I am a travel agent and I booked this two night break as I had never been on an MSC ship before, and I feel if you are selling a product you should really experience what you are selling to give an honest assessment.
We travelled down to Dover (UK) the day before the cruise departed, and I guess the biggest indictment of MSC Poesia is the fact that the meal we had in the local Chinese was vastly superior to anything we had on board (AND IT WAS SERVED APPRECIABLY HOTTER)
We embarked at lunchtime on the 13th. Embarkation was absolutely superb and utterly seamless. Smooth and efficient. We found our way to our cabin (balcony category 11). Clean and tidy, nice space, good balcony and reasonable bathroom, so that was all fine. The only problem was there was a considerable amount of relevent literature missing from the cabin which took an age for them to actually rectify.
We then went down to Guest Relations to register credit card, sort out all inclusive etc (which had been pre-booked and paid for) The lady on Guest Relations, whilst being perfectly pleasant had no idea about the packages, could not find out that we were on All Inclusive and I had to go back from deck 5, to my cabin on deck 11 to bring down the tickets as proof. Eventually after a period of faffing around it was sorted.
We decided on a visit to Il Palladino for lunch which was mediocre at the very best. We both had pasta type dishes which were luke warm, and quite frankly bland. Italian ship/Pasta/Bland..........not really what we were expecting or hoping for.
Ship exploration next. Always good fun and in truth the ship did not disappoint. It is lovely. Pools, pool area, bars, restaurants, in fact all the public areas are really nice. Clean bright, and each bar totally different in appearance and ambiance from the next. Casino was nice with plenty of tables and they actually have a separate poker room which is a nice touch.
Then we came to another disappointment. Both of us enjoy looking in shops. It is always a pleasant way of spending a couple of hours....... and a few dollars. Very disappointed to find out that the shops were all going to be closed for the duration of the cruise due to the fact that the ship was going into dry dock at the end of the cruise. They were doing us the favour of opening up the Duty Free for a couple of hours on the Thursday night between 1900 and 2200 (fundamentally no use whatsoever as it fell between the show and the second sitting meal). Whilst I reluctantly accept that they closed the shops, it would have been nice to know in advance of joining the cruise.
We then decided to take in a Jacuzzi and relax for a while at the Aureo Spa. A lovely ambiance. Child free with 3 lovely indoor jacuzzi and not over crowded, but my goodness they could do with putting some heating in the general relaxation area. Once you get out of the jacuzzi it was so cold, which was surprising for an indoor area.
We went to the show on the Thursday night, and, although it was a trifle short, it was really very very good indeed. I am not normally a cruise-show person, although the person I was with is, and I would happily miss any cruise show. I am pleased we did not, as we both really enjoyed it and it provided a lovely pre-cursor to our dinner.
DINNER. Average, average, average.........and that is the best I can say about it. Five courses, three of which were at a level of mediocrity that I am not used to on cruises and the other two minimally better. The company on our table was wonderful, but that is not something that MSC can particularly take any credit for. It did, however make the meal palatable and enjoyable as an experience. The worst part of it all was the seemingly total inability for them to serve up any dish at a temerature appreciably better than luke warm.
A couple of little gripes dinner related (maybe a bit pedantic but hey ho!!) On Royal Caribbean/Celebrity/Princess etc cruises, if I order a bottle of wine, what I would expect to happen is that when the waiter saw that our glasses were getting low, he would ask and top up as required. Here, the bottle was just left on our table for us to pour as and when. I am not a snob by any means, it just isn't the way it should be. Also something as simple as cold water. With the above mentioned companies I would have my glass topped up from a jug by our waiter. Here it was a plastic bottle of water, left on our table to top up ourselves.
After dinner we went into a couple of the bars to try and work our way through the cocktail menu. This proved very enjoyable and great fun. THe Zebra Bar was our particular favourite but as I said earlier they were all nice.
Breakfast the following day was poor in so many respects. My companion had (and I use that word very carefully) a couple of slices of toast and a piece of waffle. The waffle was so hard that she found it virtually impossible to cut. We did think it may have been worth requesting a chisel to hack through it, but we felt our humour might fall on deaf ears. The toast was not appreciably better. The "hot" breakfast again should really have been done under the Trades Description Act. Yes it was a Breakfast. Not it was not hot, or even remotely close to that.
This day we decided to go to the buffet for lunch which, from the food point of view was tasty(ish) however I can only reiterate it was warm at best. I truly do not know what is so difficult about serving either buffet or main restaurant food at an acceptable temperature. Between the two of us, I guess we have been on some 25-30 ships varying from Celebrity, Azamara, Cunard at one end and Ocean Village and Island at the other and we have never known a ship to be so incapable.
The final insult to injurry was when I attempted to pay my bill. This had come across from the US and our bill for the two days was in US Dollars. It came to $57. I only had sterling and was told that it would be £59. As I am sure you will appreciate this would have represented an exchange rate of 0.966 dollars to the pound against an exchange rate of 1.40 roughly available elsewhere. I argued this with the Accounts man who insisted that it was correct until finally someone else intervened and said that it should be £39 and not £59, but it was unnecessary and potentially unpleasant.
I will try and wrap this review up now. As a two night break we had a great time, however if I am making a genuine critique of the MSC experience I would conclude by saying the following:- 1) It purports to be 4* as does RCI/Princess etc. From a food perspective it cannot in anyway compete both in quality and presentation. 2) This is only an opinion. It appears to me that the staff to guest ration is unacceptably low as the inter-reaction with staff appears minimal and almost "fearful" 3) The language issues I have read about are unimportant and do not cause many delays or problems
Would I cruise with MSC. Maybe again on a short cruise up to 5 nights, but I would not cruise on 7 nights or longer. I feel that I go on holiday to relax and the food quality and presentation would remove the relaxation element of my holiday. I would rather pay the slightly (and I do mean slightly) higher charges from some of the other companies and receive the experience they have to offer.