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

A post shared by Wanderlist Vacations (@wanderlistvaca) on

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

A post shared by Wanderlist Vacations (@wanderlistvaca) on

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

A post shared by Wanderlist Vacations (@wanderlistvaca) on

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

A post shared by Wanderlist Vacations (@wanderlistvaca) on

 

 

 

 

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

A post shared by Wanderlist Vacations (@wanderlistvaca) on

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

A post shared by Wanderlist Vacations (@wanderlistvaca) on

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!

A post shared by Wanderlist Vacations (@wanderlistvaca) on

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

A post shared by Wanderlist Vacations (@wanderlistvaca) on

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

A post shared by Wanderlist Vacations (@wanderlistvaca) on