I started to cruise in 1965 with Home Lines on the SS Oceanic. It was just a week's cruise to the Bahamas, but it was the start of a love affair that went on for many many years.
After Home Lines retired, I tried Pacquet Line on the MV Renaissance on a fabulous 3 week cruise out of Los Angeles and through the Panama Canal down into South America and ending up in Ft. Lauderdale. Next came Costa, then Festival Cruises and Celebrity.
For my 41st cruise, my cousin, who had cruised with me on Festival and who has been on several cruises with Princess, and I decided on the MSC's Poesia. We chose it mainly for its itinerary. Barcelona Spain, Casablanca Morocco, Fuchal Maderia Portugal, Barbados, Guadeloupe, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Bahamas and ending in Ft. Lauderdale. As well, I just love being at sea and having 5 days for crossing was wonderful for me.
The MSC's Poesia is a beautiful ship, and is typical of many of the cruise lines. It was clean and the crew (Cabin Stewards, Wait Staff, Bartenders, Entertainment) were fantastic.
Cabins are a bit small (we had an inside on deck 14 forward) but it was great to just be able to walk about 10 steps and be on the deck just above the pool.
The entertainment in the theatre was good, however, the seats were very uncomfortable with very little leg room and because of a bad back and knee, I just couldn't sit to watch a show. Only saw one and it was excellent. There is one seat on the starboard side about 5 rows down that didn't have a seat in front of it and this is where I would seat when playing Bingo when it was held in the theatre. As well, seeing that the cruise was comprised of many nationalities, it is difficult to put on "variety" shows when everything needs to be translated into many languages.
Speaking of a bad back and knee, I would suggest that if you have problems in walking great distances, don't get a forward cabin as all of the food locations are in the stern areas of the ship which meant walking back and forth 6 times each day to just eat, let alone go to any of the other areas of the ship.
I'd suggest that if you need assistance in boarding and leaving the ship that you make arrangements with the line to have wheelchair assistance. On disembarking from the ship for one tour, we disembarked from deck 6 and the descent down was very steep and one gentleman who used a walker throughout the entire cruise had a very hard time getting off. I believe the staff should have indicated to him that he could be given an alternative of getting off from a lower deck where those in wheelchair were taken to get off. I met several other individuals who found the descent very difficult, including myself and the same held true for getting back onto the ship, up a steep grade.
Tours -- I knew I should have trusted my voice of experience and booked tours either with an outside company or just taken a chance and got off the ship and hopped a cab (after negotiating a price with them) to see the sights. The tour we took in Casablanca was an absolutely terrible experience. The tour was to have been 4 hours in length and was supposed to leave at 1 p.m. After stopping in the late afternoon at a local market (where I'm sure the cruise tour gets a cut for the purchases made by the passengers) we were told that once we were finished in the market, we could just go back to the bus. Well, imagine coming out of the market, in the dark, and finding that your bus is nowhere to be seen, but that there are throngs of people lined up to catch the local buses. I've been in Hong Kong and New York where there are many people but Casablanca was horrific. People were everywhere and not finding our bus was an awful feeling. Finally, the tour guide showed up and indicated that we had to follow him a little way to the bus. It wasn't a few steps and my knee and back just ached trying to get back to the bus. They also wanted us to stop at another place but the entire bus said "no". We'd all had enough. We were supposed to be back to the ship in time for 6 p.m. dinner. However, we didn't return until just before 7 p.m. We immediately headed to the dining room hoping we could get dinner -- we didn't want to wait on ourselves as we were all exhausted and thankfully our waiter let us order our dinner even though we were late.
The young entertainment staff on board did an excellent job of involving people in various games, etc. They are to be commended as it difficult to get such a diverse group of people involved in various activities. Both the female and male members of this group danced with many of the people who did not have a partners and played many hilarious games, which we enjoyed up in the Pigalle Lounge.
Duty free shopping -- not a bargain at all. On many of my other cruises, the various shops sold affordable items at great duty free prices. Whether it was because this cruise was starting in Europe and Euros were the price used for drinks and items sold in the shops, to a Canadian, I found them very very expensive. Many ships today sell costume jewellery such as chains, rings, earrings, etc. at a very inexpensive price. The prices are usually in the $15 to $50 range for these items. However, there were no inexpensive jewellery items to be had. Even kids T-shirts were in the $19 Euro price -- ridiculous! Everything that was for sale was for the big expensive named brands and cost many many Euros. I'm sure that there are individuals who can afford to purchase these items, but in many cases I didn't see many big sales take place. Staff looked bored as they stood there every day and barely selling anything. They had a Market Bazaar nearly every day, but always put out the same items out, i.e., if it was purses, it was the same purses, jewellery -- the same. Plus the prices were expensive. I saw a Guess purse that I liked and it was $165 Euros --now translated into Canadian was around $250. We have a Guess store in one of our malls and I saw this same purse on sale there for $145 Canadian! Some rings that I liked were priced at $3500 and $7800 Euros -- no way would I spend that much money. As well, several passengers came down with the cold/flu while on board. Now, most of us know that what one really needs for a cold are Tylenol or cold meds that we buy over the counter. There were no pills like this available in the shop. A tablemate had a cold and wanted some cold meds and found none were available in the shop, so he went to the Medical Clinic but was told that it would cost him approximately $75 Euros -- unbelievable to get something!
Recreation on board -- you had to go several decks down to get the putters needed to play mini golf and there really wasn't a full walking track. Deck 14 indicates that it is a walking track but it isn't a full one and as well, try walking on a sunny day when the deck is loaded with sunbeds -- impossible. There were 2 pools and a kiddie's pool (which was rarely used by any kids). The 2 big pools were also very difficult to get out of. As I previously said, I have a bad back and knee, but love the water. Getting in wasn't as difficult, but getting out was difficult as there was no shallow end and trying to get my leg up the ladder was very hard and once I slipped and fell backwards. Another lady while I was in the pool had the same problem and had to take a break once she got her foot up on the ladder step. She also indicated that she had knee problems. Many of the pools I have been in on board other ships always had a shallow end with regular stairs and a hand rail to get in and out of the pool. With the sunbeds, the area was so crowded you had difficulty getting around and I've never been on a ship where you had to sign in and out towels either!
TV on board - yes, I didn't come on a cruise to sit and watch TV - however, I do want to see what is happening in the world. For the 5 days that we needed to cross the Atlantic, we did not have TV. No signal, yet somehow, they got the news for the various papers, that they charged for, but no signal for the TV. They gave you a free movie! Also, no movie shown at night on deck as advertised in their brochures.
Now to the food. I read many of the reviews prior to booking this cruise ship and thought that the food couldn't have been that bad -- boy was I wrong. This was the main complaint that was heard over and over on the ship. Where to start?
Drinks --alcoholic and non -- very expensive and the fact that you had to pay for tea and coffee and water was another non-impressive thing. You could buy a package, however, don't purchase it before you leave, because it was offered at $3 euros per day cheaper than what was offered pre-cruise. As well, you couldn't purchase a package for the "cabin". Each person had to purchase the "same" package or you couldn't buy it. This wasn't fair. First if you each purchased a package that included wine, it meant that you each had a bottle available to you at lunch and dinner. That's 2 bottles of wine and in our case, we only wanted one glass, but were told we had to take a full bottle. If not consumed, what happened to the rest of the bottle? Plus, if your travelling mate doesn't drink alcohol, why should they have to pay for this big package? Many people indicated this fact and were not happy about it.
Buffet area -- the food never changed from day to day -- always the same choices, except sometimes, you'd have a different choice of fruit but nothing else really changed. The same held true in the dining rooms. There were the same items rotated throughout the cruise. You'd ask for something to be cooked med rare and in many cases, you'd get well done. If you sent if back, you'd probably get it done med rare but by that time, your table mates would be ready for dessert! So many of my previous cruises, when shrimp or escargot were on the menu, it would be a real treat -- however, on this 15 night cruise, shrimp were offered twice and you got 3 small and I mean small shrimp, whereas on other cruises you get 6 large size shrimp. The escargot was deep fried and all chopped up -- if you got three you were lucky -- again, usually 6 given. There was also no coffee or tea available after dinner. We were told this was the European way, but we had a gentleman from France and he said coffee and tea should have been made available. We were told that there were 2 gentlemen who made such a fuss that there whole table were offered tea and coffee after their meal. The food was also very bland compared to many other lines. If this is the European way -- it's not for me and many others who were sailing on this trip.
The individual in charge of arranging the tables also needed to learn that you just don't put foreigners, who do not speak your language, together. We were fortunate in that we had the greatest tablemates! My cousin and I were placed at a table with a lady who lived in Ft. Lauderdale and as well she had travelled on the Poesia before and was shocked with the food and many other things. We were then joined by two sisters from Ireland who were absolutely delightful. Then several nights later we welcomed a Frenchman and his American wife to the table. They were so happy to join us because they had been placed at a table where the people did not speak any English and wouldn't even acknowledge them! They had travelled previously on different lines on transatlantic trips and were also not pleased with the line. But needless to say, we were more than pleased to welcome them to our table and we all became great friends and will keep in touch.
It was also suggested by many that the daily newspaper put into your cabin each night be done before 10 p.m., so that people could make arrangements regarding meeting people for various things that were going on the following day. It all should be done prior to the first dinner seating. Just a suggestion.
The Captain and the officers were rarely seen and as this was a longer cruise, it would have been nice to have seen them every once in a while. When you did see some of them, they rarely smiled or acknowledged anyone - it would have only taken a smile and a nod of the head but this appeared to be too much. When I travelled with Home Lines, it was an all Italian crew from Captain down and there always was a smile and a nod which made you feel great. MSC could learn from this as they advertise that this is an Italian line.
We also heard from cruise staff that things would change once they began their Caribbean voyages. But this certainly wasn't of any assistance to us.
If you don't mind paying for tea, coffee, and water, don't mind bland food and the same food day in and day out, expensive alcoholic drinks, poor communication re tours, etc. then go ahead and sail with MSC. However, I for one will not cruise with them again, unless things improve.
They are considered to be a mid-priced cruise line, yet they nickel and dime you on so many things that by the time you add up all the extras, you could have sailed with another line, at a lower price, and one that you know provides much better amenities and much better food and service.
Several people have indicated that they will be writing to the line, to let them know how they felt about this particular cruise with the hopes that MSC will improve.