We boarded MSC's Poesia with an open mind. I have read many poor reviews, but we paid a very reasonable price for an 11 night Christmas family cruise, and you shouldn't expect to get champagne if you pay only for sparking wine!
The ship is quite superb! It is among the best I have ever sailed on, public rooms were attractive and in very good taste, and kept immaculate. Cabins were kept beautifully clean, and are spacious and more than adequate. We encountered very heavy seas on more than one occasion, and this large vessel coped well with the conditions. We were on a winter cruise, but did note that the lack of open deck space might be an issue in a warmer climate where more time would be spent outdoors.
The food onboard was very hit and miss. As other reviews suggest, if your taste is conservative (steaks, lobsters, roasts) then go elsewhere, but if you are prepared to try the Italian flavors, the risottos, pastas, soups and salads were generally quite good. I would say, however, that whilst we always managed to find something fit to eat, none of the meals would really rate as much more than adequate. Getting really hot food seemed virtually impossible, with the exception of breakfasts in the main dining room.
MSC prices are initially inviting, but onboard drinks and extras mean that overall it's not as cheap as it seems. Mineral water is charged for, which I had expected, but the excessive charges soon accumulate, although the euro exchange rate is hardly MSC's fault, and that is partly responsible. We allowed our son just two tins per day of his favorite soft drink, but that alone put £70 on our bill at 2.8 euros a time. We did learn to buy water ashore, and chill it in the minibar which we had asked the maid to empty, but alcoholic drinks could not be brought onboard, and were sold at astronomical prices. A gin and tonic set me back 5.8 euros, and wines too were charged at high prices. A beer package, which was 14 glasses of 40cl of lager, was 59 euros
Our son, aged 14, didn't attend the kids club as he was the only English speaker on day one, and didn't go back, but he did eventually meet other teens and have some fun.
Many other little charges contribute to the bill. We were able to walk rather than use shuttle buses, but at 7 euros for a five minute drive, I'm glad we're able bodied. We rarely take shore excursions, (as the are usually an expensive rip-off on every cruise line afloat) but MSC even charge 50 cents for the photocopied port maps usually given out free of charge.
The entertainment was also hit and miss. Singers in the bars were little better than poor pub karaoke standard, with one exception. Frequenze Retro, the gypsy jazz band who played every night in the wine bar, were quite exceptional, and possibly the best onboard band I have ever seen.
We have cruised with several lines, and unfortunately can't recommend MSC for us. The prices of better quality lines such as Cunard and RCL may initially seem more, but MSC get the cash from your pocket in the end. If, however, you don't drink, are not too fussy about your food, and don't need transport ashore, you just might manage a bargain cruise.