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This was our fifth cruise, but our first with MSC. It was also our first cruise to the Mediterranean. Our time on the MSC Poesia (sailing out of Venice, Italy) was a different experience than we've had with U.S. based cruises. Much of the difference was due to this ship having six official languages. Most activities and entertainment were limited to those that required little verbal interaction between guests. This ship had a much smaller selection of on-board events and activities than we've seen with other cruise lines. The primary daily activities were dance lessons and karaoke. There were no scheduled special-interest gatherings that are common on other lines (friends of Bill W., LGBT). The signs on board promote this as an Eco-ship, but in reality this seems to be greenwashing. Guests are instructed to put towels in the sink if they need to be washed, but all towels were replaced daily regardless. Service was adequate and generally unobtrusive. We never had to ask for something extra to be done. We booked this cruise specifically for the itinerary, so we were pleased with all of the ports we visited. The shore excursions sold through MSC were a mixed bag. These are the excursions we purchased and our experiences: Splendors and Flavors of Old Bari The description of this tour was very misleading. It says “you'll board a very comfortable little train to explore the city in all its glory”. In reality, only a few minutes were spent on the tram. The bulk of the 3 hours was a 1.7 mile walking tour of the old town. The “tasting of delicious local products accompanied by a glass of wine” consisted of a few thumbnail-sized pieces of crackers/breads and a single sip of wine from a small disposable cup. The street full of pasta-makers was interesting, as were the historic buildings and basilica. Take bottled water or have a few euros in your pocket. The few small shops don't take cards or dollars. Olympia and Museum A 30-minute bus ride delivers you to this 2.4 mile walking tour of the Olympia ruins. This is a scenic and photogenic guided tour, but it would be nice to have more time for personal exploration and to read the informational signage around the site. The museum contains most of the statuary found around the Olympic village. Mykonos Island Tour This tour is overpriced at $61. It was a bus ride with only 3 stops. The first stop was at a panoramic overlook, which was fine for taking some nice photos, but nothing else to see or do. The second stop, at a small beach, was a complete waste of time. It was just a small strip of sand along the water, and the views were nothing out of the ordinary. The final stop was at a monastery and church followed by a small Greek meal with a sample of ouzo at a restaurant next door. This stop was the only one with any real value. It was a ½ mile walk from the pier to the bus at the beginning of the tour, and the same distance back at the end. It would be helpful if the excursion description included this information so people aren't expecting to ride during the entire tour. Albanian Riviera And Its Villages This 6-hour tour is a pleasant scenic drive through the Albanian countryside and along the coast. There is a short stop at the natural spring and waterfall at Borsh. Food and drink are available at the local shops. The next stop is at Porto Palermo Castle. It has an interesting history and spectacular views. To get to the castle is a ¾ mile round-trip walk over rugged stones and loose gravel, up and down the hill. The final stop at Himare was simply an opportunity to buy a meal at a local restaurant. There are a few small shops to browse, but not much else to do here. Dubrovnik Go up to the top deck early in the morning for spectacular views of the ship entering the port and making a near 180° turn just before the scenic bridge. At this port, there's really no need to do a guided excursion, unless you want to travel beyond the old town. MSC offers a shuttle to the old town (2.5 miles away) for a small fee. It's easy to walk the town on your own and see all the major sights within a couple of hours. Plan to walk about 1 ½ to 2 miles exploring the streets and walls. There is a large concentration of majestic, old cathedrals here. The financial investment in these churches could feed the entire city for years! The narrow side streets have many small shops selling everything from unique Croatian handicrafts to Chinese tchotchkes. Most only take the local currency and you will see many signs reading “no euros”. There are ATMs on nearly every corner, making it easy to withdraw a little pocket money for the day. Dining Dining was the most chaotic on this ship that we have ever experienced. We usually prefer the buffet so we can eat whenever and whatever we want, but here it was more of an ordeal. The layout of the buffet causes excessive jostling of plates and people. Instead of one long line that everyone progresses through, there are little themed islands (salads, fruits, pasta, grill, deserts). This would probably still work, but the walking area surrounding the food is very narrow. There is not room for foot traffic in both directions AND a row of people darting in and out collecting food on their plates. The Kids Corner is a walled-off section of the buffet that further impedes the flow. It is supposed to allow entry to only children from 3 to 11 years of age, but if people see something there they like, of course they step over the wall and help themselves. This area should be eliminated or at least take down the wall. Once you are seated, you will be harassed by staff trying to sell you the beverage package. On the first day we had six people try to sell us the drink package during one meal. Keeping an empty beer bottle on the table seems to keep them at bay since they apparently believe you already have the package. By the second day they switch to selling the specialty dining options. By the third day it was Sangria on a cart. At breakfast, they push fresh-squeezed orange juice for a fee. There was always a nice assortment of flavorful food in the buffet. Often there were different items on each side of the cafeteria, so you need to walk around the entire dining area to see all the selections. The menu changes daily, so there is always something new to try. The food itself was good, but it was seldom hot. Usually it was just warm to the touch. Even trays that just came out of the kitchen had this problem, so it seems they hold the trays in the back at room temperature until ready to be brought out to the serving line. Entertainment The nightly entertainment in the theater mostly consisted of dance and music routines. It was pleasant, but of average quality. The segments that featured contortionists, jugglers and gymnasts were better than the main show. Likewise, the pre-show comedic diversions were usually more enjoyable than the ensemble acts. The set designs, costumes and special effects were excellent. Disembarkation We typically do the self-assist at the end of the cruise, where we carry off our own luggage whenever we are ready. We had an early flight to catch so we were counting on doing this to save some time getting to the airport. On this ship that wasn't allowed. All luggage was gathered up by the crew during the night, and piled at the terminal where we picked it up after getting off. Fortunately, it was fairly organized and didn't delay us for too long. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the itinerary offered on this cruise, but feel the ship itself has room for improvement. If your main focus is the ports of call, you will likely enjoy this cruise. If you are cruising to be entertained and pampered, you would probably do better to book on another ship.

Great itinerary, so-so ship

MSC Poesia Cruise Review by jnc3

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: September 2018
  • Destination: Mediterranean
  • Cabin Type: Balcony Stateroom – Bella
This was our fifth cruise, but our first with MSC. It was also our first cruise to the Mediterranean. Our time on the MSC Poesia (sailing out of Venice, Italy) was a different experience than we've had with U.S. based cruises. Much of the difference was due to this ship having six official languages. Most activities and entertainment were limited to those that required little verbal interaction between guests.

This ship had a much smaller selection of on-board events and activities than we've seen with other cruise lines. The primary daily activities were dance lessons and karaoke. There were no scheduled special-interest gatherings that are common on other lines (friends of Bill W., LGBT).

The signs on board promote this as an Eco-ship, but in reality this seems to be greenwashing. Guests are instructed to put towels in the sink if they need to be washed, but all towels were replaced daily regardless.

Service was adequate and generally unobtrusive. We never had to ask for something extra to be done.

We booked this cruise specifically for the itinerary, so we were pleased with all of the ports we visited. The shore excursions sold through MSC were a mixed bag. These are the excursions we purchased and our experiences:

Splendors and Flavors of Old Bari

The description of this tour was very misleading. It says “you'll board a very comfortable little train to explore the city in all its glory”. In reality, only a few minutes were spent on the tram. The bulk of the 3 hours was a 1.7 mile walking tour of the old town. The “tasting of delicious local products accompanied by a glass of wine” consisted of a few thumbnail-sized pieces of crackers/breads and a single sip of wine from a small disposable cup.

The street full of pasta-makers was interesting, as were the historic buildings and basilica. Take bottled water or have a few euros in your pocket. The few small shops don't take cards or dollars.

Olympia and Museum

A 30-minute bus ride delivers you to this 2.4 mile walking tour of the Olympia ruins. This is a scenic and photogenic guided tour, but it would be nice to have more time for personal exploration and to read the informational signage around the site. The museum contains most of the statuary found around the Olympic village.

Mykonos Island Tour

This tour is overpriced at $61. It was a bus ride with only 3 stops. The first stop was at a panoramic overlook, which was fine for taking some nice photos, but nothing else to see or do. The second stop, at a small beach, was a complete waste of time. It was just a small strip of sand along the water, and the views were nothing out of the ordinary. The final stop was at a monastery and church followed by a small Greek meal with a sample of ouzo at a restaurant next door. This stop was the only one with any real value.

It was a ½ mile walk from the pier to the bus at the beginning of the tour, and the same distance back at the end. It would be helpful if the excursion description included this information so people aren't expecting to ride during the entire tour.

Albanian Riviera And Its Villages

This 6-hour tour is a pleasant scenic drive through the Albanian countryside and along the coast. There is a short stop at the natural spring and waterfall at Borsh. Food and drink are available at the local shops.

The next stop is at Porto Palermo Castle. It has an interesting history and spectacular views. To get to the castle is a ¾ mile round-trip walk over rugged stones and loose gravel, up and down the hill.

The final stop at Himare was simply an opportunity to buy a meal at a local restaurant. There are a few small shops to browse, but not much else to do here.

Dubrovnik

Go up to the top deck early in the morning for spectacular views of the ship entering the port and making a near 180° turn just before the scenic bridge. At this port, there's really no need to do a guided excursion, unless you want to travel beyond the old town. MSC offers a shuttle to the old town (2.5 miles away) for a small fee. It's easy to walk the town on your own and see all the major sights within a couple of hours. Plan to walk about 1 ½ to 2 miles exploring the streets and walls.

There is a large concentration of majestic, old cathedrals here. The financial investment in these churches could feed the entire city for years!

The narrow side streets have many small shops selling everything from unique Croatian handicrafts to Chinese tchotchkes. Most only take the local currency and you will see many signs reading “no euros”. There are ATMs on nearly every corner, making it easy to withdraw a little pocket money for the day.

Dining

Dining was the most chaotic on this ship that we have ever experienced. We usually prefer the buffet so we can eat whenever and whatever we want, but here it was more of an ordeal.

The layout of the buffet causes excessive jostling of plates and people. Instead of one long line that everyone progresses through, there are little themed islands (salads, fruits, pasta, grill, deserts). This would probably still work, but the walking area surrounding the food is very narrow. There is not room for foot traffic in both directions AND a row of people darting in and out collecting food on their plates.

The Kids Corner is a walled-off section of the buffet that further impedes the flow. It is supposed to allow entry to only children from 3 to 11 years of age, but if people see something there they like, of course they step over the wall and help themselves. This area should be eliminated or at least take down the wall.

Once you are seated, you will be harassed by staff trying to sell you the beverage package. On the first day we had six people try to sell us the drink package during one meal. Keeping an empty beer bottle on the table seems to keep them at bay since they apparently believe you already have the package. By the second day they switch to selling the specialty dining options. By the third day it was Sangria on a cart. At breakfast, they push fresh-squeezed orange juice for a fee.

There was always a nice assortment of flavorful food in the buffet. Often there were different items on each side of the cafeteria, so you need to walk around the entire dining area to see all the selections. The menu changes daily, so there is always something new to try.

The food itself was good, but it was seldom hot. Usually it was just warm to the touch. Even trays that just came out of the kitchen had this problem, so it seems they hold the trays in the back at room temperature until ready to be brought out to the serving line.

Entertainment

The nightly entertainment in the theater mostly consisted of dance and music routines. It was pleasant, but of average quality. The segments that featured contortionists, jugglers and gymnasts were better than the main show. Likewise, the pre-show comedic diversions were usually more enjoyable than the ensemble acts.

The set designs, costumes and special effects were excellent.

Disembarkation

We typically do the self-assist at the end of the cruise, where we carry off our own luggage whenever we are ready. We had an early flight to catch so we were counting on doing this to save some time getting to the airport. On this ship that wasn't allowed. All luggage was gathered up by the crew during the night, and piled at the terminal where we picked it up after getting off. Fortunately, it was fairly organized and didn't delay us for too long.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the itinerary offered on this cruise, but feel the ship itself has room for improvement. If your main focus is the ports of call, you will likely enjoy this cruise. If you are cruising to be entertained and pampered, you would probably do better to book on another ship.
jnc3’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Entertainment
Cabin
Shore Excursions
Service
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Cabin Review

Balcony Stateroom – Bella
Cabin B1 11167
Cabin 11167 is a balcony room, typical of most others on that deck. There are no rooms across the hallway, so there is little passing foot traffic or slamming of doors, making this a nice, peaceful retreat.
The room only has 1 sitting chair with a small movable table. There is also a desk and two nightstands with lamps. A large floor-to-ceiling mirror is at the foot of the bed. The TV screen is tiny (only 18” wide). Movies are 7 euros pay-per-view.
There is a nice-sized mini-fridge with room to keep your own water bottles.
The bathroom has liquid soaps only, and oddly, no washcloths are provided.
On the balcony there are two chairs, plus a bulky footstool that always seemed to be in the way. A small side table would be more useful. The lifeboats are visible 3 decks below the balcony.
Towel animals every day are a staple on other cruise lines, but apparently MSC doesn't do it. It's a small thing, but it's something we missed.
Ungaretti Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • City Tour
    Splendors and Flavors of Old Bari
    The description of this tour was very misleading. It says “you'll board a very comfortable little train to explore the city in all its glory”. In reality, only a few minutes were spent on the tram. The bulk of the 3 hours was a 1.7 mile walking tour of the old town. The “tasting of delicious local products accompanied by a glass of wine” consisted of a few thumbnail-sized pieces of crackers/breads and a single sip of wine from a small disposable cup.
    The street full of pasta-makers was interesting, as were the historic buildings and basilica. Take bottled water or have a few euros in your pocket. The few small shops don't take cards or dollars.
    View All 12 City Tour Reviews
  • Dubrovnik
    Go up to the top deck of the ship early in the morning for spectacular views of the ship entering the port and making a near 180° turn just before the scenic bridge. At this port, there's really no need to do a guided excursion, unless you want to travel beyond the old town. MSC offers a shuttle to the old town (2.5 miles away) for a small fee. It's easy to walk around the old town on your own and see all the major sights within a couple of hours. Plan to walk about 1 ½ to 2 miles exploring the streets and walls.
    There is a large concentration of majestic, old cathedrals here. The financial investment in these churches could feed the entire city for years!
    The narrow side streets have many small shops selling everything from unique Croatian handicrafts to Chinese tchotchkes. Most only take the local currency and you will see many signs reading “no euros”. There are ATMs on nearly every corner, making it easy to withdraw a little pocket money for the day.
    View All 1,117 Dubrovnik Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Dubrovnik Cruise Port Review
  • Olympia Archeological Tour
    Olympia and Museum
    A 30-minute bus ride delivers you to this 2.4 mile walking tour of the Olympia ruins. This is a scenic and photogenic guided tour, but it would be nice to have more time for personal exploration and to read the informational signage around the site. The museum contains most of the statuary found around the Olympic village.
    View All 170 Olympia Archeological Tour Reviews
  • City Tour
    Mykonos Island Tour
    This tour is overpriced at $61. It was a bus ride with only 3 stops. The first stop was at a panoramic overlook, which was fine for taking some nice photos, but nothing else to see or do. The second stop, at a small beach, was a complete waste of time. It was just a small strip of sand along the water, and the views were nothing out of the ordinary. The final stop was at a monastery and church followed by a small Greek meal with a sample of ouzo at a restaurant next door. This stop was the only one with any real value.
    It was a ½ mile walk from the pier to the bus at the beginning of the tour, and the same distance back at the end. It would be helpful if the excursion description included this information so people aren't expecting to ride during the entire tour.
    View All 37 City Tour Reviews
  • Nafplion
    This was an unscheduled stop, due to the port at Athens being closed because of bad weather. This is a tendered port, but plenty of ferries were available to transport guests despite this being a last-minute change to the itinerary.
    No bus excursions were available, but there is a little tram that does a city tour. We spent the time in port exploring the many side streets full of little shops that are immediately accessible from the dock.
    View All 15 Nafplion Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Nafplion Cruise Port Review
  • Sarande
    Albanian Riviera And Its Villages
    This 6-hour tour is a pleasant scenic drive through the Albanian countryside and along the coast. There is a short stop at the natural spring and waterfall at Borsh. Food and drink are available at the local shops.
    The next stop is at Porto Palermo Castle. It has an interesting history and spectacular views. To get to the castle is a ¾ mile round-trip walk over rugged stones and loose gravel, up and down the hill.
    The final stop at Himare was simply an opportunity to buy a meal at a local restaurant. There are a few small shops to browse, but not much else to do here.
    The stops on this excursion were pleasant, but the scenic drive along the coast was equally enjoyable.
    View All 32 Sarande Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Sarande Cruise Port Review
  • Venice
    We took a ferry from the cruise port to San Marco Square, where we spent a couple of hours admiring the architecture and exploring the narrow side streets filled with shops.
    View All 1,370 Venice Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Venice Cruise Port Review