This is my review of the DC Talk Jesus Freak Cruise on the MSC Divina on July 11-15, 2017. See below!
A little rewinding to say DC Talk is a pop/rap/rock group that began in the late 80's at Liberty University by Toby McKeehan, Michael Tait and Kevin Smith. They released their self titled album in 1989. I was 10 years old and immediately became obsessed with them. I joined their fan club called The Vibe Tribe and that gave backstage to meet and greets at every concert. I have been blessed to see them more times than I can count, have always promoted their music & even performed their music in junior and senior high school and made a demo tape for a singing contest with this music. DC Talk was my life!
with DC Talk on the Change Your World Tour in 1993
To date, DC Talk has released 7 full length albums and in addition have several remix and compilation greatest hits albums. In 2000, they released an album called Intermission that signified they were taking a pause as a group. They each pursued individual music careers. In 2016, they announced a reunion cruise for July 2017. I immediately signed up for the cruise and couldn't wait to hear them perform together again!
with Toby Mac on the Solo Tour in 2001
with Toby Mac in 2014
When cruise time rolled around we decided to fly into Miami 2 days before the cruise. Miami definitely has a different vibe than Orlando or other Florida cities I have visited. We spent some time visiting tourist places and the beach. I noticed on social media that DC Talk was staying at our same hotel! Despite milling around the hotel lobby, pool and gym I never saw anyone from their group. But other people on social media somehow found them.
running on the beach in Miami the day before the cruise
Cruise Day 1 - Embarkation
When arriving at the cruise terminal at our assigned time, luggage is left with the porters and then we joined a long line to enter the terminal. After passing through the security check point I was thrilled to hear DC Talk music playing over the PA system. It's not often to go somewhere and hear their music playing! :) At check in they assigned a boarding group number, gave the cruise book and cruise ID card and took your picture. There was a bit of a waiting time until our group boarding number was called. You passed through one more security check point and then we officially stepped foot onto the Jesus Freak Cruise ship!
in the cruise terminal waiting to board the ship
We stopped at the guest services desk to answer a few questions and then started exploring the ship! It takes a while to become oriented with where everything is located. Next stop had to be the gym then out to the decks! Let's find those pools and hot tubs!
the sport court
DC Talk decals on the elevators
The ship had DC Talk decals on elevators, the floors, portholes and their (DC Talk, Toby Mac, Newsboys & Gotee Records artists') music played each day. It was amazing to be immersed in all things DC Talk!
with DC Talk road Pastor, Michael Guido
The only DC Talk meet and greet on the cruise that I am aware of was following boarding. I noticed a large gathering of people in a room with security standing outside and my heart jumped knowing this looked like a meet and greet. I ran up just as they closed the doors (my heart hit the floor). The security guys told me they just walked around asking people if they wanted to go to a meet and greet. They were a tad bit savage and would not let anyone else into the room. At his last concert in Dallas, I had told Toby Mac that I would see him on this cruise and I would not be deterred now! I patiently waited outside those doors and as soon as they opened and Toby, Michael & Kevin walked out with security I waited for him to see me. He did & immediately waved and hugged me. I asked if I may snap a pic and he said of course. He never disappoints! I thanked God for this small meet up...and it turned out to be my only one on this trip.
Toby Mac waving at me
so happy I got to see him
There was a mandatory muster drill. They have you bring the life vests from the stateroom. Do not put it on until instructed to in the drill. The cruise newsletter in your room will let you know where to go for the drill.
Next up was the Sail Away Party up on deck. It was the first time that Toby, Michael & Kevin were all on the stage together on the cruise. Everyone was so excited!
sail away party
After, I found the buffet and then went to our stateroom. After hanging out around the ship for a while it was time for dinner. We had the early dinner (5:30pm). The main dining hall waitstaff at our dinner was very rude and harsh to deal with for the entire dinner. The other table mates were really fun people but the service was so poor that we left and went to buffet. The waiter refused to refill anyone's water glasses even after multiple requests, would not help with my food allergy questions (even though I had contacted the cruise prior to sailing & spoke with guest services when boarding). The waiter even did not take an order for a member at the table and we had to go track down another waitstaff member to stop by our table to take their order (everyone else had finished eating by this point). The buffet may have been crowded but the service at least had common decency. :) We never returned to the main dining hall after that experience.
After dinner was Toby Mac's concert! It was lit as always! There was a lot of energy in the audience! His show was 1.5 hours long. I had no idea he was doing a full length concert! So thrilled!!
Toby Mac's concert
As if the day could not hold anymore DC Talk thrills they managed to add in anther one with Free At Last The Movie from the late 90's. It was the raw form of the movie that sadly somehow never found the silver screen. It was however released on DVD in 2002. I remember having the Free At Last The Movie hat, shirt and poster in the late 90's. It was such a big piece of their history. Toby, Michael and Kevin introduced the movie and even though I have seen it many times it was still a real treat to see again!
Free At Last The Movie showing
The movie started around 10:45pm and I was so hyped after the day's events that I couldn't fall asleep until after 1am! So many amazing moments to try to remember forever!
Cruise Day 2 - At Sea
The next day was at sea so basically everyone was out and about milling around. The pools and buffet were very crowded all day. There were a few things I especially wanted to attend. There was a behind the scenes chat with DC Talk tour staff and a memorabilia exhibit.
cruise book programing ads
DC Talk memorabilia
I posted short videos of the memorabilia tables on YouTube here: video 1, video 2, video 3.
behind the scenes chat with DC Talk tour staff
The Behind The Scenes chat with the DC Talk tour staff was fun and entertaining! They told a few stories or recalled fond tour memories with Toby, Michael and Kevin. Toby spoke briefly too!
Toby Mac leaving through the crowd at the behind the scenes chat
The desserts at the buffet are not food allergy friendly. But I was able to find two gelato shops that served sorbet. It is dairy free and depending on your food allergies and sensitivities can be low FODMAP based on the flavor. I selected mango and my stomach was kind to me and never gave me a problem.
mango dairy free sorbet
As we moved around the ship I ran into some old friends! I have known Jimmy Abegg since I was 16 years old. He was in the late Rich Mullins' Ragamuffin Band. He is an amazingly talented musician, painter & very kind and genuine person. It was a very unexpected treat to see him again!
with Jimmy Abegg
I also ran into John Reuben! I was on the Gotee Records' John Reuben street team in college and graduate school. I had attended many of his concerts and meet & greets. We both looked at each other when passing one another. I stopped, turned around & asked, "Excuse me, but are you John Reuben?!" He said, "I thought I recognized you!" I haven't seen him since around 2003! So fun to say hello again!
with John Reuben
You never knew who you might run into on this Jesus Freak Cruise! We bumped into Ryan Stevenson several times at the buffet, Duncan Philips (Newsboys) many times in the halls, several band members (Otto Price, DJ Maj, Dave Wyatt). I also saw a few of Toby Mac's kids running around. I saw on social media other people mentioning seeing other band members' family members.
with Otto Price AKA Sugar Bear, DC Talk's bass player
found a poster that I had in jr. high school
There was a running/walking deck but tended to be very windy. I made my own outdoor track by looping around a few decks to avoid the most windy ones! :)
ran on this deck a lot
As a fitness professional, it is difficult for me to sit still. :) Even with the gym, taking the stairs everywhere and the running/walking deck I decided to get in a body weight circuit on the balcony of our room. What not try something new, right?
designing a body weight circuit on the balcony
It was a beautiful day at sea and the gorgeous sunset at the end of the day made me smile. :)
sunset on deck
Cruise Day 3 - Nassau, Bahamas
We decided to stay on the ship when in port at Nassau in the Bahamas. We had already been through Nassau on a Disney cruise and decided to check out the ship's activities this day.
woke up to this out our window in Nassau, Bahamas
Since the previous day was overcrowded at the pools, hot tubs, sauna, gym & buffet today was the day to freely move around the ship! There were several pools (indoor and partial indoor/outdoor) and lots of hot tubs. Some of the hot tubs are private and some are next to crowded pools. We found a private one and turned on some music on the phone to create our own private pool party! :) Don't forget the sunscreen!
one of the many hot tubs
Today was THE DAY of DC Talk's concert! They had both an early and late show. You attend the one opposite of your assigned dinner time and wear a specific color of wristband to get into your assigned concert.
I thought 3 hours was a great amount of time to arrive early for the later concert. When I arrived there were already 186 people ahead of me....and that was just at one entrance. There are two theater entrances on the lower level & two entrances on the balcony level. The Jesus Freak Cruise staff was gracious enough to go through the line and write a number on your wristband to help prevent people from rushing in to cut in line when the doors opened. I was number 187 on my entrance to the theater. I arrived prepared with headphones, a fully charged phone, water bottles and snacks to last the 3 hours of waiting and through the concert. People were pretty good about holding your place in line when you dashed out for a pit stop break.
3 hours of waiting in the hall before the DC Talk concert
The DC Talk concert was iconic DC Talk! It felt amazing to hear their songs live again and to be singing along with the crowd! They performed many of their usual concert favorites. Toby Mac crowd surfed like he used to in DC Talk shows! The band and crowd all had great energy! I posted a few video clips of the live songs on YouTube here.
DC Talk in concert
Cruise Day 4 - Half Moon Cay
The next morning the beautiful view to the Half Moon Cay private island awaited everyone! We excitedly ate breakfast and took our beach bag to the meeting place at a lounge. They had everyone meet there and pick up a ticket that let your group disembark at a certain time. Our group was called right away. We disembarked the ship and filed onto a small boat that took everyone to the Half Moon Cay private island.
peeking out at the cruise ship while riding in the boat to the island
The Half Moon Cay island is a private island that cruise ships use for a day port. We left the small boat and walked through a little plaza that had a very small shop, a drink bar, restrooms, and a guest services desk. We moved past that area to find a spot on the beach. Along the beach were small brightly colored day cabanas. In front of them were lawn chairs. You could also pay for a covered lawn chair but they were sold out when we arrived at 9am.
Half Moon Cay island
Half Moon Cay island
None of my pictures have filters. The water is actually that bright blue and the sand is white! It is gorgeous! It is unbelievable how beautiful Half Moon Cay looks! It is amazing to believe this place is real!
Half Moon Cay island
Half Moon Cay island
There was a meal that was included with the day in port. It had a variety of food options. I enjoyed a veggie burger and fresh fruit (don't drink the tap water). The last boat to leave Half Moon Cay to the cruise ship was at 3:15pm. We thought we'd beat the rush and got in a long line to leave at 1:30pm. I was once again surprised at how long the line was so early in the afternoon. As you join the line at the little plaza there are feet washing stations. The boat took us back to the ship and we hit the buffet since hours of playing of the beach in the sun depletes your energy!
sunset on deck on the last night
There are so many activities to keep you busy on the cruise ship! There were other concerts sprinkled throughout the schedule but I didn't attend them so I would have time for other things. I ran on deck during Hollyn's concert. I watched the Newsboys concert in the simulcast lounge so I didn't have to deal with the time lag of waiting for a seat and leaving the crowded auditorium. That is a fun aspect about a cruise ship to have a variety of programming so that no two experiences are the same!
I packed up my luggage and placed it outside of the cabin. Word to the wise, remember to keep important things with you such as your passport, medication, toothbrush, deodorant & if you're a light sleeper like me...earplugs! Doh!
Cruise Day 5 - Disembarkation
You are assigned a disembarkation time in your cruise Daily Program newsletter that your cabin attendant leaves in your room each day. The final morning's breakfast is served from 5:30am-6am for early riser and then 6am-9:30am for buffet and 6am-8am for the restaurant. The buffet was super crowded at 7am! I thought we were beating the rush but once again I underestimated the crowds! :) Next we joined a long line that left the ship, went through customs and retrieved our luggage from a conveyer belt like at the airport.
You then exit the building back onto the terminal plaza. It is wise to decide your ride situation ahead of time if possible. Or snag an Uber by your phone app and be on your way within a matter of minutes!
I felt so grateful to experience this cruise! I saved for a year to be able to budget it since I already had my other travels for 2017 planned when this cruise was announced. At the risk of sounding like an elitist cruise snob I will give my personal pros and cons (please don't think I'm an actual elitist cruise snob though). :p
Concerts every day
Running/walking deck was free of hazards that other cruise lines have (shuffle board, etc)
Lots of variety of activities offered each day
Sport court was large
Lots of hot tubs
24 hour room service
Buffet had several food options, even for those with allergies (note if your allergy is severe they did NOT mention a cross-contamination-free kitchen, i.e. peanut allergies & celiacs beware)
No planned meet & greets with artists. Only 1 unplanned.
Running/walking deck did not go all the way around the ship
The only place to get drinking water is the buffet (you have to fill up your water bottles there unless you use your room's bathroom faucet)
Room service charges a fee for orders from 11pm-6am
Waitstaff in main dining room was very rude and difficult
Non dairy ice cream not available at free ice cream dispenser
Main dining room staff is unfriendly & unsupportive for any food allergies (literally only gave me a plate of lettuce and tomatoes)
When we had an injury the guest services & room service never brought ice after we requested it several times
Overall this was an amazing experience! I learned some facets about the MSC cruise line so in the future I will be better prepared and know what to expect. I am really grateful for this experience!