Ship Review: MSC Divina – bringing the Mediterranean to the Caribbean

We will begin by saying this was our first experience with MSC Cruises on MSC Divina. For years we have been aware of this Italian line, but never had the opportunity to cruise with them. As fairly well-seasoned travelers and having spent a fair amount of time in Italy, the MSC line intrigued us. There is so much about the Mediterranean region we love that the idea of “taking Italy with us” as we cruise was very appealing.

MSC Divina ©MSC Cruises

MSC Divina ©MSC Cruises

MSC Divinabuilt in 2012 – is the third vessel in MSC’s Fantasia class and carries 3,502 passengers (139,400-ton). Sophia Loren, the line’s longtime brand icon once again served as godmother.

A typical cabin suite with balcony ©MeetMeOnBoard

A typical cabin suite with balcony ©MeetMeOnBoard

From the moment we walked onto Divina, we felt a sense of calm and relaxation. We were not surrounded by clutter, noise and bustling activity. After a somewhat stressful few days prior, it was a welcome on board ‘moment’ that was much appreciated. The same feeling came to us as we entered our balcony stateroom. The color palette of rich earth tones simply said “benvenuti a casa” (welcome home).

Art and sculpture throughout the ship is beautifully displayed and to our taste.  This contemporary art blends perfectly with the rest of the design, which makes liberal use of stainless steel and natural stone.  An example of how well-thought-out the design is can be seen in the 295-seat “Black & White” lounge on deck 7 aft. This is a large lounge with dance floor along with 4 smaller seating areas.  The design in each of the smaller spaces is varied, but they work together to create a cohesive whole. Poor design could have easily turned this beautiful space into a sad echo of “Saturday Night Fever,” but this room works well and will be a great place for drinks, dancing and striking up conversations with old friends and new.

The Golden Jazz Bar ©MeetMeOnBoard

The Golden Jazz Bar ©MeetMeOnBoard

Divina has a wide variety of bars each with it’s own unique look, yet integrated into the overall design of the ship.  A favorite was the Golden Jazz Bar with it’s orange hues and retro 60’s feel, consistent with the “La Dolce Vita” theme prevalent in the ship photography displayed throughout.  The only thing missing was Nancy Sinatra singing her classic single, These Boots Were Made for Walking’.

The 1,600 seat Pantheon Theater was stunning and some of the most comfortable seating we’ve experienced at sea. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house. MSC plans on putting on some lavish entertainment and this venue is the perfect space. Ken Muskat, Senior VP of Sale and Marketing says the entertainment on board will have lots of variety from large productions to classical music. (watch our interview with Ken Muskat)

Walking down the Swarovski crystal staircases in the atrium will surely bring out your ‘inner’ Diva.  Dale instantly felt like Norma Desmond!  Also stunning is the infinity pool (deck 15 aft) which will give you ‘inner’ peace.

Dales enjoys the Swarovski crystal staircases

Dales enjoys the Swarovski crystal staircases

If you are looking for solitude and relaxation, think about staying in the MSC Yacht Club. This is a special-access premium area of the ship offering an oasis of luxury and amenities. Think of it as a “ship within a ship” concept. This area includes 69 cabins and suites with your private restaurant, lounge, pool and concierge desk.

Pool areas are very nicely designed with liberal use of fountain and spray features that will be perfect in the Caribbean heat. In these and other public areas the music was never overbearing or intrusive. In fact, the afternoon band on the main pool level was terrific. The singer in the group sounded like a young Holly Cole. Dale is a self-described ‘music-snob,’ with a classical music education, and even he was impressed.

Pool areas are very nicely designed with liberal use of fountain and spray features  ©MeetMeOnBoard

Liberal use of fountain and spray features in the pool areas add to a sense of serenity ©MeetMeOnBoard

One misstep occurred in the Spa. A beautiful setting, the area is without water readily available. There was no water fountain, and no bottled water at hand.  An attentive staff member did bring a glass of water in response to Dale’s request.  However, when he needed more water it was impossible to find a staff member without Dale walking across the lobby in his towel!  Believe us, nobody wants to see that!

The food in the buffet was excellent and with wonderful variety.  There were exceptions that still need to be worked out with egg preparation and service, unfamiliar to Italians.  In the dining room we enjoyed the Italian fare; other choices weren’t always exceptional.

Our wait staff in the Black Crab main dining room was always polite and attentive, making sure we were satisfied with our meals and drink orders. Ending the meal with tiramisu and a limoncello liquor was the perfect Italian touch.

Divina staff was uniformly friendly and helpful.  Photo caption: Our sommelier, Luigi di Fiori from Sorrento, Italy, shares with Dale his knowledge of wine from the Chianti region. ©MeetMeOnBoard

Our sommelier, Luigi di Fiori from Sorrento, Italy, shares with Dale his knowledge of wine from the Chianti region. ©MeetMeOnBoard

MSC is adapting their menu and service for the North American market and this will not happen over night. We think that both food and service will improve over time because we got the clear message that MSC is committed to making happy cruisers out of their North American customers.

Do not miss the opportunity to dine at the specialty restaurant Eataly on board Divina.  Eataly is an upscale Italian company which opened a restaurant in NYC in August of 2010 and recently a second location in Chicago. Every bite of food from the fresh bread, salad, and appetizer to my steak were perfection.

This is a ship that seems tailor-made for the LGBT traveler who has been on several cruises and is looking for a more upscale, relaxed feel at a competitive price. We appreciated the more laid-back experience that allowed us to be able to unwind and enjoy many special ‘moments’.

MSC wants a slice of the North American market and ships like Divina will make that happen. With extremely high airfares to Europe, maybe it’s time to experience the Mediterranean lifestyle as you sail the Caribbean. The money saved can buy you that Prada or Fendi item you’ve been dreaming of.

Buon Viaggio!

MSC Divina is now sailing year-round out of PortMiami with 7-day Eastern and Western itineraries. You can contact them at: 1.877.665.4655

Note: click on the “I” as you view the slideshow for more information