Monday, August 22, 2016

Carnival Breeze Cruise Review


Carnival Breeze Cruise Review
8/21/2016 and 8/28/2016

Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Breeze
Captain: Massimo Marino
Cruise Director:  Mike Pack
Ports: Galveston - Cozumel - Beize - Isla Roatan - Galveston - Montego Bay - Grand Cayman - Cozumel - Galveston

I had the 8/21 cruise booked for a while but recently booked the week following so I will be doing a B2B cruise on the Breeze.  I will chronicle both in one review.   This is my 61st & 62nd Carnival cruise, the 2nd/3rd time on the Carnival Breeze, and 115/116th cruise overall.  I am cruising as a solo.

Sunday / Travel /  Embarkation / August 21, 2016 / Day 1
Rene in the Red Frog Pub
I left the ranch about 4:45 am well before my usual scheduled departure time since there were flash flood warnings for my route to Houston area.  I did hit rain just east of Waco and very heavy rain either side of Bryan TX.  The continuous rain stopped south of Navasota and it was off and on the rest of the way to Galveston.  As usual some construction in Houston area but overall I made good time and arrived earlier than usual.  Cloudy but no rain so I drove through the cruise terminal and dropped my large bag at the baggage drop then proceeded to EZ Cruise Parking arriving about 10:15 am and was shuttled over to the ship soon afterward.  I was checked in at the VIFP priority check-in area about 10:45 am. Looks to be 9 Diamond guests this cruise (I always look at the Diamond page when they check me off the list) The VIFP lounge was already busy. After the wedding party,  I boarded  about 11:40 am.  It was a smooth process.  After dropping my carry-on bag and backpack in cabin 9359 i went straight to the Lido buffet for lunch before it got too busy.  I happened to be first at the Mongolian Grill, my usual first day eating choice on most Carnival ships.  It was very good.  After lunch I went out to the aft Pool area and the Tides Bar although I had ice creme and not a sail-away drink.  As I was leaving the area the Pizza Pirate Guys brought out some fresh Pepperoni Pizza so I had to test a slice…very good.  I went by the main pool area and Guy’s Burgers and the Blue Iguana were both packed with guests…the alternative dining is a big success.  I returned to my cabin, met my cabin steward, and took a very nice hour+ nap in my very dark interior cabin.  The Boat/Safety Drill was held just after 4:00 pm.  Safety drill went somewhat smooth.  I checked for my checked bag after drill…none as yet and that concerns me a bit as with VIFP status it’s usually at cabin by 2:00ish… so I went to look for it and found it on a trolly at mid elevators.  Between boat drill and bag search I have discovered LOTS of children on my deck…looks like a school adventure as most are in the same t-shirt…hope that’s not a problem this week. We started sail away about 4:45 and very soon the Breeze was sailing her way into the Gulf as I unpacked and set up my cabin.  I went down to the Red Frog Pub for a Thirsty Frog Red beer.  They had a steel drum entertainer and as my server Rene was from Jamaica she was really into the vibe…she’s a good singer too.  I went out to the Ocean Plaza and got a table to enjoy the now very pleasant weather.  I really enjoyed the sea air and perfect weather and to make it even better Jean, a bar server, from Romanian came by so I enjoyed my aperitif in this nice setting.  Noroc! You don’t miss the Alchemy when your on deck in ideal weather with a Cosmopolitan cocktail. I went to dinner at 8:15 pm in the Blush Dining Room (MDR) and I have a nice private table. Interesting and not sure how that happened as I like a large table, but I may keep it.  I had the bread and water to myself and use of two sets of napkins so had a place for my silverware since there is NO tablecloth.  Also a CHANGE to the American Table (I will detail later).  For dinner tonight I ordered: two Shrimp Cocktails, the Creme of Tomato Soup, a Cesar Salad, and the Pork Tenderloin entree with Root Vegetables.  I skipped dessert and headed back to the cabin after a tiring day.  They did have a Welcome Show scheduled tonight but I always pass on that…the violinists performing at the Blush entry lobby were a nice touch.  Overall a long and busy, but enjoyable day.

Monday / Fun day at Sea / August 22nd / Day 2
Two of my favorite staff members : Damir & Stephen
Smooth seas overnight and I had a very good nights sleep. I made some notes  early then was off to the MDR for breakfast about 9:45 am for the Sea Day Brunch. I had a nice table location and friendly table guests. I ordered Tomato Juice, the Fruit Plate, and Steak & Eggs, it was all very good. Guests were really happy and busy today, we had beautiful weather and the outdoor decks were packed as well as the casino. There were more children than I expected too.  I did a walk through the buffet area between 1:30 and 2:00 and I thought I was on MSC as it was packed with guests.  I enjoyed a great Guy’s burger about 2:30, then time for a short nap.  The Captains reception for Diamond Guests was held in the Piano Bar at 4:00 pm.  It was nice to see several officers I have known for a long time and other Diamond Guests.  The h’orderves served were fantastic, certainly an upgraded menu/selection of them.  Of course the complementary cocktails were very welcome.  Several of us stayed in the Piano Bar until dinner time.  The piano bar on Breeze is unique in that it can be closed for a private party or in it’s usual open concept with areas extending into the promenade.  This is another very good option for cocktails on the Breeze.  This was cruise elegant night and thus the formal set up in the Blush MDR so the tablecloths were welcome.  I had changed tables this morning and ended up sitting with guests I had just met at the Diamond event so that worked well.  For dinner I ordered: the Italian Wedding Soup, Spaghetti  Carbonara (as starter), and the Lobster entree. It was good, but not near as good as the h’orderves from the party.  The production show tonight was Motor City and features the Carnival Breeze dancers and singers and highlights R&B music.  There was a lot of other entertainment through the ship as well, but I turned it a bit early, I had a long happy hour today and I have two weeks to see it all.  The Platinum/Diamond gift was delivered tonight: an unusual croc-like (the shoe) like plastic baseball style hat. Don’t think the guests will care for it...but could be a pool hat for me.  A very nice and FUN sea day on the Carnival Breeze.

Tuesday / Cozumel, Mexico / August 23rd / Day 3
San Miguel - Cozumel
Calm seas overnight and I had a nice sleep.  As at home I awoke very early to use the internet, as a satellite user I know it is faster in the wee hours.  Then back to sleep and fortunately I was awake in time to go to the MDR for breakfast before the 9:00 am close.  I had a great breakfast: fresh fruit, three eggs over easy, bacon, ham, potatoes, and white toast.  It was perfect. I have no early plans for the day so a walk around the ship while most are getting off in Cozumel.  We are docked at the Puerto Maya Pier along with the Paradise out of Tampa and the Liberty of the Seas is at the International pier.  About 10:45 am I went down to deck zero and was on my way to San Miguel ($8 taxi). I first went to Antonio’s Barber Shop and had my usual haircut from Martin. He has been my regular barber for nine+ years now.  Afterward I went to Woody’s Bar to use the internet and drink a diet coke.  This has been my Cozumel HQ for many years...I can enjoy Pako performing, Bohemia Beer, and great Guacamole.  (I have been to every Cozumel beach, major bar, and done every activity having been here over 80+ times) The photo is one of my favorites, I didn't take it, it was sent to me by the owner of Woody's and it really shows a beautiful view of San Miguel.  We even scattered the ashes of one of our Snoozemates' frequent cruisers in the Caribbean at that flag.  After a few beers and my great guacamole and pico de gallo the Woody’s team watched my ‘stuff’ while I went down the avenue to get a pedicure at the new Foot Therapy storefront.  They did a good job ($20 + $5 tip) I was very pleased.  The extended departure time for the ship allowed time for two more Bohemia beers at Woody's and a walk to Burritos Gorditos just a few blocks north of the square. They have GREAT burritos, the best I have ever had…ever.  Finishing my huge beef burrito I walked down to the Malecon and I caught a taxi back to the pier ($8). I was back on ship about 5:30 pm. for a 6:00 pm sail away.  No time for watch pier runners as I took a refreshing shower and relaxed.  I got a laundry order ready and told the steward to skip the cabin this evening.  I was content and not hungry so I skipped dinner and the Magic Show and enjoyed some internet time and extra sleep.  It was a wonderful day from head to toe’ in Cozumel today!

Wednesday / Belize / August 24th / Day 4
Sailing from Belize
Calm seas over night and the weather is cloudy.  I was up about 8:00 am and enjoyed my relaxing overnight sleep.  I went to the MDR for breakfast as most were collecting their tender tickets for Belize.  I ordered Melon, Eggs Benedict, Bacon, and Hash Browns.  It was good and the eggs were cooked perfectly.  I will not be going ashore today…I have done most everything there is to do in Belize: the Mayan sites, Caye Caulker, Zoo, Cave Tubing, and more.  I spoke with some Blue Cards and recommended Caye Caulker as it’s unique to Belize and one of my favorites…I have taken a boat or water taxi out there many times.  I had a walkabout on the outer decks this morning, there are quite a few guests staying on board.  I had cabin time doing some business until 12:45 and then went up to Lido for a Mongolian Grill.  It was actually better than Sunday since they have restocked the veggie’s…I always like the snow peas and bamboo shoots, today's meat choices were salmon, pork, or chicken, the Mongolian Grill is always a little different and a favorite.  It did rain midday so good decision for me to stay on board, but it will be a relief to the heat for those on Belize excursions.  Afternoon was personal cabin time, some work on this review, and I watched a movie.  I did go sit on deck 11 where they have the nicer chairs and watch the activities around the pool on Lido.  My favorite beer, Pilsner Urquell, is now stocked in cans on the Breeze (probably fleet wide) so it is now available on the boat decks (no glass) so I was able to enjoy a couple of those this afternoon.  I was fearful that the canned beer would be a lesser quality or even processed in North America, but no, it’s great and direct from Pilsen, Czech Republic.  About 6:30 I went down to Ocean Plaza (photo) and enjoyed a cocktail and watch us sail from Belize…a very pleasant location.  I then went to the Piano Bar to have my aperitifs with Jana who prepared a nice Cosmo and a Spicy Chipotle cocktail.  Dinner this evening was good, the Hotel Director sent me a bottle of Prosecco  (sparkling) that I shared with my table so that was a nice start. Thank you Damir.  I ordered the Beetroot Carpaccio, the Grilled Beef Tenderloin entree, the BBQ Pork Spareribs entree, and the S’mores Parfait for dessert.  The Beetroot Carpaccio and Tenderloin were excellent and the ribs were very good.  One of the best meals I have had on Carnival for a long while.  Why can it not be this consistently good fleet wide?  The production show tonight was 88 Keys and I was on my way to the late showing, but being so content with aperitifs and a great meal retired to the cabin.  It was a very nice day.

Thursday  /  Mahogany Bay,  Isla Roatan  /  August 25th / Day 5
Calm seas and another good nights sleep overnight.  It’s a damp morning so guests are slow to debark this morning.  I went to the MDR for a nice breakfast: Melon, Eggs, Bacon, Ham, Hash Browns, & Toast. Soon the weather began to clear so most were getting off the ship so it was time for me to visit the Tides pool on Lido aft.  I pretty much had the pool to myself for awhile, but as the day was now clear and hot guests joined in the pool.  I lasted until I notice one of my pet peeves…there was a guy in the pool wear croc’s.  I didn’t notice him enter or I would have called him on it. I’m sorry but if you wear anything on your feet and walk around deck and in the toilets…it doesn’t belong in the pool.  Later for lunch I went to Cucina del Capitano on deck 11 aft.  You select your own pasta, sauces, and toppings in a pasta bowl that is prepared for you.  I had Penne Pasta, Bolognese sauce, Cherry Tomatoes, & Italian Sausage.  Sides are bread and Ceasar Salad.  It was a very good lunch and free during the day, there is a service charge in the evening.  The photo will indicate if they use canned or actual fresh tomatoes on the Carnival Breeze.  The rest of the afternoon I did some work on the internet and had a brief nap until guests began arriving back onboard.  Too many screaming children running the passageways. I went to see the loyalty lady about a booking a cruise then to the Piano Bat for aperitifs.  Jana made me a Cosmo and a Blackberry cocktail, very nice.  Dinner was again very good, I ordered:the Roasted Pumpkin Soup, Escargots Bourguignonne, Braised Short Ribs/Loin, and the Pescado Asado Cubierto Con Tostones (fish fillet with crust of plantains and breadcrumbs) from the Roatan port menu.  I skipped dessert since I had two entrees and it was so good I will order the exact same items next week.  I actually did walk around this evening looking into several venues.  The had a brass type group at piano bar, a sing duo in the Red Frog a full house in the casino, and the Love and Marriage show in the theater.  Not up that late but soon retired.  It was a good day on the Carnival Breeze.

Friday / Fun day at Sea / August 26th / Day 6
Production Show: FLICK
Smooth seas with only a few minor bumps overnight and during the day.  I was up early and took advantage of the internet but stayed in bed since it’s a sea day brunch day and the MDR is open until 1:00 pm for brunch.  I finally got around and went down to the Blush Dining room about 10:00 am - there was a line, but it moved quickly.  I had a nice table at aft windows so I could see the wake as we sailed.  I ordered the Fruit Plate, and the Huevos Rancheros with sides of bacon, ham, & hash browns.  It was good, but not any better than the Blue Iguana on Lido deck so I’ll go with the Iguana in future for huevos rancheros.  Not as hot today so the guests were out on the open decks and enjoying the sun and pools, good that they are as we may not have sun tomorrow.  I had an easy day, I actually booked an Alaska cruise for this time next year, and had some cabin time.  In the late afternoon I ordered a BLT from room service.  The room service BLT is a signature item on Carnival.  They are excellent and everyone should order one just to experience it.  I went and sat on the Ocean Plaza to take in the late views of us sailing at sundown and thunderstorms on the horizon…very nice.  I went to the Piano Bar for my now regular aperitif with Jana.  Dinner was good, I ordered: the Pasta E Fagioli soup, the Stuffed Mushrooms, Four Season Salad, Dual of Filet Mignon  & Short Rib, and Grand Marnier Souffle for dessert.  It was good, but entree not as good as previous night.  After dinner I went to the theater to see the new production show FLICK.  The show is difficult to describe…it is the most elaborate Playlist Production to date.  The overall theme is movies with a lot of magic used as the element that ties together the various scenes.  The graphics are spectacular and I’ve never seen the use of fans (8) in a production as they do in Flick (see photo).  As I said one has to see it as it’s indescribable…in a good way.  BTW-because of the fans located foreground of the stage the best seats are probably lower balcony as the fans do block a lot of action.  It was cabin time after the show…A interesting day on the Carnival Breeze.

Saturday / Fun day at Sea / August 27th / Day 7
Senior Diamond on board
Smooth seas overnight, but I had interrupted sleep…seems kids were playing slam the doors around midnight then again at 2:00 am when the parents arrived back.  I did finally sleep well and late getting up after 9:30.  I went down to the MDR for the final sea day brunch about 10:30 and was seated with only a short wait.  I ordered the Fruit Plate and the Steak & Eggs…good as usual and steak better than entree last night.  This morning I went out on the Ocean Plaza and enjoyed the beautiful blue water and blue skies, the Captain is doing a great job of sailing between the thunderstorms I see on the horizon. They began serving the sea day BBQ at noon (I wouldn’t recommend if your a Texan), so I went up to cabin and watched a movie, Crazy Stupid Love, and filled out my customs declaration forms for tomorrow.  I went up for a Guy’s burger and did a walkabout, the weather continues to be perfect: sunny but not so hot.  The Platinum/Diamond party was at 5:00pm in the Limelight Lounge, the forgotten time and day that they buried the former Farewell Party.  The party itself was very nice, I took advantage of the Tito’s Vodka & Lemonade that they do at these parties.  Mike, the Cruise Director, did a good job and I actually won the award for senior Diamond on the cruise.  Afterwards I went to the Piano Bar and Jana allowed me to drink the take away Cosmopolitans I got at the party.  After a quick trip to Guest Services and changing clothes for dinner I did return to the Piano Bar for an aperitif: an Aperol Spritzer.  Dinner tonight was very good, I ordered the Beef Carpaccio, Vine Ripened Tomatoes & Chopped Lettuce, Pepper Pot, Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Breast, Carrot Cake and the Chocolate Bread Pudding.  The Carrot Cake was really amazing.  I intended to go to the show: Country Road in the theater, but basically after a walkabout ended up back at the cabin and relaxed.  It’s nice to be able to do as much or as little as I want.  After some reading I retired.  It was a very nice day on the Carnival Breeze.

Sunday / Galveston / August 28th / Beginning 2nd Cruise / Day 8
Red Frog Pub - note the screens
Smooth seas overnight and we were docked by 7:00 am in Galveston.  They began making announcement soon afterward so no sleeping in this morning.  I do have to change cabins so I needed to pack anyway.  Weather is same as last Sunday: very cloudy and possible rain. I went down to the MDR for Melon and an Eggs Benedict breakfast.  It was good.  I went back to the cabin to pack and my new cabin was made up very early so that makes it easier.  I took my hung shirts and smaller bags and they delivered my large bag and ice chest with my cokes in it.  I was in the new cabin on deck 6 and set up by 10:00 am.  At 10:30 the B2B guests met in the Sapphire Dining Room but we would wait a while as they were having a tough time getting the final passengers off the ship.  The six of us finally went down to customs and we went through although they were still processing the stragglers…they were certainly trying to get the new guests on board asap and they can’t until we are processed.  We were back on board about 11:40ish and they took our B2B photo and gave us a glass of champagne.  Very nice.  Another couple and I made it to the Red Frog Pub and received a complementary Thirsty Frog beer for being first into the pub.  Always Fun.  After my beer and visiting with my new friends I went back to the Sapphire Dining Room as they now serve lunch there on embarkation day…something new for Carnival.  I ordered: the Rigatoni with Three Meat Bolognese and a Baked Fish Filet, with Passion Fruit Mousse for dessert. It was a good lunch and another option for embark day. It was very busy in the lobby after lunch with lots of boarding guests and I’m now off the forward elevators so I ended up walking the stairs up to deck six…not easy for my knees, but best/fastest option.  I fine tuned cabin set up and I like this cabin layout much better.  They began making announcements for boat drill by 4:00 and it started soon afterward.  My muster station was in the theater so it was fine. I went down and sat on the Ocean Plaza to enjoy the sea breeze and interesting weather…we just got out before Galveston area was hit by big thunderstorms in fact the Gulf has several storms this week.  I went to the Piano Bar for my now usual aperitif with Jana before dinner.  I have a nice large round top in the center of the MDR this week, only three of eleven showed for dinner though.  I ordered: the Creme of Tomato Soup,  Heart of Lettuce salad, and the Beef Brisket with BBQ sauce from the Ports menu.  It was a good dinner, not many in the MDR this evening and fewer children compared to last week.  After dinner I stopped by the Piano Bar, they have a new performer this week.  I also heard the country music in the Red Frog and the Latin Duo on the Lobby stage…a lot going on competing with dinner.  I went to the cabin and discovered it may not be best of locations…I’m over the stage of the theater so so noise from the Welcome Show, but the loud noise was after when they were playing music at extreme volume until 11:00.  Rehearsal or something I don’t know, but the cabin was vibrating.  After 11:05 all was well and I retired. It was a FUN day on the Carnival Breeze.

Monday / Fun day at Sea / August 29th / Day 9
Captain Marino
A bit of rocking & rolling overnight as we make a bee line towards Tropical Depression No. 9. Eventually it is supposed to turn right and we are supposed to go opposite direction towards Grand Cayman …we’ll see how the timing goes...it is a beautiful sunny day.  I went to the MDR for breakfast and had Eggs Benedict again with a side of perfect bacon.  One advantage of my (good & bad) cabin location is that I’m just a few feet away from the somewhat secret forward observation areas so I can basically walk out to a private area and catch the sun and enjoy the sea breeze.  I’ve done it twice already and it’s nice.  The Captain made his midday announcement today and mentioned TD9 and that he has adjusted course to put more distance between us…it will be fine once were past it this evening…it should be fair seas the rest of the cruise. They delivered the chocolate strawberries just after noon as I was preparing a coke so that will be my snack today.  Thanks. Enjoyed a nice easy afternoon until the 4:00 pm  Diamond Party held in the Piano Bar.  Since I did not have a lunch today I did enjoy the wonderful appetizers they served as well as complementary cocktails.  It was nice seeing the officers and staff as well as my fellow Diamond guests.  We have 12 Diamonds on board this cruise.  Many continued the social hour++ even as they opened up the Piano Bar to the public.  This is the Captain’s elegant night and dinner, we had five at our table this evening.  I ordered:  Italian Wedding Soup, Spaghetti Carbonara (as starter), two Shrimp Cocktails and I asked server to surprise me with entree and she brought a Prime Rib of Beef and the Maine Lobster Tail.  Nice.  Since my cabin is above the theater I will be attending all the late shows this week so I had a nice upper level seat for the production show Motor City and I did really enjoy it.  R&B music with the electronic screens was very interesting and the eight cast members were entertaining.  After the show I returned to the cabin, easy just one level up, and the Platinum/Diamond gift was left: again the croc style plastic hat this time blue so I have the set.  It was an easy and Fun day on the Carnival Breeze.

Tuesday / Fun day at Sea / August 30th / Day 10
Rocking and rolling overnight and this morning we are trying to pass TD9…also rain on and off this morning.  Should be better soon now that we have entered the Caribbean south of Cuba.  I awoke early and did some review updating and some internet browsing.  I know someone is monitoring me as I made a post early 7:30ish about no Tea time on the Breeze…by 9:30am I got a call from the Maitre’D saying yes we have Tea.  It’s NOT in the main schedule, but I did find it in the ‘Hungry for More’ section on the back. Nice that they wanted me to know.  I went to the MDR for the Sea Day brunch.  I had a Fruit Platter and my ‘country breakfast’ to order: three eggs over easy, bacon, ham, hash browns, corned beef hash, white toast, tomato juice, and milk.  I decided to add blueberry pancakes as well.  I went in hungry and came out quite full.  Cabin time today but no outdoor secret deck 6 time due to rain.  I did go to the Tea Time at 3:00 pm on deck four aft Blush MDR.  It was good, I ordered the premium Carnival Special Bend ($1.95+) and had cucumber sandwiches and several sweets, my favorite being the Scone with Clotted Creme.  We did have tablecloths and proper cups and saucers. I mention as neither are now in the MDR for breakfast.  I listened to a set by the group Y2Kountry with Two Bad Apples in the Breeze Atrium, they were good.








~Attempting to post daily for an almost LIVE blog ~


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Fathom Adonia Cuba Cruise Review

Fathom Adonia  -  Cuba Cruise Review

June 12-19, 2016

Just the Facts:
Ship: Adonia
Ports: Miami, USA - Havana, Cuba - Cienfuegos, Cuba - Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

I am so very excited to be on one of the first United States based cruises to Cuba.  This is my first cruise on the Adonia and 114th cruise overall.  I am cruising with my dear wife (DW), Son & Daughter-in-law (first cruise), and two good cruise friends. This will be a fantastic experience for all of us.

Sunday  June 12  / Miami  
Miami from MV Adonia
We are already in Miami having just sailed on the MSC Divina.  We were up early and I went to a local breakfast place on SE 1st Street in Miami just a long block from the hotel.  You could actually see our cruise ship from there as it is docked in the Miami harbor side and not on the Cruise ship side. I ordered a Miami omelette (bacon, cheese & Avocado) and it was excellent.  I took a crepe back for the DW and she loved it.  We enjoyed our room, packed, and used hotel internet until checkout time of 11:00 am.  I would not hesitate to stay at The Langford again.  We then took a taxi to the port ($12) and we were dropped off at Terminal J on the Miami side of the port and directly behind the Royal Caribbean headquarters.  It’s been 30+ years since I boarded a ship in this location, but the Adonia is a SMALL ship compared to todays cruise ships.  Porters took our bags without problem and we entered security into the terminal.  We had to fill out a health questionnaire then proceeded to check-in.  Very short lines all around so far.  After check in we sat in the terminal until boarding.  With less than 500 passengers there are maybe half already in the terminal by noon.  We soon boarded and proceeded up to Lido deck 9 for the buffet, it was a bit crowded, but everyone boarded at the same time and did the same thing as cabins were not open as yet.  I had a great cold lunch: salad, cheese, and cold meats. We ate outside on deck with a wonderful view of Miami and Miami harbor…a much nicer view than from the usual cruise ship cut. Before we finished lunch they announced that the cabins were open for guests.  We went down the two decks to our cabin and our bags were already there.  Super!  We began settling into our cabin. We have a nice wardrobe and lot’s of drawers to for our clothes. I used a 220 splitter to plug in my computer and still be able to use the table light. The balcony is small but adequate and the full sliding door and window really makes your cabin seem larger.  Our cabin steward Katherine from Philippines introduced herself and brought ice that is kept inside the small refrigerator. I went to boat drill (yes really) and then we did a walking tour of the ship.  A cocktail on Lido deck then we went up to the Crows Nest cocktail lounge located forward on deck ten and watched us sail out of Miami harbor.  It has an excellent view forward and we enjoyed some sail away cocktails.  We returned to the cabin to prepare for dinner then went to the MDR about 8:00 pm.  I ordered a Seafood Salad, Gazpacho Soup, and the Sirloin Steak.  The steak was about 3 inches thick and very well prepared.  It was a excellent meal on par with a premium restaurant.  We have a big day and night tomorrow in Cuba so we retired to the cabin to rest.  It was a great first day on the Fathom Adonia.

Monday June 13 / Havana, Cuba / Day 2
Sailing into Havana
Very smooth seas overnight and I slept very well although I was awake early.  I had breakfast in the Pacific Restaurant and since Monday is Eggs Benedict day  on the menu that is what I ordered with a side of bacon and potatoes.  I joined the rest of the group in the Conservatory and had some fruit as well.  Very soon we could see the city of Havana in the distance.  We watched the Adonia sail along the Malecon then into the natural harbor.  Very different views and the Hotel de Nationale was easily spotted from sea.  We were docked by 11:00 am.  Our group (B) was called at 11:30ish and we proceeded to the gangway.  We were not meeting our personal tour guides until 1:00 pm but we were anxious and went right away. Once we debarked we were presented to Cuba Immigration…you proceed one person at a time to see the officer.  They stamped our passport and Cuba Visa  and we then proceed into the main terminal.  It is actually a well organized procedure.  We exchanged money into CUC’s, looked at a few shops, accepted a few bottles of complementary Cuban bottled water, then exited the terminal into the city of Havana.  We had an hour before our cars arrived so we went directly across the terminal to San Francisco square. We took our first photos of Havana, got hustled by some Cuban cuties posing for photos, and gathered our bearings.  Our two cars arrived at 1:00 pm, our guide was a nice young lady named Laritza, a teacher of beginning English at Havana University, and the cars were a 1956 Chevy and a 1957 Ford Fairlane. I was in the Chevy with good air-conditioning on this hot day and we were off on our first day tour in Havana.  We drove along the Malecon to the modern area of Havana passing the U.S. embassy, the Casa Verde, the beautiful homes and the Embassies along the famous 5th Avenue of Havana. The Russian (former Soviet) Embassy was a huge building architecturally based on a Soviet rocket ship.  Our first stop was a park with large Banyon trees in the Embassy area then to Jaimenitas a local neighborhood area with unique artists along the Gaudi style.  Very unique and difficult to describe the art style…very different and beautiful. Fusterlandia (Jose Fuster) Art Gallery is amazing...click link for some photos. Next stop was an intercity forest park a popular location for photographs and the Afro-Cuban religion Santería that is replacing Catholicism on the island.  Next stop was the famous Hotel Nacional of Cuba opened in 1930 and the host to American elites, Movie-stars, and Mafioso.  We did the official hotel tour seeing the beautiful lobby, original casino, the huge cannons installed during the Spanish-American war of 1898, the bunkers built during the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis, and the beautiful History Bar and Hall of Fame with mementos and photos of famous guests.  We also enjoyed our first CUBAN mojitos, mailed postcards, and purchased our tickets for the Tropicana show later in the evening.  Our next stop was for great Cuban food at Canonazo located across the harbor near Morro Castle (fortress) and El Christo statue.  It was great and the mojitos were better than the hotel. I had pork with pineapple and onions and DW had fried plantains. Rice and black beans are served family style.   Fantastic place and exceptional food.  We then stopped at the El Christo statue with a view across the harbor to old town Havana and our cruise ship: The Adonia. A great photo opportunity.  We passed an outdoor display of Soviet weaponry and the wreckage of a U.S. U-2 plane shot down in 1962.  It was now time to return and we were back at the ship at 6:15 pm in time to rest and prepare for our big night out in Havana. After a cooling shower and some rest I did go to the Buffet for some Turkey from the carving staton and some excellent Truffle Mashed Potatoes.  A simple meal to hold me through the night.  We met our pre-arranged transport at 8:45 pm to go to the infamous Cuban Tropicana Show.  We did it in style with two convertibles: a 1955 Buick and a 1952 Chevy.  We arrived at the Trop about 9:15 for the 10:00 pm show. We enjoyed mojitos while listening to the classical pre-show entertainment.  The show began at 10:00 pm and was really an indescribable show with a huge cast of singers and dancers.  It was basically a continuous two hour show and very amazing with one set beginning as the previous set ended.  As the show ended we stayed a short while for the post-show entertainment and to allow the crowd to disperse.  We met our drivers just before midnight and started back to the Adonia.  We switched autos so I was in the Chevy heading back, the roadways were not busy after midnight so we had a most enjoyable ride through Havana in the two classic convertibles driving side by side most of the way…the two drivers began a competition with their various custom horns and who would out position the other along the Malecon roadway.  To be honest that was almost as enjoyable as the show itself.  Imagine two classic convertibles cruising through Havana…amazingly fun for all of us.  We made it back to the terminal, through security, onto the ship, and to the cabin by 12:30 am.  An amazingly fantastic day in Havana, Cuba!!


Tuesday June 14 / Havana, Cuba / Day 3
Cathedal Square - Havana Cuba
They began announcements for the ship tours in Havana early so that got us around somewhat early.  We were behind the rush so I had a nice casual breakfast in the Conservatory.  I got three eggs over easy at the omelet station and had a side of sausage and bacon and ended up eating with the kids who where already there.  A very nice breakfast. We headed back through Cuban security and immigration to meet our guide at 9:00 am. outside the terminal.  It will be another hot one in Havana today.  We started our walking tour through San Francisco square then on to Plaza Vieja a very impressive city square with a very European feel to it.  Then we walked to the Plaza Armas a beautiful park area with a lot of book vendors  and outdoor cafes.  We did stop at a cafe and I enjoyed an old fashion 7-Up.  One end had a street made of wooden blocks supposedly a tradition from the 18th century when a wealthy resident didn’t want to hear the carriages passing.  We went to Hotel Ambos Mundos the hotel where Hemingway lived while in Havana until he moved to Finca Vigia and also his favorite bar: La Bodeguita Del Medio, that was actually hopping at mid-day.  We then walked to the cobble stoned Cathedral Square were there were several early colonial buildings and La Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana completed in 1777. Local artists working on watercolors added ambience to this UNESCO designated square.  From here we were joined by our autos for the day, we have one new driver and car, a 1951 Chevrolet…a very nice car and a very good year.  We drove to Revolution Square a sight familiar to many as it was location of Concerts, the Pope’s blessing, and Obama’s recent address to the Cuban people.  It’s really just a large parking/staging area but surrounded by military buildings with large frescos of Cuban heroes on the outside and a huge obelisk as a monument to the Revolution. You may recall that Obama had the Che figure in his background.  We drove by the Baseball Stadium and we stopped at a Cigar factory passing on the tour, but purchasing  a couple of cigars from the factory store for friends back home.  Next stop was the Hemingway House.  The drive there took us through common Havana neighborhoods and it was interesting to see everyday Cuban life. It is very different in a Socialist country.  Inca Vigia or the Hemingway House was very interesting and we enjoyed the visit.  As a fan of the movie Hemingway & Gellhorn it was featured in that film as well as others especially Cuban movie productions.  I was surprised to find Hemingway’s original boat, The Pilar, also there.  It was flying a US flag just presented by Mrs. Obama to the museum just a few weeks ago.  We returned to Havana through the country and coast road east of Havana.  We stopped for lunch at another Paladar with a view of the sea.  Not as good as yesterdays lunch but some liked it others not so much.  I had a Tropical Lobster.  We decided to split the group, with three continuing on the the Museum of the Revolution and a cemetery and three returning to the ship.  I thanked our guide Laritza and joined the group returning to the ship.  We left Tony our driver and his 1951 Chevy at the pier and boarded the Adonia along with the Cuban Band that will be entertaining us the next few days. The ship tours have not yet returned so the ship is basically empty.  My first stop after the cabin was the swimming pool on pool deck.  The water was very warm but most refreshing on this very hot day.  We rested until just about sun down and then enjoyed our sail away from Havana Harbor.  The locals are quite friendly as we sail past…cruise ships are still new to them.  All six of us went to the MDR for dinner just after 8:00 pm.  I ordered the Crab meat taco, and the Prime Rib with vegetables and potatoes.  For dessert I had the Cuban fruit flavored ice creme and the Key Lime flavored cheesecake.  All were very good.  After dinner DW did some shopping and after listening to the Cuban band retired to the cabin.  Another great day in beautiful historic and hot Havana Cuba.

Wednesday June 15 / Day at Sea / Day 4
Pool Deck on Adonia
I woke early and watched some news on TV…we didn’t get networks on MSC and we have been too busy since so it was good to catch up on the news of the world. The Adonia has very good news channels and also several complementary 1st run movie channels…I’m impressed.  I went to breakfast in the MDR and by chance sat with a lady with Fathom HQ.  She had set up the original tours in Cuba so it was good to visit with her.  I ordered eggs to order and breakfast was very good.  We used the complementary washers & dryers to wash whites this morning…white is the color to wear when touring in the heat of Cuba so we are set for our next two ports. We also attended a lecture on Cuban history this morning in the Cruzon lounge…it was a fair assessment.  I then had a very nice hour+ nap…best of our three week journey.  They were serving BBQ on the boat deck today for lunch, but I went for the Cuban food being served in the buffet area.  I saw the DW so was able to eat with her and the kids…not that many guests on board so easier to find your friends.  She went to a lecture on Cienfuegos our next port and I went to cabin to watch an afternoon movie. I went to the Grill for a snack trying a Cuban Sandwich…it was good. This evening we met for cocktails in The Glass House Wine Bar and that was nice.  Then to the Pacific Restaurant for dinner.  I ordered the French Onion Soup and the Veal entree.  For dessert I had the Bananas Foster and a Panna Cotta.  All very good.  They have Cuban music again tonight, but with an early day tomorrow I retired to the cabin.  A little bit of rocky seas tonight, perfect for sleeping.  It was a very nice Sea Day on the Adonia.

Thursday June 16 / Cienfuegos, Cuba / Day 5
Palacio Ferrer  -  Ceinfuego
We left the drapes open overnight as a wake up since we have an early debark since we are only here half a day.  I was awake about 7:00am and we were already docked so I had a quick breakfast at the buffet.  Our group was called about 7:30 and we were soon off in group 5 to begin our city tour of Cienfuegos.  Our first stop was the city market were we saw local fruit and vegetables for sale from  farmers.  Next stop was the central town square: Parque José Martí with colonial buildings from 1880’s - 1900’s including a college, church, theater, and more.  We spent some time in the square then went to the theater to hear a professional acapella choir from Havana.  They were very good.  They then answered questions and spent some P2P time with the guests.  We then drove down the long boulevard to the seawall and resort area with a brief stop for photos at a palace. Then we went to the main commercial street with modern businesses and shops and browsed several blocks to the Main square then down another street with tourist stalls to the Customs House on the water.  We then boarded the buses for the return to the ship arriving back about noon.  Cuban Customs here was easy both arriving and departing, they did have doctors that took your temperature (by remote gun) when we arrived.  I took a quick refreshing shower then ate lunch in the Pacific MDR…I had a Greek Salad, Stir-fry and Chocolate Rootbeer Cake with vanilla ice creme.  Then to the cabin to watch us sail away from Cienfuegos.  Along the narrow passage sailing out were many Cubans waving as we sailed past.  This is only the 3rd time an American passenger ship has called at this port.  Now time for a much needed nap.I did get a nice Cuban Sandwich from Leah at the Lido Grill as a snack and watched a great movie in the cabin. I love the first run movies they show…best TV options I have experienced on a cruise ship.  The internet is also the best I have experience for a cruise satellite system...granted there are fewer guests on board. We met for cocktails in Anderson’s Lounge then moved to Raffles outside the Pacific Dining Room.  Dinner was good, I ordered two appetizers and had the Cuban Chicken entree with ice creme for dessert.  I was tired after such a busy day and retired to the cabin after dinner.  It was a very good day in Ceinfuego and the Adonia today.

Friday June 17 / Santiago de Cuba, Cuba / Day 6
el Castillo De San Pedro De La Roca
A little bit of rocky seas overnight, I slept very well and was up early.  I got an early breakfast buffet and ate on deck watching the coast and mountains as we approached Santiago de Cuba.  Soon the pilot boarded and we entered the narrow channel of the harbor.  We zigzagged into the harbor and docked about 9:00am.  We soon went down to immigration where they kept our Cuban Visa and gave us a Transit Card.  We were off on Bus 4 for our day long tour of the Santiago de Cuba area.  It was a very hot day, but the bus was actually quite comfortably air conditioned.  First stop was at the el Castillo De San Pedro De La Roca the Spanish castle built in 1638 to protect the harbor entry. We then went to view the monuments at San Juan Hill the location of the famous charge by Teddy Roosevelt & his Roughriders during the Spanish American War of 1898.  We then drove by the Moncada Barracks attacked by Castro and his troops at the very beginning of the Revolution in 1953.  We also drove by Revolution Square with it’s monument and Military/Gov't Buildings…similar to Havana’s being modern and basically a multi-use site.  We then went to Grave and monument to Jose Marti, the Father of Cuba located at Saint Ifigenia cemetery.  Here we watched the Changing of the Guard and saw other monuments to Cuban heroes. Next stop was lunch, we stopped at a Palladar and were served another great lunch served family style.  We enjoyed Salad, Rice, Fried Bananas, Pork, Chicken, Fish and a Banana Flan dessert.  It was very good.  Next stop was a performance by an Afro-Cuban dance group in a small theater.  Final stop for the day was the main square: Parque Cespedes.  On the square is the oldest Cathedral in Cuba, a grand Hotel, Government Bulidings, the Cuban National Bank and more. Here we visited Casa Velasquez the oldest home in Cuba also on one corner of the square. Over five hundred years old it was beautiful with both restored and original features.  We spent most of our allotted time there, but made it to the rooftop of the Hotel Casa Granda to enjoy a nice breeze and mojitos.  A short walk to the bus and we were soon on our way to the port.  Here we exchanged our remaining Cuban CUC’s back into U.S. dollars, paid the $3CUC tax on a print that DW bought, went through security, and finally immigration where they took the transit card issued this morning.  Successfully finished with the government of Cuba and boarded the Adonia. We cooled off in the cabin and watched us sail away from Santiago de Cuba and through the channel into the Caribbean Sea.  We met our friends for aperitifs in The Glass House Wine Bar then went to the Pacific dining room for a great dinner  I ordered the Spinach Souffle with beet roots and the Lobster Thermidor.  DW ordered the Fried Goat Cheese with Apples and Beet Root puree (she said it was fantastic) and the Spinach Souffle.  For dessert I had a Banana Tart and ice creme.  After dinner we looked at the Shoppes onboard before retiring.  It was a great day in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

Saturday June 18 / Day at Sea /  Day 7
Adonia Library
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  Looks like a clear and sunny day for our final day at sea on the Adonia. I awoke early and updated this review then went to the Conservatory for breakfast.  I had a Western Omelet from the Omelet Station and some of the amazing fruit they have on board.  The food has been very good.  I took some excellent Blueberry Muffins back to the cabin for DW.  Since it’s Saturday most of the movie channels are now sports channels so they are showing the European Cup and several other live Soccer matches.  With the service provided to passengers on the Adonia it would be tempting to stay an additional week. They did make an tempting offer to guests to stay aboard for the next sailing to the Dominican Republic.  We will pass on that this time.  We did a walk about on deck and saw our friends as well as new friends, first time I had seen the Library…it is large and very well decorated.  It was busy too…lots of books and games available.  I had a nap and almost missed the BBQ on deck arriving at 2:00 pm.  BBQ was only so so though, nothing that a Texan would call bbq although I took some dessert from the buffet back to the cabin to enjoy.  We did some preliminary packing and planning for debarkation in the late afternoon.  We met our friends in the Glass House Wine Bar for cocktails, wine, and aperitifs this evening then to the Pacific MDR for our final dinner.  I ordered the Beet Root flavored Risotto (an entree ordered as a starter) and the Pork Tenderloin.  For dessert a Tiramisu and a Panna Cotta.  Very good.  We retired to the cabin and opened the drapes for an early wake up as I have packing yet to do in the morning.  A nice final day on the MV Adonia.

Sunday June 19 / Miami  /  Debarkation
I was up early and we were sailing by Miami Beach about dawn.  I finished packing and then went for our final breakfast in the MDR.  They were taking short cuts with pre-prepared eggs, etc, but still good to be served. The hot milk was good.  We debarked with all our bags without much problem at all and US Customs examined documents closely, but nothing special even though we were returning from Cuba.  We took a taxi to MIA ($27) went through security an were at the gate before 10:00 am.  Amazing.

Ship—MV Adonia
Maiden Voyage: 2001  I  Gross Tonnage: 30,277 tons
Passenger Capacity: 777  |  Crew: 380  I  Length: 592 ft.
Max Cruising Speed: unknown  I  Avg. Speed 18 knots
Installed power: Diesel (13,500 kW)  I  Propulsion: Two propellers

Cabin
We had cabin B31 a balcony located on deck 7 near the forward elevators on the starboard side.  It is a well decorated and spacious cabin.  The cabin has a nice small couch, push button safe, twin/queen beds, two night stands with lights, a very large decorative mirror, a small refrigerator, seat at dresser/desk with mirror, and TV.  The bathroom is quite small but functional with storage.

Crew / Guests
The Pacific MDR and Conservatory (buffet) waiters were very efficient as was our cabin steward Katherine. All the crew were very friendly.  Most guests were American and there were many first time cruisers, probably the majority. They were booking primarily for the opportunity to go to Cuba, not a cruise experience.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment
The Adonia is a small ship and rare in these days of large cruise ships.  It is a beautiful ship and reminds me of some of the original cruise ships I sailed 30+ years ago.  There is no casino nor theater productions but adequate public rooms for entertainment or gatherings.  Alexander’s is a beautiful and large lounge area as is the Crows Nest.  They had Cuban entertainment, Cuban food, and Cuban lectures during the week.  I would describe the dinner service in the MDR as almost elegant and the food is outstanding even on the buffet.  Dress is much more casual than I anticipated.

Random Personal Observations of Cuba

Cubans are very Friendly people - Very HOT and humid weather - Obvious pollution in Santiago de Cuba and much of Havana - Only recent interest in preserving historical sites as the need for tourism income becomes important - Seeing the numerous vintage 1950's era American cars was even more amazing than anticipated - Not many consumer goods available so shopping is not really an activity... some Cuban art may be purchased in various locations -  Private ownership of restaurants (Paladars) has only been possible since 2010 so food or eating out is NOT a priority in Cuba...If you want great Cuban food you'll need to get that in Miami. 

Comments
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable cruises I have ever taken.  Havana was a great port and we had great private tours arranged.  The ship was fantastic in every regard.

Highlights of the Cruise
Havana Cuba
Our personal private Havana guide Laritza
Hotel Nationale
Tropicana Nightclub
Classic American Cars
Santiago de Cuba
Great Food & Service on the Adonia
Cienfuegos


NOTE:  I have never once mentioned in any of my 100+ reviews that I am a Travel Agent as that is not the purpose of my reviews....I just love to cruise.  I really only take experienced cruisers and friends as clients; however, if anyone is interested in sailing to Cuba I will gladly help with your booking and provide you with valuable personal information.  Contact: Ray@BosqueTravel.com


My Favorite Photos

Mojito Time at Hotel Nationale Havana




~~~Click on Photos to Enlarge~~~


Fusterlandia (Jose Fuster) Art Gallery




























Hemingway House - Inca Vigia - Havana



















Welcome to Havana!

School Girls in Cienfuegos






























Tropicana Nightclub Dancers





Artists depiction of the yacht Granma that took Fidel, Raul, Che, Camilo, and 78 others to Cuba from Mexico.









Sunday, May 29, 2016

MSC Divina B2B Cruise Review May 28 - June 11, 2016

  MSC Divina   B2B Cruise Review

May 28 - June 11, 2016


Just the Facts:
Ship: MSC Divina
Captain: Francesco Veniero
Cruise Director:Darren McColl
Ports: Miami, USA - Ocho Rios, Jamaica - Georgetown, Grand Cayman - Cozumel, Mexico - Nassau, Bahamas -  Phillipsburg, Saint Maarten - San Juan, Puerto Rico

I’m cruising on two 7-day cruises (B2B) on the MSC Divina, these are my 4th and 5th MSC cruises and 112th & 113th cruises overall.  This is my first time on the MSC Divina and my first time to sail with a MSC ‘Black Card’ the highest of their Loyalty Club levels.  I am cruising with my dear wife (DW) and some good cruise friends who wanted to try a different type of cruise line and the new MSC Loyalty Club matching program. It will be very different experience for them than Carnival Cruise Line their usual cruise line.

Saturday May 28  / Miami  /  Embarkation / Day 1
Welcome on Board at the Buffet Dessert Station
We are flying into port on the day of embarkation so travel begins very early.  We left the ranch at 3:45 am for the drive to Waco, TX and the 4:57 am boarding time for the flight to DFW.  It was a very foggy morning but we arrived about 4:30 am and were through the TSA screening and at gate one at exactly 4:57 am.  Soon we were off and at DFW airport where we arrived just as they began boarding for our 7:30 am flight to Miami.  The flight was uneventful, but we had a slight scare at baggage claim…our two large bags arrived fine, but our carry-on that we voluntarily checked at DFW was no where to be found.  After waiting a long while and as we stood in line at the AA baggage desk, it showed up.  Lucky and not sure I will volunteer to help with space again.  We rolled out with all our luggage and took a taxi ($27 set fee with discount for cash) to the Port of Miami. There was a friendly porter to take our bags and we proceeded to the entry.  It was not really busy as I believe we are behind the early rush and before the airport arrivals getting there about 12:15 pm.  We went through security and had a short line to see an agent and receive our Black Loyalty Club cards.  Slight problem with security as our Cards did not match.  My card was for both weeks and DW was for one week.  We sat in Cruise Terminal jail (actually a roped-off setting area) for about ten minutes and a Purser arrived and straitened it out.  Since we are not allowed in cabins right away, we boarded and went strait to the Casino Bar to pick up our prepaid drink vouchers.  Then to the beautiful Lobby area were we sat and relaxed while drinking our favorite MSC cocktail: a Hugo Spritzer.  It is no longer on the drink menu, but they do still make them.  Following our relaxing cocktail we went to the buffet on deck 14.  DW really enjoy her selection of various vegetarian food and I had a mixture of Mediterranean items. The highlight was the desserts…they were amazing.  Trying to make a good impression with a great selection and quality of desserts is my guess (it always works on us).  We saw some friends and by the time we said hello they announced that cabins were now ready for guests.  We went down to deck nine and as we approached our cabin our bags were already there…always a good sight.  We looked into the cabin quickly then went on back to the aft to see our friends aft facing balcony.  Our cabin/homes for the next two weeks.  I took a chance in booking our cabin as I prefer aft facing, but rumor was this cabin has an extra large balcony…and it does.  A unique view but very nice size.  In our cabin we had three fruit bowls and two chilled bottles of Asti Spumante.  One smaller fruit bowl for being a Black Card member and the Asti & large Fruit bowl from a friend at MSC. I suspect I was supposed to get one each week, but both delivered today.  I began unpacking and settled in before taking a shower (we have a tub) and a much needed nap.  Safety drill was uneventful, they scan your cards at the muster station and make announcements in five languages. We finished unpacking and watch some of sail away from our balcony.  We were the last of several cruise ships to sail from the port of Miami.  At 7:45 we went to the beautiful Pantheon Theater for the show Golden Hits featuring the four principal vocalists.  It was a great show but made us a little late to our dinner in the Black Crab Dining Room (MDR).  Our other friends sailing were there so it was nice to see everyone.  We have a nice eight-top table with a nice padded tablecloth (pun on Carnival) and proper silver service.  For dinner I ordered the Shrimp Cocktail, Farmers Salad, Spaghetti Carbonara, and Pork Tenderloin entree.  For dessert a Cannoli and a Creme with Honey and Fruit.  All were very good as was the service.  After dinner we retired to the cabin for needed rest after a very long and busy day.

Sunday May 29 / Day at Sea / Day 2
MSC Divina Atrium area
Smooth seas overnight just enough movement for a very enjoyable nights sleep. The bed is ideal and very comfortable.  I have two different pillows, one I like one not so much, but very adequate.  We turned back our time to CST overnight so I was up about 7:30 am.  I went to Guest Services/Reception for some business then to the MDR for breakfast. I ordered Eggs Benedict with a side of Bacon, Ham, & fresh grilled potatos.  I was served Hot Milk that is not alway easy to get on other cruise lines but very common on the Divina.  I sat with a very nice couple from Bavaria and enjoyed our visit, they are also on for a B2B.  DW enjoy a room service continental breakfast and is planning on a casual day.  I finished cabin set-up this morning converting 220plugs to 110 and a charging station for my laptop and iPhone, put up magnets, stored bags, etc. for the duration of the cruise.  I established our internet account and posted first days review online. I’m disappointed that there are so few TV stations available and no networks..also the interactive features on the TV do not work.  It is a beautiful day so I enjoyed balcony time.  Another bucket of Brut Champagne and Chocolate Covered Strawberries were delivered…these for being Black Card members on Formal Night. Amazing. We went for lunch about 1:30 and unfortunately that seemed to be the peak time at the buffet…it was very busy.  I had Asian food from the Ethnic  food area (items changes daily) and made a great Guacamole salad from ingredients at the Taco Bar.  After lunch we went to Piazza Del Doge to get a Gelato for DW. They do have free soft serve ice creme, but the gelato is so much better and so reasonably priced at $2.   At 3:00 pm we met friends for drinks at the Divina Bar.  I had a few Perone’s, the popular Italian beer, and we had a great visit.  They were setting up for Formal Night complementary cocktails for first seating guests and we had a few rounds of those as well.  They really due it first class with white glove service and a choice of four cocktails/drinks (Champagne, Vodka Martini, Rum Sour, Fruit Punch) served on silver trays. On RCCL it is Champagne only and on Carnival nothing but a $1 discount. Very nice MSC!  We returned to the cabin to get ready for the evening and the Production Show: The Amazing Mask in the Pantheon Theater.  I had seen this show previously, but DW had not and it was a most impressive production with singing, dancing, acrobatics, and more.  We had a great view from row three for this spectacular show.  We had a little time before dinner so we went to the Black & White lounge for a short time.  Formal Dinner was very good tonight, I ordered: Scallop & Shrimp Ceviche, Escargot, Risotto, the Surf & Turf entree, and again the Creme with Honey & Fruit for desert.  It was a tough transition day yesterday with embark and getting used to a new cruise line system, but after a full busy day today on the MSC Divina our friends were ready to book the new MSC Seaside…and it was a great day on the Divina.

Monday May 30 / Ocho Rios, Jamaica / Day 3
MSC Divina from Margaritaville Beach - Ocho Rios
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  I awoke early and had some internet time.  We had fruit for breakfast as we approached Jamaica this morning.  I do not recall ever docking at Ocho Rios so we watched us dock from our balcony…the water is beautiful and it’s a much prettier location than Montego Bay.  Our plan is to take it easy and let most debark the ship and we’ll enjoy some ship time. There was a knock at the door and I thought it was probably the cabin steward, but no it’s another Chilled bottle of Champagne and Chocolate covered Strawberries.  Amazing…thanks MSC...we had her take yesterdays tray and leave the fresh…at least we did drink some of yesterdays bottle as we prepared for the show.  We made reservations for Eataly, then walked around the mostly empty decks and took some photos.  We went up to the buffet when it opened at noon and it was mostly just crew eating there.  I had some Jamaican Jerk Chicken with rice & peas (as Jamaicans would call it) then fixed a great Guacamole salad as I was the only guest at the Taco Bar.  It consisted of: base of lettuce, lots of Guacamole, then onions and tomatoes, taco meat, and topped with cheese.  We then went back to the cabin to go to the bathroom and get ready to go ashore but our cabin steward was working on the cabin…so we went out on the balcony until he finished.  OUR LITTLE ADVENTURE:  The cabin steward finished the cabin…opened the door to say bye…then locked the door.  Soon we needed to go to the bathroom and discovered that we are locked out on the balcony.  DW got quite anxious about it since she needed relief more than I. I actually thought it somewhat humorous, but no way was I going to indicate it.  There was no one around on other balconies as all are ashore…soon I happened to see friends down on the pier below and was able to yell down from deck 9 for them to get security.  Soon someone from security was in our cabin and unlocked the balcony door.  He was as shocked as DW was mad that we could get locked out on the balcony.  Alls well that ends well and we soon got ourselves together enough to debark and walk over to Margaritaville.  After a cocktail DW began to see the humor in it.  I just hope they don’t send another bottle of Champagne & Strawberries to the cabin as an apology…we have had enough.  We returned to the ship and relaxed even going back out on the balcony for sail away.  We went to La Cantina di Bacco, the Italian bistro on deck seven for cocktails about 6:00 pm and then to Eataly one of the premium restaurants next door.  This was a complementary meal for Black Card members and consisted of a six course set menu. I enjoyed the experience and the steak was good, but I would not really care to eat there again. I was actually disappointed that there were not more pasta or tomato based traditional dishes…we only had one pasta dish and it was a creme sauce.  Just not my personal preference in Italian food.  We wanted to attend the production show Simply Italian after dinner, but we were getting tired so we picked up some diet coke for the cabin and retired to the cabin.  We didn't have an excursion today, but we did have an adventure.

Tuesday May 31 / Georgetown, Grand Cayman / Day 4
Deck 14 Pool Deck on MSC Divina
Very smooth seas again overnight and I again slept very well. It’s a beautiful sunny to partly cloudy day as we dropped anchor just off Georgetown. I’m sure guests will enjoy it and we plan to stay on board and enjoy the ship without most of them.  I had a light breakfast and brought some nice chocolate chip pastries back to the cabin for the DW.  The pastries on the Divina are really good especially the creme puffs and eclairs.  We had a nice lazy morning then again went to explore new areas of the ship while most guests are off.  Deck 16 was interesting and good location for photo of ship’s pool deck…we’ll return there for dinner or disco one night.  We went to the Buffet for lunch just after noon when it opened, They had Spanish in the ethnic section, but I had a nice green salad, pasta, and pizza, a very good lunch.  As it’s now started to rain guest will probably be returning early so we’re going to have some cabin and balcony time this afternoon.  The weather cleared by sail away time and we have beautiful blue skies for the evening.  We have an invitation to the Black Card cocktail party in the Luna Lounge (my favorite lounge) at 5:00 pm.  Our friends were there and I met several officers as well.  They served several prepared cocktails on silver trays including Aperol Spritzers that are very good and a drink I enjoy.  Fortunately one of the officers I met was the Beverage manager and he made sure that our table had Hugo Spritzers.  Thank you sir.  It was a gathering of about 20 or so guests…more than I expected there would be on the Divina.  We went to the Pantheon Theater at 6:30 for the 6:45 show and got a good seat on row three.  The production show was: The Witches of Paris a fantastic show with singers, dancers, acrobats, and more.  I especially enjoyed the Cancan dance portion that not only included the dancers, but  the acrobats in the final scenes.  A very enjoyable show.  It is Italian night and dinner was one of the best so far, I ordered the Eggplant Parmesan, Pasta Fajoli Soup, and the Chicken Scallopini and Angel Hair Pasta entree.  The vegetarian selections continue to be excellent, DW had the Pesto Pasta.  For dessert Tiramisu.  They have the big Italian party tonight in the Black & White lounge, but we retired to the cabin.

Wednesday June 1 / Cozumel, Mexico / Day 5
Woody's in Cozumel
Again calm seas overnight and we slept very well…it was 8:30 am before I got around and that’s late for me.  I went upstairs to the Buffett about 9:30 as we were preparing to dock at Puerto Langosta near downtown San Miguel.  They have eggs over easy on the buffet so I had those with a side of bacon.  Since I had some travel business to conduct we went to town a little earlier than we originally intended, my friend has a US cell phone that i can use.  We did the 20+ minute walk from the ship to downtown San Miguel. My Cozumel HQ is Woody’s just off the main square in San Miguel.  They have great Guacamole and Mexican food as well the fastest internet on the island.  Our friends later joined us for lunch and drinks.  The girls did some shopping and the guys had Margaritas or cervezas.  No haircut for me this time.  Woody’s does have my favorite Mexican beer: Bohemia.  We walked back to the ship about 3:30 pm and first stop was Piazza del Doge for a Passion fruit flavored gelato and diet coke.  Tiring day with the walking so a shower and cabin time.  We decided to pass on the MDR tonight and went up to the Calumet & Manitou buffet were it was British Pub Grub night.  I had  Fish & Chips, Scotch Egg, BBQ Ribs, and a Artichoke & Pepper Salad.  It was good and the theme was interesting.  We went up to the Galaxy on Deck 16 watch sail away from Cozumel and to make reservations for tomorrow.  The show this evening was The Voices, but we passed and had cabin time the rest of the evening.

Thursday June 2 / Day at Sea / Day 6
Again very smooth seas overnight, I awoke in the night and had some internet time then slept until almost 10:00 am.. This even with turning our clocks forward so a very nice restful sleep.  DW went for an hour Bali massage in the spa complements of MSC…thank you.  I went to see the Loyalty ambassador about some business as we are also looking at booking the unique MSC Seaside currently under construction in 2018.  I then met the guys at the Divina Bar on deck five.  They have been meeting on pool deck for Bloody Mary’s each morning but anticipated a big crowd there as it’s our last sea day…so Divina Bar was perfect.  Soon it was time for lunch in the Black Crab next door so I went for my first lunch in the MDR.  I ordered Turkey Pot Pie and an entree with Ribs, Greens, & roasted potatoes (skipped desert).  They were very good. After lunch I went back to the cabin and DW and I went up to the buffet, I had some great deserts and she had a nice lunch.  We had cabin & private balcony time in the afternoon until time to meet our friends at the Divina Bar for aperitifs. The Hugo Spritzers are great. We have reservations for the Galaxy Restaurant located on deck 16 for 7:00 pm.  This dinner is part of the Black Card benefits and the venue is located high above the ship with a great view as the sun sets into evening.  The meal is a six course set menu.  I don’t recall the courses by name, but they were all very interesting and the presentation was very nice.  The Duck, fresh Breads, Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, and the Risotto were especially good.  DW and most others rushed to attend the production show: Treasure Island in the Pantheon Theater, but I settled the bill  at Galaxy and retired to the cabin to do a little work.  It was a great lazy day on board the MSC Divina.

Friday June 3 / Nassau Bahamas / Day 7
Sailing into Nassau harbor
Smooth seas continued and another relaxing night. I went to the Black Crab MDR for a nice breakfast this morning about 9:00 am.  I like the hot milk they serve and the Eggs Benedict was very good.  I enrolled in the bulk laundry program they offer (40 pieces for $50) then got a laundry bag together for pick up.  We had balcony time and watched us sail into Nassau,  we were the first of three large ships (NCL Escape & CCL Victory) coming in about noon.  Amazing.  We went up to the buffet and watched 1000’s of people walking up the pier into the port…glad we’re not a part of that mess…we are staying on board today.  I went up to the Garden Bar on deck 15 and visited while listening to the brass band playing in Nassau…it is Bahamian Labor Day so some stores were closed and downtown looks especially busy.  Again, glad we are having a ship day today.  I met the guys at the Davina Bar for a few Perone Beers  this afternoon for a prelude to our aperitifs also in the Divina Bar before the feature show.  Sounds like a few cocktails but we do have drink vouchers remaining.  The production show was Starwalker featuring Michael Jackson songs and dancing.  It was a very good show and the good bye by the entertainment staff is quite fun.  I won’t spoil it for those that have not sailed an MSC cruise, but according to the applause there are more Portuguese speakers on board than any other language.  I did run into Brazilians everywhere on the ship.  Dinner tonight was perhaps the best of the cruise.  I had a wonderful Green Salad, Spaghetti Carbonara, and a Sirloin Strip Steak.  All very good.  Guests were having a big final night everywhere on the ship tonight…all the venues were very busy.  We even heard some Italian Opera being performed in the lobby area.  Soon we did return to the cabin to fill out our customs information for tomorrows transition day.  Glad we have another week, we're just learning the ships secrets.

Saturday June 4 / Miami /  Day 8
Miami from MSC Divina
Smooth seas overnight and I had trouble getting to sleep for the first time,  but overthinking some issues. it’s a clear and sunny day and we arrived in Miami very early. We went up to the Lido about 9:30 for a light breakfast and I found the hot milk machine…woo hoo…took a week but very convenient now that I don’t have to go to the MDR.  We met other B2B guest and our friends in the Black & White Lounge at the designated 10:30 time.  I believe they had a hard time getting the stray passengers off the ship.  We finally went down about 11:15 am and it was really an easy process just walking down and then having a Customs official take our Customs Form and check our passport cards.  We were back at our cabin by noon then went up to the buffet…it was late opening perhaps due to  the fact that the U.S. Coast Guard picked today to do a surprise inspection of the ship.  I had a very nice salad and great pizza.  We went up to the Garden Bar on deck 15 aft after lunch and met our friends as this was the designated meeting spot for the new friends joining the ship today.  They did find us there and we had a nice reunion.  After several Heinekens (on draft) and cocktails it was a great welcome party.  We went back to the cabin before the announcements for Safety/Muster drill.  MSC does not require B2B guests to attend the 2nd muster drill probably because they have a history of boarding passengers in various ports along the itinerary.  They announce drill is for those who boarded “today”.  We met our friends and our new Geordie friends in the Lobby Bar for cocktails that extended into aperitifs. We had a great area next to the entertainers and a great view…it was interesting watching the new guests amazed by the beautiful lobby and the famous Swarovski Crystal steps. We skipped the Welcome Show having seen it last week and went to dinner in the Black Crab MDR…we have the same table and waiters as previous week.  For dinner I ordered the Shrimp Cocktail, Farmers Salad, a Pasta with Tomato sauce, and Pork Tenderloin entree.  For dessert the same Creme with Carmel and Fruit.   After dinner we retired to the cabin to rest and for me to update this review.  A good day with friends on the MSC Divina.

Sunday June 5 / Nassau Bahamas /  Day 9
Beautiful MSC Divina Lobby area
Smooth seas continue and I slept very well overnight.  I did wake early so I was able to get in some
faster internet time and review the news, sports, and paid some bills online.  I was obviously awake when we pulled into Nassau harbor just after dawn and we were berthed in same slip as Friday afternoon by 7:30 am.  The Splendor of the Seas followed us into harbor.  I went back to bed and slept until 10:20 am when there was a knock at the door.  Guess what?  Two bottles of Champagne & two Chocolate Covered Strawberries.  The strawberries where just from the cooler so I was able to separate the chocolate easily so I had fresh strawberries for breakfast.  I did go up to the buffet and had the MSC version of the Egg McMuffin, actually better than McD’s in my opinion.  I went up to the aft pool on deck 15 for a swim this morning.  First of the cruise.  It wasn’t too busy, but more stayed on the ship today than last week.  I also think there are more Americans on this sailing than last week, also more Germans than other nationalities as they have changed the order of languages for announcements (Brazilians last week).  We went to the buffet for lunch, I had Pizza. It got very busy as guests returned as we do sail away at 2:00 pm.  Lazy afternoon planned for rest of day, I watched sail away from our balcony and DW went to get a gelato, but other than that cabin and balcony time.  We and our group met in the Divina Bar about 4:30 to have cocktails and take advantage of the complementary Formal night cocktails beginning at 5:00 pm.  Having already established a relationship with the cocktail servers there was NO shortage of cocktails for our group.  The lobby views were wonderful, the piano music very good, and complementary cocktails…doesn’t get much better on a cruise ship.  DW and I attended the production show: The Amazing Mask at 6:45, it was my favorite of the shows from last week.  I love the high energy and how they incorporate music, dance, gymnastics, and more into the production.  after the show friends were still in the lobby so time for an aperitif before dinner and great people watching location.  Dinner was good, I ordered: Scallop & Shrimp Ceviche, Escargot, Pasta, the Surf & Turf entree, and again the Creme with Honey & Fruit and Pistachio Ice Cream for desert.  There were the usual cocktail lounges and entertainment across the ship this evening as well as formal dancing in the Black & White lounge.

Monday June 6 / Day at Sea / Day 10
Swarovski Crystal Step
Again smooth seas overnight and another great nights sleep. I woke about 7:00  am and got on the internet early to check mail and messages before the wifi begins slowing down once everyone logs-in today.  Since I was around early I went to the MDR for breakfast.  It was very good…I got fruit and eggs to order with a side of bacon, ham, and hash browns.  We walked about the pool decks and they were absolutely packed with people on this first sea day…BTW-a lot of speedos in this European crowd too.  Having your own balcony is so important if you desire some private space. We did stop at the Piazza de Doge for a nice peach gelato. I finally met a person from MSC HQ that has helped me book MSC cruises…that was nice.  We ate a late lunch in the Sports Bar…Mozzarella Sticks for the DW and a double hamburger for myself…very good and worth the surcharge ($13).  We had a couple hours of cabin time before cocktails about 5:00ish in the Divina Bar.  The group was there as well as our new British friends and MSC friends…we have had a new server this week: Ana from Romania…Noroc…and she is taking care of us very well.  Dinner was good tonight, I ordered the Tri-color Salad, and two Chicken Scallopini entrees.  We passed on the production show, but it was 70’s night in the Black & White Lounge.  An interesting day on the very crowded and busy MSC Divina.

Tuesday June 7 / Phillipsburg, St. Maarten / Day 11
Witches of Paris
A few rolls in the sea overnight for the first time and I slept very well.  I awoke early and did my internet work then back to sleep.  I didn’t wake until 10:00 am so my plan for an MDR breakfast was past.  Only by chance did I discover an invitation that had been left on the door for the Black Card Party at 11:00 am..  I went to the Black & White lounge and the most of the group was there, I had several Bellini’s and visited with friends and some of the officers, it was an unusual time but it was nice. They did give us the chocolate MSC ship, a very unique gift, but not as good as the cool MC Sunglasses we received as a loyalty gift.  After the party we had balcony time and watched the MSC Divina sail into Phillipsburg harbor.  Our plan is to let most passengers get off the ship and we can enjoy it while it is less crowded as we did last week.  First stop was a lie lunch in the buffet…I made a nice guacamole salad and it was Mexican on the ethnic station so frijoles, peppers, and chicken on the side.  A very nice lunch.  We had cabin and balcony time including a nap all afternoon.  We met in the Divina Bar at 5:30 for cocktails as usual and Ana Marie and others did a wonderful job.  The production show The Witches of Paris (photo-see day 4 for comments) was tonight in the Pantheon Theater.  There was time for an aperitif then to the Black Crab for dinner.  I ordered Gravlocks, Green Salad, Pasta, a special order of Spaghetti and Cherry Tomatoes from the Maitre’D, and a Prime Rib entree.  A very filling dinner.  Tonight is the White Night Party with special events on Pool Deck and I was able to get through dinner without spilling anything on my new white shirt: Yea!  It was a fun day on the MSC Divina.

Wednesday June 8 / San Juan, Puerto Rico / Day 12
El Convento
Smooth seas, only a few bumps the we were entering San Juan.  I again slept very well and only awoke when we began maneuvering into the harbor this morning about 8:30 am.  We are docked in Old San Juan (OSJ) very near most sites.  We have been here many times so we are planning an easy day although our ship doesn’t leave port until very late. I went to the buffet for breakfast meeting friends along the way. A little rest before heading out this morning.  Four of us left the ship about noon to meet friends at 1:00 pm for cocktails so we had a casual stroll (uphill) in San Juan towards the Cathedral.  The original convent across the street has been converted into a unique Boutique Hotel:  El Convento.  They have a great bar with a bartender named Luis who I had met on a previous visit.  He fixed us some of his delicious hand-made Pina Coladas.  Soon friends from the Carnival Magic arrived and we had a nice visit.  Fun time and the wifi was good as well.  We walked over to Barrachina for a traditional lunch. I had the combination Mofongo, DW had Plantains and vegetables.  Then the casual stroll down Fortaliza Street and returning to the ship about 5:00 pm. After a cooling shower and some rest it was time for cocktails in the Divina Bar.  Everyone agreed that it was a good night to eat at the buffet as did many others on the ship as the buffet filled up quickly…MSC was on it by opening new stations and moving waiters from the MDR to the buffet.  I ended up having Pizza and beer, others had a wide variety of food.  Thought about the late production show, but retired to the cabin…we did a lot of walking today.  It was a fun day in San Juan today.

Thursday June 9 / Day at Sea / Day 13
Piazza de Doge - gelato
Smooth sailing overnight and I slept well.  I was awake early enough to eat in the MDR this morning and it was very good.  I had three eggs, bacon, ham, hash browns, toast, and a bowl of mixed fruit.  The MDR means we skip the very busy buffet area.  We watched a movie on TV and had cabin/balcony time most of day.  We went up to the buffet and I had a nice salad and pasta.  Desserts have always been good on the buffet.  At 3:00 pm we went to the Pantheon Theater to watch the opera matinee show: Love Me from LaTraviata. It was very entertaining, not as big a production as in Europe, but well done.  We stopped for a gelato at LaPiazza de Doge and DW did a little Swarovski shopping. The group met in our usual spot in the Divina Bar for our social hour + as usual.  The Production show was Pirates and some attended, but I stayed at the Divina Bar until dinner.  Tonight is the second formal night or “Lobster Night”.  Tonight I ordered the Scallops & Risotto, Soup, Green Salad, and the Duck entree.  We also had Spaghetti Carbonara special order from our assistant Matre’D.  Dessert was Baked Alaska, but with coconut & coffee ice creme…DW loved it.  I was worried about the sea day with so many guests on board, but it was actually a very nice day on the MSC Divina.

Friday June 10 / Day at Sea / Day 14
MSC Divina Atrium area
Smooth seas continue as well as the good nights sleep.  I was up about 8:00 am and went to the MDR for a great breakfast with good table mates, I ordered three eggs over easy with side dishes and they were again prepared perfectly. I stopped by Guest Services for new luggage tags as we actually want a later debark time tomorrow.  We had received priority tags as Black Card members.  Filled out customs information and DW did some pre packing this morning.  We had another good buffet lunch, I had a nice big salad.  We watched a movie in the afternoon and we sailed though an afternoon thunderstorm…even then it was very smooth sailing…this ship is amazingly smooth...they must have good stabilizers.  I did notice that the waves don't break until almost midway down the ship.  We met about 4:00 pm in the lobby next to the Divina Bar for our farewell Champagne-Cocktail-Aperitif farewell party.  We brought our champagne that had been sent during the week and attempted to make a dent in them.  Also tried to use the last of our drink vouchers.  It was a nice gathering and we even had front row seats for the Opera interlude just before dinner.  Final dinner was good, I ordered the Green Salad, the Arrabiata Pasta, and NY Strip Steak.  After dinner we returned to the cabin to pack and put out our luggage out for pick up. Fortunately you have until 2:00 am to place your luggage out for pick up.  It was a bust final day on the MSC Divina.

Saturday June 11 / Miami /  Debarkation
We arrived very easy in Miami. Time to leave the MSC Divina.  We changed from priority debark to a later time so we would not be rushed and we are staying in Miami overnight.  We went down to deck seven just before the designated time of 9:30 and were ‘dinged’ right out as the exit was at the elevators.  We then went down to baggage claim and yes our color was out.  Just a few minutes until all the bags were collected and we were on our way to US Customs.  The passport cards got us through right away and we were out of the terminal.  Just a short wait at the taxi stand and we got a van to downtown Miami and the Langford Hotel.  We have requested early arrival and woo-hoo they had our rooms for us and it was just after 10:00 am.  The hotel is a new boutique hotel built in a 1920’s Beau-Arts architectural bank building.  Very beautiful inside and the rooms are very nice.  The bathroom is especially well decorated in black miniature subway tile, a nice large shower, comfy bed, and herringbone wood floor.  Very pleased with the accommodation.

Ship
Maiden Voyage: 2012  I  Gross Tonnage: 139,400 tons
Passenger Capacity: 3959  |  Crew: 1325  I  Length: 333 meters
Max Cruising Speed: 27 knots  I  Avg Speed 23 knots
Installed power: Diesel (40,000kW)  I  Propulsion: Twin propellers
Godmother: Sophia Loren

Cabin
We have cabin 9226 a starboard side balcony located on deck 9 and it does have an oversized balcony due to its location at transition of inner and outer balcony sections.  We are located between the aft and mid elevators.  It is a well decorated and somewhat spacious cabin.  It has a push button safe, twin/king beds, large padded headboard, two night stands with lights, two large decorative mirrors, a small refrigerator, small table, large upholstered chair, seat at dresser/desk, and TV with interactive features.  There is a wardrobe with a set of drawers and large hanging area with two doors. I used an open suitcase as a set of drawers under the bed to get enough storage…we did have more clothes than normal since we are out for three weeks.

Crew / Guests
Our MDR waiters were very efficient as was our cabin steward, but overall the crew may not be quite as friendly as some cruise lines, there were some exceptions, but it’s a very different environment from most cruise lines...not a bad thing at all...just different. Tipping is NOT encouraged, but that doesn’t work with our group so most cocktail servers knew our group members by name and provided exceptionally good service. The first week was primarily Brazilians, then perhaps 30-35% Americans and the rest European.  Week two was primarily Americans, probably 50-60% then German and other Europeans.

Dining / Food / Bars / Entertainment
Entertainment is the strong suit of MSC with very elaborate production shows and live music in most all venues. In addition to the production shows they have a ‘fun’ event scheduled every night night at 10:30 pm in the Black & White Lounge (large venue/lounge located far aft).  The MDR dinners are average to good, DW thinks the vegetarian options on MSC, both MDR & buffet, are much better than any cruise she has sailed. The Calumet and Manatou Buffets were quite adequate, always very busy as they have no real alternate choices (as a Deli or Guy’s Burgers on Carnival). The pizza, taco station, and salad bar were very good.  The MSC Divina has some very beautiful lounges and bars with live entertainment, we tried to visit most.  We did buy several drink voucher packages before sailing that dropped the per drink cost lower.

Eataly—is one of the premium restaurants located on most MSC ships.  It is a branded venue based on the popular Eataly chain in Italy.  We have seen Eataly’s in most Italian cities we have visited including Milan, Rome, Genoa,  Verona, Venice, and more.  We had never eaten there in Italy nor on any of our previous MSC cruises…just didn’t seem right for us and that feeling was justified.  It is an Italian restaurant serving Italian food, but NOT the traditional Italian food that I  or most would associate with Italian.  I guess their image is of a trendy upscale restaurant not a trattoria or traditional family style restaurant.  My personal opinion on Eataly:  I did not care for it.  I did not like the chairs, I did not like the tables (no tablecloths), I thought the menu was weak, I thought there was too much time between courses, and menu selections not balanced (i.e.-no vegetables, too much anti-pasta, not enough pasta, choice of sauces, etc.) at least on the Black Card set menu.  The steak served was very good & cooked to order and the ham was excellent, but overall not impressed.  I wish MSC had a traditional style Italian food venue or even had more Italian food options in the MDR as they used to have years ago.  My dislike of Eataly will not change my great opinion of MSC overall…it is just a venue that will be avoided by me in the future as I have in the past.

Black Card — MSC has a Loyalty match program that honors your status on other cruise lines so that made us ‘Black Cards’ the highest level.  We received two dinners in the specialty restaurants (did it would not do it again), Chocolate ships, a private Cocktail Party, Champagne & Chocolate strawberries, and more.  The gifts were: Sunglasses, Champagne Glasses, & Baseball style hats…it was nice they changed the gifts from one week to next for B2B guests.  Good program.  I did miss free laundry. 

Comments - MSC Cruise Line
MSC is very different than the usual American cruise lines and if your looking for the same experience it will be much different.  You may like the differences or you may be very unhappy with the differences.  As an experienced cruiser I love different.  If you don’t like change or are not flexible you will probably NOT like sailing a European cruise line.  Following is my personal observations on sailing MSC.  MSC Pluses: Beautiful Public Rooms, Top quality MSC Production Shows & Entertainment, Quality and Beautiful Themed Bars, Large Cabins, Hot Milk readily available on buffet and MDR,  Attentive bar servers, Good MDR Breakfasts, Great Laundry, Smoothest sailing ever. MSC Negatives: Too many guests, Children Sail Free (too many uncontrolled children), Buffet areas much too busy and too few tables at peak times.

Highlights of the Cruise
Snoozemates and cruise friends sailing with us
MSC Production Shows
Bar Servers
Balcony Cabin
Black Card Party & Gifts

~~~Click on Photos to Enlarge~~~


Disclaimer: Your cruise experience may be very different than mine.  I have been cruising for many years so I'm older and a bit jaded with cruise experience.  I no longer attend all events or ship activities.  A new cruiser will attend many more activities and production shows...as well they should...they are usually very entertaining.  There are many evening events that one can experience with good entertainers and comedians...enjoy them.   One tip: Don't try to do everything offered...hit the highlights and enjoy your cruise.