How does a Mediterranean cruise line pay tribute to Italian film legend Sophia Loren? By building a truly beautiful cruise ship, with nods to La Dolce Vita. Launched in 2012, MSC Divina stands out for the sheer attractiveness of its public areas. The atrium's two-story staircases glitter with thousands of Swarovski crystals -- a photo standing on the stairs is the ship's most popular selfie, we're told -- and similar glam touches are displayed throughout the vessel.
Although its parent company has worldwide recognition with international cruisers, MSC still faces the challenge of name recognition in the United States where Divina is based. To that end, the line has courted Americans with several smart, wallet-friendly promotions specifically geared to Divina (and other Florida ships that the line has coming, such as Seaside). The first is a continuous offer to allow children under 11 to sail for free. And the second is a status match program where the line will honour passengers' status from their competitors. We met many people onboard new to MSC who had booked, based upon the offers -- and were happy with what they found.
When Divina had its first Miami stint, passengers noted that the line needed to adjust its service to American standards. MSC responded with a comprehensive crew retraining program, and that's evident in the ship's current iteration. The international crew we met were as friendly as we've seen anywhere else, and for the most part, our expectations were met, save a few staffing issues in some bars. The ship brings its entertainment staff -- and Italian officers -- out to dance with passengers at evening events.
In addition to more attentive service, we noticed the overall food quality has improved as well. We would have liked to see more variety in terms of complimentary dining options, but the limited options didn't put a damper on our experience.
One area where MSC has found success is with its ship-within-a-ship concept, the Yacht Club. With its own pool, restaurant and lounge -- as well as butler service and a host of other perks -- the Yacht Club is a true haven (and a spacious one, at that) where you feel far from the hustle and bustle. Not only that, but since you see the same small group of people day in and day out, the Yacht Club allows you to pretend there aren't 4,345 other passengers onboard.
Another high point is the evening programming. Although Divina doesn't have Broadway shows, passengers applauded loudly for the twice nightly reviews full of music and acrobatics. Don't miss the Michael Jackson show, Starwalker. We also found the evenings packed with fun activities such as name that tune trivia, movies on the Lido deck (complete with popcorn) and enthusiastic theme parties (you haven't seen a White Party until you've seen hundreds of Brazilians participating in an exuberant line dance). Entertainment staff were everywhere, cheerfully encouraging participation. Discos and live music go late into the night, er, morning, and the tables near the pool are packed until late, Italian-style. You have to work hard to not have a good time.
Will all Americans embrace Divina's international vibe? No. MSC does not have the party-hearty atmosphere of Carnival, nor the action-packed thrills of Royal Caribbean. But we met many North American passengers who enjoyed the diversity that Divina offers, at a reasonable price. With so many Italian touches, the ship almost offers two vacations in one -- and that's a bargain no matter what your nationality.
Daytime: During the day, shorts and tees are the norm.
Evening: Generally, the dress onboard is casual, though theme nights -- such as White Night, where all passengers dress in white, and Italian night, where people don green, red and white -- are common. At night, women typically wear sundresses or slacks or capris with blouses; men wear khakis or slacks and button-down or collared shirts. On gala nights, cocktail dresses are the norm for women, while men strut their stuff in suits or jackets and ties. On three- to six-night cruises, Divina hosts one formal night. For sailings of seven to 10 nights, passengers have two formal nights, three for sailings of 11 to 14 nights and four on sailings of 15 nights or longer.
Not permitted: At night, jeans, T-shirts, shorts and bare feet are prohibited in main public areas, including the main dining room, but are not enforced in the theatre or disco (except bare feet, which are always prohibited anywhere other than at the pool).
Production shows take place in the massive and magnificent Pantheon Theatre, a two-deck neon-and-crystal spectacle. The space itself is a showstopper, with its bright red seats that alternately have high or low backs (strictly an aesthetic choice). Interestingly, drinks are not served -- nor are they allowed -- in the theatre.
The production shows are done twice nightly, early for those with late seating and late for those who dine early. Some of the shows, such as Witches of Paris, a French-inspired cabaret and Starwalker, a tribute to Michael Jackson, inspired wild applause. But we felt the standouts were the shows that highlighted some of the ship's featured singers, trained sopranos and tenors (keep in mind that they will sing with an Italian accent).
Speaking of opera, the ship puts on a highlights reel show of La Traviata on the second sea day called "Love Me." It's a lovely montage, accompanied by ballet. Even if you think you don't like opera, you should give it a chance, as Verdi is one of the more accessible composers.
Divina has plenty of programming during the day, with trivia sessions, game challenges such as Taboo, Jenga and Pictionary, dance lessons and sports tournaments. The Aqua Park pool has a wide array of activities, such as group fitness classes and hairy chest contests.
Special note has to go to Divina's Winery at Sea wine blending program. Held twice a day on sea days, the session allows you to be your own vintner, choosing different varietals to make your own creation. The $45 price tag includes a bottle of your wine (with a cute label noting your own "winery") and you can also order more to either drink on the ship without corkage fees or to bring home. If you have a group onboard, you can also schedule your own session. The Winery at Sea program also includes wine tastings in La Cantina di Bacco.
Virtual World on Deck 16 features a Formula One racing simulator, as well as a 4D Cinema. We went for a ride in the simulator -- shaped like a life-size race car -- and found it great fun, although we don't recommend doing it on an empty stomach. The ride costs $9.90 for six minutes. The cinema takes you on a roller coaster and costs $8 for adults and $6 for kids.
There are two arcades on the ship. One is near Virtual World on Deck 16, and conveniently has a staircase that connects to the teen's Graffiti Disco. The other is off the casino on Deck 6.
Divina really comes alive at night, with more evening programming than you see on most cruise ships. Besides the production shows, the entertainment staff always holds some sort of themed event, either in the Black and White Lounge or up near the pool. There's nightly name that tune trivia in the Golden Jazz Lounge, as well as karaoke and other adult games. Add in the movies on deck, a selection of live bands and a rocking disco, and you have a ship that goes long into the wee hours.
The Casino Veneziano, located on Deck 6, is smoke-free, a concession to North Americans. The space offers a variety of table games and slot machines, as well as a bar. It's particularly busy in the evening hours, although it's open on sea days beginning at 9 a.m.
Keep in mind that Europeans and South Americans generally stay up later than Americans, as do their children. We saw kids on the dance floor well past 10 p.m., even though the ship does a family disco hour some nights after the early seating; many parents had their sleeping kids tucked under their arms as they conversed with friends and family. If you're used to having the pool deck to yourself for romantic nighttime strolls, you won't find that here; Divina's passengers are grouped at tables eating ice cream, playing cards and taking in the ambience. If you're a night owl, it's all lively and delightful.
Divina has bars a plenty, as well as a variety of wallet-friendly drink packages that allow passengers to either go all-inclusive or buy a book of vouchers (although the latter requires you to estimate consumption, it's a very cost-effective way to save money on exactly what you're drinking). The evening action takes place on Deck 7, where most of the live music and sports bar are, and at the pool bars on Deck 14.
Divina Bar (Deck 5): This atrium bar is a good place to take in the action on gala nights. There's usually live classical music here during the afternoons and evenings.
Silver Lounge (Deck 6): This pretty space near the future cruise booking area seems underutilized, although we have to give it props for hosting Cruise Critic roll call meetings, as well as other group gatherings.
The Cigar Lounge (Deck 6): The indoor spot for smokers, the lounge is enclosed, with no smoke drifting out. There's a stocked humidor.
Piazza Del Doge (Deck 6): Shaped like a rounded cafe, the Piazza area is a great place to indulge in gelato or pastries during the day. At night, you can get coffee drinks and listen to live music. It can be busy, as many of the shops set out watches and jewellery throughout the day and evening.
Caffe Italia (Deck 7): The speciality coffee bar features Segafredo Italian drinks, and it's worth a stop here for a serious morning pickup. Also a lounge, the space is perhaps the best spot to enjoy the ambience of the atrium, while remaining slightly above it all. You'll also find the strongest Wi-Fi here.
Black & White Lounge (Deck 7): This snazzy lounge has panoramic windows that provide natural scenery, but it's the black-and-white marble with accents of silver that make it a knockout. The silver sofas are oversized and comfy, and there's plenty of space for socializing. It's extremely popular in the evening, with organized dances, themed events and live music.
Golden Jazz Bar (Deck 7): This funky lounge does have large golden sofas and mod bubble lights. During the day, games and trivia take place here. The bar also hosts name that tune trivia in the evening, which can get packed; come early for a seat. Before and after, live music is the norm.
La Luna Piano Bar (Deck 7): We found this space a bit of a misnomer. Although it's gorgeous and does indeed have a piano, on our cruise it wasn't used as the typical take-requests-and-sing piano space. Instead, a duo played standards in the evening. During the day, it is also used for trivia. The bar menu focuses on martinis.
Sports Bar (Deck 7): The space has plenty of TVs to watch sports games around the world. On our trip, football -- as in soccer -- was the norm, as well as basketball. You can get American fast food here (see the dining info above) as well as bowling on two lanes with mini-pins and balls (akin to candlepin bowling). It costs $7 per person, per game.
La Cantina di Bacco (Deck 7): The pizza restaurant is also used as a wine bar, where you can do tastings, the wine blending experience or simply chill out. Live music takes place in the evenings.
Poseidon Bar (Deck 14): One of two pool bars on the busy Aqua Park, Poseidon features all kinds of fruity cocktails and mocktails. Since waiter service around the pool deck is very sporadic, the bar can get busy on sea days. (We've been told that the ship is planning to become more proactive with its poolside drink service, which will be a welcome change.)
Tritone Bar (Deck 14): The second bar on the Aqua Deck serves the same Caribbean favourites as the Poseidon, and also has a for-fee gelato bar.
The Garden Bar (Deck 15): The space around the infinity-like Garden Pool has bar and table seating. It's a popular spot and is often quite noisy. Drinks made with Italian liquors (MSC has a partnership with DiSaronno) and cordials are the focus here, although you can order almost anything you want.
Galaxy Disco Bar (Deck 16): The ship's disco is large. With a bar and restaurant on one side, and a big dance floor on the other, the space is extremely popular with the international crowd, particularly in the summer when there's a younger clientele onboard. The DJ does a good job of trying to balance the musical tastes of the Europeans, the South Americans and the Americans -- a difficult task that sometimes lends itself to an odd yet extremely danceable mix. Open until the wee hours.
The Aqua Park pool area on Deck 14 is an unusual melange of small wading pools for kids surrounding a larger saltwater pool and two hot tubs (the spaces are surrounded by mosaicked grey walls meant to represent canyons and there are several cactus sculptures dotting the area). The space is busy almost all the time on sea days, with aerobics and dance lessons and games like the hairy chest and belly flop contest. At night, the Aqua Park plays host to theme parties and karaoke contests. The area's LED screen is used all day and night, broadcasting concerts and movies. Look for fresh popcorn in the evening.
Le Sirene, also on Deck 14, is Divina's covered pool area; the retractable magrodome is opened on pleasant days, closed on not-so-pleasant days. Le Sirene has a good-size freshwater pool and three hot tubs, but the area can feel a little stuffy in the hot Caribbean. There's a small pool shop in the space that's open on sea days, selling bathing suits, snorkel gear and sunscreen.
Our favourite pool, however, was the aft Garden Pool on Deck 15 -- namely for the fantastic views, infinity-like style saltwater pool and the fact that it's reserved for adults (a change that was implemented only recently). The Aqua Cycle class is held here on sea days.
The One Pool Club is for the ship's Yacht Club passengers. It features a small freshwater pool and two hot tubs, as well as a bar and small snack area. High on the ship on Deck 18, the space can get windy, which feels great in the hot Caribbean, but wouldn't be as fun if the weather was chilly.
Ping-Pong tables are located on the upper level of the La Sirene enclosed pool space.
The twisty Toboga water slide runs between Decks 16 and 15. The age limit for the water slide is 7, and all passengers between 7 and 17 must have their parents sign a waiver.
A multipurpose sports court, complete with stadium seating, is available for basketball, soccer or tennis on Deck 16.
Despite the hubbub of the Aqua Park, you'll still find plenty of loungers, both on Deck 14 and on Deck 15 above. There are also loungers on Deck 16 near the Sports Arena.
The Top 18 Solarium, on Deck 18, is an adults-only sunning spot that features two hot tubs and a bar. Furniture includes standard loungers and covered rattan sun beds. Use of the area requires a fee, which ranges from $5 to $30, depending on which piece of furniture is being used and how long it's needed. The Solarium overlooks Divina's water slide.
The atrium, with its gorgeous crystal-lined staircase, is where you'll find the most answers to any questions you might have. Guest Services has two desks on Deck 5, and there are also kiosks where you can register your credit card (unlike on most cruise ships, you wait until you board the ship to load up your keycard with funds). Art sales and auctions are also held in the atrium, and it's the spot to take photos on gala night.
Also within the atrium on Deck 5, you'll find the Cybercafe with 10 computers and a printer. To use it, you'll need an internet package; MSC now has three. The Social package gives you access to social networks and chat apps, for one device. You can post photos but not audio or video content. The Surfer package gives you access to social networks, chat apps, email and web browsing, with standard bandwidth, on two devices. The Streamer package provides full internet access for up to four devices. Overall, we found the Wi-Fi wonky in our cabin, particularly during high volume times in the morning and after returning from shore excursions. We also hated the fact that the system automatically timed you out after a certain amount of time. It was a somewhat frustrating experience.
Go up a level to Deck 6 to find Divina's excursion desk. Divina offers hundreds of shore excursions, including customizable excursions for a fee. The future cruise desk is also here, near the Silver Lounge. The Photo Shop is up one floor on Deck 7.
Divina has a number of shops onboard. The logowear store is located on Deck 7, within the atrium. Other stores include a perfume shop in the atrium, a duty-free liquor store, a jewellery store and a resort clothing store (the latter are both in the Piazza del Doge). There's also a pool gear store on Deck 14 in La Sirene and athletic gear is available for purchase in the spa.
The Sky & Stars library and conference room is located on Deck 16, adjacent to the Galaxy Disco. Passengers can borrow from a small selection of books (in a multitude of languages) and games.
There are no self-service laundry facilities onboard, but laundry service is available for a fee.
At nearly 20,000 square feet, Divina's Aurea Spa on Deck 14 is impressive for its sheer size. It's also a serene space decorated in neutral colours and with natural stone and wood.
The spa menu has an unusually large menu of massages, body treatments, facials and procedures, including some massages we'd never heard of before (candle massage, anyone?) Most of the technicians are Balinese, keeping with the spa's theme. We tried both a Bali influenced body treatment and a wrinkle-defying facial; in one case, we went through a sales pitch while in the other, we didn't. (Both treatments were excellent and relaxing, by the way). A standard 55-minute Bali massage costs $126. There are legions of specials available on port days, including half off. Acupuncture and medi-spa services, such as Botox and fillers are also available.
A beauty salon is available for styling, haircuts, manicures, pedicures, waxing and other treatments. A spa manicure is $49 and a pedicure is $65, but again, discounts are often available.
The spa also has a smoothie bar where wellness drinks and smoothies are centred on colours. Orange, for example, is considered "purifying" and smoothies include carrot and orange, for clear skin, or papaya and mango. Most cost around $4.75.
The Aurea Spa also features a thermal suite, which is available via a daily or weekly pass. Access includes the use of two aromatherapy saunas and one steam room for each gender (each space is segregated, as use is European style -- meaning your neighbour may not be wearing a bathing suit). If you want to use a robe, bring it from your room; they aren't provided in the lockers. The space also has lovely rattan loungers in front of vast windows, allowing relaxing views. A daily pass is $20 per person or $30 per couple; weekly passes are $70 per person or $100 for a couple.
Immediately adjacent to the spa on Deck 14, the fitness facility is extraordinarily large and well equipped. Even when it's busy, it isn't crowded. It features cardio equipment like treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical trainers, as well as a selection of free weights and numerous weight machines. All cardio equipment tracks distance in mileage, but free weights are in kilograms, so come armed with a good sense of the metric system. A small room is available for yoga, aerobics, Pilates and Zumba classes (each for $10 per class). Aqua Cycling is also offered onboard in the pools for a $15 fee.
While a "Power Walking Track" is listed on the Deck 15 map, it's not actually a well-defined track. It's usually overtaken by sun loungers, so those who want to get in a power walk or jog should plan to take advantage of the space at nonpeak times (before sunrise or during dinner, for example).
As might be expected, Divina's dining comes with a Continental flair. MSC has gone out of its way to add American standards such as hot dogs and hamburgers to its buffets, but you're better off choosing European favourites. The pizza throughout the ship is delicious; while the Eataly pies are particularly authentic, the buffet version is also tasty and even comes in a breakfast version, topped with an egg.
Speaking of Eataly: We'd come back on Divina again, just to eat in the three restaurants that fall under its umbrella. While the Eataly steakhouse was sublime and the pizza addictive, it was Ristorante Italia that blew us away. The a la carte Italian menu is sophisticated, and the execution sublime. The wine list here is primarily Italian, as you'd expect, and the service beyond knowledgeable. It's by far one of our favourite speciality restaurants at sea. We also enjoyed our wine pairing meal at the strangely under-promoted Galaxy Disco Restaurant.
In the main dining room, we saw a significant improvement from the first time we were onboard -- thanks to a subtle tweaking of the menus and recipes. Pasta that was once overcooked and under-seasoned is now al dente and delightfully flavorful. Soups and desserts were delicious, as always. (One small gripe we have: Fresh black pepper is not offered, which we found highly unusual.) We also enjoyed the staff who were happy to accommodate seating requests and dietary issues; vegetarian and gluten-free meals are available in all venues. Keep in mind that portions are European sized, but if you want more of any course, just ask. The meal pace can also seem slow to Americans, but the entertainment offerings are paced accordingly so you never feel like you're missing out if you linger over dinner.
Black Crab (Decks 5 and 6): The larger of Divina's two main dining rooms, Black Crab is decorated in black, gold and purple with marble touches throughout. There are numerous tables for two, as well as plenty of seats with views.
Villa Rossa (Deck 6): The second main dining room, Villa Rossa, with its gold, black and red colour scheme, has sweeping panoramic views from Divina's aft.
Both restaurants feature the same menus and hours. Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., lunch from noon to 2 p.m. and dinner at two set seating times -- 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. -- though times vary occasionally. All passengers are assigned either early or late dinner. Waiter-served meals are available every day, including when the ship is in port, and is a popular option among the international clientele.
Breakfast begins with waiter-offered pastries. Menu items include kippers and smoked salmon, as well as eggs prepared any way, breakfast meats (yes, there's American-style crispy bacon), waffles and pancakes.
Lunch has a choice of brunch offerings, appetizers, soups, pasta, entrees and dessert. The menu includes eggs Benedict, shrimp cocktail, chicken noodle soup, choose your own pasta, fish and chips, vegetable curry, French fries (trans-fat free), soup and salad combos and desserts such as make your own sundae, cheesecake and chocolate cake. There's also an Express Lunch where you're guaranteed to get in and out within 30 minutes.
Dinner consists of five courses: starter, soup or salad, pasta, entree and dessert. Healthy options are identified on the menu each night, complete with calorie, fat and protein breakdowns, and every menu has vegetarian selections. Those with specific dietary restrictions should notify the line when they book. MSC recommends they follow up with the maitre d' upon check-in.
A sample menu could include a choice of shrimp cocktail or zucchini mille-feuille for appetizers; followed by fire-roasted tomato soup, New England clam chowder or chilled rhubarb soup or spinach salad. Entrees might include fettuccine Alfredo, maccheroni alla boscaiola, lime and creole-spiced blackened hoki fish, dijon and herb-crusted rack of lamb, cacao-dusted pork tenderloin served with red bliss potatoes and grilled asparagus or a fried vegetable wrap. Desserts could include cannoli, ice cream, a cheese plate, molten chocolate cake or cheesecake.
There's an "always available" dinner menu, as well, with fresh fruit, Caesar salad, pasta with marinara sauce, pan-seared salmon, broiled chicken breast and grilled beef striploin.
Calumet and Manitou Buffets (Deck 14): Manitou and Calumet, located on Deck 14, are Divina's casual buffet options. The two adjoin, essentially forming one mammoth buffet area serving the same items; there's a handy map that gives you the full picture of where everything is. Seating is either at tables (mostly for four or larger), high tables or bars.
All in all, we found the buffet to be crowded but to have plenty of tasty options. Servers were quick to clear away plates, and we didn't see the piles of dirty dishes that we've experienced on other lines. Hot foods were piping hot, as was the coffee, and cool items were kept cool. Because of the international crowd, your fellow passengers might not be as clued in to the tradition of queueing, so bring your patience.
At breakfast, served from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., diners can choose from standard breakfast fare, such as eggs, bacon, pancakes and toast. There's also a huge cheese selection, available all day, and European staples like beans, bangers and muesli. Early risers can grab a continental breakfast from 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., and those who show up from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. can also get a continental breakfast. While there is no egg station within the buffet, there's a cart for made-to-order omelettes outside at the Aqua Park.
For lunch, from noon to 4 p.m., options include burgers, fries, stir-fry and a carving station. The carving station routinely offers the best protein option; for example, chefs carved a whole, fresh turkey during one lunch. And, of course, there's plenty of pasta; up here, we found it al dente and tasty.
The buffet includes a pizzeria, open from noon to 4:30 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Pizza options include the standards (Margherita or cheese) and some unusual options (frankfurter). Divina offers an afternoon buffet, with limited options that include fruit, cheese and salad, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and a make-your-own-sandwich bar is open from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and again from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Dinner, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., includes more pasta, a carving station and some tasty curry options that are quite flavorful; try the lentils.
Top Sail Lounge (Deck 15): The Yacht Club Lounge has buffet snacks throughout the day, but is only open to Yacht Club passengers. In the morning, you'll find gravlax, cereal, yoghurt and rolls, as well as delicious sweets and pastries. At lunch and through the afternoon until Happy Hour, this changes to light bites and canapes. A pianist plays in the evening. This space has sweeping views, and is an absolutely civilized place to read or have a drink.
Le Muse (Deck 15): The Yacht Club's restaurant is a jewel box of a space. Oddly, it's not within the Yacht Club complex, but on the other side of the ship, near the Garden Bar and pool; thick orange curtains shield patrons from the view of sunbathers.
The restaurant provides full-service breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the morning, you'll find waffles, pancakes, eggs Benedict, breakfast meats, eggs and omelettes made to order. Lunch has a choice of soups and salads, sandwiches and entrees such as fish and chips or seafood tagliatelle. Dinner might have snapper ceviche or escargot as appetizers; roasted sweet pepper and mozzarella soup; and risotto with herb emulsion as pasta. Entrees on gala night were roasted cold-water lobster tail, chateaubriand with truffle-Madeira reduction and Mexican vegetable tacos.
The dinner menu also has a healthy section where calorie counts and nutritional breakdowns are given. Sample dishes are amberjack tartare, rotisserie chicken and strawberry mousse. There is also an "available anytime" menu with Caesar salad, French onion soup, penne pasta in tomato basil sauce, skillet-fried Norwegian salmon, broiled chicken breast and tournedos of beef tenderloin.
The menus in Le Muse may appear to look like those in the main dining room, but the execution is on an entirely different level. Our pasta at lunch was cooked perfectly, as were all the dishes at dinner. Service is superb and -- you get fresh black pepper. The tables are much further apart than in the Black Crab or Villa Rossa, and the portions even seem bigger.
One Pool Bar and Grill (Deck 18): The Yacht Club's pool bar is perhaps the best place to dine al fresco. With plenty of tables and umbrella shade, the grill offers breakfast options such as made-to-order omelettes; pasta, a salad bar and light choices like chicken in green curry at lunch; and canapes in the afternoon. Service there is extraordinarily friendly.
Snacks: Croissants are served starting at 6:30 a.m. at both the Divina Bar on Deck 5 (gluten-free versions) and Caffe Italia on Deck 7 (regular). Self-service soft ice cream is available daily from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Aqua Park on Deck 14. At night, free popcorn is served in small bags that you can eat in front of the big screen, or just take as a snack.
Room Service: A continental room service breakfast is available; you'll find the menu on a door hanger that you place outside your cabin the night before. Choices include cereals, pastries, yoghurt and muesli, fruits and juices. Ours arrived a half-hour earlier than we requested.
A full-service room service menu with sandwiches, cheese plates and salads is available 24 hours a day. There's a $3.50 charge between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Our mid-afternoon order came quickly.
Eataly Steakhouse (Deck 7); a la carte: Entering the Eataly steakhouse, we were a little taken aback by the modern and cheerful decor; you just don't expect a steakhouse to look like a well-lit cafeteria. Still, it's the same Eataly experience you find at the Manzo restaurant section of the Eataly food emporiums in New York and Chicago and it's mimicked here. Don't let the clear chairs fool you; a meal here is a real treat. Outstanding appetizers included the prosciutto plate ($12) and the Caesar salad ($8.50). Our seafood pasta was perfectly al dente ($8.50) and the tenderloin ($25), served with a choice of sauces, was melt in your mouth delicious. Finish with bomboloni, Italy's version of beignets ($4.90).
Ristorante Italia (Deck 7); a la carte: The second part of the three-pronged Eataly experience is just next door, in a quiet and well-decorated space that's perfect for date night or a leisurely lunch. Seating here is limited to a handful of tables so reservations are a must. This is where we found the best dining of our cruise; really, if you're a foodie, it can't be missed as the choices are yards beyond what you find elsewhere on the ship.
All meals here start with a complimentary glass of prosecco, and it just gets better from there. The tuna tartare came heaping and well-seasoned, and the roast rock octopus came perfectly cooked on a bed of cannellini bean puree. The pasta courses were the standout items on the ship; don't miss the handmade tortello, filled with pesto and served with mashed potatoes and green beans (although our companion's pumpkin gnocchi, topped with a duck ragu, was also incredible). Both fish dishes on the menu -- lettuce-wrapped grilled grouper and panko-covered amberjack with an orange preserve -- were outstanding. Prices range from $8 for appetizers and pastas to $12–$20 for entrees. Prix fixe menus are also available, either with wine pairings ($59) or without ($35). We would sail on Divina again just to have another meal here.
La Cantina di Bacco (Deck 7); a la carte: Open for lunch and dinner, Divina's wine bar also serves as its pizza kitchen, where you can order Eataly pizza. The menu of options is wide-ranging but all feature crust that tastes like it just came from Naples. Seriously addicting and -- even better -- you can order it via room service between 8 p.m. and midnight. Eataly pizzas range from $8 to $13. If you have a group, go for the one-meter pizza ($21).
Sports Bar (Deck 7); a la carte: Billed as the American restaurant, the Sports Bar serves food that goes well with watching the game -- in other words, fried and unhealthy. Options include buffalo chicken wings ($7), a BBQ bacon cheddar burger ($7) or an artery-clogging sampler plate with mozzarella sticks, onion rings, chicken nuggets, coconut shrimp and wings ($12).
Piazza del Doge (Deck 7); a la carte: Gelato is sold at the Piazza del Doge on Deck 7. A small cup costs $2. We found it refreshing, although of surprisingly average quality. Piazza del Doge also has sweets and cupcakes, ranging from 60 cents to $2.50. (You can also get gelato at the Tritone Bar on Deck 14 in the Aqua Park.)
Galaxy Disco Restaurant (Deck 16); a la carte or prix fixe ($25, $35 and $61): We admit that we didn't know what to expect at this restaurant, billed as "trendy," up in the Galaxy Disco. But it turned out to be one of the best seats in the house, particularly at sunset. The space, high atop the ship, has wall-to-wall windows and light alternative music plays in the background. The menu is Mediterranean fusion. Items can be ordered a la carte, or as part of three prix fixe options.
We went with Galaxy, the seven-course wine pairing meal ($61). While some of the wines were fairly pedestrian -- Kendall Jackson, Chateau St. Michelle -- the Italian offerings were downright exciting. Dishes included amberjack sushi and marinated anchovies in a soy lime dip; seared diver scallops with porcini mushrooms and fried leeks; fregola sarda -- Sardinian pasta pearls with clams, cherry tomatoes and tuna roe; tagliolini with lobster; turbot mille-feuille; tournedos of Angus beef with caramelized chicory leaves and port wine reduction; and molten chocolate cake with vanilla sauce. The entire experience took two hours, so don't order that menu unless you're prepared to spend some time with it.
A la carte appetizers and pastas range from $7.50 to $9. Entrees are $12 to $20. The three-course prix fixe meal is $25 and the five-course version is $35 (neither of these come with wine).
Nutella Cart (Deck 14); a la carte: A small Nutella cart near the Aqua Park encourages passengers to give into their sweet cravings. A crepe costs $3.90 and there are sometimes two-for-one specials.
Decorated in maroon and blue, with gold accents, Divina's cabins are well-designed and feel surprisingly roomy. We found the beds very comfy and reports in Cruise Critic reviews about hard pillows a little exaggerated. Though room stewards do not create fun towel animals, they do promptly service the rooms. A small light that comes on when you insert your keycard into a power slot alerts the crew that the room is occupied.
(One note on MSC's booking system: Cabins are booked in classes that come with varying inclusions; all higher classes include the amenities of the lower ones as well. Bella class has interior, ocean-view and balcony cabins and doesn't come with any perks. This also means room service is not available in these rooms. Fantastica class includes slightly better-placed interior, ocean-view and balcony cabins, as well as room service, a 12-voucher drink package and children's activities in the kids club. Aurea class balcony rooms and suites are near the spa and include priority embarkation, a full drink package, solarium access, a spa package and use of the Thermal Suite.
All standard cabins have two twin beds that convert to a queen, a small sitting area with a sofa (in many cabins, this is a pull-out), and a vanity. The flat-screen TVs are small, and can be used to watch on-demand movies (for a fee) and a handful of channels in a variety of languages. Americans will be pleased to see CNN while there's BBC for Brits. Outlets, both U.S. and European, are situated on the vanity (and not particularly close to the bed). All cabins on Divina are nonsmoking.
All cabins, even interior rooms, have enough shelves and hanger space. Suitcases fit under the bed. There are also two nightstands for further storage. Balcony cabins and suites have mini-bars. Orange beach towels are in your room and can be used both at the onboard pools and on shore, but if you lose it, there's a $20 fee.
Bathrooms feature glass showers with shampoo and gel dispensers; there is no conditioner or bar soap, so bring your own. The bathroom also features a handy dandy bottle opener. Hair dryers are located within the vanity in the main cabin area. All cabins come with bathrobes.
Interior: Divina's 405 inside cabins range from 140 to 258 square feet; 13 of those are wheelchair accessible and are 222 square feet. In most cabins, the beds face the door, which makes them feel roomier.
Oceanview: Divina's 115 ocean-view cabins range from 120 to 215 square feet. Two of the ocean-view cabins are wheelchair accessible and 306 square feet.
Balcony: The ship's 1,044 balcony cabins range from 182 to 317 square feet, including the verandas. Balconies measure between 34 and 124 square feet. (Those seeking the 29 cabins with 124-square-foot balconies should look for categories 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12). Within the balcony category, 28 cabins are wheelchair accessible (345 to 489 square feet with 61- to 99-square-foot verandas). Two fabric chairs and a low fabric table are included on each balcony.
Suite: The ship has 28 suites (some with a balcony and some with a panoramic sealed window). These rooms are configured into two spaces, making them true suites, and they range in size from 226 to 505 square feet.
Yacht Club: What really sets MSC apart is its Yacht Club, a ship-within-a-ship concept that provides a level of exclusivity to passengers booked there. On Divina, the Yacht Club is located on Decks 15, 16 and 18 aft. Yacht Club passengers have access to a 24-hour concierge and butler services, as well as three places to eat. Top Sail, the Yacht Club's lounge, provides passengers complimentary drinks, snacks and desserts throughout the day and turns into a lovely place for cocktails in the evening, complete with piano player. Yacht Club passengers also get complimentary in-suite mini-bars, 24-hour room service (late-night fees are waived) and select wines, spirits, beers and soft drinks in all bars throughout the ship (previously, free drinks were limited to Yacht Club venues), as well as priority check-in and debarkation. Each passenger has a private entrance to Aurea Spa and private access to Le Muse restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Our favourite feature of the Yacht Club, though, might be the One Pool Bar and Grill, a private spot tucked away on Deck 18 aft. The space is quiet, with plenty of rattan loungers for sunning around a small pool and two hot tubs. The area includes a small grill with breakfast options such as made-to-order omelettes, lunch choices such as a pasta station and salad bar and evening canapes. Service there is extraordinarily friendly.
All Yacht Club suites, decorated in browns and mauves as well as marble, feature walk-in closets, and tub-and-shower combos. Passengers also get slippers, in addition to the bathrobes that all Divina passengers get. We loved the comfy memory foam mattresses and pillow menu. The Yacht Club offers 69 Deluxe Suites, ranging from 295 to 344 square feet, including 61-square-foot verandas. Two of these suites are wheelchair accessible (356 square feet plus 39-square-foot verandas). Suites in this category feature small living areas. Two Royal Suites are 390 square feet each and feature 172-square-foot verandas (562 square feet total). These suites are not wheelchair accessible. They feature separate master bedrooms and sizable living areas. Sophia Loren, godmother to Divina -- and all ships in MCS's fleet -- designed one of the Royal Suites. It's not tough to figure out which one; the suite is bold, with punches of red throughout plus black-and-white photos of the actress from movies and appearances throughout her career.
Three Executive and Family Suites are 462 to 547 square feet apiece. Each suite in this category has a separate master bedroom and a comfortable living area. They can each accommodate as many as four people. While they are located on Deck 12, passengers still have access to the Yacht Club via the main lobby on Deck 15. These suites don't have balconies and are not wheelchair accessible.
Family: Divina has 90 Super Family Staterooms, which are composed of two connecting triple balcony cabins, giving families two bathrooms and two balconies. They are the only cabins onboard with two bathrooms. It can fit six people, and is priced per oversized stateroom, regardless of how many people use it.
There are 250 cabins, across all categories, with foldout sofas to accommodate children or a third adult.