While my wife and I are frequent cruisers, I never had the desire to write a review until now. We have tried most of the major players including Carnival, Holland America, Celebrity, Norwegian and we thought we would give MSC a try. We actually booked back to back cruises since each week was a different itinerary. The first week(1/9/10) was to the Eastern Caribbean and the second week (1/16/10) was to the Western Caribbean. We booked through an on-line travel agency and selected Category 4 Ocean View Guaranteed and were pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to Category 10 Balcony at no additional cost.
After reading some of the reviews posted before we left, I was wondering if it was possible that MSC would not be able to meet the standards of the other lines. Bottom line, MSC met or exceed the other lines in almost every category.
You must keep in mind that this a European cruise line which is relatively new to North America. Despite the multi-lingual diversity of the passengers, MSC is trying to address the needs of the passengers. Because of the diversity, announcements must be made in 5 languages(English, French, Italian, German, Spanish). As a result, there are few announcements which I felt was a big plus. It was a pleasure not to be bombarded with loud announcements every hour from someone telling us it was time for bingo, time for the art auction ,or hyping the ship excursions etc. All of these activities are clearly listed in the daily program which is delivered to your cabin every night, just like all the other lines. There is also a very informative book in each cabin which explains all of the ship amenities and services, also written in 5 languages.
On the Poesia, each cabin has a flat screen interactive television which allows you to order room service, book excursions, purchases items from Duty Free, purchase movies, etc. I used it to order the N.Y Times newspaper which was delivered to my cabin each morning. There were hundreds of newspapers to choose from and the cost was very reasonable $2.50 for the daily paper.
The television had several English speaking channels including CNN, HLN, ESPN, TNT, TMC and other channels dedicated to the services provided on the ship and ports of call.
The mini fridge had an assortment of snacks and beverages at prices which were reasonable.
The ship offers many different beverage and wine packages which are priced much more reasonably than the other cruise lines. One noticeable difference in the public areas is that if you would like to purchase a drink, there are plenty of servers to take your order but they are not walking around trying to hawk the drinks. Nowhere on the ship did we ever have anyone trying to push the drinks which is so common on the other cruise lines.
While we did not book any of the ship excursions, I reviewed the variety and prices and they seemed to be on par with the other lines and actually priced a little lower. We made our own independent arrangements at each port since we had been to some of them several times in the past and wanted something a little different.
Dining: When I read some of the other reviews, I was a little apprehensive about what to expect but I must say that we were pleasantly surprised.
During the first week, my wife and I ate most meals in the Villa Popeiana Cafeteria on deck 13 because we do not care for late seating dinners. There is a salad bar, the standard fare of grill items including very good hamburgers, hot dogs etc. There was a wide variety of entrees and desserts which were all served fresh and hot. There is also a wide selection of fresh pizzas which we thought was excellent.
During the second week, we ate most of our meals in the dining rooms, as we had the early seating. Breakfast and Lunch is open seating and for Dinners you are assigned a specific table. Our waiter George from Romania and the other wait staff were very professional. Keep in mind that they are taking orders from people in many languages so do not hesitate to repeat your order or better yet point to the particular item on the menus to ensure that there is no confusion.
Each night the menu focused on a different region of Italy and all the appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and desserts were very good. Everyone has different tastes so if you do not see something you like, you can also order some of the standard items from the menu.
The daily program lists all the ship activities which are comparable to the other lines. We attended a few of the shows and the performers were very good. Here again the shows are more visual due to the diversity of the languages. The Italian singers were outstanding.
We think that the MSC cruise was excellent we would definitely try this line again. In order to fairly compare the quality of an MSC cruise against others, you need to determine the value of the tangible and intangibles which you recieved for the price you paid. There are many lines which offer 5* luxury, but look at the price and see if that is what you are looking for in a cruise. If you are looking to cruise on a beautiful ship with all the standard ammenities and activities, you will be very happy with the Poesia.
Before you go on any cruise line, you need to do some home work. I made several inquiries before our cruise to ensure we knew what we had to bring and what was provided on the ship. For example, each cabin has a hair dryer so my wife did not have to pack one. All cruise ships do not have self serve laundromats, they can vary within the same cruise line. Knowing before you go can eliminate the need to take too much or too little luggage.