MSC Divina Cruise Review by Tobias10: A REFRESHING NEW ALTERNATIVE TO OTHER CRUISE LINES
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A REFRESHING NEW ALTERNATIVE TO OTHER CRUISE LINES
My husband and I just returned from a week on the MSC Divina - what a pleasant surprise. The Divina is a fairly new ship and the interior is spectacular. All areas are decorated in rich tones and seating is very comfortable and inviting. The central Atrium boasts a crystal staircase from decks five to seven and it truly does sparkle.
Embarkation: This was the most amazing embarkation we have ever experienced. We were on the ship less than 20 minutes after the shuttle dropped us off at the dock - Cudos to the staff for an outstanding job of process guests!
We chose this cruise because of a recent special of $249 pp for a balcony cabin and were fortunate enough to secure a balcony on the back of the ship on deck 11 - 11305. The cabin felt a bit wider than others we have been in and the deck was definitely twice the size of any we have had in the past. The couple in the cabin next to us even strung up two rope hammocks on their deck - what a great idea for a relaxing More way to utilize your deck.
Because this cruise line offers free sailing to children 11 and under rather than 3 and under like most others, be prepared for a lot of children and/or big family groups. Fortunately, many of the children participated in the children's program so they were kept busy much of the day and evening. Unfortunately, as with any venue, if parents allow their children to behave badly then don't be surprise when you see a lot of bad behavior. For the most part this was never an issue for us throughout the week.
Also be prepared for a very multilingual experience. English on the Divina is the primary language, but five languages are used on a regular basis. The dining room menus are printed in five languages and all major announcements are done over the speaker system the same way. Since we only speak and understand English, there were many times when we were a minority - when seated for breakfast or lunch in the dining room or on tours when we shared a vehicle - but we just relaxed and rolled with it. Again, as with children who behave badly - on cruises you often find other guests who are pushy or unfriendly - we just ignored those instances and determined to enjoy our week.
Food: very nice selection of food in dining rooms and on the buffet. Our waiter and his assistant were very friendly and attentive - by day two my iced tea was showing up on the table without having to ask and they knew to ask my husband if he wanted a beer with dinner, so they were focused on our preferences. There is a specialty section on Deck 6 that serves beautiful pastries for a very reasonable price - just in case you did not get what you wanted at dinner in the dining room or up on the buffet - or if you want something special with a late coffee or latte.
Cabins: always very clean - staff was friendly but not gushy. We rarely saw our cabin steward since we were the last cabin he cleaned each day, but we knew where to find him and he was very pleasant. The cabin was decorated in warm burgandy colors and when those drapes were closed we had no idea what time it was and could sleep as late as we wanted to. Plenty of closet storage and suitcases fit under the beds. Bathroom was a typical ship-board bathroom.
Entertainment: I cannot say enough about the nightly shows in the Pantheon Theater. The entertainment staff on the ship are superior to any we have encountered in our past 10+ cruises. They are multitalented and the singers are spectacular. We even enjoyed the last show which was a tribute to opera - and we do not like opera as a rule - but the voices of their lead singers are just too beautiful to not be appreciated regardless of what they are singing. The Michael Jackson tribute night was over the top. We just loved, loved, loved the evening shows - and Andre, the cruise director, was just too funny and perfect for this job!
Daily Entertainment: This is probably one area that i found to be a bit weak on the ship - but, it could be my age bracket (55-60) or just my personal preferences. They had bingo, trivia, scrabble, etc. but most were not heavily attended, most started late, and were not very long. There were not too many general announcements for these events and often when i would arrive in the designated lounge there was no one there. There was a ship tour but it was an excursion and cost $49. In the past on other ships they would hold a tour of the galley or bridge or wherever at no cost some time during the week. If you are a wine drinker then you would certainly enjoy the wine tasting and wine making events - we are not wine drinkers so this did not interest us. There was also a beer brew one time during the week for beer enthusiasts. I just wish there had been a few more talks where you got to learn more about the places you were going to visit (not just the shopping talks for upcoming excursions). There were two bingo games each day (three on our last day because we could not go into Great Stirrup Cay due to high winds and waves). Nice but each game was a cover all with only one prize - they took so long to start because purchasing bingo sheets is a manual process for the staff. They need to computerize this process and swipe room keys to purchase tickets so this process is sped up significantly.
Shipboard Activities: There are three pools on board and the Aqua Park on deck 14 is by far the most popular - i am not sure if there was a designated pool for children but it did not appear so by the number of kids in the pools and hot tubs. Personally, i prefer that children not use the hot tubs at all or only when with their parents. Hot tubs are not mini-pools for kids, but i guess guests with younger children did not get that memo. The pool on Deck 15 was definitely quieter than the two on Deck 14 where the children tended to be.
Shops: Typical of most onboard shops on this and other ships - a jewelry store, clothing, logo items, spirits and smoking items, perfume, etc. prices were a bit high and not as many specials at the end of the cruise as we have seen on other cruises, but we did not take the cruise specifically to shop so this was no big deal.
There are other paid activities on board such a bowling or formula I cars or the interactive theater, but we did not try any of those. There is also the Galaxy Disco on deck 15 that comes alive at 11:00 pm each night (or so we heard) with a DJ. There are several lounges that each cater to specific musical tastes, i.e. piano bar, dueling pianos, Latin, and dance lessons throughout the day.
Beverage packages: we purchased a package for each of us for mixed drinks and one package for soda and they did save us some money, but they gave us tear-off vouchers to use, which was a bit of a pain. It would be nice if they would just load these packages onto your onboard account and the staff could just swipe our room card and process your purchase accordingly. Each time we ordered a drink we had to give them our room key and a voucher and then wait why they stapled the voucher to one copy of the bill and then have you sign the bill. If you did not have your vouchers with you then you had to pay for your drink on your room account. Hopefully they will computerize that in the near future.
Photo gallery: The photos were great, but it would be nice if they could connect your photos to your room card so that you did not have to dig through stacks of photos looking for ones of you and your party. Some other cruise lines are doing this and it makes photo selection much easier.
Overall impression: We had a great time and would definitely sail on the Divina again for their Western Caribbean itinerary I think the Eastern Caribbean itinerary needs a bit of work before i would take that cruise - not enough islands and one of them is San Juan (yuk!).. There is talk of possibly bring a sister-ship over in the future. Less
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Cabin review: MSC Divina 11305
Cabins: always very clean - staff was friendly but not gushy. We rarely saw our cabin steward since we were the last cabin he cleaned each day, but we knew where to find him and he was very pleasant. The cabin was decorated in warm burgandy colors and when those drapes were closed we had no idea what time it was and could sleep as late as we wanted to. Plenty of closet storage and suitcases fit under the beds. Bathroom was a typical ship-board bathroom. We felt the cabin was a bit wider than previous ones we have had and the deck on the back of the ship was twice the size of past balconies.
Port and Shore Excursions
Great way to see the island - we shared a jeep with a German couple that spoke little English - and we do not speak German - we smiled a lot at each other but had a great time with them. He drove so we could sit back and enjoy the scenery. We stopped for lunch of frajitas - good but not great.
Very disappointing - we had to enter the water via a horrible rocky area - sunny day became overcast when we got to snorkeling part of tour and we saw very few fish and no coral. Guide insisted that this was the only place on the island to snorkel, which we found hard to believe. At end of this part of tour the guide informed us that we tourists are the only form of income they have and that they need our tips - we found this very offensive. we paid for the tour and tipping should be optional, not mandatory. we did not tip!
Long walk from ship to bus so beware if you have trouble walking long distances. Roads are very bumpy and you drive through very depressed areas of the island to get to the plantation. High tea was very nice and house was interesting - pretty estate, but once you have seen it there would be no reason to return. We had to switch buses to get up to the plantation due to the narrow roads - this was a hardship for those with walkers, etc. and plantation has uneven grounds and steps, so beware.
Nothing special about this stop except the name. two tiny shops to buy junk and post cards in and the post office to mail your cards from.
Tour of island was nice - saw lots of new development and some of the areas where the locals live
Rum Cake Factory
Rum factory was okay - we got a small sample of rum cake and you could buy rum there but guide said it was the same price at the dock, so stop was nothing special.
Our tour guide was confused as to where he was to take us so we went to the dolphin experience across the road instead. we questioned him and finally he called his dispatcher who took 20 minutes to get us wrist bands so we could walk across the road to see the turtle farm. This was the highlight of the tour and worth the time - we only got 20 minutes there and arrived back at the dock very close to final boarding, which meant we had no time to shop at the dock and had to stand in a long line to get back on board the ship, but we are glad we spoke up and insisted to the guide that he was wrong and we were supposed to see the turtle farm.