Hi, not a first time cruiser, have an opportunity to compare MSC with Holland America we sailed a few months ago. Everything else being equal, I would choose HAL for my next cruise.
The Divina is an excellent ship, it is new and very comfortable, the cabin had a balcony, which was a big plus. Food was not as good as Holland America, though we were never hungry.
MSC does not offer Open Table choice for dinner, rather they assign you to 1st or 2nd seating regardless of your request. We were assigned 2nd seating, though I have specifically asked the booking agent for the 1st seating. Our first night on the cruise we did not go to the dining room, it was too late for my kids to eat. MSC has rectified the situation next day and we were assigned first seating. Though I would rather avoid this kind of issue all together: this is not something one looks forward to when sailing with a major cruise company.
I have two kids aged 9 and 14. My 9 year old enjoyed the More
activities offered by the kids club, while my teenager complained about absence of things to do in the Youth club. He ended up going there only twice, while when cruising with HAL we hardly ever saw him during the evenings.
A few surprises came up at the end of the cruise: last day when arriving into Miami we were asked to vacate our room at 7AM. This meant waking up kids at 6AM - something no parent would rather do during vacation. Especially considering that our debarkation time was at 10:45. For 3 hours we were forced to spend 3 hours with our carry ons in the common areas of the ship.
For some inexplicable reasons MSC requires everyone to approach their Reception desk on board the ship to settle their accounts. No idea why guests would not be able to just leave their signed copy of the bill in their cabin if they have no questions as per their bill. Big waiting lines on the morning of the arrival day.
My biggest surprise came after the cruise: for some inexplicable reasons MSC has charged my credit card $200 more than I signed on the last day of the cruise (so much for being there in person!). My call to Customer Service did not yield any results, apparently all the bills and financial records are stored in the corporate office in Europe and US Customer Service is unable to help. The agent advised me to write an email to their Customer Service address, but was not able to give me any timelines or suggestions when I should be awaiting the response. Will see how this matter will be handled. But again, this is not something I was looking forward to when booking the cruise with MSC. Less