We chose this cruise because of the price. We had never been on a cruise and were planning on being in Florida to visit family and decided to give it a shot. We flew down the day before and spent the night in Deerfield Beach to start off ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the price. We had never been on a cruise and were planning on being in Florida to visit family and decided to give it a shot. We flew down the day before and spent the night in Deerfield Beach to start off our vacation. We read and read all we could about MSC and Divina before the cruise and were excited about our cruise. Many thanks to all of the members of this board for their help.
Apparently we did something wrong on the embarkation. We arrived at noon and it took us about an hour and a half to finally get on board. I know others have said their boarding was much faster. I figured that we just were newbies and messed it up somehow. However, at least it was inside and climate controlled. We saw a huge line outside the Carnival port of passengers waiting in the Florida heat. Disembarkation at the ports went very well.
Rather than go into detail about each area, I'd rather list Pros, Cons, and Advice. Maybe this will make the review an easier read than most since I have a great deal of content.
1. The ship itself is a top notch, beautiful facility. Very clean and well maintained.
2. You will get your money's worth. As a whole, the MSC Divina was great for the price we paid.
3. Food is excellent and wait staff outstanding. Good variety and quality of food. Super friendly and attentive wait staff. Food came out quickly and hot. Maitre D was very helpful and accommodating.
4. Rooms are larger than expected and very well kept. Our room was cleaned every time we stepped out. Room attendant often asked if we needed anything else. Everything was newer and strategically laid out to optimize space.
5. They have juice in the mornings in both buffet and MDR, Vitamin Water and lemonade/tea at breakfast and dinner in the buffet.
6. There are 3 pools (4 if you count Yacht Club) which help with overcrowding.
7. Plenty of deck space for sunbathing. We had no problems getting a chair or two.
8. Really talented performers at the shows. Talented vocalists, acrobats, gymnasts, etc. Theater is huge and beautiful.
9. Casino has free $3 in slot play everyday.
10. Almost everywhere is non-smoking aside from the end of the ship bar and pool. It's unbelievable that other cruise lines allow smoking in the casinos and indoor areas.
11. The gym is awesome. The latest technology and every machine imaginable.
So you're thinking.....what could possibly go wrong? Quite simply, if you're going to do business in America and be successful in the hospitality and entertainment industry, you need Americans to guide you along the way and help you understand what Americans want and expect.
1. There are no Americans (aside from possibly the guy playing piano in the lobby) employed on the ship. This causes a severe lack of communication. Unfortunately, just because you speak English, it does not mean that you understand all the dialects of the language as it pertains to America, slang terms, norms, and the experiences of American passengers. I would not expect someone from the US to go to Italy and pretend to know everything about Italians. Same is true of MSC and America. Being on an MSC ship is about as frustrating as calling an 800 number about your cable, phone, etc. bill and speaking to a foreign call center. They often just recite the already vague policy that you're asking about in the first place. If there's any gray area, then they tell you sorry about your luck. Then, basically refuse to let you speak with a supervisor or do anything to help you. I guess some people just walk off and remain ticked off instead of expecting some degree of clarification or accommodation. The employees almost seemed to be scared to mess up by doing something outside the policy of MSC no matter how trivial the issue. Everyone in guest relations needs to have a better attitude and some flexibility to help out in minor situations. MSC would be very, very wise to hire some American personnel for customer relations and even as advisors on all aspects of running a cruise business in the USA. Although, I can say that Jennifer, the guest relations supervisor, and Elvis, one of the staff members, were outstanding. Unfortunately, we had to wade through the plethora of negative and rude guest relations staff to get to talk to them.
2. The employees on the ship complained several times of a lack of dialogue between the MSC booking center and the ship. For example, we had requested a table for 4 with early seating and had confirmed this request several times via telephone. When we got on the ship, the unfortunate Maitre D Eduardo had to reseat our party along with many others because the information was not given to them about any special requests. We were moved from our table for 8 to a table for 4 promptly. Another issue was the internet. The call center told us that we could use any texting over Wi-Fi app LIKE Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc. which we confirmed meant iMessage and Verizon Messages. Not true. Apparently for some odd reason, it's only the 8 or so apps listed, some of which I had never heard of. The customer relations actually could not verify if we could use even the most expensive package to text over WiFi. They refused to let me talk to a supervisor or IT either. Another issue was the call center told us the F1 Simulator, 4D theater, Bowling package was $60 when it was $85 when we got on the ship. Lastly, we were told by the call center that we could use the drink vouchers for anything less than $8, which was not true. Sodas in souvenir cups were $5 and we couldn't use it on them. However, the guest relations tried to give us a hard line and say only the items listed on the voucher can be purchased, which was also not true. You can purchase gelato and milkshakes with the vouchers which is not listed in the fine print. All in all, lots of things that we different once we got on from what we were told and this caused a daily conflict.
3. The Kids Club needs some help. Both in improved facilities and increased staffing. The staff work very hard to try to make the kids club great, but from the moment we signed our girls up, we noticed that they had 2 staff members trying to help probably 20 people. Throughout the evening we heard many parents basically requesting a babysitting service until all hours of the morning. The kids club each day was filled with unruly kids whose parents obviously didn't want to deal with them. The staff worked very hard but often had to resort to scrapping some of the better activities, such as foreign language class, due to the poor behavior of the kids. Too often MSC also allowed the kids to decide as a group what they wanted to do rather than stick to the program. This resulted in video games, loud music, and dodgeball for the older kids. Coloring and cartoons for the younger kids. My kids did very much enjoy the cooking class with the chef and the talent show portion. However, watching one man ask about picking his 5 yr old up at 2am and another couple intoxicated and picking their kids up after a show, I could tell that the staff had to just try and survive the madness. There's no a lot to work with either considering the lack of kid friendly facilities. No waterpark aside from one waterslide. No ropes courses or climbing wall. An odd half Smurfs, half Lego sponsorship. No educational program other than a UNICEF day oddly scheduled for a port day. All contributing factors to making the kids club less functional than it should be.
4. The photo center has no set price list and is not consistent on policies. We were entitled to a free Italian night photo as part of the Fantastica package. When we asked about this, we were told we could either get a picture of the first gala night or have our picture retaken. The next night when we went to pick up our picture of the first gala night which we agreed upon and the lady at the photo shop said she never told us that we could have another picture and we refused to get our picture taken. She said instead she could knock $10 off of a picture package. More or less, lying to try to upsell us. The prices of the packages are not listed anywhere and she made up prices as she went. The prices were different from party to party and she had to logical system other than stating that "you get a discount" and making up arbitrary numbers. It was very shady. The manager was rude and often ducked out of behind the counter. The wait in the lines near the end of the ship were nearly 30 to 45 minutes mainly because of the confusion created by all the bartering over pricing.
5. The pools are too deep for kids. The shallow ends are 5 foot 3 inches and 5 foot 7 inches respectfully. There is not much of a kids area aside from the single water slide. Along the pools there are 4 inch or so wade pools but no sprinklers, water buckets, slides, etc. Pack some floaties if your child is not an excellent swimmer.
6. The shows are almost like a jack of all trades and master of none. They have such outstanding performers yet waste them on incoherently organized performances with no main idea. The Queen show was excellent because it was clearly songs from Queen. Michael Jackson was clearly dancing to Michael Jackson music. Those work because they're simple and people know what they're getting. The other shows we watched, The Mask, Treasure Island, and Witches of Paris were all a series of little acts thrown together with no storyline and nothing to bind them together other than similar costumes. I'm not sure what the big deal is over doing the shows in English. Everything else on the ship is in English and the ship does sail out of the USA. The songs they picked for the vocalists are just odd and wasted their talents, in particular the African American girl that could be awesome singing popular American music. Then there's multiple nights of opera singing which is just overkill. The first night was good enough to provide an Italian touch. Not like 3 more shows of opera. Again, have an American experienced in Vegas or Broadway shows take care of this area.
Advice to potential passengers
1. Avoid the photo center. It's very unprofessional and there are no written policies. Big long lines and several people complained that they lost their pictures. The pictures are all printed off hard copies and there's no computer monitor to view your pictures altogether like most places.
2. Don't expect to use the MSC internet. Contact your phone company about using texting while onboard in cases of emergency. Use WiFi in port where it is free at many locations. San Juan is a US Territory in which you get regular phone service. Just wait until you get there and use you cell plan. Our hotspot service was spotty and the onboard "app" ran through a webpage that was confusing and hard to navigate and provided no notifications.
3. Use the Kids Club for only the best activities and understand the limitations. If you want babysitting and don't care to see your kids, then they'll keep them for you. But, if you actually go on vacation to see your kids and have them enjoy themselves, then pick from the schedule the best activities and confirm with the club that they will be doing them. It's not the staff's fault and they'll make sure your kid has a good time in the headline activities, but it's impossible for this to happen all the time given the lack of personnel and resources.
4. Expect nothing more than what you have explicitly in writing from MSC. Immediately verify any requests once on board. They'll refer to supposed policies which waiver from person to person and sometimes just are interpreted wrong because of the language barrier.
5. Avoid the Guest Reception like a horrible plague. You'll wait in line forever and then get whatever answer is prompted on the screen of the computer. It's really pointless to ask for anything. Just take what you get and remember that you paid about half of what you would on another cruise line.
6. Go to deck 16 above the kids club and opposite the water slide to find some almost private sunbathing. This area is next to the library if you want to read as well.
7. Eat at the buffet for formal nights. The hassle of bringing dress clothes was annoying and the menu wasn't even the best of the week. The buffet had some of the same dishes and was very empty.
8. Eat in the MDR for breakfast and lunch. The buffet is so crowded that you might not find a seat during these times. The MDR is pretty empty and you'll get your food just as fast.
9. If you don't drink, don't bother with the Fantastica package. They offer the same classes to all of the kids that they advertise the in Fantastica, the photo center is a joke, and the rooms are identical in Bella class. The buffet and MDR serves juice in the morning. Vitamin water in the buffet for lunch and dinner. Unless you need alcohol, Coke, or some special coffee, then the extra money isn't worth it.
Advice to MSC
1. Hire Americans that know Americans. You could be soooooooo much better if you did this.
2. Improve the communication between the call center and ship.
3. Hire Americans for guest relations.
4. Add some American entertainment. Motown, Country, or even 70s music on Flower Power night would help appeal to more people than the loosely themed variety shows.
5. Coordinate the variety show acts into an America's Got Talent type show.
6. Actually do Broadway type shows in English.
7. Add some kid friendly enhancements. Rock wall, ropes courses, sprinklers, water buckets, kiddie slides, etc.
8. Make the Kids Club educational and include more variety. Believe it or not, not all kids like video games, loud music, and cartoons. Give kids a chance to do something different than at home.
9. Be upfront with photo center prices. A list of products and prices is a necessity.
Would I sail on MSC again? Surprisingly, maybe, especially if they start sailing out of NYC. But, I would make sure that I didn't expect much more than an outstanding updated room, great service staff, excellent food, and nice facilities at an affordable price. For the money, it is what it is. The new Seaside should address the kids facility issues and I noticed that they have a comedy show. It wouldn't take a lot to refurbish Divina to meet these expectations as well. In conclusion, on Divina, you get your money's worth and will have a good time. Just understand the known limitations before you board and avoid certain aspects that could damper an otherwise great vacation. Read Less