MSC Divina Review

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Think Twice

Several of MSC's ships, including the Opera, Poesia, Magnifica, Melody, and Fantasia, do one-way repositioning cruises at rock-bottom prices. But hidden fees are travelers' biggest complaint (tea, coffee, and bottled water cost extra at some meals), along with grumbles about sub-par food and limited hours at the pool and restaurants. Passenger capacity: between 1,500 and 3,000 (depending on ship).

Assessments of MSC Cruises' ships, including the Divina, tend toward the ho-hum. Expert review sites such as Fodor's Travel point out that this Italian line has a distinctly European feel that may not thrill American passengers. That said, the company is keen to build its profile in North America. Starting in summer 2016, the Divina will sail exclusively from Miami to various ports in the Caribbean, including St. Maarten, Nassau, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Cozumel.

Passenger reviews of the Divina posted at sites such as Cruiseline.com are divided and less than enthusiastic overall. Reviewers talk up the value price (rates start at $54 a person for a seven-night trip) and cleanliness of the ship, but many complain about lackluster food, boring entertainment, mandatory service charges, high-priced drinks, and personnel who don't always accommodate requests. These, along with expert posts, also note a quality gap between the main dining areas and buffet (beware the fish offerings, some say) and the specialty dining facilities that come with an upcharge.

Still, the 3,500-passenger ship has its defenders. A handful asserts that the critiques are wildly overstated. The variety of available activities, such as mini golf, an infinity pool, and an aqua park, as well as the tasteful décor, certainly satisfy a good number of vacationers: 61 percent at Cruise Critic claim to have "loved" their voyage, and the editors award it 4 stars, one above the average passenger rating. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Divina tops in the MSC Cruises fleet of 13.

The Divina was buffed up in 2013 to enhance its appeal to North American passengers. Smoking was restricted to certain areas, a sports bar was added, more entertainment was scheduled, and the crew now speaks only English, as opposed to the five languages that are standard on MSC ships.

Families interested in an inexpensive cruise vacation may be willing to throw overboard the various darts aimed at the Divina. Children up to and including age 11 travel at no cost with two paying adults.

Emily Lugg

Emily Lugg is a freelance writer and writing tutor in the Writing Center at Ohio Wesleyan University. Always looking for the best investment for her family at the cheapest price, Emily uses research and consumer reviews as her sharpest tools for the savviest shopping.

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