I had a bit of treat when 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 growing cruise ship company that often offers kids-cruise-free deals, which are great for all families, as well as discounts for military families.
But Americans are still less familiar with it than with other big cruise lines. While I didn’t get a full cruise experience, I did get some distinct impressions of how MSC is adapting for American families cruising with kids.
Should You Cruise On the MSC Divina with Kids?
What is the Divina like?
Being “Mediterranean” is a key part of MSC’s identity and the Divina does have a European vibe in terms of food, very good coffee, and ample childcare to give adults time to themselves.
But it has broadened its food and entertainment options to appeal to American cruise-goers. Two of its buffets nnow have Southwestern décor. And all the buffets have an “ethnic corner” where you’ll find Asian, Indian, Mexican and other Latin food offerings on different days.
They’ve also added French (Le Muse) and Japanese (Galazy Kaito) restaurants and an American steakhouse (the Butcher’s Cut) to the ample mix of Mediterranean offerings, which are mostly Italian with a little Spanish and Greek mixed in.
It’s also given up its daily opera performances for more popular Broadway-style reviews and Cirque-du-Soleil type acrobatics shows.
That said, the Divina is doing four-to-17-day Caribbean sails out of Miami these days, most of them with stops at its Ocean Cay private island.
I think you’re likely to come across families from Spain, France, Italy or Germany, where families know the brand well. For some families this international exposure, especially for their kids, will add to MSC’s appeal.
You might also like: MSC’s Nordic Cruise with kids.
Or explore more of our cruise vacation ideas.
Who Will Like the Divina Most?
This ship and MSC in general will have particular appeal for multi-generational vacations.
The Divina exudes Old World opulence. Expect Venetian Murals, a stone “piazza,” a staircase encrusted with Swarovski crystals, and lots of mirrors and marble. I can see older couples, and grandparents in particular, appreciating the fancy ambience. It didn’t particularly speak to me, but it certainly wasn’t a deterrent.
The cabins went through a major refurbishment that ended in 2020. Look for more categories and variations in size and amenities, including the swanky MSC Yacht Club area with upscale rooms (some inspired by the Italian beauty Sophia Loren), butler service and its own pool, lounges and places to eat.
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 should bring at least one suit jacket and tie, preferably two, a pair of trousers that aren’t jeans or casual khakis and shoes (not just “nice” sneakers). Women will want at least one cocktail dress.
Many of us appreciate a break from our perptually too-casual culture. And quite a few familiess use gala night to get a great holiday-card photo. But older generations will particularly feel at home surrounded by people who have dressed a bit for dinner. Plus, grandparents love seeing your kids all dressed up.
What’s Does MSC Have For Kids? (and how’s the kids club?)
European parents believe strongly in adult time when they’re o n family vacation. So the MSC Kids Club program is pretty robust, with great spaces and activities for ages 3 to 18.
Partnerships with Lego and Chicco provide activities, toys and equipment. The ship also has a Lego Day where everyone can play with the colorful plastic bricks.
Puffi’s Kids Club has a Smurfs theme and spaces for 3-6YOs and 7-11YOs. There is a separate room for baby care, which offers both babysitting and hours where parents can play there with their little ones.
In the evening 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.
Teens have the colorful Graffiti’s Teen Club with foosball and places to hang out. And there are the usual basketball hoops and shuffle board.
The Divina also has an indoor pool, outdoor pool, infinity pool, hot tubs and and aqua park with a series of small pools and and one large slide. (Look for far splashier kids water parks on the newer ships). Aside from the adults-only pool they’re all kid-friendly. The indoor pool has a retractable roof, which is the kind of random thing that can greatly impress a small child.
There’s virtual arcade with high-tech game that was installed after I was on the ship so I can’t say much.
I did get to try to a Formula One Racing simulator It’s 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).
These games are for-fee and I can easily see teens and adults pending a good amount of money getting the hang out them. Young kids will most likely get frustrated and give up fast.
They also have a festival during one ofr the at-sea games with a bouncy house carnival games and other low-tech fun that younf kids often really like.
What does the Divina Have For Parents?
While your kids are off at their club The Divina has an adults-only deck and the large Aurea spa that looks like it’s pretty darn good at pampering, plus a good number of hot tubs in the pool area.
There’s also a casino, of course. And several different bars and lounges, including a wellness bar in the gym. Sone if the fine-dining is better enjoyed without having to worry about what the kids will like.
How’s the Food on the Divina?
MSC’s food usually gets good marks. The steak restaurant I ate in was as good as it ought to be and I enjoyed it.
Given the cruise line’s roots expect a lot of Mediterranean food in the buffet, a brick-oven pizza station, lots of pasta and salad and an emphasis on fresh and healthy-ish.
A coffee bar serves a proper espresso or cappucino if you want one. adn there is an Italian-style café for Italian desserts
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. Of course it’s easy to find pizza and it will be a step up from other cruise lines’ pizza.
Here’s What Was Missing on the MSC Divina
Though it launched in 2012 and has been through a few refurbishments, the Divina seems like an older ship. It had a more closed-in feeling than some newer ships manage with their large atriums and clever use of deck space. It could use more open decks and promenades.
I felt it could use more activities for kids outside of the kids clubs and more things for families to do together, like mini-golf, water slides, climbing walls, movies and so on.
I didn’t see a schedule of organized activities, so they could have more all-ages options, and newer ships have added more water features.
MSC’s European accent will not be for everyone. But neither is the constant activity, loud music and high-adrenaline thrills of other mass-market cruise lines. If your family likes playing board games together and reading by the pool and and you want a quality, but sightly more low-key cruise experience this could be ther right fit.
If you need to please multiple generations with vaired expectations the MSC Divina is definitely worth a closer look.