This was our first cruise, and I have to say that I had some reservations about taking one. I didn’t know if I’d like being “trapped” on a ship, not able to go where I wanted, but after seven days on the MSC Divina, I have to say that I was mostly impressed and had an enjoyable and relaxing vacation.
Website / Customer Service (phone) – Our initial impression of MSC was with their website. We wanted to book a trip, but were unable since the website kept crashing. After several attempts, we just booked it through [a travel agency]. After booking the trip, we wanted to book a massage package. The wording on the MSC website was unclear and we had several questions. Calling customer service twice, the phone rang for over 20 minutes, and finally we just left our number for a callback. They did call back a few days later, but once again, a few days later, when we had another question, we did not want to go through this entire process once again. We also had trouble booking the massage package with the website, which kept crashing.
Initial Impressions – We arrived an hour and a half before departure, and I’m not sure if we had arrived earlier if we would have received more information, but I found that we had a lot of questions that we just had to figure out ourselves. A simple packet with FAQ’s would have greatly helped answer questions like, “Where do we pick up our drink packages?”, “Where is our restaurant?”, and “How do we book our massages?”
Customer Service Desk – Our questions led us to the customer service desk. It was packed and we had to wait in line. When it was finally our turn, the representative who was helping us had a little difficulty understanding our questions since English was not her first language. Eventually we had to find and track down the spa ourselves, and once again, when we arrived, they seemed a little confused about the spa package, which we booked from their website.
I have to say, after all of this I began to question what we had gotten ourselves into, but mostly from that point on, things got much better.
Food – Dinner was nice at the restaurant (Villa Rossa). It wasn’t five star, but it wasn’t horrible either. I could tell that they really tried to show a touch of elegance, especially for the amount of people they were serving. Fish, lamb, lobster, Italian food…appetizers, soup, entrees, dessert…it all seemed like they were really trying. There were even nights when they had special desserts like tiramisu.
Buffets – The food, once again, was decent, especially for a buffet. They had a wide variety and served the main three meals a day. The only downside was the rush of people, who sometimes could be very rude, pushy, or who were sometimes clueless where they were walking or that they were blocking everyone else’s path. The buffets sometimes could be a very stressful experience on a vacation that was supposed to be relaxing.
Vegetarian Options – There were several, and this was a pleasant surprise.
Room Service – In our room, room service was free before 11:00 PM.
Bars / Clubs – There were several options on the ship, and each offered a somewhat intimate feeling. From a sports bar, to a jazz bar, to a cigar bar, it seemed there was something for everyone, and a lot to find and explore on the ship. Sometimes the clubs could be crowded at night, but overall they were comfortable and had good service. Most of the clubs had “safe” entertainment which almost reminded me of a wedding reception. Children ran around and old people tapped their foot and smiled, while standard songs were played. Sometimes crew members would urge people to dance the YMCA and stuff like that. For me, it was nice, safe fun, but not so much my thing. Still, I didn’t find it boring either. I just enjoyed the attempt at keeping everyone entertained on a night at sea.
Spa – Although we had a little confusion at first, and had to find the spa ourselves and book our appointments, everything after that was excellent. The crew was very courteous and professional. They handled our every need, and the massages…oh the massages! They were great. So relaxing!
Ship Layout – It took us a while to figure out how to navigate the ship, but eventually we figured it out.
Staff – The staff were great. They were pleasant and met our every need. The staff should be commended for their excellent service! What a great staff!
Ports of Call – We went to Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico (Cozumel), and the Bahamas. I really liked this aspect of cruising. Go out during the day, come back to a dinner and a night out and the next day you are somewhere new. There were a few downsides for me. There were a few moments of anxiety when we didn’t know if we would make our ship (because of local transportation) but this is no fault of the cruise line. I would just suggest giving yourself a two hour cushion for arriving back at the ship. Another thing I didn’t like was how the locals treated the tourists. It seemed like everyone wanted to make a quick buck off of the tourists. In Jamaica, we stopped on a tour to talk to the “spice man” who gave us a five minute talk about various herbs on the island. Afterward he wanted twenty dollars. (yeah right!) Another example was an encounter at a cigar store. I didn’t have internet access, and they guy seemed friendly enough. He told me these cigars were “very nice” at twenty dollars apiece. Taking his word for it, I bought five, only to find out when I arrived at home, that they were five dollar cigars. I seemed to encounter this again and again, from liquor vendors to trinket salesmen. Still, besides some of the vendors, the islands themselves were very beautiful. I would just advise you to be aware of people constantly trying to rip you off.
The Room – We had a balcony room, and I thought it was a nice size. It was about the size of some hotels I’ve been in, in New York and New Orleans. The room was nicely laid out and felt roomy for the size. There was even a sitting area, plus we had the balcony. The bathroom was economically laid out, but I felt it was a decent size for what I had to do. There was a TV, which had a few multicultural channels and a few from the United States. It wasn’t much, but who really wants to watch TV on vacation anyway?
The Entertainment – There was a live show every night. Once again, I thought it was a “nice” touch, something to do after dinner, because who wants to watch TV on vacation. The shows featured singers and acrobats and had a Vegas / Broadway feel to them. All the singers seemed very well trained. Many of our dining companions really liked the shows, but they were not really our thing. Still, it was a nice option to have if we wanted to something to do, but there were other things to do besides the shows.
The Casino – We went one night. The casino is relatively small and has an intimate feel to it. I doubt the slots pay hardly anything back, but the blackjack table had a five dollar minimum, which was nice for some light gambling.
Shopping – There are a few duty-free shops and jewelry shops. It was nice to browse, but I think the prices were a little high.
Passengers – The passengers are mostly European. For some people, this is a turn-off, but I really liked the variety. It had a nice, international feel, and I think offered a bit more sophistication than an American cruise would offer.
Other Amenities – There was so much to discover on this ship. Every corner we turned, there would be a chocolate shop, espresso bar, limoncello bar, pizza place, or something unexpected. I felt that these were nice, little treats and made the experience more enjoyable. The best part is that the little extras were not outrageously priced.
On Deck – Travel days (where we were at sea all day) the deck filled up quickly, as people marked their territory early to secure a chair for the day. Some people would be gone for hours at breakfast or wherever leaving the other passengers to constantly walk around looking for chairs. We got our chairs early, but once again, it seemed like a struggle for the others.
Tips – I like MSC’s no tipping policy. Tips are included in your bill, so there is no awkward moment trying to figure out who you are supposed to tip and how much you give him.
Overall – I really liked my cruise! Of course there were several things which I could criticize, but for me, the amount of luxury and individual attention that they give on the limited space of a ship with thousands of people was truly a feat, and clearly outweighed any negatives I encountered. The staff was great, and my cruise was both exciting and relaxing. MSC is a good cruise line, and I liked the Italian / international feel. If you’re more of an adventurous person, I would say this might be the cruise line for you.
Ocho Rios was "meh"
Pretty water, shady cigar salesman