I usually pass on reading long reviews. Now I find myself writing one. Our latest adventure took us out of Miami on MSC’s Divina for a week in the Western Caribbean. If you’re considering MSC, this information may be helpful.
Embarkation in Miami was a breeze with twice the staff for check in, and all friendly & helpful.
We found our own way to our balcony cabin, mid-ship on deck 13. Having paid way less than half the fare of our usual Holland or Celebrity cabin, we were pleasantly surprised to find not only a very large bed but a good deal more room to move around. The shower was refreshing, and didn’t leak all over the place. Again, a pleasant surprise.
We had read reviews about ‘cold’ and ‘unhelpful’ personnel on MSC, particularly the Divina. Our steward was really thorough, kept us pampered and couldn’t have been nicer. No chocolates or swans found their way to our pillows, so we didn’t find any melted surprises the next morning.
The interactive television had no updated information about our account, so we traipsed down to Guest Services to see what had happened to our pre-booked packages. The young lady seemed more than happy to tell us nothing had come through and that their internet system needed some updating. She later earned her stripes with another issue, but this seemed a bit of a sour note on which to start. The bartender across the lobby seemed to appreciate our frustration, and bought us a drink. Nice recovery.
Dining is always a crap shoot for two guys. You either get paired with a couple of old maids or squeezed into the largest table in the room for group therapy. The latter the case here, we enjoyed the food & the conversation, but couldn’t get past the unfriendly wait staff. We chalked it up to being perpetually in the weeds due to the sheer volume of guests. We took the rest of our meals at the buffet where everyone was at ease and pleasant. Breakfast there was really good, and the rest pretty standard except for the pizza: it was great. We did not try any of the other dining venues, but have to wonder why one of them is devoted to pizza at a hefty surcharge when the free pizza at the buffet is so good. There was plenty of seating, and the tables cleaned efficiently between guests. Anyway, my hat’s off to their attentive and professional staff up there, and the consistently good, strong coffee.
The ship itself is beautiful and large, nicely appointed and well-maintained. The staff managed 3000 guests safely and efficiently, including the tenders. There are endless pools and lounge areas and no fighting for chairs. Each of the dinner shows offered a blend of talent including singing, dancing and acrobatics. The theater was massive, beautiful and had some of the best acoustics at sea. Each evening, a troupe of about twenty small children marched with their ‘kiddie club’ guardians into the front rows. With faces painted and sporting show-themed accessories, they were pretty entertaining, too.
Some notes in brief:
--Shore excursions only worked interactively two days out, and then sold out. Use the desk and book early.
--There were two formal nights on this 7-day cruise, but only about half dressed for dinner any night.
--Plan to be out of your cabin at 7:00 a.m. on the final day of your cruise,
--Do not expect to get an elevator the morning of disembarkation.
--Label and put everything outside your cabin door for the porter unless you want to carry it down flights & flights of very, very crowed stairs full of angry people the following morning.
All in all, we enjoyed our cruise experience: Comfortable and clean accommodations, nice ports and staff that are generally more reserved than those found on other ships serving South Florida’s ports. The passengers were a refreshing and diverse group of young people. If you relish a dining experience each night, get to the Maitre’D for a small table and/or try out some of the other dining venues, like the Eatily Steakhouse. Alternatively, enjoy the people-watching at the Calumet Buffet, because we’re happy to say there’s no Lido Deck here.
By the way, disembarkation was the smoothest of any cruise ever, with bags on carousels and swiftly moving Immigration & Customs lines, too. We were off and out in less than ten minutes.
Don't do it. These guys offered us tequila before we rented. We declined. Scooters were $40, then additional $$$ for insurance, then liability, then gas...you get the idea. Turned out gas gauge was bad, and we had to cut our trip from the beach short so we could be sure we'd make it back without running out. I won't bore you with the accident details, but all the guys wanted was cash and more cash. We finally had to go find the police. My credit card company has advised I cancel the card. My advice to you? Stick with ship excursions...the savings isn't worth the danger and the aggravation.
ATV Safari This is rigorous, and only 4 of the 10 people booked actually participated. Do wear shoes or sneakers and prepare to get a little muddy. This is a lot of fun, but requires focus on safety and the terrain upon which you are riding. We would definitely do this again.
Joyce drove us around the Island in a small, nicely air conditioned minibus. Her narrative was informative, and we visited the Dolphin Encounter, the Turtle Farm, Hell, and some of the Island's historic locations. The tour was just under two hours, and would be good for those who have wondered what lies beyond Stingray City.