Our party consisted of three, my husband and me, both retirees in our mid 60's, and my husband's sister who is in her 80's. We have been on several cruises, both with MSC and other major cruise lines. We travelled to Florida two days before the cruise to enable us to get over the 9.5 hour flight and enjoy some Floridian sunshine.
Embarkation - The ground staff at Fort Lauderdale were really fantastic. We had a slight problem where my husband managed to loose me and my sister in law. The port officials were friendly and helpful in assisting him to locate us. Once we were reunited we did not experience any long queues and were on board within 30 minutes.
The Ship - The Poesia is truly a beautiful ship. The lounges (apart from the Zebra lounge) are tastefully and comfortably furnished. The layout of the ship is virtually identical to the Musica and the style of furnishings and colour schemes are similar to other MSC vessels. As with all of the MSC fleet the ship is kept spotlessly clean; mirrors and brass wear sparkle and any finger marks are quickly cleaned away.
Accommodation - We had a balcony cabin at the aft on deck 9, my sister in law had an inside cabin which was located nearby. I must admit that after reading some reviews I was a little anxious about having an aft cabin. The first night at sea was a little rocky and there was some vibration and noise but that was the only time that it was an issue. For most of the cruise there was only a very little vibration and no noise. The balcony was just perfect and we had sun all afternoon and into the evening. We were also extremely sheltered from the wind. There was no noise or disturbance from neighbouring cabins. The overall size of the cabin is not large, but sufficient for two people and our luggage. Storage was only just enough; if there were more than 2 people in the cabin it could be a problem. The cabin was equipped with a comfortable king size bed, a sofa, a small fridge and a television. Our cabin boy Frank and his assistant Antonelli did a wonderful job in keeping our cabin clean and tidy and nothing was too much trouble. Several nights we returned to our cabin to find various animals shaped out of towels.
Food - I have read many varying and interesting reviews on the important subject of food on the Poesia. My overall impression is that the food is not consistent; one day it's good the next it's not so good. Most of the pastas, risottos and soups were very good. Delicious fresh Italian breads were baked daily and available at every meal. Generally speaking fish was a better option than meat. We chose mainly to eat all our meals in the main restaurant where the food was always served hot and the service was good. I cannot say that the food was excellent, but at best it was very good and at worst poor. However after saying that, if there was anything left on the plate our waiter would always offer an alternative dish and at the end of every meal he always asked if anyone wanted any thing else. We certainly did not go hungry. The food is on the whole poorly presented. With the exception of some desserts, very little effort seems to be given over to presentation, which is a great shame. Our waiter Mega and his able assistant Bang Bang did an excellent job in serving our meals and looking after our needs. They were attentive friendly and professional.
One thing worth mentioning is that on this cruise there was always plenty of water available at the table and tea and coffee was served after both lunch and dinner. This is something that is not available on all MSC cruises, as it seems to depend on where you are travelling from.
Premium Restaurant - As MSC Club members we were entitled to a complimentary meal in the "L'Obelisco Restaurant. Here we enjoyed a fabulous 3 course meal, beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. The restaurant is actually part of the self service buffet by day, and at night is transformed into a premium restaurant. The tables are nicely decorated and are positioned by large floor to ceiling windows giving beautiful views. The problem is not too many people use the facility, so it lacks ambiance.
Staff and service board - All the members of staff that I came across were friendly, polite and as helpful as they could be. There was a lack of knowledge by some of the reception and excursion staff. One thing that was sadly lacking was any port information. Apart from being able to sell their excursions, the English speaking hostesses and the excursion desk staff knew little about the ports that we were visiting and could not give any information. On some previous MSC cruises print outs with port information and maps had been available, but this now seems to have stopped.
Most of the waiters and room boys and girls came from Indonesia and Madagascar, Whilst many of the bar staff came from Eastern Europe. I never had any problems with staff not speaking English and it is worth remembering that these guys and girls also have to master some knowledge of German, Italian, French and Spanish, no mean feat for anyone!
Entertainment - Not the best I have ever seen, but the boys and girls on the stage worked hard to entertain. Entertainment is fairly limited on a multi lingual ship. The lighting and costumes were probably more spectacular than the actual entertainment. I felt that some of the dance routines were very 'old hat' and in need of updating - I have seen the can-can on every MSC cruise that I have been on! The entertainments director, Anna, worked extremely hard and her ability to speak in so many languages was amazing. On one of the sea days there was a daytime meet and mingle with the entertainers, this was very well done. There was a short film made by the entertainers, followed by a question and answer session. I was amazed by the number of questions people asked.
Activities - I felt that some of the activities offered by the activities team day and night were a little juvenile; however these events were well attended so in the end it's down to personal preferences.
There was the usual array of keep-fit activities, which were fun and well attended, although it would have been nicer to have these activities outside on the deck, weather permitting, rather than in the Zebra bar.
There were also a few general knowledge quizzes which you could either participate in or watch.
I enjoyed two cookery demonstrations where the chef cooked delicious pasta, which then could be sampled by anyone who wanted.
Every day there seemed to be sales and bazaars, although it always seemed to be the same items that were being sold and in my opinion the quality of the merchandise was not the best.
Itinerary - The ports of call on this cruise were our main reason for booking the cruise - Fort Lauderdale, New York, Ponta Delgada Azores, Lisbon, La Corunna, Bilbao, and Dover. We did not book any of the MSC Excursions as we felt that they were too expensive. In New York we were happy to do our own thing and use the hop on hop off open top buses. For Ponta Delgada, we prebooked a private car and driver. As there were three of us this worked out no more expensive than using the MSC excursion, and our trip was a full day which included lunch. In Lisbon & La Corunna we used public transport, whilst in Bilbao we used the ship's shuttle service.
Dis-embarkation - Very quick and efficient as not all the guests were disembarking at Dover for many were going on to Germany. We could have been off the ship by 9am. However one of our party had an accounts problem, which needed to be sorted out, and this meant that we were the last off the ship. Porters at Dover were very helpful in assisting with luggage.
Conclusion - Despite some of the afore mentioned short comings we enjoyed this Trans-Atlantic cruise. In my opinion the Poesia is not a four star experience, the ship itself is excellent but the food, service and entertainment let it down, however after saying that it does represent good value fore money, the positives far outweigh the negatives, the sea days were beautifully relaxing, the days in port were fascinating and we had the pleasure to meet some very interesting and delightful people from all walks of life from various countries and cultures. To me these are some of the joys of cruising. There is a saying that says that you get what you pay for. MSC is a prime example of this. You cannot compare MSC with the likes of Carnival, Cunard or RCL as it is like comparing champagne with spurmante, both are drinkable but one has more finesse.