We are just a week back from our 7 day cruise on the MSC Divina, we started and ended in Genoa. Our family has taken several Disney, Carnival, and Royal cruises previously all in the Caribbean. My goal of this review is to provide background/facts as well as the good and bad that we experienced both before and during the cruise.
-Why we booked.
We booked this cruise and flights in June 2017 as the timing was right. Our flight was into Milan the day before the cruise which left from Genoa. We decided to take this cruise as we have a 3 and 7 year old, this cruise had no days at sea and we would be able to experience Italy, Spain, and France. MSC was also offering a promo of "Kids cruise free" so we got a pretty good deal. We booked an oceanview on the 5th floor with the Fantastica experience. The experience included 12 drink coupons per person, non-alcoholic for the kids. We had some fears that our 3 year old might want to climb so we decided against a balcony. (Observation, it appears oceanviews are only available on floors 5 and 6 and the upper floors are all balconies).
As it has been mentioned by several people the MSC website and booking information is clunky at best. It depends on the day of the week if the information is available and working. When it does work the information is limited and for any real detailed information you have to call the customer service number which I found on several occasions has at least a 15-20 minute wait to speak with someone.
As we were flying into Milan we booked transfers from Milan to Genoa through MSC for $31 per person each way. Information was provided a few days before the trip and we were told the pick up was at gate 8 of the airport terminal 1 at 8 am. This seemed early as the cruise left port at 6 pm and it was only a 2 hour drive but I figured we hopefully would avoid some crowds.
I took advantage of the status match program for the Voyager Club and was given Black status, MSC's highest. The "exclusive" benefits to black card members are listed below and I will provide the on board experience later.
-Complimentary specialty restaurant "Tasting Menu" dinner for two (no beverages) [One dinner per stateroom]
-Complimentary spumante with chocolate-dipped fruit per stateroom, once per cruise
-Priority disembarkation at end of cruise
-Courtesy towelling bathrobe and slippers available during the cruise
-Complimentary dance class
-MSC Voyagers Club exclusive Black Card Party
-MSC Voyagers Club Chocolate Ship
-Late stateroom check-out at disembarkation
We reviewed the shore excursions, internet packages, and food/beverage all inclusive options on the website. We discovered that there were no shore excursions that were good for the kids. We decided to buy an internet package and had questions on the beverage package.
About a week before the cruise I called customer service to get details on the beverage package. Our 3 year old only likes apple juice **yes, I know but stick with me**. Knowing she had 12 drink coupons I wanted to know if apple juice was readily available on the ship or if we should buy the unlimited non-alcoholic package for her. I was told there is always apple juice in the buffet at breakfast and there were even juice boxes available that we could bring to the room. She even recommended bringing an empty water bottle that could be filled and used through the day. There was no reason to buy the package as if she wanted juice outside of breakfast she still had the 12 coupons. I was thrilled with the response and didn't buy the package.
-Arrival and Embarkation
We arrived on Friday about 11 am and had a room at the MXP airport as the cruise wasn’t leaving until Saturday and we had booked transfers with MSC. After arriving we checked in to the hotel and took the train into Milan to explore the city. We had a great time but for future reference Milan shut down a bit at 3 pm as it was Good Friday. We enjoyed a nice meal and headed back to the airport on the train.
On Saturday morning we had the chaos of getting everyone up at 6:30 to make sure we were ready for the transfer at 8 am. We grabbed a quick on the run breakfast at the hotel and barely made it by 8 am. We arrived at Gate 8 and looked around for anyone with an MSC sign and no-one was there. I went out by the buses to see if we had arrived late and they walked out again to no avail. I tried calling the transfer company a few times with no answer. Finally, at 8:20 someone answered the phone and told us the time had been changed to 9 am and someone would be there with a sign, in the meantime “the airport has places to eat you should get a coffee.” We didn’t get a call or email about this change. At 9:05 someone showed up with a sign and told us we wouldn’t be leaving for a while as we were waiting for more passengers. He also mentioned we should get a coffee. The transfer left at 10 am, needless to say we weren’t thrilled that we rushed around to get there for 8 am and we didn’t leave for 2 hours. The airport isn’t a ton of fun for 2 kids.
When we arrived in Genoa we got off the bus and followed the crowd into the embarkation hall. There was a line of about 150 people already, I approached one of the employees and told him I was a black card member. One of those “benefits” was priority embarkation. He handed me a card and sent the family up an elevator to the Yacht Club check in. We made it through the process in about 30 minutes and were getting on the ship. The process was smooth and easy.
- On Board
Once on board we went to our room and we were pleasantly surprised by the size of the room. The window was quite large compared to the other cruises we have been on. The cruise cards were in the room and we looked for the drink vouchers to no avail. I was somewhat surprised that my card was silver, but it said that I was a black card member.
The biggest surprise was that the “bunk beds” came out of the ceiling above either side of the bed. Be careful if you jump up in the middle of night, you might have headache.
We went to the welcome buffet and realized it would take some navigating as the space was huge. It was set up in a mirror pattern where both sides matched. There was also a pizza area and a hot dog/burger area. The quality of the food was good and the selection was adequate. There is a kids section in the back which they liked a lot. There was a selection of deli meats/cheese, an ethnic section, carving/pasta area, healthy section, and a few other areas. I can see how people who didn’t walk the buffet would miss several items.
We explored the ship and visited the kids club for registration and met several other families before dinner. Our dining table was set for 7 but no one else came to the dining room. On previous cruises the waiter and assistant were the most outgoing people on the ship. To our surprise this wasn’t the case, our waiter didn’t engage in any conversation other than taking our order. We asked a couple of questions and were told he didn’t know the menu as it was new.
- The Good – There were several items that were very good
-The housekeeper was very nice and did a great job. She was great with the kids.
-The kids club was amazing, the workers did a great job and my 7 year old didn’t want to leave.
-The casino staff was great. I played blackjack while there and had a lot of fun.
-The quality of the food was very good at the buffet and the selection was enough to keep us happy.
-The pool was around 78 degrees each day and was a lot of fun for the kids. They weren’t overcrowded which was nice.
-The excursion desk provided honest answers to questions. They admitted there really weren’t any kid friendly excursions which I appreciated.
-The shows were hit or miss, the pirate show was good.
- The Bad – nothing over the top but a bunch of little to middle type things.
-As mentioned earlier my 3 year old only drinks apple juice. The first morning we searched the buffet and didn’t find apple juice we found various different types and figured it was a rotating schedule. The second morning when we didn’t find apple juice we asked and were told there is never apple juice in the machines, you can only buy it from the bar at 3 euros each. I inquired about adding the unlimited package and was told it was too late, you can only buy it on the first day. I complained to the desk and was told it was too bad and I’d need to buy it from the bars.
- While there I asked about my card being silver instead of black and was told it wasn’t a big deal but if it was a problem they could change it. I asked about the benefits being a black card member and they told me the cruise consultant would be sending us messages to get the benefits. This never occurred and when we inquired about the free specialty dining it was made to be that we were hassling the staff. We never received any message, they did send the chocolate ship on the second to last night.
- The biggest negative was in the dining room, as I mentioned earlier our waiter was very dry to say the least. The first and second night we were told that he didn’t know the menu. My wife ordered a wine the first night and then asked for the same one the next night along with the aforementioned apple juice and it never arrived for over an hour even though we asked 4 times. When the supervisor asked him why we were still waiting he said he didn’t know what wine it was. Our food took an extremely long time to arrive and both nights something was wrong. We asked for a new table as there wasn’t a good fit, they moved us and also moved the waiter to the section next to us which was awkward to say the least for the rest of the cruise.
-On all of the other cruises the staff has been friendly and easy going. I found this staff to have very low morale and just plain rude. The best example I can give is when a crew member and a guest would get to a door at the same time, the staff member would push through the door sometimes bumping into the guest. I’ve always seen the crew open the door or step to the side when guests arrived at the same time. This was an overriding theme throughout the ship.
At the end of the day, there weren’t any over the top issues but there were a bunch of small issues. The best way to describe it was this was a cruise that had a very good price and we got what we paid for. I don’t know if I would take a cruise with MSC again. The only thing I can say is that there could be a difference if you are in the Yacht Club level of service for the extra fee.
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