I wanted to be sure to give good advice for anyone else who is considering MSC. I have been on Carnival, RCL & NCL before and I wanted to try something new, I can tell you there is no hand holding on this cruise line. I missed a lot of important stuff because I didn't know enough about this cruise line and they aren't very forthcoming with the information.
80% of the rooms are balconies, so ask for a guaranteed room, your odds will be greater of getting an upgrade. This ship boards right by the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center, so you can park in their garage and literally walk on board. I could have saved a $30 cab ride had I known that. Unfortunately, from what I understand, the Poesia will no longer sail from Fort Lauderdale after this season.
The 5th floor of the ship smells really bad, I had not been able to figure it out, maybe it is the incinerator? I don't know, but if your room is on the 5th floor, ask to move! Check in was pretty easy, I skipped the porters and went straight in with my luggage, so I didn't have to wait for my luggage to get delivered later or have to go to identify my luggage when the tag had fallen off like so many others did on this cruise, also I had my swimsuit with me so I could get changed as soon as I found my room. The check-in time was noon, and the life jacket drill was at 4:30PM. I wasn't even on-board the ship at 4:30PM! I had no idea when boarding started, it's not on any of the boarding documents from the cruise line and not on their website either. So, there was a 2nd drill and I missed the on-board show because I had to go to life jacket drill at 7PM. There is an on-board newsletter like most of the other cruise lines, but you have to scour it to find out when things are happening and some things aren't listed at all.
FYI, there are 2 shows each night, one for the late dining group and another for the early dining group. The upper level of the showroom always seemed to have seats available, the lower level seemed to always be crowded. The entertainment staff did a lot of singing and dancing so they didn't have to converse in 5 different languages. There really wasn't much to do most of the time, so you could spend your vacation relaxing, it is a novel concept for a cruiser from America, but once I figured that out, I learned to embrace it. I hope I can let myself miss a few things on my next cruise and just enjoy the view. There is coffee, tea bags and water at all times in the Cafeteria, but the hot cocoa packets are hidden in the storage cabinets, so ask for them. Also, the ice machine runs out of ice frequently, you can go to the bar and they will give you ice for free. If you like juice, bring an empty bottle or 2 and fill up at breakfast time and keep them in your minibar for later in the day. Also, a bottle of mineral or spring water will be served at no charge with your dinner in the formal dining room (not the cafeteria), but only if you ask for it, also you can take it with you when you leave. MSC won't let you bring wine on board with you, but if you buy a bottle for dinner, you are welcome to take it with you to your room. There was no chocolate buffet, as a matter of fact, I didn't see a single piece of Chocolate Cake at any time during my cruise. Be advised, they don't know how to make brownies either, they were as hard as a rock, I tried a few times just to make sure, at least the ice cream on the brownie was good. Speaking of ice cream, they have four (4) soft serve machines on each end of the pool area, but they open at noon and are shut down at 5 PM, so hurry!
There is body wash and shampoo in the shower but nothing else, no conditioner, no trial sized moisturizer or toothpaste, so pack your own. The key card must be put in the slot inside the cabin to turn the lights on. You would be surprised how long it took this college educated woman to figure this out! The other nice thing about the key card in the slot, it turns on a light outside your cabin which lets housekeeping know you are in your room, don't run in to use the restroom without putting your key in the slot, you may get walked in on. Yes, this also happened to me. There was no room to put our suitcase, so I cleared off the vanity and used it to place my suitcase on top so I could get to my clothes without a struggle, there were no drawers to put things. The closet was a decent size but it was only useful for hanging full length dresses. Nice sized balcony with 2 chairs and a table just the right size to sit and relax, you had privacy unless you looked beyond the wall, then you could spy on your neighbors or vice versa.
If your port of call requires you to tender off the ship, like in St. Maarten, you need to get a ticket to get off the ship from the 7th floor MSC Infopoint desk, be sure to get up early that morning to get your ticket so you can be one of the first people off the ship.
There are ping pong balls and paddles, tennis rackets and balls, golf balls and clubs, shuffleboard discs and sticks, basketballs and board games available at the poolside to pick-up and borrow for an hour, if you lose your ball, you will be charged $10. Pretty expensive for a ping pong ball, also they close up at 5PM, I never had the opportunity to mini-golf on a 7 day cruise because there was only 1 set of clubs. There is a library, but you have to pay for the book if you don't turn the book in on time, so be sure to bring your own books.
On the night of the gala they will have lobster and there will be a meet the Captain event where free cocktails are served. The newsletter said "join the Captain for cocktails", it didn't indicate they were free, that would have been nice to know. MSC has no affiliation with any stores off the ship, so there are no "free jewelry" offers, you have to follow the other cruise line guests around and say, I don't have my coupon, can I still have my tanzanite earrings at TI, or charm bracelet at DI.
Smoking is allowed in many places on the ship, so if you have a problem with smokers, this may not be the cruise line for you. The shops on board were very expensive for snack foods or toiletries but they did have discounted alcohol, jewelry and perfume, just not sure if it wasn't cheaper on shore? A few surprising things, the photos on-board were exceptionally good quality and cheap by other cruise line standards. You could have a 15 minute massage for $15 and a 1 hour massage for $45, that's unbelievably cheap for a cruise! Overall, I really enjoyed the European experience, we were seated with Scandinavians at dinner and made friends with Canadians at lunch, it was really interesting to try something new and the cruise fare could not be beat.
Just a bit of difficulty with the tender, each cruise line is tendering their people off at the same exact time, it was chaotic, our cruise line staff started screaming in Italian at the other cruise line staff and one employee was almost crushed by the tender, it was very stressful, I'd much rather walk off the boat then ever have to experience that again! There was a taxi stand just behind the visitors center, if you wait a few minutes they will get a larger group together for your taxi ride and then you all pay less money. The alcohol was cheaper here than anywhere else, really great shopping in this town. Lots of great shopping!
The open air "City bus" will take you around the island just the same way the open air tour buses do for $2. The only thing is you don't know it's a City bus because it reads "Taxi" on the bus. Just tell them you want to go to the "Country" and they will take you around the island, then you can stop and get off in Red Hook to go to St John by ferry or stay on the bus to return to St Thomas. The "City bus" always seems to be running in a circle on the island. There are lots of great places to shop here and prices are pretty good and you are in the United States the whole time so they use our currency and speak English. I can't wait to go back, I didn't get to see it all this time around, next time I want to go to Blackbeard's Castle.
Nassau is really depressing, lots of stores have closed up, they need a great influx of capital $, so get off the ship and spend mass quantities, the economy needs some help. You can still go to Paradise Island, but the jerks that run the hotel won't even let you in the lobby now, all you can do is go into their casino, it is really lousy. When have you ever heard of a hotel prohibiting you from entering the lobby? I took a taxi right from the terminal, the driver was great he took us to local stores like the rum cake store and the chocolate factory as well as some of the historic sights like the Queen's staircase and the Fort. The straw market still has lots of souvenirs, but they all seem to be selling the same stuff. Oh well, just enjoy it.