I'll begin by listing the cruise ships I've sailed on so far:
and now... MSC Divina.
This cruise line is quite different from most others in that it's very European, with a minority English-speaking clientele. Approx 10% of our fellow passengers were English, around the same again were American. The majority were Spanish, Italian and various others, making for a unique ambience.
To cope with the many languages, the entire cruise is designed around multilingualism. Everything from the menus in the main dining rooms to the Cruise Director's opening speech every night before the show involved five or more languages. It's the only way they can offer a cruise to so many nationalities but for me it absolutely doesn't work.
Having to wait for your language and listen to many you can't understand is just a waste of time, and it happened again and again, from ship announcements to even excursions.
Oh, and get ready to leave your room at 7am on the last day (more about that later).
Anther big difference for me was the staff. Firstly, for a ship of this size, there just didn't seem to be enough crew to cope. Bar queues took over five minutes on a regular basis, and drinks orders would be delivered in 10-20 mins. Customer Service queues regularly exceeded 15 people, queues for the ice cream took as long as ten minutes. These don't sound like catastrophic waits, but when you add this up each day, it somewhat spoils the cruise.
And perhaps because they were overworked, they just can across rude in general. We had some exceptions (some friendly, jokey evening waiters made a much better impressions), but in general, staff rarely smiled and quite often made you move out of the way for them. Several times in fact we were told by staff in buffet when we ordered hot drinks that we could make them ourselves.
And the cruise director was the worst I've ever seen. He was barely present, merely an announcer at evening shows, rattling off five or six language spiels and promoting the latest drinks offer etc. They should take a leaf from Carnival here, where the cruise directors are bright and omnipresent characters, welding the cruise experience together into a complete package.
The ship was a nice vessel in all fairness. It's large but not overwhelmingly so, and has some very attractive spaces including the Art Deco bar, the indoor pool area and a rather lovely Swarovski-enhanced atrium. But for the size of the vessel there just wasn't enough leisure space. Compared to the Carnival Vista and the Royal Princess (both almost equal in length and passenger numbers) the ship felt crowded. There wasn't much to do on days at rest, with all deck games requiring you to ask for equipment. The sunbeds went fast, and you'd regularly see crowds traipsing around, looking in vain for a sunbed or two. The pools suffered most, with fifty-five people counted in the rear pool area at one time. It just felt like there wasn't enough space to stretch out. The Carnival Vista made great use of the level 7 Promenade Decks, with loungers and bars - something this ship could dearly do with. I also felt there could have been more going on - there wasn't much live music, and we rarely saw pool activities except for a morning fitness class.
Everyone's biggest worry turned out to be a non-event. Food was fine. It wasn't excellent, and at time was just plain average, but it certainly wasn't bad. The buffet was hue and had fair choice, although later diners would have to face a fifty-person queue to get in. The MDR offered a three-course evening meal, with smallish portions but some nice variation (eg Mediterranean night). We had an All-Inclusive drinks package included and I will say it was pretty good - we could enjoy cocktails, spirits, coffees, ice cream, beer, sparkling wine and much more.
Excursions were noticeably cheaper than other cruise lines, and generally were quite good. We did have a few small issues such as non-English excursions staff but in general trips flowed well.
Our balcony room was actually very nice. The nicest cabin I've yet experienced at sea in all honesty. It was modern and felt spacious, with a seating area and a bathroom with a plastic shower door rather than a flimsy curtain. Charging ports were few and far between though and the TV rather small.
In all, it was a decent cruise. If I hadn't experienced other cruise lines, I'd probably be giving it an 8/10. But seeing how things are done elsewhere, it just makes me realise that MSC cuts corners and just isn't the same polished product I'm used to. It wasn't bad by a long stretch, but I don't think I would sail with MSC again. The end of our cruise was a good summary of the experience. After an evening in Palma (ship departed at 12 midnight from the port) we discovered that we had to vacate our cabin at 7am - information that was only given to us that evening, hence we returned to find the info sheet on our beds and couldn't believe what we saw. After speaking to customer services, we were told by one staff member that the rooms took three hours to clean - a complete and utter lie. There was no budging, so the alarms were set for 6:30 on our final day. Not the best way to end a cruise!
A beautiful cabin with a reasonable balcony, spacious bathroom and excellent position to avoid ship movements.