Since this was the first time I had ever been on an MSC cruise ship I really didn’t know what to expect. And even though I had read some quite critical reviews on MSC as a whole I still wanted to give the cruise line a chance. After getting a REALLY great deal (BookthatVacation.com) on the MSC Poesia for a 5 night cruise to Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico, I knew it would be worth a shot even if the cruise were a total disaster. Yes, I know there are some harsh reviews on this cruise line, but I went on this cruise with an open mind. I will try to cover most of the basics about this cruise ship in this review.
The ship itself
MSC is European company based in Italy and as such the décor is absolutely magnificent. You will be hard pressed to find another discount cruise line that has such beautiful and elegant décor, with marble staircases, brass railings, and beautifully lit lounges and atriums. Everywhere you walk on the ship you will find another well designed lounge. Being built in 2008, the ship is also fairly modern and boasts all kinds of eco-friendly characteristics, although my wife and I kept smelling some foul aromas when walking around certain parts of the ship. The Poesia holds 2,500 passengers and is about 90,000 tons.
You must understand, this is a European cruise line, and thus most of the announcements are in several different languages, although English was always the first. I have read some complaints about the staff with MSC, but I did not find any of them to be true with the staff I ran into on my cruise. They were all friendly and courteous and went out of their way to help you. However, not all of them speak perfect English and perhaps some people translate this as being rude. Most of the staff speak several different languages to cater to their audience abroad, but will always try to offer their assistance.
I want to just touch on the different languages on board for a second. Since this is an Italian cruise line most of the staff will speak Italian, but almost every announcement is given in 3 or 4 languages so it takes a little while. Before each show there is a short little intro that usually involves some translation as well, but on this Caribbean cruise English was always the primary language and I never felt in the dark at all.
I can really only speak on the balcony room we had, but it was quite impressive. I will soon be posting a video review of the room so you can check it out for yourself. The room felt spacious for a cruise ship room and again had great décor. There was a large mirror at the foot of the bed that helped to open everything up and the layout was nice and clean. There are at least 3 outlets in each room, with two below a vanity in the bedroom and one in the bathroom. The balcony had ample space with a tinted glass railing and two chairs and a small table between them. There is a special mechanism that will not lock you out onto the balcony like some other cruise ships too.
Here is a video review of our balcony room:
The bed was not all that comfy but came with two long cylindrical pillows besides two regular pillows.
When you first walk into the room you will notice a card slot on the wall. You will need to insert your room card into the slot to turn on the main lights (my wife and I couldn’t figure this out for the first 30 minutes). When you remove your card the lights will still stay on for another 10 minutes and then shut off.
The bathroom was really nice with a gorgeous sink that had a little too much pressure for a bathroom faucet. The first time I turned it on water sprayed all over the mirror. And below the sink there is some cabinet space and a small trash can in the cabinet. The shower offers ample space for a cruise ship shower, although I’m sure most individuals bigger than me will complain about its cozy size. The showers have a small shower curtain that can cling to you while you are in there. But the shower head offers good pressure and a really nice design for setting the pressure and temperature separately. There is also a body wash and shampoo dispenser built into the shower.
The minibar has the usual suspects like soda, alcohol, and snacks. The soda costs $2.50 and the alcohol is around $5 and up.
The small flatscreen TV offers about 6 or 7 channels, and then about 5 channels related to the ship, like webcams and a channel that shows where the ship is on map. Some of the TV channels were in Spanish, like the Cartoon Network, and CNN, but there were sometimes when it was English too. Other channels offered were ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TCM, CNN (in English), HLN, and perhaps a few more I can’t recall.
You can check your account through the TV or even watch a movie on demand for $7 a pop. You can also book excursions and check out the schedule using the interactive TV.
This is the part I was most anxious about since I had read some critical remarks about food on MSC ships, but what I really found was a mixed bag. Yes, some of the food was a little weak in terms of quality and taste, but others were quite good. Some of this comes down to the fact that this is a European cruise line and they cook food differently, but MSC could definitely use some improvement for the foodies.
There are not a lot of options for eating on the MSC Poesia. There are two main dining rooms (Le Fontane and II Palladio), a cafeteria, an a la carte restaurant (that seemed to always be closed), and a sushi bar.
We ate in the main dining room almost every night and got a good feel for the quality of food on board. I was excited to try the Italian dished since this was an Italian cruise line, but there was really only one good Rigatoni dish that had an excellent sauce. The lasagna was very mushy and bland and the meatballs were a little dry and lacking any real taste.
However, the pizza (that is served in the cafeteria until 3am every day) was excellent. Although, I must say that there is something rather perplexing here. The pizza was either really good or really bad depending on when you went to the cafeteria and who was making it. There were some occasions when the pizza tasted totally different and was not very favorable, but most of the time it was excellent with a wonderful tasting crust.
I recommend ordering several different main courses for diner because you have a better chance of finding a dish you will enjoy, but do not expect the quality of food that you will get on a Royal Caribbean or Carnival cruise line. At least not yet. MSC has a lot of potential and they are trying to better please the American pallet. The food is by no means terrible. I would say it is average, but for some cruisers who live at buffets and dining rooms, it might be a little disappointing. By the way, the shrimp was very good.
There were two soft-serve ice-cream machines on either side of the cafeteria, but the frustrating thing was that they were only open during very select times of day. Even at 11am you could not get ice cream and sometimes the machines were closed at dinner time.
Entertainment and Activities
The MSC Poesia has one of the most spectacular theatres on a cruise ship that I have seen. It seats over 1,200 people and has state-of-the-art sound quality and lighting effects. There are these little tiny lights all over the ceiling and on the walls that change colors and add a special effect to the shows each night. But a great theatre does not mean great performances.
I found the shows each night to be entertaining but maybe not for the right reason. From the whimsical dancing and operatic musicals to the high flying acrobatics there was no real story line to each show. And with titles like “Divas”, “Isha”, and “Sam”, you never really knew what each show would be about ahead of time anyway. Perhaps it is because they are catering to an audience that speaks English, French, Italian, and Spanish that the shows have to be language-neutral, though. Otherwise, they would risk alienating an entire group of people.
The shows would have been family-friendly were it not for the constant burlesque costumes that found their way onto the performers each night. The dancing was a little much for my taste, but the amazing acrobat routines with human juggling and amazing balancing acts helped spice up the shows a little. Although, not every night had such excitement. Most of the time it was an opera number in a foreign language followed by dancing. Like I said, there was no story line to these shows and it was also more of a mixed bag.
The ship has many different activities offered. You can play tennis, basketball, ping-pong, foosball, and shuffleboard. But the problem is that it’s quite a hassle. You have to go to a table in the middle of the pool deck to request ping-pong paddles, or shuffle board equipment. This means that you simply can’t play these games in the middle of the night or even during a lot of times during the day because there is no one at the table to help you. Because of this we didn’t play half the games we wanted to play, simply because we couldn’t. Every time we wanted to play ping-pong we couldn’t get a ball or paddles. And to play tennis you have to reserve a time slot with someone. Who that someone is I do not know. MSC has a great ship with great amenities for activities but they need to make these games more accessible, or else they are fairly pointless. That being said, the tennis court did look nice, but if people were playing tennis you could not play basketball and vice versa. There is only one basketball hoop and it’s right on the tennis court.
There is a 5 hole mini golf course but it’s such a pain to sign out for golf clubs and balls that we didn’t end up playing it at all.
There are a lot of other activities happening on the ship, during sea days especially. On the pool deck there are always crowd games going on and in the Zebra lounge after each show each night you can play some more interactive games. In fact, our dining room table decided to form a team and play “Family Fued” one night after the show. We lost but had a great time.
The Pool Deck
As with most cruise ships this is the most active part of the ship. On the 13th deck there are 2 main pools that are very well designed albeit a little small for the number of people on board the ship. One of the pools is usually busier because that end of the ship is where the games are played. But the pools are closed at 7:00 PM every night, and this was very disappointing because I love to swim at night when the pools are less busy.
There are 4 Jacuzzi tubs on the pool deck with 2 next to each pool. They are quite small and usually pretty busy, but we found that using the 3 Jacuzzi tubs in the spa was a much nicer experience anyway, with hotter water and better jets. By the way, the 3 Jacuzzis in the spa are free to use.
The lounge chairs are really nice and even offer some shade for your face if you want to read. You aren’t supposed to save your chair with a towel but everyone was doing it anyway, and during a sea day it can be pretty tough to find a lounge chair near the pool, but there are 2 decks above the pool deck that can be used for lounging around as well, and it’s much less crowded up there on decks 14 and 15.
By the way, the pool deck is on the same deck as the cafeteria so that’s another reason that deck gets so congested during the day.
Spa and fitness
The spa is on the 13th deck as well toward the front of the ship (yes, you will be spending a lot of time on the 13th deck). It is quite tranquil in the spa and there are 3 ladies that will constantly be handing out massage advertisements as you pass by (hint: the massages get cheaper after the 3rd day). There are several different kinds of massages like Shiatsu, Balinese, hot stone, reflexology etc. There is a sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi room in the spa as well with 3 Jacuzzis. Keep in mind there is some décor in the spa that is not so kid-friendly, but this is how it is with European ships.
The fitness room takes up the entire width of the ship but is not very deep. However, it is laid out well and has some nice modern equipment. Each station has a TV screen for watching any of the channels while working out. I actually ran a 3k while watching college basketball and enjoying my ocean view. Now that’s the way to work out.
For the kids
My wife and I counted a total of about 10 kids on the entire boat, so it seems that MSC caters to an older audience compared to other cruise lines. There was a kid’s play place with slides, foosball tables, and all kinds of games that looked fun, but not once did I see them in use.
The arcade was quite dismal. All of the games were either outdated or out of order and almost all of them were racing games with ancient graphics. I usually hit up the arcade pretty good, but not on this boat. They could definitely use an upgrade in that department.
The shows were not especially kid-friendly either, with burlesque clothing and quite a few buns being exposed.
I’m not really sure how many activities were available for the kids since none were every announced or shown in the daily itinerary so I assume that they are still a little weak in that area.
There are lounges everywhere on this boat. On decks 5-7 you can always find a cozy little lounge to play a card game, or just relax with a group of friends. At night these lounges will have live music and more romantic lighting.
For the price we paid for this cruise I felt it was well worth the money. MSC is just starting to break into the American cruise market and they are making adjustments along the way. If they could improve the food and the quality of entertainment they would be a top-notch cruise line to sail with. You can definitely save some money by cruising with MSC but there is always a trade-off. And a lot has to do with one’s particular taste. Some cruisers on the MSC Poesia really enjoyed their food, but I think most frequent cruisers would be a little disappointed. I would keep an eye on this company though and not write them off completely. They have a lot of potential with their beautiful ships.
Have you sailed with MSC? Leave a comment below to let everyone know about your experience.