, , ,

Where To Find The Best Burgers in Las Vegas

Naturally our quest for the best burgers continues in every destination we reach and Vegas, Nevada, home to a whole slew of restaurants, including burger joints, was no exception. With its vast array of celebrity chefs opening house along the strip and an ever-increasing focus on providing incredible culinary experiences, you’re bound to find a good burger around every corner. That makes the challenge even harder.

Best Burger Joints in Las Vegas

Where then do you go in Las Vegas to find that memorable burger? That sensational patty and bun experience that transcends the rest?

We’ve narrowed down the choices to three spectacular options both on and off the strip. Each offers a different style of burger and dining experience but each one will have you walking away thinking “wow”!

Hexx Kitchen + Bar

Burger at Hexx Kitchen + Bar Nevada

Located right on the strip at Paris Hotel, Hexx Kitchen + Bar is an adventure for the taste buds and though they have an entire menu of incredibly composed dishes, their Hexx Burger stands out not only for execution but also for their unique approach to the flavour profile of the burger itself.

As Hexx is also home to Hexx Chocolate + Confexxions, a chocolate factory and shop that produces some of the tastiest chocolates we’ve ever had (and their dark chocolate is a healthy option for chocolate lovers too!), it only makes sense that they extend that chocolate goodness over to their restaurant and they do this brilliantly with their Hexx Burger.

Though you’ll find some expected condiments on the beef patty – cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato – Hexx also adds fried onions and their own thousand island dressing and though the combination of these flavours and the perfect ratio of burger to bun and condiments makes it one tasty meal, what enhances this burger to extreme levels is the incorporation of white chocolate in the bun. The sweeter taste of the bun combined with the savoury of the rest of it creates a contrast to remember. Sweet and savoury, soft and crunchy, altogether delicious, the Hexx Burger is one of our favourite burgers and a must try if you’re on the strip in Vegas – especially as the restaurant is open 24 hours!

Bachi Burger

Shogun Burger at Bachi Burger Las Vegas

Though the current Bachi Burger locations are neither on the strip nor in downtown Las Vegas, the effort to get there from wherever you are is worth it… several times over. If Hexx is an adventure for the taste buds, Bachi Burger takes your taste buds on a fast ride through Asian flavours and sets you down gently in traditional American cuisine. The ultimate in culinary fusion, they’ve managed to create a whole list of burgers that are elevated from the classic to the brilliant with their combinations of toppings and ingredients.

Take their Shogun burger as an example. A thick Wagyu beef patty starts the collection of Japanese flavours and Asian ingredients as it is topped with grilled unagi, pan seared foie gras and miso butter. A beautifully poached Asian pear is also included which adds a layer of sweetness. The combination of it all, served between a thick and fresh bun will leave you savouring each vibrant bite.

Then there is their Bahn-Mi Burger. This time its a combination of angus beef, pork and shrimp formed into a patty that hosts a handful of Vietnamese-inspired toppings like pork pate, fresh herbs, and curry aioli with a side of pickled vegetables and nuoc mam sauce.

Though your mouth is probably watering just from the descriptions, nothing can quite do it justice until you experience the real thing and with several locations to choose from, there really is no excuse not to!

I Love Burgers

I Love Burgers The Patriot Burger Las Vegas

Sometimes classic is best and I Love Burgers is a prime example of taking a great thing and keeping it great. With two locations on either end of the strip, you’ll have the option of either one depending where you are when that burger craving hits!

Though they do have a variety of themed burgers and condiment combinations, what showcases their true talent for burger creation is their ability to make a good ol’ classic burger! The Patriot, advertised as the “All-American Burger”, is what you want to have at any BBQ or burger joint. Take that fresh bun and fill it with certified Angus beef then top that bad boy with shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, cheese, ketchup, and mustard and you got what every burger restaurant should be able to create.

Of course, they make some delicious alternatives to the standard if you’re looking to be a bit more daring. Something like their Steak Burger is bound to satisfy both a burger craving as well as any steak dinner urges you may be having with their certified Angus beef patty covered in caramelized onions, bacon, white cheddar cheese and Worcester aioli. It’s a steak dinner on a bun and it’s pretty darn good!

You Probably Won’t Want To Stop At One!

With these three options, you really will have all your burger cravings satisfied while in Las Vegas. Not only that, you’ll experience some of the best dining the city has to offer while tasting a range of culinary styles. From gourmet to fusion to “all-American”, a burger can be made a variety of ways with a selection of different toppings but there’s one thing that must ring true no matter what that patty-condiment combination is comprised of – it must have you thinking about it well after you’ve left the restaurant! Try one, or all three, of these restaurants and you definitely won’t be forgetting the burger experience any time soon!

 

Keep this post for later or share with others on Pinterest – just hover over the image below & click “Pin it”!

Where to find the best burgers in Las Vegas Pin

, , ,

Bike Trails That Will Leave You Speechless In Scottsdale, Arizona

By Denise Nelson

Just recently I found myself in Scottsdale, Arizona. It’s a beautiful city with a lot to do, enjoy and see, so of course I had to see the landscapes and what the city had to offer a cyclist like myself. I took to the roads early in the morning to ride through the old-town Scottsdale, looking at the architecture of the buildings and the unique feeling this side of town could offer. It’s not only what the city has to offer in views but also the benefits of cycling that are always a good reason to get out and on that bike!

>Scottsdale has been recognized for its biker friendliness and recognized by the League of American Bicyclists at the gold level. It’s a clean way to get around and, in a bicycle-safe community, it provides safe transportation and accommodation to bikers. If you like to cycle with a canine, Scottsdale is the place to do it. They allow pets to come along on your travels… just as long as you pick up after them!

There are many options to choose from between paved or unpaved trails and even mountain trails. They range in distance, but they also offer a variety of views as you travel through different parts of Scottsdale and experience something new.

 The Stunning Views On Scottsdale’s Bike Trails

Echo Canyon Trail head at Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Arizona




As the sun rose higher in the sky, the weather was warming up and I decided to ride down the Scottsdale Greenbelt, which takes you down through Scottsdale to Tempe Town Lake. In total, this trip is 14.5 miles (23 km) and worth it for every bit of scenery you see along the way (especially if you stop for a small detour to see Marguerite Lake.).

There are also two paved bike trail sets to choose from, or do both: the McDowell Mountain Ranch Paved Trails and the DC Ranch Paved Trails. I chose to do the McDowell Mountain Ranch Paved Trails since there were more of them and offered more visual stimulation.

McDowell Mountain Ranch Paved Trails

There are many options for mountain bikers as well. We took to Tom’s Thumb, which is part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and allows for beautiful mountain rock formations, desert landscape, plenty of desert wildlife on the trail and the vast blue sky above you.

On the mountain trail through McDowell Mountain Regional Park, you can see a variety of mountains, hills, rocks, cacti, desert plants, desert landscape, wildlife and hikers. This trail is beautiful and leaves a lasting impression on you, especially when seen at sunset. The sunset in Scottsdale is this beautiful purple-red-orange scene that paints the desert beautiful colors. The picture you see while riding your bike through this desert at sunset is absolutely gorgeous and is something that you wouldn’t want to miss.

Other Bike Trails in Scottsdale, Arizona to Cycle

Arizona desert landscape, Phoenix,Scottsdale area.

Another trail to ride on would be the Indian Bend Wash Path. It is a beautiful, lush and green 22 mile (35.5 km) expanse with parks, waterways and greenery. What is great about this trail is the fact that there are tunnels and bridges that go over and under the roadways so you don’t have to take a break from the beautiful view while you ride.

I also recommend the South Mountain Trail. It’s a 16,000-acre park and offers tough, but interesting trails for multiple levels of bikers. I went on the Desert Classic trail, which is 9 miles (14.5km) with a beautiful view of the rich greenery and mountainous landscape offered only by the desert. Here you’ll find one-of-a-kind views of the rock formations and steep cliffs.

Following South Mountain, I would also recommend the Browns Ranch Trails. It’s roughly 13 miles (21km) long. The wildlife you’ll see range from rabbits and squirrels to desert tortoises and snakes. Rock formations, natural landscaping and relaxed trails provide for an easy ride to enjoy a desert scene with a gorgeous view.

If you are more advanced in your riding you’ll want to check out Sunrise Trail. It’s a fairly new trail that is 10 miles (16km) long and very rugged and steep. The trail is very narrow so you need to watch for hikers and for your own safety as cacti grow close to the trails. It is also a single-track and has a steep elevation of 1,700 ft (518m).

Lastly for mountain biking, I would say to finish with the Whiskey Bottle Trail. It’s a short 3 mile (5km) trail that is for intermediate-advanced bike riders. The trail starts off easy but you gain a steep increase of 800 ft (244m) into a more rocky trail. There are tight curves and dangerous turns and terrain. Overall, this trail is a short, but rewarding, trail to bike on as it provides a beautiful view at the end, overlooking the vast desert with it’s beautiful rocks, scenery, and animals.

The Many Colours Of Cycling in Scottsdale

Serene iconic Arizona desert morning sunrise with enormous powerful sun on horizon line framed by Saguaro cactus - gorgeous lens flare.

Taking to the roads, there are plenty of street lanes for you to get to any place of business you’d like. Taking this route allows you to see the art on the above route of the Indian Bend Wash Path, get to bookstores, grocery stores and more, all while taking in the view of homes and the architecture styles of old and new homes built in Scottsdale.

If you don’t want to go alone, then you have the options of group rides! They welcome any type of rider, at any level, and they offer multiple time frames to fit your schedule. Each day of the week, they’ll take you on different trails, paths, and parks. This allows for a memorable experience while meeting new people with similar interests. Riding together allows for a deeper experience in a new place with the added personal connection while talking with other riders.

The amount of trails and scenery available in Scottsdale is amazing. There are so many trails and paths to explore that you could have a fantastic weeklong experience. A wonderful bonus to the trails and paths are the lakes, mountains, and parks that are available to bike riders.

If you ride early in the morning, you can see the sunrise cast its beautiful rays over colour across the vast desert. At night, the painting-like sunset casts that colour over the desert leaving it bathed in a beautiful nighttime glow.

Tips Before You Head Out On A Scottsdale Bike Trail

Overall, if you want to take on any of these trails, whether you are a beginner or an advanced biker, you need to make sure you are prepared and in shape for the trail you are planning to ride. Make sure your bike is comfortable and you have enough water and snacks to keep you safe on your ride. Always wear your helmet and dress appropriately for the weather and the trail type. Make sure to map your trail so you always stay on track and don’t get lost and make sure to take everything into consideration so you can have a great ride!

 


denise nelson profile picABOUT THE AUTHOR

Denise is a mountain biker who enjoys cross-country biking around the world. She worked as a trainer for 6 years before becoming a co-founder of a private biking lessons school to teach people how to properly train & ride bikes to prepare them for cross-country & any activities they want to indulge in. She’s also a founder of MountainBikeEZ where you can learn about mountain bikes & mountain biking.


Keep this post for later or share with others on Pinterest – just hover over the image below and click “Pin it”!

bike-trails-of-scottsdale

, ,

There’s More To Nevada Than Las Vegas!

By Carolann 

What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Nevada? Las Vegas? Gambling and bright lights? Stage shows and performers? Maybe you just think desert and barren land? What if I were to tell you that everything you’ve seen and heard about Las Vegas, all the TV and movie highlights or friends’ social media posts of crazy trips to the city, were actually giving you the barest speck of a glimpse into all that is the state of Nevada? That everything you thought you knew about visiting the area was about as substantial as the desert mirages you’d expect to find there?

Sure, there’s glitz and glamour, chaos and crazy times to be had when you visit Las Vegas. It’s a city that never sleeps (literally) and offers something for almost any traveller or tourist. It’s one of my favourite places to visit and yet in the eight (count them: EIGHT) prior trips I’ve made to Nevada, I hadn’t once stepped outside the bright lights of the Vegas Strip. In all those visits, with all I saw and did, I missed out on some of the most spectacular sights and some of the most incredible experiences imaginable.

5 Reasons to Travel the State of Nevada

Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area Nevada

Nevada, from the busy streets of Vegas to the small towns and desert stretches, is by far one of the most remarkable places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. If I thought Vegas was the destination that would burrow its way under my skin and leave a lasting impression, I was wrong. It was the whole darn state that was waiting to make its way into my heart and memory.

Sure, there’s no place like Vegas and it’s a guaranteed good time but there is much more to Nevada than Las Vegas and these are just five of the things you won’t find while walking the strip which happen to be some of my favourite parts of the state.




Mind Blowing Landscapes

Cruising Lake Tahoe Nevada

If you expected arid desert to be a common theme in Nevada, you’d be correct, but the desert stretches of sand, rock and cacti, are speckled with greenery like the sage brush and Indian rice grass that grows wild and regularly across the state. The stark contrast between sand and shrubbery, rock and lakes, is a strong reminder of the beauty and power of nature. It may be hot. It may be dry. But life still thrives and creates some stunning views along with it!

You’ve got the mountain ranges and valleys that are absolutely spectacular and each unique in their own way offering some priceless photo opportunities. These give way to the bodies of water like Lake Mead, Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake that have become popular destinations all year round.

Kershaw-Ryan State Park Nevada

There’s pretty much something mind blowing to see around every bend of every highway. Turn off to Cathedral Gorge State Park and see one of the most fascinating natural phenomena in the slot canyons and spires that fill the area. Make another stop at Great Basin National Park and walk through geologic time in the Lehman cave system. Oh, and if you look in the distance, off Highway 50, you’ll see Sand Mountain, a beautiful sand dune that looks like a breaking wave frozen in time as if waiting for a surfer to come paddle up to it for a ride.

If you’re not looking to go too far off the beaten path, there’s the more popular sights like Red Rock Canyon and The Grand Canyon which, though well-known, are perfect examples of the sights that await if you travel outside the city limits.

Peace & Tranquility

Visiting Cathedral Gorge State Park Nevada

Sometimes you just need to escape the overload of the city and relax. Getting out of the populated areas and driving into the state, especially along Highway 50 which is also known as The Loneliest Road in America, will have you finding some peace and solitude. Here you’ll get in tune with all that nature just mentioned and have some time for reflection and thought.

It’s a pretty perfect place to take a road trip too. Though the stretches of road can be long from town to town, there is so much to see while you drive and you’ll definitely be staying alert and aware the whole time. There’s really no better place you’ll find to stay in the moment and unwind.

Nevada is a state made for reflection. Where else can you find such a striking disparity between the elements and such variation, yet convergence, of landscapes? Drive for a stretch and clear your mind or stay for a while in one of the small outlying towns and immerse yourself in the quieter, slower pace.

Small Town Charm

McGill Drugstore Museum Nevada

Speaking of small towns, each one you stop in while exploring Nevada will have you learning what the term “small town charm” really means. Scenic and quaint, welcoming and friendly, you’ll find yourself embraced by the people you talk to as you relax into the often traditional settings around you.

Here is where you’ll find those mom and pop shops that have long gone to the wayside in larger cities. You’ll find a place where everyone knows everyone, or can at least point you in the right direction, and where most people are interested in your story as much as they are excited to share their own.

We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast in Austin during our time in the state and found ourselves chatting into the night with the owners in their front yard as a campfire blazed. The only sounds were the creatures of the night, the breeze in the trees, the crackling of the wood in the fire and our voices as they carried into the dark around us. It was peaceful, it was charming and we had a great time getting to know the people who called this small town ‘home’.

Incredible History

Eureka Sentinel Newspaper Museum Nevada

The other great thing about small towns in Nevada is the history you’ll find there. There’s a strong connection to the past in many of the stops you can make throughout the state. Old buildings maintained or restored become gateways to times long ago and you’ll often find great pride in these places by the people who live in each town.

You’ll find an old courthouse in Pioche which is said to have cost (what would be the equivalent of) 1 million dollars to build from 1870 to 1937 and holds records, photos and artefacts from its prime when Pioche was a perfect example of the Wild West – lawless & corrupt.

Stopping in McGill will have you passing the McGill Drugstore Museum which ceased operating in 1979 and essentially remains as it did the day its doors were closed. Walking through the front door is like stepping back in time and even if you don’t remember some of the brands and products from the past, there’ll be some familiar names that are still around today!

Whether it is natural or human history the list is extensive: the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely, Area 51, almost all of Eureka itself, the many Petroglyph areas throughout the state, the Lehman cave system, Cathedral Gorge and so many other stops throughout the whole of Nevada will have you glimpsing history in a variety of ways – geologic, natural, anthropological. It really is amazing how much history you can unearth throughout the state!

Food & Drink

Frey Ranch Distillery Fallon Nevada

It’s true Las Vegas has amazing food at pretty much every turn, but this isn’t unique to just the restaurants in that city. It’s safe to say that all of Nevada knows what it is doing with the food it is growing (yes growing), cooking and serving.

It seems as though no matter where you stop, the food you find will be pretty spectacular. We had some wonderful Southern home cooking and comfort food at a local restaurant in Caliente. It was rich and hearty but it was delicious and our first run in with chicken fried steak had us wanting more!

Our stay at the bed and breakfast ended with, well, breakfast in the morning which was the most gourmet French toast we’ve ever seen. We’re talking cream cheese and strawberries between two thick pieces of French toast, covered in more strawberries and glaze with whipped cream to top it off! Homemade and decadent, it was one memorable breakfast!

Moving to some of the larger towns, like Fallon will have you experiencing what can only be described as a culinary movement. Since its one of Nevada’s agricultural areas, there seems to be a focus on providing quality and fresh ingredients – whether grown locally or sourced by nearby California – in brilliantly prepared and plated dishes. We ate at The Slanted Porch while there and their farm-to-table menu, with a genuine appreciation and respect for the ingredients used, was something you’d expect to find in the upscale restaurants of larger cities.

And it doesn’t just stop at food. Fallon is also home to one of the wineries of Nevada – Churchill Vineyards. Not only do they produce wine, they also have Frey Ranch, a distillery that is creating some impressive spirits – from start to finish – right on the same property.

You definitely won’t be finding a shortage of good food and drink as you navigate your way through Nevada.

A Trip To Remember in Nevada

So if you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas, you may just want to extend it a bit and make some time to get outside the city and explore. Enjoy the beauty of Nevada, find some time to reflect, meet the locals and learn about the incredible history that can be found all over, and fill up on spectacular food you otherwise wouldn’t find without breaking the city limits and seeing all that Nevada has to offer. Believe me, while “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” what happens in Nevada will stay fondly in your memory long after you leave.

Want to explore Nevada? Find out more about the state and all the amazing things to do and see on the Travel Nevada site! Our experiences in Nevada wouldn’t have been possible without them!

 

Keep this post for later or share with others on Pinterest – just hover over one of the images below and click “Pin it”!

5 Reasons to travel the state of Nevada Pin5 Reasons to Travel Nevada pin

5 Unusual Foods in South America

By Claire & Rosemary of Authentic Food Quest

Unusual South American Foods You Should Try

South America, the world’s fourth largest continent offers plenty to see and do for any type of traveller. With almost 60 UNESCO Heritage sites, your travels may include visiting the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina, or Machu Picchu, Peru or maybe the Atacama Desert, Chile.

As you travel through South America, we invite you to also explore the continent through its unusual food specialties.

We are Rosemary and Claire, co-founders of Authentic Food Quest. Our goal is to inspire travelers to have deeper connections and experiences on their travels through authentic food. In 2015, we spent six months traveling through South America, discovering the authentic dishes of the region.

On our quest, we came across many unusual foods, you may not know about. If your travels take you there, here are five unusual foods you should explore in South America.

1. Indulge in Edible Sea Snails or Locos from Chile

 Locos con Mayo in Chile

Native to the coasts of Chile are large edible sea snails called locos or Chilean Abalone.




Locos are a popular specialty in Chile though highly regulated. Chile banned the fishing of locos in 1989, after the population had dropped dramatically. Today, the only legal way for Chilean fishermen to catch locos is to have a permit. The summertime, which is December through April, is the best time to eat fresh locos.

One of the most popular ways of preparing locos is with mayonnaise. Called Locos con Mayo, this is a salad served at room temperature with lettuce and tomatoes.

The texture of the locos is surprisingly crunchy and firm. You will need a steak knife to cut it up. The taste is mild and similar to a calamari steak and maybe even scallops. While the visual appearance of the locos may not be appetizing, what they lack in looks, they make up for in taste. After your first bite you will understand why they are a “delicacy” worth trying.

2. Grilled Beef Hearts or Anticuchos in Peru

Beef hearts waiting to be grilled in Peru

If you have never tried beef hearts before, you cannot miss them in Peru. The first thing you will notice as the sun begins to set, are little carts with a sign “Anticuchos” at virtually every corner.

What is Anticuchos? Quite literally, this is meat on a stick served with a boiled potato on the end. The most traditional are the Anticuchos de Corazon, which are pieces of grilled beef heart  served on a stick. They are served with a boiled potato at the end of a skewer and aji, or hot sauce.

The skewers are lined up and stacked with pieces of beef heart. They are cooked on order for about 5-7 minutes with sauce being applied regularly. The first bite of anticuchos is like biting into a piece of beef. However, the difference is in the texture. Beef heart is slippery and tastes like biting into muscle fiber. It is tender, but chewy.

In Peru, don’t miss out on this unusual specialty. If you really can’t stomach the idea of eating beef heart, you can get chicken or regular beef instead.

3. Sweet Blood Sausages or Morcilla Dulce in Uruguay

Morcilla dulce next to chorizo sausage Uruguay

While you may already be familiar with blood sausages or morcilla, in Uruguay, morcilla dulce is a local specialty you don’t want to miss. These are blood sausages made with sugar, raisins and ground nutmeg, which give them their sweet taste.

The taste is really surprising. In Uruguay, these sausages are usually grilled over open fire on a parilla. When cooked, the sugar caramelizes on the sausages and combined with the raisins and nutmeg, makes them almost as sweet as a dessert. If your travels take you to Uruguay, be sure to have your first “dessert blood sausage” experience.

4. Try Llama Meat instead of Beef in Argentina

Cazuela de Llama in Argentina

Llamas are domesticated animals that have been used for transporting goods for thousands of years by the people from the Andes region. Although llamas are popular for their wool, their meat is eaten in several regional dishes in the north of Argentina.

Llama meat is high in protein and low in fat making it a healthy meat. One of the popular specialties you will find in this region is the Cazuela de Llama or llama casserole.

The Cazuela de Llama is a slowly cooked stew filled with chopped up llama meat with carrots and papas andinas (native potatoes). Incredibly delicious, llama meat is full of flavor.

If you’ve never had llama meat before, consider trying the Cazuela de Llama especially if your travels take you to the north of Argentina. You will not be disappointed!

5. Guinea Pig Or Cuy For A Unique Experience in Cusco, Peru

Cuy Chactado or Guinea Pig in Peru

On your way to Machu Picchu, a stop in Cusco is unavoidable. Just as you will be awed by the majestic nature of the 7 Wonders of World, allow yourself to be in awe of the local food specialties.

Cuy or Guinea Pig is a specialty of Cusco, Peru. In the West, guinea pigs are a popular household pet however, in Cusco, cuy is an important food source in the indigenous culture. The native Peruvians supplemented their diet with guinea pig and this custom still exists today.

In Cusco, cuy is typically prepared in two ways. Fried cuy called cuy chactado or baked cuy known as cuy al horno. Presented whole, that means with head, feet and teeth, we tried the cuy chactado.

After you get past the presentation, your first bite will be crunchy. This is the skin that is well seasoned. When you get underneath the skin, there is not much meat. The bones are thin and brittle and best eaten with your hands. Eating cuy is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one you should not miss in Cusco.

Have you tried any of these specialties from South America? In the comments below, tell us which one of these unusual specialties you would explore?

 


AUTHENTIC food quest profile photo                                               ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claire and Rosemary are co-founders of Authentic Food Quest. They aim to inspire people to travel through authentic food. To follow their adventures find them on Twitter and Instagram.

They have just published their first book Authentic Food Quest Argentina: A Guide To Eat Your Way Authentically Through Argentina. Get your copy at Amazon or Barnes & Noble today!


 

Keep this post for later or share with others on Pinterest – just hover over the image below and click “Pin it”!

5 unusual foods in south america pin

MSC Divina Review From Miami To Mexico

After two river cruises in Europe and a Caribbean cruise on a small ship focused on impact travel, we were anxious to experience a large ocean cruise line for the first time. When we confirmed our booking with MSC Cruises for a 4-day cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, we were excited and eagerly anticipated what a ship, with a max capacity of 4,000 people, would be like! Here’s our MSC Divina review with a look at what to expect while on board.

The MSC Divina: Mediterranean Luxury in The Caribbean

From everything we were told before we boarded, the MSC Divina was not going to be the average cruise experience – something MSC Cruises prides themselves on. We were told we would be getting a unique experience, that it wasn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill corporate, commercial cruise. They were right.

The MSC Divina is obviously a ship that has sailed the Mediterranean. In fact, before it ventured to Miami to set sail in the Caribbean it was a regular throughout the area. With strong Italian influences on food, decor and design, the MSC Divina has been called one of the most beautiful cruise ships you’ll see on the water. We can believe it. From our cabin to the outdoor decks, to the public spaces in between, we were blown away by the stunning appearance and style of it all. It may have been our first large ocean-cruise but it definitely exceeded our expectations when it came to visual aesthetics!




The ship also boasts a unique Yacht Club with private access to members only, a butler service and amenities and dining options reserved only for that section. The experience must be something else as security is tight and you won’t find any non-Yacht Club members finding their way into that section of the ship!

Cabins

We stayed in a balcony cabin on the 11th deck of the MSC Divina. We were surprised by the size of the room which was incredibly large and spacious. The decor was fitting with the rest of the feel of the ship – clean and elegant with rich colours. There was even an elaborate towel animal waiting for us!

The room came equipped with a TV, desk, minibar, safe, hair dryer and outlets for both 110V and 220V. There was a seating area where the desk and TV was, with a couch and table and the sliding glass doors beside which opened up to a nice sized balcony.

The bed was double, or two twins if you preferred, and was pretty comfortable. There was plenty of space to store luggage under the bed and enough room in the wardrobe and drawers for all our stuff to be put away neatly.

The bathroom was also spacious, clean and elegantly designed with a larger than expected shower and soap provided in a dispenser in the shower itself.

Dining

Food on board the MSC Divina

You have a few options for dining on the MSC Divina. For formal dining, you can choose between the two main dining rooms –  The Black Crab or Villa Rossa. These have open seatings for lunch and dinner but assigned seating for dinners, which means you’ll be given your dining area and table for the duration of the trip. We were assigned a table in The Black Crab. With two levels, and beautiful decor, it really does feel like dining at an upscale restaurant. Menus are provided in a number of languages and options change each day.

The great thing about these menus? You can choose whatever you want and however many of it! That’s one of our favourite things about cruising and it was no different on the MSC Divina.

For less formal dining, there are two buffets – which are attached and essentially become one giant buffet space. We honestly couldn’t tell when we were leaving one and entering another but that may be because our attention was often focused on the food! Calumet and Manitou are open early and close late so they are open for all meals and late-night snacking. We found this buffet had quite the variety and very enjoyable. Though the European cuisine is what the ship specializes in, their burgers are ridiculously good. You’ll also want to head over to the pizza station for some spectacular pies!

In addition to these included restaurants, the Divina offers additional restaurants which passengers can dine at and pay for separately, including an Eataly Steakhouse and an Eataly Pizzeria inspired by the famous, largest Italian marketplace in the world by the same name. Other areas where passengers can order food at an extra cost include the Galaxy Restaurant (which turns into a club at night) and the Sports Bar.

The Eataly Pizzeria was RIDICULOUS! A metre long pizza with various different toppings made it like several different pizzas in one! We shared it between six people and it was more than enough for all of us to feel full at the end. At a reasonable price, it was one of our favourite meals!

The Piazza del Doge & Aqua Park both have gelato bars at reasonable prices, if you didn’t buy a package with gelato included. Pastries can also be bought from $1 USD or more at the Piazza del Doge and enjoyed in a setting reminiscent of an Italian piazza.

Onboard Activities & Entertainment

MSC Divina shows on board

We really thought the activities onboard were fantastic! The daily schedule is filled with a variety of different activities to choose from (or not) and, if you wanted, you could make sure you were busy at any point of the cruise. There are poolside games and dance classes, poolside bingo (which was held twice during the four day cruise we were on!) movie nights and trivia and musical entertainment around the ship, just to name a few.

There is also a full-scale production nightly that takes place in the giant Pantheon Theatre. Each day offers a different show, performed twice nightly, which are Vegas-esque variety shows with singing, dancing, acrobatics and magic! It was pretty spectacular that this same group of performers put on a different large production each night. The final night we saw their big show – the Michael Jackson Tribute – which was phenomenal and a great show whether you’re a huge Michael fan or not!

MSC Divina entertainment staff

We were fortunate to be onboard for one of the special entertainment events. Murray Hockridge, a contestant from The Voice UK, was the guest performer one evening. Incredibly talented, he was truly entertaining and added a special something to the whole experience. The great thing? You never know what can happen while on the ship! On the last night, Murray and some of the other onboard entertainment crew got together to put on an impromptu jam session in the Piazza del Doge, complete with piano, violin, guitar and drums! There was even an opportunity for talented passengers to take the stage… and let us tell you, they were impressive!

Really and truly, the entertainment staff are all incredible – really engaging and fun and you’ll definitely notice their presence, in a positive way, all over the ship.

Ship & Amenities

MSC Divina Pool Deck

As we had mentioned, the ship is truly stunning and feels like you are staying in a luxury hotel complex. Decadent and elegant, sophisticated and refined, the MSC Divina pays true homage to Sophia Loren, whom the ship was named after and dedicated to – upon request by Sophia herself!

There’s the Swarovski crystal staircases in the atrium which itself is beautifully decorated and adorned. The elevators, with glass walls looking out onto the atrium, even look gem-like as they move up and down shuttling passengers. Chandeliers and artwork, sculptures and furniture add to the Italian feel and elegant style.

The ship also boasts quite a few additional amenities that add to the experience. As in most large cruise ships, there is a casino available for those that like to place a few bets while cruising on the waters. There is the Aurea Spa which offers a variety of services to cater to your every relaxation, massage or facial need! We both got a facial and massage at the beginning of the cruise and came out feeling so incredibly relaxed and refreshed, ready to enjoy the rest of the cruise.

Some extra paid activities onboard are also available. We participated in the wine blending activity – The Wine Maker Experience – and had a one-of-a-kind experience learning about wines and the process of combining different varietals to create flavour profiles. We even got to make a bottle of our own to bring home!

There are common areas like a library, disco (Galaxy Bar at night), the Aqua Park with a pool and whirlpools, an infinity pool and indoor pool, foosball, bowling lanes and ping pong tables. There are also a variety of bars and lounges offering different kinds of atmosphere in each as well as entertainment options in many of them throughout the cruise.

An incredibly unique feature is the 4D cinema and F1 racecar simulator! At an extra cost, you can try either of these for an exciting activity!

Cozumel Cruise Excursions

cozumel mexico beach MSC Divina excursion

There are a variety of shore excursions to choose from if you’re looking to get off the boat and have a tour planned for you. While we often like to explore on our own, the options were so appealing we decided to take one of the Mayan ruins and beach day combinations for our Cozumel cruise excursions.  We were only in port for one day, as it was a four-day cruise, so we wanted to maximize our time which meant a full day of activity.

We chose to visit the San Gervasio Mayan Archaeological Site followed by some beach time at a local beach on the island. Since Macrae had always wanted to see some Mayan ruins, and since we love the beach, it seemed like a perfect option – and it was!

Our guide was funny and knowledgeable and we learned a lot about Mayan history and what information archaeologists have unearthed (literally) about the ancient Mayans who built these structures.

San Gervasio Ruins Cozumel MexicoAfter a thorough exploration of the site and many stories about the Mayans, we headed to a local beach. We were the only ones there when we pulled up and with a couple restaurants right on the beach, had an easy time finding a seat and ordering some food quickly. We went with chicken fajitas and man, oh man, were they good! We discovered there’s little better than authentic Mexican cuisine in Mexico.

After satisfying our hunger, we walked along the pristine beach, finding ourselves in an area with only a few others around. The water was crystal blue, the sky was clear and the sand was soft as we strolled, taking in this paradise that was ours for a moment.

Our MSC Divina Review

MSC Divina Review by One Modern Couple

We had a fantastic time onboard the MSC Divina! It was a great option for a first large cruise and an option we would definitely choose again! We found it to be a wonderful experience being surrounded by European style, and in fact many European passengers, and the ship was just a beautiful setting and environment. Here is our concise MSC Divina review of the pros and cons we saw onboard!

Our Likes

  • Embarkation/Debarkation was fast! We had next to no wait time to board or deboard the ship. It was a seamless process and took out any of the added stress normally associated with checking in and out of any accommodation or trip!
  • There was a large amount of activities, included and at an additional cost, that ensured we were entertained when we wanted to be and added to the overall experience. We particularly loved the Wine Maker Experience and haven’t found anything like it elsewhere.
  • The nightly entertainment in the Pantheon Theatre was impressive! There’s a reason they received a standing ovation after every single performance!
  • There were quite a number of bars and lounges on the ship to choose from. Our favourite was the Golden Jazz Bar. We loved the vibe and atmosphere, the ridiculously comfortable seats and enjoying live music as we sipped our drinks, usually a ginger beer, and listened.
  • The Eataly options were fantastic dining experiences. We particularly enjoyed the pizzeria with foot long pizzas at an incredibly reasonable price. It was one of the best pizzas we’ve tasted!MSC Divina Eataly Pizzeria
  • For us, the prices seemed super reasonable. Gelato was sold for around $4 USD, the coffee and drinks were what you’d expect at a bar or coffee shop in a downtown core and the shops sold toiletries and gifts at comparable prices to those in the stores on land. We never felt like they took advantage of the fact that we were surrounded by water and had no other option but to buy something onboard – and that is a significant thing.
  • The coffee was spectacular! Our favourite place to enjoy the coffee options onboard was Caffe Italia. A whole menu of coffee and tea options that would please even the most critical of coffee lovers. Their drinks packages are also pretty reasonable and have many options to choose from so you can have all the coffee you desire based on what package you choose, or pay by the cup!
  • The buffet burgers and pizza. Though their European dishes are great, we heard the burgers and pizza were really good and we learned that “really good” is an understatement. They are two of our memorable choices and definitely recommended!
  • One word: GELATO! Not only one but TWO gelato bars are present on the MSC Divina. With rotating flavours, we made sure to get any flavour we saw and wanted each day – just in case it didn’t make it back into the rotation during the rest of the cruise! Again, with some of the packages, gelato is included which means you’ll probably be dodging the included soft-serve ice cream area and making your way to one of these displays of deliciousness! Though we love the fresh fruit flavours, we found a flavour combination on the last day that made us eager to get back onboard – one scoop of their milk chocolate and one scoop of their hazelnut. It’s like Nutella or a Ferrero Rocher!

Some Room For Improvement

  • Though choosing a large cruise ship (almost 4000 max capacity) means you’ll be expecting to see a lot of people, we really didn’t feel the crowds as much as when we were at the buffet. Things felt a bit crowded and chaotic but the food was good enough to compensate.
  • In all we read about MSC prior to cruising with them, we consistently heard that they were steadily improving their service and continue to work on improving in this area. We did notice that there were some gaps that need to be filled as they cater to more and more North American travellers who have a different expectation for service than the European travellers that were primarily seen while the MSC Divina cruised the Mediterranean.

Tips For Your Trip & Things To Pack for the MSC Divina

MSC Divina Ship At Dock in Mexico

We found a few tips for those new to the MSC Divina including those new to cruising in general looking to take their first one onboard this gorgeous ship!

  • Self-Assist is essentially choosing to carry your own luggage off the ship rather than setting it outside of your room on the last evening for someone to take it off for you. The benefits of doing this is an early debarkation time and no wait for your luggage. You’ll be the first to get off the ship and you’ll already have your bags with you! If you do check your bags with the ship’s staff, you’ll be assigned a debarkation time and will have to wait until that time to leave and grab your luggage.
  • Drinks Packages are a great idea if you plan on drinking alcohol or coffee. MSC Divina actually has some pretty great options and reasonable prices for the packages and, if you think you’ll only want a coffee in the mornings, you can purchase a ticket package with only a set number of beverages at a cheaper price. We definitely recommend one if you’re looking for more than just the buffet beverages. The packages also often include all-you-can-eat gelato which was a huge bonus for us!
  • If you’re planning on going to the spa, book early! You’ll probably want to make sure you get a primetime, or any time, for your spa appointment so the earlier you book, the better options that will be available. We chose to have our massage and facial early in the morning of the second day which left us refreshed and relaxed, ready to enjoy the rest of the cruise. If you’re the kind that stresses out the closer a trip comes to an end, you may want to leave it until one of the last days!
  • Onboard spending accounts are kept for those that make any additional purchases onboard – whether it is drinks for those that don’t have a package or items from a gift shop or store. Unless you are opposed to using a credit card, the easiest way to handle this account is to link up a credit card when you board. Upon debarkation, the account will automatically be closed and you won’t need to head to the front desk to sign or close out the account.
  • Loyalty matches are something that MSC Cruises will do for you if you are a loyalty card member at another cruise lines or even hotels, MSC will match your loyalty status and offer you the benefits reserved for their loyalty members at that status level! It’s a great way to try something new without loosing the perks you are used to receiving!
  • We recommend bringing a water bottle or canteen to carry around your water or other beverages as you explore the ship. It’s also great for any excursions you may go on.
  • Pillows are something we recommend you bring. Though the beds were incredibly comfortable, we found our sleep would have greatly benefitted by better pillows. Since you don’t have to lug your suitcase around once you check-in, it’s not that great of an inconvenience to pack one when you go.

 Keep this post for later or share with others on Pinterest – just hover over one of the images below and click “Pin it”!

MSC Divina REview Pin