As much as I love visiting new places, I really love sea days. This is especially true when on a ship that has a lot to offer, and at a point in the cruise that I’ve found my favorite spots. What I’d not done until today was really site outside and enjoy the Caribbean. Today’s weather was perhaps the best of the cruise, so I set out to take some of it in and then enjoy more of the wonderful entertainment on MSC Seaside.
Breakfast in Seashore Restaurant
Getting out of the stateroom around 8:45 we headed to the main dining room for breakfast. This is something we usually only get to do once or twice on a seven-night sailing since we often wake up too late for the experience. I’ll admit that shipboard breakfasts, even on particularly high-end lines, rarely impress me, and today’s meal wasn’t bad by any means – but was still not as good as other meals we’ve enjoyed on Seaside. This was also the first time we had any American coffee on the ship (we usually drink espresso) and it was not to our liking. We ordered espresso, and it came as quickly as each time and was as delicious as ever. Coffee drinkers note: Unless you specifically ask otherwise, you’ll get ristretto, which is fine by us.
MSC Seaside Zip Line – Take 3
We tried several times so far this cruise to enjoy the zip line, but on embarkation day we were doing other things, the first day it was being worked on, and the second day was too windy. Today however was the day. We headed to the zip line entrance (having signed up previously) and waited about ten minutes for the 10:00am opening. There were already about ten people ahead of us, and at first, only one of the two lines was open. Eventually the second line was made ready so they could both operate and we suited up.
If you’ve been on a Royal Caribbean Oasis class ship you may have been on that zip line – and while both require safety gear, the Seaside zip line is *much* higher and farther/longer. It’s a significantly more interesting experience, in my opinion, and offers views of the whole ship and the ocean, rather than just the people below you on the Boardwalk. Interestingly, the equipment can’t simply be walked from one side of the ship to the other, as it would add a long time and effort to riders’ routines. To return the harnesses, helmets, etc, a large compartment (similar in size to a commercial air-shipping container) is loaded up on the line, and a winch pulls it up to the top. It looks like this probably happens every twenty or so riders (on each side).
I have a chest harness for my GoPro, which is how I got these photos (and an upcoming YouTube video I’ll put out in a week or two), and it worked, but because of how the zip line harnesses sit, I’d recommend an arm-strap in this particular case.
Neutralizing the Blue
Yesterday in San Juan I got a bit more sun than planned, primary because I failed to put sunscreen on my forearms. With the beautiful weather I decided that today I’d do the tourist thing (living in South Florida, the novelty of sun-bathing is somewhat foreign), find a deck chair, apply sunscreen to the pink parts, and try to coax the sun into neutralizing the blue on the rest of my body.
One thing I’ve enjoyed about the design of seaside is that there is a lot of deck space, with many chairs, loungers, and open space. This in mind, on a beautiful day like today it did take a few minutes to get a deck chair near the pools (especially as there was a belly-flop contest or something going on at the main pool). I almost walked to get a space away from the pool, but in short order several spots opened and I secured a lounger with a nice view off the stern.
The loungers on Seaside are quite nice. They’re not padded like you see on some premium lines, but they are nicely woven material around a metal frame, with a pillow attached to the head. You can swing the pillow out of the way, and below the head is a “deck” of sorts, which allows you to store things under your head without the risk of placing things on a wet floor.
After sweating profusely and securing a couple bottles of water from Spaik, a poolside bartender from Barranquilla, I headed back into the air-conditioning several decks below at the Marketplace Buffet where I met Larissa for lunch.
And on Day Six, There Was Indian Food
Frequent readers of CruiseHabit or RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com may have noticed that I love Indian food. This is often common fare on ships for several reasons, but we’d not seen any yet on this sailing. On most cruises we request Indian dishes at dinner, but hadn’t this time around. This all meant that I was happy to find several Indian dishes at the buffet, along with some more great pastas.
Despite being full, we still found room for dessert in the form of gelato bars. These are available by the pool at the Venchi Gelato and Crepe shop. The bars are reasonably sized and available in several flavors. They feature gelato hand-dipped in Venchi chocolate. If I recall they were $4 each and are not covered by any of the drink packages.
MSC Seaside’s Sports Bar
After eating entirely too much we headed to the Sports Bar for a drink. I’m not a sports person, but it’s a really great venue. The bar is in the center of the space, has TVs above it, and views of the sea. Throughout the room there are ‘pods’ of sorts for groups to gather around, socialize, and watch TVs. Smaller pods may just accommodate four or five guests, while some others could easily accommodate ten or more and even have soccer-shaped beanbag chairs. What I didn’t love is that I asked for Glenlivet and they said they didn’t have it – though most of the bars have the same selection. This wasn’t the end of the world, and I was just 30 seconds from the Casino Bar, but it stood out, as I’ve seen other lines phone a nearby bar to acquire a bottle they might be out of.
Walking to the Casino Bar (and then eventually returning to the Sports Bar with my drink), I was really impressed with the design of the casino. They were very creative in the use of mirrors and lighting, resulting in not only a more open feel, but a cool look – albeit potentially disorientating for some. I may have mentioned in previous posts or broadcasts that the casino on Seaside is non-smoking, but it turns out that there is (sometimes?) a small smoking section. As an asthmatic non-smoker, the area is small enough and situated such that it really doesn’t bother me.
Another interesting thing we noticed in the Sports Bar is that you can order some bar food (chicken wings and such), but the food items are not complimentary. This surprised me as it's not as if the items are a premium offering, like the oysters and such available at the Champagne Bar.
Cruise Naps Are the Best Naps
I still needed to shower after my time on deck, and it seemed inevitable that a nap was going to happen. I’d eaten, had some drinks, sat out in the sun – it’s exhausting, but someone has to do it. We laid down for about an hour before getting ready to conquer the rest of our day, which meant being ready for the early showing of tonight’s production show.
Fly in the Metropolitan Theater
This evening’s production show was called Fly, and featured some dancers that had speed and coordination which made me think life was moving by unusually quickly. The given theme was a bit loose, as it has been for most of the shows – but the true theme was movement. The performance also included several members of Zimbabwe’s Olympic gymnastics team, who were not just there for flips and tricks, they were talented actors with great physical comedic timing.
Of the four shows we’ve seen so far Larissa and I both agreed that our favorites are The Dream (the show on the second evening) and this one. The performers are just so talented that they seem more like acts that would be on short contracts – headliners rather than part of the entertainment for the foreseeable months.
After the show we waited for the crowds to thin out and I noticed that there is not a bad seat in this theater. The supporting columns are far off to the sides, and MSC made the decision to not put seats in any spot which would have an obstructed view. While the venue can look a bit sterile with the lights up, it’s a beautiful space with effects lighting up and house lights down. The one peculiar trait is that the spot lights are located in the house, and if someone walks across the back of the theater during a show, they’re walking in front of a spot. This is because they kept the venue to two decks, whereas many modern ships use three. I do wonder why they didn’t opt to go with remotely controlled spots which could be mounted on battens above the house, but it’s really not that big of an issue.
Dinner in Seaside’s Seashore Restaurant
Despite being tempted by more specialty options, tonight we returned to the main dining room. We were quickly seated, but found it quite noisy. I think this was in part because just prior to our arrival the Cruise Director was doing the big “thank the staff” speech with fanfare typical of some lines. This had everyone amped up a bit, especially a large family occupying three tables near us. When they were done eating, it was like a totally different restaurant.
Our appetizers, mushroom quiches, were great this evening. The rest of the meal was satisfactory, though we skipped dessert in favor of going for a walk. Don’t worry, we managed to find desserts on that walk.
Live Karaoke Brought Out the Crowds
Tonight’s schedule featured a karaoke in Haven Lounge. As is tradition, Larissa wanted to go, I didn’t, but I followed her as I’m quite fond of her. The good news is that the event was actually live-band karaoke, instead of a simple backing track. This is definitely more interesting, and was popular with hundreds of people who filled the ship’s largest lounge.
The crowds made finding a seat tricky, so we headed back to the spot that we’ve gravitated to each night.
Seaview Lounge – Great Music and Newspapers?
Bourbon Quartet is (present tense as I’m writing this while enjoying them) again playing classic jazz, bossa nova, and other tunes. These folks are talented, and also quite personable. They’ve only been on for two weeks but seem to do a great job playing together, reading the room, and charming everyone. Aside from their great music I enjoy heading them speak Spanish with Italian accents. I have no real point or explanation for this – it just makes me happy.
The venue itself is located across from the Sports Bar and has a small open-air smoking area just outside. On some maps you’ll note that this is called News Café, or something similar. You can get pastries and coffee here in the morning and read the paper. What is interesting is that unlike most ships where there are one to two page summaries of various newspapers, this venue has large (seemingly full-edition) color print outs of various newspapers from around the world. I’ve not sought-out any in particular, but the only English papers I’ve run across were the Daily Mail and The Globe. There are some more standard options in Spanish, French, German, and Italian. While I really like what HAL has done with offering the digital New York Times for free to all guests (on their own devices or using the computers about the ship), MSC’s approach is rather cool as well. Oh, and those pastries are excellent – much better than what I expect from a Lucite case on a bar (in fact, it’s actually a warmer, not just a case).
Tomorrow: Nassau Bahamas
At 8:00am we’ll be arriving in Nassau, and at this point I doubt we’ll be disembarking. Nassau is a fine port with many great options (which too many cruisers seem to be unaware of), but as it’s a place we’ve been so many times, and we want to enjoy every moment we have left of Seaside, we’ll probably stay onboard – but we’ll see.
MSC Seaside Live Blog Preamble
MSC Seaside Live Blog Embarkation, Day 1
MSC Seaside Live Blog Sea Day, Day 2
MSC Seaside Live Blog Sea Day, Day 3
MSC Seaside Live Blog St Martin/Sint Maarten, Day 4
MSC Seaside Live Blog San Juan, Day 5
MSC Seaside Live Blog Sea Day, Day 6