Our first booking on MSC was made with great expectations based upon the webinar viewed by my better half, who advises clients on the various cruise options one can take. We are both experienced cruisers with over 80 cruises between us and were so excited about trying this new ship. So excited, we invited 2 other couples to join us based upon those expectations.
Let me identify the positives (which are few but important) first. The ship is very attractive and well maintained, the onboard entertainment is spectacular with high energy, and the casino is well laid out with attractive promotions to encourage activity. That's it for the positives.
Now to the negatives. Let me give the MSC management some very important advice. If you expect to compete in the US/Caribbean market, against the experienced cruise lines which already know what I am about to say, you had better get your management act together in a hurry. The evening dining room service was a disaster. What should have been a pleasant opportunity to share our on-board and port experiences with friends over dinner, became an ordeal. Every meal, until the last two days, lasted over 2 and a half hours, with the staff service poorly undermanned (according to our waiter) and meals that were poorly prepared (under/over cooked on many occasions). The seating never started on time until half way through the cruise and was ALWAYS ending well after 11pm. Half the time we did not even try to have deserts since it was so late we could not make any of the late evening shows. That is not to say the waiter did not try; he did, but was also more than willing to tell us where the problems were and why the food was late, luke lukewarm and not very good. So much for the normal dinner service.
Next, what MSC calls "speciality dining". First, compared to every other major cruise line, the speciality dining on MSC is not what you would expect. Second, on the Divina, their specialty dining is actually two separate dining rooms in one location. One room offers a steak menu with ala carte side dishes that are individually priced. The other room offers a fixed meal at a specific up charge of $34. That meal does not include steak and provides no options. It is fixed period. We were given a complimentary "speciality dining" meal for booking early and were not told about the distinctions between the two rooms. Our expectation was that Divina's speciality dining would be similar to other cruise lines only to find out that there was absolutely nothing in common with RCL, Celebrity, Princess or Carnival. It created a very uncomfortable situation with our guest couples who were joining us based upon our expectations. To the dining room's manager credit, he made good our what we were told to expect and what could have been a very ugly evening turned out to be very enjoyable. This was the only positive dining experience we had all week and even it started out badly.
The cabin service was acceptable but we did not even meet our steward until the first day at sea. He did try but what about bar soap in the lavatory? He did not understand what I wanted so I just used the blue fluid provided and made due. The split shower doors (2) made it very difficult to get into and out of the shower if you are over 6 feet tall which I am. Most new ships have a single sliding door. The bed was comfortable but the small flat screen tv offered a minimal selection of channels. And what about the inability to broadcast the various football games on Saturday, Sunday, Thursday, and the Friday after Thanksgiving. They should have known those would be highly demanded by the American passengers. We went to the sports bar expecting to see the games and were told they did not have the correct satellite receiver to view the games. Of course, soccer, rugby and crickett were available. Really. Now do not get me wrong, I have enjoyed them, on occasion when I am in Europe, watching these games because they are of high interest OVER THERE, but Miami is not over there. They finally did get a few of the NFL games on but again this problem should never have existed in the first place.
The buffet dining upstairs needs a lot of organization and physical work as well. There are a number of design "choke points" where passengers trying to get food and staff need to pass in a very tight area. They are blocked by some design lamp posts which serve no viable purpose other than obstruct passenger/staff movement. This Italian line also needs to understand that there are other food selections other than Italian which passengers enjoy. Yes we almost all like Italian but not to the exclusion of other cuisines.
Queuing to disembark needs to be completely reworked. Almost all ships announce the status of disembarkation as the process moves along so people know when they can expect to leave. The first sign of a major problem was the announcement broadcast over the public address system that all departures had been stopped due to an "overload" in the terminal. That lasted almost an hour and yet when we finally got off at 11 am there were absolutely no lines anywhere in the terminal. Not at the baggage carousel and there was absolutely no line at customs/immigration. Yet we were stuck on the ship waiting for over an hour with no information as to the problem. Not the best impression to have your passengers leave the ship with.
All in all, we had very high expectations, most of which were not even close to being met. If MSC does not seriously reconsider some of the points ,I and I am sure many other passengers have told them in their evaluation of the cruise, this ship's tenure in the Caribbean will be a short one.