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MSC Divina – New and Improved

Cruise Ship Review | MSC Divina

For those of you travel agents and cruise passengers wondering about what MSC Divina is like, think “new and improved.”

I brought my 9-year old son along with me on MSC Divina to “kick-the-tires” on the Caribbean’s newest year-round cruise product to see what all the buzz was about. Keep reading to discover our cruise story on MSC Cruises ….

Brian and Captain Francesco Veniero and staff.
Brian and Captain Francesco Veniero and staff.

New and Improved

Ken Muskat, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing at MSC Cruises (USA) Inc wants to let members of the travel trade and consumers know that MSC Divina should be judged as a new product since her arrival to Miami in November of 2013.

MSC Cruises has done a lot to prepare the 139,500 gross-ton MSC Divina to meet the needs of North American cruise passengers. Changes to the delivery of onboard announcements, signage, and service standards have all been carefully modified to meed the expectations of  US and Canadian cruise passengers.

Shore excursion team standing by to help on MSC Divina
Shore excursion team standing by to help on MSC Divina. Photo by Brian Bajak.

From my experience, I can say that MSC Divina has made great strides in overcoming issues and that some of the  issues are stemming from the customers themselves, not the cruise line.  For example, first time cruise passengers (on any cruise line) need to be prepared for what a cruise is all about, especially on the mass market and premium large ships.

Knowing ahead of time to purchase drink packages prior to boarding can result in savings; buying Teen Cards for younger cruisers can reduce unwanted charges to shipboard accounts; knowing that port days are the best days to find discounted spa treatments; or knowing that dining room changes should be noted immediately upon embarkation with the maître d’hôtel are all examples of ways to get the best onboard experience.

I had a chance to sail on MSC Divina for a 7-day Caribbean cruise from Miami during Spring Break. This was the perfect opportunity for me to see first-hand how the ship is doing.

First Impressions

MSC Divina in St. Thomas. (c) Carrie Finley.Bajak
MSC Divina in St. Thomas. (c) Carrie Finley.Bajak

From the outside Divina is impressive. The sleek lines and sculpted bow are eye-catching. The interior design combines Art Deco and Art Nouveau with the authentic Italian designs for which other MSC Cruises ships are known for. The balcony staterooms are ample-sized with all the touches (mini-fridge, flat-screen TV, sofa-sleeper, beds that can be together for “king-sized” demands or twins. I liked the glass mirrors, which provide views of the sea and plenty of light. Also worthy of a mention is the cleaver design of the shower-doors. The hinges allow the glass doors to swing inward enough when the shower is not in use to fee up valuable space in the bathroom – gone are the 90-degree angle corners between the shower enclosure and the toilet. The result is that moving around the tight space is easier and it seems like the restroom has more space.

Note: a lot of the images on the Internet feature a red color scheme:  I was happy that the more neutral palette was in my cabin 12-089.

MSC Divina cabin 12089
MSC Divina cabin 12089 by Carrie Finley-Bajak

Family cruising

I was traveling as a single mother with my 9-year-old son. MSC Cruises has a reputation as a family-friendly cruise line, which I am delighted to report lived up to the hype.

There are ample activities for families, which include swimming in three different pools, a supervised kids programs, kid-friendly food, and a general shipboard vibe that does not include a lot of boisterous party animals consuming copious amounts of alcohol (there are ships that cater to this crowd, I would not say that MSC Cruises is one of them).

MSC Divina fun for kids
MSC Divina dessert-fun for kids in the Galaxy Disco Restaurant
Photo by Carrie Finley Bajak
MSC Divina Great Stirrup Cay Great Hippo ride.
Venchi gelateria on MSC Divina.
Venchi gelateria on MSC Divina.

Entertainment

MSC Divina revamped some of their entertainment for the North American market. We caught a lot of the production shows and were impressed: my son and I wanted to stay (I normally don’t like production shows on ships). There are two showings in the state-of-the-art theater.

The Michael Jackson production show was a crowd favorite.
The Michael Jackson production show was a crowd favorite.
Photo by Carrie Finley.Bajak
Pantheon Theater on MSC Divina.
MSC Divina
Sea day fun at the pool with MSC Divina’s entertainment staff

 

My favorite things to do on the ships revolve around wellness experiences.

I like the spa and classes at the fitness center. As far as that goes, MSC Divina has a huge space dedicated to active cruise passengers. The biggest buzz for me was the Aqua Cycling by Hydrorider.  Classes take place in the pool, but don’t worry you don’t have to carry the bikes: the instructor and some attendants do the heavy lifting so cruise guests don’t have to. If this is of interest to you, either wear reef shoes (waterproof shoes) or wear socks. There is a fee for the class like yoga and indoor spin classes.

Getting ready for class
Getting ready for class

Digital Entertainment

The F1 simulator and 4-D movies (in addition to arcade games) kept us entertained between shore excursions and swimming.  I purchased my son a $30.00 “Teen Card” which allowed him to have a little freedom on the ship without giving him full access to my credit line (yikes); the pass is available for sale at the reception desk.

F1 Simultaor on MSC Divina
F1 Simultaor on MSC Divina
One of the two arcades on MSC Divina.
One of the two arcades on MSC Divina.

For adults there is a smoke-free casino and plenty of organized activities offered by the entertainment staff. Art classes, dancing lessons, and outdoor movies at night were our favorites. The kids club hosted a couple of events for families like the talent show and family disco.

Dining

Much of the cruise experience hinges around dining, in my opinion. The reviews I read before the cruise were luke-warm about the food on MSC Cruises. I tried to find bad food, but could not. I will say that MSC Yacht Club guests do have some gourmet options not available to the entire cruise ship. However, there are numerous places to dine where there is plenty of good-quality eats.

Black Crab and Villa Rosa – main dining rooms

The Black Crab and Villa Rosa are the two formal dining room restaurants on  MSC Divina. Overall the food was excellent. Ask the head waiter for suggestions because when I did, I got amazing service, piping hot food and things that I would not have been inclined to try. For example try the Pumpkin Ravioli – #yum.  Ask the wait-person which of the pastas is made fresh that day: it’s totally worth the extra calories. The strip steak that is offered all time was marginal, however the prime rib and fillet offered as a nightly special on two other occasions were exceptional. I would recommend that carnivores (and vegetarians to some extent) head to Eataly Steakhouse for an amazing dining experience for meat eaters.

Le Muse –  the great news is that this dining facility has amazing cuisine. The bad news is that it is for the exclusive use of  MSC Yacht Club guests. I will write more about my lunch in Le Muse later but I found the cuisine and service to rival that on any luxury cruise ship I have been on.

Calumet and Manitou – self-service buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make sure to sample the pizza here because it is really great. Don’t expect to see a Las Vegas-sized buffet extravaganza. Divina has enough options at the buffet but there are plenty of other places to sit down and relax over a nice meal – think Mediterranean way of life.  Convenient yes but with so many people eating at the same time, it can be a chore trying to fend off your co-passengers.

Great for families – there are two ways that MSC Divina accommodates children and families during dining. One thing to ask about is  MSC Cruises’  MSC Happy Dinners where children select a meal from the kids’ menu which is served in the dining room while the adults enjoy their first course. Once the children have finished their meal members of the kids’ club staff collect them to have fun with their friends.

Kid-friendly food the children’s menu is a great option for young cruisers. Options include soup, pizza, pasta (such as spaghetti Bolognese or Carbonara), hamburgers, fish, hot dogs, served with sides like fries, vegetables, or fruit.

Specialty Dining Options

Like other ships, MSC Cruises offers cruise passengers an opportunity to experience alternative dining. These restaurants offer unique experiences for an additional rate. For those passengers who are inclined to pay the nominal surcharge, I don’t think you will be disappointed. Your options are:

MSC Divina - Eataly Steakhouse
MSC Divina – Eataly Steakhouse

Eataly Steakhouse –  designed after Eataly’s famed Manzo steakhouse in New York City.  Eately Steakhouse on MSC Divina gives cruise passengers a chance to experience the popular chain restaurant while on vacation. For me, it was great because we don’t have access Eataly in California. Verdict?  I loved it! My full report will be available soon.

La Cantina Di Bacco (Italian) – The casual wine bar and pizzeria is easy to overlook with so many great places to relax on the ship. It’s worth making your way to Deck 7 for tapas, pizza, beer or wine.

Sports Bar – for good “American-style” pub food. The decor in the sports bar is bright and cheery. There are plenty of tv monitors to catch up on sports. The menu will satisfy those looking for chicken wings or other bar food bites.

 

Tuna tartar at Galaxy Disco Restaruant
Tuna Tartare at Galaxy Disco Restaurant
Galaxy Disco – Restaurant –  If you find yourself on Deck 16in the Galaxy Disco wondering where the heck the restaurant is just look for the bar and the windows that overlook the main swimming pool and the sea. The Galaxy Disco – Restaurant serves a luxurious brunch on select sea days (for a nominal fee) as well as dinner, which is  a la carte pricing.
Piazza Del Doge – provides cruisers with an opportunity to sit back and enjoy a gellato (for an additional cost – try at least once), a pastry or cupcake (also at a nominal cost).

Caffè Italia in partnership with Segafredo Zanetti offers typical Italian favourites, from full-bodied espressos to flawlessly foamed cappuccinos, the Segafredo coffee and chocolate menu also includes a variety of specialist coffees and chocolate drinks.

Luxury Cruising on MSC Divina

MSC Yacht Club on MSC Divina
MSC Yacht Club on MSC Divina
MSC Yacht Club on MSC Divina
Pool for exclusive use of MSC Yacht Club guests.
MSC Yacht Club on MSC Divina
Concierge at MSC Yacht Club on MSC Divina
MSC Yacht Club on MSC Divina
Top Sail bar at MSC Yacht Club on MSC Divina

Although the focus of my trip was family cruising, I did have a chance to see what MSC Divina offers cruise passengers in the MSC Yacht Club. My takeaway was that this hideaway is a great option for people that want to get away from it all to enjoy some peace and quiet, great service and wonderful meals at Le Muse Restaurant. On the other hand, just step back outside the Yacht Club’s ship-within-a-ship environment to enjoy entertainment, specialty dining, movies at night, shopping, the spa, fitness classes or the gym, a cocktail at one of the lounges, etc.

MSC Cruises offers cruise passengers MSC Yacht Club for those looking for full-service cruising. Although I did not stay in the Yacht Club, I was able to take a quick peek.

The Yacht Club is located toward the bow of the ship and is accessible with a member’s keycard. There are 69 suites served by butlers who help passengers throughout their cruise.  Yacht Club guests have a private dining room called Le Muse as well as access to the spacious Top Sail Lounge and Bar on Deck 15. The unobstructed, 180-degree views of the sea from the Top Sail Lounge are impressive, by the way. There is a concierge desk, which is staffed 24/7) and a private pool.

The best perks of the Yacht Club are sensational food in Le Muse Restaurant, butler service, more space, a private pool with plenty of space (remember the ship can accommodate 4000 cruise guests), and amenities like bottled water, sodas, specialty coffees, cocktails, or wine with dinner.Priority embarkation and debarkation are also an added bonus.

Read more about MSC Divina

 

 

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