The MSC Poesia is a large 14 deck ship holding up to 2550 passengers and 1039 crew. It was built in 2008 and is very elegant and plush throughout. There are mirrors everywhere giving the ship an even larger and grander feel. The chairs throughout the bar and seating areas all have low backs which makes the rooms seem larger than they actually are, unfortunately this also means that there is nowhere on the ship where you can sit, put your head back and relax. Even the sunbeds on the decks are uniform and it is impossible to alter the angle of them.
MSC is an Italian company that attracts an international clientele. We were told that there were around 55 different nationalities on board. While it was very interesting meeting people from different nationalities, the widely differing array of languages, and volume they were spoken, made busy public areas very noisy. Public announcements on the boat were made in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Chinese which meant that a 2 minute public announcement would last for 12 minutes in total. As many of these announcements were really advertisements for products being sold on the ship it became a bit annoying after a while.
As would be expected on an Italian ship the food served in the restaurants was predominantly Italian. There are two formal restaurants on board for which dining times are allocated and one self-service restaurant. The formal restaurants offered a set five course menu with few choices and little variation from day to day. The food served in the self-service restaurant was virtually the same every day and included several pasta dishes, pizza and meat. Neither restaurant appeared to cater for dietary requirements other than a vegetarian option. Diabetic, gluten free, vegan or other requirements had to be specially ordered the day before.
The cabins are comfortably furnished with double or twin beds and ensuite bathroom. The double wardrobes had plenty of hangers and also contained drawers and a safe. There is no kettle in the room so hot drinks had to be carried from the self-service restaurant. The beds and pillows are comfortable and would have given us a very good night’s sleep if we had been in the middle of the ship. Cabins located at either end of the ship suffer from quite severe vibration. So severe that the wardrobe doors squeaked and rattled and one night the air vent in the bathroom fell off. Before going to bed we also had to check that no objects in the room were touching. We reported this to Reception but we were met with a disinterested response that it was bad weather and there was nothing they could do. We tried pointing out the fact that the weather was not that bad but they refused to listen.
The MSC Poesia has a beautiful two storey entertainment theatre but unlike other ships they do not allow drinking in the theatre so you cannot enjoy a drink while watching the show. The entertainment team did put on a short half hour show twice each night which seemed to us poor use of such a beautiful theatre. The shows took the form of a variety show and included a magician, dancers, singers, tumblers and acrobats. Each night had a different theme but the only real difference was that the performers wore different costumes other than that the show was virtually the same each night. The tumblers and acrobats were quite good but the magician and all but two of the dancers were shockingly bad. We were able to see through all the magician’s acts and all but two of the dancers seemed to have no interest in what they were doing and appeared to be just going through the motions.
Having been on other cruises we expected hand-washing and use of the sanitisers to be strictly enforced however, this was not the case and for the whole week we were on board we saw the sanitisers largely ignored by the majority of people.
There are a number of bars and drinking areas all around the ship all of which have some form of musical entertainment in the evening. On boarding the ship MSC give you a plastic card which is used for all onboard purchases. Within 24 hours of boarding passengers have to validate their card using a machine or visiting reception. Once validated MSC charge €150 per person to your card. At the end of the cruise they charge anything over this amount or refund in cash any unused credit. We later learned that if you use a credit card to validate your onboard card they cannot charge this amount without your signature whereas if you use a debit card it is taken from your account immediately. As we spent very little on board the ship we were relieved that we had used a credit card and were not given €250 in cash at the end of our holiday.
MSC make a service charge of €8,50 per day per person which they state is then distributed to all staff in tips. There were 2500 people on board the ship so the total amount collected as service charge works out to a total of €21,250 per day or €148,750 per week. There were 980 staff on board so averagely each member of staff should receive €151,79 per week. We felt that it was highly unlikely that the staff on the ship received that amount and given that we had not used the main restaurant and that we had been subjected to the constant vibration of the ship we asked for this amount to be removed from our bill and then tipped those staff that had given us service above that required.
The subject of cruise ships making service charges has become increasingly contencious with many people feeling that the passengers should not be topping up staff wages and that the cruise liners should really pay their staff a decent wage and allow tipping to be a voluntary affair rather than a compulsory charge.
MSC offer a range of excursions at each port of call which can be booked online prior to travel or can be booked on the ship. We went on three excursions and all were well run and thoroughly enjoyable. On two days we used local transport to visit the places we wished to see.
Despite our negative comments the cruise was still good value for money and, if the price and itinerary are right, I would use this cruise line again.