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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Our 3rd Sailing on the Divina Comes to an End

As you may have noticed from all of our pictures, we’ve had another amazing week on the MSC Divina. As we sit in Top Sail Lounge and delay our departure as much as possible, I figured I’d go ahead and get one more post about our trip out before they kick us off the ship :).

First and foremost, we all agree that things seemed to get even better this trip than last ones, and if you followed our previous sailings, you know we really enjoyed both of them. We’re truly sold on the product MSC has brought to the US, and have seen additional changes this week that have been made since our last sailing to make the Divina even more appealing to this market. So what are those changes?

Pricing of things on board: They have added some incredible deals since we last sailed:

  • If you’ve got kids with you, and they want to try out the F1 simulator and/or the 4d theater, the Divina currently offers a package where for $60/cabin, you get to visit all the tracks on the F1 circuit, plus unlimited visits to the 4d theater, and unlimited bowling! Considering one trip to the F1 simulator was $10/pp when we were here in March, this is a great deal!
  • Spa treatments in port seemed really cheap compared to other port-day deals we’ve seen. I got a 45min Balinese massage for ~$50, and the girls got 55min facials for around the same price.
  • At Piazza Del Doge, you can pick up gelato and pastries for a very reasonable price (and they’re really good, too). I had a small gelato one day for $2, and for the amount I got, I’d likely have paid at least twice that on some of the other ships we’ve sailed. Some of the amazing pastries they have in there are under $1, too!
  • They now have specialty dining packages that are crazy low. We’ve done them before on other lines, but generally end up paying more for similar experiences. See here for more info on what you get and how much they cost!
  • Internet pricing is far more reasonable to me now (full package info here). They moved from time-based to amount of data you use, and for the lower-tier packages they now throttle speeds like other lines do. One tip here: purchase this in advance! You get bonus time for doing so, and in our case, we got 1800MB for ordering the Streamer package (1500MB). With the Streamer package you can post pictures and video, unlike the lower packages that throttle to picture-only speeds. Additionally, we were offered more data at a very reasonable $16 / 500MB if we needed. The internet speed and reliability was far better than past sailings, too, and light-years ahead of what we saw with Royal’s Voom internet back in May on the Oasis.

I’m probably forgetting something in this list, but these are the big ones that come to mind.

They’re getting better about explaining why some things are the way they are. The truth is, catering to the American cruise market is very different from other regions. MSC has traditionally been a European line, and as they’ve ventured into the US market they’ve taken the time to learn and to implement changes based on customer feedback. One of those is the thorough explanation given about the shows near the start of the cruise. This time around, Andre, the current CD, explained to the audience why they don’t have things like comedians on-board, and that the shows aren’t really meant to tell a story, they’re meant to be visually entertaining, with a lot of action, and we definitely find them to live up to that billing.

They’re constantly adding to the entertainment options around the ship. They have a very engaged and intelligent entertainment staff that seem to always be coming up with new ways to entertain the passengers. We’ve seen a few new things added, including a game show or two, and had a blast at every event we attended. Whether you want to be outside or in, there’s almost always something going on, and this entertainment team will bust their butts to ensure you’re having a good time. They’re far more engaged with passengers than most of the ones we’ve encountered on other lines.

The current Captain, Pier Paolo Scala is a very engaged and warm captain. He’s far more visible than most, and happy to hang out and chat with you should the opportunity arise. Heck, I was lounging in the pool in Yacht Club yesterday when he showed up with his wife and son, and he was more than happy to hang out in the pool chatting with all of us. He genuinely seems to care about how things are going for the passengers.

After our March sailing, I wrote up a post entitled “Is The MSC Divina Right For You?” to try and help people decide if the Divina is a good fit for them, and after sailing her again 6 months later, I feel like it still applies. This ship and everything on it represent a nice change of pace from the typical contemporary cruise lines, and I encourage anyone looking for something other than the standard US cruising experience to give her a try. I keep thinking that it’s time for us to take a break from sailing the Caribbean, but they keep offering some amazing deals, and we keep getting sucked back in because we like the product so much. It’s a good problem to have 🙂

Anyway, I think that about covers it. Between my handful of posts this week and the ones from our past two sailings (December / March) I hope you’ve found some useful info on the MSC Divina, and should you want to sail with MSC, please give us a call, we can certainly help! Hope to see you soon on the Divina or even the Seaside after she arrives next year!