My wife and I recently returned from our 7-day cruise on the MSC Poesia (sailed 4/6/13). It was our second journey on MSC, (the first one being on its sister ship, the Orchestra), and truly one of the best cruising experiences we've had in recent years.
Our trip started on a sour note, unfortunately. We had booked the cruise through MSC's own travel agents. Although we were not able to use our Discover card to pay for the cruise, we were told (twice), that the credit card would be accepted onboard for our shipboard expenses. Wrong! We found ourselves sailing with virtually NO line of credit!
On the bright side, the woman at the Accounting desk (Kayleigh, from South Africa), was very knowledgeable and sympathetic. She came to trust us during the week, and consistently "advanced" us some credit if we needed it to pay for our excursions and drinks onboard. She knew the ports very well, and told us we would be able to get a cash advance in San Juan most definitely. I also received my paycheck on the Friday at the end of the cruise, and we knew that would help our situation as well. When we disembarked for the final time, Kayleigh told us to swing by the Accounting desk to say good-bye.
The itinerary was mediocre , Nassau, San Juan and Antigua , all places we've been before (some of them many times). In retrospect, we were fortunate that the itinerary was not as exotic as we like, due to our shipboard credit situation. Because there were only a few ports and more sea days, and because our booking price was excellent, we opted for a balcony cabin for the very first time.
The cabin was very attractively appointed and very comfortable. In spite of that, we spent very little time in the cabin , and most of that time was spent out on the balcony. We have heard there can be issues with controlling the room's temperature with balcony cabins, but we found we had no difficulties at all keeping it as cool as we liked. The room-darkening drapes did an excellent job of keeping the room dark when we took an occasional mid-day nap. The mattress was probably the most comfortable mattress we've ever encountered on a cruise ship or hotel anywhere! The most annoying thing were the two huge pillow rolls , there for decoration only , which took up a lot of valuable bed or floor space (depending on where we put them). Our cabin steward did not introduce himself to us, and generally performed adequately. He was not the best steward we've had, but certainly he was far from being the worst (NCL). Alas, no towel "animals" on the bed"
We ate virtually all of our meals in the main dining room (Le Fontanne). The buffet "upstairs" was very nicely appointed and very well organized, with signs hanging from the ceiling to clearly identify where certain types of food items could be found. Toward the end of our cruise, we found ourselves drawn to the buffet to "snack" on pizza, to tide us over till our 8:30 P.M. 2nd seating! The main dining room was absolutely gorgeous! The food was delicious , of course, excellent pasta available at every meal except breakfast. MSC has been knocked in the past for their handling of meat, particularly beef. On the Poesia, however, it seemed the chefs for the most part got it right at least some of the time. One of our table mates had steak early in the cruise, and had to send the steak back to be cooked more to his liking. But at the end of the cruise (2nd "formal" night, surf & turf), the beef tenderloin was wonderful and perfectly prepared. We certainly did not go hungry!
The best part of the cruise (other than being at sea, away from home for 7 days, in a warm climate, with all the delicious food we could possibly stuff in our faces"), was the wait staff. Our Waiter was named Budi (short for something I can't remember and can't pronounce even if I do), and our Assistant Waiter was Adi (ditto). Their service was absolutely impeccable , the best we've had on any cruise. One evening I was particularly thirsty, and Budi gave me a second glass for water, which Adi faithfully kept filled. Another evening, my wife grabbed a second glass from an empty place setting, and for the rest of the cruise, her usual seat at the table had two water glasses.
Budi consistently went "above and beyond." My wife, due to health issues, uses a wheelchair on cruises because she has difficulty walking long distances and standing for any length of time. Every evening, I would wheel her into the dining room, near our table. She would stand and walk the few remaining steps to the table. Before we even got situated, Budi whisked the wheelchair away and stowed it until we were ready to leave. When Budi sensed we were getting ready to leave, he retrieved the chair and held it until my wife was situated comfortably. One of the Assistant Maitre D's also warrants special mention. Guiseppe was very kind regarding my wife's situation. He visited our table every night, and made sure we were all comfortable and content.
If I have to think of one "downside" to the cruise, it would be the bar staff. The very first day, one waiter got my wife's drink order totally wrong. We suspect that the bartender, rather than make it from scratch, merely "doctored" the original drink to make it what she ordered. Another waitress was very competitive for drink orders. She would circle the entire lounge and get several orders before placing the orders with the bartender. We ended up waiting several minutes for our drinks because she was busy delivering her other orders to other passengers.
Overall, this was one of the most enjoyable cruises we've been on in a long time. Generally, the food was very good, the service was tremendous, and the ship is absolutely beautiful. We had no issues with embarkation or disembarkation (other than having to leave!). We highly recommend MSC to anyone who is looking for beautiful ships, comfortable cabins, wonderful food and fantastic service. Now that MSC will be sailing the Divina in the Caribbean year-round, we will most definitely be sailing MSC again. In fact, we are already planning our cruise for next year!