After writing an extensive and mostly glowing review of a 7 day voyage in MSC Splendida's Yacht Club May of 201, we returned in November of 2012 for 11 days on MSC's new Divina, again in a Yacht Club cabin.
The first review was written in the glow of our first Med Cruise and Yacht Club experience. Does MSC's exclusive and pricey experience stand up to a second trips scrutiny?
The Ship and public spaces: Divina is virtually identical to the Splendida in layout, save the cursory changes in bar themes and color schemes. Most notably to me was the addition of a sports bar with at least 10 screens, which allowed me to watch a couple sports events that I didn't want to miss. The food menu was unique in this bar as well with pub food and beers from around the world. Nice! They have a silly two lane bowling alley in the bar as well. Fun for the kids I suppose, but at 8 Euro a game, I didn't see a single game in action.
None of the other many bars stood out, but there was a general (personal?) feeling that the overall style was a bit less flashy than the Splendida. There is still plenty of shiny chrome, brass, Swarovski crystal embedded stairs etc. There is an ample Cyber cafe with a printer that, while still charging stiff fees for internet usage, they at least print at no charge. 24 hours of prepaid WiFi internet usage is 150 Euro. Wifi connection was strong across all the areas I used it in, save for, ironically our cabin!
The Casino seemed much larger, spanning the width of the 6th deck. The pool areas are very nice and appeared spacious on at sea days. The spa is excellent, very well finished and the gym is huge, spanning across the entire bow on the 14th deck with excellent equipment.
We ate outside the Yacht Club dining options only three times, once each at "Sacramento", the Pizza restaurant, and the Buffet.
Sacramento is curious. It exemplifies MSC's lack of understanding of Americans or their food culture. All during the cruise, they promote through announcements the Mexican cuisine here, and in fact they do have burritos, Fajitas etc. yet the on ship signage promotes the Burgers and Steaks. Pictures throughout the restaurant are from what appears to be California's Gold rush era. A silly observation perhaps, but one that may cause confusion, or worse mockery by the large American contingent when the ship moves to the Caribbean in late 2014 in MSC's stated goal of attracting more US dollars. The Burgers, by the way were generous in size, but identical to what you find in European restaurants promoting USA burgers...bland, grey, flavorless pucks. 8 Euro for a large double burger, good fries and a beer. Plentiful, if not satisfying.
The Pizza restaurant on the other hand was excellent! A good, 15+ pie selection, prepared with excellent ingredients in a gas fired brick oven. The pie was very good, well made with a very good, burnt in just the right places thin crust. A bargain at 5 Euro for about a 12" to 14". Great
The buffet was as expected, the few items we had were not good, yet not bad, just sustenance. Walking through at least once each meal time appeared to deliver much of the same.
I think it is worth calling out that every space we experienced on the ship was absolutely spotless. MSC puts a lot of effort into keeping the public spaces very clean. Even the occasional peek behind closing doors in crew areas revealed white, white, white! Nice to see.
Note that this is decidedly a foreign cruise line and experience. There was but one other American couple in the Yacht Club and until we boarded the "English" bus to Rome on day 10, I can honestly say I did not hear one American dialect, and very few British. The crew all speak very good English, but you will be surrounded by passengers speaking many different languages. It was fine with us, but maybe not for everyone. The perfunctory 9:30 daily announcements in 5 different languages became a bit much however.
The Yacht Club: With all that said, we must admit that public areas interaction was mostly limited to back and forth to Le Muse, the clubs exclusive restaurant. When you have access to your own pool area, lounge, concierge, and restaurant why spend time elsewhere?
The Divina has a very similar configuration as the Splendida, save for fewer Yacht Club Cabins. The YC cabins that were on decks below 15 & 16 have been converted to "Aurea" Spa rooms. All of the YC facilities remain the same size resulting in what should be even more room for the remaining YC guests.
And what facilities they are! The "Top Sail Lounge", on the 15th deck spans literally 180 degrees of glass across the bow. The area is very spacious, with a bar, impeccable service and excellent snacks that are refreshed throughout the day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As with all YC facilities, well drinks, beer, wine and soda and a nice cocktail list are free. Also included is a proper afternoon tea service, very professionally done. The attention to detail across the YC, but particularly in this lounge is fantastic.
The YC pool area appears the same as the Splendida, save for an awning added over tables on the bar side of the deck, a nice addition. Again, snacks are offered...and did I say the drinks are included?? This area is on the top 18th deck on the bow with spectacular views
The YC restaurant, Le Muse is located, as it is on Splendida on the 15th deck on the stern. Getting to the restaurant from the YC cabins results in one of two experiences dependent on the weather. Nice out? A pleasant stroll outside across the open 15th deck. Inclement weather? A sometimes slow elevator ride to deck 6 or 7, then through the crowded bars, past the shops and the regularly packed photograph area to another slow elevator ride back up to 15.
Once at Le Muse, the dining experience is mixed. The service always continues the YC theme...attentive, professional, but never rushed or fussy. They get the service right in the bars and restaurant. It was only the food early on that was hit and miss. After the first three days we were quite disappointed and not looking forward to the rest of the trip at Le Muse. But after those three days, they hit their stride and the meals improved considerably. We also learned to lean towards the Italian dishes, particularly the Pastas. Make no mistake, there is no Michelin star eminent, but it was much better with a few very good dishes along the way.
The cabin, as on our last cruise was excellent. Plenty spacious and very nicely finished with a nicely stocked mini bar (all contents included in the YC price). We are very happy with the 16035 YC1 cabin. As noted before, this cabin (and its twin on the starboard side 16034) are a lot wider, but not as deep as the standard YC1 cabin. This offers a more spacious room and balcony. Of course the cabin was spotless after its twice daily service. And a new feature, your daily local newspaper is included...by early afternoon, I was delivered a full size, every page of my SF Chronicle. Awesome!
A note on Butler service. On our cruise last year, the Butler was so attentive, it bordered on too much. We rarely left our room without him walking up, asking if we needed anything, escorting to the restaurant etc. He was regularly in the lounge and always at the ready. For this cruise, our Butler was MIA. We met him at embarkation as he took us to our room and that was about it! It was somewhat disappointing, but the rest of the butlers and service team all made up for his vanishing act. The service didn't lack, but it was curious.
Our ports were Genoa, Barcelona, Casablanca, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Fuchal, Malaga, Civitavecchia and return to Genoa. The only excursion we booked was a round trip bus ride to Rome that was clunky at leaving the port, but an efficient return amid the zoo that is the St Peters Square bus terminal.
Smoking attracts a lot of attention around MSC on this board. It is prevalent on the ship, but inside areas are limited to the casino, the enclosed cigar room and an area of the Lounge in the Yacht Club. It is at a bothersome level only in the Casino. The Casino area does open above to a bar one deck above, and while there is no smoking in that bar, the cigarette smell is noticeable. The small smoking area in the Yacht Club lounge is somehow very well vented, not affecting the rest lounge at all.
Another excellent cruise on MSC! They are definitely not your father's cruise line, and to us that is part of the appeal. If you want to be surrounded by English speaking neighbors, and feel as though you haven't left the U.S. while on board, MSC is likely not for you.
The Yacht Club cost really isn't that much more in cost to a regular balcony cabin, and the included drinks alone make up much of the additional cost. If you want to splurge on the Yacht Club experience, this cruiser highly recommends it and will return.