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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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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