Divina Transatlantic cruise Venice to Miami November 2nd 2013
This was our third cruise with MSC in Twelve months and our second transatlantic, despite all the issues with MSC since booking way back in early January we had high expectations of the Divina which is basically a stretched Musica class ship.
We arrived at the port of Venice at around 11-45 am handed over our cases and went upstairs to find one area to our right very crowded and one to our left where people were in queues waiting for the check in desks.
MSC club said that there was preferential check in at Venice for Silver, Gold and Black card members (this has now been removed from the current club member benefits) so we went over and asked one of the staff who told us it was for Gold and Black card members only, we took ourselves over to one of the information desks and asked the same question and were then lead to a separate area and were on the ship within twenty minutes. For some reason it had been decided that Credit card details would be obtained on the ship rather than at check in and it was left to passengers to go to customer service to register their card. Once again we were never required to fill in a health questionnaire.
We headed up to our room which was a Balcony on the back of the ship on Deck 10, the cabin was similar to the one we had on Poesia the year before but slightly larger with a Balcony of some Fourteen feet in length that contained two chairs and a table as well as two sun loungers, the bathroom has two opening doors to the shower rather than a curtain which was great. Wardrobe space again was similar to Poesia with a three-door robe one containing the safe and draw storage space; there is also a 2 drawer bedside cabinet on each side of the bed and two on the vanity unit. The Fridge is also housed in this unit with the TV and a shelf above.
The furniture is a dark walnut colour whereas the Poesia had been a much lighter material, we found the bedside lamps were a little to dull for reading with the main lights switched off. Red carpet and Bed headboard covering and two large mirrors, table and two seat settee completed the room.
Our cabin was looked after by Nengah, who did a great job and left a note for me on my Birthday this was unexpected, and a really nice gesture.
We headed up to the buffet for lunch having left our carry on cases in the cabin, after around twenty minutes there was a total loss of power for around five minutes, we have no idea as to why or if it was only the buffet that was affected.
A problem with Deck 12,11 and 10 balconies is that when they wash the large panoramic windows of the back of the buffet on deck 14 these balconies get the water from it so every morning the balcony was wet and stayed that way until the room was cleaned, a further problem is that if they overfill the aft Infinity pool and forget to drain it back before leaving port these three decks get soaked as the ship makes its turns which is due to the water escaping from the contained area
One of the White shirted crew/officers came to check out the problem and confirmed the water was from the pool but it was never cleared away, a possible design flaw, others on these decks also had to ring customer service about the water issue.
The sliding doors to the balcony cannot be latched while out on the balcony which means that if the ship is rolling from side to side the door slides open and closed with quite a thud, dangerous if you happen to be going in or out and are caught unawares.
For a somewhat new ship this area suffers from a lot of vibration during ship maneuvers being above the propellers and even small sea swells made the rolling of the ship worse, Divina rolls around quite a lot more than a big ship should do and this was noticeable in other parts of the ship.
The sign that tells you that you cannot smoke in the cabin was hidden behind the curtain on the fixed pain of glass, about halfway through the cruise it was moved to the sliding panel after complaints about people smoking on their balconies.
The meet and greets for the roll call were arranged by Ken who worked hard on arranging them and were somewhat interesting and a disappointment, the first one for thirty minutes was attended by Andre who was the new cruise director who was shadowing Maddie who was to leave the cruise once in Miami, I think Andre was taken by surprise at the comments being made. Only water was provided at the meeting.
A second meeting was arranged so that people on the roll call could meet and talk to each other due to the short time of the first one, sadly this clashed with the re arranged time of the world quiz for us, and again I believe no refreshments were provided.
Andre once again attended a third meeting and gave us an insight into how MSC intended to move forward in the Caribbean, the disappointment comes in because there were a host of senior MSC management people on the ship by this time and not one of them could be bothered to grace us with their presence nor any of the ships officers! Once again only water was provided.
We have heard it said before that MSC need to stop thinking of their passengers as Cargo.
Our thoughts on the Divina …
The Divina is a nice very clean big ship but with small areas and what seems to be less space than on the Poesia and it does have some annoying design traits, the Villa Rossa dining room is located on Deck Six at the back of the ship and can only be accessed by Lift or by stairs from Deck Seven, to go from Villa Rossa to say Deck Five you have to go up and across Deck Seven and then down again.
The Atrium of Divina is possibly the best part of the ship in our opinion and looks great and it also looks like where most of the money was spent, especially the staircases.
Public toilets have no Hot water! And most have just two toilets in them, there also appeared to be a lack of them around or close to the Aqua Park.
Pools are Salt water as is the water slide, the Spa area is nice and the staff always greeted you with a smile, you need to watch you do not walk into the tall mirrored glass that are next to the walkway to the sauna, changing rooms and steam rooms which were free to use on this cruise unlike on Poesia last year.
At the bars we had no problem getting drinks although on busy nights in some it can get a little slow with not enough servers. The Jazz bar colour looks as though it has been imported from Costa and is not the usual MSC style, this bar is the only way to go forward to the theatre on this deck even if you come through the sports bar and many times people were walking past right in front of the singers despite the main route being to the left.
There are two rows of three glass mirrors on each side prior to the buffet entry when coming from the lifts on Deck 14, no idea what the reason is for this although the theme of mirrors was replicated all over the ship especially on the staircases.
The Buffet design although light and airy also suffers from lack of walking space between the tables and the food areas, with two of the beverage areas in the worst place possible next to a door leading to and from the kitchen. If you want salad be prepared to walk from one side to the other to get all you need unless you get the prepared stuff in a bowl from near the bar at the main entrance. At the back of the buffet opposite the bar are some bench seats that are not fixed down, be prepared to get stuck in there as we saw one guy did and could only get out when one waiter forcefully pushed the bench away after the people on the other side refused to moved despite being asked by the waiter his wife and four of us sat close by.
Also be aware of the small kids food area with its little plastic railing and entrance frame which one man walked into and knocked over! Not quite sure why he was in the kids food area.
Despite information to the contrary there were some people who still went into the buffet in swimwear and bathrobes!
Hot water for Tea and Coffee is stored in containers and ran out on numerous occasions so you had to wait for a member of staff to change them over or go elsewhere, not sure why they do not have them plumbed in as some other ships are.
The only passageway between the Black and White lounge on Deck Seven to the Theatre without going outside onto the Deck 7 boat deck has the photo shop and cruise pictures which means there is always a bottleneck of people coming from First dinner seating and the Black and White lounge to the theatre going against those heading to Second sitting dinner or coming from the theatre or other bars.
The boat deck may well be a spoiler for some people because apart from a few small areas forward and aft of the lifeboats you cannot stand at the side rail and gaze out to sea due to the design of the lifeboat stowage.
There is very little deck space between the pool and the small stage used by the Animation team and for those doing the dance exercises which means you have people dancing in between the sun beds around you. On Deck 15 there is very little room between the two rows of sun beds in many areas and people are constantly falling over them or kicking them as they go by, this area is also used by those jogging or walking.
We did not have any problems finding a sun bed during the whole cruise.
The Black and White lounge is the biggest lounge on the ship but is way too small for the number of people who wanted to use it and also had a lack of seating, it also possibly has the most uncomfortable and worst seats of the whole ship.
The theatre is a mix of Red seating and Silver paneling and poor lighting on the stage that made it difficult at times to see what was going on during the shows some of which were the same ones from the year previous on Poesia. On the nights we visited the theatre it was never full.
Anyone hoping to get to the front of the Divina for a view will be disappointed as this space is taken up by the Yacht club which houses around 4% of guests on the whole ship.
The ship has the usual range of shops like the Logo shop, wristwatches and sunglasses, jewelery, handbags and duty free.
The Disco appeared to be very under utilized in the evenings on this crossing, maybe it will get more use in the Caribbean.
This is always a difficult one because what one person likes another one may hate, the buffet food was the same as the previous years repo cruise on Poesia and at times lacked taste and was quite bland, the new size burgers were just meat and no flavour. Offerings for sweets at lunch and dinner were the same for the whole 18 days of the cruise and very unimaginative. The breakfast smoothies were one of the things to look forward to with Mango and Strawberry being our two favourites. Look out for Jennifer at breakfast who will have you one there in no time and they are best mixed by Kevin behind the bar.
The Dining room on the first night was late for second sitting with people going in at 9-30 instead of 9 pm and at 9 pm the next night instead of 8-30 but the following nights seemed to sort themselves out at 8-30. Food in the evening also suffered from up and down syndrome, one-day good the next poor with the odd really good one thrown in, there appeared to be a problem of consistency from night to night. Of the Four Gala nights again it was a case of 1 really good, 1 not bad and 2 poor. Towards the last five
nights the Dining room was maybe only half full. Tables in the Villa Rossa dining room were mainly for between 6 and 8 people and it seemed that there were not enough tables for two people. The Majority of people seemed to observe the dress code in the Dining room especially on Gala nights.
The Cold fruit soups were once again one of the best foods served.
Lamb shank one night was a big order by many in both the Black Crab and Villa Rossa; it was also possibly the most returned or left meal due to the meat being tough. The Duck that night also suffered the same fate although later in the cruise the Duck a`lorange was possibly one of the best meals of the cruise.
The steaks went from wafer thin to be replaced mid cruise by decent thick tasty ones although we are still baffled as to how one arrived part well done and part pink inside!
The after dinner sweets were again somewhat lackluster and on a few occasions we headed to the Café Del Doge for the better tasting offerings though there is a charge.
Iced water was served from jugs without being asked for and coffee was available after dinner for those who wanted it.
There were complaints of slow service in some areas of the dining rooms which may have been down to the fact that one kitchen serves one deck of the Black Crab dining room while the other one served the Villa Rossa and the other floor of the Black Crab, it may also be because the assistant waiters are away getting drinks while the waiters are busy doing everything else.
Smoking is allowed on Deck 14 on the port side where you come out of the buffet and the bar with the Gelato is also on this side! A bad move in our opinion by MSC, they should have moved the smokers over to the other side.
Many of the staff are from Poesia and have worked the Caribbean before, the Animation team lead by Claudio (ex Poesia) with Brendan, Zac, Yves, Sean, Adam, Julio and the others work their backsides off to get people involved in the games but were it seems handicapped by management on this cruise for some reason in the Black and White lounge in the evenings.
The main band (ex Poesia) also seemed to have their hands tied singing the same set in the same order almost every night in the Black and White lounge where 95% of entertainment was dancing.
It would be helpful if before they cruised MSC advised guests that there are to be theme nights on their cruise, Divina had a White party but had to be cancelled on the outside deck due to rain, a smaller version took place inside. Then there was a /60`s/ 70`s/80`s night which was the actual dress code for that night along with a Carnival and Red White and Green night.
There were Four Gala nights onboard, Two casual, a 60/70/80`s, Green White and Red, Carnival, Casual or White and Eight Informal.
The water slide was available for anyone to use despite a sign saying teens only and we made full use of it on a few days, the 4D cinema was good though a cost is incurred of $7 per film, the F1 racing simulator costs $9 a go, the Shuffleboard court yes just the one is virtually unusable when there are sun beds on either side and also the entry canopy to the Top 18 solarium ($10 a day for a sun bed) at one end. Surely someone must have noticed the issue of putting the court there?
During the Five day sea crossing with no satellite signal MSC announced that the pay films would be available for Free, what they failed to say was the system was only able to accommodate 500 TV’s and each day the system crashed. They were upgrading the system with the new TV programmes as we sailed to Miami from San Juan that meant a visit to every TV on the ship to re programme them all.
Cruise cards seemed to be a problem this year for some reason and between us we had them replaced 11 times for various reasons including bar machines not reading them and failing to open the cabin door, plus the original ones not having the drink package code on them. Other people we knew onboard had similar issues with their cards.
Customer Service Desk …
Very helpful staff although it did take Four visits over Six days to get the first days bar charges taken off our account due to not having the drink package code on our original sea pass cards.
Ports Visited …
Malta way too short only around Five hours, Malaga 5 1/2 hours, Madeira Full day, St Maarten Full day, St Thomas Full day for some due to US immigration, San Juan Full day.
Getting off the ship at a few of the ports was a scrum at times because only one exit was used which was off the Atrium and having so many people in such a small space looked like disorganised chaos.
Cruise highlights …
The Ports visited, the best theatre show that we saw was Wonderland.
Meeting many of the crew from the Poesia again especially Wayan our waiter from last year, Claudio from the Animation team, Sylvia in the Bacco bar and all the others. Meeting those roll call members we had chance to along with many others, taking part in the various quiz rounds and games. Visiting the two remaining ports on the itinerary that we had not been to, a visit to the everglades and our two days/nights in Miami despite the storm on the last night, meeting Police Officer Sergeant Bello of the Miami Beach police department who was one of the officers keeping an eye on the two buildings being built on South beach for an Art exhibition.
Cruise Lows …
The big one of losing a port day and arriving a day early in Miami for an advertising day by MSC just so the Divina could be the only ship in port on the 19th of November! Not what we paid for and being fed a constant stream of excuses as to why it was being done, the worst of all making out that it was so passengers could enjoy an “Exciting” day in Miami! Many of who had already made plans to stay for 2 or more days already. Plus there were people on the ship who live in Miami and Florida.
Some Theatre shows were the same as the Poesia repo cruise last year but with different singers and dancers who were not as good, very much the same menu and food as last year with a few changes. The Captain and Hotel Manager were also from the Poesia along with Cruise Director Maddie.
We were told by staff that around 1500 passengers got off the ship on the 19th rather than stay on an extra night. You have to vacate the cabin by 7am.
We will never understand the Italian way of organization of sending people to the farthest point when there is a shorter route, being on the back of the ship our allocated lounge was the theatre!
We queued at the gangway exit for around Thirty minutes during which point people were told that there was an issue with the elevated walkway! The very same one that had been used all the previous day and night and was being used by the people in front of us who had already left the ship.
The real reason was the slow baggage handling that was going on down below us, have these people learned nothing ? Tell people the Truth of what is happening and stop making up stories in order to cover up the problems.
Having left the ship with other people we had sailed with last year we headed to the baggage claim area which was three halls with a conveyor belt unlike most other places we had been to where cases are stored in their respective colours tag wise and you go and collect them.
The bags came through very slow and we waited around sixty minutes for ours, one German man had been waiting over two hours! Others waited longer.
We would count ourselves as liking big ships over small ones having sailed the Oasis, Mariner of the seas and Ruby Princess and while many people will like Divina for various reasons we cannot see ourselves traveling on any of the other three Fantasia class ships of MSC. One reason being that there is no access to the front of the ship other than for those staying in the Yacht club.
The Musica class of which Poesia belongs in our opinion has more wow factor than the Divina and has better-allocated space; any future cruises with MSC will likely be on this class of ship.
To quote one lady who has been on all the MSC class of ships including twice on Divina, “Divina is all show and no substance” her preferred ship is the Sinfonia.
Any cruise day at sea is always better than a day at work and some cruises are more memorable than others, sadly this cruise will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
After three cruises we are able to say that MSC although only being Twelve years old and young in terms of cruising compared to the likes of Carnival etc have a good product but it is let down by inconsistency in food in various areas and poor management especially those of the land based operations.