Embarkation was pretty painless. We were impressed with the infrared body heat sensor in the terminal. As you approach, youre asked to remove your eyeglasses so the sensor can detect any fever (elevated body temps.) This is done to prevent passengers with norovirus from boarding, according to the personnel there. Hats off to MSC for taking this step. We were in our cabin by noon, and meandered to the Villa Pompeiiana buffet. As wisely suggested by a fellow Cruise Critic, we went to the very aft section, and it was almost deserted. (It wasn't a secret for long, though!) Buffet was okay, nothing really jumped out at us, but everything still tasted fine....several cold pasta type salads, sliced meats, etc. There's also a regular salad bar w/ dressings, croutons, etc. Look for the tables that have pre-filled tea and water, A few days the glasses were larger than the smaller ones that you need to get refilled.
Our first 'challenge' was getting our dinner time changed to first seating. We were told to go to guest relations. We did. Then we were told to go to the Poesia Meeting room. We did. Then we had to take a number and wait 'till it was called. I waited about 45 mins.,then went in to speak to one of the maitr d's, Mauricio, and his American helper, Susan. They were pretty brusque and told me 'not tonight', they'd "try" to change it in time for the second night. It wasn't a deal breaker, but we booked this cruise almost a year ago, so we should have had first seating. My husband went back down to this room,and his powers of persuasion convinced Mauricio that we expected first seating from the start, and we got it, in LaFontane. When we arrived, there was Mauricio, and he said we were supposed to go to Il Palladio!! Unfortunately, this seemed to be the approach that several of the staff took.( More on that later) We found out that the ship was almost entirely booked full of seniors' travel clubs, groups, etc., and 90% of them wanted first seating. Dinners were pretty good, but not what you'd call gourmet. One evening I had cajun tilapia, and it was quite good. My husband had chicken scallopini, though, and his was dry and tough. Gala night was a bust. MSC isn't good with lobster (tough and chewy, but it WAS a large portion!) and the filet mignon on the menu was in fact a sirloin. DH couldn't finish it, and a tablemate sent his back-twice. Bottom line-food quality is inconsistent. One lunch offering, stuffed shells, was so delicious and generous it should have been a dinner selection, one night the halibut was so bland it was literally like chewing wet cardboard. Some nights food was tepid, one night the soup was so hot it burned my mouth. Our servers were okay. Each night the waiter had to be asked (very politely) for my DH's iced tea. By the fouth night, the waiter brought it automatically for the remaining nights. If MSC wants more of the American market, it's imperative that the servers grasp English a little better. Pointing to the menu was a big help!!
Our cabin was spotless, and we had the best steward, Denis G. from Honduras. He was great. Everyday he greeted us with a smile.Towels and ice as needed (we're pretty low-maintenance). Despite MSC's smoking policy (no smoking in cabins or balconies), I could smell cigarette smoke in our cabin every night (no it wasn't us!!). Not MSC's fault, just weak smokers that can't respect the policies.
Our ports of call King's Wharf and Nassau, were self tours. In Bermuda, we bought the ferry/bus passes, and they were the best way to get around. We hired a taxi driver in Hamilton. he gave us a fine tour of the city and west side of the island. The next day, we took the bus to the Royal Naval Cemetery and visited a small seaglass beach across the way. We ended up shopping at the Clocktower Mall, lots of unique crafts. The Bermuda Arts Center was also a nice stop, local artists in different media have items for sale. In Nassau, DH rented a scooter and toured the town, he loved it and said it was quite safe. I walked around a bit and went back to the ship.
DH said he was bored, but he's used to trivia, contests, etc., which aren't really possible on MSC. There were a few trivia games, crafts activities, etc. Ship's gym was small but certainly useable. Several machine and a rack of free weights. Bring your H2O bottle-no water in the gym. Evening shows were, to me, wonderful. I prefer the Euro style to the 'Broadway' shows. MSC shines here ! Mimma the singer was beautiful.
We were listed as having one of the last disembarkation times. When I went to the desk to ask for luggage tags that would allow us off a little earlier, I was firmly but politely told that I'd have to come back when the 'hostesses' were present, because I was already on a list (??). When I pointed out the racks of luggage tags that were behind her, she just said 'No, I cannot do it now", and I was again told to come back around 0830. When we did return, around 0730, there were three hostesses. I politely re-stated my requested, and Cheryl S. simply siad, "I can can get you in'yellow' group, no problem", and handed me the luggage tags with a smile. No mention of any list. In retrospect, I should have had Nikki call a supervisor to make it happen. Sadly, a lot of rude Americans on board. In Nassau, one American berated the clerks that were selling Bacardi rumcakes because they didn't offer free samples. Sheesh. As I was exiting the elevator, a man tried to get on. I stopped (blocking his way) and said, "I get off, then you get on" He said nothing, but did step aside so we could leave. Not too many of the seniors were using 'please' and 'thank you' to the waitstaff- just 'I want..." and 'Bring me..."
Overall, we felt we got our money's worth,and on the MSC comment form rated the cruise as adequate. We made an effort to be polite and respectful. The staff members from Madagascar smiled when I practiced my fractured French on them. And for all of you who say 'It's a European cruiseline', I know that! But here's the deal- if MSC wants a share of the American market, it needs to at least act like it wants it. The front desk, accounting, and excursion staff could use a 'diversity' crash course on American customs, likes and dislikes, etc. Poesia is returning to the USA in the fall for 'fall foliage' cruises, hopefully they'll have made some improvements. But please keep Denis G. the cabin steward!!