I took a Christmas cruise on the Poesia with MSC for Christmas. Before that cruise I read up on the cruise line and ship and as MSC is new to the Caribbean and I got a lot of value out of the other reviews I thought I would share.
My in laws got 3 rooms on the Poisa for the Christmas cruise December 20-27th. We got one inside room for my wife and I, one balcony for my in laws and a "single" for my brother in law. They do allow one person to occupy a room, which is the same as the 2 person room, and pay 50% of the second ticket, paying 150% of the single person price.
The alcohol packages are very reasonably priced, so we purchased a few of the bottled beer packages ahead of time. This was a real pain because it could not be done over the internet or even by phone. We had to fax in a separate order form for each room that we wanted to purchase add-ons for (3 for us). So I did this, only to find out 30 or so hours later that they did not take discover, and I would have to start over.
We also wanted to purchase the wine packages ahead of time. It worked out to ~$9 a bottle, who can beat that. We were told that wine packages are the same on the ship and that we should purchase that from our waiter once we got to dinner to avoid confusion (yes this is foreshadowing future problems).
We got our room assignments a few weeks ahead of the cruise, to find out that my wife and I as well as my brother in law got upgraded to balconies. That was a great surprise. That on top of the $100 per person on ship credit made this a very reasonable cruise cost wise.
Getting on the ship in Fort Lauderdale:
We had no problems at all, even though they said we couldn't get on until 2, we got on at around noon. We were by no means the first people on either, so I would say get there early; I doubt they will turn you away. Getting on was quick and easy, we did have to sign a document stating that we didn't feel sick and they were recording us from multiple cameras. I later heard that at least one was an infra-red camera and they would pull you out of line if you looked too hot. We didn't see anyone actually get pulled though.
The ship is new and very clean. As others have said, if you take the stairs from floor 13 to floor 5 you will probably see 2 people that are constantly cleaning hand rails. This ship had a more European/subdued style then other ships I have been on. I don't remember if other ships I was on were like this, but there were almost no straight lines, I am assuming this was to minimize the feel of the moving boat. While this ship was the largest I have ever been on it didn't feel that way at all, in fact it felt cramped and crowded. The buffet upstairs was one giant line, it often took 15+ minutes to actually make it from one side to the other and because of the design you couldn't go to the section you wanted without cutting in line. I would say that the people flow was bad enough to make this my least favorite ship. That said this was the Christmas cruise, so it was sold out, and kids are free on MSC, so I am sure it was over 100% occupancy.
There were plenty of chairs, and while some people in my party ran into issues with people saving chairs I never saw a time that there was a lack of lounge chairs available. There are 2 small pools and a few hot tubs as well. As far as I could tell there were no adult only anything on this ship, or it wasn't enforced. That said outside of the pool and hot tubs, I barely noticed the kids.
I have never had a balcony before, but our room was very nice and large, I feel like it was laid our better than any other ship we have been on. When we arrived we did find a few problems though: our beds were arranged as singles, our safe was locked in the open position and our shower leaked. Once we found our room steward which wasn't easy we had then fix the beds at dinner (they had to get king sheets). Our steward found an engineer to fix our safe and also called someone about our shower leaking into the room. It wasn't that the wet floor spilled out it was coming from the wall where the drain was. They sent 2 groups of people to look at our drain and snaked it, but it leaked for the whole cruise. The room stewards are more like the cleaning people at a decent hotel than any other cruise I have been on. They do a good job cleaning the room, but don't do anything else and when you rarely see them in the hall then don't acknowledge you like on other ships. This was all fine to me, but I think my wife secretly missed the towel animals.
First day shenanigans:
Our receipt for the beer tickets said they would be in our room. They weren't. When we found our steward she said she had no idea, but that we should talk to reception. After waiting in line for reception they had no idea either and said we needed to go to any bar to get them. We then went to one of the bars near reception, who sent us to the "main bar" upstairs. When we got there they had no idea what we were talking about, and said we needed to come back when the manager was there (2 hours later). We took this time to fix our seating assignment, we had all requested the second seating (8PM) during the booking, but had been given the first (5:30). This was not acceptable, because we didn't want to eat with so many kids, also we were in port at that time for multiple ports. We asked our steward who to see to fix it, which sent us to registration, my wife protested saying we needed to see the maitre d, I should have listened to her. After being corrected by registration we went to the main dining room and after waiting ~30 minutes got it fixed by the maitre d, who said we would be one of the last who would be able to switch to the late seating. I am sure this angered a lot of people because it wasn't even 2PM (the official boarding time) yet and they had messed up quite a few peoples seatings. We then went back to the main bar to see the manager about our beer (I was getting really thirsty). Unfortunately he also had no clue what we were talking about and said we would have to talk to our waiter because they deal with all of that stuff. So unfortunately we couldn't use our tickets we had already paid for to drink for the first 9 hours of our cruise.
We get to dinner and ask our waiter about the beer tickets, he too has no idea, but assures us that he will find out by the end of dinner. That is ok, because now we want wine with dinner. Unfortunately the wine package that we were told to purchase once we boarded was not available, not even the main manager (the one with the cell phone) knew what we were talking about. We got over this rather quickly because the on board packages were still quite reasonable at ~$15 a bottle. Though not getting the pre boarding price did end up costing us around 75 dollars.
The menu has an American side and a European side. With a few exceptions, they are booth equally bad. In fact, this is the reason I would not go on an MSC cruise again. We are all reasonably well traveled, and really enjoy food. This wasn't just a case of wanting the foot to be more Americanized. The food was just bad.
I am pretty sure that everything is frozen and then reheated, and then stored under a heat lamp letting it get overly reheated and soggy. It is amazing how badly an Italian cruise line can mess up Italian food. Everyone on the ship was complaining. One British couple we sat with at lunch said they had been asking people and not one person said they would take MSC again and the food was the number one reason. In general the service is very poor, you probably get 80% of what you order on any night, but you didn't want the other 20% after you see it anyway. I ended up ordering pizza off of the kids menu the last night, what Italian cruise line can mess that up right (it was quite good upstairs in the buffet when I had it earlier in the week). Man was I wrong; I am sure it was good at some point, maybe 20 minutes before it was left under the heat lamp. They had one chocolate dessert the whole time and we didn't get it delivered (we were in the dining room for 2.5 hours before giving up to go to the 11PM show). I will say, you should ask for the better cheeses, they do have some good parmesan reggiano which was authentic and was the only food that reminded me of my time in Italy.
They have 2 specialty restraints: A sushi place with reasonable, but not cruise ship great prices and a specialty Italian restaurant which shared a room with the lunch and breakfast buffet. Given the overall food we decided not to pay extra. I was looking forward to sushi, but was not comfortable with eating it on this ship.
I tried to eat in the dining room as often as possible; the most enjoyable thing about eating was sitting with the all of the different types of people who were on the ship. There is no difference between the buffet breakfast and lunch and what is available in the dining room with one exception. They had smoked salmon in the dining room and smoked haring in the buffet for breakfast and people kept mooing like cattle in the feeding line upstairs.
They had a midnight buffet, but not being impressed with the food in the first place and seeing the huge lines of people we choose to leave without sampling anything. My inlaws went and said it was ok but overly crowded.
There were many times when there was no food anywhere on the ship outside of room service. Room service was an absolute joke. There was nothing hot , and they rarely got your order right. I would recommend ordering the Mozzarella and Tomatoes (Caprese).
Alcohol on this boat was very reasonable, better than most restaurants and bars back home. The wine selection is very good, I didn't have a bottle I didn't like and some were simply amazing for the price. The beer selection on the other hand was weak, sam adams was the darkest beer they offered. This was a major disappointment for me.
This ship was truly international, all announcements were done in 5 languages which were interesting, but meant that they rarely spoke to us. They generally had one announcement at 9:30 AM over the ships intercom, they didn't tell you when you could get off the boat, and you had to guess. We always got into port early, so if you want to get off, try. The other thing this influenced was the entertainment, there was little speaking. It was mostly what I would call budget Cirque de Soleil, which was pretty good, but got a little repetitive. Any other games they had on the ship were at least somewhat hampered by the multiple languages, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the multilingual karaoke.
They had very few excursions available through the boat. This might have been because we were in port at weird hours. Getting on and off the boat at the islands is easy, because as I mentioned before no one knows when they can actually get off, so it spreads the crowd out some. They do xray bags getting on the ship from ports, but they don't look at the xray, we found it easier to "sneak" alcohol on then to check it in with the boat. We didn't take advantage of them, alcohol was so cheap on the boat it wasn't worth the effort, but it would be easy to do if you wanted.
In general this ship seemed a lot less focused on sucking money out of you then others I have been on, but that could also be viewed that there were less potential value added services and less organization. Not only were the people on the Poesia not pushy, they weren't there. You wanted a drink in the theatre? You need to go to a bar and find someone to get you one. The art auction was exceedingly boring, but took forever, 45 minutes for 3 paintings. Part of this was because the auctioneer spent 10 minutes auctioning CDs from on board entertainment, no one bought them. We (along with most everyone else) left early. It might have been one of those things where the last man standing wins all of the prizes?
People were not at all pushy or even particularly visible, except for the rare time when they tried to force everyone to take pictures as they got off the boat, or went into dinner. There was probably a 30 minute line to get into the captains reception because they were "forcing" everyone to take pictures before they could get in. I have to admit that I skipped the line and went behind the photo backdrop, ignoring their demands to get back in line.
This was great; we decided to carry our own bags so that we could get off as quickly as possible. We arrived in FLL at 7AM and our entire party was off the ship and through customs in 45 minutes. I have had times where it took 2-3 hours to get out. I don't know how much of this is MSC versus the number of other ships disembarking at the same time and customs at FLL, but I was impressed.
Good: -The price - Getting to sit with such a diverse group of people at meals -The ship is very clean -rooms were big - alcohol prices
Bad: - The food - The unorganized ship -Forcing pictures - The food - MSC lacks the polish (not literally) compared to the other lines I have been on
Overall we had a great time. I could be on a tanker and as long as people on it are trying to have fun ant it is stopping at Caribbean islands every day or so I will be happy. That said, I would not take this line in the future, the cost savings was not worth the very sub par food and sub par service. MSC is new to the Caribbean, so I wouldn't be against giving them another shot in a few years if I hear good things.