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MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review: Ship, Entertainment, Food and Service

Normally when you are driving to the cruise port to board a cruise you’ll see the cruise ship appearing in the horizon, it’s such an exciting feeling.

This wasn’t exactly how embarking on my last cruise went, when we arrived it was late at night and completely dark, we had been travelling for a little over 17 hours and we knew that there was still something that could ruin everything and mean that we would be denied boarding.

Despite all of that though, I was more excited for this cruise than any other.

Me With The MSC Seaview

I Booked The Cheapest Cruise in The Caribbean

I’m from the UK and for the last couple of years, I have dreamed about taking a Caribbean cruise.

It usually isn’t a cheap option for me given that a 9-hour flight separates me from the Caribbean but I saw an incredible deal on the MSC Seaview so decided to give it a go.

MSC are definitely a controversial cruise line and in the past, I’ve heard bad things said about the food, the service, and the entertainment but I wanted to see for myself would it be worth the price I paid? 

Usually, if I want to work out the cost of a cruise that includes flights in the price, I’ll take away the cost of the flights and divide it by the number of nights of the cruise.

The cost of the flights from the UK to Barbados alone were over £700+ ($900). The cruise, including gratuities, drinks, transfers and flights was only £580 ($750).

I genuinely don’t know how the cruise was as cheap as it was, effectively either the flights were free, or the cruise was. If I was to use my usual method, the cruise cost -£17 (-$43 per night).

It was very very cheap. 

I Didn’t Have Huge Expectations

For the incredibly low price that I paid I didn’t go into the cruise with massive expectations. I didn’t know who else would be on the cruise, I didn’t know how it would compare to other MSC cruises I’ve taken and I didn’t know if everything would go to plan.

There was a LOT that could go very wrong.

I did lots of things on this cruise that if you regularly watch my videos, you might think are out of character but I promise I will explain.

When we arrived at the cruise port in Barbados we checked in and were taken onto the ship, the cruise that we had booked was 7 nights long, and visited southern Caribbean islands. 

view of dominica from the MSC seaview

We Needed Another Covid Test

It was onboard the ship that we had another covid test done, we had already had a PCR test at home but we needed another to be able to embark on the cruise.

I hoped that because I had tested negative at home, that I would test negative again at the port but I do know people who had tested negative, then positive, and had to quarantine in Barbados. 

I couldn’t imagine getting all this way and then being denied boarding, but I knew that it was a risk when I booked the cruise. It’s probably because of risks like this that our cruise was at such a low capacity, but more about that later. 

Thankfully we did test negative and our cruise began.

I Decided to Order Room Service (Even Though it Wasn’t Free!)

It was at this point that I made the first un-Emma-like decision, I decided that I would order room service even though it wasn’t free. If you’ve been watching my videos for a while, you’ll know that I very much focus on budget cruising and saving money wherever I can.

After our long journey though and the time difference, all we wanted was to have a shower and to go to bed. 

Before we could have my room service though, we had to do a safety drill, also called a muster drill. 

msc seaview inside cabin double bed and desk

I was surprised to find out that we had to physically go to the theatre to do our muster drill, on most cruises since the pandemic you’ll just watch the safety videos on your cabin TV or phone, but we had to actually go to the theatre just like the olden days. 

There weren’t many of us in the theatre because Barbados wasn’t the main embarkation port for the cruise. 

On MSC There Isn’t Usually a ‘Start’ and ‘End’ Port

MSC are different from most other cruise lines in the way that you can usually get on or off at multiple ports. I’ve found this flexibility really useful in the past because if you can’t get a day off work for whatever reason, you can just move the cruise a day later and embark in the next port. 

Many people don’t like this though and I do understand why, this did affect our cruise in a few ways.

The Pizza Was 100% Worth it

Our room service pizza was great and was worth every one of the 11 euros that it cost me.

This is the same pizza as you can get in the buffet and MSC are well known for their pizza, it’s all freshly made and available something crazy like 20 hours a day and I think I had at least one slice every day of our cruise. 

MSC cruises room service pizza

To learn more about the food that we ate on board, check out my food review:

Everything I Ate on my MSC Cruise (Photos and Menus) – Food Review

We Booked a Guaranteed Inside Cabin

We had booked the cheapest inside cabin on the ship and were assigned cabin 11105.

The cabin was very clean and functional, it felt very spacious because there wasn’t too much ‘stuff’ in there and I really liked things like the USB by my bed, the do not disturb buttons inside in the cabin and the fact that the TV did actually swing round so that we could watch TV in bed.

I did find a rather interesting adult section on the TV that I’ve never seen before on a cruise, but I didn’t dare click on any of those buttons! 

msc seaview cabin TV adult channels

After our long journey, we had the best night’s sleep, the beds were very very comfortable and when my daylight alarm clock woke us up we were excited to explore the ship. 

Late Dining Was at 9PM – Too Late For Me!

We noticed that our cruise cards said that we had been assigned late dining.

We had requested early dining before the cruise because 9PM is way too late for dinner in my opinion so we definitely wanted to change this if we could. 

We decided that we would ask at the restaurant if we could change it, the cruise line always has the right to say no but I’ve never had any problem changing my dining time before when onboard. 

The MSC Seaview Was Unlike Any Other Ship

I’ve cruised with MSC before on the Opera, Meraviglia and Virtuosa but Seaview is totally different.

msc seaview waterslides

It was immediately obvious that she is designed for warm weather, the ship doesn’t have a central street like many of the other MSC ships but she does have a big pool deck, another inside pool, a smaller pool at the back, and lots of waterslides and splash areas for kids. 

At the back of the ship, there is a walkway called the bridge of sighs, it’s a glass walkway that is 72 feet above the infinity pool which you can see below on deck 8. 

The Main Atrium is Split Over 3 Decks

Inside there is an atrium split over multiple levels and lots and lots of bars and lounges. The MSC Seaview even has things like a bowling alley and a 4D cinema. 

msc cruises atriun staircases

Your weekly piece of cruise Trivia is that in the atrium you may notice these sparkly stairs. They’re made of Swarovski crystals and each step costs £10,000 which is around $13,000 dollars. Each step.

I didn’t count the steps but there are 6 staircases like this in the atrium and you’ll find them on most MSC ships. 

Multiple Languages Were Spoken Onboard

Usually on MSC Cruises, you’ll find that everything will be done in multiple languages, guests onboard will usually speak German, French, Spanish, Italian, English. 

English is definitely the primary language onboard but hearing announcements in other languages is something I’m very used to on MSC Cruises.

Before this, though I’d only ever cruised with MSC in Europe so I was interested to see if this would be different in the Caribbean. 

The Ship Was At 23% Capacity

It was almost immediate that we started to notice how quiet the ship was, I’ve taken quite a few cruises since the pandemic which have been at reduced capacity but I’ve never noticed it quite as much as I did on this cruise. 

I later asked at the reception desk how many guests were on board and I was told 1200 out of a total capacity of 5119.

This meant that the ship was only 23% full.

I suspect that the passenger numbers did increase later in the cruise as we picked up more guests but even still if I wanted to have 20 seats I could have. 

We Had Plenty of Space to Sit Outside

We decided not to upgrade to a balcony for this cruise and I have no regrets about making that decision.

Because of the reduced capacity of the ship, there was always plenty of seating available outside and we would often sit on the boardwalk area outside the buffet. 

The buffet was closed on one side due to the reduced guests and I don’t think that anybody else thought to walk around and sit here.

I treated this area as my own big private balcony for the cruise and it was the best.

msc cruises seaview deck outside buffet

If you wanted to pay for this much space per person you’d usually have to pay a really premium price on a very expensive luxury line. 

The only bad thing was that there wasn’t waiter service here as this area was closed but I’d just walk down to the bar and order drinks to bring back up here. 

We Had a Drinks Package Included

We did have a drinks package included in our cruise and it actually was the top premium drinks package.

There’s no way that I would usually buy this package, I’m more of a soda package kind of girl but I did my best to make the most of it as it was included.

I tried all kinds of weird and wonderful cocktails. 

If the ship was busier and I didn’t have a drinks package, it might have been worth upgrading to a balcony to make sure that we had a space where we could sit, but on this cruise that definitely wasn’t needed. 

emma cruises with a coke on the msc seaview

Was The Ship Too Quiet?

We were enjoying the ship being quiet but did wonder how this would affect the rest of the cruise.

We didn’t know if the schedule would be reduced because of the reduced passenger numbers or if the atmosphere would be lost.

I’m definitely the type of person who likes to go and watch things like game shows, but I have no desire to be involved at all so I was hoping that there would be enough other guests that it wouldn’t be awkward or strange.

At this point, we didn’t really have any plans when it came to what to do in the ports.

I did buy an internet package, mostly to keep in contact with you but also so that I could do some research. 

We Wanted to Book Excursions on The Ship

We hadn’t booked excursions at this point but were hoping to and we just hoped that they hadn’t all sold out.

Being a budget cruiser I usually don’t do cruise line excursions but we were over 4000 miles from home and wanted to see as much of the islands as we could within the limited time.

A friend of mine Tommy from the AlwaysBeBooked cruise podcast was on a similar cruise one port ahead of us, he said that he would leave me a gift in one of the ports so I was hoping that at some point I’d manage to find that! 

Looking at MSC’s app there was no book button when it came to the excursions so that did worry me.

We Went to The Excursion Desk

We decided to go to the excursion desk and we were able to book excursions there, it turns out that my credit card wasn’t properly assigned to my cruise account so I couldn’t buy anything through the app, I had to go to one of these little machines to assign my card.

msc cruises cruise card activation point

I’m pretty sure I did this online before the cruise, but anyway it was easy to do and we were able to book our excursions. 

I Wasn’t Expecting a Lot From MSC’s Theatre Entertainment But I Was Surprised

I have to say in the past I’ve really not been a big fan of MSC’s theatre entertainment.

I’d go as far as to say it’s probably always been my least favourite from the cruise lines that I’ve cruised with. 

Because of the number of languages spoken on board the shows tend to be a bit ermm… abstract let’s say.

In the past, I’ve always come out of the MSC shows thinking ‘what on earth did I just watch’. They have always been entertaining, but not quite for the reason that they’re meant to be.

I was hoping that the entertainment on this cruise would be better. 

We Headed to Lunch in The Main Dining Room

By this point in the day, we were getting hungry and decided to head to the main dining room for lunch. It was here that we asked if we could change our dining time and it was no problem at all.

The crew member just crossed out my time and table number on my card and wrote down a new one for us. 

We always found the crew onboard to be friendly and helpful.

msc seaview main dining room

We chatted to the crew more than we usually would just because they seemed to have more time because of the reduced capacity.

Are The Crew Rude on MSC Cruises?

We were sat in the atrium one afternoon and two waiters from different directions came zooming at us to take our order from both sides, we never had to wait for anything and the crew would just be standing there waiting for guests again if you wanted to pay for that level of service normally, you’d be paying 10x what we paid. 

I’ve been on MSC cruises in the past where the crew seem very busy and stretched, I’ve never had any bad service or found anybody to be rude but on past MSC cruises, I’ve definitely noticed the crew seem very busy.

I think a lot of the time you get out of the interactions with the crew what you put in, if you are friendly and polite the crew will mirror it back to you. If you’re acting like a prat, well then. 

MSC’s Food Has Changed a Lot Over The Years

Over the years MSC have had lots of criticism for their food and when I took my first MSC cruise in 2012, the food wasn’t great.

The portions were pretty small and the food wasn’t always particularly hot. 

I took another MSC cruise in 2018 where the food wasn’t anything amazing, but wasn’t terrible, and then I invited some of my first-time cruiser friends to cruise with me with MSC in 2019. They loved it. 

msc meraviglia food main dining room christmas dinner
MSC Food From 2018

The food definitely wasn’t as good then as other cruise lines like Royal Caribbean or Princess but we didn’t pay Royal Caribbean or Princess prices and my friends who had no other cruise lines to compare the food to, thought it was great.

There were 6 of us on that cruise and at no point did any of us have any food complaints.

The food definitely can be hit and miss though but MSC do some things like pasta, bread and pizza very very well.

We mostly ate in the main dining room but also went to the buffet most days and we did have a specialty meal too, for free. More about that later. 

msc cruises main dining room dinner

You can see photos of every single thing I ate here: Everything I Ate on my MSC Cruise (Photos and Menus) – Food Review.

We Visited Dominica, Antigua, The British Virgin Islands and St Maarten

The excursions weren’t too expensive by cruise ship excursion standards, each one cost around £50 for a half-day tour.

Our first excursion in Antigua took us around the island on this rather interesting bus, it was a cross between a bus and a rollercoaster really because you had to hold on really tight. 

We went round lots of tight corners at fast speeds and it definitely wasn’t for the faint-hearted.

excursion bus southern caribbean

The tour dropped us off at this lovely beach for a little while and here I did another un-Emma like this, I paid $5 to use this umbrella! It was so worth it.

I’m from the UK. We are not used to sunshine like this. 

We were docked next to the Queen Mary 2 in Antigua which was quite a coincidence, she was the last ship I sailed on and the Cunard cruise experience is a world away from an MSC cruise. I love both, but they’re both very different. 

We had great weather for most of our cruise and were usually sat outside with a drink somewhere. Even if we got food from the buffet we would usually take it outside to eat.

MSC’s Buffet Choices

The MSC Seaview actually had two buffets, one on deck 7 and one on deck 16. The one on deck 16 was permanently closed during our cruise and the one on deck 7 was only open on one side. 

The buffet was open almost all of the time and even if the main part of the buffet was closed between meals the pizza and grill sections would be open.

I liked how they had examples of the food here so that you could see what you were ordering because there were lots of different languages on board too it helped guests who didn’t speak much English to be able to point at what they wanted.

There wasn’t a veggie burger here but I asked if they had one and they did, they cooked it freshly for me.

While I was waiting, the waiter took our drinks order, there were so many waiters in the buffet as soon as we sat down we were asked if we wanted a drink.

At mealtimes the buffet did feel like a pretty normal buffet, we could always get a seat but it there still would be quite a few people there.

The food is all served to you at the moment by the crew so it was nice to have other people there so that you could take a look at what there was before ordering it. 

There would usually be a ‘wellness’ section of the buffet, a kind of carvery section, an Indian section, and a few others that would change out depending on the day and the time. 

msc seaview buffet

I did discover this amazing thing, it was like a pineapple dessert pizza or a big triangle doughnut?

I don’t know what it was but that’s what’s great about cruising, you can try all kinds of random foods. 

msc seaview pineapple dessert

They also had some great doughnuts but they were only served at breakfast time alongside things like waffles and pancakes, I have no idea why, I would have eaten those doughnuts at any time of day.

Oh, and yes, of course, there were cookies. They were more like shortbread biscuits, but always very yummy. 

The Buffet Was Closed on One Side

The way that half the buffet was closed made sense, I did wonder if they would do this with the rest of the ship but they didn’t seem to.

We never found any bars or lounges that were closed, no more than normal anyway. 

We might find that there would only be a couple of people in a bar, but everything pretty much went on as normal.

The MSC Seaview Has Lots to do Onboard

The daily schedule definitely was reduced due to the capacity, usually, the daily schedule is multiple pages long but there was only one page per day.

There was the usual live music, game shows and quite a few dance classes.

On a couple of occasions, I saw the crew doing a dance class with no guests there, which did make me laugh a little bit, I just loved how they carried on with everything as normal. 

There Were Lectures in The Theatre

We also watched a presentation in the theatre about what it was like behind the scenes of the ship which I found very interesting.

We learned about the bridge and galley and various other things.

msc seaview lecture in theatre

I knew a lot of it already as I do a lot of research for my website but it was very nice to have somebody who clearly knew what they were saying confirming to me the things I have written online in the past. 

Covid Regulations Onboard The Ship

MSC were very hot on mask-wearing, we had to wear masks all the time unless we were sitting in a bar or a restaurant.

There were usually 2 or 4 crew members standing in the corners of the theatre and if somebody took off their mask they would swoop in and tell them to put their mask back.

Covid regulations are still taken very seriously in the southern Caribbean, there really aren’t any regulations left in the UK but when you’re traveling you of course have to follow the rules of the places that you’re going to. 

We Visited The British Virgin Islands

Our next port stop took us to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and we had a bus with sides this time.

Our tour guide was great and she even gave us sugar cane to chew and rum to drink on the bus. It was a very memorable experience. 

The roads were quite bumpy and the tour guide would often show us things on maps or her phone.

emma cruises  british virgin islands

I do get quite travel sick and really can’t look at things like maps when I’m in a moving vehicle but I did my best to look like I was paying attention. It was great to hear from a local. 

MSC’s excursions although organised by MSC are run by third-party companies, so you don’t have any MSC employees with you on the trip. 

Here we docked next to Celebrities Millenium, the Celebrity Millenium is a pretty big ship but she looked small next to the MSC Seaview.

We looked down into the ship and it was quite funny to see everybody walking around by the pool.

I Still Can’t Believe How Little I Paid For This (£580!)

I hadn’t felt the sun quite like this in years and spent the whole cruise saying ‘can you believe how much we paid for this?’

I have friends who pay more to stay in London for the weekend than I did for this whole thing, including all my drinks and food. I still can’t quite believe this deal.

We met people onboard who were staying for a month or two just because of how cheap it was. It’s still the same price now too, if you can cruise right now you can pay almost the same price as I paid. 

If you are interested in the more practical side of how to cruise as cheaply as I do, you’ll find everything you need in a step-by-step process inside the How to Cruise For Less cruise course: How to Cruise For Less.

The MSC Seaview Had a Zipline!

On top of the MSC Seaview is the ship’s famous zipline.

The zip line wasn’t running during our cruise which it does say in small print on the MSC website, I didn’t read that before the cruise though so I was expecting to see somebody flying across it at some point. 

The MSC Seaview is very much a ship designed for fun, her splash park area is huge, the slides stick off the edge and everything is very relaxed.

msc seaview splash park

MSC’s Onboard App

When you’re on an MSC cruise and you want information about something the first place that you go to is the MSC app.

The app lets you see how much you’ve spent on things, what you’ve got planned like excursions and you can even see the menus for the dining rooms ahead of time. 

I don’t think at any point I went to dinner or lunch without having already looked at the menu and decided what I wanted.

I wish all cruise lines did this. 

The MSC app worked really well, they haven’t overcomplicated it but it has the basics right. I’ve recently cruised with Cunard and P&O, both of which don’t have the daily schedule in their apps which is annoying, they could learn a thing or two from MSC.

We Received Freebies from MSC’s Loyalty Program

Another thing that MSC do better than other cruise lines is their status match program.

If you have a loyalty status without another cruise line or some hotel brands, MSC will give you the equivalent status.

I did this years ago and matched my NCL status to MSC, now I get lots of freebies every time I cruise with MSC. 

The benefits arrive throughout the cruise so one day we would come back to the cabin and find some macaroons, or a chocolate ship. 

msc loyalty perls spumante and macaroons

This chocolate ship is very tasty but it is almost indestructible.

I’ve bought it home before and put it in a bag and just tried to break it to pieces. I have never found a knife that could cut this thing. 

Claiming my Loyalty Status Free Meal

As our cruise went on I realised that I hadn’t had any information about the specialty meal that I get included for my loyalty status.

I knew that this was a perk I was entitled to so I went to the specialty restaurant section of the ship and asked if I could book and use my status.

They said yes and I’m glad I actually went to find out, or I would have missed out. I’m not one to miss out on free food though!

We ate in the Asian Fusion restaurant and it was great.

There were more chefs in the kitchen than guests in the restaurant when we were there, so we basically had our own personal chefs.

At the end of the meal, I had to sign for the £0 bill which was awesome. At no other point during the cruise did we actually have to sign for anything when ordering food or drink. 

The Speciality Restaurants Location is Odd

The specialty restaurants were located up behind the second buffet which was closed.

It would be very easy to cruise on the MSC Seaview for a week and never find any of the speciality restaurants.

I did find it a bit strange that they were so out of the way but it did cut down on the amount of upselling that we experienced.

On the MSC Meraviglia class of MSC ships, the speciality restaurants are in the central street so as you are walking through the crew will often to try to upsell you speciality meals or drinks packages.

We really didn’t have any of that on our cruise which was a relief.

That may be partly to do with the fact that we already had the top drinks package. 

I did find, as I do with most cruises, that the people who worked at the spa were very keen to get us to go in and have a treatment, but I always just politely said no thanks and then very quickly ran in the opposite direction.

The Ship’s Capacity Increased as we Visited More Ports.

When we docked in St Maarten more guests embarked and I’m pretty sure that from this point on the capacity was higher than the 23% that we started with.

We noticed a lot more children onboard too and generally areas like the theatre and the atrium felt busier than they had done before. 

There was a man in the theatre who sat in the same seat every night right at the front and he stood and up and applauded after each song, it was just the sweetest thing and I think everybody needs a cheerleader like that in the front row. 

It was definitely still noticeable that the ship was at reduced capacity but I’m sure it increased.

msc seaview atrium

Guests Embarked on Multiple Days

It was a little strange having guests embark when we had already been on the cruise for a few days, the safety drill information was broadcast throughout the ship and into all of the cabins, even though we had already been earlier in the cruise.

This is one of the downsides of having a cruise where guests get on and off in different places.

One big bonus of that though was that on disembarkation day we were able to stay on the ship until 3 pm and we kept our room until 12pm because we were on an MSC night flight back to the UK. 

They might not have done this if the ship was at full capacity but they definitely had the space to spare. 

MSC’s Dress Codes

MSC are a very casual cruise line and we wore shorts almost all day everyday.

MSC do have one ‘formal’ night but I use the word ‘formal’ in as loss as terms as possible.

The dress code for the formal night is only suggested and there isn’t actually a dress code, or there wasn’t one on our daily schedule, it was just suggested if you do want to dress up, today is the day. I put on a dress but that was about it. 

msc and cunard emma cruises

To learn more about MSC’s dress codes, check out this guide: MSC Dress Code Photo Guide – 96% Agree The Dress Codes are Relaxed

Given the fact that it was warm on this cruise, I really enjoyed not having to wear formalwear. 

It Was Completely Different to my Last Cruise With Cunard

My last cruise was onboard the Queen Mary 2 where the dress codes are incredibly strict, the most formal night on any MSC cruise is still 50x more casual than the most casual night on a Cunard cruise.

That is what is great about cruising through, there is so much variety between cruise lines. 

MSC are at one end and Cunard right at the other. 

Check out the video below to see for yourself:

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