I Do Love To Be Seaside

by Vanessa Lee

Vanessa Lee seaside in the late 50's...
anticipating her 1st cruise!

“Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside. I do like to be beside the sea".

These are the opening lines from a much-loved English song performed in many a British Music Hall at the turn of the last century and a catchy tune that has lived long in English life. I was therefore pleased to see that an Italian company – MSC Cruises – has decided to call one of their newest vessels, the MSC Seaside. I knew that this was the project name for their new ships but was happily surprised to see MSC has decided to give their new class of vessel this descriptive, fun name. It is so appropriate and conjures up all sorts of lovely images, as the ship will indeed give its guests a remarkable experience, very close to the side of the sea. It's sure to be a big hit.

And as I have always enjoyed being by the seaside (as you will see from my photograph for this column) growing up on the south coast of England where you could practically taste the salt air, I like the name and all its connotations. As I often write about new and innovative ships and all the great things that are occurring in the cruise world, I have to say that I really love the whole “being close to the sea" concept which has been a great success on Norwegian's Breakaway Class ships.

Rick Sasso, President MSC Cruises North America with Vanessa Lee & Jim Henwood, V.P. Passenger Services, MSC at an early 90's Encore Cruises event for Celebrity Cruises. Both Rick & Jim were with Celebrity at the time.

And the terrific news here about the MSC Seaside is that finally – and it's about time - the company is building a ship specifically for warm-water cruising and will bring her directly from the shipyard to North America, base her in PortMiami, with a long-term contract for a renovated terminal there, and keep her here on a year-round basis. I applaud the move as this will be a great asset to the MSC brand. The Seaside arrives mid-December 2017 so we have quite the wait but when I spoke recently to my long-standing friend Rick Sasso, President of MSC Cruises North America, he gave me some insight as to what we can expect when she arrives in all her al fresco glory.

The name sums up a lot with her wrap-around promenade on Deck 8, not too many metres above sea level, and the many outdoor areas for dining, entertainment and relaxation being so close to the sea. Often this kind of area on a ship will be up high but here the space has been designed to be much closer to the water so that the experience is truly all about the sea. The artist's renderings show how the ship and sea will come together in perfect harmony.

The Seaside will carry 4140 guests and weigh in at 154,000 tons and will offer a marvellous array of outdoor activities as she sails from Miami on alternating 7 night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises. Itineraries have not yet been announced but the ship herself will be a big part of the experience.

Artist's rendering of the Seaside promenade

MSC constantly wins awards for their onboard entertainment which is truly excellent, a fact I can attest to. However, there will be more entertainment in the many lounges and showrooms geared to the North American sensibility – as will other aspects of the experience. The company is already putting out RFP's for entertainment and options to offer the guests – and looking to keep their place in the entertainment category. And then there's the fabulous waterpark being designed by a Canadian company which will be the most interactive at sea with a host of bells and whistles.

This is a timely move – bringing a brand-new purpose built ship to North America and designating her year round to our shores and audience. The MSC Divina sails from here in the winter months having arrived with much fanfare in November 2013 but then heads over to Europe in late Spring to spend the season there. And, although many guests are from our continent, the Divina is not 100% focused on this market. Seaside will be – a great step forward for MSC.

Artist's rendering of the aft section of the MSC Seaside

And when Seaside arrives there is the opportunity to offer longer, 10 and 11 night itineraries on the Divina and to also offer shorter cruises too – oriented to the charter market.

As Rick told me, there will be some unique features on Seaside and information on these will be rolled out in the coming months. One thing he emphasized though is that there will be a greater acceleration regarding staff training and very specific instruction geared to this audience. The crew will be chosen to serve on this ship with more preciseness and will undergo a higher degree of coaching, specifically and intuitively geared to serving our North American audience.

As I am wont to say, there is so much going on in ship-building right now and I know that the next few years are going to see the arrival of some of the most spectacular ships ever built – it's an exciting and invigorating time and I am glad to see MSC taking a spot here and earning a rightful place in the contemporary category.

Yes, I do love to be beside the seaside, beside the sea – perhaps I'll see you there!

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