Tales of the High Seas: Voyage on the MSC Seashore
In my last installment, I forgot to mention that I popped into the Le Cabaret Rouge space and participated in the very last progressive trivia round. I was seated on the upper level looking down onto the stage where the host was conducting the event. My vantage point was a great one with a great view of all of the participants on both levels. I was right up against the railing sitting on a comfy stool. It was hosted by a member of the entertainment staff who had been hosting progressive trivia all week long. The trivia was a good mix of questions that I found easy and others that were very challenging. I enjoyed myself immensely. So much so I was disappointed that I was only participating now at this late point. Once it was over and I said my good-byes I prepared myself for my dinner.
November 20, 2022
I’m going to save you the suspense. Disembarkation onboard MSC Seashore was an utter disaster. I took all of my luggage to the Central Park main dining room where I took oodles of time having my breakfast. My plan was to participate in self-assist disembarkation. Once again my dining choices were based on what I felt the kitchen could accomplish quickly and easily. Once I was finished, I went out to the deck to prepare for getting off the ship. I still had to wait for the ship to be cleared by the authorities in order to carry my luggage off the ship. Crew told me that the area in which I started to wait was reserved for people who needed greater accessibility. Fine, I went down a deck below, found a chair and waited. An announcement was made on the public address system announcing that we were still waiting for clearance. I waited in my little area for a good amount of time waiting to get the all clear, and I noticed people getting in line on the deck above me. I decided to go check it out. The line to get off the ship was insane. It went on forever. I never heard any announcement. I joined what I thought was the appropriate line to get off the ship. No crew was around to assist or inform. It was just insanity. I was in that line for over an hour. At one point I left my spot to scout out if I even was in the right line. Turns out I was. This line just snaked around forever and ever. I never did hear any announcement that we got cleared to get off the ship or what group numbers they were letting off. Eventually, I made it to a security gate, and they scanned my sail card, scanned my face, and I walked through to the terminal without dealing with anyone.
Any time MSC had to direct a large number of people anywhere, they were the absolute worst. I had to make sure I was alert and on my game. If I wasn’t, lord knows what would have happened to me. I feel like these words just do not adequately describe the utter frustration I felt during the whole disembarkation process. Thankfully, I scheduled my flight in the late afternoon. I was really in no rush. But who wants to wait in a line for an hour and a half? Reports to me was the situation got worse as the day progressed. Those who got off the ship after me were faced with even longer lines, longer waits, horrible traffic and it was just utterly miserable trying to get where they wanted to go.
In the terminal no one was there to help direct me. There was very little signage. I just moved based on my gut instinct. I was ready with my passport, but no one required to see it. They just scanned my face and off the ship I went. Upon leaving the ship, I was greeted by a steady rainfall. It wasn’t a torrential downpour, but it was steady and hampered traffic. I sought some shelter and ordered a Lyft to take me to the airport. I got lucky, pretty soon I spotted my vehicle delivering the next set of guests and I hopped in directly after them.
I was picked up in the rain at 9:27 am at Terminal C at the Miami cruise terminal. I traveled 8.5 miles in 21 minutes to the airport for $27.72. Traffic was a bit of a nightmare once approaching the airport due to the rain. I just told my driver to let me out once I was within walking distance of a doorway to the terminal at the American Airlines Departure Concourse. He was a good guy, and I left a $5 tip on my app. I wish I had taken pictures this day to illustrate my points, but I was so frazzled by the experience, I plum forgot.
To sum up my experience, MSC Seashore was a delight once the journey was under way. But the headaches involved with mobilizing large groups of people caused undue stress and anxiety. Pack plenty of patience with you if you intend to take a cruise with them. Would I take another MSC cruise? I would, but there are more preferable options out there for me, so it is doubtful that it would be anytime soon. Norwegian Prima, on the other hand, I am ready to board again or her sister ship Norwegian Viva. I’m most interested in the third ship in the class because it will be interesting to see what they are capable of doing in the time they have had to tweak things to fix any problem areas that people have reported.
In the interim between this trip and now, my income has taken a nosedive. My motivating factor is the severe lack of money. Things are now improving, so I decided since it is inexpensive and easy to take a cruise out of New York City for me, I would make that choice. I live roughly 90 miles from New York City. Therefore, I do not need to purchase a flight. I could also get away without booking a hotel and just take a quick jaunt the morning of my cruise.
An opportunity came my way which was affordable. I am looking forward to taking advantage of Princess cruises Ocean Medallion technology and their Princess Plus program. This next trip will be a round trip cruise out of New York City visiting ports in New England and Canada the month of October. To be honest, if I had all the money in the world, I would have chosen a different time to take advantage of witnessing the changing leaf colors. By mid-October I expect that that event will be all over by then. But beggars can’t be choosers. Right now, I qualify as a beggar. Princess Cruises Princess Plus cruise fare creates a more “all-inclusive” approach to sailing with a drinks package, wifi plan, and gratuities included in the price. They will also throw in unlimited juices, fitness classes and premium desserts at no extra cost. Princess Plus is roughly just a little bit more money than buying a beverage package when you make the comparison. To my mind it is well worth the cost if you enjoy alcoholic beverages. I am now OceanReady! They have my personal information and documents and I finalized my Medallion wearable choices. My next report will be from Emerald Princess!
I just did a bit of messaging between me and Lucia and Glynn. They have a jam packed 2023 this year for travel. In May they will venture onto MSC once again. In June, they will explore Holland America Line and July they have plans with Norwegian Cruise Line. They have more after that. I am especially envious of their Japan land-based plans for October.
Tales of the High Seas: Voyage on the MSC Seashore
November 19, 2022
Today is my last full day on the MSC Seashore. It is a sea day.
I went up to the Marketplace for breakfast at 6:20 am. I found the spoons! Hidden away from me. How do you have cereal without a spoon? Yesterday, I used a fork. Today I had Special K and bran flakes topped with a plain yogurt. I put yogurt on my cereal for the first time when I stayed at the Radisson Blu hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark. Added to the cereal I enjoyed a croissant with orange marmalade on the side and a chocolate muffin. All were comfort food to me. Not many people were up at 6:35 am. It was calm and quiet which I appreciated. I knew I was having comfort food and going for that sugar high. The donuts were calling my name. I’m on vacation so I indulged.
The dark glass in front of me turned into a carpet of ongoing ocean before me. Just dark blue as far as the eye can see. The sun is peeking out and has risen.
Glynn and I had plans. We were going to hit the water slides today! It was Lucia’s job to watch our things including my brand, new phone while Glynn and I romped around like the children at heart, we are. Glynn was not a happy camper because the Seashore staff allowed us to go all the way to the top of the stairs to reach the entryway of our first slide only to be informed by a different staff member we needed to go back down and get a water slide bracelet and sign our lives away with a waiver. When we got to the bottom of the stairs, Glynn gave the two members of staff a piece of his mind. We signed our waivers, got our bracelets and then experienced the water slides.
As Glynn and I enjoyed our time on the water slides, Lucia also indulged her inner child and frolicked in the children’s water play area. There were hardly any children around. The Pirates Cove Aquapark features an impressive range of fun exciting activities for the whole family including adventure trails, a galleon for kids and much more. The Kraken’s tentacles wrap around the adventure trail on its way to the Long Island Pool.
Our first slide made me feel like I was being flushed down the very long pipes of a toilet. The difference being that it wound around and around. It was quite fun. Glynn and I also enjoyed a raft water slide that we each took individually. We tried to enjoy all of the water slides available and had great fun.
It was a sea day and apparently, I had quite a bit of fun on this day because I took very few notes. I do recall that at lunch I spotted the self-serve ice cream station in the buffet was being manned by a crew member. It was mostly not being manned. On this occasion I grabbed myself a cone since it wasn’t always available and had a good time enjoying this desert to my buffet lunch.
The day ended with a dinner at the specialty restaurant, “Hola! Tacos & Cantina” on the aft of deck 8. I had made my reservation on day one and it was a good thing too because the restaurant does not hold very many people. I saw a number of people getting turned away because they did not have reservations. TIP: make sure you make all of your specialty dining reservations in those first hours on board MSC Seashore. My table for two (there was only one of me) got filled with all sorts of goodness with plates of delicious food. Did I miss out on the Queso Fundido? Of course not! I sadly was off my game with the note taking so I can’t recall over two months later what exactly I had. But I can tell you it was delicious, and I enjoyed my leisurely meal. If you have the opportunity to experience this restaurant, I encourage you to enjoy it. All of MSC’s specialty restaurants were great experiences and it was worth paying for my specialty dining package ahead of my sailing. My sugar tooth was in seventh heaven with the dulce de leche. To put it simply, it is a concoction made mostly with milk and sugar and it was absolutely out of this world. Service during dinner was very slow at this restaurant. I was appreciative of the interaction I had with the serving team, but they were in the weeds when it came to servicing their tables. I had nothing better to do, it was just fine with me. Although, that meant I couldn’t say goodbye to Maria. It would have been nice saying farewell once more to Kathleen and Ida.
Tomorrow I was leaving the ship in the morning so I really didn’t do much after dinner because I wanted to be alert and fresh to deal with all of what that would entail. I went back to my room and finished packing.
Tales of the High Seas: Voyage on the MSC Seashore
November 18, 2022
Once again, I was up bright and early. I went to the pool deck to take pictures of the Dominican Republic. I saw that we were docked and roped off. I realized I needed to be one of the first off the ship because I did not want to miss my independently booked excursion. I had originally tired to book it through the cruise line, but the excursion was all booked up and not available a few weeks out of our sailing. I engaged an independent outfitter through a reliable source and that worked out. I went to the exit and just as I got there a family started a line. These passengers on the MSC Seashore do NOT understand the concept of queuing behavior. They clogged up deck 5 hoping to jump ahead of others. There was a delay in getting the port to approve of disembarkation. Once we got the approval, I was like the first 10 people not from the Yacht Club that was off that ship. I had excellent instructions to find my group. I was so early I thought it was safe to visit the toilet at the Taino Bay open air Welcome Center. I bet I beat my group guide. But I found him due to being alerted to what he would be wearing by the outfit sending me an email prior to my departure. Five women from Minnesota, two more, and me all waited aboard our air-conditioned van. We waited about 20 minutes for two more members of our group. They eventually did show. They were a couple from Brussels. Remember, the ship holds about five thousand passengers. It takes time to get folks off the ship, so that explains the wait.
Our guide was the self-proclaimed Alexander the Great, and he dubbed us “the Great group”. Bucking tradition, our driver Jordan, did not have a nickname. Alexander was very informative as we took about a thirty-minute drive to the Saltos de Damajuaga (27 Charcos de Damajuaga). I learned much about the Dominican Republic and it was easy to learn through Alexander’s great humor. I took very little with me on this excursion. Just me and my GoPro.
Once we got there, I was outfitted with a helmet and a life vest. Our group joined another group or two. We made our way through the Dominican jungle. It was warm (85°F/29.44°C) and fairly humid. We were marching our way through a clear path to eventually stop at a station where a guy was carving stone and painting objects to make items perfect for your home décor. Afterwards, we trekked through the jungle. Sometimes we were at an incline, other times it was level. When we were outfitted with vest and helmet they gave us all ½ a litre of water. We needed it to replenish our water that our body was perspiring. As we journeyed on we spotted what Alexander referred to as a Dominican zebra (donkey). On our way to 27 Charcos we were introduced to horses, donkeys, and banana plantation farms. After the donkey, we crossed the Golden Gate bridge of the DR. We learned that the Dominican Republic has not had rain so the water levels were too low and we could only experience seven of the jumps. We were able to either jump, slide down the wet water rock, or climb down a ladder. The key to this excursion is it requires you to have zero skill. It is all about conquering your fear. This definitely was pushing my comfort level. That is what action and adventure travel is about. It is all about pushing your limits and we all have different limits. This, I was ok with; jumping off for a solo sky dive would be beyond my tolerance level.
Not only did I leap off a ledge into a deep pool of natural water, but I slid down a number of rock formations into a deep pool of water. Someone warned me I was about to jump from the highest point. I would have been better off not knowing. My guide said “ok – jump!” It took a few seconds to screw up my courage and then I was plummeting down to the cool waters of the Dominican Republic. I was like a human pin with arms at my side because who wants to have the rocks create a Dominican tatoo? No ink job for me, thank you. It felt like I was a human canon ball. Splat! Splash! I definitely needed to swim despite the buoyant life vest. Meanwhile, my suggestion is to purchase a photo package. You have one of their photographers’ taking oodles of pictures and video all for $45/ party. I was conserving my money, so I used my GoPro. We shall see.
After jumping for the first time, I wanted to do it again! I had six other jumps to get to do it again! I would get my wish. The scenery of the rocks and the jungle was unbelievable – so many sights to take in. It was breathtaking. I would estimate our trek to the first jump including rest breaks was one and a half hours. A pet peeve of mine is folx who move slow. This crowd was moving slowly. I could have done the whole trek in a half hour. Several times I got stuck behind someone who was struggling. The paths were narrow and only allowed one person at a time.
The whole time Alexander would be shouting out to the photographers, “Primo, primo, photo!” Possibly, an Indian adventurer was named, Primo. I don’t know. But Alexander and I both found it amusing. Another repeating joke is when asked “How much longer?” Alexander’s answer was always five minutes. But that’s five Dominican minutes and we are on island time so we might stop for people to rest, and we would start again in five minutes (translation twenty minutes). They designed this trek to be accessible to people of all fitness levels. I was among the fittest. Alexander named me one of his goats. In fact, he noted me chuckling when he spoke to colleagues in Spanish. Sometimes, I could get the gist, even though I do not speak Spanish. He asked if I had been to the waterfalls before and if I was Dominican. Dominican’s have all shades of brown and by this point I was gaining a nice healthy tan. He told me about the greatest export from the Dominican Republic were baseball players. I have gotten significantly tan over the three weeks and this plus my chuckling made him believe I might be Dominican.
We then finished our final jump/slide and went on to trek on to where we started. My bladder was being insistent. I couldn’t wait to use the facilities at the very beginning. I was able to hold it the whole time. I turned in my equipment, went to take care of business, and followed Alexander to the van. At the van we got to enjoy a delicious rum punch. It tasted like a tropical juice mix. The merengue was pumping through the streets of the Dominican Republic in the van.
Alexander added a mini stop to a grocery mini mart by the roadside and pointed out how the Dominican Republic economy runs. More rum punch! We climbed bac aboard the van and traveled maybe sixteen kilometers more to our drop off. Onboard time was 5:30 pm. We had over an hour. Approximately, 11:30 – 4:00 pm was designated for the excursion. I did not expect to fall in love with this excursion. It was the BEST SHORE EXCURSION ever! I forgot to bring cash with me, but I had a few Euro notes on me and I gave Alexander that. This was worth every penny I paid.
I had encountered the group of five from Minnesota as all were waiting to embark onto the ship on day one. The six of us explored Taino Bay our docking port of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. They wanted to explore most stores. All six of us explored a number of attractive stores. I probably would have enjoyed it more, but my interest was more about relieving my bladder at the Welcome Center. The facilities were exceptionally clean and there were plenty of urinals/stalls. I managed to get back on board the ship at 4:30 pm. I noticed there were free rickshaws available, but I prefer going on my own steam.
Dinner at Tribeca was at 6:15 pm. The theme was a French dinner. I ordered a pear and goat cheese salad. My main was a dish cooked similar to chicken coq au vin which was too dry but rescued by the sauce. Somehow, I had two plates of grandma’s fudge cake with vanilla sauce. On this evening I had a new table mate. I thought I was talkative. Boy! She took the cake and monopolized the conversation at the dinner table. She was quite nice, but the others were barely able to squeeze a word in edgewise. Overall, the meal was ok. After dinner, I enjoyed the main theater show, “Coast to Coast”. It was a song and dance show, primarily. I had a long day, and I was a bit tired. I found myself nodding off in the middle of the show. Was that due to the show or due to me?
Tales of the High Seas: Voyage on the MSC Seashore
November 17, 2022
My alarm went off at 5 am. I start my day trying to get ready. Eventually I make it to the Marketplace only to discover we are coming into dock at St. Thomas a few minutes past 6 am. The crowd has not appeared quite yet. I had a smallish breakfast because I did not know what kind of toilet facilities I would be facing on my MSC excursion. It consisted of a banana, a small bowl of fruit (mostly melon chunks) and a bowl of cereal topped with plain yogurt.
I had purchased a laundry package through MSC. Prolong your holiday by returning home with your family’s shirts and trousers washed, dried and ready to store.
This service enables you and the other occupants of your cabin to have your garments washed and ironed at any time during the cruise or even all together clean and ready to be packed the day before departure (max 20 items per cabin). Dry cleaning is excluded.
Items are collected before 10am and are supposed to be returned before 5pm the following day. Silk, wool, men’s suits and evening dress are excluded from the last day of the cruise option as they require special treatment.
I had my 20 pieces ready in my laundry bag in the morning, ready for my room attendant to whisk them off to be cleaned.
I had purchased the shore excursion from MSC, “champagne catamaran sail to St. John” before I took this cruise. My meeting time was approaching for my excursion, so I made my way to the deck which was near where we got off the ship. I was lucky and near an officer who guided me to where to get off the ship, which was different from the others waiting to get off. I was waiting for an announcement. I got off before it was made. I was among the first off the ship.
Soon the place where I needed to be appeared. In my queue directly in front of me was Lucia and Glynn from the Poconos (about 1-1/2 hours from me). We immediately hit it off and were fast friends. The conversation never slowed and still doesn’t to this day. We were brought to an open air vehicle which transported us 25 minutes to our waiting catamaran. Off came our shoes and we boarded the catamaran where we plopped ourselves onto a seat. The staff was awesome and clearly was concerned with safety, super friendly, and helpful. Big Mac was my driver. Do all excursion drivers have nicknames? Big Mac, Sexy Eddie? What’s the deal?
We saw Carol Burnett’s USVI house. Where’s my house? Where’s my super yacht? The catamaran crew provided me with a life vest, fins, and a snorkel with mask. I used my own snorkel and mask, instead. The way out to St. John was perfect weather. The day was full of sunshine and today’s high would reach 80°F/27°C. The snorkeling provided much appreciated exercise, not many fish or sea turtles. Glynn and I were snorkel buddies. Lucia stayed on board the catamaran. We tried to investigate a coral reef with poor luck. We were at St. John for about 1-1/2 hours, maybe another ½ hour on board the catamaran. Once the snorkeling was finished the crew broke out the portable Bluetooth speaker and the sparkling wine and other beverages. Bubbly plus a sprinkling of guava juice was very welcome. Light food fare was a nice surprise with slices of meat, crackers, and cheese. The party could now begin. Glynn, Lucia, and I talked a little bit about lunch, and I suggested escaping the zoo of the buffet and visit Central Park restaurant from noon to one pm.
Lunch included the starter of a vegetable Spanish omelet with a great balsamic vinegar sauce. My entrée was lamb with new potatoes and green beans. For dessert I had the nice sugary treat of a Boston cream pie. I wouldn’t change a thing. I just saw someone bring a plate filled to the brim with pizza. FIVE slices? Probably won’t be feeling guilty. But I’ve gotta say, this is the life. Due to all the talking we were one of the last to leave the main dining room. We discovered we all had reservations for the same restaurant that evening. After our meal we had them combined so we will all be eating dinner together at Ocean Cay restaurant. I’m planning a possible sea bass dinner.
Perfect relaxing lunch with oodles of chat. During lunch we followed each other on social media. Turns out they are travel vloggers at “OneWay2fun” or you can find them on “Lucia & Glynn”. Check them out, you could subscribe to their channels. I did.
After lunch, I took a few moments to try to freshen up my social media presence. The afternoon was spent on my own at the adult only infinity pool area. Is that Venchi chocolate gelateria calling my name? Do I want to take on that upcharge?
I was invited to the Captain’s reception at Cabaret Rouge at 5 pm. This was a small welcome back cocktail held at Le Cabaret Rouge as a private event to thank us for choosing MSC again. Dinner with Glynn and Lucia was planned for 6 pm. Tonight, is a white party so I will be finding my white duds and wearing that into Cabaret Rouge. I like to limit my costume changes. The captain regularly gives itinerary/weather reports each day. I’m expecting sunny to partly cloudy weather with occasional showers.
Dinner at Ocean Cay specialty restaurant was delicious! I think I just made a spoiler. It was the best meal on MSC Seashore. Conversation between Lucia, Glynn, and myself included many laughs. They have known each other since 7, but married other people. They found each other after 40 years old and are now together forever. Glynn has three adult children and Glynn and Lucia travel the globe rather frequently together.
My meal began with a Nicoise salad of tuna, anchovy, egg, green lettuce, and olives. My main was the highlight. I had a squid ragout with homemade potato gnocchi. I finished my meal with a wonderful tiramisu. No one does a tiramisu like the Italians, thank goodness I’m sailing with an Italian cruise ship line. That squid dish was warned by the server to be a bit spicy. I have a bland palette as I’ve mentioned before. But even, I, did not find it to be spicy. I would describe it as flavorful. Layers of flavor that was delicious was my squid ragout. The salad was my only choice of starters due to my food allergies. It was fine, serviceable. I find that most makers of tiramisum do not balance the flavors properly. For example, the espresso overpowers the other flavors. My tiramisu when I visited Firenze was perfection. The tirasmisu at this ship’s Marketplace was very well done. Ocean Cay aboard the Seashore did not disappoint with its homemade tiramisu. It was hard not to gobble it all up in a quick minute.
We still had a bit of time before the day’s main entertainment show, “Magical Forest”. The show was a pastiche once again with a silk performer, Chinese acrobats, a balance and strength duo, singers, and dancers all combined with a forest set. It all started with an English prologue that was not needed at all. The acts were uneven in quality. I suspect it all depended on your personal preferences. The costume design also was uneven. Overall, it was a fun romp. Glynn seemed to enjoy it even more than I.
We had time until the evening’s highlight – the White Party. I changed my top in a rare moment of wanting a costume change and then rejoined Glynn and Lucia. We had a pit stop at the Shine bar on deck 6 of the atrium. Lucia continued her sober journey with a Coke. She had over a year’s worth of sobriety under her belt. I had a yummy sea breeze and as I recall Glynn had a margarita. We made our way up to the top pool deck for White Party shenanigans.
There were cocktails, like my dessert, mudslides. There was dancing. There was picture taking. Lots of pictures with Glynn and Lucia doing their signature move where Glynn dips Lucia. The crowd was all in white, the music was pumping and I was way too sober despite a few cocktails. I realized I would have another early morning with my next shore excursion and headed back to my comfy bed.
Tales of the High Seas: A Voyage aboard the MSC Seashore
November 16, 2022
My ship docked into the port of San Juan, Puerto Rico right next to the ship that my pal Joan was on, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. She had been spending the day ashore while I hadn’t arrived yet. She was already back aboard the ship refreshing herself and getting groomed. It was 5:00 pm ish and as soon as we were allowed to go ashore, I took advantage. I had to be back aboard by midnight.
Money was extremely tight, so I opted to engage in a no-cost activity since I have already spent several days in San Juan before. I used my mobile data plan which allows usage in Puerto Rico. As soon as I got ashore, I started a self-guided walking tour of Old San Juan. A free one was readily available online. The city was founded by Spanish colonists in 1509 at a sight known as Puerto Rico. San Juan is the third oldest European-established capital in the Americas. In 1521, the words “San Juan” were added to the official name, thus making it “San Juan Baptista de Puerto Rico”. This was in keeping with the local custom of christening the town with both its formal name and that which Christopher Colombus had originally given to the islands, honoring John the Baptist.
Today, this lovely historic area that I visited is characterized by its narrow blue cobblestone streets, and picturesque, brightly colored buildings, some of which date back almost 500 years.
By engaging in this walking tour I got to explore Old San Juan in detail and soaked in its historical atmosphere. I felt like I was traveling back in time, if only for a few hours or so. There were a few times when I got a bit lost and found some wonderful treats of the area.
I am a “researcher” and I would have preferred that I did some comparison shopping when it came to finding my self-guided walking tour. On this occasion I simply did a quick search on my phone and discovered, “GPSmyCity”. There were a number of walking tours. I selected the “Old San Juan” tour. You can view the walk details that provide sight descriptions and photos. It comes with a detailed walk route map and if I was willing to pay a fee, navigation features. There was no need to hop on a tour bus or join a tour group. I was able to explore all the city attractions on my own, at my own pace, and at no cost to me. There were several tours available. I chose the one that appealed to me the most and included 10 sights. The app works completely off-line. No cellular connection or data plan is needed, and roaming charges apply when traveling abroad. With my mobile plan, I was covered traveling within Puerto Rico, so I had a data connection the whole time. My tour of Old San Juan takes roughly two hours and covers about 2 miles. I took a few detours and got lost a tiny bit. So, I would say it took me a bit longer.
My tour started at Plaza Colon (Columbus Square). Back in the 17th century San Juan was encircled by stone walls. This was the centermost of which was called Puerta de Santiago. It straddled the sole highway linking the walled San Juan islet to the rest of Puerto Rico by land. By 1772 the open space adjacent to Puerta de Santiago had taken the shape of Santiago Square. To the south of the square is a gem of Puerto Rican entertainment culture, the Theater Tapia. Over the years many notable performers have graced its stage. Outside the theater, along Fortaleza Street, there are a number of quaint restaurants and cute little cafes. The app provides more information about what you will discover but I will save you the reading for when you conduct your own walking tour.
Stop number two was Castillo San Cristóbal (Fort San Cristobal) Standing guard at the eastern gate, north of Columbus Square, is an imposing 18th century fortress, called Fort San Cristóbal. The San Cristóbal guarded the city from enemy approaches by land, creating a crossfire with El Morro over the bay. Meant to strengthen Spanish position in the face of imminent English and Dutch invasion, construction of the citadel began in 1634. When finished, the entry to the city was sealed by the double gates. San Cristóbal is the largest fortification ever built by the Spanish in the New World.
Stop #3: Calle de la Fortaleza (Forteleza Street)
The imposing La Fortaleza building, formally known as the Palace of Santa Catalina, is the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico. The narrow road leading to it, called Forteleza Street , is the main artery of San Juan’s historic quarter. For the whole duration it is lined with government buildings, hotels, perfumeries, craft shops, jewelry store, and restaurants. Just like many other colorful cobblestone streets in Old San Juan, each one is more photogenic than the next.
Stop #4: Paseo de la Princesa (Princess Promenade)
Princess Promenade is a carefully restored historic landmark, one of the most visited in San Juan, ideal to walk or people watch. It is also a great place to visit for families and small children. There is an abundance of trees to provide plenty of shade, lots of artisan stalls and street vendors selling local foods, plus festivals and fairs often held here, including artisans fair on weekends.
Stop #5 San Juan Gate and City Wall
Built in the late 1700’s San Juan Gate is a giant doorway, the last remaining of the original five gates carved into the three-mile wall that once surrounded the city. Presently, the wall wraps around Old San Juan from the cruise ship piers on the San Juan Harbor to the capitol on the Atlantic. Currently a National Historic Site, the city wall is maintained by the National Park Service attempting to recreate the magic mixture of sand, water, and limestone used to stucco the wall. Along with the adjoining fortresses of El Morro and San Cristobal, the city wall attracts millions of visitors annually.
After exiting the gate, I ran into policemen who prevented me from following the path laid out by the touring plan. So I used my Google maps and tried to circumvent my original plan and created my own detour. While wandering around I encountered some very interesting street performers in a park. What a serendipitous, fascinating treat that I have posted for you here.
Stop # 6 Plaza de Armas
Arms Square is one of the main squares in San Juan. Over the years, it has changed several names relative to the functions it served. Arms Square is the city’s de-facto central square modeled on the classic squares of Madrid and Mexico. A highlight on the northern side is the Spanish colonial style Casa Alcaida – home of the San Juan City Hall. A tinkling fountain, seating, shade trees, and a couple of old-school coffee booths make this a good spot for a break.
Stop #7 Cathedral of San Juan Bautista
The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista is the Roman Catholic church and the seat of the Archdioscese of San Juan de Puerto Rico. This cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in San Juan, and the second oldest cathedral in the Americas. The original cathedral in the then city of Puerto Rico was constructed from wood in 1521. It was destroyed by a hurricane, upon which the current church was buildt in 1540 to be reshaped several times over the centuries. The last remodeling was in 1917. It is a rare example of medieval Spanish architecture. The restored frescoes and the fact that it is still an operational church make it absolutely exceptional.
Stop #8 Museum of the Americas and Cuartel de Ballajá
Located in the old Spanish military barracks, Museum of the Americas is a multidisciplinary, multicultural and multidimensional non-profit institution, established in 1992 by San Juan’s famed archaeologist Ricardo Alegria. It was closed on my visit due to the late time and day. I understand that the main language of the displays is Spanish, some offer readable English translations, while others do not. If you do not read Spanish, consider the recorded audio tour for rent. It may take a couple of hours to tour the whole set of galleries.
Stop #9 El Castillo San Felipe del Morro (Fort El Morro)
On my visit, it is now pitch black and night has fallen. I had visited during the day a number of years ago and it is well worth a visit. El Morro is a 16th century citadel on the northwestern-most point of San Juan named in honor of King Phillip II of Spain. It was the second military installation after La Fortaleza built on the islet of what is now Old San Juan and Puerta de Tierra. You should visit to appreciate the importance of Puerto Rico as a strategic entry point to the Americas and the evolution of El Morro over the last five centuries.
That concluded my tour of Old San Juan. It was really dark at this time. I decided it was time to head back to the ship and say good-bye to Old San Juan. As I wandered the streets of the town I really wished money wasn’t so tight and would have loved to visit a restaurant, a bar, a dance club I had visited previously, a store. But I hoofed it back to the ship quite easily as I have a fast, determined no-nonsense pace. I returned far before all aboard time so my re-entry was quick and easy.
NEXT: Meeting friends of a lifetime from my “backyard”
Tales of the High Seas: Voyage of the MSC Seashore
November 16, 2022
I woke up around 5:20 am, did some exercising in my own room and then did my morning grooming. I got dressed and went on a photo shoot without anyone around at the Swarovski staircase without hordes of people and photographers. Next stop was a curved glass bridge jutting over the adult only infinity pool, the Bridge of Sighs. With the photoshoot complete I went back to my room to change into pool gear. But before I used the last of sunblock from Galveston. Don’t worry, I still had reef safe sunblock that I had packed to use.
I packed for the day and once done I left for breakfast at Central Park main dining room which was open from 7:30 am – 9:30 am. During my photoshoot I discovered the Marketplace buffet is fantastic in the early, early morning with hardly a guest. Plenty of food choices were on display. I spotted a variety of donuts!
My host at Central Park asked did I have any requests as to a table. I said, I would be happy with wherever they served food. He sat me at a small table for two right by a porthole window on deck five. Perfecto!
In no time I inhaled a croissant, English Breakfast tea, a plate of pancakes, a glass of orange juice. Once the pancakes arrived I realized I would also like cranberry juice. To my surprise it was a larger glass than the orange juice and was brownish, not bright red like I was accustomed to. I thought she brought me ice tea. Before I called my server, I tasted it. It definitely was cranberry juice. I was disappointed by the smaller portion of pancakes so I ordered my second choice – thick slices of French toast. According to the menu it was supposed to be cinnamon raisin bread. I prefer plain and that was exactly what I received. By the time I was done my server wished me well and said I will see you at lunch. How did he know? “Indeed”, I replied. Now I picked up my day bag from my room and went to check on the Jungle Pool, which was the ship’s solarium. The chair hots had already claimed their spots. Not surprisingly since the Jungle Pool is adjacent to the Marketplace buffet, even though it was now about 8:30 am. I luckily found a lounger right by the pool on the end of a row. A hot tub was completely empty. That wasn’t going to last long. Learning from yesterday I took a few shots from the hot tub with my GoPro. After I got out and dried off, two Italian couples flanked me aon either side chatting away while I journaled. And rocked out on a Spotify playlist I had downloaded onto my new phone.
The Jungle pool was 5’9” to 6’3” deep. What if I want to stand? Underwater? Italian twenty-somethings had hot tub time while I swam in the main pool with occasional waves which surprised me. Two decks above there appeared to be a more exclusive deck area with cabanas, maybe a part of the exclusive Yacht Club ship within a ship? After talking to Guga and Rob (YouTubers, check them out), now I want to try Yacht Club. One of these days.
Random thought: It is 10:30 am. Am I hungry already? Cruise culture differs from cruise line to cruise line. On MSC I really didn’t spy lanyards being used as much. Onboard Norwegian Cruise Line almost everyone wore a lanyard. My belief stems from the way the power is controlled in your stateroom.
Prior to lunch I tried to move on and find a home base prior to engaging on a water slide. The wind was something fierce. I could not attach clips to my lounger and my beach towel. Two clips got blown further down the deck. It was quite comical. It took so long trying to find a home base that had sunshine, no nearby smoking, and an available lounger. By the time I got settled it was time to go to lunch.
It is now time for lunch! I enjoyed lunch at the Central Park main dining room from noon to 1:00 pm. My starter was a roll with cream butter and mozzarella sticks. For my entrée I had the signature cheeseburger. The signature burger was a 1/3 lb. beef burger, melted sharp cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, carmelized onions, golden honey BBQ sauce, and fries. My dessert was a bowl of vanilla ice cream. At home, I do not indulge in alcohol with meals. But I am on vacation! Today’s lunch was accompanied by a glass of pinot noir. I had no dining companion. No journaling. Just a nice leisurely meal. Since I have not been drinking much since 2020 my low tolerance made me tipsy after just one glass.
After lunch I tried to figure out where to gain entry to the slides. It was an utter mystery to me. I really should have asked someone that was part of the crew. Entry, I thought, might have been blocked off due to painting. Finally, I found a lounger on the pool deck but the sun kept on moving and I ended up in some shade. I just gotta shake my head.
Project Mille ships have similar main pools. Virgin Voyages has 3 ships, Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva, and now MSC Seashore and soon to sail MSC Seascape all have these small main pools. Consequently, this main pool had a good amount of people in it. It did the trick of cooling me off. I swam a little bit but it is not a “swimming pool”. It is a cool your toes and conduct a conversation pool. If there were an Olympic size pool to do laps would it be used in that manner? Most are just lounging in the sun. I listen to music, journal, and bop my head. Why listen to piped in music when I can jam out to music of my choice on noise cancelling headphones?
NEXT: MSC Seashore journey continues and my first port day!
Tales of the High Seas: Voyage on the MSC Seashore
November 15, 2022
My alarm on my watch woke me up. Here is a Tip #1: I am a lark, so I regularly am awake at the crack of dawn. There were areas of the ship where I wanted to take pictures without dealing with hordes of people. I ventured out and took some desired photos quite quickly. I would assume that the same could be true for the night owls reading. After your long night carousing or gambling I would imagine there would be very few people out and about at 2 or 3 am.
Tip #2: Treat yourself to room service. On many cruises a continental breakfast is complimentary. While it is included in your cruise fare, it is very likely that a tip for room service is not included with your pre-paid gratuities or the gratuities they tack onto your bill at the end. Have a few dollars at the ready. Or if you just want to splurge a little go for items that incur a service charge to be delivered to your room.
I started my day with a room service continental breakfast which I had ordered the evening before by placing a hanger note on my doorknob the night before. I had ordered a whole wheat roll with orange marmalade. I also ordered an orange juice. I would have preferred a larger glass of juice. I also ordered a fruit plate that was filled with orange, cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, and kiwi. Also included was a pain au chocolate. The theme on this vacation is spilling tea. Today proved no exception when I had an accident with my hot water which spilled across my desk. Thank goodness it was only water. Once breakfast was greedily consumed I packed my trusty day bag for a day at the adult only infinity pool. Did I forget anything? Yes, of course, but a minor preference.
I had the pool all to myself at 8am. I swam around. What a great scene to see the view of the wake of the ship from this pool. Thankfully I had beat the chair hogs and scored a primo lounger adjacent to the pool. As I jotted down notes for my journal there is a film crew preparing filming at the nearby Venchi gelateria. Having a whole infinity pool to yourself all morning long is a fantastic experience. At 11:30 am people started to enter the pool and the pool bar sees a good amount of action. It is as if everyone is finally awake.
Now “a river runs through it” due to the tea and orange juice demanded a visit to the facilities. Thankfully screens are located liberally throughout the ship with maps of deck plans. Even still I managed to get lost. It will happen again soon because that tea is working on my bladder. How many times do I have to find a restroom? I think to myself. I went looking on three separate occasions. Last time a private event blocked one destination. A second attempt I found the restroom was all occupied. On my last visit to the bathroom, I went to my room where I ran into my room steward finally! We had several laughs and he brought me a laundry bag and had already removed my room service refuse.
Somehow, I lucked out with the shade on this bright sunny day. My baseball cap that I picked up in Aruba is fastened tight and the brim is doing its job. I’m learning to embrace “Il Dolce Far Niente”, in other words the “sweetness of doing nothing”.
The section of loungers that were “claimed”, but empty, started to grow. There is a strong breeze along with shade and most I feel are chasing after their Caribbean tan while I embrace my Spotify cruise playlist. What a glorious morning! Thank goodness I brought my clips for my lounger because that wind is something fierce. The film crew is ruining their lunch with a feast of gelato.
Another random thought, “where did my masks go?” I swear they have a tendency to disappear. I maybe the only guest on the ship who wears a mask when indoors, but outdoors I remove it.
Time for lunch! I had lunch in the Central Park main dining room. I started with mushroom soup. This one was more brothy than the NCL one. It was good but not as wonderful as Norwegian Prima. As my main, I ordered an Italian meatball sandwich, which isn’t quite as good as an Italian restaurant back at home. My fries were a welcome addition, but the salad was just meh. I was not ready for the alcohol I had ordered like the LaMarca prosecco I had ordered. I apparently was starting the party early at noon! Even after sipping not even the full flute of prosecco and I am tipsy! I had ordered the New York cheesecake with a choice of chocolate fudge sauce, butterscotch sauce, or berry fruite compote. Being the chocoholic that I am I had the chocolate fudge sauce. The cheesecake was garden variety and was nothing special. Now I know why everyone is ordering ice cream for lunch. This main dining room lunch was a welcome respite from the zoo that is the buffet. I was not feeling jostled or rushed at all. It was a nice, leisurely lunchtime meal on my own. Central Park restaurant had a more upscale feel in appearance. I totally could feel rumbling of the engines the entire time. According to the captain, we are functioning well. I had a great conversation with my wine server at lunch. I believe the engine is low and centered on Project Mille ships. So glad I didn’t end up on deck 5 as once might have happened. A cup of hot tea hit the spot but how will my bladder feel? I spent fifty minutes at lunch for a nice, leisurely experience.
Bring on the sun! I ventured up to Deck 19. I was right above the main pool and the large video screen. It took me a while to unpack and lay out in the sun. I had my tunes cranked up on my noise canceling headphones and created my own personal dance party. At least in my head I was.
I was very frustrated by the fact I had to wade through the crowds of the buffet to get to my spot on the pool deck. That’s just how the decks are laid out. A private event blocked my path. The Solarium was completely full, not an empty lounger in sight. So out on one of the decks surrounding the main pool I go. I would not be surprised if I landed myself next to some other fellow LGBTQ+ travelers. But as usual we are all in our own little worlds. Sure enough, I just got some non-verbal confirmation of my suspicions. Other people would start a conversation. I’m too shy and introverted to reach out. A good strong breeze prevents me from being a big, sweaty mess. It might be time to people watch as they parade on by and I silently judge. I keep on getting corroborating evidence to support my theory about my possible LGBTQ+ neighbors. What straight male duo wears a square trunk that is quite short and bright? Do I spy a hint of a bright colored jock strap? Hmm. I was staying on the sunny, port side of the ship until the rain broke and came pouring down. The rain scattered everyone. My biggest concern that ran through my head was, “Don’t water down my drink!” During the brief rainstorm I ran into Maria. We caught up and then engaged in a conversation about my cocktail with a couple from New York. Maria and I sought refuge under cover at a bar. She got a Blue Hawaiian with lots of rum. I was nursing a Rock Lobster cocktail. Once the rain ended, I continued my conversation with Maria in the sunshine of the port side of the ship.
At 5:00 pm I went to the Solo meet up. I met Maurice, Justine, Lesford, and Dolly. The staff made attempts to mix us all up so we could meet different people. MSC made a nice effort to promote solo travel. Complimentary beverages and snacks were provided. I had the Easy Plus drink package. I could go beyond what was offered. We had an excellent discussion on our discoveries and impressions of MSC and we all were pretty much in agreement. There was a lot of discussion about our experience with embarkation. The staff tried to match us up by language. After an hour, the lights were turned off, not just dimmed. We all disbanded, and I went to head off for my dinner. This brings me to some thoughts. Problems with solo travel – How do you play ping pong? Meals can go quickly without dining discussion. And the bane of the solo traveler is always the solo supplement charge. Positives with solo travel include that you get to do what you want, when you want, without having to consult anyone. There is no consulting or reporting to anyone else.
I decided not to go to the main dining room tonight because it was a formal night, MSC refers to it as Gala night. The evening dress was asked to be elegant. Your attire is asked to fit your own level of elegance. Since I’m traveling light, I did not bring dressier clothes, so I did not participate. MSC has a reputation for being a more casual cruise line. I was only a handful of folks who did not dress up. Most people looked great. A tuxedo was rare, but most looked like they were going to a dinner to celebrate a special event.
Due to the gala night I chose to visit the Marketplace buffet. Good news is that it wasn’t crowded at all. Most were going to specialty dining or a main dining room. The bad news was that much of the area was closed down and unavailable. It makes sense since there are less people, less buffet is needed. It still was confusing. In true form I was continually getting lost. I had a rather lack luster cheeseburger and some French fries with cheese sauce. I’m sure there was ketchup out there but I couldn’t find it. The roast chicken was horrible. The most dry meat I ever consumed. I had to choke it down, literally. I finished my meal with a nice slice of pizza and an assortment of small desserts. The desserts were the highlight. The pastry chef is wonderful and consistent. Each item was perfect. A profiterole with chocolate cream , an incredible torte, and so many other goodies I couldn’t resist.
I went to one of the wall screens and placed a reservation to this evening’s show. On MSC Seashore there seems to be a different show every evening. More on that later. Dinner was at 6 ish and the show was not until 9. By the time I was finished with dinner the early show was still in progress.
To kill time, I ventured to the pool deck for the Long Island bar. A team of about three bartenders greeted me. Only a few patrons were present. Since I was at the Long Island bar, I ordered a Long Island ice tea. It was a relaxing way to while away my time. Once I had my fill, I ventured down to the atrium area of decks 6, 7, and 8.
Keri, the American cruise director and her right-hand person, the activities director conducted an introduction of senior staff. Keri is the first MSC female American cruise director. MSC is entering the 21st century!
My tv was not working properly. It would not shut off. Thankfully, the volume was set very low. I went down to guest services where there was no line to wait. A first for MSC! I was promptly helped by my representative! We both believed that my batteries to my remote needed changing. She made a call to housekeeping. By the time I made it back to my room, my room steward was there and showed me he had fixed the situation. Such a happy, friendly and helpful guy. I was impressed to have the situation fixed so swiftly and satisfactorily, a rarity in the world of MSC.
I went over to the Madison theater to see the Paris show, an ode (very loosely) to all things Parisian. Overall, it was a much better production the previous evening. There was excellent dancing, good singing. There also was a couple of acts focusing on feats of strength and balance. Those men never saw a carbohydrate. When the first guy took off his shirt the crowd went wild. Anytime skin was exposed the audience showed its appreciation. Mind you, this was not a burlesque show. Their performances were impressive. Costume design was much improved with a not to “Belle Epoque” Paris but pushed to a more modern extreme. This time the operatic singer was stylized better. He got a solo moment to shine. Keri introduced the show and I learned that there are 50 nationalities of passengers on board the ship. The multiculturalism is clearly evident because I hear Italian, Portuguese, Spanish everywhere. Do not assume a guest speaks English. The staff all do.
After the show, I decided to retire for the evening in my stateroom. Once again upon my return I re-discovered my feet were swollen. Lots of water, ibuprofen, and propping of my feet up on pillows worked. I was happy to discover on RetroTV, the fourth classic Doctor from Doctor Who was in the thinck of things with the first episode of the last “Key to Time” storyline with Mary Tamm as Romana and Tom Baker as the titular figure. What a treat! I fell asleep as the 2nd episode of this story was airing as I discovered when I awakened about an hour after I had been sleeping for twenty minutes. Time to turn off my tv and I was knocked out immediately.
Tales of the High Seas: Voyage of the MSC Seashore
In going through my pictures, I discovered something that I missed. I want to avoid the buffet when it is expected to be very busy. Most cruise ships usually have at least one other restaurant available to eat at on embarkation day. You usually can ask the staff what is open for your first meal on the ship. MSC Seashore only had the Marketplace buffet open. I and all the other maniacs aboard visited Marketplace buffet for lunch. It was a bit of a madhouse. And that’s with me arriving on the ship on the early side of things.
My issue was not with the variety of food available, the types of food available, or even the layout. My issue was just trying to navigate among all those people. One surprising thing for me were these tents on the tables of the buffet that provided instructions on how to have alcoholic beverages delivered to your buffet table using the Wi-fi and a QR code. I’m more of an iced tea kind of guy for lunch and that’s what I got for myself. I didn’t have a record of what I ate. It was tasty and fine. Nothing to write home about but then nothing to complain about either. The pastries that are in the Marketplace are incredible. The pastry chef was amazing the entire week. It’s a good thing I was taking the stairs all the time instead of the elevator.
NCL had no information about weather on the tv. The rumor mill caused me great anxiety. I tried to access that information through BBC and MSNBC but it was quite difficult. On MSC gaining weather information on the tv was a breeze. The home screen of the tv had the weather forecast available.
BIG LESSON: It is important to be your own advocate. On the previous evening I had received my paper “Daily Planner”, the schedule of events and activities available for the following day. I had not received my ticket for my shore excursion that I had purchased for my day at Ocean Cay. Ocean Cay was on the itinerary for the following day. I took it upon myself to visit the shore excursion desk that evening to address the matter. I had them print out my ticket for my shore excursion the following day. Lesson for travelers, be proactive to avoid a possible glitch. Once I returned to my room after the main show, Gravity, at 11:15 pm, I discovered that my room steward had since visited my room once again and delivered my shore excursion ticket. While my shore excursion desk visit proved to be unnecessary, it was better to be safe, than sorry
On this night, MSC presented Flower Glory Night. You could take a fancy trip back to the 60’s and 70’s and join them by wearing your finest floral garments. I had discovered that this would be a theme night prior to my voyage so I had packed a floral print shirt by Penguin for the evening.
At 9:00 pm I had made a reservation to experience the main entertainment show, Gravity. It was set on another planet where the ability to have amazing balance and acrobatic skills is all part of the deal. The theatre performers were truly amazing, and they defied the laws of gravity in this spectacle of a show.
I was beat after dinner and the show and decided to only make a brief appearance at the Flower Glory party at Le Cabaret Rouge, Deck 7 Aft in honor of Flower Glory Night.
November 14, 2022
I woke up feeling quite calm because I had taken a sleep aid since my mind was racing a bit from the night before. My body was tired, but my mind was not. On this morning I was rather serene. I decided to discover what breakfast is like in the main dining room. On board the Seashore they had breakfast available at the Central Park main dining room restaurant. I am a morning person as I have described in earlier posts and planned for a 7:30 am arrival at the Central Park main dining room. Thank goodness they serve tea a bit differently than on Norwegian Prima. Now I don’t have to pour and spill. They pour the hot water. I put in a tea bag of my choice. Today it is English Breakfast. It took a bit longer to steep, but as I said, less messy. My vanilla muffin was very welcome this morning. I have had success a number of times with Eggs Benedict, so I ordered those. This time it included a slice of bacon that was not so great. They offered to sprinkle the dish with some grated parmesan cheese. I never turn down an opportunity for cheese, so I agreed to that.
Today was our day at the MSC private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. This island is only a few years old after having been reclaimed by the MSC company. It is distinguished by its turquoise waters and the distinctive red and white lighthouse. I was looking forward to immersing myself in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean and admire all that the island had to offer.
As per my usual, I was one of the first people off the ship to explore the island. I had done my research beforehand. I learned that despite there being a number of different beaches and areas to enjoy, one spot would be more for me. Because I was a frugal traveler, Lighthouse Beach was the only beach on the island that provided beach umbrellas complimentary. All of the other spots on the island required a beach umbrella rental. While Ocean Cay does have the opportunity to enjoy private beach cabanas, rafts, and floating beach mats and other water sport rentals, I was not about spending any further money. The other advantage to Lighthouse Beach was that you had a view of the Lighthouse and opposite that a great view of the ship, MSC Seashore. The MSC for Me app is available on the island. I could keep track of all my bookings, reservations and activities on the ship and on Ocean Cay. I just had to simply connect to the island’s wi-fi and could keep track of all my daily plans. To be honest, I really didn’t need to use it much. MSC provided me with beach towels in my room. Lucky me, I had a room for two, so I got two towels to bring with me onto Ocean Cay.
I was able to find my perfect, little spot and plopped down onto a large, colorful beanbag chair shaded with a beach umbrella. I found the perfect spot to conduct a favorite pastime of mine, people watching. Who knew I would get to see a full-grown man with a tramp stamp tatoo? What is better than getting a good chuckle from a woman falling on her rear into the sand as she tries pulling a chair? Or a daddy with his 3-year-old daughter splashing in the ocean? While at Ocean Cay I could spot two islands nearby. Were these other ocean cruise line private islands? My guide on my shore excursion informed me that one of them was Bimini.
Just as the ship proved to be an endless source of selfie opportunities, the private island was the same. MSC knows their passengers have entered the digital age.
Soon after I had had my fill of luxuriating in the beautiful, sun shiny day, I went to cool myself off with a good swim in the ocean. The high temperature today was 80°F/27°C.
I had done my people watching, listened to some music being piped in by the island, enjoyed the coolness of the ocean. It was now time to see what I could see snorkeling. That ocean was incredibly clear! It was the clearest water of my entire three-week trip. So pristine! My snorkeling adventure proved to be amazing. There were so many fish to discover of all different types. I was utterly amazed. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it probably was that clear because it was a little after 8 am. I snorkeled my way over to the rocky shores where the lighthouse was located. It was there that I discovered the greatest variety of fish. Probably because there were hardly any people in that part of the ocean.
At 12:45 pm I had booked through MSC an excursion to do the Lighthouse Tower Climb. It was only $8. So not much money would be lost if it proved to be too lame. My guide was there to provide insight into the origins of the island as we took 165 steps to 150 feet above sea level. She answered all of our stupid questions. There were about 10 of us on my trip. We learned about life as a crew member. Most of her expenses are paid for by MSC, including flights to and from home, her clothes, her food, and her housing.
We had almost reached the top when we were startled by a BANG! A tour member had fallen and hit his head on the lighthouse as he had a seizure episode. Luckily, our guide was a trained lifeguard. Soon after she was assured that he was not in any imminent danger, she called for help and lifeguards were on the scene in minutes. FOUR doctors arrived via golf carts soon after. MSC’s responsiveness was excellent. The patient seemed to recover well after being the recipient of care, attention, and water with 8+ people caring for him. Once assured that he would be ok, our tour group continued up the spiral steps of our trek. That lighthouse has a wonderful view of the whole island from atop.
I was disappointed. I had not captured using my GoPro my snorkeling adventures earlier that morning. When the people around me on the beach could tell I might be leaving, they were like polite vultures trying to take my bean bag chair, my umbrella, my spot. I found it all rather amusing. I quickly ran back to the ship, picked up my GoPro from my room, returned to the island, plunked my gear down on the beach and captured what I could. It is now mid-afternoon. There were less fish, more murky waters, and it was just not as magical an experience. I returned to the ship around 2:30 pm.
As part of the Fantastica experience, I had an assigned dinner restaurant, table, and time. There were four main dining restaurants. I was assigned to one of them. If I wanted to eat dinner at a main dining room restaurant, I was to report to the Tribeca main dining room at table 628. I lucked out. I really enjoyed my table mates. The conversation flowed with all four of us at a table designed for eight. Utah, Florida, and Pennsylvania represent! Our staff was so attentive and sweet. I could not have hoped for more. They even knew who I was since I was absent the first evening. I spent my first evening at Butcher’s Cut.
During dinner, there was a miscommunication problem at my table. People were answering different questions than were asked. I stepped in to translate and when they all so how far off base we were, we all laughed. Later in the night, I realized I wasn’t asked about my food allergies. I’m used to navigating those waters and my allergies aren’t terribly sensitive, so I was fine. Once again, be your own advocate. When placing your order always be sure your server is aware of any food allergies you might have. Dinner started with watermelon with goat cheese. My main was bucatini carbonara. Americans are used to larger portions, but this is cruising Italian style, modest portions are the rule. The staff continually encouraged me to order more food. But I refrained. I didn’t want a repeat of my night aboard Norwegian Prima’s Onda by Scarpetta restaurant. Dessert was grandma’s chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. My table mate Maria, being a previous MSC employee, received a custard which was not on the menu. She shared it with me and when combined with ice cream was delicious.
I took my bottle of water that I was served at dinner back to my room. While going back to my room, I ran into dinner-mate, Maria. After a bit of a struggle with service at a bar, we scored some cocktails and made our way towards the theater for the main show of the evening, “Beautiful”. It was a celebration of some of the greatest female vocalists of all time. From Broadway to Divas, the cast took to the stage and dazzled with songs, choreography, and costumes. The quality of the singers was quite good surprisingly. Although ¾s of the singers had voices appropriate for pop music. ¼ had an operatic voice which was absolutely stunning but did not fit. Think of an operatic tenor singing Sara Bareilles or Lady Gaga and you get the picture. But he only appeared occasionally. Usually, there were two female lead vocalists. Even though they used more current music, the production value was a bit of a throwback rooted in stereotypes making it easy to identify cultures and gender roles to the point where you could argue do we really need people to be pigeon holed? Haven’t we moved beyond this? The dancing, especially by the male dance troupe was fantastic. Sure, it helps that they started by showing lots of skin, but through most of the show they were completely covered up. It basically was a pastiche of musical numbers designed to celebrate women. Maria had similar takeaways and found it “out of date”. It was an earnest attempt. Through the MSC and me app there is a chat function. Sadly, we could not get it to work with Maria’s phone. So we were not able to stay in touch.
I then left Maria to venture off to the Cabaret Rouge. The Love and Marriage show was being performed. It was modeled after the old “Newlywed Game” from tv. That format is always a winner. Random thought: Why do couples who have been together for a long time often look like each other? I took it easy on my swamped bar staff and ordered a Ketel One sea breeze, no muddling, no use of a blender, no frozen drinks, nice and easy. Because of that, the bartender remembered me time and again and I would receive quick service. I tried after the show to join the silent disco, but when I saw the huge crowd trying to participate, I called it a night and retired for the evening. At my room I prepared the next day’s clothes and retired for the day.
NEXT: You may recall a movie called, “A River Runs Through It”. I learn a new meaning for that phrase.
Tales of the High Seas: Voyage of the MSC Seashore
November 13, 2022
I made sure I was all packed up and ready to go. I checked out of my perfect, little hotel, Fashion Boutique Hotel in South Beach. I now had a functioning new phone, and I ordered a Lyft vehicle to pick me up. The Lyft whisked me off to Terminal C of the Miami Cruise Terminal at 9:30 in the morning. Since it was a Sunday, I was hoping that traffic wouldn’t be too bad. My ride took 26 minutes for an 8-mile trip. We really didn’t experience traffic until we got to the Miami Cruise Terminal where there was a log jam of vehicles due to passengers trying to depart and others like me trying to arrive. I can only imagine what it might be like later in the day.
I arrived at Terminal C early. My appointed slot for check in wasn’t until 11:00 am. I’m a big rule follower so I just hung outside near where I would enter the terminal just people watching. I saw how fast the line getting into security was and hopped into line about 5 minutes early. I timed it just right and at the door was greeted by a staff member who checked my embarkation form and passport and ushered me into the room. Security had a bit of a line, but it moved quickly. I really had no complaints there.
Now let’s start with the complaints. MSC is horrible when it comes to organization of large groups of people. Once I was through Security, a mass of people passes into a l-o-n-g snake of folks and participated in that whole waiting game of a snake line hoping to see one of a myriad of check-in agents at numerous windows. Once at the head of the snake, a person was there to direct you to which window/person to get checked in. My expediter was friendly and helpful. Basically each “teller window” would then get a line of about 3 parties. Whoever was behind me lucked out because it was only me to be checked in. I was directly behind a party of four with two young children under the age of 5. Took longer for them.
At this point, I witnessed an unfortunate event. The line directly to my left had a couple of women waiting to be seen. As soon as they got to the front of the line, the staff member told them to wait right there, and he had to take care of something. He was gone for an awfully long time and never came back. One of the staff members explained he went to the restroom. I highly doubt that because he took much longer than I ever require in the restroom, unless he was deathly ill. No one came to replace him. The party just had to wait and wait and wait. Eventually once the party of four before me was all checked in, the person helping them moved over and helped that couple. I was now in a line with no one to check me in. I explained things to the expediter who guided me. She shifted me over to the line that she perceived would be the quickest. Eventually I got to see someone, and I had to produce my vaccination records, my embarkation form, my health questionnaire, and my passport. They took a picture of me even though I had already submitted a picture of myself online ahead of time and within a few minutes I had my sail card, given a boarding slip with a number (12) and was directed to move on. Moving on, I joined a caravan of people with no one directing us where to go. No one was there to tell you what you needed to do. I walked into a cavernous room with banners announcing boarding groups. I found group 12 and waited with them. There were a number of seats (not nearly enough). For most of the time I just stood with my bags and waited for my number to be called. In this large, cavernous hall, a huge amount of people rose and made their way to the front. It was a big cattle call. It just seemed out of control. In reality, there was a staff member at the head of the crowd metering people to enter the ship. At this point, occasionally, the passengers would shout what number boarding group was allowed to proceed further. After having waited, I’m going to guess, was an hour and a half later, they called my number. Once they called 10, because of this mass of people already standing up and towards the front, I made my way towards the front of the line. 12 was called and once again I followed a bunch of people and gave my boarding card to a staff member. At this point I made my way to the gangway and within 15 minutes I was on board the ship. This was a zoo of animals situation. It really did not need to be like this. Any time MSC had to deal with large groups of people, they really did fail. I ended up being fine, because I made sure I was alert and ready. I would have been concerned if I was traveling with young children because I would be worried that my attention would get diverted at a critical moment, never mind the patience of my children that would be required.
I eventually gained access to the wonderful ship, MSC Seashore. Eventually an announcement was made that you could now visit your stateroom. I did just that. I had a standard inside stateroom that was designed for two. For me, this was a step up. It included more space. The space felt very luxurious to me. That’s probably because the stateroom is larger than my bedroom back at home, so I am thrilled. I guess the combined bed is equivalent to a queen. I tried to use a different card to activate the power and lights in the room. The lights went out. You MUST use an MSC card. There are oodles of storage space, but then again, this room was designed for at least two people.
While in the room I watched the safety video on my stateroom tv. Afterwards, I decided to go to my muster drill station. Once there, my muster drill station crew member who checked me in told me about the video (which I had already witnessed) and that afterwards I had to call a number on my phone to acknowledge that I had viewed it. I returned to my room and called the number and that was that. Shortly afterwards, an announcement is made about the safety procedures and described watching the video, calling the phone, and then going to my station. I had already done all that. My mission was complete.
The ship design reminds me of Las Vegas of today with lots of shiny, reflective things. For example, a staple on several MSC ships is the use of staircases in their atrium that are encrusted with lots of tiny Swarovski crystals. They were able to incorporate a lot of cool uses of art. Much of the ship has a unifying design theme. For this ship, it was the city of New York City.
I did not see a laundry bag in my room. I need one. I had paid for a laundry package for them to clean 20 pieces of clothing. The room steward was nowhere around and did not introduce themselves on this first day.
I had heard that once you get onboard an MSC ship, the staff hound you about drink packages and dining packages. I had already purchased both before the cruise. It is amazing what work a smile can do. I just informed everyone who approached me that I already had a drink package, I already had a dining package. The smile, the “no, thank you”, and the “already purchased” worked like a charm. I was only approached in the first five minutes of being on the ship and I wasn’t approached again.
No matter which ship, strong drinks were poured despite my having a drink package. That’s exactly how I like them. Thank you very much. I was prepared to order oodles of drinks in case they were not strong enough, but they were.
I had checked into my room and organized it the way that I prefer. I had pre-purchased a dining package that allowed me to visit three specialty dining establishments for dinner. However, I wanted to be assured that there would be no issues with being seated at the times that I desired. I went to the first restaurant where I wanted to have dinner. I visited the host podium at Butcher’s Cut, the steakhouse, where I wanted to have dinner that evening. While there I made reservations for all three of my specialty restaurant choices. I was the only one at the restaurant. It was taken care of lickety-split and I was done making the reservations by 4:00 pm.
Today I was free as a bird as I was no longer pre-programming myself with group events. I decided to view the Miami Sailaway Party on the “Long Island Pool Deck” on deck 18 aft. It took place at 5:15 pm ish. I was pleasantly pleased that it was a lively affair with lots of dancing and music. Was it as much of a party as a Carnival cruise Sailaway? No, I would say not. But people were obviously having a good time. I was having a good time and that is all that matters. While there, I noticed that Oasis of the Seas from Royal Caribbean was docked nearby and started to sail away from MSC Seashore. I received a message from a passenger aboard Oasis of the Seas, my buddy Joan! We were about to go to the Bahamas. Was she on her way to Perfect Day at Coco Cay? Maybe, or maybe the ship will visit right before they return to Miami. I was furiously waving to her from my vantage point on the pool deck. Lots of folks were returning my wave aboard the Oasis of the Seas.
It was a multicultural cruise with passengers and crew from all over the world. Because of that fact, announcements were made over the public address system in about six different languages. I could hear the announcements in German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and English. As I wandered about, I would hear these languages being used by my fellow passengers. I noticed that I was assuming that my fellow passengers spoke English. In many cases, they did not. I, personally, enjoyed the multicultural aspect of this cruise. You may not. Just be mindful. Not every single announcement was made in six languages, just the most vital. Through the cruise, most announcements were made in about two languages, English and one other.
After exploring the ship to get myself acclimated I found that it was time to change for dinner. I was a bit icky from the chores of the day and the anxiety I had about being able to board so it was time for a shower, grooming, and get dressed.
Tonight’s dinner was at the specialty restaurant, Butcher’s Cut. I scheduled my dinner for 6:30 pm. At first, I might have been the only diner in the restaurant. Once I was seated and had placed my order, my server arrived with bread service that came with a smokey butter and a jalapeño butter. Definitely the smokey butter was quite smokey, but oddly enough I didn’t detect much spice with the jalapeño butter. And I have a bland palate. While at the restaurant, my seat availed me the opportunity to check out the deck 8 promenade. It was very similar to the one on Norwegian Prima. No wonder because both ships were built by the same shipyard, Fincantieri, and based on the same principal model, Project Mille. As I have said, this ship was very multicultural and at this dinner I had a crew member that had trouble understanding me. It was not a big deal. I slowed my speech and used simple language and we were able to get the job done.
Now it is 7:15 pm and I see no one else at this restaurant. Works for me! It is a steakhouse, so I ordered a steak. Along with the steak they brought out a tray with four sauces. There was a béarnaise sauce, a chimichurri sauce, a mustard sauce and one other that I can’t recall. A knife with the markings 947 was brought out. I made the stupid error to use the wrong edge for a bit of time, but that was no biggie. My starter was a goat cheese concoction and as you may know I love my cheese. What a wonderful way to start my dinner. The steak was a NY Sirloin 14 oz. cooked medium rare. It was absolutely perfect. I had a tasty side of mac and cheese since I am a kid at heart. My dessert was a lava cake. So glad I made that choice. I love that dessert. Service was excellent. I could not have asked for a better meal experience. I was offered coffee after dessert. Why is that a thing? Won’t caffeine interfere with sleeping? It is now 7:30 and three tables are filled. My perfect dinner is done and is heralded by a crying baby.
NEXT: Seizure disturbance on an excursion at Ocean Cay
Tales of the High Seas: Voyage of the Norwegian Prima
November 11, 2022
The trio of Dee, Claudine, and myself scatter with the winds to Alberta, Canada, South of England, and a stay in the US.
Since I was able to carry my luggage myself, I chose to use SELF-ASSIST disembarkation. It is the simplest way to leave. I kept my luggage with me and carried it off the ship at my leisure. I already had informed Arnold, my room attendant, that I would be all packed up, and I would leave my bags in my room while I went out for breakfast. If he wanted to get a head start on my room, he could. I just needed to grab my bags and go. I got to avoid the congestion in the baggage claim hall. It is hassle free. He had already informed me that my mini bar was locked on the last evening of the cruise to take inventory. I hadn’t made use of it, so it was no big deal to me.
Dee, Claudine, and I had called each other on the stateroom phone (once again to remind you, my phone was broken and inoperable). We made plans to meet outside of Hudson’s and have a nice, leisurely breakfast. My bags were in my room, so it made for getting around quite easy. On disembarkation day, I saw the most amount of people at the main dining room than I had all sailing long. Dee was running late, but Claudine saw she made an error, and the dining room would be closing at 8:30 am which was far earlier than we had anticipated. We each purposely chose items that would be easy and quick for the kitchen to prepare. No need to stress out the staff. Soon Dee joined us after Claudine and I had already ordered and we had a great time wrapping things up. Dee would be returning to snowy Alberta, Canada. Claudine had a return trip to as south as you could get in the UK where it will be a bit rainy, I’m sure. Me, I was staying for two days in Miami. Afterwards, it was another cruise journey aboard the MSC Seashore.
After breakfast the clock was approaching 9 am and I headed back to my room to pick up my bags. Arnold, the entire trip, was always smiling and always greeted me by name. He took excellent care of me. Besides picking up my bags, I remembered to give him a bit of a cash tip to thank him for his service because I’m sure those pre-paid services charges would not be enough since it would be split among the staff. There were a good amount of people waiting to disembark the ship, but it wasn’t an inordinate amount of time waiting in line, maybe fifteen minutes, max. While waiting I made note that a family had a wee bit of money that was owed to them. It was under a dollar and the staff made the family get out of line and go back to guest services to settle their bill. Me, my account was all settled so they ran my face through the face recognition system and off I departed easy-peasy. No customs check, no examination of my passport, just kept on walking. The whole process was just a few minutes once I reached the point of getting my face recognized. It was just a matter of how fast I wanted to go under my own steam. Once I got out my original plan was to call a ride share vehicle. Without a functioning phone that put the Lyft plan to bed. Instead, I hopped into a cab which whisked me off to the Fashion Boutique Hotel in South Beach. The taxi cost well over double what I would have spent that day, but I was able to persevere on.
It was a picture-perfect day in Miami. It was hours earlier than check-in time, so they allowed me to store my bags at the hotel, while I went and explored Miami. I went to my phone store on Lincoln Road which brought back memories of time spent there. Once at the phone store they said since I had a warranty that covered the damage, they could send me a new phone to me the next day. The trouble was I’m traveling so that would not work. I ended up getting a new phone the following day. Since money was extremely tight, I spent hardly a dime in Miami, choosing the sand and ocean of South Beach and my complimentary tv service in my room.