Saturday morning saw us (unfortunately) back in Miami. We chose not to do self debark this time, preferring the ease of debarking without having to drag luggage around. Even with an 11 hour drive home, I was more than willing to delay it by an hour or two in order to avoid lugging 5 suitcases around the ship.
Having two rooms on two different decks, we had a choice of which debark color to go with, the red one for our room (9146) that would be one of the last to get called, or the pink one for Bayley’s room, with a scheduled departure of 8:45. We chose pink. This isn’t like other lines where they make the color/zone announcements throughout the ship either, they assign you a time to meet in the Pantheon theater, the only place where they then make the announcements for each color.
Prior to our scheduled time in the theater, we hit the MDR for breakfast, where I’m pretty sure they were just serving the same food from the buffet, as my waffle was the same soft Belgian waffle I’d had a few days earlier. No biggie. We finished up and headed to the theater around 8am. We didn’t have long to wait, as they called us a bit early, somewhere around 8:20am. Exiting couldn’t have been smoother, either. There was only a small group of us, and we were escorted to the rear gangway with no wait, and headed to the baggage area. The cool thing here is that it’s not the typical warehouse “hunt for your baggage” setup, they actually have rooms with conveyor belts, similar to airport arrival. I think it took all of 5min for our bags to arrive, and we headed to customs, where there was also no wait. From the time our color was called in the theater to the point where we exited customs, it *might* have been 20 minutes (probably less). It was all handled very well from our perspective, one of the fastest debarks we’ve seen.
I’ll flip things around at this point and give our overall opinion before I call out the highs and lows.
We talked it over on the way home and agree that in spite of any negatives, we had a great week. After reading a number of reviews, we really didn’t know what to expect, but agreed that whatever issues MSC had last year with integration in to the American market have pretty much been taken care of. The crew was outstanding for the most part (exceptions listed below), the ship was very clean, the food was pretty good, and we had a blast all week. MSC has made its way into our regular cruise line rotation, and we’re excited about the prospect of sailing the MSC Seaside out of Miami after she arrives in late 2017. Well done, MSC, you’ve come back to the US with a great product!
Additionally, not knowing anything about this line before this trip, it would have been hard to recommend it to clients. We’re certainly not going to push a line we don’t know, so this was as much about learning the product as it was enjoying our holiday aboard one of their ships. After experiencing it first-hand, if the Divina and it’s itinerary are a good fit for clients looking to sail the Caribbean, we wouldn’t hesitate to put them on it!
On to the positives and negatives!
- We love the smoking situation, especially the lack of smoking in the casino. It’s actually nice to be able to play in a smoke free environment.
- The food was, for the most part, pretty good. There were exceptions, as there are on all cruises, but overall what we ate was tasty. The pizza is also the best at sea in my opinion.
- The ship is beautiful. Not the gaudy decor you get with some lines, tastefully decorated throughout the ship.
- Once again, the entertainment team was awesome. We had a blast at every activity we attended, even bingo. The team really blends well together and genuinely appears to be having fun entertaining the passengers.
- Very nice main theater. There appeared to be far fewer obstructed view seats than we’ve seen on other lines, at least on the lower level.
- Not something we could make use of, but on certain sailings (including our Christmas sailing), kids sail free or at a discounted rate. Per MSC’s site, the policy is changing slightly this coming summer, but still, a good deal for parents!
- The shows were higher caliber ones than you tend to get with the included shows on other lines. The main singers are some of the best we’ve seen at sea, and having some acrobatics integrated into the shows is awesome. MSC appears to be laser-focused on giving passengers great shows, and their new partnership with Cirque Du Soleil is a prime example of that.
- The staff throughout the ship were all very friendly. Always saying hello, wishing people happy holidays, etc.
- The MDR has too many tables crammed in to too small of a space. Half the seats at our table always seemed to be blocking servers trying to walk through due to seats from tables around us being so close. The 6 person table we were at in no way should seat 6, either. 5 tops.
- The MDR almost seemed short-staffed. Getting small things like drink refills was hit or miss due to how many tables and orders they were having to handle. They were all very nice, but just seemed like they had too much to deal with.
- Cabin service for us in 9164 wasn’t very good, and completely the opposite experience our daughter had in 12039. From small things, like her ice bucket being full every day, whereas ours had a layer of dust on it from non-use, to running out of toilet paper due to the bathroom not being touched two nights in a row, to us never even seeing our steward the entire cruise.
- The abridged schedules for some things got really annoying. I mentioned the limited soft-serve hours in my last post, and the issues with the water slide times two posts before that. I’ve also alluded to the odd buffet schedule in a couple of posts, but yea, if you don’t want to eat in the MDR, your options for dinner on the buffet are limited, as very few stations are open during dinner hours.
- There’s no comedy club on-board. It’s not really fair to compare MSC to the contemporary lines like Norwegian, Royal or Carnival, but for those who are used to those lines and looking at MSC, that comparison is bound to happen. We all love a good comedy club, but you’ll have to love it on another line. Regardless, the other entertainment more than made up for it.
Small, nitpicky stuff:
- They really like to hawk their wares. It starts shortly after you board, as there are people everywhere trying to sell you a drink package. Eating your first lunch in the buffet? Expect to be approached by no fewer than 4 people asking if you want a drink package. Additionally, the shops have tables set up in multiple locations on the ship trying to sell you watches, jewelry, pasta ingredients, etc. There was even a row of tables on one side of the main pool area taking up good chair space trying to sell stuff. We just found that a bit odd.
- The water slide area has no place to hold your stuff (chairs, cubbies, etc) while you ride the slide, so we just put ours on the ground off to the side of the bottom of the slide.
- The on-board app is just okay. It’s not really an app, either, it’s just an internally-hosted web site. It didn’t work on my wife’s Windows Phone, unfortunately, so we couldn’t use it to communicate with her, and the info it offered was incomplete, as it didn’t have any restaurant menus, and I never did see show information listed on it.
- Lunch service in the MDR was really slow, even when things aren’t busy.
- The infinity pool wasn’t infinity-ing while in port. Maybe they were taking that time to clean/refill it, but it would have been nice to be able to use it when people were still ashore and it was less busy.
- I think I mentioned this before, but there’s nothing in the way of water or cold towels when you return to the ship after a day in port. I really wanted to grab both from Holland America’s table when we got back to the ship in San Juan, as we were pretty hot from walking around.
The negatives above weren’t that big of a deal to us, as the positives generally outweighed all of them, and we had an amazing Christmas week aboard the Divina. As I’ve already mentioned, we’d sail her again if given the chance!