MSC Seaside – Embarkation Day

Editor’s Note: I will have to update this as I go.
10am It’s almost time for our next cruise adventure to begin, although the adventure began yesterday, as we always fly in the day before. We flew American to Ft Lauderdale to save a little money, and flying AA always reminds me why we should take Southwest. There was nothing bad, it’s just not particularly pleasant.
The real adventure started last Friday, when Luggage Forward picked up our bags. They will deliver them to the ship today. Luggage Forward was mentioned by MSC in their packing guide. They pick up your luggage at you house, ship it UPS to the port, and deliver it to the ship. Going home, it’s reversed. It’s UPS Ground, I think, because they want a week on either side of the cruise for shipping. So, if you have a little extra cash and you don’t want to schlep your bags around, it’s an alternative.
Of course, this means our carry-ons are overpacked, so we have clothes if the bags don’t arrive.
We’re at the Intercontinental Miami, one of my favorite hotels – and one we haven’t visited in nine years, because service at this level isn’t cheap. It’s worth it, but it’s not an “every time” hotel. We generally just book the best deal we can find that doesn’t have a number or “Quality” in the title, but this is a special cruise.
Since our last stay, they added a service so amazing that every hotel should have it – there is a phone number to text with your requests or issues. Virginia forgot her toothbrush, so we texted that we needed a toothbrush, and a few minutes later, one of the bellmen delivered three kits with a toothbrush, toothpaste and a flosser. I texted this morning to add my Rewards number to the room. We’ll check that later but I got a “No problem” response.
We had dinner in Toro Toro, the Latin steakhouse in the hotel. Fabulous food, fabulous service. Again, not the cheapest meal in Miami, but worth it. I may have found my new “last meal” request.
We’re trying to get organized and then it’s off to the port to board the ship and hopefully see our luggage.
2pm On board and fed. Boarding was amazingly quick. “Black card” shortens all lines. MSC takes high-level loyalty customers seriously. MSC Black Card kicks the crap out of Norwegian Platinum Plus for boarding.
Lunch was in the buffet. It was busy, but we found seats pretty quickly.
I thought the pizza was good, Virginia said it was not the transcendent experience she was lead to believe. I said most of the people writing those reviews think Dominos is good pizza.
In the middle of lunch, I got an email from Luggage Forward that said our bags have been delivered. We’re not sure where, but there are no bags in the hall, so I’m not panicking yet.
Staff has been unbelievably helpful. We have had a bunch of people on the upsell hunt, but if you just smile and say, “No, thanks”, that’s the end of it.
I was going to cave and get the Easy Drinks package for me because I can do $200 worth of drinks in a week – and would rather have it paid off, but you have to get it for everyone in the room. Virginia doesn’t drink that much, so I passed. The staff member looked disappointed, which was sweet.
We did ask one of the specialty restaurant team to help us book the Steakhouse and Teppanyaki and she booked them, told us there was a discount for Teppanyaki if we went tonight, explained that we get a free dinner (from a special menu) as Black Card members, and mentioned you can order anything you want at a discount if you don’t want to order from the limited free menu.
Someone said the Blue Angels were in town and an F-16 (I think – May be an F-18 but it didn’t stay long) just flew over the ship, so that rumor may be true. Fighter jets are loud.
The Cruise Critic Meet & Greet invitation was in the cabin. We met Marc, our room steward, as we were entering. He had robes for us. Our slippers were already in the room.
The MSC Seaside is like the later Norwegian ships – there’s a slot for your keycard by the door which is the master power switch. (I hate these.) It also lights a signal outside so the steward knows you’re in the room – which means I can’t just my hotel key from The Intercontinental or he’ll never know we’re gone. There’s also a switch to light “Make up the Room” and one for “Do Not Disturb.”
The MSC app is great. We booked all our shows sitting in the atrium before we went to lunch. Our daily planner online shows all our dining, our excursions and our shows.
The Behind The Scenes tour is Thursday morning. We’re booked.
There are no chocolate-covered strawberries but there is a fruit basket. That’s a step up.
3:45pm The luggage has arrived!
3:55pm Seven Dwarves and Snow White aka the General Alarm. It actually sounded before the Muster Drill. This may be because it takes five minutes to say “That was the General Alarm” in multiple languages.
5:30pm Dinner at Teppanyaki was fun, and it was not crowded, as predicted this afternoon. Very tasty. I would do it again. This may be the only specialty restaurant we paid full price to visit, and you get a 20% discount on embarkation evening. However, we paid for the Wagyu sirloin with scallops and lobster and I was not blown away. It was good, but it was not the Wagyu beef I have had at other restaurants (at a much higher price.) Good, not life-altering.
9:30pm We found a letter from the Captain that said he had been told we didn’t attend the muster drill. We did. Here’s a few failures I will document for him: we arrived at the muster station before the staff (which happens when you want to use the elevators which are cut off before the drill.) We heard a staff member tell another couple, “This is Station H [our station] – just sit anywhere.” Nothing about checking in, scanning cards or anything. I thought this was strange, but just because Norwegian and Carnival need it doesn’t mean everyone does. The General Alarm sounded five minutes before muster, so my first thought was it was a very unfortunately timed emergency and my second thought was, “Maybe this way, people will be here on time.” Nobody ever said we needed to prove we were there, but I figured they do a cabin scan, so that must be how they know.
Then we got the letter.
So, I called Guest Services and said we were in fact at the Muster Drill. They said just ignore the letter. I asked if we were supposed to sign in somewhere and they said, “Yes.” I said, “Nobody told us.” They said, “Just ignore the letter.”
This freaks me out a little bit. We’ve had a lot of Norwegian cruises and there is a muster station lead whose main job seems to be reminding people to sign in. Why doesn’t MSC do this? There were two people who mimed to the Cruise Director’s life jacket instructions in multiple languages. That was it.
If there is an emergency, I’m pretty sure there are going to be some drownings, because nobody was paying attention but me.
So, everything’s great but safety. Hmm.
9:45pm Timeless – the first night’s show was very interesting. Lots of different acts loosely tied together. Virginia was impressed. I was thinking a drama graduate called all of his classmates, said “Bring whatever script you’re working on, and let’s workshop it.” Entertaining.
10:30pm Slots are tight, and you can charge it to your room. Danger, Will Robinson!
11:30pm Just realized room service goes to a limited menu at 11pm. Sandwiches and pizza, basically. Well, the buffet is open 22 hours a day. We’re off.
Midnight: Buffet is down to cold cuts, salads (pasta, potato, chicken), desserts and pizza. The buffet bar is open. Great for drunks, not as much for diabetics.
Pretty sure the iced tea I just had was being brewed while Sophia Loren was christening the ship.
Random Thoughts: The other passengers are a mix of ages and nationalities. Most are extremely elevator-challenged. Here’s a public service announcement: People. If the door is still open, stop pressing Up. The elevator you didn’t fit into has to leave first.
Here, like other mega ships, if you need to go up and all the elevators are full, go down to go up.
If this is an Italian line based in Switzerland, catering to Europeans, shouldn’t the hamburgers and hot dogs be labeled as Ethnic food?

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