Sailing of November 23, 2013
This was the first 7 night sailing of the Divina from her new port in Miami. The Divina is a new ship for MSC and carries a max passenger load of 4363. She will be sailing year round now from Miami Florida.
Let me tell you a little about us. We are a retired couple who cruise a lot (this cruise was number 41) and we live in Florida. We began cruising in 1987. Cruise ships were a lot different then. We cruise for relaxation and to get away from the world for a week or more and enjoy the Caribbean a lot. We have sailed with MSC before – on the Lirica (7 days) in March of 2006, and on the Poesia (10 days) in January of 2010. These ships were beautiful, the food was terrible we thought and doubted that we would ever sail MSC again. We got an offer for this cruise that was very good and thought why not – we know what to stay away from food-wise and had read that they were changing a few things to cater more to the American market since they would be sailing full time from Miami.
The itinerary was a stop in St. Maarten, a stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico and a beach day in Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas with the other days being sea days.
We asked for an inside cabin close to an elevator (my husband now has mobility issues) and we got that. We asked for second seating dining with a table for two and we got second seating and a table for 8 – more about that later.
We drove to Miami (about 90 minutes for us) and parked in the parking garage adjacent to the terminal (G) arriving a little after Noon. We checked in very quickly and were issued a number to board. They started boarding soon and we were on the ship and finding our cabin. It was located nicely on deck 10-Cabin 10164 – but very small. However there was adequate storage and our cabin stewardess, Charlene, was very accommodating – separating the beds as we requested and finding us robes – she was an excellent stewardess all week – great service. The bathroom had glass shower doors – nicer than the curtain that clings – and body wash and shampoo were in dispensers in the shower. The shower was easy to adjust and my husband, who is 6'4” had no issues with the height of the shower head. There was a hair dryer in a drawer in the cabin – good for shorter hair – and there is only one outlet that is dual voltage. If you are plugging in numerous electronic devices, bring a power strip. There was adequate closet space and hangers for a weeks cruise, but the layout of the closer and the bathroom door was not ideal. There was no table at all, a mini-fridge and a TV – not much in channel selection – but we don't watch TV on a cruise anyway. We got settled into the cabin and went for lunch in the buffet on deck 14.
The elevator delivered us right outside the buffet – there are actually two – the Calumet (midships) and the Manitou (more aft)-I call this buffet a cul de sac buffet since there is no open deck space in the back – the buffet goes all the way to the back of the ship. There were different stations for different foods and plenty of selection and beverage stations. They would change the signs periodically so you have to read the signs. There was a pizza station – excellent pizza served from noon to 4:30 and 5pm to midnight-if you kept going further back the food was more ethnic – more Americanized in the front part. We had breakfast in the buffet a few times – it was good – we had lunch after boarding – very nice selection- but only had breakfast there the remainder of the cruise. It was very noisy – especially in the front part – there are no soft surfaces to deaden the noise – so we always looked for a place to sit more aft. In addition to the tables and chairs, there are booths in the back and there are bar height places to sit as well.
Forward of the buffet was the pool deck with tables and chairs on each side and loungers all around – there were two pools – the more forward one having a dome cover that could be opened or closed. Both of these areas were crowded and noisy for us – and people saved chairs all over the place – it was hard to find a place to sit – especially in shade.
Let me take you around the ship from top to bottom decks – Deck 18 has the Yacht Club forward and the Top 18 solarium midships (they charge for the Top 18). Deck 16 and Deck 15 forward are also both Yacht Club with cabins, pool, restaurant, and lounge. Deck 16 Midships is the Galaxy Restaurant (fee), Sky and Stars Disco, Virtual World, and aft the La Prue Solarium. Deck 14 as mentioned has the buffets, the pools, and far forward is the Spa with the gym as well. They offered some classes, lots of things at the Spa and there is also a steam and sauna (no fee) with a cooling off relaxation room. Decks 8-13 are all cabins. Decks 5, 6, and 7 are entertainment and restaurants and shops and lounges. It is a big ship and was new to us so it took me a couple of mornings exploring to become really familiar with it. The thing of note for us was that there were very few really comfortable places to sit and read either inside or outside. The furniture is all very contemporary and rather hard to sit on for any length of time we thought. We did find a couple of places and outside finally resorted to saving our loungers like everyone else was doing so that we would be assured of a place to sit after having lunch.
I am up early each day and went to the Gym most days after getting some coffee. Was able to do my own stretching and yoga and that is really all the use we had of the gym. They have a juice bar there with places to sit and that was a nice quiet and relaxing place to read. Merchandise for sale was everywhere – there is a Pool shop on Deck 14, a shop in the gym with athletic wear, along one side of the pool deck there was always a selection from the shops of things for sale – that took up valuable lounging space by the way. Lots of whirlpools and the pools were well used and nicely appointed. On Deck 15 aft there is a Garden pool that supposedly was an adults only area – but we observed many families with their children in it – it is an infinity edge pool and very pretty – the temperature of the water was posted at 73 degrees.
The ship itself is beautiful, artfully decorated and very contemporary. It is maintained beautifully – very clean. The flow of people seemed crowded to us at peak times. There is a two lane bowling alley in the Sports Bar. There is a children s program and a teen program each with their own area. Children sail for free on MSC – so there are always a lot of children on board.
The service all over the ship was, in our opinion, excellent. Friendly crew – always smiles and willing to help in any way possible. The officers and the Captain very visible and friendly. The Cruise Director (Andre-who reminded us of Kelsey Grammer) – and his staff and all the entertainment staff were outstanding. They really got people involved and had lots of various activities all day and evening. There was great entertainment in the lounges- dueling pianos, La Luna piano bar, singers and other entertainers. The shows in the theater were FABULOUS – best we have ever seen at sea – There were three big production shows with acrobatics, singing and dancing – Witches, Wonderland, and Pirates – and an Italian Song night, a tribute to Michael Jackson, and one to Frank Sinatra and a comedian/impressionist – all wonderful – we wouldn't have missed one – 7PM for late seating guests and 9pm for early seating guests – get there early to get the best seat – the theater filled up every night.
There were two formal nights – one on Sunday and one on Friday – most people dressed up – the one on Sunday was a Welcome from the Captain and cocktails were served in the La Luna Piano bar and you could have your picture taken with the Captain – there was a presentation of officers in the theater and the Captain also welcomed everyone. On Friday, was a farewell by the Captain and his staff. The other nights were casual dress.
There are two main restaurants – the Black Crab – a two deck restaurant midships, and Villa Rosa – aft on Deck 6 – one level – could only be reached by the aft elevators or by the aft stairs from Deck 7 - we ate in both of them during the week – and found the noise level high, the tables and chairs way too close together and it was hard for waiters to serve – but they did a wonderful job of it. The food has greatly improved and we enjoyed every breakfast, lunch and dinner we had. Breakfast and lunch are open seating – so be aware that you could be seated with someone who doesn't speak English – this happened to us twice – but we all used sign language of sorts and it worked out nicely. Dinner is fixed seating. We had wonderful table mates at our table for 8 and enjoyed them very much. We were able to finally get a table for two later in the cruise and enjoyed that as well. The Maitre D’s were very accommodating. Our waiters and their assistants were excellent as well. The service in the dining rooms can be leisurely – this is European fashion – but I could see some Americans being impatient with this. We did stay away from the beef at dinner, but had Rack of Lamb the first night that was delicious, we had wonderful pasta all week long both at lunch and dinner – the desserts were really good – especially the gelato, sorbet and crème brule. The lobster on Friday was excellent – the breads delicious – we enjoyed each and every meal.
There was no function that we saw that was for the MSC Club (those who have sailed with them before). We are not able to drink anymore so had no experience with the bars – however I can tell you if you are a drinker you should take advantage of their various drink packages – they are a bargain compared to the individual pricing of that sort of thing.
Debarkation for us was very well done. We were the first group off after those who took their own luggage off and we got off a little after 8am as was planned. There are luggage carousels in the terminal for you to claim your bag and they are by color. There was plenty of help and customs for us was quick – we were in our car and on the way home by 8:30am. A caveat for those of you who were under the impression that handicapped parking in the port is free – it was until November 16 of this year – they changed the criteria – we had counted on this and ended up paying $20 a day for parking.
All in all we had a very good time – it was not the relaxing cruise we had expected it to be however. When we were in St. Maarten there were six ships all with over 3000 passengers – very crowded – we did get off the ship after lunch and took the water taxi in – not as crowded in the pm – didn't get off the ship in San Juan – enjoyed being able to find seats and read – the beach day was canceled due to high seas and bad weather.
This is a cruise line that we will not travel with again – simply because it doesn't suit us well. For us, Princess is the best fit. I would recommend MSC to families and extended families having reunions and younger and more active people than we are. It just didn't suit us as far as rest and relaxation was concerned. It was hard for anyone physically challenged in any way to get around in my opinion. And the lack of really comfortable lounging places was not good for us.
I do have to say that just the entertainment alone was worth the cruise. We aren't sorry we went – we had a very nice time and met lots of really nice people.
If you have further questions please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do have the daily programs and I will put a link to pictures on the MSC Board on Cruise Critic as soon as I get them labeled and uploaded.