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Bob and Wendy

Age: 0

Occupation:livestock procurer

Number of Cruises: 17

Cruise Line: MSC Cruises

Ship: MSC Poesia

Sailing Date: 2010-03-13

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

This was our 17th cruise, and we have been on all the major cruise lines except Costa, from 3 star to 5 star ships, and never had a cruise we were not glad we took. We picked this cruise because it hit 2 ports we had not been to, it was a new ship, and the price was good.

We booked a category 2 (inside) several months before the cruise, and about a month before the cruise the price dropped $140pp. Often when this happens the cruise lines will offer early bookers some compensation to reward and encourage early bookings, like shipboard credits, refunds, and free upgrades. We asked our TA to call MSC and see what they would do. They told our TA they would not offer any immediate compensation, but they would put us on a courtesy upgrade list if we would agree to accept whatever upgrade might occur. Since this was our only option we agreed. Four days before the cruise and no word, so our TA called them and was told that they disqualified us from any compensation because at the time of the price reduction there were no cabins available in our category, what a clever loophole (lots of cat 2 cabins opened up through the month). And then we found out that they had taken our preferred cabin location and given us another one in the same category in a worse location. But they would offer us a balcony for $180pp. To make the best of a bad situation we decided to accept, and when our TA called back they broke their word and said we could not have that offer any more, it had to be $300pp. Sounded like they were hustling us with bait-and-switch like a car lot, we had had enough, and said no.

So there was no advantage in booking early with MSC, no compensation for a price reduction, and you are better off sitting on your money and waiting until you think the price has bottomed out. As a guideline, a month before the cruise the prices had dropped to $399 inside, $519 oceanview, and $659 category 6 balcony in peak season, and stayed there right up to the cruise.

No cruise docs were ever sent to us so we had to find out ourselves which terminal in the port the ship was at (#4) in case the taxi did not know, we had one once that took us to the wrong ship.

Embarkation

If you fly into Fort Lauderdale a cab to the port is $15, and the dispatcher at the a/p expects a tip for loading your luggage into the cab. At the port entrance all traffic is checked and you have to show photo ID before your cab can enter. We dropped our luggage at the ship porters at 12:45 and walked on the ship at 1:10. It would have been maybe 5 minutes quicker if we had not discussed the wrong cabin number with them. If you do not want to get stalled lining up for an embarkation photo from the ships photographers there is a little room to bypass them as you enter, walk along the side of the lane and tell people why you are going ahead, some will like the idea and follow you. The embarkation buffet was fine, a bit crowded as you enter as would be expected, just go to the back at the second buffet area and there are lots of tables. Service was great, we were even offered more ice tea and ice water when ours was getting low. Fire muster at 4:30 was the most civilized ever, seated in a cool lounge.

The Cabin

Our cabin steward was great, started her off with a tip to keep the ice bucket full and get robes and more hangers, done immediately. The cabin is small, rated at 141 square feet, compared to CCL and HAL at around 185 sq ft. It was a quad, don not know how 4 people would manage. You cannot open the bathroom door and the closet doors at the same time. Cabin card operates the cabin lights, your steward knows when you are gone and can make up the cabin b/c your card is out of the slot. Shampoo and body wash, no conditioner. Nice shower wand, good pressure and temp control.

The first 2 nights our cabin was noisy, banging and doors slamming, and we noticed a crew work room next to us, so we snuck in to check it out and found 2 service elevators and other equipment, and a nice big door to slam. We told Francesca, the new Customer Service Manager, and she found us a quiet cabin, thanks Francesca. It was a stern cabin, and had some strong engine vibration one night, but not the other nights.

These cabins only have seating for 1, a stool under the vanity. 2 electrical outlets on the vanity, another in the ceiling of the bathroom. Good sized mini-bar to keep your drinks chilled. Good hair dryer.

The Ship

As every other review has noted, the ship is beautiful. We liked the atmosphere on the ship, low key, no drink waiters bugging you. Past reports of the crew being rude or indifferent did not fit, they were polite and helpful all week.

The atriums on some ships are very impressive, soaring up many decks with glass elevators rising out of sight, a nice place to have a drink a enjoy the view. The Poesias atrium is the older traditional lower style, only going from decks 5-7, more room for extra cabins. The promenade shops area is also traditional, shops down hallways instead of the new open street concept.

The configuration of the ocean view cabins surprised us. All the ocean view cabins either have a porthole (cat. 4) or have a window with an obstructed view behind the lifeboats (cat. 5). There are no ocean view cabins with both a regular window and a open view, just tons of higher priced balcony cabins, all the way from deck 8-12. Other newer ships have this same pattern of many balcony cabins, which would increase revenue if they sold them all, and if they did not sell, they could discount them to the price of an ocean view, so probably nothing lost. But many cruisers only want an outside cabin with a view, and will not take a balcony unless it drops to an ocean view price.

We have never been on a ship on a nice sea day when there have been any loungers available in the pool area after mid morning, and it was the same here, the last ones by the pool were taken by 10am. You have to sign your pool towels in and out from the towel police. We like listening to the bands at the pool, but if you do not need to use the pool or want to listen to a band, there are many open loungers in other areas, go up to the deck above the pool and walk end to end and you will find tons of loungers. No pool band most days anyway. There are 2 pools, the Coral Bay pool near the entrance to the spa, and the Cayo Levantado near the entrance to the buffet, plus a kids pool on deck 14. Self serve soft ice cream cones at the pool 1-4pm.The loungers are good and bad, the good is they are a nice mesh, no buggy straps, and they have a great adjustable shade to keep the sun off your face, a first on a ship for us. The problem is the backs are short, and will not support your head if you lean back, so you have to scrunch down, but then your feet hang over the end. If you are petite you have it made.

If you do not want to lay in full sun all the time there are a few great private spots near the pool where you can slide your chair in and out of the sun. For the first 2, stand on deck 14 (above the pool), with the giant screen above you and 3 hot tubs below you, and look back in the 2 corners past the staircases by the tinted windows. 2-4 loungers fit nicely there, but you have to drag them in there. And if it is windy you will be out of the wind. The Solarium sounded spa-ish, but it is just an open deck area with loungers, but no shade or wind protection there. The other nice shady/sunny spots are on either side of the big screen, slightly behind it, you can move your lounger around for sun or shade and adjust to sun movement too. Generally the loungers in front of the big screen do not get wind.

The gym is good, 4 ski motion ellipticals and 4 straight ones, several treadmills and bikes, free weights, machines, floor mats, but a water fountain would have been nice. The tennis court is about half size, sort of like platform tennis.

As all ships do, gratuities are added to your ship account, but it is more than the other lines charge, $12/day pp instead of $10. MSC prefers to call it a service charge, and the amount is not published in the daily newsletter, just a small statement a couple times that it will be on your account and not to tip the crew, and that the amount and conditions are in their brochures and web site. So there is no comment that it can be adjusted or cancelled, but when you ask about it you find out there is a 3 hour window the last sea day to do that, held in the DR. The long 20 minute hassles previously reported did not happen, and people were done in a few minutes. No line up around 9-10, just a steady stream coming and going. We asked why the charge was more than other ships, and he said he did not know. People on our shore excursion who had talked to the crew told us the ship does not give this money to the crew as on other ships. Some crew said they were told it was built into their salary, and others said they got $10 a week. It is supposed to be a secret, and the crew are warned not to discuss it with passengers, and not to accept tips, a lose-lose for them. The ship notice says the procedure is to encourage service excellence, but how a non-merit system does this is a mystery to us. Anyway the whole procedure seems sneaky and underhanded.

Accounting was efficient, there were a few charges on our card that were not ours which they quickly corrected. You can view your account on the TV the last 3 days, and get a print-out at the desk on days before that. You can also book tours on your TV.

The ship overall: when we evaluate how much we have enjoyed a ship, our method is to think of one (or more) features that were special to that ship and to which we would really look forward to having again, sometimes simple little things. Like the solarium on the Vision, the indoor street promenade on the Mariner, the private upstairs level on the old Destiny lido buffet, Sabatini's alternate restaurant on the Crown, the French and Chinese alternate restaurants on NCL, the private little tables out the back of the buffet on the Century, the big cabins on HAL and CCL. But although the Poesia was lovely we could not find a special feature that appealed to us, it was just a pretty ship in the traditional style.

The Food

The breakfast buffet was the same as most other ships. There are 2 buffets on each side, and many people stop at the first one as you enter. If you bypass the line and go to the back buffet there are less people and more empty tables. These 2 rear buffets have a few less items than the first ones as you enter (from the pool), like at the back ones there are no pancakes, French toast, waffles, or ready made omelets. And there is no cooked-to-order omelet station at any buffet.

Reports about rude people in the buffet lines was not evident, it was busy as on all ships, and people would reach in for just an item, no problem, or they would enter the line if there was big gap, and it worked fine. Orange and pineapple juice was available at several stations. If you get your food at the first buffet and there are no tables just walk through to the back at the second buffet.

The lunch buffet was also the same as on most ships, interesting selection, no problem finding something that appeals. The open hours change from day to day depending on shore times etc, sometimes it closes at 2:30 and sometimes it is open as late as 5pm, check the newsletter. Free ice tea and ice water, lemonade is $2.

We had all our dinners in the main dining room. We wanted a 2 person table for some private time this cruise, which cannot be selected when you book the cruise as usual. So after boarding we went to the meeting room set up to handle dining requests, deck 6 next to the Zebra bar, and were fixed up. We thought the food was about average compared to other ships. There are usually 3 entree choices on the Italian menu, 4 on big nights, and an American entree on the other side, plus 3 standards that can be ordered any day, beef steak, chicken scaloppini, and salmon. These were generally adequate, and we always ordered an extra entree different than the first 2 so we would have an alternate if one did not appeal. One night it was a bit wanting, the choices were meatballs with boiled potatoes, red snapper, and spaghetti with clams. They could throw the first and last one together for a pretty good combo. Another night the 3 choices were swordfish, veal scaloppini, and mini-pasta, with the American alternate being pot roast which was delicious. Swordfish was good too. Loved the cannelloni, Cajun tilapia, prime rib, pot roast, and great lasagna. As a benchmark, we thought the seafood except for the lobster was as good as the Red Lobster chain, but the pasta dishes were not as flavorful as the Olive Garden chain except for the excellent lasagna. Service was efficient, food was never cold.

We pre-ordered the dinner wine package #556, 7 bottles for $67, which has to be done no less than 1 week before the cruise by printing the form on their website and then faxing it to MSC. They sent no confirmation that they received it, but it was processed through our credit card 2 days before the cruise. This package says you get a choice of wines, but you do not, you can have either the house red or white each night. The red is the Italian house wine, Montepulciano Dâ Abruzzo 2008, which luck for us we found acceptable. If you wait till you are on the ship to order the package, it is $105, but you get choices, 3 reds from California, 5 whites (2 CA, 2 Italian, 1 German), and 2 roses (1 CA and 1 Italian). If you pre-order, the wine coupons are supposed to be delivered to your table the first night. Ours was not there, and fortunately I packed the order form, so I had to go and get it to show the head waiter before getting the wine. They ended up keeping this form, so you might want to black out your credit card number before giving it away, they do not need that info since it has been paid for.

We always select anytime dining on other cruises, and it is always worked out well, short waits for tables. After returning from ports it is usually about 7 by the time we are cleaned up and ready for a drink before dinner, so making the 5:30 time for first seating was quite a rush, and second seating is too late for us. When we mentioned this to our waiter he said 6pm would be no problem, and it was nice to have some extra time. Many people just came in then anyway, not too considerate of their table mates.

The dining room dress code is not enforced. Nice that the code allows jeans on casual nights, but we also saw shorts which are not allowed, and on a formal night there was a t-shirt and ball cap. Overall this was not a dressy crowd, we saw only a few tuxes on formal nights. Average age was mid forties.

Entertainment

The entertainment in the main theatre was good, interesting shows much like the other ships, one Cirque du Solei style, some magic, and a Michael Jackson tribute that was probably the hit of the cruise, he had Michael down pat, had everyone hopping. Most of the other big action is in the large Zebra lounge, get there before the theatre next door empties out at 9:30, standing room only after that. One night a conga line dance party, another night the crew dressed passengers in carnival costumes for some mob dance lesson laughter, quite a hoot, and another night a Travolta/Newton-John dance contest, pairs of crew and passengers doing a hilarious routine of 4 or 5 famous moves flipping the girls etc, to the tune of You Are The One That I Love. The crew did a great demo first, and then 2 chubby good sport passengers won top prize, they had us in stitches, got a bottle of champagne. The staff in the lounge really work hard to interact with the passengers, and succeeded in involving them in all the action.

The Captain's cocktail reception the first formal night was the most bare bones we have been to, no hors de ouevres, what tasted like virgin martinis, and champagne. The MSC club past cruisers party was the same, no snacks, and the drinks were a red virgin fruit drink and champagne, I guess he thought we had had enough to eat. Honeymooners and anniversaries were also invited to this one.

Ports

Most ships hand out port maps at the gangway or have one on the daily newsletter, but none were available this cruise.

Key West

Cute port, rented bikes and toodled around. Not much time here, 7-2, which seems to be the norm for most ships stopping here, they do not seem to stay for the whole day. We did a recommended route from the Little White House down Whitehead to the Southernmost Point, then east on South St, and right on Reynolds to get down to Atlantic Blvd along Higgs Beach, then a right onto Bertha and continuing along Smathers Beach on Roosevelt Blvd. Then we made it back on board before the lunch buffet closed. A pretty route along the beaches, took about 1 hour. Bikes are $8-25 per half day depending where you rent.

Playa Del Carman

This port was one reason we chose this cruise, we had not seen it and also wanted to take a side trip to Cancun. When the ship started doing this itinerary before and after Xmas we saw the cruiser reports that the ship always canceled Playa and went to Cozumel, citing weather too rough for tendering. Finally one cruiser reported that on the day Playa was canceled for them, the sea between Coz and Playa was calm, a row boat could make it across. So weather does not appear to be the real reason, just the convenient one. So anyway we got prepared for either port, and sure enough Playa was cancelled for us too and we docked at Coz, at the International Pier outside of town, on a beautiful calm day. With the short time in port (10-4) and the ferry from Coz to Playa eating up 1.5 hours return, and running irregularly (one ferry missed the ship), we decided to stay in Coz instead of doing Playa on our own.

We often like going to a resort in port and having snacks and drinks at the pool and beach, and Coz has several options. For the morning we fooled around the ship pool, then had a quick lunch as soon as it opened, then headed ashore. Since we had to be leaving a resort around 3 to make departure time of 4, we would not get our money's worth from an all-inclusive deal, and wanted a pay-as-you-go deal, which the Fiesta Americana offers cruisers, so we went there and had a nice time, a pretty resort. It was about 7km, a $6 cab if you get the cab at the road 50 feet beyond the cue at the dock, those cost more, about $9. Drinks cost $7.50 and loaded nachos were $8. Loungers with towels are free. The main pretty pool area is on the hotel side of the small road, and they also have a beach club if you walk across the small road, with a smaller pool and loungers under thatched papillas umbrellas. Tell the waiter at either location that you are paying cash for food and drinks. Restrooms in the lobby. Swim up bar at the pool, and there are cute cabanas with mattresses, free too. If you want all-in there it is $45 which includes all food, only beer and pop for drinks, and a day room.

The Presidente InterContinental offers a day pass for $130 which includes a pool-view day room, food/booze credit of $45 per room, and full resort access. The El Cozumeleno has an all-in day pass for $65. The Coral Princess had free use for cruisers a few years ago. The Melia Cozumel used to be $45 all-in for day use, one of the Wyndham hotels is currently $50 all-inclusive, the Occidental Grande used to be $50, Cozumel Palace used to be $75, and the cute little Ed Cid La Ceiba right by the ship used to be $10 a la carte and $25 all-inclusive.

Grand Cayman

Cayman was a tendered port and previous reviews said the tenders did not take people to the Georgetown dock, but somewhere outside town requiring transportation to get to town. This time the tender took us to the main pier downtown. The ship uses their own lifeboats to tender, but a large private tender took a couple loads too. We read reports that the tender service was very slow here, so in the morning we did the gym and some other stuff and did not try till after lunch. Later we heard that there were some tempers flaring in the lineup. We did note that tender numbers 1-6 were called at 10:20, then numbers around 17 were called at 11:15, then numbers around 22 were called around 11:30, then numbers around 28 were called around noon, and then at 12:20 numbers were no longer required.

We have been to Grand Cayman several times and never made it to the famous 7 Mile Beach, did the rays and other stuff. So this time we wanted to check out the beach, and decided to walk a few miles of it, starting at the Westin/Ritz Carlton area and ending around the Marriott/Comfort Suites, stopping for drinks and snacks whenever needed. Two choices to get there, either the local bus routes WB 1 (yellow) or WB 2 (lime green) for $2.50 pp or a cab for $5-6 pp. The bus depot is now north of the ship on North Church Road just north of the yellow Waterfront Center bldg. Wave your hand and the bus will stop for you. Sit near the door in case the bus gets crowded. Pay when leaving the bus (it is a big van), exact change requested.

Jamaica

We did not need the hassles in downtown Mo Bay, and booked the Chukka Canopy Tour through the ship, a zip line over the forest, only $10 more than doing it privately. The tour began with a bus ride through the mountains, transferring to camo style army trucks for a wild ride through the jungle to a gorge. There we did pretty zip lines through the tree tops over the gorge and rivers. Well run, good equipment, very safe. Free ice water thermo after, then at a jungle cafe where you can buy snacks and drinks. They have photographers at each location taking shots of each person, which you can buy after, we got the 7 pack on a CD for $25. You can choose the ones you want from a computer screen. Also take your own camera, there are good opportunities for that as well, just have your hands free.

In the afternoon we checked out the Sunset Beach Resort near the ship, $60 all-in, a 10 minute walk but through a dirty construction area, take a $9 cab from the ship or $6 cab at the road. For the afternoon they wanted $30pp but it was 2:30 and not worth it to us for a couple hours, and they are not set up to accept cash purchases, so we went back to enjoy the pool at the ship. The 3.5 star Royal Decameron is half way to town and $70 all-in, the Riu is $99 all-in, the Rose Hall Resort is $65 apparently with lunch but no booze, the Holiday Inn Sunspree on the other side of the airport is $55 all-in, the new Palmyra timeshare is free, pay as you go but you might get a speech, and the Coyaba Beach Resort is free, pay as you go. We read that Breezes was $98, and Sandals Mo Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean were $85, but avoid the Sandals Inn, different place. Our cabbie said the Ritz was free, a $15 ride.

Nassau

In the afternoon we went to the British Colonial Hilton, an easy 10 minute walk from the ship, to the right of Senior Frogs, easy to see from the deck of the ship. It offers a $40 pass which includes towels and a $30 food and booze credit. We chose pay as you go, which allows you to use loungers and the pool and beach, but not their towels. Beer was $6 and cocktails were $8. Bar and food service was very slow, glad we passed on the AI, 5 ships in port, the bartender was shaking his head at the huge Oasis of the Seas.

The Sheraton Nassau offers a $25 pass without food or booze, and Breezes Superclub is $55 or $60 all-in. The Wyndham Nassau Crystal Palace is $40 incl buffet lunch, do not know about included booze. There are no buses to Paradise Island, just cabs, about $11/2ppl, or $4 pp for 4 or more ppl. Buses (jitneys) are $1.25, bus depot at Bay and George, #10 goes to the Sheraton. Day pass deals change all the time, email or call the resorts to be sure.

Disembarkation

Our flight was at 11am so we needed to get off right away and get to the airport, so we did express self-disembarkation where you take your own luggage off the ship, and you have to sign up for this ahead of time. The line started moving at 7:15 and we were at the cabs at 8, and at the a/p at 8:15. If you need to get off sooner than that you could save about 15 minutes by waiting at the Place Vendine boutique which turned out to be near the front of the line. Delta does not allow check in more than 2 hours before your flight, so we had to wait till 9.

Overall we did fine on the Poesia, but it reminded us how much we like to have anytime dining on the other cruise lines, and there was not a particular feature of the ship that was unique and special for us. We would cruise MSC again if it hit ports we wanted, and if the price matched the guidelines in the intro, but if the prices were higher than that we would not book early.

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