By Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor
Launched in 2008, 92,600-ton, 3,000-passenger MSC Poesia is the third of Italy-based MSC Cruises' four Musica-class vessels.
Tastefully exuberant decor -- brass handrails on the staircases, marble countertops at reception, a waterfall in the atrium, twinkling lights on the ceiling in the theater -- means the ship is elegant but not boring. Its lounges (particularly the Zebra Bar, Il Grappolo d'Oro wine bar and Hitchcock Lounge) are charming, and the well-appointed, color-splashed cabins make it feel more like an upscale hotel than a cruise ship. Of course, you'll still find the standard cruise-ship offerings like pools, nightly entertainment and kids' activities.
While the ship is lovely, what really sets it apart from other mainstream mega-ships is this: MSC is an unabashedly European line, and the approach to service, onboard vibe and passenger habits reflect that. North Americans shouldn't expect the usual, proactive service which many cruisers are accustomed to finding on Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean. While everyone, from cabin stewards to dining room waiters, is helpful and friendly, don't be surprised if you don't learn their names without asking or if you have to specifically request certain U.S. staples like in-cabin ice. You also shouldn't expect to be coddled; although all staff members we encountered aimed to please, we found that it wasn't the norm for them to anticipate our every need.
Poesia splits its time between Northern Europe and Caribbean itineraries. You'll still find many international passengers, even when the ship sails from Fort Lauderdale, so expect all messages -- everything from muster drill instructions and daily programs to announcements from the cruise director -- to be delivered in at least five different languages: English, Italian, Spanish, French and German. (Note: During Caribbean sailings, currency onboard is the U.S. dollar. When the ship sails in Europe, the euro is used.)
Entertainment, some of which missed its mark, has to transcend various language barriers, so you won't find comedians or other similar performers. However, acrobats and jugglers achieve the balance flawlessly, and our jaws dropped more than once at their talents.
In general, the European crowd seems to take life at a much more relaxed pace. In that vein, dinners are eaten bit more leisurely, and portions are smaller than Americans might be used to, but that just means you'll leave feeling pleasantly full, rather than disgustingly stuffed. Plus, you can always ask for seconds, and the waitstaff will oblige. Another nice touch is that ship staff do their best to seat you with other English-speakers, so you won't have to fumble through meals relying on nods and gestures.
Sure, MSC Cruises, a relative newcomer to the North American market, offers excellent rates and deep discounts, but anyone expecting a Carnival-type atmosphere will be disappointed. It seemed the most notable takeaway from our time on Poesia was that people either love it, or they hate it, and we met a lot who fell into each camp. Some weren't happy with the service. Others disliked that the announcements took five times as long, due to the language issue. And still others complained about all menu items that weren't hot dogs and fries.
If you're looking for an affordable sailing with an international flare without having to travel abroad, this might just be the ship for you. However, it's important to understand what you can expect. Overall, cruises on Poesia aren't bad; they're just different.
MSC Poesia Fellow Passengers
The passenger makeup varies widely from sailing to sailing, particularly depending on the time of year and itinerary. On our winter Caribbean cruise from Fort Lauderdale, we were told there were 37 nationalities represented (42, counting the crew), including 1,300 Americans, 433 Canadians, 314 Italians, 269 Germans, 181 French, 26 Brazilians and 25 Spaniards. However, on the sailing after ours, the ship was expecting about 1,200 Armenians (for a partial charter), 600 Germans and 200 French, among other nationalities. The week after that, the vessel was scheduled to host a large Irish polka group onboard.
In terms of age, expect mostly passengers in the 40-to-60 range, alongside a decent number of younger couples and an influx of families during the summer season.
During the summer months, Poesia sails Northern Europe itineraries. As with the ship's winter Caribbean sailings, the passenger makeup changes from voyage to voyage.
MSC Poesia Dress Code
There are two formal nights a week, and suits with ties is the norm for men, while women are typically found in cocktail dresses and shimmery eveningwear. Other nights are termed either informal (jackets and trousers for men and informal dresses or pants with blouses for women) or casual (collared shirts and trousers or jeans for men and dresses, pantsuits or sporty outfits for women).
The line does note that tank tops, bathing suits, bathrobes and bare feet are never allowed in any indoor restaurants or buffet areas, and no shorts are allowed in the dining room at dinnertime.
MSC Poesia Gratuity
MSC automatically charges $12 per day to each adult passenger's shipboard account for Caribbean cruises. For Europe cruises of eight days or less, the charge is 7 euros per person, per day, and for cruises of more than eight days, the charge is 6 euros per person, per day. The amount is shared among the maitre d' and his assistants, waiters and busboys, buffet staff, cabin stewards, room service attendants and bellboys. The automatic charge is reduced to $6 per day for children sharing their cabin with two adults on Caribbean itineraries. (Passengers must be at least 21 years old to have their own cabins.) On Europe cruises, children younger than 14 are not expected to pay a service charge, while 14- to 17-year-olds are charged 50 percent of the adult amount. You can change the amount of any automatic gratuities at the accounting desk on Deck 5.
An automatic tip of 15 percent is added to bar bills.
Currency onboard is the euro when the ship sails Europe itineraries. In the Caribbean, it's U.S. dollars. Take note that, on our sailing, transactions were routed through a French bank (for security purposes, we were told), so be sure to tell your credit card company to avoid any holds on your account while you're away. An ATM is available onboard, should you need cash, but it levies a hefty surcharge.
This was an 18 day cruise with an extra 5 days in Germany. This Cruise Line had no idea of how to treat Customers.
The Reception Staff was rude with whatever question you had. We lost 2 nights of sleep crossing the Atlantic because something ...continue
I am going to start with the good things we found on this ship. It was absolutely beautiful! The lounges and sitting areas and the dinning rooms were really very nice.
There was always someone cleaning the brass railing. We were on the 12th. deck ...continue
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Since both my husband and I are seasoned sailors, we tend to prefer smaller ships; however, the price for a trip to Bermuda was right so we decided to go on this cruise. Let's start from the beginning!
Processing of passengers at the terminal ...continue