Having read all the reviews on MSC Divina before going, we felt it useful to give our perspective as well, albeit from a first time cruiser slant.
This route is circular, and it appears you can embark at most stops, although the majority of people embark in Venice. We (and about 300 others) embarked at Istanbul, where everything seemed well organised, and we did not have to queue for long. Our luggage was by our cabin within an hour. However once on board (including staff perceptions) everything is tailored towards an assumption that we embarked at Venice; this is not detrimental, you just notice it in conversations and the way the daily guides are written. There does seem to be some benefit though; when we were in Venice, the check in desk was much more chaotic, with longer queues and some confusion for embarking passengers which we could avoid since we were only in transit. At disembarkation we were able to get up/leave our cabin later than Venice passengers as there were less people to manage. Moral of the story: If you can be flexible, board at a quieter port.
The ship was spotlessly clean and very impressive to look at both on the outside and inside. There is a you tube video (found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AKMfVJxGv8, and having skipped through this before embarking, we can confirm it looks exactly like this.
One slight niggle we had was the number of areas insider where you could smoke; it seemed that every lounge/bar had a smoking area and a non-smoking area, but since smoke drifts, the non-smoking areas quickly smelt of smoke. This was particularly irritating given that there is a designated Cigar Lounge for smokers to use.
We had a balcony room. This provided all that we wanted, and the balcony was well worth the money, as the views were great, and gave somewhere outside to sit away from the crowds.
When we booked we already KNEW it was an ITALIAN ship. Therefore, even though we are British, we were not expecting to have tea or coffee offered after dinner, and the food would be more tailored towards the Italian/Mediterranean palette. Thus, everything about the food MET OUR EXPECTATIONS. Thus to anyone moaning about this, you should have done your research and if you could not cope, should not have booked in the first place! Rant over…
Complaints about the food not always being piping hot, however, are valid. The service in the restaurants was really good, and a couple of times when I did not like something they changed it to another meal. You can also request to tailor the meal e.g. can I have the potatoes from one option with the meat from another. Service in the buffet needs some work, as I did find the staff got our drinks orders wrong at least twice. The range of food in the buffet for breakfast and lunch was good (I am a fussy eater) and I thought fair for the price we paid on the cruise. Not 5* perhaps but I always left full and with a smile on my face.
Drinks: tea, coffee and fountain juice drinks (be warned these tasted like syrup) were available all day from the buffet. All drinks in the restaurant had to be paid for, and were limited to wine/beer/water/basic soft drinks. If you wanted cocktails you had to buy from another bar and carry in yourself.
We bought the Allegrissimo package at 23Euro per day. This worked out at great value, since we calculated that we spent on average about 32Euros per day each without even trying (and we don’t drink much, so most of this was soft drinks, fresh squeezed juice and iced tea, virgin cocktails and a glass of wine for dinner. There is an added bonus that you can get scoops of gelato too which was wonderful. If you book in advance you also avoid the 15% service charge, which soon adds up).
Servicing of our room was faultless. The room is cleaned in the morning, and the bed turned down in the evening, and had no complaints with the quality of the work, with towels replaced as required, clutter tidied, glasses replaced etc.
Port & Shore Excursions
We took part in one MSC-arranged excursion, to Ephesus from Izmir. The tour was an English and Spanish mixed tour, so the tour guide had to deliver everything in two languages. It was impressive that she could do this, but did make the tour drag, meaning that we didn’t get as long as I would have wanted to look at each site (i.e. the end of the tour was a little rushed).
The main reason why we avoided the other excursions was that, in our opinion, they were a little too expensive for what they offered. Both Dubrovnik and Bari are very accessible by local transport (bus for 15Kuna (2Euro) in Dubrovnik, and a 15 min walk in Bari). Similarly, for the main tourist sites in Istanbul, you can get the tram from a stop 300 yards from the port to Sultanahmet for only 3TL.
Travel to Embarkation Port - For Istanbul, the prices quoted by taxi drivers are at least twice what they should be, so ask for the journey to be on the meter.
Disembarkation was relatively smooth, once again helped by doing so at a ‘quieter’ port. We were clearly notified of what time we needed to leave our room (8am), and our luggage was easily identifiable inside the cruise terminal
We really enjoyed the cruise; the ship was as expected, and the main reason why we chose this particular cruise (the ports we docked at) did not disappoint.