I neglected my blog for a while… but life gets sometimes very busy. In the end of August we decided to spend our vacation on a cruise ship around Western Caribbean. I dreamed about beautiful sandy beaches and a turquoise color sea for a while already. Since our friends from Slovakia joined us, the trip was much more fun! The more – the merrier 🙂 We decided to start the vacation with a cruise and finished it with a few days spent in Miami.
The possibilities are endless but in the end we chose a 7-day cruise on the MSC Seaside. We sailed from Miami and had 4 stops on the way:
- Ocho Rios, Jamaica
- Georgetown, Grand Cayman
- Cozumel, Mexico
- Nassau, Bahamas
The MSC Seaside ship is a European ship specifically built and designed for the American market. It is a new ship, completed in 2017, and let me tell you, it is beautiful! When I first boarded the ship, I noticed how shiny and new everything looked. The first thing that catches your attention is definitely a Swarovski crystal staircase. The chrome accents and mirrors used throughout the ship created a bright and sparkling atmosphere. The design was nice and modern, the ship was kept clean. Our favorite place became a Venchi Chocolate Bar. We stopped there every day for a great espresso or a glass of prosecco with bubbling pieces of chocolate. Since it was the vacation, I was very lazy and visited the gym only once. My impression was that it was quite full, but I was able to find the equipment I liked.
We chose a cabin with a balcony, which I can highly recommend. It was nice to breathe the fresh breeze, it was great for drying out our swimsuits, and after dinner we enjoyed the look and feel of endless sea in the night and the sounds of waves splashing the ship as it sailed in the Caribbean.
MSC Seaside has 3 large swimming pools and an extensive water park. When we had a day at the sea we spent it by an “adult only” swimming pool. Every night we enjoyed a different show at the Metropolitan Theater. The shows were fantastic and featured great singers, dancers and acrobats. There were several showtimes offered each evening. I also enjoyed many live musical acts in the evening from live jazz in the Seaview Lounge to a DJ accompanied by a solo sax artist in the atrium.
The food aboard was excellent and there were plenty of options to choose from. The ship has two buffets – one more family friendly on Deck 16 and another on Deck 8. We really enjoyed the buffet, the selection of meals and even the dining room. For the served à la carte dinner, we preferred the late dining option, since the dining room was less busy.
The only downside was the service which I found a bit inconsistent. Sometimes great and sometimes not as satisfying.
We cruised in so called “hurricane season”, but the weather in the end of August was great and we experienced only a short shower at Bahamas. The embarkation as well as the disembarkation process went very smoothly. What I found very helpful, was their app, which you can download on your smartphone – providing important information such as the weather forecast, dinner menu, the deck plan, upcoming schedule of events, and you can even use it to book a spot for the night shows.
MSC Seaside made a great impression on me. To describe it in only 2 words I would say it is a “sailing town”.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
My first tip is to find the exit that is the least crowded – usually you will find it on the first or second day, when the ship sails into the port. It is either at the very front, or the very back of the ship.
As soon as we got off the ship we found a taxi. There are many locals waiting for you, shouting the offers. The prizes are not set up – everything is up to you and your negotiating skills. The taxi can cost you form a couple of bucks to $25 per person. We asked the driver to drop us at the Dunn River Falls. He also offered to pick us up, in two hours. We were among the first people to arrive there, so I highly recommend to be fast and visit the falls first thing in the morning. Before the rest of the tourists arrived, we had almost an hour for our-selves, so we could climb the falls and take some great pictures. I also recommend to bring water shoes – it is much safer to climb the falls, since some of the rocks are slippery.
After the falls we went to a Ocho Rios Bay Beach. We rented the beach chairs, and locals were bringing us cold beer and coconuts. The service was inexpensive, the fresh coconut cost me $5 and the cold beer was $3. The only thing I didn’t find appealing was the city itself.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman
We started with a little walk around the Georgetown, which serves as the capital of the Cayman Islands. Almost all the stores open there at 10 o’clock. As we were wandering around the town, we met a taxi driver who offered to take us on a trip around the island for $20 per person. We have seen all the main tourist attractions such as the Cayman Turtle Centre, the Hell (geological site with black limestone formations), the Governor House, we have visited local distillery and bought some infamous Tortuga rum – the coconut flavor is the best by far, and the driver dropped us off on a part of the Seven Mile Beach (at the Hemingway Hotel), away from the main tourist crowds.
The Cayman Turtle Centre is a bit controversial. The tourists can catch and hug young sea turtles. You can even take a swim with bigger ones if you want. It is a rare opportunity to come into contact with endangered green sea turtles, whose numbers are on the decline because of egg poaching and habitat degradation. However, what many tourist don’t realize is that it’s also a sea turtle farm, where the turtles are bred to be killed for their meat, a traditional dish in the Caymans. On the other hand, it serves a purpose beyond tourism, since they release captive-bred turtles into the wild.
After debarking you walk through a local shopping mall. Our plan for that day was to rent the scooters, explore the island, eat some great Mexican food and drink Margaritas (except for the drivers). The price for renting a scooter drops down if you walk further from the shopping mall into the city. Two blocks from the harbor we found a great place and for $40 we had a nice scooter, helmets, insurance and for an extra $5 we could return it with an empty gas tank.
Our first stop was at San Gervasio, where we visited the Mayan ruins. I highly suggest paying extra for a guided tour, as you’ll learn a lot more. San Gervasio was a site dedicated to the Mayan goddess Ixchel, the goddess of fertility. Many women from the mainland Mayan settlements made the pilgrimage here at some point in their lifetime.
Our next stop was on the way around the island – The Tequila Factory named Hacienda Antigua. We had several samplings of Tequila, but we were not pressured to buy anything. The tasting was entertaining and we even bought a few bottles. We were shown how to properly smell and sip tequila and learnt a few interesting facts about the history, process, and production of Tequila.
At this point we were really hungry, craving a good Mexican food. We stopped at a local restaurant at the Playa de San Martin. The food was good and the service very accommodating.
Afterwards we didn’t have much time left, since we were shooting pictures and taking videos, so we returned to San Miguel and enjoyed more Margaritas at Hooters in the harbor.
When talking about Bahamas, the first thing that comes to peoples mind is the “Atlantis resort“. Well, for us that was the one thing we wanted to avoid. We took a local bus and walked to Paradise Island (it is also inexpensive to take a taxi). We wanted to soak to sun on a nice beach. We chose a Cabbage Beach, and walked away from the main tourist crowds. From our experience everything at the beach was extremely overpriced, so it’s better to stock up before getting there. There were plenty of taxis waiting alongside the beach so on the way back, we took a ride.
Every great vacation has its end, and so we did unfortunately sail back to the port of Miami. For the disembarkation process there were two options available – either you could have taken your luggage and leave the ship around 7 in the morning, or you waited for a later time slot. We were not in a rush, so after we had breakfast, we left the ship around 10 o’clock. The luggage was already in the terminal.
I hope you found this review useful. For me this definitely wasn’t the last cruise. I enjoyed the concept as every day is up to you. If you prefer to stay on the ship, get adventurous, or just chill at the nearest beach.