MSC Divina Cruise Review by Markanddonna
- Sail Date: January 2019
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Interior Stateroom – Fantastica
First, there is a bit of a learning curve for MSC. You have to decide not only on the usual cabin type but also your “experience level.” You pay more for better cabin location, the choice of dining times, free room service, etc. Take time to examine these options. We chose Fantastica which gave us early dining time and a drink package. Warning: drink packages have changed so be certain of the details. For some reason, we were given unlimited drinks (still all “lower shelf”), AND 2 packs of coupons for free drinks with no service charge included. Why we got both???
Also, you need to be aware of the status match offer. We are Platinum on NCL and were given the top Black Card Status that came with a number of very nice extras including a dinner for two in one of the two specialty restaurants. Also receive two large solid chocolate ship replicas of the Divina, bathrobes and slippers, a fruit basket, chocolate covered strawberries, a bottle of spumante, a special dance class, and a lovely birthday cake for my husband on his birthday. There were other offers for black card folks like a one-hour thermal area experience that we didn’t use.
It appears that MSC was a bit too generous and scaled that offer of their top status back to only the top, top loyalty status on other cruise lines. Unfortunately, no current chart shows which level you will match. So, the status match program was reconfigured around Oct. We applied in Sept.
Arrival: We hail from the Midwest that was caught in a polar vortex, but had no problems flying to FLL. We found an incredible deal on Hotwire for a hote in FLL. We called for an UBER the morning of the cruise, and he was there in three minutes. The cost was about $34 to the Port of Miami, Terminal F.
The Ship: First, it was kept very clean and is just beautiful. People seemed to be enjoying themselves everywhere we went. Since it is such a large ship, it takes a while to learn your way around, but most areas are typical of a cruise ship: theater in front, buffet in the back, dining rooms in the middle to back areas.
You quickly learn that all the instructions on MSC ships will be given in five languages, so you have to endure that experience. English, French, Italian, Spanish and German.
Check-in: MSC gives passengers an assigned time, but that means nothing.
You can embark whenever you want- after 10:30. We arrived at 10:30 and black status folks should go to the far left. After security, we were directed to the wrong line and soon realized we were not where we should stand. It was quick and efficient, but you process your credit card at a kiosk onboard the ship. We were on the ship by 11:30.
Only the buffet is open for lunch. This area becomes quite crowded, and tables were at a premium for those who arrived around 1:00. Our cabins were available around 1:00 and our luggage arrived shortly after that time.
The muster drill was at 4:30 and in various areas of the ship. You have to bring your life jacket.
Cabin: We chose a SQUARE inside cabin on the 11th deck which had to be the nicest, most roomy inside cabin we ever experienced. Lots of storage and the bathroom was well designed- especially the shower stall and controls. The fan located in the shower helped to keep the steam off the mirrors.
Our attendant was also top notch. If you love towel animals, you will be disappointed- not one, but that didn’t bother us at all.
Look on the deck plans to find one of these square cabins. They also were placed within secluded interior corridors which meant very little traffic. The hallways seemed to be very quiet overall.
Fellow Passengers: Americans were in the minority, but that really wasn’t a huge problem. Reports of “European rudeness” are unfounded IMHO. Many were with family and friends and were pleasant but probably weren’t too interested in making new friends. Some spoke no English, and we were seated for breakfast in the Black Crab on our first sea morning with a non-English speaking couple from Argentina. That didn’t happen again on the cruise. Most of the younger families were from Europe.
Entertainment: The entertainment was quite different. The shows were more refined, and opera was offered one evening. We enjoyed it but would likely have not attended if a second one was offered.
The singers and dancers are top notch and perform almost every night. You won’t find comedians because of the language issues, nor were there jugglers, illusionists,
hypnotists, etc. Just very high-quality singers and dancers who integrated acrobats and Circe d Sole sorts of performances into the shows. The singers have a bit of a foreign accent in their singing, which I thought was delightful.
The set was very basic- just lighted stairs but that was just fine. They also didn’t have a “show band” because much of the music required orchestra pieces- violins, etc. We understood the different needs but missed the show band who often play “big band” music in the lounges on other ships.
There were some very enjoyable musicians in the lounges. Some places were packed. One lounge had a small dance floor that turned into a heavily traveled walkway- an unfortunate design in the Golden Lounge. I always felt like I should apologize to the singers when I walked past them.
The Black and White Lounge featured a very good group with solid vocalists. This lounge had a great dance floor, but it was often used for game shows. The Galaxy lounge is underused because of its poor design and could be better used.
Customer Service: This group was perhaps the kindest and most helpful I have experienced on any cruise. We were not Yacht club folks- just plain old inside cabin first timers. The first time I approached the area was to validate my credit card at a kiosk, and one of them kindly escorted me to one that wasn’t being used and helped me through the easy process. I wish I could remember all of their names, but one in the evening was Lisa who was incredibly pleasant. Another woman remembered me as a Cruise Critic passenger and always stopped me to ask how things were going.
Cruise Critic Onboard: Although I receive an email before I left reminding me of the Meet and Mingle, I never received a notice about the date or time nor was I informed about the cabin crawl once on the ship. The Cruise Critic party was very nice, but our group wasn’t very active as compared to longer sailings in Europe where there is inherently more involvement. They had nice drinks, canapes, and a huge and delicious cake for the party. The captain and the head officers all attended. No one from Cruise Critic spoke, but the party was well attended. Unfortunately, it was in the Galaxy which is not conducive to mingling or comfort.
We were all given a group photo for free!
One piece of advice: the cruise critic M&G is run by MSC, and so you will not know the exact time or location. Although I received a reminder email, I never received an invitation to the gathering or the cabin crawl. My name was on the list when I arrived (I asked about this at the front desk.)
Cruise Director and staff: This group is often ho-hum, but not on the Divina! The CD, Sinan was delightful and managed his staff of 12-15 folks very well. They were very entertaining in creative ways before the shows in the theatre and engaging in all their duties around the ship. Well done, MSC!
Crew: We found the crew very hard working, kind, and friendly. We drink very little, but bar staff was always around for orders when needed.
Pool and Fitness Areas: Just like on most cruise ships, there are chair hogs that begin to surface around 6-7 AM and stake out their chair and tables with towels and those big clips. Unfortunately, you have to join in, or you won’t find a chair later on. This problem is pervasive on almost all ships. The fitness area is rather small for the number of passengers.
There are three pools: The Serene pool in the covered area, the main pool, and an aft adult only pool on deck 15 near the smokers’ area.
Restaurants and Buffet: There are not many options beyond the MDRs and the buffet. Snack sort of food is offered for free at the Sports lounge, and there is a bakery/deli in the Piazza del Doge that has THE BEST Italian cream cakes. If the desserts in the restaurants seem unappealing, go get a piece of cake!
We sat with friends at a smallish table for four on the upper deck of the Black Crab Lounge. We had a fantastic waiter, Orlando who saw that we wanted to go to the 7:00 show (our friends retire early), so he expedited our order each night. Not too fast- paced just right. Very competent and friendly and did his job extremely well.
If I could bring Orlando to the Villa Rossa restaurant, I would have asked to eat there. It was much brighter and more beautiful with an aft and side view.
The food varied in quality, but most selections were typical cruise fare. No complaints, but the food is not extraordinary. We dined at Eataly, and it was very authentic- don’t look for the typical Olive Garden menu!
The buffet featured several varieties of very good quality pizza, tasty burgers, and a wide assortment of Mediterranean foods, some Asian and Mexican, comfort foods, salads, fruits, desserts. Coffee, tea, and a few juice type drinks were available.
Breakfast in the MDR went sour on the first morning when we were seated with Argentinians who spoke no English. Awkward. The tables are too close together. The Belgian waffles were the same as the ones in the buffet. The experience wasn’t good, so we didn’t repeat. We did eat on sea days in the MDR and were seated with English speaking folks. Except for one HAL cheerleader couple who disliked everything about MSC, the experience was just fine.
One thing that could be improved is the availability of coffee stations around the ship. In the morning, we had to hike to the buffet for a cup of coffee. Having coffee on the pool deck would have been a nice addition. Coffee was not to be found at most of the buffet stations on disembarkation day. MSC needs to remedy this problem.
The drink packages seem to have recently been revised so I won’t give many details. We had the unlimited drink package and paid a gratuity based on the cost of the drink. The waiter will ask you to sign a receipt.
Our waiter recommended we consider the wine tasting event that also included a galley tour. I learned a lot about wines, and it was only $15 pp.
Disembarkation: We chose to leave the ship late because we had a 4:20 flight out of Fort Lauderdale. We left our room at 9:30, sat in the Piazza del Doge until 10:00 and then waltzed off the ship. No lines, no crowds, customs was a breeze. We called for an UBER to take us to FLL for $37 (shared with another passenger.)
For those considering a cruise with MSC, please consider that the experience will be a bit different and more international. I’m quite used to European travel, and the larger number of European and South Americans onboard had little impact. They smiled and often tried to converse a bit. The only obnoxious people I saw onboard was a woman yelling at her friend across the table and a wife dressing down her husband for becoming intoxicated on the previous night- all English-speaking Americans.
I’ve read many very nice reviews but a few written by very mean or ignorant people. One man claimed that he was only offered the SAME dessert EVERY night and that the cake became increasingly stale as the days passed. Really, maybe we should do only video reviews so that readers can get a sense of our sanity and personality. This same man said he would have had a better time on vacation in his garage. I can imagine the horrible scenes this man created onboard and his photo was probably pasted all over the crew decks. Cruise Critic: do you really have to publish this nonsense which is filled with ignorance and outright lies?
We were treated so nicely because we approach the staff with a smile and a good attitude. There were a few things that we wished were different, but overall, the cruise was very enjoyable and a good value and quality. To be honest, I wasn’t certain if we made the right choice while I was booking because of their wonky website. As the final payment date neared, I called up to speak to a supervisor to get things cleared up, and from that moment on, everything on the website worked just great.
This cruise on the Divina helped me become more enthusiastic about cruising. We were on a transatlantic on NCL Jade last April, and it wasn’t at all inspiring, so the Divina really helped me get energized about cruising again. I would definitely book another one, and we already did on one of their new ships!
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