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Fred Hoffman

Age: 51

Occupation:Govt employee

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: MSC Cruises

Ship: MSC Poesia

Sailing Date: 2009-09-12

Itinerary: Venice-Bari-Katakolon-Izmir-Istanbul-Dubrovnik

This was the first-ever cruise for my wife and me. While the overall experience was positive, there were some aspects to this cruise that we found irritating. Having to pay for drinks with our meals was a little strange, and this seems to be a common complaint among our fellow passengers. The food was good but not great, at least not quite to the standard we expected. Tours were very pricey, and while the quality of the local tour guides was uniformly good, the short amount of time during port calls made us feel like we were constantly rushing -- not exactly the sort of feeling one wants to have while on vacation.

The food was ample, but not outstanding. Perhaps our expectations were unrealistic, given the fact that the ship's mess has to prepare meals for hundreds of passengers several times a day. However, we spoke with many other passengers on this cruise who had gone on multiple cruises before, and in each case their assessment was that the food on this cruise did not compare favorably with the food they'd been offered on other cruise lines. Again, having to pay for beverages (especially water!) in addition to our meals was a significant irritant. On the positive side: My wife is a vegan (i.e., a vegetarian who also does not consume dairy products), and our first night at dinner was a major disappointment for her. Most Italian dishes contain some ingredient that would pose a problem for a vegan. Fortunately, the maitre d'hotel was very accommodating and understanding, and the chefs made special vegetarian dishes for my wife every night. (Those dishes were in some cases more appealing to the rest of us at the table than what we were served!) The variety at the lunch buffet was usually pretty good, but breakfast featured the same selections day in and day out. That got a little boring after a few days.

Our stateroom was clean and well-appointed. The staff did a superb job of keeping the room clean and tidy throughout the cruise. While the room seemed a touch on the small size to us, this was our first cruise and therefore we have no basis for comparison.

They seemed to be adequate. The activities that took place on the pool deck were very loud, though. The nightly shows were very good, certainly better than we expected. Experienced cruisers we spoke with told us they felt these were some of the best shows they'd ever seen on a cruise.

Excursions are NOT cheap! We were on a seven-day cruise, with the option for excursions at each port of call. We went with excursions at Bari, Katakolon and Ismir, and were glad we did. The tour guides were very knowledgeable and did their best to impart as much knowledge as possible. There was one tour (Bari) where there were not enough English and Spanish participants to warrant separate tours, so we shared a bus and a tour guide -- which meant everything had to be said twice, once in each language. Given the short amount of ground time we had during that port call, this situation proved less than desirable. We opted not to go on excursions in Istanbul and Dubrovnik, but to explore those locations with another couple. Both of these locations are suitable for venturing out on your own, without signing up for one of the tours.

Overall, we have more positives than negatives to report. We found the staff to be friendly and helpful for the most part, and have no complaint with the service. Internet is available, but the prices are very high -- 20 Euro for the first hour (!), and the connection is more like dial-up speed. We would recommend using Internet only when absolutely necessary. Again, having to pay for beverages ON TOP of what we paid for the cruise itself (including the food) was more than mildly annoying.

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