MSC hopes to attract more North American passengers to the Divina. // © 2014 MSC Cruises
A touch of European flair awaits passengers onboard the Divina, MSC’s first cruise ship based year-round in Miami. At a cost just shy of $1 billion, this Fantasia-class ship offers refined elegance combined with common-sense functionality.
Inspired by godmother Sophia Loren, Divina is the diva of the MSC ships, and much of the ship’s decor features movie stars on the streets of Italy in the 1950s. The atrium and MSC Yacht Club showcase one of the ship’s most unique features, a staircase decorated with Swarovski crystals. The Piazza del Dodge resembles an Italian town square complete with shops, espresso, gelato and specialty desserts surrounding a cozy seating area. Food onboard the Divina has an Italian/Mediterranean slant with a mix of American comfort foods.
While the ship has a distinctly Mediterranean feel, it also offers a family-friendly atmosphere, featuring a complimentary kids’ club with activities for cruisers ages 3-17. Kids under 11 cruise for free, and kids ages 12 to 17 cruise at a reduced rate. MSC also offers loyalty discounts and an extra 10 percent discount on back-to-back cruises of seven days or longer.
MSC continues to make adjustments to cater to North American guests. To support that effort, the cruise line hired Andrew Schlemmer as cruise director, who brings 12 years of experience with Princess Cruises to the position. Schlemmer immediately made changes such as increasing food portions and changing the seasoning and variety of culinary offerings.
One of the ship’s biggest challenges was training their staff to interact with customers to suit North American guests’ expectations. In Europe, room stewards rarely speak to guests. During my cruise, some of the staff was shy at first, but they warmed up considerably after the first couple of days.
“During the transatlantic crossing to Miami, we worked hard to train our crew to say ‘hello’ and greet our guests throughout the day,” Schlemmer explained. “I haven’t seen a company so focused on succeeding as MSC.”
MSC also made serious changes to the ship’s daily entertainment schedule. (In Europe, most guests prefer to sit by the pool rather than seek out daily activities.) The Divina now offers a variety of entertainment options. The ship’s nightly shows in the Pantheon Theater are spectacular and range from acrobatics to Broadway-inspired shows. The theater offers stadium-style seating but no bar service.
Currently 20 to 40 percent of guests on the Divina are Europeans, compared to the makeup of passengers on the Musica-class Poesia, which sailed seasonally out of Miami with a passenger demographic that was 75 percent European. MSC’s ultimate goal is to attract 75 to 90 percent North American guests to the Divina.
In order to do this, MSC continues to offer exceptional pricing and cruises of seven nights and more. A recent sale offered seven-night cruises from $399 per person, based on double occupancy. Itineraries vary for the next few months. Our 11-day cruise called in Falmouth, Jamaica; Oranjestad, Aruba; Willemstad, Curacao; Cristobal, Panama; and Cozumel, Mexico.