MSC Divina: The Food!

We’re now on the last day of our current sailing on the Divina, and with some free time while we’re docked in Nassau, I figured it was time for an update! The past four days since my last post have been a whirlwind of fun, and being totally exhausted from it, I hope this post makes sense. This is the first time in four sailings on the Divina that we’ve done this itinerary, and even though we had fun on the previous three, it was, in some ways, a nice change of pace, but three back to back ports where we spent a lot of time in the sun has me a bit, well, off ;). I’ll save the port-specific stuff for a later post and focus this post on the food and dining service on board the ship this week.

When we sailed over Christmas in 2015 (our only other non-Yacht Club sailing), we were assigned to the Black Crab restaurant, and if you saw my recap post, it wasn’t the best experience. It felt too crowded, service was really slow, and the food was hit or miss. This time around, we’ve enjoyed the MDR experience so much more. We’re in Villa Rosa this time, and were assigned late dining. At first we considered requesting a change to early seating, but after our first meal decided we against that, as we really like our table staff, Erwin and Noel. They’ve done an awesome job all week, so I’m glad we chose to stick with the later seating even though we prefer to eat earlier. The food itself does seem better than last time, but still has hit or miss moments. Take last night for example (as seen below), the 90-day aged carpaccio was excellent, but the beef wellington was just okay, as it was a little tough for my liking. I’d say most of the nights have been like that, but I’d say that’s par for the course with the main dining room on any contemporary line. Feeding 4000 people isn’t an easy task, and frankly most of it’s been pretty good all things considered! I think the only real complaint would be from Jen. On the 2015 sailing, the tiramisu parade was followed by the waiters cutting slices from the ones they paraded around, and she absolutely loved that specific tiramisu. This time, you don’t get served from the paraded ones, you just get pre-sliced ones that she says aren’t nearly as good as the ones on that Christmas sailing, so Italian night was a letdown for her.

As mentioned in my first post, we also decided to try some of the specialty restaurants onboard this time. With the current dining plan pricing, it just seemed like too good of a deal to pass up. We chose the 3 meal plan at $50/pp, which gave us a night in Eataly Steakhouse, Galaxy Restaurant, and La Cantina di Bacco. The first two do require reservations, but having never seen either of them busy, we didn’t bother to get any reservations ahead of time. The plan was to check out the MDR menu each day and decide based on whether or not we wanted anything on that menu. The first night we ate in one ended up being the first formal night, and for that we went to the steakhouse. Beef? Yes please! On the dining plan, you get something off the appetizer or pasta menu, one entrée, and one dessert. As shown below, I went with beef carpaccio, filet mignon, and the bomboloni (donuts with ice cream). It was all very good!

Next on our specialty dining tour was Galaxy Restaurant. We did this after our stop in Cozumel, again because there was nothing on the MDR menu that really called out to us. We didn’t call for a reservation until after we got back on the ship, but were able to easily get a table at 7pm. Arriving at the restaurant, we were seated at a spot by the window with an amazing view, and given our Samsung tablet containing the menus (ordering from a Galaxy tablet in Galaxy restaurant, clever 😊). Now at this point the one annoyance of the evening hit, as it took almost 40 minutes for our server to take our order, which seemed odd considering there was only one other group in the place, but other than being slow, the experience in Galaxy was great. On the dining plan, you get one thing from the appetizer menu, one from the pasta menu, an entrée, and a dessert, so one more course than we got in the steakhouse. I admit that going in I was a bit concerned about this one, as my daughter and I are picky eaters, and I having seen the menus ahead of time, I didn’t think there was anything on the appetizer menu we’d eat. I decided to put that aside and try something new, so for my starter, I went with the duck breast morsels. I’d never had duck before, and frankly I’m not a big fan of bird meat in general, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, it was absolutely delicious! The teriyaki sauce on it was excellent as well. For my pasta selection, I decided on the homemade tagliatelle, and the pork in it was cooked to an almost bacon-like consistency. If this dish was the only food I had in here, I’d have left stuffed and happy! For my entrée, the tournedos of Angus beef, which was cooked to a perfect medium rare, and on par with the filet I’d had at the steakhouse a few nights earlier. My final course was the moelleux au chocolat, basically molten chocolate cake in vanilla sauce. Amazing, absolutely amazing. The warm chocolate gushed out of the cake as soon as I cut the firstbite, and when combined with the vanilla sauce the taste was just perfect. The entire meal was excellent and well worth the money in my opinion. I really don’t understand why the steakhouse and Galaxy restaurant aren’t busier, they’re both great!

For the final meal on the 3 night dining package, we had lunch at La Cantina di Bacco. We decided to go the lunch route specifically so we didn’t miss out on another evening in the MDR. In lieu of individual pizzas off the menu here, we chose to go with the meter of pizza. We’d done this once before and loved it, with it being my favorite of the three different pizza styles you can get on the ship. Keep in mind that this isn’t traditional pizza, and as such, more traditional American toppings like bacon or pepperoni aren’t available. For the meter of pizza, you can divide it up into 4 different sections, with different flavors on each. We ended up with prosciutto on two sections, one margherita section, and a four-cheese section. Each and every one was delicious!

The dining packages at current pricing definitely seem to be worth the money if you’re looking to try something outside of the normal main dining room. We all agree the food was excellent, and provided a nice smaller venue free from the noise of the MDR. The only exception was Galaxy, where people kept cutting through to get to the virtual world area, but even then, that was only a small distraction. Why more people aren’t giving the specialty restaurants a shot is beyond me.

Moving on, the buffet. This is one of the places where I immediately started missing Yacht Club. I’m a breakfast eater, and love grabbing some eggs, bacon, bread, etc, and finding a quiet spot with a view to enjoy the morning. Well, unless you get up early, that’s not a thing in this buffet. One of the key things I mentioned in the posts after our first sailing in 2015 was the layout. The way the room is set up, you can easily end up trapped behind slow moving people when moving between stations, or when looking for seating. It can be extremely frustrating trying to navigate the room during busy times, so if a crowded buffet isn’t your thing, go early or late. Exact times for that are hard to pin down, as it changes based on whether or not you’re in port, and I’m sure it changes with different passenger demographics. On the first sea day, I went up around 9am or so, and it was pretty busy. I didn’t even bother waiting for pancakes, as that station was just a sea of people. On port days? Yea, either go an hour before you dock, or some time after. In Ocho Rios I got up there about 15 minutes before we docked only to find all bread stations almost entirely empty. Now today, I waited until about 15 minutes after we docked and it was just fine. Plenty of food, and a small crowd since most of the ship was making their way into town by this point. As far as quality of the food goes, I’d say it’s pretty standard buffet food. The scrambled eggs have been good, the pancakes, when I did make it there, were delicious, and the bread was pretty good. The one day I had bacon it was a little undercooked for my taste, but still had a good flavor. Then there’s the pizza. Ahh, the pizza. This was my first stop when we got on, and one I made almost every day at some point. I consider their pizza to be the best I’ve had at sea, and the buffet pizza is just as good as the meter of pizza we had at La Cantina di Bacco. If you only eat one thing off the buffet, make it the pizza!

An hour and a half later, I get what i was after 😊 #mscdivina #bestpizzaatsea #cruise

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There's the view I've been looking for 😊 #msccruises #cruise #bestpizzaatsea

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How do you properly kick off #italiannight on the #mscdivina? With the #bestpizzaatsea, of course!

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I think that about covers it for the food this week. The very noticeable improvement in MDR service has been a welcome change from 2015 in our eyes, and we couldn’t be happier with our dining staff. Aside from that, I highly recommend trying the specialty restaurants when sailing the Divina, as they offer some delicious food in a smaller, quieter setting. If we have the opportunity to sail the Divina again, I’m planning to give the Italian venue a shot, as it was the only one we missed this time.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow morning we disembark and drive home, and while I am sad in a way, I’m also ready to rest for a few days. We’ve kept ourselves busy all week both on the ship and in port, and frankly I’m exhausted! Here’s hoping debark and the drive home are both uneventful tomorrow!

Outstanding service all week from Erwin and Noel in Villa Rosa! #mscdivina

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Sailing with Disney – A Day at Sea

The final day of our sailing on the Disney Dream was also a sea day, something we always look forward to. On a normal ship, that means the occasional activity mixed in with some resting out on deck, all things we love. On the Dream, the only sea day of the sailing brought a full schedule of fun!

First up was our reservation for brunch at Palo. We’d heard good things, so much so that spending the $30/pp on this was a no-brainer. We got up there a few minutes early, and were led over to the Meridian Lounge to relax while we waited. It didn’t take long, within a couple of minutes, they came to take us to our table. That’s where the awesome really began.

We were led to a nice table right by the window. Nothing beats good food with an ocean view! Our server came over, introduced herself, and took us on a tour of the buffet. This part is definitely a nice touch, as there are a wide variety of items on the tables, but it also kinda gets in the way when you’re up trying to get food and another group is on their buffet tour. Anyway, after our tour, she also covered the menu we could order various items from in addition to what was available at the buffet. The Disney Cruise Line Blog has a picture of it here.

In addition to enjoying the buffet items, we ordered a few things off of the printed menu. I had the buttermilk pancakes, which were some of the best I’ve ever had, along with the lasagna, which was delicious as well. Jen and Bayley tried what turned out to be an excellent flatbread that was half Italian sausage and half margherita, and both of them also had the Parmesan crusted chicken breast. The latter was so good that Bayley skipped finishing her meal off with dessert to have a second one. How often does a kid skip dessert for chicken?

We absolutely loved our meal and felt it was easily worth the cost. I have to say, if you only spend money on one specialty meal aboard the Dream, do it for brunch at Palo. I say that totally biased and without anything to compare it to, since it’s the only specialty meal we did, so keep that in mind :). Also remember that brunch at Palo is adults only.

After brunch, we had some time on our hands and decided to just walk around and see what was going on. While doing so, we managed to again run across whatever thing they were filming while we were out on deck:

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I’d still love to know what they were shooting! Shortly after, we made our way inside for baby racing. I can honestly say I’ve never seen this on a cruise ship before, and it was exactly what it sounds like. The only thing missing was people throwing money on the ground around the mat placing bets on the racers. I kid :), this was actually pretty entertaining to watch.

Shortly after a winning baby was crowned, we got what we came for, the character dance party! All of the main characters take turns in the spotlight on the stairs, while the others rotate to various positions in the lobby atrium area. It was pretty packed in there, and everyone seemed to be having a fun time. Definitely an activity I’d recommend for Disney fans young and old!

We had some time to kill after this, so we did a little more walking, thins time checking out the shops on board. Jen’s got a Pandora bracelet with a few Disney charms, so we wanted to check out the exclusives they had on board, and ended up adding one to her bracelet. This was also the only time we encountered service on the ship that didn’t live up to Disney standards, as the woman working the counter really wasn’t all that helpful or friendly. This is really the only staff encounter during our time on board that was sub-par. We made up for it shortly after, however, as the captain was signing autographs and posing for pics, so once the line cleared, we decided to jump in for a picture with him.

Bayley had been waiting for our next activity all week. As mentioned in a previous post, she loves the animation classes Disney does, and had been looking forward to drawing Stitch, which was the final animation class of the sailing. They obviously know this one is popular, because it was held in Animator’s Palate, and there were a lot of people there for it. We got a seat with a pretty good view of the instructor, but if you happen to be far away, don’t worry, they show what she’s doing on the screens around the restaurant. While drawing, Stitch even comes in to see what’s going on!

After finishing up the animation class, the next couple of hours were filled with a combination of character pictures, walking the ship, and attending one of the arts and crafts events. This one was held in Pub 687, which ended up being a poor choice of location. I was happy, as I finally got to have a beer in here, but it’s way too small of a venue for something like this, and resulted in an overcrowded pub. I saw more than one family come in for this, only to turn around and leave after seeing the lack of tables and line for supplies. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good time, just that a larger room would have been better.

I should note that the two character meet and greets we did during this time were with Stitch and Donald Duck, both of whom Bayley and Jen learned to draw in the on-board animation classes, so Bayley brought her pictures for them to sign. Both characters were excited to see pictures of themselves, and responded in various ways. Donald grabbed the one she did of him and held it up for the lobby to see, while Stitch couldn’t believe shed brought a picture of him, and proceeded to slide onto his belly on the floor to sign it. Definitely a nice touch 🙂

Our next major event after all of this was the final stage show of the cruise, Disney’s Believe. It’s a fun show with some fun acting and excellent singing. Once again, happy to oblige the ‘no photos or video’ rule, all I have is a shot from our seats, which gave us a full view of the action:

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After dinner was one of the coolest events of the cruise, if you’re in to Disney’s pin trading culture: Officer pin trading night! It’s exactly what it sounds like, an opportunity to trade pins with various officers of the ship! It was a lot of fun, and for anyone sailing on Disney that’s never done this, here are a few recommendations:

  1. Bring a lot of pins you want to trade with you. They’re not picky, they’ll take any cheap pin in trade for anything they’ve got!
  2. There’s a mobile box out there where you can also buy pins. The person running it has lanyards full of trading pins behind that, and they will occasionally swap out with officers participating in the event who may have traded away all the good stuff, which gives them fresh good pins to trade. Keep an eye out for the swaps, as the fresh lanyards generally have some good stuff. Bayley got a number of excellent pins this way!
  3. Have fun!

It’s really an awesome event, and wasn’t super packed, at least not as much as I expected. It’s held in the little rotunda outside the shops, which seemed to be a perfect fit size-wise.

Dinner was next on the schedule, moving us to Royal Palace this time around. I love the venue, and service was a bit quicker tonight. The food itself was pretty good, as I had a double serving of the breaded and deep-fried Brie (sooooo good), the Chateaubriand roasted filet steak, and the Grand Marnier souffle for dessert, always a favorite of mine.

After dinner, we finally got around to our night-time ride aboard the AquaDuck. As mentioned before, this is easily the best waterslide at sea we’ve been on, and taking a run or two down it at night is an absolute must!

Following our Aquaduck rides, we weren’t done yet! We decided to catch the magician’s show in Evolution. John Cassidy’s show is definitely worth catching, he’s both a good magician and funny to boot! For one of his tricks, Bayley ended up on stage helping out, too!

We also hung out for the ’80’s music challenge, which was an absolute blast. No pictures or video of this, as we were participating. The room is divided up into two teams, and you take turns guessing what the song name and artist are for a given clip. Additionally, both teams then hit the floor to dance for bonus points, and the more creative, the more bonus points you get. At one point, we were crowd-surfing Bayley around the room. Fun times, and our host Chris was great!

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Well, that’s about all for our final day on the ship, and proved to be an excellent way to wrap up an incredible sailing aboard the Disney Dream! Next up, our debark experience and final thoughts on this cruise!