There's no denying that the Divina is a beautiful ship, but MSC needs to offer more than a just pretty face if they hope to make it on this side of the pond. I realize they are fairly new to this market and that they have a few kinks to work out. We hope that they take their passengers comments and reviews seriously, because they really need to make some quick adjustments if they want to survive in this market.
All in all, we did enjoy our cruise and hoped that the “Mediterranean Lifestyle” that MSC promotes would really set it apart. However, our experience was not really that different from the other mainstream cruise lines we sailed on. The most noticeable differences were the large number of passengers of different nationalities and the absence of urinals in the mens restrooms.
So, let's begin with the positives. Embarkation was fast and efficient. We got through the terminal and on the ship in about 45 minutes. Most of the staff we encountered were cheerful, friendly and helpful, especially customer relations. The room steward did a fairly good job of keeping the cabin neat, but fell a little short when it came to providing clean glasses. The shower had split doors that opened into the shower, so it created some additional space in the bathroom. There were very few announcements. They had live music all over the ship, with the exception of the theater. The shows were actually pretty good. They were decent productions, with above average talent and nice sets.
I think for most people, that dining is one of the most anticipated experiences on a cruise, and in this arena, MSC really faltered. As far as the buffet goes, the choices were plentiful, the cold food was cold, the hot food was hot and the service was actually pretty decent. The breakfast in the buffet was typical, however there wasn't an omelet station. At lunch and dinner it would get very busy, so we went there during off hours and avoided the crowds. FYI: only wine and beer is served in the buffet, if you want a mixed drink, you'll have to go to a bar to get one. The staff won't bring one to you.
The main dining room experience left a great deal to be desired and the service was short of abysmal. We had the second seating and the first seating always ran late. As a result, there were crowds of people in the hall and on the stairways waiting to get into the dining room. When the doors finally opened, there was a stampede of people rushing into the dining room all at once. It was not a pleasant experience and as the cruise proceeded, there were fewer and fewer people coming to dinner.
While most of the dining room waitstaff were pleasant, the service was incredibly slow and disorganized. They are way understaffed and although they really tried their best, they just never got it together. As a result, we spent a minimum of 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours for dinner service and 1-2 hours for lunch. Unlike most other cruise lines, the waitstaff never really learned the diners preferences. Also, they never cleared any extra glasses from the table, nor removed any empty ones. This happened at both lunch and dinner. For instance, at lunch one day there were 6 people at the table, but there were18 glasses. Maybe it's an European thing?
I realize that the subject of food is quite subjective and while we never went hungry, the quality of the food was somewhere between just fair and decent. We never ate anything worth writing home about. And unfortunately, if you like beef, you're probably going to be sorely disappointed. I don't know if something got lost in the translation, but one night they offered what the menu called “beef fillet”, but what was served was 2 thin slices of beef with gravy. One night, the lamb we were served was so overcooked that we couldn't eat it. And, no one else at the table could eat theirs either. The lobster was also way overcooked and was dry and chewy. Seriously, it took two waiters to remove the meat from the shell. I'll admit it, I did eat the lobster, because even tough lobster is better than no lobster.
Now onto lunch in the main dining room. I ordered what the menu described was a Reuben sandwich, but what I was served was a slice of Pastrami on toasted white bread with cheddar cheese, no sauerkraut or thousand island dressing. And, this was not an isolated incident as we saw the expressions of others that were served “Reuben” sandwiches. My guess is they called it a Reuben because that was the name of the guy who made the sandwiches. Lunch service was also very inconsistent. One day the service was efficient and friendly and the next day it was incredibly slow and downright rude. For instance, one day at lunch, after waiting 20 minutes for our food arrive, we politely asked our server when our order might be ready and his reply was “if we wanted fast food we should have gone to the buffet”. I mentioned to him that his reply wasn't going to sound very good in a review. He was completely unconcerned. Oh well.
I didn't review the Eately Italian restaurant or Steakhouse because we didn't eat there. Why? When we went to check them out, the steakhouse looked like a school cafeteria or fast food restaurant with rows of small square tables and plastic chairs. The Italian restaurant was slightly more sophisticated having round tables with white table cloths, but yet again more plastic chairs. Not exactly the kind of ambiance one would expect of “upscale”dining and we certainly weren't enticed to dine there. Apparently, no one else was either. Every time we passed by them they were empty.
OK. Now that I'm through with our dining experiences let's move onto the few other observations. First off, there is no adults only pool. There is an adults only sunning deck available, for a charge. They have very few English language TV channels and zero music channels. Children are allowed everywhere, and I mean everywhere, in all of the bars and lounges and at all hours. Maybe it's just me, but I find it difficult to relax in a lounge and enjoy the music played by an ensemble while several children are running, screaming and bouncing on the banquette next to me. Also, the way that the ship is designed the traffic flow goes through almost all of the bars and lounges. Consequently, people were constantly walking through and passing right in front of the stages during performances.
Disembarkation was utter chaos. We chose self disembarkation and, at first, it seemed like MSC had it well planned. We received colored and numbered tags to attach to our luggage and instructions giving the time and place to exit the ship. That's where any semblance of organization ceased. When we arrived at our designated area the crew was directing people to go and wait inside the lounge. After waiting for about 45 minutes in a packed, standing room only lounge, for some unknown reason, an announcement was made that disembarkation would commence on the opposite side of the lounge. So, the people that arrived first, and were closest to the exit and presumably at the front of the line were now at the back of the line. As you can well imagine, there were many people that were not pleased and tempers were flaring. It was getting downright ugly. Thankfully, the crew did the smart thing and stepped aside to let the people that were closest to the exit off the ship first.
In closing, MSC has a nice product, but having a pretty ship won't be enough to keep attracting customers. As I said before, we did enjoy our cruise with MSC and in spite of the the numerous problems in the dining room the rest of the cruise was enjoyable and most of the crew were very pleasant and professional. However, I don't think we'll be sailing with MSC again anytime soon. We'll wait and see if they improve. I hope they do.