We were interested in a Mediterranean cruise over Thanksgiving holidays, and after doing some research, the MSC Divina became an obvious choice for the following reasons: 1) brand new ship, made it's maiden voyage in July 2012 2) kids cruise free when booked with two adults 3) my mother was cruising with us, and they had a reasonable price for a single room occupant 4) great port-of-calls: Barcelona (our embarkation port), Canary Islands, Casablanca, Madeira Islands, Malaga, Rome, Genoa.
We flew into Barcelona the day of embarkation, and in retrospect, we should have arrived at least a day or two earlier. There was a general strike in Barcelona, and we were fortunate to be able to arrive a day after the strike. The port was close to the airport, but since we were traveling with 5 adults and 2 kids (my wife and I, my mother, my mother-in-law and father-in-law, and my two boys ages 9 and 7), we were able to get a 1/2 day tour with Barcelona Day Tours, who picked us up from the airport, took us to all the highlights in the city (Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, Las Ramblas, several Gaudi houses), and they also dropped us off at the port.
The embarkation at Barcelona was OK, no major hassles, but we were VERY tired by mid-afternoon, because of jet-lag and time differences. It would have been nice to get on-board faster, especially with young children, but we waited for about 2 hours overall (we arrive by noon), and about 1 hour in line.
Overall, the MSC Divina is an impressive ship, with all the bells and whistles of a newly minted boat. The cruisers were about 40% German, 40% Spanish and Italian, 10% other Europeans (mostly French) + Turks, and about 10% or less English speaking, mostly British nationals, and probably less than 1% Americans / Canadians.
All announcements were translated into 5 languages, but we did not feel overwhelmed, it was fun to be amongst other cultures. Most people were very courteous, and the staff was all English speaking.
We occupied 3 rooms in the front of the ship, one balcony and two inside rooms. The room was adequately sized, but the balcony wall was metallic white rather than glass, and this is the case for balcony rooms in the front and back of the ship.
There was an unusual cracking sound when the ship was traveling at a higher speed, especially noticeable during the night, and we asked for an engineer to see if they can alleviate the sound, but he said it was structural, coming from the wooden frame, and cannot be fixed. I initially thought it was from the balcony doors. The bathroom was European style with liquid shower soap and shampoo, adequately stocked. I hope to comment on the following topics to help out future cruisers who might be considering the MSC line.
FOOD/DRINKS: The main dining food was good, but more European, so there was an good mix of pasta / beef / veal / fish / turkey etc, but very limited in steak / seafood (no lobster/crab/shrimp nights), and the veggie selections were always good. The desserts were GREAT! The drink package is very unusual, in that water was not free. North American travelers get a free bottled water per room per day, but that is usually not enough with 3 meals to consider. So we opted for different drink packages, some with just extra water, and some with juices / soft drinks. We didn't drink as much wine or other alcohol as most of the Europeans, so we did not consider the Allegrissimo packages. Water and juices were free during breakfast in the all-you-can-eat restaurant in the 14th floor (the Calumet, I think), but strange enough, they block the same machines that off for lunch and dinner, so you end up having to buy all drinks or use coupons. It's just different from American cruise lines. Service was EXCELLENT throughout, very friendly wait staff in all sections. There were several "gala" and "formal" nights, and we did dress up for those, but noticed that they were not very well followed, maybe only about 50% of the cruisers observed the dress code.
ENTERTAINMENT: We went to most of the shows during the evening, and they were all very enjoyable; talented actors / singers. The Michael Jackson tribute was the best! We also enjoyed the pool, the coordinated activities during the morning, bingo, and I rode the Formula 1 racer which was quite fun.
KIDS CLUB: My boys enjoyed the Club Mini and they had great activities every day. Lots of crafts, games, Wii tournaments, and occasional group lunches and dinners. Kids have a choice of staying practically all day when the ship is docked on port. We took our kids on the excursions, but apparently you can keep the on the ship if you'd like.
We had a very choppy night after the first port (Casablanca), and were told it was normal to have high winds in the Atlantic during the winter season. The boat was rocking so much that all we could do was stay in bed. Several adults in my family took pills for motion sickness which were being given by the concierge desk, and that helped a little. Strange enough, both my boys were not that affected, and they still insisted on going up to the Mini-Club, and on my way there, it appeared many other passengers were not as affected as we were. But we basically stayed in bed the ENTIRE day at sea, and didn't even get to the restaurants for any of the meals. After that one day, everything was calmer, and the rest of the trip was smooth sailing, especially after entering back into the Mediterranean.
Lots of picture taking opportunities! We bought a few of the portraits, since it was not easy to get our whole family in a setting. The price was 50 Euros for about 5 pictures.
I'll comment on the ports below separately. There is no option on Casablanca, which was our first port, and we took a city tour through MSC, and it was very nice, got to see an olive market, the historic portion of the city, a Catholic church (Notre Dame), and the very impressive Hassan II Mosque.
Overall, we were pleased with our cruise experience with MSC, and would not hesitate to book with them again. It's different from American lines, but still a very enjoyable experience overall.