At half term we went on the MSC Divina for a Mediterranean cruise. It was a bit of a strange holiday for us as our eldest had gone to university so it was the first holiday without her and our youngest was on her own with us oldies. Also my parents who are in their 70's came with us for the first time and it was their first cruise. I apologise for the length of the review, but I didn't want to miss anything out.
EMBARKATION: This went really smoothly. We caught a taxi from the airport which dropped us right by the ship and we then queued for about 15 mins to go through all the rigmarole you need to do before getting on. Quite smooth really.
SHIP: The MSC Divina is a huge ship with the most amazing Swarovski staircases in the reception area with a beautiful grand piano on the lower floor. It all looks spectacular. Although the ship was huge the only place that seemed really busy was the buffet restaurant, which was very manic at times. Everywhere else was just right, except the Black & White Lounge after the main show had finished, but even then we always managed to get a seat. We usually managed to find a sunbed, usually on the upper deck. Our cabin was a good size with not quite enough storage space for 3 of us, as our daughter was sharing a cabin with us. She slept on the settee which was opened each night for her. The only trouble was she didn't have a duvet so she was a bit cold sometimes. Lovely balcony with 2 chairs and a table.
FOOD: Fantastic choice of food in the main dining room, lovely presentation, but the taste wasn't really that good. I soon realized that the fish dishes were better than the meat dishes so stuck to these mainly. Pasta was always al dente. We used the buffet restaurant for breakfast and lunch. It was always manic and difficult to find a seat for 5 of us. Most of the tables are for 4 people. We usually managed to find one at the back of the restaurant though. The only trouble was by the time you got to the back your food was lukewarm. The Magnifique Buffet was visually stunning, but again absolutely packed and it was hard to actually get to the food. The Black Crab restaurant itself was beautiful, but we were put into a little side room with about 6 tables in, so sometimes we felt left out when something was happening in the main area. Baked Alaska parade was the worst I've ever seen (or not seen as we were in the little room) and only lasted for about 10 seconds.
We had the Allegrissimo drinks package which was brilliant. Practically all the drinks were included, and ice-cream, and it meant you weren't worried about the bill at the end.
ENTERTAINMENT: The shows in the theatre were amazing. There was a tenor who was fantastic and a female singer who was so-so. The dancers were really good and there were also loads of acrobatics, tumblers etc and even a bit of a magic act. For some reason the Michael Jackson show got a standing ovation, even though you couldn't see the dancers sometimes when they just showed a whole music video of Michael Jackson and the dancers missed one of the most famous parts of the Thriller dance out! Unfortunately on the last night they just repeated parts of the previous 6 nights, which was a bit disappointing. Franco the Cruise Director was hilarious with his signature pose and you could see people during their days on shore copying him.
PORTS: We didn't do any of the ship's excursions, but made our own way around:
BARI: We just walked from the ship into the town and walked around the cobbled streets. There were loads of men on the rocks by the sea catching cuttlefish. This really is a beautiful town. Getting back onto the ship was a complete nightmare. We must have queued for about Â½ hour. The problem seemed to be due to people embarking here and having to put their luggage through the scanners.
KATAKOLON: We caught a taxi to Olympia (I think it cost â‚¬100 for the 5 of us). We had a walk around Olympia and had a run on the track. The taxi then dropped us off amongst the shops in Katakolon for some retail therapy.
IZMIR: We caught a taxi, as the sightseeing bus by this time was selling tickets for the bus in about 1Â½ hours time. I think the taxi cost us â‚¬20 each and he took us to the various tourist places. The driver was lovely until we asked him to drop us by the clock tower instead of going into the Grand Bazaar. He kept saying he couldn't stop there and insisted on taking us into the Grand Bazaar to a certain shop where he was obviously going to get a commission if we bought anything. Not impressed!
ISTANBUL: We took the advice of a previous reviewer and caught the tram to where the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia etc were. The tram was really cheap and easy to use. Just turn left out of the port, walk down the main road until you come to the tram station, then buy your tokens to get you onto the station. Get off at Sultanahmet and you can see the sights. Don't miss the Basilica Cisterns which are the other side of the main road from Hagia Sophia. We then walked to the Grand Bazaar, following the signs, which is the most amazing place if you like shopping, then caught the tram back.
DUBROVNIC: By the time we got off the ship all the taxis had disappeared so we caught the ship's shuttle for â‚¬10 each, which turned out to be really handy. The last time we staying in Dubrovnic we caught the bus into the town, but it was quite a walk to the bus stop for my parents. The shuttle dropped us off outside the town walls. We then caught the cable car to the top of the mountain to see the view, after which we walked around the town. We had to wait about 5 mins for the shuttle bus back to the ship.
DISEMBARKATION: We were told the night before leaving that due to the colour of label we had on our luggage, we would have to disembark at 8.00. My parents were told 8.15. As our taxi wasn't coming until 10.00 I asked reception if we could stay on a bit longer. They just said "You want to stay longer, you stay longer" (obviously in an Italian accent), so in the morning we lingered over breakfast and then sat in the reception lounge until we decided to leave.
It is mainly Italians and Germans on board so all the main announcements are made in several languages, which can go on for quite a long time. The games around the pool and in the Black & White Lounge were only in Italian so it was difficult to work out what was going on sometimes, but all the staff can speak English well.
On the whole we had a lovely time. My younger daughter missed her sister and didn't go to the teen club, as she was worried it was full of Germans and Italians, but she enjoyed the party dances in the Black & White Lounge. She also enjoyed being chases around by the photographers! The time in port wasn't really long enough for us, although it was plenty long enough for my parents. This really was an excellent cruise for them with only a few hours in port and plenty of time to have a nap!
VIEWS OF A 16 YEAR OLD ENGLISH GIRL:
PORTS: I have always loved Italy and Greece so I enjoyed visiting Venice, Bari and Katakolon. I was excited to see the places in Turkey since I had never been there before. Like any other teenager when I am on holiday I try my hardest to get a tan. When we visited Izmir I decided to wear a playsuit due to the gorgeous weather -- bad choice. I have never had so much attention in my life. I don't particularly enjoy attention and found it horrible that I even had 60+ men staring at my legs. So piece of advice, COVER UP. Also, if you're white be prepared to be ogled.
FOOD: Even though I am a very fussy vegetarian I absolutely loved the food. In the buffet it is safe to say there is something for everyone even if you have the risk of being trampled on by very hungry pensioners. In the evening we went to the restaurant. Even though we were stuck in the corner with the other people who spoke English I still enjoyed my meals. There was a large variety and plenty of it. Because there are seven courses you expect them all to be small -- think again. Every single evening I exited that room in a food coma, it was wonderful. (Don't expect to lose weight). HOWEVER, my favourite night on every cruise is Baked Alaska. Usually (with every other cruise line) the waiters and chefs make a massive deal out of it, parading around the whole restaurant doing silly dances or what not, BUT no. To say I was incredibly disappointed with the display would be an under statement. They walked to some stairs (by the quickest route) stood there for half a minute and then left. Not cool.
CRUISE SHIP AND STAFF: Personally I prefer smaller ships than this. There were way too many people sometimes to enjoy yourself and not enough space -- major traffic jams. The staff were amazing. A few of the waitresses were having banter with my granddad which was hilarious to witness. I did tend to get harassed by the photographers, which escalated when my mom told one of them my name. This led to me being stalked for practically 5 days of my holiday hearing him shout my name.
OTHER PASSENGERS: I try my best not to judge and be nice to other people, but this holiday made it impossible. It is rather easy to know the nationality of someone either by the way they look or if you can hear them speak and know the language. I just found them all rude. I've been brought up with manners and try my hardest to stick to them, but the Italians and Germans do not seem to possess any. Numerous times I held the door for people or waited to let people past and not once did I get a 'danke'/'grazie'. They didn't go by the suggested evening wear. I do enjoy to dress up and understand that other people don't, but wearing jeans on a formal night is just unnecessary. And then for rude old people to look me up and down and bitch about me is rude and uncalled for.
Also, if you are travelling with an English 16 year old pre-warn them that they will most likely not find another English person around the same age. I do love my family but I did long for company of my own age in a language I could speak.
Another point, I love exercising, I always try to keep fit, as I did try on the ship. However, whenever I went to the gym it was packed with people who clearly were only there because it was something to do. There was a girl in Harems. I'd understand if it was yoga but she was on an exercise bike and she was wearing converses. I'm sorry, but if you want to stay fit, your only chance of actually exercising in the gym is if you wake up at opening time. By the way, you know that running track they say is on board, they lied.
ENTERTAINMENT: Loved it! The shows were fab and Franco (cruise director) was brilliant. After the first two nights I thought I wasn't going to enjoy the shows because there were quite a few old songs and opera. But then they jazzed it up a bit and I really enjoyed them. I know it seems lame for a 16 year old to be doing party dances but I thought they were great, although it was quite hard to follow them when the instructions were in Italian, but I soon got the hang of it.
If you want to ask me any questions, just state the sixteen year old. I'm happy to answer anything ?