My husband and I received a status match to the Voyager's Club Diamond Card last January 2019 when we were on MSC for the first time, sailing on Divina. In order to keep the status we needed to sail again within 18 months, and so we chose this cruise. We had been to Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman before, but it was a while ago so that was fine.
We had a very early flight into Miami, so we were quite pleased that we were able to get on the ship by 11am. Doors for the embarkation process opened at 10 but they did not start moving people through the scanners until 10:30, and that was a little frustrating. I would think if you open the doors, you should be ready to roll and not make people stand in one place for that long. I did appreciate the fact that they did a thermal scan of all passengers with the idea that if anyone had a fever, they would not be allowed to board the ship. Once we got to the check in counter, it only took 10 minutes to process us and we walked on board and right up to the buffet line which was great because I was starving! Food selection was good and the food was hot and tasty.
We LOVED this ship! Yes it is small and yes it is older, but we accept that as part of her charm. She is classy and pretty, and very clean. The staff and crew were all fabulous. MSC shines for service and entertainment. The food is good, and some food items were awesome. The Surf & Turf Specialty Restaurant managed by the sweet Brenda was fantastic, and we were lucky to have two meals there. Lobster & Filet, oh my! Try the Mexican Chocolate cake for dessert. You're welcome! We were also very lucky to be assigned to "Your Choice" dining at the Pergola restaurant, a smaller dining room strictly for Fantastica and Aurea passengers. I love to have the option of having dinner whenever we want to. Service is a little slow, but we were never in a hurry so it didn't matter. We are non-drinkers, so I can't tell you much about the bars, though we did usually buy the "non-alcoholic cocktail of the day" which is advertised daily in the newsletter. Make sure when you order, you tell them you want the $4 no-alcohol cocktail of the day, and don't order by the name. If you don't say it that way, they will charge you the regular price!
It's really easy to get around on the ship because of its smaller size. I never saw huge lines at excursions desk or guest services, so I think they have adequate staff. The shops were cute and set up well. My hubby bought a watch. I didn't buy anything on the ship. The Casino manager Jeffrey was great and gave our cruise critic meet up folks a really good time at our slot pull, and awarded prizes for the winners and gave us merch just for participating! That was unexpected and very sweet! My hubby ended the week up by a couple hundred bucks on the slot machines. Pretty unusual for a ship casino!
We loved all the shows and went to almost every one. The dancers were fabulous and the singers very good. They also had acrobats that participated in most of the shows. The shows were geared to young and old, and the costumes were wonderful! Pretty high tech lighting and visual effects, and lovely video backgrounds were included in each show. I participated in karaoke a few times, and the staff were very nice, and continued to chat with me about my performance whenever I saw them around the ship. The entertainment staff headed by Cruise Director Miguel were terrific and energetic. They really made sure everyone enjoyed themselves! Miguel was so personable and authentic and you can really tell he loves his job. The captain was also very personable and quite funny whenever he made his twice daily announcements. "Wash wash wash your hands, and always compliment the staff".
We had an early dinner one night, so we had pizza around midnight, and it was SO GOOD!! Highly recommend! They also do free hard ice cream on deck 11 forward, and not just soft serve. I have never seen that before. We ordered continental breakfast delivered to our room one morning, and ate it on our balcony. That was great.
One of the perks of the Diamond card is an hour in the thermal area. DO NOT PASS THAT UP! Loved it, and the hour flew by! The service in the spa is terrific, and it's a beautiful place to spend time.
Of the three excursions we booked with the ship, I highly recommend the Turtle Hatchery on Grand Cayman and the beautiful Chacchoben ruins in Costa Maya. I do not recommend the Miami bus tour, although the Everglades portion was a lot of fun. The rest of the tour was boring and a waste of time, and they had trouble with the PA system which was very annoying. Take a hop on/hop off or just do the free trolley and take a separate trip to the Everglades if you have never been. Best part of that excursion was they took us to the airport afterwards. We did not book an excursion in Ocean Cay, but you do not need to. It's the most relaxing and beautiful private island we have ever been on. Once all the plantings take hold, it will be outstanding. The lighthouse light show was very cool, and the Junkaroo parade was cute as heck. Do an excursion in Jamaica so you don't get hassled by all the taxi drivers. It's like running a gauntlet if all you want to do is walk into town. We did see a cool little public park called Turtle River Park and chatted with a lovely park ranger who really knew his stuff. Otherwise, Ocho Rios is a bit shady, and really rundown. Be careful there. The BEST port town is Costa Maya, by far. You can have a blast just by walking off the ship and hanging in the little town right there. You can also find some good deals. Got a very pretty dress for $10. You can use their pool for free and spend the whole day if you want. I was quite surprised. Keep in mind that you have to take a tender boat in Grand Cayman, which is a bit of a pain, but as long as you know it, you know you have to be patient.
The very worst part of the trip was leaving. Disembarkation was pretty typical, but Miami airport sucks. It was ridiculously crowded, takes forever to get through security in terminal D, and with hundreds of people trying to check luggage with American Airlines with only two people on the counter it was a real nightmare. My husband was furious, which took away some of the glow of the terrific trip we had just went on. There's a rumor that MSC is changing their operation to a different port, and we hope it is true.
So that's my review! Overall it was very fun, and I'd sail with Armonia again in a minute!
We were a little disappointed in the size of our balcony cabin which was smaller than on Divina. There was no couch or chair and there was a single bunk hung on the wall that my hubby bonked himself on a few times. There was a little desk with a hassock, and a big mirror where the electrical outlets are. There were both European and American outlets. The bed was very comfortable queen sized, and I loved the pillows. We slept quite well most nights. I was surprised how quiet it was. I never needed ear plugs. The balcony was the same size as Divina, however, and so was the storage and bathroom. We were able to view a suite because a friend had one, and we would seriously consider one for our next cruise. Our cabin steward Lino was amazing and our cabin was kept spotless and Lino smiled and immediately responded to all requests. My husband uses a cpap and we requested distilled water from guest services which arrived promptly both times we needed it. Our Diamond card perks appeared in a timely manner, with our robes and slippers in the cabin when we arrived. On Divina, we had to ask for them.
Docked right on the island, and to the right of the lighthouse. Cute little shops run by MSC and one or two by Bahama. Beautiful beaches, great large kitchen where the ship served lunch, cabanas that could be rented, water sports excursions, a little junkaroo parade, and just an all around gorgeous place to spend a very relaxing day. Just wonderful!
Not fond of Ocho Rios. We may have enjoyed it more if they would regulate the amount of pestering taxi drivers. We did not book an excursion there, and we might have had more fun if we had. We walked to downtown and back, and did see a cute park and spent some pleasant time there. Other than that, we got tired of being pestered and just went back to the ship.
Absolutely LOVED the Turtle Farm and highly recommend it for people of all ages! It's beautifully set up so everyone can see turtles to their hearts content. There were tons of them out in the breeding pond. Great place for pictures and video. We also went to the turtle lagoon and snorkeled with turtles and a lot of tropical fish. So lovely! They also have some nurse sharks and barracuda on display, but you can't swim with them. The park hosts were very knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about their mission of saving these beautiful creatures from extinction. I wish we had taken the time to see the hatchery. I bet that was wonderful as well. Great little gift shop with reasonable prices.View All 329 Turtle Farm Reviews
Oh my goodness, if you enjoy ruins and absorbing the history of the Mayans, you need to visit this absolutely breathtaking site. It's very well maintained and the company that took us were fabulous at explaining the site on our one hour ride to get there. Brian brought pictures and maps and examples of things that were found on the site, and got everyone excited to get there. Arturro did a great job driving us, and we got there and back safely. we really enjoyed walking through the beautiful jungle, and seeing all of the ruins that have been reconstructed and put back in order. Some of the people with us even saw spider monkeys! But if you choose not to book an excursion, that's fine. The port area is wonderful and you could be happy spending the entire day there!View All 418 Chacchoben Mayan Ruins Reviews
This was a combination bus tour of some areas of the city and a trip out to an Everglades airboat company. The Everglades segment was wonderful! The boat was exciting and we saw many gators and beautiful birds. We also saw a little gator show and got to hold a baby gator. That was fun. The city tour, not so much. We did see the art deco buildings and stopped for lunch at Bayside. The real reason I booked the tour was the ride to the airport after the tour. The bus was comfortable enough and did have a bathroom on the bus, which is a win. The sound system was horribly loud and they couldn't figure out how to turn it down, so it gave me a splitting headache. I'm sure I wasn't the only one. The traffic was horrible, and we spent a lot of time sitting waiting to move. I would rather do a hop on hop off tour so we could actually see what we wanted to. I do not recommend this tour.View All 168 City Tour Reviews
This was a combination bus tour of some areas of the city and a trip out to an Everglades airboat company. The Everglades segment was wonderful! The boat was exciting and we saw many gators and beautiful birds. We also saw a little gator show and got to hold a baby gator. That was fun. The city tour, not so much. We did see the art deco buildings and stopped for lunch at Bayside. The real reason I booked the tour was the ride to the airport after the tour. The bus was comfortable enough and did have a bathroom on the bus, which is a win. The sound system was horribly loud and they couldn't figure out how to turn it down, so it gave me a splitting headache. I'm sure I wasn't the only one. The traffic was horrible, and we spent a lot of time sitting waiting to move. I would rather do a hop on hop off tour so we could actually see what we wanted to. I do not recommend this tour.View All 129 Everglades Tour Reviews