We have been on 7 cruises, and I knew going into this that MSC was a risk. It is a European line and there was a possibility that the European experience would not be for us. But I'd like to say to start that there were very few things that we considered "unacceptable" that had anything to do with cultural differences.
I'll start with the good news: The Poesia is beautiful. It is easy to find your way around, with ample public spaces and deck space. Our itinerary was a dream! We started in Milan for 2 days pre-cruise, then went by bus to Genoa.
After Rome, it was off to Haifa and Ashdod, Israel. (NOt in the drop-down list of ports below.) We were travelling with a larger group of almost 300 people, so arrangements here were made by them. We saw all of the major sites in the Holy Land and had some wonderful experiences as a a family. It was amazing to be in the Holy Land the week before Easter and to be able to reflect on the life of the Savior.
As far as MSC, I have some major gripes. The first thing is they changed the stateroom my in-laws and 2 kids were supposed to have, so when we arrived and were taken to our room, it was a room for 3 people instead of 4. They acted confused when we said this would not work. The room steward says, "You see, this is no problem. Children are okay." In discussing it further, we figured out they really, truly were not concerned about not having 4 beds because the children didn't each need a bed. I don't know where they expected them to sleep! We managed to get their room changed, but they actually moved them TWICE over the next 2 days, so they never did get to unpack and unwind.
The food is every bit as horrible as I've heard. I'm not a "foodie," and I'm not even really that picky. I was concerned at the lack of alternative choices, but had no idea how horrible that would make it. It's one thing to not have a buffet available for dinner- but it's another thing entirely when your dinner in the dining room is so awful you can't eat it and you have no way to get any other food to fill you up! Our waiter often times didn't bring all the courses to all of us, sometimes brought the wrong food entirely, and routinely served us cold food. Even warm the food was just awful. The breakfast and lunch buffets weren't bad, except I never once had warm eggs at breakfast. At breakfast, free juice is available in 2 oz cups- IF you can find the waiter that brings juice. When you're done with that juice, he'll pick up your cup and put it back on the tray with the replenished juice cups and give you another one. Water is not available unless you buy it bottled, except at breakfast in 2 oz cups.
So the following items are not the fault of MSC, but could've been handled better by them. Before I even post it just know 1 thing. I am not culturally insensitive. I realize people do things differently, but I have never been so irritated in my entire life as I was several times on this cruise. I point these things out not to start a discussion about "who's right" or which culture is what, but I think you should know these things if you plan an MSC cruise, because they do affect the ability to enjoy your cruise. There were only 300 Americans on board out of the 2600 total. There were 1700 Italians. I was very put off by their rude behavior, and I may not even be able to explain it sufficiently. And I do know that the people I had a problem with were Italian, because they were all part of a group and wore particular neckbands. We didn't experience these problems while in port, so I can only assume these rude people are not indicative of Italians in general, but I don't' know!
Okay- first, the minor things. When they get on an elevator, they stand right in front of the doors. So if you try to get in on another floor and there are 2 people on the elevator, they will not let you on unless you push past them. You can't say "pardon" or "scuzi" or anything- they simply will not move. And if you need to get off an elevator but you are in the back, they will not let you off the elevator. They will not step aside for anything! This is a minor thing of course, and I realize it's just a cultural difference, but one person in our group is in a wheelchair, and this made life very difficult. We all know how hard the elevators can be on any cruise ship, and this made it much, much worse.
In the buffet, they will not wait in line- they grab a plate and then cut in wherever they want to- and they don't say anything. They just push in. One lady actually cut in front of me and took the tongs out of my hand to get herself some fries as I was waiting in line with 100 people at lunch! This "not waiting in line" issue really becomes a problem when you try to disembark, and here is where MSC could've made a difference. There are no lines, and everyone just crams in by the exit. When they finally open it, everyone forces their way towards the front- pushing and elbowing as they go. People were literally crushed against the wall! My 8 yr old was almost trampled one time by the thoughtless people as they tried to get off the ship. The crew does nothing in this case. They just stand there. When boarding an MSC shuttle in Dubrovnik, again, no lines- just 300 people rushing for a bus- and they don't care if you have kids, anyone elderly or disabled or anything. I actually saw 2 older men both in the stairway of the bus at the same time pushing against each other- neither of them willing to let the other one get in first. So yes, this is a cultural difference. I had been warned "they do not wait in lines" and I didn't see too big of a problem taking extra time to get somewhere because people cut in or whatever. But I had no idea not only do they not wait in line, but they push and shove and trample anything that gets in their way. This makes for a very dangerous situation, and I believe MSC should've done something to ensure our safety.
Overall, we had a wonderful trip, but MSC is completely off our list no matter how wonderful the itinerary would be. I would be happy to answer any more specific questions you might have. Ciao!
Good location, small but I figured it would be because it was an interior stateroom.
In Izmir, we took a group tour (also arranged by our group) to Ephesus. I was looking forward to this port, but had no idea how extensive and impressive the ruins were! We walked a very long way this day, but even our kids were amazed at the ruins. We also toured a "factory" where they make handmade Turkish rugs, and had lunch there. Whatever you do, while in Turkey eat local food! It was wonderful!!
In Athens, we again hired our own local guide. Paul from Greek Taxi, who did a great job! We were at the Acropolis before all of the crowds- and managed to stay ahead of the crowds the entire day. This was crucial to our enjoyment of Greece, as it was so busy and crowded!! Paul was friendly, helpful, and just everything we could've hoped for. He took us to a wonderful local Greek restaurant for lunch, and made excellent suggestions throughout the day. I would've rated Greece a 5, but it's just SO busy!
Dubrovnik was a beautiful little place I'd happily visit again. It was foggy when we arrived, but exploring this little town and its walls were just a delight. We had the best gelato here too! Don't bother doing a ship excursion in this port- you really can just wander around on your own and see what you want to see. We followed the suggestion to enter the city walls on the opposite side near the aquarium, and that was probably the best tip we got on our whole trip! We walked around virtually by ourselves, until we got to the other side to come down. I couldn't believe the lines there just to get up onto the walls!
We stayed 2 days post-cruise in Venice at the Hilton Molino Stucky Hotel. It was a great place that made me want to stay inside and explore! It's huge- a wonderful old building will all the character you'd hope for in an old building. They have a free shuttle that takes you to San Marco Square. I LOVED Venice! Don't miss Doge's Palace! Even my kids were impressed. Also, don't miss a chance to see Murano and Burano- they are beautiful and interesting little islands! We saw a glass blowing demonstration too- that's very interesting, even if you've seen it before. We loved being able to wander around all the streets of these places. Venice is captivating- a wonderful way to slow down for a couple days at the end of our vacation.