MSC Divina Review (and Why You Need to Stay in the Yacht Club)

lisa.pngThe following post features a review of the MSC Divina from Lisa at Boscov’s Travel. Lisa is the Director of Training and Professional Development at the company’s headquarters, and has over 40 years of travel industry experience.

The MSC Divina Ship

MSC Cruises recently became one of our preferred cruise partners (they deliver great value to clients, are a reputable company and work closely offering training and support to our specialists) so I was eager to experience the cruise line. Our MSC Cruises rep, John, highly recommended the Yacht Club, a specific category of cabins. 

Here’s how MSC describes the Yacht Club:
“The epitome of elegance and luxury at sea, The MSC Yacht Club offers a cruise experience like no other. Lavishly appointed suites, exclusive 24-hour butler service and a dedicated concierge are only the start. All-inclusive private restaurant, unlimited drinks in all venues or from your minibar, complimentary beverage selection in all onboard bars and restaurants, and exclusive access to The One Pool Bar & Grill Deck and Top Sail Lounge are just some of the other privileges.”

In early May 2017, my husband, son, daughter-in-law, infant grandson, and I sailed on the MSC Divina. We took John’s advice and booked the Yacht Club by taking advantage of one of MSC’s annual promotions. Needless to say, John’s recommendation was on point and I definitely felt it to be worth the price based on the service and perks we received!

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The Divina is a very attractive, clean, well-maintained ship; we had a relaxing cruise and many times did not realize we were moving.  The Swarovski Crystal staircases are spectacular, especially at night with the lights shining on them…it looked like thousands of sparkling diamonds!  Our sailing was sold-out with a mixture of passengers from the US, Canada, Europe (especially Italians) and South America. 

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MSC Divina

Itinerary

May 6 – Miami, Florida
May 7 – At Sea
May 8 – Ocho Rios, Jamaica
May 9 – George Town, Cayman Islands
May 10 – Cozumel, Mexico
May 11 – At Sea
May 12 – Nassau, Bahamas
May 13 – Miami, Florida

Embarkation (Departure for those new to cruising)

Embarkation was a breeze, there was a separate check-in for Yacht Club guests. Because we were in the Yacht Club, we were escorted by a butler to a private lounge at the pier with cool towels, champagne, juice, and light hors d’oeuvres and cookies. We then bypassed the long lines and were taken directly to the Top Sail Lounge and Concierge on the ship to complete our check-in (we registered our credit cards and met our personal butler who explained how the Yacht Club works, etc.).

Living the Dream at the Yacht Club

Our butler escorted us immediately to our cabin and explained how the elevator system worked with our Cruise Cards. There is a separate bank of elevators at the front of the ship that works magic for Yacht Club guests. You insert your Cruise Card in a slot, push some buttons and the elevators come immediately to your floor. You can also insert your Cruise Card in a slot inside the elevator and make it an express elevator to whatever floor you want.

Our cabin, a Yacht Club Family Suite, was in the front of the ship with floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows in both rooms. The cabin was 547 sq. ft. and had a separate living room with sofa-bed, a bedroom with a vanity area and walk-in closet, a large bathroom with double vanities, a full-size tub and a separate shower with an amazing shower system (I want one of these for my house!). We had two safes, two flat-screen TV’s, two phones, a small fridge (fully stocked daily with whatever we wanted), a snack cabinet, a double closet in the living room and lots of storage space (we didn’t use it all). We also received 4 bathrobes/slippers, lots of toiletries in the bathroom, and a choice of 4 types of pillows for the beds. Travelers should be aware that most of the outlets were European (our butler brought us a couple adapters). The only two US outlets were at the vanity in the bedroom (I guess this goes back to their European roots).

The Yacht Club Facilities

Anything you would normally take care of at the Guest Services Desk could be done at the Concierge Desk outside the Top Sail Lounge for Yacht Club guests. There was a full-service bar here which also served coffee beverages plus there was always a light buffet spread throughout the day and into the evening.  

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Top Sail Lounge

The One Pool Bar & Grill on the 18th deck is exclusively for Yacht Club guests. It has a small pool, two Jacuzzis, lots of chaise lounges, a private bar and a small grill/buffet with some cooked-to-order specialties. This quiet area was never full and noisy like the main pool areas on the rest of the ship and the staff was very attentive.

Dining

We had most of our meals in the Le Muse Restaurant which is the exclusive restaurant for Yacht Club guests. For lunch we tried the One Pool Bar & Grill, the Sports Bar, the Eataly Pizza, the Main Buffet and lunch on our two excursions. I was a little anxious about having a 10 month old infant in Le Muse every evening but no worries. My grandson was great and the staff here was very welcoming…the hostess and our assistant waitress loved him and used to entertain him every time they saw him! This restaurant had a special children’s menu for different age groups including toddlers (they don’t carry commercial baby food). Luckily my grandson is starting to eat table food and they also made some special fruit smoothies for him. He enjoyed his meals very much and I don’t think he’ll want to go back to eating baby food after this trip (LOL)!

Drink Package

MSC just started offering the free drink package to Yacht Club guests for everywhere on the ship starting in April. Prior to that, you could only get free drinks in the Yacht Club area. For the IMG_0908most part this worked well, but there were a few times in the non-Yacht Club bars where we got charged for drinks. When this happened, we told the Concierge who immediately removed it from our account. They said their staff is still in a learning curve because of this new program for Yacht Club guests. This free drink package also included specialty coffee drinks and gelato (which is excellent!).

Port Service

Whenever we were in port, our butler escorted us to the gangway (the ramp connecting the port to the ship) where we were taken to the front of the line. When we returned to the ship, we would show our Cruise Card and immediately be taken to the front bypassing the long lines. We had our own entrance to the ship at most ports and priority tender tickets for Grand Cayman. We were always greeted upon our return with cold water and cool towels.

Entertainment

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Theater

We went to one show, “Pirates”, which was good…it was a mixture of singing, dancing, acrobatics, juggling and magic tricks. They were heavily promoting a Michael Jackson show which we wanted to see but they didn’t schedule it until the last night. We didn’t have enough time to see it with packing and preparing to go home. I wish they would have scheduled it earlier in the week because the previews on TV looked very good. They have a decent size Casino (non-smoking) with slot machines (mostly penny, a few $1.00) and several table games.

Disembarkation

We had a few glitches with disembarking the ship but from what I understand MSC is building a new ship terminal in Miami so hopefully once that’s completed , the process will operate more smoothly.

Overall, we had an excellent vacation on the MSC Divina and I highly recommend the MSC Cruises Yacht Club experience to my clients and colleagues. img_0907.jpg

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If you’re ready to start planning your getaway, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Travel Cheaper by Knowing When to Book: How to Get the Best Prices on Your Vacation


_0024_Melissa-Wentzel-SeamanThe following post features advice from Melissa at Boscov’s Travel within Boscov’s at Reading Mall. Melissa has been giving expert travel advice for the past 9 years with Boscov’s Travel and has almost three decades of experience in the industry (she was previously a flight attendant). She has the scoop on the best time to buy air tickets, when to book a cruise and how you can make the most of a European vacation. 

When should I book my honeymoon?
Sandals-Whitehouse-European-beach-coupleHoneymoons should be planned 6 to 9 months in advance of your wedding date. We offer a honeymoon registry which allows your guests to contribute to your honeymoon. Because vacations typically need to be paid in full at least 45-days in advance, we recommend that you plan your honeymoon early, then distribute the complimentary “Registered with” announcement cards with your engagement party and/or bridal shower.

How far in advance should I plan my destination wedding? 
Sunscapes-WeddingYou should plan at least a year in advance to secure the space you want, determine the officiant, decide if it will be a symbolic ceremony or nuptial service, and give friends and family ample time to book their trip. Some resorts allow you to book a few years in advance, so the sooner you choose the resort, the better. If air schedules have not yet been released, you can book your resort now and purchase flights at a later date. Luckily we have Honeymoon & Destination Wedding Specialists to help you to navigate every last detail.

How far in advance can I book a European vacation?

Prices for flights to Europe have been historically low in 2017. Summer is the peak for visiting Europe, so you can typically save a few dollars by booking in the late spring or early fall. Typically we recommend you book 9-months out from your departure date.

How far in advance should I book a river cruise?
Rhine_Cologne_Sunset_Twilight_014Because inventory is lower than other categories due to the small sizes of the ships that need to navigate the canals and rivers of Europe and beyond, we recommend that you book a year in advance to get the cabin and dates that you want.

How far in advance is airfare available to purchase? 
The major airlines typically release pricing 330 days in advance, but the prices are incredibly volatile. If you’re not booking for a flight near a major holiday, we recommend that you book 6 to 9-months out from your departure date. Flight prices are relatively high when they are released, then drop around the 6 to 9-month range.
If you’re planning on traveling around a holiday, expect to pay 2 to 4 times the normal rate. Demand is high during these periods as students and families typically travel during national holidays. In this case, book your trip as soon as you can.

Southwest Airlines is the exception. They release their rates in increments. Right now in April 2017, they have dates available to book 7-months out, or the beginning of November.

How early can I plan a Walt Disney World vacation?
Disney-Mine-TrainTravelers typically book Walt Disney World 6 to 9-months in advance. As of the beginning of April 2017, rates for tickets and resorts at Walt Disney World for 2018 were not yet available. There are a few options for booking Walt Disney World vacations with with us due to our Boscov’s Travel Exclusive Charter to Walt Disney World package.  If you are just booking a Walt Disney Travel Company land package (meaning tickets and resorts), you can book in the 6 to 9-month time frame then call us to see if you can take advantage of a future sale or offer through Walt Disney Travel Company.

How early should I look into booking an all-inclusive resort?
Beaches-Turks-&-Caicos-poolWe recommend booking an all-inclusive resort 6 to 9-months from your departure date. It’s also the ideal time to book air, so we can help you purchase it as a package with transfers from the airport to the resort.

How far in advance should I book an ocean cruise like Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, or MSC Cruises? 

Booking opportunities typically become available more than a year in advance. The average lead time is 6 to 9-months for booking a cruise. You may be able to get a good last minute deal if you’re flexible with the accommodations, though you may diminish the difference if you need airfare as rates typically increase for last minute bookings. If you’re driving to a local port like Manhattan, Bayonne, NJ or Baltimore, MD, a last minute booking may help you save a few bucks. Luckily, the cruise industry has changed dramatically over the past few years and almost every cruise line offers exceptional values throughout the year.

When should I plan a Disney Cruise Line cruise?
Disney-Cruise-Line-ShipDisney Cruise Line cruises are a different animal as spaces fill up relatively quickly since there are only four ships (to give you a point of reference, Royal Caribbean International has 25!) in the fleet. Since the ships sell out in advance, we recommend you book at least a year in advance. As space sells, the prices increase. As of April 2017, the 2018 schedule is available and several 2019 itineraries can also be booked.

If you’re ready to start planning your getaway, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

Is Wedding Planning Stressing You Out?

Destination Wedding and Honeymoon ImageIf you recently got engaged, you’ll love booking your Honeymoon & Destination Wedding with Boscov’s Travel!

Boscov’s Travel is your first stop to anywhere in the world.  Trust Boscov’s Travel for exceptional honeymoon and destination wedding services to fit within your budget. We are with you from the beginning of the planning process to the end (and everything in between).

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Budget Friendly, All-Inclusive Options

Honeymoon Registry

No Interest Financing Options

Your honeymoon or destination wedding may not be as expensive as you think! Let us know where you want to go, when you want to travel, and your budget! We’ll give you options and a complimentary quote.

Boscov’s Travel offers a Honeymoon Registry! We offer registry cards so your friends and family can gift you with payment towards your honeymoon! Learn more here.

The monthly payment of your honeymoon can be less than your cable bill. Use a Boscov’s credit card and receive 12 months interest free financing. Learn more here.

Need more reasons to book with Boscov’s Travel?

 

If you’re ready for your complimentary consultation with one of Boscov’s Travel Honeymoon and Destination Wedding Specialists, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

The Best Age to Take Your Child to Disney

As a Travel Specialist, I am often asked, “What is the best age to take a child to Disney?”  That is a question loaded with expectations… Though the answer is different for every family, by asking the right questions, you can figure out what works for your family.

Parents often feel overwhelmed by the Disney question… you are investing in a trip that is considered a childhood rite of passage, and you absolutely want your little ones to be engaged and cherish the experience.  So what’s the perfect age?  Assuming that there is an ultimate answer to the ‘age’ question is a trap that even I as a travel professional have fallen into.  My husband and I didn’t want to go until all our kids could ‘remember’ the trip.  We waited until the youngest was three (young and perhaps pushing it from a memory perspective).  Our oldest however was eight and while we had a wonderful time, I feel like he lost something by being asked to wait until he was eight to see this wondrous place.  Still, it was a great trip and we learned a lot.  At that point in time, we weren’t seasoned travelers with our kids and we had no concept of how they would adjust to a lot of things.  It wasn’t just Disney, we had postponed experiences and we didn’t train them well for travel in doing so.

My then eight year old never knew the wonder of seeing Mickey and believing in the magic of him…and I never got to see it either.  He is my first – fondly called my ‘practice child’ and all mistakes were and still are made on him.  I remember that first birthday party.  He turned one and we invited everyone we knew to bring things we didn’t need.  Friends and family gathered to watch him dive into a cake and guess what…he doesn’t remember that.  But I do.  If our children’s childhoods were all about what they could remember, many of our decisions would be different. A lot of their young lives are about how we remember it.  How many parents took photos of your child the first time they experienced snow, or sand or put their toes in the ocean (or tasted lemon – my personal favorite)?  We have to do some of the remembering for them and retell the experiences through our stories and pictures.  We have to prepare them for experiences by giving them experiences.  It’s a process.

That’s why you can take your children to Walt Disney World as young as you would like (and are comfortable) because we need to have vacations, even with our babies and toddlers.  Of course we may have to adjust our expectations of the trip; naps may be in order, familiar foods and snack packs are essential, and pool time is a requirement (do not underestimate the benefit of water therapy in a land as hyperkinetic as a Disney theme park).  But taking it at a slower pace does not mean it will be less enjoyable. As parents we spend all sorts of time adjusting – our schedules and yes, our vacations. We’re pros at this sort of thing.

So in answer to the question, “What is the best age to take your child to Disney?” my response is… soon, very soon.

 

Ready to experience the magic of Disney with your children? Take one of our charter flights from local airports in Reading, Wilkes-Barre, Harrisburg, or Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Learn more here.

Jennifer Fegan is a Travel Specialist at Boscov’s Travel within Boscov’s at the Camp Hill Shopping Mall. With five years’ experience in the travel industry, Jennifer has helped her family, friends and clients bring their travel dreams to life. As a mother, Jennifer has become an expert on all things Disney. Whether you’re looking to visit the happiest place on earth or set sail to a tropical paradise, Jennifer will help you to maximize your budget and make unforgettable memories for you and your family.