My wife and I were fortunate enough to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary with a lovely group of fellow cruisers.
MSC DIVINA: Outstanding vessel - extremely plush and stylishly maintained to a high standard though there was a little lateral movement, as one would expect, at the extremities of the ship.
EMBARKATI0N: Venice was a bit of a scrum as anticipated from other Reviewers - but it was very well organised. I suspect 80% of guests boarded in Venice so it may be a prudent option to embark in Bari which would allow additional time in Venice which is rather more attractive location than Bari.
CABIN: We were in the "cheap seats" - Inside Cabin but it exceeded my expectations, more than sufficient space dutifully cleaned. Our cabin boy was a bit elusive but that suited us.
FOOD: Self service restaurant is similar to any facility you would expect on any budget cruise or All Inclusive hotel in Europe. The food within the restaurant was adequate without being particularly appetising. I understand the need to cater for the so called European Cuisine but the faire on offer was bland. This may be a ploy to direct punters towards the speciality outlets.
EXCURSIONS: The one trip we fancied was cancelled due to lack of interest so we changed to a similar trip around Istanbul. Our guide was hugely entertaining but the trip was a bit over priced. I would recommend the Basilica in Bari -absolutely outstanding. I have visited a good number of religious establishments around the world over many years but this was the best I have witnessed.
ENTERTAINMENT: I have experienced a more varied package. The pianists were ok. The Sports Bar only catered (understandably) for Italian guests. The evening shows were a little short but quite dynamic. Personally I considered the much vaunted Michael Jackson show to be the weakest on offer. My wife considered the various Spa Treatments but they were hugely overpriced but we did spend a hour in the sauna which was ok.
ENTERTAINMENT TEAM: I didnt engage them too much but they barely took a breather and their energy and enthusiasm could not be faulted. `
STAFF: On the whole superb - aside from one miserable waitress they were invariably friendly, patient and polite. We had a couple of minor issues which were resolved efficiently without fuss at reception.
DRINKS PACKAGE: We cruised with Thomsons in January 2012 and I decided against the all inclusive drinks package. Fortunately when I reviewed my bar bill I had taken the better option as the charge was approx Â£100 less than it would have been had I taken up the AI offer. I deliberated beforehand but purchased the package on advice of fellow reviewers. Please "Go for it" - as a moderate drinker we more than doubled the outlay. It is important to consider that Water, Tea, Coffee and all soft drinks let alone alcoholic drinks incur a charge at all the bars and restaurants . So basically unless you are tea total and wish to spend the duration of your time on board at the self service facility opt for the 23 Euro per day package. The more expensive option offers rather more but I suspect is unnecessary unless you have a discerning palate and/or a serious drink problem.
NB If you do not pre-book the drinks package 21 days before embarkation you will incur the 15% Service charge that is added to all services whilst on board. This is in addition to the 7 Euro per person per day standard charge. I did question this but accepted the terms as outlined.
DISEMBARKATION: Faultless - given the numbers this was extremely well organised, simple to follow but you need to make provision dependant upon your flight time.
GRIPES: None really - though I do have a conspiracy theory with which fellow reviewers may concur or disagree?. The wind whilst in Bari was strong and our proposed departure was initially delayed by one hour then another hour then postponed. We eventually left port 10 hours late and didnt, as a result, dock at Katakolon. instead we spent a full day at sea. Not a problem but I do not believe climatic conditions had improved or deteriorated in the interim period and suspect as there were no passengers due to embark/disembark in Katakolon we skipped the venue for ease or financial purposes.
OVERALL: My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and were fortunate enough to meet some like minded and generous of nature people. Would I recommend MSC Cruises - Not sure as my experience is limited but - probably?