Gorgeous Mediterranean-inspired design and a late-night party vibe
Lively main-theater entertainment, with popular new shows every night
Well-designed cabins feel spacious and offer plenty of storage
MSC Yacht Club, a "ship within a ship," offers privacy and perks
Italian steakhouse Eataly serves full-flavored cuts and artisanal food
La Cantina di Bacco, a bar experience with delicious wood-fired pizzas
Aurea Spa, a huge relaxing retreat with 20 types of treatments
Relaxing sun-splashed pool areas ranging from sleepy to boisterous
Family-friendly programs, including "kids under 11 sail free" policy
Winery at Sea, fun wine-blending activity (for a fee)
Outside of the specialty restaurants, food is fairly unremarkable
Slow-paced service in Black Crab and Villa Rosa main dining rooms
No thalassotherapy pool, heated loungers, or hot tubs in spa's thermal suite
No babysitting service
Vibrant, global, and a great value, the 3,960-passenger MSC Divina continues to draw cruisers thanks in part to its low-priced fares compared with other mass-market sailings out of North America. The ship offers a fun and energetic experience, with plenty of activities and nightlife that lasts into the morning. Theatrical entertainment is a highlight, offering some of the best shows in the industry. Dining at the specialty Italian restaurants is also excellent and worth the extra costs, but the fee-free venues are unremarkable. Another worthy splurge is booking an MSC Yacht Club cabin that comes with an array of perks, from butler service to access to exclusive venues like a pool and restaurant. With kids under 11 sailing for free, this is a great choice for families -- though it doesn't offer the kind of big attractions seen on Carnival or Disney ships.
What's Included (and What's Not)
Standard cruise fare on MSC Divina gets you your chosen accommodations, meals at the main dining rooms and at the buffet, use of the fitness center, and nightly shows in the Pantheon Theatre. Everything else is pay-as-you-go, depending on what you want to add, like drinks, spa treatments, and specialty dining.
Cruisers can choose an overall "experience" when booking on MSC Divina. The Bella Experience puts you in an Interior, Oceanview, or Balcony cabin with no room service. The Fantastica Experience offers cabins in preferred locations (on higher decks) and features room service, a drinks package (12 vouchers per person for the cruise), children's foreign language learning and cooking activities in the kids' club, and 50 percent discounts on fitness classes and personal training. You can also book the Wellness Experience, which is a fitness-focused program that offers free wellness-themed excursions, meals, workout classes, training, and consultation. The Aurea Experience is for spa enthusiasts and features balcony staterooms or suites, an unlimited drinks package, and a menu of included spa services. The MSC Yacht Club Experience puts you in the ship-within-a-ship retreat area that provides a butler, private pool and bar area, and access to the thermal suite spa area and the private Yacht Club restaurant, Le Muse.
Besides two main dining rooms and a buffet, passengers can also eat for free at the Sports Bar, which offers bar foods like wings and hamburgers. For-fee dining is at the Italian steakhouse Eataly, Ristorante Italia, and La Cantina di Bacco a casual bar and pizza place. All three venues are located in the same area on Deck 7. Also with an added cost, Piazza del Doge has a Venchi gelato stand (you can also get scoops at the pool deck) and a pastry shop offering sweet creations from famed French pastry chef Jean-Philippe Maury. One side of the Galaxy Disco on Deck 16 is used as a restaurant, serving meals throughout the day, with brunch, prixe fixe, or a la carte options. There is a $3.50 charge for room service between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
MSC Divina offers various Wi-Fi packages. The Streamer plan gives access for up to four devices for high-speed internet (video); the Surfer package is good for up to two devices and allows for basic email, browsing, and social media activities; and the Social option allows access to social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest to post images (no audio or video streaming).
Activities that cost extra include the Wine Blending Experience, Formula One racing simulator, 4D Cinema (a short thrill-ride roller-coaster experience), shore excursions, and any spa services and fitness classes not included with your choice of stateroom experience. Gratuities of $12 per person, per day ($6 per day for kids aged 3 to 17; no charge for kids under 3) are added to your onboard account and are about $2 lower than the industry average. The bar service charge is 15 percent, as are the spa and salon service charges.
Attractive ship with Mediterranean flair, lively atmosphere, and a worldwide mix of passengers
MSC Divina delivers a vibrant experience with lots to recommend: It's an attractive, easy-to-navigate ship offering comfortable and alluring spaces, and high energy from both fellow passengers and the ship's entertainment staffers.
A Europe-based brand, MSC launched Divina in 2012 and subsequently sent the ship to Miami as its initial foray into the U.S. market. Results were initially mixed, but the ship continues to improve, particularly when it comes to service and attention from crew, in our experience. Despite being transplanted from the Old World, the ship retains plenty of Mediterranean flair.
MSC Divina's attractive, European decor is a highlight. Reds, golds, blacks, and shiny metallic details give an upscale look. The main atrium staircase is encrusted with Swarovski crystals, adding some tasteful bling, while Piazza del Doge evokes a stroll through an Italian square. Passengers stop off here for a Venchi gelato or pastry treat. But the ship doesn't forsake comfort for style, the public areas are generously furnished with plush seats, some big enough to splay out for a cat nap.
Passengers here are truly a global mix. Plenty come from the U.S. and Canada, but they're joined by people from all over Europe (Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Irish, English) as well as Brazilian and Chinese guests, too. A wide range of ages is also represented. On our sailings, we saw folks from 3 to 70-plus. But the age range here could skew somewhat younger than the average ship. MSC Divina is attractive to families and young couples in particular because of its affordability. Starting prices and frequent promotions have made this ship one of the most accessible among major cruise lines. Another popular promo: Children 11 and younger sail for free when staying in the same cabin as adults. During school breaks, especially in summer, multigenerational family groups make up a big portion of the ship, and they are used to staying up late and dancing the night away in the disco.
On the flip side, cruisers seeking an unplugged, uber-quiet getaway might want to steer clear of MSC Divina, which is almost constantly buzzing with activity in the nightclubs or poolside. That said, you can always find a bit of serenity in the quieter pockets of the ship. The lounges during the afternoon and the ship's library are particularly restful spots to spend a few hours reading a book or playing a card game with a few friends.
Despite its boisterous atmosphere, the MSC Divina doesn't have the extra whiz-bang attractions of some other lines like Royal Caribbean, although it does have a few high-energy extras like a 4D thrill-theater (fee), Formula One race-car simulator (fee), and a waterslide. Apart from that, activities cover the standard cruise fare: poolside competitions, trivia games, and under-the-stars dance parties.
The dress code here is all about casual comfort. Most passengers do throw on tasteful resort wear, and while the ship offers a formal night, many opt for stylish Mediterranean or Caribbean attire instead of the full-out cocktail dress and tuxedo treatment.
Modern elegance with ample storage space and comfortable beds; Yacht Club rooms stand out
Staterooms are well-appointed, with tasteful color schemes that rely on a mix of cream, maroon, blue, and gold to create a warm Mediterranean feel. The furniture, cabinetry, and accent walls feature brown-wood laminate, and there's a solid amount of storage space with plenty of shelving, drawers, and closet space as well as under-bed storage for your luggage. Staterooms feature a small seating area and flat-screen TVs with a limited selection of cable channels like CNN and Fox News. Bathrooms have glass-enclosed showers (an upgrade from the clingy curtains on other lines), glass shelves for toiletries, and single sinks. Shampoo and body wash are available in dispensers in the shower, and cruisers get plush robes and slippers to use during their trip, plus hairdryers are provided.
Be aware that cabins are also booked by class or "experience," which can add or subtract perks. See the "What's Included (and What's Not)" section for more details.
For the standard cabin categories, MSC Divina's smallest and least-expensive rooms are the Interior and Oceanview staterooms, which range from 130 to 215 square feet. Superfamily Staterooms can fit up to six people and are created by connecting two triple cabins, giving you two bathrooms and two balconies, too. These 90 cabins are priced per stateroom, not by the number of passengers cruising. MSC Divina has 45 cabins that offer wheelchair accessibility across multiple categories.
Suites step up the square footage: The Deluxe Suites (69 total, with two accessible wheelchair cabins) are 234 to 283 square feet with 61 square feet of balcony space; two Royal Suites measure 390 square feet with a 172-square-foot balcony; and three Executive and Family Suites have 462 to 547 square feet but no balconies.
MSC Yacht Club suites offer their own ship-within-a-ship aft environment only accessible by keyholders plus exclusive features. Yacht Club passengers have concierge and butler service, minibars, and three exclusive spaces: First, a lounge area offering a continental breakfast and snacks throughout the day, as well as free drinks from the bar. Second, a small pool and two hot tubs surrounded by comfy loungers and a bar area that offers breakfast and lunch buffets. (This area gets quite windy when the ship is sailing, and the food selection can be limited on the buffet, but the lack of crowds is a big perk. On a sunny calm day, it's an incredible space to relax in hassle-free bliss.) And finally, an exclusive restaurant, Le Muse, just for the Yacht Club crowd.
A unique option is the flamboyant Sophia Loren Royal Suite located in the Yacht Club. The legendary actress leant a hand in designing the cabin, which combines rich-brown paneled walls and deep red fabrics on the headboard, bedding, furniture, and drapes. The walls are decorated with black-and-white photos of Sophia Loren in her films and travels.
Other suite options include the Aurea Suites and Aurea Balcony Suites, which are located close to the Aurea Spa and come with added perks like access to the Thermal Suite and Deck 18 Solarium whirlpool and sundeck sanctuary (fee for other guests), an all-you-can-drink package, and some spa treatments.
We stayed in a balcony stateroom on Deck 12 midship, which was spacious enough for two people. Our balcony was about 70 square feet and perfect for a room-service breakfast and watching the sunset over a couple of beers. Our stewards were extremely friendly and quickly remade the beds every day. Plus, we slept well, undisturbed by outside noise.
Italian specialty Eataly venues elevate otherwise unremarkable cuisine
The trio of Eataly venues on MSC Divina represent the very best food experiences onboard. These for-fee dining options sit in the Eataly "marketplace" where passengers can gather for an intimate meal at Ristorante Italia with white linen tablecloths and mood lighting or a family dinner at the bright and cheerful Eataly Steakhouse. Ristorante Italia features creative appetizers like pumpkin gnocchi and fresh fish preparations in addition to pastas and steaks. Eataly serves delicious salads, appetizers like cold cuts and cheeses, pastas, and juicy steaks, too. Both have a la cart pricing and reservations are recommended.
Another must-eat is the thin-crust pizzas at La Cantina de Bacco; they're made to order (with a la carte prices). If you're traveling with a group, the meter of pizza and meter of beer pairing (a flight of pints) can't be beat. The bar also prepares free bite-size appetizers (e.g. melon wrapped in prosciutto and marinated mushrooms), and wine bar can accommodate any wine drinkers, too. On our sailing, we plowed through two meters of the white pizza with parma ham and arugula and the classic margherita with buffalo-milk mozzarella (with help from a group).
The main dining rooms, Black Crab and Villa Rossa, offer a fine place to dine and socialize, but the meals aren't likely to impress foodies. Dining rooms are assigned by cabin, and the menus are identical, covering standard cruise fare like Caesar salad, soups, chicken breast, steak, pasta, and seafood options every night. In an effort to improve the offerings, MSC offers "Divina Features." These premium meal choices are priced a la carte and include items like a colossal shrimp appetizer, surf and turf, or steamed cold water lobster. The menu also offers a "Deliciously Healthy" option every night.
The buffet is branded as two spaces, Calumet and Manitou, but you won't realize when you're in one versus the other. It's a large space serving a wide variety of foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Salads, fruits, breads, pastries, burgers, fries, cookies, stir fries, and pastas are all on hand, among other choices. The area gets busy at the prime times for breakfast and lunch, but it also offers ample seating, with tables and high-top counters. Plus, we found the choice and quality of the food quite good, especially the pasta and meat sauce. Daily international choices can be found at the buffet's "Ethnic Corner."
You can also grab dinner at the Galaxy Disco Restaurant, which offers a la carte and prix fixe menus and a splendid setting on Deck 16 with its large windows and panoramic views. The eatery offers a wine-pairing meal and touts its Mediterranean Fusion Cuisine alongside creative cocktails.
Food is also available at the Sports Bar, which is a popular gathering spot to watch games on big screen TVs or fling a few balls at the two mini-bowling lanes. Free bar snacks (a change for MSC Divina in 2017; these used to be priced a la carte) include burgers, Chicago-style hot dogs, chicken wings, spinach and artichoke dip, chips and salsa, and mozzarella sticks.
When you get a hankering for something sweet, you can find soft-serve ice cream (no fee) and a Nutella cart (fee) on the main pool deck. Or head to Piazza del Doge for Venchi gelato (fee) or slice of cake from award-winning pastry chef Jean-Philippe Maury (fee).
MSC Yacht Club passengers have a couple of exclusive food venues: the grill in the private pool area, the Yacht Club lounge buffet, and Le Muse. Le Muse is the formal dining room serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an elegant space with golden-hued curtains, rusted-red seating, and off-white table cloths. Menu items like fresh seafood dishes, beef tenderloin, rosemary chicken, and lobster are offered, and we found the food on the whole to be delicious.
Dining packages are available for the specialty restaurants. You can choose deals bundling anywhere from two to four venues, with discounted pricing for buying them together. Room service is free between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m (it's $3.50 charge otherwise), and the menu features sandwiches, salads, fruit plates, cookies, and other snacks.
Fun lounge ambience and lively poolside spots, plus a very reasonably priced all-inclusive package
MSC Divina has over a dozen bars, lounges, or cafes to enjoy a drink or some live music. These include the Divina Bar, host to live classical music; the Golden Jazz Bar, a nice spot for a pre-dinner cocktail and some live music; and the Sports Bar, a popular spot to catch some games. The ship has a cigar lounge serving drinks, too, but it's mostly a gathering spot for those who want to have a smoke.
The One Bar (Deck 18 pool bar) and Topsail Lounge are for cruisers staying in MSC Yacht Club. There are three pool bars, including La Sirene Pool Bar at the indoor pool and the Garden Bar at the adults-only infinity pool area on Deck 15. These spots offer the best chance to snag a seat in a more quiet environment.
The top spots to get a gourmet coffee are at Caffe Italia or in the Piazza del Doge, the Venetian Square area where you'll find the sweet shops as well as wine and cocktails. This is a popular gathering spot for a post-show or after-dinner treat and drink.
Your cruise fare includes orange juice, lemonade, ice tea, coffee and hot tea, as well as non-bottled water. You can ask for these items from servers at your dining areas or in the buffet or serve yourself at the beverage stations in the buffet area. For other drinks, several beverage packages are available for purchase. The All-Inclusive Deluxe drink package (ranges between $44 and $55 per person, per day depending on length of cruise) gives you the most choice, including beers, wines by the glass, cocktails, spirits, bottled water, juices, sodas, coffees, hot chocolates and even premium ice creams. The Classic package is cheaper (ranging between $38 and $47 per person, per day), but excludes premium brands of spirits. A non-alcoholic version is also available for about half price ($23 to $29 per person, per day) and features smoothies, energy drinks, milkshakes, juices, water, and soda, plus there's a Soda Package ($10 to $12 per person, per day) that covers unlimited sodas.
Choices don't overwhelm, but the nightly main stage production wows crowds
The nightly main theater shows provide variety and good energy for the crowds that gather in the huge two-level, 1,600-seat Pantheon Theatre. Entertainment staff has fun with passengers, helping them find their seats and getting the energy up before showtime. The ship offers two showtimes each night to accommodate your dinner schedule.
Shows are top quality, with a talented cast able to pull off multiple roles singing, dancing, performing acrobatics and magic for a full complement of productions during the week. Each seven-night cruise offers six shows, with the favorites being Starwalker, a Michael Jackson tribute (the Michael performer we watched did the best impersonation we've ever seen), and Witches of Paris, a Moulin Rouge-style cabaret that was a fantastical blur and fun to watch. The lineup also offers a mini version of the opera La Traviata, adding to the Mediterranean feel of the cruise.
The Golden Jazz Bar has live musicians and regular "name that tune" trivia competitions. La Luna is MSC Divina's piano bar. Dancing goes on each night in Galaxy Disco to the wee hours, and a fun White Night pool party takes place each cruise. Daily trivia contests and other activities are listed in the daily ship program dropped off in your cabin every night. You'll find plenty of opportunity for poolside games (we enjoyed a hilarious beer-themed challenge). Other activities include ping-pong, mini-golf and shuffleboard.
For oenophiles, the distinguishing activity on MSC Divina is its Winery at Sea class (fee). The blend-your-own wine experience is held twice a day on sea days. We had a blast mixing our concoctions under the direction of our friendly guide, using eye-droppers, beakers, and measuring tubes to carefully blend our pure syrah, zinfandel, cabernet, and malbec to get just the right taste. Each participant gets to take home a custom-labeled and named bottle of his or her blend.
The 4D Cinema (fee), Formula One racing simulator (fee), and a video game arcade (fee) are at the top of the ship, as well as the ship's waterslide. We gave the racing simulator a try during our sailing and found it a real challenge to keep a top speed and stay on the course while the car shakes and jerks around, giving the real feel of driving one of these open-wheel speedsters during the six-minute ride.
The Casino Veneziano is non-smoking, which made the environment pleasant. It features the usual casino table games and shiny rows of dinging slot machines. For an alternative sort of entertainment, shops onboard include a boutique selling Longines watches and fine jewelry from Bulgari, an MSC Logo store, and La Caramella, a colorful candy shop.
Refreshing spots to cool off with well-placed bar areas
MSC Divina has four distinct pool areas, giving a variety of options to cool off. The main AquaPark pool on Deck 14 is open to the sunshine and draws the biggest crowds. This area is where you will find people hunting up lounge chairs early in the morning (yes, they go fast on sea days, with passengers reserving spaces early on).
The Aqua Park includes wading areas surrounding the main pool, two hot tubs, and a twisty waterslide. Venture past the main lido deck area to find La Sirene, MSC Divina's indoor pool. The area offers a calm retreat from the bustling main pool and is perfect if you can't take too much sun and heat. The magrodome roof is retractable, so it can be opened or closed depending on weather conditions. That said, this area can get a bit humid during a hot day in the Caribbean.
Our favorite spot is the adults-only infinity pool and bar area at the aft of Deck 15. You can find a mix of loungers in the sun or shade, grab a seat at the curved wood-top bar, or relax right at the edge of the pool on the bench seating and just breathe in the panoramic views. This pool is where the AquaCycle spin class sessions are held during the cruise, so you might have to exit the pool for about an hour in the mornings when people have signed up to take these classes.
Passengers staying in MSC Yacht Club staterooms have their own private pool on Deck 18. This is a blissfully quiet area with a tiny pool, two large hot tubs, and rattan loungers (these would be better with comfy mattresses). The Exclusive Solarium on Deck 18 is a for-fee adults-only sun deck with a bar menu, loungers, and access to on-deck spa services, but there is no pool.
Spacious spa area with dozens of treatments; well-stocked gym and fun sports court
Spa fanatics should be pleased with the Aurea Spa, a sizable space that includes a thermal area complete with a sauna, steam room, and loungers with wonderful views through the surrounding windows. The spa menu is extensive as well, with technicians specializing in Balinese treatments, focusing on deep-tissue, mild stretches, and acupressure. But passengers can also consider 20 types of massages including couples' massages, plus aromatherapy treatments, and the more standard facials and hair and nail services -- the latter doled out in the beauty salon onboard. A huge, lounge-like waiting room here holds the MSC Aurea Spa Bar on one side, which serves up refreshing smoothies to the wellness crowd. A sizable gift shop here also sells upscale workout gear including Emporio Armani sneakers and sweats, along with beauty products like Kerastase haircare.
Day passes ($20 per person or $30 per couple) and cruise-long passes for the thermal area are available ($70 per person for weekly pass, or $100 for a couple). Passengers who opt for the Aurea Experience get a combined stateroom and spa-treatment package (which includes use of the thermal suite). These bookings will also score a discount on pre-purchased packages of spa treatments.
The fitness center is efficiently designed, and it was never over crowded on our sailing. Rows of cardio equipment face the sea, offering a pleasant vista while passengers work up a sweat. Free weights, resistance-training machines, stationary bikes, and treadmills are all on hand, along with other equipment. A separate studio here holds yoga classes, plus Pilates, step, spin, and aerobics. Passengers can also try the first-at-sea AquaCycle classes outdoors in the infinity pool ($15 per class), or get one-on-one attention with personal training sessions (for a fee).
The MSC Divina jogging track on Deck 15 can be tough to negotiate in the middle of the day when loungers are scattered all through the route with people sunning themselves. Try a run early in the morning or at sunset to avoid tripping hazards. A sports court on Deck 16 has space for tennis, basketball, or soccer games, too.
MSC's Wellness Experience package includes a health assessment, personalized fitness program, fitness classes, and an active shore excursion program, for a fee.
Supervised activities give parents and kids a break, but no private baby-sitting available.
MSC Divina holds broad appeal for families, in large part because of its economic fares. Kids 11 and younger stay free in adult cabins booked at standard rates. Teens (13 to 17) also get reduced fares when they are the third or fourth passenger in a cabin. For larger families, this represents a huge savings.
But apart from its savings, MSC Divina has a variety of kid-oriented features, starting with its kids' activities for younger cruisers from infants to teens. Kids 3 to 11 can take part in cooking classes through the Doremi Chef Challenge and whip up things like pizza and pasta. Other activities include Lego Experience Day with Lego-themed games and building time, foreign language exercises, and Dorebro sports activities (ages 3 to 17).
Kids' clubs, segregated by age groups in distinct play areas, are led by trained staff who direct activities like arts and crafts, movie nights, group games and sports, dance classes, and other performances. The younger groups hang out in "I Puffi," which is full of colorful chairs, desks, and toys as well as a large Smurf-themed playspace (complete with a mushroom fort and several images of the famous little blue characters). Club hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. in port and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on sea days. These groups can dine with MSC staff at Fun Time Dinners (free) in the buffet or have Happy Dinners, dining with their parents while they enjoy their starters (staff then escort the kids away for other activities while parents continue on other courses). There is no private babysitting service, but there is a group late-night program (fee) for ages 3 to 11 that goes from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Two other groups -- the Young Club (12 to 14) and Teens Club (15 to 17) -- can take part in activities like a white party, flash mob, talent show, and formal night. Teens have a hangout in Galaxy Disco with easy access to the arcade. Most of the teens and tweens loved staying up late and taking over the dance floor on our sailing.
Babies and toddlers (1 to 3) will be supervised during drop-off times at the Mini Club, a family facility where the youngsters play with new friends (parents are welcome to stay and play too). MSC provides Chicco toys and other essentials like bottle warmers, cots, and high-chairs to use during your cruise.
Babycare service is available during limited hours on sea days and offered while the ship is in port for shore excursions. The ship also features children's menus in all restaurants.