Once autumn’s cooler months approach, the MSC Divina makes its way to warmer points, bringing a European sophistication with a Caribbean flavour as it cruises from Miami to popular ports in the West Indies and beyond.
The MSC Divina has 1,751 staterooms and is one of 12 ships in MSC Cruises’ fleet, the fourth-largest cruise line in the world. The rooms are tastefully appointed in warm tones, many with balconies that add spaciousness and allow nature’s beauty into the cabin. The ship’s décor is accented with European marble finishes and glass elevators.
Fittingly, the MSC Divina was named in honour of the glamorous movie icon, Sophia Loren, who happens to be the godmother to MSC Cruises’ entire fleet. One can imagine the Oscar-winning actress descending the ship’s grand Swarovski crystal staircases dressed to the nines on formal dress nights. In fact, the cruise line designed an exceptional suite with the screen goddess in mind along with her input. If it’s available, guests can request her suite, number 16007. It’s decorated in rich reds and adorned with black and white photos from her remarkable career.
Other ship features include an infinity-style garden pool and an adults-only exclusive solarium. The large MSC Aurea Spa offers specialized treatments based on Balinese-style massages. Guests can select from 21 massages, 13 body treatments and eight facials. The ship also has a fitness centre and is the first cruise ship to offer guests AquaCycling classes where they can burn up to 800 calories an hour.
The ship offers a selection of dining rooms, a grand buffet and a number of specialty restaurants. Kosher meals can be pre-ordered.
The MSC Divina is extremely family friendly. Kids under 11 sail free. Attracting guests from all over, the activities geared to children of all ages allow them to interact with others from foreign lands, while moms and dads mingle at the pool. Activities on offer include DoRéMi-themed language courses, where youngsters can learn basic sentences in six different languages and then try them out on the international crew.
Also on board are a number of lounge entertainments and award-winning variety shows in the ship’s Pantheon Theatre, the largest theatre at sea, seating 1,600 audience members.
For a recent seven-night cruise, the MSC Divina left Miami and arrived 2-1/2 days later in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The next day, cruisers found themselves in San Juan, Puerto Rico, followed by a day at sea before landing on the shores of Nassau, the capital of the Island of Providence in the Bahamas, ending the next morning back in Miami.
St. Thomas has breathtaking beaches, including Magens Bay, which is considered one of the world’s top 10 beaches.
But the Virgin Islands are also rich in culture. Prior to becoming a U.S. Commonwealth, they were governed by Spain, France, England, Holland and Denmark. A stroll through the downtown core of the capital, Charlotte Amalie, can take you to Fort Christian, Government House and the second-oldest temple in the Western Hemisphere, the St. Thomas Synagogue, which was built in 1833 by Sephardi Jews.
Other popular attractions include Paradise Point Tramway, Estate St. Peter Greathouse and Botanical Gardens, the site of many Jewish weddings. Mountain Top and Coral World are perfect for families, with their interactive exhibits including the chance to feed tropical birds.
Puerto Rico is also a U.S. commonwealth like the Virgin Islands. Both islands have warm breezes, lush vegetation, sunny skies and pristine waters, but the flavour of the island couldn’t be more different. Whereas St. Thomas offers a Caribbean charm, San Juan has an unmistakable Hispanic vibe. Old San Juan’s 16th- and 17th-century Spanish colonial architecture includes blue cobblestone roads and interesting museums and art galleries. Be sure to visit the historic San Cristobal Fortress overlooking the old city.
Providence Island is a former British colony. Nassau offers plenty, including two 18th-century forts, Fort Charlotte and Fort Fincastle, the Straw Market and Bay Street shops, the Queen’s staircase, hand-carved out of limestone by slaves, and John Watling’s Distillery, where you can learn about rum production on this 1788 site. Edu-culture run by the very informed and animated Silbert Ferguson teaches visitors and locals alike about Bahamas’ cultural and colourful Junkanoo Festival, which runs annually from December into January. You can also enjoy Paradise Island’s Cloister Gardens and famous Atlantis Resort and Casino.