With cruise reviews from fabulous to dreadful, it was hard to know what to expect when we sailed the MSC Divina last week. Overall, I think the rave reviews might be slightly overstated, but the people who say the ship is terrible are completely wrong, as well.
The MSC Divina is a beautiful ship. The decor is similar to the biggest Holland America ships--elegant, but just short of gaudy; formal, but never stuffy. The style is Italian contemporary, with a few flashy touches, like the silver curtain in the theater and the crystal-encrusted staircases here and there. Overall, I'd call it elegant and tastefully decorated.
Ship design is efficient, but not simple. For a large ship, it's not too hard to find your way around, but the first few days will require checking signs or deck plans. Deck 14 is easy to navigate with the pools beginning just beyond the spa doors and running the length of the open deck.
Those pools are beautiful, surrounded by plenty of hot tubs--if you're man enough to take the heat. The one we tried was a solid 104 degrees F.I lasted about 5 minutes.
Perhaps the best thing to happen by the pools is the nightly film, complete with popcorn. There is no bar service during on before the movie, so get your beverage and popcorn before you settle in. Saving Mr. Banks looked perfect and was better, perhaps, for being viewed beneath a dark, Caribbean sky. Unfortunately the other movies offered during the week didn't sound nearly so appealing.
As to the other onboard entertainment, most reviews agree that the shows are top-notch. I'd agree-up to a point. Truth is, except for the opera nights, there really is only one show, with an amazing cast of Asian women who can tie themselves in knots, a quartet of acrobatic men, a strikingly tall violinist, some singers and dancers and a couple of Cirque-style performers. The only problem is this same show is repeated three times. First, it's Wonderland, a loose interpretation of Alice in Wonderland. Next, it's recostumed in 1890s-style Parisian garb as The Witches of Paris, and then everyone dons pirate attire and they call it Pirates: The Legend of Billy Bones. I watched all three, but I admit that by the third time around, the lack of plot was driving me nuts and the acts were awfully predictable. Do see at least one show and catch the shortened version of La Traviata. There is some nice music around the ship. And some not so nice, too.
One thing I really did enjoy was the food. We were fortunate to be seated close to the galley so everything we were served was piping hot and most every dish was delicious. My gluten-free choices were handled by my own personal waiter and delivered independently. I could eat with complete confidence in the dining room, so breakfast, lunch and dinner were often eaten there. The buffet, of course, is a mindfield for those with special dietary needs. You have no idea what's in anything, so I limited myself to salads and hot dogs without the bun and pre-cooked, rubbery fried eggs and bacon. A lot of what I saw looked great, but I really can't say... I will say that some gluten-free bread, buns and pizza crust would be very nice. The ever-present dust-dry rice cakes got old fast.
The MSC Divina is not about the itinerary. The lovely new ship sails a series of predictable eastern and western Caribbean voyages with three or four ports per week. The Divina borrows NCL's lovely Great Stirrup Cay for fun-in-the-sun days in the Bahamas, but a number of us stayed onboard to enjoy the pools without fighting for a deck chair.
Bottom line: when the MSC Divina returns to Miami this fall for the 2014-15 season, I think you might enjoy a week aboard. The ship is beautifully maintained and impeccably clean. Your fellow passengers will be largely European, but you won't be all alone. Those who are bored with Carnival or Royal Caribbean or NCL and those who love the bargain prices MSC offers will enjoy a week of luxury at a rock-bottom price.
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