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’s Getaway.
This is part three of my series where I’ll highlight of our experiences on both the Seaside and Getaway. Let’s start with a quick review of the shore excursions
Port Stops & Shore Excursions
I plan to cover our experiences at each port in separate blogs. We definitely saved money and learned how to explore on our own and would love to share some tips and suggestions.
We were excited about our itinerary on the MSC Seaside, but the hurricane season that happened right before our cruise caused the itinerary and ports to change several times after we booked. The final ports of call ended up being: Nassau, Bahamas; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Cayman Islands and finally Costa Maya, Mexico.
Mostly, leaving and returning to the ship was very easy and uneventful. The most difficult port was George Town, because we could not port and had to tender. Leaving the Seaside here was still fairly easy, but on the way back we waited for approximately 15-20 minutes to board the tender boat that took us back to the ship.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica (my favorite stop!)
George Town, Cayman Islands
Costa Maya, Mexico (Our second time here)
Below, walking off the ship in Costa Maya.
On the Getaway, we visited Roatan, Honduras; Harvest Caye, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico and Cozumel, Mexico. It was also fairly easy to leave and return to the ship. With the exception of Harvest Caye, which required a very long walk along a bridge.
At each stop, we did a mix of shore excursions and self-exploration. I’ll follow up with more details on each experience soon.
Harvest Caye, Belize
Costa Maya, Mexico
Our experiences on the Getaway were very similar to the Seaside when it came to shore excursions and visiting the ports. I will say that NCL has mastered the spirit of welcoming passengers back in a fun, festive way once they re-board. MSC could probably learn from this approach.
Library, Bars & Shopping
To start on the MSC Seaside, I carried around the hours for dining, spa, bars and other areas everywhere I went (see below).
The Seaside did not have a formal library, but a paperback exchange. The books were decent and represented a variety of languages. You can find the bigger paperback exchange next to Haven and the billiards area. There’s also several shelves of books on the 8th level as well as newspapers and magazines in the Seaview Lounge.
Our favorite bar was the Sports Lounge, as it was casual and a fun place to play games and have a drink. Every afternoon, they had a happy hour where they served chips and dips or another snack and free drinks.
We didn’t really frequent many of the other bars, they weren’t really our style and many of them feel very open with all of the entertainment happening in the center of the ship. Also, every night, people were quite formal in their attire, so we felt more comfortable staying low key and would retire to our cabin pretty early.
Shopping was very limited, especially compared to the Getaway. If you forget something like over the counter medicine or make-up, you don’t have a lot of options on the Seaside outside of a liquor store (with a few shelves of items) and a few other small stores.
They did have a super shopping time with advertised deals on the Seaside where you could purchase t-shirts and fake watches, but the prices weren’t that great and it was absolute mayhem.
The library on the Seaside was much more of a library atmosphere. There were plenty of books to choose from and it has hours as well as an attendee. The Getaway also had an entire room devoted to games and cards.
We also loved the different options for bars on the Getaway from Howling at the Moon to O’Sheehan’s to an area totally devoted to karaoke. In Getaway’s version of a sports bar O’Sheehan’s, there was plenty to do, drink and eat that was included in our drink/food package. Unlike the Sports lounge on the Seaside where you have to pay for food, mostly wings (again they did serve chips each day at Happy Hour).
Surprisingly, I really liked the shopping items on the Getaway. I found things I actually liked and would buy in the real world. My husband found a very cool cowboy hat and they had plenty of variety.
The Getaway wins again in this area. The Getaway’s library is much larger than the Seaside’s. On the Getaway, more fun is included in your the price you pay to cruise and boredom rare. I also like being able to order bar food at any time of the day in the sports lounge area.
On the Seaside, I failed to purchase a laundry package in advance. When I did purchase one on the ship it took 48 hours for my clothes to come back. They also shrunk two of my items that I didn’t think could shrink.
I love the deal that NCL does mid-way through your trip where you can fill a bag full of laundry for a set, affordable amount. I really missed this option on the Seaside.
Laundry is laundry and my experience was decent to good with the laundry service on both ships. Next time, I’ll remember to pack more options.
Again, disembarkation was so easy as well as finding our luggage before we hit customs. The best surprise was how easy it was to grab a shuttle to the airport. We walked out, a MSC rep asked if we needed transport to the Miami Airport or the Fort Lauderdale Airport. We said yes, and for $25 for two, we were on a bus to FLL in no time flat.
Again, this had to be my least favorite part of the trip. All the fun is over, people are not cheery, and we stood in the longest line we’ve ever seen. Getting our luggage was very confusing and once we finally did, I heard many people saying other ports like Orlando are much more organized and coordinated when people are leaving.
We tried calling an Uber and we were unsuccessful. Be sure when porting in Miami in the NCL terminal, that you’ve arranged transportation in advance versus leaving it to Uber.
MSC has it down, especially in their new terminal. It was not stressful at all. We were giving a color when it came to disembarkation and we walked off quickly and efficiently. The set-up is well organized and low stress.
Both experiences were good. MSC is definitely on to something with the Aurea experience/package. For cruisers who don’t want to upgrade to the Yacht Club, Aurea still gives you an experience to remember with priority boarding, great drinks, access to the spa and many more benefits.
For us, Norwegian is probably a little more comfortable, with the Getaway being a place where we could be ourselves, let loose and not have to worry to much about schedules, extra fees and dress code.
The food, service, rooms and much of the pool area were very similar in quality. All and all a good experience on both cruise lines. With MSC Seaside being a new ship, with limitless opportunities, you should absolutely give it a try!