Sailing the Caribbean Blue aboard MSC Divina
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Sunday, February 8, 2015
After departing from Miami, Florida last evening, MSC Cruises’ MSC Divina is making her way towards our first port of call: Philipsburg, St. Maarten. A total of 1,084 nautical miles separate us from our first stop on our Eastern Caribbean adventure, but that’s not exactly a problem. With two days of sailing the resplendent Caribbean Sea ahead of us as we zip along at 19 knots, few guests aboard MSC Divina are complaining about having to kick back and relax in the sun. It’s tough work, but someone has to do it. When I awoke this morning, I discovered two interesting revelations about my balcony stateroom. Firstly, the blackout drapes really do their job: I thought I had awoken before dawn, and was surprised to pull back the curtains to see a bright, sunny morning greeting us.
Revelation Number Two: this ship is whisper-quiet. Not a single rattle or squeak can be heard from my stateroom. More importantly, noise from the corridor is almost non-existent, and rooms seem to be soundproofed rather well. If anyone had their television on in either of the staterooms bordering mine, I certainly didn’t hear a peep. The beds aboard MSC Divina are cozy and comfortable, with mattresses that bridge the gap between soft and firm. Coupled with the gentle movement of the ship through the night, I slept like a baby.
Up at 07:00, I went for breakfast on Deck 14 at the Calumet & Manitou Buffet. Even at that (relatively) early hour, breakfast could best be described as competitive. But, you’ll have a similar experience on any ship of this size. Here’s the trick: when you enter the buffet from the midship elevator bank, keep on walking right to the end. The Buffet runs the after length of the MSC Divina, and the further back you go, the less crowded it gets. In fact, it became downright enjoyable once I crossed over the aft elevator bank.
Breakfast offerings are plentiful and uncomplicated. You’ll find all the North American staples like bacon, eggs and hashbrowns, but plenty of healthy alternatives, too. There’s Muesli and yogurt in several different flavours; cereals and breads; cold cuts and cheeses; and plenty of fresh fruit. Despite coming from a machine, the Orange Juice is superb. I have no idea if it’s freshly-squeezed (I doubt it), but it certainly tastes that way. Other juice offerings include apple and cranberry. The coffee, as you might expect, is tremendous – just fantastic. If you can avoid it, don’t put cream and sugar in it – you’re just diluting its greatness.
After breakfast, there was plenty of time to wander the ship. In fact, there’s no shortage of things happening here onboard the MSC Divina. If you want to have a lazy Sunday at sea, you can. But if you want to ‘rock-it-till-you-dock-it’, so to speak, you can be going nearly around the clock with events and activities. From the MSC Daily Program:
Today In All Our Bars:
Alcoholic Cocktail: Rum on the Run US$6.25
Non-Alcoholic Cocktail: Captain Sparrow US$3.75
- 8:30 am: Morning Walk with the Entertainment Team; Aqua Park, Deck 14
- 9:00 am: Stretching Class; Aqua Park, Deck 14
- 9:30 am: Adult Arts & Crafts – Box Making; La Cantina di Bacco, Deck 7
- 10:00 am: Adult Ping-Pong Tournament; Le Sirene Pool, Deck 15
- 10:30 am: Country Dance Lesson; Aqua Park, Deck 14
- 10:30 am: Morning Trivia; La Luna Piano Bar, Deck 7
- 11:00 am: Teen Activities; Sports Arena, Deck 16
- 11:15 am: Mega Bingo; Aqua Park, Deck 14
- 12:30 pm: Mega Jenga Challenge; Golden Jazz Bar, Deck 7
- 2:00 pm: Italian Lessons; Golden Jazz Bar, Deck 7
- 2:15 pm: Adult Pool Games; Aqua Park, Deck 14
- 2:30 pm: Waltz Dance Lesson; Piazza del Doge, Deck 6
- 3:00 pm: Let’s Bet That…; Aqua Park, Deck 14
- 3:30 pm: Afternoon Trivia; Golden Jazz Bar, Deck 7
- 4:15 pm: Pictionary Challenge; La Luna Piano Bar, Deck 7
- 7:45 pm: Rumba Dance Lesson; Piazza del Doge, Deck 6
- 8:30 pm & 11:00 pm: MSC Cinema al Fresco – “Think Like a Man Too”; Aqua Park 14
I’m giving you the Reader’s Digest version of the Daily Programme; there isn’t enough space here to list all 48 events that are taking place here onboard the MSC Divina between 06:00 and 23:00. And that doesn’t include the nightly live music happening across the ship’s 17 bars and lounges.
By the way – if you’re sailing onboard MSC Divina, stop by the Caffe Italia for a Cappuccino. Best I’ve ever had outside of Italy – seriously. I do feel like I’m in the Med when I order one of these…and I might have ordered a few today! I did have an interesting experience, however, when I requested a brochure at the Future Cruise Desk on Deck 6. The two girls manning the desk were enormously helpful, but they reluctantly told me they had no brochures in English onboard. I wanted one for the deckplans and the worldwide itineraries only, so I ended up with a brochure printed in German. I’m lucky I can read a little German, so it suits my purposes. But with perhaps half the ship speaking English, I feel like MSC is missing a fabulous opportunity to market to their English-speaking guests by having no English brochures onboard. Two words: Captive Audience.
I should point out that everything else onboard has been printed in multiple languages, including English, Italian, German, French and Spanish. Daily Programs in localised languages are sent to staterooms, but additional ones can be picked up outside the Guest Services Desk on Deck 5. Localised Shore Excursion brochures are also available outside the Shore Excursion Desk on Deck 6. I love the international atmosphere here onboard, not to mention the Italian and Mediterranean (and even European) influence that is evident throughout the ship, from the ingredients available in the preparation of the food to the extensive menu of beers from around the world to the coffee, gelato and pastries that would do Italy proud. A few photos from around the MSC Divina today:
After a relaxing afternoon onboard, it was time to dine in Eataly Steakhouse, one of MSC Divina’s most unique specialty restaurants. Dedicated to providing guests with a superb Italian dining experience, the restaurant offers a menu of appetizers, pastas and steaks that are cooked to order. Pasta should be taken al dente, and your waiter will offer up suggestions as to the best level of preparedness for each type of steak – including the massive 35-ounce T-Bone steak that carries a surcharge (rightly so) of $60. It’s enough to feed two people.
Being a specialty restaurant, everything is priced a la carte at Eataly – but you shouldn’t view that as a downside; more like something to plan in advance for. I’m not a huge steak fan, but I am an enormous pasta fan, and the pasta here was definitely worth the extra charge. I enjoyed the ‘seafood pasta’ – or Afeltra Gragnano Pacchero – which, a $10.50, is an absolute steal. My 8.5-ounce Filet Mignon, at $25, was truly sumptuous – though if I may be honest, I think I’d go for two pasta dishes in the future and skip the steak entirely. I don’t know if you can do that or not, but I’d sure try!
Another thing to like about Eataly: it adheres to the tenets of Slow Food, an Italian organization that was created in response to the growing world demand for ‘fast food.’ By focusing on slow food – both in terms of preparation and ingestion – the enjoyment of the dish is enhanced. It’s an unusual feature to find on a mainstream cruise line, where diners typically like to be in and out in under an hour. Not so here – dinner, including dessert, was an enjoyable two hours long. As it should be – this is an event, not a meal at Burger King.
Tonight is Formal Night, and for the first time in recent memory on a mainstream ship, nearly everyone dressed up. And I mean dressed up! I’ve seen more tuxedoes tonight than I have on most of the luxury cruises I’ve been on. Not only that, but I came down from my stateroom at ten to five this evening to find an uncommon number of people who had already dressed for dinner. They were excited to dress for dinner! Once again, MSC moves up another notch in my book. Being on mainstream cruises where half the people dress and half remain in track pants just isn’t my thing; it’s nice to see everyone here really buy into the entire “Gala Night” experience.
Tonight, clocks aboard the MSC Divina will go forward one hour to align with the local island time in Philipsburg. But no one seems to be worried about getting their sleep; tomorrow is, after all, another gorgeous day at sea. Mediterranean-style!
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|