Posted by: Tom Baker | May 27, 2014

MSC Divina- Diva or Divine?


MSC Divina
I had taken a several year break from MSC after my last cruise on MSC Splendida three years ago, MSC Fantasia on her maiden voyage 5 years ago, and two longer 10-day cruises on the older and much smaller MSC Lirica… I had personally taken a break as I felt the line had lost touch with its passengers and cared more for the vacuum cleaners than its guests as this spotless fleet of ships is so well maintained, but clearly suffered from service onboard as it was growing and adding ships at a neck-breaking speed… Online reviews had taken a beating and I felt the company was losing steam and passengers for its lack of controlling its training during its exponential growth!

Having said this, I always felt the MSC Yacht Club excelled in its offering and value but the rest of the experience lacked compared to their favorable North American supported brands.

Well, I have taken a new outlook after a two night frantic sampling cruise on MSC Divina on a cruise from Miami to Nassau in the Bahamas and back…

MSC Divina Video Tour from Miami TV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuU57y1t8GU

Introduced in May of 2012 and named after Godmother Diva, Sophia Loren, Divina is a huge ship at 139,400 tons 16 decks high, and carries some 3300 passengers in 1637 cabins and suites with 1325 crew to service its guests. MSC made a clear cut decision to place Divina in the highly competitive Caribbean marketplace where she goes head-to head with venerable giants Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line. Because she is not known widely to the North American market, this lovely gem of a ship is underpriced and often, unappreciated. I have seen her 7-day Caribbean Cruises listed from only $299 per person which is absurd! Before arriving in Miami, the MSC offices in Florida hired some top industry cruise experts to help gentrify the MSC Divina and make her more palatable to the domestic audience. Nearly every part of the cruise experience was touched to make this unique cruise experience work for the US audience. In part, most of these variables work nicely without turning the Divina into just another cruise product….

Divina is a lovely vessel that is meticulously maintained, offers European style (which honestly means slower service than competitors), but does offer a high quality experience is comfortable, large, and well-appointed cabins. Her food is above average, focuses on Italian but staff struggle with slower than usual service, some have issued with understanding basic English, and this creates angst for the North Americans “speedy-service, in and out crowd”…

Divina has improved its service and offering with English being the main language spoken, added North America style entertainment programs, music, and plentiful television programming. As a matter of fact, the two production shows I watched Wonderland (A Cirque De’ Soleil themed fantasy program) and Starwalker-a Michael Jackson tribute, were among the best I have seen on a ship ever with high energy, high quality sound, production, and effects making both shows spectacular! There was classical music played in the massive ships multi story lobby, and Elton John tribute, and more.. This lobby is flanked by massive staircases containing precious Swarovski crystals and each step cost 4000 euro… It is gorgeous and sparkles… There is a host of daily activity, night time parties including a White Party and Flower Glory (70’s and 80’s) party, and this ship bustles with lively fun for all ages including children whom sail FREE on most voyages.. The kids program is varied and dedicated to specific age groups from 3-6, 7-11, 12-14, and 15-17 to make the most for the many children who travel with this line.

While MSC management in Florida insist this is a premium lass product, I would argue that it is not but offers a different European style cruise vs. the very American Carnival, RCI, and NCL… What MSC does deliver is exceptional value, underpriced cruise product for what it delivers, and an absolutely gorgeous ship with sumptuous rich deep burgundy and grey toned décor overall!

There are so many lounges providing music, a sports bar with bowling alley, 4 lovely pools for all guests (1 dedicated for adults), a large jumbotron screen that shows movies throughout the day and night, and many places to find sun including a private area on top of deck 16 called the Top Hat where membership can be purchased for those wanting a totally quiet, elegant area to sun with its own dedicated bar, Jacuzzi and food service, Jacuzzi, sports facilities, magnificent and underused gymnasium, and spectacular MSC Aurea spa-which offered 30% savings on most treatments on my voyage make spa treatments some of the BEST VALUE I have seen-period on a ship.. for example, a 60-minute Bali Massage was only $88!

I purchased a premium beverage package for $72 which allowed me 15 coupons to use towards the beverage of my choice. Just make sure you don’t lose them! MSC also offers beverage packages from $44-$57 a day for unlimited offerings.. There were numerous packages and I loved that a guest could choose from numerous packages based on their consumption, budget, and desire… I found bar service a bit slow and some cocktails seemed a bit weak compared to other ships but it wasn’t terrible… I did prefer the Cantina Di Bacco wine bar where fine wines by the glass or bottle are offered, fine trays of olives, cheese, and gourmet pizzas can be ordered.. It is little used compared to other bars onboard and quite casual and nice!

MSC has a very strict no-smoking policy onboard and limits smoking to a contained smoking room outside the casino, and to one area on the starboard side of the lower pool deck area outdoors. There is no smoking allowed anywhere else on the vessel including guest staterooms or balconies…

My balcony cabin on deck 9 was aft facing and approximately 200 square feet with a nice sized balcony offering another 34 square feet, the bed was comfortable with a nice fluffy comforter but the pillows were flat and hard or tired and lumpy. They needed replacement and I heard this comment frequently for other guests and other reviews. There was a nice sized sofa, three closets with storage and drawers, a safe, mini-fridge, vanity , flat screen TV with multi-channel and very adequate programming and nice sized bathroom with a glass door shower stall with environmentally friendly shampoo and body wash but a bar of soap to wash ones hands was noticeably missing. The cabin was spotlessly clean like the rest of the ship…. MSC charges a small fee for room service which I have no problem with and have a dedicated pizza over to make gourmet pizzas of many varieties from its Eataly kitchen. I will add, these pizzas are the BEST at sea!!!!

The cuisine on MSC changes nightly and is offered in two large main dining rooms. The Black Crab and Villa Rossa… There is also a huge buffet on Deck 14 that offers meals, pizza. While the crowds here likened to mad rush and chaotic at times, the offerings were vast and offered a nice array of food offerings. I personally don’t like buffets but found the pizza and salads very nice! I just don’t like noise and constant traffic milling through. This area too is kept immaculately clean…

During my short 2-day cruise, I did not take my dinners in the MDR but spent my time taking in the 2 main alternative a-la-carte venues Eataly and Galaxy. Eataly is a branch of the famed New York eatery and deli where MSC offers a steakhouse and Italian dining in separate areas onboard. The atmosphere is a bit cold with plastic uncomfortable chairs but superb meals… My dinner had poor service from a friendly but inefficient waitress. There was no official Maître D’hôtel so guests wandering through the ship came pouring in and marched past ones table starring at what you were eating. All-in-all, I thought this venue was poorly executed although the food quality was good-not excellent… I wanted to buy some items from the well-stocked gourmet shop but there was never anyone there to sell items-very odd… The next night dinner took place in the Galaxy Restaurant next to the ships disco on Deck 16. This venue offered a panoramic view of the ship at sea, a gourmet Mediterranean a-la-carte selection, and live music. This fared much better but also suffered from slow but friendly service and I think MSC needs to better tend to these venues if they want to attract guests into paying its higher than normal fees for this type of alternative fee based venue. I was sorely disappointed in both due to the disorganized service… I will say, however, that the Galaxy at sunset is a gorgeous place to dine. MSC also offers a $28pp fee based gourmet brunch here from 10am-2pm and all food is cooked to order. I looked in and it was little used but looked quite lovely.

My favorite thing about MSC is its unique Yacht Club. This is a ship within a ship experience located on top of the vessel and offers guests a suite with key access area that includes lovely accommodations, a private panoramic view lounge, includes all beverages, has a private, pool, 24 hour professional concierge, a private restaurant, and perhaps the BEST Butler service of ANY Caribbean based ship. I would liken this to the HAVEN by Norwegian but a step further in offering a more inclusive and slightly more elegant experience to its guests. The rates for this prime location are affordable starting at $1849pp making it truly one of the best values in cruising…

All –in-all, MSC offers a great product but it still needs a little fine tuning to have a broader appeal to the North American audience. If you are well-traveled, used to European style service, and don’t mind waiting a little longer for meal or beverage service, you will be fine… If you are used to pronto speedy service, this ship is not for you… I would go again though to see what they offer on a longer cruise to get the full experience…

Take a look at my pictures here: http://cruisecenter.smugmug.com/Travel/MSC-Divina-May-2014/41035607_6Fck36#!i=3268903009&k=WcJ4hH9


Responses

  1. I was on the MSC Divina May 3 – 10 of this year. For me, it was one of the best cruises I have ever been on. This was cruise #27 for me, so I’ve been on all of the majors. I was skeptical after reading all of the “negative” remarks on CruiseCritic However, I went with and open mind and after paying such a low fare I figured I was going to be on a ship for a week, how bad can it be. I was literally blown away. I have left a review on CruiseCritic. Some of the high points for me. I’m a Euro kind of guy so the slower service in the MDR and bars, etc was totally acceptable for me. It was actually nice to sit in the MDR with my table mates and have a conversation with them rather than the normal shovel the food in, hurry up because we need the table. The photographers on board were amazing. What they DIDN’T do was stand at the bottom of the gangway and force you to take your photo with the stupid dressed up pirate and the like. What they DID do was take amazing candid shots throughout the ship. I agree with you Mr. Baker that MSC isn’t for everyone. If you do want a different cruise experience, then treat yourself to the MSC Divina.
    Darrell James
    Moncton, NB, Canada


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