5 reasons to spend the day at Couples Tower Isle in Ocho Rios

When cruising the MSC Seaside, we were ready to visit Ocho Rios, a port we’d never visited before. Jamaica in particular is special to us, since we were married there (in Negril) in 2008.

I spent hours crawling over everything I could find out about the port, excursions, the culture and what to see. We settled on an excursion that would take us to the infamous Blue Hole.

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Unfortunately, before we arrived at the port, we learned the rain had turned our “blue hole” trip into a “brown hole.” Apparently, this natural wonder turns brown when there are heavy rainstorms.

I quickly turned my attention to Google seeking some sort of day pass we could purchase to a beach or resort that would allow us to still relax, but take cover if needed. Passes to resorts on sites like www.resortforaday.com were already booked or sold out. Then, I had a wonderful idea.  Why not give Couples Resorts, the same unique line of resorts we used when were married 10 years before in Jamaica, a quick phone call.

There were no information for Couples Ocho Rios/Tower Isle available online related to day passes, so maybe one of the staff members could tell me more.

I called from our room on the ship once we were in port. I quickly learned there was not only a day pass, but also a half day pass for cruise passengers that would be leaving by 3:00 p.m. All we had to do was taxi to the resort and purchase our passes in the lobby.  Here’s why taking the trip to Couples Tower Isle for even half a day, is totally worth it:

1. Couples Tower Isle offers sanctuary from the port’s chaos, cruise crowds and kids.

After exiting the cruise ship, we quickly discovered just how crazy and crowded the port area is. With port authority employees on one side of the fence talking to you and coordinating, all other taxi drivers and services are staring at you from the other side of a barbed wire fence.  It was pure madness (you can see in the video below).

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Also, since this was our 10 year anniversary trip and time to relax without children, we were hoping to get away from the hustle and bustle of little people.  Once we finally left the port, we took a taxi ride over to Couples Tower Isle (20 minutes in total).

Once we arrived at Couples Tower Isle, it was like a breath of fresh air and calmness.

Not only was the lobby calm and quiet when we entered, but many of the shared spaces were not busy or crowded with plenty of space to move around.

The resort is all-inclusive and you get more for your money than other resorts offer. I was surprised to learn that we could spend $50 for a half day pass to the resort.  As a cruiser, you are on a time limit from the spots you visit to “all aboard.”  So, purchasing a pass that gave us access from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. was perfect for us.

Not to mention, we were delightfully surprised to learn that everything was included (I mean EVERYTHING). Unlimited food and drinks, access to 5 hot tubs, 2 large swimming pools and bars. The beach and lounge chairs, towels, access to a game room and more.  Basically, every amenity included except for the rooms and the spa.

Pool at Couples Tower Isle where we played pool volleyball. 
Pool at Couples Tower Isle where we played pool volleyball.

It also included access to many water sports equipment, which I outline further down. Visiting the resort was well worth our time and money.

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3. The included food and drinks (and choices) were exceptionally good.

When you hear unlimited food and drinks, you automatically think the food will be lower in quality. This is not the case at Couples Tower Isle.  They have a beautiful buffet spread for lunch in the Patio Restaurant and a poolside grill that can cooks items to order such as burgers and fries and has an open area for things like ice cream, nachos and popcorn.

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Patio Restaurant: lunch buffet and drinks.

The drinks were also wonderful. Every day, we learned that the resort has a different drink special which they make it large quantities. This area is self-serve as well, so you can have as much Rum Punch as you want.  They also have servers walking on the beach and pool serving drinks.

In addition, a broad selection of mixed drinks, beer and wine, and nonalcoholic beverages. I decided to try a Bob Marley and was very impressed, especially with the service received at the bar!

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Try a Bob Marley, you’re in Jamaica.

4. Water sports are included with the price of you day pass.

We had a the best time playing volleyball in the pool with some of the other guests. There was also a whole agenda of activities happening at the resort throughout the day that all guests, overnight or day, can participate in.

Activities at the Couples Resort

They also have an area devoted to water sports and toys. Hydro bikes, paddle board, kayaks and other types of equipment were all included with our pass.

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5. For the adventurous, Tower Isle has a small “clothing optional” island across from the main area of the resort for guests.

Most of the Jamaican Couples resorts have a dedicated nude section.  At Tower Isle, there is a namesake island well know to locals, as our taxi driver asked if we planned to go over to “the island”.

We quickly learned about the island.  It requires a one-minute boat ride from the main beach and pools areas and is a small, rocky island set away from the mainland. The resort picks guests up on the pier as needed.

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Private clothing optional island across from the main resort.

The private, secluded island has a small pool, a little bit of beach, and a swim-up bar.  The one catch is if you visit, you must be willing to bare it all to experience it. The island’s policy is not “clothing optional” but rather “clothing prohibited.” For those looking for something a little different, this option might be appealing.

The Couples Tower Isle=Great, affordable fun

All and all, we had an amazing day at the resort and would happily return.  Highly recommend Couples Tower Isle in Ocho Rios as well as trying out many of the other Couples Resorts.

Photo from our wedding at Couples Negril.
Photo from our wedding at Couples Negril.

 

 

 

 

Doing it on your own: Exploring George Town’s cruise port

When cruising the MSC Seaside, we were most excited about visiting George Town, Cayman Islands.  This is a port we had never visited before and we weren’t sure what to expect.  I spent hours crawling over everything I could find out about the port, excursions, the culture and what to see.

George Town stop on MSC Seaside

We ended up having a memorable experience and George Town was beautiful, just as all of the reviews promised.  Here’s a glimpse into what the port has to offer and some of the unique things that come with visiting as a cruise passenger:

Tendering is a must to visit George Town by cruise ship.

With some of the beautiful coral formations and risks to the surrounding environment, Grand Cayman is one of the ports where you must tender.  Cruising on the MSC Seaside, they made this quite easy and it didn’t take us long to make it across the water. Before we boarded tender boats, we picked up a number from a central area and this was tied to an assigned time to board.

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Making our way from the MSC Seaside to the pier in George Town.

After we exited  the tender boat, you immediately look around and see many restaurants and souvenir shops including places like Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. We spent time in a few stores, taking our time, because we decided not to book an excursion on and explore on our own. Our mission was to make it to Seven Mile Beach, but we also didn’t want to spend a lot of money and planned to “do it on our own.”

If you aren’t a resort guest on Seven Mile Beach, your best bet is Royal Palms Beach Club.

After walking a few blocks, we were greeted by a shuttle driver who was taking people to Seven Mile beach.  We quickly jumped in the shuttle with about 10 other tourists and enjoyed the ride.

The destination was Royal Palms Beach Club (this would have been a 3 km walk), which I learned was one of the only beach clubs or public areas on Seven Mile Beach where you can relax and play outside of the surrounding resorts which are for guests only.

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Note, standing in line to get in, they were checking backs for food and drink which are not allowed.  They have items for sale inside, but they were extremely expensive.

We entered the club which had an adults only pool, cabanas on the beach and near the pool and a few bars. We decided to walk along the beach heading back to the ship (the way we came).

We knew it would be about a 3 km walk, so we weren’t in a rush. We weren’t sure how long we would be able to walk along the water without being redirected to the main road, but decided to be adventurous and explore.

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Walking along the beach doesn’t cost a dime.

Many reviews I’ve read talk about how beautiful the beaches are in Grand Cayman, but especially Seven Mile Beach. And, every last review was right on!  The water was crystal clear and you could see everything last detail underneath as we walked along the beach.

There were also small areas that were clearly man-made coves, where we saw plenty of people, including families, relaxing in the water.

Check out how the locals live, where they shop and eat.

We continued to walk as long we could and finally made it back to the main road.  We took our time walking back, soaking up everything around us including the stores and everyday life of locals.

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Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-9-23,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-veAs we walked, we decided we would head back to the pier to pick out some souvenirs for our daughters. At that point, we were very hot and also hoping to stop for a drink. We were surprised to see a grocery store right off the main drag and decided to check it out.

Kirk Market has everything you need, even if it’s a grocery store.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-9-23,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-veThe grocery store was called Kirk Market and it was right off of Bay Road, the main drag right along the water.  We went inside and actually had a little fun comparing prices to what we see in the U.S.  We also were able to buy a few drinks, a snack and souvenirs for our family. Many of our fellow passengers and cruisers were making the same purchases for more money further down the road right by the cruise ship.  On top of this, the store was actually very nice on the inside and well-organized.

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After we left the grocery store, it was about a 20 minute walk back to the MSC tender boats.  We made our way back, stopping in just a few stores along the way, but at that point we were tired and ready to get back onboard the MSC Seaside.

Expect lines when you head back to the tender boat.

We had decided at the beginning, after learning how expensive Grand Cayman is, to explore and do our best to stay within the small budget we had set for the port.

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To do this, we decided to head back early (1:00 p.m.).  We were hoping to eat on our ship since everything was included and enjoy the waterslides while other cruisers were off doing excursions and shopping.

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We were very surprised to see the long line that awaited us to board the tender boats. We waited for 15-20 minutes to gain a seat on one of the tender boats and finally headed back.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-9-23,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-veEven after making it to the ship, we sat on the tender boat for at least 10 minutes waiting to exit, but we were just happy to be sitting in the shade and relaxing while we waited.

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If you don’t care about organized fun, you can explore on $20 or less.

All and all, a wonderful time in Grand Cayman! Not a lot of stress, no deadlines associated with excursions, and we spent less than $20 on snacks, drinks, transportation and entrance to the Royal Palms Beach club.  Traveling on a budget in a free manner like this might not be for everyone, but we certainly enjoyed ourselves and this new place.

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MSC Seaside vs. Norwegian Getaway Part 3: Shore Excursions, Shopping & Bars

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.

MSC Seaside

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.

Nassau, Bahamas

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Port in Nassau (cloudy and rainy)
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Conch shells for sale as you are leaving the port
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Hubby had to have a coconut water (I had to check my e-mail)
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Right before we crossed (on foot) the longest bridge ever to Atlantis.
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So worth the walk.  Atlantis was beautiful even on the inside

 

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Atlantis casino.

 

Ocho Rios, Jamaica (my favorite stop!)

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Love everything about Ocho Rios, but hated the port! on the other side of the camera is mass chaos behind fences and port employees everywhere try to sell you taxi and tour services.
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Half-day pass to Couples Resort at Ocho Rios (very good lunch buffet, all inclusive and super affordable)
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Lovely beach, yummy Bob Marley. Oh yeah, see that island behind me? The resort’s clothing optional island.

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George Town, Cayman Islands 

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The port and tender boats straight ahead.

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Pretty much the only beach club on 7 mile beach for non-hotel or resort guests.
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George Town Grocery store with much better prices than the souvenir stores.

 

Costa Maya, Mexico (Our second time here)

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Below, walking off the ship in Costa Maya.

 

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Norwegian Getaway

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.

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At each stop, we did a mix of shore excursions and self-exploration. I’ll follow up with more details on each experience soon.

Roatan, Honduras

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First time parasailing at Bananarama resort.

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Harvest Caye, Belize

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Costa Maya, Mexico

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Cozumel, Mexico

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Our ride for the day.

Takeaway:

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

MSC Seaside

To start on the MSC Seaside, I carried around the hours for dining, spa, bars and other areas everywhere I went (see below).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mega deal sale on the Seaside.

Norwegian Getaway

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.

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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).

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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.

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Takeaway:

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.

Laundry

MSC Seaside

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.

Norwegian Getaway

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.

Takeaway:

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.

Disembarkation

MSC Seaside

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.

Norwegian Getaway

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.

Takeaway:

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.

Final Wrap

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.

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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!

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How the MSC Seaside shores up to the Norwegian Getaway: Part 2

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 two of my series where I’ll highlight of our experiences on both the Seaside and Getaway. There’s no better place to restart than with the food and drinks.

The Food

MSC Seaside

Now on to my favorite part- the food! We knew the dining experience would be different on the Seaside due to assigned eating times and reservations.  With the Aurea experience, we had My Choice dining and could show up anytime at the Seashore Restaurant.

Previously, I was very worried after reading the reviews about slow service and beverages, but after our first visit I was surprised by how easy it was. When you walk up to the restaurant, there is a sign and area designated for Aurea guests. The hostess quickly greeted us and we were only in line for maybe a minute or two before being seated.

On our anniversary, we had a wonderful meal at the Seashore restaurant, had the special attention of the staff, and great steaks and sides.

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We thought about eating there again on a few occasions, but quickly changed our minds when my husband and I agreed it was just too formal for us. Both of us are very casual in nature, especially on vacation, so we decided to stick with our flip flops and casual clothes and go to the buffet most evenings. For the dinner buffet (on level 16) there was a wide array of choices, we could take our time and move as we pleased within the buffet’s dining room.

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Bigger buffet on level 8 and only open for breakfast, lunch and snacks.

The buffet was great the entire week for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  I rarely ran into a dish or food I did not like.  The only dishes I was slightly unimpressed with were served on the last night when they added several Indian choices to the menu.  We love an array of Indian food and it just wasn’t that great in taste or texture.  After sampling, I’m wondering now if they repurposed food from the night before (leftovers).  I’m on board with reducing food waste, but their creations weren’t too tasty.

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On the other hand, there were many dishes we loved! For my husband, pizza is always on this list. Here were some our favorites (so be on the lookout if you cruise the Seaside):

Breakfast:

  • Chocolate donuts with a light chocolate syrup.  The best donuts we’ve ever had! And, neither of us are really  into chocolate on chocolate, but we couldn’t get enough.
  • This next one is for my husband- THE SALAMI. He could not get enough of the salami each morning, afternoon and evening.  Also, a nice choice of cheeses.
  • All bread, every type, with President salted butter (we love this butter and I think my husband would have eaten it alone minus the bread).

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  • The overnight muesli was awesome.  I passed this by at first and tried it on the second to last day.  Short story: I missed 5 other mornings I could have enjoyed it.

Lunch/Dinner/Dessert:

  • Pizza, pizza and more pizza.  All of the reviews are true, just do it. My favorite was the pizza with the white sauce.
  • All things pasta, please do eat on the Seaside.
  • Every type of Creme Brulee you can get your hands on. I tried many flavors and they were all excellent.
  • Homemade potato chips.
  • The cheeseburgers.
  • Shrimp Cocktail. I’m not a huge fan, but it was really good.
  • Asparagus soup.
  • My husband loved the Oatmeal Raisin cookies.

Drinks

During meals in the buffet, but especially at breakfast, MSC Seaside servers are walking around taking drink orders.  We found the servers to be very polite and attentive and this was a great relief.  Some of the earlier reviews of the Seaside wrote about MSC not serving alcohol or coffee with meals, but we never experienced this.

Espresso, Lattes and Americanos from the bar in the buffet area were great. They are served in very tiny cups, so keep this in mind when ordering. Also, most of the bars have espresso machines and are stocked with disposal cups, especially at the center of the ship. On port days, I took my lattes to go! All of these drinks were included with the Aurea package.

One of the misconceptions I have read about is that Heineken Light is the only beer available in our drink package. This is not correct. Heineken is the only beer on draft, but bottled based beers are available in many other brands including my favorite Red Stripe.

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Our favorite bartender hands down was Jon Jon, who worked as a floater in many of the bars. He made drinks perfectly every time! He was also a great conversationalist.

With Aurea benefits, we also could have ordered more gelato and milkshakes, but we were always so full and busy we never had the chance. We also drank a lot of sparkling water and bottled water which was also included.

Norwegian Getaway

To us the food served on the Getaway was just as good as the food on the MSC Seaside. Breakfast is the one meal where the Getaway may have the Seaside beat by just a point or two.  On the Getaway, the Omelette station was pretty amazing versus the Seaside where the omelettes were hit or miss each day.  They were mostly good, but occasionally would end up burnt.

Also, my husband I became hooked on the grilled tomatoes each morning, which were awesome.  We tried to recreate at home and could never master it.

I also think the buffet might be slightly larger on the Getaway, but perhaps that is just a perception, because of how the dining room is designed.  The bacon was also much better with NCL than with MSC where they seemed to struggle with salt and grease each morning (bread inside of the pans of bacon).

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For dinner, we purchased the speciality package for the Getaway, which we did not do on the Seaside. We tried Cagney’s, which was excellent: steak, potatoes, bread and more. The Brazilian steakhouse also was pretty amazing and you should absolutely try it if you sail in the future. I found it to be close to my experience at a quality Brazilian steakhouse on my last trip to São Paulo.  The salad bar was top notch.

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Drinks

One difference on the Getaway is that I did have to purchase my lattes separately via the coffee shop at the center of the ship, but on the Seaside everything was included with my Aurea package.  This was also the case with bottled water where we purchased a special package with NCL.

I was more impressed with the beer and mixed drink choices and creations on the Getaway, which really takes the Miami vibe all the way to their menu.  My husband loved the Bahama Mamas and I was introduced to the French Martini courtesy of a new friend.

Takeaway:

The food experience for us was primarily with the buffets on both ships and we really enjoyed ourselves. Both were pretty even in most regards on both the Getaway and the Seaside. Buffets seemed to be equally crowded, but with many options.  I will say that on the Seaside for morning breakfast, we were almost always able to find a seat.  This was much more difficult to do on the Getaway.

Entertainment

MSC Seaside

Games/activities

There’s a pretty big difference between the activity schedule on the Seaside when compared to the Getaway. When we cruise, we’re looking to play games, try new things and meet new people.  Many of the activities, especially during sea days, were rather mundane (crafting, basket weaving, etc.).  The few times we showed up for an activity like Uno or another game, not many people attended.  When there was a group, for example with Scattergories, that finally showed up, we were rushed as they quickly had to move on to the next activity in the lounge.

There were also things advertised on the schedule such as a basketball shoot-out competition for 18+ on the sports court.  We were really excited to play and when we arrived no one was there, not even a MSC rep. There were a few times where I could have probably been relaxing by the pool, but I just prefer to be on the go and have a plan.  The Getaway offered more diversity in terms of things to do, but the MSC has better outdoor space options for relaxing.

 

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Shows

We were so tired from our excursions and always on a schedule usually with little ones at home, we decided to not attend many shows in the evening.  So, it is difficult to speak about the quality of shows, but most do seem to target a more classical crowd. Very much in the flavor of opera as past reviews have stated.

Casino

One of my favorite places to go on the ship was the casino.  It was amazing because it was never crowded (including the bar area). I enjoyed playing electronic roulette and actually did quite well on the game.  A few mornings during the cruise, they offered $3 of free game play on the slot machines.

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Norwegian Getaway

Fun is the name of the game on the Getaway.  I loved the breadth of activities available to us.  They also have a great arcade to play in, much larger than the Seaside’s, when boredom calls.

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The shows were awesome on the Getaway, but especially Million Dollar Quartet. There was standing ovation at the end and we were blown away. I also loved how the Getaway had games like Let’s Make a Deal that involved the audience.  We had a blast playing and competing.  The sports pub also has games inside of it, including darts, which is fun for my husband and I since we love playing games.

We also attended the White Party on the Getaway, but did not go to this event on the Seaside.  We had a great time! Yes, we did jump in a mosh pit to a bunch of teenagers, but we were on vacation, right?

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The other great thing about the Getaway is it has more forms of informal entertainment than the Seaside.  For example, my favorite night on the Getaway was when we went to Howling at the Moon.  It was a blast and really made our trip memorable.

The casino on the Getaway was nice, but it seemed to be constantly busy.  I think it was quite a bit larger with more games than the Seaside.  Also, if you are a table game player, there seems to be more options on the Getaway than the Seaside.

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We also played bingo on both cruises and NCL definitely does bingo better.  Much more fun and enjoyable experience. Plus NCL offers tear-offs for purchase and you get more for your money.

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Takeaway:

NCL wins for fun and MSC for sophistication.  It really comes down to your preference and personality, but for us activity, movement and casual fun is what we prefer.

Pool Areas & Recreation

MSC Seaside

I really enjoyed our experiences in the pool areas on the MSC Seaside.  Each area has been designed with thought, care and precision.  The pool on level 7 is sleek and looks like something out of a luxury hotel advertisement.

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We also boarded the ship early one day when we ported in Grand Cayman to make use of the waterslides and pool area without crowds.  I absolutely loved the water slides. A few comments for you on the speed slides.  First, the one on the right is faster than the one on the left if you are racing or competing with a family member or friend.  You might think you’ll be able to see through the slide an ocean view as it turns and winds, but you can’t.  This was a bit disappointing as I was hoping for a view.

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The video game (Guitar Hero like) waterslide was also a lot of fun, but mostly because the board makes you fo faster.  The game didn’t make a lot of sense and results were inconsistent for me each time. The board is also very heavy to carry up many flights of stairs.  I saw small children struggling to carry it.

I did love how MSC has many more hot tubs throughout the ship than the Getaway.  It always seemed like there was an open hot tub.  It was great to have access to the 18th floor for Aurea guests where there were two hot tubs, towels and plenty of chairs.

The Seaside also offers two foosball tables and two ping pong tables. Unfortunately, by the second day, many of the balls were missing and no one seemed to know where we could find replacements.

We also paid $50 to do the zipline unlimited for our cabin. It was okay, but once you’ve done it once, you have sort of had your fill. If we sailed again, I probably would not purchase the pass unless our cabin had more than two people in it.

 

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As I mentioned before, there was also an arcade and entertainment area with a bowling alley and a few games (all at an extra cost).  There were a handful of games you could check out, but we were reminded we would owe $50 if we did not return them within a two hour period. Some of the games included Life, Uno, Skip-Bo, Sequence.  Note, there were no traditional playing cards as I wrote about before.

Playing cards Skip-Bo MSC Seaside

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Norwegian Getaway

The waterslides were just as fun on the Getaway.  We had a blast going down each one of them on our port day in Belize when the crowds were away.  The pools are nice on the Getaway, but the children’s area appeared to be lacking in comparison to what the Seaside offers.

We spent a lot of time in Club Vibe.  You can read more about that in my other blog, so we didn’t visit the pool areas as much on the Getaway as we did on the Seaside.

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For overall recreation, I enjoyed the ping pong tables, foosball tables and most of all high ropes course on the Getaway.  We love adventure and the high ropes course was awesome because it was challenging, took time to accomplish, allowed you to walk out on a plank over the water and ended with a mini zipline.

Takeaway:

The Getaway provided our type of recreation experience and I especially enjoyed the high ropes course.  I missed the same type of recreation options on the Seaside.  I wasn’t bored, but perhaps borderline bored on just a few occasions? We definitely took advantage of the port stops to work out our adventure bug.  I’ll share more on this in part three.

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The art of relaxation is still something I’m working to conquer.  Either way, both vacations were incredibly memorable!  Looking at Part 3 of my review to post in the new day or two, I’ll cover the library, laundry, debarkation and more.