Although our immediate family cruises at least once per year, this year we decided to expand the group to include three generations ranging in age from 87 to 13. Selecting the proper ship can be potentially troublesome as we want to try and satisfy the desires of everyone on the trip (as we have done on several prior trips). Based on information that we received we honestly believed that the Poesia would offer a high class enough environment to satisfy the grandparents who are accustomed to traveling on higher end ship with those of the teenagers who are used to Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Unfortunately, sometimes when you attempt to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.
The 12/28/12 voyage started well enough. The check-in process in Port Everglades was effective and efficient. The 7pm departure time was a bit unusual but I'm sure that the cruise line has a reason for it. Unfortunately the trip was delayed due to an unannounced medical emergency (we watched from the railing). The ship itself is beautiful. It was a rarity for you to walk up or down a flight of stairs at anytime without running into someone polishing or cleaning. The same could be said of the cleaning process in the buffet. Either they are extremely concerned with the norovirus or they are very conscientious about cleaning.
Our cabin, a superior balcony on Deck 10, was a bit smaller than we are used to on other lines. Having said that, the cabin was very well laid out and functional. With our 13 year old son with us in our cabin, we are glad that we selected the superior balcony cabin as either a regular balcony or, worse, an inside cabin would have been clastrophobic.
Now on to our biggest complaint - the main dining room. We selected the second seating that opened at 8pm. The service in the dining room was laborious to put it nicely. Unlike European cruises where the evening meal is drawn out with numerous courses, the dinner was based on the usual appetiser, main course, desert design that Americans are used to. Unfortunately it simply took them two hours to deliver these three courses!!!! We talked with the Assistant Maitre'd about the service; unfortunately without any success. Now, if the food was excellent, you probably could overlook the service. Unfortunately, while some dishes were very good, others bordered on being UNEDIBLE!!!! Steaks on a couple of nights could be better used as frisbees and other dishes were cold when they should have been hot and vice versa. The problem was that it really was Russian Roulette as to which dishes from the menu were going to be good and which ones were going to be bad. One night the pasta was great, the next night it wouldn't be. Sending a course back wasn't useful because it would take 30 minutes to get another one.
Breakfast and lunch in the buffet area was a bit more tolerable as there is a large selection of food to select from. Hamburgers and hot dogs were to be avoided as they were not cooked to order and appeared to be sitting there for a long time. Also, if you picked something you didn't like (or that wasn't prepared properly) at least you had the opportunity to go and select something else.
I mentioned in the opening that the lack of attention to detail tended to lead to disappointed. I will give you a couple of examples. First, on a ship that advertises itself to families, why only have 1 basketball to the court? A basketball could only be checked out for the hour. Really, on a ship with that many kids, only 1 basketballl? Same for ping pong ball and paddles. You would think they were made of gold. Our 13, 14 and 16 year olds were constantly in search of things to do. Another issue was regarding the New Year's Eve celebration. Due to the length of dinner by the time we got up on deck at 10:15 the extremely limited amount of seating was already taken. With my father unable to stand for an hour and forty five minutes I asked for assistance from a member of the senior staff (not a pool attendent). He said that he would be unable to assist me and furthermore, I could not bring a chair from any other part of the ship for him. His attitude didn't even convey any sympathy - more that I was being a bother for even asking. My father ended up going to bed even though he was looking forward to this since the cruise was booked.
One of the issues I heard was the lack of diversity in the evening activities and the fact that public announcements were made in six languages. Personally our family thought the shows in the main theatre each night, although shorter than on many other cruise ships (around 30-45 minutes) were excellent. Yes, they tended to be designed for European guests, but everyone has to remember that the Poesia is a ship based in Europe for the majority of the year. I didn't seem to mind the different languages so each their own.
The ports of call were Antigua, San Juan and Freeport. Antigua and San Juan were nice, Freeport was a complete waste of time - would rather have had an extra sea day.
I have read that management of MSC Cruises believes that their prices are too low for the American market; a necessary evil to raise awareness for themselves. If they want to be able to command a premium price for their cruises, they need to raise their game up. The competition has been around longer and has practically perfected their service. MSC, with their beautiful vessels, certainly has the hardware to mount a serious challenge, they simply need to work on improving a couple of deficient areas.