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 on 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 luckily showed up.  I'm 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 terminal entry.  It was not really busy as I believe we are behind the early rush and before the airport arrivals arriving 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 enjoyed 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 and 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 watched some of the sail away from our balcony.  We were the last of several cruise ships to sail from the port of Miami tonight.  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 with 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 always 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 enjoyed a room service continental breakfast and is planning on a casual day.  I finished cabin set-up this morning converting 220plugs to 110 and set up 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.  Soon 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 do 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 have enjoyed 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 goodies…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 with everyone off the ship.  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.  All's 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 for the evening.  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 while most guests are ashore.  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 while empty.  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 food in the ethnic section, but I had a nice green salad, pasta, and pizza, a very good lunch.  As it’s now starting to rain guests 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 again 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 dance 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 Night party tonight in the Black & White lounge, but we took a walk then 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 Buffet about 9:30 as we were preparing to dock at Puerto Langosta near downtown San Miguel.  They had 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 the 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 long 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 we 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 new Escape & CCL Victory) coming in about noon.  Amazing.  We went up to the buffet and watched 1000’s of people walking from the ships down 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 in the Divina Bar before the feature show.  Sounds like a few cocktails but we do still 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 I was 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 MSC has a history of boarding passengers in various ports along the itinerary...more so in Europe of course.  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 by 7:30 am in same slip as Friday afternoon.  The Splendor of the Seas followed us into the 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 and 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 (Portuguese last week, German this 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 it was 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 our friends were still in the lobby so time for an aperitif before dinner and it's 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 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 already there, I had several Bellini’s and visited with friends and some of the officers, it was an unusually early time but it was nice. They did give us the chocolate MSC ship, a very unique gift, but not as good as the cool MSC 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 light 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 when 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 enjoyed on previous visits.  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 late lunch. I had the combination Mofongo and 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 Piazza 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 collection. Fortunately you have until 2:00 am to place your luggage out for pick up.  It was a busy final day on the MSC Divina.

Saturday June 11 / Miami /  Debarkation
We arrived very early 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.

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

We had 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

Would I sail MSC again?  You bet I would, it's a great experience!!

~~~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 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.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Vista Class Cruise Ships - Cuba?

Vista Class Cruise Ships

My prediction: The next cruise ship in Carnival Vista class will go direct to Galveston (after Med sailings). Similar to what the Magic did...2nd in its class and direct to heard it here first!!!!  Mark it.  ( I just did by posting).  Just hope they have gone back to tablecloths by then.

Looking forward to my next cruise on MSC at the end of the month.   Also a possibility of Fathom cruise on Adonia to Havana Cuba in June...hope so.  UPDATE:  Cuba booked...

And while we mention about Vista II to Cuba from Galveston?  Why it out Carnival.