Coeliacs or Vegetarians beware - MSC Divina cannot accomodate you: MSC Divina Cruise Review by suewilly

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Coeliacs or Vegetarians beware - MSC Divina cannot accomodate you

Sail Date: February 2014
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Miami
This Caribbean cruise was a special treat for our 30th wedding anniversary and I specifically booked with MSC as they advertise in the Coeliac UK magazine saying that they cater for gluten free guests. As I am both gluten free and vegetarian I emailed the company in advance to check that they could cope with my dietary requirements and they confirmed it would not be a problem.

On board ship I spent a week explaining to the waiters, maître d'hôtel , head of catering (and anyone else who would listen) that I was vegetarian by choice and gluten free by necessity. None of the choices on the gluten free menu were suitable and although the maitre d (Juliana) was lovely and tried really hard to help, I spent the whole week eating a small supply of energy bars I had taken on board.

All attempts to negotiate meals that I could eat were rejected by the chef. For example I suggested that I could have a zuccini dish if they left off the breadcrumbs or a pasta dish if More they left off the meat sauce. Each time I was told that they couldn't accommodate me because the food was already prepared. This is rather worrying as it suggests that the dishes served on board the MSC Divina are effectively 'ready meals' which cannot be altered.

The lovely Maitre d' promised that if I went to a specific restaurant for lunch he would have advised the chef in advance and something would be prepared for me. I had to convince the waiter in the restaurant that he needed to speak to the chef as he was adamant I could have the pasta (in bolognese sauce). When he eventually spoke to the chef and agreed that something had been prepared for me, I was served with...... a plate of brocolli. I kid you not - a plate of broccoli was the best they could offer!

After 3 days the maitre d' managed to convince the chef that I could eat omelettes and from then on this was my meal each night. Just an omelette of course - no vegetables or salad on the side because that would be too difficult to arrange. As if to add insult to injury, my omelette was served as soon as I sat down so I ate this as everyone else was ordering and then sat through their 5 courses trying not to make them feel awkward for eating while I was twiddling my thumbs.

When I spoke to the head of guest services (who promised to resolve the issue but never did), he said that if I felt awkward sitting there while everyone else was eating they could move me to a table on my own. Not exactly the result I was hoping for.

Sadly breakfast and lunch were similarly farcical. I tried the buffet service but the breakfast omelettes (yes omelette again) were often contaminated by people using the same food tongs they had used for foods containing gluten. Croutons in the lettuce at the lunchtime salad bar ruled out salad as an option too.

Trying to give the buffet staff the benefit of the doubt I explained I needed gluten free and asked if they could help. They shrugged their shoulders and said 'No' without offering any alternative.

To be absolutely fair I should point out that the choice for vegetarians who are not coeliac was equally poor - my husband and another guest on our table were veggie and only had one option on the menu each night. Everyone on the same table also told me that their food was cold at every meal and the meat eaters were disappointed that when they ordered steak they were not given a choice over how it was cooked. I suppose I should feel pleased that, thanks to Juliana, at least my omelettes arrived steaming hot and were perfectly edible.

To say I feel let down by MSC is the understatement of the year. I planned and saved for a long time for this holiday because it was a special occasion and the attitude of their staff, from waiters to head of guest services was appalling. The only bright light on board was lovely Juliana who tried so hard to get things sorted for me.

My recommendation to anyone with special dietary requirements is not to trust this company when they say they can accommodate you. From personal, unhappy experience I can assure you that this was the worst customer service I have ever experienced.

One thing is for sure, although it may not be for the right reasons, I will always remember our 30th wedding anniversary! Less

Published 02/28/14
3 Helpful Votes

Cabin review: 9172

The cabin was lovely although when we did the lifeboat drill we were surprised to find that there was only one life jacket in the cabin. The second life jacket eventually turned up - hidden under the bed! So if you can't find your life jacket in the proper place for them, don't panic. Lie prostrate on the floor and reach as far under the bed as you can. :-)The cabin was clean and tidy and the staff who cleaned the rooms were lovely, very pleasant.We spent our 30th anniversary on board and had some anniversary cards on a shelf. When we came back to the room in the evening the cabin staff had decorated the bed with towels shaped into swans and scattered little hearts on the bed. This was a lovely touch.

Port and Shore Excursions

Mayan Ruins

A really interesting day, made all the more interesting by the commentary from our excellent guide whose name was Jesus.
The ruins were such a surprise. Tourists can get right up on top of the ruins - there are no 'keep off' signs as I was expecting.
The ruins were teeming with iguana's and these were also really interesting.
We stopped at a gorgeous beach for 90 minutes before returning to the ship. The water was a beautiful colour and the slope into the sea was gentle.

Falmouth is a lovely little port, very clean and tidy with plenty of tourist shops. Unlike some ports, there are no taxi drives inside the port so you are not pestered to take excursions with them. There is not enough in the port to keep you busy for a whole day so I would suggest booking an excursion unless you are happy to return to the ship after half a day ashore. We decided to book a private excursion and the lady who was due to meet us had trouble with the port authorities who were trying to clamp down on independent tour operators. We personally didn't experience this but I did feel sorry for our guide who seemed to be suffering bully boy tactics from the port officials.
Read 1025 Falmouth Reviews

Bamboo Rafting

The most serene, peaceful experience. The bamboo rafts float gently down the river, steered by true Jamaican characters. The experience lasts approximately 90 minutes and really is a gorgeous, romantic excursion.

Montego Bay

We booked an independent tour operator to guide us around Jamaica for the day. This was the best day of our cruise. We visited 2 large historic houses, montego bay, saw Jamaica from numerous angles usually not visited by tourists, and floated down the Martha Brae on a bamboo raft. This is the most peaceful and gorgeous way to spend an hour.

Stingray Swim

very disappointing. My husband cannot swim and we booked this as all the pictures we had seen and information we read said that you stand in waist deep water. He was so looking forward to this.
The boat stopped in water approximated 8 feet deep. A swim of around 6 feet out from the rear of the boat took you to shallow water but unfortunately my hubby could not get to the shallow water and therefore had to stay on the boat.
I did have the stingray experience and it was lovely to touch and feed these creatures, but my day was spoiled because I wanted to experience this with hubby and I felt incredibly sorry for him that we could not get him off the boat. The boat we were on was 'the amazon' so if you take this excursion and there are a number of boats to choose, avoid this one!
Although.....we had to give lots of other passengers a lift back to port as their boat broke down, so perhaps none of the boats are guaranteed to make the round trip successfully!

very much an afterthought - this 'island' is just a calling point for cruise ships so they can say they have taken passengers to another island. This is simply a beach - nothing else. I would much have preferred the cruise ship to pull into Miami a day early to allow us to do a tour of that city.

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