This was our fourteenth cruise, but the first on MSC. Negative comments on Cruise Critic made us nervous. We chose this cruise because some friends were booked and they had recently been on the ship to the Panama Canal and they had a good experience. The ship was new, beautiful and crew was generally friendly.
Taxis at the airport were difficult to find, probably due to Spring Break. Once we arrived at the ship Embarkation was not pleasant. Limited communication with conflicting directions and long periods of waiting from 11:30 to 12:30 strained everyone's nerves. We normally would not try to board a cruise ship this early, but we had no alternative considering our flight schedule. Once we got to a check-in counter the process was very efficient. Other members in our party boarded quickly later in the afternoon.
Unfortunately the boarding experience was indicative of persistent and inadequate communication on the ship, but nothing associated with poor English language skills as reported by other travelers. For example: the food court on deck 13 did not open until 1:30 (not 12:00 as posted) for the Welcome Buffet. Eventually some passengers learned about the delayed opening time and the information was quickly shared with others. When the cafeteria opened it was a series of problems trying to feed approximately 1000 passengers at the same time. Fortunately most people were considerate of others. Some people got food but no silverware, chairs were generally not available. Many just gave up and went to the bars.
The reason for this fiasco was later explained by the Captain as a U.S. Health Dept. inspection of the kitchen and food service area. The officers and crew were appropriately ecstatic with a score of 100, but why weren't passengers notified of the delay on a timely basis?
Our balcony cabin was comfortable but smaller than most on modern ships. As noted in other reviews, the bathroom is small with limited counter space. The shower although small has a circular curtain with a nice shower wand with good pressure and plenty of hot water.
It is almost impossible to access the closet area when the bathroom door is open. Lighting was good, but not practical. The only way to get light in the closet area is to turn all cabin lights on, creating difficulties if someone wants to get up early while another wants to sleep late. The cabin lights are controlled at the main switch by inserting a cabin key card in the receptacle by the door. Reading lights at the bed and the vanity have separate controls.
Our cabin steward was from Madagascar and was very friendly and efficient with good English language skills.
MSC Poesia is beautiful. The crew is cleaning everywhere. The crew generally did not originate greetings, but were usually friendly if you initiated a greeting.
Navigating on the ship is easy due to strategically located maps, but I frequently got turned around moving aft or forward. Five stairways and fast elevators make it easy to move about the ship. Public toilets are somewhat difficult to find and are not identified on the maps.
The pool deck was usually crowded. If you want to jog or fast walk around the track you must finish before 8:30 when the deck chairs come out. Some folks used the large deck area below the lifeboats on deck 7, but the port side was always closed during our trip.
The casino was the largest and nicest we have seen on a ship and has a grand staircase to the Zebra Lounge below. The theater was very nice, but unlike many ships no food and drink is allowed.
Entertainment and music ranged from good to fantastic. The Lettermen, Boogie Brothers, Shane and Stet, and the three acrobatic groups were outstanding. The shows were generally very good, but sometimes repetitious.
Room service has limited selections, but was delivered on time. We decided it wasn't worth the effort. Food quality and selection in the cafeteria was generally good and, except for the embarkation problem, passengers moved through the lines quickly. Our only complaint was the small water and iced tea glasses. Breakfast and lunch was open seating in the dining room where large glasses are used.
If you wanted early coffee in your room you could go to the cafeteria starting at 6:30 and bring it back to your room. Paper cups were usually available aft, but no lids. The coffee was among the best we have had on a cruise.
Our dining experience in the Le Fontane was very good. We had a table of nine with an Indonesian waiter and assistant. They were friendly, attentive and generally communicated well in English. The food was hot and very good, but the meat and lobster were occasionally over cooked. Our waiter always offered to replace the selection. Dessert selection was limited, but ice cream was always available.
Our only complaint was the wine selection for dinner. One couple chose a wine plan (7 bottles), but we felt the selection was poor to medium quality. We chose to purchase individual bottles from the more extensive wine menu. Unfortunately many of the good wines were not available by mid-week. [We were told the wine delivery at Fort Lauderdale did not arrive.] Two nights we selected a bottle or a couple of glasses from the wine bar on deck 7 and brought them to the table. This is another example of poor communication/coordination between departments on the ship.
Arrival at ports was thankfully a few hours earlier than published prior to the cruise. This was particularly welcome at San Juan which was scheduled to be a late afternoon arrival with only a couple of hours before shops closed. Unlike some cruise lines, ship towels are available at the dock to take to the local beaches.
Our primary complaint was lack of information about ports. No maps were available, but the tourist desk at each port authority generally had maps. We had previously been to all of the ports except Tortolla, and made our own arrangements.
Our flight was later in the afternoon, so we opted for an Everglades excursion [excellent]. Getting off the ship was relatively easy, but again ship personnel gave conflicting instructions as we left the ship, proceeding to baggage pickup, the customs area and to busses.
Overall, we enjoyed our cruising experience on the MSC Poesia. We did not have the problems frequently mentioned in other reviews. The cost of cruising on this new ship is a significant plus and we enjoyed meeting passengers from other countries. Many were from France, Canada and other European countries. However, it is unlikely that we will sail with MSC again because competitive lines like RCI, Princess and Carnival are equal to or better than MSC.