My Family’s MSC Cruise Adventure

Having a one-year-old, the last year has been an unforgettable string of “firsts” for my family. From Joey’s first smiles to first steps, we’ve celebrated all his big moments, and several special family milestones, too. The most recent came this winter when we flew to Miami and set sail on a seven-night Caribbean cruise. This was uncharted territory for us and I had my doubts we were ready to travel with the baby, but the invitation from MSC Cruises to check out their new ship, Divina, was too good to pass up—so we packed up and hoped for smooth sailing.

We were at sea the first two days of our voyage, which gave us plenty of time to explore the massive vessel with four pools, 18 decks, and 1,751 staterooms. Divina offers all the glitz and glam you’d expect from a ship inspired by Sophia Loren. Picture Swarovski crystal staircases, mirrors and marble surfaces galore, and rich velvet furnishings. Though Divina is flashy and formal in appearance, MSC Cruises is family-friendly (children sail free) and focused on giving even the smallest sailors the star treatment: A crew member dressed as Superman greeted Joey when we embarked, and attentive waiters at mealtime provided the much-appreciated distraction of cloth napkins expertly folded into adorable birds. In addition, Divina offers complimentary programming for little ones three and up and a cool teen space complete with a disco and waterslide. But for us, Baby Time—when we could let Joey loose in the Smurf-themed “Mini Club” as we supervised—was a highlight. His greatest thrill? The mushroom playhouse (just like Papa Smurf’s!) and slide.

My husband had a favorite spot too, the sports bar and bowling alley, where he could order a burger and catch a game. And my top pick, Aurea Spa, was—sigh—heavenly. The Balinese massage and facial was just the pampering this tired mama needed! Most of our time was spent together, though, lounging by the pool, enjoying a meal (we still talk about our steak dinner at Eataly and the pizza served up at La Cantina di Bacco is the real deal), or walking the outdoor track as Joey napped in his stroller and we sipped pina coladas, drinking in the view of endless sea and sky.

Divina made three stops along the way. At the first, Philipsburg, St. Maarten, we stayed close to port and explored alone, marveling at the crystal-clear aquamarine water. The next day in San Juan, Puerto Rico, we hopped on a bus tour, which was the perfect mix of sightseeing and leisure. We loved Old San Juan’s Spanish architecture and darling cobblestone streets, and the panoramic views from the historic San Cristobal Fortress. Our final stop, Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, was a slice of paradise. We spent the day alternating between the shade of our clamshell and the water’s edge, where Joey had a blast splashing in the surf. This was our last day and it was the icing on the cake.

Our MSC cruise was the perfect rookie trip for my family. It was a fun, relaxing escape—another sweet “first” we will remember fondly, just like those smiles and steps.

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