Summing up MSC Divina, Uniworld's New Sisters: How They Differ, & Serene Siena

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msc divina

Summing Up Seven Days On MSC Divina

You might have heard about MSC Cruises. You've probably heard of MSC Divina, the newest and largest ship the line has ever homeported out of Miami. And yes, you've probably heard that the Italy-based company had some difficulties adapting to the North American market. What you likely didn't hear, however, was how much effort MSC put into it - and how fabulous its product aboard the MSC Divina has come.

Aaron Saunders recently spent a week in the Eastern Caribbean aboard MSC Divina, a ship that he says may have been his favorite mainstream cruise ever. Read his story and his daily reports from MSC Divina on our sister site, Live Voyage Reports.

Read more.

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Uniworld's S.S. Maria Theresa: How Will She Differ From S.S. Catherine?

Uniworld's S.S. Maria Theresa: How Will She Differ From S.S. Catherine?

When she launches on March 26, 2015, S.S Maria Theresa will be the third ship to be based upon the same general design as Uniworld’s highly successful S.S. Antoinette, which was launched in 2011. Last spring, Uniworld took delivery of the S.S Antoinette’s first sister ship, the gorgeous S.S Catherine. The two newest vessels are similar but have several distinct differences.

A Look At The Sister, S.S. Catherine

I loved the posh feeling of S.S. Catherine when I sailed on her last year. A stunningly sophisticated vessel, the S.S. Catherine will no doubt appeal to anyone who has an eye for luxury (those who cruise Silversea, Seabourn, Crystal and the like) and the finer things in life (free-pouring champagne, gourmet cuisine, butler service and an all-inclusive environment). And as S.S. Catherine sails along the Rhône and Saône, the S.S. Catherine also appeals to Francophiles. C’est vrai.

The main dining room, in fact, resembles a fine French bistro, and the dining experience — particularly the quality of the cuisine — has a certain French flair. Breakfast each morning featured French yogurt, French-press coffee and croissants that were better than I wished they would have been, but then who is counting calories when we had complimentary bicycles to burn off the excess from a little morning decadence?

In France, champagne flows freely on S.S. Catherine (Sekt in Germany, Prosecco in Italy — all true to the sailing region where Uniworld vessels are operating), and as of last year, all wine and spirits flow at no extra charge as Uniworld is now all-inclusive.

S.S. Catherine carries 159 passengers.  On decks 2, 3 and 4 are five categories of staterooms. The dozen staterooms on deck 2 (categories 4 and 5) are smaller (162-square-feet each) than the category 1-3 staterooms on decks 3 and 4, which measure 194 square feet each. The smaller staterooms feature similar amenities to the larger staterooms, but with windows only, whereas the larger staterooms have either a sliding glass window that lowers and raises with the push of a button — or a balcony.

Suites naturally come equipped with white-gloved butlers wearing tuxedo jackets with tails. They serve guests in Catherine’s six suites, ranging from 305 square feet to 410 square feet, all done in different styles. Suites also come with a one-per-person complimentary in-suite spa treatment and a mini-bar and bar set-up. No matter what category you book, all accommodations on S.S. Catherine feature handcrafted Savoir of England beds — among the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept on.

With 57 crew, S.S. Catherine has one crew member per 2.78 passengers, compared to ratios as high as one crew member per four passengers on other river cruise vessels. Does the more favorable crew-to-passenger ratio make a difference? When it comes to service, yes. Think of it this way: Ten crew members serve about 28 passengers on S.S. Catherine, compared to 10 crew members serving 40 passengers on some other ships.

 

Read more about our comparison between S.S. Catherine & S.S. Maria Theresa.

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Shore Excursions From Livorno: Siena

Shore Excursions From Livorno: Siena

 

Siena’s age-old buildings mix with open-air cafes and narrow winding streets. The ancient city sits on a hill and its entire historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of Siena’s well-preserved medieval buildings were homes for the city’s aristocratic families.

The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, home to Siena’s famous medieval horse race, Il Palio, features original 13th century palaces and a 300-foot-tall bell tower. If climbing the tower is not your thing, head to the Piazza del Duomo. Situated on Siena’s highest hilltop, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption is built in stunning black and white marble.

Siena is best seen on foot so prepare to do a lot of walking in order to fully absorb the wonderful character of this ancient hilltop city.

Six Shore Excursions From Livorno: Which Is Best? Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Cinque Terre, Chianti, Siena & San Gimignano?

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