Just came back from a E. Caribbean cruise on the MSC Poesia Feb. 6 - 13. We were a little apprehensive after reading the very mixed reviews, but decided to go with an open mind. It turned out to be overall an enjoyable experience.
Embarkation: Arrived at the pier around 11:40 am in congested traffic. Long lines at Pier 4 but moved relatively fast (we did the web check-in) and got on the ship at 12:30 pm. The room was already available, which was impressive! We went to Villa Pompeiana for the lunch buffet.
Room: We had a balcony room on Deck 9 and it was perfectly fine - spotless,well maintained, plenty of closet space, good lighting, full length mirror, flat screen TV, internet connection with ethernet (no wifi in room.) I took the internet package of 250 minutes for $60, quite a lot cheaper than the American ships. The mattress and bedding were acceptable, perhaps the mattress not quite as comfortable as the ones the Princess and Royal Caribbean. The small balcony has wicker furniture, sliding patio door very sound proof, excellent black-out curtains. Surprisingly there was no peephole on the stateroom door. Tony, our stateroom attendant, was excellent, always courteous and did his job perfectly without being intrusive. Overall very pleased with the room and the service.
Food: We only ate at the main dining room (La Fontane)on Deck 5. The decor reminded me a little of the Princess ship dining rooms. I have to say I prefer the Voyager Class Royal Carib three-level dining rooms. Had a table for 8, with pleasant table-mates from U.S. and Canada. Excellent service from the head waiter Teguh and assistant waiter whose name I've forgotten. The food quality was variable - some dishes fine (ossobuco, filet mignon, pot roast, the pasta), others (fish, lobster) less so. The several different Italian bean soups good. The desserts were unmemorable. Yes, the choice on the menu was more limited than on the other ships, but we always found something to eat. However the presentation could be better. Occasionally signs of sloppiness - couldn't believe on the cheese and fruit plate I ordered there were two individual packages of crackers wrapped in cellophane on the plate! Breakfast and lunch at the buffet were OK, nothing to write home about. For breakfast, there was less variety in the preparation than on the American ships and there weren't any changes during the week. Even for a bacon/sausage/egg lover like me it got tiring fast. The same can be said of the afternoon and late night snacks...ie lack of variation, always the identical sandwiches. The hours of food service were definitely shorter; you really have to hit it at just the right time - for example, I only found the self serve ice cream open twice on the cruise. The Buffet Magnifique at midnight on a sea day was indeed magnificent, comparable to the ones I encountered on the Royal Caribbean in the past. But it was in the cafeteria, so the setting wasn't quite as grand.
Entertainment: The Teatro Carlo Felice was lovely, typically glitzy, with comfortable plush velvet seats. Anna the cruise director announced everything in five languages, and there was absolutely no bantering with the audience. Unlike the CD on American ships, Anna was very formal. Despite some of the negative comments in the reviews, I thought the shows were good to excellent, with fabulous costumes. The two male gymnasts were fantastic, as were the two female aerialists. The opera singers (the Spanish tenor Aurelio Gabaldon was good, but I can't say I liked the shrill and wobbly voice of the soprano) Of the two pop singers, Mimma Barra was very good, the male singer less so. I loved the idea of no selling of drinks in the theatre. As to the TV - thank goodness they had CNN, as I was glued to the development in Egypt all week!
Service: I was apprehensive from all the negative comments about the crew not speaking English or being rude - I didn't encounter it at all. True not everyone at Reception smiled - some did - but I made sure I was courteous with them and had absolutely no problem... all my experience at Reception was pleasant. Only at the security checkpoint getting off the ship to the ports did I encounter some unsmiling (every surly) staff, but it didn't ruin my day.
Shops: I didn't find many bargains compared to other ships I've been on, so ended up purchasing nothing. There wasn't any convenience items like toothpaste, Tylenol etc. for sale.
Casino: a disappointment, especially if you are into playing penny machines - there were all of two 1 cent machines in the whole place. The slots were old and very uninteresting. Could not use the cruise card, and the ticket cannot be used in the machine - had to cash out at the cage. This is definitely one area MSC should improve.
Ports: Since we've been to all the ports previously, we just walked around the docks, and we did go to Atlantis. The weather was threatening on that day, and we were on shore for only five hours, so didn't take any tours. If I were to criticize this cruise, there wasn't enough port time.
The Ship: It's spotless and glitzy, but I found it hard to find my way around compared to the Royal Caribbean Voyager class ships (my favorite). Hated the pool deck, where the lounge chairs were packed together - who wants to be 8 inches away from your neighbour in the next chair? The Atrium where they had performances (classical trio, and the Neapolitan Songs trio etc.) was nice, but there was inadequate seating. The best thing was the minimum of announcements. The ship was generally quieter and more relaxing than some of the American ships.
Disembarkation: We chose self assist disembarkation. Was at the Zebra Lounge at 7:00 am and was off the ship in about 45 minutes. The immigration and security lineups were long but not unbearable.
Overall, a good experience, even if there were some deficiencies. I would cruise with MSC again, if I find a good itinerary I like, and a good price. But I think I'll go back to Royal Caribbean (maybe Oasis or Allure) for our next cruise.