In the cold of Tennessee, a winter-get-away at the end of January has become the norm in my world. While there are several options available, we chose to try out a new cruise line that’s working its way into the North American market. For those travelers who might need the same type get-a-way, this family-owned cruise line called MSC might be something to consider, but there were a few things to note.
A little background. MSC is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, MSC is the world’s third-largest cruise brand as well as the leader in Europe, South America, the Gulf region and Southern Africa. They are also the fastest-growing global cruise brand with a strong presence in the Caribbean, North America and the Far East markets.
We chose the MSC Seascape for our boat and was nothing short of spectacular. With a capacity of 5500, the Seascape was a showcase – a “mini mall and a resort all in one” as one traveler noted. At only eight weeks old at the time of our travel, the details of this ship were carefully thought through. For those considering this line, I stayed in a deluxe balcony, with more than enough space for storage and clothing. The common areas were stunning. From the spacious bars to the multiple pool/lounge areas to even the chocolate bar and high-tech theater, you truly felt more as though you were at a floating resort with areas you could easily find, if you needed space from other travelers. The ship was spit-shined to a tee and the staff was very lovely from beginning to the end.
Our trip was a quick winter get-a-way to the islands of Nassau, San Juan, Puerta Plata and finally to the private beaches of Ocean Cay. Since this was a new boat, we chose to mainly stay free with our time and plan as we went. In San Juan, we took a private, non-ship excursion tour which turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences of the trip. Puerta Plata was a lovely surprise with shops galore in as well as newly developed resort-style areas for both adults and children.
The Seascape Aurea Spa was very reasonable in costs and fabulously accommodating, as was the gym. Both had top notch equipment. The theater was a spectacular setting, although they do need a bit more work on the performances to compete with the other cruise lines. The pools, hot tubs/jacuzzi were delightful. There is a dedicated area for kids that is fully equipped with every water feature imaginable – including two waterslides and toddler area. There was also a dedicated kids buffet, which I must admit was very entertaining at times to observe.
The complimentary dining room was typical food for a cruise line. We paid extra (which was very reasonable) to try two specialty restaurants and would recommend as they were a very entertaining break from the norm. Offerings were plenty. For me, I was intrigued with the moving sushi bar and delighted at entertainment provided at the Japanese restaurant. There is also a Mexican restaurant as well as a full seafood eatery and a steakhouse called The Butcher’s Cut. Believe me, if you leave hungry from this cruise, it’s not the Seascape’s fault.
For those who are interested, The Seascape also offered a “Yacht Club”. I was a tad bit bummed I wasn’t allowed a tour to share those amenities due to tours being full, so not sure if the sizable hike in price is worth it.
However, as a travel blogger I feel I should always be honest to our Unconditionally Her readership, so here were my struggles.
The food buffet – called The Marketplace – was a challenge to navigate. Limited space to move around and utter confusion seemed to be the norm for he more seasoned cruiser. I interviewed several people who stated as such. Low ceilings, extreme traffic congestion and the often-confusing buffet set up – which I called a maze – were all a challenge. And while the dining area was very modern and nice, I am not sure how those in motorized scooters could even manage as the traffic itself was at times so congested many just walked away.
I also have a dietary issue called Celiac Disease. To be very honest, if you have Celiac or any other dietary issue that must be addressed ongoing, this is probably not the boat for you. This cruise line fell very short of the mark in comparison to other boats for true gluten free options and education. They even had a disclaimer they don’t fully cater to celiac disease – only gluten free – which was very shocking to me for a new cruise line. I was wondering if that meant there wasn’t a dedicated area. Also, while I noted upon entry my dietary issues the staff seemed very ill prepared and even needed some education on what “Celiac” meant. That made me very, very nervous. So, for those facing serious dietary issues, I can’t recommend this boat for travel. And I truly hate to admit that. Honestly, other seasoned cruise lines are way ahead of MSC in this aspect.
Also, check in was a bit chaotic. You are bombarded with MSC emails and texts for upgrades and to do a pre-check in which includes photos and health check, but once you arrive, they just do it over again, so I’m not quite sure why we did all we did prior to boarding. So, keep that in mind. However, if you choose to depart via the “Express” option and take your bags with you, the exit from the boat is seamless. And there are options from bus transport to taxi/uber right outside the terminal.
Bottom line, if you are looking for a great get-a-away – and you are a millennial, a gen X or both a millennial and gen X with young family members, MSC Seascape was very reasonably priced and checked all the boxes for a week of fun on the sea. If you are a seasoned cruiser with more dollars to spend and perhaps a quieter, more sophisticated style of winter vacay, you should stay with a more seasoned cruise line like Celebrity Cruises or Royal Caribbean.
Finally, as you know, I must do ‘shout-outs’ in my review. The Unconditional Her Gold Star on the Seascape goes to Brenda. Brenda is a massage therapist located in the Aurea Spa. Never in any of my years of travel have I signed up for two – yep, two – massages. I loved her energy, infectious smile, and.- most of all – her warm hug. If you find yourself on this line and this ship, do yourself a huge favor and pamper yourself by asking for Brenda. Please be sure to tell her “Dolly from Tennessee” sent you. And, if you do have a chance to travel on the majestic MSC Seascape, do try the Baluga Honey. It was one of the best martinis I have ever had and certainly the best on the southern beautiful blue waters of our oceans.
For more information on the MSC Seascape, you can visit them at https://www.msccruisesusa.com