We had previously cruised with Royal Caribbean for a 10-day trip of the Greek islands and mainland 5 years ago. While the MSC Poesia ship itself was comparable in design, size and amenities, the major disappointment was the quality and quantity of food and restaurants. The portion sizes were too small (and I am a trained chef) and the overall quality and composition of each dish was far from the standard set by Royal Caribbean. We were also very turned off by the way every meal (unless dining in the buffet) we were forced to purchase a bottle of water. While I understand that this is more of a normal practice in Europe, it made every dining experience feel like we were being charged at every turn. Why can't you provide standard "tap" water with your sit down meals? We also were disappointed in the wine package we purchased, the "classic". I felt very constricted in what I could order because there was only one ticket for each type of wine. What if the menu paired better with a Chianti but we had used that ticket already? Our waiter did allow us to substitute one bottle but that was all. We were also confused (though I did read the fine print in advance of purchasing the package) as to why we were only allowed to order the wine at dinner and only in our sit down restaurant and were not allowed to take it to/order it in our room or other dining outlets on board. We paid for it so why the very tight restrictions? Again this was not very "customer first". Finally, many of the items served on the buffet and sit down restaurants were cheap filler items when compared to the selections on the competition.
Regarding the staff and services on board, I will say that overall our crew was nice and did make an effort to be happy though a few members clearly were not happy employees and a few even commented openly about working too long (past their contract date) or that they just wanted off the ship. We had one of our pre-booked and prepaid side excursions canceled the night before stating that there was not enough interest to continue the trip. We ended up exploring on our own that day while in port but again this was frustrating as we had expectations and then were disappointed. Don't offer excursions (or too many) that would need to be canceled last minute if you don't get the interest because those who were interested or had pre-booked then feel very "left out". We also felt robbed when we got off the boat and found the MSC tent in front of the boat offering a bus ride to take us to the "City Center" when in actuality only took us off the pier and dropped us off in front of the main office for the pier. It was less than a mile and cost us 18 Euro total for the tow of us to get a ride to nowhere. I will tell you that other customers that we encountered on the cruise, weather at the dinner table or bars were equally disappointed and some even used foul language to describe the feeling of the experience. These customers were from Europe, Australia, Dubai and New Zealand so I felt that while MSC is a European based cruise line, it failed to even meet European standards of quality.
The times in port were too short and felt very rushed. I understand there are logistics of when boats compete for dock space when in port however this needed more thought. We made a stop (if you can call it that) in Palma and were in port from 10pm until 4am the next morning. What kind of a stop is that? The only option during those hours are the bars and clubs (or getting mugged in the streets late at night). No shopping or sightseeing which we would have enjoyed when in a new port. Some stops didn't get into port until late in the afternoon and then disembarked in the evening. This also meant we needed to miss our dinner on board to try and explore the city. Not an ideal choice to have to choose between seeing the city you came for and spending more money to buy dinner abroad or miss the port and stay for the dinner you already paid for. Finally, there was the confusion of embarkation and the safety briefing. As another customer we encountered called it "the floating bus", it was very disorienting to have people getting on and off at every port as the ship makes a continuous loop of the Mediterranean Sea. This meant that the safety drill and announcements happen every day, and was confusing to us as on our previous cruises every passenger embarked on the same day and we all did the safety drill together. It also was frustrating to see everyone around the pool when we got on and we didn't have our luggage yet (though we were the first to check our baggage on embarkation day) and thought to ourselves, how did all these people get their bags already if we were the first in the line this morning to check in.
Cabin was decent with standard amenities. Our TV did not work and took the crew multiple days to even send someone to work on it. They then told us it need a part and would not be working properly until 2 days from disembarkation. They did send us a free bottle of sparkling wine to apologize. Not too big of a deal since the weather was nice, almost all the channels were in a foreign language and we spent as much time in the sun and off the boat as possible. Soap and shampoo were in a wall mounted dispenser and of poor quality so we needed to use much more than normal to get a lather.
Naples is nice if you stay on the waterfront or main shopping boulevard. Don't go anywhere else as it is dirty and has virtually no traffic laws.
We enjoyed malta and walked out to the military fort at the point. Pricey tickets to get in but worth it. Nicely done and lots of history and exhibits. Shopping was just ok.
Bought tickets on the boat to get us into the popular night club, Pasha. The club didn't even open until 12am and was mostly empty until we gave up on it at 2am. Ticket came with one drink included but it was for the house well items. Not a good value. Hit one of the other clubs/bars on the waterfront and save the money. Our stop didn't get us into the port until 9:30 pm and departed at 5am so we missed all the shopping and sightseeing. I bet its really nice during the day though...
Barcelona was the highlight of the ports for sure. We had booked and paid for a city tour that also then would hit Montserrat and a wine tasting but it was canceled the night before for "lack of interest". It worked out in our favor and we walked to Sagrada di Familia basilica. You HAVE TO SEE IT. Amazing but get there early because you buy tickets and then wait 2 hours to enter. Totally worth it. The city has so much to see and look at that 2 or 3 days would have been good.
Nothing really exciting to see or do. A nice city but average when in Italy.