This was our second time cruising. Last year we went on Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas and liked it, but didn't love it. We saw all of the bad reviews for MSC Poesia and were a little hesitant but ultimately were attracted to it by its European culture.
This time I was traveling without my husband with three daughters (20, 16, and 9). We flew to Fort Myers 2 days before the cruise and stayed with relatives. They drove us to Port Everglades the afternoon of embarkation. Embarkation went smoothly-- no waiting at all, we arrived around 2 pm. The port staff was extremely nice and helpful. Before we were escorted to our room, we were given information about Kids Club, a kids life vest, and a kids bracelet. Luggage was brought up within an hour and there was already so much to explore!
The room was small for four people, but for two or three it would be perfect. We had a superior balcony room with a pull out couch and a bed came out from the wall. It was difficult to get to the balcony in the evenings after the turn down service. Storage for four people was not adequate in the closet. However, in the bathroom there was plenty of storage (mostly because we brought an over-the-door rack to put toiletries in). Room stewards were excellent and cleaned our rooms 2-3 x a day promptly and if we needed anything specifically, they would follow through. They were very friendly and mostly invisible.
Dining: We ate dinners on deck 6, first sitting. Dining time varied from 6:00 to 6:00 depending on itinerary. We did not use specialty restaurants. Dinner was one of the highlights of the day. They were very accommodating to special diets. I am gluten-free and lactose intolerant, and they were aware of that from the very first dinner. The portions were large and our waiter, Suweda, was the BEST! He was the nicest, kindest, most personable person we met on the ship (and everyone was so nice!). He immediately bonded with my youngest(9 year old) and would make her little napkin figurines to cheer her up after a long day. There were a few themed nights. As it was an Italian ship, there was an Italian night in which the waiters dressed in Italian colors and paraded around the dining room with traditional Italian desert. Every day, the menu had three parts: Stars and Stripes-classic American food; Italian-traditional Italian food, it varied every night featuring dishes from different regions of Italy; Always Available-salads, soups, pasta, grilled chicken, baked salmon, etc. There was a choice of deserts in all three menus. You can mix and and match.
We ate some of our breakfasts at the dining room and some at the buffet. The only difference was that the dining room offered poached eggs and smoked salmon, otherwise everything was mostly the same.
We ate lunch at the buffet, but we rarely ate lunch because there was so much to do, and we just weren't hungry!
We bought a kids drink package which included gelato. Their gelato was truly Italian and they had multiple flavors. We could order any virgin drink with our package.
The ship was largely international, with English speakers being a minority. Each announcement was made in German, French, Italian, Spanish, and English. (Side-note: all of my children went/go to an international school, where they learned to be multilingual). My two oldest are fluent in French and Spanish and they definitely used that to their advantage. The majority of the passengers came from Canada, Germany, Cuba, Uruguay, Paraguay, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Italy.
My 20 year old's favorite part was being able to communicate with international passengers and natives from the ports. Her only complaint was that there were -not many college students on that sailing.
My youngest was very happy with the kids club. It was open 3 times a day for about 3 hours at the time. She went there after 3 for about 2 hours, came back for dinner, left right after, and came back after the show. She never wanted to leave. The Kids Club staff was great and they knew all the kids by name after the first day. Their check in-check out procedure is very different from the RCCI and it took some adjustment on my part. She made many international friends despite the language barrier.
I think my 16 year old had the best time out of all of us. She is very outgoing and a people person, so she makes friends fast! She had no complaints. She loved speaking Spanish and French, but her favorite part was the entertainment.
There was live music basically in multiple lounges most of the time--from classical piano and violins to Latin music. Very nice to listen to after dinner. The entertainment team was phenomenal. There activities were for all ages. In the morning, they had aerobics, pool games, demonstrations, etc. In the afternoon they had many activities--pool games, line dancing, even Italian lessons! In the evening, they had a daily dance class (mambo, salsa, tango, cha-cha-cha...) and then at 11PM they had hilarious games. The entertainment team was always approachable, very fun, and very friendly to the passengers.
The shows were okay. Not great, but entertaining. The one great show was an acrobatic show. They have great opera singers on-board.
The disco was open nightly 11:00pm-2am or so, my two oldest went there nightly. My 20 year old didn't enjoy it as much as my 16 year old because there weren't many people her age.
The ports: We embarked on the 30th and the following day were in Key West where we had to back on ship at 3:00PM. We just walked around the island and saw some highlights, including the most southern point of US, and just enjoyed the weather. That evening was a HUGE New Year's Eve party on the pool deck! Putting 3,000 people onto one deck did make things a little crowded though...We pre-ordered a bottle of champagne and picked it up at a bar before heading out to the deck. There was a show with dancers, acrobats, jugglers. etc. and once the clock struck 12, there was a huge dance party.
Next day, we were in Cozumel for a whole day. We took a taxi to Paradise Beach and lots of crew members were there, so it was a good choice. Very nice beach, inflatable toys, good service, clean bathrooms.
The following day we were in Isla de Roatan, Honduras. We ordered a private tour with Victor Bodden tours. Our guide was intelligent, funny, and taught us a lot about his island. It was much better priced than any of MSC tours for that day.
Day 4 was a sea day. Weather was sub-par but the entertainment team quickly made up for it.
Day 5 was Montego Bay, Jamaica. We ordered a private tour with Carolyn Barrett Adventures. Our guide took us to Secret Falls where we jumped off of water falls and swam in them. Afterwards, we went tubing. On the way to and from the Falls and tubing, our guide stopped in a few places, showing us highlights and history of Jamaica.
Day 6 was a sea day.
Day 7/Disembarkation went smoothly and quickly.
Overall this was a memorable and excellent trip. I would definitely recommend MSC Poesia to anyone interested in being with an international crowd. 5 stars!