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Is cruising for you?

Me on the balcony of the MSC Divina

Well I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that if you’re reading this blog, you might be somewhat like me and based on my current experience I don’t think it’s for me, but read over the next few points and judge for yourself bearing in mind that my experience and opinion has only been formed by cruising on the one ship, the MSC Divina.

1. You like your personal space.

The only way you can really get any personal space on ships is to make sure you book a balcony cabin, trust me this has really saved us from going on a killing spree on this ship. The first day it was, “Wow the buffet it a bit crowded isn’t it? I’m sure people will spread out as the cruise goes on.” Now after five days, if someone gets in my way at breakfast it’s, “Get the fuck out of the way or I’ll stab you in the face with a soldering iron!” I’ve never felt so much like a piece of meat or like a cow in a corral in all my life. I’ve realised on this ship with the meals, that they probably do it on purpose. This particular ship has at least six restaurants that you have to pay additional for, so they probably think that if the experience in the buffet or the “fine dining” restaurants isn’t great you’ll pay to eat in peace. Someone should have told them, if you’re in an interior cabin (roughly half the ship) has paid $700 per person for a week on a cruise where you can get free food, they’re not going to pay $60 for a steak no matter how nice the surrounds, which just makes the fancy restaurants a waste of space. Additionally, there is basically a whole deck reserved for the “Yacht Club” including the front of the ship, so more space that the 4100 people on board can’t spread out into. I don’t know where these Yacht Club people were, because every time we looked at the camera on the bridge (where only people in the club were allowed) there was no one there.

2. You actually want to see and experience the destinations the cruise goes to

If this is you, don’t bother, especially in the Caribbean. You pull in and all there is at the port is a load of shopping, diamond dealers, a Jimmy’s Buffet’s Margarittaville with a beach you have to pay to sit on and a Harley Davidson store. If you try and move away from this area on your own, everything else looks a bit shady. Your other option is to take a cab, but chances are you’re just trying to go to the same place as everyone else and is, and like the ship it will be unforgivably crowded and it will spoil it. An example was Darren and I took a cab to the Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica, where you can actually climb the falls. The falls cascade over rocks, which is quite beautiful, or at least it would have been if there hadn’t be about 500 people all trying to climb it at once. It was really quite dangerous. The other option is to book an excursion from the ship, and while it does guarantee you will get back in time and that you will actually get to see what you want to see, again they sell far too many on the same excursions and again the whole being treated like cattle and the wonder you’ve gone to see being too crowded with people to enjoy will kill the experience you just overpaid for.

The Falls in Jamaica ruined by the hoards

3. You want to keep your faith in humanity.

If this is you, don’t do it for your own sake. I’d had enough of peoples shit before I got on the cruise, but I work in sales and I’m entitled to feel that way. This was supposed to be relaxing and take me away from that. Instead I’ve found myself in a giant game of push and shove with 4000 people with no manners. I’ve said 4000 and not 4100 as there are some nice people we’ve met aboard, all have said the same thing regarding the crowds. One example that literally just happened to us, we were in the lift and four giant fat women crowded into the already crowded lift, when we got to our floor I pushed my way through them, however Darren (who is far too nice) was left still saying excuse me as the lift departed to the next level with me watching on and laughing and him still trying to get to the front and them still not moving their fat arses. Another example, at the Mayan Ruins at Tulum (obviously with my background in archaeology this really pisses me off) there were a couple who climbed up the stairs of the main temple and went inside even though the whole area was roped off. Darren thought they were people who worked there until I pointed out that you could see the MSC numbered stickers quite clearly on their shirts…and there was no one around to stop them either. (I guess that one is on the Mexican authorities, if they had been in Egypt they would have been arrested)

4. You appreciate a nice quiet meal

Forget it, as I’ve said above the buffet is unforgivably crowded and if you go to the “fine dining” which isn’t really that at all, you have to sit at a table with strangers. Again, the only way to escape either situation is to go to one of the “additional cost” restaurants if you want to just enjoy the company of the people you are travelling with and be able to talk to them without yelling across the table or have to “camp out” in order to get a table. Additionally, if you have any sense of decorum or a weak stomach, I would avoid the buffet completely. The last thing you want to see while you’re eating is a hairy fat man, walking around in nothing but speedos.

5. You don’t like kids

I don’t like kids, (or at least badly behaved kids and irresponsible parents) and am currently stuck on board with 800 of them. There’s nothing worse than trying to eat your dinner and kids running amok and running around screaming, or getting in the lift only to find the unsupervised brat that just got out has pressed every button for every single floor. There is no adults only area on this ship so there is no escape, I actually asked at one of the cafes if I could get some cake and macaroons to go, because there was two entire tables of unsupervised children making a racket. If I’m paying additional for any kind of food, on a cruise where all meals are included I want to eat in peace. In this instance I offered to compromise and take the cake and macaroons up to the other café and eat there, but they had nothing to put the cake on so I couldn’t.

6. You’re not big on shopping

I actually like shopping, however when I’m overseas I want to buy things I can’t get at home. I don’t want to be herded into the port and into all the stores where the cruise company gets an additional commission, yes MSC I used to be tour manager I know how that works. I only paid $1500 for my balcony cabin, what makes you think I can afford diamonds and expensive jewelry for Pete’s sake? I also felt a bit like Darren and I were in the naughty club for not participating in the “shopping parties” as us and some others on our floor had “private invitations” to the last one left on our stateroom doors. Really? Do you think people are that dumb? Well clearly some people must be or they wouldn’t keep doing it.

The camera on the front of the ship, so much for yacht club

7. You just want to relax

Sounds simple doesn’t it? Sounds like a given, relaxing on a cruise ship. However, given the above factors it pretty much makes it impossible. I found myself constantly muttering to “calm down” the same way I do when I’m stressed out and on the verge of exploding when I’m at work, although at least at work I get to go home at the end of the day. Even getting a deck chair is impossible as just like in hotels, people get up at 6am and “reserve” the deck chairs with towels. We managed to get chairs once, when the ship was still in port and most people were not aboard yet. Who wants to get up at 6am to reserve a deck chair while you’re on holiday? Apart from some lip service mention about not being allowed to reserve deck chairs in the daily program the cruise company does nothing about it.

8. You don’t want to be treated like a walking wallet

I supposed this also ties in with the point about the shopping. However, it’s a bit of a sting when you see the drinks menu and how reasonable the prices are and then they tack a 15% service charge on top? What is that? 15% for someone to make my drink or pour a coke into a glass? Then additionally, there is a $12 per person per day “hotel style” service charge which is supposed to be their way of ensuring the staff get tips. So what is the 15% service fee for? Sorry guys you don’t get to charge two service fees. The service wasn’t great either, I ordered room service on the first night, the first call I made by pressing the “room service” button was just met by some rude prat yelling at me to follow the instructions properly, I then dialled “99” as it said in the program, but that just went to reception who tried room service for me which was busy. They then gave me their direct line and hung up on me. After finally placing my order, I waited an hour and it didn’t turn up. I called to chase it and they sent it up with the after-hours fee tacked on. Cue me yelling at the person who delivered it.

Little known fact! You can get the $12 per person per day fee taken off your account at the beginning of the cruise by going down to reception, which is exactly what my first order of business was. The excursions, the tipping really gets on your nerves too and the shopping stops. I’ve already paid twice what this tour is worth so I’m guaranteed not to miss the boat, I really don’t want to be pressured into lashing out more money! Can’t blame the locals too much, the cruise company probably pays them bugger all, again as a former tour manager I’m familiar with the concept. Having the round sticker with a number on it, is also like a beacon to the locals who are trying to sell you stuff, you may as well just have a sticker on that says, “Sucker”.

The atrium of the MSC Divina

All in all it was a real shame that it was so crowded, our first impressions were really good and we attempted to stay positive throughout the cruise, but by about the fifth day we’d just had it. The boat, “the Divina” was beautiful, one of the nicest ships I’ve seen, brand new and everything was shining. Our cabin was lovely, a true oasis for us in the ants nest that was the rest of the ship. The food was amazing! Some of the best I’ve had which is really impressive considering how many people they needed to feed. Again it was a shame that meal times were spoiled by hordes of people.

The bars were nice, most of the time you could actually find a bar that wasn’t too crowded and have some quiet time outside your cabin. The cocktails however, we eventually stopped buying because they weren’t made properly. Now I appreciate the generosity of putting twice as much rum in my mojito as there is supposed to be, but when you do that it’s not enjoyable and it’s not a mojito anymore, it’s just rocket fuel.

My suggestions to the team at MSC would be if they made a few really small changes this cruise could be really awesome:

  • No swimwear in the restaurants (pool bar excepted) there needs to be some sense of decorum and respect for others – most people don’t want to see some fat guy in a thong walking around the buffet while they are eating.
  • Children must be supervised at all times (especially in the lifts!) – if you want some time to yourself as a parent, there are two kids clubs on board. The ship even offers to take your kids for the entire day while you go on an excursion or go and have some adult time in port. There’s no excuse for unsupervised brats running around.
  • They need someone supervising the buffet, and its’ sad that they need that. It’s a complete waste of time of having hand sanitiser everywhere, when there’s some moron pulling out each spoon from the rack (by the part that goes in your mouth) to check if they’re all spoons, or grabbing the food with his hands and not using the utensils provided. This particular breed of moron is also of the type that thinks he doesn’t need the hand sanitiser and probably doesn’t wash his hands after using the bathroom.
  • Open up some of the other restaurants (for free meal service) at breakfast and lunch or convert at least one other restaurant to a buffet so that it’s not so crowded. The lions share of people won’t pay for a meal, when you have restaurants where the food is included in the cost of their cruise.
  • Covert some of the MSC Yacht Club only space, to an adults only space. Even if you charge a $10 USD fee to get in per day or make a package out of it people will pay it. I would have paid it for sure for a guaranteed deck chair, space in the pool and not having water kicked in my face by some kid.

All in all, I have actually had a good time for the most part. I’ve enjoyed sitting on my balcony and watching the endless horizon. I’ve enjoyed having the odd quiet coffee in the Café Italia. I enjoyed smoking reasonably priced Cuban Cigars in the traditional cigar lounge on board. I’ve enjoyed the food, god help everyone if the food had been as bad as it was in the resort we stayed at in Mexico. Darren enjoyed the F1 Simulator, that was something really unique and again it was reasonably priced. I really enjoyed unpacking my giant suitcase and putting my clothes away and still being able to wake up somewhere I’d never been before.