We sailed on back to back cruises for the first time with the MSC Divina. Our experience with this cruise line was two sided. We felt the cabins, the crew, the entertainment, the food (with the exception of the specialty restaurant), and the service were excellent. Moving our cabin, as we were upgraded for the second week, was amazingly good. Anything that had to do with communication, however, was sorely lacking. It isn't that English was the problem.
When first booking the cruise, we called the cruise line (being put on hold for 20 minutes+) for information regarding their drink packages and dining packages which are sold at somewhat of a discount. The savings is 15% when prepurchasing. However, we were given poor information. Since we were on a two week (back to back) cruise, we wanted to purchase a specialty restaurant for each week. So, we purchased a 3-course dinner for the first week and a 5-course for the second week. (More on this later.) When we went to use them, we were told we could use them any time during our trip, This actually ended up not being a problem in terms of usage, but the drink packages were very confusing. We were told we needed to buy and use them for each particular week. Hence, we purchased a beer package for each week. Once we boarded and picked up our coupons, we were told we could use them any time. Frankly, we would have purchased three beer packages. Same with the cocktail package. We did not purchase one because we were told we had to use them each week and we both needed to purchase one. We could have used two since, in fact, were able to use them for the 14 days we were on board,
Regarding the Galaxy dining package, we were quite disappointed. We always dine in the specialty restaurants while cruising, at least once during the cruise. So we purchased two packages - one for each week. The menus are totally fixed on the Divina. There were no choices. MSC needs to fix this! Since I don't like fish, except for shellfish, or lamb, I went away hungry! They should figure out that it's not working,
The first week, we were the only diners, the second week there were two other couples. They advertize one starter, one main and one dessert, for instance on the Saturno menu. They actually should post the menu if there are no choices! The service was also lacking. Upon arriving, there was a very relaxed atmosphere, though a little unsettling to be there by ourselves. The waiter immediately shows up with some tuna stuffed olives and bread and says he'll be right back with our first course. We asked if we couldn't please start with a cocktail. He said of course. We ordered them and he delivered them immediately. Again, we were the only people there with the exception of the musician, the bartender and the waiter. Less than one minute after delivering our cocktails, he brought the first course! We asked if we couldn't please enjoy our cocktail first. He seemed a little frustrated with this, but took away the soup. When he saw our cocktails finished, he did come over and offer to bring the first course again. We agreed. As soon as he cleared the first course, he brought the second. As soon as that was finished, he brought dessert. We expected a relaxed dining experience, but this was not the case either week.
I did fill out the comment form the second week and was actually contacted by the Reception. After calling, they told me they were offering us a dinner in Eataly. Great, I thought. However, when asking what that meant since Eataly was an ala carte restaurant, they couldn't tell me, but instructed me to go to the venue. Off I went to the venue and they had no record that we were being offered a meal there. I went back to reception and they couldn't tell me either! Alas, I got another message from reception apologizing and offering us a meal at Eataly's Ristaurante Italia - also a restaurant that has a fixed menu focusing on fish, which I do not care for. After looking at that FIXED menu, we decided to cut our losses and eat in the main dining room where there was no surcharge! So even at the 15% savings, it cost us $100 for two meals that we did not enjoy at all!
We did not let these two experiences ruin our cruise. Our regular dining experience was very excellent. Our maitre de, Guiseppi, was outstanding. It is the first time on any cruise that we had such a great interaction. Several times he would bring out something from the kitchen, not on the menu for us to try! For instance, once it was fabulous garlic bread. Another day it was a veal dish that he exclaimed to be real home Italian cooking. Of course he brought these for the entire table. Our waiter was also outstanding. His service and that of his assistant were perfect. We enjoyed our table so much, that for the second week, we asked Guiseppi if he could arrange for us to sit at the same table the second week as well. He said - no problem, and we then enjoyed a second week of extremely enjoyable dining. What a pleasure!
Dining at the buffet for breakfast or lunch was a good experience for us. Food was good, fresh,and plentiful. Lines were minimal and tables always available. It is true that there were no "made to order omelets at the buffets, which probably helped with the no lines! Eating in the dining rooms was also a pleasure. The only communication problem we had was very comical. My husband wanted extra capers with his bagel and salmon. He got the regular serving, but an extra serving of kippers! We all had a good laugh over that one.
As for ports, we have cruised so many times that there are no excursions that we would want to do that we haven't done at least once. We cannot report how MSC did in organizing these.
In Falmouth, Jamaica we simply went just off the ship. After shopping around a bit, we settled in at the Margaritaville swimming pool. This was a very easy walk off the ship. The pool was clean and refreshing. Plenty of lounges were available. There was no charge to use the facility. The only problem was that the bathrooms were inconvenient. We were told that they are in the process of building some close by. There was a nice swim up bar with reasonable prices. The bartender, Kashiba, was fun to talk to. Dining was also available.
In Grand Cayman we took a taxi to the Royal Palms. The beach was packed, so we stayed at the pool and enjoyed our day there - except for the very loud music. We never rented beach chairs because the beach was way too crowded. Most people seemed to get their free WiFi, but not me and a few others. Don't know why.
In Cozumel we enjoyed the day at Paradise Beach, which we enjoyed very much after a short taxi ride.
The first week, the seas were too rough to tender into Great Stirrup Cay. The second week there was great. My only complaint there was lack of communication. The tendering was horrible. We waited for an hour to get a tender. Once our letter was called it took another 45 minutes before we actually disembaked. I'm not convinced this was MSC's fault, except for the communication. This island is owned by Norweigan Cruise lines, who also provides the tendering services. There was one boat that was out of service, which could have lead to the long wait.
MSC again fell on communication. They should have let cruisers know the times for complimentary lunch service at Great Stirrup Cay. Many did not know it was complimentary and were heading back to the ship for lunch! Nor were the closing times for the bars ever stated. I went to get some beer at 4:05 and was told the bar had just closed! The last tender was not leaving until 5:30 PM! Oh well, guess they were just trying to get people back on the ship so they could depart at 6:00. None the less, we enjoyed our few hours on this most beautiful beach.
The second week of our cruise we visited San Juan where we simply walked around the old town and left some money at the casino there.
St. Thomas we headed off to Magens Bay and enjoyed our day there very much. It is a beautiful beach, but am confused why it is called one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. I can think of many other beaches more beautiful, but still deserving of a visit. Think Hawaii, Huatulco Mexico, Bali, Viet Nam, Cambodia, even Barbados, Aruba, California and Florida to name a few we think top this place
Disembarkation was a nightmare. We were scheduled to get off at 7:00 AM with self assist. It was 8:15 by the time we started our disembarkation! Though the time may not be a problem with MSC, the lack of communication was. There were no announcements. We were told to be at the Black Crab restaurant on the 6th floor by 7:00 AM. We arrived at 6:45 to locked doors! Not smooth. Once off the ship, all was okay and we hopped in a cab to the airport.
A word about the entertainment. We have cruised most cruise lines and have found the entertainment on this ship to be second to none. It was fabulous - EVERY night!
Despite the lack of communication that laced this cruise (before and during), we would look forward to cruise with MSC in the future. For sure, we would not dine in the specialty restaurants. Overall, it was a very good experience that topped most other cruises. Be on the lookout for specials on this cruise line, as they are incredible!