We chose the Divina because it fit our schedule, and also because of the price. We did have some concerns about our first MSC cruise, and were advised by our travel agent to “keep an open mind” – something that we soon came to understand. But despite some minor irritants, the overall cruise experience was nevertheless enjoyable.
Embarkation in Marseilles: We chose to take the city bus to the port gate, and then rolled our suitcases to the dock. Although the route is straightforward, it might not be the best choice for the mobility-challenged, as it is a bit of a hike. Because MSC allows passengers to begin their cruise at a number of different Mediterranean ports, there are fewer people to process at each stop. The two-step check-in was painless – we were able to hand over our bags directly to be loaded onto a conveyor belt, then sat in the waiting area for a brief time before our number was called. Once we boarded, though, we had to run a gauntlet of staff members eager to “up sell” passengers with the usual drink, restaurant and spa offers – a practice that continued for the first few days of the cruise.
Meals: I realize that food is subjective, and having taken almost a dozen cruises so far, we are usually quite satisfied with the on-board offerings. In terms of variety, quality, and presentation, we felt that the Divina fell short of expectations – although the meals in the main dining room did improve as the week progressed. For example, where other cruise lines offer “made-to-order” egg stations at breakfast, the choice on MSC seems to be from a tray of cooked eggs that looked less than appealing. And after witnessing the chaos in the buffet, we retreated to the Black Crab dining room where both buffet and à la carte breakfast is available during limited hours. We discovered – too late for us, alas – that hamburgers and similar fare are available in the sports bar at lunch.
Great cabin, particularly because of the deep balcony. We traveled with two other couples and were able to entertain outdoors. Also, the lounger was great for afternoon naps.
We departed and returned to Marseille, so did not have to rush to visit the city. With the time allocated, it is possible to see a great deal in "Vieux-Port", including Notre Dame de la Garde, which can be reached quite easily by city bus.
After visiting the immediate area around the port we took a ride on the tourist train for a view of the sights. We were hoping to ride a particular funicular (from info read in a newspaper article) but it was closed.
Since we had already been to Rome on a previous cruise, and because we did not want to risk missing the boat, we chose to spend a quiet morning in Civitavecchia. After escorting our friends to the train station we strolled along the waterfront and the fort, had pizza and beer on a terrace, and did a little shopping before returning to the ship. Our friend returned from Rome minus his wallet, which was lifted by a pickpocket on the metro. The front desk on the ship were very accommodating in issuing a new cruise card.
We decided to try the tourist train and were not the only ones, as there was a long queue waiting for one of only two trains. To their credit, the train staff managed to organize the boarding. We managed to see all of the highlights, but did not dare disembark to visit some of the sights for fear that we would not be able to get back on. There seemed to be fewer crowds later in the day, so I would suggest that folks wait a bit before lining up for the tour. We did some shopping in the afternoon - mostly souvenirs along the pedestrian street.
Our group of six rented electric bikes at the port and had an enjoyable morning cycling to the nature park and on to the beach. We got lost on the way back to town and decided to return the bikes. Two of us ventured into town for a quick look-see, did a little shopping, then returned to the ship.
A beautiful city, but the beach was disappointing. Swimming was banned because of bacteria in the water. We bought a transportation ticket from the cruise line and added admission to the Cathedral (which allowed us to skip the line).