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.
Stateroom: Our 11th deck stateroom (11084) was the highlight of the cruise, mainly because of the deep balcony complete with a lounger. The storage is adequate and the bed is comfortable; about the only quibble would be the small TV; however, we were delighted to discover that CNN was one of the available channels.
Service: This is another area where MSC does not seem quite up to par. We did not meet our cabin attendant until the one and only time, half-way through the cruise, when he came to turn down the bed. There was no means to contact him with specific requests. When our toilet tissue supply ran dangerously low and our repeated calls to room service were met with a busy signal, we finally had to take matters into our own hands and proceed to raid a service cart near the other end of the hallway! I am not faulting the housekeeping staff as it appears to be a management issue. And as one other reviewer has mentioned, MSC seems to have done away with facial tissues in the bathroom – not a biggie, but an indication of either cost-cutting or lack of attention to detail.
Front desk: I won’t go into detail here, other than to say that the folks at the front desk resolved to our satisfaction an issue relating to a group of young passengers who were the subject of a number of complaints.
Itinerary: This cruise was port-intensive, with no sea days, which was just as well considering the number of passengers and their often loutish behavior. The ship was forced to skip Valencia because of an impending storm; when the captain announced - at dinner time – that the closing of the port meant a detour to Barcelona, a loud cheer resounded through the dining room (at least among the English speaking passengers – leaving others with puzzled looks until the announcement was read in one of the three or four remaining languages).
Debarkation: This is an area where MSC really shines and a first for us. Passengers were provided with a briefing on the entire process, including how to fill out and attach luggage tags. Upon arrival at the port of Marseilles, passengers were divided into groups according to colors that corresponded to the luggage tags, then escorted to the exit by a crew member at the appropriate time.
All things being equal, the cruise was a success. Would we sail MSC again? It will depend on a number of factors, but I think we might consider a different ship and itinerary, as the cruise line does provide good value – as long as one keeps an “open
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).