Selected MSC because of their Kids Sail Free promotion. We had invited our ten grand-kids, their parents, and my sister's family. Nine cabins, 22 people.
Did not know what to expect from MSC, especially with ten children in tow. As it turned out, a wonderful, pleasure filled, week of family togetherness.
Food was excellent. Most of us used the sit down breakfast on Deck 5 option (some of the kids preferred the informality of the huge buffet on Deck 13). In the dining room we had white table cloths and napkins, constant server attention (offering fresh baked breads and warm pastries several times). Cook pretty much whatever you might ask, on menu or not. When I asked eggs be soft, soft they were. A few of us became addicted to the eggs Benedict. I always got sides of smoked salmon and marinated herring. No coffee cup ever allowed to become empty.
The huge and varied buffet is the only option for lunch (unless on a shore excursion when on your own). Huge in size and selection is an understatement. The salad offerings alone are staggering. Pasta dishes being freshly prepared, carved meat, cheese, stews, burgers, and fries, and oh my, the pizza! I would suggest to MSC installing a couple more coffee dispensers as at these short lines formed (hardly a line elsewhere). Servers circulated offering beverages from the bar, soft and otherwise. Juice, etc, free for the taking.
Dinner was our daily highlight, and all 22 of us ate together (the one "rule" we had). New menu items each night, fish, meat, pasta. Always vegetarian and low fat offerings included. Food was mostly European style, although plenty of typical American fare, but not cowboy size portions as in US chains like Outback, Olive Garden, etc, where most people expect enough for a doggie bag and a second meal. Instead, we got five varied, well served courses, in total more food than almost anybody could comfortably (possibly) eat. After a couple days we limited ordering to three courses and were still fully satisfied. Themed nights. Surf and turf, as good as it gets! Flaming baked Alaska!
We were unsure how our grandchildren would fare in such a setting, and how comfortable we would feel with them in this quite formal first class dining room. I think (know!)we stood out with ten grandchildren, and maybe that's why the manager of the restaurant (Giuseppe) took a special interest and each evening made personal ordering suggestions to the children (cooked to their likings), checked back several times to assure all of our brood were being attended well. One night granddaughter Abby was having a struggle getting a lobster tail out of the shell. Giuseppe noticed, showed her how to do it and helped her cut it into pieces! We felt relaxes and welcomed, our anxiousness having children disappeared day one. By the end of the cruise, the kids called him Zio (Uncle) Giuseppe.
Bread is baked three times per day, always with that fresh smell, and sometimes a bit warm inside. Excellent crusts. Many varieties, white and whole wheat, seeds and without.
Hygiene evidently is a top priority as it ought be, evidenced by freshly pressed staff uniforms, brass railings constantly being wiped down of finger prints. Not a speck of dust anywhere, every carpet seems freshly vacuumed. Two of our group has stomach issues day two, likely caught on the flight ton way to ship. The cabin attendant asked them if they would allow a special cabin cleaning. All surfaces were wiped down, presumably with disinfectant. Their proactive attention was very re-assuring, obviously motivated to control any possible spreading of illness. We also saw doorhandles being wiped.
Lounges were comfortable. Particularly enjoyed the one on Deck five, a duo (various) each night playing soft music before dinner. Charming server. We did not use night clubs but they looked exciting and fun. Nightly shows in the fabulous theatre (from another planet!)were fun, but as passengers are of varied nationalities, performances rather than comedy to deal with languages. Good for all ages. BTW, all staff spoke competent enough English (and evidently a hand full of other languages to boot).
There were special things for children to do all day and into evening, great pools, sports, games, parties, movies. The two free soft serve ice cream machines were a very big hit. I think that without Giuseppe's kind encouragement at dinner our grand-kids may not have done so well eating dinners.
The Reception Counter (customer service) was always fully staffed and usually no wait, at most a moment two wait. Same for the Accounting Counter. BTW our bill was exact and clear.
We pre purchased several packages and all proved to be good deals as it turned out. #612 ($30) puts a barge basket of fruit plus bottle if good Italian bubbly on ice in room at arrival. #557 ($120) 10 bottles of pretty good dinner wine. #593 ($29) 14 bottles/cans of juice or soda. #594 ($52) 14 bottles of beer. Very convenient plus worthwhile discount from on-board prices (bar prices are reasonable, never a sticker shock).
The ship is filled with stone floors, counters, brass (always freshly polished). Decor is elegant and festive, obviously a lot of careful attention to color and design coordination, no feeling of cookie cutter decorating. Another surprise which we only discovered day 6: the many shops and boutiques, and their true duty free prices. Amazing quality camera deals, for example.
In summary, at a very fair (3 star?) price we got consistent 4 and 5 star service and food. Biggest positive surprise BY FAR was consistently positive staff attitudes, many kind, gracious smiles. We truly felt welcomed guests.
Our best family vacation! Sincerely recommended MSC Poesia!