MSC Divina Embarkation Day on my Worst Cruise Ever Out of Miami Florida 2024

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Last week I popped up a quick overview of why I don’t think anyone in the USA should ever consider booking an MSC cruise and it seems it set Facebook on fire as many users wanted to share their 2 cents about the post. I will, over the next month or so, share why almost every facet of this cruise was so disappointing. There were a few bright spots – but few and far between. Let’s dive in.

I checked in as soon as I could and found the MSC tech, vs. the recent dreamy HAL tech I enjoyed just a month before, not very user friendly. As a Diamond guest I was assuming I would have a high slot for boarding but was assigned 2:30PM. After reading a bit online on several sites we chose to ignore that and arrive shortly after 10AM with the understanding that boarding would likely not happen till after 11AM (or much later).

a city skyline with a large building

a large parking lot with many cars and cranes in the background

MSC in Miami uses the now very very old decommissioned NCL terminal. It is dark and factory like and not very welcoming to start a tropical adventure (btw did you notice the massive tarp on the roof as an example of how beat-up this place is).

a building with many parking garages

It was a stark reminder that sitting next to us was the new, bright, and gorgeous NCL terminal that I had the pleasure to visit last year about this time for a lovely cruise on the JOY.

a blue and yellow sign in a building

We had both our QR code loaded into our phones for entrance as well as paperwork out and despite that the gate guard took her time flipping and flipping and looking before finally allowing us to proceed – just why? Once through security the first area greeting you see is for Yacht club folks. They can “enjoy” a very tiny box room before being escorted up to a holding area (more on that later).

a group of people standing in a line

Arriving as early as we did there were few lines and only a few folks in front of us in the marked off Diamond line. Check-in was reasonably quick but unlike our last HAL we still had to provide just about everything to get our boarding cards. Oh and as Diamond we were assigned, not some kind of priority boarding, but GROUP 7. Just lovely!

a group of people sitting in an airport

We proceed upstairs to gloomy holding pens where MSC had blocked off an area for Yacht club but not for Diamond. As a comparison NCL, when they ran this, had areas for elites as well as Haven and then called for each group one by one vs. the “boarding card number” tickets that resulted in the same thing we see on every flight that everyone crowds the boarding area wanting to board first.

a card on a suitcase

I did manage to talk to someone who was manning the area and was told yes that Diamond would be allowed to board first after Yacht club and handicapped folks and I should stand “over there” and found that other Diamonds who had sailed with MSC to earn their status already knew this is how the process works. I guess some information is too much to ask?

a broom and a sign next to a pole

On every NCL cruise I have ever taken we always eat lite at the hotel because we know as soon as we are onboard, either in Haven or not, we can go and sit at a nice table with table cloths and outstanding food and service to launch our time onboard – yes main dining is open and waiting as soon as you can get onboard. Not with MSC and I think the sign above exemplifies what you can expect day one onboard.

a group of people sitting at tables in a restaurant

Welcome to the constant view of the buffet experience. Dull food (bland) and hordes of people from all over the world pushing eating while in line and cutting you off or simply stepping in front of you as you are ready to reach for anything – it was insane and constant day after day after day!

a plate of salad and a glass of wine

a plate of food on a table

We were early enough onboard to find a relatively quiet area in the back of the buffet area and enjoyed, well maybe not the right word, some lunch. Stuck together American cheese slices for my salad – yum? Nasty wine in a plastic cup – joy? Tough meat with destroyed beans and dry mashed potatoes – Bon Appétit?

Another odd thing about MSC is how they manage guest rooms. With NCL they block off access to the guest room hallways until the staff are finished preparing the rooms. Not so with MSC and you have guests wandering the hallways impeding and slowing down what is already a slow process to begin with as our room was not ready to be occupied until nearly 4:30PM (they did announce rooms were ready at 2PM but that was a joke as clearly most were not finished).

a couch and stools in a room

We found a bar and sat to try to enjoy a quiet drink while waiting for our cabin to be finished (drinking another of the very low quality red wine because the only bar with good wine onboard – other than Yacht Club – was closed till 5PM). After a little while a group from who knows were in the world sat down next to us and were so loud (and on speaker phone facetime calls) that we had to get up and move as we would have to yell to hear each other speak!

The only bright spot of the first day was “Marvin” from the specialty steak restaurant who was walking by when we flagged him down to ask about where to go to book our Diamond “free” night at his restaurant. He was kind and stopped and took the time and said he would be happy to help us book our night and even gave us a confirmation slip. Thank you for this, Marvin so much!

a cruise ship in the water

We were so late being able to get to our rooms that we decided to just go to dinner (that did not go well) the first night and enjoy the rain soaked sail away in the clothes we started the day in. I really had high hopes for this cruise but embarkation day was truly a snapshot of just how bad the cruise would be. This first day really was everything folks tell me when they say THIS is the reason I hate cruising and I would agree. – René

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René de Lambert
René de Lamberthttp://www.FrequentFloaters.com
René de Lambert has been a travel blogger for over 10 years covering the travel industry - including cruising.

18 COMMENTS

  1. I wasn’t there to witness a few pretty glaring service lapses. Nonetheless it seems like some of your gripes are self inflicted. As an example you arrived well before you were scheduled but then complain about resulting problems. You repeatedly stress your hyper-elite status but then admit that it’s not the best but still seem to expect the royal treatment. My frequent cruising days are long past so I have no current knowledge of elite benefits on one cruise line versus another but some (not all) of the things you’re saying come across as exceedingly entitled. You do you but if you want your issues to resonate with more people, maybe tone down the highbrow complaints a little.

    • @Christian – As you say you were not there but I will share, post by post, all the service issues. Next, if someone has spent thousands and thousands of dollars (maybe 10s of thousands as I have to reach NCL Diamond status), I would expect to be rewarded for my spending if a company wants me to keep spending and cruising with them. I spoke with a number of MSC Diamonds and they all say Diamonds status means nothing to the company. As to arriving early – clearly Diamonds are allowed to board right after Yacht club i.e. very early and that is why I arrived when I did. If MSC cared about Diamonds they would have adjusted my boarding time accordingly.

        • @Christian – One, because they are the only cruise line that offers a status match (up to top level) and I wanted to test them vs. other cruise lines. Next, the itinerary was one that I really wanted to try i.e. the stops were all ones I wanted to visit. Then the timing was perfect for me to both get away from cold Indiana (it his -25* wind chill while gone btw) and I could take the time to cruise. The reviews of MSC were so mixed online I wanted to see for myself because before this cruise I had never ever had a really “bad” cruise (sure some were not stunners but still fun) and never had a cruise I almost got off and flew home rather than stay onboard!

      • So why are all those people you spoke to paid Diamonds (not comp as in your case) on MSC? I’m curious why they keep coming back to the cruise line.

        • @Darin – I could not possibly tell you why they would ever spend another dime on MSC ever again. I also did not quiz them how they got MSC Diamond status but it seemed like they cruised MSC often and it made my head hurt why. The only think I could think of is either A) only in Yacht Club that is very different experience or B) to go to MSC private island as that is a jewel and most impressive.

  2. Great review. To quote a Joni Mitchel “you dont know what you’ve got til its gone”. Good for you to give it a try . Now we know what to avoid.
    Thanks

  3. Interesting to get your perspective on MSC. I have had a couple of friends sail with them as Yacht Club with no apparent issues. We almost sailed with them on the inaugural voyage of World Europa, but thought doing a long voyage with MSC as a first experience might be a big mistake and settled instead on HAL’s Grand Africa cruise.

  4. I took a Transatlantic cruise with them last May. It was amazingly affordable even though I’d never sailed with them before. I experienced was better than yours, but there were still a lot of problems. To get to the chase, my conclusion was that I would consider sailing with them again if the price was very attractive in the itinerary was excellent. Otherwise, I will stay away. Food in the MDR and buffet was mediocre except they do have pretty good pizza. Near voyage end they ran out of a LOT of buffet items for several days. I changed cabins on a back-to-back cruise and it was badly handled. Dining assignments on the back to back were changed with no warning and I had to be separated in the MDR from a companion in the first segment and put onto an overcrowded table that had more chairs than capacity and was mostly filled with an extended family who spoke no English. The specialty extra charge steakhouse was expensive but excellent and I paid for a special combined steak and seafood meal that was seriously a candidate for the finest meal of my life! I still would only return in an unusual combination of great price and good itinerary.

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