MSC Divina: Day 8 Recap – Debark and Final Thoughts

Saturday morning saw us (unfortunately) back in Miami. We chose not to do self debark this time, preferring the ease of debarking without having to drag luggage around. Even with an 11 hour drive home, I was more than willing to delay it by an hour or two in order to avoid lugging 5 suitcases around the ship.

Having two rooms on two different decks, we had a choice of which debark color to go with, the red one for our room (9146) that would be one of the last to get called, or the pink one for Bayley’s room, with a scheduled departure of 8:45. We chose pink. This isn’t like other lines where they make the color/zone announcements throughout the ship either, they assign you a time to meet in the Pantheon theater, the only place where they then make the announcements for each color.

Prior to our scheduled time in the theater, we hit the MDR for breakfast, where I’m pretty sure they were just serving the same food from the buffet, as my waffle was the same soft Belgian waffle I’d had a few days earlier. No biggie. We finished up and headed to the theater around 8am. We didn’t have long to wait, as they called us a bit early, somewhere around 8:20am. Exiting couldn’t have been smoother, either. There was only a small group of us, and we were escorted to the rear gangway with no wait, and headed to the baggage area. The cool thing here is that it’s not the typical warehouse “hunt for your baggage” setup, they actually have rooms with conveyor belts, similar to airport arrival. I think it took all of 5min for our bags to arrive, and we headed to customs, where there was also no wait. From the time our color was called in the theater to the point where we exited customs, it *might* have been 20 minutes (probably less). It was all handled very well from our perspective, one of the fastest debarks we’ve seen.

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I’ll flip things around at this point and give our overall opinion before I call out the highs and lows.

We talked it over on the way home and agree that in spite of any negatives, we had a great week. After reading a number of reviews, we really didn’t know what to expect, but agreed that whatever issues MSC had last year with integration in to the American market have pretty much been taken care of. The crew was outstanding for the most part (exceptions listed below), the ship was very clean, the food was pretty good, and we had a blast all week. MSC has made its way into our regular cruise line rotation, and we’re excited about the prospect of sailing the MSC Seaside out of Miami after she arrives in late 2017. Well done, MSC, you’ve come back to the US with a great product!

Additionally, not knowing anything about this line before this trip, it would have been hard to recommend it to clients. We’re certainly not going to push a line we don’t know, so this was as much about learning the product as it was enjoying our holiday aboard one of their ships. After experiencing it first-hand, if the Divina and it’s itinerary are a good fit for clients looking to sail the Caribbean, we wouldn’t hesitate to put them on it!

On to the positives and negatives!


  • We love the smoking situation, especially the lack of smoking in the casino. It’s actually nice to be able to play in a smoke free environment.
  • The food was, for the most part, pretty good. There were exceptions, as there are on all cruises, but overall what we ate was tasty. The pizza is also the best at sea in my opinion.
  • The ship is beautiful. Not the gaudy decor you get with some lines, tastefully decorated throughout the ship.
  • Once again, the entertainment team was awesome. We had a blast at every activity we attended, even bingo. The team really blends well together and genuinely appears to be having fun entertaining the passengers.
  • Very nice main theater. There appeared to be far fewer obstructed view seats than we’ve seen on other lines, at least on the lower level.
  • Not something we could make use of, but on certain sailings (including our Christmas sailing), kids sail free or at a discounted rate. Per MSC’s site, the policy is changing slightly this coming summer, but still, a good deal for parents!
  • The shows were higher caliber ones than you tend to get with the included shows on other lines. The main singers are some of the best we’ve seen at sea, and having some acrobatics integrated into the shows is awesome. MSC appears to be laser-focused on giving passengers great shows, and their new partnership with Cirque Du Soleil is a prime example of that.
  • The staff throughout the ship were all very friendly. Always saying hello, wishing people happy holidays, etc.


  • The MDR has too many tables crammed in to too small of a space. Half the seats at our table always seemed to be blocking servers trying to walk through due to seats from tables around us being so close. The 6 person table we were at in no way should seat 6, either. 5 tops.
  • The MDR almost seemed short-staffed. Getting small things like drink refills was hit or miss due to how many tables and orders they were having to handle. They were all very nice, but just seemed like they had too much to deal with.
  • Cabin service for us in 9164 wasn’t very good, and completely the opposite experience our daughter had in 12039. From small things, like her ice bucket being full every day, whereas ours had a layer of dust on it from non-use, to running out of toilet paper due to the bathroom not being touched two nights in a row, to us never even seeing our steward the entire cruise.
  • The abridged schedules for some things got really annoying. I mentioned the limited soft-serve hours in my last post, and the issues with the water slide times two posts before that. I’ve also alluded to the odd buffet schedule in a couple of posts, but yea, if you don’t want to eat in the MDR, your options for dinner on the buffet are limited, as very few stations are open during dinner hours.
  • There’s no comedy club on-board. It’s not really fair to compare MSC to the contemporary lines like Norwegian, Royal or Carnival, but for those who are used to those lines and looking at MSC, that comparison is bound to happen. We all love a good comedy club, but you’ll have to love it on another line. Regardless, the other entertainment more than made up for it.

Small, nitpicky stuff:

  • They really like to hawk their wares. It starts shortly after you board, as there are people everywhere trying to sell you a drink package. Eating your first lunch in the buffet? Expect to be approached by no fewer than 4 people asking if you want a drink package. Additionally, the shops have tables set up in multiple locations on the ship trying to sell you watches, jewelry, pasta ingredients, etc. There was even a row of tables on one side of the main pool area taking up good chair space trying to sell stuff. We just found that a bit odd.
  • The water slide area has no place to hold your stuff (chairs, cubbies, etc) while you ride the slide, so we just put ours on the ground off to the side of the bottom of the slide.
  • The on-board app is just okay. It’s not really an app, either, it’s just an internally-hosted web site. It didn’t work on my wife’s Windows Phone, unfortunately, so we couldn’t use it to communicate with her, and the info it offered was incomplete, as it didn’t have any restaurant menus, and I never did see show information listed on it.
  • Lunch service in the MDR was really slow, even when things aren’t busy.
  • The infinity pool wasn’t infinity-ing while in port. Maybe they were taking that time to clean/refill it, but it would have been nice to be able to use it when people were still ashore and it was less busy.
  • I think I mentioned this before, but there’s nothing in the way of water or cold towels when you return to the ship after a day in port. I really wanted to grab both from Holland America’s table when we got back to the ship in San Juan, as we were pretty hot from walking around.

The negatives above weren’t that big of a deal to us, as the positives generally outweighed all of them, and we had an amazing Christmas week aboard the Divina. As I’ve already mentioned, we’d sail her again if given the chance!

MSC Divina: Day 7 Recap – It’s Christmas!

Our final day aboard the Divina was also Christmas day, and what better way to spend the morning than opening presents in a balcony cabin? We did bring our stocking stuffers along, so we spent a few minutes doing just that before getting ready to head ashore in Nassau.

We’d gotten day passes for Breezes prior to sailing, so as soon a we got off the ship, we headed to the taxi stand and grabbed a cab to the resort. It was an absolutely beautiful Christmas day out, so after a short tour of the facilities they offer, we headed to the beach for some sun.

It was a bit windy, so unfortunately the water activities were limited and the trapeze instruction wasn’t happening. Shame, we were really looking forward to that, but hey, can’t really ask for better weather outside of the wind. Regardless, we spent plenty of time on the beach soaking up the sun before heading in for some food and drink.
After some food and a little more time in the sun, we grabbed a cab and headed back to the ship. Traffic down by the port was pretty bad in part due to having 6 ships docked, and also because of the Junkanoo festival happening later that night, with several of the teams taking up large sections of streets in the area setting up their stuff. It was pretty cool to see all that going on, although it would have been cooler if we were in port overnight to see the actual parade!

After a little shopping and a quick stop at the hair braiding stand, we braved the long security line to get back out on the dock and head to the ship.

Once on board, we headed up to the water slide to finally have a go at that. While I liked the Escape’s better, this one was fun, and we ended up riding it three times, including this run of Bayely’s:

After the water slide, we headed to the final session of trivia for this sailing. I can’t say enough about Jaime and his fun activities. That guy is always on, and did an excellent job mixing in some Christmas themed questions the past couple of days.

After trivia, we headed to 14 for one last ice cream cone, which brings up one issue I keep forgetting to call out. Unlike the American lines we’re used to, the soft serve machines on the Divina are only open from 2-5pm every day. Okay, we made our peace with that early on, but if it’s only going to be open for 3 hours, keep it clean and full. More often than not the front was covered in melted ice cream, and flavors were totally empty in multiple machines. Even on Carnival on three different Thanksgiving sailings (with a ton of kids on each sailing and 24 hour soft serve), this was the worst management we’ve seen of ice cream machines on a ship.

On our way back to our room to pack, we stopped to check out the dinner menu. None of us were excited by the choices, so we decided to try the pizza in Eataly, located in La Cantina di Bacco. Yes, we paid for pizza when the buffet pizza is yummy, but we wanted to try the meter of pizza in Eataly, and it didn’t disappoint. It was a bit too much, as we severely underestimated just how big a meter of pizza is, but both the white pizza side and the pepperoni side were amazing. That’s a lot of pizza for $21 🙂
We finished up a little after 8pm and headed to the theater to get good seats for the final show, a tribute to Michael Jackson. Surprisingly (as hyped as this show is), the theater didn’t end up full for the show, as there were quite a few open seats both upstairs and down. It was a really good show, and the guy who was Michael is an amazing dancer. The show ended with the entertainment staff on stage thanking the passengers and allowing the crowd to also thank them one last time. It was an excellent end to the cruise.

  After a short stop in the casino to lose a little more money and cash in a couple of small vouchers, we headed to the Black and White lounge for the final event hosted by the entertainment staff, the Stardust dance competition. Five passengers are paired with five of the ship’s dancers, and are given the opportunity to showcase their moves. Definitely a fun time, and it gave us the chance to thank the entertainment staff for an outstanding Christmas crust one last time. I’m sure it’s hard having to work Christmas, especially with their families so far away. If it was bothering them, they never once showed it. They were always smiling, having fun, and making sure the guests around them were having a great time as well.


Thanks again guys, you made our holidays that much better!

After we get home, I’ll get a final post up covering debark as well as some overall thoughts on the trip. In case I forget to say it in that post: Thank you all for joining us on our journey!

MSC Divina: Day 6 Recap – Christmas Eve Edition!

In addition to being our last sea day, it was also Christmas eve. Having never spent Christmas on a ship, we weren’t sure what to expect, but MSC didn’t disappoint.

We spent most of the day bouncing back and forth between the various activities indoors, despite the excellent weather outside. We started the fun off with a Pictionary win, and followed that up by tying for the win in the first round of Christmas trivia! I said it yesterday, and I’ll say it again, the entertainment staff is outstanding. I really don’t know how Jaime is able to keep up with it all, but we’ve enjoyed every round of trivia we’ve participated in.


Lunch found us back at the buffet, which we’ve been somewhat disappointed in over the course of the week. Breakfast seems to offer the most stations open, along with the largest selection of items. When we’ve eaten lunch in here, half the stations are generally empty. It’s definitely a change from other lines we’ve been on. The other buffet related item that’s somewhat annoying is that they only have lemonade at the beverage stations during lunch. At dinner, it’s just water and tea. My irritation with the lack of buffet selection was tempered by our view of the ocean as we ate, though :).

After lunch and a bit of time resting, we headed back down to play Scattergories. Fun, but there were a large number of teams, which made it run a bit long, causing Jaime to be late to the final round of Christmas trivia. We all knew this because the guy I mentioned in my day 3 recap that promised to correct Jaime at every turn walked in loudly and rudely reminding Jaime that he was late. Seriously, you’re on a cruise, relax and enjoy yourself. We did head in to that final Christmas trivia round when Scattergories was done, but lost that one by 3 points.

After trivia, we headed to the theater for a special event. MSC had secured a visit from Santa and Rudolph, and had them set up on stage taking pictures and giving out presents to every single child on the ship. You read that right. Every last one who came in and waited in line got a gift. It wasn’t just small MSC logo items either. The presents were things like small Lego sets for boys, art kits for girls, and a couple of other types of presents I never got a good look at. We were in there the entire time, and that line was really, really long at the start, snaking from the stage up to the back of the theater, and back around again. It took just over an hour, but they got through everyone and still had a pretty good pile of presents left. I have to say, we were very impressed, MSC obviously knows how to do Christmas at sea the right way!

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That took us in to dinner in the MDR, where we had a special 7 course Christmas eve meal. Things started off really slowly, as we only had the initial course before the first hour elapsed. They appeared to take notice of that, as things started coming out a lot faster, and all of the tables around us ended up losing out on one course, the pallet-cleansing sorbet set to arrive right before our entrees. While it would have been nice to have things a little more relaxed and in the proper order, we wanted to make it to the final bingo at 7:45, so we weren’t complaining. My dinner:

  • Beef Carpaccio
  • Festive Holiday Salad (no pic of that, however)
  • Chilled Three Melon Soup
  • Fresh Pasta
  • Honey-Baked Virginia Ham
  • Traditional Panettone Slice for dessert

All of it was pretty good, although the carpaccio was a little drier than it generally should be.

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We made it to bingo on time, and enjoyed one last performance by the Bingo Boys. Seriously, this is the best entertainment staff we’ve had on any cruise we’ve been on. If you’re sailing the Divina any time soon, don’t miss bingo, even if you don’t play.

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Since we’d been in the theater for bingo, we already had great seats for the show, and the special Christmas performance didn’t disappoint. It was a mix of singing, dancing, and some acrobatics. Great stuff!

We capped off our night by blowing some time (and a small amount of money) in the casino while waiting for the midnight buffet. I have to say, I love that the casino is smoke free.

It’s been a while since we’ve been on a line that still did a midnight buffet, and frankly I just assumed no one did it anymore. MSC proved me wrong, and in a big way. Every single station was open, with a mix of finger foods, bread, and a ton of yummy desserts. They also had a few carved watermelons, and different bread sculptures. We could see that a lot of time and effort went in to this, and were glad we stayed up for it. I swear there was more food in the midnight buffet than they actually have out on the lunch or dinner buffets. It was great stuff and worth the wait!

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That about covers day 6. Our final day here on the Divina will be in port in Nassau for Christmas day. We were here last month on the Escape as well, and we’re really hoping that we don’t get all the rain we did on that last visit!

MSC Divina: Day 5 Recap

Before we get to day 5’s fun, I wanted to take a second to call out one of the highlights of our trip: The entertainment staff. The Divina’s entertainment team has easily been the best all around group we’ve had on a ship. From the Bingo Boys, to trivia, Scattergories, Foosball, arts and crafts, etc, the sea days have been an absolute blast. This group has a level of energy and enthusiasm I envy, and they’ve really been fun to watch.

Alrighty, on to day 5

We arrived in Old San Juan pretty early as far as I could tell, with debark scheduled to start at 8. The daily schedule indicated the gangway might be closed from 8:15 to 9:00 due to dock activity, so we set our alarms for 8:30, hoping to avoid the same debark lines we saw in St Thomas. I had actually been up since 7:30 and had never heard an announcement that we could get off, so shortly after 9 we decided to head down and see what was going on. Not sure if we’d missed the announcement, but the gangway was open with no lines, so we headed ashore.

Being that we waited way too long to plan this and all the stuff we wanted to do was full, we decided to just walk around. As we exited the security area, a tour guide approached asking if we wanted to join a 1+ hour tour of the area. For $15/pp, we figured why not, and hopped on. There were around 25 people including us on the bus, and it ended up being a pretty good tour. He took us over to the newer San Juan area, stopping at the Walkway of Presidents along the way to allow people to take some pictures. We stopped at a beach in the newer area of San Juan, along with one of the main government buildings, and then finally a 10 minute stop at one of the island’s forts that overlooks a cemetery. Along the way, he did a very thorough job of telling us about the area, and did so in both English and Spanish to ensure everyone on board had the chance to learn. Definitely worth the $45 for the three of us in our opinion.

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He dropped us back in the main square in Old San Juan around 11am, and after walking around the little square area for a bit, we decided to stop and eat lunch at CB Cafe and Restaurant at the top of the square. While it was a little pricey, it was really good. My cheese tortellini was excellent, and frankly the sauce on all three of our meals was really, really good. In addition to my tortellini, I’ve included a shot of Jen’s chicken Mofongo, as it definitely won for best presentation.

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We spent the next 2-3 hours walking around the area doing some shopping. Considering there were 3 ships in port (us, the Carnival Valor, and the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam), it never felt overcrowded in the shopping areas. The girls picked up a few things along the way, and once done, we headed back to the ship.

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One thing about getting off and on in port we’ve noticed with MSC: There’s nothing at the end of the gangway, just the pier. On other lines, you’ll typically see photographers trying to take more pictures to sell you as you get off, and when you come back, others may offer water, juice, and maybe even a cold, wet towel to help you cool down. None of that here. I don’t care about the pictures, but it would certainly be nice to at least have some water there, especially after a hot day walking around the area. I admit we considered walking over to HAL’s gangway for a cold towel 🙂

Once aboard, we decided to give the water slide a try, since it was supposed to be open from 2-5. As we were walking up (somewhere around 3pm), one of the pool staff was walking away from the entrance, having just locked it. Some kid standing there said we had a wait a little longer, but after 10 minutes of seeing no one come back to re-open it, we gave up. We got tired of watching the Valor’s water slide fully functioning while the guy running ours inexplicably stood a deck up doing seemingly nothing. When you only have a three hour window for something like this, I really expect you to be open when you say you’ll be open, especially in port when the weather is perfect.

Next up was trivia, once again hosted by Jaime. We paired up with a really nice older couple from Canada that we’ve played with before, and lost by only one point. I gotta say, this trivia has set the bar for future trips, it’s really that good! Difficult, non-repetitive questions, and a great host!

At this point it was right around 4pm, so we headed up to deck 15 to see if there were any runners. Sure enough, a passenger was standing at the end of the gangway on her cellphone, and a short time later (maybe 4:10), her husband came running down the dock. That was a long run, too, as they had already closed the closer gangway, so he basically had to run the length of the dock.

After they closed up the gangway, we headed back to the wine bar where the girls made Christmas wreaths as part of another holiday themed arts and crafts event. The MSC staff has done a really good job of integrating holiday activities in to the schedule this week!

We’d checked out the MDR menu, and between the lack of things that sounded good and our overall exhaustion, we decided to skip it and eat later in the sports bar. After a snack (pizza :)) and a short rest, we headed to the theater for the early show. Tonight’s show was another one of the singing and dancing shows, and again, they’re all great singers, it’s just not my cup of tea. One little soapbox moment, though: If you’re going to come to the show, be quiet. Keep your kids quiet. Two rows behind us, some woman and her kids would not stop talking. They got plenty of angry looks and people telling them to shush, but to no avail. If you or your kids can’t keep quiet for 45 minutes, please do the rest of the people in the theater a favor and don’t show up. You’re just ruining it for those around you.

After the show, we stuck around for bingo, as the Bingo Boys are just that entertaining. Seriously. Even if you don’t like bingo, just go and watch, you won’t be disappointed!

With bingo over, we headed for the sports bar to grab dinner. The room was pretty empty the entire time we were there, since second dinner seating and the second show were both happening. The food itself was fine, but a couple of notes here: apparently all burgers automatically get mayonnaise. That’s fine by me, and I enjoyed my bacon burger, but even the pre-made burgers at the buffet have this, which we discovered on day 1. Not everyone likes mayo, so maybe just leave it off and put some on the side? Also, they have fish and chips on the menu in the sports bar, but when Jen asked if they had malt vinegar, she was told no. We know they do somewhere, since she had it on one of the early sea days, but oh well, she skipped the fish and chips this time. It’s pretty standard bar fare; burgers, sandwiches, fries, finger food, etc. The dessert menu also includes molten chocolate cake, as shown below.

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After dinner, we walked around a bit, finally ending up at the Flower Glory Party (60’s/70’s/80’s) before calling it a night. We got our hour back tonight, so hopefully we’ll be all rested up for our final day at sea, where we’ve got a bunch of activities highlighted on the schedule!

One final note – cabin service has really been hit or miss. Mostly hit for Bayley in her cabin (12039) and miss for us (9164). One example: we woke up this morning to find that our steward didn’t empty the trash in the bathroom or leave any toilet paper yesterday, so we’re down to our last few sheets. Time to go rectify that…

MSC Divina: Day 4 Recap

Today was all about getting off the boat and having some fun in St Thomas. After two days at sea, we were ready for a change. We booked an excursion on our own for this stop, one that Jen and I did last month on the Escape, the BOSS Underwater Excursion. We had a blast last time, and couldn’t wait to do it again, this time with Bayley. Note that normally they require cruise ship passengers to book through the line they’re coming in on, but MSC doesn’t contract with this company, so we were free to book it on our own.

Being that we arrived in port after their first trip of the day left, we booked the noon trip. Arriving in St Thomas at 9am, that gave us a couple of hours to walk around the port area. After doing a bit of shopping, we decided to grab some lunch at Shipwreck Tavern, just outside the port area, and we were glad we did. Everyone was extremely friendly, and the food was pretty good. The girls had burgers, and I had a Philly cheesesteak to go along with my rum punch. Definitely a good stop, we’d eat there again.

Just before noon, we headed back through port security to meet up with the excursion contact right outside of our ship. Just like last time, she escorted us to the end of the dock, where we hopped on the boat and headed out to Buck Island. One quick note here, there were only 13 of us on this trip (the three of us, and 10 from the Norwegian Spirit). Last month, the same boat had 49 people. The number of people wasn’t a problem at all last month, but having a smaller number was really cool, as we got twice the amount of time in the underwater scooters because of it. Apparently there were 34 people from the Carnival Valor that were supposed to be on the trip, but their ship was an hour or so late to port, and the BOSS folks couldn’t wait. Sorry guys, but we had fun without you :).

If you’ve never seen an excursion like this before, check out the video I put together from last month’s trip:

Honestly, this is one of the best excursions I’ve done to date, and would highly recommend that anyone coming in to St Thomas check it out. Well worth it, and I can’t say enough about the crew, they’re awesome!


We got back to the dock around 3:30 and decided to head up to the infinity pool at the back of the ship to hang out for a bit. Turns out, the infinity pool isn’t so infinity in port, as the water level is lowered to cover only the regular pool area. Kinda lame, as was the fact that they only had the water slide open from 10am-1pm today. Huh? When we were in port here last month, the Escape’s Aqua Racer was open the whole time, allowing us to give it a go after we got back from our excursion. Oh well.

After getting cleaned up, we headed to dinner. It was another good dinner in the MDR tonight both from a food and service aspect, so we seem to finally be on a roll here! I started with the chilled pineapple pina colada soup, followed by one of the entrees as my second course, the Surimi mac and cheese. Both were good, but it was my main course I was really looking forward to, the prime rib. Mmmmm. This was also the first night that any of us had a steak-based dish where they asked how we wanted it cooked. I ordered mine medium, and was not disappointed. I finished the meal off with the sugar free bread pudding with vanilla ice cream, which was also delicious.

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We got through dinner by 7pm, so we decided to hit the early show instead of waiting for our normal seating. Tonight’s show was Treasure Island, complete with pirates, acrobatics, hand balancers, and even an illusion thrown in for good measure (and some other cool stuff I’m sure I’m leaving out). Definitely an awesome show, and one that you shouldn’t miss when sailing the Divina.

After the show and another round of bingo, we headed up to the F1 simulator so that Bayley and I could give it a go. That thing is definitely harder than it looks, but it’s an absolute blast! I was trying to be fully technical with it, focusing on shift points, corner apex, etc, and just kept missing corners and spinning. Bayley drove around the track in 7th gear one lap and easily beat my best time. Grrr…. It’s really fun though 🙂

Not much else for tonight. With an 8am arrival in San Juan on tap, we all wanted to get some sleep, so we didn’t make it to the White Party. There are a couple of annoyances I wanted to call out though:

  1. We’ve walked through the buffet during normal dinner hours a couple of times now, and each time it’s been pretty much only pizza and a few dessert items. Now don’t get me wrong, I could eat the pizza every night if we skipped the MDR, but the lack of overall selection is a bit odd to me. We’ve skipped MDR dinners on other lines before for various reasons, and never had an issue with lack of buffet selection.
  2. If you book on deck 5, mid-ship, just note that you’re likely going to have a lot of extra foot traffic from people heading to the lobby. There’s no way to get to the lobby if you come down the aft elevators other than to walk down the corridors in front of passenger cabins.

Nothing major, just things to be aware of. All in all it’s been a great trip so far, and we’re glad that we have the chance to finally try out MSC!

We don’t have anything planned for San Juan, we’re just going to get off the boat and see where the day takes us. From here in St Thomas, good night!

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