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ON THE CASE: Does MSC Cruises Have What it Takes to Compete in the US Market?

The MSC Divina is MSC Cruises first foray into the US market. The cruise line with European/Mediterranean roots has plans to expand their fleet in the US over the next few years. In the very competitive Miami/Ft. Lauderdale cruise market, how did the MSC Divina and MSC perform? I was on the ship recently and here are my thoughts.


Americans stepping onto this ship will immediately notice that at least half the passengers are international. I don’t think it vastly changed the experience, but it felt a little more “stuffy” on the ship as a larger percentage of passengers did not speak English. All the announcements were in multiple languages which made the muster drill and other events cumbersome at times and may be a turn-off for regular American cruise passengers.

The décor and look of the ship was nice. For entering its fifth year, the MSC Divina is in great shape although the carpets in the cabins are beginning to show their wear. It is not a mega-ship, but a well-built large ship that has served as a good first introduction of MSC to the US market.


Balcony Cabins at a Great Price

Balcony Cabin prices on the 7-day cruise I was on were $1,581 total including port taxes and fees. This would be the price for an interior cabin on the mega ships of MSC’s competitors. They have three different levels of balcony cabins that include different amenities (free drinks, 50% off fitness classes, etc.) The cabins were what you would expect size wise although they could use a little more storage space. If having a balcony cabin is a must, MSC is offering great value for them.


I’ve been on many different cruise ships and cruise lines and the MSC Divina had some of the best ship produced shows I’ve ever seen. This was a planned differentiator for MSC as they decided to invest heavily on their entertainment to help them stand out. The MSC Divina has won awards for being in the top 5 ships in the world for their produced shows, and I understand why.

Status Match Program

Voyagers Club is MSC’s loyalty program. They offer a status match where if you hold status with any other travel programs, they will match it to the equivalent in the Voyagers Club. For example, if you are a Platinum with Marriott, they will match you at the top-tier Black Card for Voyagers Club giving you an array of benefits on board including priority embarkation, chocolate covered strawberries in your room, robes and slippers, etc. A smart move by MSC especially to entice people who are used to getting extra status perks and don't have to start at the bottom.

Overall Service

From the wait staff to the room steward, I had pleasant interactions all around. Reception seemed to be overwhelmed at times, but every time I needed something, I was met with a smile and resolution. Spa, salon and fitness center staff were great too.


Clunky Behind the Scenes

As a travel agent I got to see MSC behind the scenes prior to the cruise and it was as described in the title…”clunky”. It was to the point that I was getting nervous for my clients’ experience on board and was glad I was going to be with them in case I needed to settle any issues. Luckily MSC does better on stage than behind the scenes, but after working with many other cruise lines, they are behind in this matter and need to fix this quickly. If they annoy and make trip planning difficult for travel agents, they’ll book their clients elsewhere.

Strange Procedures

On other cruise lines at check in, they swipe your credit card to be used on the ship. On the MSC Divina, you need to find a kiosk onboard to swipe your credit card and room card to do so. This caused lines, confusion, and impatience. The ship isn’t as technologically savvy as newer ships. If you don’t have a drink package, you need to buy a book of drink vouchers that you need to carry around with you. The vouchers were a good deal price wise, but inconvenient to carry around.

Below Average Service in Specialty Restaurants

Specialty restaurants come with a fee for the expected increase in food choice, quality and service. The service was noticeably lacking in the specialty restaurants even with only a few tables in the restaurant one night. Other cruise lines have top notch specialty restaurants and are major selling points. MSC needs to up their game in this area.


I mostly use the stairs on cruise ships and avoid elevators as much as I can. Good thing I didn’t need one on the MSC Divina! Lines were always long and elevators mostly stopped on every floor. Luckily I found a single elevator that was hidden slightly when I needed it.


I enjoyed the MSC Divina and MSC in general, but I don’t believe MSC is for everyone. If you want to sail to the Caribbean and hear steel drums being played at the pool and watch belly flop contests, you won’t enjoy this cruise line. MSC comes off as slightly dry, with a European vibe and focused more on comfort than fun.

If you want a nice and relaxing getaway, a good price on a balcony cabin, and feel a little European chic on your vacation, this is a good option. The MSC Divina is behind their mega-ship competitors in terms of technology, offerings, and innovation, but they are ahead of their competitors older classes of ships. This is why you ALWAYS book a cruise with a travel agent. Your travel agent will always get you a better deal than booking through the cruise line directly and can help you choose the right ship and experience for you.

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