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Review MSC Divina. Forget the negative remarks this the perfect family cruise.

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MSC Cruise on the Divina August 2015

Location: Mediterranean

Length of cruise: 8 days

 Initial thoughts about MSC cruises

I know that you may have heard from quite a few people that MSC are not the best cruise line and I must say I am guilty of being one of those people. I have been on the MSC Poesia years ago and my memories of that cruise were not that great, it was noisy, very busy, smoky and definitely not for me.  Therefore, you can imagine my reaction to the news that the only cruise line that could accommodate our family at short notice was MSC.  My daughter and family had not been on holiday together for 4 years and when I said we would go and book a holiday they were over the moon, so we had to go with the MSC Divina. I would just like to say it was the best decision we have ever made, how wrong could I have been about MSC cruises. 

My husband and I have been on 18 cruises and on a variety of cruise lines, Princess, P&O, Celebrity, RCI, Costa as well as MSC and we would say they all have their pros and cons, so we do have a good idea of what to expect from a cruise holiday. If you are a family with young children, grandparents taking their grandchildren on holiday or someone looking for a holiday that is upbeat but at the same time with elegant qualities MSC are the cruise line for you.  On the other hand, if you are people who just prefer a quiet holiday, then I would say MSC are not for you.

Children’s cruise fare

Children go free on MSC and you only have to pay for flights and taxes. Other companies at the time of our booking were charging children nearly the same price as adults, this made our cruise very good value for money, as we had 3 children in our group aged 23months, 8yrs and 10yrs.

Airport choice

Not so good if you live in the north of the country as you have to travel to Gatwick or Heathrow, so our journey took us 5 hours because of delays on the motorways. It would be far better to have the choice of a regional airport or even better if we could sail from the UK as Southampton only takes us 4hours 30mins and you don’t have to wait in the airport for 2 two hour to start your holiday.

Flight

Gatwick to Genoa

We flew with British Airways and the flight was on time. Refreshments and service were very good but best of all our flight was on time and it only took 2hours 5mins just the right length for a 23month old. The little one didn’t have her own seat and had to sit with her daddy but on the plus side we only paid £100 for her flight.

 

 

Genoa airport to La Spezia

The service at the airport was well organised. The MSC rep was easy to locate and we were quickly and smoothly put onto the waiting coach for our transfer to the port of La Spezia. The journey took approx. 1hour 15mins. Coming down to the port we have a lovely view of Divina and the children couldn’t believe the size of the ship.

Check-in at La Spezia  

We arrived at the port and didn’t have to queue for check-in, it was straight to the desk and after the usual formalities we had our cruise card. Because we had children we had to register them at the designated children’s club desk, this was so they could be tagged, making them identifiable by the ship as to which cabin they were in and who to contact if they needed assistance.  We have booked on the Meraviglia next year and the children will be given a bracelet so we can locate them wherever they are on-board ship, how safe is that.

It all took 15mins from start to finish.

Overview of the ship

What an elegant looking vessel, from the outside, she is just what a cruise ship should look, sleek lines and understated paintwork (not brash).

The Divina is a large ship with all the facilities that go with her size. The public areas are full of glitz, glamour and are well designed. The atrium is stunning, full of marble and the Swarovski crystal staircase is magical. I cannot get over the attention to detail given to public areas, as we even saw a member of staff hoovering petal shapes onto the backs of chairs. Some may say that the ship is a little OTT with opulence but I don’t think so. If you like Art Deco you will love the ship. The oversized chairs near the reception area are fab to sit on, just so comfy.

Areas can get crowded in the evening but you can always find a quiet spot if you need one.

She is a spotlessly clean ship and well maintained.

The age range of guests was mainly young families or grandparents traveling with their family.

Very stable ship and we had calm seas.

Cabin

We had a Fantastica balcony cabin on deck 10. Good size cabin with a large bed and a sofa that made into a bed for our grandson at night, even when the sofa bed was made up we had plenty of room to move around. Storage was good and the wardrobes had doors on but as usual I was glad I packed extra coat hangers as we never seem to have enough. Opposite the bed, we had large mirrors which was very useful when you are getting ready to go out. The flat screen TV was easy to use with a good menu but very limited English channels.

 The bathroom seams larger than other ships due to the folding doors on the shower, which when opened up made a nice sized shower cubical (great for the larger person like myself). The vanity unit has door on the lower section to you can store your toiletries away, making the bathroom look tide. Shower gel was available but as for shampoo and conditioner, I think it is best to take your own.

Love the way you can find the bathroom light switch at night as when it is turned off it has an LED light at the top of the switch.

 The air conditioning was good.

We had a glass balcony giving you great sea views.

 No Kettle or coffee making facilities but 24 hour room service so who needs one.

 

Drinks package

We opted for the Allegrissimo drinks package, which all the in the cabin had to have if you opt for a drinks package, but what value for money. It gives you unlimited drinks from any bar, the buffet and main restaurant (the choice was marked  * on the drinks menu) but we had ample choice. It also included takeaway ice-cream and hot drinks. The children loved the virgin cocktails and the price we payed must have been worth it just for those alone. It enabled the children to get a drink or an ice-cream without asking.  Around the pool area the bar staff even knew the childrens names it made them feel so special.  All this for Adults £154 per person and children £70 per person for the cruise. Although it is all inclusive we didn’t encounter one drunken person.

Villa Rosa Restaurant

The restaurant has a red and gold theme and looks luxuriant.  It has two sittings 6.30 and 8.30, we had first siting because of the children. We had a window table which was excellent for the children. Our youngest grandchild would sit on the windowsill and look at the view while waiting for her meal to arrive, so not disturbing other guests.

Waiters

Just amazing, they couldn’t do enough for you. They had a good knowledge of the menu, if you wanted two starters instead of a soup you could have them. The service was quick but not too rushed. The children’s main course was brought out with our soup course so they didn’t have to wait.

 I like being served at a table as it has a more personal touch unlike on our last cruise on The P&O Britannia when all the food was ready plated.

Food

A 5 course menu that was very continental and of good quality but best of all tasted freshly cooked.   I prefer a continental bias as it give variety and not the run of the mill meat and two veg you get on some other ships. You have must try the NY steak and the snails.

Food must be good as the Berlitz guide say it is one of the best too.

Buffet

Great hit with all the family, even my husband who dislikes buffets. The Ethnic corner was a favourite for the adults and the homemade pizza was that good since coming back home I cannot find a pizza to match the quality and taste. Very good choice, salads, cooked meats (hot and cold), stews, curries, fish dishes, pasta dishes, desserts, fresh fruit, hot dogs, beef burgers, chips and the children had their own section if they couldn’t find what they wanted in the main buffet area. It was very noisy and busy but we always found a seat.

Build your own sandwich

If you wanted a late night snack, you could always go and build your own sandwich. Now I never found the need to this, but my son-in-law and grandson thought it was a great place to have a midnight feast. 

 

Entertainment

The entertainment is fun, lively and always something going on. My daughter won the You Bet style quiz that took place round the pool area. We played bingo which was good value but you had to be quick at marking your card as it was done at a very fast pace.

The Pantheon Theatre is large and you have no trouble getting a seat. Because there was a multitude of nationalities on board took a long time to welcome everybody and introduce the acts (necessary but boring). The shows we did see were excellent but they are visual or musical. However, we did not see too many show as the children preferred the live music in the bars and lounges.  The children even went on stage with one of the bands as they went every night and  danced to the music.

 

Swimming pools

Lovely large pools and the children had plenty of shallow areas. There was a water slide for the older children and adults.

A negative on sea days the pool area was very busy and at times too packed. You had no room to swim in the main pool. We used the aft pool but even that was quiet full but not as noisy. On port days what a difference it was like having your own pool, so we did take advantage of this, as we had visited many of the locations on previous occasions. The rest of the ship was peaceful too.

 

Ports of call

Interesting places to visit:-

Cannes

Reached by tender.

 A very expensive place to visit even the sun loungers where extortionate to hire.

Found it best to hire a taxi for a trip around the area but would recommend getting a fixed price for the trip and the cheaper taxi fares can usually be found outside the jetty landing area.

Palma De Mallorca

Usually get the local bus into the centre, which is located just outside the port terminal, however, the walk from the ship to the terminal to not a short one. The cost of the bus is very cheap and drops you off in the centre and they are very regular.

I find Palma a great shopping area and for the older ones of us who can remember C&A they even have that store. It’s also nice to sit with the locals in one of the cafes and have a drink and watch the world go by, or take a taxi for an island tour.

Rome

Do take a ships excursion to Rome as it is a long way from the port and you do not want to risk not getting back to the ship on time. Rome is a place you need to visit but you will not see everything in one go, so decide which location is important to you, mine was the Vatican museum. I will never forget the beautiful frescos and the statues are amazing. Well worth a visit. I also did the colosseum on the same trip and came very back tired but what an awesome trip. Money well spent.

 

Naples

Everyone wants to see Pompeii when they go to Naples well I wanted to go to Herculaneum. So we took a local taxi to Ercolano (Herculaneum). Just a few miles outside Naples.

Herculaneum is far better preserved than Pompeii, as it was covered by ash and not lava, it is a smaller site. Think the entry price was about 11 euros.

You can get an audio tour of the site and can hire them at a kiosk after going through the ticket desks.

It is less crowded than Pompeii but it is wonderful, you can imagine what life was like in a Roman town as everything is there, shops, baths even the chariot grooves are in the roads. The mosaics look almost new.

It takes a couple of hours at least to walk round and you cannot find much shade so you will need plenty of suntan lotion.

 

Barcelona

Stayed on-board this time but the boys when on the Nou Camp tour and loved it.

We have done the tour of Barcelona by taxi and it was worth doing and a fraction of the cost of a tour if you have a few in the party, you can spend as long or as little time at each location.

If you just want to go into the centre the ships shuttle bus will drop you off just a short walk from La Ramblas.

Things to remember about making your own way round a location is that you must get back to the port on time as the ship will not wait for you, if you go on an organised ships tour and the coach is late getting back the ship will wait for you.

  

 MSC Loyalty status match

Just found out I can download a form from the MSC website and use my loyalty points from other cruise lines to upgrade my MSC loyalty statues giving me even more benefits. I have only have to send them proof of membership such as loyalty card or statement from the other company  

 

 Conclusion

Would I recommend MSC cruises, yes I would. In fact we are booked onto the Meraviglia next August with the family.

Is MSC the cruise line for everybody, no it’s not. If you are looking for a P&O cruise type experience you will not get it with MSC. It too lively, noisy, busy with lots of children and younger people on-board. So if I was traveling with my husband and not with the family I would look at a Princess, P&O adult only or Celebrity cruise. If it’s a family cruise on a spectacular ship with fantastic food and is value for money, its 100% MSC every time.

 

 

 

 

 

  

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