We Review the MSC Divina For Families
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 that often offers kids-cruise-free deals, which are great for families. But Americans are still somewhat unfamiliar with it. While I didn’t get a full cruise experience, I did get some distinct impressions of how the MSC is for families cruising with kids. And I thought I would share.
The MSC Divina with Kids
Being “Mediterranean” is a key part of MSC’s identity and the Divina does have a European vibe in terms of food, good coffee, ample childcare to give adults time to themselves 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, where families know the brand well. (Read about MSC’s Nordic Cruise.)
Who Is MSC Divina Good For?
It 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
The MSC 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 what 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 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
While 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.
Also, 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 seeing also Asian and other ethnic food on the buffets.
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 I think its cruises have plenty to keep kids and adults happy. Families who want a slightly more 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.
Pin it for later!
Weekend Travel Inspiration. Visit our partners: