Hello MSC Divina, We’re Back!!

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.

Ouch. Longest check-in line ever… #mscdivina

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When you've got 4 agents helping one side of the line and 12 helping the other, something needs to be fixed… #mscdivina #cruise

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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.

It's time for some #bingo, and you know what that means on the #mscdivina, #BingoBoys!

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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.

Bayley was once again one of the judges for the Stardust #dance competition tonight! #mscdivina #cruise

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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!

Watching the sun disappear ☀️#sunset #mscdivina #cruise

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Sailing With Disney – Debark and Final Thoughts

Finishing out my series on our adventure aboard the Disney Dream, I wanted to cover our debarkation experience and look back at what we liked and didn’t like about this sailing. If this is the first post you’ve read in our Dream series, I encourage you to hit this link and check out our previous posts first!

Debarkation was a bit of a whirlwind for us. We’d tagged our bags the night before and put them out at the required time of 10pm, earlier than any other sailing I recall. We’d been given Daisy tags, and assumed they’d be calling the characters in a specific order, similar to numbered debarkation order on most lines. We were wrong.

When we woke up in port Friday morning we started getting ready, and after Jen turned her phone on, she started getting a series of texts letting her know of a bit of a family emergency going on back home. This suddenly meant our plans had changed, and that we needed to get off the ship and back to NC as soon as possible, so we headed to guest services to see if we could get off before our character was called. That was the pointat which we found out there is no real debark order, you just get off whenever you want and head down to pick up your luggage from the zone that matches your tag. That was a first, and boy was it fast. We headed right for the exit, and with everything going on, I never had a chance to get any pictures, but one nice touch as we exited was that the Captain was there seeing guests off.

After exiting the ship and finding our luggage, we headed for customs, which was also a breeze, as we didn’t need to fill out and present a declaration form. We simply handed him our passports, he asked if we had fruit, and as soon as we said no we were on our way. It might have been 30 minutes from the time we started walking down the gangway until we arrived at our cars in the hotel parking lot. It was all very smooth, which we really needed at that point. A+ for debarkation, it was nice and smooth.

Moving on, there are a few things that stood out to me over the course of this sailing:

  • It’s all about the Disney product. For example, on other lines, we’re used to the crew being introduced before the show on the last night of a sailing, but that never happened during this trip. Additionally, we’re used to the entertainment team being the face of your trip, but that never seemed to be the case here, it was all about Disney, and they made sure you remembered that. Not saying that’s a bad thing, just something different than what we’ve seen elsewhere. The experience comes first, just like it does in the parks.
  • Anyone that’s been to a Disney property knows how good Disney is at separating parents from their money, and the ships are no different in that regard. Other than the jewelry /purse “sales” on some ships, I rarely see people buying things like shorts, toys, or other line-specific gear, but this is Disney. The shops were busy most of the week, and I admit we even bought DCL shirts among other trinkets, and we never buy cruise line shirts. I’m sure they sold a number of pins on trading night, and a bunch of gear leading in to pirate night, too. I don’t recall a single sailing on any other line where I’ve seen the shops as busy as they were on the Dream.
  • The department heads were out checking on their areas more than on any other sailing I recall. That’s not to say it was in any way a distraction, they stayed out of the way, but it was impressive to see how often they were around making sure everything in their respective area was running smoothly. That alone made it obvious that this is a Disney operation.

So on to our positives and negatives. First up, the positives:

  • First and foremost, we had a great time. While it seemed to be busier than most sailings, mainly due to having a 21 year old that still loves the character meet and greets ;), the sailing was an absolute blast, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat.
  • The food was good all week. You can’t always say that about MDR and buffet food, but I can safely make that statement here. I don’t recall a single thing I had that I didn’t like. When you factor in the brunch buffet at Palo, it was some of the best food we’ve had any one sailing.
  • Our cabin service was excellent all week. We did have an issue with a misplaced item of clothing the first day, but it was located and things were good the rest of the week.
  • The shows were very entertaining, and offered sets and casts that overall were better than the vast majority of lines we’ve sailed. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s hard for me to compare the shows themselves to any other line, because Disney has a catalog of popular stories that they don’t have to pay royalties on like other lines would, so it’s not really a fair fight. I will say that the singing and dancing was on point all week, some of the best we’ve seen on any ship.
  • Castaway Cay was awesome. One of our favorite private islands, and frankly I wish we’d have been on one of the sailings where you stop there twice. Having a separate area for adults was outstanding, along with tram service between all points on the island. I’d have easily traded our stop in Nassau for a second day at Castaway Cay.
  • The Aquaduck was probably the best water slide I’ve ridden on a ship to date. I’m a fan of the Aqua Racer on Norwegian’s Escape as you can see in our video, but the Aquaduck was better in my opinion. The night ride didn’t hurt 🙂
  • Rotating dining rooms almost every night is cool, definitely adds something to the experience on the ship. I just wish our repeat had been Animator’s Palate vs Enchanted Garden.
  • When you want to get away from the kids, there are plenty of adults only areas to give you some relaxation. A couple of different pools, and after 9pm, a whole “district” area at the back of the ship with multiple venues to choose from.
  • Having an on board movie theater with first-run Disney movies is awesome. Pirates of the Caribbean 5 came out a couple of days before we sailed, so getting to watch that on pirate night while sailing in the Caribbean was really cool. Add to that the snack bar (which does cost money) and ability to bring food from the buffet, and it’s definitely a nice touch.
  • We really liked our room, cabin 7004, a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Porthole (OV). It was the first time in a while that we haven’t had a balcony, but I can’t say I ever really noticed. Having so much space (including plenty of storage) along with two bathrooms. Feel free to take a look around with this 360 degree shot!
  • The ship is in excellent condition, well decorated, and was always clean.
  • The entertainment options throughout the day were so much fun. There was so much to do that I don’t think we ever made it to any of the trivia events. The girls especially loved the drawing classes, something they were sad to see removed from Hollywood Studios. Getting to draw Stitch is always a highlight for Bayley!

The negatives, of which there were few:

  • Going in, we heard a lot of “this will ruin cruising for you due to that legendary Disney service” comments. Yea, none of us really agreed. If you’d never sailed before, the whole package (food quality, characters, the Disney experience) might make it hard to sail any other line, but we never really felt like the service lived up to that Disney level they’re famous for in the parks. I’m not saying it was bad (with the exception of my next bullet), as the crew was good all week, and the entertainment team was fun, but we’ve had service that’s been just as good on other lines, so I can’t really say it met those pre-set expectations.
  • The only really bad employee experience was in one of the shops. We wanted to buy a Pandora charm or two, since they have a couple they only sell on the ships, and the woman working the counter seemed less than interested in helping. We di buy one, but only after having to really push to get her to show them to us or tell us anything about them.
  • Something I mentioned in an earlier post, the dining speed. It really seemed like there were too many tables and not enough staff to handle them. That first night was brutal, taking well over 2 hours for the full meal (other tables had the same issue) and causing us to miss one late night activity we wanted to see. No complaints on our dining staff, they were great, they just seemed overworked.
  • The Midship Detective Agency apparently closes at midnight. I get it, most people doing it are likely well asleep, but Bayley was trying to participate one night while we were walking around late, only to find this had shut down a few minutes before we got there.
  • While the mixology class we did on day 2 was fun, we’d hoped that we’d actually be learning to make more drinks. We put together 3 of them, but in reality only truly made like 1 of them. For a couple of them, items that were part of the mix were prepared ahead of time, like some of the mashed fruits.

That’s really it for negatives, and none of them are really worth complaining about in my opinion. Our week on the Dream was excellent, and none of the above items took away from our fun at all.

In closing, I’d have to say that if you’re a Disney fan and have never sailed with them, you’re missing out! We really enjoyed our cruise, and would easily sail Disney again! They’re obviously a very family oriented line that provides a great experience for the ids while giving the grownups a chance to have fun as well. If a Disney cruise isn’t on your list, it should be!