GUEST POST: Adrienne
My family and I embarked upon an impromptu sailing aboard the lovely MSC Divina this summer. After reading numerous reports about this cruise line and ship, I decided to book a last minute 3-day sailing. As I know MSC is a newer cruise line that many people have not heard much about, I decided it may be useful to provide some feedback on our experience.
Our family sailed out of Miami on July 8, 2017. We flew into Miami the morning of our cruise, and I must say that I definitely do not suggest travel on the day of the cruise! Our flight left DFW at 5am and landed in Miami before 9am. We collected our luggage and were in a cab heading to the cruise terminal by 10am.
Upon arrival at the pier, we checked our bags, got our paperwork in hand (downloaded from MSC website during pre-cruise check in process), and got in line for security. Let me pause briefly to note, the Divina does not set sail until 7pm. My family wanted to know, “Why on earth are we getting on board so early?!”. My quick response was “we are only on board for 3 days and I want as much time on this ship as possible!”
Once we went through security and checked in we were given a number and shown to the waiting lounge. There were drinks provided for us as we waited for our boarding numbers to be called. The MSC team began calling boarding numbers around noon and we eagerly went aboard to begin our short yet fulfilling midsummer getaway.
First, the ship is GORGEOUS! Be sure to take time and enjoy walking around and exploring all of the nooks and crannies of the vessel! I was EAGER to try the coffee bar about which I’d heard so many wonderful things! It was simply delicious and lived up to the rave reviews.
It is somewhat easy to get turned around while on board. In order to get to the Black Crab dining room, for instance, you can access it off the beautiful atrium. However, there are some very specific ways to get to the dining room and other ways that will not allow you to simply walk from forward to aft. Take your time and wander around and you’ll definitely understand what I’m saying and learn your own favorite ways to navigate this lovely vessel.
The shows truly are magnificent! I usually do not attend the shows when I sail but I did this time since everyone spoke so highly of them. I am so glad that I did! All three shows that we saw were truly wonderful. I LOVED the acrobats that spun from the ceiling. I was mesmerized by the talent and strength that it took to perform such intricately graceful moves aboard a moving ship! However, my FAVORITE show was the Michael Jackson performance on the last night! If I didn’t know any better I’d truly believe it was Michael himself up there on that stage! Be sure you do not miss this show but get there early as it gets very crowded!
I am not a judge on the food network nor am I the next star of Chopped, however, we enjoy good food. We’ve cruised Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Holland. We have travelled extensively and eaten great food and not so great food near and far. We did not buy the dining package to the specialty restaurants and I honestly enjoyed the food.
The pizza is really good in the buffet. Make sure you try it. We always went for pizza after the shows in the evening. It was a nice treat for the kids (and their parents ) before bedtime. We ate in the Black Crab all three nights and our food was amazing! Prior to our sailing, I read some very frightening reviews about the food aboard MSC, but I must say I have no idea what ship they sailed or what they ate. We loved everything. Some dishes were so good that I still vividly remember them and long to call the cruise line to beg for the recipes.
The buffet was an area that I read a lot of concerning reviews about prior to sailing Divina. A lot of people remarked how difficult it was to find seating. Additionally, I read that the food was cold. This was also incorrect in our experience. While I prefer having all of my meals in the dining room, my family loves the buffet. Compromise means that sometimes I have to eat meals in the buffet on our cruises. The Divina’s buffet was delicious. There were lots of choices and lots of seating. We never had problems with cold food nor a lack of places to sit.
However, sometimes when it took too long for tables to get cleared during busier times, other guests would move dirty plates from an abandoned table and place them anywhere they could find room (possibly even your table ☹). In order to combat some of this I would suggest avoiding the buffet during busy times as it can get overwhelmingly busy/crowded at peak dining times.
The Drink Package:
We had a non-alcoholic drink package (18 non-alcoholic drinks for $49) and it was perfect for our family of four. We only sailed for three days but I’m sure the same package would have been sufficient for a longer cruise. Each of the children had 4 vouchers and my husband and I each had five vouchers. We actually had to get pretty creative to consume all of those beverages. We bought large bottled waters, specialty coffees, soda at dinner and gelato for the kids. The only thing that I did not like about drink package is you must carry the drink vouchers, along with your sail card, in order to purchase drinks. I wish instead that the drink packages were loaded onto your sail card for ease of use.
We bought the photo package (10 pics and DVD for $59) prior to our cruise. I would highly suggest the unlimited package. The pictures truly are beautiful and I bought all of them. WORD OF CAUTION, if you don’t buy the unlimited package and choose to upgrade while on board, make sure you get ALL of your photos before you check out! I mistakenly left some of our photos behind while purchasing my upgraded unlimited package. When I remembered additional photos that were taken that I had missed, I went back to claim them. The photography manager told me that I’d need to pay separately for the extra photos although I bought the all-inclusive photo package. To say I was livid is an understatement. Luckily, my sweet husband spoke to someone at guest services who was able to intervene and help rectify the situation. However, to save yourself any headache or frustration on your vacation, make sure you look at all the pictures before checking out.
Everyone we encountered was very kind and willing to help. No one was ever rude and no one made us feel anything other than welcome to the MSC family. We were given fruit in our room, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries to welcome us aboard and a voucher for a spa package that we sadly did not have time to use. We were greeted with smiles at every turn. I think as long as people show kindness then you’ll receive kindness in return. A smile really does go a long way.
My daughter’s birthday was two days before we sailed and we decided to celebrate her birthday on board in lieu of a party at Chuck E Cheese. This was part of my rationale for booking an impromptu cruise….at least that was my selling point to my husband. On the last night on board, the wait staff sang to her and brought her a beautiful birthday cake. The Captain and another Senior officer even came by to wish her a happy birthday and bring her a gift! She was so beside herself! Great birthday surprise for our 8-year-old! One of the neighboring tables asked us how old she was and inquired “what will you do for 9?! Nothing could top this!”
Aside from the shows, we still felt there was always something to do. Unfortunately, we did not get to participate in most of the things they had on board simply because we were always doing something else. On this short sailing there were no sea days and since we wanted to spend time on the beach in Freeport and Nassau, we opted against staying on the ship for a self-imposed sea day.
MSC did a great job in the kid’s room. They take the kids to dinner and to the shows. The kids move around the ship with the kids club counselors so they aren’t confined to a little room bored and desperate for their parents to come get them. My 10-year-old still says Carnival is his favorite kid’s club at sea, but my 8 year old loved it and says she would be “totally ok” with sailing MSC again. AHHH, to be a kid again and have the privilege of taking trips on someone else’s dime!
Cruise Critic meet up
Oddly enough, I just learned of cruise critic roll calls earlier this year. I began reading posts and asking questions. I learned of the meet n greet option and signed up. We were given an invitation in our stateroom for the meet n greet and I am so glad that we went. It was a very elegant event that the cruise sets up for you if you have enough people sign up for the roll call on your sailing. There were hors d’oeuvres and beverages served in a secluded area where we could all socialize and talk. The captain, cruise director and all of the senior officers were present to welcome us and answer any questions we had about MSC and/or Divina. There was a photographer on hand to take photos of us and we were each given a copy signed by the captain at the conclusion of our cruise.
We met a nice couple at the meet n greet who showed us around the Yacht Club! It was FABULOUS!!!! If you CAN sail Yacht Club then you definitely SHOULD!! However, you’d never be able to go back to regular cruising again.
Most cruise lines are much more casual now than when I first began cruising in 2001. On our three- night sailing we had a white night and a formal night. On both nights only about half of the ship participated in dressing the part. This was somewhat disappointing because I really do enjoy dressing up and wish that this tradition was enforced. I am often told that shorter sailings are usually more casual than longer sailings. I’m hopeful that they are correct.
In conclusion, I have nothing but great things to say about MSC and we will be on MSC Seaside in 2019.
Thank you so much for this review! I am cruising with MSC at Christmas onboard the Meraviglia and this post has made me really excited (as if I wasn’t already…)
I did cruise with MSC a few years ago onboard the Opera but don’t really feel like I have truely experienced MSC yet. I’m so glad that you and your family had an amazing time and will be cruising with MSC again! Some brilliant tips here which I’m sure will help a lot of people out. Thanks again for sharing 🙂
My name is Adrienne and I met my husband the first night of my first cruise in 2001. We love to travel and we’ve been cruising ever since! We now have two little cruisers along for the ride. I look forward to sharing what we learn on our future travels!
> ~Adrienne and her family have cruised on the Carnival Jubilee (2001), Celebration (2003) and Freedom (2016), Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas (2006) and Enchantment of the Seas (2017), Peter Deilmann River Cruise (2008), Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam (2013) and MSC Divina (2017). They are currently looking forward to cruises they have booked on Norwegian, Disney, Princess and Celebrity.
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