Live From MSC Poesia: 11 Hits and Misses

January 30, 2012 | By | 14 Comments

Overall, MSC Poesia is a grand ship. It’s over-the-top elegant — but not too flashy — and it very rarely feels crowded. Not knowing quite what to expect from my first European cruise line experience (which was also tailored to folks from several other countries), I spent a week onboard, exploring every area and blogging about my findings. I discovered there was quite a bit happening around me — everything from a baseball theme cruise to a clown wedding. (You can read about both in my other “Live From” posts here.) Throughout the course of my Western Caribbean journey, I came up with a list of things that deserve praise and others that deserve a big ol’ thumbs-down (or, if nothing else, a befuddled “huh?”).
Hit and Miss: Service
Although service wasn’t a miss for me, it was for many MSC virgins with whom I spoke. MSC is an Italian-owned line, which means it caters to a large European market, and service reflects that. Your cabin steward may not personally introduce himself, and perhaps your dining room waiter will go the whole week without learning your name, but if you know that ahead of time and go in with an open mind, you’ll find service to be professional, friendly and efficient. If you’re expecting the overly doting, cutesy service that’s so common on more Americanized lines, you may be a bit put off, and if you act like a snooty, entitled “American,” you may get a tiny dose of attitude. Simply put: The service isn’t bad; it’s just different.
Miss: Hidden Basics
While most cabins don’t come equipped with clocks — the reason for which is still an unsolved mystery — many ships at least have some sprinkled in public areas. But on Poesia, it seemed I could never locate one when I needed it. Of course, it was easy to wear a watch, but a few timekeepers in stairwells or lounges wouldn’t hurt, either. I also found it difficult to locate public restrooms on many occasions. A quick inquiry to a passing crewmember always pointed me in the right direction, but it would have been helpful if they were somehow more noticeable on their own. Likewise, the absence of garbage cans was bothersome when I found myself wanting to discard my daily program or chewing gum. But, I soon discovered that, where there’s a bathroom, there’s a garbage can.
Hit: Decor
Crazy carpeting, glitzy staircases and twinkling lights: That’s what you’ll get on this ship. Although it’s eye-catching, you won’t have to deal with any of the neon-colored chintz that garishly adorns so many other ships, which can leave you feeling as if you’ve spent a week at sea inside a pinball machine. Poesia’s more like a resort — marble countertops at the onboard bars, floor-to-ceiling wall fountains in the reception area, “stars” overhead in the theater and cabins that feel more like hotel rooms than, well, cabins.
Miss: Smell
I often found that a strong, sulfur-like odor permeated throughout the hallways near my cabin on Deck 10. I’ve smelled this on several other sailings, but never as often or for such a prolonged period of time. I’m unsure whether any of the other passenger decks experienced the stench, and, strangely, I didn’t find it to be a problem in the public areas, but it was certainly not the most pleasant olfactory encounter on my way to meals.
Hit: Gelato
At the ship’s Mojito Bar, near the Cayo Levantado Pool on Deck 13, you’ll find amazing Italian gelato. Although it’s for-fee, the large (three scoops) will set you back less than $3. There are tons of flavors, but you’ll find 16 available at any given time. (If you’re a fruit fan, try the banana or pineapple. For nut-lovers, the pistachio and hazelnut are must-haves. And, for the less-adventurous, there are standard but tasty chocolate and vanilla options, too.)
Hit and Miss: Entertainment
When a ship caters to people from a variety of countries — all announcements, including the muster drill, were conducted in five languages — it’s difficult to have standard entertainment onboard. That said, the types of shows, which featured the same singers and dancers over and over, became a bit monotonous as the week progressed. On the second night of the cruise, we saw “Sam,” a stereotypical (and confusing) show about America’s history. However, shows like “Isha” (“Fern Gully” meets “Alice in Wonderland” meets “The Lion King”), “Extraordinaire” (a variety show, showcasing dancers, singers, jugglers and acrobats) and “Follie Barock” (the farewell show) featured amazing costumes and scenery, as well as jaw-dropping juggling and acrobatic acts.
Miss: Ice
I was told on the first day of the sailing that ice is an American accoutrement. It’s not widely used in European beverages, and, outside of the dining room, it can be difficult to find onboard. It will magically show up in your cabin each day — but only if you ask for it.
Hit: Portion Sizes
They say a serving of meat should be no larger than the size of your fist. MSC adheres to that rule, and it’s a good thing. I chalk it up to the European way of doing things, but for the first time on a cruise, I was able to finish all four (sometimes five) courses of dinner each night without a problem. I was always full, but never in that “I feel like a beached whale” kind of way. It was like that with portions for everything — pasta, soup, vegetables, desserts. I look at it like this: The less of each thing I eat, the more things I get to try. And while I’m no foodie, I can’t remember having a single bad meal the entire week.
Miss: Elevator Doors
I try to take the stairs whenever possible, but sometimes that “sensible” pair of heels just won’t allow it. There’s nothing worse than waiting for an elevator for what seems like an eternity, only to be nearly crushed by doors that close too soon. I saw this happen several times — twice to people in wheelchairs. Just be aware that, once you figure out which of the three lifts has arrived to take you where you need to go, you’d better not dawdle while getting inside, lest you be shut out completely.
Hit and Miss: Aurea Spa and Fitness Center
On a port day, I took advantage of a discount on spa services at Aurea and snagged a half-hour massage for $32. (Even including tip, I paid only about half of what I would have paid for the massage alone without the discount.) It was a great experience — relaxing and professional with no post-treatment sales pitch. However, a friend with whom I was traveling said she got a high-pressure suggestion that she needed products, which she politely declined. So, although Aurea was a hit for its services, it’s a miss for its pitches or, at the very least, for the inconsistency of them. Additionally, the tiny onboard gym was pleasant enough, but available treadmills were hard to come by at times — even on port days. The facility’s floor-to-ceiling windows, which offer sweeping views off the front of the vessel, also created somewhat of a greenhouse effect. At times it became so uncomfortably hot that I thought I might have to go cool down in the sauna.
Hit: Handling of Late Embarkation
The medical evacuation of a passenger from the sailing just prior to mine meant that Poesia departed nearly three hours later than scheduled on embarkation day. That’s because the ship got into port late, disembarked the previous round of passengers late and started the embarkation process of the new group late. Although the delay wasn’t the line’s fault, I thought it was handled superbly. Passengers (including me) were shuttled from the Port Everglades terminal to a nearby convention center and given a comfortable place to wait. The line also provided food for us before shuttling us back to the terminal in shifts to board the ship. I know for many this may have been a “miss,” but I looked at it as a bit of an adventure, and my trip was certainly no worse for the wear because of it.
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    14 Responses to “Live From MSC Poesia: 11 Hits and Misses”

    1. Judith Zieg
      January 30th, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

      For the most part, your review matched our own feelings about the MSC Poesia, as we were on the same cruise. However, I think you boarded the ship earlier than we did; by the time we left the Convention Center (we had #11), it was disorganized beyond words – people jumping lines, staff asleep on the post, etc. Our traveling companions (#6) had no problems.
      We noticed also the strange odors on Deck 11, and we thought our cabin steward was the invisible man. Our waiter was terrific and gave a small magic show to our daughter each evening. The smoking areas on Deck 6 were offensive to a non-smoker. I could go nowhere near the Zebra Lounge. We will hesitate to travel on the same ship again, and after many cruises on other lines, this is the first time I have written those words. Any time on a cruise ship is a wonderful experience (unless you are on one that crashes), so I will never say never, but just that it was not up to our expectations.

    2. sherri weiss
      January 31st, 2012 @ 8:15 am

      I love the way you put everything, I just got off the Magnifica in Venice. Once you got past the fact that you not on an “Americanized Line” it was fantastic, we loved the beautiful ship it was the same as the one you were on just a different color scheme. We enjoyed the entertainment in the lounge areas and just got past the many announcements, I eventually tuned out what I did not understand, on the other hand I learned a little Italian!

    3. Jeff
      February 1st, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

      A few years ago we cruised on the MSC Lirica. It was a European adventure for us as the ship did a transatlantic ending in Genoa. The ship was quite nice, the food was OK until halfway through when they changed to a “European style” menu and the five language announcements were a hoot.
      The only real complaint we had was that on the deck between the MDR and thew theater, there was no way to go except through the smoking section.

      The entertainment was varied; from wannabe Broadway to vaudeville. The funniest show included a ventriloquist and is basset hound!

      Being a repositioning cruise it was a really good value.

    4. jsuever
      February 1st, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

      We were on the same cruise and would agree with most of your review.

      As far as late embarkation, I wouldn’t have used the word ‘superbly’, but ‘good’ or ‘fine’. We had a ticket number 9 and got on board just in time to see the head waiter to change are dinner seating to an early seating and then eat. 75% of the dining room that night was empty which made our dinner very nice, but others missed out.

      We stayed on deck 9 and did not have any bad odors there, but outside on deck 7 – I thought maybe they were venting the sewer system. This occurred on a couple of nights.

      I agree that smoke odor on deck 6 (in the red bar prior to the Zebra bar (can’t remember its name) was pretty bad — we always zipped through it. On the pool deck (deck 13) on the smoking side of the deck was kind of bad too at times.

      Overall we really enjoyed the cruise. The only reason why we might not be back real soon is that it was are 2nd on the Poesia (the first was Jan ’10) and we like variety in our cruises. In fact, this cruise was considerably different than the American cruises which gave it great appeal.

    5. Nancy Bradford
      February 1st, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

      Nice review. We will be on the Poesia in Dec, our 3rd with MSC. Your statement about clocks kind of got me. In all our cruises I don’t remember ever having a clock in our cabin and really have not missed having one. And as for the elevator doors closing quickly I have seen that on almost all ships and many other places as well. I will say that the entertainment on our 2nd MSC cruise was much better than our first. And the food is pretty good. First cruise thought it was a bit bland but not so much so on second.

      I look forward to our cruise on the Poesia.

    6. Mary Ellen Irving
      February 1st, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

      My husband and I also enjoyed a 10 day cruise on the Posia enjoyed eveything however shopping on the ship was very high end no deals I felt clerks in the stores were very rude I smelt no odors I am a smoker and enjoyed the Zebra lounge shows were great and food was good however need attention to detail
      serving side oder of ketchup in a ketchup bottle ? and pancake syrup in a plastic syrup bottle missed the mark overall good bang for the buck

    7. Travel.AAAAmerican.Com
      February 1st, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

      MSC makes you PAY for most everything.

      Disguising Little Paltry Portions as European is in like saying Americans do not like quality , once known. Do the Americans tip like Europeans now too?

      Try other better Cruise Lines and see what is real, factual, and actual.

    8. Travel.AAAAmerican.Com
      February 1st, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

      PS: On the Clocks, Miss or maam:

      Having cruised now for 6 decades seeing clocks.

      The more clocks Ships have the more each has to be reset. Imagine owning a Watch Store having to set, re-set and keep them all on the same time…

      Time is sometimes like love ..what we make of it.

    9. GrayGrammy
      February 1st, 2012 @ 5:44 pm

      Sorry, but I must protest. Having your cabin steward introduce himself and call you by name throughout your voyage is NOT an American thing at all. In 1956, aboard the then fully British-owned Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth, our steward did just exactly that, as did our steward aboard the French Line’s Ile de France. I know it is considered very posh these days to bash all things “American,” especially among the cruise set, but this one is off the mark. BTW: each time we have sailed on Star Clippers, a European line, our cabin crew has also introduced themselves and called us by name. It is just good courtesy, and it isn’t limited to one continent, one type of ownership, or one group of passengers.

    10. Fran
      February 1st, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

      we cruised with the Poesia for 20 days last September-transatlantic. it was the worst cruising we ever did. We have cruised with many cruise lines. they all seemed to consider the passengers satisfaction. The captain and crew of Poesia could care less. For example,in the buffet line,someone upchucked all over the floor. Passengers had to walk thru the mess for over an hour (it couldn’t be avoided due to location).no one cleaned it up. Needless to say, we couldn’t eat.We also had to pay for all the ammeneties we got for free on other cruise lines(ice cream, hot chocolate etc.).
      The list goes on and on. Even the Europeans were complaining. Remember anything you buy on Poesia, is charged in Euros. So 3 euros is equal to $4.50 American–not so cheap now-also have to add gratuity of 15% in euros-which equals 22% American.
      We will never ever sail with MSC cruises again.

    11. joe schneider
      February 1st, 2012 @ 11:07 pm

      we sailed on Poesia 11/30/2009 , true it caters to the Europeans. not only no ice but hardly nothing to drink after dinner, late night buffets were not as good as on other ships. this was the first time i saw dinning room open one day for people wanting their tip money returned.would never sail with MSC again no matter the price.

    12. joe schneider
      February 1st, 2012 @ 11:10 pm

      steam rooms and saunas for men & women were also in the same area on MSC poesia.

    13. GrahamO
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 6:14 am

      Sailed Poesia Venice Istanbul Venice. A poor experience . . so many things not to like . . unfriendly and just rude staff . . poor dining . . cabin staff excellent. Will avoid MSC in future.

    14. Gwen Jessup
      February 2nd, 2012 @ 9:35 pm

      I sailed the Poesia on 12/06/2011 with two other seniors ages 67,83,and 71. We enjoyed the whole experience. The food was awesome the shows fantastic.It was has if we were in Europe.Between the three of us we have been on over 30 cruises. It was different but a very good time was had by all. We will be cruising again in april of 2013 on the MSC Poesia from FL to Burmuda.

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