It’s been almost a year since our last sailing on the Divina, and being that this has proven to be one of our favorite ships, I’m glad we’re getting a chance to check it out again and see how things compare to our past 3 experiences. It also gives me a chance to see how my “is the MSC Divina right for you post” has aged.
Kicking things off, embarkation. Generally, this is supposed to be a non-eventful part of the trip, just something you have to deal with in order to get to the fun, but checking in to the Divina for this sailing, I have to say was pretty frustrating. We decided to arrive later than our normal 11am-12pm time that we shoot for in the hopes of a crowd-free stroll on to the ship, this time arriving at the port around 2pm. Didn’t quite work out that way. After breezing through security, we arrived in the lobby to find one of the longest check-in lines I recall seeing for any cruise (if you follow us on social media, you may have seen my pictures of it). Upon entering the line, you’re split off into one of two separate lanes by someone working there, and we definitely ended up in the worst one. After about an hour, we got close enough to see what was going on. For some reason, the line next to us had roughly 12 people serving the check in counter, while we had 4. The girl working the front of our line saw the issue and on several occasions walked over to (what appeared to be) supervisors behind the counter to get things sorted, but each time I saw, her concerns were just met with shrugs. At one point they did open a couple more stations on our side, but usually only to relieve someone else leaving. By the time we got up there (almost an hour an a half after we got in line), there were only 2 people actively working our line. We actually tracked a couple of people who arrived an hour after us that ended up in the other line, and they made it to the check-in counter 10 minutes before we did. Ouch. Score one for the Yacht Club embarkation experience.
Once on, we dropped our carry-ons in one of our rooms and headed for a late lunch. Thankfully the pizza station had plenty of the four cheese variety that I love of theirs, so I grabbed a couple of pieces and found a table for us at the back of the ship. We wished we’d also grabbed some dessert at that point, as we arrived at that station a while later to find most of it (the things we wanted, anyway) had been cleaned up already. I guess the lesson here is to go back to our early boarding time so we don’t miss out on buffet items in the event of slow check-in!
After the required safety drill, we headed to guest services to change out our room cards. There are four of us in two separate rooms this trip, and we decided that morning to change up who was staying where, so after a short wait in line, the woman working the desk got us set up with the appropriate keys. As far as the rooms go, we’re happy with what we have. We booked inside rooms through the travel agent program, but early on logged in to find out we’d been upgraded to balcony rooms. They’re at opposite ends of the ship, but that’s perfectly fine, I’m very happy to have a balcony 😊. Bayley and I are in a forward cove balcony, cabin 9054, while Jen and her mom are in an aft balcony, 10275. While the aft balcony is very roomy (really deep) and has my favorite view on a ship, the one downside seems to be lack of airflow. It’s been pretty hot and humid out on theirs, so I like that I’ve got the cove to come back to, as it has plenty of airflow. My only issue with cove balconies is the lack of view, with the bottom half being steel instead of glass. No complaints here though, it’s a balcony we weren’t expecting, and it’s comfortable! I do have 360 shots of both rooms and will post them after I get back, as I’m currently having issues with the Ricoh Theta software preventing me from uploading full 360 shots.
For dinner, we’ve got late seating in Villa Rosa at the back of the ship. This is a welcome change of venue, since we had Black Crab on our first Divina sailing in 2015, and felt it was too crowded. We do prefer early seating, but decided to stick with this, as we also have a dining package that allows us to eat in three of the specialty restaurants, so we won’t be eating at 8:30 every night. After last night’s dinner in the MDR, however, I’m pleased to say that so far our dinner experience is vastly improved over our 2015 sailing. Our waiters were great last night, and the full meal took just over an hour, far better than the 2+ hours we averaged on that 2015 sailing. Last night’s food was pretty good too, but then again, I went with the pasta for my first two courses, and as we know, being an Italian line, they definitely know how to do pasta!
The evening saw us head to the Black and White Lounge for the entertainment staff intro. Pretty sure they used to do a game here, so a little disappointed it wasn’t something like that, but still fun, and there were plenty of people out on the floor dancing, so a good time was had by all!
Our first full day aboard also happens to be a sea day, one that we used to relax and let go of some of the line stress from the past couple of days (we visited Animal Kingdom the day before we boarded). We started off with breakfast in the buffet, and every time I eat at the buffet on board, I’m reminded of another reason I love Yacht Club. Eating breakfast up at The One Pool is so much more relaxing, as you’re not subject to the standard buffet crowds. The passenger behavior at the breakfast buffet this morning, complete with people using their hands to put food back on the buffet, made our lunch decision easy, skip the buffet and head to the MDR! Come on people, there’s a certain etiquette around food that just makes things better for everyone.
Our activities today were pretty standard; lost a couple rounds of trivia, Bayley played in the foosball tournament, we wandered the ship a bit, and of course attended tonight’s show, The Mask. It seemed like they’ve changed up the show quite a bit, which is a good thing. As I’ve mentioned in the past, we do enjoy their shows, and tonight’s performance was just as entertaining as part ones. Oh, I almost forgot, we also attended bingo this afternoon, and were happy to see the bingo boys are still around! I always worry that someone’s going to decide that it’s too juvenile and cut it, but frankly things like this are a big part of the allure of MSC for us. It’s nice to see an entertainment team that’s trying to have fun, and not just going through the motions.
One other change for us on this trip, we’re actually eating at some of the specialty restaurants! With the dining packages they have, it just seemed like too good of a deal to pass up. We’d talked about it on past trips, but enjoyed the food and service so much in Yacht Club on the last two that we never got around to it. Tonight, with nothing on the MDR menu that we were all excited about, we hit Eataly Steakhouse. With the dining package you get one appetizer, one entrée, and one dessert per person. As you can see in the picture, I went with the beef carpaccio, filet mignon (ordered medium rare and cooked perfectly), and for dessert, the bomboloni, which is three donuts with vanilla ice cream. It was all excellent, well worth the price of admission. The cannoli was Jen’s and it too was delicious!
We closed out the evening in the Black and White Lounge once again, this time for the Stardust dance competition. As with our last sailing, Bayley ended up being a judge for this, as knowing a member or two of the entertainment team has its advantages 😊. Good stuff, I always love watching events like this, and have nothing but respect for anyone willing to get up in front of a crowd like this and have fun on the dance floor. There are things I’ll participate in during the week, but this just isn’t one. Partly due to a foot injury I’m dealing with, but mostly because I just flat out can’t dance.
That about does it for our opening day and a half. We’ve got three ports on tap, starting with Jamaica! We’re spending the day on the beach at Sandals, so I expect to be completely wiped out by the time we board tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned, there’s more fun to come from the MSC Divina! Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to check out the ship and activities!