MSC Divina Cruise Review by tklapierre: MSC Divina: Pros and Cons vs. Carnival Glory
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MSC Divina: Pros and Cons vs. Carnival Glory
We are a family of 4: 2 adults in our mid 40's, a teenager, and a 12 year-old. We took this cruise departing on 4/12/14. Ports included Falmouth Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Cozumel Mexico, and Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas.
The best parts of the MSC Divina cruise were as follows:
1. the ship itself was beautiful. Very new, nicely appointed, beautiful crystal staircase in the central atrium, huge theater, smoke-free casino, and ample swimming pools and hot-tubs. Even the public restrooms were beautiful with granite counters, marble floors, fancy sinks and faucets, etc. The Divina felt like a 4 star ship...the carnival Glory felt more like a 2 star.
2. The ship was meticulously maintained and exceptionally clean. Never found anything broken or dirty. They had staff walking around 24-7 cleaning every surface imaginable, even the buttons and handrails in the elevators. One evening I walked out of a nightclub and someone had just vomited in the hallway (gross, I know, More and certainly not the norm on this ship). My point, however, is that in less than a minute there were 3 staff members present, thoroughly cleaning the area to perfection. Our steward cleaned our stateroom every single time we left. For example, we showered every morning before breakfast, and the bathroom and cabin were spotless when we returned from our meal. We often showered again after returning from shore excursions...when we returned to our room before dinner it was always spotless, with clean towels in place each time. Likewise, at night we often got a plate of food from the buffet and took it back to our cabin for a snack in between evening events...the plates were always gone and everything straightened to perfection when we returned. Our bathroom was kept spotless by our steward. They even washed the balcony floor twice during our 7 day cruise. Buffet workers all had gloves on at all times. They drained all of the pools late each night and then refilled them (they are saltwater). This ship has never had a norovirus outbreak and I'm not surprised...germs don't stand a chance with the sanitation level in place on the Divina. The sanitation on the Carnival Glory paled in comparison.
3. the cabins themselves were very modern, with a nice design, a quality feel, and a good layout. Felt like a high quality hotel. The Divina had much nicer cabins than the Glory. Hilton vs. the Super 8.
4. the entertainment in the theater was excellent. Different shows each night...everything from standup comedy to Michael Jackson impersonators to contortionists to opera singers...costumes were beautiful, choreography well-done, and talent was truly impressive. Went to the theater shows almost every night. The theater shows on the Divina were far superior to those on the Glory.
5. the service was quite good. We made some special requests (i.e. needed a birthday cake with no notice, requested to be changed to a smaller table just for our family alone). Both special requests were accommodated graciously and quickly. As mentioned previously, our cabin steward was incredibly attentive...absolutely meticulous in cleaning our cabin and was never intrusive (never knocked on the door once when we were inside). He was invisible except when we needed him, and then always available. One time our son locked himself out of our cabin and our steward let him in and helped him get a new key made up immediately. This was very helpful. Likewise our waiter in the formal dining room was always very attentive and helpful...remembered that our older son wanted the kids menu while our younger child only wanted the adult menu.
6. the coffee was delicious and available 24-7. Specialty coffee drinks were also available for a small fee (much cheaper than a typical land-based coffee shop).and were delicious. They also had amazing small pastries and gelato available for very reasonable prices (pastries starting at $1.20 and gelato was around $2). Coffee on the Divina was much better than on the Glory.
7. the ship photographers were very good, and not pushy at all. We had about 10 different sittings done, and ended up purchasing 5 pictures. Really a nice opportunity to get a good family portrait.
8. Our kids (ages 12 and 17) were pleased with the programming for their age groups. Both children looked forward to going to the "graffiti club" (that is the name of where the programs for 12-14 year olds and 15-17 year-olds meet up). They allowed the oldest group to reserve other spaces on the ship for parties just for their age group. All "parties" were appropriate and chaperoned by staff from the program. One night they had a pool party, another night they had a disco night, etc. Well done! Both kids agreed that they preferred the kids programs on the Divina over the Glory.
The weaknesses of the MSC Divina included the following (in my opinion):
1. the cabins are somewhat smaller than they look in the pictures seen online. Fortunately, the bathroom was slightly larger than the online picture made it look. A for quality, C- for room size. However, the main beds on the Divina were more comfortable than the main beds on the Carnival Glory. On the downsize, if you want a cabin with a balcony on the Divina, there are no cabins with bunk beds or pull down beds. The only balcony option is a pull-out sofa bed for the kids. Our kids hate sleeping together so we brought along a twin size air mattress. Our cabin steward was happy to provide us with bedding so it worked out fine...one kid on the couch and the other on the air mattress. The linens on the Divina were quite nice, with the exception of the bed pillows which were some of the worst I've ever seen. The towels on the Divina were nice and big...much better than on the Carnival Glory. Be aware that the Divina does not provide hair conditioner or body lotion. They only provide body wash and shampoo (both low quality) in the shower. The shower cap provided was too small to get over my head and I have a normal size head so I'm not sure what's up with that....I just used a pony tail holder to keep my hair up out of the shower if needed.
2. the food on the Divina was mediocre...with the exception of the great coffee, gelato, and pastries that could be bought cheaply at the pastry shop. The food in the main dining room was generally flavorless. On a positive note, they did not overcook the vegetables, and on two nights they had some delicious vegetarian indian food options. Other than that, everything was blah. Tasted like it belonged in a hospital or nursing home. The food at the buffet was even worse. I was able to have fresh fruit, oatmeal and coffee for breakfast, but everything else looked like it belonged on a Shoney's buffet. I avoided lunch altogether, so I couldn't tell you what was on offer then....I walked through once and saw hotdogs and lunch meat and just kept walking. The most disappointing part of the buffet was the after-hours part. We chose the early seating (6pm) in the formal dining room, so by about 9:30 or 10pm we were often up for a late night snack. The problem is that after 9, the only thing available on the buffet is pizza (and only pizza) until 11pm. At 11pm it gets even better (not!). That's when they offer sandwiches (and only sandwiches) on the buffet. You have to wait in a short line, then a food service worker will make you a sandwich. The choices (every night is the exact same) include: salami, ham, bologna, egg salad, tuna salad, or chicken salad. There is only one type of bread (white bread roll) and the only other add-on's are lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, and coleslaw. Free drink choices include coffee or water. Period. This is the only choice to eat on the ship after 11pm for 7 nights....bon appetit! Needless to say we were not impressed. Carnival Glory had a variety of choices from varied buffets to burgers and fries to chocolate dessert late night buffets to free room service 24-7...so MSC Divina has some work to do regarding the late night food department. The desserts offered in the buffet and in the formal dining room were awful. Not worth the calories.
3. embarkation and disembarkation. Embarkation took forever...we were eventually third from the front of the line and the woman in charge then re-routed us to a whole new set of lines...reassured us that we weren't losing our spot in line but the end result is that she only did this to about 30 people and we did end up waiting twice as long. Oh well...it was my birthday and I wasn't going to let an extra 45 minutes in line ruin my cruise. In hindsight, this was nothing compared to disembarkation. We decided to do the self-disembarkation thing where you register for the correct color tags so that you can wheel you own bags from your cabin to the exit and thus get off in a more timely manner. I should add that the latest disembarkation (whether you decide to carry your own bags or not) is 7:30am. Quite early, considering the ship doesn't leave until 7pm. But hey, rules are rules, so we got our kids up bright and early, and made sure that we were down in the designated room with our bags by 7:30am as instructed. At that point, there were announcements that due to the rainstorm outside, they were going to have to delay the disembarkation. Now, I can understand that this might delay the process for people who were having their bags taken off the ship for them (maybe the dock workers don't want to get wet?) but for those of us carrying our own bags, it seems like it shouldn't have been a factor. But I decided that we really weren't in a rush, so I sat down and went with the program. By 9:30am., several people in our room were reaching a stage of hysteria as they were at risk of missing their flights, but I still felt pretty calm since we weren't flying out until the next day. I decided to go to the bathroom and on the way I came upon a staff member. I asked him when the "self-disembark" passengers would be allowed to depart, and he told me "oh, the self disembark people were allowed to leave hours ago, we're just waiting on the bags for the other passengers". Awesome! I went back to the room where we were waiting and loudly told my husband what had transpired. At that point, the 200 or so people in the room with us all got up and followed me and my family off of the ship. What a debacle! Needless to say our experience on the Carnival Glory was much smoother when boarding and disembarking.
4. entertainment options, other than the theater. As mentioned previously, the theater shows on the MSC Divina were awesome A+! That said, the other entertainment options were rather lame. The best option was the dueling pianos. They had one bar (the Golden Jazz bar or something like that) that had two guys playing pianos at night. They were talented and funny, and got the crowd involved with singing along. What I didn't like was that they complained a lot that they didn't have any requests. When people would write song requests on the cards provided on the table and then set it on the piano, they would become rude and say (that's not a request, that's a suggestion. It has to have a tip in order for it to be a request). They would then play a different song. I found that a bit rude, especially since some of the requesters were children or elders. Another venue was called the black and gray lounge, or something like that. It was on a lower level at the back of the ship. I went once, for karaoke night. The only problem is that because the Divina attracts such an international clientele, most of the songs weren't in English. The singers were terrible, and it really wasn't much fun. Another venue was the sports bar. This was supposed to be an "American" themed bar. There was sports equipment hanging on the walls, vinyl booths, bright florescent lights, and one could buy hamburgers for some outrageous price (I think they were over $12). On the televisions, they had non-American sports playing, such as cricket matches. This room also featured two "bowling" lanes, which incurred an extra fee and had balls the size of softballs and pins that were suspended from above. Not my scene. Another bar featured some female singers that seemed fairly decent. However, they were singing along to pre-recorded music, and this, combined with the bright florescent lights and purple chairs was just more than I was up for. The only other venue was the Galaxy Disco, located at the front of the ship and on the 16th floor. The problem is that it is only accessible by two elevators so it's really quite a challenge to find it. We did get there, only to find a group of about five 14 year olds dancing. Kind of lame. So, needless to say, we really weren't able to find any place worth hanging out in late night on the Divina. There were a few other bars (a few seats next to the pools, or around the corner from the excursion desk). But no other venues with any kind of ambiance, fun-vibe, or entertainment. We were in our cabins in bed by midnight every night, for lack of real options. I suppose if you are into gambling you could hit the casino, but that has never been our idea of fun (both having passed courses in statistics). The Carnival Glory had lots of fun bars, each with different themes and lively crowds. They had several dance clubs, a kareoke bar, bars with singers and musicians, etc. We felt much more enticed to stay out and have fun on the Carnival Glory.
5. Deckplans: the MSC Divina has a lame deck plan. The floors with cabins are fine. Hard to go wrong there. However the floors with most of the public spaces (decks 5, 6, and 7) are poorly designed. There are restaurants that are located midship that can't be passed through, so you have to go up a deck and go across and then back down to get to other public areas that should flow together. Most of the bars or entertainment spaces also function as hallways, so you literally have to walk through the middle of them (and often directly in front of performers/singers) in order to get to the next room. So, in most of the bars, the dance floors literally have to function as hallways for people passing through to the next space, which disrupts everything.
6. Pay restaurants: The other thing that was weird on the Divina was that there were several "pay" restaurants that never seemed to have any customers dining in them. The weird part is that these also functioned as hallways. I guess maybe the ship designers thought that if people had to walk through the pay restaurants they would be more likely to stop, but that is not how it worked out. What happens instead is that these restaurants end up feeling like hallways, with people waiting in line for the regular dining room standing in front of the tables. Not exactly an inviting atmosphere. The pay restaurants did not look very appealing...vinyl or plastic chairs, bright lights, etc. The one exception was the Galaxy restaurant, which did look nice, dark, and a bit elegant. However, it is located up on the 16th or 17th floor next to the Galaxy nightclub, which is only accessible by two elevators (that are not marked as such) so quite difficult to find and I'm not sure how romantic it would be to eat in a restaurant with hip hop music blaring in the same space. The floor plan on the Carnival Glory was easier to navigate. We never ate at any of the pay restaurants on either cruise, but I have to say that at least the pay restaurant on the Carnival Glory looked romantic and appealing.
Other things to be aware of:
1. tips on the Divina are not optional and not adjustable. This was not an issue for us as we felt that the tips were a bargain for the level of service received. Tips on the Glory are adjustable, if you wish (we didn't, but just FYI).
2. Divina does not offer adjoining cabins in the traditional sense of the word. On the Carnival Glory, we bought two adjoining cabins that shared a door in between them. Even so, the Glory made us register one adult and one child in each room (although frankly, that's not how we utilized the rooms). The Divina is more flexible, and will allow you to book separate cabins for the grownups and the kiddies (presumably adjacent or across the hall). Please note that on the Divina the balconies are set up with walls in between adjacent cabins...but these balcony "walls" have a part that can fold back, making two adjacent cabins "connect" through the balcony. This was never stated on the website, so if it's something that appeals to you, call MSC to book it through them. Don't worry, if you are not wanting to share your balcony with your neighbor, the door will be shut and you will have your own private balcony.
3. As stated previously, please be aware that there are no drop down bunks on balcony rooms on the Divina, so if you book a cabin for 4 people, two will be sleeping on a fold out sofa bed unless you bring an inflatable twin mattress like we did.
4. Important note for people with kids: the Divina offers a card for kids and teens that you can put up to $50 on. This card can then be used by your kid to purchase gelato, video games, bowling, rides on the 4D theater, things in the gift shop, sodas, etc. I urge you to purchase these cards for your kids. Don't make the mistake that we did. We foolishly decided to just let our kids have their room cards activated. If you do this, your kids can spend as much money as they wish on almost anything (except alcohol). We spoke to our kids about responsibility and what was and what was not okay to purchase. Our older child used his card responsibly, while our younger child did not. It was a difficult lesson learned (given that the video games cost $1.50 and $3.00 per game). Yikes...learn from our mistake.
5. Excursions: When you are in Cozumel and Cayman Islands, there are many companies on shore that can help you book excursions for much less $ than what the ship will charge you for a similar or identical experience. However, when you are at Falmouth Jamaica and Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas, the only options are those offered by the ship. I highly recommend the Bobsledding and Dunns River Falls combo in Jamaica (it was the highlight of our trip! Loved it!), and renting a clamshell at Great Stirrup Cay (we didn't and regretted it...would have been so worth it to have the shade and two reserved chairs for just $29).
6. We stayed on a high floor on the Divina and a low floor on the Carnival Glory. Not sure if the height of the cabin was the main factor or not, but it certainly seemed that the Carnival Glory had better stabilization control. Divina seemed to sway a lot more. Fortunately we did not have any issues with seasickness on either cruise. If I were to book Divina again, I would book a cabin on the 8th floor because that floor is done in a pretty shade of blue...which I thought was the most appealing color scheme. Our floor was done in shades of orange so not as elegant. Just a personal choice. Probably not a big deal.
7. Please note that the Divina is a slightly older crowd than the Carnival Glory. It is also a much more international crowd. Divina was about 50% Americans and 50% Europeans. Everything was announced in 5 languages, but all staff spoke adequate English. Our kids made friends from Japan, Russia, Sweden, and Italy (as well as other Americans). It made things fun!
8. We were impressed with the visibility of the captain on the Divina. He was introduced at several events, and there were opportunities to take your photo with him, smoke a cigar on deck with him, meet him, ask him questions about the ship and his job, etc. He seemed very personable, visible, and accessible. We liked that. We never once saw the captain on the Carnival Glory. Less
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