nature.
When we cruised on the Getaway earlier this year, we selected the ship because of the high number of activities available to us from the high ropes course, to the sports court, and many parties.
Although the Getaway is not as new as the Seaside, when you see them docked next to each other in the port (which we did when we cruised the Seaside), you can quickly call out the differences. The Getaway is light, bright, fun and festive at every moment, even in port, while the Seaside seems to be the nicely polished, pristine ship that offers fun and relaxation, but in a much more calm, sophisticated way.
Both ships offer good, mostly positive experiences to cruisers. We should give the MSC Seaside some grace as they work through obstacles only a new ship will experience. The one thing the MSC Seaside can’t afford to let go? Fixing their digital and connected experience for cruisers and making sure employees understand how the ship is being marketed.
As a global cruise line founded in Italy and headquartered in Geneva, it’s no surprise that MSC is used to catering to a large European clientele. With the MSC Seaside and newly renovated port in Miami, MSC is focused on working to reach more U.S. based cruisers. On our cruise, passengers appeared to come from all over the world and based on some of the interactions and observations I had, I would predict that more than half of the cruisers on our Seaside voyage came from outside of the United States, mostly Europe.
Norwegian is headquartered in Miami and best known for its freestyle cruising concept. It is safe to say that they also serve a wide range of passengers, but with such a strong presence in Miami and at other U.S. based ports, the Getaway did not reflect the same type of international diversity that the Seaside did.
The MSC Seaside still tends to through their approach and style cater to a more European audience. I’ve traveled quite a bit and have a wide appreciation for what all cultures have to offer and can appreciate the experience the Seaside offers. However, it is important to consider cultural differences and the expectations you have before you select a cruise. We were ready for this and a more stylized experience when we decided to book our cruise on the Seaside.
For us, the Getaway was a more enjoyable experience, because of the freedom, flexibility and fun that comes with the NCL brand and all of the quirky, activities and personalities that make up your cruise. One experience isn’t better than another, it is more about the vibe and expectations you have for your vacation.
The embarkation process was quick, easy and seemed to good to be true. With the Aurea experience, we did not have to wait in many lines and we were on board within 25 minutes of arriving at the port. What’s one to do when you board before 1 p.m.? Explore the ship and have a Red Stripe. Our luggage arrived early afternoon.
When we checked in, we also received a MSC Seaside bracelet (this came with the Aurea experience) that could be used to charge to the room throughout the ship.
When I wrote my review on the Getaway, I felt the boarding experience was easy and quick. After experiencing MSC Seaside, I have to say Seaside was faster and even more organized. As we waited to board the Getaway, we were surrounded by crowds of people and this did make it critical that you paid special attention for when your group was called.
The “welcoming party” on the Getaway was much better with NCL. As you board the ship, you hear music, get the general feeling that people are excited to be there and it stays that way through your entire cruise. NCL is rocking it with how their employees represent their brand. We explored the ship and our luggage was delivered by 1 p.m., no fuss or issues.
MSC clearly wins in this area. Upgrading to the Aurea experience was totally worth it and it made for a nice start to our trip. The NCL was also easy as well and carried a fun vibe, but MSC takes the trophy.
With the Aurea experience, we booked a balcony stateroom (#9026). The room was nice, clean and had everything you would expected in a balcony type room on a newer ship. Our balcony was extended and gave us much more room than I had anticipated. The shower was about the same size as our shower on the Getaway. I loved the extra touches with the Aurea experience such as slippers, a robe and essential oils in the room.
Lesson learned from our experience is to to a better job of looking at the layout of the ship when selecting a room. Although nice, we chose a room that was at the opposite side of the ship when it came to our most frequented dining spots (mainly the buffet).
On the Getaway, we stayed in a Spa Balcony Stateroom. It was very similar to the Seaside and also came with a robe and slippers. Similarly with Seaside, we had full access to the spa. Our room, although not brand new like the Seaside, was just as nice and clean as our Aurea stateroom.
On the Seaside, the stewards looked like they were always working. When you would pass them in the hallway, they were very friendly, but nervous. On the other hand, on the Getaway, our steward seemed to be more confident. He also was very creative with our towels and left us nice surprises like you see below.
We enjoyed our stay and rooms on both the Getaway and the Seaside, but the Seaside probably has the Getaway beat because everything is new and the balcony is much more spacious in their Aurea Balcony Stateroom. Excuse the mess of a room, but here’s a quick video of our extended balcony on the Seaside.
Every day during our cruise, I would spend at least an hour in the spa, specifically the Thermal area. The spa is beautiful, new and has a few delightful surprises such as the snow room and the scented, aromatherapy cold breeze and warm breeze showers.
Our package also came with two Bali massages, which were amazing. I’ve had many massages in my lifetime. My husband on the other hand before the Seaside, had only experienced one. He is generally really uncomfortable with the concept of massages. We both walked away with the same impression: “wow!” Literally, the best massage I have ever had hands down!
The downside to the Aurea Spa is that there are very few lounge chairs, but especially the hot stone chairs that so many spa goers love (only 3 in the entire spa). For the number of passengers and Aurea spa passholders, this seems like a big mistake. The spa is also extremely dark and closed off, unlike the Getaway’s spa, which constantly reminds you of the beauty and sea around you and allows you to read and relax at the same time.
The Thermal area and spa on the Getaway was also a good experience, but did not have as many surprises or relaxation areas as the Seaside. There’s one large thermal bath, two hot tubs, a sauna, steam room and a small salt room. The Getaway does have many more chairs including the hot stone chairs compared to the Seaside. I remember there being at least 10, but probably even more chairs of this design.
I also liked how the Getaway had a hot tea and fruit area set up inside of the Thermal area. Also, the locker room beats the Seaside hands down with everything you need to get ready for the evening, many more rooms and stalls for showering, changing or going to the restroom. The Seaside on the other hand, only had two restrooms inside a much smaller locker room.
Finally, I did pay for a massage on the Getaway and it was not as good as the massage I received complimentary with the Aurea package on the Seaside.
Both spas are nice for different reasons. As a place someone like myself (the energy bunny) can go to relax for a longer period of time, I would have to vote for the Getaway. I did enjoy the surprises on the Seaside, but it was much too crowded and dark for my liking.
Despite some of the comments from previous reviews, I thought most of the staff was very kind and helpful. The one point would be that there’s a vibe in the air on the Seaside that feels like the employees are terrified of making mistakes. I’m sure this is as a result of past disgruntled passengers and perhaps how MSC is managing a new ship. My advice to MSC would be to continue to value your employees, find ways to encourage and motivate, so that morale can stay high and everyone is having fun.
We met some great people/crew members with interesting stories and those connections will make or break the experience you have. So, be kind to people and considerate. The only time I felt frustration with guest services is when I saw that MSC employees were forced to deal with the inaccurate information living inside of the MSC & Me app.
Hands down, the Getaway wins for personalities, team spirit and a crew that is genuinely awesome to be around. We were lucky enough to secure a Club Vibe pass and really enjoyed our bartender in this area for the life of the cruise. Staff on the Getaway and their fun personalities also made the other activities better and more interesting from Bingo to the big White Party.
I enjoyed the staff members on both cruises, but the atmosphere on the Getaway is much less rigid and open. Crew members clearly feel like they can be themselves and aren’t afraid of making mistakes. The Seaside is a new ship, so hopefully MSC will be taking feedback and figure out how to line up their marketing, training and employee engagement efforts more consistently.
My message to MSC would be: your people are working hard, doing a great job responding to guests and trying to connect the dots, give them more credit and clear the way to make this even easier.
That covers the start of our trip. Next in the series, I’ll cover food, entertainment, recreation, and more.