Part 2 continuation:
Food and service overall were quite good. I found the staff to be very accommodating and at all times friendly. "Jane from Ukraine" was a favorite and interacting with her daily at the Caffe Italia was a highlight. What a fantastic person and a true asset to MSC Cruises. As mentioned earlier the variety of bars onboard DIVINA are quite impressive, but so are the menus that accompany the bars. Each bar has its own menu and besides the standards, different speciality drinks can be found at each bar. It makes bar hopping onboard DIVINA that much more fun and interesting! We dined at late seating on the lower level of the Black Crab dining room. Unsuccessful in obtaining a table for two (they are very limited), we really enjoyed our new friends and table mates at a table for eight. The dining room itself is unremarkable and again seating is just too crowded. I enjoyed all my meals and service was excellent. The staff really did a nice job considering how crowded everything was. We dined a few times at the aft Villa Rossa restaurant for lunch, and I found this dining room to be the more attractive of the two. Both serve the exact same menu. Topside is the Calumet & Manitou buffet restaurants. The layout is excellent and finding an open table was never a problem even at peak times. The variety and presentation of food was excellent, and MSC's efforts in making this space more appealing to North Americans has really paid off. Something I have never seen on a ship before is individually wrapped burgers like you would get at a fast food restaurant. I really liked the burgers and the presentation is far superior to a large tin of burgers sitting in grease like you see on many ships. The fries as well were presented in individual containers again making a very nice presentation. Additional dining options include limited room service, the sports bar, Pizza Eataly, Piazza del Doge for gelato, Galaxy Restaurant, Ristorante Italia, and Eataly Steakhouse. All these additional venues required a charge except for room service during regular hours. We dined at Pizza Eataly one evening for truly authentic Napoli style pizza crafted by a chef from Napoli! It was excellent. Another evening we dined at Eataly Steakhouse, which along with Galaxy are the premium speciality restaurants onboard. At Eataly our steaks were superb and service was excellent, but the physical space lacked any ambiance and felt more like a bright cafeteria. The basic surroundings didn't do justice to the excellent cuisine. This might explain why the space appeared empty every night. I think in general people are willing to pay extra for a special meal onboard, but they want a special ambiance that matches the quality and presentation of the meal itself. In this respect Eataly Steakhouse was a failure.
This cruise was to the Western Caribbean and the ports included Falmouth, Jamaica; Grand Cayman; Cozumel; and Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. We never actually made it to Great Stirrup Cay as the seas were too rough for tender operations. MSC did a great job organizing embarkation and disembarkation in all these ports including Miami. Lines were never a problem and plenty of information was always available from a variety of sources to answer any questions. My only suggestion would be limit tender announcements to specific public areas of the ship and not broadcast them in cabin corridors. Having to listen to tender announcements every 15 minutes starting at the early AM hours while trying to have a sleep-in during vacation is not relaxing. MSC does use a silent disembarkation process for final disembarkation in Miami and it's an excellent process. Depending on your disembarkation arrangement, you are assigned a meeting place and time. You are collected from the lounge and led to the gangway when it's your time to disembark and there are no announcements over the PA. It would be great if a modified version of this process could be used for tender operations in ports like Grand Cayman.
There are many aspects of the MSC experience that really stood out as exceptional for me. Some have been mentioned earlier in this review, but I would like to recap and present some that I have not touched on yet.
- quick embarkation and disembarkation
- buffet layout, selection, and presentation (especially those burgers and fries!)
- coffee bar selection and service
- exceptional beverage menus
- fantastic shower door design
- excellent wifi speed and connectivity all over the ship
- MSC Traveler phone app for use while onboard DIVINA
- amazing, second to none entertainment with WOW factor!
- variety, quality, and availability of live music
- excellent Cruise Director, Cruise Staff, and entertainers
- fantastic ship layout and design
- wonderful variety of pools and availability of deck space
- state of the art fitness center with fantastic views
- super friendly crew with many staff that went above and beyond
- excellent air conditioning throughout the ship and cabin
- creative light outside the cabin to indicate occupancy to the cabin steward
- excellent gift shop merchandise selection - well beyond what most ships offer
There are always opportunities for improvement and MSC Cruises is no exception. I wouldn't call any of these suggestions deal breakers, but they are areas that I feel MSC Cruises could improve upon. One in particular I would like to touch upon. I don't normally cruise on mass-market lines in March due to the excessive number of kids, but for reasons beyond my control I ended up on a March cruise. As expected there were a massive number of kids onboard, in part due to most South Florida public schools being on Spring Break this week, but also because of MSC's "kids sail free" promotion. According to the crew it was the most amount of kids onboard since the ship arrived in Miami, and believe me there was no escaping them anywhere on the ship. Even on Disney Cruise Line where hundreds of kids are present on every cruise, the "kid factor" is much less in your face. Why is this? Two reasons. One is that Disney has an excellent children's program that keeps the kids well occupied. Two is that there are dedicated adults areas that are actually enforced. On the DIVINA, day or night you could not escape the kids whether it be in any of the pools topside or yes even in the nightclub at 1am! All three of the main pools on DIVINA became a massive kiddie playground from morning to dusk and there was no way to escape them if you wanted a swim. My suggestion to MSC Cruises is to create at least one adults-only pool (The Garden Pool would be an excellent choice) as well as a lounge or two in the evening and actually enforce the policy. Without question kids (under 18) should not be allowed in the nightclub after 11pm, and to see little kids running all over the place at 1am was alarming. Other cruise lines check ID's at the door to the nightclubs and perhaps MSC should do the same. It's not a safe environment for the kids, and frankly as an adult I have no interest in seeing small kids running around a nightclub at 1am. You might ask where are the parents, but that is worthy of a review of its own!
Some other areas of opportunity that may or may not have been touched upon in the review include:
- excessive tender announcements in cabin corridors
- only one towel stand on the entire ship. The Garden Pool needs its own or better yet, do away with this restrictive policy
- no pillow chocolates or evening towel animals
- no complimentary movies on TV
- dining rooms are too crowded to experience an elegant meal and service
- aft Garden Pool should be adults only
- Top 19 needs a bar and upgraded amenities to justify the cost
- Eataly Steakhouse has excellent cuisine and service but lacks any ambiance
- no complimentary lockers, showers, steam or sauna in the gym
- room service menu is very limited
- PLEASE create some adults-only areas and ENFORCE them!
So to answer my initial question, "Delighted by DIVINA?", I would say yes, I truly was. MSC Cruises has done a marvelous job bringing this beautiful ship to Miami for year round cruises. The ship will absolutely appeal to North Americans as well as a worldwide clientele, offering an experience that is slight different in a positive way, with a certain Mediterranean style and flair that is lacking on the competition. A few more tweaks and enhancements and the product will actually exceed most of the competition in almost every respect. Best of luck to MSC Cruises in this well established market, and for those of you with a passion for music and entertainment looking for something just a little different, I encourage you to book MSC DIVINA. Bon Voyage!