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WTI: A Day Aboard an MSC Cruise Ship


Read about MSC’s Nordic Cruise.

I had a bit of treat this week. I got to spend a day aboard the MSC Divina, which stopped in New York City on its way from Miami to Rome. MSC is a fast-growing cruise ship company but American are still somewhat unfamiliar with it. While I didn’t get a full cruise experience, I did get some distinct impressions I thought I would share.

 The Ship

 Being “Mediterannean is a key part of MSC’s identity and the Divina does have a European vibe in terms of food, good coffee, childcare and other details. I think even on the cruises that depart from Miami your kids are likely to make friends from Spain, France, Italy or Germany.

Who Is MSC Divina Good For?

sparkly crystal stairs on the MSC DivinaIt occurred to me that this ship might have particular appeal for multi-generational vacations.

The Divina’s Old World opulence—think Venetian Murals, and lots of mirrors and marble—didn’t particularly speak to me, but I can see an older generation appreciating the luxurious ambience.

Similarly, there are gala nights on all MSC cruises and a brochure in the staterooms offers guidance on what casual, semi-formal and formal attire look like. Men are advised to bring at least one suit jacket and tie, preferably two. Women would need a cocktail dress.

Again, I can see grandmas and grandpas appreciating this break from our perpetually casual culture. Plus, they love seeing the grandkids all dressed up. If you can deal with this extra layer of packing and planning you’ll probably get a great holiday-card photo out of it.

What’s Good For Kids on the Divina

smurf themed play area on the MSC DivinaLego mascot with a kid an MSC ship like the DivinaThe Kids Club program seems pretty robust, with activities for ages 3 to 18. A partnership with Lego is driving the design of the new kids clubs. The Divina’s, which now has a Smurfs theme, will be retrofitted with Lego when it’s next updated.

There is one big waterslide on this ship and some of the pools are wading depths. But there’s no splash pad. Look for far splashier water parks on the ships they are building now.

I tried a Formula One Racing simulator and a 4D theater, both of which cost extra. The car racing is surprisingly immersive. After a few seconds you’re focused entirely on the view out your windshield as you try to keep your shaking, shifting car on track (I was very bad at it). It’s hard to say formula one racing simulator on the MSC Divinawhat age it’s right for. Kids who are too young could get frustrated and give up fast or spend a lot of their parents’ money crashing into walls. The 4D movie is a virtual ride on runaway mine-train. Unfortunately I can’t tell you how the movie is because I had my eyes closed for much of it. My 7YO would hate it, but others her age would surely have a ball. I think it would be too intense for kids younger than 6.

The kids menus have the usual roundup of burgers, hot dogs and macaroni, but keep your eye out for European twists like potato croquets, creamy vegetable soups, roast chicken, and even chicken cordon bleu.

For those traveling with kids ages 6 months to under 3 years, the kids club has both babysitting hours and times where parents can use the club with their tots.

They offer one program where kids and up eat dinner with the club counselors and another where kids sup with their families and are picked up in the dining room for evening activities. There is babysitting until 2:00 a.m.—if you can stay up that late.

What’s Good For Parents on the Divina

wine blending on the MSC DivinaWhile your kids are off at their club there is an adults-only deck and a large spa that looks like it’s pretty darn good at pampering, plus a good number of hot tubs in the pool area.

One unique activity is a partnership with a Napa winery that gives guests the opportunity to make their own custom blend of wine varieties to bring home. Even if costs extra, I think this is probably a must-do. There is typically a matinee opera one afternoon, which is a little different, as well as six different performances in the evenings.

What Was Missing on the Divina

Though it launched in 2012, the Divina seems like an older ship. It had a more closed-in feeling than some newer ships manage and could use more open decks and outdoor activities.

A European cappuccino on the MSC DivinaAlso, compared to NCL, Carnival and Royal Caribbean it needs to offer a bit more in its base price. The dining options included seemed skimpy (2 restaurants and the buffet). The “Mediterranean” food served throughout its restaurants looked fresh and what we sampled was good, but it could become redundant to Americans used to more variety.

There also didn’t seem to be a lot for families to do together, such as the mini-golf, climbing walls, zip lines and so forth that the other lines feature these days. I didn’t see a schedule of organized activities, which probably includes some all-ages options (and again, I expect upcoming ships will have more).

MSC’s European accent will not be for everyone. But families who want a low-key and sophisticated alternative to the established US cruise lines— or who need a ship that will satisfy a few generations— should take a closer look at the up-and-comer.

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11 Comments

  1. May 17, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    I’ve always wondered whether I’d like cruising or not. On one hand, it seems like a good opportunity to try out many activities and see lots of sights, but I’m afraid I’d get bored. getting onboard for a day is a great idea! Thanks for joining Weekend Travel Inspiration!

  2. May 8, 2015 at 5:52 am

    Eileen, Apparently cruising is the travel of the future…am I missing the boat? Thanks for partnering on Weekend Travel Inspiration!

    • May 8, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      ha ha! it doesn’t coincide with the be-a-traveler-not-a-tourist approach to vacationing — although some smaller ships and river cruises can provide interesting experiences. But you do relax and you can have fun, and it’s easy to plan budget-wise because lodging and meals are covered and many activities. So I think there is room for cruises in a person’s repertoire.

  3. May 4, 2015 at 12:10 am

    I’m not familiar with the MSC Cruise line. From what you say, it does sound like something that my in-laws might enjoy, especially an opera matinee so that you don’t have to stay up late to enjoy the shows. How long is the cruise from Miami to Rome? I’m not sure if I could do this ship for more than 4 days. After that, I’d want more variety. However, I”m not sure how many up the eastern seaboard and trans-Atlantic cruises there are, so perhaps people would pick this for the route and ports rather than the ship.

    • May 4, 2015 at 8:16 am

      This was a repositioning cruise. the ship is in Miami for the winter (Caribbean cruises) and in Rome/Barcelona for the summer (Mediterranean).

  4. May 3, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    We cruised on the MSC Opera for about 12 nights. I had no idea they were trying to break into the American Market. We found MSC very budget European, and “not” what the stereotypical American is looking for, I can’t imagine them doing well.

    • May 4, 2015 at 8:14 am

      I do think they need to make a few more adjustments, and I think they understand that with adding more water slides and a posh spa and Lego. But I think there is a segment for them. Maybe people who want to cruise but find some of the other newer ships a little overwhelming.

  5. May 3, 2015 at 6:10 am

    Looks like an interesting ship! We’ve yet to try an MSC cruise but have passed their ships in various European ports in recent years. A great overview you provided

  6. May 2, 2015 at 1:41 am

    Not for us but I know lots of people who would love it.

    • May 3, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      if i hadn’t had a child I never would have done a cruise. But I’ve come around to believing it’s OK to have vacations that are just about relaxing. They are not the same as culture-experience-oriented travel, but as their own thing I think there is room for them.

  7. May 2, 2015 at 1:29 am

    Lovely…