We're Australians in our late 50s with only 5 previous cruises with which to compare (none on this line). Despite negative reviews of this cruise line we sailed with an open mind. As a large proportion of the cabins were balcony type, there was not a huge premium for one of those. Also because we felt the cabins are fairly small on this ship and with the low price for transatlantic cruises, we booked a balcony cabin. This was the first time we had a balcony cabin and we loved it! On the first day out we met up with Cruise Critic members with who we had been conversing on this website for months before the cruise. As we enjoyed spending a lot of time during the cruise with these 5 couples, the many sea days on this cruise flew by. We also found a couple who wanted to play Samba - our favourite card game.
Embarkation: We stayed at Bahia Mar Beach Resort which was conveniently located close to the port. We had a view of the ocean & the ship in the distance. Leaving the hotel at 11 am, we found we were early at the port at Fort Lauderdale. We had to sit for a short while but then the embarkation went smoothly. People who arrived later had no delays at all. Once on board, we found our cabin was ready so we left our hand luggage there and went for lunch.
The Ship: The Poesia is truly a beautiful ship. This modern ship is kept spotlessly clean. The theatre was beautiful but had a design fault with the seating. The flip seat bases were sloping downwards causing us to slide forward. The ship is less than 2 years old but was going into dry dock after this cruise so hopefully they will fix the problem. Also the little leg room between the seats became worse in the tiered back section as there was also no foot room below the seats in front.
Accommodation: Our balcony cabin on deck 10 was situated just aft of the centre of the ship. Being opposite a popular set of lifts and staircase, we found it handy and there was no noise inside the cabin. The overall size of the cabin is not large, but sufficient for two people and our luggage. The balcony was not large but even when sitting inside on a 2 seater lounge, we had a great view. We liked the convenience of the automatic light above the door which indicated to the staff if the cabin was occupied. Disappointingly at night there was no reading light to use when on the sofa. The space between the wardrobes and the ensuite could have been wider as the wardrobe doors could not be open when using the ensuite. The other let down was the clingy shower curtain. This could have been improved by inserting vertical rods as we have experienced on other ships. The small fridge was handy for keeping our supply of Coke cold.
Food & drinks: One of the main criticisms of the Poesia in these reviews has been the food. Overall we found the standard of food and the service in the main dining room to be fine. We realise this is a personal thing but for the price we paid for the cruise we felt we got value for money. Timing the 1st sitting at 5.30 pm was a little early but we still preferred this to the 2nd sitting. We thought it strange that in order to enable all of their guests to experience a gala (formal) night there would not be an alternative offered. We thought that this should be the nights when people who didn't want to dress formal (or didn't have the space for extra clothes where this cruise was part of an extended holiday) could feel comfortable at the self-service buffet on Deck 13. We normally took most of our daytime meals in Le Fontaine restaurant, preferring waiter service to the bustle and noise of the self-service buffet. Also we found the food up there to be often cold and uninspiring. For example; one of our favourite items for breakfast is pancakes. These were disappointing as they were always small, cold, dry & tough at the self-service buffet. We enjoyed the cultural mix of daytime open seating in Le Fontaine - you meet so many interesting people. We certainly did not go hungry. There were several drink packages offered. We chose the soft drink package which consisted of 14 cans at 20% off. This wasn't as good as the Holland America 50% off deal we had previously but was better than other cruise lines. Using vouchers was very convenient and time saving. On this cruise there was always plenty of free water available at the table and tea and coffee was served after both lunch and dinner. Apparently these are not available on MSC cruises in Europe.
Staff and service on board: Generally the staff were friendly and polite. Disappointedly the reception and excursion staff were only interested in selling their excursions. There was no port information or maps available, maybe this was due to the nature of a transatlantic cruise. There was a laid-back atmosphere on this ship. As opposed to the NCL ship we sailed on, there were no announcements except for general information from the bridge at 9 am - none of the annoying public address trying to get you to spend money on the ship! Due to the multi-national passengers, most announcements were in 6 languages - English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Lucky for us the largest number of passengers was English speaking so this was used first. Despite having over 2500 passengers, we were never delayed getting on and off the ship at the ports of call - usually there were 3 gangplanks.
Service Charges: Like many cruise lines, MSC has a policy of adding a fixed amount per passenger per day, which is added to the bill at the end of the cruise. However, many passengers objected and after a week of the cruise people were given the option to adjust the service charge. The long queues of people at the front desk to have their gratuities amended can be avoided by waiting a couple of days.
Entertainment: We enjoyed the shows in the main theatre as we have done on other cruises. These are the highlight of our evening. The types of entertainment are fairly limited on a multi lingual ship but something was offered every evening. The lighting and costumes were spectacular and the performers on the stage worked hard to entertain. With the shows being only 35 minutes long, we would have liked longer shows but they were fast moving with no time wasted. On a couple of nights classical music was presented. The performers were obviously talented but they did not interact with the audience. These show appealed to less passengers. The entertainments director, Anna amazed us with her ability to speak six languages. On one of the sea days we enjoyed a daytime meet and mingle with the entertainers in the theatre. Generally we felt that some of the activities offered by the activities team in the Zebra bar were a little juvenile; however these events were well attended - so in the end it's down to personal preferences. We joined with some of our fellow Cruise Critic friends to form a team with that name for a general knowledge quiz on the 5 sea days across the Atlantic. We enjoyed this activity and were quite successful!
Shore Excursions & Destinations: We did not use any of the MSC Excursions as we felt that they were too expensive - as with all other cruise lines. At the ports of call on this cruise we were happy to do our own thing. Armed with maps & information collected before the cruise (supplemented with detailed free local maps picked up on land), we easily explored New York, Ponta Delgada Azores, La Corunna and Dover on foot and with local public transport. In Lisbon and Bilbao we joined with two other passengers whom we had met earlier and used a taxi to do our own tour. With the four of us, the cost was only a fraction of a ship excursion and avoided the delays experienced when on a full coach (and was great fun). At both these ports the ship offered a shuttle service which was overpriced.
Disembarkation: This was very quick and efficient at Hamburg as we could just walk off the ship with no passbook checks. There was even a local band to welcome us.
Conclusion: We enjoyed this Trans-Atlantic cruise as the positives far outweighed the negatives. MSC proves that you get what you pay for. The sea days were beautifully relaxing, the days in port were fascinating and most of all we had the pleasure to meet some very interesting and delightful people from all walks of life from various countries and cultures. In our opinion the ship itself is excellent and the food, service and entertainment generally satisfactory. Therefore this cruise did represent good value for money.