Last year I attended a local Irish Entertainment show. There were flyers on every chair announcing a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise on the MSC Poesia departing from Port Everglades, Florida (Fort Lauderdale) on February 2 called "Andy Cooney's Cruise of Irish Stars 2013." Although we never cruised on the MSC cruise line before, four of us decided to remain positive even after reading some negative comments on cruise websites and booked it. I am happy to report that most of them are no long true. Our itinerary included Ports of Call at Cozumel, Mexico, Roatan, Honduras, George Town, Cayman Islands, Falmouth, Jamaica and Port Everglades. I have been to all these ports previously, so I took this cruise for the Irish entertainment package. We did not take any organized shore excursions.
After parking our vehicle at a convenient off site location, we arrived at the terminal around 11:15. Check-in went smoothly and we were on board about 20 minutes later. Our room was ready so we dropped off our carryon bags and headed up to the Villa Pompeiana Cafeteria (buffet) on Deck 13. We quickly found a table and there were many varied food choices: salads, pastas, foccacia, carved meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, burgers, hot dogs, fries, sandwiches, large pretzels, pizza, etc... and of course, plenty of desserts. The fruit tarts were delicious. I enjoyed a soft serve ice cream cone every day. After lunch, we checked in with our group, toured the ship and headed to our stateroom to unpack before the safety drill. The safety drill occurred before departure and we were required to bring along our life jackets. We actually put on the life jackets in the lounges. The ship checked attendance by scanning room key cards and scheduled a repeat drill for anyone who missed it. All instructions onboard are in at least five different languages since there are many international guests.
Our stateroom was # 9188, Category 5 Balcony located on Deck 9. The room is compact and quite lovely. The floor-to-ceiling wall mirror helps make the room appear larger. There was just enough storage for our needs. The compact bathroom has a shower and retractable clothesline. Do not attempt to use the hair dryer as I did before turning on the electricity in the room. The balcony is roomy enough for two chairs and a small table. There is no smoking permitted in cabins or on balconies. The stateroom was quiet and located not far from a bank of elevators and stairs although located toward the aft of the ship. Passageways are a soothing color with sections of lovely wallpaper art panels depicting soft Italian water vistas. Our stewards, Luke and Patricia brought us ice daily and an extra set of pillows as we requested. Our room wax always kept clean and towels replaced as needed. Everyone on staff always had a smile and greeting for us as we passed them in the hallways. We did not miss the towel animals.
The first day of the cruise hardly anyone but kids went into the two main pools because the temperature of the water was a cool 75 degrees. Kids also have their own outdoor pool (and indoor playroom) on Deck 14. As we sailed southward, many guests began using the pools as the pool temperatures rose. The Coral Bay pool is a deep-water pool. The six hot tubs were quite comfortable for my purposes and I went in them almost daily. If you are ever onboard the MSC Poesia, check out the bathrooms on the pool deck. They are unique.
Our group of entertainers played at the pool every afternoon for 2 1/2-3 hours and everyone onboard the ship could listen and dance to their music. After their performances, the ship offered trivia games, ice carving, cooking classes, vegetable and fruit carvings, stretching or aerobics, etc. Entertainers of our group performed at 10 PM in the main theater after the second show and others performed in a couple of the lounges from 8 PM-2AM. There was plenty of live entertainment in the remaining lounges for guests not in our group. You needed a special card to get into our events. Several nights the ship had movies under the stars - three different Pirates of the Caribbean movies - on the large screen TV on the pool deck. The animation team is a group of young energetic staff members who join in activities and keep everyone dancing and participating. They even entertain guests in the theater before shows with their hilarious stunts.
The ship itself is very elegant with brass railings on staircases and an atrium waterfall. Maintenance staff is constantly cleaning, vacuuming and polishing. All the public rooms are beautiful. My favorite lounge is the Zebra Bar with its stunning black and white striped decor that would always bring a smile to my face. The Royal Casino actually has hand sanitizer machines at the entrances. No one made sure that guests actually used any of the machines scattered around the ship but I did not hear of any problematic outbreaks of illness.
The dazzling 1,250-seat Teatro Carlo Felice Theater is quite dramatic with purple plush seats and sloping rows so everyone gets a clear view of the stage. With art decor lighting and numerous shining lights all around the theater, one could tell that MSC gave lots of attention to the creation of this glamorous venue. Unfortunately, there ware no rails to hold on to when using the steps. Every single night there was a different variety show - song and dance numbers and acrobats, too, which I enjoyed very much. I thought that the second night's chess-themed show called "Sortilegio was very unusual. I hardly missed hearing a live orchestra because the recorded music was fine. One thing that did surprise me was that they did not serve drinks in the theater. One evening the cruise directors held a contest. After playing three words of a song, we had to name the singer. My husband's answer was the correct one and he went on stage to receive a DVD of the ship. He has a talent for this. I wish that he were as successful in the casino.
Since we were with a group, we had early seating. We sat at a banquette table for seven. The three women who sat with the four of us were a mother (originally from Donegal - now living in FL) and two daughter who live in New York. We could not have asked for seatmates that were more congenial. Our MDR was the beautiful Le Fontane Ristorante. Expect dinner to be leisurely. We were a bit crowded into a corner but the service by our waiter, Suartana, from Indonesia was excellent. He spoke English pretty well and tried to please us. He was always helpful and polite as well as friendly. He brought us glasses of ice and tap water and refilled them as needed. My husband asked for unsalted butter one night and after that, there were always several pats on the table for him. He had some special dietary requests and he was always satisfied with how the ship personnel, especially Capt. Gian Carlo assisted him. He even received a phone call from Eva to check that the ship was meeting all his needs. That had never happened on any other ship. Some people thought that there were too many Italian dishes on the menu but it is an Italian ship. I liked all the choices and thought that the Italian dishes were the best ones. I was a little disappointed with the beef so I only ordered it with the Surf and Turf. There are two formal nights and the rest are either informal or casual.
Did we have a good time? You bet. We had so much fun that before we left the ship, we booked a balcony stateroom for next year's Feb. 1,'14 Irish Cruise. It will be on the brand new MSC Divina where the staterooms will be larger. - Thank you MSC. If you are of Irish decent, you will really enjoy the entertainment. The musicians are very talented, approachable and quite friendly. They mix and mingle with the group. I feel like I am part of their family now. My husband said that he had the most fun on this cruise and he is not even Irish. He loved practicing his Italian with every Italian staff member.
I have some suggestions for MSC, get more ice machines and replenish other supplies in the cafeteria more quickly. Improve the quality of the steaks. Give more information to guests, especially about the shows and disembarkations. Although we reported twice that our room TV was not interactive, no one fixed it. We did have a problem with the safe one afternoon, however and a staff member fixed within the hour. Some people had problems with the reception desk. For example, my husband requested a gratuity envelope. Although the front desk said that they had envelopes, they could not give one to him. A staff member would have to deliver it to our stateroom. What a waste of his time since we were on deck 9 aft and reception is on Deck 5 - mid ship. Every other cruise (36) that I have been on either had a pile of them out at Reception on the final night or provided them at Reception when requested. Other guests complained that some of the Reception staff were less than receptive to their needs. I appreciated how short the lines were and how fast they moved.
What brings our party of four back to MSC first of all is the excellent Irish entertainment as well as the wonderful nightly entertainment of the cruise line's performers. The ship was so glamorous and I enjoyed the Italian dishes served. Prices are more than competitive and I feel that you get excellent value for your money. I also appreciate that the ship is very "green" utilizing energy saving lighting and air conditioning in staterooms and a modern recycling center among other things. I look forward to next year's cruise on the new ship MSC Divina. I feel that MSC is responding to negative feedback, as many of the former comments I read are no longer true. I recommend this cruise line to families since kids sail free. I also recommend the line to people who enjoy interacting with others of different cultures and nationalities and am open to different ways of doing things. An MSC cruise is one way of experience European culture without having to fly to Europe. If you enjoy Irish music, join us next year. Our group this year was 1,100 strong out of 3,000 guests.