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!
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.
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
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!
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
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
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.
After 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
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!
- 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!
- 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
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.