I’ve sailed all four of MSC Cruises’ Seaside-class vessels, and MSC Seascape is the best one yet.
Apart from a few restaurants with different names, it’s a near carbon copy of older sister MSC Seashore, which debuted in 2021 as the first vessel in the line’s Seaside EVO (short for evolution) sub-class.
That said, there are still several noteworthy aspects that caught my attention. From major kudos to minor niggles, here’s what I liked — and didn’t like — on this glitzy 18-deck marvel.
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What I liked
Robotron, a robotic arm amusement ride on deck 19, sounded like a gimmick at first, but it’s actually a lot of fun.
The ride holds three people and offers three speeds — slow, medium and fast. It lifts riders into the air, twisting and turning them to the beat of the music they select beforehand.
Not only is it more thrilling than I expected, it runs for about three minutes per ride and provides nearly 360-degree views of the ship’s outdoor surroundings. It’s well worth the $10-per-ride price tag.
The Yacht Club
For the first time, I stayed in MSC’s Yacht Club, a private suite area you can only access with a special keycard.
I was blown away by the sheer elegance and high level of service, with my butler delivering daily newspapers and specialty coffee, handling spa reservations and escorting me to dinner each night.
A stay in the Yacht Club comes with extras like more cabin space (all cabins are suites) and an exclusive restaurant, lounge and sun deck with a pool and hot tubs.
In addition to nicer digs and semi-private facilities, cruisers also receive priority embarkation and disembarkation, butler and concierge services, unlimited in-cabin mini-bar beverages, free alcohol in the Topsail Lounge, an elevated dining menu, one free bottle of spirits, private elevator access, reserved theater seating and other perks.
One of the biggest pain points for MSC Cruises in recent years is its seeming inability to understand what Americans want as the line continues to build ships specifically geared toward the North American market. I’m excited to say I think MSC Seascape represents a pivotal change in that area.
In addition to shorter dinners and larger portion sizes in the onboard restaurants, the level of service also feels elevated, even outside of the Yacht Club. Waiters are more attentive, the folks at guest services are more friendly, and I noticed more smiles from crew members all around.
That’s not to say the service is bad on other vessels, but it’s decidedly European. That means dinners routinely take two to three hours, waiters check in less frequently during meals to see what you might need, and service throughout is generally more brusque, bordering on aloof.
It seems MSC has, perhaps, begun training crew in a more American style of service.
Because this is the fourth Seaside-class ship and the second in the Seaside EVO sub-class, the vessel is familiar.
Those who have sailed on the others, particularly MSC Seashore, will find that MSC Seascape feels like home. You’ll board knowing exactly where to go, which means you won’t have to spend time learning your way around before enjoying your vacation.
You’ll also find your favorites — the Jungle Pool, waterslides, kids club, arcade, Bridge of Sighs, buffet and restaurants — in all the same places.
Speaking of favorite returning venues, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shoutout to Venchi.
The chocolate-themed bar on Deck 6, named for its partnership with the famed Italian chocolatier, reprises its role on MSC Seascape. It offers some of the best coffee and hot chocolate beverages (with or without alcohol) I’ve ever tasted, along with both fresh sweets and wrapped chocolates for purchase.
Even more impressive are the chocolate sculptures the crew craft by hand for all sorts of special occasions. On my sailing, they constructed a bonsai tree, an anchor, a slightly creepy Santa Claus and a likeness of Doremi, the cruise line’s mascot.
Venchi also features an adorable seating area with high-top tables and stools that look like chocolate sandwich cookies. It can be loud during peak times, but often is a nice place to meet friends, check email or simply relax with a drink.
What I didn’t care for
In line with MSC’s standard of decor, MSC Seascape is elegant to the max. It drips with chrome and crystal. However, the glamour clashes hard with the noise level just about everywhere on board.
On one night of my voyage, I was eating dinner at Hola!, a specialty Mexican restaurant, which is just off the atrium. My dining companion and I jumped out of our seats when an atrium show abruptly started at a ridiculous volume that, frankly, made it impossible to have a conversation as we finished our meal.
Elsewhere, it’s difficult to find a quiet place to read or work, as all lounges seem to either feature live music or tunes that are piped in at decibels that feel wildly inappropriate.
Smoking on board is allowed only in designated outdoor areas and in the casino. However, the air filtration isn’t great in the latter, which means the smell wafts out into the atrium, making for a somewhat unpleasant experience for anyone who doesn’t light up.
Additionally, given the casino’s central location, passengers are forced to walk through it to get from one end of Deck 7 to the other unless they choose to go up or down a deck.
With the smoke as bad as it is in that area, I smelled like cigarettes for the rest of the night after spending just 15 seconds passing through on my way to the theater.
Even though my sailing wasn’t at capacity — there were just 3,065 passengers out of a possible 5,632 when all berths are full — many spaces felt crowded and seemed incapable of handling the number of cruisers on board.
For example, the Times Square lounge, just beyond Venchi on Deck 6, hosts multiple trivia sessions on sea days, but there are never enough seats for everyone. Twice, I had to walk around the corner and sit at one of the tables at Venchi as I filled out my answer sheet.
In addition, the ship has the same type of digital elevator buttons that MSC Seashore implemented when it debuted.
The system, which forces you to select your floor before boarding and then assigns you a particular car based on traffic, didn’t work on Seashore, and it doesn’t work on Seascape, either.
On several occasions, the screen would tell me to expect my car to arrive in 20 seconds and then, inexplicably, update to read it would be two minutes.
In one particularly frustrating instance, I was forced to walk from Deck 15 to Deck 6 — nine decks, 18 flights of stairs — in high heels because my estimated wait time for an elevator was an astounding four minutes.
I’ll admit that I’m not always as environmentally conscious as I should be. However, with how much cruise lines have been touting their green initiatives, I pay special attention to things like single-use items when I sail.
MSC Cruises makes a point of advertising its green efforts through The Foundation, the line’s charitable arm, which aims to protect oceans and wildlife, among other things.
The line has also used its Ocean Cay private island as a marine cleanup project and made a pledge to become carbon neutral by 2050 as part of a larger industry effort organized by the Cruise Lines International Association, a cruise industry advocacy organization.
However, I noticed on MSC Seascape that daily programs are still printed and left in each cabin nightly, along with shore excursion brochures, spa price lists and more.
Plastic straws are still used for drinks, and single-use pats of butter were provided in the dining rooms during meals.
I was also rather shocked to discover that the Hola! Mexican restaurant on board provides cloth napkins but doesn’t reuse them. Instead, they’re thrown away after each meal. (A new one came with each course, so I had five of them by the end of my meal.)
Overall, MSC Seascape provides lively elegance at a reasonable price point but also offers over-the-top accommodations for those seeking a higher level of exclusivity and service.
Even though it’s not much different from MSC Seashore, there’s plenty to love about the ship, and it truly feels like MSC has finally come close to cracking the code in terms of what Americans want.
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