I wanted to share my observations from our recent cruise of the MSC Poesia. We traveled December 1-11, 2012 and were in cabin 10126. We are experienced travelers and this was our first cruise with MSC. We were asked by friends to join them for our wedding anniversary and in total there were five couples traveling together.
It is always helpful when giving feedback to start out with positive things, and there were things I liked about the cruise. I thought the ship itself was very pretty, and well maintained. The ship was clean and attention paid to detailing. The evening entertainment was very good in the Bar De Poeti, both Greg and the dark-haired woman with whom he performed, were very good. The four-piece band in the same room was excellent and good for dancing, providing a wonderful variety of music and tempo. The two bands in the Zebra Lounge were very good and entertaining, although their Latin music repertoire was lacking in salsa music. The evening shows were very good and the acrobats and adagio dancers were very entertaining. The excursions were very good, and we found them well organized and informative. The port in Jamaica was especially pleasant for walking around and shopping.
Staff that was especially helpful was Henry at the reception desk that helped me resolve a problem that I was having with the Internet. The bar staff at the pool bars were very good, they made good drinks and the serving staff were attentive around the pool deck, without being over-bearing.
The food and service in the dining rooms for lunch and dinner was not as we had expected. The first three mornings we had breakfast in the buffet, and it was so awful we had the remaining breakfasts in the Le Fontane Room where we could order our food and it would be served hot. The breakfast buffet had consistently cold and overcooked scrambled eggs. The bacon was undercooked, not crispy and wallowing in grease. The breads were consistently dry, flavorless, and tasted like cardboard, especially the muffins and croissants. The orange juice was just colored yellow water, with a tinge of watered down flavor. There was no nova served in the buffet. The toasted breads, English muffins, and bagels were cold and stale. Breakfast in the Le Fontane Room was served warm, the breads were generally more normal tasting. Mario, the matre de of the breakfast room had the staff well-trained and most of the time we got what we ordered timely.
The lunch buffet was generally unappetizing and had few tasty dishes that were enticing. The hamburgers were consistently overcooked and dry. Sandwiches were sparce, and we never saw deli sandwiches with roast beef or turkey (the turkey sandwiches that were served was one lone slice of processed turkey on stale bread). The International corner offered good dishes, but were spicy and most of the women would not eat it because of bad breath and upset stomachs from eating curry dishes. Fortunately the pizza was consistently!
The dinners on the cruise were horrendous. Consistently for ten nights, our dinners would come out cold, overcooked, tasteless, and in some cases spoiled. When we would ask out matre de Fausto to assist, he would return dishes to the kitchen and then never follow up to see if we were properly served and people were satisfied. My wife resorted to eating the Caprese salad, a Caesar salad, and the consomme 8 of the 10 nights! The first evening the struggle with our Captain and servers was getting soda water (water with gas) served to us at no extra charge instead of flat water. After considerable debate and insistence, staff relented and brought soda water to six of the ten guests who preferred that beverage. Staff was trying to charge us per glass for the water or asking us for soda coupons and we refused. We were not asking for cans of soda, but rather soda water from the bar gun. The Caesar salads were generally good, but one night one the Caesar salads came out without any dressing? How is that possible? We asked for some anchovies for the Caesar salads and Fausto brought out an entire dinner plate of anchovies nightly, to make the point to the annoying Americans. On the second night one of our dinners came out with pieces of aluminum foil in the dish. The salmon served every night were typically inedible because they were so badly overcooked and often were laden with bones. The sirloin steaks with Bernaise sauce were 3/8 of an inch thick, and were consistently overcooked, tough, and inedible. There were sent back by numerous people at our group, numerous times. The only steak in the ten days that was edible was the tenderloin medallion on evening 9.
Twice during the course of the trip, appetizers with baby shrimp and scallops were served. The first time, the shrimp were totally mushy and smelled bad. Five of us returned the dish back letting the server and Fausto know that the shrimp were bad. We asked him to let the chef know. In a subsequent conversation with the head chef, he was never advised of the problem. Meaning our concerns was killed by Fausto and the problem not corrected. Several days later (evening 9) another shrimp appetizer came out and it was mushy, sticky, and did not taste right. We brought matre de Mario to the table and brought this to his attention. He agreed with our assessment and promised to let the chef know. On the second formal night there was a surf and turf dish offered. Five of the 9 persons having that dish returned the lobster for being soft and mushy, and inedible. Mario was called over, once again recognized the problem, and took the dishes to the kitchen. Three plates of new lobsters were brought back, but two of the wives never received their dinner. Mario did not follow up to make sure everyone was served and that it was followed through. By the time we asked our server what had happened to the other dishes, it was late, the women were angry and not wanting any food (it had already been over an hour and 20 minutes since we sat down and now approaching 9:45 pm).
The pastas that were served were bland, and the sauces were not very appetizing. Many of the dishes were left unfinished. Overall, the food at dinner in the dining room was unappetizing, inconsistent, and very disappointing. We referred to our cruise as the "Weight Watcher Cruise" because most of us usually left the tables hungry, or ate more salads to fill us up. The desserts were fair, but in the ten days we never saw any pies, or chocolate cakes. On the 10th day, for the first time ever, we saw a brownie served at lunch. We ate at the sushi restaurant one night, and the food was pretty good. Very expensive, but good!
I also want to bring to your attention about a challenge I had with the Internet service. I bought the very expensive 8-hour package, and one night I clicked the log out button but did not wait until the window had closed (there is apparently a lag time because the service is quite slow). As a result I did not log out completely and burned through several hours of my valuable Internet time. When I realized the error I went to the reception desk to ask for assistance and restoration of my time. Front desk clerk, Henry, was calm and very helpful. He was trying to contact the IT Manager, but could not get anyone to answer the radio pages, or telephone. Finally, the assistant IT Manager, Irene, came and was very uncooperative, and did not offer to solve the problem. Henry had to write up a memo that was sent to Italy. Due to the time difference, we then had to wait nearly 12 hours for a reply to see if my time credit was restored. Irene, said she did not have the authority to solve the problem, nor gave me a code for a small credit of time so I could solve my business emergency. I had to wait until the following morning, until Genoa staff could respond. I was eventually given several hours credit and expressed my gratitude to Henry. Why is your IT staff not empowered to solve problems immediately, and more importantly, what I was looking for was a little reassurance that my request would get to the proper authorities in a timely manner, and not fall upon deaf ears. I had a very sensitive time frame to solve a very important business challenge. Instead of Irene saying, that she would send the email out right way and let me know when the message was confirmed, I had to throw a fit to get her take action. She wouldn't even give Henry proper direction to make the problem go away. She just walked away from both of us! This is unacceptable behavior, on so many levels and evidences poor training, poor supervision, bad attitude, etc.
I was at the reception desk when a woman approached the staff saying that she had just fallen down and hurt herself. The infirmary was apparently closed at this time, and she could not go down there for timely attention. Instead of staff following through with the woman and letting her know they would check on her later in her cabin, or offering to have the nurse check on her, she was told to go to the infirmary on her own when it opened four hours later. Really?
We also enjoy dancing very much and thought the disco was a great room. Unfortunately, the room never had any people in it. The problem is that the average cruise age group is fairly old, (well over 50, as we are) and there are not that many younger people who would enjoy contemporary disco music. Because the disco first opens at 11pm, most of the cruise passengers are heading their cabins by that time. Moreover, none of the entertainers in the lounges promoted or reminded the guests that the disco was opening at 11pm. Those passengers that are still awake are not really aware that the disco is open. It is suggested that the other music venues cross promote and let people know that the disco is open. Other suggestions are to hold receptions, or special promotions in the disco during the happy hour to get people up there, and or open the disco at 9pm so that people after dinner can first go up there, and be enticed by special drink promotions or mixers.
The gym equipment on the ship was extremely limited and outdated. Compared to our experience on the Freedom of the Seas ship, several weeks earlier, this gym is grossly under-equipped with outdated machines. There are only hand weights that go up to 15 pounds and many of the guys were complaining about this. There should be a water dispenser in the gym area, in addition to the one by the hot tubs. For a ship that allegedly just got went through a total rehab, and a makeover, what happened to putting in state-of- the-art equipment?
The Spa was very nice, but when I had a massage and the girl was asking for a tip, I was unable to add a tip onto my charge. I explained that no one in gym clothes carries cash with them, and in fact we are not supposed to carry cash anywhere on the ship, because virtually every activity on the ship is driven by your ID card and 15% gratuity added to every activity automatically. My masseuse was unfortunately denied a tip because I had no ability to add a gratuity by my receipt. I don't care that the Spa is a separate franchise; not my problem. If I can sign for goods in Duty Free, or the Bar, or the various items sold on the pool deck, or signing out a towel, I should be able to add a gratuity to a spa service. It's not rocket science.
Overall, I can tell you with 100% confidence that I would never take another MSC cruise, even if it was given to me. So please don't send me a voucher or coupon for a cruise discount. It's wasting paper. Dinner and food service for our group was a running joke. Two people in our group are travel agents, and the couple that invited us on to this ship are MSC VIP's , and they each vowed never to book anyone on MSC. I found the lack of training for the serving staff (often no silver ware, not checking water glasses, no picking up dirty dishes in a timely manner, not getting the orders correct, not following up on dishes served or returned, etc.) the poor skills of the matre de, especially Fausto, to be unacceptable. The inconsistent food quality and presentation was bordering on incompetent. How can food leave the kitchen without any quality checks? I had to make the matre de sit down and taste some of the awful food so he could believe we were not exaggerating. Considering that this was our wedding anniversary cruise, it was most disappointing, and we can promise you that we will not return, and we will not be recommending this line to our friends, and that we have let our travel agent know about this, and I will be posting this letter on TripAdvisor.com. You have a lot of work ahead of you if you plan to be marketing this cruise line to Americans and our ports.