First, a little background: This is our first time on MSC, but my 4th cruise (having done 2 other Carnival and a Royal Caribbean cruise). I had researched the Divina beforehand, so I knew (or thought I knew) what to expect. Keep in mind that I will be comparing this sailing against my other cruises in the past, and also that Carnival and RCI may have changed since I last cruised with them.
Originally I was looking for a 7-night Caribbean cruise, and the average rates on RCI seemed to be around $900/pp for a balcony. I had seen MSC advertising on the AWE channel quite heavily as we like to watch: Dream Cruises. So I checked the MSC website and saw a 10-night exotic cruise for approx. $1050/pp for the balcony, I thought that was an excellent deal. Keep in mind this is an itinerary that's only offered once/year (there's another 10-nighter but different itinerary).
With information from Cruise Critic, we pre-purchased numerous things, including the Escape for Less drink tickets, the Streamer Package (internet), a Bon Voyage package, and the 10 photo package, along with 2 spa packages. Now, nothing new for anyone on cruise critic, but the MSC website is atrocious. Constant issues, booking kept disappearing, it was just awful. Ironically the "search" function actually works (RCI may need to take some lessons here).
We flew in the morning of the departure on 12/6/16, and arrived early (our sheet said check-in at 2:00 p.m.) at the cruise port via SAS transport (excellent, BTW) from FLL to POM. And things kinda went downhill from there.
There were no signs/etc (that I could see) about where to proceed/what to do. I saw the white tent, and knew that was for Yacht Club members (which we did not book, as it was approx. $2800/pp which is more than double what we paid for the Fantastica Balcony). There were lots of people and luggage, but that wasn't unusual. What was unusual is that we didn't have anyone greet us to take the bags. I finally stood in line for the Yacht club only to get someone's attention to ask what to do. Was informed to find a porter (anyone with a white shirt apparently) to take the bags. OK, now to hunt for a porter. Finally found one, gave bags and proceeded to check-in. There were signs stating that due to debarkation delays on previous cruise, that embarkation was delayed. Granted, we were early as well (the printed tickets said 2:00 p.m.) We started standing in line at 11:00 a.m. and line moved fairly smoothly until we reached security. Language barriers and all were causing a hold up (people didn't know what a passport was, etc.) We make it past the first security, up through the metal detectors and of course, have to get rid of our water bottle. I should've smuggled it somehow as later on we'd need it. Get to the check-in area and the long line. This is where things really needed improvement. About halfway in the line nothing moved because there was no more space to move to. MSC (I'm assuming) staff announced that there was a delay due to previous debarkation but that was all the details they'd give. We sat on the floor in line and ate some fruit bars but there's no water anywhere. Old people were in dire straits, as security found a chair somehow for someone to sit in before she passed out. Around 2:00 p.m. they opened the boarding area to MSC Black Card and Gold card.
Hint for MSC: If you know that 40-60% of your passengers don't speak English, and you announce everything on the ship in 5-6 languages, you should really announce the boarding in the other languages well.
You know what happens when you don't? Well a bunch of people who don't speak English see the line moving and it's a mad rush. The guy doing the boarding kept screaming that he was going to shut down boarding if other people kept coming that weren't in their group (ie: Black/Gold, then Group 1, then Group 2, etc.)
Here's another hint for MSC: You may want to actually have a line (with the little barricades, just like the one we stood in to get checked in) and sign that says: Start here.
Instead, there were 3 different areas that people could get to the entrance from (the seats on the right, the people standing in the middle, and the people getting done through the check-in desk on the left). As a result, it was mass chaos. Our group boarding was #21 and finally started around 2:30 p.m. We got on the actual ship around 3:00 p.m. They said they'd announce when cabins were ready. But we were starving at this point and went to the buffet for a slice of pizza (since dinner was at 6:00) and had to stop at the Casino to pick up drink tickets that we'd pre-purchased.
Drink tickets are picked up at the Casino. And another disorganized mess was there as well. Four people behind the counter, only one couple in line. I stood behind the couple and waited to be acknowledge. Big mistake. Don't be polite on the Divina. Just barge your way to any open spot and demand attention or else you won't get any service. After about 3 minutes of waiting some more people filtered in and just "grabbed" attention of the other staff (who were just looking around, except for the one person assisting the couple in front of me). Ah, so that's how it's done. OK, I do the same. I hear other couple having issues (they had prepurchased 6 months ago and were still trying to get the order right). I explained to the lady I had pre-purchased drink tickets and gave my cabin #. She had difficulty finding the tickets and came back with someone else's tickets. Try again. Finally find mine. Just an FYI, this was pretty much consistent throughout the rest of the cruise. Try to find a machine to put the credit card on file. Finally find one. Now to find one that actually works. Apparently none of the readers on the 6th floor were working for cards with chips, so you had to stand in line at Guest Services to be manually processed. Another mess.
After drinks and now it's about 4:00 p.m. we figure surely the rooms are ready (haven't heard a single announcement yet). Get to the room and it's ready. Our cabin attendant (Galih) was prompt and greeted us and very helpful and friendly. Room inside was clean and we had approx. 11 hangers in the closet (the kind you can't steal with the special hooks) along with a few leftover hangers from the previous occupants, which was actually helpful. I thought cabin storage was adequate for 2 people. My Bon Voyage package was nowhere to be found, but I figured it might be delivered after dinner. Fortunately I packed a change of clothes in my carry-on even though others on CC forums had said luggage was delivered fairly early. Muster drill was supposed to start around 4:45. Around 5:15 it started. That was another disorganized disaster. There's like 3 ways to enter the area we were in and they didn't have staff scanning badges at all entrances. Fortunately we chose the one that had the lady scanning badges. I heard constant stories about people who DID have their cards scanned and were later told that they weren't there. Seriously, is this the first time MSC has done a cruise? Most people showed up with their life jackets already on (even though it clearly stated to only bring them, not wear them). But the instructions provided later, had you wear them. OK, we finish and head back to room. One of 4 suitcases is there. We change and head to dining room since our seating was 5:45 and they close 15 minutes later. Well they didn't open the MDR until 6:15 that night (probably all caused by the delays earlier). We took our assigned table and the wait staff greeted us. John and Marjorie (our wait staff) were great, very friendly. One couple at the table just didn't want to talk to anyone, and we only saw them the first night. The other couple provided a good time. Unfortunately we missed the show the first night (7:15) because dinner didn't start on time and we finished eating around 8:00 p.m. So at this point we go back to the cabin and 1 more bag shows up. My 2 are still missing. And so is my Bon Voyage package. So I ring for our attendant who informs me that it's room service that delivers that. At this point I just decide to get a refund and proceed to guest services. And another disorganized mess. Only 2 people behind the desk. One lady is with a couple the entire hour I stood in line. The other lady "helped" everyone else by basically telling everyone (for those speaking English) that whatever problem they were having was their fault. One guy had pre-purchased a drink package, but when they scanned his card at dinner it didn't show up so he had to pay for the drinks and was trying to get that straightened out. The lady kept telling him it was his fault because he bought a second package. And he kept telling her it was that the cards weren't working. Yeah, so I get up there and show my receipt that I ordered the Bon Voyage package and it wasn't delivered. The first thing out of her mouth was that it wasn't delivered because I didn't call them and tell them when I wanted it delivered. I showed her on the receipt where it says it's to be delivered on embarkation day and today is embarkation day. Then she says it's because I didn't call and specify what time (it doesn't say that on the sheet either). I tell her I want a refund, so she calls someone and speaks Italian to them and then hangs up and tells me that they just delivered it to the room. I asked what happens if I get back and it's not there. Just dial 99 she says. OK, it's possible they brought it during my last hour in line. I get back to the room. My luggage finally shows up around 9:30 (others got theirs as late as 11:00 p.m. so I guess I was lucky) and guess what's not here? Yup. So I call 99. 99 says they delivered it. I'm like no you didn't. I certainly could not miss a bottle of champagne and a tray of canapes. I tell them to come to the room and show me where it's at. They refuse and say they already delivered it. At this point I say screw it and I'll deal with the credit card company when I get home. Yes, first day is off to a lovely start.
Because we were up at 3:00 am. that morning, we slept in the next day and had breakfast in the buffet. The only thing I did not see was an omelet station (where you pick out the ingredients and they make one for you). There may have been one, I just didn't see it. We grabbed seats in back as it's the only way to really get a seat. The spacing between seats and the buffet lines is horribly designed, IMO (but I knew this beforehand). And I also knew to expect the clientele to just cut in line, etc.
Buffet selection was decent, but you will not find a blueberry muffin or blueberry pancakes there. I only ever saw bran muffins. Plane and chocolate chip (with 3 chocolate chips in them) pancakes. Coffee was super hot and nice mugs. That was a plus. You can't get drinks in the buffet (no mimosas, and at lunch you can only have beer/wine or bottled water).
We found the Triton bar on deck 14, found our favorite bar person (Marlon) and had several mimosas that were quite excellent.
I'm not going to give a day by day (we'll be here forever), so I'll try to cover the parts of the ship and activities.
Disaster. F- Complete disorganization. Inadequate communication.
F- disaster again. Everything is your fault, not enough staff.
Buffet: Basically the buffet never changes. What you see on Day 1, is what you'll see on Day 10. The only thing that does change by the minute is desserts. If you walk by and see some chocolate covered bananas, grab 'em. 10 minutes later they will be gone and replaced by something else. Lemon bars and Lime bars were good. Never saw chocolate cake (supposedly it was there with some strawberry tarts or so the sign said but I'm pretty sure I could identify a chocolate and a strawberry and there were none). Overall Buffet as OK. Not great, not bad, just OK. Mostly due to selection and no mongolian/wok or omellete stations and poor dessert selection, along with inability to get drinks. You can get your own from the bar and bring them in if you don't mind your food cold at that point.
Pro's: Buffet has a good variety (albeit never changes from the first day), although I'd say Carnival beats it hands down. Mixed compared to RCI. Very hot coffee. WAY better than the MDR. Pizza was good. Pasta selection was good.
Cons: Dessert selection is poor (sorry I like desserts like cakes, pies, cookies). The signs would not match what was there. Zero enforcement of hand sanitizing station. OMG, do NOT ever take anything on the dessert section in the front. I observed TWICE: Old lady grabs dessert with her bare hands, puts on plate, licks her fingers and grabs more desserts (ugh). (she was American, AFAIK). I was in shock. I ended up using the tongs and grabbing the dessert from the back from that point on. I'm sure this is not limited to MSC, but I've never seen this before on other cruise lines. Also: DO NOT drink water from the machines. I saw a French mother and child taking their used water bottles and jamming them up into the nozzle to fill them up. Avoid the iced tea, it's terrible (subjective as I'm sure some people liked it).
Had lunch once in the MDR, was OK. Very filling. Took a while, so buffet is better, IMO in that regard. Met some nice people.
Breakfast was slow, coffee almost always cold or luke warm at best, and if you order a Mimosa you'd think they'd never heard of one before. But they had Red Velvet pancakes. mmm.
Dinner - always at in the MDR or the specialty restaurants as also purchased the 4 dining package. Food was good, service slow (but also knew this)--not the fault of the wait staff, they were busting their humps everywhere you looked. I still would give Carnival the edge on the food (again, subjective) but you no longer get lobster any night in the MDR on MSC without an upcharge. Even Carnival (used to anyway) have lobster one night. Lack of staffing and water/drink service is a major problem. You'll get water at initial table seating and that's it.
My advice: Either buy the water package so you can get bottle of water at the table or buy the bottle water when they take your drink order, or: When your glass gets half empty, track someone down and then wait another 30 minutes for a refill. Also, if you want a cocktail (vs. wine), order it right away or bring it in from the outside bar. If you want a non-complimentary coffee drink (ie: cappuccino or something), specify that when you order. Otherwise it'll be a while. They DO serve coffee (regular and decaf) but you have to ask for it. Not sure how warm it is since I always ordered a cappuccino.
DO NOT order the Lasagna from the "comfort" menu section or whatever. It's like Chef Boyardee ravioli. At least 3 others I spoke to agreed. Other than that, the MDR food was OK. Not great, not bad, just OK. When you get vegetables with the food you'll usually only get 2-3 pieces, so if you want more, just ask. Personally, I thought the portion sizes were just right as I was stuffed by the time I was done.
Pros: Seats are comfortable, staff is very friendly and they work their butt off.
Cons: MSC - you need to hire more staff. Especially a dedicated drink person. Having to buy a bottle of water to ensure you get water in a timely fashion isn't really good customer service. Your wait staff are working very hard given the situation you've put them in. Consistency is a problem. Had Beef Wellington (actually everyone but me at the table had beef wellington- I had duck). One person got about a 5 oz filet and one person got about an 8-10 oz filet. The others got something in the middle. We all ordered the Baked Alaska. 3 of us only got chocolate and vanilla in the Alaska (maybe it's a Baked North Dakota then?)
With the 4 package dinner you get one app or pasta, one entree, and one dessert. Except the pizzeria. That gets you one pizza. But it's a BIG pizza. Easily split among 2 people, IMO. Personally I liked Galaxy the best. I had a wonderful (10 oz?) filet mignon. The seating in the Steakhouse/Itallian Ristorante is very "cheap/modern" clear plastic chairs. Just weird. Food was good. The package was an excellent value for the money. I figured normally it would've been around $110 or so and the package was $75.
Bars were good, but service was spotty. Half the time if you wanted a drink you'd better go directly to the bar yourself and order. They seem to only have 1-2 staff regardless of how many people are there.
Marlon was the best!!!!
Advice: Find a bar you like, tip a little extra at the beginning and you'll get a friend. Otherwise drinks were a little light, IMO. Use the drink package coupons if you don't drink much as it works out to about $4.50 per drink that way. You can also use them for coffees, and gelatos. Speaking of which: The Gelato bars and dessert bar area (on the 6th floor?) were very good. Also: Ironically not all bars are open. The bar in La Sirene (the indoor pool) wasn't open even at 12:30 p.m. the one sea day. So if you wanted a drink you had to go to the other end of the ship. I have no idea why.
Self Service ice cream:
Very good. Wish RCI would have something other than the 2 machines and 2 hours/day or whatever they had when we did Freedom of the Seas. I really liked this feature.
Cruise Critic Meet'n'Greet:
Excellent. MSC had this on Day 2. They provided cocktails and canapes. Better than Carnival and mixed vs. RCI (RCI gives away prizes, but doesn't provide drinks other than coffee/tea and maybe some cookies). Met with the service manager and explained my Bon Voyage situation. Finally day 3, I had what I paid for. But it shouldn't have to get that far. The Captain explained the delay was due to CBP (Customs Border Patrol) wanting to go through everything since the ship had visited Colombia. MSC: If you had explained this to everyone it may have cooled some temps a little.
Pool areas: Yeah, if you don't get there by 9:30 or so you'll not get a chair, etc. Deck 16 (?) has an area with whirlpools, but half the chairs are broken and the sunshades don't work. I personally don't like having to go down to Deck 14 to get a drink and get it back up to 16 (they don't have staff taking drink orders wandering around). Indoor pool was nice, provided you get there early. Probably solved by buying up to the Yacht Club.
Get the Streamer, it's good for 4 devices. BUT only one person can sign up. Even if you have individual account ID's on your cruise cards, only the first person who uses it gets the "account". This results in us getting a second package by accident and having to stand in line (ugh) and getting that fixed. We got a followup letter the next day, went back down to see what that was about only to stand in line to be told they had removed the 2nd charge. And the third day, got ANOTHER card to come down and see guest services. Again, total disorganization. The internet package worked very well, IMO. We even got a call on T-Mobile's Wi-Fi calling. Given that it has to go via Satellite I was quite surprised how well it worked. EXCELLENT Value. Good Job, MSC.
Cabin Attendant was wonderful. Balcony cleanliness, not so much. They only clean the balconies once. Ours had various human hair (hopefully different people vs. different body parts) all over the window, the chairs, the floors and sides. Several other people told me their balconies had leftover trash, etc. on them. I think Day 8 or 9 they finally cleaned them.
We had 3 water leaks in the hallway outside our cabin. I kept wondering what that "broccoli" smell was. It was mold and mildew. Huge stain on the floor. Had been there a while. One night I hear "drip drip drip" and water is coming out the light in the hallway next to the cabin door. The day after that a different leak showed up and MSC just put a towel on the floor for an entire day. The day after that it started leaking so I called to report again and they called back and said maintenance was on there way but it wasn't a water leak. Well when they opened the ceiling panel about 5 gallons of water came out. The fix was to vacuum it up and put a blower (just air) to dry it out. Mold smell even worse. Compare this to RCI where the nextdoor cabin had water leak. They moved the people to a new room, cleaned up the cabin, including replacing the carpeting. I guess MSC never heard of Leigionnaire's disease. There's an other review for cabin 12233 where they had water issues as well. Some black mold on shower areas.
AVOID this cabin: 12123 or maybe it's just any cabin with a connecting stateroom door. The door between cabins doesn't seal well at all. We could see sunlight from the other room through the door, and obviously when you can see light, you can hear EVERYTHING. I heard the other cabin putting ice cubes into the glass, and ever burp, fart, etc. I'm sure they heard the same. I've never had a ship with such poor insulation (even the other side without the door, you could hear people moving their clothes on the hangers).
We purchased the 40 item package for $50, which was a good value, IMO. Unfortunately they messed up THAT as well. You're supposed to have bags in the closet apparently to order the laundry service. We did not. Our cabin attendant gladly got us the bags. We put the items in, filled out the order form. They pick up laundry by 10:00 a.m. and the next day around 5:00 p.m. you have your laundry. Well maybe. We got someone else's laundry, in addition to ours. Hopefully they found their way back to their proper owner.
I would've liked to have seen some popcorn at the outdoor movie screen. It did rain one entire day at sea. I thought they could've put an indoor theater projection screen in the Pantheon theater, but that wasn't there. They should consider doing something like this, IMO. Movie selection good, seating selection "eh".
We missed the first show. We skipped the opera show (sorry don't like opera, even though the lady can sing very well I can't stand the vibratto). MSC has dedicated entertainment staff, not the same crew. As such, the QUALITY of the singing and dancing is excellent. I thought that the variety was not quite there. WAY better than Carnival. Quality wise, way better than RCI, but variety wise, I think RCI has them beat at least on the FOS. (on RCI we had an ice skating show, a magic show, some dance/musical shows). I think MSC's downfall was that the "theme" was just randomly chosen. Example: they had "Witches of Paris". Other than there were witches that was it. The music/dance didn't really impart anything about Witches, let alone Paris. I'm not a fan of Michael Jackson (sorry) so didn't care much for the show, but the staff were talented.
Casino. I love the no smoking. Other than the random crew members we saw smoking in the "no smoking" areas on Deck 16 and 7 (outside), and the cigar lounge, I don't think I caught a wiff. WAY better than Carnival and RCI in this regard.
What another disaster. We did the self-assist. First we were told anywhere between 6:30 - 7:30 we could debark. Then when I turned the form in, the lady said anywhere between 5:30 - 6:30. OK, so we get the sheet and our tag indicates we're in Group 2 (6:30 am in the Black and White lounge). We get up at 5:00 a.m., get ready, grab something in the buffet, and head down to the lounge. Well they didn't clear us (CBP or POM, not sure) until about 7:00 a.m. This is where MSC falls down again. NO announcement. NO indication as to which group should debark. By now, Groups 1, 3 and 4 are all jammed into an area and of course, the minute you see a line moving, you cut in front of everyone and as a result, we sat in the lounge for about another 30 minutes while the other groups managed to get through (because there's no lines, none of the those little barricade thingies, it's just a bit free for all). About as bad as the first Carnival cruise we went on. WAY less organized than our last RCI and Carnival cruise.
Never got my 10% discount Voyager's Club from the mini bar, but no way in hell I'm standing in line on the morning of debarkation to fix that. MSC took enough of my time and money, wasn't going to give them any more.
I won't go about the ports, as MSC can't control those. I did like the itinerary mainly because we had only ever done Nassau, and none of the others.
I had gotten the 30-minute Bali massage and something else, but never got the something else (some consultation or something I believe). (MSC's website is terrible and the descriptions on the website do NOT match the actual booklet you see in the room). They don't let you use the shower in the massage room, so you have to put clothes on over the oils and go give your card again to use the saunas/showers/etc. I put down light pressure and got tenderized instead, and the lady didn't understand "less pressure", so I said "lighter" and she didn't understand that either. Seriously, language barrier was worse than any time I've been in Mexico. Sauna/Steamroom layout is bizarre. There's a common area for men/women that you use to get to the sauna's and the steam room. The idiot who designed the layout must have a perverse sense of humor because the door to the lady's sauna is right next to the door for the men's sauna and you can clearly see into the sauna/shower area for the men's one. So I'd suggest you keep your towel on unless you have maybe an Adonis body or don't mind showing everyone the goods.
Advice: Don't pre-book anything. Wait until you get on, read the actual book and then wait until like Day 3 when they have 30% off and then book. IF you want it. Little if any massaging of the feet.
Libary: Um, only library I've ever seen without books. It's a Library/conference room. Useless unless you have conferences.
I apparently mis-read the 10-photo package I got as it's not just "any" 10 photos. You can only pick 10 of the 8x10 Portraits (the ones where you stand and pose with various poses as the photographers instruct you). I should've spent the $110 or whatever for the 100 photo package, as you get the embarkation/gala night photos, etc. MSC's website is very sparse on details.
Public restrooms were kept relatively clean. You will not find urinals in the men's room, just an FYI.
Heh, can't do anything about that, but we met a lot of nice people, some not so nice. As someone mentioned: "First world problems". Yes, had a lot of issues on this cruise, but we didn't get sick and had good weather except for one and a half days. Things could've been worse so I try to keep things in perspective. But do expect a lot of people who cant' speak English and have no concept of "queuing" in lines, etc. Just keep this in mind.
Price was good for what you got. Excellent drink package/coupons. Excellent internet service. Good shows. Decent food (except the Lasagna). Buffet selection - meh. (LOL). Excellent wait staff and cabin staff, who have their hands tied by MSC management running the show. TERRIBLE guest relations staff who throw you an attitude. Many frustrations. I wouldn't say this is the best or worst cruise. To be honest, never had a "bad" cruise per se. MSC has pros/cons just like any cruise line.
Now the question:
Would I cruise MSC again. Maybe in 2-3 years if MSC gets their act together. If the itinerary (Miami only sailings limit to where you can go) and if the price was right. But today, if there was an identical itinerary on another line that was the same or within $300, I'd go with the other line at this point. The hassle and disorganization is a constant problem that just wears you down gradually. Had it been a "once and done", I'd have a different view. Or if I was in the Yacht Club with the dedicated staff, MDR, and Pool, I might re-consider, but the cost (almost 2.5 times the price) doesn't quite justify it, IMO. Yes, lots of perks, but do you need to pay almost $2,000 more per person just to be able to use a pool and maybe have a better dining experience? Seems like a bit much, IMO. Read Less