Cruising the Eastern Caribbean aboard MSC Divina
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Saturday, February 7, 2014
There’s nothing more rewarding after a marathon of red-eye flights than seeing an enormous cruise ship looming over you – and knowing you’ll soon be stepping onboard. That was the situation I found myself in this afternoon as I stood at the Port of Miami, ready to embark on my very first cruise aboard MSC Cruises’ MSC Divina.
At over a thousand feet in length, MSC Divina is a Very Big Ship. My last cruises have all been aboard Very Small Ships, which I love dearly. But I cut my teeth, so to speak, on megaship cruising, and there’s always something exciting about coming back onboard a massive cruise ship.
Embarkation took no time at all, and I have to give the porters at the Port of Miami credit for stating that tips are purely optional. That’s a nice touch; in the old days, it was assumed that if you didn’t tip, your bags might end up in the drink. No more. It was a kinder, friendlier Port of Miami – the experience of which continued throughout the document verification, security, and check-in process.
When I arrived shortly after noon, embarkation had already begun – but the process of stepping aboard MSC Divina was deceptively simple. Sure, there was plenty of queuing, but that’s to be expected on any megaship. Still, from curb to check-in, I stepped off the gangway and onboard my massive cruise ship in just a little over thirty minutes.
For the next seven days, my home will be one of MSC Divina’s Balcony Staterooms on Deck 9. There are a whopping 1,125 of these onboard, all of which measure between 182 and 317 square feet – generous to be sure for mainstream cruise ships.
Aside from the attractive décor done in shades of dark woods and sea blues, it’s a very spacious, practical stateroom. Electrical outlets are provided for both European and North American plug types, with two of each situated just above the desk. The spacious closet is chocked full of hangers; no need to request more here. And, as a bonus, a wall of drawers topped by a safe complements the closet. This is a truly nice touch; one I typically only see on luxury cruise ships or river cruise vessels.
The spacious feeling continues in the bathroom, which features a full-sized bath and shower combination; another rarity among new cruise ships of this size. Plenty of shelving space is available, and my only complaint with the room is that it’s so white. On any other ship, this wouldn’t be an issue – but on MSC Divina, colour ebbs and flows throughout every public space onboard. White just seems so…plain…in comparison.
MSC Divina is, without a doubt, one of the most beautifully-designed ships I’ve ever laid eyes on. Each public room has its own distinctive décor and personality, and no two rooms are alike. This creates enormously personalized spaces interconnected by common corridors that weave and flow from one area to the next. Passenger flow is fabulous, with very few bottlenecks, even on our busy embarkation day that also featured numerous visitors; guests from MSC’s parent shipping company eager to embark on MSC Divina for a quick tour and lunch.
Because embarkation day can be a bit chaotic – and because I am seriously jetlagged – I’m going to cheat a bit. Rather than write a full report, I want to share with you 10 things that have impressed me about MSC Divina so far:
1. International Passenger Mix: This isn’t your father’s Caribbean cruise. Instead of being homogenous to the point of distraction, MSC draws a wide mix of people from around the world to both the MSC Divina and the Caribbean. So far, I’ve heard English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish being spoken onboard – and that diversity is a huge plus in my books.
2. Live Music: In an age where many mainstream lines are scrapping live evening music entirely, MSC goes against the grain. Tonight, seven separate artists are performing aboard MSC Divina for the listening pleasure of guests. In fact, as I write this in the Segafredo Coffee Bar sipping an Irish Mojito, I’m listening to the sounds of the Amsterdam Trio emanating from the multi-story atrium just a few feet away.
3. Dancing: it goes hand-in-hand with live music, and I’ve never seen a ship with so many dance floors onboard. Literally every bar and lounge seems to have one.
4. Coffee: It’s Italian, and far better than average. Bonus points for the cool navy-blue MSC Logo-branded mugs in the buffet!
5. Gelato!: You heard right: MSC Divina has fantastic gelato onboard. It’s the next best thing to actually being in Italia.
6. Nightly Production Shows: Tonight, we watched Frank Forever: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra – and it impressed me. I tend to not go to the production shows anymore (I get sleepy!), but you’ve got to hand it to the entertainment team here onboard MSC Divina: they’ve gone all out with these better-than-average performances.
7. Uncommonly Good Buffet Food: Embarkation lunches are usually a disaster; not this one. Not only was more seating plentiful the further aft you went, but multiple serving stations ensure that lines never reach unmanageable levels. The food is damn good, too: even their burger and sandwich offerings are above par.
8. Attention to Details: I am allergic to nuts, but that was no issue for the dining room staff here aboard the MSC Divina. Not only was tonight’s menu carefully scrutinized for nuts, but I was able to pre-select menu choices for both lunch and dinner tomorrow to ensure they’re prepared without any risk of contamination.
9. Wide Open Deck Spaces: Even MSC Divina’s pool deck doesn’t seem as crowded and claustrophobic as other mainstream cruise ships have. Time will tell, though, just how well-used this space is during our days of scenic cruising ahead.
10. Beautiful Design: Did I mention MSC Divina’s jaw-dropping interior design work? Seriously – this is a very soothing, beautiful and eclectic ship.
As our first day aboard MSC Divina comes to a close, I’m excited for two reasons. One, the Caribbean is close at hand. But secondly – and more importantly – I can’t wait to get out and explore all that MSC Divina has to offer her guests.
Our full journey:
MSC Divina, Sailing the Eastern Caribbean, Mediterranean Style
|Saturday, February 7, 2015||Miami, Florida||Embark MSC Divina||19:00|
|Sunday, February 8||At Sea|
|Monday, February 9||At Sea|
|Tuesday, February 10||Philipsburg, St. Maarten||09:00||18:00|
|Wednesday, February 11||San Juan, Puerto Rico||08:00||16:00|
|Thursday, February 12||Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos||10:00||17:30|
|Friday, February 13||At Sea|
|Saturday, February 14, 2015||Miami, Florida||07:00||Disembark|