We've booked our first ever cruise on the recommendation of friends, and we've chosen the MSC Seaside on the E.Carribean trip in October. We're two adults and two kids (11 and 8).
I've done plenty of research but I still have some questions about the cruise and how it works. Apologies if some of these seem obvious but as I say - we've never done a cruise before.
We've booked an Aurea suite (13001) to give ourselves a bit more space, and I have managed to match my hotel status to MSC Diamond.
So... firstly do people think the premium plus package is worth doing over the premium one? From what I can see it just allows you to get slightly better wine by the glass and any champagne served by the glass; though this appears to be solely Nicholas Fueillate from menus I've found?
The free mini bar seems like a decent perk if we want to sit on the balcony after the kids go to bed - and the 30% off all bottles might be enough to convince me to pick up a bottle of Dom or something one evening (from the price list I saw that's about $260 with the 15% charge included, so with 30% off it's $180 - which is pretty much retail price). But I'm wondering if I'm overlooking any benefit or non-benefit that may swing this decision one way or another. Either way we'll definitely be upgrading from the Easy package on Aurea as my wife will want the frozen cocktails, etc. and I'm not drinking thimbles of Heineken all week.
When we get to ports, I've read that having a diamond card allows easier disembarkation? How does that work? Do we just pitch up whenever we like, rather than having to book a time to get off? Do we also get back on with some kind of priority? Curious how that all works. We likely won't be doing many excursions but would like to get off and potter around for a couple of hours; but not if it's queuing for an hour to get off and on again.
Speaking of excursions, I've seen one in Charlotte that I like the look of. The 'Kayak, Hike and Snorkel of Cas Cay' caught my eye. Has anyone done this? Good for the kids? We're all in reasonably good shape and all are good swimmers if that makes a difference. It was either this or the catamaran and shipwreck snorkel; but the kayaking just sounded like something a bit different.
Kids - is there any way to keep track of them? Like do those cruise wristbands have trackers on them? They're pretty independent so I'd have no issue with them going off on their own at times (in fact I'm keen on it as with an enclosed environment it gives them a great chance to gain more independence), but I'd like to know where they are at the same time. Also, can kids get served at bars, etc. (not for beer, obviously) on their own or does an adult always have to be with them? What about ordering snacks and stuff - no issues with them eating at snack bars on their own?
The Aurea package gets priority embarkation and disembarkation from what I can see. If we get an Uber to the port in Miami, do we just bowl straight to the front or how does that work? Same with getting off, do we just choose when we get off? Can we stay on the boat until 11am-ish when we get back?
Again, with the Aurea package, we get "any time" dining. What does that mean, exactly? If you're not on the Aurea package you have to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner when they tell you to? So can we just turn up any time to the buffet and main dining restaurants?
Are there any other benefits I should be aware of which aren't necessarily made obvious with the diamond status, suite or the Aurea package?
Appreicate your time reading - I understand these are likely very 'newbie' questions but I'm a complete novice at this!