In the past 18 months we have sailed with four different cruise lines/ships - 3 of these in the past 3 months - in almost identical cabin categories and locations - all mid-range aft balcony cabins. Thus we are in an unique position to directly compare MSC Poesia with NCL Jade, HAL Noordam and Celebrity Century. We won't comment on the itineraries as they are all totally different. We can comment that the shore excursion staff were the least helpful of all 4 ships-getting a map or information from them about the port/destination for independent exploring was not only difficult but impossible (we eventually found out by chance that the front desk did have some but they are very basic). However we are able to compare these other ships, their crews and their facilities and leadership with MSC Poesia. However Although we found the service staff (room, restaurants, pool, bars etc) very good - the tone of the ship was not one of a happy crew and there was a definite void between the leadership/management (who seem to do very little) and those at the chalk face. This was not our experience with the other three ships... and many many of the other guests on our Poesia cruise openly expressed the same opinion - so much so that there were long cues of people at the specially arranged meetings to have your gratuities amended - many like us - paid most directly to the service staff - rather than funds going to many of the middle and senior management that seemed to stand around doing very little and treated the service staff poorly.
Although the same price and category as others on deck 10, 9 etc... (and try explaining this fact to the front desk of the Poesia) don't book any aft cabins on deck 11 - their balconies are minute plus the glass is angled back towards your door (you can touch the top of the railing and the glass door with your elbows spread). And finally they have not protective overhang above - so no protection from the elements - rain - or in our case sun... if the sun is at the wrong angle then the full glass window/door turns the cabin into a hothouse - In Ft Lauderdale we had to vacate the cabin for a public area at one stage because the a/cond couldn't keep it cool. Q. So why not draw the heavy blockout curtains and blinds then? A. So why pay for a balcony cabin? The food on the MSC Poesia was, compared to the other three ships, appalling -in fact compared to other travel food experiences it was consistently of poor quality - my wife and I actually commented at a McDonald's on a French motorway how tasty the coffee and food was compared to the cruise ship we had just left two days before. It looked appealing- but all too often it was either tasteless, salty etc. and we were often the ones least critical of the food at table of eight we sat with each evening. With set menus - the choice was very poor and reflected budgeting rather than customer service e.g. Mexican night, Asian night etc. The dining options also lacked alternatives - we were on a 6 month travel journey and don't/can't take the clothes required for formal evenings... all other cruise ships provided viable alternatives to formal nights - with a good range of food in their buffets. Not MSC Poesia - they openly stated on their daily notices that to enable all of their guest to experience a gala night there would not be an alternative except - and this is what we experienced... a selection of 3 very very basic pizzas - with no salad, bread, dessert etc - as our alternative.
Although the entertainment was perhaps the best we had experienced on any cruise ship... other elements were well below par. The library for example was not only minute - it literally had 10-20 English language books in it when we arrived - and we checked in early and went there even before our cabin was ready. The only available books were donated by passengers like ourselves.