We just completed a 7 day cruise on MSC Divina visiting St. Martin, Tortola, and Great Stirrup Cay. I have been on about 11 cruises to include Holland America, Celebrity, RCL, and Carnival. This was by far the worst of the bunch and for several reasons. The Divina is an absolutely beautiful ship with lots of things you won’t find on other ships. Unfortunately they create a lot of problems in traffic flow and finding your way around the ship. The signage on board, or should I say lack of signage, makes no sense. Bathrooms are difficult to find and are generally quite small. Men’s rooms have no urinals and even crew members mentioned both those things as issues that need fixing.
Embarkation was typical of Miami and went fairly smoothly. Disembarkation was a total disaster. It was disorganized and even though we were the second group off we didn’t get through immigration till 1015. The MSC rep began yelling at the port authority rep after he spoke to her about the fiasco that was unfolding with way to many people coming off at the same time and backing up the people to where no one could move. She yelled at him and he shut down people leaving until it got smoothed out. I spoke to a lady at the door to the Immigration section and she said it is the same way every week with MSC. They have 4,000 people on board and it is complete chaos! My past experiences disembarking in Miami have been the quickest and easiest of any Florida port.
The rooms were larger than most and we had a balcony. My wife does smoke, but unlike some other cruise lines, MSC does not allow smoking on the balcony. When it came to the requirements with regard to attire in the evenings, they were pretty much ignored. One formal night I wore a tuxedo and others had on long pants and polo shirts. Jeans and shorts for men in the evening were seen throughout the ship and in the dining room on all nights. You would see a lot of people with bathing suits on with towels wrapped around them in the buffet, but that is largely a result of no snack bar on the pool deck.
Food- While the first day’s buffet was pretty good it got old quickly and colder too! The pasta had a good flavor, but cold pasta isn’t my favorite fare. They had hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs every day on the buffet but the buns were often hard and crusty. On a couple of mornings they ran out of coffee cups. Traffic flow was bad throughout the ship, but the worst was the buffet. Choke points everywhere to the point where only one person could get by the buffet line. I could have fixed it but it would require 5 other guys, chainsaws, and about 3 hours. We ate in the Black Crab and had to ask for our table to be changed after the first evening because the setup was such that the waiters couldn’t even pass us the food without asking others at the table to move around or help out like at grandma‘s house. They did move us which was nice, but service was still bad. Servers always reached all the way across tables to poor water, coffee, and such and I have never had that on other cruise lines. I and other people had courses not served and mistakes made. I asked for coffee and they mixed INSTANT COFFEE at the table! Never, ever had seen that on a cruse ship! The steak listed as a nightly option is about 4 oz and you can see through it! The Prime Rib was also very thinly cut. Lobster was ok but also quite small and was served without butter. I will say that dining room food on all the other ships were better and servings as well as service more consistent with what Americans expect. I know the European thinking on dinner is that it should be an ‘event’, but they need to adapt if they are going to sail out of the USA. Maybe having one dining room with the 2+ hour event while the other is more efficient would be in order. We had early seating at 6 and one night I ordered appetizer, pasta, and entrée as did my wife and we walked out at 8:15. Only the appetizer and entrée were delivered which happened to others at our table and mistakes on salad dressing requests occurred as well! That was the worst, but it was 8PM every evening. We complained to the asst. maitre de, but very little changed.
We found a lot of things during the week that were in direct conflict with our previous experiences cruising in the Caribbean. In fairness to the line however a German gentleman we got to know, who has cruised throughout the world, said this was his 4th MSC cruise and this one was horrible.
Service- Service on the pool deck was unlike anything I have ever seen on any cruise line. There would be 3 or 4 waitresses at the bar and if you went up and ordered a drink they would tell the waitress and she would take your card and tell you to go to your table. Sometime you would get it about 10 minutes later. We did enjoy the Cigar Bar as the staff there were always great and efficient! My impression and others were that the crew are generally unhappy and one person confirmed it saying the food they get wasn’t fit for a dog and the individual in charge of the service personnel was a complete ass and made life very difficult for the hard working service staff. He apparently uses a punitive method in dealing with the crew instead of correction and the result is not productive.
The gelataria was really good and if you don’t try the sour cherry cake and white hot chocolate, you are truly missing out! The shows we went to were good, but heard we missed some others that were pretty good as well! Didn’t go to the Michael Jackson show but did peek in when I went to the restroom by the theater and saw a white guy with long blonde hair dancing like Michael. It just didn’t fit, but as I say I only stopped for a moment so maybe it worked well in the scheme of the show.
To get from one area to another you were forced to walk through venues. On deck 6 when you went from the upper Black Crab dining room to the evening show you were required to walk right through the casino, which was already crowded in many cases. If you stopped to look at things, or to talk with someone, no matter how you tried you were in someone else’s way.
Another strange requirement that existed was that you have to sign your bill that you get sometime after midnight on the last day and take it to customer service the last morning…..what a mess! Also we found it pretty strange that they leave you an evaluation form and the information channel briefing tells you to not mark anything poor. The guy says if anything was poor you should have already mentioned it to management to have it fixed. I had mentioned several things and with the exception of changing our table location, not one of them had changed! I had to get a new card for my wife as hers suddenly quit working and when I went to guest services I had to wait a while as there were a number of people complaining to the 4 reps there and all but one walked away shaking their heads. They did make her a new card, but I was made to feel like I was bothering them.
All and all this was a very poor choice on our part and it did a great job of turning us away from cruising anytime soon. We were the first people in our group of traveling friends to take MSC, and our advice to them will be to stay away. I would say it was just us except we heard the same thing from many people and the most telling was from 2 travel agency owners. One said they would only suggest MSC to a very small part of their as it doesn’t fit the American mold or meet what she knew to be her clients expectations. Another agent and her husband, whose agency specializes in cruises, said they will do their best to talk people OUT of MSC due to the many failings and lack of service. I’m sure the Yacht Club is significantly different, but for those prices you can go on Azamara cruise line which is in a completely different class.
I am not looking to be waited on hand and foot, but given the amount of travel I have done I can recognize good service and with a few exceptions I didn’t find it on here. Crew members seem to not care if they are in your way. I heard it from others and my experience was the same with that because even if your hands were full of food in the buffet, they would not allow you through. Some would even stand at places which obviously blocked traffic. On other cruise lines I have always seen the bartenders, waiters/waitresses, and others having pleasant exchanges when ships officers would come through. On Divina when officers would come into an area they became very tense without a smile or anything. Again, that may go back to the individual who I heard was void of any management skill and treated the service personnel poorly. I got the distinct impression that there is a real caste system on Divina unlike any of the other lines I have had the pleasure of sailing on. This is an unhappy crew and it came through very clearly to me.