I recently returned from my first cruise. The trip was to celebrate a friend who recently retired from the United States Air Force. The five day, four night cruise was the right amount of time to be aboard. While it would take awhile to do a full review of the ship, I wanted to pass along some pro-tips that I came across.
1. Book in advance. I booked my cruise three months prior to departure, although I knew about it almost 10 months in advance. I was placed in a wheelchair accessible room on the Eleventh Floor. The room was spacious but did not come with a private balcony, complimentary bottle of champagne, or a proactive concierge.
The other members of our group booked their cabins nearly nine months in advance. They were greeted with views from their private balconies, complimentary champagne and proactive concierges.
2. Status match. As someone that takes pride in knowing the ins and outs of traveling, I missed the memo on using hotel status to status match on the cruise. I found about it the day before we arrived back in port at Cape Canaveral from a seasoned cruise couple.
I contacted MSC and received the status match the next day. In addition to the benefits listed below, members with status are eligible for complimentary cabin upgrades and complimentary dinner at the pay restaurants onboard.
3. Get an account bracelet. At check in, guests are issued a room key with all of their info loaded (see number 5). After boarding, we saw people walking around with MSC bracelets. I quickly found out that the waterproof bracelets could be purchased at Guest Services of ~$10 USD. The bracelet came in handy more than a few times while I was onboard.
4. Get to a top deck leaving port. We left Port Canaveral at 1820L June 18, 2023, Father’s Day. I was able to watch at the SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted the Indonesian Communications Satellite, Satria-1 into orbit. This was twofer, first cruise and rocket launch.
5. Book a Cabana at Ocean Cay. The crew booked a cabana at Ocean Cay for the day after our stop in Nassau. With us getting into port at 0800 local time, the cabana allowed for us to have a central location, out of the sun, to relax. While I mostly lounged and listened to music, other rode jet skis and snorkeled.
Additionally, there are food trucks and a buffet on the island. The buffet, hot dog/hamburger food trucks, and drinks (with the pre purchase of the drink package) are complimentary. The seafood truck was the only one that charged for food.
Lastly, the service, along with the cabana, ended at 1600L. This was not communicated to us. We had seven more hours in port so it was baffling, to say the least.
6. Ensure funds are loaded to room key. The room key doubles as a debit/credit card while guests are on the ship. I swiped my card/tapped my bracelet everywhere I went for the first day or so. Towards the end of Day 2, I was told in the sports bar that me card was “declined” and I needed to add funds or a card to account.
I had no idea what the waiter was referring to so he walked me to one of the account funding kiosks and showed me. I quickly deposited cash and loaded a card to my profile then all was well.
7. Keep your bag. The night before you return to port, guests have the option to place their bags outside of the cabin so the concierge can take them to the holding area. This was thought to make the disembarking process easier. I was given a time of 1030L to leave the ship, if I went with this option.
I chose to keep my bag in the room and disembark in the first group of travelers at 0730L. The was no issue with this at all.
1. Be nervous. This was my first cruise so I freaked myself out thinking about all of the negative things that could happen at sea. The biggest being experiencing motion sickness. I proactively brought a lot of medicine to combat the issue. I did not need any of it. The ship actually felt like it did not move.
2. Go on an excursion in Nassau. Our stop in Nassau was approximately five and a half hours. The group booked an excursion to the Blue Lagoon for ~$150 USD. While the unlimited Bahama Mamas, food, and pristine waters were great, our time was cut down to about three and a half hours due to meeting, lining up (twice), then taking a slow ferry to the lagoon. Looking back, I would have much rather gotten off the boat and explored Nassau and the local area.
The dos outweigh the don’ts when it come to my experience on the MSC Seaside. For my first cruise, it was better than I could have imagined. Now that I have one cruise under my belt, I am looking forward to the next one.