For our experience, my wife and I chose the Yacht Club level of stateroom, and our three children joined us. Other staterooms available include inside (no windows), ocean view (window), balcony, and balcony suite. Some rooms hold two guests, while other rooms can hold 5-6.
MSC Seaside was launched in December 2017 and quickly received a number of bad reviews. This is the case with nearly every new cruise ship. In fact, many passengers will intentionally book the first sailings, with hopes of finding problems, bad service from a brand new crew, and they are looking for opportunities to complain… thus trying to earn freebies, discounts and other favors.
We found very little to complain about. In fact, our experience was “five stars” or “diamond” in virtually every aspect of the ship. We’ve been on 7 cruises on 7 different ships from 5 different companies.
YACHT CLUB ENTRY & SECURITY
The Yacht Club "welcome / entry" consists of 3 white pop-up tents and a couple of folding tables.
At 10:30 a.m. three staff members arrived at the tents, checked us in, provided luggage tags, took our bags, and showed us into the indoor waiting area. Being priority guests, we did not have to stand in the longer waiting lines. Instead, we were taken into a priority queue, and had to wait until security staff were ready, around 11:00 a.m.
YACHT CLUB RECEPTION
Getting through security / metal detectors was easy. Our Yacht Club guide gathered us and took us through the main waiting area (zero waiting) and directly into the Yacht Club gathering space. We quickly met with a clerk who took our boarding tickets and passports. She took our photos. Then we sat down to enjoy a variety of pastries, donuts, chocolates, fruit, orange juice and champagne… as much as we wanted. When our ship cards were ready, the clerk gave them to us, along with our Yacht Club wristbands which also act as an on-board ship card.
At 11:45, guests who already had ship cards were invited to leave the waiting room and board the ship. We were guided by a butler into the ship and to an elevator which took us straight to floor 16. He was wearing a tuxedo, white gloves, and carried a paddle sign that said "Yacht Club." Exiting the elevator, we were welcomed through the Yacht Club doors, and guided to the Yacht Club lounge. We could not believe how quickly we boarded Seaside!
INTRODUCTION TO THE LOUNGE
Inside the Yacht Club lounge, we were greeted by a waiter who asked us what time we like to eat dinner, and if we would be celebrating any special birthdays, etc. We sat down on the comfortable velvet couches and were offered our choice of beverage. There was also a small “buffet” of fancy snacks, sandwiches, and mini pastries. All for the taking.
GOING TO OUR STATEROOM
We were invited to visit our room, which accommodated 5 people. The Yacht Club offers a few different sizes of suites, from inside staterooms to extra large luxury suites with huge balconies and jacuzzi tubs. Our room was something in the middle. It was the largest stateroom we’ve ever stayed in (going on 7 cruises now).
It had the largest bathroom we’ve experienced on any cruise ship. It had the biggest shower. Wand spray and ceiling spray. The hot water came quick and had great pressure. The toilet sitting area was large, and the sink was big. There was tons of shelf storage for hygiene items. And we found plenty of towel rods and hooks to hang our items. The bathroom was a delight.
STORAGE AND BEDS
The stateroom had two closets and numerous drawers for storage of both large and small items. The room is “divided” into two areas: master bedroom and sitting room. The “divider” is really just a bookshelf that is less than half the width of the room. The memory foam master bed was at least queen size and had 4 great pillows. The sofa bed was large, enough for two adults. And a third bed dropped down from the ceiling, with access via ladder; perfect for a child or young teen.
FRUIT & MINI BAR FRIDGE
There was a bowl of fruit that was advertised as “fresh fruit.” But the bananas, apples and pears unfortunately looked like they had been on a number of cruises before we arrived! So really they were more of a prop.
The mini bar was stocked with a variety of sodas, juice, beers, vodka, gin and whisky. It also had pringles, chocolate covered nuts, and other snacks. All of that was free for the taking. As much as you want. They will just fill it back up!
The flat panel television was at least 50” and looked great on the wall. It offered video on demand, access to your stateroom account details, and a huge variety of television channels mostly from the United States, but also featured stations from Germany, France, Italy and so on.
BALCONY & DRAPERIES
The balcony door unlocked and opened easily. It felt very secure. The huge balcony offered three chairs and an ottoman, all commercial quality with a “wicker” netting. The railing was high enough that our three-year-old could not possibly fall overboard, even if she was to stand up on a chair or the foot stool.
The shade that covers the door was great. It had an internal blackout layer and an external decor layer. When closed, the room was pitch black. However, they were not so easy to open and close.
LIGHTING, ELECTRIC, TEMPERATURE
To keep the lights on in the room, one guest’s ship card must be in the door slot. If there’s no card, the lights will auto-off in a few minutes, to conserve power. By the way, there were at least 7 light switches for the room: main entry, bathroom, reading light and ambiance light on both sides of the bed, sofa area, desk area, and balcony lighting.
On the desk area, below the TV, there were two United States electric outlets, two European outlets, and two USB-A power outlets. We brought our own extension cord that offered three extra outlets.
The stateroom had two thermostats: one for the master, and one for the sofa area. The room temperature was preset and was very comfortable. Even when we opened the door to have hot air rush in, the room cooled down quickly.
The Yacht Club room decor is great, and seems to be a step above the decor of the other room categories on board, if you just look at other cruisers' photos.
OTHER YACHT CLUB AREAS
But the gorgeous, comfortable and large stateroom is really just the beginning of the Yacht Club experience. There’s the Yacht Club Lounge, Restaurant, Bathrooms, Elevators, Concierge, Butlers, Viewing Deck, The One Pool, Hot Tubs, Sunning Deck, Bar, Buffet and full access to the Aurea Top 19 and Thermal Areas.
As much as you could easily blow off the existence of a “living room,” we found ourselves investing an incredible amount of time enjoying the experience of the Yacht Club Lounge. Getting to it is easy; it’s just a short skip down the hall. When you enter, you are seen by at least one waiter and immediately greeted with a “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon,” etc. They may also know your surname and use it. As a guest you could easily just sit down in one of many seats or sofas, or you could walk straight to the bar and request a drink, then take a seat to enjoy the view, read a book, talk with a guest, or anything else you want to do. The waiter brings your drink quickly. There is no receipt. No asking your room number. No nothing. Just your drink and “is there anything else that I can get for you?” and a smile.
In the Lounge, you get up and sit down and get this and ask for that, truly just whatever you want. Imagine living in a gorgeous home that’s fully stocked with your favorite snacks and drinks, and they’re all yours for the asking. Imagine being able to wear whatever you want and just do whatever you want in your own living room. Use your laptop, play a board game, read a book, sleep, talk, look at the ocean, talk to the staff. WHATEVER. It’s your room and it’s your safe space. Your happy place. Finish your drink? Ask for another, or switch it up. They take your empty and bring your new. Hungry? Grab something from the mini buffet, or ask for a special item. They will go and get it for you. Used dishes don’t sit for long. The Lounge is kept clean by staff. It is open from 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. So party on, my friend. In my opinion, this room alone is worth the price of admission.
In the evening at the lounge, there were a variety of musicians and they were all very good. A female duo played piano and violin. A male performer played harmonica, guitar and sang. Another male played piano and sang. All performances were mellow and subtle and never in your face. Twice I made song requests and both times they were provided, in their own special way. I loved it. For the record, the songs were “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin and “Need You Tonight” by INXS.
During the week, I visited the Lounge probably a hundred times. Sometimes I was intentionally alone. Sometimes I walked up to a complete stranger and was looking for a nice conversation. Other times our family sat next to another family to share our experience of the ship. While the Yacht Club is the most luxurious and “executive” area of the ship, it was never stuffy in any way. In fact, I dare say it was much more laid back than other public parts of the ship. I didn’t hear CEOs talking about return on investment. I didn’t hear about the best golf courses in the world or the best wine in France. Instead, I met Brent, a guy my age who is a university 4H instructor in the Carolinas. I never met his wife and daughter who apparently were both shy and spent much of their time in their stateroom. I met Steven, a father of two kids, Austin and Katia, from Georgia. I met Bob and Tish, a senior couple who shared their heroic story of simply getting to the ship on time. And one night I drank with Bob as he talked about his Acura Repair business. The Lounge staff gently reminded us it was time to go when they turned the lights to 100% at 1:30 a.m.
There are two automatic doors that lead from the Lounge to the viewing deck. The deck is just as wide as the Captain’s bridge, extending further past both sides of the ship, further than any other spot of the ship, providing the single best full-ship side-view that is possible on board Seaside.
On the deck there are padded lounge chairs, padded benches and tables. Very few people visited the deck, so being there was like owning the ship, kind of having it all to yourself.
There is a Swarovski Crystal staircase that leads up to the Yacht Club Restaurant. At breakfast, lunch and dinner, you are greeted by the very fun and friendly Giuseppe, the Maitre’d. “Bon Giorno” he announces happily, in a used-car-salesman-meets-italian-actor-but-nice kind of way. He walks fast, cracks cute jokes, is very personal, and is active in managing his restaurant. By no means does he sit back and watch. Instead, he goes out of his way to make sure the staff is on point. Once we watched him vacuuming crumbs from the floor. He was not afraid of elbow grease.
Like any good cruise ship restaurant, the staff gets to know your wants and needs. For example, one time I entered the restaurant and was craving blue cheese. They promptly provided it. And every day afterward they brought a plate of cheese as we sat at the table!
At dinner, the waiter offered a choice of bread from the basket. They brought two and three kinds of butter. They took orders for wines and soft drinks, coffees, and liqueurs, and brought all quickly.
Our chosen appetizers, entrees and desserts were provided quickly. Custom orders were created perfectly. For example, I mostly stayed away from starches and breads. One night when the menu included steak, lobster, and fish, I asked for all three to be delivered on the same plate, with no sides included. They delivered exactly what I asked. And when I wanted more to eat, they delivered.
The two negatives of the dining room were that 1) they didn’t seem to listen well to what we wanted for wine. At least twice we asked for one wine, but were later offered another. We corrected them and they fixed it quickly, but for being in Yacht Club, that was kind of annoying. And 2) a pet peeve of mine is that I like dirty dishes to be removed very quickly. Often times, the dishes sat long enough that I had the chance to photograph them and even stack them all up … to make it look obvious that it was time for the dishes to GO.
Typically on cruises we prefer to sit with other couples or families. In the Yacht Club there are two larger tables and the rest are for parties of 2-6. We never sat with another couple or family, but we had enough fun, just the five of us. While many people did sit quietly in their party, there were some tables who were comfortable with their conversations, and even sharing between tables. It never felt stuffy or too proper in the dining room. We’re not fancy people, and we enjoyed it very much. Oh, and on formal night, we didn’t see a single tuxedo. In fact, I think the Yacht Club members take “formal night” a lot less seriously than they do in the public dining rooms. I wore slacks and a button shirt with a jacket the first night. No tie. The second formal night I ditched the jacket, too. Many guys wore khakis or even a really nice pair of jeans on formal night.
For what it’s worth, I think that many first and second time cruises look forward to the glitz and glamour of formal nights. It’s their chance to shine, wine and dine. And that’s fine. Maybe these folks don’t get out often enough. Or who knows? But frequent cruises and especially those with children, I believe, would rather just skip formal nights altogether because it’s sort of a hassle, and it even makes packing for the trip more difficult. On a one-week cruise there are usually two formal nights, and they usually happen on days when the ship is “at sea” all day and did not visit a port / city.
I would not say the Yacht Club restaurant was my favorite part of the Yacht Club experience. But what WAS special about it was 1) we could dine anytime we wish (not on a schedule), 2) it felt intimate but not too small, 3) the maitre’d was always around and the staff was very active. It would be better if 1) children were served (something / anything) VERY fast to calm them down, 2) dirty dishes were whisked away fast, and 3) the live music (coming from the lounge below) was happening all evening and not just in short sets. But these are picky items, I admit.
You don’t have to eat in the Yacht Club Restaurant or in the Yacht Club Lounge. Of course, you are free to visit any of the buffets on Seaside, pay extra to eat in a specialty restaurant, or you can go to the Poolside Buffet on the Yacht Club Pool Deck. This very exclusive outdoor buffet is on the 19th floor, easily accessible using the Yacht Club Elevator (that only goes from 16-18-19).
The Yacht Club buffet offers a carving station, numerous side dishes, at least two poultry dishes, fish dishes, vegetables, salads and deserts. As much as you want. The food is the proper temperature and the area is never crowded. In fact, you’ll be lucky to bump into one other person at the buffet. There were more staff and bartenders behind the counter than guests in front of the counter! It was here that I discovered my new favorite fish: Grouper. OMG. I ate a lot of it.
The bar adjacent to the buffet has every wine, beer and liquor you could want. You just ask and it’s yours. Quickly. Very quickly. Ask for another. And another. Or rattle off a list of drinks that you want for you and your friends. Voila, here it comes. Compare this to a bar in the public area of the ship: the queue takes a long time, you can order only one drink per ship card, and it will take a few minutes to receive. Ugh, no thanks. Back to the Yacht Club!
YACHT CLUB POOL
People go on tropical cruises to be at peace, enjoy the pool, and lay in the sun. But one common problem with cruise ships is the people-to-pool-chairs ratio. It’s often hard to find an open chair, especially if you are with others and need multiple chairs together. Additionally, the common pool areas are loaded with people. Some ships are worse than others. It’s not all bad, I mean, after all, you’re in the caribbean or in mexico, etc!
But the Yacht Club Pool is an entirely different experience. There are far more chairs than there are people. And in my experience there were fewer than 10 people in the water. There was plenty of space to soak, to push back and forth, and chat with other guests. I met two moms, their kids and the grandma. They were all enjoying the shallow water, and were all as pleasant as can be.
Laying on the deck chairs were men and women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and so on. They were tanning, reading, eating, drinking. It wasn’t quiet, thanks to the kids having fun. But it wasn’t loud and obnoxious either. Nobody seemed boring, or annoyed. It was just a nice balance.
Oh, the towels! When you stay in the Yacht Club, your stateroom attendant or butler can provide you with exclusive blue full-size towels, or you can get as many as you need at the Yacht Club Pool, and you can use them anywhere on the ship, or take them onto shore. Yacht Club towels are put onto the poolside chairs. A clean and folded towel on the chair means that you are welcome to take it, and / or sit there. If you take it, it will surely be replaced quickly.
YACHT CLUB HOT TUBS
Walking from the pool and buffet area toward the front of the ship, you’ll pass shaded teak dining tables, more lounge chairs, and enter the forward deck. There are two hot tubs that seem to be intended for adults, though any Yacht Club member can use them. This forward area always seemed to be a little quieter than the pool area. So if you’re looking for quiet, you know where to go.
Cruise ships are famous for selling upgrades, extra food, extra experiences, and merchandise. One common sales pitch is the spa area for massages. But Yacht Club members have complete access to the Thermal Area that is within the Aurea Spa.
To start, grab the Yacht Club robe from inside your Yacht Club stateroom closet. Wear it over your bathing suit. You can bring a Yacht Club towel with you, or you can grab towels from the spa. Put on your Yacht Club slippers and get going.
The Thermal Area is easy to get to. It’s a quick elevator ride down from the Yacht Club to floor 8. Turn the corner and you are there. Don’t worry that you’re wearing a robe and others you see in the hallways are fully dressed. After all, you are on vacation, and the other people are envious of you -- you’re in the Yacht Club -- and clearly you are headed to the spa to relax!
In the spa area, grab an extra towel from reception, or just walk right past it. Since they recognize your Yacht Club robe, and your Yacht Club bracelet, they do not question you for being there.
First, head into the mens and womens dressing rooms. Your bracelet will open a storage locker. Throw your robe, slippers and towel inside, then lock it back up. Take a quick shower, and walk back into the hallway. Open the opposite door to the actual Thermal Area (fully coed) and welcome yourself into heaven on board.
The Thermal Area features EIGHT specialty showers (four enclosed sets of two showers) that have hot and cold water, as well as rain or mist that contains various aroma therapy. You can use them as long as you want, either alone, or with your partner.
There are two dry sauna rooms. They seemed identical in function, though at one point, one of them seemed slightly warmer than the other.
There’s a salt room with 8 lounge chairs. I expected it to be warmer in this room, and I expected to smell salt. But it was neither warm or had aroma. I spent little time in here.
There’s an ice room. It’s small, has two small wooden benches, and it’s cold. There’s literally snow on the decorations and the floor. It is created with a mist coming from a nozzle near the ceiling. Wear some sandals. It’s very cold to the feet.
There’s a water station with two chilled coolers / spouts. They use 8-ounce plastic cups that are always stocked. However, the water was never flavored like they do in fancy hotels. I expected (and wanted) cucumber or lemon or orange or something. But it was plain. It’s very important to stay hydrated between treatments, so drink water and drink often.
Also in the Thermal Area, there is a steam room that is “light” with solid white benches that are illuminated by blue light above. Each of two benches holds about 3-4 guests. When the steam is heavy, you truly cannot see the other guests inside. It’s nice like that! There are four water hoses to cool down and rinse off. One hose is on each end of both benches.
There’s a second steam room that is “dark” with solid black benches. The walls are dark, and it’s equally difficult to see others when the steam is thick. Nice!
There’s a “geyser” room that I never used. It has four stations that shoot water from the floor. The first is cold, the second warm, the third cold, the fourth warm. You are supposed to go through all of them, then exit. The cold was too cold and I could not use it. My preference. Others did use it.
In addition to the lounge chairs in the salt room, there are at least 12 other lounge chairs in the Thermal Area.
There’s also a VERY large jacuzzi. It’s not hot water. It’s warm. It’s bubbly. And the jacuzzi often had 3-6 guests.
Signage with fine print requests guests to wear bathing suits in the Thermal Area, and that’s as specific as it gets. We witnessed guests wearing a wide variety from very little fabric to quite a bit of cloth. Guests were mostly in their 30s and 40s and early 50s. Not too many Thermal Area guests in their 60s or higher, though they are more than welcome.
Take your time. When you are finished, head back into the Dressing Room, shower, dry off, put on your robe, throw the used towel into the basket and enjoy the rest of your day. The Thermal Area is available to guests age 18+. IT’s open from 9A to 9P. They warn you at 8:30 and 8:45 that it will soon close.
How can elevators be fancy? Well, when you are wearing a Yacht Club wristband, you tap a sensor, then push up/down, and wait for the “Priority” lift. Theoretically, when you get into your Priority lift, you again tap your wristband to a sensor while simultaneously pressing your preferred floor. And again, theoretically, you go straight to your floor, without it stopping for others in the same direction. It’s a faster way to get your robe-wearing self from the spa and back to the Yacht Club. In actuality, I could rarely get this "priority" function to work, and usually it stopped for others to get on board. Maybe it was user error. That said, there is an elevator inside of the Yacht Club itself, that takes you between floors 16-19, i.e. from your stateroom on 16 to the YC pool on 19.
When you enter the Yacht Club, you must pass by the Concierge Desk. At this desk, you can ask for any kind of help: info about the rest of the ship, making dinner reservations, fixing your ship card, registering your credit card, scheduling shore excursions, etc.
I asked one concierge, “What’s the most bizarre request you’ve had?” She replied that a Yacht Club guest asked for entry for 15 other guests in other areas of the ship. Apparently there was a confusion with the travel agency. Due to limited capacity and the exclusiveness of the Yacht Club, they had to be denied. Thankfully. Too many people would spoil the atmosphere.
Due to this conversation, I did learn that if space is available, guests can buy a one-day pass to the Yacht Club for $110 per guest per day. That’s well worth it! The space must be based on total Yacht Club capacity versus total Yacht Club guests on board. For example, if the YC can physically hold 200 guests, but only 180 are on board, then 20 passes could be sold per day.
A blog I read said the MSC Divina holds 188 YC members, while Seaside holds 292. That’s very exclusive considering the Seaside full ship capacity is 5429. So on Seaside, the Yacht Club is 5.4% of the guests on board assuming a full sell out. That’s exclusive!
GELATO, CREPES, COFFEE and MORE
Yacht Club members also have free access to unlimited treats around the ship. The authentic and handmade gelato is amazing and there are plenty of flavors to choose from. You can order it in a cup or in a waffle cone. The waffle cones are likely made on board, as is the gelato.
The creps are available at one of the gelato bars. Free. Made just for you. Eat up.
Specialty coffees, lattes, cappuccinos, frappes and other crazy coffee / chocolate drinks are free for YC members. Order and enjoy.
Please note that you CAN board the ship and stay in “Aurea” staterooms that also come with free gelato, crepes, coffees, beer, wine, soft drinks, and well drinks. Aurea packages however do not have Yacht Club access which includes the amazing lounge, restaurant, private pool, buffet, viewing deck, lightning fast boarding and disembarkation, and the only access to the front facing point of the ship.
THE REST OF SEASIDE
Yacht Club members enjoy the exclusivity of many private areas. But they are of course free to enjoy all the other great parts of the ship. During the week, every day, we enjoyed the kids Jungle Pool play area, the awesome theater for evening shows, and ventured throughout the many awesome spaces and places of the ship.
THE 5000 GUESTS
People who have never cruised always hate the idea of being around so many people. Some ships are small with only 2000 guests. Newer mega ships get close to 6000 guests PLUS crew. But here’s the reality. Big ships have lots of space to spread out the people. Except for boarding, disembarking, getting in line for an evening show, and going to the pool on a hot day, it’s never more crowded than being at the mall. People love cruising. The industry has skyrocketed since year 2000 and the newest big ships now cost more than a billion bucks, featuring countless activities on board.
CALORIES & GAINING WEIGHT
When you eat more calories than your body burns, you gain weight. One pound on your body comes from adding a net 3500 calories. A typical American may burn 2000 calories per day just from his heart beating, from walking around, and breathing.
Eating an extra 500 calories per day for 7 days is really easy to do. In fact, eating an extra 1000 or 2000 PER DAY is easy to do. What’s worse is that other than some simple walking around the ship, you’re not getting much exercise. And no, you likely won’t use the awesome gym on board despite your best intentions! And why should you?!
It’s impossible to count calories, so you just gotta be smart with your food selections. Increase protein and decrease carbs. Try not to taste all of the available sweets. Don’t finish your entire dessert. And if at all possible, pay attention to the calories you are drinking.
In my own experiences, I have gained 10 pounds on a cruise. On Seaside, I gained “only” 6.5 by not having all the carbs (other than drinks).
But look folks, we’re enjoying the meetings and conferences. Sample lots of foods and have a good time. Just don’t go wild. And when you get home, plan to lose a few pounds to get back to your fighting weight.
One of the great things about cruising is that it can be relatively cheap. For example, I’ve seen 7-day cruises for $350 (just $50 per day!) That covers your room, daily room cleaning, eight meals a day, nightly entertainment and great stops in cool cities. Depending on the time of year, the ship, the room you choose, and other factors, the daily cost can easily hit $200+ per person. So there’s something for everyone.
Why would we take our kids on a business trip? MSC allows younger kids to sail for “free.” They do charge port fees and tips for staff, but that’s all pretty cheap. So when you take the total cost and divide by 5 people, then divided by 7 days, it becomes reasonable to stay in the Yacht Club or at least in an Aurea room. (Yes, that’s some fuzzy math.) Of course it would be super cheap in an inside cabin with four guests. If you want a large room for 5-6 guests, you need to book early. They go fast.
Your round-trip flight to the initial port is extra. Excursions into ports are extra (about $50 per person per adventure). And there may be occasional misc charges. So add it all together, divide by your party size, and determine which room makes sense for you. Then go have some fun.
I admit it… the day before we left, I shed tears of joy and sadness as I realized it would all soon come to an end. I didn’t cry for long, but I did realize that this had never happened before. Never before had I experienced an emotional connection with a conference, a seminar, a ship, an area, or even a vacation. I think that says something about the Yacht Club and how the overwhelming generosity of it all affects you.
Whether it’s Giuseppe welcoming you to dinner, the bartender whipping up your morning cappuccino, staff knowing that you like to order two bottles of carbonated water at the same time, your butler helping you get onto the port quickly, or the non-stop flow of premium beverages, snacks, and more… It’s nice. Ultra nice. It’s something to experience at least once in your life.
So what are YOUR thoughts?