First, three weeks and some 9,000+ passengers had graced the ship since I last sailed --- and yet incredibly, the staff remembered my face when I got back on the ship. I even met Captain Romano in the elevator at embarkation. I reached out to shake his hand and said he probably did not remember me. He said yes, he did, and held his hand out to mark the heights of each of my five children (ages 3-18, including a 6'2" son) --- ending with his hand well above his head. We got the same recognition by the wait staff in the restaurant. It was extraordinary recall. Unbelievable!
Second, I dined at Kaito Sushi Bar in December and found it absolutely superb --- I wholeheartedly recommend that to everyone. In January, my Dad, brother and sister-in-law all ate with me at L'Obelisco for dinner one night. Three of us ordered the filet mignon and one ordered the king prawns. The filet was the absolute BEST steak we have ever eaten --- and I've eaten at a number of 5-star steak restaurants in my lifetime. This was superior to them all. It was 3-4 inches thick and cooked perfectly. The icing was that it only cost $16.50 for the steak/potato/spinach dinner! I only wish that my husband and I had taken that opportunity when we sailed together in December. With the children's program option, we could have enjoyed an intimate, private, candle-lit dinner alone for less than $50.00 including appetizer, dessert and childcare. I *highly* recommend that couples jump at this! It would have cost us much more back home to hire a babysitter and pay for dinner and gratuities ... and the food would not have been as delicious!
As an aside, I found the passengers much, much, MUCH more pleasant in January than I did in December, for whatever reason. Significant enough that I am mentioning it for others who might be considering sailing in December versus January in the future. In December, the passenger make-up was much older with a higher percentage of Italians and Americans. The positive was that they all dressed up for Gala Nights --- LOTS of tuxes and gowns. Remember, I had my whole family with me then and it was a nice experience to doll them all up and see the others on the ship dolled up, too. In January, the passenger make-up was MUCH younger and there were more children on the ship ... young ones at that. Maybe 20 infants and toddlers. It seemed that the largest population of passengers was Canadian in January, then American, with a few French,Italian and Germans spattered in there. You could definitely discern the Canadians from the other French speakers, as they were more respectful and polite. Just my observations...
Another aside: we had a Category 11 Superior Balcony in December and a Category 4 Interior Cabin in January. Both on Deck 11. The former on the port side aft and the latter on the starboard side fore. Both were nice and had ample storage space; both had excellent steward service. But the balcony experience was sooooo far superior to the interior cabin experience that I would encourage you to consider that option, finance-permitting. I have sailed a lot and am budget-conscious, so I always felt that an interior cabin was perfectly fine since we don't spend much time IN the cabin anyways. But I really did enjoy sipping coffee on the balcony and being able to get some fresh air while my children napped in the afternoon. So much so that I highly recommend balcony cabins over interior, whenever possible. In January, I just joined Dad in the cabin he already had booked --- but I'm glad I had the chance to compare the two experiences in very close proximity in time to each other. Apparently, other experienced cruisers have come to the same conclusion, since most of the cabins in the Poesia are balcony, with a small percentage of interior cabins compared to the Lirica.
Third, I have one comment on some of the nonsense I've read in recent posts. One lady outright accused her husband of getting sick from something he ate --- and then she turned around and said once she was HOME, she came down with the same symptoms which "only could have come from one place - the dining room on the ship." That's ridiculous!!! Food poisoning is evidenced within HOURS of eating contaminated food ... not days. Whatever made her husband ill (most likely NOT food poisoning) the next day, would NOT have made HER sick *days* later. That is absurd. More likely, both she and her husband suffered a bout of the flu, as their symptoms suggest. Sounds like someone plotting to demand a refund or voucher and kills all credibility. The purpose of this review forum is to give an accurate, factual basis for our experiences for other prospective passengers, not to drum up windfalls in our favor!
Lastly, let me just say that we first tried MSC in 2008 on the Lirica. I booked that cruise in March for a December sailing, then got on this and other cruise review forums and started reading reviews. We read some horrificly miserable posts and came VERY CLOSE to canceling our cruise. However, by that time, a group of 23 family members had booked the same cruise with us (some from both my side and my husband's side). We figured that it would be "worth the risk" to all be together on the same ship at the same time ... a feat that will never happen again ... even if everything was as bad as had been reported. So we kept our bookings and went in 2008 expecting it to be terrible. It was the most marvelous cruise experience we had ever had!!! I am Italian-American and make all my own pasta and sauces from scratch. The food that Americans so sorely complain about in reviews of MSC ships is 100% authentic Italian. The sauces are very simple. There is no dripping-with-fat alfredo or carbonara like that served in Olive Garden. That is American junk food. Please, when you read Americans' complaints about food, please, please consider the high-fat, highly-processed junk that our American restaurants serve --- deep-fried and/or smothered-in-gravy everything. And consider that we Americans have a McDonald's or Burger King on every other corner for a reason: too many of us EAT that stuff regularly enough to keep them all in business. For sure, if that is your taste, then you will not relish the purity and simplicity of MSC's Italian dishes. I actually heard one man comment to his child (at our table) that MSC's homemade macaroni and cheese was "almost" as good as Kraft in a box. That's ridiculous!!! I ordered some just to see if it was marginal; it was delicious, rich and creamy, with REAL cheese! I call out for future reviewers to disclose what their dining style is, if critical of MSC, so that your comments can be taken in proper context. MSC is a very quiet sailing experience. If you like Calypso bands and in-your-face entertainment, you'll be very disappointed. There is no entertainment-ad-nauseum or eat-until-you-drop round the clock. If you like peace and dignity in your vacationing experience, where you will be more rested when you disembark than you were when you embarked, then you'll love MSC like I do.