First, I would like to preface this review by saying that anyone going on an MSC cruise should do their homework first and know what the line is offering. It is an ITALIAN company and employs ITALIAN officers to run the ship. Many of the support staff are also ITALIAN. So, don't expect to speak only English on the ship and be understood by all the staff and crew. Also, since this is an ITALIAN line, the dining, and entertainment are focused more on European tastes, although MSC is trying to accommodate North American clients when sailing in the Caribbean, compared to the much different clientele on Mediterranean cruises. Think of going on an MSC cruise as if you were visiting a foreign country, use courtesy, respect, and understanding, and you will have a much better experience than most on the CC board that were super critical of MSC and the Poesia (North American passengers). I think that the lower the price of the cruise, the more complainers it seems to produce. Not sure of the exact correlation, but for the money, the value, this was an excellent deal that no other cruise line in the industry could touch.
I am in my early 50s and was joined by my 80s mom who was celebrating her birthday on this cruise. We selected the cruise because it covered 2 ports that I had not been to before, Grand Cayman and Jamaica, it was priced right, and we really wanted to give MSC a try. We didn't go wrong in our decision to take join this voyage.
We live in Tampa and drove to a parking garage just outside Port Everglades the morning of the cruise.
Embarkation was a mess. Terminal 4 in FLL is an old hangar with inadequate facilities or staff to handle a ship the size of the Poesia. This was also just the second sailing ever out of America for the Poesia. The articulated ramp connecting the terminal building to the ship is very narrow and with only one available for passengers , is totally inadequate for a ship of this size. Baggage check at the curb amounted to filling out luggage tags in the sun and leaving the luggage in the parking lot along with the other hundreds of bags that were to be brought on-board. Anyone could have taken bags not belonging to them, and there was no procedure in force to keep the bags secure. Because it took so long for the previous voyage to disembark, they were still leaving the ship as passengers from our voyage we embarking, so that made for even more chaos. Terminal 4 staff were new, not very helpful, and even gave incorrect information about real basic stuff, like which door to enter to get inside the terminal building. There was only one screening machine for all 2500 plus passengers to go through. Check-in was inefficient as well, with just 2 lines for about 15 check-in desks. Express check-in was exactly the opposite. It took us longer to get through the express line than it did other passengers in the regular line who were much later in arriving than us. I don't think that MSC is to blame for the problems at Terminal 4, but it did impact all the passengers in a way that makes a happy event like a cruise much less enjoyable.
One thing that really bothered me early on in the cruise was our life boat drill. MSC never checked passengers for their stateroom numbers, so they clearly had no way of knowing if passengers had attended the drill or not. This is a HUGE safety issue that should be addressed on the Poesia.
I can't say anymore about the ship than what others have mentioned previously. It is a gorgeous ship. Since I select my cruises based on price and itinerary, the ship itself was not a major consideration, but an extremely nice perk.
We paid for an inside guarantee and received an upgrade to a deluxe balcony. The stateroom was beautifully done, functional, and just a bit cramped when the beds were separated. There was enough storage space for 2 passengers. The balcony was small and had 2 chairs and an ottoman. I would rather have had 2 lounge chairs instead, but we still enjoyed spending lots of time on the balcony reading and relaxing. The phone system on the ship has no messaging system, so there is no way to contact or leave messages with other cabins. The flat-screen TV with a modern remote was very easy to use and included a lot of programing that would be appreciated by American passengers, like ESPN from the USA instead of from Europe or Asia, like other cruise lines offer. Our stateroom steward, Juli, was friendly, efficient, and always ready to please.
We had early (what MSC was calling MAIN) dining at 530pm in the La Fontana. It was a beautiful space, very colorful, attractive, and only a bit cramped when all the tables were filled. We were glad that we had this lower level dining room because we also ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in this room, and usually were visited by our main waiter from dinner, Newman. He is Indonesian, very friendly and a very hard worker. He wanted us to be happy and pleased with the dining experience no matter who was serving us at breakfast or lunch, and he did the same for all the other passengers who were lucky enough to be assigned Newman for their evening dining service. Since this is an ITALIAN cruise ship, I would recommend sticking to the ITALIAN dishes, but others were also good, like the salmon. I usually have just fresh fruit for dessert, but on this cruise the desserts were so good, I fell off the wagon and had at least the ice cream every night.
There were lots of varied activities during the evening hours, but not a lot for adults to do on sea days during the daytime hours. For a ship this size, they could have had even more games, trivia, ect, but some of the lack of events during those times may have been impacted by the Shiprocked convention charter that took up half the ship's passengers. For the most part though, the Shiprocked event had little impact on the rest of the passengers or activities. The entertainment staff were very friendly and quite talented. They are all from Europe or South Africa, and some had limited English language competency, but they made up for that in enthusiasm and fun.
We did not have a need for the Children's program. However, we did hear from our table mates that said it was geared more for the young ones, less than 8 years old, and unfortunately all the children were put into one large group instead of separating them into age groups with age appropriate activities.
Front desk guest services and accounting had a lot of difficulty dealing with all the problems facing a ship with North Americans aboard. But, in their defense, they were understaffed, ill trained, and will probably do better as the season progresses in the Caribbean. I tried to plan two CC events while on the ship, and both were botched up by the staff responsible. They don't know what CC is, and I think as more CC members sail with the Poesia, they will take the private events scheduling for CC more seriously.
The entertainment in all the lounges, bars and public areas was excellent and varied enough to please more tastes. The shows in the main theatre were geared more for European tastes. The shows had at most only 2 vocalists, no live orchestra, but some of the most beautiful and talented dancers and gymnasts I have ever seen. In general, I did not care for most of the themes of the shows, and left a few before they had concluded.
I did not take any ship shore excursions, but I did notice that they seemed very reasonably priced compared to similar offerings from Princess or HAL.
Disembarkation was also lengthy and delayed, but some of that could have been caused by what was going on shore-side with customs and immigration officials. We had elected self-assist departure, and it would have been much swifter if 900 other passengers hadn't also selected the same option. My mom was very ill the morning we were to depart, and staff helped us to get off the ship as swiftly as possible.
In summary, I would rate this cruise a 4 out of 5. Yes, there were some hiccups and glitches, but you just can't beat the value that the MSC Poesia offered for the money.