I’ve long had a misconception about cruise dining. I envisioned one long buffet after another, so I was pleasantly surprised on my first cruise aboard the MSC Divina to find not only restaurants that served sit-down meals for lunch and dinner as part of our package, but also specialty restaurants that offer a change of pace from the normal cruise buffet food.
At the beginning of the cruise, I tried my best to rein in what my familyate and encouraged healthy choices. But as time progressed, I realized that as fantastical as the cruise was, so was the way we were eating for seven days of our lives and I eased up on what my kids were eating. To appease my worries, we agreed on having one sweet option a day, to lay off sugar drinks and to opt for high protein meals. Seriously, who eats like that in real life? Why not enjoy ourselves? However, I will add that for people watching their weight, MSC menus do offer alternative options so it is possible not to overeat on one of their cruises. After all, the line promotes the #MedWayOfLife and part of that is having a healthy existence.
Buffet breakfast is served from 6:30-10 am and offers just about everything you and your family could want. It was definitely the most crowded meal of the day, as it’s the only place to go in the morning for breakfast, but it’s a large room and it’s always possible to find seating with a view of the ocean by the window or take your food out to the deck for sun and the views. The buffet is open 20 hours a day for lunch, a snack or midnight feast.
There are more options for lunch. If you’re into buffets, the Buffet Calumet and Manituris is open all afternoon. We were pleased to find an ethnic section and traditional offerings, as well as a full salad bar. For more controlled portions and refinery with a sit down meal, we went to the Villa Rossa. Seating times were more limited (12-2), but when time is of no issue, it was well worth it. The food during this meal was not dissimilar to the evening meals and we had a choice of appetizers, entrees and desserts. On one given day, my daughter ordered Gnocchi and it was truly out of this world.
The ship has two main dining rooms. Both have two seatings (6:30 or 9:00 pm) for dinner with assigned tables. The Villa Rossa is on deck 6 and features panoramic views of the sea and seating for 766 diners. The Black Crab Restaurant spans decks 6 and 7 and is located mid-ship. Dinner is multiple courses and served at a leisurely pace in both restaurants. The menus are varied, with an emphasis on Mediterranean and North American dishes.
We had a reserved table each night in the Villa Rossa at 6pm. Two waiters were assigned to our table, both from Indonesia and both very well mannered and attentive. The boat has a dress code in the evening -no jeans or shorts. As a mom who works and has to get food on the table regularly, it was a treat to have full sit-down meals with polite service. We always had an option of fish, meat or pasta, and always a vegetarian option, which I ordered daily an appreciated. Wine and beer was included with evening meals. The kids’ menu also offered alternatives to the typical kid’s dishes, or they could order off our menus. Since it is an Italian line, pasta dishes are many, but so were the fish, chicken and steak options. The restaurant put an emphasis on delicious desserts. On special nights, entire cakes were made and brought out as a celebration – once for Gala night (Tiramisu) and once for our last night on the ship (Baked Alaska).
The Divina hosts Eataly Steakhouse, a specialty restaurant, which we were happy to experience during a date night without our children. The popular Turin-based chain was founded by Oscar Farinette in 2007 and opened in the U.S. in 2010 in partnership with celebrity chefs Marion Batali and Lidia and Joe Bastianich. Eataly now has 16 locations around the world. It’s an upscale Italian culinary experience and we were treated with exceptional wine, exquisite fish and steak, the best salads on the ship and out of this world cannoli for dessert. The portions are generous and the décor is simple yet elegant. White tablecloth, white flowers, wooden floor, exposed brick walls. The bread is served in paper bags tokeep it warm with olive oil for dipping it into. The meal was just that good. Eataly serves their homemade pizza with individual toppings all day – either in the restaurant or via room service. It’s not the pizza you can get from the buffet – it’s gourmet and it’s sublime and worth the extra fee. A boutique Eataly marketplace is available for guests to purchase authentic Italian and artisan products, including olive oils, dried pastas, regional sweets and aged balsamics.
Le Muse is the private dining venue for those guests staying in the exclusive MSC Divina Yacht Club. This restaurant is on deck 15 and seats 136. We had lunch there one afternoon, seated near a glass window overlooking the Garden Pool. It’s a very sophisticated, more elegant atmosphere than the main dining rooms with more upscale choices. I won’t deny its loveliness sipping a glass of wine in peace (we did not bring our kids to this meal). Our waiter hailed from Sorrento, Italy, home of MSC and his happiness and genuine love for food was a delight.
La Cantina de Bacco is a wine bar associated with Eataly and has an extensive menu produced by an association of leading Italian winemakers committed to producing high-quality wines using only sustainable farming practices. The menu offers bottles from famous wineries including Fontana Fredda and Mirafiore. The cruise offers “The Winemaker Experience” where you can create your own custom bottle of wine and purchase anywhere from 1, 2, 3, or 12 bottles of wine or simply participate in the Boutique Winery Tasting. We sat at the wine bar one afternoon and sampled a few Italian wines and a few appetizers offered free of charge with a tasting.
Eating aboard the MSC was a unique Mediterranean culinary experienceand certainly a satisfying one for my entire family. There’s a gelato counter on the boat that must also not be missed. For a bit of Italy, this is the cruise for you.
Disclosure: Holly was provided with complimentary cruise fare and a special package to review the boat’s services with her family. However, all opinions are her own.