Saturday, February 10, 2018

MSC Seaside Review - February 2018

 MSC Seaside Cruise Review - B2B February 2018

Just the Facts:
Ship: MSC Seaside
Captain: Marco Massa
Cruise Director: Andre Schlemmer
Ports: Miami, USA - Ocho Rios, Jamaica - Georgetown, Grand Cayman - Cozumel, Mexico - Nassau, Bahamas -  St. Johns, Antiqua - Charlotte Amalie, USVI - Grand Turk,
Turks and Caicos
I’m cruising on two 7-day cruises (B2B) on the MSC Seaside, these are my 7th and 8th MSC cruises and 135th & 136th cruises overall.  This is my first time on the MSC Seaside and my forth time to sail with the MSC ‘Black Card’ the highest of their Loyalty Club levels.  I am cruising with my dear wife (DW) and a large group cruise friends who wanted to try this new concept cruise ship. The first MSC ship specifically built and designed for the American market.  I love the other MSC ships so this will be a new experience for all of us, both MSC experienced cruisers and the first-timers.

Saturday February 10  / Miami  /  Embarkation / Day 1

MSC Seaside Atrium
We are flying into port on the day of embarkation so travel begins very early.  We left the ranch at  3:35 am for the drive to Waco, TX and the 4:50 am boarding time for the flight to DFW.  It was a nice clear morning and we arrived about 4:30 am and were through the TSA screening and at gate one at exactly 4:45 am.  Soon we were off and at DFW airport where we arrived just before boarding began for our 7:25 am flight to Miami.  We met one friend here at DFW and were on our way.  The flight was uneventful and no scares at baggage claim…all of our bags arrived fine somewhat unique for Miami.  We rolled out with all our luggage and took the MSC shuttle, a large bus just for the three of us ($20 per person charge to ship account) to the Port of Miami’s new MSC Terminal. There was a friendly porter to take our bags and we proceeded to the entry.  Arriving about 12:30 pm it was not really busy as I believe we are behind the early rush and before most airport arrivals.  We went through security (easy) and then upstairs to see a Black Card agent (no line) and receive our Loyalty Club cards.  Since we are not allowed in cabins until 2:00 pm we boarded and went strait to the deck 16 Biscayne Bay buffet.  We got a table with an excellent view of the actual Biscayne Bay and had a short wait until the 1:00 pm buffet opening.  The primary buffet on deck 8 opens at noon.  I had a nice salad, pasta, and a two slices of pizza pie.  We ate and relaxed until 2:00 pm then went to our cabin/home for the next two weeks.  We have a regular style balcony and first impression is how it is smaller than any cabin we have ever had previously on MSC.  Our bags did arrive soon and we began unpacking. Safety drill was uneventful, they scan your cards at the muster station and make announcements thankfully in English only unlike other MSC ships that do it in five languages.  We found more members of our group after boat drill and confirmed our meet up later on deck 8.  We were concerned that we had not seen our Drink vouchers we had purchased online.  We discovered that they are distributed by the cabin steward and that we had to sign for them, we had not seen her and then she was on break when we tried to find her before the group party.  Our group met at the Sports Bar on deck 8 and it is a great bar much larger than the sports bars on other MSC ships.  Well designed with a large big screen TV with stage, smaller lounge areas with other TV’s, as well as a large bar with a  sea view.  Our group met and it was great to meet the regulars and new guests as well.  A few stayed afterward and enjoyed cocktails until dinner.  We have 8:30 seating in the Seashore Restaurant.  We have great table locations in the center of the dining room and the tables are beautifully set with proper tablecloths and table service something you don’t see on many cruise ships. For dinner I ordered the Tomato Basil Soup, a wonderful Pasta with a Bolognaise style sauce with bacon (as a starter), and the Roast Lamb entree.  We passed on dessert and retired to the cabin where we met our Cabin Steward Glinda who finally delivered our vouchers. We didn’t ask her for turn down service as we went straight to bed after a very long and busy day.

Sunday February 11th / Day at Sea / Day 2

MSC Seaside Bridge of Sighs on deck 16
Smooth seas overnight just enough movement for a very enjoyable nights sleep. The bed is ideal and very comfortable with a pillow menu and we chose what we have: one soft and one firm pillow each. I went to the MDR for breakfast and fortunately spotted two of our group in line and joined them. I ordered Eggs Benedict with a side of Bacon, & fresh grilled potatoes.  I was served Hot Milk that is not always easy to get on other cruise lines but very common on the Seaside.   DW enjoy a room service continental breakfast and is planning on a casual day.  I finished cabin set-up increasing my storage by using my packing cubes in my suitcase under the bed. In addition to the cabins being smaller the storage is as well with only one small wardrobe and two drawers. We are finally settling in and once Glenda cleaned the cabin about noon and with our little adjustments I feel we are set for the two weeks. I went on a walkabout and had a pizza slice with friend on the outdoor area outside the Marketplace Buffet on deck 8.  Also walked across the Bridge of Sighs on deck 16 aft (photo).  On the way back to the cabin I picked up one of the prepared hamburgers individually boxed and available at  the buffet, it was surprising very good, not a Guy’s Burger quality, but close.  Back in the cabin it was balcony time and I established our internet account and posted first days review online. I also used the MSC for Me app to make reservations for the 7:00 show in the theater, the app is great with a map, locator with directions, schedule, and much more.  We then watched a movie as we prepared for the evening.  A bucket of Brut Champagne and Chocolate Covered Grapes and petit fours were delivered…these for being Black Card members on Formal Night.  About 5:00 pm we met friends for drinks at the Seaview Bar. They were setting up for the Captain’s Formal Night complementary cocktails and I had a few rounds of those as well.  They really do it first class with white glove service and a choice of four cocktails/drinks (Champagne, Vodka Martini, Rum Sour, Fruit Punch) served on silver trays. On RCCL it is Champagne only and on Carnival nothing but a $1 discount. Very nice MSC!  At 7:00 pm we went to the  Production Show: The Wizard in the Metropolitan Theater.  It was an impressive production with singing, dancing, acrobatics, and more.  The theater is very nice and we had a great view for this spectacular show.  They do allow drinks in the theater, that's a first for MSC on this new Caribbean concept ship.  We had a little time before dinner so we went to the Haven lounge for a short time.  Formal Dinner was very good tonight, I ordered: the Arugala & Grana Padano Salad, the Rigatoni Meatballs (as a starter), and the Duck a la Orange entree.  For dessert I ordered the Bananas Foster.  Some attended the nightly Comedy Improv show at 10:30 pm but we retired to the cabin. It was a great day on the MSC Seaside.

February 12th  / Ocho Rios, Jamaica / Day 3
MSC Seaside in Ocho Rios  (click to enlarge)
Rolling seas overnight and I again slept very well. I did some internet work early until we arrived in  the beautiful waters of Ocho Rios.  I met friends for breakfast in the MDR ordering three eggs over easy with ham, potatoes, bacon, toast, fruit plate & hot milk. It was very good.  DW had her room service breakfast.  We just relaxed until about noon, met a friend in the lobby and then walked over to the shops on Main street.  We ended up hiring a taxi to take us up the mountain to a very nice overlook and I enjoyed the breeze and a couple of Red Stripe Beers.  We then went to the cascading waterfall where it meets the Caribbean sea,  It was interesting, but we passed on climbing the falls or getting in the water.  Next stop was to get some spicy patties at Spicy Pattys. We had to wait for some fresh, but they were hot and delicious and I wanted to try this local fast food delicacy. I ate mine while the girls shopped a bit.  We walked back to the ship and DW went to the Marketplace buffet for a salad and went back to the cabin and enjoy the view from the balcony until sail away.  One of the benefits of being a Black Card member on MSC is a complementary dinner in a premium restaurant so tonight a dozen of us had dinner at Butcher’s Cut the premium steakhouse on the MSC Seaview.  We met at 6:00 on deck 16 and had cocktails and were seated straight away for dinner.  I ordered the Hearts of Palm as an appetizer as well as the Beet Salad with Burrata.  My entree was a perfectly cooked to order Filet Mignon and for dessert a nice Sorbet.  It was a wonderful meal with wonderful friends.  After walking today in Ocho Rios and our three hour dinner I was ready for relaxing movie time in the cabin.  It was a fun and interesting day In Ocho Rios and on the MSC Seaside.

Tuesday February 13 / Georgetown, Grand Cayman / Day 4 
Production show FLY in Metropolitan Theater
Very smooth seas overnight and I again slept very well. We were already anchored off Grand Cayman when I woke this morning about 7:30 am.  The Freedom of the Seas is anchored next to us and I see the NCL Escape beyond her.  It’s a nice partly cloudy day I’m sure guests will enjoy it and we plan to stay on board and enjoy the ship without most of them.  I met three friends at the MDR for a very nice breakfast at 8:30.  I’m enjoying the breakfast service, food, and hot milk. We had a nice lazy morning then again went to explore new areas of the ship while most guests are off.  I met friends at the Jungle Bar and pool area on deck 18, it is a uniquely decorated area with an African jungle theme.  We moved to the Miami Beach Pool and Bar area on deck 16 in order to get bar service. We had our Snoozemates traditional stay on the ship Bloody Mary party that grew to a dozen friends as they came & went as they too explored the ship.  The Bloody Marys changed to Mojitos as we enjoyed the breeze and Caribbean views. I had a pizza for lunch, DW found the Creperie & Ice Creme area on deck 7 aft.  I attempted  a nap but did get some rest before preparing for the evening.  The Black Card Reception was held at 5:00 pm in the Haven Lounge.  Personal Comment: This is a proper time to host a reception with complementary cocktails unlike some cruise lines who have moved their VIP events to morning hours.  The Haven was full but there was plenty of wait staff to serve all guests.  They served a selection of wines, champagne, and cocktails, but Aperol Spritzers seemed to be the drink of choice as it is Italian night.  A couple of light hors d'oeuvres were also offered.  You could order a call cocktail and I did get a Cosmopolitan, but went with the flow of the evening on the Aperol as they were easily replenished.  I spoke with the Beverage Manager Sergi who I met on The Divina and Captain Marco Massa came by our table and toasted each of us with his glass individually (much safer than shaking hands) and spoke with us a bit.  I’m impressed by anyone who speaks six languages as the Captain does.  We went to the Metropolitan Theater at 6:45 for the 7:00 production show Fly. It was a fantastic show with singers, dancers, acrobats, and more.  I especially enjoyed the Cancan dance portion that not only included the dancers, but  the acrobats in the final scenes.  A very enjoyable show.  Time for one cocktail before dinner in the Haven before dinner.  Being Italian night (also White night) the waiters dress in Italian flair and the menu was all Italian.  My choices were the Eggplant Parmesan, Lasagna Bolognese, Chicken Marsala, and the Osobucco.  DW had the Pasta e Fagioli Soup.  I ordered the Lemon cake with limoncello for dessert. They had the big Italian party tonight and the White dress theme party, but we retired to the cabin.  It was another good day on The MSC Seaside.

Wednesday  Valentine's Day  February 14 / Cozumel, Mexico / Day 5
Valentines lunch in Cozumel
Again calm seas overnight and we slept very well. It was 9:30 am before I got around and that’s late for me, but I was able to watch us dock at Puerto Langosta near downtown San Miguel.  I was going to go get a haircut early and take a friend, bit there was such a long line to debark at 10:30 am we went to the buffet so I could eat some breakfast.  My first time there and it was actually good.  We finally debarked and we did the 20+ minute walk from the ship to downtown San Miguel. After stopping to rest in the Main Square and photos we made it to Antonio’s Barber Shop.  Martin has been cutting my hair for eleven years now.  After my haircut I met the group at Woody’s just off the main square in San Miguel.  They have been my HQ in Coz for years and have good Mexican food as well the fastest internet on the island.  Woody’s does have my favorite Mexican beer: Bohemia and live music.  We had a dozen+ Snoozemates there most who had attended a Valentines Day meal we shared in Cozumel nine years earlier.  We shared a Valentines cake just as we had years ago and it was wonderful.  Mexican cakes are so rich and delicious.  After a visit to the Pharmacia we walked back to the ship about 3:30 pm and was on board by 4:00, much smoother process than this morning.  A shower and cool cabin felt so good after the humid day and nice walk in San Miguel.  I had some Travel Agent business to do online as well. We met the group in the Seaside Bar for cocktails about 6:00-6:30 pm.  Sergi did his job as they did have the proper ‘fixins’ to prepare a Hugo Spritz.  Thanks.  We shared Valentines goodies and Jazz began at 8:00 and that was very nice.  At dinner we did a boy table and a girl table as we have been known to do, even though it was Valentines…we had our own decorations too.  For dinner I ordered the Asian Salad, the excellent Tortellini with Spinach & Ricotta (pasta as a starter), and the Shittake Beef Short Ribs entree.  For dessert the Black Forest Cake.  This was one of the better dinners especially the Tortellini.  After dinner friends went to the Casino, Retired, or to one of the shows.  It was an great Valentines Day in Cozumel and on the MSC Seaside.

Thursday February 15 / Day at Sea / Day 6
Beautiful interiors of MSC Seaside
Again very smooth seas overnight, perhaps a bit more rolling.  I awoke in the early morning and had some super fast internet time then slept until 9:00 am. when room service arrived.  I decide to join DW on the balcony for breakfast.  And yes they deliver hot milk but only brought cold this morning.  Danish and Fruit Plate were good.  At 11:00ish all in group who had bottles of Prosecco delivered took them to the Miami Beach Bar. The bar servers, who already know us, brought ice buckets, Orange Juice, and Champagne glasses for our deck party.  It was fun. I had lunch from the buffet then the DW and I went to the 2:00 pm show in the theater:  Invito All’Opera a selection of various opera sung by a tenor and soprano accompanied by Classical Violin and Piano.  Good but not as good as a full production you may see on MSC in Europe.  Afterward it was lunch  for DW and they had Guacamole & Hearts of Palm in salad bar (I was jealous).  It was cabin time and an actual nap for myself in the late afternoon…nice.  We attended the 7:00 pm feature show Timeless in the Metropolitan Theater and it was perhaps one of the best shows I have seen at sea.  It was actually similar to the MSC show Starwalker as it featured several Michael Jackson numbers.  The costumes and feature singers and dancers were fantastic.  After the show we met the group in the Sports Bar for an aperitif before dinner.  We had the full group at dinner tonight unfortunately it was perhaps the weaker menu of the week, yet still good, they just had the bar set high with previous dinners.  I ordered: the Arancini Messina-style (this was excellent), Shrimp Fettuccini Alfredo (as starter), and the Beef Tournedos entree (just OK).  For dessert the Key Lime Pie and Coconut Tapioca (both just OK).  After dinner some went to the casino, others to the 70’s party, and some retired for the evening.  I did the later.  It was a great lazy day on board the MSC Seaside.

Friday February 16  / Nassau Bahamas / Day 7
Peter Punk Show
Again very smooth seas overnight.  I awoke in the early morning and had some super fast internet time booking clients then slept until 9:00 am. when room service arrived.  Same procedure as yesterday except this morning I did get the hot milk. Again the Danish and Fruit Plate were good. DW does yogurt and cereal.  We have the Disney Magic docked next to us on port side so that is our breakfast entertainment this morning in Nassau.  Lazy morning until I went to the Sports Bar about noon for a few beers, those in the group met there at 1:00 pm if they were interested in going to Nassau’s  Fish Fry for lunch.  This is an area of Nassau that is where the fishing boats dock and many fish vendors operated then later seafood shacks then restaurants sprang up.  The place to go for fresh seafood.  Once we got to the dock and gates we took a taxi with Ms. Barbara who had a nice a/c van for the seven of us.  We went to Goldie’s Conch House where we got a table on the water among all the discarded conch shells.  Interesting atmosphere.  Between us we ordered everything from Lobster to Red Snapper, but we had three full orders of conch to get through before the main courses.  The conch was fantastic and everything else was great too including the Kalik Gold beer.  Ms Barbara picked us up and carried us back to the ship ($5 pp each way) about 4:00 pm. There are five ships in port and it was crowded in town and at the pier.  Nassau is not a favorite port, but the lunch was super good.  It was back to the cabin for R&R until time for the 7:00 pm feature show.  Tonight's show was Peter Punk featuring the acrobats, dancers, singers, dancers strongmen, and more.  The costumes were amazing with lots of pirates following a revised Peter Pan theme.  After the show we had aperitifs in the Seaside Lounge. Dinner tonight was perhaps one of the better of the cruise.  I had the Mediterranean Meze (fair), Risotio Pescatora-style (good), and the NY Strip Steak entree.  The steak was the best I have ever had in any MDR…certainly steak house quality.  Guests were having a big final night everywhere on the ship tonight…all the venues were very busy.  We haven’t received our new Sail cards for next week, but Guest Services is far too busy for me to get them tonight so  I retired to the cabin and will make a go early tomorrow. Glad we have another week especially since they announced an itinerary change from Freeport to Grand Turk. It was a great day of food today in Nassau and on the MSC Seaside.

Saturday  February 17  / Miami  /  Day 8
Miami from the MSC Seaside
 Smooth seas overnight and I slept well, but up very early and watched us sail into Miami early.  The lights were beautiful.  I went down to Reception for my new cruise cards at 5:00 am….no line and back straightaway.  I did some internet using the local connection on my iPhone since we were in port. I went to the main buffet for breakfast about 6:30 am and it was very busy…guests are getting off early. I did get an hour more sleep before getting up to do some telephone Travel Agent business.  The B2B guests met at 10:00 am in the Seaview Lounge and they did have cocktail servers so an opportunity to have nice Screwdrivers while we visited with friends.  They had trouble getting the last few guests off but took the B2B’s down to Customs & Border Security about 10:40 am  We were processed and back on the ship by 11:00 am.  Easy Peasy.  At noon we went to the Buffet for lunch, I actually had the Roast Beef from the Carving Station.  Also some Guacamole, Mashed Potatoes, and Green Beans.  A nice lunch.  We decided to do a walk about as DW had not seen the Jungle area and indoor/outdoor pool.  We also walked across the Bridge of Sighs before stopping at the Miami Bar for A Mudslide and a beer.  Then to the cabin for a nap or rest, already a long day having started at 4:30 am.  Soon they began announcements for Safety/Muster drill.  MSC does not require B2B guests to attend the 2nd muster drill probably because they have a long history of boarding passengers in various ports along the itinerary.  They began announce drill is for those who boarded “today”.  After drill we met our friends and our new friends who just boarded in the Seaview Bar for cocktails that extended into aperitifs. We skipped the Welcome Show as usual and went to dinner in the Seashore MDR…we have the same tables and waiters as previous week.  For dinner I ordered the Niçoise salad, the Penne Amatricaina Pasta with a hearty tomato sauce with bacon (as a starter), and New York Strip steak entree.  It was a very nice meal and we skipped dessert as we retired to the cabin to rest and for me to update this review.  A very good day with friends on the MSC Seaside.

Sunday February 18 / at Sea /  Day 9
Tappenyaki Lunch
Smooth seas continue and I slept very well overnight.  I did wake early so I was able to get in some faster internet time and review the news, sports, and pay some bills online.  DW always has room service breakfast and I’m joining her this morning for a light breakfast as I have big lunch plans. They did have hot milk, but a juice size glass and there were other omissions so we requested correct order…that will help them remember in future.  Beautiful weather today so had balcony time before going up to deck 16 to the Asian Market for lunch at the Tappanyaki Grill.  We had the entire grill seating area for 12 and were the only ones doing the Tappanyaki so a private room for us.  It is a choice of four options all being a multi course experience, DW did the Vegetarian ($20) and I did the Sencho ($30). My first courses was Miso Soup then Sushi & Sashimi, then from the grill Atlantic Salmon and Tiger Prawns, next Garlic Fried Rice, followed by the main entree of Filet Mignon with Asian vegetables.  For dessert we had Carmelized Pineapple hot from the grill covered with Matcha Custard, Ginger Ice Creme, and Mint Poesto.  An amazing meal and show from chef Joseph.  By far the best lunch I haver ever experienced on a cruise ship.  It was nap time after such a good meal but I was up for the Cruise Critic gathering at 5:00 pm in the Haven Lounge.  It was much better than I expected it to be with complimentary drinks, snacks, and a wonderful cake.  The Captain also came by all the tables to meet guests.  MSC is using this as a marketing opportunity and they will soon have a large percentage of the cruise market from Miami, but I’m glad to go along for the nice food and drinks.  I then went up to the Seaview lounge where the Snoozemate’s area was well represented.  We were joined by others through out the evening.  We passed on the MDR for dinner and the show was a repeat so it was a party night. We actually stayed through the Jazz sessions and Piano sessions and not leaving until 10:30 pm when we retired for the evening.  It was a great sea day on the MSC Seaside.

Monday February 19 / Day at Sea / Day 10
Butcher's Cut Steakhouse on MSC Seaside
Again smooth seas overnight and another great nights sleep. We turned our clocks forward one hour overnight so I woke about 8:00 am and logged on the internet to check mail and messages before the wifi begins slowing down once everyone logs-in today. Room Service was delivered at 9:00 am and the order was perfect.    I again just wanted my Hot Milk and Danish as we decided to  eat in the steakhouse that is open for lunch on seadays.  After some restful cabin time, we went to the Butcher’s Cut premium steakhouse just after the noon opening and had a very nice two-top table with window on the water.  I ordered the same as previous visit:  Hearts of Palm as an appetizer as well as the Beet Salad with Burrata.  My entree was again a Filet Mignon and for dessert a nice Sorbet.  DW ordered the Hearts of Palm and preferred just to order side dishes in lieu of the grilled vegetables she had previously.  We were both very satisfied with the wonderful meal.  It was now nap time and then a cabin movie.  We went to see the production show FLY again.  It was one of our two favorites from last week.  I really features travel with its songs and dances.  Perhaps best and longest Can-Can routine I have seen.  Excellent show.  We listened to the entertainment in the three level Atrium until dinner time.  Dinner was good tonight, I ordered the Gravlax (just OK), Seafood & Chicken Gumbo (better), Penne Pasta in Vodka Sauce (good), and the Chicken Breast Parmigiana (excellent) entree.  For dessert the Caribbean Rum Cake with Coconut Ice Creme.  After dinner DW went to the buffet to get some of the fresh cookies th Iat come out at 10:30.  It was Western night with a show at 10:30, but we retired to the cabin. It was a restful sea day  on the MSC Seaside.

Tuesday February 20 /  Antigua / Day 11 
Mystic Cat at Antiqua Beach 2018
A few rolls in the sea overnight for the first time this week and I slept very well.  We docked about   9:00 am in St. John’s Antigua and I went down to the buffet for a nice breakfast this morning.  I then went the Sports Bar at 9:40 to meet my excursion, along with nine others in our group, for the Catamaran Tour with Lobster Lunch excursion booked thorough the ship ($109). The tour operator was Mystic Catamaran and they are a first class operation with excellent boat and crew.  It was a very short walk from the pier to the large catamaran and very soon we were off on our adventure.  A 6-hour sail on this boat featured swim stops at 2 scenic beaches including Turners Beach, a nice lobster lunch, and unlimited wine, champagne, rum punch, beer and soft drinks. All nationalities and languages on board had a great time on this excursion.  We watched sail away and had a short nap until the 7:00 pm production show: Frank Forever and the three feature singers did a great job performing, I especially enjoyed their accents on the various Frank Sinatra classics they performed.  Afterwards we met the group in the Sports Bar for an apéritif while waiting for dinner.  When seated this evening we ordered a cheese plate and requested quick service so we could catch the 9:30 show.   For dinner I ordered the excellent Tortellini with Spinach & Ricotta (pasta as a starter), and the Shittake Beef Short Ribs entree, my favorite meal from last week.  The food was again wonderful and we were out early and seated on row two of a full house in the Metropolitan theater by 9:30 pm.  The Show was a condensed presentation of the Opera Madame Butterfly featuring the opera vocalists, two feature dancers, dance company, and even the aerialist.  It was a very different show.  Tonight is the White Night Party with special events on Pool Deck and there were many more guests dressed in white this week than last. It was a great and fun day on the Cat excursion and on the MSC Seaside.

 Wednesday February 21 / St. Thomas, USVI / Day 12
MSC Seaside docked St. Thomas USVI
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well although up very early to update my review from yesterdays busy day.  We arrive very early at St. Thomas (7:00 am), but leave early too due to our itinerary change for tomorrow. I met friends at 10:00 am and plans for Paradise Point were changed as the road up is still not repaired from recent hurricane.  DW and I did walk the Havensight Mall area for about 1.5 hours and returned to the ship by noon.  A few friends went on excursion, some just a walk about as we did, or just stayed on the ship.  At noon we went to the buffet on deck 8.  We got a table near the back and friends came and went as it became hard to get a table when we received some showers closing the outdoor dining tables. Then to deck 7 to the Ice creme area where we had some nice Gelato.  We sailed away at 2:00 pm and it was a nice cool day after a second shower so we left the balcony door open and enjoyed the ocean sounds.  We attended the Black Card Party today at 5:00 pm, I saw Robert the Assistant Hotel Director and Sveto the Beverage Manager, I enjoy talking to them.  The Captain came by our table as well for a toast.  There were fewer guests than last week, I'm sure the number of Black Cards vary from week to week.  At 7:00 pm we then went to the feature entertainment show My Life in Music.  It was DW’s favorite show of the two weeks and as the final song they did the best version of Con te Partiro I have ever heard. It is one of my favorites and the five feature singers really belted it out…IMHO better than Andre Bocelli and Sarah Brightman.  We then went to the Seaview Lounge for aperitifs until dinner time.  Tonight I ordered: the Arancini Messina-style (this was excellent), Shrimp Fettuccini Alfredo (as starter), and the Red Snapper entree (just OK).  For dessert the Dulce De Leche Ice Creme (good).  After dinner some went to the casino, others to the Quest, and some retired for the evening.  I retired after a cookie run to buffet.  It was a busy day on board the MSC Seaside.

Thursday February 22 / Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos  / Day 13
Topher 2/22/18
Rolling seas overnight and I slept very well and until 9:30 am on my birthday morning.  Just after 10:00 am I went up to the buffet on deck 16 and had a nice breakfast…after I was seated the lady from the omelette station brought me a nice ham & cheese birthday omelette…thank you nice lady. I enjoyed some morning cabin time and reading birthday wishes on Facebook and email until our arrival in Grand Turk about noon.  It took a while to get tied up in the wind but the Captain did a fine job, it would have been disappointing to lose this port. The Carnival Glory came in just behind us we were able to block the wind for them.  Our ship is so long that we will only be able to use the forward gangways here so we are going to stay on board for a while and go off in the late afternoon.  We watched a movie then went to the buffet about 2:00 pm.  We debarked and walked down the beach to Jack’s Shack arriving about 3:30 pm and literally greeted by Topher.  Our group already had a couple of tables so it was great timing.  Thanks to my very nice friends I didn’t have to buy a drink yet enjoyed several Turk’s Head lager birthday beers.  Thanks all.  One of the best beaches in the Caribbean here and it was a very fun day.  DW got me a nice Topher shirt for my birthday.  The jerk chicken here is much better than any place in Jamaica so try it if you come.  We walked back about 6:00ish enjoying the sunset as we walked back to pier.  The Glory was late sailing so we enjoyed their sail away party as our balcony was over their pool deck area.  A lot of fun between the two ships as they finally pulled away from the dock. We sailed away about 7:15pm.  We went down to the Seaview Lounge for aperitifs and the Jazz Singer actually sang Happy Birthday to me.  Sweet since I’d been enjoying her all week..  We went to dinner in the MDR and it was very good.  I ordered the Pate appetizer, the Mushroom Cheese Ravioli (as starter), and the NY Strip Steak entree.  The waiters sang “Happy Birthday” to me in Italian and English as well as delivering a very nice cake.  We went to the lobby bar for cabin cokes then retired.  For the rest of the group it was 70’s night, Casino, Comedy or music.  It was a great birthday at Jacks Shack and on the MSC Seaside.

Friday February 23 / Day at Sea / Day 14 
Some rolling seas continue as well as the good nights sleep.  I slept for almost 12 hours but with the turn back in ships time overnight was awake about 9:30 am.  Much needed sleep after a busy birthday.  Updated my review and relaxed this morning then went to the Butchers Cut Steakhouse for Brunch at 11:00.  This is champagne morning for the rest of the group at the Miami Beach bar.  Our Brunch was wonderful.  DW ordered the Mediterranean Omelet that was perfect for her, I ordered the Breakfast Club a great egg, cheese, & avocado sandwich, and we split the Blueberry Pancakes.  It was great and we would do it again.   Just after noon we joined the Champagne party still going on at the Miami Beach Bar.  The *ding* notice on my iPhone reminding me to check-in for flights started bringing me into trip reality so I returned to cabin to review our travel day tomorrow.  Boarding passes in the iWallet…sweet.  Did some preliminary packing then up one deck to the buffet for pizza and salad about 3:30  pm before the buffet closes.  Did a walkabout and ended up at the Creperie & Ice Creme on deck 7 aft so always time for a Gelato…especially when you have extra drink vouchers that can be used.  No show for us tonight so we met the group for our final cocktails in the Sports Bar this evening…it was nice, but sad as well.  It was Italian night for our final dinner.  I ordered the Tri-color Italian Salad, the Lasagna Bolognese (as starter), and the Chicken Marsala entree.  For dessert I had the Lemon Delight.  All were very good.  It was time for final good byes to friends and wait staff.  After dinner we returned to the cabin to finish packing and put out our luggage out for pick up before 11:00 pm.  It was a very nice final sea day on the MSC Seaside.

Saturday February 24 / Miami /  Debarkation
We arrived in Miami about 6:00 am.. Our group and Bosque Travel actually had our own time and color luggage tag: Fuchia. That’s a first for me and group.  We had a 8:15 meet time for debarkation in the casino.  We went down to deck seven just before the designated time and had about 30 minute delay, but I adjusted our position to the gangway and soon we were ‘dinged’ right out.  We then went down to baggage claim and yes our color was out.  Just a few minutes until all the bags were collected and we got a porter who escorted us through U.S. Customs and to the taxi station. The passport cards really helped in getting us through both U.S. Customs AND airport TSA security strait away.  We were at our departure gate about 10:00 am for a 11:50 am boarding.  Piece of Cake.  The flight from Miami to DFW went well, I watched the movie Dunkirk.  We had time to eat some Tex-Mex at DFW before our Waco flight.  From ACT to the Ranch about 7:45 pm.  A long but uneventful travel day.

Maiden Voyage: 2017  /  Gross Tonnage: 153,500 tons
Passenger Max Capacity: 5179  /  Crew: 1413  /  Length: 323 meters/1060 ft
Max Cruising Speed: 22 knots  /  Avg Speed 21 knots
Installed power: Diesel (40,000kW)  /  Propulsion: Twin propellers

Passenger decks: 17  /   Builder: Fincantieri  /  Godmother: Sophia Loren

This is a very uniquely designed ship with a lot more of outdoor space than any other MSC ship since this ship will be a full time Caribbean based ship.  Beautiful public spaces throughout the ship.  Deck 8 has the indoor/outdoor promenade and primary food buffet…unique in design.

We have cabin 15114 a starboard side balcony located on deck 15 and located between the aft and mid elevators.  It is well decorated, but smaller than any cabin we have ever had on any other MSC ship.  Storage is very limited too compared to other MSC ships. The toilet seems smaller perhaps because of the glass shower doors restricts some movement.  The wardrobe is also smaller so storage can be a problem. The cabin has a push button safe, twin/king beds, large padded headboard, two small night stands, wall mounted wall lights, a large mirror, a small refrigerator, small table/bench (unusual), and nice TV with interactive features.  I used an open suitcase as a set of drawers under the bed to get enough storage…we did have more clothes than normal since we are out for two weeks.  Balcony is standard size with two chairs and table.  You can hear chairs scooting above about 11:00ish each night when they clean or move nice to be just one deck below food & drink though.  The cabin 'grew' on me the move we stayed in it.  (became more acceptable for my foreign friends)

Bars / Entertainment
Entertainment is the strong suit of MSC with very elaborate production shows and live music in most all venues. The shows in the theater were really outstanding and not to be missed.  Great Talent.  In addition to the production shows they have a ‘fun’ event scheduled every night night at 10:30 pm in the Haven Lounge (larger lounge located aft).  I enjoyed the jazz in the Seaview Lounge.  Several very uniquely decorated lounges among the sixteen bars and lounges on the ship.  Being new not all the bars are fully stocked with correct stemware or even cocktail napkins as yet but will be soon.  It does discourage ordering a martini when they don’t have a martini glass. 

Dining / Food
The dinners in the MDR are very good, service and settings were wonderful.  I can assure you that one will not get fish knives, coffee spoons, olive oil dishes, or other first class service items on a cruise line such as Carnival, but you will on MSC. Our wait staff were excellent, very pleased with the service.  Buffet food was good to excellent.  Not as many selections as in the past, but the food variety was fine.  Favorites: all the Pizza, all the Pastas, Guacamole, Hamburgers, and Salad Bar.  You can order bar service from all the buffet tables with an electronic buzzer…very convenient.  I only did one specialty restaurant: The Butcher’s Cut.  I really enjoyed both dinners and the brunch. 

Black Card — MSC has a Loyalty match program that honors your status from other cruise lines so that made us ‘Black Cards’ the highest level.  We received dinner for two in a specialty restaurant, large Chocolate Ships, a private Cocktail Party, Champagne & h’orderves, and more.  The gifts were: a light beach backpack, lanyard, & baseball style hats…it was nice they changed the gifts from one week to next for B2B guests.  Great program.

Comments - MSC Cruise Line
MSC is very different than the usual American cruise lines and if your looking for the same experience it will be much different.  You may like the differences or you may be very unhappy with the differences.  As an experienced cruiser I love different.  If you don’t like change or are not flexible you will probably NOT like sailing a European cruise line.  Following is my personal observations on sailing MSC: 

MSC Seaside Pluses:
Beautiful Public Rooms, Top quality MSC Production Shows & Entertainment, Quality and Beautiful Themed Bars, Hot Milk readily available on buffet and MDR,  Attentive bar servers, Good MDR Breakfasts, Great Alternative Restaurants, Smoothest sailing ever.  The MSC for Me app is shows in theater, make dining reservations, check on-board account,  interactive map, find closest toilet, and much more.

MSC Seaside Negatives:

Children Sail Free (too many uncontrolled children and prams), Buffet areas very busy, Smaller Cabin areas, Small storage wardrobe.

Differences on Seaside
I have been asked about the differences between European MSC ships and new MSC Seaside marketed as a more Americanized sailing concept and have noticed these:
Primary buffet is on deck 8 (no Lido deck per se) with lots of outdoor seating.
Pool Games…the typical things found on U.S. sailings. 
Drinks are now allowed in main theater (still no bar service…a good thing IMHO)
Tips now gladly accepted.
More alternative dining options.
More outdoor swimming pools.

Highlights of the Cruise
Snoozemates and cruise friends sailing with us.
MSC Production Shows.
Antiqua Catamaran Adventure
Private Tappanyaki Luncheon with friends.
Cozumel Valentines Day gathering.
Grand Turk and Jack's Shack.
The Butchers Cut Steakhouse.
Bar Servers and Dining room staff

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Vision of the Seas - Mexican Caribbean Cruise December 2017

Just The Facts:
Captain: Marek Slaby of Poland
Cruise Director: Steve Davis of Milwaukee USA
Embarkation: Galveston, Texas   December 9, 2017
Ports: Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico - Cozumel, Mexico

This is my 25th Royal Caribbean cruise, first time on the Vision of the Seas, and my 134th cruise overall.  I am sailing as a solo, but have friends on board.  

Day One  -  Embarkation  -  Saturday - December 9th
Seawolfe Park - Pelican Island - Galveston
I had been doing the later later arrive of late when driving to Galveston, but I woke early so decided to leave early and was off about 6:15 am from the ranch.  I stopped to check air pressure, get gas, and to buy a tire gauge,  but still arrived at EZ Cruise Parking by 11:00 am.  It went from 30° to 58° from Waco to Galveston and traffic was fine.  Good timing on arrival as by the time we were shuttled to the terminal the early birds were already boarded.  There was no one in front of me at security, check-in, or boarding.  Once I had my card I basically just walked on board and was at the Windjammer by 11:40 am.  Perfect timing.  I didn’t even have a problem getting a table, ship must be not full or most guests will be late arrivals.  Just off the sister ship Rhapsody and noticed the Windjammer is not as large.  Buffet begins just as you walk in so I think may be a bottle neck but fine this morning.  After lunch I went to the Solarium and got a table to open computer and sign up for the Zoom Wifi.  I’m doing the ‘Surfer’ package and not the ‘Streamer’ package this cruise.  Price less than $20 with my Diamond+ discount.  I used my Galveston duffle  (largest that will fit in security scanners) so I carried my bag on board and could begin cabin set up as soon as the cabins opened at 1:00 pm.  I really like this cabin and balcony, it’s the fifth or sixth different Royal Caribbean ship that I’ve enjoyed this location with the special extended balcony.  Boat or Safety drill was about 3:15 pm.  I was a good guest and went although I sat in the old folks area after I checked in at my station.  Very few in the comfy chairs and drill was very short and sweet, I probably could have stood on the cool and sunny deck.  It was maybe all of five minutes…I was back at cabin by 3:30 pm.  I'm doing sail away from the aft facing balcony for a good view of the dolphin escort.  One of the sail always in many years: perfect weather and so much activity today.  Cargo Ships, Cruise ships, small craft, ferries, dolphins, Pelicans, sport fisherman off Pelican Island, and great weather and view.  (Photo: Sea Wolfe Park with WWII submarine the USS Cavalla and one of only three destroyer escorts in the world, the USS Stewart. The remains of the tanker S.S. Selma, the largest concrete ship constructed, can be seen in background-click photo to enlarge).  I went to the Diamond Lounge about 6:00 pm., it was not busy at all, not many Diamonds sailing on a 5-day cruise on an older ship.  I enjoyed a few Cosmopolitans and enjoyed great table service.  I have late dining @ 8:00 pm and dinner was interesting.  My friends are at next table, they messed up link, but should correct.  I ordered the Strawberry Kiwi Pineapple Medley, Seafood Spaghetti (my pasta as starter tradition), and the Slow-roasted Prime Rib with Baked Potato entree.  The Prime Rib was as tender and delicious as I have had on a cruise ship…pleasantly amazed.  I ordered a Carrot Cake for dessert.  I skipped the Welcome Show @ 9:45 although I would have time to attend, our waiter service was prompt.  I was anxious to hear who won the 2017 Heisman Trophy tonight so retired to the cabin after dinner.  Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma won so I’m very pleased with that selection. After updating my blog I turned in early after a busy embarkation and travel day.

Day Two  - Cruising -  Sunday - December 10th
Vision of the Seas- Centrum
Predominantly smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  It’s a mostly cloudy day and cool enough to get nice sea air through the open door of the balcony.  I went to the MDR for breakfast.  They are serving the Daily Specials (they did not on the Rhapsody) and I did order one: the Country Omelette.  Fortunately I also ordered a side of fried eggs and bacon as the omelette was only fair.  Rommel my cabin Steward was cleaning my cabin when I returned so I started my balcony time early today.  I did a walkabout on the ship and it is decorated very nicely for the Christmas holidays.  A very large tree in the lobby area and decorations throughout with a very large ten foot Santa and Snowman in the Windjammer.  I did use my $5 D+ voucher in the casino today… lost the $5 but cashed out with $6.20 so I can apply the big winnings towards my tip money.  I went to the Windjammer and they had Pork at the carving station.  I also had some nice Pork Chops with Mashed Potatoes and Corn on the Cob.  As on the Rhapsody the Cutlets & Chops are consistently good on Royal Caribbean.  The sun came out in the afternoon but it remained somewhat cool.  Still very nice balcony weather.  They delivered a bottle of wine on ice and later some very nice Petit-Fours.  This is the formal night and the Captains reception this evening, I no longer do dressy, but I have a nice Christmas shirt…who doesn’t like Santa.  Tonight I went up to the Concierge Club on deck 11 for cocktails, it was not too busy either and the Cosmopolitans were a little better IMHO.  Just not as many VIP’s on this older RCCL ship.  I went to dinner and sat with my friends.  They had messed up the dining link but corrected it this evening and same waiters and staff.  I ordered the Bay Scallop Gratin, Artichoke filled Crepe au Gratin (as starter), and the Roasted Sirloin of Beef entree.  It was good, but not as good as last nights dinner.  I know I could have had that same Sirloin sliced to order upstairs in the Windjammer, the better choice for dining on formal night on RCCL in my opinion.  But it was nice to visit with my friends in the MDR ad the Pistachio ice creme for dessert was good.  The production show Boogie Wonderland was tonight at 10:00 pm in the Masquerade Theater, but I had a short walkabout then retired to the cabin.  Guests were enjoying the evening especially the Battle of the Sexes finale in the Centrum was most impressive.  A very nice sea day on the Vision of the Seas.

Day Three  - Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico -  Monday - December 11th
El Faro from Costa Maya Pier
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  It’s a bright and beautiful day today. We are scheduled to arrive in Costa Maya about noon so off to the MDR at regular time (8:00-9:30) for a nice breakfast.  I ordered the Huevo Rancheros from the special of day AND an Eggs Benedict knowing not all specials are special.  Both were good, but glad I ordered the EB too.  The very efficient Rommel had my cabin cleaned by the time I arrived back…thanks.  It was a bit breezy this morning but great on the balcony.  We arrived about 11:00 am and guests were off right away.  I decided to wait a while.   We ended up backing in on the shore side so I have a front row seat of the pier, port area, El Faro, and the village in the distance.  Soon some xylophone players set up on the pier so I enjoyed music while on the balcony too.  The breeze dropped and the weather is perfect so I prepared to go to town for at least Guacamole and beer: Walking shoes, Pesos, Sunglasses, check.  I went up to the Windjammer just to see what was available about 12:30 before leaving.  Guess what? Mexican on the buffet including Guacamole.  The best item was the Sirloin Steak on the carving station and it was cooked medium well…perfect for me.  I had several slices with freshly Grilled Vegetables and Mashed Potatoes…excellent.  After eating lunch I fixed a nice Mexican snack plate and some steak sandwiches for later on the balcony.  So a great view, great weather, food, cokes, and music in the afternoon in a relaxing spot on my balcony.  So easy.  I went to get some cokes from the Diamond Lounge when it opened at 4:30 pm and continued balcony time through sunset.  At 6:30 I went to the Diamond Lounge for cocktails then met friends at the Schooner Bar at 7:00 a fun evening. For dinner tonight I ordered Summer Fruit Medley, and two entrees: Chicken Cordon Bleu and Braised Beef Duo.  The waiters also brought cheese plates for the table and Hearts of Palm for me to enjoy.  Super.  Cherries Jubilee was my choice for dessert.  The entertainment was a Journey cover band Resurrection, but skipped for comfort of my cabin.  It was an easy day on the Vision of the Seas.

Day Four  - Cozumel, Mexico -  Tuesday - December 12th

New sign in the main square
Smooth seas overnight for the short sail to Cozumel.  We docked early at the International pier. Very windy today. I woke early and went to the MDR for a nice country breakfast just after 7:00 am.  I watched the Carnival Dream struggle to try and dock at the Costa Mayan pier with eating.  It took them over a half hour to get in due to the wind.  We know first hand the thruster problems on the Dream class.  I decided to go ashore early to avoid the crowds as we have the Liberty of the Seas sharing our pier later this morning.  I made through the shops and no lines at security or taxi stand.  I was at the main square in San Miguel by 8:30 am (9:30am local) and just enjoyed the improved square for a while while waiting for the opening of the barber shop at 9/10. I visited Iglesia de San Miguel the church as usual as Martin is usually late by a few minutes.  After another great haircut I went to my Cozumel HQ: Woody's Bar and Grill just off the main square.  I visited with Nelly and soon some friends sailing on the Dream came by to share a few drinks.  I enjoyed my favorite Mexican beer: La Bohemia and some great guacamole & Pico de Gallo with chips.  The music was good and weather perfect.  Later Nelly insisted we share a Christmas lunch.  She's thinking of adding Bacon-wrapped shrimp so we shared one: very good.  I enjoyed the traditional beef (steak) tortillas.  Thanks Nelly.  We sailed away about 5:15 pm...very interesting being docked next to the other RCCL ship from Texas.  The Vision was dwarfed in size next to the Liberty of the Seas.  I went to the Diamond lounge about 6:30 then to the Schooner Bar about 7:00.  It was surprisingly busy for a Cozumel day. The Captain who is an excellent singer joined a group in the Centrum before dinner, my second singing Captain on Royal Caribbean.  Tonight was Italian night in the dining room (MDR). I ordered the Insalata Mista salad and added my special Hearts of Palm.  Also  the Lasagna del Forno (with two sauces) as a starter, and the Chicken Marsala entree.  I had Pistachio Ice Creme and an excellent Sticky Bun & Pudding served with Ice creme for dessert.  A nice dinner but I had nice food all day.  I retired direct to cabin after a busy day.  It was a great day in Cozumel and on the Vision of the Seas. 

Day Five  - Cruising -  Wednesday - December 13th
Busy in the Galley Bakery
Smooth seas overnight, but I was up a lot overnight but got enough sleep.  Beautiful sunny day today.  I went down to the MDR for a nice MDR breakfast about 8:30 am.  I then had the one hour VIP Galley Tour at 9:30 am.  The galley is not that large although on both decks four and five.  I enjoyed the Baking Area as I have experience there and the breads are so good on Royal Caribbean.  When DW sails she always orders room service  breakfast and about half the time they deliver coffee cup although we don’t order nor drink it.  As I suspected the room service trays are preloaded with certain items including coffee cups…thought so and tour confirmed it.  Lots of morning sunshine on balcony upon return.  I’ve enjoyed the Captain’s noon announcements (a regular thing on all RCCL ships) and port announcements, he lists guests and crew birthdays and has interesting messages.  I went to the MDR for lunch just because I saw the prep for the unique salad bar they set up during the galley tour.  I had the Seafood Risotto and Fish Enchiladas.  They were good, but I think the Windjammer may be better option.  Balcony time in the afternoon, nice sun going north bound yet cool enough to make it very nice.  Several friend came by to check out it out as well.  I do plan to cruise less but better in the future when it comes to cabin location and ship selections.  I went to the Diamond club for my final Cosmopolitans there then to listen to the Piano music in the Schooner Lounge until dinner.  Dinner ended up being a feast.  I ordered Pan Seared Bay Scallops (2), Shrimp Cocktail (2), a Green salad with Hearts of Palm, Rigatoni Pasta (as starter), and the Rosemary Lamb Shank entree.  All very good, the Scallops excellent, and the Lamb outstanding the best I have ever enjoyed.  For dessert I had Key Lime Pie and Ice Creme.  Yes a feast and it was served promptly as our servers other tables were a no show.  Romeo, from India, was an excellent server all week.  The big Thriller dance was this evening in the Centrum, I had been seeing guests rehearse all week…they really looked good.  I again retired early as I know I’ll be up early to pack the next morning.  It was a very nice day on the Vision of the Seas.

Debarkation -  Galveston, Texas -  Thursday- December 14th
Smooth seas overnight and I was up very early as the ship approached Galveston.  I had my final MDR Eggs Benedict as they opened at 6:30 this morning.  After breakfast I returned to cabin and packed, then left the cabin about 8:10 am.  No wait for an elevator, no line on deck four or at 'ding-out', fast moving line to Border Control, brief 1 minute wait at customs, then out the door.  I was on the EZ Cruise shuttle at 8:30 am.  Amazingly smooth debarkation.  I stopped to put air in my tires and was on the bridge by 8:45.  I took I-45 through Houston and stopped for a great lunch at Billy B's in Groesbeck.  At the ranch at 2:00 pm.

I had cabin 7152 an aft facing balcony cabin located on deck seven on the port side corner.  The room is the standard size for a balcony on this class ship (a bit larger than same on newer ships). It has the following: key pad safe, hair dryer, large couch, vanity/desk, nice standard shower, storage in cabinets and vanity, flat screen TV, and good lighting. There is an empty small refrigerator and they offer and they offer mini-bar service for drinks, etc.  Well designed.  The air conditioning & water pressure worked well.  Excellent service from cabin steward Rommel.  The key feature is the aft corner balcony (see photo below)


All service people have been excellent, they have an obvious ‘guest first’ attitude and it shows in service and attitude.  My cabin steward Rommel and waiter Romeo were very good.  Excellent Captain, he even wished all guests a Merry Christmas on the gangway as all debarked the ship.

Food / Bar

Overall very good food, better than recent Mariner and Liberty cruises and perhaps even better than the Rhapsody. Amazing that the better food is on the smaller ships. By far.  Excellent: Cookies, Ice Creme, Breads, Mashed Potatoes and entrees.  Continental Breakfast is complementary but a charge for Room Service meals delivered to the cabin. 

General Comments

I really enjoyed the cabin, it does spoil one and all other activities are different due to availability of your own nice balcony.  Great food, easy embark and debark, very nice crew and Captain, the Diamond Lounge was very hospitable, it was a very enjoyable cruise.


the End - Aft - fin



  ~~ Click on photos to enlarge ~~

Monday, November 6, 2017

Rhapsody of the Seas - Transatlantic Cruise - November 2017

Just the Facts:
Captain:  Juan Caranti from Argentina
Cruise Director:  Graham Seymour from England
Embarkation: Barcelona, Spain November 5, 2017
Ports: Lanzarote, Canary Islands; Gran Canaria, Canary Islands; La Palma, Canary Islands; and private island CocoCay, Bahama Islands

This is my 24th Royal Caribbean cruise, forth time on the Rhapsody of the Seas, and my 133rd cruise overall.  I am sailing with my Dear Wife and this is the final leg of a European adventure.

Day One  -  Travel / Barcelona  -  Embarkation  -  Sunday - November 5th

View of our cruise ship from arriving flight
We had an early 6:00 am Lufthansa flight so met our driver before 4:00 am for the drive to the Munich airport.  It was a completely automated process at the airport.  We got our boarding passes from a kiosk, then found the auto baggage check-in.  We loaded each bag onto a conveyor that displayed the weight, then scanned the boarding passes on computer screen, answered questions, then baggage tags were printed.  We place the tags on the luggage, it scans them then the conveyor takes them away.  Glad we were able to do it as a live check-in agent wouldn’t be available until later in morning and we had a 5:30 deadline to check bags and boarding began at 5:50 am.  We enjoyed Lufthansa and the flight crew were very friendly,  we even had a choice of a Danish or small egg sandwich.  I had a nice view of the cruise ships in the Barcelona harbor as we landed about 8:00 am.  Once we retrieved our bags we found the Royal Caribbean airport representatives and were scheduled on the first shuttle to the ship at 10:00 am.  They even take your luggage to be delivered to your cabin.  An hour wait was fine with free WiFi and soon we were on our way to the ship arriving about 11:00 am.  We went straight through security and priority check-in and I expected another wait before boarding, but we went directly on board the ship.  Nice and easy we even had to wait a few minutes before the Windjammer opened at 11:30 am.  DW was very pleased with the better salad choices for vegetarians on the salad bar and I usually always enjoy the Windjammer, they had Roast Beef on the carving station as usual on embarkation day.  Cabins were opened at 1:00 pm and I found my two bags on the way to our cabin on deck four forward.  I began unpacking and cabin set-up then tried to take a nap.  DW retrieved her bags an hour later and did the same.  Boat / Safety Drill was held at 4:30 pm and following that we went to the Diamond Lounge that took up all of the Shall we Dance lounge on deck six aft.  It was really packed with guests.  We enjoyed two cocktails then went up to the Concierge Lounge on deck eleven…also packed completely including the overflow into the Viking Crown Lounge so we went to the Pool Bar and used our Diamond drinks vouchers on our card to get cokes to take to the cabin.  We went to the Windjammer for dinner then retired to the cabin after this early beginning day.  We are glad to be in the same bed for 14 days following our European travels.  It was a smooth and easy day of traveling and embarking the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Two  - at Sea -  Monday - November 6th
Shall We Dance Lounge
I slept very well and it was nice to sleep until 8:00 am.  We will enjoy having no schedule while on this cruise.  I did go to the MDR for breakfast and DW ordered Room Service which is our usual cruising morning ritual.  The cabin steward, Samson, made the changes to the cabin as we requested yesterday…we had the bed split to allow more floor and window access in our extended ocean view cabin.  We relaxed most of the day only taking a break for lunch in the Windjammer.  They had a nice Pork Cutlet and Roast Pork on the carving station.  Cookies and Bread Pudding were good too.  Lot’s of activities on the ship and the weather is warm enough for full deck activities as well.  Yes there are lifeguards on duty at the pools.  The aft pool in the Solarium is reserved for guests above the age of 16…that’s nice to have a pool safe for older guests.  Not many children on this cruise though. This was the Captains Formal evening so there was a Captains Reception where you can get a photo with the Master of the Ship.  Also entertainment begins in the Broadway Melodies Theater and tonight was Motown Music with William Hicks.  Our cabin is directly above the stage of the theater and we can certainly hear the show, I picked the cabin knowing this but wanted the larger cabin; however, it is more noise than I anticipated.  I went up to the Windjammer for a great freshly thick sliced Sirloin Steak that was delicious.  DW skipped dinner so we have yet to get to table 48 in the MDR for dinner.  We made an unscheduled brief stop in the port Gibraltar about 10:30 pm due to a medical emergency, those wanting a closer look at the ‘Rock’ got their wish.  It was a very restful recover day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Three  - at Sea -  Tuesday - November 7th
Another good nights sleep and an extra hour as we set our clocks back one hour for the first time this cruise.  It should happen 4-5 more times before we reach Tampa.  I went to the MDR for another great breakfast, so nice to have good service and nice table cloths.  We got a table on Lido deck near the pool for some nice fresh sea air.  We enjoyed the poolside entertainment with the Black & White Dance Band.  Lunch in the Windjammer, they had a meatloaf with egg in the center…similar to a Scotch egg.  Also some nice Veal Scallopini.  Cabin time the rest of the day as we are still in rest and recovery mode.  Nice to have a selection of TV channels in English as we didn’t in Germany.  We did go to the Diamond lounge about 5:30 and ending up staying until almost 8:00 pm.  Enjoyed too many cocktails and hors d’oeuvres so we missed dinner again.  We did meet some nice people and we will make it to MDR for dinner eventually.  It was a nice restful day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Four  - Lanzarote, Canary Islands -  Wednesday - November 8th
Arrecife Policeman
Slept well overnight and again went to the MDR for breakfast.  It’s very convenient as our cabin is on the same deck as the MDR.  We arrived at our first port today Arrecife on the island of Lanzarote a part of the Canary Islands.  We took a taxi into town (€5) then boarded a little Hop-on Hop-off train (€4 pp) that took us by the sites of the small port town of Arrecife.  We saw the beach, Castillo, parks, and public art.  We walked the pedestrian shopping area and they actually had some fashionable names as well as local businesses.  We taxied back to the ship early and had the ship to ourselves for a while.  I took advantage by taking some photographs of the ship.  We had a late lunch in the Windjammer, they had Roast Beef at carving station and some great pork cutlets.  I happened to mention that I was disappointed that hey didn’t have any mashed potatoes today.  Soon a chef was bring a bowl of nice hot mashed potatoes to my table.  Wow, some impressive service. We watched some vintage TV shows on this afternoon until sail away at sunset from Lanzarote.  DW has sore throat so we skipped the Diamond clubs this evening although I used my D+ card to get cans of Ginger Ale for the cabin.  I did go to the MDR for the first time tonight,  Table 48 is all the way in the back of the Edelweiss Restaurant, the waiter Vladimir from Ukraine was good.  Dinner was excellent, the menu was one only used on longer cruises.  I ordered Mulligatawny soup, Baked Cheese Cannelloni with beef Mushroom Ragout (my pasta as starter tradition), the Pan Fried Pork Medallions entree, and Creme Brulee for dessert.  I retired after dinner.  An interesting day on shore and on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Five  - Gran Canaria, Canary Islands -  Thursday - November 9th
Sidewalk Cafe / Bar DaVinci
Some rolling seas overnight and I slept very well.  This is my third visit to Gran Canaria and previously I have rented a vehicle and also done a private excursion so I have seen the very beautiful island.  Our plan is to stay in Las Palmas and have an easy day so no rush to get off even though we were cleared by 7:30 am.  Since I filled out the breakfast room service menu for the DW last evening I had also decided to also have a continental breakfast this morning.  It was delivered just after 8:00 am d the oatmeal was nice as they sent brown sugar and raisins.  Fruit Plate, Muffin, and Donut as well as juice.  We left the ship about 10:00 and walked into town.  DW wanted to visit the nice Department Store El Corte Ingles to purchase her favorite Jo Malone perfume to replace her purchase made in Barcelona  last year.  Very nice European style boulevard at the store location and nice shops and stores.  We then walked some pedestrian streets and really lucked into finding a wonderful bar, Bar Da Vinci Las Palmas, where we sat on the sidewalk enjoying the scenes and weather.  I had the local Canary Island draft beer and DW had an Iced Coffee.  We stayed for a second round and light snack before walking back through the park to the cruise pier.  We went up to the Windjammer before most returned to the ship for a nice lunch.  They had Turkey meatloaf at carving station (new to me…just fair) and very nice breaded pork chops.  I was able to enjoy a nice nap in the afternoon…a very restful afternoon following the walk around town. Sail away was an hour + late so the lights of the city were nice as we sailed from the harbor.  DW still a bit under the weather so I went to Windjammer for dinner.  A lot of guests eat there every night and the selections are very good.  Tonight they had Pork Roast on the carving station and several other meat entrees.  You can get a variety of wines as well.  A good option to the MDR.  The featured entertainment was Tracey Shields a vocalist who covers Celine Dion and others.  Only fair entertainment so far…IMHO.  It was an enjoyable day in Las Palmas today.

Day Six  - La Palma, Canary Islands -  Friday - November 10th
Typical Santa Cruz de la Palma architecture
Really rolling seas overnight but I enjoy that when sleeping.  We arrived early and were cleared by 7:30 am in San Miguel de La Palma, the most north-westerly island of the Canary Islands, Spain.  I have visited five of the seven primary Canary Islands.  Overcast today so no tours, but we did go into the town of Santa Cruz de Palma.  We really enjoyed the old cobblestone 'high' streets of the town and the very unique architecture. Many buildings also reminded us of Havana with the 18-19th century Spanish Colonial architecture.  Most of the old buildings contained modern shops and businesses.  Very pleasant browsing the streets and area.  We had a nice stop at La Placeta for drinks.  This was DW's favorite of the three Canary Islands we visited, I prefer Gran Caneria, but the town was most interesting.  I would not bother with an ship excursion here.  We returned to the ship for a late lunch in the Windjammer Cafe then rested from the walk. Cabin time primarily the rest of the day and just a light snack for dinner.  It was a new experience on the island today.

Day Seven  - at Sea -  Saturday - November 11th
Rolling seas overnight and I slept very well.  I went to the MDR for breakfast and ordered an Eggs Benedict + extras...all very good.  We had a lazy morning then went up to the Lido deck to enjoy the sea breezes and the Hott Sands Caribbean Band…they played for several hours...longer than the other groups that have played on Lido, but the Lido is their ‘home’ stage.  I thought it was perfect weather, but DW felt cool as did some leaving the pool…it was partly sunny to cloudy all day.  A Windjammer lunch then NCAA football all afternoon and evening.  I’m able to stream the games so it’s great on this sea day.  It was formal night tonight, but we quit doing formal many cruises ago, especially on a long adventure…not packing extra clothes.  The feature entertainment was male vocalist Jimmy Hopper and a Game Show.  It was German night in the Windjammer buffet tonight, they had Red Cabbage, Potato Pancakes, Pork Cutlets, Sauerkraut, Sausages, and other Germain dishes as well as the usual food items.  My alma mater Oklahoma has a late feature game (7:00 pm CST) at home so it’s not shown until 1:00 am Sunday on the ship.  No sports bar on the Rhapsody but I created one with my computer, Rhapsody cookies & snacks, and complementary drinks...a nice long sports day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Eight  - at Sea -  Sunday - November 12th
Salad Bar
Still rolling seas but calming a little.  We turned our time back an hour but I still slept until 10:40 am since I was up watching live football most of the night.  I had a sweet plum and cookie for breakfast and decided to wait until the MDR opened for lunch to really eat.  I had a nice salad from the salad line that was set-up.  Since the Rhapsody is a smaller ship the salad area was not as large as I am used to on most RCCL ships, but it had most of the usual salad items offered.  I also ordered the Fish & Chips from the menu.  We had our deck time by the pool after lunch.  In the late afternoon it began to rain so we retired to the cabin to try and watch a new Television series,  Good Behavior, that we discovered.  It took a while to stream but watched the premier episode.  We were off our eating schedule so actually went to the Windjammer close to opening time of 6:00 pm.  I enjoyed the Pork from the carving station with Mashed Potatoes, and various Vegetables.  Good basic food.  Didn’t attend the entertainment of a Hypnotist this evening. I actually retired early since I didn’t have much sleep that lead to both of us waking in the night.  We watched two episodes of Good Behavior as the steaming was perfect in the middle of the night with no guests online and better weather.  We're going to try to binge watch the show before end of cruise.  A nice easy and unusual day/night on the Rhapsody.

Day Nine  - at Sea -  Monday - November 13th
Edelweiss Dining Room
Still a bit of rolling seas and I slept very well.  We again set our clocks back an hour that helped with sleep since we were up in the night.  I went to the MDR for a nice breakfast.  We had a relaxing morning, I went to Guest Services to check my bill as there is no app or access on the TV for accounting.  All well on the bill, in fact they refunded everyone a day’s charges on the internet for the day it was down for several hours.  They have been very fair in any and every circumstance I have heard about.  They have offered good pricing on several mini-packages on this long cruise for specialty dining, spa, and beverages.  All seemed to be good values.  We had another Windjammer lunch today.  I am spoiled by the wonderful buffet offerings.  I usually don’t gain weight on a cruise, but I know I am on this one.  After lunch we were able to stream another episode of our new show Good Behavior.  We had some deck time again on Lido then went to the Diamond Lounge about 7:00 pm.  It’s not been as crowded since first night, I was told there are over 800 Diamond (and above) guests on board and we met some nice people.  We did make it to the MDR for dinner, first time for DW.  The new table location is excellent, we had a six-top for just the two of us in the center and a personal waiter, we were his only table.  I even had Hearts of Palm delivered by the head waiter.  I ordered Cock-a-Leekie Soup, Garden Salad (with the Hearts of Palm), Singapore Noodles (pasta as starter), and the Mustard Crusted Roast Beef entree.  The Singapore Noodles was fabulous, the beef only fair so I was glad I was given the full portion of noodles.  Dinner was very good.  The primary entertainment tonight was country music by Pure Country, they sounded good, but we retired to the cabin for another episode of Good Behavior.  It was a good day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Ten  - at Sea -  Tuesday- November 14th
Still a bit of rolling seas and I again slept very well.  The weather is brilliant.  We set time back for the third consecutive day, sleeping that extra hour a day.  I went to the MDR and ordered the Eggs Benedict, much better than previous order.  A relaxing breakfast and always an opportunity to visit with guests.  I spent some time online for Bosque Travel this morning then we went on a walkabout. Deck five is also a popular deck for guests to relax in loungers or chairs and enjoy the sea air.  We went up to decks 10 and 11 just exploring the ship before heading to the Windjammer for lunch.  Bandwidth too slow this afternoon to stream our TV show so relaxed and updated this and previous reviews for my blog.  We went to the Diamond Lounge for cocktails then to the Broadway Melodies Theater to see Craig Halliday the feature entertainer, it was an entertaining show with Halliday on violin/fiddle. We had time for another cocktail in the Diamond Lounge before our 8:30 dinner.  Our waiter was busier but we had good service and he brought a Cheese Plate to start.  I ordered the Tomato Seafood Risotto, the Four-Cheese Ravioli with Mushroom Sauce (pasta as starter), the Coq au vin entree, with Orange Almond Cake and Pistachio Ice Creme for dessert. After dinner we enjoyed two episodes of Good Behavior before sleep.  A busy day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Eleven  - at Sea -  Wednesday- November 15th

Fun in the Centrum
 Still a bit of rolling seas and I again slept very well.  The weather is overcast.  We set time back for the forth consecutive day, and needed that hour as we watched TV late.  The MDR was very busy this morning, I think many thought it was the chocolate breakfast…it wasn’t, but I had Eggs Benedict for a nice breakfast.  Very few in the pool today and there was some scattered rain showers but we sat out on Lido for a while for the fresh air.  A nice Windjammer lunch today as usual, starting to get a bit bored with selections though.  An easy afternoon about the ship and cabin, the wifi was too slow for streaming for sure.  We were able to get streaming wifi at 6:00 pm the time when most guests are at dinner.  We watched the final two episodes of season one of Good Behavior.  Basically skipping dinner and cocktails to see the thrilling ending to the show.  I did sneak up to the Windjammer for a light late dinner, it was also Mexican night on the buffet.  Then a walk about on the ship.  When we don't go to the Diamond lounge we have been getting six cokes from the lido bar on our Diamond card for use during the day.  That's good and easy to do.  Another nice day on the Rhapsody of the seas.

Day Twelve  - at Sea -  Thursday- November 16th

Caribbean Music on Lido
 Still a bit of rolling seas and I again slept very well.  The weather is beautiful and warmer.  We set time back for the fifth consecutive and final day, and we are now on Eastern Standard or Tampa time.  We went up to the Windjammer for breakfast as we were around early this morning.  I had Oatmeal just for something different.  Just the opposite of yesterday…many guests are in the pools, perhaps more than any day of the cruise.  Perfect day for it.  We listened to the Caribbean Band and enjoyed the sea breezes today.  DW went to the 1:00 pm movie and I had a Windjammer lunch.  We are also now getting some Florida TV stations so better local news and first sports reports.  I went to the Future Cruise Desk and booked another transatlantic cruise for 2018 on the Brilliance of the Seas, a 16-day from Amsterdam to Tampa on September.  This afternoon we watched the movie Frozen, I had never seen it before today.  This evening we took in the production show, Piano Man, in the Broadway Melodies Theater.  I’ve seen it on other Royal Caribbean ships and I can honestly say that this was by far the worst of any I have seen.  The saving grace is that you can use your Diamond cocktail benefits in the theater…that is a nice extra.  We listened to the resident Piano player in the Schooner Bar for a bit…he was good.  I had a beer at the Pool Bar before going to the Windjammer for a late snack.  They are open until 9:00 pm. although variety is less late.  It was a nice day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Thirteen  - CocoCay, Bahamas -  Friday- November 17th
The former TEXAS ship for RCCL
Again rolling seas overnight and I slept well.  Sunny and breezy today.  I went to the MDR just after 7:00 am as it opened early as it’s supposed to be a port day.  I had a very nice breakfast, but before it was over the Captain made an announcement that the seas were too high for tendering operations at CocoCay.  It didn’t surprise me a bit, I suspected that when the Captain gave his noon report on Thursday and mentioned possible high winds that we would not be tendering today.  We would not have gone ashore until after lunch for just for a couple of hours on the beach so not a big disappointment.We went on walkabout on the ship and found the Texas plaque (photo).  We sailed on the Rhapsody of the Seas several times out of Galveston when it was Royal Caribbean’s Texas ship.  In fact we were on the final Texas sailing in August of 2007 ten years ago.  DW attended the 1:00 pm movie again today in the theater, it was a full house for Logan Lucky.  I had a nice salad in the Windjammer for lunch then some computer time in the cabin.  The feature entertainment show tonight is Beatles-a Musical Celebration.  We both skipped dinner tonight, I had a few beers at the pool bar and then watched TV in the cabin.  A nice day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Fourteen  - at Sea -  Saturday- November 18th
Smoothest seas of the cruise overnight and I slept well although up early.  It’s a nice sunny day with a breeze.  I went to the MDR for a nice breakfast, both pancakes and Eggs Benedict since no dinner previous night.  We went up on deck a little earlier than usual for our sea air and deck time.  DW had her packing completed by mid-day, I had to have some NCAA football time.  And my OU football game streamed surprisingly well this afternoon.  DW even brought me beers so I wouldn’t miss any of the action.  We did visit the Diamond Lounge this evening and had good service from Mary and Fast Eddie.  After cocktails we then went to the MDR for our final dinner.  I had two pasta entrees as starters and the Chicken Marsala as main entree.  The service was very good.  We retired to the cabin after dinner to prepare for debark.  It was a very enjoyable final day on the Rhapsody of the Seas.

Day Fifteen -  Debarkation -  Tampa FL -  Sunday- November 19th

BettyJack's Food Shack
I was up early and about 6:00 am began packing as the ship  finalized its arrived in Tampa.  We are  doing self-debarkation and are supposed to go off about 7:30 am.  It was delayed that later cause a huge backlog of guests trying to disembark.  Full blame to U.S. Customs who only had three and occasionally four agents working to process the entire ship.  If you were in 1st group of self-debark you were in best position. Too many guests not following instructions and going down before luggage was opened didn’t help. The last 1/3 of the self-debark group got backed up due to lack of customs officials, then they allowed Gold cards, handicap, and porters to go to front of line creating bad feelings for many.  In line at Customs for well over an hour.  Worst debark I have seen in 133 cruises.  On the plus side our ride had time to scope out the situation so was able to pick us up almost as soon as we arrived in the passenger pick up area at 9:30 am.  We enjoyed a wonderful noon meal with DD and family at BettyJack’s Food Shack, a very cool kayaker’s hangout, in Weekie Wachee.   Following lunch we were on our way for the long drive home.  We stopped in DeFuniak Springs, FL on Sunday night.

We had cabin 4006 a cabin located far forward on deck four on the port side.  The room is the standard size for an O/V with large additional space at windows.  It has the following: key pad safe, hair dryer, small couch, vanity/desk, small standard shower, storage in cabinets and vanity, flat screen TV, and good lighting. Well designed.  The air conditioning & water pressure worked only fair.  Excellent service from cabin steward Samson.  You will hear music from the theater located above. Also above the forward thrusters so noise when we dock at ports.  Close to forward elevators to get to Windjammer and the MDR is on same deck so that was nice.

All service people have been excellent, they have an obvious ‘guest first’ attitude and it shows in service and attitude. 

Food / Bar
Overall very good food, better than recent Mariner and Liberty cruises. Excellent: Cookies, Ice Creme, Breads, Rice, Mashed Potatoes and entrees in Windjammer.  The MDR dinners were very good although we only went a few times.  The Diamond Lounge was always busy but adequate number of bar servers for number of guests. 

General Comments
We really enjoyed the first three days of doing very little and relaxing after a busy fourteen days touring Europe.  The Windjammer food was excellent, really exceptional and much better than the Mariner of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas that I have recently sailed. It was a wonderful relaxing cruise.

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