Day 7 – Cruising the Caribbean Sea

One Last Mediterranean Day at Sea in the Caribbean

Sunrise aboard MSC Cruises' MSC Divina as we spend our last day at sea on our weeklong Eastern Caribbean voyage. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Sunrise aboard MSC Cruises’ MSC Divina as we spend our last day at sea on our weeklong Eastern Caribbean voyage. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports

Friday, February 13, 2015

Yes, you read that right: today is Friday the 13th around the world, just as it is here aboard MSC Cruises’ MSC Divina as she slowly makes her way back to Miami. But I’m of the opinion that Friday the 13th is a lucky day, and things would certainly seem that way. After all, how bad can things be when you’re sailing aboard the massive MSC Divina, bathed in the warmth of the Caribbean sunshine?

One of today's more popular pastimes: Aqua Cycling fitness classes at the Infinity Pool, Deck 15 aft. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
One of today’s more popular pastimes: Aqua Cycling fitness classes at the Infinity Pool, Deck 15 aft. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Today is bittersweet because it is our last day here onbard the MSC Divina – a ship that has consistently surprised me since I first embarked nearly one week ago. The things I had heard about MSC Cruises could not have been more inaccurate, at least as of right now. I don’t see them regressing, either; they’ve finally got a handle on the North American market and its likes and dislikes.

But I’ll tell you what I like the most about MSC: I like that they’re individual. They’re not trying to play copycat to any other cruise line. They march to the beat of their own drummer, and that’s to their credit.

I also took the time to use the onboard internet center on Deck 5 to print a few things off...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
I also took the time to use the onboard internet center on Deck 5 to print a few things off…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...wander the ship...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…wander the ship…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...and admire the view! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…and admire the view! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Take, for instance, the massive (and beautiful!) Pantheon Theatre on Decks 6 and 7 forward. The cruise was half-over before I realized that there no drink holders to accompany the velvet-red theatre-style seating. Not only that, but there were no waiters making the rounds, harassing guests into buying a beverage for the show.

The reason? MSC feels that a theatre should be just that – a theatre. Not a place to milk onboard revenue out of guests. It’s a policy that makes total sense: if you’re at the theatre in a major city like New York or London, you don’t have drink service in the theatre; you have an intermission with drinks in a separate bar adjacent to the theatre. So MSC was willing to forgo potential onboard revenue to ensure that the atmosphere and spirit of the theatre didn’t become muddled.

Executive Chef Attilio Ascione demonstrates...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Executive Chef Attilio Ascione demonstrates…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...how to make...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…how to make…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...a sumptuous, freshly-made Eataly Italian pizza using Italian ingredients. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…a sumptuous, freshly-made Eataly Italian pizza using Italian ingredients. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

There’s much more to tell about MSC Divina and MSC Cruises, but I’m going to save some for a roundup here the week after next. In the meantime, I think it’s most important to highlight a question that you’re surely all asking yourselves: should I sail with MSC?

Sail With MSC If:

  • You’re looking for an affordable, big-ship cruise that’s not a floating theme park. MSC Divina is a huge ship with plenty of fun features and activities to satisfy guests of any age, but it’s an experience with a lot of class.
  • You appreciate good food. MSC Divina, in particular, is loaded with great culinary offerings, from freshly-made pizza to gelato and pasta – all of which are produced right onboard the ship.
  • You love good coffee. The caffeinated offerings onboard MSC’s ships are on par with what’s available on ultra-luxury lines like Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Silversea. And yes, the coffee alone is worth the price of admission. Just try the cappuccino; it’s the best I’ve had outside of Italy.
  • You enjoy live music, dancing, and quality entertainment. MSC’s entertainment is uncommonly good, and the amount of live music spanning all genres scattered throughout the ship is inspiring. Guests think so, too: public rooms are typically busy and inviting until well past midnight.

Avoid MSC If:

  • You demand a homogenized, rah-rah-America big ship experience. This isn’t it. Your fellow guests hail from all over the world, and they like good food, late evenings, live music and dancing. Although English is the official language spoken aboard MSC Divina, you’ll hear many others during your days and nights onboard. The atmosphere onboard is proudly European.
  • You’re looking for a quiet, unassuming cruise. Again, this isn’t it. MSC is bold, fun, and decidedly upscale. However, even on the MSC Divina, quiet nooks and crannies could always be found.
  • You hate dress codes. MSC still features Formal Nights in conjunction with several theme nights throughout the voyage – and onboard the MSC Divina, nearly every guest dressed accordingly.
  • You’re put off by things that are ‘different.’ If you’re expecting this to be just like Carnival or just like Royal Caribbean, you’ll be disappointed. MSC marches to the beat of their own drummer…and their guests love them for that.
I also took time to drive MSC Divina's F1 Racing Simulator...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
I also took time to drive MSC Divina’s F1 Racing Simulator…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...and experience the 4D Thrill Cinema on Deck 16. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…and experience the 4D Thrill Cinema on Deck 16. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
It's that time again. Disembarkation tags were delivered to guests this afternoon. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
It’s that time again. Disembarkation tags were delivered to guests this afternoon. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
But there is still time for one last trip to the pool deck...Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
But there is still time for one last trip to the pool deck…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...one last walkabout... Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…one last walkabout… Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
...and one last beer! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
…and one last beer! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

On a personal level, my week with MSC was an illuminating experience. That they’ve had a rocky road in the North American market in the past is undeniable; that they’re making significant changes and inroads for the better is an understatement. This, truly, was my kind of mainstream cruise: big, bold, fun – but with a touch of class and European atmosphere.

If you’ve been on the fence about MSC, you’re not alone. A lot of people are. I was – but not anymore. In fact, I feel like I’ve stumbled upon some sort of wonderful secret in discovering both MSC Cruises and the classy MSC Divina.

So let’s just keep this between us, okay? But…tell your friends!

A Ship Like No Other. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
A Ship Like No Other. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Our full journey:

Our MSC Divina Eastern Caribbean Live Voyage Report will run from February 7-14, 2015. Illustration courtesy of MSC Cruises.
Our MSC Divina Eastern Caribbean Live Voyage Report will run from February 7-14, 2015. Illustration courtesy of MSC Cruises.

MSC Divina, Sailing the Eastern Caribbean, Mediterranean Style

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
Saturday, February 7, 2015Miami, FloridaEmbark MSC Divina19:00
Sunday, February 8At Sea
Monday, February 9At Sea
Tuesday, February 10Philipsburg, St. Maarten09:00 18:00
Wednesday, February 11San Juan, Puerto Rico08:0016:00
Thursday, February 12Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos10:0017:30
Friday, February 13At Sea
Saturday, February 14, 2015Miami, Florida07:00Disembark
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