MSC Divina: The Ports!

Okay, it’s time to catch up on blog posts, and next on the list is a rundown on our port activity while sailing on the Divina this summer! Our previous three trips on the ship were all on the other itinerary, and while we’ve stopped at all of these before, it was a nice change of pace.

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

This was the first of our four stops, and prior to sailing we’d picked up day passes for Sandals Ochi Beach Resort. We’ve utilized day passes before and tend to enjoy the less crowded nature of them compared to the public beaches or beach excursions, and this trip did not disappoint. After arriving and checking in, we immediately headed for the beach. This location actually has two beaches, one on more calm water, then one a little further down the resort that’s sort of in the main outside area. In addition to the beach, there’s a pool area with a swim up bar, and a restaurant. That was the area we camped out at all day, and we found it pretty quiet the entire time we were there.

The last time we used a Sandals day pass was in late 2015 while on the Norwegian Escape, and it ended up being a bit of a bust. Not long after arriving at Sandals Nassau (ACTUAL NAME), the weather turned on us and it poured on the area. I think we stayed there for an hour, had maybe one drink and headed back to the ship. No fault of Sandals, obviously, just bad timing. This time, things were pretty awesome. Our day pass was all inclusive, so we enjoyed a number of drinks at our beach chairs, at the pool bar, and with lunch, and it was all excellent. While I did spend some time in the ocean just floating around, I’m pretty sure I spent more time hanging out in the pool enjoying the swim up bar. I have to say, I do enjoy the day passes at places like this. It’s definitely something to look at when you’re considering a beach day at one of your stops!

Floating through #Monday like 😎 #sandals #jamaica #mscdivina #cruise

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Good times at #Sandals #OchiBeach today! Beautiful resort to spend a relaxing day at! #jamaica

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Closing out today with a sampling of the fun had at #Sandals 😊☀️ #jamaica #ochibeach #beach #ocean

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Until next time, #Jamaica! #mscdivina #cruise #ochorios #theta360

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Georgetown, Grand Cayman

This is another stop we’ve been to a handful of times, and I’m pretty sure that we’ve gone to Stingray City each time whether it was the only thing we did, or as part of a larger tour. We actually went in to this stop with nothing scheduled, as the plan was to just get off the ship and look for a tour out to, you guessed it, Stingray City. We had Jen’s mom with us, as well as Bayley’s friend Wally (a member of the Divina’s entertainment team), and neither had been there before, so we thought that we be fun to head out to, and it didn’t disappoint (for the most part)!

After tendering over to port, Jen spotted a tour operator she felt good about using (Carson’s Stingray City Tours), so we walked over to the woman to inquire about their tours, and after a quick discussion decided to go for it. We hung out right there by the tender area for about another 20 minutes while they signed up a few others, then off to the bus it was. One warning here, like a lot of Caribbean tour companies, they’re all about filling up the bus. Every single jump seat or other flat place to sit was full, which I freely admit I’m not a huge fan of. After a bit of a ride, we finally arrived at the small pier where the boat picks you up. Now, one thing I should mention first is that for $35, we got a stop at Stingray City, a stop to snorkel, and time at 7 mile beach. We were pretty happy with the order they did it in, too.

The first stop was Stingray City. We got out there before it got busy, which was really nice. If you’ve ever visited Stingray City, it can get really packed with ships in town, and even though we were the only ones here that day, it did get a little crowded at the end. On arrival, they gave us some short instructions and let us jump in. Once in, there were plenty of stingrays swimming around to enjoy. The staff jumped in with food to entice the rays over and started the picture ritual. You obviously can take your own pictures, provided you have something waterproof, or you can buy theirs. We actually did both. At the time, the $40 for all of our pictures (all 5 of us included in that) seemed like a great deal, as we got some really good pictures from our guides last time, but after getting home and seeing the shots, I regret buying them. Not sure if it was a lens thing or transfer to CD thing, but the images came out pretty warped. Jen and Bayley had looked at them on his laptop on the ship and don’t remember seeing them like this, so I assumed something happened when they were burned to disk. They do give you an email address you can contact if you have issues, as they hold on to the originals for one month. I’d say I emailed them at least 10 times in that month, from multiple email addresses, and got zero response, so yea, if you use them, either look very closely at the pics before you buy them, or don’t buy them at all in my opinion. Thankfully we have all of my GoPro pictures and video to fall back on.

As I mentioned, we got there before it got busy, which gave us a lot of space to work in and a lot of stingrays to see. As it got closer to the end of our time there, some of the ship and other private excursions showed up, and it got a lot more crowded, so we were pretty happy they got us out there first before the crowds. After we finished up here, we hopped back on the boat and headed to the snorkeling spot a short distance away. While the water around the stingrays was pretty calm, this spot was a little rougher, but not too bad. They have snorkeling gear available for people to use at no extra cost, so they brought out the masks, snorkels and life vests (for anyone that wanted one) and handed them out. They do have fins, and mentioned it more than once, but I was the only one to take them up on it. Frankly, it just made swimming there so much easier. There were plenty of small colorful fish around here too, so even though it was a short stop (like 30-45min if I recall), it was worth the time to me.

Our last stop was 7 mile beach. For those who didn’t want to go to the beach, they’d drop you back at the ship, but for those who did, they’d give you some time here and come back to get you at a pre-agreed on time. For our bus, that was 3pm, but the 5 of us didn’t plan to stay that long. We hung out until around 1-1:30 just relaxing a little and then grabbed a taxi back to the port at a cost of like $5 each. Wally needed to be back for his next shift, and frankly the rest of us were tired. We did walk around the shops a bit before heading over the tenders, which was a mistake. Bayley and Wally went right for the tenders when we got to port and said they had no line, but by the time we got there it was a pretty lengthy line. Fortunately MSC had a number of lifeboats running, and I don’t think we waited out in the sun for more than 10-15 minutes. This was also another point I missed being in Yacht Club, as there were butlers out there escorting YC guests straight to the tender boats. Another awesome perk of Yacht Club!

Outside of the issue with the pictures, we were pretty happy with the tour, especially for the price. If I were planning ahead, however, I’d probably go back to the ones we used the last time we were there, as our guides were awesome, and the pictures they took came out great. I really need to go back and figure out who that tour was with 🙂

Got off the ship and took an impromptu tour out to #StingrayCity! Always a fun time 😊 #mscdivina #stingray

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Good times were had by all at #stingraycity today 😊 #grandcayman #mscdivina #stingray

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Surrounded by #stingrays 😊 #grandcayman #stingraycity #mscdivina

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Earlier today, on #7milebeach. That's the #mscdivina off in the distance on the right. #grandcayman #cruise #beach

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Cozumel

This was another planned beach day for us, and with another day pass. This time we were headed to Nachi Cocum Beach Club. We’ve been to a few places along this stretch of beach before (Playa Mia, Ocean Beach club, etc), but never from the dock MSC uses. What’s normally a 10 minute ride was easily double that. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but just be warned, they dock further away from all of those places, so plan your time accordingly.

The only other ship in port here was the Carnival Triumph, so Nachi wasn’t full at all. I think we were told they sell 150 passes per day, and today had sold 60 of those. The place was incredibly relaxing all day, and we pretty much spent our time lounging in the water having drinks brought to us. Being an all-inclusive, drinks and food are free, but if you want any water toys (lounger type things), you do have to pay a little more. We didn’t end up getting any, so I can’t say what those cost unfortunately. Something else I should note here, if you have kids with you, I’d probably recommend something like Playa Mia, or one of the others that has a water park with all the inflatable toys in it, as Nachi has none of that. Even though kids are allowed, this just felt more adult oriented, which was perfect for us. We hung out in the water drinking all day with some of the people from the Triumph, and had a blast. So far, Nachi is probably my favorite of the beach stops we’ve done in Cozumel, and I wouldn’t hesitate to visit them again! Outstanding service all day, and while the food was just okay, it was nice to have it included in the price. Our only complaint here was shoddy wifi, which was basically useless the entire time. Just something to keep in mind if you absolutely need to stay connected while you’re here.

Beautiful day at #NachiCocom 😊🏖 #mscdivina #beach #cozumel #mexico

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Hello, beautiful 😊 #nachicocum #cozumel #mexico #mscdivina #beachday #shotoniphone

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Toasting paradise 😊

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Missing the relaxing waters of #nachicocom 😊 #mscdivina #cozumel #theta360 #tinyplanet

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Nassau

The last few times we’ve stopped here, I’ve sworn I wasn’t getting off the ship, but every time, we’ve had a reason to go. Last time it was me needing shoes for Palo (on the Disney Dream), but this time I had absolutely no reason drawing me to shore, so I stuck to my guns and stayed on the ship with Bayley. Jen and her mom did get off so she could show her mom the straw market, but they weren’t gone long. It was really hot and humid, and if you’ve ever been there, walking the straw market in those conditions just isn’t fun. Our day in Nassau was basically a sea day for us, enjoying the (mostly empty) Divina, watching a pretty intense evacuation drill (see below, trust me, it’s worth it!), playing various games, and even getting in some time in the F1 simulator and on the water slide. Good stuff!

That pretty much covers our stops on this sailing. Next up, our debark and final thoughts on this trip aboard the MSC Divina!

Currently the only ship in port, but I think I see the Escape heading in. #mscdivina #cruise #nassau #bahamas

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The #NorwegianEscape docked in #Nassau earlier this month 😊🛳 #theta360

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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!