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 – 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!