This was our first foray into European Cruising. We have previously cruised twice with the children in the Carribean, most recently on NCL Epic's inaugural season. We travelled as a party of 4 in a 'Cove' balcony suite.
Was the best we have ever encountered. Well done MSC! We stayed the night before our cruise in a hotel in Mestre, who provided transportation to the cruise terminal for â‚¬4.00 each. In Venice terms this was a bargain. We left the hotel at around 1115 and in a little over an hour we were in our cabin! The fact that you seem to be able to board this cruise at 4 out of the 5 ports of call seems to aid the 'hotel' team in turning around the cabins.
Having previously cruised Epic we were expecting big things! Divina is a small cruise ship which they have tried to 'pump up' and make everything bigger. In our opinion it really doesn't work. She is pretty enough to look at, she's clean, well cared for and new but her designers are obviously French and Italian. She is like a high end Citreon or Fiat, looks races with her Pinaforina lines but fails miserably when it comes to practical performance. Here are a couple of examples. Look at any of the worlds big Cruise ships, Epic or the 2 RCL ships, Oasis or Allure they have 'central corridors' which their restaurants, bars, are arranged off of. To walk from one end of the ship to the other you do no have to walk through a crowded bar. On Divina Deck 7 is just a series of rooms joined together. You feel really self conscious when you have to walk between the performers on stage and the bar they are entertaining - very loud too when you have to walk only a few cms away from their speakers!
The pool deck is a disaster. Admittedly we went during the school holiidays - kids cruise free all year on MSC - so we were expecting it to be busy but again the poor design does not help. The ship only has 2 pools that are available to the majority of passengers. I say 2 there is a 3rd pool a the rear of the ship in what is supposed to be an adult only area that was filled with more kids than the main pool! I believe the MSC Yacht club has its own pool too. The second main pool on Deck 14 is under a retracting roof, this is fine but the area around it is given up to tables and chairs and not loungers? His means tha the pool basically becomes a haven for unsupervised children who's parents have found an inch of deck space 3 decks away! I think the record was 15 children in 1 spa pool all of whom did not seem to have a responsible adult in sight. To be fair to MSC a pool attendant was trying his best to create some sort of control but kids will be kids. I also question why n a sea day MSC find it necessary to empty the entire contents f ever shop nboard onto the pool desk when space is such a premium. Not only that but every time they do it on the same non-smoking side of the ship, where space is a premium anyway.
Fantastic - excellent - well done MSC!
They all work very hard to get a difficult job done. The cabin attendants, waiters, waitresses, Spa masseurs and cleaners are all extremely helpful and everything is done with a smile.
We could not fault it! The Black Crab restaurant food was great. Always hot, always tasty. I cannot believe they have the ability to cook pasta and risotto perfect every time for tha number of people - simply stunning! The buffet was sometime a struggle to find a seat but the food was plentiful if typical cruise fayre!
The Kids Program
The isn't one! Well not like Carnival or NCL. This is basically a Child minding service whe they play UNO, draw or play some basic party games. Our kids could not wait to go to the kids area on Epic. There was a structured program and the vast majority of kids onboard went. On MSC it's the opposite. The majority of kids run wild around the ship and never use the club. We only used the club whilst we used the spa and occasionally after dinner to allow some energy burn off. Very disappointing.
Again not really a problem but as some reviewers have previously stated there are a lot of people to get off. It was worth getting up early to witness the ship quietly slip back into Venice - magnificent views of St Marks Square before the tourists get up!
You get what you pay for! After a week on Divina we could see why a similar cruise on NCL costs about half as much again more! The kids program could be improved and would make a huge difference to life onboard for everybody, customers and crew alike. It is obvious that the MSC design team did not do a familiarisation on other ships before they designed Divina. There is nothing to occupy people on sea days. No climbing walls, no flow riders, no zip wires and no crazy golf. All of which would be effective at alleviating the demand on deck space on sea days.
They have this strange 30 minute rule on sunbeds which is only enforced sporadically. I understand what they are trying to achieve but with no outdoor dining and trip to the bar or ice cream shop taking a good part of 30 minutes it seems groomed to failure. In fact with 2 children and no kids club we could have been away from our sunloungers for more than 30 minutes without any problem a all!