Category: cruise

MSC Seaside Review: Something for Everyone, but Especially for Spa Lovers

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My husband and I used to be avid cruisers – we love the value, the nonstop dining options, and the luxury of unplugging with the excuse of “my cell gets no service on the ocean.”  It had been a couple of years since we indulged in the cruise lifestyle, so by the time we were lucky enough to win an 8-day Caribbean cruise for two on MSC Seaside ship by MSC Cruises, we were ready to go!

On board the MSC Seaside cruise ship

On board the MSC Seaside cruise ship, on the balcony of our room

According to the company, “MSC Seaside rewrites the rule book of cruise ship design, blending indoor and outdoor areas to connect you with the sea like never before.” I was particularly enthusiastic about this ship, as it is brand-new and had been receiving so much attention from the press. It’s also described as “the ship that follows the sun,” and it’s the company’s first purpose-built ship for the North American market. Watching the MSC Cruises’ YouTube video about the MSC Seaside had whet my appetite, because the ship’s amenities looked spectacular. I can personally testify they’re even more appealing in person!

MSC Seaside cruise ship

MSC Seaside cruise ship

We enjoyed so many aspects of this spectacular ship, from the astounding high-caliber entertainment to the friendly staff members. I do want to comment on how SMOOTH and FAST the embarkation process was. Other cruise lines felt like a huge headache just to get on the ship, but with this cruise, it felt like no time at all passed between parking our car and being in our balcony room.

Our MSC Seaside balcony room

Our MSC Seaside balcony room

It’s always overwhelming to board a ship and see numerous activities. We were impressed by a full-replica Formula One race car simulator, the longest zip line at sea, multiple water slides and a two-lane bowling alley. So many fun things to do!

Click here to watch a passenger enjoying the MSC Seaside Formula One racing car simulator

Click here to watch passengers enjoying the MSC Seaside Aqua Park – the most interactive water park at sea

Don’t get me started on the Venchi Chocolate Bar! I sniffed the air every time I walked through that part of the ship. I finally caved in and bought some chocolate indulgences (all delicious and rich).

Venchi Chocolate Bar goodies on the MSC Seaside

Venchi Chocolate Bar goodies

This retro car is actually a DJ booth

This retro car is actually a DJ booth

The blogger in me also loved the Swarovski crystal staircases in the atrium! So many posing options, but I’m simply going to post my photo of one of the staircases. It was so beautiful, all my pitiful attempts at posing on it probably would just ruin the aesthetic, LOL!

One of four Swarovski staircases in the atrium

Multi-story atrium

Multi-story atrium

I tremendously enjoyed the MSC Aurea Spa. It’s the largest Balinese spa at sea, and the staff members were so friendly and welcoming. The decor was chic, described as “exotic designer interiors combining natural stone, wood and rich mosaics with superb sea views.”

MSC Aurea Spa lobby - outside the doors, there is a private area with hot tubs and relaxation lounge chairs

MSC Aurea Spa lobby – outside the doors, there is a private area with hot tubs and relaxation lounge chairs

We particularly enjoyed the Thermal Spa! That was actually my favorite thing from our entire indulgent spa experience.

MSC Aurea Spa jacuzzi tub

MSC Aurea Spa jacuzzi tub

If you’re a spa-lover like I am, you can splurge on the week-long Thermal Spa access pass, which is $190 per person. At the very least, I highly recommend planning to do at least one day of it! The day pass is $60 per person, and I believe it’s well worth the price for the unique experience.

You’re given a bracelet, which has icons that are actually a suggested series of steps to take. Some of the individual rooms were familiar, such as a sauna, but others were entirely new – for example, there’s a SNOW ROOM! I started laughing when my husband and I were shivering together in it, and he started singing a hymn to himself for comfort. We only remained in that room for a couple of minutes.

Thermal Spa salt room filled with Himalayan salt

Thermal Spa salt room filled with Himalayan salt

The suggested series of steps takes you through a sequence, reminding me of the Asian-style hot-and-cold therapies. We both felt so invigorated afterwards! My favorite room was truly the Himalayan salt room. So relaxing and good for respiratory therapy!

Couples massage room in the MSC Aurea Spa

Couples massage room in the MSC Aurea Spa

Nathan and I enjoyed a Couples Massage, which is a full body massage for 50 minutes in one room with two beds. The rooms were attractive — note the swan-styled towel art — and the atmosphere was relaxing. If you are going to indulge in a treatment, my recommendation would be to do it during a “Sea Day” (a day on the cruise itinerary in which you remain at sea and do not stop at a port). It gives you something to look forward to! That’s what we did.

Overall, we absolutely LOVED our time on MSC Seaside. I hope you get to experience it for yourself some day! Comment below and let me know what you think of this magnificent ship.

Thanks for reading!

XO,

~Angela~

MSC Cruises provided this complimentary cruise as a result of our winning a contest. As always, opinions are my own.

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Photos from our 8-day Carnival “Breeze” Cruise to Aruba, Curaçao, Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos

Nathan and I did an 8-day Southern Caribbean cruise from Miami in April, and I’ve been meaning to post these pics in a blog for weeks now. Better late than never! Here’s a QUICK VIDEO from Carnival on the ports of call and the ship we took.

Leaving Miami

It was the longest cruise we’ve ever done, and it was the 6th cruise we’ve taken. All of the ports of call were new to us, which is great because when you cruise from Miami a lot you can start to see the same Caribbean ports of call as options (like, we’ve cruised to Cozumel twice, and the Bahamas twice… not that I’m complaining, you understand).

A view of our ship from the water in Grand Turk

With such a long cruise, there are enough sea days to allow you to fully relax. I loaded up my iPhone’s Kindle app with books, and brought books to keep me entertained. I also enjoyed the ship itself, the Carnival Breeze, which had watersides, the Punchliner comedy club presented by George Lopez (which we loved), and even a multi-dimensional Thrill Theater, which made you feel more immersed in what you were watching since it would spray you with water, blow wind at you and move the seats during the 3D showings.

I think my favorite port of call for the sheer enjoyment factor was Grand Turk in Turks and Caicos. It was just a simple place where as soon as you walked off the ship, you were on the beach. You didn’t have to worry about taxis, going far away, etc. Everything was right there!
Our shore excursion was a boat ride to a small, private island, where the water was shallow and we got to encounter stingrays. 
Unfortunately, I left my ship towel on the small boat, so the second half of my excursion was filled with a bit of worry while I waited for it to return with the other excursion crowd. But it made it back in time for me to grab my towel and get back on the big cruise ship. We almost missed our cruise ship a couple of cruises ago in St. Maarten, and I never want to go through that stress again!!
My favorite relaxation spot in the entire cruise! Look how close our beach was to the ship… and the snorkeling was great right there.
The next port of call was the southeastern tip of the Dominican Republic, La Romana. I really enjoyed the history of that place, because we took the Santo Domingo city tour. It’s the capital of the DR. The bus ride was almost two hours long, but our tour guide was AMAZING and talked about La Romana the entire time… he kept it really interesting. 
The lighthouse where Christopher Columbus’ remains lie… the Columbus Lighthouse honors the memory of the discoverer of the Americas.
 
The photo on the left shows the outside Alcazar de Colon, the palace of Hispaniola’s first Governor and son of Christopher Columbus, Don Diego Colon… it had a lot of historic artifacts inside, seen on the right. 

This is the First Cathedral of the Americas! So historic!!
We walked through the Colonial Zone and visited the National Pantheon. This is a Christopher Columbus statue. I was worried about pigeon poo. Watch your head! 😉
Lots of walking, lots to see

The next port was Dutch Curaçao, which was adorable/funky! Just pulling in to the port, you are immediately greeted by the sight of those bright Easter-egg-colored buildings. Love it.
We learned during our city tour that the reason the bright painting began was because of political corruption– a former governor said he had an eye condition that caused him pain when he looked at white buildings, so he passed a law that required buildings to be painted colors. After he died, it turned out that he OWNED the paint factories! So he was profiting from it. Despite those negative beginnings, it has probably paid off for the island in terms of recognition and tourism value through the years.
Hello, cuteness!
The flag, and our ship in the distance behind the awesome cityscape
The city tour had a nice stop at the local aquarium

We stopped at an original Curacao liqueur factory, which makes a liqueur flavored with the dried peel of the laraha citrus fruit
This is the famous “swinging lady,” the Queen Emma Bridge– hinged and opens for passing boats
Getting back on the boat, with a fellow passenger taking a picture beside us, haha

Our final port of call was Aruba. After singing the Beach Boys song “Kokomo” for years, I was excited about this one– and it ended up being a tiny bit of a let-down. Maybe I was just “cruised-out,” or we chose the wrong shore excursion, but I just wasn’t that impressed. Still, it’s a Caribbean island, so you can’t go too wrong with it! 😉 
We snorkeled, and the boat ride there was fun because it took us along the shoreline so we got to see the island edges of Aruba.

I know I’m spoiled because I snorkel all the time here in Florida, but I wasn’t loving the snorkeling there. Visibility was not great, although it was kind of hauntingly cool to see the submerged ship off the coastline (it was deliberately sunk to avoid capture by the Germans some decades ago).

A lot of times on cruises, you can just wander around in the tourist areas and shop, but we are not really into that. So after walking around for a bit, I was ready to hop back on the boat and head home.

The ship itself was nice and new, and the entertainment was pretty good, with the comedy club being my favorite. All I did was EAT AND EAT AND EAT, and I also loved our balcony room. It was so nice to sit on the balcony, watch the waves and read a book. 🙂 Yay cruising!

Ship atrium
  
I love the cruising life! Super fun and relaxing!
With one of the hilarious comedians 
Our dining buddies
The waiters always put on a show

So, all in all, a very successful trip that left me relaxed and refreshed. I also love how your cell phone loses signal when you are off-shore, so you are truly unplugged. I highly recommend cruising if you haven’t done it yet!

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