Gorgeous Ship Needs Tweaks for USA Market: MSC Divina Cruise Review by Egret32

MSC Divina 5
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Gorgeous Ship Needs Tweaks for USA Market

Sail Date: January 2014
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Miami
Divina may be the most beautiful we've ever traveled on and I loved the Italian modern feel (and my first voyage was on the Ile de France!) We had a balcony cabin which was extremely generous in space and equivalent to a Princess mini-suite, with perhaps less closet space. It had a sofa that made into a bed, a good-sized balcony, mini-fridge where the beverages were the same price as those purchased on deck. The bathroom is very nice with an excellent flushing toilet, big sink, lots of storage space and although the shower stall is small, the clever doors keep the water in and is far better than a shower curtain that blows out or sticks to the body. Since the Divina is recently transplanted the US and MSC mostly serves a European market, they need to learn a few more American conventions like supplying washcloths and hand soap automatically. (You can get them if you ask.)

The bedding is also inferior to that on many ships with only thin 200 thread count sheets, lumpy (!) More pillows, and a thin mattress pad covered in little bumps that make the surface annoying to sensitive Princess types.

There is no carpeting or other markers to define starboard and port--or at least I missed it, but the frequent ship maps by elevators does help navigate a very large ship that can be confusing to some.

Elevators are plentiful and superfast and handle crowds well. Doors need not to open and shut so quickly as lots of folks run to get them and slip on the marble area right before the doors. Two seconds more would help especially for older crowd and people with walkers and wheelchairs.

The clientele on a recent Western Caribbean cruise included people from all over the world and North Americans were not the majority. We loved the international flavor and hearing so many languages. Many were from Eastern Europe, Japan, Italy, France, and Germany. This was not a holiday period but there were many family groups and babies on board.

Food, a major item for most cruisers, was underwhelming. The buffet in particular was the most disappointing of any cruise line in recent years including Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival. The breads were good, especially the brioche, but the breakfast menu was boring with mostly scrambled eggs or hard-boiled eggs. It was hard to find a friend egg and none were poached or Benedict in the buffet. Lunch was okay as was dinner, but not enough choices. There was a fresh salad bar but no interesting mixed pasta salads, meat salads etc. Most disappointing was the buffet hours. They had strict meal schedules and between times they featured a sandwich bar, hamburgers, hot dogs, good fries, and pizzas. Pizza was the only constant food choice besides fresh fruit. Dinner began at 6:30, but this was not good for families (especially Americans) traveling with children. The early show was at 7, so if you wanted to feed children a healthy dinner, get them to the show and then to bed, there was nothing to eat. There should definitely be a good selection from the dinner menu from 5:30 on. Also, there should be some salads and appetizers to hold adults on the late seating through the early show till the late dinner. Hint: If you have a drink at the bar outside the Eataly restaurant, they serve a nice plate of free antipasto.

We had friends in the Yacht Club who often invited us for pre-dinner drinks (free to them) and they had a great selection of gourmet appetizers and various snacks at all times. They were unimpressed with La Muse for dinner or lunch and preferred the regular dining room meals and there was little to eat at the Yacht Club buffet by the pool. Also the food was not warm. The Yacht Club sitting room at the bow was an oasis of genteel quiet and the rooms were a bit larger with upgraded amenities. However, besides the snob appeal, we did not think there was that much benefit over our similar balcony rooms in the "riffraff" section.

Breakfasts and lunches in the dining room were uncrowded, peaceful, and much better with eggs to order and nicely served. As Floridians we were annoyed to have all the fruit juice watered down and tasteless. It would have been great to get full-strength or fresh squeezed, even if a few dollars extra.

Dinner menus were excellent but the kitchen must be quite far off from the dining room because food often arrived lukewarm. There were plenty of waiters, but some seemed to still be training and they had a hard task due to so many different languages and needs. Dinner service was somewhat slow, but we didn't mind it. Two diners in our group had special diets (lactose free and gluten free.) They really excelled at meeting these needs. There was a gluten-free menu nightly with freshly baked gluten-free bread. The lactose free person was given the next night's menu and advised which dishes could be specially prepared without dairy and which could not. That person's order was already in and ready to be served with the table. At one point, the special diet folks received a call from a dietician inquiring whether we were happy with how our special needs were being handled. Obviously they are about this and did a great job.

We celebrated a birthday onboard with a pre-ordered (paid for) cake, which was extremely tasty and came with a parade of waiters and songs.

There were the usual gala dinners (2 during one week) with lobster tails, steaks, and a parade of flaming baked Alaska. It is hard to criticize the food, but all agreed there was a lack of strongly defined tastes, perhaps due to seasoning, and that something was lost when it was not hot. Weirdly, the menu offered a list of the specialty breads each night, but the breadbasket contained the same rolls each night. They were fresh and delicious.

On the other hand, we had one meal in the four-table Eataly Italian restaurant (behind the Steakhouse). This was a fantastic meal--each course was truly special. One member of our party had the special brunch in the spectacular Galaxy room and loved it as well. Surcharges were fair. But they proved you could get superb food on the ship.

Europeans have never understood iced tea. There is one place in the buffet that dispenses an okay version in the juice area. They do have fresh lemon too. But it is hard to get in the dining room or up on deck (and impossible in the Yacht Club). Some places made a horrid concoction from powdered tea. In hot weather Americans often ask for iced tea and it is a free option that many wish instead of water.

We were traveling with 2 toddlers and 2 teens in our party. The teens were reluctant to join the teen club, so we have no report. The toddlers were too young for the children's club. (3 are the minimum age.) They were restricted to one hour in the early morning and another in the early evening--neither good times. Supposedly they could use the little playground supervised by family, but when the club kids were there they were asked to leave. This was unfriendly for parents looking to divert kids.

Lots of pools and they were beautiful, but the temperatures were too cold for fussy Americans (73 deg F). We prefer our pools at 80 deg. Even though the weather was quite warm, pool use was not heavy, perhaps due to the temperature. Even the baby pool was chilly and kids could not last more than 10 minutes. That one should be warmer. There were many tempting spurting pool fountains, but the little ones were restricted, which was silly since they would have been well supervised. Other ships--like the Epic--had much nicer pool areas for little ones and playful fountains. Of course babies with diapers should not be in the pools, but the fountains would not be a problem.

Plenty of space all over the ship--many quite empty during the day so there were lots of places to get quiet and privacy. Yes, people tended to hog the loungers in the sun near the pool, but that seems to be the case on most ships. Interestingly, chair availability became better as the week wore on.

Most games and events happened in the Aqua Park--loud and fun--but you could escape the noise. The White Party was a pale version of some--no black light and no staff in crazy costumes, although the dancers and acrobats did perform.

Shore excursions (we did one) were good, fair-priced, well organized, and interesting. (Mayan Tulum ruins in Cozumel.) Others seemed happy with ship's excursions. Tender operations went very smoothly in the two tender ports and getting on and off the ship was very organized and easy at embarkation, debarkation and ports.

We missed not having interesting lectures (none) but it was nice there was no art auction. Trivia and games on deck are too difficult to participate in vs. those held in quieter lounges.

MSC prices itself on its shows and these were quite good. The variety acts with some Cirque-type acts, singing, dancing, etc. were the best, especially the first two nights. We love opera and were delighted at the opera night and also the higher class of some of the music. Tributes to Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra were underwhelming to us. Still, the level of stage production was impressive and the theater is magnificent and easily fits anyone who wants to see the show.

We liked that there was very little selling going on and waiters did not push drinks. You could sit in a lounge talking or reading without being hassled to buy a drink. If you wanted one, you could quickly catch a server's eye. Some in our group thought this was "bad service" and wished they had been a bit more proactive; others--like me--loved not being hassled. There are drink coupon books, which do save a lot, if you use them all. Be careful not to use tickets for sodas when they are higher priced for alcoholic beverages. If you buy them before the trip, you save the 15% mandatory trip on board.

Customer service at the desk was very responsive and everyone really wanted to help.

We had only one problem with staff. One of the babies was up at 5 AM and fussing, so the mother put him in a stroller and walked him around, finally getting to the buffet when it opened at 6 AM. She was struggling with the upset baby and trying to get some juice and toast. There were no tongs, so she carefully lifted one piece of toast to her plate. A waiter came running and yelled at her for not using tongs and embarrassed her and made the baby more upset. He didn't offer to help her to a table. In contrast, on another occasion when a baby fussed in the buffet, another server made him origami birds out of a napkin and this soothed him. No parents want their children to fuss so it is horribly embarrassing when they do in public.

All and all a great trip, especially for the special introductory deal we got more than a year ago. Less

Published 02/08/14

Cabin review: 10096

Room was spacious for a regular balcony on a cruise ship with a sofa, large balcony, connecting doors to other family room and connecting balcony door. Exceptionally nice bathroom for this category. Small closet and drawer space, but adequate for 1 week cruise. Bedding could be better. See full review.

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